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Faith's Firm Foundation: December 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tips for Saving Money: Household Budget Expenses

We're at the end of another year.  That means that, in our home, my husband's gathering all of the financial paperwork and doing a review of 2009 in preparation for tax time.  The end of the year is associated with reviewing and resolving.  The beginning of a new year is associated with new starts, change and improvement. Related to finances, I think it's a perfect time for Tips on Saving Money!
First, before we can go in a better direction, we have to know where we are, so:
I. Find out where your money's been going
     A. Look back at what you've spent this year
     B. Itemize expenditures by category, and then total
II. Look at the bills and see what ways, if any, you can cut costs
     A. Electricity: Turn off lights when not in the room; use energy efficient light bulbs; consider buying more energy efficient appliances; don't use the second fridge except when necessary; don't turn the oven on for just one thing; use a clothes line, instead of the dryer, etc.
     B. Gas: Use a set-back thermostat, and/or turn your heat down a few degrees and wear a sweater; (For you Southerners: turn your air conditioning up a few degrees); don't use your oven except when needed, and when you do, bake more than one thing, because the most expensive thing is heating it up in the first place!
     C. Phone: Do you really need all those features? What could you do to decrease this bill? Would bundling or using another provider save you money?
     D. Mortgage: Seriously look at this as a couple, if it's an expense that's more than 30% of your income. Savings options: Refinancing, 15-year loan instead of 30-year, paying a little extra against principle each month, moving to a smaller/cheaper home, renting.
III. Other Expenses: here are some of the ways that you can save some money:
     A. Auto
          1. Check around (call and compare) for the cheapest auto insurance
          2. Possibly bundle with your home insurance
          3. Check into Discounts for non-smokers, non-drinkers, good student, etc.
          4. Pay in full for the year to receive another discount
          5. Buy used, older model cars
          6. Don't speed or get any traffic violations
     B. "Toys": Sell the boat, 4-wheeler, snowmobile, camper, etc.
          1. Watch for future posts on inexpensive ideas for Vacations

Next week: Tips on Saving Money: Significant Savings for Stay-at-Home Moms

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

With New Year's coming in just a few days, many of you are thinking about plans for the upcoming year. I would like to make some suggestions as you "resolve" to do things differently, or better.
  1. Pray and then pray some more.
  2. Set Biblical goals: Will God be pleased or help you if your goal is to get even with someone who's hurt you in the past, or if you're selfishly setting a goal of making a million dollars to spend on yourself?
  3. Don't be in a hurry to make a lot of resolutions. Take your goals seriously: you'll be much more likely to work to accomplish them.
  4. Have a plan: I suggest setting goals under 4 main headings: Spiritual, Physical, Mental (or Intellectual/Academic), and Skills.
  5. Choose just a few goals to start with (1 or 2 in each area): Succeeding in a few is better than being overwhelmed by too many and giving up in frustration.
  6. Make your goals achievable. "Become an Olympic swimmer" is not achievable if you don't even know how to swim. Break your larger-than-life goals down into achievable smaller goals: "Sign up for swimming lessons." "Practice 3 times per week for 30 minutes," etc.
  7. Make your goals measurable. For example, "Become a better cook" is not measurable. "Try 1 new recipe per week" is measurable and you will know if you have accomplished it or not.
  8. Set goals first in the area where you need it most.
  9. Write down your goals and look at them often.
  10. Make a plan for how you will achieve each goal, and keep a record of daily/weekly achievement.

Below you will find a very simple list which has been handed out at my church the last few years, which I have found helpful in my goalsetting for the new year. This list gives some ideas for areas to think about, and plan for, which you may not already have on your list. (It came to me in a different format, but I give it to you in outline form for readability. You will want to change the format to one which will give you ample space to write out your ideas and goals.)
Just a note:  We all learn differently:  For some, color is very influential and important.  Try using bright-colored pens and markers, if you have never done so before, as you write out your goals. I find it amazingly helpful.


Goals For the Year __________


      A. Bible Reading:

      B. Verses to Memorize:

      C. Subjects to Study:


      A. Where will I Give:

      B. How Much Will I try to Save:

      C. Spending I am Saving For:










Habits are often the subject of resolutions--bad habits, that is. I ran across some excellent questions that may help you in overcoming yours.

  • What sin or sins prevent me from reaching my goal?
  • How do these sins hinder me?
  • What are the Scriptures on this sin?
  • What changes am I going to make to combat this sin?
  • What positive things am I going to do to change this habit?

May God help us all to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Hebrews 12:1-4

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Monday, December 28, 2009

At the Well: Scheduling

Today, At the Well, we're talking about one of my favorite subjects: planning and scheduling!  Next to becoming a Christian, I think this has changed my life the most.  I am naturally extremely spontaneous. Following a schedule is still a "flexible" event for me, and though I still like a little spontaneity in life, I have found that scheduling brings peace to my life and home, and that it advances my spiritual life.  Let me explain.

God is a God of order and gives commandments in His Word.  As a Christian, thinking about His priorities (His goals) for my life and my family, is necessary before I can really even begin to think about making a schedule. Thinking about His goals is a process which causes me to humble myself before Him and submit myself and my schedule to Him.  And attempting to follow a schedule causes me to be more consistent in reading His Word and memorizing it, in praying, and in doing those things involved in being the "keeper at home" and helpmeet that He designed me to be.  When I am more consistent, I experience less guilt, I am able to hear from the Lord more easily (after all, I'm spending time consistently with Him at the beginning of each day, when He has my undivided attention!) and I am a much more Christ-like representative to the world because when I and my life are exhibiting more peaceful order more consistently, it is totally opposite to what the world experiences. My wild fluctuations on a regular basis don't bring Him much glory!

This time of year is a great time to start scheduling, if you've never done it before, because no doubt you have already been thinking about what God might want you to change and some goalsetting and prioritizing may have already taken place in your mind.  I'm not going to share with you my present schedule, because I'm in the process of looking ahead to a new year and new goals, which will involve changing my schedule. When I have it all written out, I will plan on sharing it with you.

When planning a new schedule, the first priority must always be prayer and Bible Study.  Fasting, for a day, is helpful.  I prayerfully look at my life (the big picture and also the day-to-day) and ask God to show me the areas He wants to change.  I write down ideas in the major areas: Spiritual, Mental (Academic/Intellectual), Physical.  I take a look around at my home and my physical environment.  Does this prompt any ideas for change?  What's working? What's not?  Are there major areas of disorganization?  Cleaning needed?  Repair?  I think about relationships.  God comes first.  Then my husband and family. Then my church and friendships. What changes need to be made? Are there relationships He wants me to end? To start? Is there building, forgiveness, or restoration needed anywhere? I pray with a notebook and pen to write down the promptings He gives me.

Sitting down with a blank calendar and a blank lined sheet of paper, I place my life and schedule back on the altar.  I think about what God has spoken to me about: what He wants included in my life, and I schedule that first. The Spiritual goals come first: in my life, in my thoughts, in my schedule, in my day.  If you're having trouble getting everything done, it's probably because you're not spending enough time in the Word and prayer at the beginning of the day.  Some women, in order to find time in God's Word, have even set an alarm for the middle of the night, in order to have undistracted time with the Lord.  If you are serious about spending time with the Lord, He'll show you how to make it happen.  Don't set unrealistic goals in this area.  Start with a goal of small, consistent amounts of time: 15 minutes, rather than an hour a day--you can always work up to an hour, or spend longer when you have more time, but the goal that is important is to be with Him every day, and to hear from Him.

Then I think about pleasing my family (my husband first), and their needs.  If I'm not fulfilling my responsibilities at home, changes have to be made. The other things don't have to be done, no matter how much I think they do. My family is my first priority. If disorder in the home is a problem, I can schedule consistent times to work at cleaning and organizing--putting it on the calendar is an appointment I make with myself to do important things, and it helps to get it done.

I pencil in the approximate amounts of time needed for the different activities I know have to happen.  Then, what are my other responsibilities?  How much time do they require? I pencil that number in next to the activity.  I add in the travel time, the preparation time, everything.  Adding all the amounts of time together, am I trying to spend more time than there is in a day?  Are there any activities/responsibilities that God is prompting me to remove from my schedule?  I try to remember that the "good things" are the enemy of "The Best."

Also, it's wise to remember that there are "Seasons" in life!  You may not be able to do now that thing which is dearer than life to you--and you "just know" that it is the will of God for you!  Remember: when God called people in the Bible to do something for Him, often there was a long delay before they were able to accomplish it, while God took them through a "Preparation Period."  Think of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and even Jesus!  The "thing" or "ministry" you so dearly desire to do may be years off, and having to obey God now in the humdrum day-to-day of dirty diapers and daily dying to self (or whatever training ground He's taking you through) is the training He knows you need to go through to make you ready to be used in a mighty way.  How can you do great things for the Lord without first learning to be obedient in the small things He's giving you now?

So, what are those things that God has spoken to you about?  Everyone has the same 24 hours every day.  If you are frustrated by not having time to do what you know He wants you to do each day, ask Him to show you where you're going wrong. Ask your husband to look at your schedule and offer suggestions.  Be prepared to be humbled.  A husband has a way of seeing, and ruthlessly slashing away at, a wife's "favorite" time-wasters, and wrong priorities.  See your husband as God's messenger to help you:)

Set goals.  Only set a few. Set them carefully, and prayerfully. Set them according to, and based on, what God has said to you in your time in the Word and prayer. Make sure they're do-able.

Finally, pencil into a seven-day calendar with days of the week at the top and time in 15-minute increments on the side, all the main categories of things that you have to do.  It takes me multiple calendars and many changes to finally come up with this rough-draft calendar.  I know that, once I begin to use this calendar, my week will not look exactly like it, but doing this exercise shows me two things:  It shows me if I'm trying to do too many things, and it shows me I need the Lord.  No one can accomplish, without the Lord's help, all that He wants them to be and do!  Isn't that great to know?!  With small children, you especially have to be flexible, and remember, no matter who you are, your schedule isn't written in stone!  We don't know what the Lord is going to surprise us with in the future, or what changes are going to take place in our lives.  Make "Lord-willing" a common phrase in your vocabulary.

The wonderful thing about a schedule is that you can change it and revamp it to solve problems that come up.  For instance, if you're finding your family is exhausted and too harried and hurried every Sunday morning, and it's causing you to miss church, or not to be able to worship Him properly, eliminate all activities on Saturday nights. (We very rarely planned anything on Saturday nights when our children were small. We still try to be at home or get to bed at a decent time every Saturday night, even now that our children are grown, so that we'll be ready for Sunday.)  You may want to plan an earlier bedtime for all of you, and block out half an hour, or whatever's needed, before bed to get the clothes and diaper bag, Bible, etc. ready for the next day.  Or, if your husband is upset every workday morning because you're ironing his shirt as he's walking out the door, plan 15 minutes, 3 times a week, to iron (or one hour once a week--you get the idea).

Look at your schedule as your friend.  Don't let it strangle you or handcuff you or make you its slave.  It is a valuable tool.  Let God use it--it may just change your life!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Majestic Gift: Jesus

Majestic Gift
by Marion Olmon Lien and Robert Wetzler

Majestic gift now giv'n in infant form
to hold the long awaited hope of man by prophet's writ foretold;
for us the Son is born!
The Christ, the living Word, Redeemer, Healer, Prince of Peace,
blest Master, Savior, Lord.

Majestic gift!  The whole of God's redemptive plan before all worlds
and through all time to be now comes to man.
Leap up, my waiting soul, on soaring wings take flight.
To men who long in darkness walked is come eternal light.

Majestic gift!  What love from God the Father's throne can give His Son
that truly I might claim Him as my own?
A pathway clearly laid; from earth to heav'n its span;
the glory of almighty God made visible to man.

Angelic voices shout ecstatic, wild acclaim
until all heav'n resounds with joy.  All glory to His Name!
In antiphon now sing the hearts of men on earth.
The King! The King is come embodied in this holy birth!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Testimony--Part 3--Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas!

Here is Part 3 of "My Testimony."  Please go back to Part 1 and Part 2 first if you have not read them.  Thank you.

My purpose in sharing my testimony is to be obedient to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to bring Him glory. I pray that the sharing of this testimony will not bring any pain or offense to any one, especially my family, whom I love dearly. These details of my life before I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior are painful for me to relate, but I have tried to relate them as truthfully and lovingly as possible. I pray that the Lord will use my story to help others and cause them to love and trust Him, and perhaps save some from the painful consequences of sin which I've suffered. I'm so thankful to the Lord Jesus for saving me and I dedicate this testimony to Him.
As I stated earlier, I only began drinking after going to bars for many months. But now I was getting drunk often. I was going to bars alone, leaving when the bar closed at one o'clock in the morning. One night, very late, while driving home after a night of drinking and dancing, I fell asleep at the wheel of my car going 65 mph down the highway. I woke up to find the left wheels of my car up on the median and my car heading straight into the lights of the oncoming traffic. Somehow, miraculously, I was able to pull the car safely back into my own lane of traffic and continue on home without harm to myself or anyone else. Suddenly wide awake and sobered by the realization of what had just taken place, I drove home knowing, without a doubt, that God had saved my life.

If I hadn't believed there was a God before, I did now. Growing up, I knew about God and knew the facts surrounding salvation: that Jesus Christ was God’s Son and that He had died on the cross to save us from our sins. I knew that He had risen from the dead and that believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior was the only way to go to heaven, and escape punishment for your sins in hell. I knew that if you believed in Jesus, you were called a Christian. I thought I was a Christian. But I thought I could say, "Jesus, I believe all this and someday when I die, you’ll let me into your heaven, but right now I’m going to be in charge of my life and make my own decisions. You just go someplace and don’t bother me unless I think I need you and then I’ll call for you." I was not ready to let Him run my life.  I knew about Jesus as a Savior, but I knew nothing about Jesus as Lord.

When God saved my life that night that I fell asleep at the wheel, I was very grateful to Him.  I knew that He wanted me to change my life. There were a number of times when I had gotten drunk and behaved in a way that I wanted to forget. Now, drinking had almost killed me. I knew I had to do something.  I was a mess. So, right then and there, I decided to quit drinking, forever. And I did.  But, even though I was ready to change in this area, I wasn't ready to change anything else. God did not let me go, though.

As I continued in my search for someone who would love me forever and never leave me, I became more and more empty inside. I had a longing inside me that I couldn’t satisfy. I was going further and further down a road paved with the world's thinking. I would read books and listen to people who told me lies and I would believe them. I was so mixed up in my thinking and believing more and more of satan's lies.

Interspersed with guys from bars were legitimate boyfriends. One was quite serious. When, at the end of the summer, he broke up with me, I became very depressed. All through this time of searching, I thought that I was looking for a man:  some person who would promise to love me truly, forever and without leaving. Now, I was alone again. I didn't think there was any reason to go on without someone to love me. I would listen to sad songs on the record player in my apartment and cry for hours. What I didn't realize was that all this time the One I was searching for was Jesus Christ. He is the Only One Who can perfectly love you, knowing everything there is to know about you, and He is the Only One Who can promise His love forever and ever and fill your emptiness. He is the Only One Who will never die and never leave you.  But I still didn't get it.

When my boyfriend and I broke up, I really hit bottom emotionally. That was when God finally got through to me. One night about a year after my bar-hopping had begun, my family was all together at a restaurant celebrating my brother’s birthday. My brother, who was 7 years older than me, and I had become very close, but he scoffed at Christianity. He knew that I had professed Christianity in the past and he wanted nothing to do with it. During our conversation that evening, I mentioned something in passing, referring to, and using the words, “my Christianity.” Unbelievably, I still considered myself a Christian, and thought my family should see me in that context as well. But my brother's reaction took me totally by surprise. His response was like a slap in the face. He scoffed at me, “I thought you’d given that up!” I couldn't have felt his disgust more if he had spit at me. But, as I drove home alone that night, all I could think about was that my brother saw nothing in my life to indicate that I was a Christian. It was as if my brother had held up a mirror in front of me, and I was appalled at what I saw. For the first time I saw myself for who I really was: a filthy, rotten sinner, in need of a Saviour.

As I drove home that night, I cried out to God, tears streaming down my face, and said, “Lord, I’ve tried to run my life and I’ve made a mess of it! Please God, take over my life—I'm giving it to you; I want You to run it from now on.”

I had been sobbing so hard that I could barely see to drive, but instantly there was Someone there, a Presence filling my car.  I didn’t know exactly what had happened, but I felt an enormous peace come over me. Somehow, something had changed. I was changed. Jesus had come into my heart and taken control of my life and filled me with peace. I was filled with His Love and I wanted to burst with joy.  That moment began my new life with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I immediately had an insatiable desire to read the Bible, and I read every spare moment that I could.

I had found the One I was searching for all my life. The One True Love Who would love me forever and never leave. And my emptiness was filled. My life began to change. God brought a young Christian man into my life--no, he wasn't "the one," but he and the group of friends I met through him helped me immensely in my Christian life. In essence, they discipled me that first year. They showed me what it looked like to follow Christ, helped me establish Christian disciplines, and loved me--even though I was a very immature baby Christian, with a lot of baggage.

On that day that I accepted Jesus' payment for my sins on the cross, and based my righteousness and claim to heaven on His righteousness, death and resurrection, I surrendered control of my life to Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord.  I thank God with all my heart for saving me that day, October 6, 1975, 34 years ago.

So, where are you in this story? Are you the one who drinks socially? Hardly ever, really. What if just one person is influenced to drink by your example, or becomes an alcoholic, or kills someone while driving drunk?  Or, perhaps you get drunk fairly often yourself.

Maybe you're searching like I was, for Someone to Love you.

Maybe you are trying to run your own life.  And maybe you're not doing such a good job of it.  Whoever you are: son, daughter, mother, father, please seriously consider these words. Please give your life to Jesus Christ right now. Whatever changes need to be made, He will help you. You don't have to fix yourself up first to come to Him. There is NOTHING you can do to save yourself.  He is your only hope of salvation and heaven.  He is in the business of changing lives. That is what this testimony is all about. If he can take someone like me and love me and forgive me, then He will fill you with peace and pour His love into your heart. Put your trust in Him and give Him control of every area of your life. Don't wait. You may not have tomorrow.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

"He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."  Jim Elliot

Romans 10:9-11--"...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

If you are ready to believe in Jesus, and surrender control of your life to Him, please pray this prayer with me now:
"Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my sin. I've turned my back on you, but now I want to give you my life. I believe that, Jesus, You are the Son of God and that You died on the cross for me--that You were punished for MY sins, and that God showed by raising You from the dead that He accepted that payment.  Thank you, Lord.  Please forgive me and come into my heart. Change me and help me, Dear Lord, in Jesus' Name and for His glory!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Urgent: Watch These Tonight and Take Action! Tyranny Eve, December 23, 2009

Fellow Americans, Be crying out to our Father tonight and take action for liberty.
Please join others on the steps of the Capitol tomorrow if you can--especially you who live in the Washington DC area.

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My Testimony--Part 2

Please go back and read Part 1 (click here) of "My Testimony" here.

After many people, and some of the most important men in my life, had died in a very short time, I invented an imaginary world where that person who would love me and never leave, existed. I associated my fantasies with a boy I knew and made up stories in my mind that were part fiction and part truth, and told them to my friends. I partly believed them; the truth was too hard to bear.  My friends, who I'd grown up with, eventually grew tired of this, and one day, when I walked up to the lunch table in the cafeteria where we always sat together, there was suddenly no room for me. That was their way of telling me goodbye. They wanted nothing more to do with me. My parents were absorbed in their grief and sorrow and everyday trials of, first, my sister's illness, and then my brother's. My mother, who'd always been a stay-at-home mom, was working now in order to help pay the mountain of medical bills. They tried to maintain a normal homelife, but I got lost somehow. I was desperately searching for something, someone.

I had always loved dancing and music, and when I was 18, I made the decision to go to the ballrooms which were popular at that time, and dance. I was searching. I convinced a friend to go with me for awhile, but as she was not on a search herself, she stopped going with me after a few months. At the beginning, I didn't drink. I was there to dance and meet guys. I would go every weekend that I could: Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I had some favorite nightspots, but was always on the lookout for something new. I was single-minded in my mission. Exposed to alcohol weekend after weekend, night after night, I eventually started drinking.
I had not been one of those who drank earlier in my life. In late junior high I formed a friendship with two girls from another school. They talked about Jesus, rather than God and faith, as though they knew Him. They attended a church group on Wednesday nights, and I joined, too. During this time there were seeds of truth planted. Folk Group, as it was called, was led by a young Christian man who truly walked the walk, not just talked the talk. This group was not just about having fun.  We practiced singing every week, and then went out and sang at nursing homes and for events. I began professing faith in Jesus Christ. During my first year or so of high school I tried to be a Christian, but I never surrendered my life to Christ. Hence, all my efforts were just that, my efforts. Of course, they failed. I became disillusioned and during my senior year of high school got into a group that drank some and partied some. I joined them and experienced drunkenness for the first time. Drinking did not make me happy; it only produced painful memories. But I thought I could drink socially, and control it.

My parents drank socially. They had alcohol in a cupboard at home, but only brought it out to serve at card-parties and holidays, like Christmas, to their friends and extended family. My brother and sister never drank, that I can recall. I thought that I could drink a little socially. I had no idea that alcohol would almost cost me my life.
 Please return for Part 3, the conclusion, of "My Testimony" tomorrow.
"I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, Now safe am I.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help, Love lifted me."

Isaiah 1:18--"...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Salvation Testimony--Part 1

It's the perfect time of the year to share my salvation testimony with you.  Everywhere you see people celebrating. Christmas parties at work, neighborhood get-togethers, extended family exchanges of gifts and celebrating together. There is an air of festivity, a reason for partying, and...alcohol will play a big part in many lives and homes this time of year. Lives and reputations will be ruined, marriages will disintegrate, car accidents will take the lives of some, and children will be beaten and abused by those under its influence, and many tears will be shed by those who love someone who drinks.  Oh, yes, it's the perfect time of the year to share my testimony with you, because alcohol played a big part in it.

At this time of year, Christmastime, with New Years Eve following closely on its heels, the celebration becomes one long-running excuse to drink for many people. But, also, it is a time when those who have never even considered drinking are tempted to "just try it once--"Go ahead, just have one, what harm can it do." They are tempted by the sheer number of times alcohol is offered to them, and by the fact that everyone else seems to be "doing it," and by the messages in the media encouraging them to drink. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with messages that say drinking is cool, the perfect finishing touch to your special dinner, choosing just the right wine is a sign of refinement and class, it will impress your friends, it adds to the fun, it makes things more festive and it's for everyone. Yes, of course, there is the added message, these days, not to drink and drive. These messages that drinking is not only ok, but encouraged, are not really surprising when you're out in the world. However, it still takes a firm resoluteness to one's convictions to get through the gauntlet unscathed. But, what is amazing, and alarming to me, is the number of instances where drinking is taking place even in some conservative Christian circles.  Christian twenty-somethings, homeschooled their whole life, from Godly homes and families, are going to Wine-tasting Weekends or passing a bottle around at Bible studies. They have broken down the wall and stepped over, ignoring their Godly forefathers' longstanding ban on drinking for anyone who was serious about following Christ in obedience to His Word and anyone who cared about their testimony before a lost world. Please listen to my story and think deeply on this subject. It affects every one of us.

This is "My Testimony," by Wendy Gunn
My childhood was a blending of stability and instability, happy and very sad events, just as my family was a blending of two people, both widowed, and their two children, each. My mother's story had been a traumatic one prior to marrying my dad. Her first husband was an alcoholic who died very young from the damage to his liver which he'd inflicted upon himself.  My mother never knew. She found the bottles hidden in the back of their closet. Her little boy, who'd been suffering with a life-threatening disease, lost his battle with death, and died not long after his father, at the age of 4. When mom married her former landlord, they blended two families: my mom and my sister, now 4, joined with my dad and my 13-year-old sister and 6-year-old brother. I was born a year later. We never ever called ourselves anything but family.  It never occurred to us children to use words like "step" or "half"--what did that mean anyway?  We were brothers and sisters. I give my mom, especially, a lot of credit, for the loving, close family we still have today.

My mom, dad, brother, and 2 sisters—loved me. We were a religious family and went to church regularly.  Things were very happy in those early years for me.  But death was looming around the corner.  It became a prominent part of my story from the time I was 8 years old onward. Every year from then on, year after year, someone whom I loved dearly would die. First was my 2-day-old niece, then both my grandparents. Next, my oldest sister, fourteen years older than I, who had been like a second mom to me, died when I was 11. Her husband had been exempted from serving in the Vietnam war while she was alive, but so sick with kidney disease. Upon her death, he was drafted and soon after was reported missing in action. In my childish affections, I had idolized him from the moment he came into our family when I was 7. My sister had married young, and he was a few years younger than she, only 18, when they wed.  He must've been about 22 when he died. I still remember the day my parents told me he was missing. I was 12 and it hit me hard.  In the following years my other grandma died, and then a favorite uncle had a fatal heart attack and died very unexpectedly. As I finished out junior high, my brother became very sick and unless he had a kidney transplant, he would die, too.  Many special people, and some of the most important men in my life, had been taken from me.  All I wanted was to find someone who would love me forever and never leave me.
"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)
"The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jeremiah 31:3)

"...he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."  (Hebrews 13:5)
Please return to read Part 2 of "My Testimony" which will be posted tomorrow.

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Rescinding My Recommendation

Recently I posted about how you could get a free Kindle cookbook. Well, I followed up and "bought" my free copy, and as I started perusing the cookbook, I was a little surprised by what I found. Looking randomly through the pages, there seemed to be a disproportionate number of recipes calling for some form of alcohol and which had alcohol in their names. Because of this fact, I am rescinding my recommendation to you that you get this book. So, let me reiterate and say it right out, I don't recommend this book, "Not Your Mother's Slowcooker Recipes for Entertaining."  I also apologize to you, my readers and friends. It never occurred to me to check it out before telling you about it. I will try not to let that happen again.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

At the Well: Contentment In Christ Alone

Today At the Well (click and scroll down to participate) we're talking about contentment--In Christ Alone.  In Philippians 4:11 Paul makes the amazing statement that he has "learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content."  Whether in want or in abundance, he was content.  I think the key word here is "learned."  I am not Paul, and I have not learned, but I am learning, to be content in whatever state I am.  Paul didn't say that he was always, from the beginning, content.  He said he had learned to be so.  The way that we learn something is by starting out "not able/not knowing" and "practicing, while being taught." Then, after time, we arrive at a higher level of knowledge, understanding and skill. The method of ascertaining what level we have attained is often testing.

Christmastime is a test for me.  At Christmas, I experience the deep feeling of "longing": I "long" to be more organized. I "long" for happier times past or future.  I "long" for a house more beautifully decorated. I "long" for a skinnier body more physically fit when we're going to take our Christmas picture.  I "long" to see all my loved ones saved as I write my yearly Christmas letter to extended family.  I "long" to truly celebrate the Lord's birth as I "should" (whatever that means). I "long" for all my relationships to be warm, loving and fulfilling, at a time when busyness, expectations, too much eating and too little sleep make us peevish and fretful, like toddlers needing a nap. The world continually tells me "this is the happiest time of the year"! Why do I feel I am in a perpetual state of angst.

Is this discontentment?  Perhaps. Some of these longings, however, will never be fully satisfied until I reach heaven, for they are longings for perfection and holiness. I am discontent with sin and imperfection, in myself and the world.  The discontent with sin in myself: covetousness, bitterness, hatred and an out-of-control tongue, which sin causes chaos in my surroundings and strife in my relationships, should cause repentance, and change. My longings and discontentment, then, may decrease, too, if I do, in fact, learn to be more organized, so that Christmas becomes more Worshipful and less Will-I-Ever-Finish. (Not looking to that perfect world that only exists in my imagination, magical movies, and Christmas illustrations on glossy greeting cards, where families laugh and sing while decorating a gigantic Christmas tree--the house spotless and mom carrying a tray of dazzling decorated cookies, dressed in heels; later cozying up in an overstuffed easy chair by a warmly lit fireplace, the mantle festooned with greenery and flickering candlelight, sipping hot cocoa while she reads lovely stories to happy little children sitting on her lap.)  The world only feeds discontent.

Yesterday, before the prayer time in our church, a young man quoted Philippians 4:6--"Be careful (anxious, worried, fretting) for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. (It goes on to say, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.") I was cut to the quick. The hopeless state of my heart was revealed, as the Scriptures cut straight through to the deepest level. I realized my sin of fear, worry, discontent, and bitterness, all in one fell swoop. I recognized my lack of faith. There were areas of my heart exposed in which I had given up hope that God would answer my deepest longings. I didn't believe that God would do what was best for me and for those I loved. I was bitter and angry at God. I sat in my chair confessing my sin before the Lord, under a dreadful blanket of unthankfulness.

Is there something you're longing for, but God seems not to answer, or the answer seems to be, "No?"  The temptation is to give up hope. But that is really lack of faith, like saying, "If God gives me everything I want, when I want it, then I will trust Him, praise Him, believe in Him."  Hebrews 11:1 says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." When we have the thing we hoped for, we no longer need faith.

If our longings are for "things," then looking to Jesus, and and setting our thoughts and affections on eternal things will give us a clearer vision. Everything we can see and touch is going to burn. If our longings are for things we cannot see, they may be a picture of the true spiritual world which we are really longing for: the love in our relationship with God, our Father; the perfection of holy living; the peace of righteousness. These longings should turn us to Him. In any case, the answer to our discontent and longing is Christ. Christ alone can satisfy our deepest longings. As I live in this world of imperfection, I am learning contentment by turning my longings into prayers, my complaints and bitterness into confession, my sighs and whys into supplication. "No good thing doth He withhold from them that walk uprightly." Does God do anything ill?  God is good.  God is loving. James 1:17 states, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." During prayer time, as I listened to a prayer request for a woman once healed of breast cancer, who now has months to live because of brain cancer, the thought of my own cancer-free status hit me in the face and I was stunned by the image in my mind of my clenched fist in God's face over His delay and even possible "No" to my longings.  When had I stopped waking with thanks on my lips for life?  When had I forgotten that "His lovingkindness is better than life?" It's so easy to lose perspective. After confessing my sin to the Lord, I asked for restoration of my soul, and His power to change me.

Learning contentment is a lifelong process. At every stage of life, we experience "longings" and must exercise faith. When I was a child, I longed to be older, more grown up.  When I was older, I longed for someone to love me. Then I longed to be married. Would God ever answer? When I was married, I longed for children. I thought I would never have any.  We waited 7 years before our first child was born. Then my second pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Would I ever be able to have any more children?  We began thinking about adoption. But it didn't look like we would qualify. Then we were able to conceive again. Later, my husband decided we should not have any more children. I longed with all my heart for more. Then when my children were grown, I longed for them to traverse the path into adulthood without falling. Now, I long for them to find the right Godly marriage partners. We never arrive, because change is a part of life, and life here on earth is temporary.  What we experience here on earth is just a picture of spiritual truths.  It points us to Christ.  I am sure that later, should my children marry, as I'm longing, I will long for grandchildren. Then I will long to see my children and grandchildren more. Then I will long for my grandchildren to be saved and walking with the Lord. And on it goes.

At every stage of life, we must exercise faith. We must learn, through taking all our longings to Him, and saturating our hearts and minds with the Word, that "Christ is my all in all," and that He is enough.  In Christ alone, I have my hope. In Christ I trust. In Christ I rest contented.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Women in the Word

At this very busy time of year, perhaps your study of the Word has suffered.  It's easy to have happen.  But it's necessary to be diligent in devoting time to prayer and Bible study or the neglect will find us depressed and far from our Lord very quickly.  Our relationship with Jesus has to be lovingly tended.

As an encouragement along these lines, I'd like to introduce you to a radio broadcast and blog, Women in the Word (click on the link to go to the site). I've been richly blessed by the Biblical teaching I've heard as I've listened locally, but you can get this rich content through their blog, even though you don't live, as I do, where you can pick up the radio station.  Please visit this site and study the Word with Pam, Rebecca and Sarah.  On their blog one of the helps you will find is the current study on 1 John along with study notes, as well as their discussion of the text. I encourage you to join me as we become more and more diligent Women in the Word.
1 John 2:15-17--"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Free Kindle-edition Cookbook Offer

You can get a free cookbook to read on your Kindle: "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Entertaining"! Why am I so excited, since I don't even own a Kindle? Well, by downloading to your PC WhisperSync you'll be able to read any Kindle book, including this one. Normally this book is $19.95, so this is great to get it free! Thanks to Kelly, at Wisdom Begun for this great information!

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Thankful Thursday: An Encouraging Word From A Thankful Heart

Thanks to Laurie at "Women Taking A Stand" for hosting Thankful Thursday!

Playing The Scenes Over In My Mind
This time of year I tend to think back over my life and the lives of my children, and to play the scenes over in my mind of years gone by, and review. This year as I've watched those scenes play out in my memory, it's resulted in an overwhelming gratitude for some very special people that God placed in my life.

I am so very, very thankful for those older Godly women who invested in my life, and that of my family, by giving wise, Biblical counsel and advice, and by being living examples of practical holiness as a wife and mother, during the years I was raising my children.

Advice Learned From Godly Older Women
May I share with you (there's something here for every woman) some of the sage advice I learned from them?  May it exhort, encourage, and bless you.

If you have small children, you are in the sowing and weeding time of child-rearing: it’s a lot of work and you may not (don’t) see any fruit.

Don’t grow weary.
Work hard, keep on: for in due season you will reap, if you faint not! You will have a bountiful harvest sooner than you can imagine! But you can’t quit and this is not the harvest time!

Satan wants to distract you because if he can get you to go and work somewhere else (maybe harvesting someone else’s fruit), he knows you will lose your own fruit and your testimony will be spoiled. Sow and weed and tend your own garden—nothing is sweeter than the fruit from your own tree.

Press on, do not give up, do not give in—
you will win, with God's help.

What To Do When Satan Attacks
Ask God to bind him: in the name, and by the precious blood, of Jesus Christ.
Like a pesky fly, swish him away—“Begone!”

Take your thoughts captive—corral them—give those thoughts to Jesus.

Quote Scripture: for every bad thought, replace it in your mind, and out loud, with truth. Repeat God’s words, (not Satan’s, such as “I just want to walk away, give up, I’ll never amount to anything, nothing I ever do is right, it will never work out”—never say those thoughts out loud! To yourself or anybody else!)

Emotions Follow Your Spirit and Your Will
Follow the Spirit with your spirit, and your will—emotions will be forced to follow. Say the truth in your mind. With your spirit agree with it, and with your will say, “I will.”

Say The "I Wills"
For example, “I will trust in the Lord. I will rejoice. I will be glad in the Lord. I will overcome. I will not flag in zeal. I will sing to the Lord, I will do right, I will hope, I will remember I am created in the image of God, I will go forth in righteousness, I will speak the truth in love—even to myself!” etc.

When in doubt, when discouraged, when all else fails: “Do the next thing.”
These words come from a beautiful poem that Elisabeth Elliot quotes:

Do The Next Thing
"At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing."

Encouragement from Hymns
Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your heart to the Lord: take out your hymnbook and sing truth and praises to the Lord; (or better yet, make a notebook, by copying your favorite hymns, putting them in plastic sheet protectors in a three-ring notebook, and sing to the Lord.)  It won’t take long before you feel encouraged!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saving Money and Time, Part 1

Today we are beginning a series on Saving Money.  However, I will also be including other related tips, as well.

1. Write the person’s name (Birthdays/Anniversaries) at the top of the day of their event on your calendar.

2. To save money: Buy greeting cards at thrift stores, or buy boxed cards, or make them, or use note cards and write your own sentiment or poem on the inside.

3. To save time and gas, plan all errands/running around on one day of the week.

4. Whenever possible, do two or more things at once: e.g. while riding in the car do handwork or write letters or do planning; while the family is listening to a read-aloud-book, girls can do handwork/knit/crochet or do artwork/drawing; while watching a video, have the washing machine going or sort laundry; while listening to an audio book on cassette for school, do baking/cooking/cleaning in the same area.

5. Have a “Gift Shelf” in your closet: when things are on sale, buy them for future gift-giving (baby items--both “boy” and “girl”), for showers, graduations (books, etc.), misc. small items for hostess gifts, frames/small photo albums, glass serving dishes (at outlets), etc.

6. When you buy a person’s birthday gift, also buy their Christmas gift (or vice versa). This spreads gift-buying out over the whole year instead of all at once in December; it makes gift-buying easier, because you’re already thinking of the person’s likes, and you can buy items that will go together (the shirt for birthday, the tie for Christmas; the plate for birthday, the matching cups or bowl for Christmas)

7. To save money and give something “special,” make your Christmas gifts, but start in January (you can work on them while reading or riding in the car).

8. Buy Christmas and other wrapping paper/bags when on sale (e.g. order from the Current catalog): Have a Gift-wrap center in a closet, or on a shelf, if you don’t have a special organizer, on which you keep gift-wrap/bags, tape and scissors, as well as ribbon and bows, etc.

9. Have a box or desk drawer designated for greeting cards (sorted by occasion); keep a supply of note cards on hand for thank you, thinking of you, praying for you or get well occasions; have stamps and return-address stickers in an envelope or nearby in a desk drawer or another box.

10. Put an X by the person’s name on your calendar when you have sent the card/gift or thank you.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

At the Well: Is Comfortable Necessarily Christ-like?

Gathering At the Well

At the Well...In Pursuit of Titus 2 (click here and scroll down) is asking today:  "What do you do to live a more challenging life in Christ? What areas in life are you tempted to take the easy way out?
How can you overcome those thoughts and desires? What Scriptures have you found to help develop your character in your God-given role in life?

"This topic is so broad with so many side-topics, it's hard to corral it into one pen of thoughts.  One could write a lengthy book on whether, and in what ways, pursuing an easy (or easier) life is detrimental to one's spiritual progress. Because I cannot write a book here on the subject, I'm going to look at just three points in a discussion of this weighty question (with the understanding that it is only the "tip of the iceberg"):
1) Jesus Christ's example, 2) Denying the Flesh to Strengthen the Spirit, and 3) Some Scriptures which are helpful.

1) Reading Luke 2 this morning in our family devotions, I was struck with the extreme conditions of Jesus' birth: born as a baby and placed in a manger full of straw! Was that really necessary? Why did God choose such an extremely humble birth and life for His Son? Jesus' life was like one long arrow pointing and leading up to His death on the cross for us, in payment for our sins.  That's what it was all about. At the end, crucifixion was a shameful and excruciating way to die. From a human, fleshly perspective, from the beginning to the end, Jesus' life was "challenging," to say the least.  He definitely did not take the easy way out.  (Praise God for the Resurrection of Christ!!)
Christ did nothing wrong--never sinned. And yet he suffered, he was reviled, he was threatened, and ultimately he was killed. He didn't look for trouble, but he wasn't looking for a "cushy" life. He wasn't asking, "What's in this for me?" He wasn't looking for "fun." Christ is King. The life that we associate with that status is a far cry from what he experienced on earth, yet we, instead of "following His steps" think that we should live like kings, as children of the King. When I think of Christ's earthly life, and how much He suffered, out of love for me, and how comfortable my life is, it is very convicting.

The Word says He "learned obedience through the things which He suffered". If Jesus had to learn obedience, and suffering was the way God chose for Him to learn it, it should cause us to have a different opinion and attitude towards suffering in our lives. Perhaps we should even introduce it into our lives and the lives of our children on purpose?

2) I know what you're thinking: "Is she crazy? What's she talking about? Is she masochistic or sadistic or something?  Pretty soon she'll be telling us to physically beat ourselves to be more spiritual!"  No, no, no, hold on!  Hear me out!  I'm only talking about "discipline."  You know, that horrible D-word which means pain to your body and being, but which makes you a better person?  (And when inflicted on your child's behind, brings about a sweet, happy contented child?)  Yes, that D-word.  Hebrews 12 talks alot about it.  It speaks of Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin."   The author of Hebrews continues, "My son, despise not thou the chastening (discipline) of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?...Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence."  (We should discipline our children because we love them, and because they need to learn obedience through the things which they suffer! It is assumed that fathers will discipline their children. Mental note: Write post on proper use of the rod in child-training.)  The purpose of God's chastening, or disciplining, of us follows:  "...he (chastens us) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."

But we're human.  And we're sinful.  And then there's satan.  So, the truth is, our fleshly desires get in the way of our seeing suffering and pain from God's perspective. Satan tells us that our lot in life is difficult already and we certainly aren't "avoiding" hard things. And there's no reason to look for ways to  make life more difficult, right?  Well...when you want to make your physical body stronger, what do you do?  You exercise, right?  And more specifically, perhaps you lift weights.  You absolutely DO make things more difficult for whichever muscles you want to become stronger! The premise behind weight-training is to place resistance against the muscle, causing it to have to "push back".  That strengthens it. (Not that I am an expert:) It's the same in your spiritual life.  Sailing along on a bed of ease doesn't work any of your spiritual muscles. We grow stronger spiritually when we are pressed with difficulties, overcome obstacles, and travel through times of trial and temptation. The adversities of life are the spiritual weight-training program of the Lord.  Any person who's disciplining their physical body through exercise knows there's some agony and pain involved. (And any child receiving discipline from a loving parent knows there's some pain involved.)  "Now no chastening (discipline) for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." v. 11  And if you're also dieting, you know that you have to deny the flesh what it wants in order to obtain a greater good. Denying the flesh in order to grow in the spirit is a strong theme throughout Scripture.
The apostle Paul describes some of his life's experiences in 2 Corinthians 4:  he lists being troubled, perplexed, persecuted, cast down. Also, 2 Timothy 3:12 states, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
Why should our life be easy, then? Only because our flesh desires it.
The world, and even certain Christian circles, would tell us this is the best goal, seek to satisfy every desire of the flesh. Aim for a problem-free existence, pamper yourself--You Deserve It! If you don't want to do it--then don't! If it's fraught with difficulty, it must mean you're not supposed to do it.  You've got enough problems and responsibilities in this life without looking for more--try to eliminate the bumps in life every way you can. Smooth sailing, wind at your back all the way, success at every turn.
It comes down to the flesh vs. the spirit, once again.
We are not to walk in the flesh, fulfilling the appetites of the flesh, but to walk in the spirit.  Romans 8:5-6, 13--"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
There are some very simple and homely examples from everyday life which are "where the rubber meets the road" for me.  Do I get up when my alarm goes off, or hit the snooze button three times?  Do I walk past the M&Ms in the bowl on the counter, and ignore the Christmas cookies on the buffet table?  Do I "indulge" in putting my feet up after a "hard day," and watching a feel-good chick-flick, when many household tasks are crying out to be completed? Am I willing to risk experiencing the pain of rejection, and embarrassment and shame, by boldly sharing the gospel with others God puts in my way (including those closest to me). Perhaps I need to purposely cause some pain to be experienced in order to cause my spiritual muscle to be strengthened.

3) Scriptures which help me:
Romans 12:1-2--"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God; which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Proverbs 6:6,10-11--"Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise:...Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man."

1 Peter 2:19-24--"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."

2 Cor. 4:16-18--"Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For which cause we faint not: but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Proverbs 4:7ff--"Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."
Matthew 10:38-39--"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sufficiency of Scripture Conference 2009

Click on the link above to read about the conference and the amazing speakers, (such as Paul Washer, Voddie Baucham, Ken Ham, and Doug Phillips) which is going on right now in Cincinnati, OH (I so wish I was there:) and how you can order audio sets.

But also, go to Life in a Shoe's giveaway of 3 audio sets of the Sufficiency of Scripture Conference! for a chance to enter the giveaway--wow, 3 free audio sets of the Conference being given away...that's amazing and almost as good as being there to win one.  

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thankful Thursday: The Love of God and The Magic of Ordinary Days

It's Thankful Thursday, and I'm thankful for the the love of God--now don't zone out, think about it really--the kind of love that takes an undeserving wretch like me and faithfully loves me, even though I don't appreciate Him and love Him the way that I should, and even though I often give other people and things the attention and devotion that He deserves and even though I am not grateful and actually am incapable of loving Him without His help. Is there a person on earth who would keep loving sacrificially the way God does? I'm thankful that God loved me so much, He died for me, before I loved Him back. (1 John 4:10,19--"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (offering/sacrifice) for our sins...We love him, because he first loved us."

The movie "The Magic of Ordinary Days" (click here to go to for more information on this Hallmark movie) is to me a picture (albeit an imperfect one) of God's faithful love for me.  "Keri Russell, Skeet Ulrich and Emmy Award winner Mare Winningham star in this new 'Hallmark Hall of Fame' presentation. Set during World War II, the poignant love story is about an unwed pregnant woman who is sent to a small Colorado town to marry a lonely farmer who agrees to raise her child as his own."
I recommend this film to you, even if you don't agree with me about the analogy being a good one. But, in any case, let these words remind you of a more perfect love--that of Christ for you. I am very thankful.
Click on Laurie's blog for more thankful posts.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Fast Meals for Frenzied Moms

Ok, you've got 1 hour until you've got to have supper on the table, and everybody has to get out the door quickly after that:  What're ya gonna have? Here are 3 fast, hearty and delicious meals for your family, that you can cook up in a jiffy.
1. Golden Baked Chicken with Spicy Oven Fried Potatoes
(ready in 1 hour or less including prep)
(from "Quick Meals for Healthy Kids and Busy Parents")
Serve with fresh fruit or veggies, or canned green beans.
Golden Baked Chicken
Serves 6 (1 Breast each--these are quite filling, so this will probably serve 8-10)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°.  Place flour and paprika in a resealable bag.  Add chicken to bag and shake.  Melt butter in baking dish.  Place chicken in baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. (You can cut the breasts in half to cook even faster.)
Remove foil. Bake for 10 minutes more on each side until chicken is golden brown.

204 calories per serving; 29 gm. protein; 9 gm. carbohydrates; 5 gm. fat; 68 mg. cholesterol; 1 gm. fiber; 2 mg. iron; 18 mg. calcium; 122 mg. sodium
Spicy Oven Fried Potatoes
Serves 4 (1/2 cup each) (plan on doubling this recipe at least)
3 medium potatoes (Plan on more--I use 7 potatoes to serve 6)
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp dired basil or oregano
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper
Preheat broiler (or bake longer along with the chicken at 400°--they just won't be quite as crispy)
While chicken is baking: Scrub potatoes and cut into slices or wedges.
Melt butter. Place butter and spices in large bowl or resealable bag (I use a bowl). Coat potatoes with butter mixture by stirring in bowl or shaking in bag.  Place potatoes in single layer on cookie sheet.  Broil potatoes 5-10 minutes on each side until golden brown. Or, if baking along with the chicken in above recipe, bake at 400° for 20 minutes, turning, until golden brown. (It doesn't hurt the chicken to be under the broiler a little, so I've put my oven on broil and finished up the chicken with the potatoes for 5-10 minutes that way.)

217 calories per serving; 4 gm. protein; 38 gm. carbohydrates; 6 gm. fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 gm. fiber; 2 mg. iron; 20 mg. calcium; 131 mg. sodium
Exchanges: 2 bread
2.  Bacon Cheesy Baked Potatoes
(ready in 1 hour)
Serves 6
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  While oven is preheating, scrub 6 medium-sized baking potatoes. Pierce in several places, and prebake in microwave for 5 minutes on high. Wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes in oven (until done).
Bacon options: cook on stove top; bake on a Pampered Chef Stoneware Bar pan in oven for 15 minutes with the potatoes; or use precooked bacon in a package.
Use your favorite shredded cheese.
Serve potatoes with bacon, cheese, and any other toppings you like: broccoli, sour cream, refried beans, leftover chili... be creative with trying new tastes. Pineapple tidbits with the bacon tastes great!

3.  Southwestern Pasta (Ready in 30 minutes)
Serves 6-8
1 (28oz) can no-salt-added (or regular) whole tomatoes, pureed
(or use diced tomatoes--which just makes this chunkier)
1 onion, chopped or 1 tbsp minced onion
1 tsp dried oregano leaves

1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
(I leave them out)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 (16oz) pkg rotini or other noodles
1 (16oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10oz) pkg frozen corn or 1 can corn
1 (4-1/2oz) can chopped green chilies, drained
(or use a little more cumin and chili powder, if you like the spice)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Spray a large pan with Pam. On the stovetop, heat tomatoes, onion, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, sugar, cinnamon, red pepper flakes (if using), salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, to blend the flavors: 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta, omitting salt and oil.  Drain. Stir into the sauce the black beans, corn and green chilies (if using).  Cook until the corn is just crisp-tender, about 5 min.
Remove from the heat, toss with the pasta, and serve with cheddar cheese.

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