Swimming Upstream

Swimming Upstream May Be Hard, But It’s Not Impossible

I recently said these words when talking to a friend about the challenges a kid faces today when they want to follow Christ while living in the world. It’s like swimming upstream. And although swimming upstream is hard, it’s not impossible—oh, and that metaphor isn’t just for kids.

We all know some days it is hard. Today is one of those days. I never want to be a whiner. Never. I do it sometimes, probably more than I should, and about little things, things that don’t matter—like long lines at Wal Mart and when someone “borrows” my iPod cable without returning it. But all in all, I don’t want to complain because I know it dishonors God, I know it can keep people from seeing God, and I know that I have a pretty easy life compared to a zillion other people.

Yet even when I know with my head that my life is pretty good, and that testing and trials grow my faith, the truth is the trials still hurt. Friends hurt us; our friends hurt. We feel helpless to help them. Things are out of our control. Good people are wronged. People we love die. Or walk away from God. Or disappoint us. Or we, them. Then there’s illness and cancer and the economy and loneliness. And on those days, when you want to turn back, you want to quit swimming, what do you do?

Well this is what I think. You keep swimming. Upstream. You may need to rest a bit. You may need to call in reinforcements, but you don’t give up. You don’t turn around. You don’t follow the tide. You keep swimming. You keep following God. You keep on trusting His precepts and His path. It may hurt. It may burn. Tears may fill your eyes and you may find it hard to breathe. You may, with every fiber of your being, want to quit. But you don’t.

You find your strength in His strength and His power made perfect in your weakness. You count it all joy, and you remember that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character, hope. And hope doesn’t put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-4, ESV)

And so you keep swimming, upstream, against the current–because it’s worth it, or more to the point, because He’s worth it, and there’s a whole world swimming past you in the opposite direction that needs to know that it’s possible to keep swimming, and to know the Hope and the Difference that can be theirs if they follow Him, too.

More Lettuce, Please

There’s been quite a bit a talk around my way about my last post and the “lettuces” in the Bible. So I decided to go back and find a few of my other favorites as a reminder of all the healthy goodness found planted in God’s garden. So this morning I’m leafing through some more tasty morsels to see what’s there. . . Like. . . .

Romans 13:12  Let us put away the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of ight.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

2 Corinthians 7:1  Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Galations 5:25  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galations 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galations 6:10  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

I Thessalonians 5:6  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.

I Thessalonians 5:8  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

I John 3:18  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I John 4:7  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad  and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come,  and his bride has made herself ready.

As I looked a the end, I had to go back to the beginning:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,  and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

And I see once again that from the very start God made us with His plan in mind that we would live as His, with Him and for Him and for the glory and good of His Name and His Kingdom. The bridegroom IS coming again, and we need to be ready. We have a great hope and a great anticipation. As we wait for the day to appear, let us not just read about what He would have us to be doing, but “lettuce” grow in love and faith and works and deeds as we share the good news with those around us.

Do you have a favorite “let us?” Feel free to share it here. . . .I feel like it may be time for me to go shopping for some tasty leaves in the pages of the Old Testament  to see what might “turn up” there!!!

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.

The Voice

Recently I’ve watched a couple of episodes of “The Voice.” If you haven’t seen it yet, it follows the same concept as shows like “American Idol,” and “The X Factor.” People who want a career in music, or people who want to become famous as a result of a career in music are competing weekly, continually facing elimination, until a winner is declared. You’ve probably noticed, like I have, that there are a lot of these shows on, and they are on a lot. Ultimately, we are spending a lot of time listening to a lot of voices. While we spend hours listening to “the voices,” it would seem that we are not spending much time at all listening to “THE VOICE.”

THE VOICE, of course, is God’s voice, and it is crying out to those who will listen. He is calling out to us to hear and respond to His love, compassion, mercy and salvation. He longs for us to come back to Him, to reach out to others, to share His love with those around us, giving generously of our time, talents, and finances in His name. We have to be careful, in our busy lives, not to the let the voices of so many other things drown out THE VOICE that is calling our name.

The writer of Hebrews says it so well,

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:12-15

We are entering into spring and the Easter season—a time of rebirth, renewal and resurrection. If we slow down, take notice, and listen carefully, we can hear THE VOICE calling us–THE VOICE belonging to the God who loved us enough that He sent His Son for us, a rebellious people so lost that we don’t even see our need to be saved. THE VOICE that continues calling out to us in spite of our rejection and rebellion. If you allow yourself to hear THE VOICE, respond to Him; don’t harden your heart. Instead, surrender to His heart, and the song it sings. Because THE VOICE of Jesus is THE VOICE of the name above all names, who walks in victory, reigns in glory, and will be returning in the twinkling of an eye for those who have chosen to follow Him, giving us something to sing about with no fear of elimination!

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!

3-2-1 Awesome


Last night the church I attend and work for held a little event for moms we are calling MnMs–Monday Nights for Moms. MnMs is just a little something we wanted to start doing to get our women together and have a little fun, a little encouragement, and a little bit  of learning about being, well moms. You know how it can be, sometimes we get so busy just “doin life” in our own world, that we forget to “do life” together. And although we get training for a zillion other things,  we often forget to get a little training in the whole mom/wife/woman department. And since the Bible tell us to do these kind of things (Titus 2). . .  MnMs was created.

Of course (heavy sigh), in a winter with virtually no snow, we got snow and  bit of ice yesterday. However, we were not to be deterred!!!  We were meeting anyway!  After all we are MOMS and we needed out of the house! We had a goal to learn about setting goals!!  We started things out spiritually by baptizing a variety of treats into melted chocolate and our veggies into dip as we prepared for the rest of evening.

We tackled our topic on goal setting (if you want to know how I feel about goals, read back a few posts to 1st and goal). We were blessed to have a phenomenally talented woman from our church lead us in how to make antiqued Valentine cards (Thank you Ms Gaby!). But the pinnacle of the evening for me was our 3-2-1 Cup-o-Cakes or 3-2-1 Awesome Cakes as I am now inspired to call them.

My kidmin coach, Todd, shared this recipe with me. His wife shared it with him. Someone from Pinterest shared it with her. But honestly, who cares where it came from??? It’s just too much fun in a cup!!!!  And, yes, there’s a little spiritual application attached.  Ready??? Here’s the thing.

Take:

One angel food cake mix (see it’s spiritual already–angels!)

One one any kind of cake mix  (preferably not devil’s food-bahahaha, just kidding) I did use chocolate for my demo last night.   And. . . .

Mix them together. Really well. Like with a whisk. In a big bowl.  Store it in an airtight container of somekind.

Then:

Grab a coffee cup/mug

Put 3 well rounded Tablespoons of the cake mix in there

Add 2 Tablespoons of water        Stir it up, mix it up, (I don’t recommend shaking it up)  Although the recipe itself does shake things up a bit!

Cook 1 minute in your microwave.    Hence the 3-2-1 and. . . it’s . . .

Awesome!!! I mean open that microwave door and you have CAKE!! In your CUP!!  Just like that!!! So simple. So wonderful. So Awesome!! Don’t just look at it. . . .eat it! Plain or topped with something like frosting, mint chips, ice cream, whipped cream, peanut butter. . . .I dunno. . . whatever you like.

So. Ms Dawn, you say. I think I’m missing something. . . just what is the spiritual application here, besides “angel” food cake?

Here’s the thing.

It’s simply simple. Some of the best things in our spiritual life are kind of like 3-2-1 Awesome Cake–they don’t have to be complicated. They can be those few minutes spent in prayer, those few minutes spent sending out a card, those few minutes letting someone else in front of you in the checkout line.  They can be the homemade card you made at church for your husband or the Double Stuffed Oreos he gave you for Valentines Day. (Yeah, that’s my man in plaid!) They can be the hug you share with a friend or  the “hello” you share with a stranger. The best spiritual things are often simple, and they are meant to be SHARED.

You see, this simple recipe was shared with me by someone who had it shared with them, by someone who had it shared with them, by someone who had it shared with them. Last night, I shared it with our ladies, and I know they are going out and will share it with someone else, probably today. Now as I share it with you, I know some of y’all will be on your way to WalMart for cake mix before the end of the day and you will be texting a friend to see if they’ve tried it yet! Because you, too, have realized that it really does sound pretty awesome, and you’re thinking, “Hey! All these women (and one man) can’t be wrong!”

Well, can you see it now? What we’re doing with this cake recipe. . .that’s what Jesus asks us to do. Get so excited about what He has shared with you that you simply have to share it with someone else or a couple of someone elses. Or a whole group, or the world. When it’s all said and done, I mean, I’m thankful someone shared the recipe with me, but I’m really thankful someone shared Christ with me.  3-2-1 Awesome!!

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/