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.