Sunday, October 26, 2014

A God who understands

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “U”
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  – Isaiah 40:28 NIV
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. – Luke 2:47 NIV

One of the deepest longings we have as human beings is to be understood. If someone truly understands us—who we are deep inside, why we act and react the way we do—and remains in our lives, we know that person loves us, warts and all.
I’ve been blessed to have such persons in my life.
First there were my parents, who understood me a lot better than I thought they did. They watched me as I matured, had a hand in developing who I became, and saw parts of themselves in me.
Then there was my godmother, my precious Aunt Betty, who understood me better than my own mother did. While Mom gave me practical birthday gifts, Aunt Betty gave me the girly things I longed for.
Then there’s my husband, whose understanding of me has grown with time. He’s seen me frantic, worried, angry, afraid, anxious, joyful—the gamut of emotions. How blessed I am that he’s hung around all these years. He understands me through and through—and loves me still.
Then there’s my friend Sharon, who understands me because we share both a sisterhood in our womanhood and a common bond as believers. She understands me because we’ve spent time together, and she’s listened to me with not only her ears but also with her heart. She understands me because I’ve trusted her enough to let down my guard and allow her to see me as I really am.
But there’s Someone who understands me even better than anyone, even better than I understand myself—my heavenly Father, my Creator.
Psalm 139, one of my favorite portions of Scripture, plumbs the depths of God’s loving understanding of each of us. You are not a nameless face in the mass of humanity. You are His child, uniquely created, intensely loved, and thoroughly understood.
He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows when you come and when you go, when you sit, when you lie down, and when you rise. He knows what you think and what you’re going to say before you even say it (vv. 1–3).
No matter where you go, He is with you, ready to guide you when you need direction and ready to hold you fast when you need stability and security. And when you’re scared of the dark, His eyes pierce the darkness—for darkness is as light to Him (vv. 5–12).
He saw you before you were born (vv. 15–16). He shaped you inside and out. Body and soul, you are marvelously made (vv. 3–4, The Message).
Each day of your life had a plan and a purpose even before you took your first breath (v. 16).
He thinks about you constantly—so much you cannot even begin to fathom how much (vv. 17–18).
So the next time you’re feeling misunderstood, when you think no one could possibly understand you, remember the One who created you and, more than anyone else, knows you, understands you, and loves you, warts and all.
Abba Father, how awesome to be understood and loved like You understand and love me! Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Psalm 139 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finding Lulu

“Consider the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:26 NIV
My son and grandson were riding along a country road last Sunday when they spied a yellow-plumed bird alongside the road—a lone cockatiel, apparently abandoned. When they got home and told my daughter-in-law, Rachael made them go back and get it. Never mind that their house is home to two dogs and two cats, not to mention the horse, pony, goat and chickens in the barn.
“How could you leave it there all by itself?” she chastised them.
And so “Lulu’ became a temporary member of the household. Fortunately (for my son, who did not want to add another member to the menagerie) Rachael found someone willing to give Lulu a permanent home.
“Aren’t you afraid it’ll fly away?” I asked when Rachael brought Lulu up for me to see.
“Her wings are clipped,” Rachael explained. “She can’t fly.”
How would she have escaped a predator if she couldn’t wing her way to safety?
The next day Rachael brought Lulu to visit again. “I found a home for her.” One of the teachers at my grandson’s school wanted her.
“But we’re going to keep her for a week.”
I could tell she wanted to keep Lulu. For a brief, shining moment I did, too.
Imagine—going from unwanted to wanted in a day.
Finding Lulu reminded me of an important truth—that God will never abandon us.
“Never will I leave you,” He promises. “Never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands,” God assures us in Isaiah 49:15–16.
There are times you may feel abandoned, wings clipped, alongside a lonely country road or a busy thoroughfare of life. Cars pass you, some occupants glance at you. But no one stops. Even God has forsaken you, you think. He doesn’t care.
But you’re wrong. Just because you don’t sense His presence doesn’t mean God isn’t with you. Cling to the promises He gives you in His Word.
“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin?” Jesus says. “But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31 NLT).
Repeat to yourself: “I am valuable to God.”
And never forget it.
When I feel as though You’ve abandoned me, Lord, remind me of Your promise: “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Matthew 6:25–26 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Truth be told . . .

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “T”
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.”  – Exodus 34:6 NIV
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  – Jesus, as quoted in John 14:6 NKJV

I’ve always been one to believe whatever anyone told me. Call me gullible. Call me naïve, but I’m a trusting soul.
My mother taught me to always tell the truth, even if it got me into trouble. Like the time my brother, sister, cousin Billy, and I were playing in the backyard, where a green canvas Army tent stood. When my mother called my siblings inside for a few minutes, Billy decided to hide from them.
“Don’t tell them where I am,” he said as he slipped into the tent.
“I won’t,” I said, feeling awesome that my older cousin trusted me—the youngest of the family—with such important information.
When they returned, I put on the most solemn expression I could and said, “Billy isn’t in the tent.”
I’ve never been able to lie, and I figured everyone else was wired the same way.
But I discovered, to my pain, they aren’t.
Like the time my high school boyfriend slipped me a note on the bus coming home from the class picnic at the end of the school year and whispered, “No matter what happens, always remember I love you.”
Yeah, right. The note was a “Dear Michele” letter. But I clung to his spoken words throughout that miserable summer even though my heart was broken. Just before the new school year began, I learned he dumped me for a cheerleader.
But it didn’t sour me on people. He was just one lying jerk, right?
Then in college I got burned again. I was in the dorm lobby with my then-fiancé (who at least told me the truth when he dumped me a year later) waiting for one of the girls in the group I hung around with to return from an errand. It was her birthday, and we’d planned a surprise party. Tammy, one of the gang, told me she’d let me know when the birthday girl came. 
So when Tammy came down and said Penny hadn’t returned yet but she’d come get me when she did, I had no reason not to believe her. Turns out she lied. Penny had returned. Tammy went up to the party and told everyone I didn’t want to come. And I wondered for the longest time why I suddenly didn’t have any friends.
As a teacher, I learned students were adept at lying—no hint whatever of deceit in their eyes.
I’m sure glad there is one person I know who will never lie—because He can’t. It’s not in His nature.
“God is not human, that he should lie,” Scripture tells us (Numbers 23:19). He is “abundant in truth” (Exodus 34:6), “a faithful God, without deceit” (Deuteronomy 52:4), and “the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16). The apostle Paul called Him “the ever truthful God Who cannot deceive” (Titus 1:2).
People will deceive us. But God never will.
And that’s a truth I can stake my life on.
Thank you, God, that I can trust what You say and know that You will never break Your promises. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Psalm 119:41–48

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Chaos in the kitchen

Put GOD in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place. – Proverbs 16:3 (The Message)
My husband makes breakfast on Saturday mornings—and it’s not a bowl of cereal hastily thrown together. No, my sweetie makes eggs—over easy for him, scrambled with cheese for me; diced potatoes fried in olive oil; and either bacon, loose or link sausage, or fried ham. This mid-morning feast is complemented with orange juice, tea and toast. (I think he’s practicing for retirement.)
Now, far be it from me to complain when the man wants to make a meal, but Dean’s idea of cooking is tossing it into some grease and letting it splatter. But if he’s going to clean up, that’s fine by me, and most Saturday mornings he does.
Last Saturday, however, with the shrinking daylight hours, he wanted to get out and cut firewood as soon as possible. So I agreed to clean up. But after he left, I took one look at the kitchen and groaned. Where to start?
There were some dishes in the drying rack. I’d start there. When I opened the drawer to put away the silverware, however, I spied the accumulation of what I call “drawer chips.” Where does all that stuff come from anyway? I couldn’t put clean silverware in dirty baskets. So I dumped all the contents of the drawer on the only clean countertop space I had and put the containers in hot, soapy water to soak.
That’s when I spied the potatoes Dean left on the counter by the sink and decided to make crockpot seasoned potatoes for supper. The problem was the small crockpot I wanted to use was in the back of the cupboard where I keep such appliances.

While I was emptying that cupboard, I spied my four-cup coffeemaker and decided to make a cappuccino to put some gas in the tank. I am not a morning person. The problem was I was making it from scratch. Which meant dirtying more dishes—a bowl to heat the milk and sugar in and a hand mixer to whip up the hot, sweet milk into a frothy foam.
When I opened the cupboard to get the sugar, I spied the empty pitchers on the counter I’d wanted to put in there but had no room. So I emptied that cupboard, too.
Meanwhile, the greasy skillets and dirty dishes waited patiently.
Me, I wasn’t so patient. I decided to sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on my cappuccino. That’s when I spied the spices, brown sugar, and Crisco I’d bought the day before and left on the counter because I didn’t have room in the spice cupboard.
So I emptied that cupboard, too—and found four containers of cornstarch, three of baking powder, two half-empty ones of baking cocoa—some were unopened and most were old. Really old.
Then Dean texted me from the woods that he needed more water. Would I fill up a jug and bring it out to him. Sure. Anything to get out of that messy kitchen.
When I returned, though, no kitchen fairies had visited to clean up the chaos.
“Help!” I shouted on Facebook.
My friend Judy Rathmell responded: “Set your timer for 15 mins. and work like crazy - no interruptions - then stop and have a nice cup of tea!
Done! 1 drawer and 3 cupboards ..
Wow! I didn’t know I could get so much done in 15 minutes!
Life gets like that chaotic kitchen at times, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s our own mess, sometimes it’s someone else’s, sometimes both. For things to get better, they often have to get worse. And when it gets overwhelming, it’s always nice to have words of wisdom from a friend to guide you and give you some focus.
No one will come and in one fell swoop clean up the mess. But you can do it—with words of advice from a wise friend and one cup of tea at a time. 
When things get overwhelming, Lord, remind me to set the timer! Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Philippians 3:12–14
After the day's work, we enjoyed a campfire supper.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Guest post: Amber Schamel

Unbelievable amounts of fruit

By Amber Schamel

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. ~James 5:7

I volunteer about half my time at a non-profit ranch in the Ozarks. One of the many things I help with is the harvest of pears when they are ready for picking. We went out to the  tree with ladders, baskets, sheets, and set to work. It was absolutely unbelievable how many pears were on that single tree! We picked bushels and bushels of pears until we had them coming out our ears. A lot of pears were eaten before they even reached the house. Some were stored in boxes in the cellar. We froze gallons of them, gave some away, and still some went rotten before they could used. Then there were the pears at the top of the tree that were too high for us to reach. How was it possible for ONE TREE to produce SO MUCH FRUIT?

As we dealt with the abundance of pears, I was reminded of the verse in Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23 KJV).

If I am like a fruit tree, I want to be like the tree that bears unbelievable amounts. The qualities and character of the believer is their fruit, so what can I do to increase it? As I thought about the tree in the field, a few things came to mind.
  • A healthy tree needs lots of rain and sunshine.
We need to spend time every day in the presence of the Lord, our Son-shine. We immerse ourselves in God's Word and allow His Spirit to rain down upon us, for it is His Spirit living in us that will produce the fruit.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
~Ps. 72:6
  •  A healthy tree needs good soil.
The soil is what we are rooted in every day. What do we feed into our mind? Are we meditating on God's Word and His promises, or are we subjecting ourselves to negative thoughts and influences?
And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 8:8).
  • A healthy tree must give of its fruit.
If we didn't harvest the pears from the tree, the fruit would rot and fall off of the tree wasted. The fruit that didn't fall off would rot on the branches, make them heavy, and prevent new fruit from growing there. The same happens to Christians. Our joy, peace, patience, faith, and love is not for keeping to ourselves, but for giving away to others. 

Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (Matt. 5:42).

  • Sometimes a healthy tree needs to be pruned.
Is there something in my life that is holding me back in my walk with the Lord? Is there an old grudge I need to let go of? Is there something that is not a good influence on my soul that I need to prune out of my mind? 

It can be a lot of work to grow a strong, healthy and fruitful tree, but this fruit has an eternal impact.
Heavenly Father,
What a wonderful creation you have made! We stand in awe of the beauty we see all around us. I am always amazed at the special ways you etch Yourself into nature. Thank you for teaching us about Your Word through the parable of the pear tree. I pray that You would help me to bear much fruit, to weed out my soil, and to prune away the ungodly things in my life. Rain Your Holy Spirit upon me, I pray. Make me a profitable tree that I may bless Your people and fulfill Your plan.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Are you taking good care of your spiritual fruit tree? In what ways do you help keep it healthy?

Bestselling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest." A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites. 

Amber is celebrating the October 16th release of her new book The Messiah's Sign with the Name-A-Character Giveaway! Click here or on the logo above to enter to for a chance to pick the name of a main character in Amber's upcoming book The Christmas Pardon. Terms and conditions apply.