What uncommon things do we want to become common?

Things like:
our children having mutual love and respect for each other.
our teenage children having love, honor, respect and obedience for their parents.
us continually becoming better friends and lovers.
our family totally trusting God in all things and putting our faith in Him to fulfill his promises.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Key to a Joyful Life


By Chelsa

In my wonderfully full and busy life, I usually don't spend much time reading. I love to read good books, but I have a hard time fitting it in (someday the time will come :-). Last month on one of our cross show trips, I was given an incredible book by my friend, Nell. She couldn't say enough good things about it. She really thought I would love it and she wanted me to read it. So, on our 16 hour trip to Atlanta I was finally able to finish it... and start it again, this time reading more slowly and deliberately underlining all the meaningful parts. Sometimes it feels like I don't know what part not to underline! This book ranks as one of the 3 best books I have ever read. "The Bible" being number one and "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom being the other great book. I can read these books over and over and still learn something new and insightful each time. The title of the book Nell gave me is called "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.

I love this book so much because it's a testimony to the transformative power of God in a life that chooses to yield to Him. Ann has found the key to obtaining the holy grail of joy that every Christian longs for, including me. Another reason I'm drawn to this book is because Ann is so open and real with her struggles and feelings towards God as well as being honest with her own sins and shortcomings. I love the fact that she is so humble and grateful and full of grace. She has discovered that having a life full of joy is not only attainable, but is possible to have anytime, anywhere.

I want that.

I want unending joy. I want my life to reflect his glory. I want to show my love to Him by noticing all the beautiful gifts He gives me each and every day. I want to give Him thanks over and over again...to never stop thanking and being grateful. This is the way to adore God, to truly commune with Him. In the book she talks about how a tragedy caused her to clinch her fists tight and how she is learning to open her hands to receive whatever God gives. I want my hands to be a symbol of my heart, too. I want my hands to stay open wide, continually receiving His gifts. Open hands can't hold on to gifts, but they can allow others to come and freely take these gifts from my hands and enjoy them, too. Lord, help me not to clinch my fists tight, not to harden my heart, but to accept with gratitude what comes my way, even the hard things. Give me a heart of thankfulness even when I can't see how it could possibly be good. May I always trust you. May I always know that you are always good because a good God can only give good gifts.

Creg was teaching in Matthew 6 last week at the prison and he said this verse has taken on new meaning since I have been telling him about this book.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

If the vision of your soul is clouded by the black spots of resentment, anger & pessimism, then your whole body will be full of rage, revenge, & bitterness. That's dark, and you'll probably be in need of medication. However, if the light of thankfulness & gratitude is what you allow to come in, then your whole countenance will change & it will be obvious to everybody.

We pray for hands open to receive and give, and a vision full of light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rewards


By Creg

Who knew having so much fun could be this rewarding. Last year Samantha joined the Hawley Saddle Club & began participating in play days at their arena. She rode Roman, her 22 year old gelding, in barrel racing, the flying w, poles & all of the other events. She loved riding & we loved watching. At the end of the year banquet she ended up in 2nd place overall in the pee wee girls division (ages 9-11). Her prize was the stirrups you see in the picture.

As we talked about rewards over dinner one night I told them I was teaching Matthew 6 that week & we read verses 19-20 & talked about what that means.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.


I told them that when I was a freshman in high school I looked in the varsity dressing room & they had a small name plate of all of the All-District players through the years. I was determined to do every thing I could to see my name up there one day. Well, 4 years later I made it. My name was on the wall for all to see for all time. Except it wasn't. Two years later I came home for a visit & went to talk to some coaches at the school. When I went in the locker room to admire my accomplishment, it was gone! There was a new coach there & he changed the whole dressing room. My name plate that I worked so hard for had a new permanent place; in the trash.

Sierra then reminded us of her feelings about getting a Golden Retriever a year & a half ago. She said, "I thought that getting the perfect dog would make me happy all of the time, but it didn't. When I bought Skye it didn't bring the satisfaction that I thought it would. That's when I knew I needed to become a Christian because I realized that only Jesus can satisfy like that."

Our prayer is that Samantha, and the rest of us, will realize where our true treasures are.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Gifts, Samaritan Woman at the well, & Tim Tebow

By Creg

What was your favorite Christmas gift ever?

I could go on for days about the Christmas' at my house growing up. My brother & I would pour over the Sears catalog & make a list of page numbers, item descriptions, & prices to give to my parents. After double checking to make sure we didn't go over our $100 limit we would turn in our dream sheet before Thanksgiving.

What was the favorite gift you ever gave?

That would have to be some homemade Veggie Tale characters for Sterling when he was 3 years old. He had all of the major characters because we could buy them at the store, but he wanted some of the minor characters. So we decided to make them ourselves & I'll have to say Chelsa did a very good job. We even put real screws in Frankencelery's neck. They were a work of art if I do say so myself. They were my favorite gift because of the true joy they brought him over the next several years.

Which brings us to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

She goes to the well at noon to avoid people because of her adulterous affairs (Gen 24:11). Yet after just a few minutes with Jesus she goes into town to talk to the people she has been trying to avoid. Notice that Jesus doesn't follow her to make sure she says everything just right. He entrusts her with His message. The message is a gift. Do you think a woman of her reputation has been entrusted with anything before? God entrusts all of us with His message & it should be our favorite gift to give because of the joy it brings to those who receive it.

How does Tim Tebow fit into this discussion? He is a home-schooled high-schooler who won the Heisman Trophy & a national championship in college & is now the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. If you have heard any of his interviews you know exactly where he stands spiritually. I think he knows the value of the gift because he lets everybody know what he believes. He has the attitude of, "If you don't want me to talk about Jesus, don't ask me a question. Jesus is a part of every aspect of my life. If you want me to tell you about that touchdown I will, but first let me tell you who my Lord & Savior is."

Back to John 4. I'll bet the Samaritan woman talked like Tim Tebow for the rest of her life; telling everyone who would listen about the message Jesus had entrusted to her. Now she goes to the well in the late afternoon when all the other women go. She's not trying to avoid them anymore because she has a great message to share. Imagine a conversation at the well when another woman asks, "Could you pass me a bucket, I need to draw some water." She replies, "Sure, but first let me tell you how to get living water!"

May we be as bold for Jesus.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chasing after the Wind


By Creg

Jerry West led Univ. of West Virginia to the NCAA title game in 1959, tying a tournament record with 160 points in five games. He was co-captain of the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Rome in 1960. He then led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals six times in his first nine years and was an All-Star in each of his 14 Lakers seasons. After retirement he was voted into the Hall of Fame & named one of 50 greatest players of all time. He also had a great wife & 3 kids.

Doesn't that sound like a man who has everything? He recently published a book about his life and I read an excerpt from Sports Illustrated. It does not have a happy ending.

After losing in the NBA Finals for the sixth straight year, his depression nearly annihilated him. Someone once described Jerry as a man who forgets everything-except a grudge. A man who needed someone, anyone, to fuel his fire. His identity and his game were built upon grudges. He had to constantly create enemies to motivate himself. All those times the stress sent his heart into crazy drumbeats that could last for days or weeks, his breath speeding into rapid, shallow gulps that left him ventilating into paper bags at halftime to keep from fainting. His thoughts stampeding until it was impossible for him to sit still and concentrate. His depression was so dark he wouldn't speak to his wife for a week, wouldn't say hello or goodbye to anyone, wouldn't desire anything except for a sleep from which he'd never awake. "You feel like you're in a forest at midnight. There have been a number of moments when I haven't wanted to live, when I felt so hopeless. Nights I went to bed and hoped I wouldn't wake up. Suicide? It isn't a coward's way out, like people say. It would take enormous courage. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm just telling the truth.”

He was named the MVP of the Finals anyway-the only losing player ever to win that honor-and flew to New York City to receive the Dodge Charger that came with it. An idea crept into his mind that he couldn't shake. He wanted to place a stick of dynamite in the car, right there in mid-Manhattan, and blow it to pieces. “That is when I started to get out of control, began doing whatever I could to ease the pain. It became a sickness and it became my way of coping... . I would lose myself in women, a lot of women.”

A strange thing happened in May 1972. Jerry played the worst NBA Finals of his life. The Lakers beat the Knicks in five. Jerry was a champion! Hooray... ? "I never felt the fulfillment when we won," he says. "All I thought about was all the times we'd lost. It'll haunt me till I die."

"I'm fighting the same battles inside. I see people who are calm. I see people laughing and happy, and I think, Oh, my God, I wish I could be like that. If I knew how, I'd be the happiest person in the world, because everything else has fallen in place for me. This should be a time of freedom. I've led a charmed life externally but not internally.”

What has fame & fortune brought him? Constantly holding grudges & creating enemies, dealing with depression by committing adultery, dedicates his life to winning yet wasn't satisfied when he won, never able to achieve the peace and joy he so desperately wants and sees in others.

I know someone who can bring peace & joy.

When I was going over this with my family Sierra said, "I used to be like that. I always had to win & if I didn't I got real mad. [She gets that from her mother :) ] After I was baptized I asked God to help me with those feelings. The Holy Spirit has changed my attitude. This year when I played football I did my best but if we lost it wasn't a big deal."

Sierra knows something that Jerry West doesn't. We all have a God-sized hole in us that can only be filled by Him. The more we try to fill it with something else, the more frustrated, depressed, and heart -broken we become.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
Ecc. 2:11

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quenching the Spirit

By Creg

The weekend after our trip to Arlington we had a show in Fredericksburg. We enjoyed the results of our pre-show prayer so much that we prayed it again, hoping for another spirit-filled adventure. While we were setting up, James, in the booth behind us, kept asking us religious type questions and I was intrigued. I had felt the Spirit leading me to him just as He led me to Windy Kai's husband the last show. When I found out James was a missionary, I was sure that God wasn't leading me to him, because missionaries don't need any encouragement from me, do they? So I spent the whole weekend trying to find out who God wanted me to speak to, sure in my mind that it wasn't James because missionaries have it all together, don't they?

I found out that he had been to Russia several times to help plant churches there and now he was selling those 5-in-1 Russian nesting dolls that you put inside of each other. He brought some back from his travels; including a set of the Beatles, one with presidents, a lot of sports teams, and much more. I was fascinated by the detailed artistry on the smallest ones, which were about the size of a half a pea. Do the painters spend all day squinting?

Sunday afternoon when the show was almost over he came over to our booth & just started talking about his life. A couple of years earlier his wife got cancer & he didn't handle it well. When she recovered she took their 4 kids & left him. She then called all of their supporters & told them lies about him so they would cancel their financial support. He had no family, no ministry, and no hope.

The Spirit led me to a man in desperate need of friendly encouragement & I blew it off because I thought I knew better. That's called quenching the Spirit.

Forgive me Lord.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

God wants partners


By Creg

Last weekend Chelsa & I were in Arlington to sell our stone crosses (like the one pictured at left) at a Peddler Show in the convention center. Usually when we sell crosses we pray that we will enjoy meeting & talking to some new customers and that we have a good show. This time we decided to pray that God would show us someone whom we could encourage, maybe even another vendor. We don't get a chance to talk with customers very long but we thought God might be leading us to another vendor because there would be plenty of time to have good, deep conversations over the 3 days.

After we set up our booth I was thinking about what we prayed for, wondering to whom God might want us to witness. When I looked up my eyes immediately went to the booth across from us. It was filled with paintings and there was a man sitting in the back of the booth reading a book. I thought, "Is it him? Is he the one with whom I'm supposed to talk?" "What am I going to say?" Instead of quenching the Spirit like I do so often, I got up and went to talk to him. After a few minutes of talking I found out his wife was the artist and he was just watching the booth until she got there. I went back to our booth thinking, "That must not have been who I was supposed to talk to." To make a long story short, Chelsa and his wife, Windy Kai, really hit it off and had some good meaningful conversations. Chelsa shared our story and really encouraged Windy. We were blessed as well. I wish I would follow the Spirit's lead more often.


On Sunday morning we went to church at Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ with the Monroe's. Their son Brandon goes to the same church we do in Abilene. The sermon was on David and Goliath and the whole time I was thinking how the Bible is filled with story after story of God trying to find people who trust in Him to partner with Him. To know that He is faithful in fulfilling His promises to His people. That's the only thing that set David apart from all of the other Israelites. They were afraid of Goliath and David wasn't. David knew that God would fight for Him when no one else would. It sure is joyful and fulfilling when we partner with God and let Him show His power in restoring and empowering people.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Faith = Risk Part 4

By Creg

If I said I had faith that a new casserole my wife was trying out was good, what should I do? What about having faith that my 11 year old daughter can drive? Or that the guide knows the way home. If you really had faith in those circumstances, what would you do? Eat the casserole, get in the car and follow the guide. Right!

Do we really have faith in God? Do we really believe that His promises in the Bible are true? Even the ones about our giving, Him giving us strength, us having no fear, our praying boldly, us not worrying, Him providing for us, our faith changing things, that truly following Him is life. If we really did believe those promises what would we do?

Three years ago my friend Clay had just finished up his second year as the deputy sheriff of Jones county completely overhauling the department at the wishes of the new sheriff who hired him. What should follow would normally be a more relaxed work schedule after 2 years of late hours. However, Clay knew God wanted him somewhere else doing something different, so he resigned. Now he volunteers his time & effort to minister to churches in Abilene where he & his family recently moved after selling their ranch.

Maybe having faith in God's promises causes one to leave a successful, comfortable, country life to live in a small house in town just to be more available to help people.

In October of 2009, Jim, my friend & former roommate, now an associate dean & law professor at Pepperdine, was attending a Conference in San Diego. Bob Goff, one of the speakers, encouraged the audience members to “do something” to help those in need because “love does.” After hearing that message Jim said he felt an undeniable urge to “do something,”

The next year he traveled to Masindi, Uganda to visit a juvenile prison where there were 21 inmates between the ages of 13 and 17. Many of them had been there for nearly two years awaiting access to justice. They had all been charged with crimes, though none of them had a lawyer or a court date. Most of them were innocent. Two brothers, Henry and Joseph, had been charged with murder in conjunction with a mob killing in June of 2008, even though the undisputed evidence showed that both were in school when the murder happened. In the summer of 2010 Henry was finally released and resumed his schooling at the Restore Leadership Academy where he is currently #2 in his class.

(This picture is Jim with Joseph & Henry.)

This January Jim, along with his wife and 3 teenage kids will spend 6 months in Uganda where he will be working for the Ugandan Judiciary helping to improve their court system. His wife will be teaching English at one of the juvenile prisons. A link to his blog "Throwing Starfish" is at the top of our home page. If you want to know how to convert a witch doctor read his post "A day I will never forget."

Maybe having faith in God's promises causes one to leave the comfortable Malibu lifestyle to spend half a year in an African country helping those who cannot help themselves.

Faith is boldly going out on a skinny limb, embracing the uncertainty, while praying unsafe prayers, knowing the farther we go and the more the limb bends, the happier He is. Because in His kingdom, limbs have a habit of bending more than we could imagine before catapulting us to greater heights and broken limbs have the unusual characteristic of levitating.

When we don't have the guts to step out in faith God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.

I think Clay & Jim know that faith = risk.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Satan Knows Martial Arts


By Creg

Last weekend we were in Austin for a few days, part business, part pleasure. Sterling & Sierra had their last football game Thursday & Chelsa & I were selling our crosses at the Hog-Eye Festival in Elgin on Saturday. We have never seen so much pig paraphernalia in our lives, but the sausage was outstanding. Their motto was "bringing warm hearts and hot guts." That made a convenient time for us to stay with my friend & former roommate Kent & his family at their house in west Austin. Kent was excited to show me his latest workout regime, Ju Jitsu. He had been taking lessons for several weeks & I provided a fresh grappling partner. He explained that the origin of this martial arts discipline was so a smaller, weaker person could have a self-defense against a bigger, stronger person. The idea is to use your bigger muscles against your opponents smaller muscles. I soon got the idea when he used his legs to wrap around my torso & pull my arm at an awkward angle so I would submit to defeat. My arm is still sore.

The devil works that way too. He knows where you're small. He knows where to attack you to get you to submit to him-anger, lust, deceit. He knows fighting a Christian toe to toe in the open is a defeat for him because of the power we have available to us. Think of the demons every time they came into contact with Jesus. They cried for mercy. The devil knows he can't win if we allow God to fight for us like the Israelite's in Exodus 14 mentioned in the last post.

Does He still do that?

In chapter 3 of his book "Radical" David Platt tells the story of a missionary he met in Indonesia. His name was Raden and he was a Ju Jitsu fighter before he became a Christian. One day Raden was sharing the gospel with a family in their house when the village witch doctor came up to him and wanted to fight. Raden smiled as he thought, "I'll take this guy down in seconds." But when he got up to go outside he felt God tell him that he didn't need to fight, that God would fight for him. So Raden walked outside, pulled up a chair, and sat down in front of the witch doctor. He told his challenger, "I don't do the fighting. My God fights for me." As the witch doctor attempted to speak, he began to gasp for air. He was choking and couldn't breathe. People came running to see what was wrong, and within minutes the witch doctor was dead. Raden thought, "I had never seen anything like this, and I didn't know what to do. But I thought, I guess this is a good time to preach the gospel." Many people in the village became Christians that day.


Have you ever let God fight for you?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Are Your Opponents Bigger, Stronger, Faster?




By Creg

My daughter Sierra & son Sterling play for a home-school football team here in Abilene called the "Wind". Sierra, #11 is on the left & Sterling, #78, is to her left. The picture on the right is Sierra carrying the ball.

John 3:8 is our verse & "Run with the Wind" is our motto. There are 14 players from ages 12 to 14 and they play 11 man [I mean person :) ] tackle football, so there are not any complaints about playing time. Two weeks ago we played a home-school team from Dallas. They had 26 players from the metro-plex area and 1 who drove from Oklahoma to play for them. They had the biggest, strongest, quickest, most aggressive group of players I have ever seen in 19 years of coaching junior high football, by far. We competed fairly well against them but they eventually wore us down and won the game.

Whenever your opponent is bigger, stronger, and faster than you it makes success seem more difficult to attain.

Do you remember a similar situation with the Israelites in Exodus 14? God had delivered them from Egyptian captivity and led them toward the Red Sea. When Pharoah decided to give chase the Israelites were surrounded by the Egyptian army, the desert, & the Red Sea.

What's the usual reaction when your opponent is bigger, stronger, and faster?
12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

In their minds they had already lost. But God spoke.
4 I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.”

How will God gain glory for Himself?
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today."

If the Israelites are supposed to be still then whose going to do something?
14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

So what happened?
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

When we are living in the Kingdom of God we can forget about all of the battles we think we need to be fighting & let God win them for us. What might those be?

"Since I gave so much to the mission fund, I'm worried about my finances." "If I study with her she might ask a question that I don't know." "If I show mercy to him, he might take advantage of me." "I'm not sure I can make myself more available for ministry because I might not be able to pay the bills." "I'm not smart enough to teach my own children at home." "If I cut back on my work schedule to spend more time with my family, how will I provide for them?" "I'm too shy to lead a Bible study group."

In vs 21 above, the Hebrew word for wind is Ruah, which means wind, breath, or spirit. It is the word used for the Holy Spirit. How often has God sent His Spirit to help us and we ignore it because we have already let our minds lose the battle before it starts; imprisoning ourselves through worry, angst, fear, being overly cautious, trying to figure everything out on our own and solving it ourselves. We need to remember that God is faithful & trustworthy, giving us power through the Spirit.

I like our mascot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Christian Hospitality


By Creg

It's been amazing to see the people & opportunities that God has brought into our lives for us to provide a living for our family. Last fall we were hired to cut crosses out of stone & sell them at craft shows & festivals. Our boss, Randy, gets stones from all over Texas & I cut them in our back yard. It has made us really appreciate God's handiwork in His creation. The colors & textures of these beautiful rocks are amazing.

For out of town shows we decided to try not to get a hotel room. Although Randy pays for all of our expenses, we thought it would be fun and frugal to go to places where we had family or friends in the area so we could stay with them. We thought it would be a good chance to catch up on some friendships while saving Randy money. This past weekend we went to the Balloon Festival in Plano. When we found out that some friends, Bill & Linda, from my hometown had moved there we were excited about the opportunity to visit with them. When I saw the hours for the festival, ending at 10pm each night, I didn't think there would be a chance for us to spend any quality time together. Thankfully it rained in the area Friday night, so they closed the festival at 7pm. Maybe God knew that we would be blessed by spending several hours that night taking turns telling how God has worked in each of our lives.

That got me to thinking. If we actually did our job as Christians, we would put the hotel business out of business. We could also close most homeless shelters. We could end poverty tomorrow. The prison recidivism rate would plummet. And just think of the relationships that would be built & strengthened while practicing the heart of God. How different could things be if we really loved our neighbor? Thanks Bill & Linda for uplifting spiritual conversations.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marriage


by Chelsa
Most Tuesday mornings I walk with a good friend of mine, a young lady who is entering into a possible marriage relationship in the near future. She is so excited about the possibilities. Their relationship is so healthy and strong. She is such an encouragement to me and a Godly young woman with wisdom beyond her years. We have wonderful conversations together. During these walks we dig down deep into each others hearts in an attempt to sharpen one another in the Lord. One summer morning a couple of months ago as we were walking along, she asked “Chelsa, when was the last time you and Creg went on a 4-5 day get-a-way by yourselves?” I laughed inside and thought, “She must not realize how busy our family is or how close we are. We do everything together with our children. Why would we want to go anywhere without them? Plus, all the farm chores! How could we leave all that work for the kids to do?” I snapped out of my thoughts and felt a little silly telling her I couldn't remember a time since we celebrated our 10th anniversary in Oregon 8 years ago. She was taken aback, shocked really, and she gently reminded me that the marriage relationship was the most important earthly relationship we have.

She was right. And I knew it. After we prayed together and parted ways, her comment kept tugging at my heart..."The most important earthly relationship we have." The most important. And I started thinking...Do I really see Creg as the most important relationship I have in my life? Do I long to spend time with just him? Do I enjoy being with just him? I confess that I had trouble answering yes to those questions. Yes, we love being together with our kids. We enjoy doing ministry together helping others. But what about just the two of us? Do we still love to be together or have we slowly drifted apart? The more I thought about our marriage relationship, the more I realized we needed to follow her advice. Maybe not 4-5 days, but at least a couple of days where we could just focus on each other. I realized that I had been his “help-meet” by fulfilling duties and responsibilities, but it really wasn't all that fun anymore, and there just wasn't very much joy in our relationship. We've been married for 18 years and we have both grown spiritually and in other ways and in other relationships, but our marriage was suffering. It was obvious to me now. We were taking each other for granted and going through the motions. Somewhere along the way we had stopped seeing each other as the God given treasure we were meant to have: Heirs together in the gracious gift of life united together. We weren't truly enjoying each other's company anymore.

After lunch at Creg's parent's house, I told them about the conversation I had that morning. Creg blurted, "Four days! Remember, we have 4 kids & a farm." "So much for that idea," I thought. Then Kay, Creg's mom, said, "I think y'all should go. We'll keep the kids & take them to do all of the chores." We both lit up & immediately said, "OK." I told Creg that we needed to stop and think about what's happening within our marriage & family (Sierra just turned 15!). It's time to work through some tough questions and slow down enough to enjoy each other.

So we decided to go to Dallas a couple of weeks ago and take our much needed break. We didn't have any plans except for attending a Truth Project training seminar and going to worship at Farmer's Branch Church of Christ. We didn't go to many places or do many things other than going out to eat a few times and taking a walk by the river. It was great just focusing on and enjoying each other and becoming better friends, partners and lovers. We talked and listened. We repented and forgave. We hugged and kissed. We came home with a renewed sense of purpose and unity. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful our time was. This trip was the beginning of the transformation our marriage! The Lord has been gracious to us yet again and has blessed us with each other. But this time we realize how blessed we are!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It will be different this time




















By Creg
Maybe you've heard about President Obama wanting to take away the tax breaks of private corporate jet owners. Walter Williams wrote a great article about the unintended consequences that usually happen when government gets involved in places it should not.

When Congress imposed a 10 percent luxury tax on yachts, private airplanes and expensive automobiles, with the passing of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, Sen. Ted Kennedy and then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell crowed publicly about how the rich would finally be paying their fair share of taxes.

Within eight months after the change in the law took effect, Viking Yachts, the largest U.S. yacht manufacturer, laid off 1,140 of its 1,400 employees and closed one of its two manufacturing plants. Before it was all over, Viking Yachts was down to 68 employees. In the first year, one-third of U.S. yacht-building companies stopped production, and according to a report by the congressional Joint Economic Committee, the industry lost 7,600 jobs. When it was over, 25,000 workers had lost their jobs building yachts, and 75,000 more jobs were lost in companies that supplied yacht parts and material. Ocean Yachts trimmed its workforce from 350 to 50. Egg Harbor Yachts went from 200 employees to five and later filed for bankruptcy. The U.S., which had been a net exporter of yachts, became a net importer as U.S. companies closed. Jobs shifted to companies in Europe and the Bahamas. The U.S. Treasury collected zero revenue from the sales driven overseas.

Back then, Congress told us that the luxury tax on boats, aircraft and jewelry would raise $31 million in revenue a year. Instead, the tax destroyed 330 jobs in jewelry manufacturing and 1,470 in the aircraft industry, in addition to the thousands destroyed in the yacht industry. Those job losses cost the government a total of $24.2 million in unemployment benefits and lost income tax revenues. The net effect of the luxury tax was a loss of $7.6 million in fiscal 1991, which means Congress' projection was off by $38.6 million. The Joint Economic Committee concluded that the value of jobs lost in just the first six months of the luxury tax was $159.6 million.

Congress repealed the luxury tax in 1993 after realizing it was a job killer and raised little net revenue. Why did congressional dreams of greater revenues turn into a nightmare? Kennedy, Mitchell and their congressional colleagues simply assumed that the rich would act the same after the imposition of the luxury tax as they did before and that the only difference would be more money in the government's coffers. Like most politicians then and now, they had what economists call a zero-elasticity vision of the world, a fancy way of saying they believed that people do not respond to price changes. People always respond to price changes. The only debatable issue is how much and over what period.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our Prayer For Today


by: Chelsa


Oh Lord, our God,
We acknowledge you as our Creator and the giver of all good things.
You are Great. You are Mighty. The All-powerful God.
You are worthy of our praise.
We humbly bow before you this day as an outward sign of honor to You.
You are our Lord and our Master and our King, and we are unworthy servants.

But how long, oh Lord, will you withhold your blessings from us?
Why is it so dry?
Why is there no rain when you have the power to bring it?
Why does our land have to suffer this terrible heat and drought?
Why won't you bring relief?

And why do so many in our midst have to suffer so terribly
with sickness and pain and sorrow?
You alone are the giver of life.
How long will you withhold your hand of healing?
Why does this have to happen to your children, the children you saved?
Sometimes we grow so weary with the heaviness of this fallen world.
Our hearts are tired and heavy and weary.
We don't understand.
We cry out to you!
Why? Why? Why is this happening to us?

But even though we don't understand it all, we trust you Lord.
Your ways are higher than our ways.
Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
We don't always understand,
but we do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love us.
You proved that when you sent Jesus.

You are a good and beautiful God and you have been good to us.
Help us remember your blessings.
You have showered us with your mercy.
You sent Jesus to save us.
We are forgiven.
You have given us your Spirit to help us cope.
We thank you that you can fill us with your peace and joy
when in some circumstances peace and joy seem impossible.
Thank you for promising never to leave us or forsake us.
And thank you for giving us each other to lean on.
May we rest in your peace and in your love.
Amen, through Jesus our Lord.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Revising History Pt 2


By Creg
Guess who said, “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before & it does not work.”?

FDR's treasury secretary Henry Morganthau. He added, “after 8 years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started...& an enormous debt to boot.” Sound familiar?

If a goverment stimulus bill didn't work then, why would it work now? What happened after a similar stock market crash in 1987? President Ronald Reagan didn't intervene in the economy. What happened? A quick recovery. What happened after the stock market crash in 2007? Government intervention. Why do people ignore or rewrite history? To make it easier to get what they want.

Kathleen Parker wrote an article recently about the 2008 presidential election. During that race Barack Obama told the story, more than once, of his mother, Ann Dunham, fighting until death with an uncaring insurance company about payments for her treatment. The company wouldn't pay, Obama reported, because his mom's cancer was a pre-existing condition. "I will never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether her insurance would refuse to pay for her treatment," Obama told a sympathetic nation.

According to Janny Scott, a New York Times writer and author of the book "A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother," Dunham's treatment was covered by her employer's insurance policy. The problem was with disability not health insurance. Presidential spokesman Nicholas Papas said, "The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago." You would think Obama would check his facts more carefully for he was the lawyer representing his mother at the time. Or, did he ignore the facts, knowing he would use this anecdote to make his argument for health care reform?

So, if you have a viewpoint that people find hard to believe, because of a lack of evidence, what can you do to get them to believe what you say? Change the past.

So, who was the first to revise history?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Revising History Pt 1


By Creg

In a letter to the editor of The Abilene Reporter News two days ago, the writer of the letter says that the founding fathers of this country "mandated religious neutrality in government." You've probably heard others say something similar, usually using the phrase "separation of church and state." I've been studying The Truth Project series for a Bible study and our family has been listening to historian David Barton as part of our homeschool history class, so I have done quite a bit of research on this topic.

If you read article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1784, it says that any state wanting to join the union must have schools that teach religion, morality, and knowledge. Moreover, 11 of the 13 original states (New York and Virginia excluded) had in their original constitutions that you basically had to be a Christian to run for public office in that state. I believe the founders knew that for God's design for the state (Romans 13) to function properly a Christian worldview was essential. I'm not a history expert but I don't think the founders "mandated religious neutrality in government."

When you read what the original documents say sometimes you form a different opinion than from reading a recently written textbook by an author with an agenda. I dusted off my history book from college and read the paragraph on the Mayflower Compact. Then I read the original Mayflower Compact from the internet. The words in bold italics were left out of my textbook. My comment is in parentheses.

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten...Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith...do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; (meaning the advancement of the Christian faith)...to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws...for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.


How could a college textbook leave out the most important reason for them coming to this country? Does someone not want to acknowledge the church relocation project that it really was? So, if you want someone to think that we're not a "Christian" nation all you have to do is omit a few things from the history book.

Who was the first to revise history?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lose Your Life


By Creg
A couple of weeks ago we went to the Texas High School Rodeo Championships. My parents were nice enough to go early to save us front row seats so Samantha could have a close up view of all the beautiful horses. The first event was the bareback bronc riding. Now this wasn't my first rodeo, but it's quite different when you're up close & personal. A couple of times the horses came right up to the wall within a few feet of us. The look of fear on those boys' faces was saying, "I realize I could die any second." Unforgettable. One cowboy was bucked so hard that he came down with only one boot on. It was so violent that my neck started hurting just watching them get thrown around like a rag doll. Which is generally what happens when you jump on the back of a 1,500 lb wild animal that desperately does not want to be touched. That's called being willing to lose your life.

Sitting next to me at the rodeo was a Vietnam veteran. After I thanked him for his service for keeping my family & me free, he told me of some his adventures in war. He said that he'd been shot 15 times in one battle. When the helicopter picked him up they told him he had less than 1 pint of blood in his body. He was pronounced dead 4 different times! That's called being willing to lose your life.

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate ... their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple."


Deny yourself, lose your life, hate your life? Strong words. Jesus wouldn't make a very good elementary school counselor trying to get kids to have good self esteem. There's a lie out there that says the best idea is to follow your own interests & inner desires. When Jesus says to lose your life, he's not talking about a bronc rider or soldier. He wants you to hate the life you had without him in it, so you'll do whatever it takes to lose that life. Then you can live the life that God created you to live.

All of us have a life to lose. If it's not drugs, alcohol, stealing or adultery, it's pride, prejudice, selfishness, cowardice or comfort. Let's get on with losing our life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Overcoming Pt 2


By Creg

How does a 9 year old child start smoking weed? When both of your parents & most of your friends are into drugs, that's all you know. Ethan grew up in such a bad atmosphere that he would be gone from home for months at a time, wondering if his parents even cared that he was missing. He started smoking meth at 11 and snorting heroin at 15.




(Top: Jason & Ethan, Bottom: Ethan & Creg)

As a 9th grader he was sent to 2 different alternative schools for fighting. At the second school he brought drugs on campus and was charged with a felony (which was later erased). When he was 17 he started shooting heroin. He says his life was "all about me." His relationship with God consisted of quick prayers to not get caught with his stash of drugs when the cops pulled him over. Gradually Ethan felt being pulled toward God. He started going to church with his girlfriend because he noticed she had something in her life that he wanted. A desire arose in him to learn about God, still wondering if He is real. Ethan couldn't bring himself to pray anymore, because he didn't think God would answer him if he doubted God. Tired of constant drug use & living at the bottom of life, Ethan, now 19, decided to come to the Serenity House in Abilene about 6 months ago. That brought a different perspective - There's got to be more to life. After moving into Jason's recovery house, he went with Jason to Bible study & church. It was then that he decided he needed something bigger. Not doing drugs anymore was a good thing, but there was still something missing. Tonight Ethan decided to be reborn, losing his life for the cause of Christ.

Praise God for the transforming work of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of Jason, Ethan and others.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Success is One Good Choice

By Creg

In 1968 Bill was a bored middle school student. So his concerned parents enrolled him at Lakeside, a private school in Seattle. That year the booster club just happened to spend $3,000 to buy a computer terminal. This was at a time when most colleges didn't even have one, so Bill got to do real-time programming as an 8th grader. From then on he practically lived in the computer room. Two years later a group of programmers at the University of Washington formed the Computer Center Corporation which leased computer time to local companies. As luck would have it, one of the founders of that firm had a son at Lakeside. So the C.C.C. asked Lakeside to test out the company's software programs on the weekends in exchange for free programming time. Bill was there everyday after school. “It was my obsession,” Bill said of his early high school years, “I went up there at night & on weekends.” During one 7-month period Bill ran up 1,575 hours of computer time. Bill continues, “My friend Paul & I got into trouble one time for stealing passwords & crashing the system and they kicked us out for the summer.” Not long after he found out that the U of Washington had free computer time between 3 & 6 am. Since he lived within walking distance of the college he'd wake himself up in the middle of the night & head to the computer room. By the time Bill dropped out of Harvard after his sophomore year to try his hand at his own company, he'd been programming practically nonstop for 7 years. Over 10,000 hours.

His last name is Gates.


John, Paul, George & Ringo started playing together in 1957. In 1960 while they were still a struggling high school rock band, they were invited to play at a bar in Hamburg, Germany. There they would play 8 hrs a day, sometimes until 2 am, 7 days a week. They traveled there 5 times between 1960 & 1962 playing months at a time. When they had their first burst of success in 1964 they had performed live a staggering 10,000 hrs. Their manager said, “They were no good onstage when they went there but when they came back they were very good. They not only learned stamina & discipline but an enormous amount of songs, everything you can imagine. Cover versions, rock & roll, jazz."

They're also known as the Beatles.

Those stories come from Malcom Gladwell's book "Outliers." His point is that it takes 10,000 hours to become the most successful in life.

Or does it.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Jesus: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other thief rebuked that criminal. “Don’t you fear God,” the thief said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


The thief just asked Jesus to remember him. He got Paradise! One more beggar comes with a request, asks for crumbs & gets the whole loaf. This is salvation. Because none of us have any more to offer God than this thief did.

Did you ever wonder why there were only 2 criminals on crosses? Could it be that those 2 represent all of the options when dealing with Jesus?

Think about the repentant thief. Is he going to spend eternity living under the consequences of all the bad choices he made? No, he will be enjoying the fruit of the one good decision he made. Have you ever said, “I wish I could make up for those bad choices?” You can in one decision.

To be successful in this life you can either practice for 10,000 hours or make one good choice.

Monday, May 23, 2011

God Provides

By Creg

When we pray for something and God provides it, why do we call it coincidence?

Story 1: Several months ago Sierra's golden retriever, Skye, got lost several miles from our house. (see post titled Skye's Adventure) During the search Sierra met a family with several Great Pyrenees in their yard but didn't say anything about it.

When we finally decided to get a dog to guard our chickens (See previous post) Sierra said, "There's a family a few miles down the road that had some Great Pyrenees pups." About a week later (Why did I take so long?) we decided to find the house & ask about their pups. Granny & Sierra found them & they said they just had one returned & we could have it! After talking with the owner today she said, "This won't make any sense unless you're a Christian, but we always pray over our animals for God to give them a good home. And right before you came by all of our pups were taken. However, one family had to return one because the dog's long hair made their daughter's eyes swell. So if you would have asked a week ago we wouldn't have had any available." Now I know why I waited.

Story 2:
My friend Jason is operating 2 recovery houses, one for men, one for women. Yesterday we were talking about him needing more tenants to help pay the rent. I said, "If we're doing what God wants us to do He'll provide people for us." After praying about it God brought 2 guys to us today!

Thank you LORD for your provision.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ace




by Chelsa

We've been losing chickens...again. Another bobcat has been stalking and killing our egg layers. We started out with 45 birds and are now down to 28 or 29. After trapping and shooting him a couple of weeks ago we've decided to get serious. This morning we brought home our new guard dog Ace. He's just a 3 month old ball of fluff now, but in a few months he'll be over 100 pounds of pure muscle. He's a Great Pyrenees and they make wonderful guard dogs. We took him on a tour of the farm today to see how he would do. He did great with the baby goats, cats, chickens and us. He growled a little bit at Skye, our Golden Retriever, but did fine with everything else. He hasn't seen the sheep, cows or horse yet. Maybe we'll do that tomorrow. I hope he's able to stop the chicken predators.

Flower Photos on the Farm



by Chelsa

Here are a few pictures of some pretty flowers the sun was shining on this morning in my garden and around the house. God does such delicate intricate work and He is so creative! I love my flowers. Enjoy.

Photo #1 - Echinacea Purpurea (also known as Purple Cone flower) This plant is an excellent infection fighter and powerful natural antibiotic. I use it in making our medicine

Photo #2 - Asiatic Lily

Photo #3 - Summer Squash Bloom