Tag Archives: Christianity

Preparing Our Hearts

Several years ago I discovered the tradition of the Jesse Tree, a tradition of using ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the promised Savior. This has been life changing for me.

I am one of those people who struggle emotionally at Christmas. I stress over choosing gifts that I think others will like, I worry about finances, I become irritated as stores become crowded with holiday shoppers. I simply didn’t enjoy Christmas for many, many years.

Thankfully, I discovered the Jesse Tree. The first year I created ornaments out of Shrinky Dinks to hang on a little wooden tree. I used a guide that I found online and each night we read the corresponding scripture and hung the ornament on our tree. It was simple but effective. I felt a weight being lifted off of me as Christmas approached and I found myself actually enjoying Christmas for the first time in years.

Each year our ornaments have been improved a little and we’ve used different reading plans, some with devotions to accompany the scriptures each day.

Last year I purchased The Greatest Gift by Ann Vonskamp. I have to say this is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. This book is beautifully written and the daily devotions that go along with the scriptures helped me focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the promise of a Savior. I can honestly say that last year was the best Christmas I have had in years.

My circumstances didn’t change. There was the ever present traffic that comes along on Black Friday and hangs around with us until the New Year, the stores were crowded with shoppers, I had a full schedule of events that surround Christmas, the indecision of holiday gifts still plagued me and yet, my heart was at peace. The things surrounding me weren’t changed, I was. My heart was prepared for my Savior.

This year I decided to share my secret with others. I am hosting a Jesse Tree Ornament Swap. I started very late and haven’t found the required number of participants but I have adapted the plan so that we can still complete the swap. This year I have 7 friends each making 8 copies of 3 different ornaments in the set, and I will be making the remaining 4 ornaments in the set.

I am very excited about this event. It’s added one more thing to my already full plate but somehow it is already making life easier. I’m busier than ever but more intently focused on Christ. That is the magic of the Jesse Tree. Each day we are focused on Jesus and that makes all the difference in the world.

I hope you find a way to focus your heart more intently on Christ this holiday season. Don’t forget to stop, step back, and make time to spend with The Lord during this busy time of year. I promise, you won’t regret it.

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Revelations

Wow! Today has been a big God day and He has revealed so much to me. It’s probably because I have spent more time with Him in recent days and have contemplated some things that I’ve read about and heard from others. I recently finished reading the book What She Left For Me by Tracie Peterson. It’s a story about a woman who is abandoned by her a husband who is a pastor. I’ve also been reading the book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge.

Captivating has pulled me into its pages in a way that I have not experienced before. In fact, I started reading it a couple of years ago with a group of women from church and didn’t get very far before I gave up. It just didn’t speak to me at the time but now I can’t put it down. I read and reread each chapter, underlining, marking and highlighting almost every word. I am so excited to meet with a group of young women each week to discuss it. It has already brought me so much understanding into the mind and heart of women in two chapters!

I recently heard a story that reminded me of the events in Tracie Peterson’s book as well as the teaching in Captivating. John and Stasi Eldredge explain that a woman has a God-given desire to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable part in a great adventure and that every woman has a beauty to unveil. In the counterpart book for men, Wild at Heart, John describes a man’s basic needs as wanting a battle to fight, a longing for adventure, and that he longs for a beauty to rescue. Satan wants nothing more than to twist those desires into something perverse and sinful. We have to be vigilant in keeping watch over our marriages to make sure to prevent Satan from gaining a foothold in our lives. It is so easy for satan to take a man’s desire to rescue and twist it so that he believes it’s a husband’s place to rescue a woman besides his wife. It’s equally as easy for a woman to see the wrong man as her rescuer.

Our small group started studying Guardrails by Andy Stanley the last time we met. He talks about the importance of setting up guard rails in our lives so that when we encounter them they are a danger sign that we are close to sinning. If only we were always so careful to do that, but unfortunately we aren’t. We allow ourselves to be put into positions that are potentially dangerous and without that guard rail we can so easily slip into the abyss of sin.

In the book What She Left for Me the Pastor put himself in a situation where he was counseling a woman alone. He should have had a guard rail that he never met or counseled a woman alone. It started innocently but his desire to rescue paired with her desire to be seen and romanced was a lethal mixture in their marriages and soon they were seeking these things from each other instead of from their own spouses as God intended.

As I was riding in my car this afternoon I began to think about these things. A woman’s desire to be pursued is an attribute of God. He wants to be pursued by His children. I thought about how easily it is for us to get that mixed up in our earthly relationships and thought about how devastating it would be to me if my husband sought after another woman more than he does me. I would be crushed. Then I realized that I do that to God everyday. My most important relationship should be with Him! The person I long to spend the most time with should be Jesus, not my husband, my children, or my friends. He desires to be pursued by me! What an awesome thought! The Creator of the universe desires me to seek Him out.

It is my prayer that as I continue in these studies that I am ever mindful of the role I give God in my life. I adore my husband but he cannot hold first place in my life. That place is for a God alone. My children need me and desire my attention but not like that of my Creator. God help me get the right balance in my life. Help me put You in the place of importance You alone deserve. Help me to seek You above ALL things.

You Can Only Sit on the Fence For So Long

Today has been a turning point for me. My pastor has been preaching a series on the book of Nehemiah over the last few weeks which he finished up today. Through these sermons God has shown me that I have allowed some of my protective walls to decay. I have let things come between me and my relationship with Christ. I have gradually become desensitized to sin in my life and those around me.

One of my favorite movie quotes comes from the movie Remember the Titans. When the team captain sees that one of his best friends purposefully stepped aside and refused to block for one
of his teammates he goes to the coach. One of this coach’s rules is that nobody who wants to play will be cut. When Gary, the team captain, speaks to the coach about cutting his friend Ray from the team the coach reminds Gary of his rule. Gary replies to Coach Boone, “Sometimes you gotta cut a man loose.” The coach replies, “You are the team captain. You make the call but remember you’ve got to stand behind your decision.”

I have had a lot of difficult decisions to make. I had to decide whether I was still playing on my old team or on my Daddy’s team. (the new coach calls himself that early in the movie) I struggled with trying to remain loyal to the old team while at the same time being loyal to my Daddy’s team. Jesus warned us that we would have to face tough choices sometimes. I have been straddling the fence for a while now and just decided it is past time I jump onto one side or the other. I found a photo that perfectly exemplifies how I have felt for a long time. Here it is, I hope you get a laugh out of it.
href=”https://sweetpea0944.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/20110330-092020.jpg”>20110330-092020.jpg

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35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[a]

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

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Double Standards

Notice: The following post contains language that may be offensive to some people. I apologize if you are offended by my use of language and I use it only in quoting the words of others.

This morning the radio personality, Moby in the Morning, used some inappropriate language while the microphone was unintentionally left on without his realizing it. Although I myself choose to eliminate those words from my vocabulary, I must admit that sometimes I have been known to slip and say them. I’m just keeping it real. I am not perfect and I sometimes make choices that I feel are wrong; as a human being I am flawed. I am a sinner, saved by Grace.

The apostle Paul says it best in Romans chapter 7.

 What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

I have been so upset over the way the radio station has chosen to deal with this situation. They have temporarily suspended the Moby in the Morning show. My husband and I have had several discussions about it throughout the evening and as we were riding in the car tonight listening to South107 my husband brought up the fact that several songs we had heard in our very brief time in the car contained the same kind of language that Moby is being disciplined for. The following is an email that I sent to the management of South107. It is my hope that those of you who read this will consider my words before condemning Mr. Moby.

To Whom it may concern:

I was in the car with my family just a few minutes ago and my husband and I were discussing the issue with Moby. While making the 6 mile trip to Wal-Mart and back we heard several songs played on your station with offensive language. Why is it okay for you, a family oriented radio station, to allow these songs to be played multiple times on a daily basis? These are not slips of the tongue. The words these artists say were intentionally put into those lyrics, rehearsed, edited, produced and played by every one of your disc jockeys. Here is a short list of songs and the offensive words they contain. Don’t be hypocritical and hold Moby (who accidentally said curse words over the radio) to a different standard than the one you hold yourself and these artists.

Toby Keith to say hell,

Toby Keith to say he’ll put a boot in your ass,

Montgomery Gentry to say hell yeah,

Jason Aldean to say screw you,

Tim McGraw to say son of a bitch,

Kellie Pickler say damn,

Gretchen Wilson (hell yeah)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Miranda Lambert (bitch, damn, hell)

How ‘Bout You Eric Church (ass)

Down in Mississippi (Up to No Good) Sugarland (***)

Drunker than Me Trent Tomlinson (damn)

Here’s A Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares) Travis Tritt (damn)

Johnny Cash Jason Aldean (screw you, ***)

Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You Kellie Pickler (damn)

Between the River and Me- Tim McGraw (son of a bitch)

No Damn Good- Gary Allan

Hell on the Heart- Eric Church

Ain’t Killed Me Yet- Eric Church (hell, damn)

Lotta Boot Left to Fill- Eric Church (hell, damn)

I Could Kick Your Ass- Justin Moore

TOES by Zac Brown Band (ass in the sand)

THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA by Charlie Daniels Band (son of a bitch)

MY GIVE A (DAMN’S) BUSTED by Jo Dee Messina

Kiss My Country Ass by Rhett Atkins

Kick My Ass (Big & Rich)

Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy (Big & Rich)

Love Me Like My Dog Does- Billy Currington (bitch)

I look forward to seeing how this issue is resolved. I think you owe Moby a big apology. Yeah, baby!

A concerned listener,

Andrea Norton

Just a thought, before we go throwing stones at others we should take a look at our own choices. If Moby’s language offended you I am surprised that you listen to country music at all. Just something you may need to think about. Now, can I get a Yeah, Baby?

*If you can think of any songs I left out feel free to leave me a list of then in the comment box.

Standing at the Screen Door

My parents divorced before I was old enough to retain any memories of the time they were together. There is not one picture of me with both of my parents. Not one trace of evidence from the life we lived together. For that reason I find it impossible to imagine that we ever had the same last name or lived together as a family although we did for only a short time.

In my earliest memory I am standing at a screen door crying for my parents. From what I can remember I believe it must have been springtime which means I was less than two years old. My mother’s sister is telling me that my Mom is at work and that my Daddy will be here soon to pick me up. That first memory is one of loss, abandonment, fear, and confusion. It explains a lot about who I am and how my personality was formed. I understand so many things about who I am and how that first memory held me prisoner without me realizing it.

I spent many years feeling like a victim. Social situations almost crippled me. I scrutinized every conversation and became my own worst enemy. Fear and shame were my constant companions until I slowly started seeing myself the way God sees me. Little by little I gained a new self image and stopped worrying about what others thought so much. Those feelings have not gone away but I have learned to control them instead of letting them control me.

Lately I’ve been feeling somewhat like that little girl; confused, afraid, alone, abandoned, unloved. I know that those feelings are real and justified but unlike that baby girl standing at the screen door I don’t have to let those feelings define me or hold me prisoner. I have a new identity in Christ. He will never leave me or forsake me. He shelters me beneath His wings.

Psalm 17:8-9 (KJV)
8Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,

Thankfulness

As I started to write this post tonight I began to reflect on this past year. I found myself thinking of all the bad things this year has brought to my life and the many things I have lost. That could have been the beginning of my annual spiral into holiday depression but it wasn’t. Before I was totally wallowing in self pity I thought of a verse from the Bible.

Philippians 4:8 (MSG)
8-9Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Immediately, God reminded me of all the blessings this year has been filled with. My baby had a successful surgery and has made great strides in therapy, my oldest is half way through his second year of college, my husband was given a steady paying part time job to supplement our income, our family is healthy, my Sweet G is making great progress in school, we have a home, plenty of food to eat, we had a pretty good little garden that is still producing food and enjoyment for me, I have had a million laughs at the things Sweet G has said to me, enjoyed morning snuggles and bedtime stories, had close to 52 “campouts” with Sweet G (T filled in for me on a couple of Friday nights), I celebrated the 27th anniversary of the day I married my best friend, made a few new friends, and made some more great memories with some old friends.

2011 has been bittersweet but then again isn’t that a pretty good description of life? We wouldn’t know the depth of our blessings without hardships to compare them to. I have learned a lot about myself this year. I also discovered the value that others place on me. I learned that blood isn’t always thicker than water but the blood of Christ that covers my sin is binding. I am His and He is mine. Nothing can separate me from His love. I do have many things to be Thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving!

Trip to the Desert and Back

A few weeks ago God began a change in me. I started to feel His gentle tug on my heart and faintly hear the sound of His voice calling me. There has been a drought in my Christian walk. One that I couldn’t seem to find my way out of. To be totally honest, I didn’t try very hard to look for a way out of the dry and desolate place I found myself. I became content to sit there and slowly dehydrate to the point that my spiritual cup was down to a few drops instead of overflowing as God says it should be.

The first thing God told me was my husband needed to spend time bonding with other Godly men. You may say, “I thought you said God called you. Now you say He wants your husband to do something.” The answer is simple. I crave my husband’s time and attention which are in very short supply. He works two jobs which total 55+ hours a week, not including commute time. He doesn’t get home until after 9:00 every week night except Fridays and works half a day on Saturday. I need time to take off my Mommy, teacher, cook, playmate, caretaker hat every once in a while. Having a child with special needs means that I take every step my child takes and sometimes I get burned out but God showed me that my husband gets tired and discouraged too. That is why God spoke to me. He wanted to guide me on the path to being a better wife to my husband. He asked me to put my husband’s needs above my own.

The second thing God reminded me of was that it is my responsibility to teach my child about God. Our family needs to be in God’s house learning His Word. It is my duty to take Sweet G whether he wants to go or understands the importance it holds.

Step three, I started reading my Bible and being more purposeful in my walk with Christ. For the first time in a long time God’s Word was fresh and alive to me. I was getting it, growing. Then I started feeling the familiar sting of satan’s fiery darts. Someone verbally attacked me on a social site over my view of an issue. My son misunderstood a couple of comments I made. My mother seems to think I am a vile and unfeeling monster because I disagree with the family on a very delicate family issue. Everywhere I turn it seems someone is misunderstanding what I say or questioning why I see things in a different way than they do.

I finally broke down in tears tonight questioning why this is all happening to me. The answer came through the post of a fellow blogger. She wrote about parenting. She reminded me that sometimes a child asks for something when in reality it isn’t good for them. Her children prefer the cardboard boxed macaroni and cheese with the fake powdered cheese over her homemade nutritious Mac-and-cheese. They don’t understand that she sacrifices much more time and energy to make the dish from scratch because she loves them and wants the best for them. As my Heavenly Father, God will not settle for the easy Mac way of life. It is not good enough for me, His beloved child. Even if it is hard to swallow and I’d be much more pleased with the instant heat and serve version He patiently gives me what I really need.

My prayer has been for God to lead me out of that dry place I’ve been sitting. As we walk the sand is hot and makes my steps unsteady at times. Walking in hot dry sand is difficult but it’s the only way to get out of a desert. The amazing thing is every now and then I take a peek inside my cup and see that instead of becoming empty it’s gradually getting fuller. Every step I take and each sip of water I drink fills my cup a little more.