Today was good - and I needed it.

Today was a good day.

The Lord provided opportunities to worship with the body of Christ three times.
A memorial service.
A Christmas concert.

Our church service was uplifting, thought-provoking, and pushed me in my faith.
Our youth service was challenging and energizing.
I left each one feeling encouraged and ready to charge into a new week with passion and intensity.
Always a good way to leave the church parking lot, yes?

The memorial service was touching and thoughtful.
A life celebrated with joy because he redeemed the time he had on earth, and used it to honor the Lord and make sure everyone he knew was aware of the One who redeemed his life from the pit and set him on solid ground.
Family, friends, and classmates rejoiced over a life well-lived for the Lord.
And, of course, it made me ponder my own life because "It is better to be in a house of mourning than a house of feasting because death is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart." Ecclesiastes
Oh, Lord, may my life not be wasted, but used for Your glory and the edification of others. 
May it be so, Lord. May it be so.

The Christmas concert was festive and fun and full of believers lifting their voices in praise to God through the beauty of Christmas hymns.
O, Come let us adore Him, Christ the KING!

Every Sunday I sneak into the church to read my Bible in the peace and quiet of the sanctuary.
This morning, after reading several chapters, I turned to the Psalms for my daily Psalm reading.
(You know the secret, right? You read the Psalm of the Day, then add 30, read that Psalm, add 30, read that Psalm, etc. So today's chapters were 13,43,73,103,133. 
Every day you read five chapters and complete the entire book each month. It's a wonderful discipline!)
Anyway ...
While reading, I discovered a theme running through the chapters.
Take a look.

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 43

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all Your works.
Psalm 73

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103

Do you see it?
Sing to the Lord - Praise Him - tell of His works - bless His name.
I LOVE this!
And I needed this today.
My heart is not heavy, but it is numb.
I need to 'feel.'
And when I worship, the walls around my heart and my emotions come crashing down leaving me vulnerable and defenseless.
Exactly where I need to be with my Lord.

How I LOVE Scripture!
And how much I love the God who spoke it into the hearts of men so we might know and understand who He is and how He works.

"Let me live that I might PRAISE YOU!" Psalm 119:175


Teaching self-control to children ~ and ourselves!

A friend shared this list with me several years ago when we sought wisdom in parenting our active, and verbal, boys. We memorized it together and I quoted it often to prompt correct speaking and behavior.
The littles are memorizing it now.

Self-control is the ability to control myself so that Mom and Dad don't have to.

Self-control means to think before I act.

Self-control is the ability to talk about problems instead of grabbing, pushing, or hitting.

Self-control means that I limit the noises I make when others are around.

Self-control means that I focus on one thing until it gets done, before I move on to the next.

Sensitivity means that when I walk into a room I look and listen before I speak.

Sensitivity is thinking about how my actions are affecting other people.

Sensitivity means thinking about how I could help someone else.

After reading it, it is obvious that these truths are as applicable to adults as they are to children.
Self-control and sensitivity must be practiced by all ... especially those in the household of faith.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. II Peter 1

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. II Timothy 1

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. I Peter 4

But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Titus 1

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. I Corinthians 13


This and that.

I am a bit sad that my time in Scripture has not produced writings or words of encouragement these past days, but I find consolation in the truth that God's Word is alive and active and never returns void. Even when there is no tangible evidence.

I read one of my favorite Psalms in my daily reading - and it made me smile. Not because I can claim this attitude for myself, but because I WANT to!

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34

It's as if the Psalmist is making a resolution ... I WILL extol ... His praise WILL be ... I WILL glory ... LET US exalt.
Wouldn't this be a wonderful way to greet each other? How it would change the course and content of our conversations! And - keep our focus where it belongs ... on Jesus Christ.
Oh, how I LOVE Scripture!

~~~ A dear friend sent me a note yesterday asking me how I was doing. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I replied, "I feel like I have a continual 'under construction sign' around my neck."
You know the drill. A contractor is hired to build a room addition, says it will take four months to complete, and ten months later you are still buried in dust and debris.
But, better to be under construction than CONDEMNED!
Perspective. It matters.
Especially when the contractor is the LORD!

Isn't this a sweet little nativity set?
Dennis collects them for me when he travels the globe.
I wish I had thought of this when he first began traveling because we missed out on Lebanon, Austria, and China. And I am quite sure each of those countries boast beautiful nativities!
This sweet little set is from Thailand.
Dennis found the colorful one in Zambia.
He also brought me a tiny nativity from Cambodia carved out of a coconut.
When the boys were in choir they performed at a church which filled their auditorium with nativities from around the world. I loved walking through that room. 
Each set was unique and accurately reflected the culture of its country, and they all had one thing in common: a baby, the Savior, being worshiped and adored by men.
My collection will never match theirs, but it's a start!

~~~ Last year I discovered a fantastic idea for parents and children regarding Christmas presents, and immediately declared, "I am stealing that one!"
Three gifts.
Gifts that represent what the wise men brought to Jesus.
Something valuable (gold), something spiritual (frankincense), and something personal (myrrh).
Love it!
I had the older boys interview the littles for their lists, and the older boys created their own. It was fun to listen to them talk and share ideas - and see them give thought and intent to their gifts.
The thing that pleased me most, however, was the fact that not one child complained or whined with cries of, "What? We only get THREE gifts for Christmas? Come on!"
Love it MORE!

~~~ Our youth group Christmas party takes place tomorrow. And we are going as a family. A good old-fashioned country Christmas complete with barns and horses and hayrides. Yahoo!
I cannot even begin to imagine how the students are going to pull off the western theme AND ugly sweaters in the same outfit, but I am confident a few of them will deliver and their creativity will be remembered for years to come!

~~~ Apparently our Isaiah has joined a mafia family, and Luke is the Godfather.
Today Josiah was annoying Isaiah, over and over again, and Isaiah had had ENOUGH.
He yelled at Josiah, walked into the house, asked where Luke was, and marched straight to the boy's room. The next thing we heard was, "Luke, Josiah is bothering me and he won't stop. Will you go take care of him for me?"
After I admonished Isaiah for this less-than-godly plan, Dennis, Micah and I laughed out loud.
The things kids say - and the way they think! Sheesh!

~~~ White Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas movies. It always makes me smile.

~~~ On a serious note ...
How we need to pray for our country!
As easy as it is to say, "End times are here and things are only going to get worse" (which is true), Scripture commands us to "pray without ceasing." There is no clause that says, "Pray without ceasing UNLESS things look really bad. Then you can throw up your hands, live in fear, and let the enemy win."
No, no, no!
Our God is sovereign - and He is on the throne that rules heaven and earth.
It is the sin in the hearts of men that devise evil plans and carry them out.
Nothing is new under the sun states Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
And our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Pray as if your life depends on it. Because it does!
And then - remember who your God is ... and rest in Him.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. I Chronicles 29:11-12

~~~ I pray your weekend will be filled with immeasurable joy as you celebrate the Christ child, love the people in your life as if you will never see them again, and feel a renewed sense of desire for Scripture and prayer.
May we look back on this weekend with contentment, and without regret.