Surprised by Joy18

I have been nominated for another blogger award!

The Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
  2. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post/or blog site.
  3. Answer the 11 questions asked by the nominator who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 questions.
  5. Notify your nominees about it by commenting on one of their blogs
  • Joy18’s questions for me:

1. What are three of your favorite things to do?

I’ve heard that to know what your passion is, ask yourself what you were doing the last time you lost all track of time. For me, that would be when talking with someone who is “on the same page,” where we’re finishing each other’s sentences and getting more animated as we talk about our passions. (My favorite subject is Jesus.)

I also lose track of time when I’m writing – a story, a blog, a book, a letter, a poem, or a song – when I’m inspired and can’t write down the words fast enough.

I love reading a book I have loved to my grandchildren, using my voices and dialects, when they keep begging for “one more chapter, Pleeeeeease?!”

2. Would you rather live in the city or country? Why?

Depends … if “country” means no people, I’d pick the city, as I’m a “people person.” I was raised in the suburbs of St. Louis, while my husband was raised in rural Illinois. When we are in a city, he is asking, “Where are the woods? The creeks? The fields?” When we’re in the country, I’m asking, “Where is everybody?”

3. What is your favorite Bible verse or chapter in the Bible? Why?

Old Testament, I love Isaiah 53, because it’s a detailed description of the suffering of Jesus, written hundreds of years before He was born. It’s a poignant picture of Redemption.

New Testament, probably Romans 8, which starts with the gloriously reassuring promise “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …” It has guidelines for having the right mindset, hence a right walk with God. The promise that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose, and that absolutely nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ – These wrap up the list of  promises that we can and should live by.

4. What is the story behind your Blog’s name?

I think the source of every human problem is rooted in how we perceive things. The cosmic battle takes place in the mind, where the world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly feeding us lies. I believe that getting God’s perspective is the way to change direction and get on the right path to being who we were created to be.

5. Where do you find your identity?

In Christ.

6. What is your favorite greeting?

One from someone I can tell is genuinely happy to see me. The exact words don’t matter.

7.What is your best tip for Bible studying?

Don’t feel forced to stick to a rigid reading plan. (“I must read __ chapters today.”) Read until God speaks to you, then stop and meditate on what He might be saying to you through that passage or verse. It may take a few chapters, or just a few verses.

8. What are your favorite color(s)?

I love purple – not pastel, but rich, royal purple, and royal blue. Other favorites depend on the time of year. Now that it’s the Christmas season, I’m into gold, silver, white, and clear(crystal).

9. Who is one person from history who inspires you? If you could spend a day with this person, what would you do and talk about?

Of course, Jesus is #1. But I am also looking forward to meeting His mother Mary. I would ask her what it was like to be told she would be the mother of the Messiah, what Jesus was like as a Child, and how she felt seeing Him rise to popularity, then hated and crucified. And what was Resurrection morning like??? I would love to just sit and listen to her reminisce, to watch her face …

My nominees:

@dettinger47

@bruster

@francesrogers

@rebeccaluellamiller

@mitchteemley

@vicklea

@chaplapreneur

@onetarhayes

@cynthiadawson

@slaininthespirit

@thatredheadgirl

My questions for the nominees:

  1. Where were you born?
  2. Where do you live now?
  3. Who is your favorite author and why?
  4. If you could spend a whole day anywhere you wanted, doing anything you wanted, what would you do, and where?
  5. What is the most life-changing truth you have ever discovered in the Bible?
  6. What is your idea of the dream job?
  7. Who was the most influential teacher you have ever had, and why?
  8. What was the most challenging thing God has ever told you to do?
  9. Do you remember your dreams? If so, what is one dream you’ve had that clearly told or showed you something you needed to know and understand?
  10. What is your favorite book or chapter or verse in the Bible, and why?
  11. If you could ask God any question and know that He would answer you, what would you ask?

Have fun with this. I look forward to knowing you all better.

Blessings!

Annie

 

Wait … What?

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.                                                                                                                                                       Galatians 6:1

Last week (“He Owes Me What?”) I shared about a time when I was going through more pain than I had ever known so far, and the way I had felt how “unfair” it was, since I had taken such good care of myself – ate right, exercised, etc. As the title implied, I had to correct my thinking, that somehow God “owed” me a healthy body, just because I had been doing all the “right” things.

Okay, lesson learned. But in those moments of helpless agony, I had another frustration, and that was that all this pain wasn’t really accomplishing anything. My friend Kelly, mother of five, had asked me if I would compare the level of pain to that of childbirth, and I had said it was worse, because, unlike  labor pains, this pain had no breaks. Another reason it seemed worse was that labor pains usually have a very positive outcome – a brand new little person! I felt that somehow I wouldn’t mind all this quite as much  if I knew that what I was going through had some purpose to it.

During that time, in my delirious ramblings, somewhere in my prayers was Lord, if I’m not getting relief from this, would You at least let this pain be subtracted from somebody else’s suffering? I’d like to think that while I’m going through this, I am sparing someone else from having to endure the same thing. Weird prayer, maybe, but as I said last week, I was being pretty weird.

I had the radio on to try to get my mind on other things besides how awful I felt, and on the local news I heard about a young man in the military from a small town in our area  who had been captured by the enemy. I immediately recognized that I had something new to pray about. I spent some time praying for this young man by name, and contemplating the fact that, unlike me, he may be surrounded by people who not only didn’t care if he was hurting, but may have been devoting their energies to making sure he suffered as much as humanly possible. I tried to ignore my pounding head and sinus pressure so bad it made my teeth hurt, and focus on this young man, who, for all I knew, was going through way worse than I was.

When this whole ordeal was over for me, I marveled at how good “normal” felt after being so miserable for a few days. Some time later, the news came out that the soldier I had been praying for had been released and had come home. Delighted, I sat down to read the full-page article in the local paper. Most of the article was an interview with the young man about his experience, beginning with his capture.

He immediately had my sympathy when I read that his enemies had broken his nose during the capture. What really got my attention, however, was what he had said after he had described the various beatings and other abuses he had received: He had added that, oddly enough, through all the other pain, his broken nose had never really hurt.

I’m not saying that I was feeling his broken nose or had anything to do with this bizarre detail, but it did help to think that maybe – just maybe – God had answered my prayer and subtracted this pain from the man I was praying for.

I’ll add it to my list of things I’m going to ask Him when I see Him.

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, I can’t fathom the pain You went through for us, at the hands of the very people You were dying for. I can’t fathom that kind of love. In view of Your mercy, I offer You my body as a living sacrifice, to use in ways I may not understand now. But I trust You, always. In Your name, Amen.

 

He Owes Me What?

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.                                                 Philippians 3: 7-8

Our pastor has been preaching a series of sermons on Job, and as the focus was on suffering, I had a flashback of a time of physical pain that was so intense and unrelenting that my mind was consumed with just one thought: What can I do to get out of this pain? My friend with five children asked if it was worse than childbirth. Having had three children myself, I said yes, because with labor pains, at least there are breaks in between, but this pain was nonstop.

I had had sinus surgery, in hopes that it would put an end to my chronic problems, but the ensuing infection – my worst ever – along with a bout of flu that prevented me from keeping down any oral meds, turned this time into the most physically painful  experience of my life. For about 36 straight hours all I could do was sit helplessly in the recliner (Lying down made the pressure even more unbearable.) whimpering, “Ow-ow-ow-ow …” The sum total of my prayers was, Make it stop! Make it stop! PLEEEEESE make it stop!

For a while I passed the time using a little trick a friend had taught me. If your sinuses are so congested that the pressure is intolerable, the thing to do is exhale deeply, and wait as long as possible before inhaling. Blood will rush from your head to your lungs, and the pressure will be relieved … a little … for a few seconds. Of course, in the meantime your lungs erupt in spasms and you’ll feel as if you’re smothering, which isn’t fun either, but at least it’s a switch to a different kind of pain. Going back and forth between suffocating and head-in-a-vice pain, I thought about Jesus on the Cross, having to push up against the nails in His feet in order to be able to breathe, going from one kind of agony to another, hour after hour, and gained a new appreciation for what He had gone through … for me.

As my head throbbed incessantly, I remembered that Jesus had been beaten in the face. He must have had His nose broken, and so He knows what I’m feeling. … But then Scripture says not a bone of His was broken, so maybe not. … but then, nose isn’t bone, is it? It’s cartilage … and such was my delirious train of thought through the minutes and hours of agony.

At other moments, between episodes of vomiting, I contemplated the unfairness of it all. I lived a healthy lifestyle! I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t take drugs, didn’t eat junk food. I only drank coffee in the morning. I exercised, I ate lean meats, yogurt, and salads – organic salads! – I took supplements. …

As I rehearsed my list of all the reasons I should not be going through this, I was getting into an unhealthy mindset. If I had tried verbalizing it, I might have heard how ridiculous it was.

In the moments when I was able to think somewhat rationally, I silently recited  passages of Scripture that I had memorized. At one point I tried “reading” Philippians. In chapter 3 Paul was reciting a litany of reasons he could have (but didn’t) “put confidence in the flesh.”

“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”  (Philippians 3: 4-6)

Paul then went on to say that all that counted for nothing – it was “rubbish.” What mattered was knowing Jesus Christ. Nothing that Paul had done in the past in the way of “righteous acts” could earn him salvation.

There was something familiar about this passage. Who was it that was just rattling off all their credentials as reasons why God “owed” them something?

Oh yeah, that was me. I had somehow got into my head that all my “healthy living” meant God owed me a healthy body.

It “just happened to be” Good Friday, and as the Christian radio station softly played the local church service, I considered that the sinless Lamb of God was sacrificed for my sins, so that I didn’t have to spend eternity in agony, but could be forgiven and adopted into God’s family.

It hit me like a crumbling mountain:

God. Owes. Me. NOTHING.

If dying on the cross were the only thing Jesus ever did for me, if He never gave me another blessing for the rest of my earthly life, I still had reason to be grateful every day.

I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the “fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,” but I did try to stop complaining.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I don’t like suffering – don’t even like the thought of it. I hate thinking of what You went through, especially that my sin was the reason it was necessary. Thank You for being willing to go through it all to pay the price that I could never pay myself. Amen

 

Thank God for Maggots

“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.”                                                                                                                                                                                    (Romans 8:28)

Maggots are blessings from God.

(When I was a speech teacher, I had a list of nine ways to begin a speech that would grab the audience’s attention. You just read an example of “the startler.”)

Years ago I came across an article in the newspaper that I found so fascinating that I clipped it and stuck it in my Bible, where it stayed for years (along with about 90 other miscellaneous pieces of paper – Does anyone else do that?). I’m not sure what my original purpose was for putting it there, possibly because it made the whole notion of Darwinian evolution look pretty ridiculous. – reason in itself for me to like an article.

This article was about a man whose injured leg became so severely infected that after doctors had unsuccessfully tried the most advanced antibiotics, he was finally scheduled to have the leg amputated. A relative heard about the revival of an ancient treatment involving the use of maggots. As a last-ditch effort the family agreed to give the little critters a try. The man’s leg was cleaned, a layer of hungry maggots applied, and gauze loosely wrapped around the area. Two days later the gauze and the maggots were removed, revealing a pink, healthy leg, and the surgery was canceled.

The amazing thing about maggots is that these little creatures can tell the difference between live tissue and dead tissue, and they only eat the dead stuff.  They also secrete a chemical substance that promotes healing, so in the case of the man with the dying leg, the maggots ate the dead tissue, left the live tissue, and bathed it in medicine. (“Survival of the fittest”? I think not.)

So, why am I telling this story, other than the fact that I now have the attention of every middle school boy? (Yeah, I’ve taught middle school. Gross is cool.) As we go through life, we get wounded – don’t we? Everything seems hideous, horrifying, chaotic, and just plain wrong. Sometimes prayer yields only more appalling circumstances. (Maggots eating my flesh? Hey, I’m not dead yet!) But Scripture teaches us that “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28) and there’s a reason it says that. Because, if we truly are trusting God, with the passing of time what seemed so disgusting and appalling actually turns out to be right, until one morning you wake up and realize … you’re healed.

Next week I’ll share with you such a time in my life.

Prayer: Lord, Your ways are so much higher than ours, and our vision is so blurred by our own inadequacies and insecurities. We trust that You are working all things together for our good, even those things that seem appalling to us at the time. Thank You for not quitting on us when we complain about our circumstances, even when we beg You to “make it stop!” You alone know everything it’s going to take for us to be truly healed.  We yield our lives to You, in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Seduction, the Frog, and the Death of Sunday

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field the LORD God had made.”      Genesis 3:1a  (KJ21)

You have probably heard of the frog in the pot – the poor, unsuspecting creature relaxing in a pot of cool water, thinking all is well. If the water suddenly turned hot, it would jump out and save itself. But since the water is heated very gradually over the stove, the cold-blooded critter just keeps adapting. Finally, the water begins to boil, and it can no longer adapt, because it is now dead.

I have heard this analogy related to America and some of the obvious evils of our time. But I haven’t seen much attention paid to a more subtle onslaught of things that would not necessarily be called “evil,” but can take a more prominent place than they should in our lives. When certain things – even good things – take precedence over the things of God, it’s time to take a serious look at our priorities.

When I was growing up, most Americans went to church on Sundays, and the ones who didn’t usually had Sundays set aside for family. The people running the schools wouldn’t have dreamed of scheduling anything on a Sunday.

If Congress were to pass a law making it illegal to attend church in America, with serious penalties attached, I’m guessing there would be a massive outcry from the Christian community. (This is why this hasn’t happened.)

But today something more subtle is taking place in certain regions, in stages that go something like this:

1. “Yes, we’ll have occasional practices on Sundays, but they’ll always be at 1:00 P.M., so it won’t interfere with church.” (No one objects.)

2. “So, practices at 1:00 on Sundays seem to be working well with everyone, so we’re going to do that every week during the season.” (Again, no objections.)

3. “There will be a few games this season on Sundays, but don’t worry, they’ll be in the afternoons.” (Still, no objections.)

4. “Since Sunday’s game is out of town, please be at the school at 10:45 A.M. The bus is leaving at 11:00.” (Parents think, Oh well, it’s just this once.) (Care to take a guess as to whether this will be just a one-time thing?)

And the frog sits in the pot, while church pews and Sunday school seats are collecting dust. We can’t blame the world – it’s just doing what the world does. If Christians aren’t speaking up, why would anyone else turn off the stove?

When I see kids who have been absent from church and tell them we missed them, there’s a tendency to shrug and say, “I had a game,” as if the choice had been a no-brainer. They haven’t consciously chosen sports over God; if you were to ask them what is more important, they would say “God” without hesitation. But when it comes to time commitment, other activities seem to be the nonnegotiable every time.

What frustrates me when there are five leaders and two kids at Sunday school or youth group, is not the kids that are missing. It’s the complicity of the parents, who drive them to their meetings, practices, and games, but can’t manage to bring them to a church function. And when one child has an activity that is using the family transportation, that often means none of his/her siblings will be at church, either, even if they want to be. What kind of message are we sending the next generation, when God is relegated to the back burner week after week?

What is the frog’s (child’s) perspective over time?

1. “My family always goes to church on Sunday, unless we’re sick or there’s an emergency.”

2. “My family usually goes to church on Sunday, unless something else comes up.”

3. “Sometimes my family goes to church Sunday, if there’s nothing else going on.”

4. “My family sometimes goes to church on Christmas Eve and Easter.”

I can hear cries of “Legalism!” coming from some corners. And I have read on other blogs, “Do we have to go to church to worship God?” And the answer is, no, of course not. But a huge part of worship is obedience. God’s Word repeatedly stresses how important we are to one another. Understand, He needs nothing from us, but we need to be together, to experience the joy of corporate worship, to pray for and with one another, and to study the Bible together. (Studying it alone makes it too easy to go off onto some personal tangent and away from the Author.) Besides, how many of us will really worship, pray, and study Scripture consistently, independent of others?

If you are imprisoned in solitary confinement for believing in Jesus (a very real scenario in many places), then God will honor whatever fellowship you have with Him. He will certainly meet you where you are. But if there’s ample opportunity to get together with other believers as He has told us to do, to be encouraged and strengthened by them – not to mention the encouragement they need from you – and you blatantly choose not to participate, don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road you may be thinking, I just don’t feel as close to God as I used to. And the enemy of your soul will use that as an excuse not to believe at all.

And the frog dies.

While Christians in other countries risk their freedom, their livelihood, and their very lives to gather with the faithful, why are American Christians so blase about practicing their faith? Believers in other parts of the world would give their right arm to be able to fellowship, study the Bible, worship, and pray freely with fellow believers. What would they say about our preoccupation with extracurricular activities while “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”? (Hebrews 10:25)

The schools have our children six days a week. Why do they need access to them on Sundays, too? I wonder (in my fantasy world) what would happen if at the beginning of the semester every church-going Christian parent in America were to say (politely), “My child would very much like to participate in __________, but we go to church on Sunday morning, and the rest of the day we are together as a family, so (s)he won’t be able to participate on Sundays.”?

I’m guessing we’ll never know.

Okay, parents, prove me wrong.

Prayer: Lord, You are my life – the first, the last, and everything in between. Let my actions and choices show it. Please reveal to me anything that I am knowingly or unknowingly putting ahead of you, and deliver me from subtle idolatry. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Depth Of My Pride — Unshakable Hope

This is an amazing family, living out their faith in ways we can only imagine, – or can’t imagine! They are a picture of God’s grace. Please read, and if you are able to help, please do.

Reasoned Cases for Christ

As the followers of my blog know, I’ve had ALS for twenty-two years, I’m completely paralyzed and unable to speak. I use an eye-tracking computer to communicate and I am totally reliant on Mary to take care of me. Chipping away at my pride I remember when I first started having to rely on others […]

Please read this and if you are able to assist Bill and Mary via the GoFundMe link, please do so. Grace and blessings!

via The Depth Of My Pride — Unshakable Hope

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“…No Turning Back, No Turning Back.”

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ ”                                                      Luke 9:62

More often than not, I don’t remember my dreams. I wake up with a vague sense that I have dreamed something, but I usually can’t recall it, and that’s OK. Later in the morning, as I am giving my mind to God for the day, I will ask Him to help me forget what ought to be forgotten, and remember what I need to remember, including dreams. Sometimes as I pray that prayer, a dream will come back to me, and I immediately know what it was saying to me.

A couple of months ago I had a dream that I remembered  the moment I woke up, and to this day it has had an effect on  the way I view my faith and my calling.

We had experienced some storms over the summer that had knocked out the power and had toppled some trees. Limbs in the road were starting to be a familiar sight. So, the dream that I had that one night was so vivid that it seemed even more real than the average dream.

In my dream, my friend Bre and I had walked to the end of the pier near our house. The waves of Lake Michigan were splashing against the base of the lighthouse, and we could see dark clouds approaching from the North. As the wind picked up and started whipping our hair and clothes around, I started to wonder how much longer we should stay on the pier. At that moment Bre and I said simultaneously, “We’d better get back.”

When we looked behind us, the waves were washing over the pier in depths between 4 and 12 inches at any given moment. The pier looked slippery and treacherous, and there were no railings to hold onto.

As the waves got bigger and the wind stronger, we realized it was highly unlikely that we could walk back to the shore.

And then I saw the shore.

Dozens of large trees had fallen, their tangled limbs forming an impenetrable hedge all along the shoreline.

I was thinking we’d need to call a friend with a boat, or even the Coast Guard, but Bre and I realized that neither of us had a cell phone, and that the only chance of survival was to hang onto the lighthouse. At that point getting home before the storm was over had about 0% chance of success.

The gravity of our situation was just beginning to sink in, and I woke up before it turned into a full-blown panic attack. As I lay in the dark, realizing this dream wasn’t dissolving into the night like most of my dreams, I pondered its meaning.

Bre and I were at the end of the pier. What else is at the end of a pier?

A lighthouse.

What does a lighthouse do?

It shines a light in the darkness. It prevents shipwrecks by warning of impending danger, and it guides ships from the storms of life into a safe harbor. 

Bre and I have some things in common, but the most important thing we share is our faith in Christ. As Christ-followers, it’s our duty to shine His light into the darkness, to warn people of the disaster that awaits if they keep going their own way and do not heed His Word, and to guide others to the safe harbor of His love. (I know, Cliche City here. Sorry.)

But I saw something else in my dream about being “between a rock and a hard place.” As difficult as it was to stay out there in the storm, just hanging onto (being?) the lighthouse, it would be much harder, even fatal, trying to go back where we came from. Clearly there was no going back.

I was sharing this dream with my friend Kelly, and she said, “But I know people who have gone back. They have renounced Jesus and no longer follow Him.” (How tragic!)

I replied, “Well, then this dream was saying that for me, there’s no going back.”

A few days later I received a text message from another friend, one I had seen on a trip back to my old home town. The text said how good it was to spend time with me again, and it closed with the statement, “You are a lighthouse.”

I had never been called that before, but I thought with a wry smile, Yeah, I know

Has God called you to do something important for His kingdom? (If you profess to believe in Him, your answer had better be “Yes!”) Is it getting harder and harder? Are there storms? Have you thought that life was easier before you made a commitment to Christ? Are you tempted to go back?

Don’t even think about it.

Prayer: Lord, You set Your face toward the Cross, and You didn’t turn back, because the Cross was necessary to save us from our sins. In view of Your mercy, and knowing that You will never abandon us, help us to follow You wholeheartedly, “no turning back, no turning back.” In Your name, Amen.