8.29.2018

The sweet value of Scripture.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:7-11

I love this passage of Scripture.
My 3rd-grade teacher taught us a song to help us memorize it, and I still remember it today!

In a recent Sunday morning Scripture reading (the quiet time I cherish each week in the empty sanctuary), this was the Psalm for the day, and I was struck by the adjectives the Lord used to describe His Word.
perfect
sure
right
pure
clean
true
All easy adjectives to understand - and - evoke a specific image. Even so, I wanted to do a word study and find the definition of each one. And I am glad I did! The definitions make the adjectives seem even stronger, especially when viewed in light of God's character.

perfect = being entirely without fault or defect

sure = firmly established

right = being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper

pure = free from what spoils, weakens, or pollutes, containing nothing that does not properly belong, free from moral fault or guilt

clean = free from dirt or pollution, free from contamination or disease

true = being in accordance with the actual state of affairs, conformable to an essential reality,
fully realized or fulfilled

Inserting these definitions into the passage would make it read thusly:
The law of the Lord is entirely without fault or defect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is firmly established, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are in accordance with what is just, good, or proper, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is free from what spoils, weakens, or pollutes, containing nothing that does not properly belong, free from moral fault or guilt, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is free from dirt or pollution, free from contamination or disease, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are in accordance with the actual state of affairs, conformable to an essential reality, fully realized or fulfilled, and righteous altogether.

Isn't that a wonderfully clear and detailed description of who God is and how He wrote His Word?
I love it!

But wait! There's more! This section of the chapter ends with a delightful description of the value of God's Word, and the promise of a reward for those who obey His commands and keep His law.
More to be desired are they (they = the laws, testimonies, precepts, commandments, and rules of the Lord) than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

This last verse brings to mind this gem in the New Testament.
But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Praise for such rich truths sewn into every page of Scripture! It is worth more than gold and it does taste better than the sweetest honey on earth. But until we open the Book and dig through what is buried inside, we will never discover the treasure or taste the sweetness of His Divine design.

So, friends! Let's start digging!

8.22.2018

Do not be anxious. TRUST!

Our shepherd was feeding different sheep on Sunday, so we enjoyed the preaching of another pastor. And he was wonderful! His message was fitting, timely, and one that can be referred to over and over again. "Rest to the Glory of God."
I wrote as fast and as detailed as I could make my hand move in order to record his words. I closed my notebook feeling encouraged, refreshed and praising God for His promise in Scripture,
"... for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5, 6

I hope you are encouraged by these truths!

➤ The Text: Matthew 6:25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

➤ The Command (v. 25)
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
● the moment we try to take control (of anything), anxiety sets in - because - we are not meant to have control! God is the one in control - all the time.
● anxious = divided/worried/concerned/uneasy/apprehensive/fearful/troubled/bothered/disturbed/distressed/fretful/agitated/tense/overwrought
● rest = a demonstration of TRUST

➤ The Illustration (v. 26, 27)
1. The birds
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Birds do not give one thought to tomorrow. They wake up each morning, fly around, search for food, and find it! Because God provides for them. If God will provide for birds, He will provide for us!
(our NEEDS - not our wants)
● Even if you decide to worry (for it IS a CHOICE!), it has absolutely no benefit, and your worry changes absolutely nothing.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
2. The fields
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? God clothes the fields. He will provide for us.
● consider = ponder, look, observe, soak in
We must learn to take time to appreciate the most minute of details in God's creation.
"Look at the flowers!" (Jesus)
● When Jesus declares, "O you of little faith," He is saying, in effect, "Don't you realize who you are with?!? TRUST ME!"
● Danger and difficulty reveal that we are NOT in control, for we would never choose either.
GOD is in control. Always.

➤ The Application (v. 31-34)
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.● Stop being anxious! It has to stop!
● You cannot be joyful and anxious at the same time.
We are commanded to BE joyful - and commanded NOT to be anxious.
● We dishonor God when we do not trust Him. We are saying, "You can't handle this."
● We honor God when we ask for His will to be done, even when we don't understand or like it.
We are saying, "You can do ANYthing, Lord!"
With tomorrow's trials come the grace (God's grace) to sustain us in the trials. His mercies are new EVERY morning!
● Not WHAT IF ---> but EVEN IF (I LOVE this!)

Lord! Thank You for such an encouraging, thoughtful, and uplifting message! You are God. You are on Your throne. You make the sun rise and the rivers flow. You know our thoughts before we do and You know our needs before we tell You. As often as we 'think' we have control, we never do. And this is a GOOD thing, Lord, for as much as we hate suffering and wish it never had to be endured, we know that everything You do is perfect - and necessary. For Your glory and our good. Thank You. 

8.17.2018

Dennis and Micah say goodbye to Jordan.

Their trip has come to a close, and they went out with a bang! The leadership team of Academy
Alliance Jordan surprised the conference speakers when they arrived at a gorgeous hotel near the Dead Sea and said, "This is where you are staying for the night!" They were stunned.
Dennis, Micah, and two other speakers spent the night and then enjoyed a tremendous day of swimming in the many pools, sight-seeing, and floating in the Dead Sea. And the sunset! Oh my!
After a long week of presentations and training, it was the perfect way to end the week - and their visit. A good-bye meal concluded their day and then it was off to the airport to begin the journey home. (and to Cambodia for Dennis)
Dennis and Micah both agreed that it was a phenomenal trip. Not only did they experience warmth, kindness, and generosity from the AAJ leadership and staff, making new friends and mutually encouraging one another, they did it TOGETHER. And they will never forget it.


The view of the courtyard from their room.


Sunset. Like liquid gold.



The Dead Sea!


Floating in the Dead Sea - and loving every minute of it!



Mt. Nebo - the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.
Such history in this country! Rich, wonderful, biblical history!

Micah returns tomorrow afternoon (YAY!) and Dennis continues on to Cambodia for another week of training teachers. Pray for him if you will! For energy, good sleep, physical strength, health, and a clear mind to train the teachers and administrators in Cambodia. He travels there every year - and always looks forward to his time in the country and with the people.
And we are thankful the Lord is using him to serve and encourage educators in their field.
Dennis loves what he does. His passion is teaching and he loves sharing that passion!

8.16.2018

A most excellent study with my girls!


My COMMITTED girls!
We just started a fantastic study on the Proverbs 31 woman.
Our pastor chose this chapter as his text for Mother's Day, and it was one of the BEST sermons I have ever heard preached on this icon of virtue. Often, when women hear the phrase "Proverbs 31 Woman" they groan. Audibly. Why? Because she is held up as the standard for all women, and not just any standard, a perfect, unrealistic, and unattainable standard. So we walk away feeling discouraged and disheartened after comparing ourselves to her because, in the comparison, we are found wanting.
But not this time!
Our pastor did a superb job communicating that a) she was not a real woman, but an ideal created by a mother for her beloved son, b) the character qualities we see in her are qualities every Christian should possess whether married, single, male, or female, and c) her attributes should be seen as virtues to strive for, emulate, and rejoice over - not used to compare and despair.

When the girls and I met together in June, we discussed the sermon at length, including our convictions and desire for making purposeful, tangible efforts to grow and mature in the areas for which this woman is praised. After a lively discussion, we decided to pull the sermon apart and study each main point. Instead of listening to the sermon one time, calling it terrific, and moving on with life, we are going to dissect it, point by point, verse by verse until we know this woman so well we feel like she is one of our best friends!

The next seven months will be well spent studying this passage in depth as we ask the Lord to reveal to us where we need to grow and encourage us where fruit is already evident. And the best part is - we will do it TOGETHER! ❤

The monthly assignment:
- listen to the entire sermon
- listen (again) to the specific point we are studying
- record the areas in which you already see success
- record the areas in which you need to grow and mature

The first study - VIRTUE.

She is strong in character in all facets of her life
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. v. 17
She is a woman of commitment - honor - strong opinions
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. v. 25
Virtuous is translated "able or capable" - powerful, strong, admirable, competent
Her commitment to character is directed to her husband and family, and their lives are enriched because of her
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. v. 12
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her ... v. 28
She adds reassurance and riches to her husband
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. v. 11
She adds to his reputation
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. v. 23
 This husband excels because he has an exceedingly good wife
 She is strong - she is spiritual - she is a substantial woman
 She is her husband's cheerleader, advisor, lover, helper
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Genesis 2
✽ She is his helper
✽ She is his equal
She is discerning - she is wise
A virtuous wife uses her strength and excellence to benefit her husband and her children
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” v. 28, 29

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31

8.15.2018

Dennis interacts with Jordan!

Today, the Inclusion Forum in Amman, Jordan hosted by Alliance Academy Jordan came to a close.
And Dennis could not be more thrilled with the outcome!
All of the passion and planning he invested into his portion of the conference were well-rewarded by an enthusiastic and thoughtful group of leaders and educators who share the same goal of including, serving, and encouraging students with special needs and learning needs in the classrooms of Jordan.

Because he can articulate the details much better than I, please enjoy a synopsis of the event written by his own hand.

Day One
The day was a lot of fun.
The AAJ staff is so very passionate about serving all students well and they went the extra mile to put their best foot forward at this event.
The audience participation was excellent.
The country is ready to see this initiative gain traction and the Inclusion Forum served as a wonderful catalyst for providing executive-level decision makers, and, more importantly, teachers, the opportunity to hear from professors, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and parents about the important role that teachers can play in the lives of children with learning needs.
The speeches were wonderful, given by AAJ Director Nathan Greenfield and honored guests, including HRH Prince Mired Ra’ad ZZaid Al-Hussein and the Minister of Education.
I gave the keynote speech and highlighted my gross ignorance of learning needs and accommodations in my early years of teaching, and then shared that my very own children served as significant change agents in my perspective regarding those with learning needs. Caleb was the hero of the story and I always choke up with I retell the day he shined like a star at Camp Eastman on behalf of a child who had some physical and cognitive needs.
I then presented three workshops during the course of the day that featured learning need awareness and universal design principles for the general education classroom.
The teachers in the room were quite responsive and incredibly kind and thoughtful about how to best serve students. Overall, it was a stellar start and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow!

Day Two
The day was eventful to be sure!
Great attitude in the room and a genuine desire to learn more about serving students well.
The intent of a conference such as this one is to bring awareness and invite a catalyst for attempt- starting with the people who interact daily with the students.
When I was a young classroom teacher I really believed I was reaching all learners. My class was interactive and the students appeared engaged. Those unfortunate few who had trouble were in need of greater effort. They needed to change their practice. This glaring professional blindspot clearly revealed I did not understand the difficulties and daily burdens that each student was compelled to bear. It was also plain that my classroom practice would have to change. Simply put, a change of heart to change my daily practice.
Unfortunately, "simply stated" and "simply accomplished" are not the same.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower once said, “There are no victories at bargain prices.” This is very true when working with students. Change is sometimes painful but necessary.

The conference was more than an invitation to consider inclusion, it was about changing hearts and minds to do something about inclusion for all students in all classrooms.
This will no doubt cause disequilibrium for teachers who have employed a “one size fits all” form of a learning experience, but it is pale in comparison to the effort being made by the student who has to learn in spite of what the teacher is doing.
Jordan is a great country with big-hearted people who are generous and hospitable. It is my hope that the teachers at the conference were deeply encouraged and will use the momentum of the conference to make significant traction toward helping students with the greatest needs.
Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to hopefully influence teachers to employ an attitude of attempt toward all learners every day.

(Dennis') Presentations at the conference:
-Keynote Address: Inclusion begins with your attitude
-1: Help me understand: Walking a mile in the shoes of a student with learning and emotional needs
-2: Creating an environment of motivation in the classroom
-3: Creating an environment of attempt in the classroom
-4: Universal design for learning: Differentiation for all learners
-Wrap Up: Atmosphere of attempt or agony: Teacher attittude in the classroom


Dennis and Micah with the Academy Alliance Jordan leadership and staff.
A tremendously gracious, welcoming, and passionate group of people!


Their hosts surprised Dennis after the conference with a quick field trip to an ancient ruin
 of a church dating back to 4,000 B.C. To quote Elsa from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
He was as giddy as a schoolboy!
This man never loses his enthusiasm for antiquities!

Thank you, THANK YOU, to everyone who prayed, encouraged, supported, and showed interest in this trip. As always, the Lord used his time in another country to challenge and shape and grow my husband in unique and beautiful ways. We love who he is when he leaves, and we love the new pieces the Lord adds to him while he is gone. Those he ministers to benefit from his expertise and sincere enthusiasm for what they are doing on behalf of students, and we benefit from the way those interactions mature and refine him as an educator, a husband, a father, a man, and most importantly, a child of God.

And thank you, to the entire leadership team and staff at Alliance Academy Jordan, for trusting Dennis to speak to the hearts and minds of the leaders and educators in Jordan. He was honored to be asked, he was honored to serve, and you made him feel welcome and wanted from the moment he stepped off the plane. You are a blessing - and we are grateful for you!

8.14.2018

Micah shares his story with Jordan.

Dennis writes:
Today Micah and I had the opportunity to speak about the topic of inclusion of all students at the Inclusion Forum in Amman, Jordan hosted by Alliance Academy Jordan (Carol Jadoun). HRH Prince Mired Ra'ad Zaid Al-Hussein was in attendance. Micah was animated and articulate during his speech. It's not about us. This was a Proverbs 31:8-9 opportunity. Super proud moment today!

I was not there to hear him, but the tears flowed freely as I read his speech, remembering, and praising God for how far He has brought our son. So far, in fact, that today, Micah stood in front of influential government officials and royalty - and shared his story. Not in shame, but with honesty and joy. He can rejoice because as difficult as school was for him, he DID IT. He didn't have gold tassels hanging around his neck on graduation day, but he had confidence and peace in the knowledge that he persevered and pushed through tremendous obstacles to earn his high school diploma.
I echo Dennis, "Super proud moment today!"
Well done, Micah! I am proud of you, but my love for you far outweighs my pride. ❤ Mom

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

Dyslexia Speech - Jordan 2018
Micah Eastman

Good morning!
My name is Micah Eastman, and when I was nine years old I was diagnosed with dyslexia and mild
ADHD.
In the days of my youth, it took an hour to read the simplest of books and the aggravation that math produced was cruel and unusual punishment. Writing offered similar challenges for the duration of my elementary years. I dreaded the very idea of picking up a pencil. A one-page writing assignment would take me twice as long to complete as other students. It was not uncommon for a session of tears to commence at the beginning of each paper.
Interestingly, though I was struggling with school, my loquaciousness led many to believe I was a decent student. So much so, my mother was convinced I was being lazy in my studies when really, I was trying my best.
I became aware of how academically incapable I was when around the age of eight when I spent a week with some friends from another school. Since we were in the same grade, I joined his class for the duration of my stay.
I consider the time spent in that class one of the more humiliating experiences of my life. The teacher was discussing things that I had not yet learned and even though the concepts were repeatedly explained to me, I could not comprehend them. What the teacher was asking of me seemed impossible. It wasn’t a matter of effort, I simply couldn’t do it.
As I blankly stared at the pages, tears of frustration welled in my eyes. I came to accept the fact that I could not do the work. I now sat completely defeated, bouncing my knees to the ticking of the clock in hope that the day would soon come to an end.
Unfortunately, my self-confidence was dealt another blow when I was handed a video game and told to sit off to the side as my participation was not needed. However, the video game was not a reward by any means, this action by the teacher only cemented my frustration more firmly into place. All I could think was, “What am I missing?” “Why is this making sense to everyone but me?”
For the majority of my elementary and high school years, nearly all subjects caused frustration, anxiety, and tension. Embarrassment and low self-confidence plagued me throughout my high school career, specifically, during my junior and senior years of high school where each day felt like a constant reminder that I was neither smart nor able to make a meaningful contribution in my classes.
After all, it did not help that I was a senior attending classes designated for freshman and sophomore students.
In many subjects my grades did not mirror the effort I was giving. This constant mental punishment in and out of the classroom led me into significant depression. I am convinced that it is only by God’s
grace that I am standing before you today. Though I have some painful experiences, it is my hope that they will be useful to assist others who have struggled like I have.
It was my parents and a small collection of teachers that changed everything by offering compassion and understanding regarding my areas of educational and emotional needs. This group of patient educators chose to encourage my strengths rather than emphasize my weaknesses, especially in the area of music.
For as long as I can remember, my favorite outlet has been music. My dad owned an extensive collection of music and quite frankly I could not get enough of it. As a young boy, I recall lying on the floor eating sliced apples and humming along to classic rock and roll. My love and passion for music steadily grew as my dad educated me in music history and trivia. Learning how to play guitar and drums allowed me to thrive creatively. Finally, I had found something I was naturally good at. Music is a safe place for me and I realized I could be really good at something that I really enjoyed. For the first time in my life, I discovered something in which I excelled and was not afraid to share with others. Personally, I believe everybody has an area in which they can excel but it often goes unnoticed.
Many children believe that they have nothing to offer because no one came alongside them to capitalize on their strengths and help them navigate their weaknesses. If there is anything I’d tell my younger self I would say, “Your contribution matters, don’t let the book break your brain. Just because you learn differently does not make you lazy or dumb.” 
This reminds of something my dad frequently says, “The question asked of students should not be, ‘How smart are you?’ but ‘How are you smart?'"
The Lord has used the gift of dyslexia for good in my life even when I thought it was a curse. 
I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story with you today and hope it will inspire you.
Thank you.


Micah's hero and model - Dennis.
From the time he was a boy he said, "I want to be just like Dad."
And now, they are serving and ministering TOGETHER.
The Lord took what was frustrating, difficult, and disheartening, and turned it into something AMAZING. And Dennis and I will always be grateful for the gift of our son - and - the gift of dyslexia.



Micah - HRH Prince Mired Ra'ad Zaid Al-Hussein - Dennis
The Prince possesses a passion for serving students with special needs and learning needs, so his presence at the conference was a tremendous encouragement to the educators in Jordan.
(And he was quite gracious to take a photo with the Eastman men!)


Dennis - Carol Jadoun (Alliance Academy Jordan) - Micah
Carol is the one who started all of this! And we are so thankful she did. ♥

8.13.2018

Dennis and Micah explore Jordan! (Pt. II)


Here they are - overlooking the land that was promised to Moses by God! The PROMISED land!




"A piece of a Roman column that would make a perfect end table!"
(If Dennis could fill his office and our house with ancient artifacts - he would!)


Tapestries in the Church on Mt. Nebo that are some of the best mosaics in Jordan, dating from around 530 A.D. This masterpiece is a hunting and herding scene.


The site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
(the water is in front of them)



Micah at the Jordan River.
(People were being baptized on the steps behind them.)

And now - the week of teacher training and the conference has begun!
All the months of preparation and prayer have brought them to this place - and they are eager and ready to go! Dennis sent me a text this morning asking me to pray for the hearts of the people to be open, but the truth is, the Lord has already gone before them and prepared the way! As He always does.
The Alliance Academy Jordan team, Dennis, Dr. Costa, and all of those involved in the conference have worked hard to prepare, and they have bathed every detail in prayer. It will be thrilling to discover how the Lord uses these next few days to educate and encourage those in positions to create lasting and life-altering change in education for students with learning needs and special needs.
 Ignorance is bliss, but once we are aware - we are accountable.
Praise God for bringing these educators and leaders together "for such a time as this."
It is an EXCITING time!

8.12.2018

Exactly what I want to do.

A jealous God will not be content with a divided heart; He must be loved first and best.
- C. H. Spurgeon

... know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39
And there is no other god besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Isaiah 45:21

This quote. These verses. On their own, they are enough. 
Enough to convict.
Enough to encourage.
Enough to remind us that nothing must come before the Lord.

This song.
It makes the quote and verses come to life in a tangible and powerful way.
The first time I heard it, I was speechless. Overwhelmed. Broken. For music breaks me - every time.
The song is on my favorite playlist, for it is one I need to hear and sing often because no matter how many times I crush my idols, there is always another one taking shape to replace them. And sometimes, I am part of the design team. And I hate it. So - I sing. I sing as loud and as intensely as I can so I am able to hear myself preaching to myself. 
A jealous God will not be content with a divided heart; He must be loved first and best.
I can only love my God first and best if everything and everyone else is pushed out of the way.
Including myself.
And loving Him first and best is exactly what I want to do!

"Clear The Stage" - Jimmy Needham
(I encourage you to listen to this song here ... and pray while you do!)

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too
Until the congregation's few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social
Then seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

'Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

'Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

We must not worship something that's not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it

Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol

'Cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to

And we can sing all we want to
And we can sing all we want to
We can sing all we want to
And still get it wrong
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols

8.11.2018

Dennis and Micah explore the beauty and history of Jordan!

From Dennis:
We are in Amman, Jordan in all of the photos.
It is one of the oldest capital cities in the world dating back to 13th century BC!
We are in the Amman Citadel, a Roman stronghold that housed temples, stables, an aqueduct, and more.
We ran around some ruins in the old city of Jordan this morning. We took photos at the temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, a cave that was made into a house 2000 years before Christ was born, and climb the steps of an amazing outdoor amphitheater that was made in the first century.
It was amazing and wonderful, and Micah and I both had a great time!



It just wouldn't be a true Eastman photo shoot with poses!
And these two? Two identical peas in a pod.





"Won’t fit in our carry-on or checked bag!"
Dennis finds great pleasure in collecting dirt and rocks from around the world. It makes him feel like he "owns the world!" I, on the other hand, just see dirt.
Sometimes, his zeal is harmless, while other times he has come close to creating an international incident.
(Ask him about The Great Wall of China story!)
So, of course, he thought it would be funny to send me this photo. <insert eyeroll>


Theater circa 161A.D.


A cave made into a house during the Bronze Age 2250B.C.


Dennis also favors national pride. He loved this Jordan flagpole which measures 200x100 feet, stands 415 feet high, and can be seen for 12 miles.


Their hosts have welcomed them in and treated them like royalty!
They get to explore more today, and attend church and spend time with Jordanian believers tomorrow. What a privilege to worship with brothers and sisters in another country, and mutually encourage one another in the faith.
For, though the global church looks, speaks, eats, and lives differently - we are ONE in Christ!
Praise God for such diversity and beauty in His church!

8.09.2018

Dennis and Micah - in Jordan.


Dennis and Micah are safe and settled in Jordan!
And this is the view from their room - JERUSALEM!
“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people,
from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 125:2
This is so exciting!
All of their hard work and preparation are about to be used to bring awareness and understanding to educators and leaders in Jordan who have the passion and the power to affect CHANGE and make a significant and lasting difference in the lives of students with learning needs and special needs.
Praise the Lord for stirring up the hearts of educators and government officials in Jordan to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” and serve students and their families in unique and helpful ways.
They are changing lives, one by one, day by day. 
And it is BEAUTIFUL!

8.03.2018

Be INTENTIONAL. Find your BEST WAY!

How do you learn things best?
Listening?
Watching?
Doing?

How do you REMEMBER the information you learned?
Repeating it verbally?
Writing?
Art?
Music?
Movement?

We all learn, process, and interact with information differently. We all take the information in. The question is, what do with it once it gets there? This question matters because it affects how we spit the information back out, and how we implement it in our daily lives. Especially when it comes to Scripture.

James tells us, But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1)

So how do we transition from HEARING to DOING?
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8
It is a prescriptive verse.
Do not let Scripture leave you

Meditate on it day and night

So that you will do everything written in it

Then you will find success

The key phrase in this verse is to meditate on God's Word - all day long - from the moment we rise until the moment we rest our heads on our pillows. It is a lovely thought. A beautiful image.
So what does it mean to meditate?
The dictionary defines it this way:
med·i·tate: to engage in contemplation or reflection
: to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
: to focus one's thoughts on : reflect on or ponder over
: to plan or project in the mind : intend, purpose
synonyms: chew over,  consider, contemplate, mull (over), ponder, ruminate, study, think (about or over), 

And then there are these fanTAStic quotes to consider!

"Meditation will keep your hearts and souls from sinful thoughts. When the vessel is full, you can put in no more. If the heart is full of sinful thoughts--then there is no room for holy and heavenly thoughts. If the heart is full of holy and heavenly thoughts by meditation--then there is no room for evil and sinful thoughts." - William Bridge

"It often astonishes me that I did not see the importance of meditation upon Scripture earlier in my Christian life. We must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts. The most important thing I do, is to read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might is comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved and instructed." - George Mueller

"The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word, is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation. Without meditation, the truths which we know will never affect our hearts. As a hammer drives a nail to the head, so mediation drives a truth to the heart. Read before you meditate. Reading furnishes with matter--it is the oil which feeds the lamp of meditation. Be sure your mediations are founded upon Scripture. Reading without meditation is barren and unfruitful; meditation without reading is dangerous." - Thomas Watson

"Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather let my soul soak in half a dozen verses all day, than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up into your very soul, till it saturates your heart! Set your heart upon God's Word! Let your whole nature be plunged into it as a cloth into a dye!" - Charles Spurgeon

It seems fitting now to ask again ...
How do you remember information? And more specifically, how do you remember the things you read in Scripture, the sermons you hear, the quotes you read about holy things?
Verbally repeating them?
Writing?
Art?
Music?
Movement?

If we will take time to assess our learning styles to articulate how we learn best in school, figure out how we process and analyze data effectively to increase productivity at work, and understand the different love languages in order to better love our spouse and children, wouldn't it be wise to apply all of these same efforts to our time spent in the Word of God and in prayer? Of course!

Wouldn't it be an absolute joy to find our BEST way to mediatate on the truths of God's Word - and then make it a daily practice?
Meditating while writing out the truths of Scripture.
Meditating on the insights of a sermon while on a run.
Meditating on the beauty of a verse while painting by the natural light of God's creation.
Meditating through words while sharing what you learned with someone else.
Meditating on the promises of God while turning them into lyrics on a page.

Imagine the countless, creative ways in which we can think, ponder, consider, and contemplate the beauty of God's Word. The opportunities are endless!

But it must begin by getting the Word of God IN our minds. We cannot meditate on something which does not exist. Read Scripture. Listen to Scripture read out loud. Listen to sermons. Add worship music written directly from the pages of Scripture. And then - let the meditating begin! Don't settle for mediocrity. Fill your mind with the things of God and then think about those things ALL DAY - in the way you think best - and enjoy the blessings and joy that come from obeying God's command!
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

"But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2

"I meditate on Your precepts, and consider Your ways." Psalm 119:15

"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long." Psalm 119:97

"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises."
Psalm 119:148

8.01.2018

"Please! Let's go HOME!"

When I was in North Carolina with my college roommate during the spring, we had a discussion that sounded exactly like the conversations we engaged in while sharing a dorm room 25 years ago. The topic? Faithfulness and consistency in reading the Bible. And we asked the same questions we asked decades ago. Why, when we know how beneficial, wonderful, encouraging, and life-changing it is to be in the Word every day, do we neglect it? Why is it so easy to neglect it? Why can't we be more disciplined? <deep sighs>

Thankfully, we are no longer silly 18-year-old college girls who will justify anything and make ridiculous excuses for disobedience. We are middle-aged women who know there are no excuses for disobedience other than sin. Every day our Bibles sit on the shelf unopened is because we choose not to read them. Every day we rely on our own ways and our own understanding instead of trusting in and waiting on God is because we choose not to pray. Every day that goes by without a deeper understanding and knowledge of Scripture is because we choose not to meditate on the truths of the words written within.

So we should not wonder why we are frustrated, exhausted, feeling helpless, confused, or without direction. We choose to be! The moment we drop the anchor that holds us fast to the Rock of all ages, we are going to drift, bob, and roll as we are tossed about in the sea of selfishness and sin. And the only remedy is to fix our eyes on the Rock and swim toward it with every ounce of energy we possess until we reach it, and then, we must cling to it until our fingers go numb. For the Rock never moves. It is never buried beneath the waves. It is always visible, always stable, always secure. Always available. Our God never leaves us or forsakes us.

But we forsake Him. Instead of keeping our gaze fixed on Him, we break eye contact. We look around instead. We compare and despair. We walk away. Sometimes we run. We try things "our way" for a change because our way seems best. But we hear Him calling. We know He is there, for He is always there. But we know if we look back we will not be able to resist His gaze. We will not be able to resist His outstretched arms or His tender expression of love. So we steel our will and continue to look the other way. We keep moving, in the wrong direction. We pretend it's all fine. We pretend we are happy. We have control now, don't we? And it feels good. For a time. Until we fail. Small failings, large failings, somewhere in between. We can't fix it. We are tired. We are embarassed. We want to go home. Where He is waiting. But our pride screams, "No! Get cleaned up first. You can't let Him see you like this!" So we stay in the darkness longer, thinking we can hide our filth and our scars, not realizing that His eyes pierce through the blackest of nights, and He sees every detail. He wants to see every detail. He knows us. He knows our ugliness, our weaknesses, our foulest of sins. He knows. Yet He calls out, "Come." Because He loves us. He doesn't want us to wait until we are clean and presentable, He just wants us to come HOME.

Will we?
Will we drop everything, including our pride, to run into the waiting arms of the Father?
The Father who knows everything we have ever done. Everything we have ever said. Everything we have ever thought.
And loves us despite it all.
Will we come?
Will we, like the prodigal son, confess our sin and seek forgiveness from the only One who can offer complete redemption and restoration?
Will we let Him rejoice over us with dancing because we were lost, but now, we are found?
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15


Will we choose the Savior over selfishness and pride so we no longer need to stumble lonely and blind in the wilderness?
For no matter how far we have strayed, He is always waiting for us - to come HOME.



Come out of sadness from wherever you've been
Come broken-hearted, let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, oh sinner come near
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal

Lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless and all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table, come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary, rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in His arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning, oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow, that heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow, that heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are