Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Spring! Chocolate & Beehive Reader Giveaway!

UPDATE: Congratulations to the winner, Teacherpippi!

Just a short break from my Grace in Our Time of Need series for something a little lighter... (I've never had a giveaway before!)

So, do you like chocolate?

Do you like adorable characters in your children's early readers?

Marie Rippel, the author of All About Spelling has published her new Beehive Reader 1 with gorgeous illustrations by artists Dave LaTulippe and Donna Goeddaeus. The reader is SO cute! (Even my 12 yo son thinks kids and parents will enjoy it--he asked if he could read it while he was waiting to use the computer. About page 70 he said, "This is really nice, parents are really going to like this for their kids. It's a good book to snuggle with. And it's a lot better than what I had to learn to read with!")

(Cobweb the Cat thinks so too).

So, what does this have to do with chocolate?

One of the illustrators (Donna Goeddaeus) is a chocolatier. She does all the artwork for her chocolates (and if you like horses, you'll want to check out her site!).

Anyway...Marie has donated a Beehive Reader 1 AND the above-pictured box of chocolates as a giveaway! These chocolates are hand made with rich, creamy European Chocolate. And the little bunny you see in the center is solid hand molded milk chocolate.

Here's a close-up of the picture on the lid:

To enter, click on the link for the Beehive Reader 1, check out the sample stories, and pick a favorite character. Then post in the comments section here. Everyone who votes will be entered in a random drawing for a half-pound box of Donna's Happy Spring Chocolate collection and a Beehive Reader 1. Comments must be posted by Monday, May 4th, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 5th. Have fun :-).

Merry :-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grace in Our Time of Need Part 4: Lies and Truth

Several years ago I was going through a period of depression, and I went to a Christian Counselor. The first thing he asked me to do when I went home was to write down all of my negative thoughts. Yeah, that sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Ha! My first thought was, “I don’t have any.” Then, when I started hearing them, I didn’t want to share them! But as I did, the counselor began to show me truth—what God’s word says, and how my negative thoughts were really lies.

I started keeping a “Lies and Truth” chart, and wow, was that transforming in my life! When you start identifying the thoughts, and asking God to show you what the lies are, and then what the truth is, and you write it down, it becomes a powerful tool for healing.

Here is a list of some of the lies we say to ourselves—maybe without even realizing that we are filling our mind with lies, and the truth of how God sees us, the truth in His word, the truth of His grace.

Lie: God is distant, He doesn’t care about me.
Truth: "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." — Zephaniah 3:17

Truth: "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart…" — Isaiah 40:11

Lie: I am worthless to God. He despises me.
Truth: "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." — Hebrews 2:11

(That one still startles me in amazement--God as Father has almost become cliche--but Jesus as brother--meditate and absorb the depth of that thought).

Truth: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. —Luke 12:32

Lie: God is mad at me.
Truth: "…We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." —Romans 5:1-2

Lie: God abandons us when we’re hurting.
Truth: "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." —Psalm 34:18

Truth: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge." —Psalm 18:2

Truth: "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." —Psalm 119:50

Lie: God can’t still love me.
Truth: "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord who has compassion on you." —Isaiah 54:10

Lie: I can never change, I don’t measure up.
Truth: "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with everincreasing glory."
—2 Corinthians 3:18

Truth: "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." —Lamentations 3:22-23

(That last one was written by the Prophet Jeremiah when the Israelites had been taken captive by the Babylonians.)

You might also want to see a copy of the “Identity in Christ” chart compiled by my husband and from Neil Anderson's Victory Over the Darkness.

When we want God to change our circumstances, I think it’s tempting to shrug off what God is offering, His Presence, a spiritual stronghold, a refuge for our souls from the assault of lies that tell us we must be unworthy or God would answer. And yet...Jesus, our brother, was not unworthy when He suffered. Maybe today, God wants you to know that even though you don’t understand why He doesn’t answer as you want, you are His worthy child, the one He cares for deeply as He seeks your trust in a difficult trial.

Next time: Part 5, God’s Protection

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grace in Our Time of Need Part 3: Can I still be your God?

Ken Gire, in his book The North Face of God, tells the story of a young man, we’ll call him Jim, who loved the Lord and wanted to serve as a pastor—and he longed to be a father. Jim was close to his own father, and dreamed of having a son he could share his life with.

He became a youth pastor, and got married, but his wife had a heart defect and they were told that she could never have children. So they decided to adopt. One day the call came that a 4-day old baby was waiting at the hospital, ready to be theirs: Their long-awaited son.

They brought him home, and were full of dreams for this little one—but they soon realized something was wrong. The baby hated to be held and would stiffen up all over. As the boy grew, they learned he had a number of learning disabilities and psychiatric problems. They took him for many assessments and tried to find help for him. When he was 10 or 11, they were told that by the time he was 18, he’d be dead or behind bars.

They refused to believe it, and tried a private school, and then homeschooling. Sure enough, he got mixed up in drugs and ended up in jail.

Jim had a friend who also had a son in trouble, and they talked often. Exciting things were happening at his friend’s church—God’s hand was moving, and people were coming to know Christ—and finally even his friend’s son was turning back to God. But nothing changed for Jim. And he told his friend he couldn’t stand to hear one more miracle of Jesus story. It was too painful.

Some people might have abandoned Jim at this point, but not his friend. They continued to meet and talk over the years. And one year a group of people from their church decided to meet with the man and pray with him, and they prayed together every week for a year and a half. They became the man’s lifeline.

Jim did a 40 day fast and sought the Lord in every way he knew how, but his only answer was silence.

One day he decided to go to the prayer room at church and stay there until he heard from God. Jim was broken and at the very end of his rope, he was desperate. He waited for 5 hours, and then he finally heard God speak. And this is what God said:

“Can I still be your God if I never heal your son? If I never speak to you the way you want Me to?”

“Yes,” the man replied.

Do you think Jim’s faith brings less joy to God than the faith of his friend whose son turned back to God? Do you think Jim is less worthy of God’s love and grace than his friend? Yet how often do we reject God’s grace in our lives by our negative, self-degrading thoughts?

I’m not worthy. I’ve messed up too many times.

God must not really love me, or He would change this circumstance in my life.

I’m not important to God or He would answer.

I think of the words Jim heard—“Can I still be your God?” what vulnerability—what love God communicated in that simple question. These were not the words of a vengeful, unfeeling God. God saw the man’s pain. God knew he asked much of the man to endure such pain.

If you are doing your best to love and follow God, and you wish you could more and more—can you believe God is pleased with you? He takes joy in your effort, your heart’s desire.

Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you, brothers, sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.”

When we go through pain in our lives, it doesn’t have to be meaningless. We can turn it around and say, “God, I don’t know why I need to go through this, but I ask You to somehow be glorified in this.” We can remember that Christ thought we were worthy of His suffering, when we go through our dark nights and struggle to remember that He is worthy of our suffering.

Next time Part 4: Lies and Truth

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grace in our Time of Need, Part 2: God’s Silence

My husband Dave and I moved here 11 years ago. Dave was the children’s pastor at our church for 2 years before he had to go on medical leave. At the time he left, he had a myriad of symptoms but no diagnosis. A few months later we finally learned that Dave has Chronic Lyme Disease, and that he probably went undiagnosed for 15 years. That is how far back we can trace his symptoms.

Lyme Disease, when it is treated right away, is usually curable. But when left untreated or when it’s undertreated, it can wreak havoc on any, and sometimes nearly every organ and system in the body. Dave has had incredible pain in every joint in his body, and horrendous headaches. The neurological problems are the most disabling.

Near the end of his time at church, he would have conversations with people but couldn’t remember what they talked about. He would keep lists of what to do and lose his lists. After he left and the illness progressed, he would get lost in familiar places—one time he got lost between our house and the Subway restaurant which is 3 blocks away.

He will sometimes feel good enough to go get a paper or go to a store, and will see someone there. They look familiar but he can’t always remember a name and sometimes doesn’t remember if he’s supposed to know them. To him this is so discouraging. His job was to love people, his passion was to love people, and Lyme has stripped away his ability to do that.

Sometimes he will try to walk and his leg won’t move, or he’ll have tremors in his arms and legs. Other days he can walk in a store and even pick up groceries. Some days he can read, and other days the words dance around on the page and don’t make sense. There are times when he’ll forget he’s on medical leave and ask me if he has a meeting to go to. He lives forever with the feeling that he’s forgetting to do something, because the Lyme affects how the neurons in the brain communicate with each other. Some days he will think and speak fairly clearly, and others he will stutter and his speech will be slow. He’s very sensitive to sound, smell, motion, and light. We keep the shades drawn most of the time and use no overhead lights.

I remember one day Dave was sleeping and our daughter Anna, who was 2.5 at the time, looked at me as she reached for the light switch, and I told her she could turn the light on. It struck me then that we live much of our lives in semi-darkness.

The kids and I typically have to change clothes and bathe after church and other outings because the smell of perfume makes Dave pass out.

You never know what to expect with Lyme. I think that is one of the hardest parts of dealing with the illness; every day is different and you can’t plan on anything. I’ve seen Dave improve and slip back so many times that I know judging his symptoms does not give us solid ground to rely on. Sometimes he’ll ask, “Why is my body doing this?” and the answer of Lyme seems empty and hollow.

I cannot even begin to explain what it has been like to lose my soul mate. The intimacy we once had is gone as he is not able to sustain the same level of conversation, the memories, or the depth we once enjoyed with one another. We get glimpses—and oh, I love the glimpses! We share when we can, but then the moment melts away. A simple conversation is exhausting to him and often will end with him needing to lie down.

He has made some improvements since beginning treatment. He has been able to go to our small group, and last fall he was able to teach for a time. This winter he was struggling to read again. So we take the good with the bad on this roller-coaster of life we live!

Our children are 10 and 12 now. They recognize his symptoms, and encourage him to rest or take his medicine. One minute he is the father, taking care of them—the next they are trying to take care of him.

I remember the first year Dave was diagnosed, and we felt so hopeless. Years of searching led to answers that weren’t really answers at all. And I often prayed, “God, heal him, bring him back to me—or take him home to be with You, but don’t leave him this way.” I prayed that for months, until I felt like I was banging my head on the brick wall of God’s silence.

Exasperated, I remember going to God and saying, “You have to do something!” But there was no answer. And then, when I realized that God wasn’t taking either of the alternatives I had offered Him (go ahead, laugh!), I asked, “God, what are your intentions towards Dave?”

And I heard God’s answer, clearly, almost audibly, “Merry, what are your intentions? What will you do if nothing changes?”

My intention was then, and remains today, to be faithful to my husband and my God. The grace of God brought me into this place of faith.

What are your intentions?

Next time, Part 3: Can I still be your God?

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grace in Our Time of Need, Part 1: God's Joy

It’s been awhile since I told our story or gave an update. A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk for a women’s retreat, and several people have asked to see it, so I’m going to do a series of posts over the next week or two. I guess you could call this my personal testimony of God’s grace to us in a life-changing circumstance that I never would have asked for!

But first I thought I’d tell a cute story about grace. One day when my kids were about 5 & 7, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I had a headache, I didn’t want to face the day, I was a total grump. I had been teaching my kids about grace and how we can help each other, and this particular morning I let my kids know that I just didn’t feel good and didn’t have energy for anything. I sent them to do some chores while I was working upstairs. I came across them 5 or 10 minutes later, both doing extra work, each having independently decided that *Mom* needed some grace that day. And they were right--*I* was the one having trouble meeting the standard! Their grace to me gave me such a huge boost that I had extra energy all of a sudden, put some of their clothes away and cleaned out their dressers for them.

God’s grace is amazing. It changes us—Titus 2:12, one of my favorite verses says that grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly pleasures. Grace is contagious—when we share it with others, they want to share it too. And grace is what brings us through the hard times, isn’t it? When we just don’t think we can deal with anything more, God somehow gives us His strength to continue on.

Most of us probably have some hurt, some painful trial, present or past. You may feel trapped, like you have no choices—you may be suffering under a burden of false guilt or other negative thoughts—or you may feel that no one is watching out for your needs. In Hebrews 4:16, God tells us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Let’s pray.
“God, we thank you and praise you that you are with us. May we see you today. Fill us with the joy of your presence. Give us a desire, a longing to seek you more and more in every way, to cry out to you, and know that you are the best and only thing we have. Our rock, our strength, our security, our hope, our stronghold. Teach us, Lord, to be honest with you, to submit to you and to allow your grace to transform our hearts. In the name of our precious Lord Jesus, who for the joy set before Him shed His blood. Amen.”

Isn’t that amazing? Do you ever think about what God’s joy was, what made Him willing to die on the cross? It’s a relationship with us, that’s His joy.

Take a few moments this morning to bask in the sunshine of God’s joy—to calm your mind and soul, put aside the busy-ness of life for a few minutes, and remember He takes joy in you. Next time, Part 2: God’s Silence

Grace in Our Time of Need, other posts:

~Part 1:  God's Joy
~Part 2:  God's Silence
~Part 3:  Can I Still Be Your God? 
~Part 4:  Lies and Truth
~Part 5:  God's Protection
~Part 6:  God Hears

See also Stories of Hope