Thursday, December 15, 2011

The M&M's Christmas Story...

I love it when creative people come up with awesome ideas for everyday, ordinary objects.  Take M&M's - simple, candy-coated chocolate with M's (or W's if you have them upside-down!) - a candy that most everyone have eaten at one time or another.

And yet, with this everyday, ordinary candy, someone saw deeper into the M's & W's - and came up with this little lesson on Christmas:
I found this awesome graphic HERE - a fantastic blog, by the way!

I don't know if this lady came up with the idea and others followed or if she used the story and added her own graphics.  Either way, you have a wonderful and simple way to share the true message of Christmas to others - whether it be a Sunday School class, your neighbors, etc.

This Christmas, may you look deeper into everyday, ordinary things and find something PRAISE-WORTHY!
Merry Christmas!
:) Mags
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You are God's Masterpiece!!!

When I was in college, I had an assignment in my Art For The Elementary Teacher class to construct something that showed a change between "fantasy and reality."  I created a life-size paper-mache horse mask that turned into a glittery unicorn when you inserted the horn up through an opening in his head.  It's huge and unwieldy, but I was quite proud of it (got an A+), and even though I took that class nearly 2 decades ago, the horse head is still in our basement and has followed us through two moves.  My husband even wore it when our son was 2 and dressed as a cowboy for Halloween - letting Jack upon his back in a "horsey-back" ride while they went trick-or-treating. :)

This is a masterpiece to me - it might not be the prettiest thing to you, but I worked hard on it!  But what if my horse had a mind of it's own... the free will to make it's own choices?  Even though I spent hours... days!!... crafting him with my own two hands, what if the horse decided that I really didn't know what I was doing after all?  What if the horse was positive that what I really meant to create was this:

I would be frustrated, angry even!  That's not what I meant to create!  I CREATED what I meant to create!  I smoothed on the paper-mache.  I brushed the strokes of paint.  I attached the long, black mane!  I didn't mean for a green mane, or a hoop pierced through my horse's face, or pink, bloodshot eyes.  I certainly didn't mean for pink zebra stripes to mar his majestic face!

A friend of mine posted this crazy-disturbing link to people who have mutilated their bodies with extreme piercings, full-body tattoos, and something horrendous called "scarification-cutting" where people carve and brand pictures into their skin!  These pictures make me sad.  I can't imagine the pain receiving these mutilations - and I can't imagine the pain that person might be in who felt they NEEDED these "adjustments" to their bodies.

And I couldn't help but wonder what God thought of these "improvements" to his masterpieces...

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Deuteronomy 32:4 (NIV) says, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he."

God doesn't make mistakes.  God doesn't CREATE mistakes.   When Adam and Eve allowed sin into their lives, they paved the way for all kinds of sin to creep into ours.  And while we have the free will to mar and mutilate our bodies in a whole variety of ways, or choose activities and actions that blatantly go against the teachings of the Bible, or assure ourselves that "God" was the wrong one, it doesn't make it true.  And it doesn't make it okay.

I struggle with weight.  I fluctuate between 4 different sizes depending on how I take care of this body.  I can blame a low metabolism (yeah, I don't actually have this), fast food restaurants (French fries are such a weakness!), the rain (it's too depressing to exercise), the sun (it's too hot to exercise), God-"made"-me-love-food (so it's not my fault), my skinny friends (why can they eat anything and I can't?!!), whatever.  The bottom line is that MY poor choices can turn this body into a blobby mushbag, and my wiser choices can help keep it working better and longer.  The choices *I* exercise over this body are my responsibility alone.  The choices *I* make to mar one of God's masterpieces are, again, my responsibility.

Perhaps if we start to view ourselves as being "fearfully and wonderfully" made, in God's image, we would be less likely to justify our poor choices that hurt and harm our bodies, and more likely to take ownership of the masterpiece we have been entrusted to care for.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; 
      you formed me in my mother's womb. 
   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking! 
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made! 
      I worship in adoration—what a creation! 
   You know me inside and out, 
      you know every bone in my body; 
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, 
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something. 
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; 
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you, 
   The days of my life all prepared 
      before I'd even lived one day.
Psalm 139:13-16, The Msg

Take care of you,
:) Mags
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

God and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - Part 2

I should probably clean my shower floor more often... because using that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sure inspired a few different ideas for posts!  You can read Part I here.

But on to a different tangent....

I saw a funny quote that said
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways... covered in scars... body thoroughly used up... totally worn out... and screaming, "WHOOOOO-HOOOOOO! WHAT A RIDE!!!"

And I got to thinking about the talents that God gifts each of us with and THIS story from the Bible:

It's also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master's investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master's money.

After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. 

The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: 'Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'

The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master's investment. His master commended him: 'Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'

The servant given one thousand said, 'Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.'

The master was furious. 'That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this "play-it-safe" who won't go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.'
Matthew 25:14-30

I imagine that when we get to Heaven, God would be most pleased for us stagger in with a body so completely and thoroughly used up because we had exhausted ourselves to the bitter end using up the talents and gifts and blessings that God gave us.  Like the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser... it starts out like this:

And after it has done it's job and it's all used up, it looks like this:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, when we finally get to Heaven, we have so completely and thoroughly used up the talents gifted to us from God, that we look like a used Magic Eraser?  Okay... maybe not THAT graphic-- but you get the point!  How gratifying would it be to stand before the Lord and say, "You gave me these gifts, and HERE is all that I was able to do with them.  Thank you?!"  And how magnificent would it be for God to reply, "Well done, my good and faithful servant?!!"

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, it is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

God wants us to be smart... but not to live SO cautiously that we forget to use our God-Given talents and gifts to help others.  Maybe you have a talent for speaking, or singing, or writing, or teaching.  Perhaps you are super-good at organizing things (come to my house!), or great with technology, or just have a way with people.  It may not be a talent you use in your job (but wouldn't that be cool?!), but God sure would be honored if you'd find many ways to use your gifts.

I think sometimes we forget about our spiritual gifts as we grow older.  Think about what you really, REALLY loved as a kid/tween/teenager... and when did you start moving away from those things?  In my 8th grade yearbook, I wrote that I wanted to be an actress or a writer (technology as we know it now had not been invented yet - I would have written "special effects designer for Skywalker Ranch and George Lucas" had I known that was an option!).  As a teacher for 7 years, I WAS an "actress" at times... getting kids excited about math (when it's my least favorite subject), pretending that I was thrilled when a student brought me 20 cicadas at recess... assuring the principal that lunch duty is, of course, my favorite thing to do... *wink* 

But one of my favorite things-- writing-- fell by the wayside (probably buried in all the papers I had to grade!).

Every time I post an article to this blog, I am using a gift that God gave me to bring glory to His name.  Every time someone leaves a comment here on the blog or on the EverydayPlaces Facebook page, I get a thrill that something I wrote was well-received by someone else.  When I write, I can take this small seed of an idea... and, hopefully more often than not, turn it into something special.  And when I use my writing talent to bring glory to His name, I hope he is pleased.

I also love to scrapbook - and have been scrapbooking in some form or another since I was 15 years old.  You may wonder how in the world one can combine a talent for scrapbooking with bringing Glory to God, but I was able to teach two different Scrapbooking Bible Studies at my church!!   The scrapbooks created by the ladies who took the classes were stunning!   When you can combine something you really, REALLY LOVE with a way of honoring God... well... the results are guaranteed to be amazing!

God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful!
1 Corinthians 12:4-11

So what do you love?
What are your talents?
And how can you put them to good use for God?!!

:) Mags
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

What Does a Bald-Headed Cleaner-Guy and Jesus Have in Common?

We have this walk-in shower that is all one piece (floor and walls) - the engineers that designed it tried to create a no-slip surface by subtly mottling the floor.  I don't know about "no-slip" (get some conditioner on it, and it's quite slick!), but those little divots sure get dirty quickly... and are nearly impossible to clean!

Enter the Mr. Clean Magic Bathroom Eraser... (*pause for Superhero music):

With a little effort, the dirt that has fused itself to my shower floor "magically" disappears!  What's interesting is that the little white brick started off looking like this:

But now looks like this:

Aside from the fact that it's NASTY, notice that after it removed? absorbed?  all of the stains (leaving my shower floor sparkly-new again), the sponge-like pad is deformed... dirty...broken... completely used up.  

JESUS did that for us.

Jesus was like the brilliantly-white, new Mr. Clean Magic Eraser who came down to earth to clean up our mess.  By the time His task was complete, He was tired... broken... and completely used up.  He was the "Magic Eraser" to our sinful lives.  And, because of Him, we can be shiny new each day... every time we ask for forgiveness.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

 ... What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-19ish (MSG)

I'm thankful that every day (every hour or minute if I need it!), I can ask for forgiveness and receive it.  I can be washed clean with Jesus the "magical eraser" of sin.

:) Mags

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guest Columnist: Tia Thomas & God on the Highway

My friend, Tia Thomas, wrote a most wonderful devotional that I've been given permission to reprint below.  It totally follows this blog's theme of opening your eyes to seeing God in everyday, ordinary places; she found God on the highway of all things!!  I hope you enjoy her story - and please consider leaving a comment; I know she'd appreciate reading your encouraging feedback!!

I Found God On The Highway
by Tia S. Thomas

Yesterday, as I was driving down the four lane, I saw a man and a blind woman walking along on the shoulder of the road. With one hand, she was tapping along with her cane, with the other, she was holding his elbow. Cars sped past them going 50+ mph, less than 3 feet away. It occured to me how scary it must be for her to hear those vehicles bearing down on them, so fast and loud. But still, she walked. And then it occured to me, how much she must trust him to guide her. One wrong step, and she would be in the path of the traffic. One stumble, and she would tumble down the bank on her right into the creek below. But still, she walked. Forward, into unknown darkness that lie ahead of her. Her source of security was her hand on his elbow. The thing is, he could see where they were going. He saw the path, he saw what was ahead. She just had to trust him, hang on to him and most importantly - go where he led her. If she pushed him away or went against his lead, she would have been in serious trouble.

Then, it occurred to me, that is me. That is all of us. We are blind to what lies ahead. We can't see the future. We tap along with our plans, our preparations trying to anticipate what lies ahead, but the truth is, life is far too unpredictable and dangerous for us to rely on our plans and preparations. What we need is a guide who can see what is ahead and we can trust to lead us to where we are going. 

We have that. But why do we try so hard to push Him away? 

We try to forge ahead on our own, tapping along in the way we think is best. But He can SEE when we can't. All we have to do is take his arm and trust Him. We have to trust Him completely though, follow him no matter what - one wrong step, one stumble and we will tumble off course and it will hurt...big time. The traffic is bearing down on us and it is scary! We can hear and feel it all around us.  Satan is throwing things at us left and right. We can't see them coming. They take us by surprise. We ask, "Why did that happen?" God says, "I saw it coming. I led you out of it's path but you pulled against me."

Oh, and why were they going down the shoulder instead of the sidewalk?  The sidewalk would have been smoother, easier, right? Yes, it would have been, but further down the road, they needed to take a right. If they had been going down the easy path, when they came to their turn, they would have had to cross through a very busy, very dangerous intersection. By taking the more difficult path to get there, they were able to avoid an even more difficult situation down the road. She couldn't see that, but he could. That also happens to us. Sometimes, things are difficult, bad things happen. There are holes and obstacles in the path that God is leading us along, we ask "Why didn't you lead me around that God? I'm following you!" He says, "I didn't lead you around it, but I am leading you through it". Maybe, just maybe, God is leading me down a difficult path to avoid an even more difficult future.

Could that be it? 
I can't see it, but He can.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

I Found God in a Puzzle...

I'm part of the Christian Women's Bloggers Network on Facebook.  There, Christian bloggers can network, increase exposure to our respective blogs, and read some FANTASTIC blogs from other Christian authors.  I read one today that really got me thinking.  It was a short devotion called "Broken For Whole" and talked about how God wants us to come to him, broken, so that HE can heal us and make us whole.

It got me thinking about puzzles.  My kids love puzzles, but they approach them VERY differently.  Jack is the logical one.  He turns all of the pieces over (this may seem obvious, but wait until I explain his brother's methods!), separates the edges and corners, then sorts the remaining pieces by color before even starting the puzzle.  He begins working from the outside-in, glancing at the puzzle's photo often as he methodically matches up the pieces.

Luke, on the other hand, dumps the pieces into a random pile.  He hardly even turns them over let alone sorts them!  His eyes scan the haphazard heap and he grabs two pieces that seem to match by either their puzzle-y edges or their colors and then puts them together.  Click!  They fit!  He continues on this way, barely looking at the puzzle photo, building the overall picture from the inside-out!  My husband and I really don't even understand his thinking (our brains work more like Jack's) and can't fathom how Luke sees the connections between the pieces the way that he does.  But this crazy method works for him. ;)

Either way... the end result is the same:  the puzzle is completed.

But what if you finished your puzzle and found that one, lone piece was missing?!!  What if you spend hours and HOURS sorting and scanning and comparing and working to finish this multi-hundred-piece puzzle only to find that one piece wasn't there?!!!  It wouldn't matter that the puzzle was "ALMOST" finished - it's still missing a piece!!!

That is your life without God.  Unfinished... incomplete... really, kind-of a waste of time, actually!  Because all of that working and and living and trying is fruitless if you don't include God in your life!  Life is hard enough; you need ALL the pieces!  

Furthermore, just like the HUGE differences between the ways that Jack and Luke each complete a puzzle, your life journey is going to be unique.  I started this blog because I was sure that there had to be other people out there who were floundering and frustrated with not finding God in the "ordinary" places... in church, in private school, etc.  My methods and experiences to placing that final piece into place (CLICK!) were along a twisty, windy road with many, MANY dead ends.  I'm just grateful that God is patient... and never gives up on one of his children. :)

If you can't see the whole picture, then perhaps you are missing a crucial piece to your life puzzle.  God is the final piece!  And with God, your life-puzzle becomes more than just a jumble of mismatched pieces... your life becomes a MASTERPIECE.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 (NLT)

------- Additional Note -------

If you've read Nicole's original post and then mine, you still don't have all the pieces... because my friend Cindi wrote a follow-up to this about trying to do things your own way withOUT God and how the pieces just don't match up.  Be SURE to read on HERE NEXT!  It's a fabulous conclusion to this idea!

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Blog Make-over & new Facebook Page!

Thought it was about time this blog got a makeover so I worked on it tonight... new background, new header... what do you think?

Also - I've created an Everyday Places Facebook Page - by "liking" it, you'll be able to see notifications on your Homepage of new posts.  I'm an inherently lazy person - and Facebook is the very first place I go every morning to check the latest news... so if you are anything like me, having one place to see all of my favorite blogs is GREAT!  I really hope you'll "like" the page and share it with your friends and family.  I'm feeling a calling to really work on this blog - but since I'm a totally comment-junkie, I need all of the feedback and encouragement I can get!

Hope you all are having a good summer - we are in the middle of select baseball tryouts for my older son.  His team's coaching staff kind of "imploded" at the end of the season and the team broke apart.  Tryouts are VERY competitive - I've been saying little prayers to God that Jack finds new team.  He LOVES baseball and really wants to play at this level... but the competition is FIERCE!  Hopefully we'll get good news soon!

On a different note, we visited with my parents and nephew today.  Want a glimpse of God?  We watched Jack (age 10) play with his 2-year old cousin, Connor.  Connor was afraid of a book that had bugs in it (Sam's Burger and Sam's Sandwich); Jack was so gentle and kind... showing him how the book was just pretend.  He even got Connor to TOUCH the "bugs!"
 If only we had that kind-of patience ALL the time! I was really proud of Jack today!

Hope to see you all on Facebook!
:) Mags
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Found God on the Clearance Rack...

I love a good bargain!  I have a cozy winter fleece (that heavier Sherpa fleece material) that I once found for just $2.00 on the clearance rack at Kohls.  It makes me smile every time I get to wear it - because it is one of my favorites... and it was so ridiculously cheap...(and because wearing it means it's finally really COLD... my very favorite weather!).

But while I love to find massively discounted "THINGS" on clearance, I certainly wouldn't want a PERSON to feel that they are so "worthless" that if there was a people-clearance rack, they would be on it.  I saw this quote today on Facebook:

If you're not being treated with love and respect, check your price tag.  Perhaps you have marked yourself down.  It's YOU who tell people what you're worth by what you accept.  Get off the clearance rack and get behind the glass where they keep the valuables!  Value yourself more... because if you don't, no one else will!

We all have times when we feel worthless, low, cheap, or on that clearance rack.  Sometimes it's the result of how we let others treat us - or how we treat ourselves.  But God views EACH of us as unique and priceless... each of us matters.

What's the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
Luke 12:6-7 (The Msg)

You have worth.
You are valuable.

So if you are feeling like you've been placed on the clearance rack, how have you gotten there?  What can you do to get off?!  Stand up for yourself!  Pray for wisdom in your choices, strength to deal with others' un-Christianlike behaviors, and the peace of mind to follow through with what you know is right.  Surround yourself with Christian friends - people who can love and support you... and treat you right.

You have worth.
You are valuable.
You are priceless.
And God loves you.

You don't belong on the clearance rack.  NO child of God belongs on the clearance rack!  

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out:
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.
Psalms 139:13-16 (The Msg)  

So stop letting people walk all over you!  Stop letting events "happen" to you and start being proactive in living the life God has planned for you.  Whether that means disengaging yourself from bad influences, or taking control of your finances, or ceasing the endless train of bad decisions you've been making.  God has big plans for you... so start praying and talking with God to find out what those plans may be!  You know He has your best interests at heart - and that He considers YOU to be so precious, so valuable, and so loved!

“God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God, He created them. Because you are made in God’s image, you are a reflection of His glory and valuable. God loves you and made you to be like Him."
Genesis 1:27

You have worth.
You are valuable.
You are priceless.
God loves you.
Act like it.

Thinking of you today,
:) Mags
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Found God in Falling Skies...

I'm constantly looking for a Buffy-replacement.  So far, nothing has matched my all-time favorite show, and most shows I end up liking don't make it past one season (No Ordinary Family, V, etc.).  But, I've found new one on Sunday nights on TNT that I am loving...!!  It's called Falling Skies with Noah Wyle.  Alien invasion, great action, and intriguing characters are just what I like... and I discovered a happy surprise while watching it... There's a Christian character!  And for once, she's not a freaky religious caricature of what a Christian is truly like!!!

"Lourdes" (played by Seychelle Gabriel) is a pre-med student whose college education was interrupted by the alien invasion of the Skitters and Mechs.  She helps in the clinic of one of the resistance bands, and routinely (normally!) displays her Christian faith in each episode.  We see her pray before each meal, openly discussing her faith to the other characters (even if they don't agree - or even have any faith of their own), and... my favorite... when she prays over photos of each of the missing children posted to a bulletin board.  She doesn't preach - she leads by example, and she doesn't back down when other characters make fun of her or dismiss her faith as "pointless."

This character does what we, as Christians, should ALL be doing... letting her actions show others that a faith in God will give us strength in the hard times, enable us to see outside of ourselves to help others, and though our everyday, ordinary actions, show how our faith in God has transformed our heart, our mind, and our actions.

People are usually leery of those "freaky, religious people" infiltrating the workplace or social settings outside of church.  I confess that I have a BIG freak-o-meter, myself!  I can't stand meeting pushy religious people who seem to be play-acting their faith.  The trick is to be "normal" - to "naturally" share your faith in small, authentic ways... to gently lead others by example.  God can change someone's heart; He doesn't need you do do His job.  But you can open a door by being the kind of person who represents God authentically with honor, integrity, and honesty.  There is a great article about naturally sharing your faith in the workplace HERE.

Falling Skies is not a religious show.  It is a show with guns and bad language and survival in a post-invaded world.  There is violence, and fear, and grief, and hard choices... the alien-invasion part may be make-believe, but the human feelings are common in many situations in our real-life world.  But God makes our life better when we let Him work through us naturally... in everyday, ordinary places... and allows us to lead others to Him.

What can you do to share your faith naturally?
The World Is Not a Stage
 1 "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. 2-4"When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—'playactors' I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
Pray with Simplicity
 5"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

Matthew 6:1-5 (Msg)

You can win more people to Christ with your everyday, ordinary behavior than you can preaching at them.  Leave the preaching to the Pastors, and lead by quiet example.  Your example just might be the one thing someone else needs to come to know Christ.

Take care of you and yours,
:) Mags
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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Farewell "Jesus Pants" - Part III of the "Cursed Pants"

One of my favorite series of posts are on my Jesus Pants - a pair of khaki pants that seem to attract stains.  In my first story about them, I referred to them as the "cursed pants" - a post that talked about the cycle of sin and forgiveness.  Then my perspective changed - "cursed" is too harsh a word for these amazing pants - they are Jesus Pants!  They accept the stains to keep other clothes from being ruined! :)

Unfortunately... a couple of weeks ago, the Jesus Pants met their end... but God is not without a sense of humor, that's for sure...!!

I had worn my Jesus pants on a date with my husband.  We went to Qdoba for lunch and were stopping by the grocery store after (I know, I know... when you've been married 15 years, a kid-free grocery store visit IS a date!! - LOL!).  We'd been all through the deli aisles, the bakery area, the fruit and veggies, and the pasta/Mexican aisles when I zipped ahead of David (who had the cart) to skirt between two older ladies who were clogging up an aisle.

When David caught up to me, he could barely speak, he was laughing so hard!  I was backed up against a display as he leaned down and told me that my pants had a H U G E rip across the backside!!!

Apparently all of those cycles of bleach had finally worn them out and my favorite pants how had a 7" tear at the very top of my thigh in the back!  I had been flashing the world for several aisles already!!!

Fortunately, I still had my "winter" purse - a bigger messenger bag style so I shifted the bag to hide my behind, and slowly walked out to the car to wait.  When I got there, I could tell this tear was big -- mainly because I could feel the seat of the car on my upper leg!!

God has a great sense of humor.  Rather than a quiet end to these great pants, they got a BIG send-off!!  I hope He was laughing in Heaven -- not at my expense, of course -- but at the general hilarity of the situation.  The pants are gone - but its stories will not be forgotten!

Take the time to find humor in the world around your world.  Our God is the One who created the giraffe (with a tongue long-enough to clean out it's own ears), the annoying mosquito, the freaky naked mole rat, and the horned frog.  This is a God who obviously likes jokes!

:) Mags
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Friday, May 27, 2011

My God Is NOT Anonymous!

I REALLY like it when awesome things happen to people and they remember to thank God.  Too often we run screaming to God BEGGING for "HEEELLLLPPPPP!!!" when things go sour, but then forget to run screaming to him shouting "THHAAANNKKK  YOOOUUU!!!" when we've been blessed.

Fortunately, this week, there have been some great examples of people remembering the Lord...

1. Scotty McCreery won this year's American Idol.  One of the FIRST things he said, to the ENTIRE cheering audience was "I've got to thank the Lord first; he got me here!"  In fact, every week over the course of the competition, Scotty has taken the time to give thanks for his successes.  How fantastic is that?   This blog article written by a person from his hometown area further explains how God has blessed Scotty AND how he has openly offered this thanks to Him.  It is so refreshing to see someone in the public light, with thousands of fans (many of them tween kids) seeing a role model who is opening faithful to God.  Rock on, Scotty!!

2.  Tornadoes have been ripping through areas of the US this week.  One even touched town briefly in Liberty Township, OH which is just a few miles from our house!  Despite "only" being an F1 tornado (the 2nd weakest), the short 100 yards it hit were devastated.  Take THIS house:

YIKES!!  Hannah Hawkins (17) and her Mom were asleep UPSTAIRS when the tornado ripped the roof and walls off of the second floor in the middle of the night.  As the father ran up from the basement (after hearing his daughter screaming), he could stare right up into the night sky.  The ROOF WAS GONE!  

There is a wonderful article in today's Cincinnati Enquirer chronicling this scary event.  The Hawkins' across-the-street-neighbor, Kelvin Scott, found one of his cars completely flipped over.

  This is what he said about the tornado:
“God preserved everybody in this neighborhood. This is all just material stuff. Cars, homes can all be replaced. But human life cannot. So God gets all the praise. He was looking out for everybody in this neighborhood last night.”

God gets all the praise.
This should be our mantra - in every awesome moment, in every quiet success, in every GOOD thing in our lives, to give thanks AND to tell others of the blessings we've received.
I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart;
   I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1 (NIV)

God does NOT want to be anonymous.  He wants you to share how He has blessed and changed your life.  Whether you blog, or Facebook, or witness, or just talk amongst your friends, be sure to weave in a comment or two that shows others that your God is not anonymous, and that you are thankful for His blessings everyday!

:) Mags
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Monday, May 16, 2011

I Found God in Fake Rabbits...

One of our pastors told us this story on Sunday:
A pastor went to visit a home.  At the house, lived a retired greyhound racing dog.  As the pastor waited to talk to the family, he decided to talk to the dog.  "Why are you retired?" he asked.  "You look to be pretty healthy." 

The dog looked at him and said, "I am healthy.  But I quit."  
"Were you not any good?" asked the Pastor.
"I was very good.  I won the races many times," replied the dog.
"Were you treated poorly?"
The dog considered this.  "Conditions for a greyhound are not the best," he admitted. "But that's not why I quit."
"Then why?" asked the Pastor.
"Because," answered the dog.  "The 'rabbit' I was chasing wasn't even real."

Think of all of those greyhounds... chasing that fake rabbit.  Around and around they go thinking that they will be successful... thinking that they will snag that bunny.  Yet every time, the race suddenly ends, the rabbit disappears, and the dogs shake their heads in confusion.

"It was right there!" 
"I almost had it!"
"Just another second...!"
"Why are we stopping??!"

How many times do we chase fake rabbits?
How many times do we work, and work, and work for something only to see that it wasn't nearly as good as we thought it'd be?   A new car... a promotion... expensive clothes...?  How many of us remember the days in high school or college where we were encouraged to make "Goal Lists?"  Where will you be in 5 years?  In 10 years?  How often did these lists include things like I will be the boss of my company....  I will make a 6-figure salary...  I will have a big house and nice car....

I once had a neighbor who moved away because she wanted an "executive house" -- a house that reflected the stature of her husband's very "important" job.  Nevermind that her current house had 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a screened-in back porch, and really cool neighbors*. (*wink)  Ignore the fact that her only child had already left for college and it was just her and her husband.  The need for something MORE overshadowed being grateful for what she already had.  And how long would it be before the new "executive house" was suddenly not flashy enough...?

Mark 10:17-21 talks about the rich man who wants the "secret" to getting into Heaven...

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
   18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

If God came to you today, and told you he could give you a ticket to Heaven right now IF you would give up everyTHING to follow Him, would you do it?

I think for most of us, including me... that would be very hard.  My mind would be racing... trying to weigh the pros and cons of a "sure thing ticket" vs. keeping my stuff and finding another way...

Fortunately God isn't exactly say that... but He is telling us that STUFF can get in the way of our relationship with God.  It could be physical STUFF like overspending on your house, cars, vacations, etc.  It could be the poor choices you make with your time, talents, and money.  It could be the secrets you keep:  adultery, cheating, porn, addictions.  While all of this STUFF might make us feel safe or in control, it becomes a substitute for trusting God.  As our pastor reminded us:

Until you LET GO of what possesses you, you will never be FREE to follow Jesus.

My husband and I are big fans of reality TV - and the Hoarders show is especially disturbing.  These people are plagued with an addiction that forces them to collect STUFF:  be it food, supplies, or animals.  They are tormented with the feeling that there is never enough... and it leads them to unspeakable living conditions.

While we may not stockpile 300 cans of green beans (unless you're one of those Extreme Couponers and it was a really good deal...), we still have our own Hoarding issues.  We hoard our THINGS:  our TV's, our cars, our electronics, our hobbies, our money.  And while God doesn't need us to dump everything, He does want us to put our stuff into perspective.  

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle 
than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:25

He who dies with the most toys... still dies... and leaves one heck-of-a garage sale.

NONE of our THINGS will get us into Heaven.

So be generous.  Use what you need.  Share your blessing with others.

And, stop chasing the fake rabbits.
:) Mags

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Friday, April 29, 2011

It's okay to be Second...

When I was a first grade teacher, asking the kids to "line up" at the door was always comical.  First graders cannot just walk to the door.  They *must* run as fast as possible, elbowing every other child out of the way as they race to be FIRST!!  No matter how many times I sent a kid to the rear of the line to be the "Leader of the Back," I could always count on the fact that the next time we lined up, that same kid would again smash his or her way to the front of the line.  The desperate need to be first rarely lessoned.

Kids ALWAYS want to be FIRST.... And when you think about it... grown-ups usually want to be first too:  the first to get the glory, the big paycheck, the best house.  "Keeping up with The Joneses" is a never-ending competition for some families.

For example, we have some great friends who once built a house.  All of the other houses in their neighborhood were also newly-built and just had dirt yards.  Everyone was just trying to grow grass.  But our friends had a plan... in the middle of one fall night, under the cloak of darkness, our friends snuck outside and planted 100 daffodil bulbs.  They were hoping that come spring, while everyone sat back looking at "just grass," their house would have this EXPLOSION of COLOR as all of the daffodils sprung up, seemingly out of nowhere.  They would actually BE "The Joneses" for that brief moment.  Everyone in the neighborhood would want the yard with all of the bright and happy daffodils.

It still makes me giggle... imagining them sneaking out to plant all of those bulbs at midnight...!  But the need to be "first," can actually take completely rational, educated adults... and turn them into crazy people.

This week, I took Jack and Luke to see the movie, Soul Surfer.  It's the story of 13-year old Bethany Hamilton who, in October 2003, had her left arm eaten off by a shark while she was surfing.  Do you remember being 13?  The peer pressure?  The social angst?  I know that when I was 13, if I wore the wrong clothes to school, I was a complete mess.  I cannot imagine having the fortitude to just shrug off the stares of other people and say, "Yup... I am missing my arm... let's move on."  (or something similar!).  

Bethany credits her faith in Jesus for her amazing attitude.  Instead of wallowing in the "WHY ME?!!!!!" stage, she grabs her surfboard and figures out a way to surf one armed... enough that she wins a national championship just 2 years after her shark attack.  Since then, she has used her fame/notoriety/infamy to show God's love to others.  She has figured out that God had a plan for her all along - that He never abandoned her - and that He has allowed her to do more with one arm than she ever could have done with two.

Can you imagine the sheer number of people - kids and grown-ups alike - who have been inspired by her story?  People who have suffered incredible hardships or pain?  I know that I'm feeling a little less inclined to complain about stupid stuff... I keep hearing Woody's voice from Toy Story, "Did you hear what I said? I AM MISSING MY ARM!!!"   My frustrations or problems seem a little bit dumb when you compare them to this.  And when you compare your own issues to the major pain and suffering that Jesus experienced through the crucifixion?  Well... it's much easier to accept that "I am second."  GOD is first... He is in control... and He has a plan... for each and every one of us.

Bethany Hamilton figured out that she doesn't have to be first either.  She's willing to sit second to God and let Him work miracles through her.  Want to hear it in her own words?  

Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One.
I was dead.  But look!  I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys to Death and Hell.
Revelation 1:17 

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20:16

:) Mags
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