God

Lottery Tickets and Life Lessons

How A lottery Ticket changed My Life! …………

Actually, it was the absence of a lottery ticket that changed my life…………….

I was standing in line at a local store, with my head in the clouds when the cashier abruptly asked “So are you buying a ticket?” It took a few seconds for his question to register, but the moment it did, a host of memories flooded my brain. The clerk was referring to the $600,000,000+ mega millions jackpot to be drawn Friday, but I was thinking back to one of the most vivid memory I have of my childhood.

I was out alone with my dad, and without explanation he looked down at me and exclaimed, “Jody, I want you to promise me that you will never buy a lottery ticket.” Lottery tickets ment nothing to me, so without hesitation, I made a promise that I believe altered the course of my life. Years later, I asked my dad what compelled him to ask me to make that promise and to this day, not only can he not tell me why, but he also can’t remember the incident.

When I made that promise, I barely understood what a lottery ticket was, and I most assuredly never felt the urge to buy one. With all my heart, I believe that day my heavenly Father stirred the heart of my earthly father to make that request, in order to protect me from a weakness neither of us knew I would have years down the road. Every time I pass an instant lottery machine, I think of that day. Every time I see a lottery grow and a frenzy erupt, I remember the promise I made to my dad and I praise the Lord for the gift of a parents spiritually prompted intuition. Now, thirty-seven years later, I have kept my promise and passed the story along to my kids. I have not asked them to make the same promise to me, I have never felt the Spirit leading me to do so but we have had many discussions about the foolishness of gambling and how destructive it can be. When we exit our local Drug Mart, often I will hear one of my kids exclaim to the others, “never put your money in that machine, it’s just like throwing it in the trash.” I feel no embarrassment, and I have never told them to be quiet because I know the lesson of the lottery machine trash can will be engraved into their heads, and that they will remember mommy’s story when they are tempted to part with their own hard-earned cash.

As parents, we can’t guarantee sin free, addiction free kids, by insisting they make a string of promises and vows to us, guaranteeing upright moral living, but we can vigilantly seek wisdom and direction from the Lord for each precious life he has given us. Parenting isn’t a mechanized process. My father never asked my sister or brother to make the same vow he did of me. My father never asked me to make promises to flee other sins I did struggle with as a teen and young adult. I do not know what compelled him to ask what he did, but my prayer is that the Lord would give me the same wisdom and insight for my kids. My time of teaching and instructing, protecting and building is quickly passing. Their eternity is in His hands, but He has seen fit to make me an instrument to be used to shape and mold them in preparation for the future that He has ordained for them from the beginning of time.

I pray the Lord continues to patiently mold and transform me into His likeness so that my kids see Him in me. As Gary Thomas so eloquently and wisely wrote, the purpose of my life, marriage, and family is to make me holy, not happy. My husband and I are responsible, not simply to make our kids happy, succesful, and without need, but to help maintain a sensitive heart that is willing to submit to the transforming power and authority of the Holy Spirit so He can make them holy, through God’s grace and mercy.

Will you join me and cry out to the Lord of Wisdom for wisdom? Will you choose daily to die to yourself in order to serve, teach, and train your children. May our hearts and minds be ever filled with the whispering of the Spirit. May the silence of His voice be deafening, quickly bringing our hearts and focus back to Him and the purpose and callings he has given to us through our children.

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The Purpose of Pain

Why Is There Pain?

Have you ever heard a story that goes something like this?

While getting dressed one morning, a woman in perfect shape notices a seemingly insignificant mole on her skin that doesn’t look normal. Although she can’t remember the last time she had any health concerns, she schedules a Dr. Appointment to get the sore checked out. The woman’s life is shattered a few days later when she is informed she has melanoma. The disease has spread throughout ther body and though she appears healthy and feels fine, the prognosis is grim, she is dying.

Death is cruel, but a disease that eats at the body, silently stealing the precious life of the unsuspecting victim seems even more ruthless. No normal human enjoys pain. Our first reaction when we feel it is to recoil away from its source. The Creator made us this way as a means of physical preservation. Though pain is unpleasant, it becomes an alarm that captures our attention demanding change. When our physical bodies suffer, we immediately want to know what is wrong and how we can fix the problem. Without pain, our bodies would be broken and overcome before we ever had a chance to live. In this bizarre sense, Pain is a blessing.

In medicine, pain is approached in a methodical manner. Doctors look at symptoms, environment, and other factors to determine its source. They don’t simply treat the pain, they search for its origin.

When I broke my wrist, I told the Doctor I was playing basketball, was fouled making a jump-shot, and then broke my fall with my hand, which had absorbed the impact of my body when it hit the ground. With that information gathered, my pain was no longer the focal point. The Doctors focus shifted to the source of my pain, a bulging, disfigured, purple, swollen wrist. The doctor did not try to rid my wrist of the blue hue by applying makeup. He did not use a knife to cut the grotesque bulge away. He did not simply hand me medicine to make my brain and pain receptors oblivious to the discomfort. His job was to go as deep into the anatomy of my wrist as possible pinpointing the source of the pain, so he could fix what was wrong. In my case it was a broken ulna. Once the diagnosis of a break was made, a splint was not put on my foot, balm was not rubbed on my chest. The doctor did not sever the nerves in my wrist and arm so I could not sense the pain caused by the break. The goal was not to rid me of the pain but to deal with its source. The wisdom of the Doctor reasoning was this, “Fix the break and eventually you will get rid of the pain.” My wrist was straightened, the bone was set, and my entire arm from elbow to knuckles was wound inside a protective cast to protect and keep it immobile. I was given a sling, a list of do’s and don’ts, and four weeks later I walked out of the Dr. office with a weak, but perfectly healed wrist.

What Do I Do With My Pain?

Have you ever been held captive by any of the emotions below? Do you relate to any of them right now?

Lonelinees, Fear, Rejection, Sadness, Betrayal, Confused, Discouraged, Insignificant, Invisible, Rejected, Unimportant, Misunderstood, Angry, Worthless, Guilty, Forgotten, Powerless, Weak, Terrified, Skeptical, Violated, Taken Advantage of, Imprisoned, Unloved, Unwanted, Untrusting, Cynical, Cheated…..

All these are pains that torment our souls. As Beth Moore illustrated in her book, “Get Out of that Pit”, sometimes these pains are the result our own sinful actions. Sometimes they are wounds viciously inflicted at the hand of another. Other times they are the result of innocent decisions we have made.

No matter which emotions oppress and crush your heart, there is a reason for the pain, and there is a liberating hope and power at your disposal. It does no good to bury the pain, or to distract ourselves from an oppressive emotion. We can not swap out relationships, activities, and pursuits to find freedom. This pseudo releif from our pain is only a temporary respite. This season of quietness will only last until the disease we have ignored grows larg enough to destroy even those things capeable of still bringing joy, pleasure, and happiness.

When our hearts are broken, our spirits overwhelmed, and our emotions smothering us in a pit we can’t escape, there is but one thing to do, run to the Great Physician. Fall into the arms of your Abba Father, your Daddy. There is a purpose in the pain. There will be an end to the sorrow. Beauty will arise from the ashes. Pain screams there is a problem and the pain demands action.

Over the next few weeks I would like to focus on the topic of pain, it’s source, its purpose, and its cure. I know so many single women struggling with loneliness and the fear they will be alone for the rest of their lives. I am overwhelmed by the number of wives reeling and incapacitated by the pain of betrayal. Our churches are filled with brothers and sisters so weary from battle they wonder if there will be anything left, anything worth fighting for.

Merrit from Livesimplylove, will be joining us in our series about overcoming pain, and I am excited about other guests who have graciously agreed to share on this blog. If you are struggling with loneliness, fear, rejection, loss, or any other pain please feel free to ask questions. If you have been through a dark valley and the Lord has brought you through would you consider sharing your story or insight? If you have blogged on this topic please leave a comment with a link to your site. If you wouold like to guest blog on this topic please let me know and I will put you on the schedule.

My February giveaway will include some amazing books I have read which focus on overcoming the pain in our lives. Stay tuned for the start of the giveaway.

As you go, consider this promise, from God, the Righteous, the True, the Faithful.

Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

The Priceless Gift

The Priceless Gift
Psalm 50:7-15
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you:
I am God, even thy God.
I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.
I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds,
for every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beast of the field are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell thee, for the world is mine, and the fullness there of.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

A few days ago David and I were reading a Psalm written by King David, and my husband made a comment about him I had never considered before. In a time where the religion of the Jew’s revolved around customs and traditions, law and “doing/works”, David was ahead of his time when he wrote Psalms like chapter 51. Somehow this scraggly backward shepherd boy become king, realized that one could slaughter an entire heard of cows and have a heart still separated from God because of sin. He fully grasped the key to a right and proper relationship with Christ, something the Pharisees and “Doctors of the Law” still hadn’t figured out hundreds of years later earning them the open rebuke and scorn of Jesus Christ himself.

As a parent with three kids, my hearts desire and prayer is they they come to know and love Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, serving him faithfully all their lives. I feel woefully inadequate as one of their spiritual God given teachers, and fear I will fail them, so David’s story interest me greatly. As I mulled over this thought, I asked my husband, how he thought a lowly, last born, adolescent boy, who spent solitary hours and days in a field with nothing but sheep and a musical instrument as his companion, discover this secret? How did he figure out in the midst of sheep and grass, what men who studied the law all their life in the “house of God” missed? What did David discover in the fields alone with the sheep that the pharisees and scribes missed, that being what the Lord truly wants from us and the precious truth of what keeps us in a right relationship with Christ. What did Jesse his father, teach him? What kind of worship with Christ did he experience in the solitary fields that illuminated his spirit with the truth- It is not at all about the “sacrifice”, but “rather about the heart of the sacrificer.” Perhaps in the fields, with nothing to distract, and nothing to offer but his heartfelt love, adoration, and worship David experienced what men spend years trying to discover, a true and living relationship with Christ.

The next day I read Psalm 50, and when I got to the verses 7-15, the Lord spoke to my heart and humbled me with a truth I had never thought of. This chapter begins with the musician author speaking about the might and glory of God, and then the Psalm shifts to the Lord making a very profound statement about his relationship to us and all of creation. His statement is basically this, your sacrifices mean nothing to me because everything you take and offer up to me is mine all ready. I created the animals you offer to me, I control their movements, they obey me, they belong to me. He proclaims in Psalm 50 If I were hungry or wanted one of them, I would not come to you nor would I ask you to go get me one-THEY ARE MINE!!! The value or power of a sacrifice is not found in the quality, quantity or price of the sacrifice, the value of the sacrifice comes from something else and David realized this and he knew he could offer one-thousand of the choicest bulls from a heard and it could mean nothing to God, yet a poor peasant could offer a turtledove and obtain the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of the Lord.

This then is what brought me to my knees……The Lord God created this universe with the power and breath of his voice. All creation bows in obeisance to him, and he wields the power and the authority and the ability to control it all….. all that is BUT one thing. The Lord created the earth, the land, seas, animals, and heavens, and then he created within man something he prized and valued above all else, his heart. It is here the Lord then chose to limit himself. He could have demanded our love, required we worship him. He could have created us like the animals of the field forcing our obedience and service but he did not do this. Instead he created a gift, priceless and desperately sought after in his eyes and he relinquished his right to it. Limiting himself, he gave us the ability to give him something precious and treasured that he could not get for himself. This is what made our heart and our fellowship so precious to him. Then to establish how greatly he yearned for the right to possess that treasure, he offered in exchange the greatest gift he could, and the only sacrifice that could redeem that which had been tainted and made unworthy of him through sin. Thus he offered the unspeakable gift of his only son Jesus Christ. He offered up glory and majesty for the corrupted and sinful heart of man. The God of Creation, the One and true Gift became the seeker and the the corrupted and destitute became both the gift and the giver.

How humbling it is to recall every day that there is nothing I can acquire here on earth that is of true value and worthy to Christ. I can not achieve a salary, worldly goods, or any thing else of value here on earth that measure in any degree to his goodness, righteousness and holiness. I can not attain any measure of success that is of any value or worth to Christ, it is paltry and worthless compared to him.

All I can give him is my heart, but to him my heart is all he wants. For those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior, accepting the blood of his son Jesus Christ as payment for our sins, allowing him to wash our hearts clean that we can give it back to him holy complete is just the first part. Once this is done, the giving is not over, and this is what David understood. A bullock burnt on an alter by a man who does it to be seen of man is of no value to the Lord, but a bull given by a man with a heart broken and remorseful of his sin is priceless. Tithing 50% of my salary, proudly dropped in the offering is of no value to the Lord, but pennies from a teens allowance given with joy and out of love for God’s provision is worth more than mountains of gold. Staying up late so I can deliver a message in Sunday school motivated by pride and the desire to receive praise of man is worthless, but seeing a sister or brother in need and laying aside what I am doing to extend encouragement or support is priceless and sweet smelling to the Lord. The Pharisees of the OT strove to “practice” the law but they never understood the reason for the law nor did they discover the secret of true love that could empower them to truly live the law thus becoming a sweet smelling sacrifice to God.

I have been challenged by the Lord to make sure that my heart is in a right relationship with him and to make that relationship and love for him the driving force of all I do, say, and aspire to accomplish. What an amazing thought it is to think I posses something God truly wants, seeks, and esteems. “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” This weekend we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord. The ultimate sacrifice made by the King and Creator of the Universe. Does it boggle your mind as much as it does mine, that is was a wretched and sinful heart he sought to redeem? What amazing love would compel Christ to send his blameless son here to earth, alloim to be tempted in every manner we are, to suffer as we suffer, tire as we tire, to sorrow, bleed, and die that he might obtain the one thing of value that we posses, our heart, our devotion, our love.

Fernando Ortega’s Song “Sing To Jesus” is a wonderful story of this sacrifice and the mystery of the love of Christ.

“Sing To Jesus”

Come and see, look on this mystery
The Lord of the universe, nailed to a tree
Christ our God, spilling His Holy blood
Bowing in anguish, His sacred head

Sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts, He is our great redeemer
Sing to Jesus, honor his name
Sing of his faithfulness, pouring his life out unto death

Come you weary and he will give you rest
Come you who mourn, lay on His breast
Christ who dies, risen in Paradise
Giver of mercy, Giver of life

Sing to Jesus this is the throne
Now and forever He is the King of Heaven
Sing to Jesus, we are his own
Now and forever, sing for the love our God has shown

Sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts
He is our great redeemer
Sing to Jesus, honor His name

Sing to Jesus this is the throne
Now and forever He is the King of Heaven
Sing to Jesus, we are his own
Now and forever, sing for the love our God has shown