Tell Me the Story

“Honey, I’m home.” I arrived back early this morning from an amazing week of church camp ready to tell my husband all my stories about a week spent with a pretty special group of soon to be high school freshmen. During the week I had the privilege of helping them take a look at the stories of the Old Testament and how they (the kids and the stories) fit together as part of God’s whole amazing story of love, redemption, grace and reconciliation. We talked about how everything in the O.T. points to Jesus coming to save us in the N.T. and the N.T. points to Jesus coming again to get us for Eterni-T.

This year God had placed in on my heart that we needed to be talkin about the fact that we need to be knowin the story. As I have been reading through the book of Acts–one of the greatest books in the Bible, at least from an adventure standpoint (yeah, that’s just a personal opinion, lol, but I think it’s spot on)–anyway, I couldn’t help but SEE (our theme for the week) that in the book of Acts, while the church was growing like wild fire, that not only did people know the story, they were living the story, they were sharing the story, and God was moving, changing their lives and their stories because of THE STORY.

I mean, Luke obviously knew THE STORY. . . he wrote the book of Acts. Then Peter pipes up with THE STORY at Pentecost. Stephen knew THE STORY and while sharing it he lost his life and gained a new one at the same time. Philip knew THE STORY, he shared it with the people of Samaria, a sorcerer and a Eunich. Saul became Paul because of THE STORY, and he couldn’t stop telling THE STORY for the rest of his days on earth.

The problem lies in the fact that we are not doing a very good job with THE STORY. Even if we know the stories, or some of them, we often don’t understand them or what their importance is or what they mean in the big picture of God’s story, His-story. . .our story.

Romans 1:28-32 reveals to us the consequence of forgetting THE STORY,

“Furthermore, they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

When we know THE STORY, we know GOD because HE IS THE STORY. He and His love are woven into every event, every person’s life and breath and story recorded on the pages of His Word. This week I saw students with a hunger to know THE STORY and THE GOD who is responsible for it. Watching them learning, praying, praising, committing, asking, and seeking is a great encouragement–a hope that the story will continue to be passed on and passed down until the One who is writing it returns to take us home. And until that day we must continue to pray, and we must continue, like the men and women of the book of Acts, to know THE STORY, live THE STORY, and share THE STORY with a world who needs to know the love of the Creator and the heart of His Son who came that we might have life.

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How do you know God likes salad?

Because He put so much lettuce in the Bible!!! Bahahahaha. . . .oh well. . .

A few years back, the year our youngest son was graduating from high school, I was fortunate to have had the privilege of giving the graduate’s charge at our church’s service that Sunday. I remember bringing a head of lettuce and pealing back the leaves one at a time as we talked about the “lettuces” in the book of Hebrews.

Truth is there are enough leaves of lettuce in the Bible to make a salad of ginormous proportion. But today, I’ve been drawn back to the espcially tasty bites in Hebrews, especially chapter 10.

For example:

Hebrews 4:14 . . .let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 6:1 Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. . .
Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near to God with a sincere faith. . .
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we professed, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:24 Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds
Hebrews 10:25a Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but. . .
Hebrews 10:25b let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching

And just like a salad is rarely complete with just lettuce, the writer of Hebrews adds a little something to the mix beginning in verse 35:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

And then here comes the kicker, I LOVE this part, L-O-V-E it.

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

We won’t shrink back, we won’t give up, we won’t give in, we won’t turn away. We will follow, we will love, we will give and forgive and help and serve and share and tell until He who is promised returns. And until that time, “lettuce” do these things with the confidence, peace, joy, grace, strength, energy, passion and commitment that comes only from Him.

Stuff From My Car

In a couple of hours I will be speaking on the campus of Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO, giving a late night devotional talk to a small group of some of the greatest young women around–the women who reside on the second floor of Dennis Hall! I have a great love for these girls! Earlier this year, I had the privilege of speaking to their entire dorm, but tonight we have chosen to take things to a slightly more personal level, and “tonight’s gonna be a good night. Yeah, tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.”

Although I’m writing this now, I won’t post until after I speak. Then there can be that element of surpise (maybe even for me), and I will still have time to process my thoughts one more time before they come out of my mouth–something I probably should do a little more often!! During my drive down to Joplin I was thinking about the things I felt that God was leading me to share with them. Things I wished someone would have said to me. Things that, if I had a daughter, I would want said to her–again and again and again–from someone other than her mother. Things that would sink down deep into her heart for all of her days. Things she would one day share with someone else’s daughter.

The last time I shared with the girls here, we talked about our baggage and our luggage–y’know that stuff we carry around instead of laying it down–and the importance of leaving it with the greatest baggage handler of all times–Jesus. As I thought about how we would move on in our journey tonight, I noticed in my car several things I was carrying with me that would help us to connect to things I wanted to say and maybe lighten the serious tone of the things we would be talking about. Things like:

A Worldless Book Cross Bracelet–This bracelet was made for me by a woman in our church. The beads reflect the light when I drive (at least on sunny days) and are anchored by a cross. As I looked up at that bracelet today, I know I want to remind them that we need to reflect The Light and that our security comes from being anchored in Christ and what He did on the cross.

Chapstick–Cherry to be exact! Oh yeah! We need to have coverage over our lips at all times. What comes through those babies comes directly from what is being stored up in our hearts. So if we are going to take care to have soft lips, we better take care to have a pure heart softened by the truth and love of God.

A Beanie Baby Bumble Bee–We will be taking a minute or two to talk about purity–like in matters involving the birds and the . . . .yeah, you guessed it. . .bees! But also in matters of the heart, the eyes, the ears, and as so many Pinterest Pinners put it, “my style.” There is a reason the guy from Cake wants a girl in a short skirt. . . .and we need to talk about that.

A Beanie Baby Lady Bug–Around here we don’t just have lady bugs, we have those annoying imposters, the Japanese beetles. They look like lady bugs, but they don’t act like lady bugs. They come in swarms, they take over everything around them and they stink. (I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this!) They may look cute, but they are not. A stinky disposition is something we need to mature out of because even if you try to cover it up, it doesn’t take long before people see the truth and want to stomp you out.

A Business Ccard and Hospital ID Badge–When we recognize our security is in Christ, and as we mature in Him, our identity becomes secure. Not only will we know who we are, but so will others, and our security will allow us clearance into their lives in order to help them know the One who can heal and help them.

An iphone–These little guy reminds us to keep listening to God. If we don’t we will become ruled by emotions, circustmances and reactions rather than truth and God’s direction. We need to be really careful what we’re takin in or we will be taken in by whatever comes our way.

Emory Board–This little tool helps us realize that our devotion to God will take some shaping up. There are some rough places we all need to let him smooth out, and even though it may hurt we won’t give up, give in, or give out. We will be women who keep our commitments, keep our promises, and keep our faith no matter what our emotions or insecurities may want to do. WAIT! What insecurities? There are being gently filed away and that baggage has been left with Jesus!

LOL!! I just wrote so much, all of which will probably take you longer to read than for me to say, but at the heart of all this stuff is the realization that through the years He has brought me to the place where I am seeking and seeing God in all things. Some of those things are so simple, like objects in my car, and others are so complex, like the giving and taking of life or the complexities of a solar system.

The things in my car helped to remind me of lessons I want to pass on to the women traveling the roads behind me–things like purity, maturity and security.

Proverbs 4:23-25 says:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only the ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left and keep your feet from evil.”

WE WILL NOW PAUSE FOR SOME COLLEGE GIRL CHOCOLATE EATING AND FUN TIME
This morning:
Last night these girls and I talked about our need for real purity in our lives, and the need to grow up, put away our fears, put our trust in God and gain control over those emotions that keep us from completely devoting ourselves to Christ.

As we talked about the virtues held in this Scripture, we talked about the lies in the promises we read on our Dove Chocolate wrappers, how Smokey Robinson may “Second That Emotion,” but we want to “second that devotion.” Strangely enough, we finished up chatting about Peyton Manning! This simple, yet extraordinary man, and the integrity and example he has shown, but not just as a quarterback. His life reminded us how great the need is for men, and women, to live lives that set that example, and we prayed to be or to become women of purity, maturity and security, ruled by devotion rather than emotion, living out Christ’s example whever the journey takes us.

And it was a good, good night!

Zesty!!!

        Zesty!!! What a great word! It’s so fun! It’s. . . it’s. . . .it’s. . . .well, it’s zesty.  This week I’ve had zestiness on my mind because I recently baked some cookies made with. . . you guessed it, zest!!! Orange zest to be exact. Leah, a de-lightful young woman who grew up in our church and is now all married with kids and baking cookies of her own, share the reciped with me via Pinterest (I think) and Facebook  (I’m sure). Truth be known, Leah has shared much more than that with me. As I’ve watched her grow from young teen to a college age student to a now young mom, she has shared joy, servanthood, conviction, her great heart and  vibrant spirit which longs to live for God.  She is honest and transparent and funny and sincere. She was raised simply, and lived simply in a small, small town, with parents who I’m blessed to call friends and champions in the faith.

The recipe Leah shared with me is basic, simple and pure. Then you get out an orange and get to zesting!!! Just by adding some zest, followed with a spash of juice you get KAPOW!  This little ZEST of orange transforms this little biscuit of a cookie into sunshine in your mouth!! My friend Leah, is kind of like that cookie.  She’s “just a mom,” “just a wife,” “just a small town girl, living in a lonely world” (whoops! lost track there for a moment!) but because of Christ in her, she is something special. She makes you take notice, she makes you smile, she makes your day a little better just because she’s around.

I’m so glad God allowed someone to discover that the zest, that thinnest of thin sliver of peel, when added to a recipe has the power to well, ZEST THINGS UP!  Zest is fresh, zest is fragrant, zest permeates whatever you add it to.  You see, zest is powerful,  and what is so amazing is that is takes just a little. I mean just a little, bitty bit to make a big difference.

Sometimes I think we believe that we have to do something really big, really special, really amazing to make a difference. But I think it’s when we get ‘zesty,” that the real differences are made. A zest of kindness, a zest of joy, or patience, or helpfulness, laughter, prayer can make all the difference in someone’s somewhat plain, ordinary, mundane day. Zest is like a breath of fresh air in our lives, and in the lives of those around us, and that zest reflects the character of our God to the world.

So thanks, Ms Leah, for being a great example, a great mom, wonderful wife, and “zesty” friend. Oh, and thanks for the cookie recipe. Not only was it good, it was good for me. (and my blog!)

Oh, and that cookie recipe. . .you can find it here at http://www.stephanieskitchen.com/2011/05/orange-zested-cookies-w-sweet-orange-glaze/

Twenty Minutes With Jesus

20 minutes

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. . . since beginning this blog, several people have asked me where the ideas are coming from. Pretty much from the time of my day I call “Twenty Minutes With Jesus.” I understand that to many people twenty minutes with Jesus doesn’t sound very spiritual, I mean, why not thirty minutes? Why not an hour? Really, Dawn, all you’re going to give Jesus is 20 minutes a day? Well, kind of. I mean it’s my goal to give Him every minute, every second, every thought, action, motive and prayer. But I need some time in my day to just sit with Him and listen and learn from Him, and so several years ago I adapted a journaling and personal Bible reading plan from Dean Trune of Intentional Impact Ministries. It has become my “Twenty Minutes with Jesus” journal.

In my last post I talked about the whole being versus doing thing. I certainly battle that (most of us do, I think). I have to be very careful to make time to remember to cling to the sitting at Jesus’ feet Mary, while still embracing the passion and energy of my Martha personality.Yes, I tend to lean a bit towards the Martha side of the scale. (And yes, by a bit I mean try imagining Martha with a giant magnet and me wearing a metal suit!!)

But how does balance happen? How do we really overcome? We all know it needs to happen, but how does the “extreme spiritual home makeover” really happen? As I began to write this post, I wound up chatting with a friend on Facebook about this very topic. In regard to my life, I found myself typing out these words, “I finally figured out that I just wanted to be: to be the woman He wanted me to be, the wife He wanted me to be, the mom He wanted me to be. Once I got that down, the rest started falling into place.”

And I think that really sums it up. I finally saw what I needed, and just wanted it. When I wanted it, then God honored it by providing me this little method which took just twenty minutes. I think He knew that’s all I was ready for! In its simplicity, I still rarely allow myself to spend more than twenty minutes. I found that for my basic time with the Lord, if I didn’t limit it, I became the Martha of Bible study to the point where I wouldn’t or felt I couldn’t continue on. Since getting my twenty minute time down, I’ve added things like blogs, books, podcasts, conferences, my recent date with God, etc. at other times to draw me near and to build and enhance my relationship with the God I love and who loves me in return.

Basically for me, Twenty Minutes with Jesus works something like this.

1–Each day I begin by reading a Psalm. From that Psalm I write down any character qualities of God I see. For example, I may write, “You are faithful, you are king, your love is unfailing. . . .”

2–When I finish that I move on to Prayer Requests Usually these requests are personal, (I keep a separate prayer journal for other needs) based on the character qualities of God I desire to have built into my life or my family and for other specific needs as God leads. I usually limit this to four or five requests.

3–Then, I head into my Bible reading for the day. Currently, I’m in Isaiah. I’ve been here for a while–quite a while!! I’m good with that. I’ve learned spiritual transformation isn’t a race. I never set a particular amount of scripture to read each day, I just read until I feel God stops me by showing me something I’ve never seen before or something I need to consider, something that challenges me, or something I need to repent of.

4–After reading, I jot down what the Scripture is saying and what I need to learn from that. Again, I don’t write a ton, I just write enough so that I don’t forget what God is teaching me.

5–I’m almost done when I consider areas of spiritual warfare and repentance. These are most often in areas of character like impatience, pride, worry or self control.

6–I finish up with a quick reading from the New Testament and some notes on what I need to do as a result of all God has shown me. It may be to make a call, send a note, follow up with someone, work to make something right, or do some extra study.

On Sunday, my biggest working/teaching day at church, I will try to take time to look over the past week to see what God has been saying to me, or teaching me or where He may be leading me. Since the Mary thing isn’t always natural to me, I still have to take care that I don’t allow myself to have been so busy doing for God that I forgot what I learned sitting at His feet.

And as the years are going by, I find these twenty minutes a day to be the moments I crave most, I long for, and I cling to because it’s been during this time that He has shown me, clearly, not only who He is but who He wants me to be. And everyday, as I come to know more and more who I am in Christ, I come to know with confidence what it is He wants me to do. And all that in just Twenty Minutes a Day. . . .with Jesus!!