Thursday, October 28, 2010

Be a Branch

This morning my thoughts went to some verses in John 15, and I typed them up so I could be reminded to think on them throughout the day today ...

"Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!"  (John 15: 5, 7)


I'm not sure what led me to those verses this morning, but again tonight, after an all-day staff meeting with our Student Venture team, those verses came to my mind as I pulled out a book I am reading on prayer by Andrew Murray, and opened up to the next section. 

Andrew Murray asked the question, "What must we be or do to enable us to pray as we should and to receive what we ask? The answer is in one word: branch. We are branches of Christ, the Living Vine. We must simply live like branches and abide in Christ; then we can ask what we wish and it will be done for us."

A branch ... living for one purpose. To cling tightly to the Vine, and to let His life flow through us to bless others and produce fruit. And as I am wanting to learn and grow in intercessory prayer for others, then my focus should be ... to be a branch.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seeking God Above All

"Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!"  (Psalm 105:4)

I read these words this afternoon, and they just grabbed at my heart. Sometimes I get impatient with difficulties, with trials, and even with my own weaknesses. But the hard things of life are often the things that keep us desperately seeking God and His presence.

Crawford Loritts says in his book, Leadership as an Identity (a book we are reading and discussing together as a Student Venture staff team), "This is an incredible spiritual paradox. You are only filled with Him when you are desperate for Him."

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

Lord, instead of growing weary with the difficulties and trials of life, I choose to embrace them ... for they are the very things that draw my heart to You. I desire to seek You above all else ... and as we seek You, You give us the desires of our hearts. And I want to look more carefully for Your special gifts for me each day ... special, unexpected blessings, given to me by a loving Father who takes great delight in His children.



...  thanks for Cruz, and for the sheer joy on his face as he played in a little "tent" that I ("grama") fixed up for him while I was caring for him today ... may my heart reflect the same joy at the unexpected little blessings that You bring to my days ...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Travailing in Prayer

The process of prayer can resemble the process of pregnancy and birth, says the author of Live a Praying Life. I can identify with that. Having given birth to six babies, and also having had pregnancies with prolonged periods of not feeling well, I know how long and difficult those nine months can feel. But it's all worth it in the end, when finally, I could hold each of our beautiful, precious babies in my arms. All the months of misery were forgotten for the joy of a priceless new child.

But the process was difficult, and even painful. And it seemed at times that the "end" would never come. So it can be with prayer. I am actually in one of those waiting times now ... praying, with tears, for someone I love very much. It's like I'm in labor, and it seems that the time of birth is probably so far off, that it is hard to even imagine.

Jennifer says, "During the process, God is at work in us shaping us into the image of Christ. The process of prayer results in change in us. During the process of prayer, He is fashioning a heart like His."

In Galatians 4:19, Paul says, "Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I'm going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives."

Lord, strengthen us as we labor, with You, in bringing birth that we long for ... Thank You that the joy of birth will be worth all the pain. And in the process, mold my heart to be a reflection of You.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Red Door

Something I have been wanting to try for years ... a red front door! It is quite a change for this 28 year-old house!






It seems that one of the main meanings of a "red door" is that it conveys a "welcome" to those who enter in ... may all who enter our home feel welcomed and loved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Projects

Life is full, and we don't always have time to get to some of the home maintenance and improvement projects that we would like to do. But we had an unexpected gift of time this past week ... finding that we have some vacation days that need to be used up this year, we decided to take four days off this past week and focus on some home and yard maintenance. We mixed in times of relaxation along with the work ... 

Beautiful fall leaves climbing up an old wall ...
photographed in a friend's yard this week.

A beautiful time of year, and some days of temps in the 60's and 70's gave us the perfect weather we needed. Gary did some yard work, cleaning up wood from a tree we recently had to have cut down, and also finally had the time to cut down one of our pine trees which had died. Gives us lots of firewood for cold winter months!

I did some major cleaning in our bedroom, including completely going through both of our clothes closets. Such a good feeling. I also hung some sheer curtains (finally!) ... just had never taken the time to actually put them up! Also, I changed some very outdated wall decor in one of our two guest rooms. But my bravest and biggest project was to paint our front door a different color. The color I have been wanting to try for years, is ... red! Will probably be posting some photos soon, but the project is still in process as I write this, so will wait with the photos for now ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Corn Maze Munch

I came across this recipe last fall, and had fun making it several times then. And this last weekend, when I needed a little munchy snack for a gathering of college students here in our home, this was the recipe that I pulled out. Fits in perfectly with this time of year ... love how it looks, and love the taste!


Corn Maze Munch

3 tablespoons butter
3 cups Corn Chex
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups cheese popcorn 
1 pkg (about 18 oz) candy corn
1 pkg (about 14 oz) Halloween-colored M&Ms
2 pkgs (4 oz. each) corn nuts
1 cup raisins
2 - 3 cups caramel popcorn 
1 cup peanuts

In a large skillet, melt butter; add Corn Chex and toss to coat. 
Cook and stir on medium heat until cereal is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt; set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. 
Add Corn Chex and toss to coat. Store in an airtight container.

(Note: I have changed the original recipe a bit to what I have typed above, and in addition to my changes, I also usually just use half of the amounts, above, for the candies ... candy corn and M&Ms. Just our preference ... )

My Highest Calling

If prayer is what God has set in place as the avenue through which His will in heaven is brought to our earth, then prayer (or intercession) should be our highest calling. It should be my highest calling today.

As I go through my day, filled with all the things that call my heart and mind, all the things that make their way to my "to do" list ... is "intercessory prayer" at the top? If prayer "is the one power on earth that commands the power of heaven", then why is true intercessory prayer often left out of our days? Why do we neglect the most important?

I am asking God to teach me more. Prayer has held a place of high priority to me, but my eyes are being opened to more. As Andrew Murray says in his book, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, "If we believe what we profess, that God alone is able to help, that God will certainly help in answer to prayer, all this ought to make intercessors of us. It should motivate us to be people who give their lives to prayer for those in their sphere of influence."

Is there any higher calling? To give my life in prayer for my sons and my daughters, my grandsons and granddaughters, the hundreds of students on the middle school and high school campuses, the needy all around our churches and in our neighborhoods. When concern for a loved one, or someone in our sphere of influence, grips my heart ... may I turn first to prayer.

Lord, all that we long for can only be accomplished by You ...  may my helplessness compel me to You, the source of all that is good, the source of "more than we can ask or imagine".  (Ephesians 3:20)

Friday, October 15, 2010

At the Heart of Prayer

"True prayer is when God's heart is expressed through your words," says Jennifer Kennedy Dean in Week 4 of Live a Praying Life. Of course, prayer is simply talking with God about all the things that concern us. Talking with Him, instead of worrying ... this is what our loving Father longs for us to do.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done." (Philippians 4:6)

But how can we be involved in true intercessory prayer for others, for our desperately needy world? How can our words join in with the prayers continually flowing from His Spirit in us?

Jennifer says, "Powerful praying is not a matter of knowing the right words to say, rather it is having a heart that is at God's disposal - open to hear His every sigh and whisper and to echo it in prayer."

The key is ... to keep my heart closely connected with God's heart. Making it my priority to seek Him above all else, everyday. Something so simple ... but something of highest value.

Lord, our hearts are drawn to so many things ... but help me continually to seek Your heart above all else. Help me to "love You with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind." (Matthew 22:37)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Peanut Butter Bars, and Cheesecake Brownies

I spent some time last Saturday baking some bar cookies. Always like to have some on hand in the freezer ... for unexpected guests, or to pull out for an upcoming special meal.

This time I made a tried-and-true recipe, one of my favorites of bar cookies ... Peanut Butter Bars, and then also tried a new one ... Cheesecake Brownies.


Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

Icing:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes. Combine icing ingredients; drizzle over bars. 
Yield: 3-4 dozen

(I always 1 1/2 times this recipe to make enough to fill a 15x10 jelly roll pan. Also I substitute fructose for all or part of the white sugar.)

Cheesecake Brownies

1 pkg. fudge brownie mix
2 pkg. (3 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (16 oz.) chocolate frosting

Prepare brownie mix batter according to package directions. Spread 2 cups into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish; set aside. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar, flour and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Spread evenly over brownie batter. Top with remaining brownie batter. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl. Bake at 350 degrees for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs (brownies may appear moist). Cool completely on a wire rack. Spread frosting over brownies.



Monday, October 11, 2010

A Conduit of God's Power

Some concepts from the past few days of Live a Praying Life homework keep coming to my mind. These thoughts, taken seriously, can change our lives concerning prayer.

Prayer is "standing in the gap" between God's will in heaven, and God's will carried out on the earth. As recorded in Ezekiel 22, God is continually searching for someone to "stand in the gap", to pray for His will to be done on earth.

Author Jennifer Kennedy Dean uses an illustration that so powerfully illustrates the necessity of an intercessor. If a dry cell could represent God, the source of all power, and an unlit light bulb could represent the needs on this earth, we would see that there would be a "gap" in the circuit line (the result of sin entering the world). God's power is available in heaven, but because of this "gap", it does not reach the earth.  That is, unless ... there is a conduit or conductor, someone to "stand in the gap". As we take on our role of being an intercessor, God's power flows through the circuit and bridges the gap.

"Prayer is standing in the gap - being the conductor of His power and His will into the circumstances of earth," explains the author of Live a Praying Life.

This insight is such a powerful motivator to be an intercessor ... is there any higher calling? It greatly humbles me and motivates me to think that God chooses to use me, to use all of us as His followers, to bring His will to this earth. I want to think on this more, to let the truth of Scripture after Scripture on this subject, permeate my heart.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saucy Pork Chops

I made this recipe a week or so ago ... I love how the pork chops turn out so moist and tender. One of my favorite recipes for pork chops. And easy to make, as it uses the slow cooker.


Saucy Pork Chops

8 boneless pork chops (also good with bone-in)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 medium onion (or less), chopped 
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

In a large skillet, cook pork chops in oil until lightly browned on each side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Transfer to a slow cooker.
In a bowl, combine the soup, onion, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce; pour over chops.
Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until meat juices run clear.

Serve over mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice.
(Very good over rice, which is my preferred way to serve it.)

Another photo - added April 2013


Encouragement for Mothers

What a lot of responsibility we have as mothers, and it can be easy to become discouraged. I came across the following poem recently, shared by a friend, ...  and thought it spoke so clearly of where our strength comes from. Not from ourselves, but from following hard after God.

"Lord, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day
So prone myself to go astray?

I teach them knowledge, but I know
How faint they flicker, and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow

I teach them power to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through

I teach them love for all mankind
And all God's creatures, but I find
My love comes lagging far behind

Lord, if their guide I still must be,
O let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on Thee."

By Lesley Pinckney Hill

Friday, October 8, 2010

Of High Necessity

Some great quotes that have caught hold of my heart, encouraging me and reminding me of the necessity and importance of prayer ...

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, author of Live a Praying Life:
"Prayer is the channel through which God's will is brought to earth."

O. Hallesby:
"Prayer is the conduit through which power from heaven is brought to earth."

Andrew Murray:
"God's intense longing to bless seems in some sense to be graciously limited by His dependence on the intercession that rises from earth."

John Wesley:
"God will do nothing but in answer to prayer."

E. M. Bounds:
"God shapes the world by prayer."

James 4:2
"You do not have, because you do not ask God."

Psalm 91:15
"When they call on Me, I will answer ... "

Matthew 7:7
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

John 14:13-14
"You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in My name, and I will do it!"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When It's Good to be Helpless

We often are taught to believe that having a sense of self-sufficiency is to be admired. But Jesus opened up His teachings we call "The Beatitudes" with these words ...

 "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, 
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." 
(Matthew 5:3  NLT)

This idea of being helpless is another truth that I want to remember from Lesson Two of Live a Praying Life. The author, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, says, "The word for 'poor' means destitute: a beggar whose only hope is to receive from the hand of another." 

She then adds, "Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. ... The fact of my helplessness is the only prayer I need."

Something to think on. And it does seem that this has been true in my life. When I have been in circumstances when I have been completely helpless, and have needed God so desperately ... those were the times when His power became so evident to me. But when I come to Him with a sense of self-sufficiency, and not really needing His help at all ... I am left to flounder in my own strength.

Lord, we are Your children, created by Your hand ... and we need You, our Creator and our loving Father, so desperately.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Covered by Prayer 24/7

I am so thankful to be going through the study Live a Praying Life again this fall. The author is filled with wisdom on prayer, and has a special gift of explaining familiar truths from Scripture, and bringing them to new light. Each day's homework causes us to think deeply on truths that are recorded in Scripture.

And as I always have the need to write down the things that God impresses on my heart each day, I am following the direction God seems to be giving me ... to share these nuggets of encouragement on prayer in the form of blog entries.

This morning's homework kept me thinking all the way to my daughter's house early this morning, where I am taking care of our two little 18 month-old grandsons for 10 hours today. They are taking their morning naps now ... a good time to record what has been going on in my mind.

What would it feel like to know that we are being prayed for 24/7? To know that someone who deeply loves us and only has the best in mind for us, is constantly talking to God the Father on our behalf?

It is almost too much for me to comprehend and contain in my heart to know that I am covered by prayer 24/7, that Someone is continually bringing my needs to the Father. I am being prayed for continually. I am being prayed for by God's Spirit who lives in me.

" ... we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will." (Romans 8:26-27)

And when we pray throughout the day as we go about our work and our play, we are joining in with the prayers that are constantly going from God's Spirit within us, up to our Father in heaven. A continual flow of prayer.

The author of Live a Praying Life writes, "By the time you begin to speak your need or desire in prayer, you are simply joining into a flow of prayer that is already in progress."

"Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear."
(Isaiah 65:24)

And here is a photo of the two sweet little boys I spent 10 hours with today ...


Monday, October 4, 2010

Look at the Big Picture

"Now all glory to God, who is able,
through His mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."
(Ephesians 3:20)

Sometimes when we look at each individual incident in our lives, and fail to look at the whole picture, we can become disappointed. And even angry at God. I love how Jennifer Kennedy Dean explains this in Live a Praying Life. She writes, "Don't focus your faith on a specific outcome; focus your faith in God. When you place your faith in an outcome, you will often be disappointed. When you put your faith in God, you will never be disappointed."

I know that I have done this, that I have sometimes just looked at the here and now, and that I have been disappointed in what God did in a specific incident. I grieved deeply, and asked God "Why?" when one of my daughters lost her unborn baby at 20 weeks of pregnancy ... and again later, when she lost a precious foster-to-adopt daughter. I struggled through times of questioning God during those situations, and also during some other deep trials that we have gone through.

It is hard when we cannot see the whole picture. And there was no way that I could have seen the big picture, for the two sweet little boys that were to come into our daughter and son-in-law's hearts and home had not been born yet. But through those times, even in the midst of deep grief, we can keep our eyes on God, for He knows the big picture.

The author of Live a Praying Life writes, "Don't put a period where God has put a comma. ... A crucifixion is only the prelude to a resurrection."

Thank You, loving Lord, that You desire "to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Help me to keep my eyes on You, and not on my circumstances ...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quiet Moments

These words from the little book, Jesus Calling, were so refreshing to me this morning:

"Never take for granted My intimate nearness. Marvel at the wonder of My continual Presence with you. Even the most ardent human lover cannot be with you always. Nor can another person know the intimacies of your heart, mind, and spirit. I know everything about you - even to the number of hairs on your head."

Why do we struggle at times to find the time to spend quiet moments with God? Why do we so often miss out on having focused time together with the One who cares for us more deeply than anyone else, who knows and understands us more completely than we even know ourselves, and who loves us so perfectly?

Our search for love, our search for understanding, our search for everything we desire ... all are found here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October

A beautiful day today ... and I happened along a unique fall display this morning that just captures the beauty of this season. After enjoying some time with Sara at a consignment sale, and helping out with our two little grandsons, Jake & Cole, while their mommy shopped, I drove out to Village Pointe to do a bit of shopping on my way home.

I bought a few little things at Archiver's (I love that store!), and on my way back to the car, I just had to stop to try to capture what I saw ...









So thankful for the beauty of the seasons ...

Showers of Kindness

I love how the study, Live a Praying Life, makes us think deeply about what prayer really is. There are misconceptions that we all have about prayer ... misconceptions that we don't even realize that we have, until God's Spirit convicts us of Truth. This study so clearly brings out some of the Truths about prayer that we could otherwise miss.

One misconception that the author, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, brought out in today's homework, is that we sometimes find ourselves believing that we have to "pry riches out of God's reluctant hands". God does not have to be "convinced to let go of His blessings". Don't we often pray that way, trying to use the right words, and holding up God's promises to Him as we pray, seeking to remind Him and convince Him of what He has promised to do? Like He is very reluctant to do what He has promised?

But as we live a praying life, keeping company with Him all through our day, making our relationship with Him the top priority of our day, we begin to experience what prayer really is. We begin to experience all that He longs to do. We become part of what He longs to do in our lives and in the lives of others. We begin to experience the "showers of kindness" that He longs to bring to us and to others.

"He is so rich in kindness and grace,
that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son,
and forgave our sins.
He has showered His kindness on us,
along with all wisdom and understanding."
Ephesians 1: 7-8