Thursday, December 18, 2008

God's Over the Top Kindness - again!

Phillipians 4:19
My God will richly fill your every need in a glorious way through Christ Jesus.

Throughout my life I have seen God supply my needs and the needs of my family (from my parents when I was younger, to my family now) again and again in surprising ways. God loves to surprise and delight us. He's looking for us to be looking to Him as our supplier, and with a grateful heart, and to be aware that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the father of lights,
with whom is no variableness or shadow of turning." James 1:17

This Christmas is a little thin. I always love opportunities like this to teach my children to be grateful for the things they ARE blessed with (which are abundant), and not always be seeking for the next thing. "Godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6

But of course, Christmas is also a time when it is a joy to see your children's eyes light up with delight at a gift they have desired.

Joshua has been asking for a gaming system. This is something absolutely out of the budget. He's asked several times. When he asks for something totally out of my power to provide I tell him "Joshua, I don't have the money, Just pray and ask the Lord for it." I have to admit, this was not a big step of faith on my part, it was more of a putting off of a persistent question for which I didn't have an answer.

Well, yesterday I was on a phone call with my sister in law in Florida. She told me they are purchasing a new gaming system for their children's Christmas gift and
asked if my children would like the old (perfectly good) Playstation II?

I was overwhelmed at her generosity, and astounded at the amazing kindness of God in answering a huge desire of my son's!

God is SO KIND! He so often gives us not only what we need, but even what we desire.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For Narnia! For Aslan!

I FINALLY got to see Disney's "Prince Caspian" (thanks to redbox). I loved it. I grew up cutting my teeth on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, along with his other fiction works, George MacDonald, Tolkien and many other giants of the faith who had the amazing ability to allegorically demonstrate truths of the Christian walk through fiction. To me, after the Bible, fiction has been one of the greatest means of learning eternal truths, and has impacted my life deeply. I, like 70% of the people in the world wish to be a writer, have always loved to write. Much of the reason being works like these. "If I could communicate, through stories that people would love to read, life changing truths." I have thought, "This would be a dream come true!"

Clive Staples Lewis said: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

The world mocks Christianity as "The Ultimate Fairy Tale." Could it be that it is because something in every fairy tale resonates within the heart of each person created by One who alone can fill the void in their hearts and the need for a Redeemer? Have they been lulled by the lie, THE lie that first entered the heart of Lucifer. "I will be like the Most High", which he then took to earth to tempt Eve with "You shall be as gods..." "You don't need God, you can fulfill your own destiny, indeed you are godlike, you are god!" A simple twist of the truth. God created us in His own image, to reflect Him and to become like Him. This is the destiny He created us for. The lie Satan would have us believe in bold or subtle form, is that we can live without God; that we don't need Him.

How my heart sang out as little Lucy stepped out of the woods alone, boldly drawing her tiny dagger as she faced a gigantic army of armed, grown men. She walked with confidence toward them... because she knew, behind her was Aslan, defender of those who put their trust in him! Fully able to defeat the enemy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

God's Amazing Supply

"My God shall supply ALL your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Living without a job is a walk of faith in the spirit. As we wait for the Lord to reveal His plan for Greg's career, we know God is totally in control. It does not prevent human (soulish) thoughts from infiltrating time to time. God has such gentle ways of reminding us that He is indeed our supply. We cannot look elsewhere for provision.
The other day, I was at the dollar store with $2 in cash to buy 2 loaves of bread. Greg waited outside in the car with the kids as I ran in. It's always exciting to find a bargain and I love that fact that the dollar store sells high end bread for a dollar!
I got my bread and was waiting in line to check out. There was an older black man checking out and a lady between us. As I waited and listened, it became evident that he was there buying toys for the Marine sponsored program "Toys for Tots". He was buying quite a lot, and each one had to be marked with a red sticker to identify it for that program. It was taking awhile, and the lady in front of me packed her things into her basket in a huff and went to a different register. The man felt bad. "I shouldn't be doing this when there's a lot of people here." He said. "Don't worry," i answered, "I don't mind waiting, it's for a good cause!" "See, she understands!" said the cashier. He looked at me and smiled. "I'm going to pay for her bread." he told the cashier. "No, you don't need to do that!" I said. "The Marine has spoken!" he answered with a twinkle in his eye. I thanked him for his kindness and explained how it was a blessing because of our situation. He payed for the bread and sent me on my way. I just laughed, because the Spirit of God was telling me, in this tiny way "See, I've got you! I am your supplier. I can supply your needs from so many sources, you can't even imagine!" Later, at Walmart, I took the $2 and put it in the Salvation Army bucket, knowing I could trust God to be my supply, and even when things were tight, keep my hands open to give freely at on the other side, to allow His blessing to flow through me, knowing He could quickly fill it up again.
In the morning of the same day, I was grinding my last bit of Starbucks coffee beans. wallowing in self pity "I will never be able to buy Starbucks coffee beans again. They're too expensive! I'll have to buy the cheapest coffee, or just quit drinking it altogether!" (which probably would be quite healthy anyway!)
Later that night, I was dropping Jessica off at her friend Samantha's house to spend time there, and Samantha's mom (My Pastor's wife, and children's ministry co-coordinator) handed me a card, and a gift wrapped in the cutest paper. I got in the car and was surprised that the car smelled so delicious like coffee! "Did I leave my coffee cup in here? i don't remember smelling this on the way here!" Suddenly, I realized it was the pretty package. I squeezed it, and ripped it open! Sure enough, there was a dark roast (my favorite) package of Starbucks coffee beans! INCREDIBLE!!!!! God so kindly, through precious people He had placed, twice in one day showed me that He cared even for my silly little selfish desires! he reminded me that HE IS MY SUPPLY! I am so thankful to be His child and to be part of this precious family of God! Thank you Carrie, thank you dear Marine. May God richly bless you with His supply and kindnesses, as you allowed Him to use you to bless me!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Weekend to Remember

My beautiful sister Rachel had won on the radio a couple's pass to FamilyLife's "Weekend To Remember". A couple's marriage retreat conference. With Rachel expecting # 7 and the stresses of life, she and Al were looking forward with great anticipation to this weekend away here in Greensboro.
When Greg lost his job, Rachel called soon after and told us she wanted to give this "Weekend to Remember" to us. After talking about it, we gratefully accepted it. The timing was incredible! Greg lost his job on Tuesday, and the retreat was the weekend following.

On Thursday, we had a family picnic/outing to a local park (Centennial Gardens). It is a peaceful park in the middle of Greensboro, with a bog garden across the street (a more natural habitat) that includes some small waterfalls. It was a gift from the Lord. We enjoyed a relaxing family time surrounded by the beauty of His amazing creation. We were silly together and colored each other's hair pink with poke berry juice.

Friday night, we checked into the hotel (Al and Rachel had given us a hotel room for the weekend also) and began the conference.
It was an incredible, refreshing weekend. It was so good to be able to re-connect. We have a great marriage, but every marriage takes tending and nurturing. They do not survive or thrive by accident.
It was so good to just be reminded of the order God has laid out for our marriages. I am always amazed at the order of God's plans for every detail of our lives. It reminds me that the train of our lives runs best and with the most purpose on the tracks He has designed for us. Within His plan is freedom to thrive, not the bondage the enemy would have us believe. It is GOOD!!!!!
We had a great date night, and it was all so good. One neat little thing that reminded me that God delights in granting us our heart's desires was: during one session, the speaker had just gone over the promotion of the book "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas. "That's the book I've wanted for a long time". I whispered to Greg. Minutes later, the speaker asked: "Who had parents who were a great example in their marriage?" Greg elbowed me "Your parents were" he said "Raise your hand." So I did. The speaker picked up "Sacred Marriage" from the table and gave it to me!!
The premise of the book is "What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy?" This is a burning message in my heart that I so long for people to know.
Disrespecting, not actively loving and rejecting our mates is all-out rejection of the good gift God has specifically given to us. When we do this, in a way we are rejecting God. He designed marriage to be an example of the relationship between Christ and the church. What a daunting task! But with a willing heart, and His grace and help, we can do it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Giving Christ the Wheel

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
~ Psalm 37:23, NLT

We are godly, because we are covered with the righteousness of Christ, not by our own righteousness (which is only filthy rags).

Greg has desired at his job to be a good steward of the trust God had given him there. But even before the frightening economic developments of the past few weeks, life often seemed like a game of one step forward, two steps back. We had been praying for months and even years for God's guidance and direction for Greg's career. He has been working as a sales manager at Dutch Barns for the last 11 years. Greg is tremendously loyal and dedicated, as well as with a low "change need" level. So, wanting to be sure to stay within the bounds of God's will, rather than being led astray only by our discontent, he stayed where he was. We prayed that if God wanted him elsewhere, He would make it CRYSTAL CLEAR.

In the past several months the growing frustration with his job, with a lagging economy suppressing sales in a business where he was selling buildings that are somewhat of a "luxury" (not a necessity), Greg knew that things could not go on as they were forever. About a week or so ago, Greg was impressed to pray and lay his job and future career and life completely at the altar. To give it to God. In his words he told me "I am just giving God the steering wheel." He chose again, to be content where God had blessed him with a job, to do it well to the best of his ability with a humble attitude of thankfulness, and allow God to work as He pleased.

I believe God works with us where we are. God often leads us with a sense of discontentment, but He also instructs us to live in contentment. There are those who would be out pounding the pavement the moment they felt an ounce of discontentment. There are those who would do nothing at all to make a change, ever. Greg is somewhere in between. I often call him "hyper-responsible", because he fulfills his commitments with admirable determination, and pursues his responsibilities with great loyalty and devotion.

Anyway, September 30th; (with God in the drivers seat) Dutch Barns informed Greg that his position was being cut (along with a few others), so he currently does not have a job. This of course came as a stunning shock. Any sudden change is always difficult to understand and deal with. It is sad to us, because it is the "end of an era." My father, brothers and brother-in-law all work there, and it's not only the loss of a job, but the loss of an environment where your co-workers are also your cheerleaders who want the best for you.

We all know that God works in ways that we do not understand, and the He is the One who is our ultimate provider. He is a dangerous God. But He loves us beyond our wildest comprehension. We look forward to see where God in the driver's seat plans to take us on this wild ride for this next portion of our lives.

Though we are stunned, we are thankful, because God has answered half of our prayers, and He could not have made that part any more CRYSTAL CLEAR! We know He holds our future in His hands, and we trust Him to continue to provide for our needs, just as He always has.

On a political note; with small (medium, and large) businesses that provide jobs for workers struggling in our economy, I pray the next President does not raise taxes on businesses, (and break the already burdened back of our economy) but lowers them in order to enable these businesses to survive and thrive, and provide jobs for families and people who are already being hurt by our lagging economy. If there is nothing for people to hope to achieve, but mere survival, it seems the American dream will not be worth working towards if we are merely punished for succeeding. It would be the rape of hope.

But with our government, as with our personal lives, our part is to do what we can, and trust God for the outcome. He sets up and tears down rulers. They will ultimately answer to Him, whether or not they acknowledge that. He will place and allow whomever He wishes to be in authority. We must trust Him in times of prosperity and in times of persecution. Our strength comes from the Lord.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Suffering and Trust

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.

Paul suffered in Asia, despairing even of life itself. I wonder how many of us have suffered to the point we despaired of life. I know I often feel "...burdened beyond measure, above strength." The questions accompanying suffering are some of the biggest in life; Why do people suffer? Looking at this from God's perspective, I think it can be answered very simply. It actually IS answered in the verse above; "that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." It all boils down to "Where are we putting our trust?" Not only is the answer simply given, but validation for the object of our trust is given. "...who raises the dead." How much more validation do we need? Of all the things that could happen to us, the worst would most likely be death. If He has a solution for this worst of fates, can we not trust that He also has solutions for everything else that we face?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Grandma's 100th Birthday Party

The end of June, about 50 + descendants and relatives of my Grandmother converged on the shores of Lake Michigan at the beautiful Illinois Beach Resort in Zion to celebrate my Grandma's 100th birthday. It was so much fun to be with so many relatives that I see once every few years. I flew with my sister Rachel and my brothers Brad and Dan (which was an awesome adventure in itself!) and we rented a Hummer (yeah, you read it right!) to drive there from the airport. The weekend's activities consisted of hanging out on the luscious lawn and catching up. My Uncle Rich played his guitar and we sang many songs together; A tradition I remember as a child.
My cousins could be seen in corners of the lobby knitting and chatting, while their children played in the pool or workout room.
The highlight of the weekend was the formal dinner where my Aunt Stevie interviewed Grandma. She never ceases to amaze me in her desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. She's delightfully human, and humorous. Always dignified and beautiful, but always gracefully witnessing to the goodness of her Lord. Her greatest desire for each of her descendants is that they would grow into the people God designed them to be. All the while giving Him the glory for it. In personal conversation after dinner she said to me; "If there were only one chapter in the Bible, I'd want it to be Romans 8." So here, in her honor, is the one chapter the Word of God for you to read at your leisure; (NLT) When you need to look up a passage of scripture, check out one of my favorite websites at

Romans 8
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
The Future Glory 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, 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. 27 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. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love 31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Grandma - Mabel Ball

I am about to go to Illinois for my paternal Grandmother Mabel Ball's 100th birthday party. I am flying with my sister Rachel and brother's Dan and Brad, and my 1 year old Grace. I am so excited about seeing my grandmother and many aunts, uncles and cousins I rarely see. My sister Tirzah gathered tributes or memories from children and Grandchildren. Below is mine.

Every thinking person hopes to create a legacy that will leave a positive impact on those who follow. When the time comes to handoff the baton to the next generations, our desire is that our counsel, example and influence; our very life was able to teach the ones that have been entrusted to our care the most valuable lessons we have learned. In the great relay race of life, my Grandma Ball has succeeded in this quest.

Growing up in Mississippi, we were able to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Illinois about once a year. I always remember walking into a house that was filled with the smell of delicious rolls or cookies baking. I remember the pewter “Give us this day our daily bread” server that Grandma always served her bread on. When she placed this on the table it signaled that it was time for the meal to begin. After of course giving thanks for the bountiful blessings God had provided. I remember the cozy smell of morning coffee that was a daily ritual at the Ball household (and to this day the inviting smell of coffee brings back memories of Grandma and Grandpa’s house).
Grandpa often publicly complimented Grandma on her beauty, and her warm service. She would act a little embarrassed, but I know she took to heart his loving pride in her. Even when we were very young, Grandma always made us feel like we had great value.

As I have grown older, each time I see Grandma, I am able to enjoy conversation with her on what has become the most valuable source of strength in my own life; God and His word. All through the years of joy and trial, there has been a dominant theme. Grandma has always chosen to trust only in the goodness of the Lord. She is in love with the Lord and His word. She has used her teaching gifts in Bible Studies, and daily conversations to always honor the Lord, and show His love in everything she does. This heritage and legacy is one that brings tears of gratefulness to my eyes. We live in a broken world, but God’s answers to the prayers of my grandmother, my parents and even the generations before them are a treasure that will be with me forever. This greatest gift: The introduction to a personal relationship with God, a gentle teaching that His word is the instruction book for life. He can be trusted with our very lives. For this gift I am most grateful to my dear Grandma Ball.