Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hearing the Father's Voice

"Listen to My voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people."
(Jeremiah 7:23)

"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day..."
(Genesis 3:8a)

This post is basically a part-two of my previous post (see below).

When my sisters or I call my parents, there are many times my dad isn't quite sure which one of his four daughters is on the other end of the line. Mom is a little better at discerning the source of the voice. I know my husband's parents sometimes aren't sure if it him or his brother when he calls. And yet we all know each other quite well, obviously!

How much more important is it for us, then, to be aware of God's voice when He speaks to us? How can we know His voice is speaking to us if we aren't in the habit of listening? Adam and Eve knew the sound of God "walking in the garden." That seems to be a pretty intimate relationship, doesn't it--to know the sound of someone's movements.

I have been told that the best way to know a counterfeit is to study the original. Bank tellers are trained to spot "phony" money by studying the real deal, and memorizing every detail. The best way, too, for us to know God's voice in the midst of the clamor of voices trying to capture our attention, is to spend time with Him more and more, and listening to Him. The more we listen, the better we will know His voice. The better we will be able to hear His calm assurances, gentle proddings, challenges to holiness, reminders of what we know...

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
(John 10:27)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Missing in Action

"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?' "
(Genesis 3:8, 9)

Do you think God didn't know where Adam and Eve really were? Don't you think this was more of a "I know where you are, but WHY are you there?" question? More of a matter of their perspective, not God's? ("We are out of His sight." Even though we never truly are...?)

Another blogger was recently recounting a story about one of her kids, and how she panicked when he didn't get home at the expected time. I can totally relate to how that feels. Our youngest, Clyde, has a real knack for scaring me out of my wits.

When he was very small, but old enough to walk...after church one Sunday, we saw one of the men from our church go running toward the street. We stepped outside to see what the commotion was about. Clyde had gone into the street, and our great hero Harry had grabbed him to drag him back onto the sidewalk. The gentleman from our church pulled both of them to safety and brought them back to the church. (Poor Harry thought he would be in trouble, because he accidentally knocked Clyde down!)

About a year later, after we had moved to a different town, Harry and his friend were riding bikes together. The friend's sister was riding Clyde's tricycle, and Clyde was following along behind on foot. They would come around the corner in front of the house, circle around, and head back around the corner behind the house. They did this several times. Until...they all came around the corner except Clyde.

Me: "Where's Clyde?"
Harry: "Behind us!"
Me: "No, he's not!"

A search ensued. No Clyde. The kids and I started running all through the neighborhood. No Clyde. Finally, I slowed to a walk, and discovered two little feet sticking out from the awning of the neighbors' backyard swing. There he was, happy as a lark, swinging away to his heart's content.

About a month later, he pulled the same type of disappearing act. Only this time, we found him about 5 houses down, on a swing set of some other neighbors.

He has done this many more times, too. He disappears in stores, and isn't the least bit frightened to find himself alone. He has tried to disappear in airports. He has shown up later than expected from school. Most recently, he disappeared at the end of church. In his mind, if he knows where he is, and he's safe, why should we be worried? Needless to say, we have had many talks about why it is important for us to know where he is. And there have been punishments dealt out to remind him of this fact.

So as I reflect on the panic and fear I feel every time this has occurred, I wonder how this applies in the spiritual realm. We may not completely hide from God, as Adam and Eve did. It may not be caused by shame of sin. But don't we sometimes just kind of wander off on our own? Just sort of figure, "I know where I am, God, so it's all cool. I know all the 'stuff,' and I'm okay. I'll be back when I'm ready to feel a bit more spiritual."

Let me tell you, though, that's a dangerous place to wander. When we feel safe and secure in our wanderings, that is when we are most vulnerable to attack. It is when the enemy of our souls knows we are easy prey. We are away from the fold, like a lamb out sniffing clover. We think we've got it all under control. When in fact, we need to be back in the pasture where the Shepherd can ward off the wolf for us. We can't outrun the wolf. We can't out-fight him, either. When we're trying to take care of ourselves, we are a perfect target.

The best place to remain may not always seem the most exciting or glamorous place to be. It may not seem the most adventurous. But it is definitely the safest.

May our paths take us ever alongside the Shepherd, and not veer away from the safety of His presence.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Music to Live By

Another blogger, Cheryl, periodically has a post labeled LIF (Lyrics I'm Feeling). I have one of those posts today.

This song is special to our family. About a year ago, at the Rite of Election (part of the process of being received into the Catholic Church), a wonderful choir sang this song. Recently at a church gathering, it was the closing song as well. This isn't just a "grown up" song. My kids were singing it while doing the dishes together the other night!

It definitely has a black gospel kick to it. It brings me back to our days in Detroit, and worshipping at Revival Tabernacle. My husband used to tease me that, even though I was a white farm girl from Kansas, I was "black on the inside," due to my love for black gospel music and the inborn feel I have for the rhythm.

That was more information than you probably wanted or needed...but it gives you a better picture of why I love this song so much: the black gospel feel, and the awesome message of the words!

Go Make a Difference
by Steve Angrisano and Tom Tomaszek

Refrain: Go make a difference.
We can make a difference.
Go make a difference in the world.
Go make a difference.
We can make a difference.
Go make a difference in the world.

We are the salt of the earth, called to let the people see
The love of God in you and me.
We are the light of the world, not to be hidden but be seen.
Go make a difference in the world.

We are the hands of Christ reaching out to those in need,
The face of God for all to see.
We are the spirit of hope; we are the voice of peace.
Go make a difference in the world.

So let your love shine on, let it shine for all to see.
Go make a difference in the world.
And the Spirit of Christ will be with us as we go.
Go make a difference in the world.

May that be our prayer and our life goal, my friends!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Letting Go

“…love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

(Matthew 5:44b)

For me, this has to be one of the toughest verses in Scripture to obey. I really don’t have a lot of out-and-out “enemies,” I guess. But the whole message is that we need to love and pray for those who have wronged us. I have found it to be true that if you’re praying for someone, it is very hard to stay mad at them.

There is a person I know that has wounded me deeply in the past. I’m not even sure this person remembers the incidents. It all happened so many years ago. Yet the series of events that occurred, and the role this individual played in the whole thing, are still hurtful to me today. I have confessed this pain to the Lord many times over the years. I have told Him that I forgive this person. (Some would say I should go to this person and tell them I have forgiven them. I really don’t agree with that, though. If the person doesn’t remember the situation, and doesn’t even know I was upset with them, to me that only makes it a case of “I feel better, but now you feel worse.” That’s not right, either.) I have repented of my feelings toward this person more times than I can remember. Every time I do this, I feel like maybe this time I have let it go. But then something will come along to remind me of the pain and humiliation this person caused, and those old feelings rise up in me again.

I think I am beginning to see, though, through this passage, why that may be. At different times in the past, I have become aware of needs in this individual’s life. Whether they were financial needs or physical needs, I always took the time to pray about the specific needs, and for this person. But I haven’t made it a practice to pray for the person every day. Now I’m thinking that may be what it takes to finally let go of all this.

I want freedom from the burden. And I want to be finally and forever healed of the wounds that were inflicted upon my heart so long ago. I want to be able to truly say I LOVE this person.

The passage ends with these words, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v. 48) That seems like an impossible task, doesn’t it? I know, though, that if I am allowing His perfect love to dwell in me and flow out through me, it really is not impossible.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

(Luke 23:34)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Plug for the Diva

Mair, over at Ragamuffin Diva, is going to be doing a book signing in Michigan on February 20, at this bookstore:

Barnes and Noble Booksellers
Fairlane Green
3120 Fairlane Dr.
Allen Park, MI 48101

So for any of my readers who are interested, more information can be found at the link above, or you can call the bookstore. If you go, be sure to tell her a big "HI!!!" from Joni!!!!

Friday, February 15, 2008


"...go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

(Matthew 5:24b)

Painting by Michael J. Alexander. To order this print or see more of his work, check out this link.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you have all had some heartwarming moments today. My honey brought me a bouquet of, yellow, white, wonderful!

I haven't been around much this week due to sick kiddos. I'll catch up with you all when my kids are a bit on the "up" side of all this!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Passage of Time

Tomorrow will mark quite an event in our household. Our oldest son, known to my blogger friends as "Harry," will celebrate his twelfth birthday. (I will officially be the mom of a pre-teen!)

It has been an all-weekend celebration for him. First, due to a weather-related change, the boys' school "buddy lunch" (lunch out with their parents) was rescheduled for yesterday. We took our boys out, and had a great time with them. Second, due to the same weather situation, their school carnival was last night. Again, we went as a family and enjoyed a great time with our boys (and over 300 other people!).

Last night, my husband took Harry out for a "guys' night." They spent the night at a motel and just had a good time spending dad/son time together. Both of them came home with great memories. I'm so thankful for that!

While they were gone, our younger son ("Clyde") and I made birthday preparations. We cleaned the house (Harry doesn't know he has a surprise guest coming tomorrow!). We made a huge birthday sign. We made several smaller signs to put in the windows. We blew up several balloons. We ordered the scrumptious Dairy Queen cake (the head cook gets a break from cake-making on this birthday!). And, we just generally tried to make things look as festive as possible, yet not like a "little kid" birthday.

Tomorrow, we will be in church together as a family. As it turns out, since he was asked to fill in for someone, Harry gets to be an altar server on his special day. After church, we'll pick up that yummy cake. And we'll have homemade lasagna for lunch, per Harry's request. Hopefully, the weather won't prevent our surprise guest from arriving in time for the ice cream cake. (It's Harry's buddy from school.)

Each birthday of my boys is extra special to me. As most of my readers know, there was a time when we didn't think we were going to be able to have children. Harry was our first answer to years of anguished prayer. Clyde was an extra blessing that we never expected. We are so thankful for both of them, and the joy they bring to our lives.

So tomorrow, Harry, we celebrate YOU, and the precious and wonderful gift you are to our lives. We are truly blessed.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Please Chime In!

In response to my Ash Wednesday post, "Anonymous" left the following question:

"I have a question and am wondering what people think.

If someone does something for you in secret, like God commands, and you as the grateful recipient then tell people about it, are you taking away the giver's blessing?"

These are my thoughts:

My only concern would be that you not tell others who the giver was, or give any indication as to their identity, while still giving God the glory for blessing you.

So what do you all think?

As a post script, I just want to thank all of you who have responded. Those are great, insightful answers! Anonymous, I hope you have checked in to see the responses!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Just Say "No!"

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me."
(Luke 9:23, NASB)

At our family's morning prayer time, my husband asked our two sons what the meaning of the above verse could be. "What does it mean to "deny" yourself?" They weren't sure. Then he asked them what it meant to deny someone. They said, "To say 'no' ."

And that is what it truly means. It means to say "no" to myself (desires, passions, lusts, flesh) and say "YES" to God!

It reminds me of an old song:
"I'll say 'yes, Lord, yes' to Your will and to Your ways.
I'll say 'yes, Lord, yes' -- I will trust You and obey.
When Your Spirit speaks to me, with my whole heart I'll agree.
And my answer will be 'yes, Lord, yes' ".

Throughout Lent, I want to learn to be more ready with my "no" to self and my "yes" to God!


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Journal photo / Andrew Dickerman

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. (It is earlier this year, as it begins 40 days before Easter, and Easter is early this year.) The priest dips his thumb into the ashes (made from last year's burned palm fronds), and marks the foreheads of the people with the sign of the cross. He repeats the phrase: "Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." (Or something similar.) It is a reminder that without God, we are nothing. (See this link for more information.)

As I sat in Mass this morning, pondering the whole idea of what is ahead in Lent and what that means, this thought came to me: Lent is not so much about "giving up" as it is about "giving in". What do I mean by that? It is not to be focused on what we sacrifice as much as it is to be about submitting ourselves to God in deeper ways. It is about focusing on His sacrifice at the cross, and "giving in" to what that means in our individual lives.

It is a time of giving alms:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." (Matthew 6:1-4*)

It is a time of prayer:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:5-6*)

It is a time of fasting:

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:16-18*)

As the often-used phrase says, "Let go, and let God!"

*all Scripture quotes from the New King James Version


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Weight of the World

I'm still feeling that heaviness on me today. I still don't feel at liberty to go into complete detail. Just keep me in your prayers.