Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Modern Telling of Robert Robinson's Search for Joy

In 1757 Robert Robinson wrote the beloved hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. This video illustrates Robinson's struggle with finding the joy he had when he wrote the hymn. Faith and perseverance -- Lord grant more today.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pro-Life for Life

Pro-Life for Life
Last week on the steps of Georgia's capital building in Atlanta a pro-life rally was held in honor of pro-life week. I was unable to attend but I plan to make it a yearly tradition.

For a 12th grade project I was given the topic of abortion. Mind you this was a public high school. My teacher loved controversial subjects and debate in her class. The topic of abortion did not bring heated discussion as most of us came from Christian homes and immediately recognized abortion as murder. Nowadays it would be a different story. A young Christian girl would not be allowed to explain the horrific medical procedure inside a school classroom.

It reminds me of my first interview with the director of an abortion clinic. I jumped at the assignment and was ecstatic when the interview was granted. There I was--a 20 year-old--walking into an abortion clinic. I still recall shivering with nervousness as I signed in--just like the other women of various ages in the clinic. They probably thought I was there for an abortion. I was certain they were.

As I sat in the waiting room every fiber of my being was crying inside. I looked at the women hesitantly, not wanting to look directly into their eyes. If that happened I knew all bets would be off and I'd be sobbing and crying out like John the Baptist.

The atmosphere was heavy with spiritual darkness. Patients were calmly called in for their appointments. I began to pray as I realized that I was in a place pro-lifers are not allowed access. No way was the opportunity to pray INSIDE an abortion clinic NOT going to happen! Sitting in my seat I began to pray for each and every woman (and some men) that day. I prayed for their salvation, protection, and the lives of their unborn children to be spared--in the name of Jesus. I did as my grandmother had taught me and pleaded the blood of Jesus upon everyone and the facility. And of course, for the clinic to close because women would begin to choose life over death.

My name was called and I was ushered to a typical office. The director was a young woman, not what I expected. I guess I thought she would be an old bra-waving feminist from the 1960's. It was 1989 and she only looked ten years my senior. She was friendly and prepared. I was too naive to be overly nervous--in my mind I was a tough reporter.

This abortionist taught me a few things that day:

1. I recognized as an adult total deception in the life of an individual. She was deceived and loving it. This was new to me. Wasn't people suppose to see the error of their ways and repent?

2. She was nice. She wasn't what I expected and I was unprepared for that. Had she been rude it would have been easy. She was as passionate in her beliefs as I in mine. My words would not change her--only the power of God. I saw first hand that my job was to pray--fervently.

3. She was actively seeking to recruit me just as I was seeking to convert her. I realized that had I not known the Lord and His Word I could have been pulled in by deceptive reasoning.

I do not remember her name but I still pray for her. I hope the years have brought her closer to knowing Jesus. I pray she knows His forgiveness and grace despite her past.

The meeting went as well as expected. A hot-headed 21 year-old and an abortion clinic director. Sparks flew. She told me I was young and she knew I was just asking the questions I was told to ask. I told her I wrote my own questions. Our last words went something like this....

Director: Why do you not believe it is our right as women to control our own bodies?

Me: Because I am a Christian. God formed my body. He gives us life and it is His decision to take it--not mine because that would be murder.

The interview was pretty much over at that point. Well, after I told her I hoped she would change her ways and save lives instead of take them.

I wrote the article. Ran a picture of an aborted baby on the front page of the newspaper. Printed the health department reports showing unaccounted for medicine, unsanitary conditions including blood left in sinks and dusty ceiling fans above the abortion tables. Took irate calls from people who did not like seeing aborted babies while reading their morning paper and eating breakfast. Then, was fired two weeks later.

As women of God we must not silence our voices. We have the awesome responsibility to teach and train not only ourselves, but our children. They need to know why abortion goes against the nature of God. It is sin just like adultery, stealing, and gluttony. Sin is sin. We need to educate ourselves on the various forms abortion has morphed into these days -- stem cell research, end of life issues, and the ethics of human cloning.

We must remind ourselves that God's grace is sufficient for those who made the decision to abort their babies. The world cheers their decision to have an abortion and turns it's back on them when the enormity of what they've done hits home. It is our responsibility--yes, responsibility to love, encourage and point these women to Jesus. By grace we are all saved.

Pro-lifers are viewed through the eyes of Eric Rudolph these days. We are not nuts--he is. We are women of God whose time has come to pray, teach, and lift up our voice.

If you are a Christian and not sure of your thoughts on abortion I encourage you to study God's Word. Visit websites such as National Right to Life. Ask an older woman in church to teach you on the subject of abortion. If you are an older woman--know what you believe and why according to the Word of God.

In closing, stem cell research sounds great but do you realize it is life? It is not just a collection of cells. View this powerful testimony...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Scrapbooking: A 2009 Project
Last Friday night I did something I haven't done in a while--scrapbook. Four years ago I was a Creative Memories consultant holding monthly crops and loving every moment of it. Since that time I have worked very little on my family albums.

My goal last year was to complete five albums: 4 family albums and our youngest son's baby album. I completed maybe 15 pages in 2008. This project is renewed for 2009. While the goal of having a neat row of albums on a bookshelf is good, the real reason I want this project complete is to clean out a closet. Ten large boxes represent ten years of photos and memorabilia longing to find its home in an album. When those boxes are gone I'll be able to see the carpet.

Another reason--all the scrapbooking supplies. No need for a consultant -- I have more stickers and die cuts than one person needs to own. I need to use all those supplies up.

While I enjoy scrapbooking, it is not exactly a hobby. It's a project to encourage my family. While some scrapbook for the fun of it--creating beautiful elaborate pages,mine are much different. My albums are much simpler than most.

Most of us do not have time to sit down and start a project that cannot be finished in a few hours. Instead, we have to plan it--and pray over it. Pray over it? Yes, of course. We take what we consider big things to God and often leave off things we feel are too simple as a matter of not wanting to bother Him.

I would like to encourage you to take those projects that you seem to never have time for to the Lord. Ask Him if they are of any importance to Him. You may be surprised that He can give you strategies and opportunities to complete them. Or, He may let you know that it is something to not concern yourself with for this season of life. Last year was not the season for scrapbooking in my life. This year it looks like there will be a monthly opportunity for me to scrapbook.

What are your 2009 projects? I'd love to hear about what you're working on this year.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fave Cookbooks

Fave Cookbooks
I read a listing recently of the best cookbooks of 2008. I recognized the names of two of the chefs and none of the cookbooks. It made me think about my favorite cookbooks and the fact that they are probably unheard too.

Calling All Cooks:
Telephone Pioneers of America-Alabama Chapter (1982)
My mother gave me this cookbook when I married, 20 years ago. The yellow paperback covers are long gone. It is a compilation of recipes from phone company employees in Alabama. Kristie Markham, a high school BFF, was also given this cookbook when she married, 19 years ago (see I remember!). When I'm looking for a recipe I'll call Kristie and she always says, 'have you checked the yellow cookbook?' At over 700 pages, it is filled with the best of the best down-home Southern recipes you can find. I was amazed when I did a quick Amazon search and found it. Equally amazing is it is the first in a series of four cookbooks! There are no pictures in this cookbook but I have yet to make a recipe from it that was not fantastic.

Feasting from the Master's Bounty:
The Ladies Ministeries of Hamilton Church of God
This cookbook is a sentimental favorite because I can look through and recall women who mentored me in the Lord. A former Sunday School teacher, a friend's mother, the pastor's wife--their favorite recipes are all here. Besides their memory, I can still remember their wonderful cooking! This is a cookbook I go to often for family favorites such as my Mom's banana pudding recipe. Sorry, this cookbook is long out of print.

A Taste of Heaven: Duluth Church of God Women's Ministry
Now these women know how to cook! Sister Martha Jo Hansard's chocolate pie (old fashion cooked version) is my husband's favorite. The mix of old style Southern recipes with new favorites makes this my most used cookbook of late. If you would like a copy you'll have to contact the Duluth Church of God in Duluth, Georgia to see if they have any left in stock. I believe the cost is $15.

Apron's Simple Meals
This binder style cookbook comes from Publix grocery store. Filled with simple 30 minute meal recipes covering breakfast to dinner, it also includes plenty of good desserts. Most of the recipes are healthy. The binder with a year of recipes is $5.99 and can be purchased in the grocery store. I enjoy stopping by their cooking counter to try out the receipe of the day--and picking up a new recipe for my binder for free. I particularly like their fish recipes which are fast and easy.

Taste of Home Annual Recipes
Quick Cooking Annual Recipes by Taste of Home

My all-time favorite cookbook series comes from Taste of Home magazine. Early on I fell in love with Taste of Home magazine but did not like the clutter of more magazines. Besides, I found I was tearing all the recipes out! Instead of ripped pages I decided in 1999 to wait until the end of the year and purchase the recipe book. It started with Taste of Home and published Quick Cooking magazine, I had to have those annual recipes too. The books are filled with photos, marvelous recipes, and helpful hints. I received these cookbooks until 2007 when I realized that I had more cookbooks and recipes than I could make in a lifetime. The Quick Cooking books are a particular favorite as they include a Freezer Pleaser section of recipes that are perfect to make ahead and freeze.

My favorite cookbooks may not be on the top cookbooks of 2008 list but I adore each one. I would love to hear about your favorite cookbooks too -- they may find their way into my collection this year!

America Online's Top Cookbooks of 2008
The Paley's Place Cookbook by Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley
Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin by Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreno
Cooking: 600 recipes, 1500 photographs, and one kitchen education by James Peterson
Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen by Jose Andres
A Day at elBulli by Ferran Adria
Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook by Martha Stewart
Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk through the Ages by Anne Mendelson
Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food by Andrew Carmellini
A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis
Cooking with Curtis: Easy, Everyday and Adventurous Recipes for the Home Cook by Curtis Stone
The Modern Baker: Time-Saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, and Cookies by Nick Malgieri
The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking by Shirley O.Corriher
Enchanted Thyme: Book 1 The Delicious Adventure Series by Ariane Smith with recipes by Chef Michael Wilsom

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fasting Part II

Fasting, Part II
Many churches now begin the new year with a call to prayer and fasting which is excellent. Just this week I saw a billboard on the expressway advertising a new book by a local pastor. The slogan is Join the Fasting Movement.

Arthur Wallis' book, God's Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting is an good resource for those with questions on how-to fast. Wallis' discusses three forms of fasting: the normal fast, the absolute fast, and the partial fast.

The normal fast is "abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water."

The absolute fast is "abstaining from drinking as well as eating." This fast is for never more than three days. Examples given from scripture are Ezra who 'spent the night, neither eating bread or drinking water; for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles' (Ezra 10:6). Queen Esther called an absolute fast in Esther 4:16. "Hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do." From the New Testament we find Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9:9 abstaining for three days. Wallis' says in his book that the absolute fast is "an exceptional measure for an exceptional situation. It is something usually reserved for spiritual emergencies."

The partial fast is an "emphasis upon restriction of diet rather than complete abstention." This style of fasting is popular right now and known as The Daniel Fast. Many believers are following Daniel's example and "eating no delicacies, no meat or wine". In simple terms, a Daniel fast is meals consisting of fruits and vegetables.

Growing up I recall my church holding a corporate Daniel fast. As a child I thought it should have been called the green bean fast because that is all we seemed to have for supper during that time. Over the last several years there seems to be an increase in what is considered right to eat. What began as fruits and veggies has progressed to a specialized foods list that can bankrupt a grocery budget and have one spending more time reading labels than God's Word and praying.

We must remember John Wesley's word and be cautious, "Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it." If the fun and focus is in planning new recipes to feed one's body during a fast there could be a problem. Once I even heard discussions on what energy drinks are fast-approved and which are not! Are we really fasting if we are going to extreme lengths to fill ourselves up?

Tonight I received an email from my friend Page describing her time of fasting and prayer this week. She wrote, "How timely for us right now to be reminded that saying no to some things is saying yes to what God wants to show us. We are making a great trade."

Stay focused on the Lord and the fast He has called you to during these days. Dig deep into His Word and spend time in prayer. Do not allow anything to take precedent over drawing near to the Lord. Remember, it is all about Him!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Stop the World, Fasting Part 1

Stop the World
Fasting, Part 1
My friend Rhonda has a saying in regards to disciplining her children--stop the world. What she means is dealing with a matter on the spot. It is inconvenient at times, but it gives children clarity when an offense or problem is fresh. No comments such as wait until we get home are made. Children are taken aside and the issue is addressed right then.

When it comes to the spiritual discipline of fasting it's much the same. Fasting is about stopping the world and allowing God to work in our inward being on the spot by removing distraction and focusing upon Him. Fasting has become popular in some circles and the increased emphasis is opening doors to teach fasting to believers who have never practiced this spiritual discipline.

Henry Blackably says in the study Experiencing God that believers are to ask God where He is at work and join Him. It is not our position to tell God to join us. This is a subject that quickly arises with fasting. It is important to know what fasting is not:

* It is not demanding a list from God.
* It is not about a formula for dieting.
* It is not about getting to know a God only interested in the external areas of our life.
* It is not about winning the heavenly lottery and receiving financial blessings.

Richard Foster says in Celebration of Discipline, "We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. This is the path of disciplined grace."

That's what fasting is all about--stopping the world and putting ourselves before God so He can work in our lives as we pray and worship Him.

Foster goes on to quote Leo Tolstoy, "Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself." I joyfully agree with Foster as he observes, "Let us be among those who believe that the inner transformation of our lives is a goal worthy of our best effort."

Fasting is the road to personal revival and change. The greater blessing of fasting is coming out renewed and refreshed on the inside with the outward evidence of a changed life. As one comes closer to God change occurs. Sin is addressed, the mind renewed, increased love for the Lord and His Word can all be lasting results. In addition, fasting can unclog ears to hear His voice, open dimmed eyes to see clearly His vision, and put purpose to hands and feet for His ministry. And it all begins with removing the distractions of life by fasting and focusing fully upon the Lord.

The result of fasting is an inner transformation that exceeds any goals I set up on my own. It is about growing in the grace and knowledge of God. We must realize that eating a certain way or removing things from our lives for a period of time are just mechanics. One can fast days on end to no result. This is because it is not about getting, it is about knowing and worshipping God and allowing Him to change us.

Fasting should not be focused more on the process or blessings than the relationship. Just like Rhonda we should say stop the world and allow the hand of God to move freely in our lives today through fasting.

While a bit long I want to close with Richard Foster's eloquent explanation of fasting in Celebration of Discipline:

The Purpose of Fasting
Richard Foster, from Celebration of Discipline

It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive (Matthew 6:16-18). To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion. How easy it is to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want. At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands.

Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained. Like the prophetess Anna, we need to be "worshiping with fasting" (Luke 2:37). Every other purpose must be subservient to God. Like that apostolic band at Antioch, "fasting" and "worshiping the Lord" must be said in the same breath (Acts 13:2). Charles Spurgeon writes, "Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the Tabernacle have been high days indeed, never has Heaven's gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer to the central Glory."

God questioned the people in Zechariah's day, "When ye fasted...did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?" (Zechariah 7:5) If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights--these must never replace God as the center of our fasting. John Wesley declares, "First, let it (fasting) be done unto the Lord with our eye single fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this only, to glorify our Father which is in heaven..." That is the only way we will be saved from loving the blessing more than the Blesser.
28399: Celebration of Discipline, 25th Anniversary EditionCelebration of Discipline, 25th Anniversary Edition
By Richard Foster / HarperOne

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The first day of 2009 for our family has been filled with excitement. After days of burning and itching lips I awoke to what looked like a botox treatment gone wrong. I have to say that if I had any desire for puffy lips that has now changed.

I thought about posting a picture of my large lovely lips with the caption: Look what I got for Christmas! Just the thought made me laugh--which made my lips hurt--so I decided against it.

After eating boiled shrimp and shrimp alfredo on several occasions this last week, choosing a crab cake burger at Ruby Tuesday's did me in yesterday. It's sad to think about life without shrimp, crab, scallops, and lobster. I don't put oysters or clams in the list because they are not favorites.

After a trip to the emergency room for a steroids shot I'm back at home pumped full of Benadryl. My children have found great humor in asking if I want shrimp for dinner tonight. Praise the Lord that salmon and catfish are not shellfish or I would just die!

Today begins 40 Days in the Gap with Mentoring Moments. If you haven't had a chance to read through this call to prayer and fasting check it out. In the coming days I will be writing on the power of fasting in the life of a believer. In some Christian circles fasting has become popular and faddish, focusing more on the process than the result in my opinion. Fasting is not about getting our way or following a legalistic formula. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that should be more than a once a year event but practiced throughout life. Whether you agree, disagree, or you're just curious I hope you'll join in the discussion.
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