7.30.2018

I never want to let go!

This quote.
FanTAStic.
And difficult.
The desire to forgive is easy. Offering forgiveness, however, requires an act of humility and grace. And, more often than not, forgiveness demands that we die to self.
Yet dying to self is not what we want to do when we are hurt, offended, or wounded by another.
We want to cry, scream, respond, react, pass judgment, and nurse our wounds.
Forgive? Let them off the hook without any consequence? Overlook the offense? "No WAY!"
"Vengeance is MINE," we growl.
Until we feel a light tap on our shoulder and look up to see the face of the Father, a loving, gentle yet resolved face, and hear Him say, "I know you are hurting, daughter. I know this is hard. It may seem like forgiveness means freedom for the offender, but really, it is freedom - for you. You are not responsible for their actions or their response. I ask you to forgive because I want no opportunity for bitterness to plant itself in your heart or your mind, for it will take root and choke out joy and patience and longsuffering. I ask you to forgive, even when the one who offended you never acknowledges, confesses, or seeks forgiveness for sinning against you. And, remember, I am not asking you to do anything I did not ask of My Son. When He stood before His accusers, innocent and without sin, He did not respond. He simply stood in silence. And trusted Me. So now, My daughter, I am asking you to do the same. Dump all of your frustrations and your grievances and your pain on Me, for I can handle the weight of your burdens, and I will give you rest. And once you have rested, when you are refreshed and ready to face a new day, I will place My light-weight yoke upon you and teach you My way. Because My way - is best."

How thankful I am that the Lord does not deal with me the way I deal with others, or myself.
He is a tender, forgiving, gracious, patient Heavenly Father who accepts me as I am, but does not let me stay that way.
He wants the best for me. Not my best. Not the world's best. HIS best.
And the only way I can obtain His best is to SEEK it. PURSUE it. And CLING to it.
But in order to cling to Him, I must let go of whatever I clutch in my grasp.
Entitlements.
Grudges.
Desires for vengeance.
Bitterness.
Pride.
Once I do, my hands will be open, empty, and able to hold on for dear life, clinging to the One who knows me best and loves me most ... my Savior and Lord.
And I pray I will never, ever let go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. The oyster cannot reject the evil - but it 'covers' it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl!

Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians - so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us, by that which otherwise would have harmed us!

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

- Charles Spurgeon, "Love's Labors"

Summer FUN with friends!

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing, shorts and outdoor

Summer Sprinkler FUN with FRIENDS!
This shot is all natural.
I simply said, “Get together for a photo!” - and this was the result.
100% THEM!

Everything about it makes me smile. ♥️

7.29.2018

Happy Birthday, Ellie!


Eight years!
The Lord has blessed you with eight years of life, Ellie Ruth.
And what a ride it's been!

You (literally) entered the world with your fists up and your tongue sticking out of your mouth.
Yet you buried your head into my chest with intense delight the moment I held you in my arms.
You, dear daughter, are an enigma.
You are tenacious, yet tender.
Defiant, yet delightful.
Stubborn, yet sweet.
You fight ferociously, but love with intense loyalty.
You refuse to yield, but sacrifice self to defend and protect the innocent.

Dad and I marvel at your strengths and weaknesses, and every time, we end the thought or conversation with, "The Lord HAS to have a purpose for such a personality!"
There is no way the Lord created you with such strength of character, such strength of conviction and such passion without having a plan to use it for His glory - and your good.
My prayer is that He is making you into a modern-day Amy Carmichael.
A little girl who will grow into a woman who will fight for and serve others, ignoring criticism,  naysayers, and overwhelming odds to move forward in zealous obedience to speak up for those who cannot speak from themselves and stand firm for TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS, no matter the cost.
May you, like Jim Elliot, surrender your life to what the Lord wants, instead of seeking to satisfy self.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Your struggle will always be to deny self. You know this now, at eight years old.
You want to obey, you want to do what's right, but you want what you want when you want it - more.
The beautiful thing is, your sin is not done in secret. You sin boldly, and because you do, it is easily recognized, addressed, and when you are humble, immediately confessed and forgiven.
This is a wonderful thing, Ellie! 
Secret sins grow deep roots that choke the voice of the Holy Spirit, but public sin that is acknowledged and repented of has its roots ripped out before it can burrow into the soil of your heart, and multiply. So keep your gloves and tools at the ready, daughter, and become a master gardener, maintaining a beautiful, colorful, fruitful garden with nary a weed in sight!
And remember - you never have to identify or kill the weeds alone because ... 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:13

The Lord created you strong, Ellie. But He did not do so for you to depend on yourself.
No matter how many strengths you possess, no matter how valuable or admired they may be, you will never be enough on your own. You NEED the Lord. Every day. In every way.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Himand He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6

I pray He will teach you how to love Him more than you love yourself. It is not easy, but it is best.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

You are a wonderful enigma, my daughter.
A riddle wrapped in a rhyme.
But the Lord has you all figured out, for it is He who made you, exactly as you are. If you yield yourself to Him, willingly, completely, and joyfully, He will do amazing and wonderful things with you - and for you - because He is a God who blesses obedience and gives good things to those who love Him.

We have been blessed with eight years of delightful craziness with you, Ellie Ruth, and we cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned for your life.
We know it is going to be BEAUTIFUL because YOU are beautiful.
❤ And we love you, very, very much. ❤

Happy 8th Birthday!

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! I Chronicles 16:11

7.26.2018

SERVING is better than SULKING!

Today the Lord reminded me of something important as I sat in a hospital room with a friend whose child was sound asleep in a hospital crib.
Serving others can be the perfect anecdote for a restless, struggling, and even sinful heart.

It is far too easy to focus on Self on a normal day, let alone when you feel wronged, cheated, offended, or wounded by another. 
Our thoughts then become completely self-focused as we rehearse what was said, what was done, why we are victims, and how the other person should be held accountable for their actions. 
All knowledge of our own sin and past mistakes flee from our thoughts as we nurse our wounds and dole out judgment on the one who wronged us. It's like looking in a mirror that reveals the image of our offender, rather than ourselves. We hide behind their deeds, their errors, and their sins - all the while forgetting that our own errors and sins are lurking within us.

Sulking.
Pity-Parties.
Eeyore "poor me" moments. 
Call them what we will, but we must call them sin.
For what is sulking other than selfishness? I was wronged. I am upset. I am offended. I am hurt. I I I I I! 
Yes, sometimes we are 100% innocent. We played no part in the drama. Our hands are clean. Someone hurt us, attacked us, and sinned against us. It must be addressed, and hopefully, repentance takes place and the relationship is restored.
There is, however, nothing in Scripture that supports the believer dwelling on SELF. We are commanded to love our enemies and forgive those who persecute us. Even when we are innocent.

But often, we swim and sulk in the pools of self-pity because we aren't getting what we want or what we feel we deserve. Instead of "assuming the best" or "giving the benefit of the doubt" we let selfishness entertain us - and consume our thoughts.
Assumptions. Jealousy. Envy. Pettiness. Pride. Failure to acknowledge there are consequences to our sin.
We make lists of every perceived wrong and then swim lap after lap in the wake of our incorrect and unbiblical thinking. And with every stroke, we deepen our resentment and grieve the heart of God.

The dictionary defines sulking as:
verb
1. be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment.
synonyms: mope, brood, be sullen, be in a bad mood, be in a huff, be grumpy, be moody;
noun
1. a period of gloomy and bad-tempered silence stemming from annoyance and resentment.
synonyms: (bad) mood, fit of ill humor, fit of pique, pet, huff, (bad) temper;

I searched for a verse to support sulking/moping/sullenness in Scripture but came up empty-handed.
I did, however, find these:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Psalm 119:36

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
James 3:16

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,
but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I Corinthians 13:4, 5

I had planned on staying home alone this afternoon/evening to spend time thinking and writing and working through some difficult issues in relationships and in my own heart. I was looking forward to the silence, the uninterrupted time to think, and not having any obligations. I truly thought my motives were pure. I cannot repent from sin if I cannot identify my sin and I cannot identify my sin if I don't think about it. But the Lord knew my true motives because my heart is continually laid bare before Him. He misses nothing. And He had no intention of letting me sit alone in an empty house to nurse my wounds and dwell on what I cannot control. So how did He divert my plans? He called me to SERVE.

A friend sent me a text sharing that her daughter was admitted to the hospital and she, the mom, was barely hanging in there. It was an instant decision. I had to go to her. She was alone, she was exhausted, and she needed someone. Normally, I would not be able to leave my children and drive to the hospital, but today I was free with no obligations. Not only did the Lord know she needed me, He knew I needed HER. For three hours I did not have one thought about myself. Frustrations, hurts, disappointments - all of them disappeared. And it was wonderful.

I still need to sit before the Lord and work through all that is tumbling inside of me.
I need to confess and repent of sin.
I need to decipher which part of the tumbling is about me and which parts are about others.
I need quiet, solitude, and time to focus on what He wants me to see.
But today was not about me. He made sure of that!

I am grateful He knows me better than I know myself because if left to my own devices, I would still be doing laps in the self-pity pool, completely unaware of my sister sitting in the deck chair, lonely and sad. But the Lord blew the whistle, pulled me out of the pool, pointed at my sister, and like a coach disciplining his lazy athletes, yelled, "EASTMAN! Get to work!"

And I returned from the hospital light-hearted and refreshed because instead of letting me sulk, my Father had me SERVE.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13, 14

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. I John 3:18

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:16

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

7.24.2018

EXCELLENT thoughts to ponder ... SORROW.

…what shall I say? "Father, save Me from this hour"? But for this purpose I came to this hour. "Father, glorify Your name." - John 12:27-28

As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. 

Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.

- Oswald Chambers

7.21.2018

Dennis writes to his sons.

Greetings My Sons, 

Proverbs 21 is a wonderful chapter that is full of advice to fortify your daily life.
A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2)
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)
These two verses are encompassing thoughts that yield wisdom - when heeded.
As you grow and experience relationships, work opportunities, and decisions that will impact your life (including the small daily decisions), you have the ability to access the ear and arm of heaven through prayer.
Many discount prayer as something that is “the last effort” or “when I get to it," however, the LORD is close to those who are His and seek out His Word and have a relationship in prayer.
He will provide direction, counsel, and wisdom.
I love you, Dad

7.19.2018

Keeping our mouths CLOSED - Part II.

Many years ago I attached a bright yellow Post-it note to my computer which read:
She does not need to speak just because she has a mouth!

And this verse was the catalyst for the attachment of said note.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36

I could probably end this post right here. For what more needs to be said? Scripture is crystal clear on this issue.
Control your tongue.
Do not gossip.
Do not meddle in the business of others.
Do not slander.
Do not make a judgment until you have all of the facts.
Think before speaking.
Do not use foul or inappropriate language.
There is a time to be silent.

And yet ...
Do we obey?
And do we uphold the same standard for ourselves that we demand of others?
How often are we upset when others gossip about us, make assumptions about us without knowing the whole truth and offend us with rude words - all while we are gossiping, making assumptions, and saying rude things about someone else?
How often do we speak/respond without first spending one moment in thought or prayer?
How often do we ask questions about other people that are absolutely none of our business?
How often do we speak because we want to give our opinion, make a statement, or get attention, instead of being still and silent?

James sure had it right when he said, Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:5-8

As if this detailed and horrifying description of the tongue was not enough to convict us never to speak again, it is not the only counsel the Lord gives on this matter.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 29:20

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13

When words are many, sin is not absent, but whoever restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3


Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

... a time to keep silent, and a time to speak; Ecclesiastes 3:7

Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:27-28


Oh, Lord! How much You have had to teach me about my mouth in 46 years of life, and how often You have had to discipline me for using it poorly. And, I fear, because James says that "no human being can tame the tongue," Your lessons have not come to an end and I will suffer more humiliation to bring about humility in the years to come. But Lord, the lessons can be fewer and far between, can they not? You promise to give wisdom to those who ask, without reproach, so I am asking with sincerity, please give me wisdom and discernment to know when to speak, how to speak, with whom to speak ... and when to be silent. I do not need to speak just because I have a mouth, or an opinion, or a thought. I only need to speak when You tell me do so. Please, Lord, make me a woman who thinks and prays much more than she speaks so that when words pour out of my mouth, they are not only worth hearing, but a blessing and encouragement to those who hear them. I give you my mouth, Lord. Please, take it and seal it until You want me to speak. Amen.

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

Then my tongue shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long. Psalm 35:28

7.17.2018

25 Years - TOGETHER!


❤ 25 years - TOGETHER. ❤

There have been amazing years and incredibly difficult years, but regardless of "better or worse," the Lord has faithfully pushed us toward each other, even when we wanted to move far away from one another. It is only because of Him that we can look at each other today - twenty-five years after committing to love, honor, and cherish one another until death parts us - and say, "I would do it all again!" And for this truth I am thankful.

Last night we challenged ourselves to come up with 25 things we have learned during our marriage. The first dozen lessons were easy, and then we had to give it serious thought. Who were we 25 years ago? Who are we now? What has changed? Why has it changed? It was interesting to look at our past, and it was wonderful to praise God that we are not the same people who said, "I do!" two decades ago. We cannot go back, but the Lord has faithfully restored the years the locusts devoured. And friends, there were too many wasted years.
But - HALLELUJIA! - we serve a God who wastes nothing and can turn the ugliest pile of ashes into a thing of beauty because He is in the business of forgiving, restoring, and giving second, third, and 374th chances.
How GOOD is our God!

We know we are just one couple. We are not like anyone else and no one is like us. But we hope that the lessons the Lord has taught us over the years will be an encouragement to others, whether they are decades into their own marriage, or were engaged last week.
Marriage is hard work. A daily choice. A life of selflessness and sacrifice.
And it is worth it!
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10

Thank you, Dennis, for 25 years of faithfulness, kindness, forgiveness, grace, protection, and love.
I love you, ♥ Michelle

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What we have learned after 25 years of living life together:

➺ seek to understand
➺ give the benefit of the doubt
➺ assume the best
➺ you cannot die on every hill so choose your battles well
➺ take out the trash without being asked - small acts of kindness go a long way
➺ be a student of one other
➺ understand how to - and then make intentional use of - good timing
➺ learn how to disagree and argue with respect and grace
➺ forgive quickly and often
➺ trust and seek each other's discretion and insight
➺ learn how to smooth the rough edges on each other, and be grateful for the change the sanding produces!
➺ accept that you will show and receive love and affection differently, and it's okay
➺ be content
➺ appreciate and respect the differences in your personalities, perspectives, interests, and convictions, for different does not equal wrong - and your differences will help strengthen one another
➺ pray for each other and with each other
➺ support each other's passions and convictions
➺ encourage one another in everything, especially the things of the Lord
➺ purposely seek to mature and grow in your weaknesses
➺ learn to recognize when your spouse needs to recharge/refresh and provide opportunities to make it happen
➺ learn how to give and recieve correction/rebuke lovingly and with grace
➺ talk to each other, a lot, about everything, even when uncomfortable
➺ speak truth to each other, and express your needs, for neither of you can read minds!
➺ serve together!
➺ be the first to apologize, humility is a game changer
➺ laugh together, often

25th Anniversary FUN with the whole family.






We chose to kick off our 25th anniversary with an early morning beach and donut outing with the people who have made the last 18 years of our marriage even MORE of an adventure!
(Sidecar donuts - sponsored by a gift card given to D for his 50th birthday. DE-licious!)







7.16.2018

This and that.

"Mom. Can we PLEASE start school again?!?"
"Why, YES! Yes, we can!"
People have long thought me crazy/uptight/rigid/strict for not taking the entire summer off from school, but the truth is - we can't.
From the time Micah and Luke were small, we realized that our children cannot handle week upon week without structure and routine.
A week of VBS here, a few beach days there, and a handful of swim dates and park days is fine, but they need and crave - order.
This summer has not been as well-planned as summers past, but they got back on my game and we are ready to roll!
Daily Bible/biography reading, out-loud reading, math games, audio listening, and spelling are now etched into three days of our weekly schedule - and we are all better because of it!
And I will admit, there is something sweet about starting because they asked, not because it was mandated.

~~~ Tomorrow is our 25th Wedding Anniversary!
25 y e a r s.
It sounds like such a long time, yet feels like we barely said, "I do!"
Dennis took the day off work so we can go play. Woohoo! We are kicking it off with early morning donuts and a beach stroll with all the kids. And then, a nice dinner out - alone - and two hours on a Duffy Boat enjoying the beauty of nature, the quiet of the harbor, and conversation and laughter.
It will be a terrific day!

The day we committed to saving every spare dollar to pay off bills so we can qualify for foster care, we looked at each other and said, "Buckle Up! It's going to be a bumpy ride!"
We knew there would be attacks from within and without. And we were not wrong. Within two weeks we had a car battery die, needing to be replaced, a shower back up, requiring a plumber, and a screen door rip.
I looked at our savings jar in discouragement and thought, "Oh, Lord. Will it EVER be filled?"
Dennis and I were both disheartened, but finally looked at each other and said, "We knew it was coming! Let's just shake it OFF!" So, we did. No more mourning. Just faith.
And then, two days later, we received this card in the mail, in which was enclosed a check for "the orphan fund." Our first George Mueller moment.
And it was WONDERFUL.
...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

In three weeks, Dennis and Micah fly to Jordan - to give a voice to students with learning and special needs - together!
We are thrilled for this incredible opportunity Dennis has, along with renowned colleagues, to bring awareness to the leaders and educators of Jordan about how to serve and support students with learning and special needs in the classroom.
A leader from Jordan attended one of Dennis' workshops in Lebanon and graciously chose to invite him to be a part of their own personal push for change in the education system in Jordan.
When invited, he asked if he could bring Micah with him to give a voice to the students - from a student - and they enthusiastically said, "Yes!"
They have been talking and planning and preparing for weeks and I cannot WAIT to see how the Lord uses them!
Not only will Dennis and Micah be able to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, they will be able to encourage and support those who serve students and their parents every single day. Faithfully. And with joy.
Thank You, Lord, for an opportunity such as this!

~~~ It is MONDAY! An entire week lies ahead filled with plans we must hold loosely and unknowns we must embrace with acceptance and grace.
May we wake up each morning with praise on our lips! "This IS the day the Lord has made! We WILL rejoice and be GLAD in it!"

7.14.2018

A Confession. And a (hopefully long) Closure.

When I was a freshman in college, I was looking out the window of a friend's dorm room and made a comment about someone walking below. My friend looked up, locked eyes with me, and said, "You have a critical spirit." And then, she put her head back in her book and kept right on reading. I was stunned. What had I said? Nothing extreme or inappropriate, nothing different than what a hundred other women/girls had said before. Why the rebuke then? 
It took me quite some time to figure it out. Time in the Word. Time in prayer. Time in silence. And time bathing in the humiliation that brings about humility.
One of my (many) life verses during my college years was this beauty:
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
I had it written on my mirror in dry erase marker. I had it written on a note card ring that I carried with me at all times. I highlighted it in my Bible. I repeated it to myself over and over and over. And yet, even then, I drove a steamroller through the door and shot the guard more times than I care to admit.

I know I am not alone. I have listened to countless messages and sermons, read dozens of books, heard several testimonies, and watched women sob on my couch ... each one confessing embarrassing moments of gossip, meddling in the business of others, slandering someone, making wrong judgments in ignorance, or carelessly saying something that cannot be unsaid.
And relationships were either damaged or destroyed.

What do they all have in common? Lack of self-control and pride. 
Not thinking before speaking.
Not praying before thinking or speaking.
Not asking the right questions or enough questions to make sure all of the facts have been presented.
Not listening with the intent of understanding.
Not prayerfully pondering before answering.
Not asking if it is public or private knowledge or if it can be shared.
Not confessing, repenting and seeking forgiveness immediately after doing one or all of the above.
And the list goes on.

Almost 30 years have passed since I stood looking out of that dorm room window, but the sting of those words feels as fresh as if it took place just moments ago. And I am thankful because I need to feel the sting often to remind me that I will never have full control over my tongue this side of heaven.
I will always need to pray for wisdom and discretion to know when to speak and when to be silent.
I will always need to remember that "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)
I will always have to remember that what is said and what is heard do not necessarily match. 
And I will always have to remember that though it may not be my intent, I can hurt, offend, and wound someone deeply with the words that spill out of my mouth.

Praise the Lord - PRAISE THE LORD! - for His forgiveness and grace when I fail to remember and walk in disobedience.
And Praise Him - PRAISE HIM! - that others are willing to offer that same forgiveness and grace when I fail them.

After a long two days bowed low before the Lord because of this very sin, He reminded me of this wonderful writing by a woman I admire and respect. Because I know how feisty she was and have read her personal confessions about this same struggle, I was encouraged with the thought that maybe, just maybe, I will one day discover that my teeth are rarely needed to bite my tongue. Not because I will have mastered the art of controlling it, but because I will have handed over the reigns to the One who is Master of all.

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When to Keep Your Mouth CLOSED.
- Elisabeth Elliot
In the Heat of Anger
-Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
-Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. Proverbs 14:7

When You Don't Have All the Facts
-He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
-The first to present his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17

If Your Words Will Offend a Weaker Brother
It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Romans 14:21

When You are Tempted to Joke About Sin
Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor. Proverbs 14:9

When You Would be Ashamed of Your Words Later
For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; nothing crooked or perverse is in them. Proverbs 8:7, 8

When You are Tempted to Make Light of Holy Things
Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3

When You are Feeling Critical
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
Ephesians 4:29

If Your Words Would Convey a Wrong Impression
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Proverbs 17:27

When You are Tempted to Tell an Outright Lie
Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Proverbs 4:24

If Your Words Will Damage Someone's Reputation or Spread Gossip
An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. Proverbs 16:7, 8 

If You Cannot Speak Without Yelling
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28

When You are Tempted to Flatter a Wicked Person
It is not good to show partiality in judgment.
He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse; nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them. Proverbs 24:23-25


When You are Supposed to be Working Instead
In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

When It is Time to Listen 
-Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
James 1:19
-If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13
-A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from trouble. Proverbs 21:23

Imagine if we all followed such wisdom.
The world would be much quieter, and we could fill the silence with encouragement and praise!

7.13.2018

A 200-year-old mentor and FRIEND.

If someone questioned whether I am getting my nourishment from books instead of food these days, I wouldn't disagree!
There are just too many books and not enough free hours in which to consume them.
And when it comes to writings that contain the details of men and women who loved God most so they could love others best, men and women who obeyed God faithfully so they could serve others consistently, men and women who were passionate about their faith so they could exhibit endless compassion to others ... I want to consume every one of those details!
I find myself talking about them as though they are intimate friends. Referencing them as if everyone has consumed their biographies and is familiar with their life work. Thinking about them when I have a decision to make or feel discouraged by the critiques of men instead of keeping my eyes, thoughts, and actions on the calling placed on me by the Lord.
I have always enjoyed biographies, but now I appreciate them. Relish them. Revel in them. Savor them. Adore them. Pick a synonym and it will work!
I don't know why the Lord has plunged me into this season of devouring biographies of godly men and women at such a frenzied pace, but I am thankful! It's like being surrounded with my own cheerleading squad. Constant encouragement, enthusiasm, energy - all directed at making a difference for eternity.
It is fanTAStic!

I have long appreciated William Wilberforce for his unwavering passion to end the slave trade and slavery in Britain, but now, after learning about the inner-workings of his heart and crying while reading the detailed description of his response when the slave trade and slavery were officially ended by the declaration of Parliament, I admire him. And I am awed by him. He responded to God pricking his conscience and his heart to end slavery when he was a young man, and he spent every day of the next twenty years fighting to win that battle. And he was rewarded for his faithfulness. Not only did he win the battle to abolish the slave trade, he was told he won the war - the abolition of slavery - just three days before the Lord called him home ... to GLORY.

William Wilberforce spent his entire adult life fighting to set men, women, and children FREE, and I am confident that when he bowed before his Lord in the throne room of heaven, he was not only delighted to hear that the fighting was finally over, but to also hear the much-desired words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ (Matthew 25:21)

As always, I will share quotes about the subject of the biography with the goal of enticing and encouraging those who don't know him/her to make a personal introduction. Enjoy!

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We are too young to realize that certain things are impossible... So we will do them anyway.

If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.

It makes no sense to take the name of Christian and not cling to Christ. Jesus is not some magic charm to wear like a piece of jewelry we think will give us good luck. He is the Lord. His name is to be written on our hearts in such a powerful way that it creates within us a profound experience of His peace and a heart that is filled with His praise.

In the calmness of the morning before the mind is heated and weary by the turmoil of the day, you have a season of unusual importance for communing with God and with yourself.

If you love someone who is ruining his or her life because of faulty thinking, and you don't do anything about it because you are afraid of what others might think, it would seem that rather than being loving, you are in fact being heartless.

Surely the principles of Christianity lead to action as well as meditation.

Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer.

Selfishness is one of the principal fruits of the corruption of human nature; and it is obvious that selfishness disposes us to over-rate our good qualities, and to overlook or extenuate our defects.


You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know. 

7.11.2018

Who I am in Christ far surpasses who others think I am.

Within the last twenty-four hours, I have been challenged twice to remember and ponder the beautiful truths of WHO I AM IN CHRIST. 

The first challenege happened during a serious conversation with a godly woman when the Lord reminded me of the decades I spent viewing and valuing myself through the eyes of others rather than through HIS eyes. I spent countless years evaluating myself based on the opinions of what other people thought of me, and always, I was found wanting. Rejected. And never "enough." How thankful I was when the Lord held up a truth-shaped mirror to my face to reveal that while the world may find me wanting, He does not! For I am covered in the precious blood of His Son, adopted into His royal line, secure and complete in Him, and never to be taken out of His hands.

The second challenge came after receiving texts from two different friends containing these words:
-I prayed for YOU this morning, Michelle. You are loved, covered & seen. πŸŒΌπŸ’›
-True things should be said. ❤️ I think we forget sometimes how the Lord has gifted us.

I had no idea how much I needed to look deeply into that truth-shaped mirror again, but my Father did! He knew last night when I was faced with some difficult realities and old wounds that have not completely healed while pouring my heart out to a friend, and He knew today when He saw my thoughts going back to places they ought not linger. And in so doing, He saved me from - myself.

I have often joked that I would like to have these truths - WHO I AM IN CHRIST - tattooed inside my eyelids. But now, I joke no more. Truth, the truth of Scripture, the truth of how God sees me, is the only thing that keeps me grounded when emotion battles for control, and the only thing that forces my thoughts to focus on Him instead of myself and what I want or think I deserve. And the best part is - I don't need a painful tattoo! All I have to do is open the most beautiful piece of literature in the world and read it for myself. Day after day, year after year, until I not only memorize it - but BELIEVE it.

I AM GOD’S…
· possession   Genesis 17:8/ 1 Cor 6:20
· child   John 1:12
· workmanship   Ephesians 2:10
· friend   James 2:23
· co-laborer   1 Timothy 5:18
· witness   Acts 1:8
· soldier   II Timothy 2:3
· chosen   Ephesians 1:4
· beloved   Romans 1:7/ II Thessalonians 2:13
· precious jewel   Malachi 3:17

I HAVE BEEN…
· redeemed by the blood   Rev 5:9
· set free from sin /condemnation   Romans 8:1-2
· chosen before the foundation of world   Ephesians 1:4
· washed in the blood of the Lamb   Rev 1:5
· given a sound mind   2 Timothy 1:7
· given the Holy Spirit   2 Cor 1:22
· adopted into God’s family   Romans 8:15
· given great and precious promises   2 Peter 1:4
· given access to God   Ephesians 3:12

I AM…
· complete in Him   Colossians 2:10
· free forever from sin’s power   Romans 6:14
· loved eternally   1 Peter 1:5
· eternally kept in the palm of His hand   John 10:29
· kept from falling   Jude 1:24
· one with the Lord   1 Cor 6:17
· seated in heavenly places   Ephesians 1:3
· light in the darkness   Matthew 5:14
· His sheep   Psalm 23 / Psalms 100:3/ John 10:14
· a citizen of heaven   1 Peter 2:11
· hidden with Christ in God   Psalms 32:7
· protected from the evil one   1 John 5:18
· secure in Christ   John 10:28-29
· covered by the blood of Jesus   Rev 12:11, 1 Pet 1:19
· sheltered under His wing   Psalms 91:4

I HAVE…
· access to the Father   Romans 5:2
· a home in heaven waiting for me   John 14:1-2
· a living hope   1 Peter 1:3
· an anchor to my soul   Hebrews 6:19
· a hope that is sure and steadfast   Hebrews 6:19
· the mind of Christ   1 Cor 2:16
· peace with God   Romans 5:1

I CAN…
· do all things through Christ   Phil 4:13
· find mercy and grace to help   Hebrews 4:16
· come boldly to the throne of grace   Heb 4:16
· pray always and everywhere   Luke 21:36
· defeat (overcome) the enemy   Rev 12:11

I CANNOT…
· be separated from God’s love   Romans 8:35-39
· be moved   Psalms 16:8
· be taken out of my Father’s hand   John 10:29
· be condemned   1 Cor 11:32

7.10.2018

Dennis writes to his sons.

Greetings My Sons,
There are moments when the LORD calls you to action. However, our idea of action is often found in a Marvel movie or some harrowing deed that few can accomplish. The picture of an active believer, however, can be one of a Christian on his knees asking for clarity, guidance, and light.
Will you be found equipped with a will ready to go and do?
The summer months invite activity (some frivolous and some impactful) but I would challenge you to pray and ask the Lord to lead you by His Spirit so you can do those things He is calling you to do -with His strength.
You are in the process of becoming sanctified.
The more we act like Jesus the less we act like our natural self. This is good for everyone.
I love you,
Dad

Please consider the reading from Oswald Chambers:

Will You Examine Yourself?
By Oswald Chambers

Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the Lord…" Joshua 24:19

Do you have even the slightest reliance on anything or anyone other than God? Is there a remnant of reliance left on any natural quality within you, or on any particular set of circumstances? Are you relying on yourself in any manner whatsoever regarding this new proposal or plan which God has placed before you? Will you examine yourself by asking these probing questions? It really is true to say, “I cannot live a holy life,” but you can decide to let Jesus Christ make you holy. “You cannot serve the Lord…”— but you can place yourself in the proper position where God’s almighty power will flow through you. Is your relationship with God sufficient for you to expect Him to exhibit His wonderful life in you?

“The people said to Joshua, ‘No, but we will serve the Lord!’ ” (Joshua 24:21). This is not an impulsive action, but a deliberate commitment. We tend to say, “But God could never have called me to this. I’m too unworthy. It can’t mean me.” It does mean you, and the more weak and feeble you are, the better. The person who is still relying on and trusting in anything within himself is the last person to even come close to saying, “I will serve the Lord.”

We say, “Oh, if only I really could believe!” The question is, “Will I believe?” No wonder Jesus Christ placed such emphasis on the sin of unbelief. “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). If we really believed that God meant what He said, just imagine what we would be like! Do I really dare to let God be to me all that He says He will be?

7.09.2018

Another wedding CELEBRATION!


Justin & Chloe 

❤ They are now ONE. ❤

And they are one of the most relaxed and jolly couples I have ever witnessed on a wedding day!
We have known Justin for five years, serving with him in the youth group, and drawing him into our family because he allowed us to invest in him and walk through life at his side.
We loved him when he was a Party of One - and he became more lovable when the Lord placed Chloe at his side, for she drew him out and enhanced his already stellar character.
Together, they make a fantastic Party of TWO!

Dennis and I had the privilege of traveling to the event with our friends Jeff and Danielle.
We arrived 45 minutes early, so Danielle and I decided to sit on the wrap around porch of the beautiful home built in 1892 which served as a backdrop for the ceremony while the guys walked around the property. As we were talking and enjoying the scenery, we saw three men casually strolling through the gardens next to the house and then realized it was our men - and the groom!
We popped up from our wicker bench squealing, "Justin!" and were greeted with his contagious smile and warm hugs. The five of us talked, laughed, took photos, and then the groom sauntered over to greet other guests as casually as though he were at a ball game.
Just as those who know him best would expect!

The entire day reflected Justin and Chloe perfectly.
relaxed
FUN
outdoor setting surrounded by towering trees
bridesmaids in pretty dresses
groomsmen in jeans and untucked dress shirts
lighthearted, playful music
vows were written and spoken by the bride and groom
the bride literally jumped up and down when she said, "Oh, YEAH, I do!"
appetizers and lawn games after the ceremony
the reception in a huge, red barn
delicious and filling food
thoughtful toasts
dancing
And it was perfectly clear that the Bride & Groom are beloved and adored.

Thank you for including us in your day, Mr. and Mrs. Halverson!
It will be an honor and a joy to witness how the Lord uses you as a couple as you continue to seek Him, serve Him, and love Him year after year. You love each other well because you love Him BEST.




The reception with all of these friends was the icing on the proverbial cake!
(Pretend you can see Dave and Karla Doyle in the photo!)
The best word to sum up our time together? LAUGHTER! 



7.02.2018

An excellent (and biblical) quote.


Speculation is the enemy of calm.


Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phillippians 4:6-7

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.
Psalm 56:3

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4


Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
Proverbs 12:25

When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.
Psalm 94:19