Bedtime Story:)

The girls came knocking on my door this evening with their bedtime books and mommy and daddy in tow. Lillyann yelled, “Wake Up!” It was only 7:30, so I had to grin as I headed for the door. They ran in squealing at the top of their lungs. There is nothing like a good bedtime story to set the stage for a great night’s rest, and God knew I needed the interruption.

The day was a hectic one that left me worn and weary. I was away from home today and missed being with the girls. I needed the tough aerobics workout and a hot shower, but I needed the Lillyann & Mylah fix more:) The sweet time with them was a beautiful reminder of the love God provides for me. My heart needed the reminder today.

I was off track for a while today, but God got me back where I needed to be with the help of His two sweet assistants. They hadn’t been in Gigi’s room since it was all put together, and they loved it. They took note of the new decor and then immediately plopped right down in the middle of the floor. I had to laugh since I refer to it as my sanctuary. I had been praying and meditating before Cookie, the German Pointer, made a surprise visit earlier in the evening! I’m glad they all came calling!

A home is much better than a sanctuary was a sweet lesson I needed this evening. It was also great to be reminded that I am blessed with a beautiful family:)

Who Are the Poor, Blind, Captive, & Oppressed?

God took me back to Luke 4:14-21 last night and this morning to let me know I am the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed to whom Christ came to preach. I am part of the body of Christ and belong to His church. He is sitting in the synagogue saying to those listening that the Word is being fulfilled right before them.

I don’t like to hear that I am poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. I would rather take those verses and go out and find someone to preach or minister to myself. That’s easier than seeing myself as any, much less all, of the descriptors Jesus used in the synagogue that day. The church was, and still is, guilty of ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our agendas and programs take the place of worship, and we are just too busy doing His work to notice our own desperate need for Him.

Christ has a simple message, the same one He had for the synagogue. He came that our spiritual poverty could become His abundance. He opens our eyes to Who He is so we can see God and worship Him with abandon. He frees us from the captivity of rules and agendas. He lifts the stress of doctrines and denominations so we can find the unity He so desires.

When it comes to unity, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 says it best.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a partof the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

Finding the beautiful unity of one Spirit is impossible as long as we worry about individual recognition, rules, doctrines, denominations, and agendas. If we truly hear God’s Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and look to Christ’s beautiful example, it is possible to have the unity Paul describes so vividly.

I have the Children’s Story again this week, so I expected a difficult lesson as I prepared my heart for it. I wasn’t prepared to hear that I was poor, blind, captive, and oppressed, but I needed the humbling message. He knew that better than anyone. Glad He is patient and loving. May I be the same:)

Child’s Play:)

Luke 17:18 and Mark 10:15 say the same thing about entering God’s kingdom.

Luke 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” NASB

Those verses have taken on greater meaning for me over the past few weeks as I’ve lived with children in a most beautiful way. I love the sound of little excited voices and delight in the sounds of play whether above or beside me:) I’m surrounded by the sounds of love and laughter and love every moment.

Children live in the moment, and I love that they can be playing full steam one moment and asleep the next. I marvel at their ability to change gears and go from one activity to the next. I decided when I first moved in that my living room would be the home’s loving room and went with an invitational design. It’s not innovative, and nothing really matches, but it’s the perfect room for plopping or playing.

I have my desk for studying, a table for coffee and reading, a table for the girls, a big comfortable couch with lots of soft cushions (Lillyann’s favorite thing about the house:), a great rocker recliner that looks out at the amazing view, an old TV that’s sole purpose is to play Mere’s old Disney VHF movies, and a big clear area in the middle in which to play or exercise. I’m sure a design team from HGTV would shake their heads in dismay, but the girls light up when they come in; and that’s all the approval I need.

My bedroom is a beautiful sanctuary, but I find myself staying and praying in the loving room most of the time. I know when the pool is filled, the room will also be filled with folks coming in and going out. Like Lillyann, I can’t wait to jump in! Every sunny day, she asks if we can put water in pool. I love the sweet optimism and eager excitement of children and know God does too. I pray we will all show the same for Him.

If you aren’t experiencing God’s kingdom here on earth, take some time to play with children. Their wisdom is amazing, and their enthusiasm is contagious. God knew that I was ready for the advanced lessons in love Lillyann and Mylah could teach me, so He set up a very special graduate course for me and even put me on an amazing campus designed to help me get the full effect of those lessons. I feel like a kid every time I think of Him, and that’s a good sign I’m heading in the right direction and walking in His kingdom:)

On The Way Up:)

I love the Psalms of Ascent, and Psalm 121 is especially dear to me.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. NASB

I love to look at the mountains as I pray. Unlike the ocean, they do not move. I like that about them and could stand and stare at them forever. They are one of the few things that cause me to stop and be still:) My strength does come from God, and the mountains remind me of His majesty. This beautiful psalm reminds me of Who God Is. Asleep or awake, day or night, sun or shade, going out or coming in, God is there protecting and loving me forever. What blessed assurance of His sweet presence!

The mountains I love so very much will eventually wear away, but God always has been, is, and always will be the same. My faith falters, and my obedience is inconsistent; but God is faithful and patient. I beat myself up when I get off course because I waste precious time that could be spent with Him if I stay down when I stumble.

I will stumble and fall as long as I am living. It keeps me humble and reminds me I am human. Lillyann insists on pretending she is a puppy, and crawls all around the house. Her poor knees bear the bruises of her imagination. My heart bears the same skins and scrapes when I insist on my way instead of yielding to His.

I am so thankful God loves me and tends to my heart just as my mama tended to my many bangs and bruises. As I told Lillyann today that her poor knees couldn’t take much more abuse, I thought of my own heart and the punishment I put it through as I insist on my own way. God bid me to treat it with the same care He does and asked that I stop putting it in harm’s way. Hearts and knees deserve loving care; Lillyann and I both need to remember that.

I’ve been sleeping on the floor for two weeks as I’ve waited for the wonderful new mattress I ordered. I found out yesterday that it’s been ready for for me to pick it up for three weeks now. God made it clear that He has provided a new home, new furniture, and a great mattress, but I am still sleeping on the floor. I’m also still settling for less than He desires when it comes to my heart. God provides abundantly, but my stubborn insistence on my way keeps me from experiencing all He has for me.

The Psalms of Ascent are about moving up an drawing near to God, but I cannot move up to where He wants me to be as long as I’m satisfied where I am. Fear keeps me from ascending, and a lack of trust keeps me satisfied on the floor. I’m slowly learning to step out and up and put my trust in Him. Psalm 121 along with the amazing mountains I see at every window of the new home He has provided remind me that I am surrounded by hope and help:)

Until Then, Pray:)

I get very frustrated when I cannot have something I want. I’ve had a week of wanting that left me crying out to God. I am grateful for His patience and deep love that allows me to cry out honestly and freely. As I said before, I needed the children’s story this week:)

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 brought sweet comfort this morning just when I needed it. God always has just what I need, but I’m usually too busy trying to convince Him to go with my way to notice.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I am and shall be eternally grateful for God’s love and for the love He has placed in my path. Love changes everything and is the greatest gift on earth. Separation brings a level of suffering unknown by those who refuse to open their hearts in honest communion and love. That suffering reminds me of my humanity, humbles as nothing else, and gives a small taste of what hell is like.

Trusting God should be simple. He is God after all and knows what He is doing. The problem is never trusting God; it is wanting what I want when I want it and wanting Him to understand that. He not only understands, He also suffers with me. He knows what is best for me and knows the joy that comes when I do His will.

Two years ago, God called me to a life of prayer. Rather than celebrating and embracing the call, I continued to ask, “What else?” Prayer didn’t seem like much of a call to me. I wanted some thing to do. I admit that with humility and embarrassment. God patiently let me wander around with my ‘You have more for me to do, but until then, I will pray’ attitude.

This weekend, I repented my dismissal of His call and embraced it as I should have two years ago. God loves me and knew I would eventually come around to His way of thinking. The prayer retreat this past weekend reminded me that praying is not an aside. It is the work to which I have been called. I asked God to forgive my dragging feet and guide me to pray as He desires.

I learned a lot during my “until then, pray” stage, and I’m very thankful God uses all things for His good. I am called according to His purpose and love Him dearly, and I am ready to have the praying life His Son so beautifully modeled for me. I nudged a little closer to His precious side this weekend, and the frustration in not getting my way was an important part of the lessons in love He had for me.

I’ve looked at praying as something to do until something more important comes along, but I’m learning it is a way of living that comes as naturally as breathing when I let love lead the way. It is a call I plan to answer humbly and gratefully.

Asking Without Worry:)

Matthew 7:7-8 says:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” NASB

I have the Children’s Story at church this morning, and when that happens, I know that God wants me to pay particular attention to the scripture at hand. I wasn’t expecting it this week, so I didn’t have as much time to ponder and pray about it. Pastor John helped yesterday as he offered a simple message with simple object.

The story for the children is the heart of the message and must be simple and have a concrete object to which they can relate. I love the story because it is an appetizer that gets my heart ready for the main course. The hymn of invitation is the dessert that rounds out the morning of worship. I am full to the brim when I leave the sanctuary and ready to share my fullness.

Asking is all that is required of me when it comes to receiving what God has in mind. If I approach Him as a spoiled child demanding what I want, He either ignores or lets me have it along with the consequences. If I sulk and wait for Him to give me what I want without asking, He waits patiently for me to voice my desires.

Matthew goes on to say that even terrible parents know how to give their children good gifts and want the best for them. If that is so, why do I worry and fret when I pray. I believe it is because I ask amiss. If Lillyann asked for a gun, knife, motorcycle, or pet python, she wouldn’t get them no matter how hard she cried. God knows what is best for me, and I’ve learned to simply ask for mercy and for the desires of His heart to be the desires of mine. That gets rid of those pesky worries in a powerful way.

Asking a parent for a healthy snack gets a much better response than a demand for chocolate. I am guilty of demanding chocolate and giving Him a grocery list of needs. No wonder there’s worry in my heart.

Intercession is the best prayer and puts me even closer to Jesus. He is the model for praying and lives a praying life. He is in constant intercession for me, and His Holy Spirit prays the prayers I cannot utter for me and others. Allowing Jesus to talk to God on my behalf and the Holy Spirit to pray for and through me, I find that my praying is becoming as natural as breathing. That changes the way I ask in a beautiful way and helps me live a praying life.

Gigi Susie :)

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Susan Mariscal was known to Mylah and Lillyann as Gigi Susie and to her grandchildren as Grandma Susie. She suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for a decade, but that never stopped her. She only slowed down because she had to, but she continued to touch many by teaching piano and living a life that clearly personified God’s love.

I met Susan in 2007 when my son began dating her granddaughter. We made an immediate connection as I felt God’s presence in all she said and did. She taught a class on the day she had her stroke and played the piano at her church the Sunday before. Every task was a pain-filled chore for her, but she never complained. She cared for others and gave of herself as her sweet Savior did, and that is the best witness of His love.

Susan’s smile never faded, and I never heard her say a harsh word. I pray that I will be half the witness she was. I’m so very thankful God placed her loving presence in my path. I plan to tell the girls all about her courage and her love for them. She delighted in them and loved nothing better than being with them.

I gave Lillyann a butterfly pin for her sweater today. She touched it and asked, “Can Gigi Susie touch it?”

I replied, “Yes, Lilly, she can touch it because it’s right next to your heart.” I love the way children think:)  I told her she could have the pin to remember the service and Gigi Susie.

I know without a doubt what God said when Susan arrived in heaven, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Here’s a sweet shot of Lillyann helping Gigi Susie open her Christmas presents. She has a tender heart, as well:)

Lilly & Gigi Susie