Sunday, January 31, 2016

God Created Me!

Today is not only the last day of January, it’s my birthday.  You’re invited to my party!  I’ve got cake, ice cream, presents, and some inspiration about getting older!  Join me for some smiles.

“Old people should not eat health food.
They need all the preservatives they can get!”
Robert Orben

“As a graduate of Zsa Zsa Gabor
School of Mathematics,
I honestly do not know how old I am.”
Erma Bombeck

Why did Mattel choose “curvy” Barbie to hit the shelves today, on my birthday?

Sookie designed a birthday card depicting me in blue skies, with the sun shining.  I look like I’m singing and the grass is very green, just sayin’.

Leave it to kids to boost our self esteem.  Hope my granddaughter will always think I’m budafull. 

The family party filled my love tank to full.  They chose my favorite: white cake with white frosting!  I know, b.o.r.i.n.g.  It’s what I like; correct me if I’m wrong, but I think white on white is still what’s really in right now.

My creative girlfriend, Kay, sent me a new mouse pad she designed.  Isn’t it cute?

I received a great gift: a makeover at the salon!  Before I drove there, I distinctly heard in my spirit that I should stop apologizing for my hair.  Christine is the stylist that was chosen for me because my family dared me to change and she is the creative one.  The girl is a kick.  I told her she can do anything she wants with my hair except color it purple or pink.  “Leave it to the professionals,” I always say.  I like it!   There are different colors in my hair, mostly warm browns and light highlights.  When I got home, Tom hated the way she styled it and told me if I wear it like that, he will shave his head.  Our men are funny that way; they like us the way we are.  That’s it.
I don’t think I’m the only one who wishes I had better hair, or more talent, and so on!  I think I should say what God says about me.  I think you should too!

Here’s where we get into the party groove.  As we should!  We’ve been wonderfully and fearfully made!

Let’s Make Some Declarations for a Spiritual Makeover Today!

You made me; you created me.  Now give me the sense to follow your commands.  Psalm 119:73

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  Psalm 139:14,15

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered.  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!  Psalm 139:17,18

We know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  Romans 5:5

I feel better about myself already; how about you?  God loves us.  He thinks we’re all budafull!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Giving Secretly

I don’t mind the cold, in fact, I like it.  I got home from the grocery store and began chopping the vegetables I bought for one of my favorite creations, Beef Noodle Soup.   A cold winter day deserves a pot of hot tasty soup to warm the tummy but the message I heard on the radio in the background in my kitchen reached deep into my heart and warmed the inner places of my soul.

In between songs, the deejay on the Christian station shared a story of a mom’s embarrassment while having lunch with her young son in a restaurant.  The little boy felt overwhelmed at one point and began acting out.  It’s hard when that happens and this child suffers from Asperger Syndrome; his surroundings became too much for him to bear.  His mom understood; she did her best.  She realized how he felt and tried to comfort him so that they could enjoy lunch together but clearly she struggled.  She took her boy to the restroom, and returned to pay the bill.  Someone picked up the tab leaving her a note saying “You’re a good mom; I know the struggle.”

To me that act of kindness is the heart of ministry.  Oh to see a need and encourage someone like that gives me the chills.  It’s a touch from Jesus within the four walls of that room.

Love doesn’t always require a microphone with an eloquent voice behind it preaching the best sermon on record.  Love isn’t always just drawing a crowd of people to one’s talents and wowing them with ample abilities.  Sometimes love is quietly meeting a need, mysteriously, stepping into someone’s struggle because the pain is familiar.

Love came to that mom in the restaurant and she felt overwhelmed, overwhelmed, though, in a good way.  Someone cared!  Someone blessed!

We moms and dads know that there are days when parenting challenges takes the wind out of our sails.  I remember feeling like a failure at those times and then someone would come along and compliment me, usually my mom, and it meant the world to me.  I, too, like to pass that compliment baton.  To watch a parent’s face light up from a good word lights up mine. 

The story about “blessing and caring” warmed my heart and encouraged me to kick it up a notch higher.  May my eyes see an opportunity so I can mysteriously meet the need.

I’m guessing that’s what the deejay hoped, in the end, would happen.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hearts for the Kingdom Author Interview

When I finished reading Hearts for the Kingdom last week, I contacted the author, Cho Larson.   We talked about the book and he graciously agreed to be my guest today.  Together we hope to inspire you in your journey of faith to pursue God with a heart that is alive and beating for the Kingdom of God.

Mary:  Cho, when I finished your book, I felt loved and very close to my Savior.
Cho:  I’m overwhelmed at the encouraging response to it.

Mary:  How long did it take to write this book?
Cho:  God works in mysterious ways. As I’ve observed God’s hand at work, it’s easy for me to picture Him as the Great Conductor, orchestrating everything in perfect harmony. Hearts for the Kingdom wasn’t my original plan, but after I sent another manuscript I was working on to my editor, while waiting for him to edit, the need became clear for a foundational book. This book required about six months to complete.

Mary: as an author, what is the message you hope your readers will take away?
Cho:  God has given me a passion for His church. Not the buildings or church organizations, but His people. My passion is for people to know and experience firsthand the living, active presence or our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Mary:  I read my copy of this book with my journal opened for examining my own heart.  How would your book benefit a small group setting?
Cho: You’ve touched my heart of hearts with this question. The inspiration for the three books of the Kingdom Series began in a home Bible study group. I asked them what they would like to study next, and one gal suggested we do a study on the Holy Spirit. As I began to prepare something woke up in me and took me back to my faith roots. This all began as a Bible study and the material is designed for study groups, to help them dig into God’s Word.

Mary:  You repeat throughout the book “On our own, impossible; depending on the Lord, possible”.   Explain.

Cho:  God has given each of us a special work to do. (Ephesians 2:10). But too often we attempt to do this work in our own strength and by means of our natural talents and abilities. On our own, this work is impossible to accomplish. The prophet Ezekiel makes this point clear. “[T]hey do not distinguish between the holy and the common” (Ezekiel 22:26). We are called to accomplish an impossible mission — the Great Commission, and the Spirit of Jesus gifts us and empowers us to accomplish the work we are called to complete.

Mary:  You engage the reader with humor.  I found the chapter on Fasting amusing describing indulgent Americans.  Your thoughts?
Cho:  Now your questions are getting personal! Fasting is a Christian discipline that is challenging for me. When my stomach growls, I start to growl. But fasting is about more than growling stomachs. Above all else, fasting is a picture of our walk with Jesus. Fasting is not so much about going without, but about feasting on the bounty of our Lord Jesus.

Mary:  I noticed your passion explode in the chapter about repentance.  As a teacher in the Kingdom, explain your strong feelings about a repentant heart.
Cho: Repentance is an elementary truth and a foundational truth. Repentance prepares the way for God to renew, restore and refresh His people. Apart from repentance, we get stuck in a hopeless quagmire of our own making. My hope and earnest prayer is that God will bring our hearts to repentance, not only for our own sins, but also for the sins of the church, so that He may begin a good work in our hearts — giving us Kingdom Hearts.

Mary: What was your favorite chapter to write in this book?  Why?
Cho: The first chapter is my greatest passion. So many people are searching, but don’t know what they are searching for. They have an empty feeling inside; but by hearing God’s Word — truly hearing and giving ascent to the words of Scripture — the seed of faith is planted in their hearts and the void is filled. Their lives will be changed for all eternity. Without this change of heart, none of the other chapters in this book will be of any value.

Mary:  of the Christian disciplines you write about, which challenges your own heart?
Cho:  Expressing thankfulness when life throws its challenges at me is one of my greatest tests requiring me to refocus on the good things God is doing. As I wrote the three books of the Kingdom series, life threw some major curve balls at me. My faith was tested, and my weaknesses came to the surface. Many times, I prayed, “I can’t do this.” But finally, in Christ, it became possible. I’m incredibly thankful for all God has done in me and through me, as He accomplished His good work in me.

Mary: Are you available to teach or speak to groups?
Cho: Where there are two ears to hear, I’m willing to speak what the Good Lord gives me to speak. I have a yearning to teach the topic of my books to small gatherings, Bible study groups, Sunday school classes, Sunday morning messages, and seminar groups; from one to a thousand, call me and I’ll be there to teach.  

Thank you, Cho, for stopping by my place and sharing your vision for the Kingdom.  I highly recommend your book.  Christian principles are crystal clear!

Cho Larson lives in the Verde Valley of Arizona with his wife, Susie.  He is a father and grandfather.  Cho’s powerful gift of teaching and down-to-earth writing style inspires and educates the reader with humor and warmth.  Cho can be reached at his website: as well as Facebook.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

God Created Snow!

Snow is in the forecast today and it will be mild compared to my memories of The Blizzard of 1978 when snow accumulated three feet high atop roofs in my Chicago neighborhood.  My awning collapsed.  Chilly temperatures dipped and the whirling wind whipped across my face like single-edged razors.

I learned to drive in extreme weather conditions on the streets of Chicago.  That blizzard year, I drove my mint green Chevy Malibu confidently even though I had to be pushed out of roadside snow banks by kind, strong, men more times than I like to admit.

A snow memory that surfaces during that storm is when I met up with Joanne, my first mentor in my newly found faith.

It took me thirty minutes to drive to Joanne’s house, even though she lived only a few miles from me.  I arrived safely and trudged through big pockets of white fluffy snow with my knee-high boots.  When I got to her front door, she quickly scooped up my little baby, bundled in her carrier, freeing me to balance the diaper bag and other goodies I packed.  Talk about a hassle.

I relaxed with Joanne in her living room and we discussed things like the bucket catching the leak in the ceiling caved in by the heavy snow as well as her iffy insurance policy. 

I originally met Joanne at church.   A mid-week outreach program headlined Joanne as a key speaker.  After the presentation I approached her offering accolades for a job well done.  She invited me over to her house and a weekly ritual of coffee and coaching developed.  Joanne attended a Christian college majoring in Counseling and helped me, as a new student of the Bible, not only learn Christian principles but how to serve God.

As I visited her on that dismal Chicago winter day, we sat in her living room discussing Scripture and sipping coffee.  Joanne quoted James 1:1-4:

Dear Brothers and sisters,
When troubles of any kind come your way,
Consider it an opportunity for great joy.
For you know that when your faith is tested,
Your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow,
For when your endurance is fully developed,
You will be perfect and complete,
Needing nothing.

She asked me:  “What do you do when troubles come?”  I answered sheepishly:  “I complain.  It’s hard to be happy when things go wrong!”  Joanne told me the secret to finding joy in the mishaps:  Thank God for all of it!

Her solution was absurd, but I listened.  “Let’s practice,” She advised.  “Let’s thank God for the snow.”  I felt like a lunatic especially when I glanced up at her dripping ceiling, but I followed her lead.  There we sat, thanking God for the crippling snow.

Little did I know way back then that her instruction would open the door to victory in facing any situation because thankfulness allows God to enter in, take control, and hold back the forces of Hell for the sake of maturing His people.

I look out my window and think to myself that the snow flurries dancing to the ground today will never compare to that winter of 1978 when over 250 inches fell of white fluff causing pain, hardship and delays.  However, I will never forget the golden morsel of truth in the midst of it:  Thankfulness!

Thirty-eight years later, thankfulness still holds true.  Only now I don’t feel so much like a lunatic.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Architect

I don’t recall any other year feeling so intimate with our Lord regarding my one word as in 2015.  God’s GRACE laced my ordinary days and each night, before falling asleep I would recall grace, so apparent, in the events of the day!

Memories also surfaced of grace in my past and I knew I had to write about them.  I felt compelled to share the grace that blanketed my personal life.  Thank you for reading my stories over this past year.  Your comments support and encourage me.

I received my new word, “Creator,” and felt perplexed as every year wondering what my one word would unveil.   What does God want me to learn about His name, Creator?   I wonder if I should join my girlfriend, Peggy, more often when she leads nature hikes in the mountains of Sedona.  Does God want me to appreciate and to praise Him for the beauty of His creation all year?

I think it’s more than that.  A Scripture verse springs up in my mind from time to time and has become my prayer:

Create in me a clean heart, O God.
And renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Some who visit my blog are not Christians and do not follow the teachings of Jesus.  It must feel confusing at times.  We Christians get excited about renewal and having a place to go to get our hearts right!

When my grand kids were visiting over the holidays, I placed the two of them, seven years old and twenty-one months old, in my office to color with big, wide color books on the floor.  Pandora’s children’s station rocked through the computer speakers as I closed the door.  It always works while we, in the kitchen, finish up preparing dinner and setting the table.  However, that evening they got into trouble.  Seven year old Sookie knows better than to let her sister draw on anything but paper.  The white plastic cover to their craft box sported a new design:  crayon scribbling! 

Papa thought the design added some personality to the storage bin I keep for their supplies.  I knew their mother would soon find out and deal with them and she did.  Sookie had to apologize to me and promise not to do that again.  I had to express disappointment but forgiveness with love, setting her free.

How to clean crayon off surfaces!
My girlfriends with small children introduced me to Mr. Clean and his big eraser.  It took but five minutes and all the residual from crayon art disappeared.

That’s what it’s like for us sinners, too.  We feel disappointed in ourselves because we should have known better!  We go to Jesus, Our Savior, who paid the price for all sin, big or small, and He forgives us so we can forgive ourselves.

Our soul is, once again, pure white.  He creates a right spirit within us!  Oh, the freedom of being right with God!

I look forward to what I will learn from my Creator this year.  I promise to share it!  And I’m guessing with a word like Creator, I’m hoping to share more photography too!

I close with some photos taken by my friend, Peggy, for your enjoyment!  Happy New Year, my friends!  May you be blessed beyond your wildest imagination in the coming year!