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