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"Lollipop and Pearls" - Jared Kraft

Monday, June 28, 2010

Esssentials for Life~Your Back-to-Basics Guide to What Matters Most Book Review

Remember elementary school days of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic? The foundational elements of education revolve around those basic concepts. If those basics are not mastered, the ability to comprehend other more difficult subjects is compromised. Our education begins, then, with the simple and basic essentials on which other, more intensive concepts, build. In Essentials for Life Marcia Ford reminds Christians of the fundamental principles of our faith. In the “busy-ness” of every day life, with distractions all around us and many demands for our time and attention, it is easy to push time in God’s Word, growing in our faith and understanding, to the back burner. Bible study and prayer can even become obligatory and not from a heart yearning to draw closer to the Creator of the Universe. Ford reins us back into the basics of our salvation, with 50 topics including: answering the big questions, seeking the truth about Jesus, grasping the impact of the Resurrection, discovering who the Holy Spirit really is, surveying what Christianity claims and why we believe what we believe, developing a Biblical worldview, how to study the Bible, facing the future fearlessly, having grace and compassion for others, etc. Each section within a topic includes Scripture passages, quotes from Biblical scholars, practical application tips…and ends with a section entitled “what’s essential”, with a summary and suggested do’s and don’ts.
‘“The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief”.
T.S. Eliot

…Many Christians are afraid to defend the very concepts that are foundational to true Christianity out of fear that they may offend someone and come across intolerant; defending the faith without appearing to be unloving and arrogant is in fact an uphill battle for contemporary Christians” (p. 40).

Marcia Ford penned this treasured book in an easy-to-read fashion, applicable to seasoned believers, to those who have strayed away from their faith, and to those are not Christians but perhaps are seeking basic information about the Christian faith. Each chapter stands independently, allowing the reader to move around within the book. The essential and practical tools covered in Essentials for Life will draw the reader closer to God, shoring up the foundation on which a life in Christ begins.

“To fully embrace Christianity is to reject the basis of other faiths. As with the question of the divinity of Christ, there really is no middle ground here; Christ is either the son of God or a
fraud, and Christianity is either a unique expression of faith based on a relationship or just one of many other religions, utterly without distinction” (p. 41).

I highly recommend this book to anyone desiring to renew their commitment to Christ…to those who feel stuck in a spiritual rut…to those who don’t know Christ personally…and to those who are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a dying world---and that is all of us! Purchase your copy, or 2, or 10 now!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Treasures and the heart

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21; Luke 12:34)

As a child I loved going on treasure hunts! The anticipation of finding something first and/or discovering something no one else had made my tummy flutter with excitement! Today I still enjoy treasure hunting at garage sales, antique and junk stores, and estate sales. I love saving money and finding bargains; the exhilaration of stumbling across something I genuinely need at a bargain price is priceless! I recently found the treasure below in an antique store attached to the tea room where my Mom, friend Linda, her Mom and I met for lunch. Perusing the shop after a delectable lunch was my exercise program for that day! Toot! Toot!

I have been in a “retro” season of d├ęcor for my kitchen, and have looked often at these type tables. It takes me back to my early days spent with grandparents and great grandparents on the farm, hand-milking cows, checking the chicken coop for eggs, and running around barefoot in freshly cut grass! When I saw this table and chairs it felt like home. My mom blessed us with the table for our anniversary and I purchased its coordinating chairs! LOVE IT!

Our church is in a series based on 1 Timothy 6: 17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” There are astounding statistics about rich vs. poor, how they live their lives and spend their money. Here is a stat for you: Many of the people sitting in a congregation on any given Sunday morning are in the top 4-5% of wage earners in this country. Read that again! You may be rich and not even know it! Another statistic: In America, the more money a person has the lower the percentage of their income they give away. Did you grasp that? The poor of our country are typically more generous with what they have than those with money, fame, and ‘stuff” galore! Our pastor said that “in our culture, we equate ‘busy-ness’ with significance”. In other words, if I am working constantly for my church, giving to others, serving on committees, tithing, and organizing VBS, etc. I am significant/important/valued by God, correct? Is that the God of the Universe who created us in His image and for His pleasure? The reality is that we can’t do enough to earn His love; we cannot do too little to make His loves less. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. My busy-ness means nothing to Him unless I am being obedient to His call on my life. He would rather I do NOTHING for Him and be in a deep, abiding, personal relationship with Him, than He would desire me to be busy all the time “for Him”. “You can be rich in busy-ness yet bankrupt in good deeds!” (Justin Davis)

Jesus said that it is easier for the poor to have faith in God, because the rich always have something competing for their attention. There are trips to be taken, houses to be built and purchased, elegant expensive cars to drive, and parties to attend…distractions from things of God. Jesus never indicates that there is anything immoral or wrong about being wealthy. Many people work very hard, resulting in great wealth; some are blessed with an inheritance of large sums of money…it is what many of those people DO with their wealth that can be right or wrong, according to Scripture. Verse 18 of 1 Timothy 6 says to “command them (those rich in this present world) to do good, to be RICH in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share”. One last stat: The people who give the highest percentage of their money away live below the poverty level”. I don’t know why that shocks me, but it does. Why is it so? Greed, I suppose! Pastor Justin Davis reminded me that because “I have more I should do more and give more!” MORE…not less…not the leftovers. When you invite guests to dinner, you don’t serve leftovers; you work diligently to prepare a special meal to honor your guests. Why, then, should we expect God to be satisfied with our leftovers?

The questions to ponder then are these: Do you obtain your identity fully from your relationship with Christ, or is it attained through money and/or stuff? Will money and stuff bring you peace of mind? If not, are you getting, getting, and getting some more, rather than giving, giving, and giving again? See, our stuff will not go with us when we leave this earth! What WILL go with us for eternity are the treasures of relationships, the treasures of Heavenly things learned, the treasure of knowing Christ ‘on earth as it is in Heaven”. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also”. Matt. 6: 19-21

I DO love my cute little retro kitchen table and chairs…I am slowly trying to purge of much unnecessary stuff…and I AM rich~in God’s mercy, His forgiveness, His grace and His love! Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Proud Lolli...

I love being a grandmother! It's so much fun being "young" again, seeing things from the eyes of a child, playing like a child with a child! I love the innocence in their questions, the wonder in discovery of something new, the curious spirit that makes them question...and I love watching them learning life lessons, like how to trust people, how to never give up when fear of the unknown grips them, and how to gradually become independent young people on the journey toward adulthood. My eldest granddaughter, Carleigh, loves to swim; yet, not without her water wings on. She will go all over the pool, she will jump to people, and she will even lie back to long as she has her "floaties" on. For some time she has wanted to jump off the diving board to someone catching her; yet when it comes right down to her standing on the edge of the board and looking below to that someone, she cannot make herself do it. Last week I caught her twice and both times it jarred me silly!

Yesterday my sister and I tried to help her understand that the water was the same all over the pool; that I would be down there close to help if needed. She climbed up on the board, walked to the end, tried to pretend she was not afraid...yet, she could not do it. Meanwhile I was treading water and getting very tired! We continued talking to her, trying to build her confidence in herself and her trust in me to help her, if needed. Isn't that just like us~ we want to trust God, we know He will never lie to us, we want to step out in faith even though we cannot see the end result...we prepare to take the plunge, and we back out! Our faith waxes and wanes, over and over...and over again. When--and IF--we finally make the deliberate choice to take Him at His word, trust Him fully, and step out in total faith, we find He is there to carry us, to pick us up if we fall, and to love us through it all.

So I began asking Carleigh to jump off the side of the pool to me, and each time I would move further toward the diving board. Eventually we were fully in the deep end. Yet, the height of that diving board frightened her. After some more talking and encouraging, I counted to 3 and--SHE JUMPED! I was close by, but did not ever even have skin-to-skin contact with her! She came up out of that water grinning like a Cheshire Cat and could not wait to call her Momma to tell her. The next time I held onto one side and had her jump from the board toward me, so I would not have to tread water. At first she was afraid of that; yet she did it, and wanted to do it "again, Lolli!" Then we crossed to the other side and repeated the sequence. I promised her that, if she was successful in going off the diving board, I would blog about it, so lots of people would know. She told her Momma on the phone: "Momma, I'm going to be on the internet!"

So, here's to you, Boo! Lolli,Pop, Didi, Momma and Daddy and the rest of our family are so proud of you! You are a big 5-year old beautiful young lady, who is such a big swimmer now! Thank-you for trusting Lolli to take care of you if something happened, and know that I will always be here for you--ALWAYS!

I love you...and Mommy, Daddy, Macie, Izzy and her 8 puppies!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blast From The Past!!!

Some things get better with age, like a fine wine.
Other things get shoddier with age, like food left in the refrigerator for months…UGH!

There are things that become more valuable with age, like a Monet, or a Van Gogh.
And there are things that become less valuable with age, like vehicles.

What about people? Do they become better or worse, more valuable or a nobody as they age?

In most societies the elderly are revered, respected, admired, loved, treasured, and cared for vigilantly by family unto. Sadly in America there are many who feel our aging population is more of a burden than a blessing. Caring for folks in their Golden Years seems an inconvenient chore rather than an honor to many people. The fact that parents bear, birth, raise, provide for and love their children pales when the parents become elderly and no longer to care for themselves. Roles reverse, and rather than look upon it as an honor to serve the parents who spent a lifetime serving them, the parents seem to be an inconvenience to the children, who are trying to live their own lives. It’s a frightening, sobering, yet realistic scenario!

I am honored to be a caregiver for a 97-year old bed-ridden lady who lives at home. She and her husband (now deceased) had no children of their own and there are a few relatives. Her husband worked hard and provided well for his family. He assured that, upon his death, she would be well taken care of. For 3+ years she has had 24-hour care. Her mental faculties are still quite good. She has a dry sense of humor, is not a big talker or television watcher (except “Dancing With The Stars”---and it drives her crazy because the girls don’t “wear enough clothes!”. She and her husband were ballroom dancers, and were actually the ones who brought square dancing to Middle Tennessee)!

She and her husband built their home in 1956; everything in the house is original except the washer, dryer and refrigerator! Not kidding! For a 54+-year old like me it truly is like a walk back in time every. Houses built back then were built well and built to last! Some of the furnishings, artwork, and incidentals have likely increased in value over all these years. Much of the rest has no real value monetarily…oh, but the stories I’m sure are behind so much of the stuff in their home! If only the walls could talk!

She however, is a valued treasure! She has experienced things and learned lessons in those 97-years that I can only imagine. She continues running the course of her life with elegance and grace!
She is worthy of excellent care! She is worthy to be served! Though her years may qualify her as “old” or “elderly”, her worth as a person has only increased!

Thank-you, Father, for allowing me the privilege of participating in Mrs. M’s care!

Here’s what I see every time I enter her home! What are your thoughts on the elderly folks in our country?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daddy taught me…and such!

Benjamin and Rodney
Mike, Macie and Carleigh

My sister, Dinah, and my Mom

Yesterday we spent family time together at a delicious meal at Calhouns, celebrating Father’s Day. The day came and went and honestly…I didn’t think about my own dad! Is that bad? He’s been gone 9 years now…but I cannot believe I did not think about him during the day.

However, this morning the memories returned to me…the painful realization that my Daddy would never be here again. Feels empty! I decided to ponder things that Daddy taught me in his life AND in his death. Most were good lessons; some were painful ones that I wish I had never had to learn. They were my Daddy, nonetheless, whom I loved and respected so very much…can’t wait to see him in Glory!

My Daddy taught me…that family is important! He provided well for all our needs, and most of our wants. He worked very hard to earn a living that would not just make ends meet, but would offer us many opportunities: lessons in piano, dance, art…family vacations every year since I was 1-year old…and much more!

My Daddy taught me…to never jump into any major decision too quickly. He had me make a list of pros and cons of the decision I was making; then I would take it to him and discuss it with him, hearing his side as well.

My daddy taught me…to save money for long term reasons; to not spend all I make.

My Daddy taught me…that he thought I was beautiful, talented, and that I made him proud!

My Daddy taught me…drinking alcohol in excess did not solve problems; it merely served as a band-aid on painful spots in life. Unfortunately he taught me this through his being an alcoholic who never recovered.

My Daddy taught me…to shoot from the hip when you are angry, and I followed his lead for many years of my life. I believe I have worked past most of that, though I’m not totally “cured” yet.

My Daddy taught me…to value and cherish friendships! THAT LESSON I learned! I value all relationships in my life!

My Daddy taught me…”because I said so” means nothing! Children deserve an explanation of why they are being told to do what they are being told to do!

My Daddy taught me…to love my Momma! His expressions of love were skewed at times (in my opinion—thanks to alcohol ramifications), though I do know he loved my Momma. I have tried not to replicate any of his actions!

God gave me Joseph V. Lanier to be my Daddy, and I was/am a blessed person to have called him “Daddy”! In spite of his downfalls and crutches, he loved me so much, and I knew it! I miss his little nicknames for my sisters, my children and me…I miss his extreme sense of humor (oh, how he could tell a joke, and drag it on and on!)…I miss his elegant taste in clothes (he dressed to the nines!)…I miss him sitting out by the swimming pool in their backyard and repeating daily how fortunate and blessed we all are to have that piece of property to live on…I miss you, Daddy…

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

From Little League to Chicago Hope...

"I hope you dance"...
"Hope springs eternal"...
"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him" -Ps. 62:5

From drugs and a jail finding becoming a successful business having a heart and passion for desperate kids, Bob Muzikowski opened Chicago Hope Academy. Children whose lives could be destined to a cyclical pattern of helplessness and hopelessness find help and hope through the steadfast faculty and staff of CHA~ people who refuse to allow anyone to believe they are ever without hope!

Looking across the street from Uno's Pizza
The team eating the first night in downtown Chicago
View from the Skydeck at Sears Tower--scary!!!
The group with Tony, the first morning of work
Chicago Hope Academy
Danielle and Anna, 2 of the CHA girls
The mission of CHA
Scriptures are painted on the walls throughout the buildings

First day of work: removing old paint from fire escape and repainting
Hanging out with CHA kids!
Please keep praying for hope for the students, faculty and staff at CHA! Together they are making a difference in Chicago, and they will make a difference to the world!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Plan B on James Robison

My pastor, Pete Wilson, on the "Life Outreach International" program, speaking on the release of his new book, Plan B.