1.14.2018

AMEN!

A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man.
- Robert Murray M'Cheyne

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You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

1.13.2018

This and that.

It's SATURDAY!
Dennis and the teens are up in Big Bear with the youth group, and my brother and sis-in-law are down visiting for the weekend. Woohoo!
This was the first week that every Eastman was healthy, so it was a GREAT week, and we are praising God for protecting and healing our family.
The sun is out, the sky is blue, my children are playing outside as they wait to celebrate their cousin's third birthday, worship music is playing, and tonight I will get to enjoy several hours with my sisters. This is a splendid Saturday! Thank You, Father, for such a gift!

When you don't have cable television, this is how you participate in Sunday/Monday/Thursday/Saturday night football - playing Madden Football on your iPad!
Micah, Luke, and Caleb loved this game when they were young (and still do), so they introduced it to their siblings. It took all of an hour for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie to join in the fun of choosing teams, players, making plays, and cheering or booing when they win or lose.
I am so glad they enjoy simple things!

I am thrilled that I was f i n a l l y able to get my children interested in puzzles.
I have tried and tried over the years, but not one of them had the patience to engage in the long hours of putting one together. Until now!
They work on it on their own, they work together, they ask me and Dennis to help, and they celebrate EVERY time they fit a new piece into the puzzle.
I think my favorite part, however, is that it provides a quiet and relaxed time for conversation that would not happen otherwise. We have conquered 500 pieces, time to move up to 1,000!

The Lord has blessed us with the privilege of caring for a sweet six-month-old baby for the next three months.
Meet Baby Josiah!
This little guy may never learn to crawl or walk, however, because he is always being held by an Eastman.
There is no shortage of love, arms, or attention for him in this house!
Not only do I love that we are able to serve his mom in this way, it is also a delight to watch Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie be attentive, thoughtful, and serve him the entire time he is with us.
Servanthood begins when children are young ... the sooner they learn to serve others, getting outside of their own wants and needs, the better! And I am incredibly thankful the Lord has provided this opportunity for them to do so.
It is also encouraging to see their enthusiasm for babies and small children because it reminds me how the Lord has prepared all eight Eastmans for foster care. I can't wait for the day the Lord gives us a green light to enter the foster care system so we can welcome baby after baby into our home - our lives - and our hearts. ♥

We studied the life of Samson this week. He is such a mess of sin and surrender, isn't he?
After talking about this prophet of God and reading about him in Scripture, we needed an activity to make it "stick."
So, we pulled in our giant Jenga blocks and built pillars for the kids to knock down just as he did in his last moments of life on earth.
They had a great time!
They had to rebuild the pillars every time it was knocked down, of course, but they had fun doing so!
(Their eyes are closed to represent the fact that Samson was blind after having his eyes gouged out by the Philistines.)
Josiah won the prize for Most Realistic for his scream and facial expressions. HA!

~~~ I hope you have a wonderful weekend waiting for you, and will stop to praise God for His goodness and thank Him for such joys!
And if you are surrounded by trials and struggles, I pray you will seek the Lord diligently, for He is the only One who can provide the comfort, mercy, and grace you need. You are not alone. Call out to Him ... and He will answer you. He hears the cries of those who love Him!

1.12.2018

WHOA! This quote.

No Christian, if he is right with God, should ever need to hide anything in his life.
A. W. Tozer


Something to think about ... 
for the rest of my life.

Praise the Lord for Scriptures such as these to encourage me!

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your word.
With my whole heart I seek You;
let me not wander from Your commandments!
I have stored up Your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O Lord;
teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of Your mouth.
In the way of Your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
and fix my eyes on Your ways.
I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word. Psalm 119:9-16

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Psalm 119:1

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, 
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

1.09.2018

Pluviophiles - REJOICE!


It's RAINING!
Thus - we must document it with our annual photo to prove that water actually falls from the sky in southern California.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!

1.08.2018

How will I be remembered?

When an author is able to make you weep as he describes the life and death of a man you never knew, he is a gifted writer.

I have long known the name, Charles Spurgeon.
I have heard stories about his ministry from more than one pulpit.
Read and repeated countless quotes that fell from his lips.
Read sermons and books penned by his own hand.
But never have I read about him.
His beginnings. His family life. His salvation story. His call to preach. His courtship and marriage. His struggles, his joys, his successes, and his sorrows.
This man accomplished more in one year than I have accomplished in my lifetime, and he did so with passion.
He preached with passion.
He prayed with passion.
He counseled and taught and served and wrote - with passion.

One of the best lines in this book is discovered after the author describes Spurgeon's death, his funeral, and the testimonies of the men who spoke in honor of their beloved friend and brother in the Lord.
"He had walked with God and lived in prayer."
Nine words.
Nine words that convey the reality of this man's extraordinary life.

One of the things I love about biographies of people who lived pre 20th-century is that most of the material comes from their own personal writings. Hundreds and thousands of letters were written and received in a lifetime because there were no other means of communication. Diaries and journals were kept. Not only of private thoughts but of everyday life, interactions with others, records of answered prayer, and God's dealings with His people. Their writings allow us to see multiple views of their character. Their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, successes, mistakes, likes, dislikes, and so on. Writing is a lost art. And one that will be sorely missed for generations to come.

But the Lord, in His providence, preserved the writings, sermons, and letters of this amazing servant. Accounts written by others about Spurgeon offer an even broader perspective that allows us to see him as he was. As I read Dallimore's account of this Prince of Preachers, I felt like I was walking beside Spurgeon as he grew up, when he accepted Christ, when he answered his first call as a pastor at the age of 17, when he married Susannah, had children, was beloved by his people, began dozens of ministries that served the poor and neglected people of London, was criticized harshly, felt like he was drowning in depression, suffered in physical agony through decades of illness, and preached every sermon with a passion to bring glory to God and lost souls to the Savior.

I never met Charles Spurgeon, but after reading about his life, after reading his own words recorded on paper, I feel like he was one of my closest friends.
And genuine tears of sorrow rolled down my cheeks when I read that "on the evening of Sunday, January 31, 1892, his earthly journey came to its close, and he 'departed to be with Christ.'"

It will take some time for me to work through the thoughts and emotions rolling within me after reading about this godly man who preached as though the choice of heaven or hell would be decided by the time he uttered his last word and prayed as though he was shaking the very gates of heaven until he received a response from God. My desire for godliness, for holiness, does not even cast a shadow on the reality of Spurgeon's daily hunger and thirst for God. His passion, his discipline, his immovable stance on the validity and inerrancy of Scripture, and his unquenchable desire to serve "the least of these" makes me take pause and consider ...
What am I doing for the Kingdom?
Am I about my Father's business?
Do I redeem the time given to me? Daily? Weekly? Year by year?
Am I faithful in the smallest of tasks as well as the important?
Do I know my calling? And if so, am I living it - in faithful obedience?
Do I know my God? Intimately ... wholly ... personally ... because I seek Him more than anything or anyone else?
Can others see Christ in me? Even if they do not know me well, can they see Him?

Scripture says, It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
That is the effect this biography, the life of this man, had on me.
Spurgeon's life was a life well-lived. And while he was admired as a spectacular orator, a gifted leader, a superb writer, and a man of great intellect, he was respected and beloved because -
"He had walked with God and lived in prayer."

And it makes me wonder ...
how will I be remembered?
Because how I live now is the legacy I will leave behind when the Lord calls me home - to glory.

Lord, You promise that You who began a good work in us on the day of salvation will never stop working until we join You in eternity. Thank You, for this promise, Father, because there is so much left to work in and through and out of me! I praise You that I am not the same woman I was five, ten, twenty years ago, and I implore You, please do not let me remain as I am now. Grow me. Mature me. Search me, O God, know my heart, see if there is any hurtful way in me - and remove it - so I might look less like me and more like You. I read of men like Spurgeon, Müller, Taylor, Edwards, and fall into the enemy's game of "compare and despair" because my life looks nothing like theirs. But You have not called me to be a Jonathan Edwards, a Hudson Taylor, or a George Müller, Lord. You have called me to be Michelle Renee Eastman, with all of my foibles, and You expect me to follow where You lead, obediently and with joy, doing the work You give me, day by day, year by year until I have accomplished Your will for my life. Fix my eyes on You, continually turning my face back to Yours when I choose to look away - because I want my own way. Smooth my rough edges, prune my dead branches, and fill me with a passion for Your word and prayer so that the fruit of Your Spirit spills over and affects everything I do, everything I say, and how I live. A holy life lived by a man like Spurgeon can inspire, challenge, convict, and encourage me, but it cannot be my own. You made him for one purpose, You made me for another. Use me as You will, Lord, for as long as You will, and may I walk obediently, fearing no man, and praising You day after day for all You have done. As Scripture says of Mary when she anointed Your feet with oil, may it be said of me, "She has done what she could ..." And she did it faithfully.

1.05.2018

Quote.

Loneliness is a required course for leadership. 
- Elisabeth Elliot

1.04.2018

May we be INSPIRED!

This book ... my first read of 2018 ... and I love it!
I will use it over and over for writing, speaking, and counseling because it is filled with practical, insightful, biblical TRUTH about the importance of reading, memorizing, and meditating on God's Word.
If you need to be encouraged to ramp up your Scripture reading, you will find success after spending a few hours between the covers of this wonderful book.
And if you want to learn how to read God's Word in a way that will change you from the inside out, you will also find success!
Our pastor recommended this little gem during a sermon, and I will be forever grateful to the Lord for prompting me to not only write down the title, but secure my own copy.

There are several quotes that have already caught my attention, but this one seems the most fitting. It is an excerpt from a sermon Charles Spurgeon preached on Colossians 3:16.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

"In order that the word of Christ may dwell in you, it must first enter into you. You must really know the spiritual meaning of it. You must believe it, live upon it, drink it in - you must let it soak into your innermost being as the dew saturated the fleece of Gideon. It is not enough to have the Bible on the shelf - it is infinitely better to have its Truths stored up within your soul... There is no book so fitted or so suited to us as the Bible. There is no book that knows us so well. There is no book that is so much at home with us. There is no book that has so much power over us if we will but give ourselves up to it."

Amen?

May this verse and this quote inspire each of us to seek the Lord continually through His Word.

1.03.2018

In affliction - find comfort in God's Word.

"Before I was afflicted I went astray but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

The Bible is the book for the afflicted. We fly to it in times of adversity. It is then that we . . .
read it more attentively,
counsel with it more closely,
understand it more clearly,
relish it more sweetly, and
receive it into the heart more experimentally, as the engrafted Word.

Affliction illuminates the Bible - as though a new book had been composed - or another constellation in the spiritual hemisphere had burst upon the telescope of faith!

We know more of the Lord Jesus through one sanctified affliction than by all the treatises the human pen ever wrote!

Welcome whatever makes you more acquainted with God!
Despise nothing that will deepen your intimacy with Jesus.
Welcome the cross - though it may be heavy!

Welcome the cup - though it may be bitter. Receive it as a blessing sent to you from your Father - receive it as a heavenly message to your soul.

- Octavius Winslow

Lord, make me a woman who seeks Your Word first and fastest in times of blessing and in times of trial, so like the Psalmist I may say ... "If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long." Psalm 119

1.02.2018

Day 10 - Eastman Urgent Care.


Let's see. Where did I leave off? Oh, yes. Day five. Let's pick up there, shall we?

Friday
- Luke, Josiah, and Isaiah relapsed.
- Micah is healthy, though tired.
- Caleb is 100% healthy. Yes!
- Dennis and Ellie decided to take a different route home from up north so they could spend time with my brother and CC and the kids in Fresno. With my blessing. (Why return to an infirmary when you can enjoy 24 hours of fun, good food, and the USC/Ohio State Cotton Bowl?)
- No laundry! Woohoo!
- A sweet friend did a grocery run for us - and brought flowers! A blessing, indeed!
- The day was spent at home watching movies, playing games, coughing, sniffling, and sleeping.
Saturday
- Just one load of laundry to start the day.
- Dennis and Ellie returned at noon.
- Dennis' 50th Birthday!
- He went on a loooong run.
- Everyone lounged about the house convalescing during the afternoon.
- We took birthday photos to document the day, and had fun doing so!
- We brought dinner in from Island's since our original plans were canceled due to illness.
- At 7 pm Ellie dropped with a 101-degree fever.
- At 7:30 pm Dennis dropped with a 103-degree fever.
Sunday
- Micah and Luke were well enough to go to church and enjoy time with friends for lunch.
- Josiah and Isaiah rallied but were not quite whole.
- Dennis and Ellie slept 20 of the 24 hours as their fevers rose and fell throughout the day.
- Three loads of laundry were run through the machines.
- I discovered I could make a mini fridge out of an insulated beach bag for Dennis to keep in our room so I would not have to go in and out a dozen extra times in between administering meds and taking his temperature. (The man may be sick but he can still EAT! A lot!)
- My cell phone still proved to be my best friend by keeping everyone's fever medicine schedule on point.
- Micah, Luke, and Caleb joyfully attended the youth group's New Year's Eve party!
- I tucked Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie into bed at 7 pm, and happily curled up on the couch under a thick quilt to enjoy a few hours of mindless activity and laughter watching Everybody Loves Raymond.
- The teens returned to wish me a Happy New Year at 12:45 am. (Thank You, Lord, for protecting them!)
Monday
- All of the kids are better with just fatigue and residual coughs and sniffles.
- Dennis is still down for the count with his fever waffling between 99 and 102 degrees.
- I decided it was the perfect time to clean out, purge, and reorganize the teen's closets. Actually, I think it is always a good time for such a task! (They were not as thrilled as I was.)
- Errand run.
- Three loads of laundry completed. (I am starting to hate those machines!)
- Our neighbor delivered a bag of mini chocolate chip cookies from Panera - just for me! Bless this dear woman, and may she always, always have comfortable shoes!
- I ordered pizza for dinner because honestly, I could not "do" one.more.thing.
- I got everyone showered and ready for bed and then let them watch Sandlot.
- Picked up Luke from work at 9 pm.
- Collapsed on the couch and did not move again until the sun was shining brightly at 6:30 am.
Tuesday
- Dennis still had a fever when he woke up (we cannot get it below 99.9) so we planned to visit Urgent Care to make sure he does not have an ear infection, strep throat, or anything else that would keep his fever running for days. That plan was thwarted, however, when the appointment desk said they do not take appointments during flu season. "First come, first served," she said. And it was about a two-hour wait to be served. No thanks!
Providentially, Dennis already had an appointment scheduled with his own doctor tomorrow morning at 9:45 am, so we hope he will shed some light on what is happening with D's body. Who knows, the doc may say, "Suck it up, Buttercup!" We shall see!
- I was in no way prepared to start school lessons today, so I decided to paint three bedrooms instead. There's no reason to waste an entire day, right? (Fun fact: I was the first customer of the year at the paint store! Yippee!) All of the kid's bedrooms are purged, cleaned, mopped, and freshly painted. Happy New Year to me! <insert Happy Dance here>
- In-N-Out was the unanimous vote for dinner. (I know this is not in the Bible, but it should be ... "Blessed are those who give restaurant gift cards to large families!")
- Teens are doing homework, kids are showered and playing hide-n-seek, Dennis is resting on freshly washed sheets, the house is clean and Lysoled, I am dressed in cozy pajamas, and at 7 pm I will be curled up on the couch watching a movie that makes me smile.

I am not going to lie, friends. The temptation to give in to frustration, yell, or roll my eyes is GREAT. I am exhausted. And after painting all day, sore! I have not prayed adequately in the past ten days. Just popcorn prayers and a quick yet sincere, "Thank You, Lord, for getting us through another day!" as I drift to sleep each night, but the Lord is sustaining me as though I were spending copious hours on my knees before Him. And I am thankful for such grace.
The verse I am claiming for this season of illness is I Chronicles 16:11.
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!
I pray I will be faithful to do so because I NEED Him!

12.31.2017

My heart's desire for 2018 - and always.

As I reflect back on this year, it is clear that 2017 found me deeply convicted to increase my time in, and my love for, God's Word. I thought about it, I wrote about it, and I talked about it. As I look forward to a new year, however, I don't want to spend 2018 doing those same things. No more thinking, no more talking - just DOING.
Reading Scripture.
Meditating on Scripture.
Memorizing Scripture.
Obeying Scripture.
And LIVING Scripture.


Some time ago, I listened to a sermon in which the pastor gave a beautiful description of David.
"Now here is a believer, here is a psalmist who from the very depths of his heart is pouring out his love for the law of God. He observes it, he keeps it, he obeys it, he longs for it, he delights in it, he loves it, he weeps over those who do not know it and do not obey it and treat it with scorn."
As I listened to his words I thought, "That is who I want to be."
A woman who ...
loves God's Word
observes it
keeps it
obeys it
longs for it
and delights in it.

The first command for every believer is to, "Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength."
If I love God, I will love His Word.
If I love His Word, I will know His Word.
If I know His Word, and what He requires of me, I will obey.
If I obey His commands, I will live a life of righteousness.
If I live righteously, I will draw others to Him.
If my life draws others to the God who saves, the God who heals, the God who redeems ...
it is a life worth living.

Lord, make me fall in love with Your Word as if it were for the first time. Consume me with a desire to read it, learn it, understand it, and LIVE it. Let me see its beauty, its power, and its ability to change a life from the inside out. Do not let me begin my day, or end my night until I hold Your precious Word in my hands and soak up the truths found within. Let the cry of David's heart be my own. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments!

12.30.2017

Happy 50th Birthday to you - DENNIS!



50 reasons we LOVE - APPRECIATE - RESPECT - ENJOY Dennis Eastman!
{List created joyfully by Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie, and Michelle}

Dennis is ...
50. Loyal
49. Kind
48. Loving
47. Comical and entertaining
46. A strong leader
45. A terrific father
44. A faithful husband
43. A wonderful example of a Christian
42. Helpful
41. Ambitious
40. An excellent teacher and trainer of teachers
39. Active
38. Adventurous
37. A defender of the orphan and the widow
36. Affectionate
35. A man of integrity
34. Godly
33. Strong
32. He protects and defends our family
31. He hugs and kisses us
30. He tells us he loves us
29. Thoughtful
28. Hyper and fun
27. He works hard to provide for his family
26. He sacrifices his own wants and needs for his family
25. He takes us on bike rides
24. Creative
23. Wise, and shares his wisdom with us through conversation and letters
22. Passionate
21. Hardworking
20. Bold
19. Enthusiastic
18. He tells fantastic stories
17. He welcomes people into our home
16. Diligent
15. Humble
14. He tucks us in at night and prays with us
13. He counsels and encourages young men
12. He is willing to listen to and accept instruction and correction
11. Quick to repent
10. A servant
9. Compassionate
8. He has a passion for serving the neglected and ignored
7. He plays football, basketball, and baseball with us
6. He takes us on dates to spend time with us
5. Gracious
4. Forgiving
3. Willing to overlook an offense
2. He assumes the best and gives people the benefit of the doubt
1. He chooses to love us, day after day - and he loves us well.








Happy Birthday, Dennis!
❤We LOVE YOU!❤

12.28.2017

My week. And it's not over yet!


Sunday
- Micah and Luke collapsed, sick, in the evening.
Monday
- We worked hard to eek out as many family moments as possible in between naps, coughing, and misery so we could enjoy Christmas together.
Tuesday
- Put the house back together and did a deep-clean after taking down Christmas decor.
- Luke's sickness increased by 100%.
Wednesday
- Dennis and Ellie left for northern California to visit all three of Dennis' families. (It was supposed to be a Father/Teen trip that the four of them had been looking forward to, but since Micah and Luke could not travel, it became a Father/Daughter trip. And Ellie was THRILLED!)
- Took Luke to the doctor because his skin was actually red from fever, he could not speak, and could barely walk on his own. The doc looked at him for one second and cried, "WHOA!" She gave me six hours to get his fever under control, and if it did not decrease, instructed me to take him to the ER.
- His fever lowered enough to be safe around 5 pm.
- Spent the next 20 hours waking him up every four to six hours to give him fever meds and check his temperature.
- Completed 10 loads of laundry. (Mattress pads/sheets/blankets/comforters x's 8 and all clothes that were worn by sick people the past two days.)
- Josiah and Isaiah dropped at 6 pm.
- The fire alarm in my bedroom decided to die at 2 am, screaming with great volume. Micah and I spent 30 minutes trying to fix it, with no success, and finally ripped it out of the ceiling.
Thursday
- Began the day with four loads of laundry. (May as well finish ALL of it while playing nurse, right? Final count: 14 loads)
- Caleb dropped at 9 am.
- Set phone alarm for all four boy's fever meds so I would not forget who needed what when.
- Market run.
- Shopped for new mattresses while everyone slept or watched movies. (all five boys need new ones)
- Micah was back to normal around 2 pm. Yay!
- Luke is functioning at 70%. Yes!
- Sat down at 5 pm with absolutely NO intention of getting up again until tomorrow morning.

So, there you go.
My post-Christmas week.
Now, tell me about YOURS! <grin>

12.27.2017

Live so as to be MISSED.

I finally turned the last page of this extraordinary man's biography. When I picked up the book, written by his closest friend, Andrew Bonar, I had no idea who Robert Murray M'Cheyne was, but now he is on my "favorites" list of amazing men of God.
What a life!
What a legacy!

Were I to write out all of the quotes and excerpts from his journal that deeply affected me, I would almost rewrite the entire biography. I will, however, share as many of his words as possible with the hope of encouraging someone else through the intimate passion for Christ this man possessed. And even better, induce others to read about him on their own. Once you know him, you will not forget him.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

■ Live so as to be missed. - I LOVE this!

■ After spending an evening too lightly, he writes, "My heart must break off from all these things. What right have I to steal and abuse my Master's time? 'Redeem it.' He is crying to me."

■ Clear conviction of sin is the only true origin of dependence on another's righteousness, and therefore (strange to say!) of the Christian's peace of mind and cheerfulness.

■ It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plans with regard to myself, well assured as I am, that the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me.

■ "Paul asked," says he, "'What wilt Thou have me to do?' and it was answered, 'I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name's sake.' Thus it may be with me. I have been too anxious to do great things. The lust of praise has ever been my besetting sin; and what more befitting school could be found for me than that of suffering alone, away from the eye and ear of man?"

■ Since Tuesday have been laid up with illness. Set by once more for a season to feel my unprofitableness and cure my pride. When shall this self-choosing temper be healed? "Lord, I will preach, run, visit, wrestle," said I. "No, thou shalt lie in thy bed and suffer," said the Lord.
Today missed some fine opportunities to of speaking a word for Christ. The Lord saw I would have spoken as much for my own honor as His, and therefore shut my mouth. I see a man cannot be a faithful minister until he preaches Christ for Christ's sake - until he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and seeks only to attract them to Christ."

To maintain a conscience void of offense, I am persuaded that I ought to confess my sins more. I think I ought to confess sin the moment I see it to be sin; whether I am in company, or in study, or even preaching, the ought to cast a glance of abhorrence at the sin. If I go on with the duty, leaving the sin unconfessed, I go on with a burdened conscience and add sin to sin.

■ I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor. He prayed most for Peter, who was to be most tempted. I am on his breastplate. If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.

■ I am persuaded that I ought never to do anything without prayer, and, if possible, special, secret prayer.

■ I am persuaded that nothing is thriving in my soul unless it is growing. "Grown in grace." "Lord, increase our faith." "Forgetting the things that are behind." ... I am persuaded that I ought to be inquiring at God and man what grace I want, and how I may become more like Christ ... I ought to strive for more purity, humility, meekness, patience under suffering, love. "Make me Christ-like in all things," should be my constant prayer. "Fill me with the Holy Spirit."

Thank You, Lord, for the life and legacy of this man who loved You well - every day if his life.

12.26.2017

~ Christmas Memories 2017 ~


We kicked off our Christmas weekend with a visit from my Dad.
A lot of talking, dinner, a few games of Corn Hole, and homemade apple pie to close out the night.
Thanks for coming to visit, Dad!



We had a surprise visit from our Falcusan boys - acting as elves!
A gift for every Eastman kid ... and each one was appreciated and enjoyed.


And they surprised me with this gorgeous bouquet of Christmas flowers!
Thanks, guys! You made my day!


Christmas Eve began with a lovely service at our church.
A perfect way to begin the day - music, worship, and listening to the Word of God preached with passion and truth - all enjoyed with the body of Christ.
And then - Family Christmas!




I love that Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie still find great delight in the gift-giving part of Christmas!


Christmas Day!
We were hit with illness - fever, and aches for our two oldest - but we persevered and did the best we could to capture short moments in between naps and coughing to celebrate and enjoy Christmas together.
It was more relaxed than we had planned, but it was a good day.
How thankful I am we do not worship our Savior one day a year - but EVERY day - for He came "that we might have LIFE and have it ABUNDANTLY." John 10:10




MERRY CHRISTMAS! ❤With love from, the Eastmans❤

12.22.2017

Thought for the day ... Humility.

During this Christmas season, I have been thinking about the beauty of Christ's humility.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:4-11

His entire life, every moment of His ministry, was an act of obedience. He only spoke the words His Father told Him to speak. He did everything the Father commanded Him to do. Even when He wept in the garden before His death asking God if there could be another way, He surrendered His own will and left the garden in complete and submissive peace.

A proud man will not submit.
A proud man will not give up his own way to let someone else have his.
A proud man thinks of Self first, and others maybe.
A proud man says, "My way is BEST."

Jesus was humble.
Submissive.
Yielding.
Fully surrendered to another.
He submitted, yielded, and surrendered willingly, consistently, immediately, and with JOY.
And He left His example so we would do as He did.

May we, like Jesus, seek to do - always and only - the will of God.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 
John 6:38

The following is a fantastic excerpt on the character quality of humility by J. C. Ryle.
May it encourage you today!

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"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ - is the start of saving religion.
Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul - were all eminently humble men.
Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All converted people should work to adorn the doctrine they profess, with humility. If they can do nothing else - they can strive to be humble.

Do you want to know the root and spring of humility?
One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge.
The person . . .
who really knows himself, and his own heart,
who knows God, and His infinite majesty and holiness,
who knows Christ, and the price at which he was redeemed
- that person will never be a proud person.

He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God's mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, "I am vile!" He will cry, like Paul, "I am the chief of sinners." He will consider others better than himself. Philippians 2:3

Ignorance, nothing but sheer ignorance - ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ - is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance, may we daily pray to be delivered.
The wise person knows himself - and will find nothing within to make him proud.

- J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858

12.20.2017

Scripture and laughter. A winning combination!

Due to a rather disheartening start to the week, it was encouraging to look back and recognize God's hand in preparing me for it.
For the past two weeks, I have felt an insatiable desire for His Word. My days were structured around the one hour I could claim as my own to read Scripture, meditate on the truths found within, and pray.
The hours were sweet, encouraging and profitable.
He kept pressing me to read through Romans and brought me back to long-familiar passages that jumped off the page and were fitting for what I needed at the moment. Scripture is always applicable to the need of the moment, of course, but there are times when the verses are so specific to the situation I am walking through it seems as though God's finger is pounding on the page as if to say, "This verse! Read this one! It is exactly what you need."
I love when He works like that! Specific. Appropriate. Personal.

While I was not at all surprised that the Lord used Scripture to encourage me and realign my focus, I was surprised when He used something so simple to add to the work already done.
A comic strip!
I have always enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes after being introduced to the dynamic duo in college, but never has it occurred to me to turn to them in times of frustration or sadness.
Yesterday, however, the comic book happened to be stationed right next to me on the couch while I was reading the Bible. After closing the Bible, I picked up Calvin and Hobbes and started flipping through the pages in a haphazard kind of way until the color strips caught my eye, and I started reading. And then I started smiling. And then - I laughed. And it felt GREAT.
The Word of God soothed my ruffled soul.
The comic strip renewed my joy.
As I rose to attend to the needs of the household, I tossed the book back onto the couch and caught sight of the two covers next to each other.
One, the chronicles of the one and only true God and His dealings with man.
The other, the chronicles of a precocious, obnoxious, self-focused though charming six-year-old fictional cartoon character.
The contrast was stark.
Yet both were used by an amazing God to restore peace and joy to a heart - that needed both.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. Proverbs 15:13

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 32:11

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. James 5:13

12.18.2017

God's Word is beautiful - and forever!


Every week Dennis brings me "Monday Flowers," and my favorite place to put them is next to my Bible because the visual reminds me of one of my favorite verses: The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

While I was enjoying these beautiful pieces of creation this afternoon, they recalled to mind a fabulous quote by John Newton about the beauty of Scripture.

May his words encourage you to search the Scriptures deeper and more often!

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"From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness - that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work!" 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Set a high value upon the Word of God. All that is necessary to make you wise to salvation is there - and there alone.

In this precious Book, you may find . . .
a direction for every doubt,
a solution of every difficulty, and
a promise suited to every circumstance you can be in.
There you may be informed of your disease caused by sin - and the remedy provided by grace.

In the Scriptures, you may be instructed to know . . .
yourselves,
Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
the wonders of redeeming love,
the glories of the Redeemer's person,
the happiness of the redeemed people,
the power of faith, and
the beauty of holiness.
All are here fully and clearly represented.

Nothing is lacking in the Scriptures to make . . .
life useful and comfortable,
death safe and desirable, and
to bring down something of Heaven upon earth.

But this true wisdom can be found nowhere else. If you wander from the Scriptures, in pursuit either of present peace, or future hope - then your search will surely end in disappointment.

This is the fountain of living waters! If you forsake it, and give the preference to broken cisterns of your own devising - then they will fail you when you most need them.

Rejoice, therefore, that such a treasure is put into your hand - but rejoice with trembling.
Remember this is not all you need - unless God likewise gives you a heart to use the Scriptures aright - then your privilege will only aggravate your guilt and misery.

~ John Newton

12.17.2017

Look UP - and be encouraged.

Sometimes, on difficult days, we need to realign our focus - on Christ.
Are you troubled? Look to Jesus!
Are you weary? Look to Jesus!
Are you overwhelmed? Look to Jesus!
For nowhere else can you find the grace, mercy, and comfort you so desperately crave.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Hebrews 12:1, 2

Today, the Lord used music to minister to my heart, and it was exactly what I needed.
I pray others will find encouragement in the words of this wonderful hymn.

"Be Thou My Vision"

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

12.15.2017

This and that.

It's Friday!
After a long week of all eight Eastmans suffering from a wicked head cold, we are ready for a weekend of health and FUN! And a few naps would be greatly enjoyed as well. Thankfully, with a light schedule and plenty of hours in each day, we will be able to enjoy both rest and fun.
Not much was accomplished this week, but the Lord graciously allowed me to "let go" so I would not beat myself up for the lack of schooling or anything else that is usually completed during the week. We used the downtime to enjoy dozens of hours of audiobooks, snuggling in blankets, and watching good movies - together. We may not have learned new details about leaders in ancient Egypt or how to subtract by hundreds, but we enjoyed each other - and it was good.

Three hours of Sunday night was spent in laughter!
I spent the evening with my teen boys and some friends laughing until we cried with John Crist. He is HYSTERICAL. Edgy - pushing the envelope at times - but he knows it, he owns it, and makes everyone laugh in the process.
My friend Gina is nine months pregnant, so we were hoping she would go into labor from all of the laughter contractions, but alas, she is still waiting for that child to arrive.
Danielle entertains us every time we are together, and she dives right into ridiculous conversations with my boys. I love listening to them!
Joann was on a date with her groom but left him to talk to me and snap a photo. Sunday was such a fun night!

Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie wanted to make sugar cookies for Christmas (the teens could not care less), so we pulled out the ingredients and baked away on Thursday.
We had a great time!
They worked together without fighting over who got the rolling pin next, and we produced 72 delectable treats for the family. Well done, guys!
Of course, we cannot share them since they are most likely diseased from our colds, but hey, we did it!

We had the privilege of joining some dear friends to celebrate their ♥25th wedding anniversary!♥
We ate dinner together and then attempted to capture some memorable photos of the occasion. And they are memorable alright! We joked that the top photo looks like a bad album cover. Large heads, tiny heads - we are all over the place!
But none of that mattered because we were there for one reason ... to honor a couple who have faithfully walked beside one another richer and poorer, sick and healthy, and in trials and triumphs - for 25 years.
We love you, John & Denise, and we praise God for the example you model for your children, and for the world through your joyful obedience to the God who has given you everything. ♥

I absolutely LOVE nativity sets!
When Dennis travels, he works hard to find one for me, even in the most obscure places.
These are three of my favorites.
The nativity in the top photo is from Africa. The brightly colored clothing makes me smile.
The lower left nativity is from Thailand. Beautiful ceramic pieces. I like that the designer made a thatched roof, just like the homes in Thailand.
The nativity on the bottom right if from Cambodia. The entire scene made out of paper! The pieces are tiny, no more than two inches high, yet the detail is wonderful. The sheep are my favorite.
Thank you, Dennis, for bringing these pieces of joy home from your travels! I will enjoy them every Christmas and cherish them always.

Aaand, here is Charlotte!
I am not sure why, but every time I see her in this position, I laugh.
Those huge FEET! I love them!
She is still a highlight of the day for Isaiah and Ellie. They release her from the cage each morning, hunt for her several times a day to hold her and call her like a dog as if she will come running even though they know she will not respond.
She is a sweet animal.
She has freedom in the house as she hops in and out at will, sniffing the fireplace for treats, looking for attention from humans, and constantly finding new hiding places which take several minutes of searching to discover.
In short - we like Charlotte!
Thank you for sharing her with us, Karen! Or should I thank BRETT?

~~~ I am not sure how your week went ... according to all you had planned, or filled with unexpected and possibly unpleasant surprises ... but I pray that in the middle of all that happened, you were able to trace the hand of God throughout and praise Him for being a God who promises He will never leave you or forsake you. We may not always "feel" His presence, but He is THERE. Ever faithful. Ever true. On the mountaintops when we feel joy unspeakable - and when we are in the lowest of valleys wondering if we will ever find our way back into the light ... He is there. He is God. And He is GOOD.
May this Psalm be the cry of our own hearts:
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually! Psalm 105:1-4

12.13.2017

Joy - Joy - JOY!

Psalm 33:1

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. (NIV)

Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord; it is fitting for the pure to praise Him. (NLT)

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. (ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. (KJV)

Do you remember the song "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" that was popular in the 80's? The lyrics of that song play through my mind when I read the verse above.
🎶 Sing your praise to the Lord
Come on everybody 🎶
Stand up and sing one more hallelujah
🎶 Give your praise to the Lord
I can never tell you
Just how much good that it's gonna do you 🎶

I have been thinking about this verse for the past couple of weeks. It is joy-filled and sweet. But it requires action. Intentionality.
Sing!
Shout!
Rejoice!
We must choose to do these things.
And it would be fair to say that the desire to sing, shout, and rejoice would bubble out of a heart that is overflowing with joy, wouldn't it? Discontented unhappy hearts do not provide a catalyst for rejoicing. A joyful heart produces music.

This reminds me of another song!
🎶 I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Where?
Down in my heart!
Where?
Down in my heart!
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart 🎵
Down in my heart to stay
🎶 And I'm so happy
So very happy
I've got the love of Jesus in my heart 🎶
And I'm so happy
So very happy
🎵 I've got the love of Jesus in my heart.

What song is in your heart today?

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!
Psalm 95:1, 2

12.11.2017

Monday Morning Encouragement!

After waking up with all of the aches and pains of a severe head cold after spending a wonderful night laughing with my older boys and friends at a comedy concert, I needed to read this!
The cold has taken out four Eastmans, so there are only four to go should the Lord not spare the rest.
My plan was not to begin the week with illness, but the Lord can redeem the hours and use them for good!
It seems He keeps providing opportunities for me to choose between joy and despair, and this writing by Susanna Spurgeon was just what I needed to push me over to the side of JOY.
Thank You, Lord! May my actions and words show evidence of my choice. 

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"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You!" Jeremiah 32:17

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?"Jeremiah 32:26-27


Dear reader, your difficulties and trials may not be similar to those of "the weeping prophet" - but they are very real, and seemingly insurmountable to you. It is a fact that, of yourself, you can neither overcome nor endure them. So I want to remind you that the Lord's hand is not shortened - that what was true of His power in Jeremiah's time, is as certainly true today. Whatever present hardship may press upon you, or whatever burden may be weighing you down - you, yes,you may look up to Him with confident faith, and say, "There is nothing too hard for You!"

Oh, the blessed peace which such an assurance brings! I do not know what your particular sorrow or hardship may be - but I do know that whatever its nature - cruel, or bitter, or hopeless - it is as "nothing" to Him! He is able to deliver you - as easily as you can call upon Him for support and help.

Now, dear friend, think of all the hard things there are in your life:
poor circumstances,
difficult duties,
grievous pains,
sore struggles,
bitter disappointments,
harsh words,
sinful thoughts,
a hard heart of your own,
a hard heart in others.
Gather all these, and many more together, and pile them one on another until you have one great mountain of afflictions - and your God still calmly asks the question: "Is there anything too hard for Me?"

When our hearts are weary of life's cares and crosses, when our courage flags because of our helplessness, and we cry out with the patriarch, "All these things are against me!" - then what a support and stronghold is the fact that our God has all power in heaven and on earth! There is nothing too mighty for Him to manage - there is nothing too insignificant to escape His notice! Jeremiah's faith . . .
sees no obstacles,
stumbles at no hindrances,
faints under no burden,
shrinks from no responsibilities
- because he realizes the sublime Omnipotence of God, and fortifies himself by calling to remembrance His "outstretched arm" in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Cannot we do likewise?

Never let us give up in despair, while we have such a God to trust in. If there is a great mountain of sorrow or difficulty in your way, dear friend - do not be cast down by the darkness of its shadow. Your God can either make a way for you through it - or He can guide you around it - or, just as easily, He can carry you right over it! There is nothing too hard for Him! Expect Him to make the crooked things straight, and to bring the high things low. And while you keep humbly at His feet, He will work wondrously, and you shall see His salvation!

~ Susannah Spurgeon, "Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls!" 1898

12.10.2017

This and that.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions as a child was receiving a new ornament every year from my grandmother. We would open them on Christmas Eve so we could enjoy looking at them on the tree Christmas Day.
My grandmother told us, "When you move out or get married, you will have enough ornaments to decorate your own Christmas tree!" And she was right!
When Micah was born I asked my mom and Mom Eastman if they would carry on the tradition, and they have done so faithfully year after year.
I love watching my kids hunt for "their ornaments" when it is time to decorate the tree and see their smiles as the memories play through their minds.

Two years ago I had the privilege of witnessing this sweet young woman say, "I Do!" to her beloved Nathan, and absorb their palpable JOY as they danced and laughed and shared their hearts with their guests at their wedding reception.
Last week, I had the privilege of rejoicing with my sister once again because ...
Angela and Nathan are becoming foster/adoptive PARENTS!
How exciting it is to watch them step out in faith and respond obediently to what the Lord has so clearly called them to do - "visit orphans in their distress."
She and Nathan have already been welcomed into our Orphan Care ministry and I am confident they will give as much encouragement as they receive!
I love you, Angela, and will always be thankful that the Lord drew us together "for such a time as this," through discipleship first, and then - as friends.

Caleb and Isaiah are the third and fourth Eastman children to acquire reading glasses.
I think the prescription barely surpasses that of over-the-counter specs, but it is enough to take away the blur on the page and the reading fatigue they both experience.
Thankfully, all of our boys thought it was "cool" to get glasses which makes the process quite easy.
Lookin' good, guys!

Today marks Day 10 of "50 Days of Dennis" in honor of his 50 years of life!
Thus far he has been gifted a fantastic steak dinner accompanied by an evening of great conversation and laughter with friends, thoughtful letters of appreciation,
fun gifts, gift cards to some of his favorite eating places,
homemade chocolate chip cookies, and 50 cans of Kerns Guava Nectar, or as he calls it, "the nectar of the gods."
This particular gift was delivered while he was teaching, so when he found them we heard, "WooHOO!" and he walked back out with a can in his hand, smiling from ear to ear.
My favorite part was the dividers between the cans. Julie wrote Dennis' life mantras on them with a personal note attached to each.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE. 
Begin with the end in mind.
Be a trier, not a cryer.
Act like what you do matters because it DOES!
Win the moment.

Yesterday, I had the joy of spending the morning with my best friend from JUNIOR HIGH! We met at a restaurant and the second we saw each other we embraced in a hug that lasted forever.
How I have missed her!
We spent three hours talking without one pause in the conversation - and it was wonderful.
Desi and I have a long and full history together, and now the Lord has brought us back together 33 years later "for such a time as this," and I cannot wait to see what He has planned for us as sisters in Christ - and as FRIENDS. 

~~~ Merry Sunday, everyone!
I hope you have a wonderful week waiting for you, and will have many opportunities to share the beauty and truth of Christmas with those around you.
"For God so loved the world HE GAVE His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

12.07.2017

To my foster and adoptive sisters ...


Dear sisters,
This afternoon I spent two hours in a foster care facility.
I knew what I was walking into, I knew why I was there, and yet the moment my foot crossed the
threshold of the building, my eyes filled with tears. I held it together, for it was not the time or place to fall apart, and I wanted to absorb every detail I saw and heard so I wouldn't forget.
And for the first time - I got it.
What you do. Who you serve. Why you do it.
Why you say “yes" even when it is too much, when you are overwhelmed, and when you have nothing left to give. I witnessed the same attitude of selflessness and compassion in the staff and counselors who serve these children and teens. They are honest about the hard work and the struggles, but they choose to go back day after day. Because they love the kids.
Just as you choose to love your children day after day. Especially the broken ones.
The home inspections. The court dates. The visitations. The therapy appointments. You do ALL of it because it needs to be done, it must be done in order to rescue these kids. And you do it well.
Thank you for your example of obedience.
Thank you for your faithfulness.
Thank you for your passion.
I returned home from the foster care facility, walked straight into my bedroom, closed my door - and wept.
There is just too much brokenness. Too many children without a home. Without safety. Without love.
And each one of you is standing in the gap, fighting for these children - by choice.
Thank you.
I will never forget what I saw, what I heard, or the emotions I felt as I walked through every room of the facility and met the children and teens in each of the group homes. And the whole time - I thought of you.
I once said there is nothing I have to offer you since I am not a part of the foster/adoptive world, and you responded, "You may not know the details of the system, but you do have something to offer us, Michelle - yourself." I believed you. I knew what you meant. But today - I understood. I don't know how to file paperwork with social services, prepare kids for a visit with birth parents, or decode court language, but there are things I do know.
I know I respect you.
Appreciate you.
Value you.
Love you.
While the Lord has not placed a foster baby, child, or teen in the Eastman home <yet>, He has given me YOU. Women who choose not only to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves," but women who allow me to walk beside them, and call me "friend." You don't need me to tell you how to foster or adopt; you need me to encourage you, pray for you, cheer for you, and remind you on the most discouraging days that you are acting as the hands and feet of Jesus every single time you serve these children.
Though I will never forget what I experienced today, I do not need to tour a foster care facility to see the Gospel in action. I need only look - at you.
With deep affection and a heart of gratitude, Michelle

12.05.2017

Suffering like Jesus.

For the past eleven weeks, I have been sitting under fantastic biblical instruction through a godly man Dennis and I greatly admire. The topic? Suffering. Why we suffer. How we suffer. How we are to respond to suffering. And most importantly, the model Jesus gave us through His own personal suffering.
This class has been an incredible blessing - a time of deep introspection - and a reminder that while God does not take us away from suffering, He faithfully takes us through it.
Sunday's class hit me in a tender spot, and while I left limping a bit, I was encouraged and strengthed by the words of this brother in Christ, and the truths and promises of God.
I pray these notes will encourage others the same way they encouraged me.

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Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1

No matter how stuck you feel - you are not alone!
The Lord is THERE!
He will never leave you or forsake you - and there is nothing too difficult for Him.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” Matthew 26:36-38
Jesus INVITES us into His suffering.
He invites us into an intimate relationship.
He did not have to take Peter and James and John with Him to the garden, but He did. 
He knew Peter was going to deny Him and all of the disciples would scatter in a matter of hours, yet He chose to include them in His sorrow.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39
His EXAMPLE.
Jesus did not try to "fix" His problems.
He did the only thing that makes a difference. He fell on His face and prayed.
We need to work on our problems less and pray more.

Personal application ➙ What is my first response to difficult situations?
It should be PRAYER!
Faithful, enduring, persistent prayer.

Jesus prayed the same thing three times. “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
And heaven was silent.
Jesus did not ask to be released from God's plan, He asked if there was another way.
God said, "This IS My way."
And Jesus surrendered. With perfect peace.

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near. Isaiah 55:6
Stop the preoccupation with "self" - even in the midst of great suffering and sorrow - and SEEK GOD.

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3
Stop putting hope in people, and things, and coping strategies and CRY OUT TO GOD.
He is huge and powerful and capable - and He INVITES US to ask Him for help.
An invitation from a holy God should not be ignored. 

Don't get stuck in your failures and inadequacies. Put ALL of your focus on Christ.
"I'm weak." "Yes. You are. Look to Jesus."
"I don't know enough." "No, you don't. Look to Jesus."
"I can't do much." "Do what you can. And look to Jesus."

"I fail, Lord." "I know. But I don't. Walk with Me."
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.
Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people.

He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself. 
For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:23-28