The Good News

As the accuser, the enemy of my soul is continually at work chipping away at my identity in Christ. He accuses me of how I never change; how wretched I am; how far I fall short…and he is right – I am and I do!

My performance, however, doesn’t make God’s Word about me, His love for me or what He has done on my behalf more or less powerful. It isn’t based on ME – my ability to live up to a standard, to do “this or that,” to achieve a certain level of performance or perfection. He came to seek and to save the lost! And I qualify!

THIS is Good News!

Roman 5-8

Angels & Shepherds, the Expressive Ones

imagesRead Luke 2:1-20.

We live in a “PC” world. Oftener and oftener the Christian’s worldview is shushed in deference to the agenda of the moment. My husband and I were talking just this week about the big divide we’ve seen this holiday season. Currently there is a media-driven rebellion against wishing someone a “Merry Christmas,” even though the malls are packed with Christmas shoppers and Amazon is busily delivering packages in time for Christmas morning. “Happy Holidays” is the new trend and to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” is unbelievably considered offensive.

The thing is, what is considered “PC” is ever-changing. It’s tough to keep your finger on the popular pulse at any given moment these days. I think that’s why the response of both the angels and the shepherds of the nativity stand out to me so much this year in particular –

Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”  vv 13-14

the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. v 20

These last few days of the season, I want to challenge myself to live expressively in light of Emmanuel (“God with us”), the One for whom Christmas was named. I want to live uncensored in my praise of Him. I want my words and actions to express my beliefs. Like the angels and shepherds, I want glorify Him in an expressive way, that those around me may know the reason for the season by what I say and do.

On that note, I wish each of you a heartfelt Merry Christmas!

Action Items

I took a personality profile in college that pegged me as a “doer.” This wasn’t news to me, or anyone that knew me. I am an “action-y” person. I get things done. I don’t let dust settle on me, as the saying goes. I think I have viewed my walk with God through the doer’s personality lens. Working on my faith has always been another thing on my to-do list, until I came across this beautiful truth tucked into the first part of Hebrews 12 – Jesus (not myself) is the Perfecter of my faith.

Fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:2

According to this verse, my part is to fix my eyes on Jesus. That’s my sole action item. His part is to begin, continue and finish my faith. I had never before thought that anyone other than myself was in charge of my faith! Other Scripture backs this up – He is the Potter; I am the clay. He does the filling; I get filled. He is the Vinedresser; I am the branch. Just like so many times in my walk with God, another piece of the puzzle slipped into place. Perfecting my faith? That’s His action item.

PONDER: Have you assumed you were the perfecter of your faith? How does this verse change your perspective?

PRAYER: Father, thank You that your yoke is easy and your burden is light! Forgive me when I take Your job of perfecting my faith into my own hands. I realize now that I have a lifelong habit of attempting to do Your job for You. Help me instead to keep my eyes fixed on You while You continue and finish what You have started.

More Like Mary

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Mary (left) and Laura, Season 1 of Little House on the Prairie

Growing up, Little House on the Prairie was one of my favorite t.v. shows. I could relate to Laura as someone who struggled to do the right thing when her feelings tempted her to do the opposite. One such example was from the first season. Laura and Mary had just experienced the first of many unpleasant interactions with nasty Nellie Olsen. Sitting on the stairs of the mercantile, Mary commented to Laura that she could never be as mean as Nellie.

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I confess – I loved this scened. Oh, Nelly!

Laura’s unforgettable reply was, “I could, if Ma and Pa would let me.” As she lived with her beloved parents’ daily influence, they molded Laura’s actions and reactions. In the same way, we have God’s Holy Spirit living within us.

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. – Ezekiel 36:27

His Spirit is constantly available to influence the choices we make and daily mold our actions and reactions, as well. While our feelings may echo Laura’s sentiment, with the Holy Spirit on duty within our hearts, our reactions can be more like Mary’s.

PONDER: In what situation are you most tempted to react in your flesh? Choose to submit your will unto God’s, allowing the Holy Spirit to mold your actions & reactions.

PRAYER: Father, I confess that my actions and reactions are more in line with Laura’s. Help me to be more like Mary, slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit living within me, teaching and guiding and directing me as I walk with You.

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 4

This week, let’s implement yet another new pattern of prayer – The T.R.I.P. Method. This seemed like an abbreviated pattern very similar to last week’s P.A.R.T.S. pattern. Like the P.R.A.I.S.E. method, I enjoyed starting my time with God thanking Him for what He has already done. It positioned my heart for the next section, which is perhaps what I appreciated most about this particular pattern of prayer – the section on “regrets.” That is a category that I can relate to! Unlike “repentance,” regrets encompasses mess-ups that don’t stem from intentionality, but burden me, keeping me stuck in those moments. I appreciated this new aspect of talking through the times during the day that I missed the mark. It was unburdening to approach the Lord with these burdens, gratefully dumping them at His feet and being able to move forward – both in prayer and with my day. I feel that beginning with those two prepared my heart to intercede, praying for His will more than my own. And then ending by praising Him for His answers, whatever they will be.

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 3

This week, let’s have our prayers focus on the P.A.R.T.S pattern, another new pattern of prayer for me. This prayer pattern didn’t flow for me as easily as the P.R.A.I.S.E. pattern did, but I appreciated the addition of “repentance,” as that is one area that I tend to forget amongst all the needs I find myself praying for more often. I also liked the “sharing” addition, as too often I keep my prayer & devotional life private. It challenged me to open up more with people and share what the Lord was actively teaching me and I needed that.

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A Time to Trust

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When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move;
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through;
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You –
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

Trust In You by Lauren Daigle

Oh my. This song has reverberated through my mind several times a day, every day, for several weeks now. I relate too-readily with the sentiment in the chorus. My heart is too ready to wallow in the feeling of God’s abandonment when anything is too tough or too long or too unpleasant or too uncomfortable.

Do I trust in Him when He doesn’t move the mountain in front of me? When He holds out His hand, offering instead to walk with me over the mountain, guiding me, helping me, do I eagerly take it or do I cross my arms and walk off in a huff, agitated and resentful?

Do I trust Him when He doesn’t part the waters I wish I could walk through? When His wisdom dictates a more difficult or seemingly perilous route, do I drop to my knees – not in worship, but in a tantrum of two-year-old proportions?

Do I trust Him when He doesn’t give me the answers as I cry out to Him? When He lovingly answers instead, “wait,” do I accept that as an answer or rebel against His not performing on cue?

Because that’s what is at the heart of this ongoing issue of trust I continually struggle with – believing He knows best when it conflicts with what I think I know is best. Trusting His plan when it doesn’t match mine. Surrendering to His will instead of arrogantly clinging to my own.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

PONDER: What mountains or waters or questions are you facing right now about which God is asking you to walk with Him in trust?

 

Camping & the Apocalypse

I am a fan of the apocalyptic genre. I don’t read or watch it exclusively, but this has been a summer of reading and watching rather a lot of it. Need proof? Over these short summer months, I have binge-watched The Last ShipContainmentSurvivors, Fringe, 12 Monkeys, Primeval: New World, and Zoo. I recently began reading Station Eleven since one of my friends suggested it based on my like of the aforementioned binged show Survivors. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, our family read-aloud has been Battlefield Earth, a quasi post-apocalyptic gem. Needless to say, it’s been a rough summer of near-annihilation for the human race all within the confines of my own head!

I share this about myself to help you understand my doomsday mindset while we were recently on our annual Labor Day Weekend Campout with our youngest kids in the breathtaking panhandle canyons of northwest Texas.

This naturally made crevice in the rock was much explored by the other members of my family during our recent visit to Palo Duro Canyons State Park. Climbing to, in, through, and on it was a highlight of our trip!
This naturally made crevice in the rock was much explored during our recent visit to Palo Duro Canyons State Park. Climbing to, in, through, and on it was a highlight of our trip!
I ventured about this close to it. My cowardice won and I stayed behind while the family explored the nooks and crannies with other brave hikers that day.
The family explored the nooks and crannies of this magnificent fortress in the cliffs.
Simon and the kids couldn't resist climbing down into a ravine and then through this natural "tunnel" under our hiking trail. If you look closely, you can see Simon's head in the center for scale.
Simon and the kids couldn’t resist climbing down into a ravine and then through this natural “tunnel” under our hiking trail. If you look closely, you can see Simon’s head in the center for scale. While they were exploring, they talked about making a Western in which the hero used a place such as this as his hideout.

With a mixture of both imagined images (due to my favored genre of late) and real images (due to my current locale) floating through my mind, I was primed with a mental slideshow as I read these Words early one morning –

Enter into the rock
    and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty.” Is 2:10

“And people shall enter the caves of the rocks
    and the holes of the ground,[b]
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty,
    when he rises to terrify the earth.” Is 2:19

“to enter the caverns of the rocks
    and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the Lord,
    and from the splendor of his majesty,
    when he rises to terrify the earth.” Is 2:21

As you can imagine, these words & images reverberated through my apocalyptic mind all day long as we hiked and explored the caverns! Later, I went back and reread Isaiah 2, which I admit was rather discouraging the first time through, and that time God illuminated the {more encouraging} beginning of the chapter –

“and many peoples shall come, and say:                                             Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.’ ” Is 2:3

Where am I going with this? Too many times I stumble on the negative. My mind dwells on the half-empty glass. I focus on the fears. I cry out in despair when the Lord doesn’t move the mountains I want Him to move or part the waters I wish I could walk through. And yet, His purpose for me isn’t to make my journey easy or smooth, but worth the effort, worth the struggle. As I go to Him each time I face a mountain or have to cross a sea, He teaches me more of His ways and I learn to walk in His paths.

What about you? What obstacles is the Lord eagerly waiting to teach you His ways as you walk His path with Him?

Smith Family Camp Out – September 2016

As one friend commented, "you have good knights - in shorts!" And we did! Simon and Jesse set up our camp perfectly while Chloe & I reclined in the tent on air mattresses.
As one friend commented, “you have good knights – in shorts!” And we did! Simon and Jesse set up our camp perfectly while Chloe & I reclined in the tent on air mattresses.
Our sweet home away from home for 5 glorious days at Caprock Canyons State Park. Chloe and I sold everything we could get our hands on from the garage to buy a big 3-room tent and two oscillating fans. It was worth it!
Our sweet home away from home for 5 glorious days at Caprock Canyons State Park. Chloe and I sold everything we could get our hands on from the garage to buy a big 3-room tent and two oscillating fans. It was worth it!
Sunrise and sunset were my favorite times of day...so beautiful. So peaceful. What an awesome experience to walk with God in His beautiful creation during these times of the day.
Sunrise and sunset were my favorite times of day…so beautiful. So peaceful. What an awesome experience to walk with God in His beautiful creation during these times of the day.

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After setting up camp, Jesse walked down to Lake Theo and began catching (and releasing) these little guys. He is an angler to the core.
After setting up camp, Jesse walked down to Lake Theo and began catching (and releasing) these little guys. He is an angler to the core.
(deep, contented sigh...muscles relaxing...soaking in God's presence)
(deep, contented sigh…muscles relaxing…soaking in God’s presence)
I looked up from my Bible to this sweet sight - my boy on the lake, early morning, fishing in his kayak that he saved and bought off Craigslist.
I looked up from my Bible to this sweet sight – my boy on the lake, early morning, fishing in his kayak that he saved and bought off Craigslist.
I discovered how to use the panorama feature on my iPhone this trip. LOVE this feature!
I discovered how to use the panorama feature on my iPhone this trip. LOVE this feature! This is a panorama of our campsite. It is the most private, spacious campsite we’ve ever had! Seemed like we were the only ones around!
Raccoon (whom we named "Oscar" because of his location) stuck in the dump, so he decided to take a nap. Someone put a log in there for him to climb out on and he was gone by evening.
Raccoon (whom we named “Oscar” because of his location) stuck in the dump, so he decided to take a nap. Someone put a log in there for him to climb out on and he was gone by evening.
Saturday - Palo Duro Canyons State Park was breathtaking! It is the second largest canyon in the U.S. We explored it's nooks and crannies all day.
Saturday – Palo Duro Canyons State Park was breathtaking! It is the second largest canyon in the U.S. We explored it’s nooks and crannies all day.

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Spent a LONG time here, hiking in/out/over that cave.
Spent a LONG time here, hiking in/out/over that cave.
Can you spy Simon and Chloe?
Can you spy Simon and Chloe?
Great memory-making day exploring God's magnificent creation.
Great memory-making day exploring God’s magnificent creation.
It was mesmerizing watching Jesse fish with his net for bait fish. I took wayyyyyy too many photos for a sane person, but come on...it's poetry in motion.
It was mesmerizing watching Jesse fish with his net for bait fish. I took wayyyyyy too many photos for a sane person, but come on…it’s poetry in motion.

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Spent the day at Copper Breaks State Park. Unanimously, we do not recommend this park. This shot reminds me of Huck Finn, so I thought I'd share it.
Spent the day at Copper Breaks State Park. Unanimously, we do not recommend this park. This shot reminds me of Huck Finn, so I thought I’d share it.
On our way out, we did enjoy some time with some longhorns the park keeps.
On our way out, we did enjoy some time with some longhorns the park keeps.
The second of MANY upclose and personal encounters with the bison herd back at Caprock Canyons State Park. This pic is taken through the open door of our Suburban. He's not even a really big one, either!
The second of MANY up close and personal encounters with the bison herd back at Caprock Canyons State Park. This pic is taken through the open door of our Suburban. He’s not even a really big one, either!
Ribs and salad kind of night...yum!
Ribs and salad kind of night…yum!
Another early morning on the lake with Jesse as he enjoys his favorite past time.
Another early morning on the lake with Jesse as he enjoys his favorite past time.
As our vacation progressed, our interactions became closer and closer with the resident bison herd. They were around every corner, literally.
As our vacation progressed, our interactions became closer and closer with the resident bison herd. They were around every corner, literally.
This was the day we explored every nook and cranny we could at Caprock Canyons State Park. I cannot state clearly enough how you should visit this gem of a state park. It is beautiful. It is clean. The weather is COOL, believe it or not. The campsites are PRIVATE and it is hands-down our favorite campground to date.
This was the day we explored every nook and cranny we could at Caprock Canyons State Park. I cannot state clearly enough how you should visit this gem of a state park. It is beautiful. It is clean. The weather is COOL, believe it or not. The campsites are PRIVATE and it is hands-down our favorite campground to date.
Fun with panorama selfies! Can you see all of us?
Fun with panorama selfies! Can you see all of us?
That blue sky...
That blue sky…
This is right before we discovered Cedar Flies...and their tenacity...and the fact that they bite...hard. This is the canyon behind our camp site.
This is right before we discovered Cedar Flies…and their tenacity…and the fact that they bite…hard. This is the canyon behind our camp site.

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LOVE this shot of the three of them watching the bird flying high above the canyon.
LOVE this shot of the three of them watching the bird flying high above the canyon.
Simon and Jesse heading out on a 2 mile trail. Chloe and I picked them up on the opposite side.
Simon and Jesse heading out on a 2 mile trail. Chloe and I picked them up on the opposite side.
This is what Chloe and I did while the guys were hiking...
This is what Chloe and I did while the guys were hiking…

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...and they are back!
…and they are back!

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The photos just don't convey the vastness, the depth, the beauty of Caprock Canyons SP.
The photos just don’t convey the vastness, the depth, the beauty of Caprock Canyons SP.
The guys loved the 2-mile trail so much they took us back on it. We discovered a great natural bridge/tunnel. Obviously, it needed to be explored.
The guys loved the 2-mile trail so much they took us back on it. We discovered a great natural bridge/tunnel. Obviously, it needed to be explored.

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Sunsets were a daily ritual for us and so breathtaking.
Sunsets were a daily ritual for us and so breathtaking.
Last night - (decaf) coffee before bed for this modern-day knight of mine.
Last night – (decaf) coffee before bed for this modern-day knight of mine.
En route home, we stopped at a fourth state park (gotta love those state park passes, right?).
En route home, we stopped at a fourth state park (gotta love those state park passes, right?).
The guys fished while Chloe and I played Rummy and Whist in the Suburban. This place boasts a prairie dog town, but Simon said it was more like an infestation. We all agreed.
The guys fished while Chloe and I played Rummy and Whist in the Suburban. This place boasts a prairie dog town, but Simon said it was more like an infestation. We all agreed.
Brave. Boy. I shudder to imagine how many snakes are in there with Jesse, but he's a wild-at-heart kind of manling like his dad, so...
Brave. Boy. I shudder to imagine how many snakes are in there with Jesse, but he’s a wild-at-heart kind of manling like his dad, so…
Bonus - Jesse asked if he could make dinner when we got back, so he used stuff on hand (plus some kale I went to buy) and made this ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS SOUP from scratch! It's his own creation, people. He's 16!
Bonus – Jesse asked if he could make dinner when we got back, so he used stuff on hand (plus some kale I went to buy) and made this ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS SOUP from scratch! It’s his own creation, people. He’s 16!