Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Beyond Words

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 15:57
Happy Thanksgiving!!

How could we ever begin to give thanks for all God has done?
Sometimes, I come before His presence with thanksgiving, 
and I don't feel like I even come close to skimming the surface 
in conveying to God how very thankful I am.
I am so grateful that He knows!
He doesn't only understand words.
He looks on the heart.
He comprehends what is behind the spoken....
and the unspoken prayers.

If any given one of us counted our many blessings and named them one by one,
we would never be able to find a stopping point.

Truly, every day should be Thanksgiving day, in the life of a Christian.
But, in the busyness of everyday life, with all of its demands,
it is so easy to forget to pause and thank Him.

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..."
Psalm 103:2

How many forgotten benefits (click here to read) have we failed to mention 
when we are sending up thanks to Him?

Pretty scary thought, huh?
Thankfully, God is very forgiving...and ever, eternally merciful.

"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22,23

So, what are your plans this Thanksgiving Day?
Who will you spend it with?
For what and whom are you most thankful?
What does your menu look like?

Lord willing, here's what we're having and who's making what at our house...

Debbie's Home-baked Ham
LD's Deep-fried Turkey
Debbie's homemade, creamy Mashed Potatoes
LD's famously-delicious, homemade Gravy
Debbie's savory, homemade Stuffing
Broccoli Casserole (recipe below)
Sweet Potato Casserole (recipe below)
Corn (store-bought, canned)
Special Recipe Green Beans (recipe below)
 Deviled Eggs (recipe below)
Cranberry Sauce (store-bought canned)
Brown-n-Serve Rolls (store-bought - we all love them as much as homemade)
Debbie's Homemade Pumpkin Pie (Hooray!)
Kevin's Homemade Cherry Pie 
(he even makes his own flaky, buttery crust..totally from scratch!  Yummy!) 

I think that's, are we ever blessed.
It sounds like a meal fit for a king.
I feel so unworthy....but eternally grateful for all of God's provision.
My heart goes out to those who are hungry.
It makes me feel very guilty...for devouring and enjoying such bounty.

I think it makes a meal so much fun when everyone pitches in and adds their individual contribution.
Mark contributes by footing the expense of the turkey and pop...
and helping out wherever and whenever he is asked.
His kind heart and gentle ways add so much joy to the holidays.
And, of course, Zach helps me out in countless ways...
"Zach, can you bring me this?
Zach, will you help me do that?"
He probably feels like changing his name by the end of a holiday!

He brings the table-extension leaves out of the closet,
helps me put on the Thanksgiving tablecloth,

(this year I layered our cream-colored lace cloth, over a rust-colored fabric one...
it looks so Thanksgiving-ish!)
helps set the table,
and all sorts of little other jobs.

He is such a blessing!
Sometimes, I still can't believe he is our child.
It still doesn't seem to sink in how abundantly blessed we are 
to finally have a precious child of our very own.

The weather here is really cold.
We are loving every minute.
Today was my absolute favorite kind of day....
gray sky, cold, chilly, wintry, cloudy....
I love days when we can stay in and stay warm...
and close together.
Thank the dear Lord for heat.

Times are difficult for many.
Trials abound nearly every direction we look.
The evening news is seldom pleasant.
But, through it all....God is ever-present...and in complete control.

My heart goes out with deep compassion to those who have lost loved ones this year
and those who are in the process of losing them.
This is our second Thanksgiving without Mom,
and it is so hard missing her.
I still expect to hear her familiar voice on the phone
or see her sitting at the end of our table in her favorite spot.
It hits all of us hard, when we are all together.
It makes the void and her absence so vivid...and so painful.

How grateful I am for each person in my life!
Shared sorrow deepens bonds.

Today, let us elevate our minds and lift our hearts and eyes Heavenward.
Let us give thanks to God...regardless of our circumstances.
Let us avoid negativity.
Let us fill our thoughts with the good things.
They outweigh the bad every time.
No matter how sad and challenging our circumstances,
we can always find something, however small it may be,
for which to be thankful, right?

Let us focus on that.

I really don't have words to express all of the thankfulness in my heart today.
How wonderful that God will settle for a simple, but extremely heartfelt
"Thank You, Lord."
It is the only place I know to begin.

Now for those recipes....

Broccoli Casserole

1 bag of frozen chopped broccoli, cooked according to package directions
1 small onion, finely diced
1 egg, beaten
1 cup mayonnaise
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
sprinkle of pepper

Mix all together in a casserole baking dish.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese 
(as much as desired...I probably use about 2-3 cups - we love cheese!)
Top with Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix
Place pats of butter or margarine on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Sweet Potato Casserole

4 large, fresh sweet potatoes, boiled until tender
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix with mixer, until thoroughly mixed and mashed.
Pour into well-buttered casserole dish.
Top with topping.
Bake at 350 degrees until topping is brown (about 30 minutes or so).
Do not cover dish.


1 cup brown sugar
2 cups chopped pecans
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

Mix topping with fork until thoroughly blended.
Sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes.
Use all of topping.
Deviled Eggs

The simpler, the better, I say.
The easier a recipe is, the more likely I am to repeat making it.
Honestly, this is the easiest, most simple way to make deviled eggs....
and of all of the varieties I've tasted, these are the best...hands-down.  :)
My sister, Sandi, shared this recipe with me, shortly after Kevin and I were married.

18 eggs, hard-boiled
Thousand Island Dressing

Peel eggs, cut in half length-wise, and remove hard-boiled yolks.
In mixing bowl, mix yolks with Thousand Island dressing.
I don't really measure this...just start out small, with 1 Tbsp.,
then continue to add until mixture is of a spreadable consistency.
With a knife, spread enough yolk mixture onto the tops of each halved-egg white to cover.

When finished, sprinkle eggs with paprika.
Special Recipe Green Beans

Here's another simple, yet very tasty recipe.
It's my family's favorite way for me to cook green beans.
They come out tasting like fresh from the garden!

3-4 cans of store-bought, canned green beans (your brand choice)
3-4 beef bouillon cubes (add one cube per can of green beans)

Cook in saucepan until all liquid has evaporated & beans are completely dry.
Remove as soon as they are dry to prevent scorching.

Simplify...that's the name of the game for me.  :)

And, always remember the most important ingredient to add to any recipe
is the love in your heart for the ones you are serving!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Buying The Lie

"Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding."
Proverbs 23:23

How many times have you bought the lie?

"You're not pretty enough."
"You can't do it."
"You'll never amount to anything."
"You're too fat."
"You're too skinny."
"No one cares."
"You're just a failure."
"No one will ever love you."
"No one is as messed up as you."
"You're too old."
"It's too late."
"You're too young."
"You'll never get it right."
"You'll never overcome addiction."
"Life will never get any better."
"You'll always be miserable."
"No one will ever find you attractive."
"The best years are behind you."
"You're just a lost cause."
"You'll never lose the weight."
"You'll never reach your goal."
"You are hopeless."

Or the worst lie EVER, ever told....
"God doesn't love you."

Ever heard that one?

I have.
I have heard just about every lie mentioned above....
with few exceptions, especially the one about "you're too skinny"!
I don't think I've ever been accused of that one!  :)

But, seriously.
I've not only heard the lies.
I've bought them.
Hook, line, and sinker.
Been thoroughly convinced and left hopeless in their aftermath.

I remember one time we were in church on our knees praying,
and satan slipped right in beside me on the pew and said,
"God doesn't love you.
He loves everyone else.
You are always telling people that.
It is true for everyone else.
Not for you.
You're the exception.
He doesn't love you."

What a black, mean-spirited, ugly thing to say to someone!
This...right before I was scheduled to stand up and minister....
to those who needed encouragement...
those who needed to believe God's love...
those who were hurting inside.

His timing could not have been worse.

Unfortunately, satan knows what works.
He's had a lot of experience...not only on the big scale,
but, individually.
He knows what works on you...and me.
What he tries on someone else may have little affect on me.
But, he knows what buttons to push on every, individual person.

I knelt there listening to him for most of the duration of the prayer.
When satan has you by the ear and realizes you are paying attention and buying into 
what he has to say, he kicks it into overdrive.

Sure enough, he pushed the right...or should I say wrong buttons.
He badgered and buffeted and beat me up to the point that I was near complete defeat.
He threw up the past, forcefully reminding me of my near-hopeless inadequacies.

How could I stand up, smile, and proclaim the glad tidings
when I believed it was true for everyone else,
but not for me?
How could I make it come across as credible,
when I, myself, was feeling unloved and worthless?

Anyone knows it is near-impossible to sell something unless you completely believe in it.

It took everything I had within me to do what I needed to do.
Self-control took on a whole new meaning for me,
as I realized I had to completely subdue the way I was feeling,
press forward,
and speak what I theoretically know is true...
in the midst of swirling lies.

I am appalled at satan's nerve.
At his audacity.
At his complete unbiased and non-discriminatory choices.
It doesn't matter if you are in church, in the midst of Christians,
or in the world, surrounded by non-believers....
off by yourself someplace remote and quiet,
or in a crowded, noisy, populated place.
It doesn't matter to him.
He will attack....with force and without warning.

The verse today says, "Buy the truth, and sell it not".
It also encourages us to buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
But, never do we ever read that we are to buy the lie.

The truth is that God does love us...yes, even me.
He loves even me.
Oh, the glory of that wonderful truth!
How it thrills and fills my inmost soul!
Or as the old George Beverly Shea song says, 
"The wonder of it all!  The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
The wonder of it all!  The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me."

And, I love Chris Tomlin's version of "I Stand Amazed (in the presence)",
written by Charles H. Gabriel.

There are millions upon millions of lies being told every day.
To people just like you...and me.
Lies told by the one Jesus warned us and said this about,
"Ye are of your father the devil...he was a murderer from the beginning, 
and abode not in the truth, 
because there is no truth in him. 
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: 
for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:44

Did you catch all of that?
"He was a murderer from the beginning."

How many times have you been his victim?
Left completely slain and shattered in the wake of his murderous, heinous behavior.
He comes to us only to steal, kill, and destroy everything good.
Unfortunately, he is aware of our esteem issues....
how down on ourselves we can be...
and the low opinions of ourselves that we insist upon clinging to so tightly.

So, he uses these weapons against us...
to hamper our enthusiasm,
break our spirit,
and annihilate our hope and our dreams.

A murderer.

Jesus lumped satan's murderous spirit right in there in the same verse with his lying nature.
Because lies hurt.
Lies kill.
They render us incapable of performing what God is calling us to do.

"...and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him..."

The truth is not in our adversary.
Not a drop.
If you searched every thread of the fabric of his being,
you would find NO TRUTH.
Not a shred.

"...When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own..."

Listen close.
Here is one major weapon...we can turn back on him.
The next time he comes to you intent upon tearing you down,
breaking your resolve,
eating away at your zeal,
tell him he is all the things he accuses you of being.
Tell him he is speaking of his own.
Tell him that is what Jesus said.
Tell him he is the one who is ugly,
who is a failure,
who lost the battle forever when Jesus died on the cross,
then came out of that tomb on Easter morning alive, glorified, and triumphant!

As the quote goes,
"When satan reminds you of your past,
remind him of his future."
Author Unknown

I add to that....
When satan reminds you of your inadequacies, failures, and defeats,
remind him what a failure he is....
that he was incapable of breaking our Lord and foiling salvation's plan,
he completely failed on resurrection morning,
and he is ultimately the biggest loser of all.

His future is bleak indeed.
Yours is bright.
Don't buy another one of his lies.

Here's the Gospel truth....
you, my dear and precious friend, are a child of the king. Psalm 45:13
You are beautiful in His sight. Psalm 149:4

You are worth more to God than His Own life. John 3:16
You can do absolutely all things through Christ Who gives you strength. Philippians 4:13
SomeOne loves you more than anything in this world...
and gave it all up....and Heaven, you could live with Him eternally. Romans 8:32
You are more than a conqueror through Him that loves you unconditionally,
perpetually, consistently, and whole-heartedly.  Romans 8:37
Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.  I John 4:4
You are healed.  I Peter 2:24
You are whole.  Matthew 9:22
It is just going to get better and better for you from now on
because every step you take gets you one step closer to the beautiful mansion
He went away to prepare for you. John 14:2

Sure, you will be tried and tested...all along the way.
There are things inside all of us that need to be flushed...
hence, the purifying process.
The you....the being made more beautiful as you go.
Every trial is purging your dross.
Every test is proving your faithfulness and making you stronger.
As He prepares your mansion for you,
He is preparing you for your mansion.

You are virtuous and valued far above rubies to Him (Proverbs 31:10)...
so much so, that He will go to any necessary means to fit you to dwell with Him forever.

Make the choice today to buy the truth.
But what is real.
Don't sell it for any lie the enemy offers as an exchange.
Don't sell it for anything.
Hold on tight, and don't let it go.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
Buy what He says.
Every word of it.

Stop buying the lies.
You are beyond precious to God,
and He has done everything He could possibly do to prove it.
Buy that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Self-Inflicted Guilt

"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:12


Yesterday, I was in such an irritable state of mind.
I hate when I feel that way.

Kevin was off work,
Zach was off school,
it was a beautiful, cool, crisp, autumn day,

all was well,
and I did not want to feel miserable.

Kevin, Zachary, and I were playing a game, 
and I SO wanted to enjoy our time together.

"Are you okay?"
Kevin reached over to touch my arm that was resting on the table beside him.

"I'm okay."

"You're so quiet.
You can tell me what's wrong."

I didn't even know how.
I didn't even know what...was wrong that is.
There was no apparent reason for my irritation.
None whatsoever.

I kept trying to think back over the day to try and figure out what in the world
was gnawing at me...what was causing me to feel so vexed.

It finally came to me....
sometimes the cause is not so apparent.

More than likely, when something is bugging me this much,
it isn't going to go away until I find the root and deal with it.
It takes a little digging under the surface to get to the root of it,
but it is always worth the extra effort required.

I had done something earlier in the day....
something I had poured my whole heart into....
and it had turned into a complete, bona fide flop.
My failure and incompetence was literally ruining my whole day.
I was giving it permission.

Let me explain.
We have been dog-sitting and chicken-sitting for some friends who are in Hawaii on vacation.
One of our benefits for helping them out, is that we get to gather and enjoy farm-fresh eggs.
They are tiny, little eggs, so we decided to save them up until we had enough to enjoy.

Now, if you know my husband at all, you know he absolutely loves...and I mean loves....
farm-fresh eggs for breakfast.

He was so looking forward to those eggs.
He had mentioned it several times over the course of the past few days,
and we finally had enough accumulated to make a nice breakfast plate.

I was thrilled to see him so happy about it, and I eagerly went in to fix breakfast.

Kevin likes his eggs over-easy.....
a very particular way, and I have tried very hard over the years 
to perfect my skills in this area, in order to please him.
He likes the yolks runny...but doesn't like the whites too hard-cooked.
It is a very fine line to walk.
I still have trouble after 25 years of being married
and fixing Kevin's breakfast.  :)

Anyhow, I successfully cracked and poured out the cute, little, fresh eggs....
 without breaking the yolk and everything!
I was feeling pretty proud of myself when Kevin walked by,
wrapped those familiar, comforting arms around me,
peeked into the skillet and said,
"Mmmm, those look good.
Look at the nice golden yolks.
They're so full."

They did look beautiful, I had to admit....frying there so pretty in the frying pan.

I was warming up some leftover ham to go with them,
along with toasting bread,
pouring juice, 
buttering the toast,
well, you get the picture.

Being used to buying large eggs and having it pretty much down to a science as far as how much 
time I have to do other things while they are frying to Kevin's liking,
I falsely assumed I was on my normal time-schedule...
forgetting completely that these eggs were very small.

All of a sudden, it hit me, and I went to flip them over.
I knew the minute I looked at them, they were way too well-done.
There isn't a thing you can do to fix an over-done egg.
Not a thing.
The moment was past.
It was just plain too late.

I proceeded to finish getting everyone's breakfast plate on the table,
we said grace,
and I didn't dare to venture a peek in Kevin's direction.
Bless his heart, out of the corner of my eye I could see he was shuffling things around on his plate,
doing his utmost to look interested....
and, as usual, certainly not uttering a word of complaint.

I finally mustered the courage....
to look into his sweet, disappointed face.

"Are the eggs too hard?" I muttered...ever so feebly.

"Well, it's okay.
The yolks are pretty much like hard-boiled.
I'm trying to eat them."

Oh, my word...can you feel any lower or worse about yourself than I did right then?

All those days, he and Zach going to that hen house, gathering those little eggs....

saving them up until they had just enough....
and now look.
Just look at what I had done.
They were ruined.
He hated them.
There's just things you know after being with someone this long.

Kevin is the kindest, most long-suffering, patient soul.
Honestly, you would just have to know him.
Of all of the things I love and admire about him,
his kind, gentle spirit has to be way up there towards the top of the list.

Bless his dear heart, he tried...he really tried.
He just doesn't like his eggs like that.
He just can't stomach them.
I can't blame him.
There are things I can't stand to eat either.

We all have different tastes and likes and dislikes.

So, we managed to get through the meal....
me quiet as a church mouse,
Kevin and Zach trying to keep conversation going and act normal.

When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Plain and simple.

That's just the way it is.

Paige was the only one happy with those eggs.
She had a feast!
She was the proud recipient of a homemade, country breakfast...
farm-fresh eggs and all.
Thankfully, she doesn't care if her eggs are hard-boiled, over-easy, or scrambled...
it's all the same to her.
Kevin took his plate out to the front porch,
scraped the barely-touched eggs into her waiting bowl, 
and she devoured them like a ravenous, starving wolf.

I cleaned up the kitchen, did the dishes, we had family worship,
and I forget what all else, 
but the thought of those eggs remained stuck in my craw.

I kept beating myself up...
repeatedly kicking myself for being so careless...
so negligent....
so aggravatingly stupid.

This went on for a few hours...literally.

We finished our game, and I went to pray.
"God, please help me. 
I don't want to ruin this day.
I don't want to feel this way."

Right out of the blue, He spoke.

"This is self-inflicted guilt.
Kevin understands.
He doesn't hold this against you.
I am not displeased with you in any way.
I do not condemn you.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,
 who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
I know how hard you tried.
So does Kevin.
You are inflicting this upon yourself.
You need to stop."

The wisdom of our Lord is beyond telling.
I lingered before His presence, allowing His words to soak in....
just like they were sinking into a dry, thirsty sponge.

The truth is exactly what I needed to hear.

Jesus Christ IS the way, the truth, and the life.

He is the way.
Walking towards Him is the first step.
Bowing the knee before Him humbles and softens the most fallow ground of the heart,
opening it up to a willingness to listen to whatever He needs to say and impart.
Following Him in whatever direction He chooses to lead is a sure-fire way to the path of peace.

He is the truth.
There is no deceit.
Just pure, open honesty.
He holds nothing back.
He doesn't sugar-coat the hard-to-swallow.
He doesn't water down the hard-to-digest.
He doesn't beat around the bush, so as not to offend.
He tells it exactly as it is...exactly and precisely what we need, not hear.

He is the life.
To the thirsty, worn, and weary traveler, He is living water.
To the faint of heart, He breathes the breath of life.
To the hungry, drained, and jaded wanderer, He is refreshment and restoration.
Finding Him is finding everything we need.

"Lord, help me!" I cried.
"Just help me to let it go.
I give it to You.
Please take this from me."

As I took His advice, and stopped perpetuating the self-abuse, He did.
He took it away.
Lightened my load.

I left my place of prayer with a different attitude.
Peace and serenity...and joy was restored.

Why didn't I do it sooner?
I'll never know.

Why do we allow the enemy to steal our precious moments?
Everything we need is found at Jesus' feet.
Why do we wait so long to go there?

Self-inflicted guilt is cruel.
It is a tool in the hand of satan...used to badger, buffet, and destroy us.
As long as we are willing participants, he will hammer away all day long,
robbing us of every potentially-joy-filled moment that could have been spent
smiling, laughing, and enjoying the ones we love.

He is a cruel, hard taskmaster.

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 15:57

So, what is vexing you today?
What are you feeling guilty about?
Maybe it isn't over-done eggs or anything of the sort.
Perhaps it is a failed marriage.
Maybe you gave it all you had, only to have it end anyway.
Now satan is brow-beating you to the point of desperation.
Maybe it wasn't your fault.
Did you ever think of that?
You can't fix everyone.
You can't make another person change or honor the vows they made.
There are certain things you simply cannot control or alter.
Maybe it was your fault.
Perhaps you caused the rift.
And now it is irreparable.

God understands.
Stop feeling guilty.
Jesus already took the blame.
He opened His loving arms on Calvary,
consented to them being nailed to a wooden cross,
and proclaimed to His Father,
"I am guilty."
The penalty has already been paid.
You can walk free of the condemnation with which you are so heavy-laden.
Bring your overwhelming load of guilt and lay it at His feet.
Hand it to Him, along with every jumbled, entangled shred of your life,
and allow Him to sort through it and send the healing your soul craves.

Maybe your guilt comes from mistakes you've made with your child(ren).
No one gets it all right all of the time.
You are not alone.
We have all failed.
We all have regrets.
We all wish we would have spoken a bit kinder,
been less harsh,
done more of this and less of that,
not been so this or not overdone that.

You name it.
You fill in the blanks.

Why do you feel guilty?
Perhaps you are walking away from God, instead of towards Him.
That is easy to change, my friend.

All it takes is a U-turn.
God allows them, you know.
At any point.
All along the way.
You have not gone too far.
You are not hopeless.
Do not despair.
Satan is a liar.
Every word out of his mouth is untruth.
Jesus is the truth.

Stop beating yourself up.
Stop self-condemning yourself to judgment.
God is the only Judge before Whom you must stand,
and He died an excruciatingly painful death for you...
the Guiltless...for the guilty.
That's what He thinks of you.
That's His opinion.

He already knew what you would do...long before you did it.
He died for you anyway.

Let people talk.
Invalidate their negativity.
Put no thought into their opinions...whether good or bad.
None of it matters.

You are precious to God.
Right now.
Wherever you are.
Whatever you've done.
However far or near to Him you stand.

He loves you with an undying, unconditional, undiminishing, agape love.
It is time you finally accept His forgiveness....
and forgive yourself.

God's U-turns automatically come with clean slates.
He never throws your past up to you.
In fact, He forgets all about it.

Maybe it is time for you do the same.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Taking Root, Bearing Fruit

"And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah 
shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward."
2 Kings 19:30

Ever feel like you are barely hanging on?
Like everything within you wants to keep going, 
but most of you is broken and jaded and out of touch?
Like there is just a shred of "you" left....
and that shred is hanging on by a mere thread?

Today, we went on a nature walk/scavenger hunt with some homeschool friends.
The morning autumn air was crisp and invigorating as we walked along
 looking for different types of leaves,
animal prints, 
and the sorts of things you would hope to find in a forest.

As we walked, a homeschool Dad pointed out the strangest looking "tree" to the rest of us....
well, at least what is left of the tree.

Can you see it?

This is it.
Up close and personal.

You can see how big the diameter of the tree used to be.
And you can see that all that is left is a hollow trunk,
and the rest of it is missing, except this one little "sprig" of a tree
that continues to grow and thrive and even bear leaves.

If you move your eyes up to the top area of the "sprig",
you will see the green leaves that continue to be produced.

None of us had ever seen anything like it.

How did this little part of the tree trunk manage to survive and hang on?
What happened to the rest of the tree?
How can there still be life left in a stump this hollow and this...well, dead?
How does it still thrive, in spite of the rest of the tree being cut off?
What gives this tiny portion of what used to be a big tree
the courage to keep fighting for life....
to keep refusing to give up?

As I pondered our little phenomenon,
I thought about a lot of things.

I thought of Joseph and how the odds were so incredibly stacked against him,
but in spite of all that was thrown at him,
he kept climbing to the top and being blessed by God's favor.
How he was ruthlessly sold like a common slave to Midianite foreigners 
by his own consumed-with-jealousy, double-crossing brothers.
How the foreigners sold him to Potiphar, the Egyptian captain of Pharaoh's guard,
who was so impressed with him, he promoted him to a high-ranking position.
How he was falsely accused of making advances towards his boss's wife
and how he was thrown into a dank prison cell, when in reality, he was nobly innocent.
How he found favor in prison and was again promoted and shown respect.
For years, he suffered, missing his family and longing for home.
But, in the midst of it all, he prospered.
Everything he touched thrived and blossomed into something good.
Towards the end of his trials, he said,
"God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction."
Genesis 41:52
No matter how the enemy tried to destroy him and cast him down,
Joseph advanced, increased, and progressed....
right in the midst of overwhelming disadvantage.
He held tight to his lifeline and his faith in God.
He persevered and pressed through his trials...
refusing to ever give up...or give in.

I thought of the story of the mule who fell into the well and how his owners decided 
he wasn't worth the time, effort, and energy it would take to pull him out, 
so they decided to leave him in there and bury him alive.
They began shoveling dirt into the well, on top of the mule.
But, much to their surprise, the mule would not be buried.
Each time a shovelful of dirt fell into the well, 
the mule determinedly and stubbornly stomped it beneath his feet, packing the dirt beneath him,
using it to propel him upward, until finally, 
he walked right out of that well...alive and unharmed.

I thought of Daniel and how he was kidnapped and removed from his home and all that was familiar, 
taken to a foreign land,
and commanded to conform to foreign customs...
including heathen worship.
He continued to turn his face towards home and prayed to the God of Heaven...three times a day...
defying the pressure to conform and at the risk of facing severe repercussions.
God blessed him, giving him favor with the upper crust,
right in the land of his oppression.
His enemies were determined to form a plot against him 
and ended up convincing the king to legislate a law that would eventually entrap 
Daniel and cause him to be thrown into a den of hungry lions.
Even then, he held on to his faith and refused to relent or recant.
God delivered him and spared his life, in spite of all that came against him.

We could all think of several more Bible heroes of the faith 
who stood firm and prospered right in the very midst of severe opposition, 
overcoming monumental odds to thrive and grow and produce sweet, rich spiritual fruit.

It all has to do with our root system 
and how deeply-grounded we are in God.
If we are merely a "surface" Christian, doing what we do for outward show only,
we won't be able to withstand the storms of life and hold on.

I love today's verse.
Especially the last part about "taking root downward
and bearing fruit upward."

It was speaking of "a remnant" of what used to be a larger "whole"
being able to still live and remain steadfast...
even after the rest had broken or fallen off.

The word remnant in this verse literally means,
"to remain, to be left over,
the rest,
to be left from."

Paul prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2:3,
"Let no man deceive you by any means: 
for that day shall not come
except there come a falling away first..."

We are surely nearing "that day".
That day when this world will be called into judgment,
and we will stand before a just and holy God.
It won't come, "except there come a falling away first."
There will be a falling away.
Can't we sense that it is now happening?
Can't we see it?
With our own spiritual eyes?
As plainly as our physical eyes can see the blatancy of the missing part of the tree?

I would love to be able to see the root system of this "partial" tree.
Somehow, the "remnant" is still connected, and it is still hanging on for dear life,
in spite of the rest of the tree being gone.

The deeper our root system, the less likely we will be to fall away,
even if the rest of the spiritual unit with which we associate ourselves withers and dies off.

Some of the trees in that forest have such powerful root systems,
their roots have managed to force bumps and ridges into the asphalt that paves the walking trail.
Some spots are so pronounced, you really have to watch your step to keep from tripping on them.
Every now and then one of the children would say,
"Tripping alert!  Tripping alert!"
to warn the rest of us when they came across a bumpy spot.

How deep and how strong are our roots?
Will we be part of the "falling away",
or part of the "remnant"?

The time to take root is now.
We can't change the past, 
can't go back and undo past failures,
or redo choices we have made in our Christian walk.

We can only make the conscious choice and effort it will take to 
"yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward."

The deeper you and I dare to go in the things of God will not only make us less likely to fall away,
but it will increase the amount of spiritual fruit we are capable of bearing.

It is impossible to draw nigh to God without outward evidence of 
what is taking place on the inside piercing through and becoming apparent on the outside.
It will make manifest in our daily life,
our walk and talk,
and our Christian testimony.
The fruit will bear upward...
automatically and without being forced.

Jesus said,
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: 
he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: 
for without Me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; 
and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
John 15:6,7

We must remain attached to the vine.
We must abide in Him...the Source of our spiritual life.
Without remaining rooted in Him, we will become hollow, like the dead part of the tree,
wither, stop bearing fruit, and fall away.

Joseph, Daniel, and so many others had developed a deep, unshakable root system...
far before they encountered the powerful, overwhelming storms of their lives.
Had they not entered the storms with a steadfast, firm grip on God,
they would have caved to the pressure and oppression.

Joseph's father was Jacob, the man who wrestled with the angel, remember?
His mother was Rachel, who was infertile until God miraculously opened her womb.
His grandparents were Isaac and Rebekah, his great-grandparents, Abraham and Sarah. 
Joseph's spiritual root system wound and penetrated through generations. 
His ancestors were patriarchs and matriarchs of faith in the reality of who God is.
That faith, imparted to him at home, pulled him through the darkest of times....
gave him strength and stamina to stand firm and not give up.

We don't know much about the individual participants in Daniel's lineage.
We aren't given the names of his biological parents, 
nor do we know much about his pre-kidnapped life.
All we really know is that he was in the midst of,
"certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, 
and skilful in all wisdom, 
and cunning in knowledge, 
and understanding science, 
and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, 
and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans."
Daniel 1:3,4

We may not know his parents', grandparents', and great-grandparents' names, 
but I have a strong hunch that somewhere in the mix there were those who
loved and worshiped God with all their hearts...
those who instilled a deep faith in the heart of Daniel....
those who taught him to pray and seek the Lord in times of distress....
those who believed there is only one God to Whom we should pray....
those whose example imparted a deep and unmovable root system of faith in that one, true God.

Thinking of Daniel and Joseph and how important it was that they walked into their life-tests 
with deep roots already in place makes me ever so aware of 
Kevin's and my God-given charge and responsibility as Zachary's parents.
His soul, his life, his character has been placed in our hands and stewardship
by the omniscient wisdom of omnipotent, almighty God....
to raise, to train, to mold, to teach, 
to instill and impart an impenetrable root system. 

I thank God for my Christian upbringing and heritage.
I can say with the psalmist David,
"The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage."
Psalm 16:6

Mom and Dad had very little of this world's goods to leave behind when they left this world.
They didn't leave financial bounty or houses and land.
But, they left the most precious, valuable gift ever imparted to mankind.
They taught me about Jesus and how He died on the cross for my sins.
They instilled a deep, uncommon sense of faith in my heart from as far back as I can consciously remember.
They taught me to pray...
to seek God first....
to let Him pilot my matter how stormy the sea.
They taught me these things first....
before I ever left home and faced the challenges I have consistently encountered along the way.
They developed in me a reinforced, durable, secure, stalwart root system
that has continued to strengthen and increase and deepen over the course of my life.

Papaw and Mimmie instilled roots of deep faith in Mom,
she and Dad instilled them in me...
now what?

The torch has landed in my hand.
A beyond precious soul has been entrusted to my care.
Sweet, heaven-quality innocence to preserve....
a pliable, teachable soul that will live in eternity forever...somewhere.

More clearly than ever before I see his need for spiritual roots.
A strong downward root system that penetrates deep and thorough.

God help me, I don't know how to do what needs to be done.
I don't have the answers.
I feel the weight.
I grasp the necessity.
I am so inadequate...incapable.

How do you instill that into a child?
How do you equip him for the falling away that is now...inevitably happening all around him?
How do you insure that the roots of faith in the one, true God are deep enough?
How do you prepare him for the onslaught of infiltrated, permeated evil so present in the atmosphere?
How do you do really make this stick?

The only safe foundation on which to build is the life-breathing, root-inspiring Word of God.
If he learns nothing else in all of this teaching...on this homeschool journey,
"Dear Lord, let him learn Your words.
Let them sink deep into the fiber of his very soul.
Write them upon the tables of his sweet, precious heart.
Instill them so deep that they will be there when he needs them most.
Keep us faithful at our post of duty.
Help us waver not.
Make us strong in the power of Your might...not our own.
May he see the evidence of those roots in our lives.....
may they grow in him and stabilize his life.
As they grew in Papaw and Mimmie and Mom and Dad,
and as they have grown and continue to grow in Kevin...and me."

The falling away is happening, my friend.
The Bible said it would.
But, don't despair.
God still has a remnant.
It is still alive....taking root downward....bearing fruit upward.
He has always had one.
Always will.
It has slimmed down from time to time, 
but He has always had someone who would serve Him
and stand up for what is right.
He still does.
"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. 
Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elijah? 
how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; 
and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
But what saith the answer of God unto him? 
I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant 
according to the election of grace."
Romans 11:2-5

It stands firm...still attached to the Vine...just like the lone sprig of the once big, thriving tree.

All is not lost.
Jesus will have a people for which to come back.
He will find faith when He comes.
May He find it in you....and in me...
firmly attached to the Vine, 
roots deep and solid, fruit fresh on the vine, 
clinging fast to His nail-scarred hand.