Saturday, November 15, 2008

It has been a wonderful Saturday. Part of the day was spent doing regular Saturday stuff. After Bruce and Travis got off work we went to see the new James Bond movie. It was great. We had a great time and that is what I wanted for my birthday. I just wanted to spend time with Bruce, Geni and Travis. We had a wonderful time. (Daniel Craig makes a good James Bond. He is no Sean Connery, but who is?! I think Sean Connery could just stand and read the phonebook and I would be completely taken).

As I have been reading through websites of Christian literary agents, they all recommend that the writer needs to read a lot of the type of writing of which you are planning to submit. I read and listen to several different types of devotional materials. Most of the time, I read the scripture and the meditation and then apply it to my own life and what I need to hear. Then I pray for God to send the words to my head, heart and hands. I ask for God’s inspiration as I write and hope that I will listen and let the Holy Spirit lead and guide my thoughts. Today I was listening to a drive-time devotion about being joyful even when it is difficult to be joyful.

Nehemiah 12: 43 says, “The people offered many sacrifices that day and were happy because God had given them joy. The women and children were happy. The sound of happiness in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”

I love red. It has always been my favorite color. I teach first grade so I often think in colors of red, yellow and blue, but red has always been my favorite. In my drive-time devotions this morning the reference to the color red was “scarlet.” Then it went on to site references throughout scripture of red as the color of blood and the speaker talked of “scarlet assurance.”

Moses told the Hebrew nation to paint the door posts of their homes to the angel of death would pass over them in the night. Rahab, the prostitute, placed a scarlet cord outside the window of which she helped Joshua escape. Proverbs tells of the woman who, when it snows, does not worry, for her children are covered in scarlet. There are many other references to red and the ones I have cited all speak of protection.

Each night as I come to my “nighty-nights” to God, I pray that God would protect this house from harm and enemy. As I thought about this prayer I thought about the two places on our roof that leak. And then I thought about my own heart. There are times that I have a huge hole in my heart that is filled with hurt, or sorrow or fear. It is at those times I come closer to God and He fills that large space with His love, grace, tender mercies or whatever blessing or gift I need to receive as a balm for my wounded soul. But then there are times that there are cracks in my soul. Sort of like the cracks in my roof. It is through the cracks in my soul that Satan sneaks in and works overtime to steal my joy and cause brokenness. It is at those times I find fault with my family, my students, my job - nothing but tiny, little bitty, nit-picky things that cause brokenness within myself and with those I hold most dear.

We can be joyful in all situations because of the “scarlet assurance” of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus is the scarlet assurance of His love for us. We don’t have to paint sacrificial blood on our doors or put out red ribbons so that evil passes over us. We as believers in Jesus are covered 24/7 and 365 in the crimson blood that poured from Jesus on that cross. That blood is always there to protect us. We cannot wash it off for we are washed in the blood of the lamb. We have the scarlet assurance of Jesus as we are sealed with the cross of Christ forever.

So tonight when I say my “nighty nights”, I will give thanks for the scarlet assurance that seals the cracks in my soul so that Satan might not enter. Satan cannot enter where the love of God is present. Give thanks for the blood of Jesus that covers us, protects us and promises us everlasting love.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Auto update: all is well with the "Old Girl"! Some clamp wouldn't tighten correctly and the hose to the tank wouldn't stay in place without it. The Ford House replaced it at no charge. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a pure faith.” How do you come near to God? I come near to God when I sing songs of praise. I come near to God in my prayers. I come near to God in my morning drive time devotions. And I come near to God in my daily scripture readings and writing. And tonight I came near to God as Bruce and I sat across from each other at dinner each having a bittersweet moment about Casey. Bruce worked in Wichita Falls today and remembered that the last time he went to Wichita Falls, Casey was with him and they served on the Kairos Prison Ministry weekend. And I remembered that Casey died one month ago today. Time goes by so quickly. His life on earth was so brief, but his life was complete. To the best of our knowledge Casey left no unfinished business and no regrets. Casey’s legacy was a sincere heart and a pure faith.

Watching Casey during this last year has taught me so very much. I learned the power of prayer and how to pray without ceasing. I prayed very often to walk into the throne room of God Almighty and be granted audience with the God of all creation. I have never prayed so sincerely in all of my life. I learned to trust in God’s Word. I learned to read the Holy Scriptures and ask God to reveal their meaning to me and show me how to communicate those thoughts to others. When you ask God to reveal Himself to you, watch out as He will show up! I have become so dependent on God’s Word each day that I can’t go to bed until I have had some encounter with the scripture and in turn God is faithful to be present and help me to understand what His Word says and how it applies to my life.

As you all know I love serving at the Communion Table and serving the musicians at the 11:00 service. When I began this part of the service ministry I was so excited about what I was going to do for others. And then I began to go to the nursing homes and serve elder church members the elements of communion. My practice would be to stop in at the chapel to pray and read a scripture passage before going to my communicant. And then as usual God showed up. When I would serve these precious ones, it was I who received the blessing because these wonderful elder believers had sincere hearts and pure faith. What precious lessons they had to teach without ever picking up a piece of chalk or a Big Chief Tablet (remember I am old!). Their faith had everything to do with the gift of love in Christ Jesus our Lord played out in their lives and the joy they were taking in the journey. For you see, God always comes to us with a sincere heart and has given us the gift of His pure faith. God calls each one of us to come before Him with any and all we have, our desires, our short comings, our needs and our joys to teach us in His ways and to shower us with His amazing love. What a blessed adventure and journey God has put before us.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Auto update: the Ford house gets to see the “Old Girl” again tomorrow. After quite an expensive repair on last week, we put gas in the car tonight but the gas never made it to the tank - it leaked all over the Race Track parking lot instead. Evidently someone forgot to make a pretty critical connection under the car. Life is never dull around the Chrystie house. But I think the Ford House gets to pay for this one.

My teacher observation is over and we (my students and principal) made a corporate decision during my observation that the pizza man was definitely a community helper. Think about it…they deliver rain or shine, they help mom out when we need a break from cooking and if you are lost they can always tell you how to get somewhere because they drive everywhere. And other than three of my little girls decided to fight over a big book, I think the observation went pretty well. Gotta love first graders!

Hebrews 10:10 says, “We are made holy through the sacrifice made in His body once and for all time.” I have come to learn and know that without Christ I am nothing. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the love that God has for us we can step into the presence of the Father and pray boldly. We can ask God to prepare us to work and serve in His kingdom. We can sacrifice our time for others because Christ sacrificed Himself for us. Scripture tells us that Christ died for all mankind. Scripture does not say He died just for Christians, but for each human being that ever lived, lives currently or will live in the future. Jesus tried to get the Hebrew nation to understand that His sacrifice would be the last that ever need be made. They would not need to sacrifice any more because He had already made the ultimate sacrifice.

Walking into holiness allows us to pray with boldness. Living in the light of holiness allows us to be prepared to work and serve in the kingdom. Choosing Christ allows Him to permeate our lives and His blessings to rain down upon us. Because we are children of God, heirs to the kingdom even when we are walking a sinful path we are still in a place of holiness because God does not forsake us because of any wrongdoing we might choose. God does not kick us out when we mess up. Once He has chosen us (for His is always the initiator) it is a done deal and we get all of the rights, privileges and blessings of being a child of God. If anyone moves out of this relationship it is us, but even then God remains, though we might choose not to acknowledge His presence.

We cannot do anything to become holy by ourselves. We must have the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit allows us to walk before the throne of grace with joy, sorrow, guilt, sin, shame or praise and celebration and come away assured, forgiven and renewed. There is not another power, title, situation or organization that can make anybody holy. Only God through Jesus and His sacrifice and the power of the Holy Spirit can cause us to go from lowliness to holiness and from the gutter to grace with just these words, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Makes you wonder why anyone would say no to an invitation like that, doesn’t it?

Hug your babies tonight and take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Greetings from Austin St.

The children in my classroom will not stop talking. With my principal’s observation of me teaching and my children learning approaching in the morning this is driving me a little crazy. I was sharing my tale of woe with Bruce at dinner tonight and he reminded me it was a full moon. I had not paid attention. A full moon seems to affect the behavior of children and not in a positive way. I think I will pray about this tonight and speak firmly with them in the morning prior to the observation. I am also not above a bit of bribery.

Hebrews 8: 12 says, “I will forgive the wicked things they did, and I will not remember their sins anymore.” God is either the God of perfect grace or He is not God. Have you ever screwed up? I know, silly question. We all have messed up at one time or another. Most of us fall off the path on a daily basis. Sometimes we mess up on accident and sometimes we walk right into the place of separation with our eyes wide open and with the full knowledge of what we are doing. I am talking about sin. (Oh No!!) When I have my prayer time and I get to the part about forgiveness; I often remember sins of the past and ask forgiveness for them once again. And I carry my sin around with me even after I have asked for forgiveness from the sin. I don’t know about you, but I usually recommit the same infractions over and over again. And even though I am truly repentant, I find myself back in the same bin of trash again.

He says, "I will forgive”. Not, “I might” or, ”maybe - if you get better” or, “ if I get around to it” or, “if you promise not to do it again”. He says, “I will forgive.” And then I read this passage and I read the word remember. God tells me in His Word that He will remember my sins no more. Even though I do the same thing over again, God still forgives me each and every time and then He forgets. This is the God of the universe, the creator of all, the Voice that told Jesus, “You are my beloved Son in whom I Am well pleased.” This is the God who set aside His omnipotence and came to earth, who lived in a family so we could know Him.. This is also the same God who sacrificed His only Son for the forgiveness of our sins because of His love for us. He forgives us and then He forgets, because He is God. We can be pretty good at forgiving, but we are not so great at forgetting. I guess that is because we are not God.

And who am I that God should forgive me? I am His child through the blood of His Son. And He loves me. (Please insert your own name.)

Each day the children in my classroom start the day with a clean slate of behavior expectations. If they stray from those expectations I mark it on their folder and a consequence is delivered. But the next day the slate is clean again. I have a record of their behavior both negative and positive. Again, I am not God. God does not keep a list of our “infractions.” God, because of His amazing love for us and through the blood of Jesus forgives us and forgets our sins and transgressions. If God can forgive us for the death of His Son, then we need to act in accord. We need to accept the forgiveness He offers and stop beating ourselves up, for Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself. That gives us a chance to start with a clean slate each moment of the day. And then in celebration and faithful response of the gift of forgiveness, we should pass that forgiveness onto others through the love of God and the life of Christ in our own lives.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Greetings from Austin St.

It was a dark and stormy night. (I have always wanted to start a piece of writing with that line.) I hope you all came through the storm unscathed. Our house did fine except we discovered our roof leaks in two places; one in the dining room and one in the kitchen. But, the power did not go out as it often does during severe storms. We have one of those houses that has been without power from a storm for three or four days before. But we have tremendous neighbors who have shared what they have when that happens. Roofs are repairable. Adversity offers opportunities to share burdens with those who care.

Psalm 100: 1-3 says, “Shout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy, come before Him with singing. Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to Him; we are His people, the sheep He tends.”

Tuesdays are a bit tough for me, especially at this time of night. It was on a Tuesday about now that Casey died and on Friday it will be a month ago and Friday is also my birthday. It makes for some difficult moments for me. Tonight’s scripture tells me to come before His presence with singing. The question is what happens when we cannot sing? For me that seems almost impossible because for me, singing is as intimately personal as breathing. Singing is not just words and melodies; singing is the way I worship, pray, and the way God speaks to me. So not singing is not an option!! I have to remember that God made us and we belong to Him. He loves us. We are His. We have God’s stamp of approval. We are forever the object of God’s concerns. He knows when it is hard for us to sing. The strength to express joy when the situation seems to be anything but a joy-filled event is when we step out of the darkness and into the light of God’s love. God’s love is a bright burning constant beacon that will lead us back home when all seems lost.

Because we belong to God, He knows our heart and He knows when we hurt and when it is hard for us to sing a song of praise. Our joy must come in the assurance of these words, ”Know that the Lord is God and we belong to Him.” Satan works hard to steal our joy. Joy is a great weapon in the battle with Satan. When it is hard to sing a song of praise remember the words of the psalmist as he reminds us to whom we belong and how much we are loved. (It is sort of like saying to Satan, “Is that the best you can do?”) God loves us with an everlasting love. Focus on the word “everlasting” not just once in a while, not just on Sunday, and not just while we are on this earth, but everlasting!! How cool is that! Because God loves us with this amazing and everlasting love, He will teach us how to sing songs of praise even when life hands us lemons and all we can do is pucker. The psalmist says, “Shout to the Lord and come before His praise with singing.” Tonight let us all be psalmists and sing a song of praise to the everlasting God of hope, healing and love.

Take joy in the journey friends. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni, and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Greetings from Austin St.

I got a B on my mid-term! Praise God from whom all blessing flow! I am ecstatic!! I still have to write a reflective paper on one of the readings and a personal theological statement of faith and take the final. For the rest of the week I will concentrate on getting my grading caught up as the end of the six weeks is Friday, After Friday I will be caught up with the school I teach I am being observed on Thursday by my principal. It is a yearly thing.

A first grade funny…today we were talking about community helpers and I asked my children to name people who are community helpers. They named: police officers, firemen, trash collectors etc…and then one of my GT students thought for a moment and said, “pizza man?” I just cracked up. It was so funny. But I am pretty sure I agreed with him. So we all agreed that the “pizza man” is a community helper. Gotta love first graders.

Psalm 63: 6 says, “…I think of you on my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” I would love to tell you that I sleep well, but that would be a lie. Last night was one of those nights. I was restless and I seemed to need to pray a lot and my thoughts were not very clear, so I just tried to “Be still” and let God help me sleep. As I was reading my devotional tonight from “The Word in Season”, the thoughts I read were close to my own and they seemed to pen what I had been feeling. So tonight the words are not entirely mine.

The writer was sharing about the loss of a sister. The writer was picturing the headstone at the end of the plot of ground where the sister was buried and asked, “How can a rectangular plot of earth swallow a lifetime of love.” On the marble stone the years of this woman’s life were etched. And the writer asks, “will the darkness of hurt ever end?” And then the writer shares a couple of thoughts. “Time heals, but the scar of separation remains.” Those words hit me like a brick wall. That is exactly how I feel. I would not take Casey from where he is for anything in this world; not even for one more moment I could have with him. But I miss Casey so much it almost takes my skin off. The separation from Casey is the pits! But someday I will spend eternity with him and he can show me the ropes of heaven.

Casey does not have a headstone. But I also do not believe that his 24 years of love is swallowed up in the small box housed in our home. Casey’s love is still very present in so many people and so many things. Scripture says that “death is swallowed up in victory.” I have read those words so many times but I never understood them until I experienced the death of our son. Casey’s body died, but the spirit that made him Casey still lives on in each of our lives. For we still carry Casey in our hearts and thoughts all of the time. The victory is that many people came to know Jesus because of the faith Casey carried with him and shared with others. Jesus death was swallowed up in victory. We have come to know God through the life of Jesus Christ written in the Holy Scriptures and because of the resurrection and the Holy Spirit we keep Jesus alive in our hearts. The victory is that God lives in us because of the life of Jesus and someday we will see Him face to face and live eternally with Him.

Headstones are etched with names, dates and loving words such as “beloved husband and father…” If I ever had a headstone I always wanted to have etched on it these words, “I told you I was sick!” But seriously, headstones are made of solid marble or granite or other such solid stone. I don’t know if I ever will have a headstone or not, but just in case I don’t and my remains are placed in a Starbucks coffee bag (would that be appropriate or what!?) what I really would like others to remember are the words etched on my heart, “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

Stays dry my friends(it is raining here) and take joy in the journey. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Greetings from Austin St.

Hello to all on this beautiful Sunday. I completed and sent off my mid-term. Praise God!! I am not a very scholarly writer, but I think I answered the questions. Dr. Jones has been so very patient in allowing me to get caught up from the last month of drama and trauma in our lives. Now I just have to write one more response paper to one of our readings, write a lengthy personal theological statement and take a final. I also need to get caught up on my grading and then I am caught up – but the end of the six weeks is Friday. Please offer up a prayer that I can accomplish everything I need to do in the time in which I have to do it. Starbucks will make money on Gaylene this week!!

Psalm 46: 1 says, “God is our refuge and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. Vs. 10 says, “Be quiet and know that I am God.” Stuff happens. Are we prepared for the “stuff” that happens in life? This week we had stuff happen; cars with expensive repairs and Travis with injuries, mid-term exams to be taken etc... Cars and mid-terms are “stuff.” Travis’ injuries will just take time to heal. I was mostly prepared for the mid-term. I studied, but it was several weeks ago when I began to prep for this test and then Casey died and all study came to a screeching halt. Financially we were not prepared for the repairs, but we had an extra car and everyone got to work and school on time (an ever present help in times of trouble!).

Travis’ injuries will heal over time as football is over with now and the strain of snapping the ball a gozillian times per week and not going up against 300 pound linemen a gozillion times per week is over. But in the serious life altering situations of life are we prepared? Sometimes it seems that there are too many situations that pile up one on top of the other and we just want to run and hide. God gives a place to run and hide. He promises in His Word, in this psalm that He is our refuge and our strength. He is there in times of trouble. When we “hide” in Him we can center ourselves on Christ. It is at those times He asks us to “Be still and know that He is God.” When we center ourselves on Christ we will experience the power of His holiness and healing grace. As we are healed and become whole again from whatever brokenness we are experiencing we will be called on to respond on in the ways of faith. We become the center of God’s story as we center ourselves on Christ. The faithfulness of God is within us and we experience newness of life. For that which was broken is now healed and becomes a new venue for which God to work.

Our family is experiencing broken hearts and an overwhelming sense of loss. We have been through many changes in the last year and a roller coaster ride of emotions. And God, through His Word, His healing love, the kindness of His earthly children is slowly healing us by His grace. Perhaps He is making us fit to help others who have lost loved ones. I am not sure of God’s exact plan for us, but I do know He expects us to listen and be taught by Him whatever will prepare us for the ministry He has planned. No matter what, He expects us to respond in faithfulness to whatever he puts before us. As our Pastor Marc said this morning, “We are called to respond to the changes in our lives in faithfulness not in expletives! “

The words of the psalmist are so comforting, “Be still and know that I Am God”. Take some time to be still and quiet and let our heavenly Father speak to you, teach you, heal you and let you know He loves you. Your journey might take a brand new direction.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all friends, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.