My first book!

My first book!

So I wrote a book…a devotional…and actually published it! My writings usually sit hidden in a drawer, but while living in Ukraine last year, my friend, Sarah, encouraged me to join her in her publishing company, The Thinking Tree Publishing Company, LLC, and put some of them in print. Sarah is a fabulous illustrator! Oh how I wish I had Sarah’s artistic talent…but then again, God gave me my own talents to use. The difference is…she has used hers greatly while mine have sat hidden in a drawer. But is that what God wants for us? According to Matthew 25 he doesn’t…

Since this is the 14th day of the month, here is an excerpt of the 14th devotional. First though, read the actual Proverb from the bible before reading the devotional. Then, if you have a copy of the book, you will enjoy doodling on Sarah’s illustrations! I hope you like it…

If you want to see some of the actual inside, go to Amazon here: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles You can also order direct from CreateSpace: Proverbs Devotional & Doodles. The proceeds help support the mission work in Ukraine!

 

Day 14 ~ Proverbs 14

“The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.” ~Proverbs 14:10

How can we truly know another person, except by what we see and hear? Sometimes it’s easy to assess what is in a person’s heart by their countenance. We can assume a person is joyful at that given second by the belly laugh filling the air. We can assume a person is sad, hurt, or bitter when we see buckets of tears flowing down their cheeks. But, can we presume to know the reasons or the source? All too common, seemingly happy people (such as actor Robin Williams) take their own life out of deep depression. We are often too quick to make assumptions about a person or situation before we see all sides of a matter (see Proverbs 18:17 & 25:8). Yet, in our pride, it’s so very easy to assume we know what another person is thinking or feeling. Most of the time, our pride prevents us from simply asking, and therefore our reactions to that person will be unfitting.

“A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.” ~Proverbs 14:5

What happens when we assume to know the heart of another and treat them accordingly? If I see someone come through the door with a scowl across their forehead, should I assume they are angry with someone? And then, to top that off, they complain about the blue skies. Should I assume they are bitter or nit-picking? How do we not know that they simply woke up with a migraine headache or have recently suffered great loss? In our humanness, we are all occasionally guilty of these kinds of assumptions. When we fail to seek truth, we are uttering lies. The old Indian Proverb holds true: “Just walk a mile in his moccasins, before you abuse, criticize and accuse.” (taken from the poem Judge Softly, written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895). Yet, if we walk the same path, even then, do we deeply understand the heart of another?

“A sound heart is life to the body,
but envy is rottenness to the bones.” ~Proverbs 14:30

On the flip side, making assumptions on another person’s joy is just as harmful. How often do we reject people because we believe their lives to be ideal? We become envious of their happiness while not being concerned with knowing the road they traveled to live in their joy. Often times, we are shocked upon hearing a mild-mannered sweet Christian’s testimony to find she has a shockingly checkered past. Jesus says in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little, loves little.” (NIV) Do we rejoice with those who rejoice? Or do we allow our own self-centeredness to prevent us from being genuinely happy for other people’s success and joy.

Our heart knows our own bitterness. We deeply feel emotion when we have loved another. People are fallible beings. When we place expectations on another based on our own desires, we will be hurt. People will always at one time or another let us down. But we are not alone in our bitterness, or our joy. Jesus says in Matthew 6:8, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Why expect strangers, or even those we know, to share in our joys and/or sorrows when we have a God who knows every deep hurt, feeling, and thought we’ve ever had? A sound heart comes when we let go of our expectations of others and place our hope and trust in God, the one who most knows our heart.

“Those who fear the Lord are secure;   
 he will be a refuge for their children.” ~Proverbs 14:26

 

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Holiday Grace

Thanksgiving & Christmas Thankfulness…My little Speech? Statement? Declaration? My final breath? 😉

I’m so thankful for a faith rooted in love not terror; in life not death. I’m so thankful God allowed me to see him through His Spirit…and not in the examples or interpretations of earthly fallible men. I’m so thankful God gave us his Holy Spirit and his Word for guidance, strength, and comfort, and for the remaining churches that love the outcast like Jesus did (John 4).

I’m so thankful I don’t attend a church that doesn’t allow anyone older than the millennial generation in worship band/choir, but rather exonerates all walks of life (1 Kings 12:13). I’m so thankful I don’t attend a church that doesn’t allow newer, timeless, music for fear of letting go of traditions or just plain being stuck in the 80’s (Job 32:8-9). I’m so thankful I don’t attend a church that clings to suit & tie & stocking hosiery instead of acknowledging that man looks at the outward appearance while God looks at the heart and wants our worship to be a place where people can be real, be accepted, and loved in ordinary jeans (1 Samuel 16:7: Matt 23:27).

I’m so thankful that even though I will never live up to the expectations of people who are so quick to believe the worst, I am forgiven and accepted by a God who loves me just as I was created (John 3:16-17). I’m so thankful for the friends God has placed in my life, people who would not listen to negativity, realizing that to believe hearsay without verification is the same as the original telling of the lie, for lies are only for enemies (Eph 4).

I’m so thankful for my husband and the restoration God has worked through our lives. We are not perfect, but we choose not to control each other, but rather to let God be in control; we choose to respect instead of belittle; we choose to love in spite of our baggage.

Finally, I’m so very thankful for the children God allowed me to birth, even thru the distance, disagreements, and miss-communications, they all know their Momma’s love will never end. My prayer for you is that your road will wind its way to the Lord; that you will always seek Truth; that your faith will be your own, and to know that… “our struggle is not against flesh and blood {people}, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12).

Most of all, never ever forget…”nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).

That is all. (This is about as mushy as I’ll ever get….)


~Nora, Daughter of Abba God, Wife, Mom, Friend.

Jesus is the Light

Approval-seekers and Self-pleasers

My husband and I had a little discussion the other day about people-pleasers being one and the same as self-pleasers. We brought up a lot of controversial points in today’s world, so he suggested I put it in a blog.

The people-pleasing theme has run through many of my posts. This may be a reiteration of a post I wrote about people-pleasers: here. I also wrote a post on why people don’t like us: here, so I thought I had it covered. But…can you be a people-pleaser without being a self-pleaser? In my prior posts, I eluded to people-pleasers being self-pleasers. Are they one and the same? My question in my overly analytical mind is; why do we want to please everyone else?

With God, everything is a matter of the heart; even when we are pleasing Him.

We must ask ourselves:

  • Is it possible to please others and/or self and still please God?
  • Do we do our good little deeds for God or to feel good about ourselves?
  • Do we want to puff up others, or do we want to puff up ourselves?
  • When caving to the will of others; is our desire to bring them fulfillment or are we seeking their approval?
  • When seeking the approval of others; is not the seeking for our own satisfaction?

Approval-seekers are self-pleasers.

We have begun to wonder if some sort of revival is beginning to break out over our country. Fence riders are beginning to fall off. Eventually, everyone will have to choose one side or the other so we might as well start now!

One of those fences is full of people-pleasers. I know of at least two churches where the preachers taught on the subject just this last Sunday. Lately, I’ve seen several articles, posts, blogs, etc. on this subject. Hordes of books have been written on people pleasing; approval addiction; and boundaries in the past few years. Some of the hype could be the psychological-money-making-bandwagon. But when the phenomenon reaches several pulpits, we need to take notice.

When revival and/or trials hit, God calls his people to step up to the spiritual (not religious) plate. He said we are not able to live by double-standards. God is not only love, not only grace, but God is truth. Where do we get our screwed up lives from? Lies. Deceit. Lies. Hypocrisy is rooted in lies. Double standards are rooted in lies. And believe it or not, people-pleasers are rooted in lies…for by pleasing one, another must suffer.

Maybe God is fed up with our fence riding and is finally pushing us to stand for integrity. Maybe he is building character in his children to enable us to survive the hard times most are predicting. I don’t believe for one second the martyred Christians in Egypt were seeking the approval of man. How will we react when evil hits our doorstep? You’ve heard the line in the old Aaron Tippin country song, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Maybe God just wants our yes to be yes and our no to be no (even in the little things!) so we will have the character needed to withstand anything the enemy throws at us! Jesus said in John 5:41, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me.” Maybe we should follow his example.

God’s approval is all we need. Yet, we tend to have an unhealthy fear of man instead of a spirit of love and respect for God.

Isaiah 51.12

Lord, forgive us for our apathy. Help us to follow truth, no matter who it hurts. Because following truth is following you. Help us to stand for that which is right. Because in standing for that which is right, we are standing in love for all.

Isaiah 1.17 Seek Justice

 

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 20:10 (Do we show partiality?)

“Differing weights and differing measures—
the Lord detests them both.” 20:10
~Not only applicable to business practices…but to relationships as well. Do we have one standard for one person, but not the same expectation for another? Do we love others based on their ability to live up to our standards? We tend to view others based on our personal perspective derived from our own world. When we quit expecting others to love based on our standards, and quit trying to seek love based on another person’s standards, we recognize the Lord is the only entity who loves us unconditionally. The Lord is the only one who shows NO partiality in whom he loves. He is the only one who truthfully sees our heart. He loves me. He loves you! Rest.

Beautiful Differing Feet!

Beautiful Differing Feet!

 

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Another church debate?

And the church is now debating youth groups…

The newest movement in the church world today is the “Integration of the Congregation”. The concept is such that our kids are falling away, as argued in one of many circles such as in this article; Charisma News; which discusses statistics showing youth groups are driving Christian teens to abandon the faith. The trend is leading the church to abandon their youth groups.

The debate seems to be about destructive peer pressure in church. The new thought process is that separating youth from parents in church waters down and annihilates any teaching of Godly principles, leaving youth abandoned to seek total downfall with their church peers. By integrating the youth with the adults, they will learn to become exemplary, well rounded, Christian grown-ups. In all the articles I’ve read on Family Integration, statics and scripture references are used to back up this theory: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16…to quote a few from the above article. But, if you look at these scriptures, they talk of feasts and assembly gatherings (you know…church), but do not mention youth groups. In fact, I don’t think anyone has found any scripture stating youth groups are not allowed. (Yet, the bible doesn’t mention cigarettes either. Just sayin’!) One of the verses used by most when it comes to family worship is Deuteronomy 6:4-7, which instructs fathers to teach the statutes to their children. Yes…the fathers to teach their children. So, is this proof we need to abolish youth groups and put everyone together?

And then…finally…here is a common sense article by Ed Stetzer debunking the theory that all youth groups are bad, posted in Christianity Today. Actually, he debunks the statistics used by arguments for the bad youth group theory. When the statistics are skewed, we are compelled to take another look at our theories. I am not at all against Family Integration, rather I am for it. But I am not against abolishing our youth groups either.

This post is obviously just my humble opinion…but my opinion is based on experience…from my own youth. You see, I had a drug problem. My parents drug me to church every week! (Bet you haven’t heard that one before! 😉 ) Seriously, that is about the one thing my parents did right. Part of my “testimony” is that I hated church…and youth group…from being a pretty messed up youth myself. I felt all the kids were either hypocrites or dorks. They were not the kind of kids I preferred to hang out with on a Friday night…and I didn’t. I partied. And partied. But, that’s another story…

In spite of hating youth group…the Gospel got in.

It. got. in.

And I came back. Not to church. I came back to Jesus.

Yes, some of my most pivotal memories are of little words, verses, or phrases, Ron or Lindell spoke here and there. And then, there are the Sunday school teachers who put up with us one hour a week speaking into our lives.

And the list goes on…

I’ve often wondered over the years how many of them thought they were wasting their time. How many of them thought I was a waste…

I wonder where I would be if the church my parents attended (quite by default due to my Grandma) did not have a youth group. Would I have created less trouble for myself and others? Would I be here today? No, I don’t believe so.

Listening to the many in favor of abandoning youth groups, I hear a resounding argument that the youth would be naturally sitting at home on daddy’s knee listening to him quote scripture every waking hour.

Maybe in a bubble.

Not in my family.

Not in today’s world.

Yes, we were a “Christian” family. We went to church. We talked the talk. But not once do I remember my dad leading in anything other than prayer before dinner on Sunday afternoon. Even if he wanted to, how could he? He was either on a ship somewhere or working 2nd shift during the week. Neither did his father, or his father before him. I don’t blame them, they were living as their fathers before them taught. They were doing the best they could. Our forefathers believed the way to show love to the family was to work and leave the teaching to Momma and the Public Schools.

Hey Church! That’s the real world.

Yes, I gathered some instruction from my family. But when a teenager is “troubled” their parent is the last person they will follow. That’s reality.

What would have happened if I did not have a youth group? Where else would I have gone for instruction? The very places that encouraged my self-destructive behavior to flourish: the world. Yes, the public school and, of course, peers.

Now, they say times have changed. We watched a clip in church this morning interviewing several Millennials about their perception of the world and what it was like to be a Millennial Christian. Their words took me back to my own youth. You know what? Nothing has changed. Not really. As a child of the 60’s & 70’s, I had the same outlook…round peg in a square hole. I have a sneaky feeling youth have experienced the same moods since Adam & Eve. We can blame it on almost anything, but common sense says the human body changes and we grow up, during which time we search for purpose…that inner longing for the choosing between right and wrong…searching to fill the hole created by our own sin. That hole which only God can fill. Youth grow to adults, and in the process, we all seek to fit somewhere in society. Heck, even the disciples jockeyed for position…trying to “fit in”.

Youth of any millennia will seek their place in adulthood. Where is the best place to navigate those roads? I believe both the family and youth groups are the answer. The best place is the place where they can find Jesus. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent family, would they receive instruction outside of church? No. If the youth are in a spiritually non-existent church, would they receive instruction sitting in the pew next to their parents? No. Are there churches with youth groups that are simply play-time? Yes. Are there families who are only “Christian” on Sundays? Yes.

As for the theory of separation, in most American churches, after “Sunday School” is over, when the kids are old enough to sit for a spell (older than toddler age), the youth are always sitting (Integrated) in the church service…sometimes bored to death. But…the Spirit can work years later to bring back God’s word to a broken heart. God’s word which we never realized will reach into our deaf ears. And the “youth groups” that are in question? They always meet outside of Sunday morning services, such as a Sunday evening or mid-week night. Most active youth groups meet more than adult life groups! Would you rather your youth go to the parties I attended on the weekend or to a church youth event? I didn’t think so. Are there “bad” activities going on during church events? Sometimes…for we live in a fallen world. Are there “bad” activities going on during social, non-churched, events? Of this, I can assure you, almost always.

If you want to “fix” our youth, abolishing the group is throwing out the baby with the bath water. Preach to the fathers. Yes, instruct the fathers in how to teach their children. And in all reality, that may fail. Bad stats show somewhere around 50% in the church are divorced/single parent households, where it is more likely around 25-30%…which is still huge no matter how you look at the issue. Embrace those kids, as well as kids whose parents are unchurched. When the fathers are absent, create churches that will hire Youth Pastors and not Youth Directors. Train leaders who will be examples of Jesus to kids. Create an atmosphere where youth have a safe place as they learn to break the parental apron strings and grow into adulthood.

Then, and only then, will you have an explosion of salvation in our youth culture….our future!

God's Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

God’s Spirit will bring His word back to our hurting hearts!

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 20:14 (Inadvertent theft?)

“’It is worthless, it is worthless!’ says the buyer; but when he goes his way, then he boasts about his bargain.” ~Proverbs 20:14 

My husband hates to negotiate. Some of it is sheer personality, but mostly, negotiating is an indication that one of the parties is attempting to get something for nothing. Either the seller has inflated the price to portray something more than it is worth, or the buyer (as in the Proverb) is casting doubt on the quality in order to pay less than the actual worth. Inadvertent theft.

Does God do that with us? He could have. He had every right to cast full light on our sin and expose our worthlessness. Jesus could have called down all the Angels in heaven to keep from paying the price asked for our sins.

But he didn’t.

He paid a price we were unable to pay. He willingly sacrificed an inflated price for our worthlessness. And yet, as he walked away, arose to heaven, instead of proclaiming our worthlessness…he proclaimed nothing but love.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 

Grandma's Relics

Grandma’s Relics

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Your Daily Proverb ~ 15:17 (Better peace with veggies?)

“Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.”
 v15:17

Family. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them either.” … Well, yes, I can live without them. They say blood is thicker than water…but I don’t believe that is true for humans. We are fallible beings. I do believe that is true for God’s people, who are connected through the perfect blood of Jesus…not the blood of a fallible man.

Do you remember family dinners? Are they even in existence anymore? When disharmony is the dish of the day…a TV tray is much more peaceful. Sadly, we miss out on family time. But, when the conflict, back-biting, ridiculing, and the put-down’s flow, I’d much rather sit by myself with a bowl of…dare I say…broccoli *gasp* than to sit at a full table with people who cause one to have to come up fighting just to breathe. Yep…you can keep your fattened calf.

The family God brings into my life is where the love flows…

Fattened calf...actually, this was probably a bull at one time... ;)

Fattened calf…actually, this was probably a bull at one time… 😉