"Blessed is she, who has believed, that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hurry Hurry Hurry! Last day for giveaway!

So, I was reading through my tweets on Twitter and what did I find?

The most amazing give-a-way ever!

It is all sweet chick tech gear! I mean, stuff like you would be envious if you saw someone with it (even though we are not supposed to envy and then you would feel guilt and well...you know where it goes) but you can enter to win it yourself!

Hurry! Today is the last day! Go HERE! You will be visiting Blissfully Domestic. It is a great site....after you enter make sure you poke around in all the nooks and crannies. They won't mind. Honest!

I would say good luck, but I wouldn't really mean it cause I want that stuff baby ~ and the Bible says that lying's a sin, right?

Oh, all right.

good luck.

There. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I want to be like Ruth

Brave
Obedient
Humble
Dedicated
Hardworking
Devoted
Patient
Gentle
Quiet-tongued
Favored
Blessed



Have you spent time with her lately?

I just started to get to know her on a deeper level than to just say hi as I pass on my way to "more important" scriptures.

I am really enjoying my time with Ruth. I am finding that she had a lot to teach us about a lot of things.

I have been focusing on spending more time learning from the Old Testament. Everything in the New Testament is based on what God says and does there. The people that he used, the miracles and wonders that he performed are all there in amazing stories and lessons for us.

What better way to learn God's character than to spend time with the people that he used to reach us?


Monday, April 27, 2009

Titus 2 Tuesday ~ Melody

It's been awhile since I have posted a Titus 2 Tuesday entry. Not that I haven't wanted to, I have just not been able to sit down and get my thoughts to flow. I am lucky that this week God is chipping away at the dam in my words, because He is allowing me to tell you about my friend Melody.

The first time I attended my church I was a huge mess. I had very recently been told that my mom would not be around more than another six weeks at best, and a week before walking in the doors of this church building I had a big 'ol come to Jesus on the side of the road. It knocked me for a huge loop and left me a new baby in an old world. I was needing definate connection with what God was going to be to me in this new and scary world.

I walked in the doors that Sunday feeling overwhelmed, scared, sad and unsure. I sat through a message on hope (of which I cried almost the entire time) and then this woman got up and sang "Sometimes He Calms The Storm". That was the first time I met Melody. She probably doesn't realize that she had a huge impact on me that day. God used her to tell my soul the words that I needed so desperately to hear.

Over the following year or so I would see Melody around but our paths never really crossed in a friendship building way. Then I started attending a workout class at church that she helped to lead. We had some fun times and good general and light discussions.

About 2 1/2 years ago, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. Not long after, I found out that Melody was pregnant with her third. We bonded over the fact that we were so close together in our due date, pregnancy woes and things that worried us. After the babies (both beautiful girls) were born, we continued to connect over infant care, development and post-baby bodies.

We have gotten to the point where we are taking our relationship to a more personal level. More about spiritual growth and what is truly important in our lives. Bob and I will be joining her and her husband's small group for married couples and I am so excited about that!

Recently she stepped out of her comfort zone and spoke for the first time at a ladies event. I learned several things about her that were very surprising, and some that I had an idea of all along (like the fact that she is a very talented speaker!).

Melody has been very influential in helping me to define a true friendship. They are not instant. They take time and energy to cultivate and grow. They take truth and love, strength and bravery, humility and forgiveness.

I have enjoyed the process of our friendship. It is slow growing and hopefully that will allow the roots to grow deep to sustain us over many years to come.

Meet more T2 women by clicking on the link in my right hand column.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Idol Life ~ Teen Devotion

The Idol Life

In Habakkuk chapter 2:18-19, God says:


“What good is an idol carved by man,
or a cast image that deceives you?
How foolish to trust in your own creation—
a god that can’t even talk!
What sorrow awaits you who say to wooden idols,
‘Wake up and save us!’
To speechless stone images you say,
‘Rise up and teach us!’
Can an idol tell you what to do?
They may be overlaid with gold and silver,
but they are lifeless inside.



Although God is speaking to another nation, in another time, the words are so relevant to us today. And so is the warning.

Is there something in your life that fits the descriptions above? What takes place over your time with God (i.e. prayer, devotions, Bible study, youth group, church services, service projects, ministry, etc.)?

If you need some help, here are some common idols in our world today:

friends, family, work, school, knowledge, boys, girls, sex, acceptance, drugs, alcohol, drama, money, status, comfort, self-esteem, music, texting, IM'ing, TV, video games, movies, laziness, selfishness, food, cutting, bulimia, anorexia, business, bad situations, our past, our fear.

Do you struggle with any of the things listed above? I know I do.

God is very clear in his view of gods other than himself. Three words to focus on in the verses above are foolish, sorrow and lifeless:

God says, " how foolish to trust in your own creation", "What sorrow awaits you", and "can an idol tell you what to do? They may be overlaid with gold and silver, but they are lifeless inside".

Most of the things I listed, in and of themselves, are not bad, but, they must be used in a way that God would find acceptable, and in a way that can glorify him.

Sex is not bad if you are married and show compassion and respect for your spouse. Sex includes most kissing and any and all inappropriate touching. If you are not married, DO NOT DO IT. If you can't be together without physical contact, you are not ready to glorify God with your relationship.

music is not bad unless you make it your sole way of communicating with God, or use it to drown out his voice in your life.

knowledge is good, unless your only desire is to gain it to be the smartest and to be able to hold yourself higher than others. The especially applies to Biblical knowledge. Studying the Bible and acquiring knowledge, and never applying it, indicates a lack of transformation by Jesus. Know your intentions.

Are you using those things to glorify God, or to glorify and satisfy yourself?


Application steps:

1. Get Focused: are there things in the list of idols above that you have in your own life? Make a list and give each, one of the describing words above (or more if they apply)

2. Get Purpose: Get the idols that you struggle with out of your life. Give them to God, all at once, or one at a time. But be intentional and dedicated to change.

3. Get Wise: Study the Bible. Learn God's feelings on idols, what the punishment was for them in the Old Testament, and what is said about them in the New Testament.* Ask God to show you ways to trust him to remove them from your life.

4. Get over it: Idols of this world are self-serving. They exist for you to try to make yourself feel better. But no matter what you do, the only true source of hope and joy is Jesus.

* One to get you started:

"You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.
~ Exodus 20:3-6

No Middle Ground ~ Teen Devotion

No Middle Ground

"But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." ~ 1 Peter 2:9-10 (The Message)



"I don't want to lose my boyfriend. Everyone else is doing it. It can't really be that bad."

"I don't really want to go there, or do what they are doing, but I want to be accepted."

"I'm not comfortable with the way I look, but they notice me this way."

"I'm so tired, but if I'm not the best, I won't be noticed, so I will just practice more, work harder, or study longer."

Do you ever find yourself stuck trying to figure out how to be accepted by someone else? Wondering what about yourself you can change to fit in, what you will need to hide, what things you will need to pretend to be ok with?

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, it states that as people of God, you have received a high calling in Christ. You are supposed to testify to the night and day difference of your life. How you have changed as a result of becoming part of God's chosen people.

What does that mean? It means that you need to stop trying to fit in with the world. When you try to fit in with the world, there is no "night and day difference". You testify to God's work in your life by your words, attitudes and actions. If you look just like the world, if you think just like the world, and if you speak just like the world you are not speaking out for God.

To be holy means to be set apart. When you change who you are to fit in with others, when you decide that fitting in with the world is more important than honoring God, you are speaking out, but for the world instead of God. You are not set apart.

There is no middle ground here. You are a follower of Christ or you aren't. You care about glorifying God or you don't.

Making the choice is just the beginning. Then we have to live it. No matter what. Start today by honestly answering this question: Who have I been speaking out for, God or the world?

Make the choice today to start showing that night and day difference that God has made in your life.


Application steps:

1. Get Focused: What do you struggle with in choosing God over the world? Do you do his work and speak out for him? Do you live a "night and day difference" to the world?

2. Get Purpose: Commit to living up to the calling of God. Make a list of the things of this world that have a hold on you and commit to changing those things or getting them out of your life.

3. Get Wise: Study the Bible. Learn what God expects of you, and how you can protect yourself against trying to fit in with the world.*

4. Get over it: It's up to you. You have to decide that God is more important than anything this world offers. No one can do it for you. Remember, there is no middle ground.

Final thoughts:

The only perfect person to walk this world was Jesus. We will never be perfect. Not even close. We all mess up, we all make mistakes and wrong choices. Don't give up when you mess up. Refocus, remember your purpose and keep seeking wisdom.

* Here's one to get you started:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
~ Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

New Label Catagory ~ Teen Devotions

Hi all!

Starting a few weeks ago I began writing a weekly devotion for our youth group to be posted on our MySpace Blog. We also used the following one for small group. I think it went well, and our youth pastor also said that it was a good evening. I was so excited! I am hoping that he will continue to like them and that they will be useful for more small group discussions.

I will be double posting my devotions. I will post them on our myspace blog, but I will also be posting them here, so that I can keep all my bloggy material together.

Shannon

Is Jesus There?

"When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there."
Matthew 18:20 (The Message)


Do you ever head to activities or meetings because of who will be there? Are you more excited about the people that will be there or the activity you will be doing than with experiencing the presence of Jesus and glorifying God?

In Matthew 18:20 Jesus lets us know that there is a very important rule for his presence in our activities and meetings. We have to be doing it for him. When we get together to do good, to serve others, or to study scripture, but our main reason is the people we will be hanging out with, or the way the leader speaks, or the expectation of being included by other people, we have completely missed the point. Without Jesus being the reason for us to gather together, we are glorifying our status and position with our peers, elevating speakers and activities to the status of gods and idols in our life, and worst of all, missing an opportuinity to grow in our relationship with Christ.

Imagine you're at a really great party. Great food, great music, all your friends are there and you're having an amazing time. Now, if you haven't invited Jesus to be the guest of honor, he is still there. He is just looking in the window, wishing he could share this time with you. It's no different at youth group. Just because you are in "church" doesn't mean that Jesus is included. You have to make him the guest of honor. Invite him in. Spend time with him. Talk to him and make plans with him. Make a point of making him the center.

Jesus clearly states that we should meet with each other because of him, but he also states that if we do, he WILL be there. When you feel distant in your walk with Christ or feel like you aren't growing like you think you should, ask yourself these questions:

What is my real purpose for going to youth group?
Do I attend activities because they are fun and my friends are there, or because I want to serve others for Christ?
When I am with my "church" friends, do we talk about scripture, struggles and hold each other accountable to living a Godly life?
Do I step outside of my "core" friends and make others feel welcome at activities, youth group and in my group of friends?

If any of your answers show that Jesus is not the reason you are getting together with your friends, what needs to change?

Application steps:

1. Get Focused: Get together with your friends and take spiritual inventory of your relationship. Are you glorifying God or just "hanging out"?

2. Get Purpose: Start thinking of ways to put Jesus in the middle of every activity.

3. Get Wise: If you don't know how to center your friendships around God, open your Bible and ask God to show you how. Hey, open your Bible even if you already know!

4. Get over it: It really is possible to have a blast when Jesus is the center of everything you do. As a matter of fact, it's usually a lot more fun and a lot more interesting!

Hungry~ 30 Hour Famine

This week I am posting "Hungry". Our youth group is participating in a 30 Hour Famine to help them connect with the tragedy of hunger in this world. 29,000 children die every day from starvation and malnutrition. It is a completely treatable condition. $1 will feed one child for a day. I usually pay a little more than that for sweet tea from McDonald's on my way to work. If every person living above the poverty line in the United States gave $1 a day for the rest of their lives, we could wipe out hunger worldwide, forever.

We sang "Hungry" tonight during our worship time. We had just blown out 300 candles in 15 minutes. One for each light that was blown out by hunger during that time. What we were left with was a dark room. It was a great visual of what the world looks like when we as Christians do not step up to the call to be the light of the world. Even one flame left flickering would have chased away the darkness.

Our prayer for the teens this weekend is that they would finally put aside themselves and become hungry for Christ. Offer all of themselves, and realize that Jesus is all that is worth living for. Those changes will change the world.

One flame at a time.



For more songs from TSMS Saturday, follow the link in my right hand column.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Corrs

This week I am posting videos of The Corrs. They have been my favorite group for as long as I can remember. I love their pop stuff, but their instrumental stuff either just makes me so relaxed, so calm or makes me want to well...ok, I'll say it...jig! (Yep, I got some green in my blood!)

When I listen to them I can't help but be in a better mood. I hope you love the following as much as I do. A little further down you will find their more contemporary style.











Below are some of their "pop" or "mainstream" stuff.

The following song reminds me of my friend Kelly who passed away way before her time to go.




The next song is my favorite Corrs song. It makes me think of my hubby and how after 12 years I still feel this way about him. My dream is to one day dance with him to this song. (no, we have never danced together, he doesn't dance. I have always wanted to do a ballroom type dance to this song. It will happen one day!)




Click on the link in my right column to head over to Then Sings My Soul Saturday for more great music!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I have added mobile blogging to my bag of tricks!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confession

OK, it's time to confess something.

I haven't tried one little bit to memorize my scripture from the 1st. It is a very important scripture (as they all are) and I haven't even tried. I have figured that I know what the meaning of the scripture is so I don't need to press on for the word for word memorization.

How lazy and Satan-serving is that?

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
~ Hebrews 4:12


It starts out with an amazing revelation ~ The word of God is living and active ~ tells me that every word is as relevant to me today as it was on the day it was penned.

Then it moves on to a warning and a promise ~ sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow ~ shows that it isn't just a love story from God to me, but it is a tool to discipline myself, guide my path, words and deeds, and to look at the intentions of it all. It also shows me that it can help me to keep myself from being polluted by the world, poisoning my soul with the influences of sin as well as the toxic things I think. It can even direct me physically by showing me that too much of a good thing can have more repercussions than just weight gain, sickness or fatigue.

Finally, it reminds me that no matter what I say or do, ~ it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart ~ . I should be digging into scripture to make sure that my heart motives match up with my actions. It is so easy to fall into the trap of "doing" good and yet not having good intentions or desires. When we start living to keep up appearances or satisfy the christian quota of good deeds and Christ-like attitude, we have just become like the Pharisees. God desires us to have an organic, growing and expanding desire to please him and worship him, with our words, deeds and most importantly, with our heart. When we can be pure in our thoughts and attitudes inside, where only God and we can see, then we are honoring him with our life.

I have become too comfortable and allow myself way too much permission to fail. It is not asking too much for me to learn these verses word for word, nor is it too much to expect me to put as much effort into learning scripture as I do learning the lyrics to my new favorite song. As a matter of fact, it is actually quite embarrassing to admit that things of this world are more easily retained than the Word of God. It doesn't matter if the song is Christian or not, it is not God's inspired Word.

Only the middle of April and yet I have fallen this far off focus. Luckily, I am not going to give up, but just ask forgiveness for my laziness and distraction, and get back to it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter

Happy Easter evening to all my bloggy friends.

Today was a nice, quiet day in the Brandon home.

We haven't really gotten the whole "day of rest" thing down, but today we were pretty darned close.

We had a wonderful morning at church, including lots of hugs and smiles, a continential breakfast, communion that was very meaningful for me, and a wonderful message from Pastor that was kicked off with a video from the Passion of the Christ set to the song "Why" by Nicole Nordeman. It just shows that the joy is so much more profound and sweet when you remember the bitterness that had to be reaped to find it.

When we got home we had a quiet time of Easter gifts for the kids. Abby got a little tykes tricycle (disney princess edition, of course!) and a lift the flap book. Kevin was a little more spoiled. He got a new nerf gun and refill cartridges and a go phone.

The phone was more of a neccessity than a gift, although he doesn't see it that way. We want to make sure that we can get ahold of him when he is out running around with his friends.

My chocolate fast is finally over so I enjoyed a few M&M fun packages! Oh, soooo good!

After lunch we all took a nice long nap (except for Kevin, he spent the afternoon watching movies).

All in all, not a bad go at "rest".

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Easter Sunday and that you have been renewed in your passion and joy, your rest and love of family.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What's fun for us

I'm double posting for Marriage Monday this month. I "pre-screened" the topic and wrote what was in my heart, but then the preview was posted and there was a specific question in there so I am writing a second posting to more closely follow the spirit of the topic this month. I hope you enjoy both.

Bob and I have a slightly weird sense of fun. We like to work. Not 9-5, office and clients, bosses and deadlines. We like to get dirty together doing home improvement, yard work, gardening, cleaning, etc.

We both want to begin taking mission trips, but don't feel called to the VBS opportunities that have been offered. Rather, we are looking for one where we can go to repair an orphanage, build a feeding center, clean a village, etc. It is so much fun, and so enriching, to be able to work alongside someone to improve their living situation in a tangible way, leaving something solid and long-standing behind. In addition, people are more likely to talk to someone they don't really know if you are laboring alongside them.

A couple of years ago we were blessed with the opportunity to serve in inner-city Chicago. We spent two days cleaning the neighborhood and going door to door getting the info of our church plant out. My husband spent the two days working on a one car garage, turning it into a youth center. His team got to have some really great conversations while working with the men and kids of the neighborhood. I spent most of my day cleaning the neighborhood and then going door to door. The work I did was important and I know God blessed it, but now there is no sign I was ever there. My husband's labor, on the other hand, still stands.

There are so many areas in our country that need such manual service. We are beginning to search around to see what options are available. We would like to work here in the United States, as well as outside of our country.

It's not just memories of the time spent with and serving others that we bring home, it's also how our relationship has grown when we serve others. You learn so many things, new things and amazing things, when you watch your spouse serve and love others for Jesus.

And if we want to just relax and get away? Well, he is a camper. He loves to pitch a tent and spend the weekend hiking and just sitting still watching the fire. I like to camp as long as it includes some excitement like canoeing or (still on my wish list but I will get to do it someday) white water rafting. I am hoping that we can get away together, just the two of us, within the next couple of months. It's also a great way to remember all the ways that God is creative. nature does that, and sharing it with my hubby is something that helps to feed my soul.

It really is a blessing to be married to a man that lives to serve. We are a great fit, and when we need to get away and just relax, well, we are in sync there, too. I guess God really does know how to fit ALL the pieces together, huh?

head on over to Marriage Monday to read more great stories of friendship in marriage, just click on the button in my right hand column, and tell e-mom hi while you're there!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Forgive Me

How have we gotten to the point where we smile and wear our masks and play the part, while inside we carry burdens too heavy for our soul?

We take our forgiveness like a child's birthday present, joy in it's shiny new-ness, and thank The Giver with heartfelt contentment.

Then we put away our gift, placing it on a shelf to collect dust, while we carry around all the broken things in our lives. Heavier and heavier are the things that burden us, but our pride keeps our struggle inside.

What if we took all that brokenness and weight in our lives and laid it down? What if we picked up that dusty gift from the shelf and cleaned it off, purposing in our life to never set it down again? If we have the shiny new-ness, there is no longer room for all the broken things. If we carry that gift, there is lightness in our step, no place for the weight that has torn us to pieces as we tried to walk through life.

What if we hit our knees and remembered WHO the gift is, and praised with all our heart? What if we ripped off the mask of pride and humbled ourselves to the one who lived and died the perfect example of humility? What if we admit we refused to let go of the world and clinge only to Jesus? What if we cried out: "FORGIVE ME SAVIOR! I decided you weren't enough, but I KNOW the truth now! I want to take you out of the little box of understanding that I put you in because I was too scared of the unknown, help me let go and TRUST! Take all of me and use me as you designed me to be. Help me to love you the way you love me. Your grace and mercy ARE enough."

What would we do with the freedom to live and love in Christ that that would bring? What would we do with the depth and width and height of passion that Jesus holds for us?

What if we lived like we really are forgiven?

Whatever it is, lay it down. He is waiting to give you the peace and joy that comes from a life with him. It may be a struggle to get there, it may hurt and it may seem too much, but keep pushing on.



Follow the link in my right hand column for more songs and blessings.