May 5, 2010

Still-Living Proof

Today I'd like to do something a little different. I'm sending you over to my dear friend LeAnn's blog. Her story is powerful and her testimony through it encouraging. She was shot twice in the Wichita Falls shooting two weeks ago and is still proclaiming the goodness of our God. If you've ever needed to know that God is very real in tragedy, please read her last 4 blogs, starting with her entry titled 4.20.10. And if you think about it, could you send up a prayer for my sweet sister? Thank you, and be encouraged by her testimony. God is showing Himself to you this morning through her. Listen closely.

Click here: LeAnn's Blog

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Apr 26, 2010

When Tragedy Strikes

I'm sitting here completely emotionally raw. Sometimes I forget how broken this world is. I get wrapped up in T-ball, birthday parties, coffee with friends or dates with the hubby. I dress up and act like a child with my Young Life girls. I'm filled with the carefree, beautiful moments of life.

And I forget.

I forget there's an enemy after us all. I forget our bodies are frail and life really does end. I forget sometimes we are called to suffer.

Lately I have been surrounded by friends in turmoil. To respect their personal fights I won't go into detail, but I have been left reeling by all the tragedy. My whole being shouts at no one in particular, "WHAT IS GOING ON?" I'm flattened by how quickly life can rip the rug right out from underneath you. How rapidly one event can shake your very foundation and leave you feeling like you have nowhere to land.

In the time it takes to mutter the sentence, "She's been in an accident", life can turn from

Teetering. Threatening. Crushing.

What is our response to be when hell breaks loose in our lives or when tragedy rolls in like a September hurricane? I know my natural reaction is to stand in a stupor wondering what the heck just happened. My mind fills up with why's and what if's. In short, I spiral. Down. If I don't watch out, way down.

Thankfully, today God jerked me out of that descent with Peter's words:

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . . " 1 Pet. 5:8-9a

He reminded me that in our darkest nights, whether they come from God, Satan or are just natural consequences of living in a broken world, Satan is waiting like a lion ready to pounce on a defenseless gazelle. To consume us while we're weakened by sadness or confusion. His goal is, at best, to get us distracted from God and, at worst, to get us to turn away from Him completely. But God's script reads much differently:

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Pet. 5:10

We must be self-controlled and alert. Aware of the enemy's tactics, resisting him and standing firm in our faith. The result? Victory.

Alert: Be expecting an attack. Satan ain't fair; watch for him. He's always looking to kick us while we're down.

Self-controlled: How do we control ourselves? By handing control over to God every minute of every day, especially when we're in a suffering season. "God, I can't do this. I'm weak and can't do what I'm supposed to do. You do it; control my every thought and action."

Resist the enemy: Stop running. Turn around, look him in the face, and spit scripture in it. If you do it long enough and often enough, he will flee (James 4:7). A technique I learned from Beth Moore that has helped me memorize some fightin' verses is what I like to call a Scripture Spiral. No worries - this is a good kind of spiral. I buy an index card spiral and on each card I jot down a verse that is a truth that combats a lie the enemy is trying to feed me. For example, when I was battling panic attacks one of my verses was 2 Tim. 1:7: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind." I had a spiral filled with similar verses and when I felt a lie trying to overtake me, I would pull that thing out and start praying out loud. For the Timothy verse my prayer might have sounded something like, "God, I know this fear is not from you because you have not given me a spirit of fear. You have given me a sound mind! You have given me power! Now help me walk in it!" Sometimes the battle was short; sometimes it lasted all day. But I kept fighting. We must do the same to chase off the devil.

Stand firm in the faith: Fight knowing that you are in a winning battle. You can fight with confidence because you know the truth - at the end of your suffering you will be restored, stronger, more firm and steadfast. Like a vibrant rainbow after a treacherous storm, the Christ-light you will shine will be glaring against your previous darkness. You will be more like Jesus and will glorify Him more powerfully.

I wish we didn't have to suffer. I look at my friends and my heart breaks for them. I wish I could hit rewind on their lives and save them from it all. But I can't.

I find solace knowing there is purpose in the suffering. I know He is going to bring good out of this. He's going to fulfill His promise noted in Romans 8:28 to work ALL things together for the good of these girls. He hasn't left them or abandoned them; in fact, He is closer than ever. I am praying that they feel His presence and love, surrender to His control, and fight valiantly alongside Him. I know I'm going to battle every day for them.

Father, oh, my heart is so heavy for my friends, but I trust you. I know you are Love. Comfort these girls in their pain and protect them from the enemy. Give them the strength to fight when the time comes and remind them of your love, your protection, and their coming restoration. Oh, surround them with your peace. And when it's our turn in the dark, please do the same for us. In Jesus' name, amen.

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Apr 6, 2010

Weed War

Aah . . . a boy and his dog. Precious, huh?

As much as I could show off my son to you all day, what I really want you to see is those pretty purple irises behind him. I love those flowers. This pic was taken shortly after we moved into this house a year ago; these things just magically popped up out of the ground one day. I didn't have to dirty one finger in that soil to receive those beauties. Amazing.

Last week as I started to see this year's new iris leaves budding, I rushed over to imbibe the glory of the new growth. "Yey! Green!!!" There is little I love more than fresh, Spring green-ness (Not a word? Whatever, spell checker). I mean, look at those rich, reedy leaves. Absolutely stunning. However, as I looked a little closer, I noticed tiny vines of greenery snaking through my brand-new flora. As cute as they were, I realized they were weeds and by the looks of their abundance, were already threatening to take over the bed.

I wasn't havin' it.

Now, I've never weeded anything in my life, but I figured it couldn't be too difficult. Just grab it and pull it out, right? Right. I grabbed those little babies and plucked them right out, root and all. In a swift 20 minutes I had them all gone. Didn't even break a sweat. As I stepped back and took a gander, I was pleased. "Aaah. . .so pretty. Good job, Misti." Mental pat on the back.

"Wait. Uh, what is that?"

Take another look at the picture above. See those little, leafy, viney things right above Buddy's and Cooper's heads?

Weeds. Sneaky ones.

See, if they would have looked like that, towering over my new buds like a 5th grade bully, I would have noticed them on the first perusal of my garden and yanked them out immediately. But my husband, in his manish sort of way, had taken his 4-foot branch cutters and gone to town on that little plot of land a few weeks earlier. So what I had now were baby bullies-in-training just biding their time for total soil domination.

Still, in my botanical ignorance, I didn't really understand their dangerous plan until I grabbed ahold of one and gave it a jerk. I almost pulled my finger off.

"Uh, excuse me?" Now I was mad.

At a plant.

It was then that I set my heart on exterminating these little creepers at any cost. No weed would have its way on my property! No sir, no way!!! Who did they think they were anyway?

I spent the next 45 minutes pulling out 4 weeds. I have never known anything or anyone so stubborn in my life. Pause. That is a lie. I live with myself, after all. Anyhoo, after repeated twists and tugs -- and a chuckle from my mother-in-law who was in the next garden over pulling out the pleasantly simple weeds I mentioned earlier -- I fetched a spade and began to dig around the roots hoping to loosen the dirt enough to get the little pest to release its foothold. Its strength was ridiculous. Nevertheless, after I dug what seemed to be 6 inches down into the ground, I was able to extract the little villain. I did the same digging, yanking, and twisting until I had saved my babies from all their prospective oppressors. I wish I had a picture of the roots of these suckers. They were at least 4 inches long. Crazy.

As taxing as it was to expurgate those weeds, I'm glad I persevered because I learned so much about life that day -- about our continuing journey to freedom.

Much like me focusing on the first overtly visible weeds, sometimes we focus on our sinful behaviors but completely miss the insidiously deeper issues behind them. It's easy to make our gardens look pretty by ridding them of behaviors like drinking or cussing or extra-marital sex. We can fix our actions and find comfort in it. But there's more to us than surface behaviors; there are hidden villains hiding deep within us wreaking havoc with plans to destroy us. Are we willing to look deeper?

These hidden hurts and sins go deep and are tough to wrench out. It's going to take work -- long, hard work -- to find freedom from sins that we have used to manage our lives for decades or from hurts that have clung to us for a lifetime. There will be casualties. I lost my spade; you may lose a toxic relationship or favorite pastime or hobby. We will get discouraged. Somedays we'll feel like we've got this thing whipped for sure and then, BAM! It's up in our faces again. The question is, are we willing to dive back in? Are we game for whatever it takes to root out the life-long sin or hurt?

The earlier you catch 'em, the easier it is. Two of the roots I dug up had been there for a while. I could tell by their tree twig-like tap roots. Those took me a good fifteen minutes to pull. Their smaller, younger counterparts took considerably less effort. It's the same with us: the longer we ignore a sin or a hurt, the bigger and stronger it grows. If we can get it in its toddler phase, we'll have a much easier go at it.

Who knew you could learn so much from a stupid, little vine? As I left my bully-free flower bed that morning, sweaty armpits and all, I couldn't help but be proud of myself. I had faced down the enemies and come out victorious. My prayer is that the weeding of my soul would be as successful.

What are you doing to weed your garden?

Father, we want to be fertile soil in which You can grow Your likeness. Give us the boldness to work with You to yank out any weed that is in the way of that growth. We surrender to Your work in us. We love You, amen.

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Mar 25, 2010

Run, Run as Fast as You Can . . .

As much as I would like to write you all an encouraging blog directly from the mouth of God, I cannot hear Him.

I have been hurried and busy this morning. I have bounded out of bed, sprinted to school, skidded into the principal's office for a meeting and then rushed out again. I've paused to meet with my counselor and then been in a whirlwind of shopping, lunching, and meeting since. But like a good little Christian girl, I have come home and arrived here at my computer awaiting a word from God.

With a whole hour to spare.


And He is quiet.

Or maybe He isn't, but how would I know? I haven't given Him enough time to still me so I can hear Him. So often this is how I approach my daily life with Him. I carve out an hour in between activities and expect Him to speak on my schedule. I approach Him with a head full of screaming thoughts and ask Him to hurry and speak to me. Even now I'm glancing at that little clock in the corner of my computer wondering if I'll be able to finish this blog by the time I need to leave to pick up Cooper.

Prideful little twerp.

When will I learn I cannot hear a quiet voice amidst the cacophony of a packed schedule? When will I finally understand that everything on my agenda must bow to my time with Him, not the other way around? Wow. Stubborn.

So today I have no instruction on how to hear God. But what I can share is how not to.

How to Quench God's Voice
1. Don't schedule your time with Him.
2. Overbook yourself.
3. Check off everything on your schedule before you sit down with Him.
4. Give God a time limit

Today I am a lesson in what not to do. I pray that you will be wiser than I.

Father, forgive us when we get too busy for You or when we try to stuff your Universe-sized Self into our amoeba-sized schedules. Help us to put You at the very top of our daily plans and give You all the time You need with us. We love You; help our schedules reflect that. Amen.

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Mar 10, 2010

A Sick Devotional

Sleeping Cat
Hey guys! I'm feeling a little under the weather today and have been instructed by my husband to rest. "You don't have to write, Misti." Uh, does he know me at all? Doesn't he know that someone who loves to write must do so or she will explode?! But, I will submit; he usually knows what he's talking about anyway.

However, I didn't want to leave you without some encouragement this week, so here is a link to some pretty great devotions from a book by Dr. Larry Crabb titled 66 Love Letters. Drawing from a different book of the Bible in each devotion, he speaks truths gleaned from that book using the voice of God. Here's an example from Habakkuk:

Know this: those who live by faith will struggle in ways that those who live to make their lives work will never know. It is that struggle, to believe despite desperate pain and confusion that a good plan is unfolding, that will open your eyes to see Me more clearly. Is that what you want? Will you pay the price?

During Lent, he's sending out a portion of each devotion via email every day. If you're interested in receiving them either click here, or sign up on the above website under the drop-down menu on the left. You'll select "66 Love Letters" and then click "Lenten Reflection Sign-Up".

Alright. . .have a wonderful day. I'm going back to bed.

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Mar 8, 2010

The Voice Review

I've recently been reading a new retelling of the New Testament called The Voice by Thomas Nelson Publishers. If any of you are looking for a fresh voice in which to read the Word, I would recommend this work, though with caution. That caution comes in reading it as a translation when I think it should be read more as a commentary.

I've been riveted to the page by the creative format, modern language, informative commentary and sheer entertainment of the work. The Voice is written in a screenplay format, which puts you right in the middle of the action. Instead of reading:

"Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'" You're able to jump into the scene:

Jesus: Dear woman, where is everyone? Are we alone? Did no one step forward to condemn you?
Woman Caught in Adultery: Lord, no one has condemned me.
Jesus: Well, I do not condemn you either; all I ask is that you go and from now on avoid the sins that plague you.

Though I was hesitant about using a "Bible" that was clearly a modernized version of the classic language, it really has made me want to read scripture more, shining light on details that I have missed on previous readings of the New Testament. It has done for me what The Message has done for many others--inspired me to dive in and learn more.

HOWEVER, I would recommend using this version as supplementary material only. Though it was put together by a "team of scholars partner[ing] with. . .writers to blend the mood and voice of the original author with an accurate rendering of the words of the text in English", it is still so modernized that I found myself reaching for my NIV to make sure it was accurate. So far, it has been (I've read 2 books). But to me, with all the explanatory material (much like the Amplified Bible), this version seems more like a commentary to be used in tandem with a Bible of a more classic translation. And not being a biblical scholar but just a girl who wants to read the Bible, I'm wondering if there could be inaccuracies or inappropriate language liberties taken that I'm missing. I'm keeping a skeptical eye out, but still loving it.

So, if you're finding your Bible reading flat or lifeless, maybe you should pick this up for that breath of new life you've been looking for. Just keep your "real" Bible close by and let me know what you think. I'm still rolling this one around in my brain.

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**Note: a review copy was given to me by the publishers with no requirement other than to post an honest review.

Mar 4, 2010

Battle Weary

wind flower Pictures, Images and Photos

I'm tired of being afraid
I'm wondering how I got this way
I'm trying to remember
What life was like before
Panic moved in
Without even knocking on the door

(from You Have Mercy by JJ Heller)

Many of you know that I used to battle panic attacks. Fiercely. Daily. Up until 3 years ago, they lurked around every corner waiting to pounce and devour me. I felt powerless. Helpless.

Completely Without Hope

No matter how I prayed and begged God to take them away, they remained. Sometimes they even gained ferocity. I simply could not understand why God, the Great Physician and Healer, would not yank them out of my life like an attentive gardener would remove an overgrown weed choking life out of its surrounding garden. Why? Why would He wish this upon me? Did He not care that I felt like I was going crazy? Did He look the other way when He saw me too scared to even leave the house? Was He sitting idly by while my skin crawled, my stomach lurched, and my thoughts raced?

Where was this loving, concerned Father everyone was prattling on about?

Concerned? I felt dismissed. Loving? Ha! If letting your child feel like she is two hyperventilating breaths away from the Loony Bin is love, I was starting to think I didn't want anything to do with it. Still, I couldn't bring myself to walk away. If I gave up on God, where else would I go?

"So listen: Keep on asking, and you will receive. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened for you. All who keep asking will receive, all who keep seeking will find, and doors will open to those who keep knocking." Luke 11:9-10 The Voice

Why does God tarry? I don't know. Why did I have to fight panic for a decade even though I was screaming out for relief? Only God knows. One thing I do know? I once was imprisoned by panic. Now I am free.


And I am more sure than ever that there is a God, He is enamored with me, and He is more attentive than I could have ever imagined. The only answer I have for how I got from questioning God's love to being convinced of it was that I held on. I fought through. I did not give up on God.

I chose to believe that He was faithful to me even though I felt abandoned. (1 Cor. 1:9)
I chose to believe that He loved me even though I felt discarded. (Jer. 31:3)
I chose to believe that He cared about me even though I felt ignored. (1 Pet. 5:7)
That joy would come in the morning. (Ps. 30:11)
That I was more than a conquerer. (Rom. 8:37)
That He had given me a spirit not of fear, but of power, love and a SOUND MIND. (2 tim. 1:7)
That He would finish His work of freedom in me, even if it was taking longer than I liked. (Php. 1:6)

I chose to believe, and kept on choosing. Day after exhausting day. That was my part. God did the rest. Sometimes that's all God is asking of us--to stick in there and keep believing. Thank God, because often that's all we can do, right?

Sisters, I don't know exactly what kind of battle you're in today. Can I encourage you to just keep believing God? As much as I hated my season of panic, I know that I grew closer to my God and learned how to successfully fight the enemy because of it. It has also grown a compassion for other fearful women in me. I get them now. If I hadn't have had my own bout with anxiety, I would be in serious danger of doubting the faith of a gal in the grips of terror.

Sidenote: If you are struggling to believe God on something, DO NOT listen to the voices that say you have no faith. No, sister. . .God is in the midst of stretching the faith you already possess. You feel like you've lost your belief when in reality, it's being proven and grown.

There will be an end to your present struggle. It will not last forever. But the lesson you learn from it will. God is there. Very close-by. Working. Loving. Listening.

Fight to believe it.

Jesus, it's so hard to believe all the good things about you in the middle of a "bad" season. It's difficult to keep our minds on you, so we're asking you to empower us to believe you love us, are working for us, and are accomplishing something eternal in us. Help us to stick in there and fight through. Bring us out on the other side with shining, monstrous faith in you and your love for us. We love you, amen.

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photo: wind flower/photobucket user: horsemad883

Feb 24, 2010

God Interrupting

Hey everyone! I just wanted to post a quick update so you know why you haven't been receiving a blog lately. Last week was Cooper's spring break (yes, in mid-February) so I just didn't find the time to post. Additionally, today and tomorrow, the two days I was planning to work in my blog writing, he is home from school with a painful scratch on his cornea. Youch!! Since I've been given these extra days with my sweet boy, I will enjoy him and choose not to sit myself in front of the computer punching away at the keyboard. He also has Fridays off, so there is a very real possibility of no more writing this week. I hope you understand.

This has been a great reminder from God for me to put my relationships before my calendar. This day was not planned and has interrupted my schedule, but I will delight in it. I would encourage you to do the same if something shakes up your plans today. Let's look at a change in our schedule as God graciously stepping in saying, "Nope, that's not what I want for you. . .this is. And it is what's best." Let's be humble enough to throw our agenda to the side and take up His instead.

Jesus, thank you for this extra time with Cooper. Help us to have a blast. And help us ladies to accept your interruptions with open hands today. Give us humility to accept them, wisdom to learn from them, and joy in the midst of them. We love you, amen.

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Feb 10, 2010

What's a Thin Place?

Surprised to hear from me so soon? Well, I've got someone I'd like you to meet and I felt it couldn't wait. This is my friend Mary E. Demuth.

Isn't she a doll? Mary is one of my favorite authors. Not simply because she writes Christian-friendly fiction, or because she writes it beautifully (I generally get lost in her rich world of words), or even because she became a believer through Young Life. I read her stuff because she is real.


I don't have time to read ear candy. I want meat and potatoes. Struggle. Pain. Hope. Redemption. And Mary never disappoints. I have read 3 of her books and am now working on the 4th, and every time God speaks profoundly to my heart. My friend's new book hit the shelves this week.

Thin Places.

On Monday we spoke of finding God in your everyday ordinary. In this raw memoir, Mary finds the courage to discover Him in her broken past. A victor over childhood sexual abuse, neglect, and the death of a parent, she peers at an imprisoning adolescence through the eyes of freedom. She wrestles unashamedly through the effects of her abuse: insecurity, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts. She is bold, remarkably transparent, and surprisingly--refreshing.

I think most times we are afraid to delve into our pasts, petrified of what wound we might uncover there. In my quest for deep spiritual healing, I myself have felt that way. But Mary leads the charge for us timid ones, testifying that we need not shrink in fright. The past is redeemable with Christ. There is hope. And as I've seen illustrated so beautifully in this memoir, the very things we are afraid of about ourselves, God can heal, use to glorify Himself and bring people to His feet.

Thanks, Mary, for courageously sharing your life. You have reminded me that what the enemy wants to use for my destruction, Jesus will use for my good and His glory.

Visit Mary E. Demuth's website. See what other bloggers are saying.

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*a review book was provided by the publisher*

Feb 8, 2010

EXTRAordinary Communicator

You've heard me mention before that I desire to live for God moment-by-moment. I want to hear His voice and sense His presence not only under the soft glow of my overhead lamp during my quiet time alone, but as I walk out into the harsh brightness of a new day. I recently read a story in an article by Murray Pura in a back issue of Crux journal about a couple who did just that.

"A curious and entertaining game was played by Ellen Pinzatski and her husband. They only played it once a year. . when they were camped far out in the mountains by a silent turquoise lake they had named Infrequent. The game consisted of one of the them pointing out a natural object, say a moss-swaddled cedar stump or a high and voluminous cloud formation, and the other stating, to the best of their ability, what characteristic of God was expressed that object" (December 1988).

I love that! I know it's not possible for us to live our entire lives lakeside basking in the peace of wide-open places (maybe that's why they nicknamed their lake Infrequent), but maybe it's possible to feel the freedom of those moments daily. Maybe we can feel the breath of God on our faces when the only breeze we're getting is when the office A/C kicks on. I don't know.

Murray mentions that the Pinzatski game was birthed out of their love for Paul's words in Romans 1:20. I like the way The Voice translation says it:

"From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His nature. Creation itself makes his undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible. . ."

God is making Himself apparent to us everyday in the wonders He has created around us. Wouldn't it be great if, as we're sitting at that stoplight we hate, we could imbibe the beauty of that little yellow flower bursting forth from the patch of dirt and weeds on the corner? Or what if we took a moment on our lunch break to gaze into the heavens before we sped off to a stress-inducing restaurant? What could happen? Maybe we would give God the opportunity to press upon our heart how He loves to bring beauty and life out of ugly circumstances, a la yellow flower. Or possibly how He is ever with us and never leaves us. I got that message loudly one day as I was freaking out about something (shocking, I know). I looked out my window and there was a cross made out of clouds in a bright blue sky. Clear as day. It brought immediate peace. It's as if God was saying, "I'm still here and it will be okay." But, if I would have never peered upward, I would have missed Him.

Girls, I know we are busy. Some of us barely have time to pluck our eyebrows much less pluck profound meaning out of ordinary, everyday events. But I believe it is in those ordinary moments that God can speak extraordinary truths. He is communicating all the time; we must only stop and listen.

So, I'd like to challenge you today. Sometime this week, will you take a moment to take in a little bit of nature, asking God to speak to you through it? It may take a few tries; sometimes I just can't get my brain to shut up long enough to hear anything, especially something as quiet as a whisper from an invisible God. If you're like me in that area, can you keep giving it a go until you hear something? And then, if you don't mind, would you encourage me by coming back here and letting me know what you experienced? I'll be praying for God to speak loudly in your quiet moments.

Jesus, thank you that you want to speak to us everyday in every situation. So often I feel alone as I walk out into my day, but that simply is not the truth. You are ever speaking. Please help me and my friends here to remember to look for you in the ordinary over these next few days. Remind them of You when they see that newborn calf in the field on their way to work or that singing robin on their morning run. Wherever you are wanting to display yourself, attract and open their eyes powerfully. And help us all to see that the "ordinary" is indeed your extraordinary. We love you, amen.

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