Monday, December 29, 2008

Where shall we go?

In John 6:66-71, many of Jesus' followers are leaving Him. He had quite a crowd following Him thanks to the feeding of the 5000 and healing crowds of people, but when they realized He wasn't going to keep feeding Him most of them left. Jesus asks His disciples if they are going to leave too, and this is their answer:

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God."

They had gotten beyond the physical world and its desires. For them it was ok to not understand what Jesus was doing. They could accept what God had planned even if it did not fit their own plans.

I am sure that their thoughts were not as complete as what I have written, but the foundation was there. They stayed with Him to the end.

I pray that we would be as faithful.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jesus

Have you ever noticed how Jesus treated people? He wasn't just nice to everybody. He was very tender to some people, very harsh to others. Distant with some, open and close to others. To some He spoke plainly, to others in parables and stories that they could not understand.

He did not try to reconcile with everyone He spoke to. He did not go out of His way to draw them all. He did not try to explain Himself to all of them.

Just something to think about.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Easy

Matthew 11:28
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This is a paradox to me. I do not find the Christian life easy. I find myself in a constant struggle with my sin nature. I find myself at war with the world and with Satan. What is easy about that?

Perhaps I am putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. If I take this verse in the context of the entire Bible, the meaning changes. Jesus doesn’t actually say that living the Christian life is easy. He says He will give me rest. Elsewhere Christ promises trouble and hardship on this earth. But the burden and the work of living the Christian life is supposed to be on God, not on me. He promises to do the work, He promises to hang on to me, He promises He is in control. My job is to rest in His promises. My job is to let Him work through me. But that is the difficulty! I want to do the work myself! I don’t want to need Him! Believe me, living the Christian life on my own is anything but easy. My little puny self against my sin nature, the world, and Satan is not going to make it. But God the Creator and Ruler of all can handle whatever comes against Him; it’s easy for Him. That is rest and peace!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas morning

I sit surrounded by the faint sounds of Christmas music and the smells of Christmas baking. The Christmas story has been read and the presents have been opened. This was a great Christmas. My older kids are old enough to really get into the giving of Christmas. I loved watching them get exited as the gifts they gave were opened. They weren't just gifts from me with their names on them, they were thought out and bought themselves. And the gifts were great... lots of books! No electronics... a couple of great dvds though.

Christmas just feels like it is supposed to - an expression of love.

And BTW, my favorite gift was actually the tag on my teen daughter's gift to me. "I love you".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from the family! Last week I trapped them all and forced them to pose for a family picture... and you see their personalities come out under pressure!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Groove

I got an e-mail from a friend last week, wondering if I was ok since I hadn't sent out "becky's thoughts" in a couple of weeks.

I am ok, but I seem to have lost my "groove". Life has gotten busier and I haven't had time to sit and ponder things or pull my thoughts together. I can't seem to find a normal routine... yes I laugh as I say that! There is nothing normal about my life, never has been!

But a couple of things have thrown me off balance in the last 6 weeks. First was losing my Bible. No, I never found it. It should be an easy thing to just pick up another Bible (we have many in our house) and read... and actually I have done that. What has been difficult is putting my prayer life together without the lists and prompts I kept in my Bible. And it has been hard to take notes again, and even jotting down random thoughts is different. For one thing, I can never find a pen! I always kept pens in my Bible, and they were the ONLY pens that didn't get stolen off my desk. And then there is the problem of not being able to find passages in a different Bible. Yes the words are the same, but they are on different pages!

The other thing that has thrown me off is my new job. I am SO thankful for it and for my boss, but it has sucked 15 hours out of my week. Where is that going to come from? I still haven't figured that out yet.

But it is all coming together and life is adjusting. Hopefully by the end of January I will have found my routine with its new schedule and a different Bible, and will be back in my groove.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jesus Called

Mark 3:13
Jesus went up into the hills and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him.

Luke 6:46
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', and do not do what I say?"

These 2 verses randomly caught my attention this morning as I read. I had not thought to connect them in any way until this minute, when I was typing them out.

Mark is recounting the calling and naming of the 12 apostles. Jesus picked them and called them, and they came. Even Judas. I have often wondered about that. What was Jesus thinking at that moment? Was He sad, disappointed, angry? Did He just not think about it yet? Anyway, on a personal note, I was thinking about God wanting me and calling me... how cool is that?

Luke is talking about a teaching of Jesus'. When I read that I immediately thought of people who call themselves Christians yet live in a pattern of sin, like adultery or pornography or some other addiction. Even some churches openly accept things that the Bible expressly forbids... the gay lifestyle for example. I know we all sin, because we are sinners by nature. But a child of God should not live in sin, a constant lifestyle of sin. If you are moving closer and closer to God, you are going to be leaving that stuff behind.

The connection is that God calls some and they come to Him. Others claim to know God, but they haven't really come to Him. Just something to think about.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Journey of the Magi, by T.S. Elliot

A favorite Christmas read aloud filled with Biblical allusions. Reputed to be a chronicle of T.S. Eliot's journey from agnosticism into faith.

The Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

-- T. S. Eliot

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christ on earth

As I continue reading through the gospels, I am still thinking about what it was like to meet Christ in the flesh. I have never read them from that perspective, I have always taken it for granted and just read for myself without thinking about what the people then didn't know about Him. It is a different way to look at things.

The religious leaders of the day were complicated. Jesus wasn't who they expected. They had studied their scripture, but seem to have skipped over some parts of it or focused only on what they wanted to believe. But it wasn't ignorance that pitted them against Him, it was pride and power. They were jealous of His influence and they saw Him taking away their own power over the people. Perhaps this is what blinded them to His divinity. How could they look at Him and not know who He was? How could they not just fall on their faces before Him?

Scripture says that people are blind until God opens their eyes. That He reveals Himself in His own time. That if we seek Him we will find Him. So I guess if we don't seek Christ and don't want Him, we are blind. And unless God intervenes we will stay that way.

Thank You Lord, for opening my eyes!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Emmanuel

Emmanuel

Creator stepped into His Creation,
Not as Ruler,
although He had that right
and indeed He does rule,
But He walked as a part of His creation;
As a baby, a child, a man.

An Infinite Creator
housed in a finite body.
King over all;
Living not in a palace
lording over His servants;
but walking the earth
with His subjects.

The heavens celebrated His coming
with a brilliant star.
John leapt with joy and welcome
from his mother’s womb.
The heavenly host filled the sky with
“Glory to God in the highest!”
The shepherds came in awe.
The Wise men brought kingly gifts
into His humble surroundings.

Simeon and Anna longed for His coming;
they knew Him and blessed Him,
proclaiming the redemption
of Israel,
and of the world.

In fear Herod sought His death.
In faith Mary and Joseph trusted God’s plan.

Christ our Lord walked this earth;
He lived and loved,
He laughed and wept,
He suffered and died.
He walked with us.
He was one of us.
He lived for us;
He died for us.
So we could live for Him,
and die for Him.

Emmanuel

Rebecca A Givens 12/19/08

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Calling of the Disciples

Today I read about Jesus calling His disciples. Remember I was speculating what He must have been like? I'm still thinking about that. If you meet a man and He looks at you and tells you to follow Him... what would it take for you to drop everything and go? What did they see in His face? In His eyes? What made Him irresistable? Have you ever had someone you did not know well look into your eyes and see your soul? I met a man of God once who did that to me. It was irresistable. It was grace and love and understanding and it touched some deep part of me. I have experienced it a few times since then, but only with people I know well.

Whatever it was with Jesus, when they met Him and He called them, they came. I pray that I would be as quick to follow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ninja

cat



more animals

I just spent 20 minutes looking at pictures here... if you are ever feeling low this will certainly cheer you up!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Temptation of Christ

Today I was reading in the gospels about the temptation of Christ. I had a few somewhat random thoughts.

Christ has just been baptized, the Spirit of God descended on Him visibly, people saw it. It's like He has now been publicly proclaimed to be the Son of God. Now He goes into the desert and fasts for 40 days, a very spiritual thing to do. What is His reward for this good spiritual committment to God? Severe temptation. Why are we so often surprised to find ourselves struggling while we are doing what we know is God's will? Perhaps that is Satan attacking us, trying to distract us from our mission,

Christ wasn't born on earth simply to die for our sins, but also to live. To live a sinless life. Often I tend to think it must have been easy for Him to live a sinless life. He is God! But think about this for a minute. He has now grown up on earth, an infinite being in a finite body. Was He ever hungry in heaven? No. Was He hungry on earth? He was a teenage boy at some point. Yes, He had to have been hungry. Now He has fasted for 40 days. Satan comes to Him and reminds Him of His own power as God; Christ can create food out of these rocks. It would have been easy for Him. It would have been within His rights as the Creator. I would have done it and justified it as a reward for fasting. But Jesus knew better; He knew this was not what God wanted.

Next Satan tempts Him to jump off the temple and let the angels catch Him. In Heaven was Jesus ever bound by the laws of gravity? Don't you think He could have flown if He had wanted to? He created gravity! Do you think He was tired of being bound to this earth? I would have been. I would have wanted to fly. But again, He knew He wasn't supposed to.

Last of all Satan offers Him the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus will bow down to Him. I don't fully understand this. Why should He even have to bow down to Satan to have the kingdoms of the earth? I know Satan has dominion here, but only because God gave it to him. For me, this particular temptation would not have been to bow to Satan, but to take back the kingdoms of the earth that were rightly mine to begin with and end Satan's power. But that was not God's plan. God had a different plan, not to simply remove Satan from power, but to redeem this fallen world. God's plan would cost Christ much more. More pain than hunger, more loss than coming to earth in a frail human body, more humility than seeing Satan rule in this world.

Jesus sends Satan away, defeated. At that point God's angels come and minister to Jesus. Perhaps they fed Him food from heaven, kept Him company as they had when He lived in heaven, worshipped Him as the rightful Son of God and Creator of all.

Perhaps if I could resist temptation myself I would see God's perfect provision for me at the end...

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Birth of Christ

I have started reading through the gospels this week. (yes, I know how behind I am! The important thing is to not quit) As I have thought about Emmanuel, God with us, I began to wonder what Jesus was like as a child, or as an adult in person. Do you ever get a "feeling" about somebody that you meet? Maybe you feel a connection, or you feel that they can be trusted, or that they are pretty good folks. Or, you feel creepy or uneasy about somebody. What kind of feeling must Jesus have projected to those around Him? Could you sense God in the flesh?

Not only that, but when I imagine Christ being here on earth, in the flesh, I get this picture of nature rejoicing at the coming of its Creator. The whole earth is groaning under the curse, did the whole earth rejoice as Christ walked through it?

What would the enemies of God sense about this Man? That is unfathomable to me. When I think of seeing Christ face to face, I feel an irresistible pull, like gravity, drawing me to worship Him, and an unspeakable joy in His Presence. I suppose it is the mystical nature in me that wants to see nature drawn to Him that way as well. Did the trees get greener and grow taller? Were the flowers more beautiful? Did the birds sing to Him? Did the animals desire His attention and affection? We know the children did. I think they sensed His love for them. That amazing, untainted love. What would it be like to see that in His face, in the flesh?

I can't wait for Heaven.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Taw - A Hebrew Prayer

May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.


t Taw - Psalm 119:169-176

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I-Tunes and Podcasts

OK, I am so excited about what I just found, I have to share it with you all.

For some time I have been listening to podcasts, 2 Bible study podcasts in particular: R.C. Sproul and Ravi Zacharias. I have also been hearing about other free educational podcasts, and I finally sat down and searched it... and I am so excited by what I have found! University courses on languages, history, Bible study... from places like Covenant Theological Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary. There is enough stuff here to keep me from getting bored for the rest of my life! And you don't have to have an ipod to use it (although I love my ipod shuffle, and it was refurbished and really cheap), you can use any mp3 player or your computer to listen or to burn it onto cd.

Go to http://www.apple.com/itunes/ and click on the download i-tunes button. This will become your player and your storage center for everything you listen to. When you open i-tunes on your computer, click on the i-tunes store. On the left side of that screen you will see your options for music etc. Click i-tunes U. That's all the educational stuff. On that screen you will find indexes by school or by topic. Make sure you notice if you are looking at "featured" stuff or complete lists, or you might miss something you want to hear.

I found several other lists of free educational podcasts, as I sort through them I will let you know what I find.

Enjoy, and learn something! Keep those brain cells exercised!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sin and Shin - A Hebrew Prayer

Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word.
I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands.
I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.
I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.


S Sin and Shin - Psalm 119:161-168

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ezra and Nehemiah

I just finished the book of Ezra and started into Nehemiah. Again, the Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan Charts) is very helpful in getting the historical setting. I have some longer thoughts developing from the end of Ezra, but I just want to mention a verse out of Ezra and one out of Nehemiah that caught my attention.

Ezra 7:28 - ... Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

Nehemiah 2:8 - ... And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.

The hand of my God upon me. What a powerful statement, and what a powerful affect that knowledge had on these 2 men. It gave them the courage to do what God wanted them to do, to face physical and political opposition that could easily have led to their deaths.

May the hand of my God be upon me, and on you!

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Bible Reading List

December Passage

1 1 Cor. 9-11
2 1 Cor. 12-14
3 1 Cor. 15-16
4 2 Cor. 1-4
5 2 Cor. 5-9
6 2 Cor. 10-13
7 Acts 20:1-3; Rom. 1-3
8 Rom. 4-7
9 Rom. 8-10
10 Rom. 11-13
11 Rom. 14-16
12 Acts 20:4-23:35
13 Acts 24-26
14 Acts 27-28
15 Colossians; Philemon
16 Ephesians
17 Philippians
18 1 Timothy
19 Titus
20 1 Peter
21 Heb. 1-6
22 Heb. 7-10
23 Heb. 11-13
24 2 Timothy
25 2 Peter; Jude
26 1 John
27 2 John; 3 John
28 Rev. 1-5
29 Rev. 6-11
30 Rev. 12-18
31 Rev. 19-22

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Goals - 2009

OK, I know it is only the end of November, and New Years is still a month away. Christamas is coming, and that is probably all that is on your mind. But you really should take some time in the month of December to think about your goals for 2009; particularly your Bible reading and studying goals. This should be an important part of your life! Be realistic. Did you set a goal for 2008? Was it more than you could manage? Did you accomplish anything?

Bible study is important. Today's society is largely ignorant about the Bible. So many mainline denominations place their emphasis on worship and experience and many Believers are not getting the meat of the Word. Go look for it! There are many Bible Study tools available, but you have to look for them. The Sunday morning sermon is a great place to start, but don't let that be all you get. Knowledge of God needs to go hand in hand with worship and experience with God.

I am behind in my 2008 goal of reading through the entire Bible chronologically, but I will finish by the end of February, so I am going to finish that first. But I am already thinking about what I will do next. I wish I could read the Bible through again, but I also want to do more in depth study and spend more time meditating and thinking on scripture. I can't do both. So for this year, I think I am going to pray through Psalms daily, maybe listen to Proverbs a few times, and study and memorize from the book of Romans. Or, now that I think about it, I might listen through the Bible at a somewhat leisurely pace... perhaps the Audio Bible would be a good Christmas present...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blessings

God,
I pray Your Blessings on our family
and on the work of our hands,
whether physical wealth comes or goes.

I pray You would bless our hearts
with peace and joy,
with laughter and love,
with giving and thanksgiving,
with forgiveness and forgiving.

Fill our house with Your Blessings and Your Glory.
Make us fit for Your Blessings and Your Glory.

O Lord, Bless us.

Rebecca A Givens, 11/23/2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Esther

I just finished the book of Esther. I've always loved this book! Such great quotes. This time a different part caught my attention. What would it be like to receive word of a law that allowed everyone to kill your people on a certain day in 9-10 months? What if the government said, "6 months from now it will be illegal to be a Christian. All Christians will be killed and their property seized." The "anticipation" leading up to that event would be horrible; waiting is always the hardest part of anything.

Isn't there a verse about waiting on the Lord? Several I think. Worked well for the Jews on this occasion.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

2008 has been a tough year, and I am thankful it is almost over.
In spite of this, or maybe because of it, I have much to be thankful for.

I thank God for my church; for my pastor and my friends who have become my family.

I thank God for my children and for the evidence that He is working in their lives.

In a time characterized by unfaithful men, I thank God for a husband who loves his wife and his children and God.

I thank God for my house. It is full of chaos and clutter, books and kids, giggling teenagers and serious conversation, and the stuff of life.

I thank God for His Word, that it never changes. Books change, and computers change, record players change, and teachers change, but God’s Word will always remain the same. Sometimes it opens up and grows deeper, but then it’s More, not different.

I thank God for His Spirit that teaches me and guides me and has shown me such wonderous things.

I thank God for His forgiveness, not just for forgiving me, but for allowing me such remarkable peace and joy in forgiving others.

I look at this list, and I see that every single thing is a miracle, an act of God, and I thank Him for that too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Resh - A Hebrew Prayer

Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
Your compassion is great, O LORD; preserve my life according to your laws.
Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your love.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

r Resh - Psalm 119:153-160

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

But God

Christian Motorcycle Association

But God
By: John Ogden, Sr.
November 17, 2008

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. (Job 1:1, Job 42:12)Job went through many testings and trials. He was attacked in every area from his family to his own health and finances.

There would be no hope for Job. BUT GOD

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, what is interesting is Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing. In the natural, there was no hope of Abraham being the father of many nations as he was childless and advanced in years. BUT GOD

Three Hebrew children, who refused to bow down to the king, were sentenced to be thrown into the fiery furnace. This surely would have meant death for them. BUT GOD

In the story of Daniel king Darius signed a decree that whoever petitioned any god or man in the next thirty days other than the king was to be cast into a den of lions. Daniel, refusing to obey the king’s decree, continued to openly pray to God. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den and would have been eaten by the hungry lions. BUT GOD

Peter, a disciple of Jesus Christ who had a hot temper, denied Christ three times. He would appear to be unfit as a leader in the Christian faith. BUT GOD

Lazarus was a man who had been dead for four days and had started to decay. BUT GOD

There are untold numbers of people in desperate and hopeless situations, people that the world has given up on, people the doctors have sent home with no hope, Christians who are back slidden, men and women who were greatly used of God at one time that may find themselves in hopeless situations. May I remind you to take the hopelessness of your situations and place them in God’s hands. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or think.


WHERE WOULD WE BE, BUT GOD?

© Christian Motorcyclists Association 2008.CONTACT US RIDE PLAN NEW BELIEVERS Christian Motorcyclists AssociationP.O. Box 9, 4278 Hwy 71 South, Hatfield, AR 71945, (870) 389-6196You are signed-up to receive devotional email messagesfrom the Christian Motorcyclists AssociationTo stop getting the CMA Devotional Email, please unsubscribe.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Story of Forgiveness

I know women whose husbands have hurt them terribly. These men have lied to them, cheated on them, abandoned them, and abused them. How those women live with that level of hurt I do not know.

I, however, am married to a wonderful man. He loves God, he loves me, and he loves his children. This past year money problems have put a strain on our marriage. Our communication has not been what it once was. Neither of us is by any means perfect anyway, but this seems to have attacked each of us at our weakest point. I personally have struggled with anger in a major way. But even through our struggle, I never doubted Wesley’s love for me and I never worried that he would leave me.

While I have not had a horrible husband who hurt me deeply, I have experienced a deep level of pain in my past and I know that forgiveness is a large part of the healing from that kind of heart wound. Forgiveness is what keeps you from growing bitter. A couple of weeks ago God reminded me about forgiving people who had wounded me deeply. He reminded me of what I had forgiven in the past, and that I needed to forgive someone now. Then God said something that totally took me by surprise,
“Becky, while you are forgiving them, you need to forgive Wesley too.”
“But God, Wesley doesn’t need to be forgiven, he hasn’t done anything like that to hurt me. He loves me.”
That’s true, but do I feel hurt?
Yeah. I do feel hurt. Hurt and disappointed that we are struggling, hurt and disappointed with our relationship, hurt and disappointed that we can’t seem to understand each other. I definitely feel hurt.
Am I angry?
Oh yes, anger has been a huge struggle this year. Remember the beast?
What does an unforgiving heart become?
Angry and bitter.

This conversation I had with God and the thoughts that followed it became the piece I wrote on Forgiveness. I wrote, “Forgiveness is an attitude, a state of mind, a way of living life.” Believe me, I have not been living my life with an attitude of forgiveness toward anybody in the past year. Right then I forgave the people I needed to forgive, and a most remarkable thing happened inside of me. As I got out of bed after that conversation with God, I found myself unable to stop grinning. Nothing had changed on the outside. The people I forgave may never know how much they hurt me, may never know that I have forgiven them, Wesley did not even know it at that moment. My act of forgiveness was not for any of them, it was for me; God did something miraculous in my heart. And I still can’t stop grinning!

Rebecca A Givens

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Qoph - A Hebrew Prayer

I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees.
I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws.
Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.
Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.

q Qoph - Psalm 119:145-152

Friday, November 21, 2008

St John in Exile



Today I am sick and my brain is not working too well... didn't feel like reading or thinking much. So I re-watched St John in Exile. What a great show! This is a 1-man, 2-act play by Dean Jones, filmed live. After watching it I feel like I have spent an evening with John the Apostle. It entertains and educates; it touches the heart and the mind. Well worth your time!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ezra




Today I began reading in the book of Ezra. I would like to know more of the historical background in these latter books of the Bible - the nations and kings in power and the level of freedom the people had under them. A wonderful book I have found is Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan Charts). Browsing the charts is very helpful!

Anyway, as I said, I began reading in Ezra today. Some of the Israelites have returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Ezra 3:10-13 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD : "He is good;his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

The celebration is mixed with weeping. Shouts of joy for the promise of the future, weeping for the loss of the past. So very much like life for us. I think both are necessary.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Bible

My Bible still has not turned up. Thanks so much to those who have e-mailed or called to ask. I turn the pages of another Bible I picked up off the shelf and it all feels so different. You know how home feels? Safe, comfortable, familiar? That's how my old Bible felt. In karate we bow in... that sets the stage for training; my body and my mind slip into a mindset to forget everything else and train. My Bible was the same. The feel of it, the memories of it, the well known passage on a particular page; they prepared my heart and drew me into conversation with God. My notebook was hundreds of pages of incomplete thoughts; ideas waiting to be explored, prayers waiting to be prayed, random thoughts waiting to be linked into something coherant, memories of blessings.



Yet God is still the same, His Word is still the same. LOL, I guess my own state of mind is not the same; but it was never too stable to begin with. Today I will buy a new notebook. I suspect I will have lots more incomplete thoughts to fill it with!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pre-Teen Ballroom Dance Class

My teenage girls have been in a ballroom dance class for a little over a year, and have enjoyed it immensely. My youngest has been longing for the day when she would be old enough to join! And honestly, if I had known then what I know now, I would have made my son take this class when he was younger. Ballroom dance builds confidence and coordination, and is a great context for teen socialization.

Well, now there is a Pre-Teen Ballroom Dance Class! Emily went today and had a wonderful time. She came home tired; they worked hard and learned a lot. Here are the particulars:

Tiny-Teen Ballroom Dance Class
for 8-12 year olds
Saturdays, 11am-12pm
November 15-December 20
Dance Etcetera in Pelham, AL
Cost is $5/ week, payable at the door when you come
You do not have to come every week, and you only pay when you come! Making this a wonderfully affordable extracurricular activity.
call Sarah at 763-222-9490, or Curt and Wendy at 205-419-5104

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still no Bible

I still haven't found my Bible. We have searched the house and the car many times, even walked around the yard in case the dog carried it off. I don't believe even she could have eaten the whole thing without leaving some sort of evidence. But it just appears to be gone.

I just looked through our book shelves and picked up a generic Bible to read today. It feels like I have lost an old and trusted friend. I have to keep reminding myself that the value of the Word of God is just that... it's not my specific copy of the Bible, it is the Words themselves.

The Bible study notes and potential thoughts to write about cannot be replaced. That feels like I've lost a piece of myself.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pray for my Bible

Help! I have lost my Bible and I am feeling incredibly lost. I had it early this morning when I was gathering up my things for church, but when I got to church it was not in the car. I have searched the house and the car... no Bible. I even searched the road in case I left it on the car and drove off. But it could easily still be in any of those places.

My Bible is full of notes, prayer lists, bookmarks my kids made, and a notebook full of Bible study notes and thoughts that I might write about one day. Stuff I can't replace.

Please pray that it turns up soon. I know that today's world is full of chaos and illness and big important things to pray for, and that this is insignificant in the grand scheme of things... but it is a huge loss for me.

Thanks,
becky

Daniel

I am now reading in the book of Daniel. What a fun, strange, inspiring book to read, especially after the depressing prophecies of Jeremiah! The confidence in God that is displayed by Daniel and his 3 friends is just wonderful. Their confidence gives them courage to follow God regardless of the consequences. I just love Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo's speech to Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

And then there is the description of Daniel's actions when a later king, Darius, makes it illegal to worship anything except himself for a month.

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Not only did he continue to pray to God, in front of his open window, but he continued to give thanks to God! It is hard to give thanks to God in times of difficulty, but Daniel did it, even as he was being set up to be killed by the lions. And he didn't know that God was going to rescue Him from the lions. Just like his 3 friends didn't know that God was going to rescue them from the fire they were facing. They had been taken captive, removed from their families, sent to live in a foreign land full of foreign gods and customs, yet they clung to God no matter what the cost was to them.

May we be as faithful to God, as confident in Him, and as couragous for Him as they were!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

My

Last Sunday we had a missionary from Thailand speak to us in Sunday School and church. He said something that has stuck with me this week. He talked about how a new Believer in Thailand had gone from talking about "the Lord" to talking about "my Lord". I was reminded about the Old Testament stories where Isaac and later Jacob went from talking about "the God of my father" to "my God". I have always loved that moment of acknowledgment, or submission, or realization, when they accept the Lord as not just the God of the Universe, but their own God. There is an intimacy, an aspect of a personal relationship, that goes with that little word "my". As I have thought about it this week I have been reminded that He is "my" Lord, and I am "His" child, and I want to change my vocabulary to reflect that and remind me of it.

My Lord is good!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

God, forgive me. I don’t know how to forgive.
What is forgiveness?

Not holding something against someone else;
letting offense go.

Not running from hurt,
or ignoring it,
or walling it out and hoping it will go away.

In spite of what people say,
Forgiving is not forgetting.

Forgiveness is not something you do one time, for one occurrence.
It is not something you do every once in a while.

There is a deliberate act of forgiving, with deliberate words,
but saying the words is not really what forgiveness is about.

Forgiveness is an attitude,
a state of mind,
a way of living life.

True forgiveness has a Devine quality about it.
There is something miraculous in it;
something in the heart of the forgiver changes,
and God, only You can change a heart.

Change mine.


Rebecca A Givens, 11/2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tsadhe - A Hebrew Prayer

Righteous are you, O LORD, and your laws are right.
The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.
My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words.
Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true.
Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight.
Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.


c Tsadhe Psalm 119:137-144

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ineffective Life - Part 2

See Part 1 here.

For this reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. Ah, here we seem to be reading about something that we are responsible for. We are supposed to develop these qualities: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Let’s take them in order, because I suspect they are in that order on purpose. Faith is what God gave us to allow us to believe in Him. Once I believe in Him I work on being good – goodness. OK, that makes sense. Once I desire to be good, I begin to do good things. Next I begin to acquire knowledge. How do I do that? By reading and studying scripture, by going to church and participating in Bible studies. And studying His Word teaches me how to be good and do good things, as well as increasing my faith in Him. Next is a difficult one: self-control. I must choose to do the right things. I must control my thoughts and my emotions and my body. I don’t believe this could happen if it wasn’t building on faith, goodness, and knowledge. Self-control takes practice and training, and it also takes the next thing on the list, perseverance. You cannot give up, you must persevere. As you practice self-control, you learn perseverance. Each of these areas in your life leads into the next area, at the same time strengthening the previous ones. Godliness has now begun to grow in your life; your life is showing signs of God’s influence and character. You are beginning to look like Him. Now we see brotherly kindness. As you have walked through this list, you will have begun to care about and think about other people. You must do this more and more. Ultimately you will begin to see others as God sees them, and you will love them as He loves them. You will understand more and more what God has done for you, and your love for God will grow exponentially. As will your faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and again, love. Do you see how each area leads into the next area and continues to reinforce the previous ones?

I think it is important to go back to the beginning here and point out that while we do deliberately put these qualities in our lives, we must rely on God’s power and strength to give them to us. Pray for God to give you each of the things on this list, to develop these character traits in you. Use His power, that’s what He is there for! He is not sitting there watching us live our lives on our own, He is intimately involved in living them through us!

The next sentence tells us why this was important. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. You see, it’s not enough to have knowledge of Jesus; there is such a thing as ineffective and unproductive knowledge. The whole list of qualities is important in leading a godly life. And if you don’t have this list in your life, either God’s not there at all or you have forgotten what God did for you. Go back to the beginning, to faith in Christ.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No, this is not referring to losing your salvation. Making your calling and election sure means to prove it to yourself and to others. How do I know I am saved? By seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. How do others know I am saved? By looking at the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. I do not “know” I am saved because I walked down an aisle when I was a kid and “accepted Jesus in my heart.” Maybe I did and maybe I have been saved since then, but what did Jesus mean when He said that some will say at the judgement that they followed Christ but He knew them not? Can you think you are a believer when you are not? I think so. But if I see God’s divine power working these qualities in my life, I am sure the Holy Spirit is in me. And if I am working on these qualities in my life, I will not stumble or fall, and my spiritual life will be effective and productive; my knowledge will continue to grow not just in my head, but in my heart and in my hands as well.

Rebecca A Givens, 11/2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Conversion Diary: How would you know? - The diary of a former atheist

This is a link to a blog post that a friend sent me, and it is well worth your time.

Conversion Diary: How would you know? - The diary of a former atheist

I tried to copy and paste it all here, but the embedded pictures didn't make it through, and they are very important to the whole post. So click the link!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ezekiel

I am now reading in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet to the Israelites who had been taken into captivity in Babylon, but Jerusalem had not fallen for that last time yet. God did some strange things to Ezekiel. He had the dry bones prophecy. His wife died as an object lesson to the people. He laid on his side for 390 days. How strange is that? But he did what God asked him to. He prophesied against Israel, but also against Israel's attackers; lots and lots of those prophecies. We don't know what Ezekiel felt about what God had him do. Was he amazed? Afraid? Depressed? He was a man, so he must have felt these things. Yet he continued to do what God asked him to. I pray that I would be as solidly committed as he was.



This passage at the end of the dry bones prophecy has brought me much comfort over the years:



Ezekiel 37:11-14 - 11 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "



I have often felt dried up and hopeless. But God promises me life!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Ineffective Life - part 1

Do you ever struggle in your Christian life? Do you get discouraged by your own sin nature? Do you feel ineffective and unproductive? This passage of scripture is for you.

II Peter 1:3-11 – His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There is an awful lot of stuff here, so let’s take it a piece at a time. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Here is the first key to living the Christian life successfully. God’s power is what gives us everything we need for life and godliness. How much power does God have? He created the universe! He created you and me! He undoubtedly has enough power to get us through this life, but we do not have the power on our own. So, it is God’s power that gives us what we need to live a godly life. But how does this work? According to this verse it is through our knowledge of Him. And what do we know about Him? Specifically here we know that He called us by His own glory and goodness. (of course we can know a whole lot more as we study Scripture) So God didn’t call us based on our own merit, and we can’t expect to live a godly life on our own merit either. Both these things come by God’s own glory and goodness. Thank God, I don’t seem to have much glory and goodness on my own.

Through these he has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. This sentence continues to expound the same theme. Through God’s glory and goodness He has given us His promises (again, we can know these as we study scripture), and through His promises we participate in a godly life, and that is how we can escape our own evil desires and the evil desires in the world around us. So far, we have God’s power and God’s promises leading us to a godly life.

More to come....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pe - A Hebrew Prayer

Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.


p Pe Psalm 119:129-136

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Contentment

Heavenly Father,

If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty,
make my heart prize thy love, know it, be constrained by it,
though I be denied all blessings.

It is thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants,
for by these trials I see my sins,
and desire severance from them.

Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,
if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil,
and be delivered from it with gratitude to thee,
acknowledging this as the highest testimony of thy love.

When thy Son Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin
he became more dear to me than sin had formerly been;
his kindly rule replaced sin's tyranny.

Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued
I must not only labour to overcome it,
but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it,
and he must become to me more than vile lust had been;
that his sweetness, power, life, may be there.

Thus I must seek a grace from him contrary to sin,
but must not claim it apart from himself.

When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but in Christ I am reconciled and live;
that in myself I find insuffciency and no rest,
but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace;
that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good,
but in Christ I have ability to do all things.

Though now I have his graces in part,
I shall shortly have them perfectly
in that state where thou wilt show thyself fully reconciled,
and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely,
with sin abolished.

O Lord, hasten that day.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote

I would like to interupt this blog with the friendly reminder to

GO VOTE!!!

But before you vote, you need to PRAY!

After you vote, you need to PRAY!!

And please remember that whether your candidate wins or not,

God is still in control, and He still has a plan!!

After you vote you can run into your friendly neighborhood Starbucks, show them your vote sticker, and get a free coffee! Check out The Frugal Mom blog for details of this and other free stuff!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us. My family has been looking forward to November for a while... my youngest sat down early in October and began to list the menu for our Thanksgiving Feast! I do love Thanksgiving. Everyone pitches in to cook and we eat... no pressure, no presents, just fun together as a family. I think it must be my favorite holiday. As we launch into the Christmas season, don't let the hustle and bustle and spending $$ of it take away from your relationships with God or your family. Keep spending time in the Word and in prayer and with your family doing fun stuff.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November Bible Reading List

November
Passage
1 Matt. 20-21
2 Luke 18:15-19:48
3 Mark 11; John 12
4 Matt. 22; Mark 12
5 Matt. 23; Lk 20-21
6 Mark 13
7 Matt. 24
8 Matt. 25
9 Matt. 26; Mark 14
10 Luke 22; John 13
11 John 14-17
12 Matt. 27; Mark 15
13 Luke 23; John 18-19
14 Matt. 28; Mark 16
15 Luke 24; John 20-21
16 Acts 1-3
17 Acts 4-6
18 Acts 7-8
19 Acts 9-10
20 Acts 11-12
21 Acts 13-14
22 James 1-5
23 Acts 15-16
24 Gal. 1-3
25 Gal. 4-6
26 Acts 17-18:18
27 1 Thessalonians 1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1-3
28 Acts 18:19-19:41
29 1 Cor. 1-4
30 1 Cor. 5-8

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaBloPoMo

It's November, and that means the National Blog Posting Month challenge... Hard to believe it's been a whole year since I did this! The challenge is to post to your blog every day for the month of November. There are some prizes for randomly drawn blogs who have met the challenge, but even without the possibility of a prize it's always fun to set a goal and accomplish it. And 30 days makes a habit. The habit of posting to your blog every day is a good thing - especially for me on my blog, since it chronicles what God is teaching me! God certainly teaches me something every day; the problem is that it is not always something I want to publicly acknowledge! But I will certainly reveal what I can of my life.

If you want to take the challenge with me (and several 1000 others), you can click on the NaBloPoMo badge on the right side of this page.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Joy

Joy – I think we often have a wrong idea about joy. It is so easily confused with happiness; but happiness is dependant on circumstances, while joy is not. We as believers think joy is a gift from God. I could not find any references to a “gift of joy” in the handy online concordance I was using, but I do think there are many places where God says He will turn our mourning into joy: Jeremiah, Esther, and Psalms to name but a few. I have often prayed for joy and peace in my own life.

Joy is also listed in the fruit of the Spirit passage. Galatians 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. The fruit of the Spirit is evidence of our relationship with God. These are traits of character that should be more and more evident in the life of the believer. This leads me to a concept of joy that took me by surprise. I have been reading Jeremiah and Lamentations - two depressing books. I have to admit that lately my life has not been particularly joyful, although my difficulties are nothing compared to what Jeremiah was going through; but when I opened my current devotional book, The Valley of Vision, the next passage was titled Joy. These devotionals are prayers, and as I read this particular prayer on joy, I remembered some scripture about joy: Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Consider it joy when you are persecuted. Be joyful. Serve the Lord joyfully. Sing joyfully to the Lord. As these verses came to mind I began to see that joy is something more than I thought it was. Joy is not just a gift, it is a command. Joy is not just something that happens to me, it is something I do. That means that I am sinning when I am not joyful. That seems hard to take. How do I work up joy? How does joy mesh with emotion? I have no answer for that. But if joy is a command, and not being joyful is a sin… well, what do you do with sin? Confess and repent. It doesn’t matter what the sin is. As I talked to God about my sin and about joy, an interesting and amazing thing happened. New thoughts began to come to mind - thoughts of the gifts God has given me, thoughts of the promises He has made to me, thoughts of heaven and eternity. As these thoughts overshadowed the depressing thoughts, thanksgiving and joy stepped in. Blessed JOY – the command and the gift. Just do it!

Rebecca A Givens, 10/31/08

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ayin - A Hebrew Prayer

I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.

Ensure your servant's well-being;
let not the arrogant oppress me.

My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.

Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.

I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.

It is time for you to act, O LORD;
your law is being broken.

Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path.

v Ayin - Psalm 119:121-128

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Joy

O Christ,
All thy ways of mercy tend to and end in my delight.
Thou didst weep, sorrow, suffer that I might rejoice.
For my joy thou has sent the Comforter,
multiplied thy promises,
shown me my future happiness,
given me a living fountain.
Thou art preparing joy for me and me for joy;
I pray for joy, wait for joy, long for joy;
give me more than I can hold, desire or think of.
Measure out to me my times and degrees of joy,
at my work, business, duties.
If I weep at night, give me joy in the morning.
Let me rest in the thought of thy love,
pardon for sin, my title to heaven,
my future unspotted state.
I am an unworthy recipient of thy grace.
I often disesteem thy blood and slight thy love,
but can in repentance draw water
from the wells of thy joyous forgiveness.
Let my heart leap towards the eternal sabbath,
where the work of redemption, sanctification,
preservation, glorification
is finished and perfected for ever,
where thou wilt rejoice over me with joy.
There is no joy like the joy of heaven,
for in that state are no sad divisions, unchristian quarrels,
contentions, evil designs, weariness, hunger, cold,
sadness, sin, suffering, persecutions, toils of duty.
O healthful place where none are sick!
O happy land where all are kings!
O holy assembly where all are priests!
How free a state where none are servants except to thee!
Bring me speedily to the land of joy.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Friday, October 24, 2008

Heavy Heart

Father God,

I come with a heavy heart
and an uncertain future.
I don’t know how I am going to make it,
I see no help and no hope.

But I do know that
You are God
You love me
You have a plan
You are Sovereign over all –
Over income and bills
Over needs and wants
Over health
Over prosperity
Over minds and wills.

And so I choose to trust You,
to believe Your Word,
to listen to Your Spirit
to do Your will
to wait for Your rescue.

I trust You,
help my distrust.
I believe You,
help my unbelief.
I choose to follow You,
take me from my own path.



Rebecca A Givens, 06/24/08

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pro-Life Petition

Below I have pasted Mike Huckabee's info about a pro-life petition. Please read it and follow the link to sign it on his web page. Thanks!!!


I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering. I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned.
I know there are millions of Americans who believe as I do. All are concerned about the negative impact an Obama presidency and a Democrat controlled Congress will have on the Courts and the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade if they should win this Election Day. We cannot let that happen.
If you are as concerned about this issue as I am, I urge you to sign our "I Support The Sanctity of Life" petition today. Our goal is to identify 100,000 pro-Life voters by Election Day and have them sign the petition.
I hope you will be one of the first to sign the petition and then forward it to friends and family. We will track our progress on the front page of our website.
With less than 20 days to go, time is of the essence so please contact your co-workers, friends at church, family and whoever else you can think of who is willing to sign this petition.
During the presidential campaign we relied on networks of friends to turn out the vote and distribute information. Our Bloggers, Meetups, Huck's Army, Facebook and MySpace groups led the way online. We accomplished great things working together. Time after time, I have read the comments on our blog asking for the next assignment. This is it.
Blog about it, post a message on twitter, post a message to your social networking profile or just pick up the phone and make some calls to friends and family. However you can spread the word and encourage voters to sign our petition.
To me, life doesn't begin at conception and end at birth. Every child deserves a quality education, first-rate health care, decent housing in a safe neighborhood, and clean air and drinking water. Every child deserves the opportunity to discover and use his God-given gifts and talents.
I know you agree. Let's remind the Barack Obama and the Democrats that the constituency of pro-life voters is alive and well. Sign our petition today!
With deep gratitude,
Mike Huckabee

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Prophet Jeremiah

I finally finished Jeremiah and Lamentations, which was written by Jeremiah. I thought I would never get through with him! He lived in such a difficult time, when the nation of Judah had turned from God and God was bringing judgement on them. He gets so depressed, and his writing is so depressing. Yet in the midst of it all, there are some wonderfully encouraging passages. You really need to read Lamentations 3:19-42, but here is an excerpt (it's too bad that we don't get the full affect of the poetry of this book since it was translated... makes me want to learn Hebrew!):

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
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. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."

As I read through these books I couldn't help but think of our own nation. America was essentially founded on Christian principles, and now we have strayed so far from those. In this difficult time it seems that we are reaping the results of this. Yet God will not forget His own. We may suffer in the times ahead, but let us be like Jeremiah and recall God's love and wait for Him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Samekh - A Hebrew Prayer

I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law.

You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.

Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!

Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.

Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.

You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their deceitfulness is in vain.

All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.

My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws.

s Samekh - Psalm 119:113-120

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stone Mountain Highland Games

We spent the weekend at the Stone Mountain Highland Games, where Sarah competed in the Harp Competition. She walked away with 1st Place in the Apprentice Division, as well as Most Promising Harpist, and the Jan Pennington Gray Medallion. She also spent some time playing to entertain the folks walking by and helping in the Hands On Harping workshops, where anyone could come and sit down and learn a bit about how to play the harp. Yep, we were pretty proud! Here's the video of her competition performance. It's got lots of background piping noise... just like being there!!


video


video

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Puzzle

Many times I have heard the analogy comparing life to a jigsaw puzzle. We have all these pieces to put together – family, friends, work, community, church – with the most famous piece being God. The puzzle isn’t complete without the God piece in it. I have begun to think about my “life puzzle” a bit differently.

I feel scattered – like a jigsaw puzzle scattered across the floor. A puzzle with a zillion pieces: kids, husband, school, money, bills, church, house, meals, laundry, karate, teaching, writing, studying, relationships. And these are just the kinds of the pieces; within each kind are many individual pieces. My mind is divided amongst all of these randomly shaped pieces, scattered across time (45 years) and space (everywhere I have ever been).

Because I am in the pieces I cannot see the whole puzzle. I haven’t got the box top that shows me the completed picture. I can’t even see the whole pile of pieces. Oh, and did I mention that there are some pieces that I can’t find? They’ve gotten lost, swept under the rug, eaten by the dog or something.

Can you see that God is not just a piece of this puzzle? I can’t just drop Him into His place in my life. Whenever I try to put the pieces together, I get frustrated because they just won’t go. I get out my hammer and try to smash the pieces into place and they don’t fit; mostly I just manage to mangle the pieces.

God is the one who is putting together the puzzle of my life. He is the Mind matching up the pieces; I am simply the pile of pieces. Not only is He fitting the pieces together, He created the pieces to begin with. He’s not just taking what was given to Him. He’s got a definite plan for each piece that He fashioned, and He’s putting it together precisely where He created it to be. When I accept that, when I rest in it and relax in it, I am submitting to His Sovereignty and I find peace rather than chaos. I see the pieces coming together into a beautiful picture rather than scattered haphazardly across the floor.

Give God the pieces and let Him put them together. Trade your puzzle pieces for His Peace.

Rebecca A Givens, 10/2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nun - A Hebrew Prayer

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.

I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.

I have suffered much;
preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.

Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.

Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.

The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.

Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.

My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

n Nun - Psalm 119:105-112

Sunday, October 12, 2008

God All-Sufficient

O Lord of Grace,

The world is before me this day,
and I am weak and fearful,
but I look to Thee for strength;

If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall,
but on the beloved's arms I am firm as the eternal hills;

If left to the treachery of my heart I shall shame thy name,
but if enlightened, guided, upheld by thy Spirit,
I shall bring thee glory.

Be Thou my arm to support,
my strength to stand, my light to see,
my feet to run, my shield to protect,
my sword to repel, my sun to warm.

To enrich me will not diminish Thy fullness;
All Thy lovingkindness is in Thy Son,
I bring Him to Thee in the arms of faith,
I urge His saving name as the one who did for me.
I plead His blood to pay my debts of wrong.

Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness,
His purity for my uncleanness,
His sincerity for my guile,
His truth for my deceits,
His meekness for my pride,
His constancy for my backslidings,
His love for my enmity,
His fullness for my emptiness,
His faithfulness for my treachery,
His obedience for my lawlessness,
His glory for my shame,
His devotedness for my waywardness,
His holy life for my unchaste ways,
His righteousness for my dead works,
His death for my life.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Habakkuk

Habakkuk 1:11
Then they sweep past like the wind and go on - guilty men, whose own strength is their god.

He's talking here about the Babylonian invaders... but oh my, how often do I make my own strength my god? Self-sufficiency, self-reliance... the sin I struggle with most often.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Habakkuk on the Economic Crisis

Today I read the book of Habakkuk. Here is the end of that book:
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enable me to go on the heights.

A modern paraphrase might read something like: "though I lose my job, though the stock market crashes, though I don't have enough food, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength." I'm not sure what the modern version of a deer might be... maybe a hummer?

But the point is this. God is still God, still Sovereign over all, even in the midst of economic hardship and crisis. And He will give us the strength to get through it. It won't be fun or easy; He never says He will make it all go away. But He is our strength and He is where our joy comes from, not from ourselves and not from our circumstances and not even from a full belly.

I really needed that reminder today.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Choose

Lord,

I choose to follow You –
Do something within me
that will enable me to follow You,
cause me to desire to follow You,
make me choose to follow You.

I choose to follow You –
Enable me,
Strengthen me,
Cause me to follow You.

I do not understand how my will and
Your Sovereignty exist together –
But I know that
I choose You only because You choose me.
I follow You only because You call me to follow You.
I love You only because You love me.

You stretch out Your hand toward me,
You cause my spirit to bend toward You.

You love me,
You call me,
You change me;
I respond to You.

I ask for more of This,
for more of You.
I ask for the changing of my will,
for the breaking of my will,
for the conforming of my will
to Yours –
It is not something I can do,
or even want,
on my own.
But something You must do
to me,
and through me,
and with me.
Rebecca A Givens, 09/2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mem - A Hebrew Prayer

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me.

I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.

I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.

I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.

I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.

m Mem - Psalm 119:97-104

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Beast

It was a couple of days after my last night on the paper route. I was still exhausted beyond belief, and I was angry. No particular reason, but that kind of fatigue does scary things to my state of mind; which, you may recall, was the reason I had to quit that job. I was getting out of the shower that night and suddenly I saw inside myself. If I close my eyes I can still see it…

There was a pit, deep and dark and boiling. Smoke and steam filled the air. A beast rose up out of the pit; it was huge and strong, with bulging muscles that reminded me of a bull. It was dark, reddish black like old blood, with horns and burning red eyes. I could smell the beast’s heat, feel its lust, and taste the blood it craved. I heard its heartbeat and its breath, felt my own heart and lungs matching it beat for beat, and breath for breath. It was constrained somehow, I felt its chains, though they were invisible. It stood there, not fighting the chains, but waiting for me to set it free; free to destroy, to smash, to scream and cry and curse at God. I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to set it free; I felt its rage and lust and desire, its hate and anger. The heat and the blood filled my senses, and I wanted to give myself to the beast, let it take me completely. For I knew this beast; this beast is who I am inside. As I stood there breathing the beast in, God began to speak to me. I heard Him and I saw Him through the misty red veil of my beast within. He asked me questions, He made me angry. He pushed me, exerting his authority, keeping me from leaving, and I was so angry I wanted to punch Him, to hurt Him; but I couldn’t. He looked into my eyes and I could see the recognition of what He saw reflected in His own sad eyes. He did not turn away from me; He held me in His gaze, and He spoke, “This is not who you are; Becky, this is not you.” And then I saw my beast slowly sink back into the pit, until it was out of sight. But still I heard it muttering, whispering and coaxing and tempting from some dark corner of my heart, and I recognized its voice as one I have heard my whole life. I stood there hearing its voice, still filled with this vision of darkness, with the taste of violence and lust in my mouth; but the vision was veiled and my heart and my lungs began to beat in a different rhythm… a rhythm of life rather than death, with a glimmer of light rather than darkness.

The vision ended; I was once again standing in the bathroom. Then I was afraid. Afraid of how much I wanted the beast to be in control, afraid of the violence and lust that I knew was in my heart. Afraid of how utterly unafraid I had been.

But as I thought about it I realized that I had not set the beast free. God intervened. At the moment when the beast completely filled my vision, God spoke to me and called me back to Himself. He reminded me of who He is and who I am. I am His child, and I am not a slave to my sin nature. I do not belong to Satan, or even to myself, I belong to God. And He will keep me.

Rebecca A Givens, 09/2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October Bible Reading List

October

1 Luke 1; John 1:1-14
2 Matt. 1; Luke 2:1-38
3 Matt. 2; Luke 2:39-52
4 Matt. 3; Mark 1; Luke 3
5 Matt. 4; Luke 4-5; John 1:15-51
6 John 2-4
7 Mark 2
8 John 5
9 Matt. 12:1-21; Mark 3; Luke 6
10 Matt. 5-7
11 Matt. 8:1-13; Luke 7
12 Matt. 11
13 Matt. 12:22-50; Luke 11
14 Matt. 13; Luke 8
15 Matt. 8:14-34; Mark 4-5
16 Matt. 9-10
17 Matt. 14; Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17
18 John 6
19 Matt. 15; Mark 7
20 Matt. 16; Mark 8; Luke 9:18-27
21 Matt. 17; Mark 9; Luke 9:28-62
22 Matt. 18
23 John 7-8
24 John 9:1-10:21
25 Luke 10-11; John 10:22-42
26 Luke 12-13
27 Luke 14-15
28 Luke 16-17:10
29 John 11
30 Luke 17:11-18:14
31 Matt. 19; Mark 10

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bail Out Plan

I got this from Dave Ramsey today. It is a great plan. I tried to figure out how to imbed it here, but that seems to be beyond my capabilities... so you just need to follow the link below
http://www.daveramsey.com/etc/fed_bailout/3_steps_to_change_the_nations_future_10928.htmlc?ictid=sptlt1

I will paste in his plan though:


The Common Sense Fix
Years of bad decisions and stupid mistakes have created an economic nightmare in this country,
but $700 billion in new debt is not the answer. As a tax-paying American citizen, I will not support
any congressperson who votes to implement such a policy. Instead, I submit the following threestep
Common Sense Plan.
I. INSURANCE
a. Insure the subprime bonds/mortgages with an underlying FHA-type insurance.
Government-insured and backed loans would have an instant market all over the
world, creating immediate and needed liquidity.
b. In order for a company to accept the government-backed insurance, they must do two
things:
1. Rewrite any mortgage that is more than three months delinquent to a
6% fixed-rate mortgage.
a. Roll all back payments with no late fees or legal costs into the
balance. This brings homeowners current and allows them a
chance to keep their homes.
b. Cancel all prepayment penalties to encourage refinancing or
the sale of the property to pay off the bad loan. In the event of
foreclosure or short sale, the borrower will not be held liable
for any deficit balance. FHA does this now, and that
encourages mortgage companies to go the extra mile while
working with the borrower—again limiting foreclosures and
ruined lives.
2. Cancel ALL golden parachutes of EXISTING and FUTURE CEOs and
executive team members as long as the company holds these
government-insured bonds/mortgages. This keeps underperforming
executives from being paid when they don’t do their jobs.
c. This backstop will cost less than $50 billion—a small fraction of the current proposal.
II. MARK TO MARKET
a. Remove mark to market accounting rules for two years on only subprime Tier III
bonds/mortgages. This keeps companies from being forced to artificially mark down
bonds/mortgages below the value of the underlying mortgages and real estate.
b. This move creates patience in the market and has an immediate stabilizing effect on
failing and ailing banks—and it costs the taxpayer nothing.
III. CAPITAL GAINS TAX
a. Remove the capital gains tax completely. Investors will flood the real estate and stock
market in search of tax-free profits, creating tremendous—and immediate—liquidity in
the markets. Again, this costs the taxpayer nothing.
b. This move will be seen as a lightning rod politically because many will say it is helping
the rich. The truth is the rich will benefit, but it will be their money that stimulates the
economy. This will enable all Americans to have more stable jobs and retirement
investments that go up instead of down.
This is not a time for envy, and it’s not a time for politics. It’s time for all of us, as Americans, to
stand up, speak out, and fix this mess.

Lamedh a Hebrew Prayer

Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.

Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.

If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.

I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.

Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.

The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.

To all perfection I see a limit;
but your commands are boundless.

l Lamedh - Psalm 119:89-96

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Living By Prayer

O God of the Open Ear,

Teach me to live by prayer as well as by providence,
for myself, soul, body, children, family, church;

Give me a heart frameable to Thy will;
so might I live in prayer,
and honor Thee,
being kept from evil, known and unknown.

Help me to see the sin that accompanies all I do,
and the good I can distil from everything.

Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine,
and that without this it is folly to pray;

When I try to bring Thy will to mine it is to command Christ,
to be above Him, and wiser that He;
this is my sin and pride.

I can only succeed when I pray
according to Thy precept and promise,
and to be done with as it pleases Thee,
according to Thy sovereign will.

When Thou commandest me to pray for pardon, peace, brokenness,
it is because thou wilt give me the thing promised,
for Thy glory, as well as for my good.

Help me not only to desire small things
but with holy boldness to desire great things
for Thy people, for myself,
that they and I might live to show Thy glory.

Teach me that it is wisdom for me to pray for all I have,
out of love, willingly, not of necessity;
that I may come to thee at any time,
to lay open my needs acceptably to Thee;
that my great sin lies in my not keeping the savour of Thy ways;
that the remembrance of this truth is one way
to the sense of Thy presence;
that there is no wrath like the wrath of being governed
by my own lusts for my own end.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions