Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Banquet '16 and Serving The Lord with Gladness

Every year our association of churches puts on a Valentine's Banquet. The schedule rotates so each church has a chance to host the dinner. This year the dinner was not at our church but at a sister church. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Not only were the decorations so pretty, the food was beautiful, the company was wonderful, the church really went all out and served one another... filling up tea glasses, giving whipped cream to your cheesecake or taking away any dirty dishes. It was a beautiful picture of service. As I glanced around the room taking it all in, I was overwhelmed with the love that was poured out. All this was done in the name of Jesus. The servers, the cooks, the decorators, the attendees, even their pastor and his wife bustled around helping out.... everyone was there to celebrate Jesus and the love that He pours out on us. 

 This all got me thinking of the beauty of serving the Lord with gladness and there are no big or small acts. Only service. 
Someone had to go to Costco (or somewhere) to buy the food for all those people (and there were a lot!).
Someone had to cook.
Someone had to plan the layout of the room.
Someone had to plan the entertainment, which was lovely. It was a piano man and he did a fabulous job. 
Someone had to wash dishes. Those were real plates and glasses!
Someone had to gather the linens and wash them.
Someone had to plan how many servers they would need, how much tea to make, how much coffee to brew, how many green beans to cook. 
Someone had to keep track of expenses.

No task was menial, no task was unimportant, all were there for a reason and when all were working in order, what a blessing it was for so many.

Shannon and I don't go out often, but we enjoyed a sweet evening together with our eldest and her boyfriend, as well as many other dear souls that go to church with us. But also, we got to see some precious people that we know and love that attend other churches. So many there, in one accord.
 So friend, realize... there is no small task when it comes to serving the Lord. All are important, and all are needed. Serve the Lord with gladness and see what He can do. And, make a point to fellowship with other believers. We desperately need encouragement in the faith. A friend who is willing to spur you on... I am thankful for those in my church who are encouragers and edifiers. See... every task is important. So we need to make sure we are using our gifts and serving the Lord and one another. 

And most importantly... if the Lord isn't your main focus, change that today. Make Him Lord of your heart and Lord of your life. He loves you and desires that with you! 


Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Living Sacrifice

A Living Sacrifice

Over the weekend at our Annual Women's Retreat, I was blessed to be able to give a devotion. One of the beautiful things about these devotions at the retreats are the responses given by your sisters in Christ, the insight that other women give and the challenges put forth. So as you read this, realize it is just what I've learned while delving into scripture. I think you would get more with a video of the time there... but I pray that this is a blessing to you.

What is a sacrifice?

Webster's defines sacrifice as:

Simple Definition of sacrifice 
         : the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

         : an act of killing a person or animal in a religious ceremony as an offering to please a god

         : a person or animal that is killed in a sacrifice

Full Definition of sacrifice
:  an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially :  the killing of a victim on an altar

:  something offered in sacrifice

a :  destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else
b :  something given up or lost sacrifices made by parents>

Let me tell you a story...
One day a pig and a chicken were walking down the street. 
The local grocer had a sign hanging outside his shop that said...
The chicken then looked over at the pig and said, "I'll supply the eggs... If you'll supply the bacon!"
The pig looked at the chicken with shock and said, "NO WAY!!! For you, it's just a contribution, but for me, it's total commitment!"

In the old testament, when it was the time for sacrifices, the priests would gather whatever it was that was supposed to go on the altar. 
But here's the thing... 
The priests did not just put a leg on the altar. Nor did they only use a foot, or an arm... or a head. The whole of the sacrifice was laid upon the altar. 
Every. Single. Bit.
Oftentimes, I believe, once we are saved. We are just that. We are saved. 

But the Lord begins to prick our heart about things that are still not surrendered.

We only want to be 'saved' we don't want to put our ALL on the altar. 
Maybe you haven't thought about it this way before. You know you have repented of your sins, you have realized your need of a Savior and have asked Him to be Lord of your life and you are saved. But maybe you know there are things that you are holding on to. Things that YOU want to control or continue in, and you know they are not of the Lord. Once we are aware of this, I believe it is of utmost importance to lay it down.

Sometimes we try to rationalize things with the Lord. When we KNOW that HE is God, not us.

Now, Lord! I want todo what's right by you, and I know the Bible says this is wrong, but no one knows what I'm doing.  It's only hurting me if anyone!  Let me just keep this part of myself, or that part of myself, Lord... because I like this, even though it is not good for me. I enjoy that... even though if I were truthful, I know it causes my brother to stumble and I know it's not good for me either.

Sometimes we hold back on our full surrender. 
Have you got these things that you know are not fully surrendered to The Lord? Have you become aware of a lack of total commitment? Are you all in? 

Here's something I realized while working on this devotion.

When God asked Abraham to give up Isaac as a sacrifice, I am sure it was a hard blow for Abraham. Here he was, he FINALLY had a son by his wife Sarah. Abraham finally seemed to get all his ducks in a row and was fully trusting that the Lord was on the throne of his life... 
But, He had learned through the school of hard knocks that he put himself through, that God could totally be trusted. He knew that God had proved himself faithful, time and time again... even though Abraham had tried to jump in and made a LOT of mistakes.
So his faith had grown by leaps and bounds. At this point even though I am certain his heart was SO heavy and sad, that if God did expect him to sacrifice his precious son... that God was ABLE to raise Isaac from the dead. He trusted God that much! That's pretty big faith. But I think Abraham finally got to the place that he was FULLY surrendered to the Lord. That he had realized that he had been trying to handle too much and kept getting ahead of God. 
The Lord had promised Abraham that his decedents would outnumber the stars of the sky!
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 
Genesis 22:17

Are we willing to climb up on that altar? 
Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves, our plans, our thoughts, our expectations... in order for God to be the ultimate in our life? For His ways to be FULLY our ways and HIS thoughts to be FULLY our thoughts? Are we trusting Him enough to believe that if we lay our life down, HE will raise it up to be far greater than what we could have ever planned for ourselves? 
That's ALL in...

He wanted that out of Abraham. 
HE wants that out of us!

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Once we have fully given Him everything we have been holding on to, I believe things will be different. 
We should see it. Our family should see it. The world should see it.
We should serve more.
We should love more.
We should forgive more.
We should witness more.
We should pray more. 
We should be in The Word more.
And the list could go on, and on, and on, and on...

We are ALL in. FULLY surrendered. Dead to our old selves, but made TOTALLY alive in Christ.
What freedom! To know it is ALL in HIS hands. That we are completely surrendered to HIS ways.

The Bible says:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
     And do not lean on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
         And He will make your paths straight. 

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
         Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. 

It will be healing to your body
         And refreshment to your bones. 

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37:3-6

Fully surrender.... Seek Him! Find Him... Give Him your ALL!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Women's Retreat 2016

If I could gather the words to express my joy to you... I still don't know that I could fully get it across. My heart is full to bursting with the love I have for these women and the love of our Great Savior that was displayed and talked about this past weekend at our annual retreat. 

The last two years we stayed at this amazing cabin that could fit all of us plus 20 more probably... This year, due to a couple of situations, we were not able to get that cabin. We got a cabin that was much, much smaller, but my oh my... the Spirit of the Lord was so present in the place. Maybe it was because of close quarters, but most likely it was that He poured His Spirit out because He knew how desperately we needed Him. Probably more this year than ever before. And you know what? He supplies our needs... right when we need them most. 

One of my biggest blessings was that my 18 year old daughter joined me on the retreat this year for the first time. My Mom was there with me too, my sister in law, my eldest niece, my aunt, and some of the ladies in my church that I hold very near and dear to my heart. I missed my sister and my first cousin this year, but hopefully next time. 
Another very special blessing was that a sweet, sweet friend of mine that I made in 1993 while working together in a little video store, now goes to church with me and went on this retreat. I am so thankful for all these blessings!

I love these women dearly and I am thankful for the time I was able to spend with them. I'm thankful for the inspiration I gathered from them. I hope to share a little more tomorrow, with the devotion that the Lord taught me and that I shared with them. 

Be blessed my friends. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Frugal Meal : Korean Beef & Rice

Yummy flavors, easy, inexpensive... this recipe is a great one! I love spices and new options, especially when you go looking around and type in 'way to stretch ground beef'. 
It happens sometimes. You only have a little and you need it to go a bit further. This is a good way.
First I always, always, cut up onions to help my beef. I cook them together so that the onions get soft and delicious in the beef. If I have any mushrooms, I toss them in chopped as well. Another way to get something substantial that helps it seem like there is more meat there. 
And if I still need more, and if I have it, I will chop other veggies fine. 
When I made this meal, I just kinda 'picked and chose' what we had available and what sounded like would work for us. 
 We were just low on everything... so this is seriously low cost, low ingredient meal. 

Brown your ground beef with your onions and mushrooms or however you like to do it. 
While that is browning go ahead and get your rice cooked.

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger or you can use 1/2 tsp ground
red pepper flakes to your liking- I think I used a couple tsp.

Once your beef and rice is ready, toss the sauce on the beef and mix. Get everything incorporated and hot and serve with a side of green beans or a salad!

I'm not a food photographer... but this was GOOD! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

::Kitchen thoughts::&:: Pumpkin Bread

Sometimes when I get troubled a bit I bake. Baking helps me to take my mind off the troubles and be thankful and thoughtful for a little while. And easy bread like this doesn't take special ingredients (unless you don't keep pumpkin around) so it is fairly inexpensive to make. 

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 cups flour (a mix of white and wheat is nice)
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin

Mix the dry ingredients and then mix the wet and then mix together.

Grease 3 loaf pans and pour the thick batter in about half full. 

I didn't add anything to these loaves, but I am thinking that adding raisins would be wonderful. My children insist I should have added chocolate chips. 
I did dust the tops with some cinnamon sugar mix.
Bake at 350* for about an hour, it really depends on your oven. 
This recipe makes 3 loaves. 

While in the kitchen I spend a lot of time talking to the Lord. Most often while I am washing dishes. When I'm standing at my little sink, looking out the window above and washing I can usually spend a few minutes of relatively quite time just thanking Him for all His blessings and praising Him for who He is and praying for what's on my heart. With almost zero counter space, no dishwasher and a fairly big family there are a few times a day when I am at the kitchen sink and I tend to enjoy this time. And of course you know when you bake you tend to dirty a few more dishes... but in this case, it was very well worth the dishes and the time spent in prayer is always worth it!