Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Holiday Word: COMFORT


Holiday word number one is COMFORT.

As everyone makes plans for the Thanksgiving holiday, the food, family, and fun seem to be
the end game. Comfort doesn't seem to be present on our to-do lists. 

My own definition of comfort is:  position of comfort; being comfortable; relaxing; no stress

No wonder this word doesn't make the list! With menus to plan, food to buy, cakes to bake,
turkeys to stuff, the house to clean, anxiety and anticipation of family coming and going, who has time for comfort?

Can't we experience just a little comfort in the midst of our Martha-like prepping, scurrying,
and anxiously awaiting the day(s) with family? 

Sure we can! All it takes is a little creativity!

First, make a list of five tangible things that bring you comfort.
(My list includes a soft blanket, my favorite chair, a good book, hot chocolate or coffee,
a favorite movie, a walk, a bubble bath...)

Then, the week before, as you make out the to-do list, include one of your favorites on your
list each day as a priority.

# 8 Starbucks.
On my way home from shopping I'll grab a peppermint mocha grande, skinny with whip cream, and enjoy it in the shop or as I drive home. Ah...comfort in a cup!


COMFORT is not just a physical state that comes and goes. 
It's so much more.  It's actually a gift from the Lord. 

The following are just a few passages to reveal how God comforts us with His Word.
 
Psalm 23
Isaiah 43:1-2
Isaiah 51:3
James 1:2-3
I John 1:4


Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He said He would send the Comforter to us to be
ever present in our lives as we await His return.

The Comforter provides much needed peace in troubled times. He's our Constant when our 
lives are chaotic.  He's our Rock when circumstances rock our world.

The Comforter, even in the midst of life's messiness, provides peace that passes all
understanding, security and hope. We are never, ever alone!

The Lord's presence is His gift to us.

As I was researching for a Scripture to pull this blog together, God highlighted one for me
during a Christian business women's luncheon last week. 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of
all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who
are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
( 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV)

The purpose of our messy experiences in life is for us to receive God's comfort and then to
share His gift of comfort with others so the gift can go on and on and on.

So, as you celebrate Thanksgiving, and begin preparing for Christmas, remember to take some time to be comforted and some time to comfort others along the way. 
You will be blessed and your holidays will be merry and bright! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Pleasure,
Melanie





Thursday, October 31, 2013

Battles Brewing and Worn Out Knee Pads

As I have been working through Pricilla Shirer's study of Gideon, many battlefields surrounding me have come to light; battlefields where the enemy is working overtime to discourage and defeat those who trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ. 

People struggling are everywhere; families experiencing hurt and heartache, friends fighting terminal illnesses, debilitating stress, others drowning in the swells of financial debt. You don't have to look far to see how Satan is seeking after those whom he desires to kill and destroy. Satan knows that if we belong to Christ, he can't have us, but he will do everything in his power to steal our joy and our influence of leading others to Christ.

Jesus said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. " (John 10:10 NKJV)

So what do we do to prepare for and win the spiritual battles brewing all around? 

Pray!  Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have against the relentless enemy.  Knee pads are a must in the believer's armor attire. 

Pray for strength, courage, boldness, more faith, perseverance, and for the Holy Spirit to fight for you.  Remember the battle is the LORD'S!

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.(I John 4:4 NKJV)

Fight!  Fight with the Sword- the Word of God! When Scripture is spoken, Satan flees.  He cannot stand up to the truth of God's Word. Our minds are a huge battlefield where deadly darts of doubt and fear are hurled. The Word battles those darts, shields and protects, and guides our minds back to the truth of who we are in Christ. OVERCOMERS.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NKJV)

Using God's own words to battle the enemy is the purest and most potent form of fighting, because you can't go wrong using God's own words.

Win!  Living for Christ is winning!  If there's anything Satan wants to do when he hurls his arrows of defeat our way, it is to keep us from moving forward, growing, maturing, and becoming more like Christ. Giving God the glory as we press on infuriates the evil one. Living for Christ in the midst of hurts, disappointments, illnesses, and any other disheartening circumstances is where the radiance of God shines through the most.  It's what encourages and drives others to battle harder, to pray more, to fight, to stand against the enemy, and to NEVER GIVE UP!

In Luke 18:1, Jesus tells His disciples a parable of the persistent widow to teach them to pray always and to never give up. (NIV)

What are you battling today?  Jesus knows it hurts.He knows it's hard. He's been there and He understands. He loves you and cares about you!  As His child, He is stretching you and molding you into someone who battles well against the evil one. Stay the course, stay in the race, and stay grounded in the truth.  Keep the faith and WIN! It's worth every pair of worn out knee pads! 

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Over 900 and Still Counting

I'm a celebrator of life and I love birthdays!  I love to celebrate people's lives and make them feel special. Many people I know, though, seem to want to stop counting after a certain age. But why? Every single day, every single moment, every single breath is a gift...

a gift from God.

Yesterday was my 51st birthday. Yes, I'm telling my age. Many family and friends made me feel special through cards, gifts, dinner, FB messages, and I couldn't be more grateful for the precious people God has placed in my life. Life is worth celebrating! 

God is the Architect of our life design.  He specifically and intentionally crafted each of us with intricate details which only belong to us - our fingerprint, our voice, our body's DNA, all are unique to each person.  No two are exactly alike, just like snowflakes.

How we were formed in the secret place and how we came into this world were sifted through the sovereign fingers of God.  He knew the circumstances, good and bad. But no matter how we were conceived or how we arrived, the fact remains...God designed us. We are His creation. Life itself is one huge blessing.

I'm praising and counting more blessings today (over 900 now in my Euchraristeo Gifts Journal) as God has given me another year to celebrate.  I pray you are counting too.  The more we count, the more grateful our hearts become.  What are you waiting for?  Let's celebrate today!

"For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well."
 
"My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them."
 
Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV
 
My Pleasure,
Melanie



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Purah Patience ...Gideon Week 4

This week's lesson about Gideon reveals one of God's most wonderful characteristics; His long-suffering; patience. God displays His patience with Gideon and with us to lead us to a place of bold faith and fearlessness to accomplish what He's called us to do.

Several times during Gideon's encounters with God before the battle at hand, Gideon needs reassurance that God is going to do what God said He would do - WIN!  The Midianite army, too numerous to count, will be delivered into the hands of Gideon and the Israelite army of only 300.

First, God's patience is displayed when Gideon asks for the fleece and dew test.

Read Judges 6:34-40.

Even though Gideon asks again for God to perform the fleece test in reverse, God demonstrates great patience with Gideon and fulfills his request. God reiterates that the Midianites will be delivered into his hands.

Again, as God gives Gideon instructions, He also offers Gideon more reassurance if he is still afraid.  That assurance comes in the form of a companion, a servant named Purah.

Read Judges 7:9-15.

Purah is another picture of God's patience. By allowing him to go with Gideon to spy on the enemy camp at night, just Purah's presence was encouragement for Gideon.  The most fascinating part of the story is that God has Gideon and Purah end up outside of a tent (out of 1000s of tents to come upon) where the enemy is talking about Gideon and what they are thinking.

A dream is being interpreted inside the tent. As one man interprets the dream told to him by the other man, God allows Gideon to hear his name, and the name of his father, spoken by the enemy. The soldier interpreting said the dream was a clear picture that they should be afraid of Gideon and his army because "God has delivered Midian and the whole camp." (Judges 7:14 NKJV)  God was already placing fear in the minds and hearts of the enemy even before the battle had begun, setting the stage for Gideon's defeat of the Midianites. This reassurance empowered Gideon!

Gideon's immediate act of fearless obedience was to bow and worship Yahweh. (7:15)

Then he heads back to camp. He shouts to his soldiers, "Get up!" He lays out the battle plan and they do as they are told.  God's long suffering patience has transformed a fearful leader into a fearless leader.  He now believes that God is God and will do as He says.  He's ready to move forward.

How has God shown patience with you?  Do you need some reassuring that God is who He says He is to follow Him whole heartedly in what He's asking you to do? 

We have so much more today to reassure us than those in the Bible. We have stories of heroes and heroines of the faith in God's complete, divine Word, and we have our own personal stories of faith to draw from. Gideon had only been taught the teachings of an idol named Baal.  He didn't know God like you and I can know Him.  He was learning about this fully engaged God from scratch, and God knew He needed lots of reassuring to move forward.

If we need something extra, God knows that too and will deliver that reassurance to us.  It may come in the form of a friend, like Purah, who has traveled our journey with us and has seen God work in powerful ways.  It may be in the form of a Scripture that God brings to mind, a sermon, or just His sweet voice in our ear to reveal a little more boldness to help us take the step of fearless faith.  He loves us too much to let us walk alone. He is patient!  He is compassionate!

Priscilla Shirer asks us to examine areas where we are fearful in something God has asked us to do. Take some time to evaluate what you need to take that next step in being fully obedient.  God may have already given you everything you need and you just need to do it.  Or, He may be waiting for you to ask Him to help you to have a fearless faith as He reassures you that He is with you every step of the way.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Less Was Best! Gideon - Week 3

An Israeli army revved up and eager to go.  32,000 strong!

But are they really ready?

God tells Gideon to give each soldier the opportunity to leave if they're afraid. (Judges 7:3)

22,000 turn around and go back home. 10,000 remain.

Have you ever felt like you've been left by the multitudes to move forward with the few or even go it alone to complete the task God has called you to?  Well, Gideon lost a large number of soldiers that day to fear; soldiers that he considered a plus in his column to defeat the Midianites. But God's strength and power doesn't need our resources to accomplish His will.  In fact, when Gideon counted the ones who stayed, God said there were still too many!

Too many?  Gideon needed all the help he could get.  Why would God say there are still too many soldiers?  Back up and read Judges 7:2. God did not want Gideon or anybody else to take any credit for the victory He intends to give the Israelites.  God was going to prove His faithfulness and His power again by defeating a large enemy with an unlikely leader and just a very small army. So he told Gideon to send more of the men home. In fact, when all was said and done, Gideon had only 300 men left. The odds quickly went from 4:1 to 450:1. YIKES!

God takes His glory seriously and we should never seek credit for any accomplishments. It always amazes me though as to how we even think we could, but we often do. 

Priscilla Shirer teaches a Biblical principle which says: We would never UNLOCK the door to the Divine's strength without the KEY of weakness. (Gideon study, page 70)

Don't put stock in your resources today. Instead, take stock in the Source of  all strength and power, Jesus Christ. In our weakness, He is strong!  Boast in Christ alone.

If God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 NKJV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In the Middle of the Mundane, God Shows Up! Gideon - Week 2

Whack! Whack! Whack!

Threshing wheat all day long in the winepress. Hidden from the enemy, the Midianites, Gideon removes the useless and salvages the good. How plain. How boring. How mundane.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

This particular, ordinary day, though, will not stay so ordinary. This day is going to be extraordinary! Why? Because God's presence is going to be acknowledged, His voice heard, and His call accepted!

Gideon will never be the same!

Gideon had no idea when he got up to go to work that day that the Angel of the LORD would make an appearance.  He didn't know that he would hear the voice of God.  He didn't come in to work knowing he would be called to do something extraordinary to bring God glory.  He just came to work like he did every day.  No expectations. No hope of escaping the enemy's grip. Just another day.

Labeled the least in his family, Gideon is unaware that the Angel is even in the room.  It's not until the angel appears and then speaks to Gideon that he realizes someone is there. 

Read Judges 6:11-27.

The last place anyone expects God to make Himself known is in the ordinary, mundane, routine of the daily. But this is where God wants to meet with us - in our daily, mundane, ordinary lives.

Most times, when God has made His presence known to heroes and heroines of the faith, He has done so in ordinary places as they were doing ordinary things.

  • God called Moses while he was tending the flock of Jethro. (Exodus 3)
  • God called Samuel while he was sleeping. (1 Samuel 3)
  • God called Mary after she came in from her daily chores. (Luke 1:26-38)
  • God called Joseph (Jesus' earthly father) while he was sleeping. (Matthew 1:18-25)
  • The angels announced Christ's birth to the shepherds in the field while they were watching their flocks. (Luke 2:18-20)
  • Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman while she was drawing water from the well. (John 4:5-25)

Being aware of God's presence is what 
takes the ordinary to extraordinary!
 
Many have been called right in the middle of their mundane.

What are you doing today that's routine? The laundry, work, feeding the dog, school, homework, cooking, cleaning, sitting at the same desk in the same office, performing the same tasks?

Stay alert! God is with you and wants to turn your ordinary into something extraordinary. He wants to meet with you.  He desires your full, devoted attention. With your spiritual eyes open and your spiritual ears perked, look for Him and listen to His voice. He has something especially designed just for you to do. Don't miss Him!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Friday, September 20, 2013

Just Getting Started...Gideon - Week 1

Distractions.

When we should be watching the road, we fumble for our cell phone.  When we should be watching a pot on the stove, we move into the other room to see something on television.  When we should be listening to our spouse or child, we're answering a text. 

Consequences? A wreck, the water boils over, a huge argument breaks out, or our children don't come around as often when they need to talk, or much worse.

If our attention turns away from what is most important for even a short time, tragedy can strike.

I'm just getting started with a new Bible study, Gideon, written by Priscilla Shirer.  Once again, the Israelites have been distracted and their hearts are not focused on God. 

Their distractionSin. Specifically, idol worship and prostituting their hearts.

God has called His people to worship Him and Him alone.  He desires their heart's full attention. He has given instructions on when and how to conquer the enemies of His people.  His people have heard but they have not obeyed - they're distracted

Consequences? Struggles and suffering as the enemy is allowed back on the scene.

The consequences of even partial obedience can be catastrophic; destruction of an individual, a family, even a generation. God is serious when He lays out specific instructions, and He expects us to obey.

So why do we, today, not follow through and allow distractions to lure us away from what's most important - our love for God?

Our hearts are lured away by faux satisfactions; selfish desires that require just a moment of immediate pleasure.  When we are focused on self, we sin

God has our best interest at heart just like He has always had the best interest of the Israelites at heart.
It was in their best interest to completely wipe out the enemy.  Gideon's story is told in the book of Judges, chapters 6-8.  The people of God were given specific instructions from the Lord to completely wipe out the enemy, the Midianites. Instead, they chose to edit the instructions by keeping some of the women and children, and the spoil from the camp for their own pleasure. In doing so, they were setting themselves up for another battle or war.  If they had destroyed everything of the enemy's the first time, then the enemy could not have rebuilt.  There wouldn't be any of the enemy left to rebuild.

But because of their partial obedience, the enemy continues to come back and reek havoc on the children of Israel.

Time, after time, after time, God's people were distracted causing a portion of their hearts to slip away and attach to something other than Yahweh - their Protector, Provider, Defender, Healer, ever present Help.  Prostituting themselves with the Baals (foreign gods, idols), they chose to turn and go their own way, forgetting the LORD, their God, and doing evil in His sight.

We, the Church, God's people, are no different today.  We've turned to our own ways but still claim to love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.  We obey the parts of God's instruction that we want to and change the parts or ignore what we don't like. We put on airs of spirituality to impress our co-workers, neighbors, family and friends, and even people in the church. 

Well... guess what.  God is not fooled and neither are they.

I believe the Church's main distraction is the same as the Israelites. We're not dealing with our own personal sin. As we disobey, we're toying with the Enemy and allowing him back into the camp. We think no one is watching while we sweep things under the rug. You know. "Out of sight, out of mind." "What they don't know won't hurt them." We think if we just ignore it then it won't affect anybody else.

Wrong! Nothing could be further from the truth. 

My personal sin can produce serious consequences not only in my life, but in my family, and cripple the effectiveness of the Church.  Sin produces a domino effect if not dealt with immediately.  My sin can even affect the next generation and the next.  That's how serious it is. The distractions have got to go or we will continue to lose the battle for the hearts of those that come after us.

All of the reasons given as to why the Church is not thriving today, in my opinion, seem to dismiss this diagnosis.  Personal sin is the culprit of why we are not being effective today in our local bodies of Christ.  We've become distracted with the things we've given our hearts to other than Jesus.

Until Christians get serious with a very serious God about personal sin, and stop tweaking His instructions to produce selfish outcomes, then we will continue the downward spiral of our partial obedience, experience severe consequences, and continue to be ineffective for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. 

So what do we do? We put our eyes back on what is most important; our love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Turning the tide begins with me!

God is calling for His people to repent, return and be restored to a right relationship with Him.

How?  By asking Christ to examine our hearts; giving Him the freedom to shine His search light deep under the surface and illuminating any sin buried there.

An examination passage to pray through is Psalm 51.  But we cannot just flippantly pray and ignore what Christ brings to light.  We have to repent of it and let Christ remove it less it settles again to the bottom, takes root, and affects everything we seek to do for Christ.

Once we deal with our own sin, THEN we can move forward for Christ. When sin creeps back in, deal with it immediately.  Don't wait for the consequences to show up.

I don't want to be the one to hold the Church back.  I want to be the one to help move it forward in the name of Jesus Christ!

Want to see God's people thrive again?  Want to make a difference in this world for Christ? Want to live with passion like you've never lived before?  I know I do.

And we're just getting started!  Stay tuned!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Falling Deeper in Love

When there's a slight nip in the air on August mornings, I get super excited! The aroma I smell and the coolness I feel are hinting that Fall is just around the corner.

Carolina Football, that is The University of South Carolina, starts this week. Go Cocks! (Thank goodness. I have withdrawals during the spring and summer.) High School football has already kicked off, kids are back in school, and I'm burning Apple Pumpkin scented candles in my home.  Ahhh!  Fall is certainly in the air.

There's one more thing that announces the entrance of Fall for many of us....beginning new studies of the greatest Love Letter ever written - God's Word. 

With a refreshed mind, brand new notebook, new study book, Bible, pen and highlighters ready to go, I'm pumped to dig a little deeper into the Love Letter again and search for more truth about the Person who knows me best and loves me most.  Growing more in love with Him is the best thing ever!

Who is this Person of interest?  Jesus.  Jesus Christ, of course.

It's refreshing to dive into a new study of God's Word and learn more about His character, His love, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, His Lordship, etc. with others in a small group setting.

We will never learn it all, but learning about and applying God's Word to our lives is what helps us to  mature spiritually - to look more like Christ - to act more like Christ in our everyday, ordinary lives.

God wrote His Love Letter by divine revelation through great men of faith. It was written so we could understand more of who God is, know Him on a personal level, and learn how to bring Him the most glory through our lives. 

This Love Letter, written by the Lover of my soul, drives me to my knees as I acknowledge His presence, unveils more awe and wonder about this King of kings and Lord of lords, and melts my heart as I fall deeper in love with Him - my Savior, who loves me unconditionally- who gave His life so I could live free from sin.

The study I'm preparing to dive into is Priscilla Shirer's new book called Gideon...my weakness, God's strength.  I've never studied Gideon, from the book of Judges, on this level and I can't wait to see what my Prince Charming has in store for me this Fall.  I'll keep you posted!

..but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (I Peter 3:18 NKJV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Clutter At the Center

Clutter.  Where does it come from? When it's hidden in closets, drawers, and places not visible, no one really notices.  But when  clutter is pulled into the center of the room, it's the only thing you see. 

As we began the painting of an upstairs bathroom and bedroom this summer, we also decided it was time to change the upstairs carpet. (Thank You, Lord!) Instead of just one room being out of sorts though, the entire upstairs would be total chaos.  Everything had to be moved in and out of rooms and closets totally emptied. (What were we thinking, Lord?)
 
No matter how simple the renovation begins, it always becomes a much bigger task than originally thought. "Oh, if we change this, or clean out that, then we need to also do so and so."  We were quite overwhelmed and a little over budget.  But there was no turning back now!

Once the painting was done and the new carpet laid, we began the tedious task of going through the clutter item by item, choosing what to keep and what to throw away.  Some of the things we came across I haven't seen since our 23 year old was five.  At one point, every room upstairs was full of clutter pulled from closets, drawers and off of shelves.  How much clutter can one family accumulate? I was expecting the camera crew from Hoarders to ring the bell at any given moment.

Not only have we painted a bedroom, bath, and laid new carpet, but each room either has a new tenant or a new purpose, or both.  Madison moved into her brother's room. (He's a college grad now and lives out on his own.)  I've moved my Living Real office and piano studio into Madison's room, and the piano studio is now the extra bedroom (for the college grad, now grad student, just in case he decides to or needs to come home.) My husband's study area remained the same except for rearranging the furniture and an extensive cleanout.

Three weeks later, after two loads of furniture and other items taken to consignment, two trips to auction, and several sales on site, we are down to only the extra bedroom being out of sorts.  Before the end of August, I hope all is in order; pictures hung, bathroom mirror hung, towel racks in place, and the small bedroom ready for company.  But I'll believe it when I see it.

This whole process started me thinking, "Just like our homes, our hearts can become very cluttered with stuff that we don't need as well."  A consistent closet clean out of the mind is needed to help in continuing to develop a mind like Christ.  The mind of Christ is one of humility and total obedience. Jesus was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5) If our minds are full of clutter then we can't see what we need to see, hear what we need to hear, follow Who we need to follow, or lead how we need to lead.

Paul, in Romans 12:9, tells us what to keep and what not to keep by saying, "Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good." (NKJV) How do we do that?  How do we know if something in our mind's closet is evil or good?

A good clutter detector is Scripture.  Filtering our thoughts through the Word of God alerts us to thoughts that are not pleasing to the Lord.  Check this out:

"Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." (Phil. 4:8 NKJV)

The cleaning out process begins with our desire to be clean before the Lord, and then followed up with action.  Action: First repenting of sin we already know of that is cluttering our minds, and then asking Him to bring the other clutter (sins) to the center.  It's here that we can really see what is hindering the flow of Living Water through us as we're seeking to become all Christ wants us to be for His glory.  Clutter stunts our growth in Christ.  Clutter hinders the Holy Spirit from flowing freely through us.

Have you ever walked along the path of a stream or creek where the water is flowing freely and uninhibited? The sounds and sights are just amazing and so refreshing.  But when you come across a section where the water isn't allowed to flow, you realize there's a problem.  It's not pretty and it even has a stench at times. Something is hindering the stream's ebb and flow; its' purpose.  As you investigate a little further up stream, you can see that the channel is clogged with clutter.  If the channel, filled with debris and trash is cleaned out, then the water is able to flow freely again and serve it's God-designed purpose. 

Do you know anyone who wants to be around a smelly, clutter clogged Christian? I don't think so. Spiritually stagnant Christians are not spiritually attractive.  They are not serving their God-designed purpose which is to bring Him the glory He deserves. The cleaning out process can be tedious and even overwhelming at times, but oh, so worth it.  If we are to live well, serve well, love well, and flow well; spilling out Christ to those in need of His refreshment, then the clutter must go. 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 NKJV)

King Jesus,
Please help me to get rid of anything that hinders You from flowing freely through me.  Help me to cling to what is good and pleasing to You alone. Search me in the deepest places and bring the clutter to the center of my mind so I can recognize it for what it is-sin, and deal with what needs to be dealt with immediately. Help me to please You with a mind seeking to become like Yours; one that dwells on all that is pure and good and holy.  My desire is to be humble and obedient, to have a heart, mind, and soul that loves you deeply without the clutter of sin.  Thank You, sweet Jesus, for Your patience with me when I allow the clutter to build up.  I repent of  all sin which keeps me from bringing You the glory You deserve.  In King Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't Stress Out, Trust In


This past week as my Summer Book Club met, we were discussing Trust.  Ann VosKamp's DVD lesson was on taking our belief in Christ to the level of trust in Christ.  As I've had time to marinate on some things, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you from this lesson.

James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe.  So what makes a Christian different?  Trust.

Trust is used synonymously with faith many times by Christians. But here's how I separate the two.  Trust is an action word, a verb, and faith is a thing, a noun.  Having a thing called faith produces an action called trust.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)


What does the writer of Proverbs tell us to do at the beginning of these verses?

 "Trust."  Trust in.  Trust in the Lord.

Trust is the vehicle to crossing the bridges in life when we encounter something difficult. As our minds are reeling from a hard slap of reality, we stop in our tracks, hesitate to take the next step forward because of fear; fear of the unknown.  This is when we especially need to not lean on what we understand, but lean on what God knows is best. As the old song says, "When we can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

We are told also in these verses to acknowledge the times we can see where God has been faithful to walk with us over the bridges already behind us on our journey, and TRUST Him to walk with us again through this event that seems impossible to deal with.



One of my favorite word pictures that Ann paints in the book is through the words "planks of thanks." When we begin to give thanks for the past, we lay down another plank to walk across on.  As we give more thanks, we walk more planks.  Before you know it, we've crossed over to the other side of the hard with joy in our hearts.  All we need to do is walk one thank-plank at a time.

When we're stressed, we're not trusting.  When we're trusting, we're not stressed. 

So I say, "Don't stress OUT, trust IN... the Lord.

Thank. Plank. Walk.  The bridge to joy is trust.

(Thanks Ann VosKamp for the lesson this week!)

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Monday, July 22, 2013

Think it On Sunday: Stake and Claim

Jonah:  a man who knew the voice of God; a run-a-way prophet; put the lives of others at risk; lived three days in complete misery in the belly of a great fish; given a second chance; reclaimed his God-given territory through repentance and obedience; learned about the heart of God in the process.

How many times have we heard the voice of God speak an assignment to us and we ran because the assignment didn't look like what we thought it should look like?  Many times, I'm sure, if we're honest. 

If the assignment isn't suited to meet our expectations, we get angry, we pout, we whine, and we run the other way. Why? We run because our hearts don't look like His.


"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD."
                                                               (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV)

Sunday's message from the book of Jonah steered me on a little side trip, chauffeured by the Holy Spirit.  I was led to examine my territory; my God-given, just for Melanie, territory which He has entrusted me with to proclaim Him, to lead people to the cross, and to disciple.  I've been given a portion of territory to stake out and claim for Jesus Christ. At this time, and in this place, I've been given a sphere of influence, a place of ministry, and I'm divinely equipped.

Here are some questions I was led to ask myself: What am I doing with the territory that God has called me to work?  Am I being faithful and staking out every opportunity to claim another soul for Christ?  Do I have feelings of anger or jealousy because I don't like the territory, or the assignment I've been given? Am I comparing territories? Am I wasting time wishing I had someone else's territory to work? Do I consider my assignment important to the Kingdom as a whole?

Not as much as I used to, but I have answered "yes" to some of those questions.

I know what it feels like to compare territories.  I've been there.  We all wish at one time or another that we could do what someone else does, or have someone else's ministry. 

Someone may appear to be doing more for the glory of God and seeing real results, while we may not see results as quickly, or not at all.
 
Someone may have a bigger platform from which to stake and claim their territory and ours may seem small, uneventful, or insignificant.

Comparison is a crafty technique Satan has used for all of history to discourage God's people from focusing on their own territory and assignments.

How about this response? "I don't really like this place of ministry or the people I've been given to work with."

Just because we don't like the surroundings or the people doesn't mean we are not called to stake and claim it.  Wasn't that Jonah's issue?  He wanted the wicked people of Nineveh to be wiped out; not saved!  He wanted to preach a message of destruction, not the message of salvation. 

Jonah's thoughts were not God's thoughts, nor his ways God's ways.

There can be a number of reasons that we allow Satan to discourage us from doing what God has assigned us to do.  When we allow his lies to permeate our attitudes and minds, we accomplish little or nothing for the Kingdom of Christ. This is a miserable place to be.

In the eyes of God, there are no insignificant territories. 

All territories are filled with people (souls) and people are the heartbeat of God.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."
(2 Peter 3:9 NKJV, emphasis mine)

So how should we perceive our territory and not run or whine about it?

  • Be thankful that God saved us through the obedience of someone else staking and claiming their territory. Next, be thankful that he has entrusted us with an assignment. Be thankful that we know and hear the voice of God and have the honor and the freedom to obey His voice.  If we're miserable, chances are we've lost our heart of gratefulness.  Repent of the lack of gratefulness and begin viewing people as the heartbeat of God. This will produce a renewed and thankful heart. 

  • Be obedient. Stake and claim the territory that God has entrusted us with and rejoice over the victories He gives us. 

  • Be content with where God has assigned us because He created us for certain assignments which He has divinely equipped us to do.

  • Be faithful to complete our assignments. God will expand our territory if we are faithful with what He has already entrusted us with.  

  • Be alert! Listen intently to His voice. With each assignment comes the challenge to know God's heart a little more and to mature in our faith; moving us from glory to glory.  

As we walk in obedience, we will be filled with indescribable joy wherever He takes us... 
even if it was the exact place we ran from the first time.

"Help me Lord, to stake and claim the territory that you have designed just for me.  Forgive my disobedience and not receiving my assignments with a grateful heart. Change my perspective to see people as you see them, and jolt my heart's rhythm to be in sync with Yours.  Amen."

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String..."

 
 
 


(To the tune of "My Favorite Things")

Kisses from husband, boat rides on lake,
Soft blankets, thunderstorms, candles and cake,
Football and coffee, flip-flops and jeans,
these are a few of my favorite things!

Of course the list could go on and on and on...,
but I wanted to share with you a little of what I was able to share with some beautiful women last evening at Trinity Baptist Church for their Women's Ministry summer event called "Take-Away-Tuesday".






 
 
The icebreaker kicked off the theme of the evening. Each lady was given a small bag with a small piece of paper tucked inside.
 
They were asked to write 5 of their favorite things on the small piece of paper and then tuck it back inside the small bag. 
 
Next, they were asked to place their bag into the brown paper package tied up with string, which served as the centerpiece for the table.
 
 
 
 
 

As each table's designated "Bag Lady" pulled out one small envelope at a time, the ladies were to guess who belonged to the "List of 5" after it was read aloud.  Laughter filled the room as friends, old and new, became better acquainted.

My goal of the evening was to lead the women from their favorite things to helping them discover some of God's favorite things.  Through some personal stories about me and my dad, I shared how my dad was my earthly visual of my Heavenly Father; a loving father, a forgiving father, a just father, a singing father, a fun father, etc..., all characteristics of God, the Father.

Just as my dad considered his girls (his wife and two adopted daughters) among his favorite things, God has us, His "adopted" daughters, on His list of favorites.  How awesome is that?

I love weaving my physical adoption story into the teaching about our spiritual adoption into the greatest family ever- God's! Because of the blood sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, we're grafted into the family tree of Christ.  He is the Vine and we are the branches. (John 15) His life blood runs through our veins.

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." (Romans 8:15-17 NKJV, emphasis mine)

All Christians have a story of adoption they can share.  But the point of adoption is not the end of your  story. Your story continues as the details unfold revealing how you live out your faith in Christ. It's our response to the daily grind of real life that entices people to read more of the story;
His story.

What a fun evening we had!  A little "Sound of Music", brown paper packages tied up with string, celebrating our favorite things, and the best thing of all...

 Giving God Glory; His MOST favorite thing!

My Pleasure,
Melanie






 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Silly Frog Follies

I had just finished some work on the computer around 10:30 pm when I turned towards the kitchen window.  It had been raining all evening as it has been most of the summer here in the Palmetto State.

The hot and humid conditions are perfect for tree frogs.  They love to attach themselves to glass doors or windows.  If you're not careful, they'll jump off the door and into the house when you least expect it. 

I looked out the window and attached to the screen was a tiny tree frog and his small lizard friend. As I was moving in to get a closer look, the lizard quickly scurried away.

 
 
I eased away to get my camera and thought the little green frog would probably make his escape before I could get back.  WRONG!  Not only was he there, but after the first flash he must have thought this was going to be a photography shoot and he began posing for me.  Every time the flash went off, he struck another pose. It was hysterical!
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
Well, he's double-waving goodbye.  Show's over! 
 
 
Thank you, Jesus, for the crazy, simple things in life that make us laugh out loud.
 
 
My Pleasure,
Melanie

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Empty Nesters? Never!


The hour glass of summer is quickly running out of sand! I cannot believe that just a mere six weeks ago we were anticipating high school graduation for our baby girl, Madison.  Now we are roughly six weeks out from starting college!

Slow down, summer! I need to catch up!

Life seasons are designed by God to teach us, to grow us, and to transfigure us into the likeness of His Son. As our family transitions into this next season, our prayer is that we will look more like Jesus than we did last season. That we will build upon the foundation of faith laid long ago, and that we will apply the truths and principles we have learned in this life to bring more glory to our God than ever before!



With our oldest child, Turner, having been out of college for a year (and yes, he has a job, praise the Lord!), and our youngest preparing to enter college this fall, Rick and I are already being referred to as Empty Nesters.  I don't know about you, but I cringe every time I hear that term. What a depressing and sad label to attach to ourselves just because our last child has almost learned to fly on her own.  Sure it's bittersweet, but does it have to sound so final?  So...empty?

Well, I've made an executive decision for Rick and I not to accept this assumed label of emptiness, but we will be wearing a new label instead; "Joy-full Nesters." Doesn't that sound much more exciting? It sounds like there's more to come instead of settling for a nest of nothing.

Our nest is full of joy because we have persevered and sought to stay the course to raise our children with the strength and wisdom of Jesus Christ. We have been given the privilege of parenting for 23+ years, and we have many memories to reflect on as well as new memories still to make. 

With the privilege of parenting comes great responsibility; praying for our children, teaching them the truths of God, reading and studying His Word with them, and leading them to develop a deep love for God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Helping them discover their God-given gifts, as well as watching them hone in on their talents has been so exciting!  Now we get to watch them do life and continue to pray that they do it well.  Isn't that what we've trained them to do?

We give God praise for seeing us through their childhood and adolescent years, for transitioning them into adulthood, and us into a different aspect of parenting; from parent to even more...a true friend!  What a priceless treasure; to be our child's friend.  We couldn't do that while we were parenting children, but hopefully, we've set the stage well to become a trusted and valued friend to our adult children.

AND... of course, we're joy-full because we have more time for nurturing our marriage! Time to rediscover why we fell in love in the first place, the God-ordained love that was blessed with children. Time for more date nights, more weekend get-a-ways, more candlelight dinners for two, and of course, continuing to grow in Christ together; all brings that youthful spirit back into the nest. 

This nest is not empty and there's no plan to be empty... EVER!  We are just moving further into our happily-ever-after! Because there is life after parenting.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Run to the Quiet

Seated in the salon chair anxiously awaiting much needed root attention, I was enjoying the quiet.  No other hair dressers or clients had arrived at this point.  Just my hairdresser and me.  She said, "Isn't it quiet?"  We like the quiet in the salon before anyone else arrives.  No radio, no chattering, no hairdryers, no gossip. Just quiet.

The timer was set as my roots received their last brush of color. I was just starting to read and drink my coffee when  another hair dresser arrived and said to mine, "It's so quiet in here.  I don't know how you stand it." 

Totally opposite response to the quiet.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my TV noise sometimes when I'm in the house alone, but there is nothing like a quiet morning to place your thoughts on the right things.  It's difficult to think when the airwaves are smothered with music, talking, and many other distractions.

We need the quiet to think on the things of God; to clear our minds and really listen to His still small voice.  When we turn on the sound clutter and listen to it non stop, we are no longer in control of what we hear.  Even listening to Christian radio all the time can clutter our minds. 

Our minds can become addicted to noise.  We think we need it to function throughout the day.  The radio/alarm wakes us up. We shower to music. We dress to music.  We ride to work or school to music. We exercise to music.  We work to music. We eat to music. We watch TV 'til time to go to bed and sometimes we even fall asleep to noise. 

Quiet. We tend to run from it instead of in to it.

But God wants to meet with us in the stillness, the quiet.  He wants us to know Him.





"Be still and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10 NIV

God isn't limited to speaking only in the quiet, but our hearts need to learn to listen to His voice without distractions. We can't expect to know His voice if we don't know what His voice sounds like.  And learning anything well requires practice.


Even in our worship services we think the entire hour (or longer) has to be filled with noise, music, speaking..., but I believe God would be glorified and honored if we carved out some quiet time in our corporate gatherings to just be still and listen in the quiet.  Our minds need to be trained to handle the quiet. Is there a better place for the Body of Christ to learn the discipline of quiet and then encourage families to practice that discipline during the week than together in worship?



How do you handle the quiet?  Do you rush to fill it with noise so you don't have to listen to the quiet?  Want some real calm in your life? Discipline yourself to run to the quiet, not away from it.


"He will quiet me with His love..." (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)


"He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
 He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:2-3a NIV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hearts Pressed and Squeezed

I can remember as a kid, my mom used to make homemade orange juice.  We had an old thing-a-ma-jig (an antique juicer) that you placed orange halves in and pressed down the handle, squeezing hard until the orange dripped dry.  Then, with the handle still pressed down, mom would turn the thing-a-ma-jig sideways so the juice would pour out of the spout and into our glasses.  It was the best orange juice in the world.  My mouth would water just waiting for the sweet juice to spill out so I could taste it.


 
From a squeezed heart the sweet can also flow.

Hearts all around me are being squeezed. Each are being squeezed hard by different, yet difficult, circumstances.  My long-time, sweet friend, who pours fuel into my soul on a regular basis, was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Pressing hard on this mama's heart is my son. This son who lights up my day when he walks into the room, is grieving hard a relationship lost.  My best friend's "mama" heart is aching because she left her son at the Naval Academy on Thursday. She is struggling to even breathe. She won't be able to have any contact with her first born for 8 weeks, and he won't come home until Thanksgiving.  These are just three of many precious hearts being squeezed around me.

Because friends and family are being squeezed, my heart is hard-pressed on all sides for these very special people in my life.  I hurt because they hurt. As I'm being squeezed on their behalf, my eyes leak tears and my heart bleeds out love, encouragement, faith and hope.  I cherish each of these precious relationships and welcome the privilege to walk along side them through these hard moments. 

Jesus too was squeezed on all sides as He walked and lived life on this earth.  Remember the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years?  Read the entire account in Mark 5. In the middle of a crowd, as Jesus was making his way to help a squeezed daddy heart, (Jairus' daughter was very sick and close to death), healing power was released from Him as He was being pulled and tugged on. The bleeding woman believed if she could just touch the hem of His robe she would be healed.  As the crowd pressed in harder, Jesus knew that power had gone out from Him. And when He called her out, He told her, "Your faith has healed you..." (Mark 5:34 NIV)

During the encounter with the bleeding woman, Jairus' daughter died.  This daddy's heart was broken!  Those who came to tell Jairus the news also thought all hope was lost.  Jesus was too late to offer any help now.  Little did they know, but Jesus was coming to do a greater thing.  He wasn't just going to heal Jairus' daughter, He was going to raise his daughter from the dead.  And He did! Jairus experienced joy like he had never known because of his hard-squeezed, faith-filled heart and what glory God received as a result!

Jesus didn't try to avoid people with difficult lives.  He took the time to be pressed and squeezed; to pour love, forgiveness, hope, grace, mercy, kindness, healing, and so much more, into the people around Him.  He raised the dead, ate with sinners, spent time with children, taught the masses and the few.  He met them where they were. He healed hearts. He was drawn to those who were hurting and were in need physically, and spiritually. He showed us what the Father's heart looks like.

Ultimately, God poured out of Himself, from the spout of His heart, an incomprehensible love for a sin-sick world in desperate need of a sinless Savior. The ultimate squeeze. His Son sacrificed. Squeezed hard until He died...for you. For me. 

Jesus had to be squeezed to death for JOY to freely flow. Dark places give way to JOY as it greets the morning!  Resurrection day! LIFE anew!

And for all who have faith in Him, we get to experience that JOY and LIFE every moment of every day!

Being hard-pressed isn't fun, but it is necessary for us to develop a heart like Jesus'.  Being squeezed is a two-fold process. First, we are squeezed to empty out ourselves so we can be filled with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.  Second, once we have received Him into our lives, we are to squeeze out His character when faced with hard-pressed opportunities. Whether we are being squeezed with our own hurts or with the hurts of others, Christ is who needs to be poured out of our hearts.  This is how we show what the Father's heart looks like.

Don't avoid those who are in need of the Savior's heart.  Take the time to be squeezed and hard-pressed, and drip Jesus into others who need Him.  God's heart is overflowing with compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, encouragement, and hope.  As we squeeze out the heart of the Father, joy fills our glass and swells our souls. Because what is squeezed out is real, sweet, transforming, and eternal. 

"All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Distinguishing Mark

I don't know about you but to me, words written on paper are priceless.  I love to discover old letters, notes, signatures, all written by people long ago. I also love to reread letters written to me or notes from years past.  I especially love the words written to me from my sweet husband, Rick.  Your handwriting no one can duplicate.  Your signature is like your fingerprint. It's yours and yours alone!  A piece of yourself, your distinguishing mark, swirled onto empty space on paper.

My daughter was finishing up thank-you notes to those who have given gifts to her for graduation.  As I gazed at her handwriting on the envelopes, I realized that a taste of her personality was on the front of each one, and her heartfelt gratitude tucked away inside.  It made me smile.


 
 
My son, as we're vacationing at the beach, is rediscovering his cursive handwriting at age 23. As he writes in his journal, he's remembering the concentration it takes to be precise in letter formation. Handwriting really is an art, something that develops through the years.
 
How vast is the knowledge of God to design each person with his or her own unique style of handwriting?  It's incomprehensible the variety.  
 
I can remember as a little girl loving to watch my mother write.  It was so artistic.  Every letter so precise and elegant. Even her letters in those tiny little boxes of the newspaper crossword puzzles she did every day without fail were perfect, and in cursive no less.  Even her recipe cards were written in cursive; pieces of her I still have.  Her signature on a card, her lists, every stroke a treasure.  I'm so glad I have this memory as she would be 84 today!
 
Why do we not write as much anymore?  I know the answer already. It's because of the progress of technology. We think we're saving time, but we're really giving up a part of ourselves that God has uniquely created us with.

The Bible- the written Word of God.  God used men to write His message to us. His love letter recorded by human hands so we would know how much He loves us.  He used men of faith, filled with His Spirit, to write His heart on paper in their handwriting so we could hold and know His heart. 

In 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18, Paul wrote, "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." What a treasure we have been given. 

So whether I'm writing an encouragement note, signing a birthday card, or composing a love letter to my husband, I am leaving each recipient a special piece of myself with each stroke of the pen.  What will you write today?  How will you leave your distinguishing mark for those you leave behind?

My Pleasure,
Melanie



 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cope or Hope



How do you greet the day?  Some people really struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. Some, like my husband, wake up with this cheery attitude that annoys the rest of us who like to move a little slower as we pry our eyelids open. I prefer to have my coffee before even speaking a word. "Mmm... Good morning, Lord!"

We all develop skills and habits that help us face and get through our days.  But who wants to just survive when there is something greater to help us live fully alive?

Now I know there are legitimate medical reasons for why some people struggle through their days.  I have dealt with some depression and fears through the years.  I know what it feels like to feel defeated, worthless.  I've fought hard against Satan's mind games to win against the feelings of worthlessness as a wife and mother during post partum depression.  I've also experienced anxiety attacks on occasions; fearful of not being able to escape closed in areas. These feelings are real scary and those who deal with these things on a daily basis have my utmost empathy and prayers. I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist, but I do know One who offers something greater than just coping skills to get through the day.  His name? 

Jesus.  
 
What does He offer?  
 
Hope.
 
 
Hope is for more than just survival.  Hope is revival.  Every morning I'm renewed because of Jesus.  He is the reason I get up.  He is the reason I live.  He is the source of my strength.  He's my strong tower, my refuge, my hope. 
 
 
"God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all." (I John 1:5b) 
 
Want to see light in your day?  Seek Him.  Run to the Light and flee the darkness.  Speak His sweet  name...Jesus. Jesus.  Speak it right now!  He will break through the walls of darkness in your life. He will give you more than skills to cope. As you speak His name, your clouds disappear.  His light will burst forth.  Hope will move you forward, not just get you through.  Hope gives life. Life breathes hope and says, "Yes!" to the day He has given.
 
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.  Everyone who has this HOPE in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." (I John 3:2-3 NIV emphasis mine)
 
 
My Pleasure,
Melanie
 
 
 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Getting the Most Out of a Gift

 
 

 
Preparation for the Summer Book Club evening was an all day process.  There were suppers to pack, gifts to wrap, a DVD to watch, questions to ponder, and prayers to whisper.  But as I began preparing for the evening, I had renewed strength because I was exercising one of my spiritual gifts, hospitality: making people feel at home. The gifts, sack suppers, lemonade, and of course, sweet tea, all served up with a touch of southern hospitality.
 
 
 
 
What I love about these ladies is that they "ooh and ah" over the simplest of pleasures.  One in particular said something to the effect, "This is the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I've had in a long time; (laughing) probably because someone else made it for me."
 
Because time was short, (I had had 4 events in 4 days) I prepared something simple, sprinkled with a splash of color.  My favorite part of the evening was the laughter, the conversation, and the encouragement spilling all over my home as the women received their sack suppers.  They opened their first gift of the evening, ate, and were filled.
 
Jesus loved visiting people, and especially with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Because He visited with them in their home on many occasions, and the fact that He wept over Lazarus' death, it's easy to conclude they probably were close friends.  Martha paid special attention to the details when Jesus came to visit and have a meal.  She wanted their home to look nice, smell good, and for the dining experience to go well.  Jesus knew what she was doing, but because He also knew His time on earth was brief, He wanted her to pay attention to what was most important- knowing and experiencing Him.
 
Jesus is the best gift ever!  Once He is received into the home of our hearts, we are to do more than to just set the Gift on the coffee table.  The most important part of receiving a gift is experiencing what is inside.  Opening the gift leads to the wonder inside.  We need to experience Jesus, the amazing wonder that He beholds.  He wants us to know Him, to spend time with Him, to bask in His glory and gifts of grace; He showers gifts on us every moment of every day. 
 
Yes, the details of our lives are important, but the God who is in the details is of utmost importance.
 
 
 
The ladies received a wrapped gift as well.  To really understand and experience this gift, they had to open it and then go experience it...day after day after day after day...!
 
Dear Jesus, as we experience the wonder of your grace, keep our eyes wide open to who You are and how You love us.  Today, we open our hands to receive, and our hearts to express thanksgiving. Amen.
 
My Pleasure,
Melanie