Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo survived!

Today is the last day of November, the end of NaBloPoMo. Thank God. I did manage to post something every day, but it felt forced and I didn't like it. I have to wonder if it was worth it. What was the point? I guess the point was to force yourself to write something; I suppose that was a good thing. We'll see. At the moment it is just a relief to not have to think of something to post tomorrow!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thoughts on Ephesians

Paul is in prison, yet he preaches spiritual freedom.... very cool.

Indicative/ Imperative

Somehow we are conditioned to say, "Tell me what to do'". We want the list of do and do not. This is the imperative. But Paul doesn't start there, he starts with who we are in Christ. That is the indicative. What we do must flow out of who we are. Starting with what to do results in a works based salvation, a works based religion. What God and Christ and the Holy Spirit have done and continue to do for us has nothing to do with what we do, but with who we are.

I am a child of God, bought with the price of Christ's death, living in the power of the Holy Spirit, looking forward to an eternity in Heaven. Because of what He has already done and who I am, I serve Him with my actions, I seek to please Him, I do good things.

That is the freedom of Christ. Not freedom to do whatever I want, but freedom to be able to to love Him, to please Him, to obey Him. He saved me. I had nothing to do with it.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Missed Glory

Today I went to a live performance of Handel’s Messiah. I was disappointed. Not in the piece of music or the performance of it; it is a fabulous story straight out of scripture, set to fabulous music. The performance was good as well; while not professionals, they were talented musicians with beautiful voices. No, what was disappointing was something else. I walked in with a desire to worship God, to be carried away by the music, but I found myself distracted.

I got there late and didn’t get to sit in the sanctuary. I was sitting in a chair on the back row of the foyer. The place was packed. The outside doors were right behind me, and I was cold. The overhead lights were bright, making it harder to focus on the performance itself. I was looking through a small window able to see only a few of the performers, listening through the open sanctuary doors. People were moving around me, in and out. A child knocked a large, obviously unbreakable ornament off a Christmas tree, and the ball went bouncing across the tile floor with metallic dings while the embarrassed parent tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. We in the foyer laughed a bit; it was funny after all. An ancient old man in front of me informed his daughter that when he was a young man he sang this. The disappointment set in as I sat with all these distractions going on around me. My thoughts began to wander… I wondered when I could find a couple of hours to listen to it by myself, to sit and meditate and worship without distraction. I almost left.

Suddenly the place was filled with music! Somehow we had reached the climax without my awareness. How did it sneak up on me like that? And then I was swept up in the glory of the resurrection; it was fabulous. It was everything I hoped it would be. If I had given up and left during the wait and the disappointment and the frustration, I would have missed the glory of that moment; in fact the glory may have even been greater because of the contrast.

How many glorious things have I missed in moments of impatience and rush?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Band, Karate, and Sanctification

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12

Have you ever worked on anything with fear and trembling? What does it mean?

First, we must take this verse in context. It isn’t talking about working for our salvation, but what happens after salvation. We do not work for our salvation at all, that is a gift from God. This is the work after salvation, the work of sanctification, of becoming like Christ. This works out from the point of my salvation. Even then it is something I rely on God to do in me. Anyway… fear and trembling.

When I was in High school I was part of a really good award winning band. We practiced every day from 2:30 (last period in school) until about 5:00. We worked hard in those hours, and that doesn’t include time spent practicing on our own. Yes, we were scared of our band director, but nobody forced us to enroll or stay in band; we were proud to be part of something so good. Our goal for each football game and each competition was simple – perfection. If you messed up your part you felt absolutely horrible, because you had made the whole band and the director look bad. We worked with fear and trembling.

In more recent history I approached my black belt tests with this same attitude. I trained many, many hours in preparation for the test; the pressure was immense. It was very important to me to do well for a number of reasons. I wanted to reflect well on my teacher, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I definitely trained with fear and trembling for both of those tests.

What if I approached my sanctification with that kind of dedication and drive? What if pleasing God with my life was so important to me that I was willing to sacrifice that same kind of time and effort and work to it? What would that look like?

May you work out your sanctification with fear and trembling.

Rebecca A Givens, 11/24/09

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wow, it's almost 10am and I haven't seen any of my family yet. I had a wonderful extended time alone with God this morning. What a perfect way to start a day set aside to Thank Him for all He has given us.

Which brings me to this post. Thanksgiving is not a time to thank people for stuff, and not a time to just be generally thankful. It is a time to thank God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, for what He has done for me in a personal way. He has provided

food (literally, the turkey that we are having today, someone anonomously put our name in to win a cajun fried turkey, or maybe they just paid for it and the store came up with a good story for them),
a roof over our heads (again, the back half of the house doesn't leak because God sent us shingles, one pack at a time from various sources),
cars to drive (gift from parents),
health (even though getting old is not fun),
our family is all here together,
we have great kids (I love spending time with all my kids),
my husband loves God, me, and our kids (what a gift in today's society),
we have a great church family that loves and accepts us,
and most significantly, Before the foundation of the world, God so loved me that He gave His one and only Son to pay the penalty for my sin, so that I could spend eternity with Him. He rescued me because He delighted in me, before I ever even dreamed of doing anything for Him. And He still enjoys my presence. That's just cool.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Lists

I want my spiritual life to be the best it can be.
I want to make the best use of my time.
I want to remember everything.
I want to get things done.
So I organize and I plan and I make lists: Reading lists, prayer lists, to-do lists.
Then I tend to do things just so I can check them off my list,
But that is not what I want.
I want it to mean something,
I want it to be real,
I want it to come from my heart, not from my list.
I don't want a list, I want a relationship.
Maybe that is the answer:
The motive
The focus
The purpose
Is it the prayer list
or the Person I am praying to
and the person I am concerned about?
Is it the reading list
or the Person I am reading and learning about?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Goals - 2010

Yes, you read the title correctly. I am already thinking about what I want to do in 2010... not New Year's resolutions exactly, more of a To-Do list I guess. Here is my preliminary list:

Continue with the Covenant podcast classes
Continue studying history
Listen to the entire Bible (which means I need to get this for Christmas!)
Study Escrima

Of course there are all kinds of things I need to improve in my life... cook, clean, work, pay off debt... but the stuff above is what I really want in my middle age life.

Start thinking about your own "study goals" for 2010. As a Christian you should want to know God better. That comes through studying His Word and the world He created and the history He acts in.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Scripture Prayers

For years I have been increasingly drawn to praying through scripture. It just seems logical to me that God's own Words are the perfect prayers for us. I am now studying in the book of Ephesians, and it is full of prayers. This was from today's reading. I suggest you pray it for yourself, for your family, and for your believing friends (feel free to pray for me as well!).

Ephesians 3:14-21 (New International Version)
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What It Feels Like by FFH

I heard this song this morning... it describes so much of my life!

So this is what if feels like to walk the wilderness
and this is what if feels like to come undone
So this is what if feels like to loose my confidence
unsure of anything or anyone
So this is what if feels like to walk the desert sand
and this is what if feels like to hear my name
and to be scared to death cause I'm all alone
but feel love and peace just the same

And this may not be the road I would choose for me
but it still feels right somehow
And I have never felt you as close to me as I do right now

So this is what if feels like to be led
So this is what if feels like to have it fall apart
to be totally unglued
and find out if I accept my brokenness
I get more of me, I get all of you
If this is what if feels like to be on shaky ground
Careful of every step I take
Realizing as I stop to look around
I look around and see everything a different way

and this may not be the road I would choose for me
but it still feels right somehow
cause I have never felt you as close to me as I do right now

So this is what if feels like to be led
and this is what if feels like to be led
So this is what if feels like to just walk away
from everything I thought kept me safe
to depend just on you for every meal
and find it's better this way
oh it's better this way

And this may not be the road I would choose for me
but it still feels right somehow
And I have never felt you as close to me as I do right now
like i do right now

And this may not be the road I would choose for me
but it still feels right somehow
And I have never felt you as close to me as I do right now

And this is what if feels like to be led
And this is what if feels like to be led
And this is what if feels like

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ask a Ninja

This is too funny...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

We went on a field trip to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve on Tuesday. (find them on facebook here) It is up in Pinson, north of Birmingham. What a beautiful place! I will try to find the web site of the guys who did the programs for us. We had a program on organic gardening, and one on edible wild plants. A short nature hike, and lots of time for the kids to play on the rocks and in the surrounding woods. I am anxious to try out some edible plants... I'll let you know how it turns out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Romans, the Big Picture

I have spent a lot of time in the book of Romans in the last... well, off and on for 8 or 9 years now that I think about it. Last year I read the Bible through in 1 year for the first time (which I highly recommend), and really enjoyed the Big Picture that I got. Well, going through Romans in the Life and Letters of Paul class, I finally just got the big picture of Romans. It should have been as simple as looking at an outline of the book... but for some reason the meaning behind it didn't come through for me until now. The whole thing centers around righteousness.

The first part of the book states the human condition. All men are completely fallen, and can do nothing to be right by themselves. We will face judgement.

Next Paul covers how we can be justified... through faith in God, given by God. Not through anything we do. The true meaning of this grace can only come after seeing the horror of our condition.

Then Paul talks about sancification. We can't just fix up the old self, we must become renewed. And this comes through yielding to the discipline of God. This is the victory part of the book... but again, you can't get here without understanding our fallen condition.

Then comes a brief explanation about God's plan for Israel.

And lastly come the instructions for living, the "does and don'ts" of life. But you can't take these in isolation, because they don't stand alone. These are not rules that we have to obey (or more acurately, are able to obey), because we are still needy at this point and must depend on God for them to happen. These are statements of God's intent for our lives, and they happen as we move from faith to faith.

Well, reading over what I have written, I realize that it doesn't really convey what struck me so strongly as I realized this progression. But I have no other words, only impressions and realizations of God's amazing love for me, of how I do not deserve it, yet He seems to have a plan for me. Of how it doesn't depend on me at all. This utter dependence on God is fabulous, because I know there is no way I can do this Christian life. God's grace takes me from beginning to end, it is all there is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

How Deep is The Father's Love

We sang this song by Hazel Dean in church yesterday, and it has been stuck in my head ever since...

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulder
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Judo Trick

This is very cool. I love that the little guy outmanuevers the big guy...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thoughts on Facebook

Well, not long ago I was finally forced into the world of Facebook.
Oh my.

I obediently put in my school information.
Oh my.

I was suddenly swamped with friend requests from aqaintances from High School. These were people that I knew barely more than their names 25 years ago... we never hung out or talked or really knew each other. And now they want to be my friend? How strange is that?

Of course there were others, and I did find some people that truely were my friends back then... but the fact is it's been 25 years and we have gone different directions in that length of time. I feel awkward there.

But then there is another catagory of friend. I did have some good friends 25-30 years ago that I had lost touch with. People I spent a lot of time with, and people who had a profound impact on my life. Those have brought back some wonderful memories, and a few regrets as well. I hate that I lost touch, and even deliberately walked away from some of them. But now there is a chance to renew those contacts. That's cool.

But I wonder about this blog/facebook/texting community in general. It's a great way to keep up long distance, and a great way to find old friends... but it's not enough. I see kids texting conversations... why not talk? What about body language and tones of voice? What about handshakes and hugs? What about a shared meal or a cup of coffee? What about focusing on the person you are with and eye contact? We are physical people, and we need physical contact... does the next generation realize that?

Friday, November 13, 2009


A couple of weeks ago I was teaching a self-defense class to some teenage girls at a local church. As the morning flew by I became aware of a wonderful sense of “rightness”. I had the girls’ attention. Some moms sitting off to the side asked good questions; the words were effortless; I felt a connection with my students. But these were really only the results of the “rightness”, not the cause of it. At the end I had the feeling that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing in that moment in time, even that it was the very reason for my existence; it was what God created me to do. It was very profound.

As I thought about and enjoyed this feeling of “rightness” later in the day, I was reminded of other times I had felt this way. Often there are fleeting glimpses of the experience I am talking about, but only a few times in my life has it been this profound. I remembered giving my testimony at a Ladies’ Luncheon, and I remembered my first degree Black Belt test. I would not have been able to do either of those without that feeling of absolute rightness from God. And then I remembered a particular time alone with God several years ago. I had been going through some pretty major emotional upheaval, dealing with some very painful things from my past. One evening I was walking and praying, as was my habit, and I realized that every day for 3 months I had felt God’s presence and He had spoken to me in some way. It was a glorious realization, and I found myself telling God how wonderful this relationship with Him was, and if it took those painful events of the past to get me there, it was worth it. I was shocked at my own words to God, but when I stopped and thought about it, I realized it was totally true. It was worth anything to know God in that way.

I was feeling pretty good as I remembered these experiences of “rightness” with God. These were moments when I not only knew in my head that I was where God wanted me to be, but I felt it in my heart as well. I believe in a Sovereign God who holds my whole life in His hands, who has a plan for me and will carry it out for His glory and my good. In those moments I could feel His glory and my good in a very profound way.

And then God spoke to me. “So, are you going to walk away from that just because you are disappointed with your life? Are you going to give up this relationship we have simply because you don’t have enough money to pay the bills?”

Oh. O God. No.

For the past few years we have struggled financially, and I had let anger and bitterness over our situation creep in - anger with myself, with my husband, and with God (who is, after all, in control). That bitterness had come between me and my husband, and between me and God. I knew it was there, I had talked to God about it, but I couldn’t seem to root it out. In this moment of reflection on God’s good providence, He pointed out the stark contrast of what was really in my heart; a bitterness about my current circumstances and about where I happen to be in His plan right now.

In God’s grace and mercy He didn’t leave me lying on the floor in my misery. God wasn’t beating me over the head with my own attitude; rather, He changed it in an instant. I cannot explain it, but suddenly a joy and peace filled my heart, along with the realization that where I am right now is a good place. It’s not just good in hind sight, after you walk out the other side of your trouble; it is good now, in the midst of it. I am right where God planned for me to be, and His plan brings Him glory and me good, not just in the future somewhere, but right now in the middle of it.

©Rebecca A Givens, 11/11/2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cool Tool: Verse Card Maker

ok, this is just too cool. Go to the website above, type in a Bible reference, and it will print out the verse in a front/back flashcard type format. Can't get any easier than this!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Psalm 18:46-50

Jehovah liveth, and blessed is my Rock,
And exalted the God of my salvation;
(Even) the God who giveth me vengeance,
And (who) subdued peoples under me.
Thou art He that deliverest me from mine enemies;
Yea, Thou liftest me up above those that rise against me;
Thou hast delivered me from men of violence.
Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, O Jehovah, among the nations;
And to Thy Name will I sing praises:
Who giveth great deliverance to His King;
And showeth loving-kindness to His Anointed,
To David and his seed for evermore.

David wraps up this wonderful psalm with a summary of what God has done for him. I find it interesting that here and in the previous passage he talks about foreign nations and aliens. They bow before him and he proclaims the name of Jehovah to them. He also refers to his seed, the everlasting Anointed One who would rule after him; this can only refer to the coming Christ. Here at the end David looks into the future and sees his own nation, he sees Christ, and he sees the gospel coming to the Gentiles. That means me! What a glorious thing!

This is the last section of a series of my own thoughts on Psalm 18. Click here for Part 1 I used The Book of Psalms by Perowne.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Educational (and fun) Listening

Over the past few years I have enjoyed listening to educational stuff. It really makes traffic and housework tolerable. I love The Teaching Company courses, my older kids and I have loved everything we have listened to. They do, of course, cost money (unless you can borrow them from a friend like I do, or check them out at the library, Hoover used to have a lot of them). The library also has lots of books on tape.

Podcasts provide a great FREE resource on almost any subject you can think of. My favorites are Ravi Zacharias and R.C. Sproul. You can search for these, and many other Bible teachers, on itunes. Pretty much any radio show now has a podcast.

Below are links to pages with many links to educational courses, as well as free audio books:

Covenant Theological Seminary

Westminster Shorter Catachism

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Psalm 18:37-45

(I started this series on Psalm 18 2 years ago... and just found the last 2 sections of it in my works-in-progress file. This section was complete, the last one nearly so. I can't believe I never posted them or sent them out.... guess I got distracted by something else!)

I pursued mine enemies and overtook them,
Neither did I turn again, until they were consumed.
I have smitten them, that they were not able to rise,
They are fallen under my feet.
For Thou hast girded me with strength to the battle;
Thou hast bowed down under me those that rose up against me,
Mine enemies also Thou hast made to turn their backs before me,
So that I destroyed them that hate me.
They cried, - but there was none to save them, -
Even unto Jehovah, but He answered them not.
And I beat them small as the dust before the wind,
Like the mire of the streets I emptied them out.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people;
Thou hast made me Head over the nations:
A people that I know not, serve me.
At the hearing of the ear, they obeyed me,
The sons of the alien came crouching unto me.
The sons of the alien faded away,
They came trembling out of their fortresses.

Earlier David told us how God delivered him from his peril, now he tells of God giving him victory over his enemies. He was not only victorious, but he totally destroyed those who fought against him. His enemies are gone completely. One day God will completely do away with the enemies of His children. We have three enemies: 1) our own sin nature, 2) Satan, 3) the world. In Heaven none of these will be able to affect us anymore!

Friday, November 6, 2009


ok, this piece is definately depressing, and as I told my e-mail list, I hesitated to send it out. There is no resolution at the end, but sometimes life is just like that. So read it but don't stop there, go back and read Forever, and How He Loves Us. Those are much better places to end!

Darkness descends;
What do I do with it?

I don’t care
I don’t think
I don’t fight.

I feel
I sink
I hurt.

I can’t see
I can’t breath
I can’t move

The dark cloud covers all
It fills all
outside, and inside.

Where is truth?
Truth that I can breath
and see
and feel?
Truth that blows away the darkness?

© Rebecca A Givens, 09/16/09

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Thousand Gifts

holy experience

A long time ago I first posted and linked to The Thousand Gifts. The beginning of November, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, seems the perfect time to talk about this again.

The concept is simple. Start a list of things you thank God for. Big things, small things, everyday things, special things. And add to it until reach 1000... but I have to warn you, this is addictive and when you get to 1000 you won't be able to stop! My current list is almost 500, but when I lost my Bible last year I had to start over because my list was in it.

This list truly changed my attitude on many occasions. Looking back over it reminds me of what God has given me. And I find myself looking for things to thank Him for.

I encourage you to go over to Holy Experience and read her original post, she has quite a way with words and pictures.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David Crowder : How He Loves

This song has been stuck in my head all week. It so reminds me of what I posted last week, Forever.
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…
He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Well, I thought about You the day Stephen died,
And You met me between my breaking.
I know that I still love You, God, despite the agony. ...
They want to tell me You're cruel,
But if Stephen could sing, he'd say it's not true, cause...
Cause He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us.
Whoa! how He loves us.
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Have we forgotten?

Have we forgotten God's Greatness in focusing only on His Goodness?
Have we forgotten His Justice in focusing only on His Grace?
Have we forgotten that the source of our Faith is entirely and only in God Himself?
Have we forgotten the Fear of God, the awe of Him, in focusing only on the brotherhood of Christ?
Have we forgotten the Power of God in focusing only on His Gentleness?
Who is God?
He is not made in our image.
He is Higher, Bigger, more Powerful, more Righteous, more Holy than we can imagine.
That He stoops to speak to me at all amazes me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Well, here it is, November again, and time for the National Blog Posting Month. The challenge is to post something every single day for 1 month. I managed it the last 2 years (yeah!), we'll see if my busy self and my tired brain can come up with something to write each day!