April 30, 2012

Names of God: Abba

I am so, so blessed to have an amazing dad. I mean, simply amazing. He’s a man of integrity who loved my mother and loves me and my brother with everything he is. 

But many people I know didn’t have the same experience with their earthly fathers. Their fathers didn’t stick around, or they were uncommitted, or abusive, or every other negative thing they could be.

So I can totally see how it would be difficult for some people to see God as “Father” and even more difficult to see Him as “Daddy,” which is what “Abba” means.

And yet, that’s what He is.

In her book Praying the Names of God, Ann Spangler says, “Rather than depicting God as a typical Middle Eastern patriarch who wielded considerable power within the family, [Jesus] depicted Him primarily as a tender and compassionate father, who extends grace to both the sinner and the self-righteous.”

I started thinking about all the ways that God exhibits the same characteristics I have seen in my own daddy (and of course, remembering that God is the model, and that ultimately, even our earthly fathers will sometimes fail us). Here’s the list I came up with.

Me and my awesome daddy
Good daddies guide us.
My own dad has given me wise counsel regarding any number of issues, from guys to college to growing in the Lord.

God gives us counsel in the Bible and provides other people to speak truth into our lives.

Good daddies give us comfort.
Oh, the countless times my daddy took me in his arms and held me when I cried…

And oh, the countless times I have cried out to God when my heart felt like it might burst, and He gave me a peace that surpassed all understanding.

Good daddies discipline us with love.
Telling us “no” can’t be easy, but loving daddies do it when something could harm us—and when we kick and scream and pout, they hold their ground because they love us that much.

God also tells us “no” sometimes, but it’s always for our greater good. It’s always to grow something in us, or to protect us from what is not His absolute best for us.

Good daddies carry us when we’re too weak to walk any more on our own.
I can remember a lot of times as a child when my dad hoisted me onto his back and let me ride when I was tired.

In the same way, when we can’t take another step emotionally, and even before we reach that point, God says, “Leave it at the foot of the cross. I will take it for you. I’ll even carry you if I need to.”

Good daddies protect us.
My own dad protected me from bullies, unrealistic expectations, and the world as much as he could.

And with God, there’s nothing like being held in the everlasting arms, safe and secure.

Good daddies provide for us.
My dad took care of our family. He sacrificed for us.

Abba takes care of us. He gives us exactly what we need, when we need it. He provided a sacrifice so that we could live.

***

Regardless of whether you were one who has/had a “good daddy” here on earth, know that God loves you and wants a relationship with you. He wants to guide you, comfort you, carry you, protect you, and provide for you.

More than anything, He wants to be your Daddy.

Your Turn: How has God been Abba in your life? What other parallels do you see between a good earthly daddy and the Lord?

April 27, 2012

Fun Friday: Birthdays!


Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday.

I think I’m more excited than him.

Ever since I was a kid, I have LOVED birthdays…everything about them. I think it’s because my mom would make such a big deal out of them. She’d come into my room first thing and wake me up with a LOUD rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

She also planned to coolest parties.

Like the time when I dressed like a little pirate and we had a treasure hunt in the backyard. Or the time when we played all these awesome relay games. Or the coolest Sweet Sixteen party ever, complete with great food and karaoke.

I was so blessed to have a mom who valued celebrating life like that, and it’s something I definitely want to pass on to my kids when I have them.

As for this weekend? We’re gonna party hard! And by that I mean, there’ll be lots of Coke Zero. Ha.

So what about you? Do you like celebrating birthdays? When is yours? What’s the best birthday party that’s ever been thrown in your honor or that you’ve ever thrown? What’s your favorite birthday memory?

*Photo by Sura Nualpradid

April 25, 2012

Names of God: Adonai


Last Sunday, my pastor said something that really, really struck me. And it happened to fit exactly in with one of the names of God I’ve been studying.

Coincidence? I think not.

He referred to the passage in Luke when Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ [Adonai] and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Adonai essentially means Master. As in, we’re God’s servants, and He’s master over us.

And yet, how often do we not do what our master tells us? How often do we beg for Him to change His mind and give us a different command? How often do we kick and scream and cry, telling Him He doesn’t know what He’s doing? That He’s mean for commanding a certain something? That He’s heartless and cruel?

Yeah, I’m thinking that if most servants acted like that in Biblical times, their masters would either have thrown them in jail or worse. In modern-day times, they’d be fired at the very least, left destitute and without provision.

But even though our God is master, He is also merciful. Something we soooo don’t deserve, but something I’m soooo thankful for.

So instead of wasting time complaining that our Master doesn’t know what He’s doing, we should wait and listen to His counsel. Because here’s what happens for those who do:

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:47-49)

Don’t you want to be like the man with a firm foundation? If we really consider God our Master, then let’s listen to what He says. That way, when the floods come—and they WILL come—we will be ready.

Your Turn: In your mind, what does it mean to serve and to follow the Good Master? What are some ways we can do that today?

**The winner of last week’s giveaway of author Jessica Nelson’s Love on the Range is Keli Gwyn! Keli, I’ll contact you about shipping info today.

April 23, 2012

How Doing Yard Work Improved My Marriage


My husband and I lived in apartments for the first four years of marriage. We were in grad school and it just worked best financially…cuz as all of you homeowners know, owning a home can be costly (especially when something breaks!).

One of the things my husband kept saying to me when we moved into our home was: “OK, so you’re going to help me with yard work, right?”

Uh. Riiiiiight.

See, when I was growing up, my mom did the “inside” chores and my dad did the “outside” chores. So naturally I assumed it would be the same with my own marriage. I’d clean the kitchen and the bathrooms, and my husband would mow the lawn and pull the weeds.

But my husband did not agree.

Fast forward a year after owning a home. I still hadn’t helped him once in the yard. Granted, I was completing my Master’s degree and spent every Saturday in the library studying. But as of last August, I no longer had that excuse.

But I still didn’t helped him, and eventually Mike stopped asking.

And I was relieved.

Then, last fall, we somehow got talking about the division of labor around our home. I think I was complaining about how I needed more help around the house. (Newsflash: Lindsay is not perfect after all! Ha!)

And then Mike gently reminded me that I’d never followed through with my “promise” to help with yard work.

Oops.

He was right. Here I was asking for his help, and yet, I had failed help him.  

So finally, I did.

And I discovered some stuff in the process.

His Love Language
I realized one of my husband’s love languages is quality time. But that quality time doesn’t look like mine. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my quality time means I learn every detail and we chat face to face about deep stuff.

My husband’s is shoulder-to-shoulder time just spent next to each other, working together toward a common goal.

It’s different than mine, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less valid.

And I showed him love by helping him with the common goal of yard work. Not glamorous. But love all the same.

What He Does
I realized he does a lot more than I give him credit for. Just doing my portion (picking up the branches he’d trimmed) tired me out and took me two hours…but he’d been doing double that work. It reminds me of the saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes; when you do it, it gives you a greater appreciation for that person and what he does.

I’m Kinda Selfish
When I saw just how much my husband does in addition to working full time, paying our bills, being a church deacon, teaching music lessons, fixing stuff around the house, and being an amazing husband and friend, well, I realized my own selfishness in not helping him with the yard sooner. Sure, I had certain expectations in my own head about what I should and shouldn’t have to do in our partnership. But that’s just it—it’s a partnership.

The next time my husband asks me for help with something, I want to listen and respond instead of dragging my feet and claiming “my right” to say no.

Your Turn: Has there been a time in your life when an expectation you held hurt a relationship (marriage or otherwise)? What have you learned about someone else through walking a mile (figuratively speaking!) in his/her shoes?

April 20, 2012

Fun Friday: Summer Vacays


I know it’s only April 20, but I’ve got summer on my mind.

Crazy to think that it’s snowing in other parts of the world, but here in Arizona, it’s gonna heat up real quick.

And with the heat comes fun times. Yes, it can be really, really hot, but that’s what pools are for, right?

Anyway, I’m excited for this summer for another reason: I get to go on a dream vacation!

My husband and I are headed to the Caribbean on a seven-day cruise the first week of July. We’ll relax, read, get sunburned (Well, I will. Hello, have you seen how white my skin is?!), explore, experience, and laugh.

Yep, I expect to laugh a lot.

So, even though it’s still a few months off, I’m dreamin’ of those summer nights aboard a cruise ship, when all my cares will be flung into the ocean.

I’m so blessed.

What about you? Looking forward to summer? Got any fun vacations planned this summer? If not, what was the best summer vacation you've ever taken?

*Photo by Luigi Diamanti

April 18, 2012

Getting to Know Author Jessica Nelson


I’m thrilled to be interviewing author Jessica Nelson today! I met Jessica online several months ago and have come to know her as an encouraging, honest, humble woman whose aim is truly to glorify the Lord.

Jessica’s debut novel, Love on the Range, just released through Love Inspired Historical. It’s a fun, romantic read with deeper truths woven in.

So, without further ado, let’s get to know Jessica a little better!

Tell me about the first story you ever wrote, no matter how old you were! How old were you, what was it about, and what was your inspiration for it?
Hmm. The first story I remember writing was in fifth grade. I think I was given an armadillo? So I believe I made him from Amarillo and once the story was written and illustrated, the teacher had it put into a book. That was the absolutely the most exciting thing to me!

That’s so cool! You’ve come a little ways from stories about armadillos. In fact, it’s no surprise you now write romance, since you married the week after graduating high school! Tell us more about your own love story.
Well, let’s just say my husband is a smooth talker. *grin* He told me I was beautiful and sweet and with all those compliments, of course I fell in love with him. It helped that he was cute, strong, and smelled really good (Cool Water cologne!). Our eleventh anniversary is coming up soon and it amazes me how quickly time has passed.

Aw, I love a good real-life love story! But your fictional story was fun too. Your main characters Gracelyn and Trevor seem nothing alike, especially at first. (They even get on each other’s nerves at the beginning!) Do you think it’s true that opposites attract in real life, or is that just great fodder for stories?
I think opposites attract at a certain level, because I believe every great couple balances each other out. I also think that at a deeper level there needs to be similar values though to keep a relationship strong.

For sure—I completely agree! So, your novel is set in Oregon during the Spanish influenza. What inspires you to choose the settings you do (including the place and the time period)?
The pictures I saw of Harney County, Oregon, were gorgeous, so that helped. The rates of influenza outbreaks were a little lower there, which is what originally inspired it as a setting. The influenza is also what put me in that time period. Before I wrote Love On The Range, I knew nothing about WWI or the influenza pandemic.

That’s certainly a challenge—but one you seemed to tackle head on! Your setting was made even more real with the use of animals (horses, kittens, etc.). What’s your favorite animal? Do you own any pets?
I don’t think I have a favorite. I really like horses and I have a cat. She’s a sweetie.

What has been the best part about your writing journey so far, whether it be an event that has occurred or a lesson you’ve learned?
Eeek! Most things about it I’ve loved, including meeting other writers and even getting rejections. It’s been a challenge and an adventure.  J

And we’ll end with a fun question: You’re locked in a room for a week and only allowed three items (no people allowed!). What are they?
Assuming chocolate, coffee, and wifi are provided, I’d need only my laptop. Heehee. 
 
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Any other socialite would view being packed off to a remote Oregon ranch as a punishment. But Gracelyn Riley knows that this is her opportunity to become a real reporter. If she can make her name through an interview with the elusive hero known as Striker, then she’ll never have to depend on anyone ever again.

Rancher Trevor Cruz can’t believe his secret identity is being endangered by an overly chatty city girl. But if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that Gracie’s pretty little snooping nose is bound to get her in trouble. So he’ll use her determination to find “Striker” to keep an eye on her…and stick close by her side.

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Jessica Nelson, in keeping with her romantic inclinations, married two days after she graduated high school. She believes romance happens every day, and thinks the greatest, most intense romance comes from a God who woos people to himself with passionate tenderness. When Jessica is not chasing her three beautiful, wild little boys around the living room, she can be found staring into space as she plots her next story. Or she might be daydreaming about a raspberry mocha from Starbucks. Or thinking about what kind of chocolate she should have for dinner that night. She could be thinking of any number of things, really. One thing is for certain, she is blessed with a wonderful family and a lovely life. You can connect with Jessica via her website (http://www.jessicanelson.net/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJessicaNelson).

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Jessica has generously agreed to give away a copy of Love on the Range to a random commenter! Only U.S. residents are eligible. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments to be entered.

Your Turn: If you’re a writer, what has been the best part about your writing journey so far, whether it be an event that has occurred or a lesson you’ve learned? If you’re not a writer, what’s YOUR favorite animal and why?

April 16, 2012

Names of God: Elohim

The Three Sisters area in Scotland

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

I love the outdoors. The beauty of a sunrise in the crisp morning. The awesome wonder of a full moon. The power of the waves that surge and crash on the beach.

And yet, sometimes I forget—it didn’t just happen. There was a Creator behind it all.

In her book Praying the Names of God, Ann Spangler says that the ancient name Elohim “contains the idea of God’s creative power as well as His authority and sovereignty.”

I remember distinctly a time when God used His creation to speak to me. I was in Europe on a summer study abroad trip. My mom had just passed away less than a year earlier. My soul needed healing. I needed to know that, somehow, my life mattered.

Upper Lake near Glendalough in Ireland
And I found that in the British Isles. Lush green mountains, lakes that glistened, majesty beyond what I could have believed (remember, I live in the desert!). I’d seen pictures, but nothing compared with standing on a mountaintop, the wind breezing past me, and hearing the Creator of the Universe speak to my soul.

And you know what He said?

I’m a purposeful Creator.

At first, I thought it meant that He’d formed each of these amazing sights I was seeing on purpose. Every mountain, every rock, every stream glorified His name and was there because He’d created it.

And it did mean that.


But then, He spoke to my soul again, and revealed an even deeper truth.
Me and the Irish countryside
 
I’m a purposeful Creator.

It dawned on me. He’d created all of this beauty around me, but He’d also created me. He’d placed me in this world at just the right moment, with just the right family, in just the right place. He knew what I would experience and go through, how I’d doubt and question. He was sovereign and had full authority over my life and over the whole world. (And still does!)

I realized my life has purpose because He created me.

And I was created for a purpose: to glorify Him, the Creator. To glorify Elohim.

Your Turn: Has God ever used His creation to speak to you? If so, how?

April 9, 2012

Takin' a Break...

As the title of this post indicates, I'm taking a short break from blogging this week (though I may pop in here or there).

See, I don't get a spring break anymore, but I decided to give myself one. (insert cheesy grin here)

I hope you all had a fabulous Easter and have a great week!

I'll return to the blogosphere Monday, April 16. Same blog time. Same blog channel...er.

Until we meet again...

Your Turn: Did you have a good Easter weekend? What did you do?

April 6, 2012

The Beautiful, Terrible Cross

Last Sunday, our church choir sang a song* that’s stuck with me. It was called “Beautiful, Terrible Cross.”

My first thought: How can something be both terrible and beautiful?

Another oxymoron: Today is known as Good Friday. But it commemorates the day Jesus died. How can that be good?

It got me thinking about life in general, how there are so many tragedies that occur, but how God turns ashes into beauty. What was intended for evil, God used for good.

I thought of how this concept applies to my own life.

My mom suffered for four long years with cancer. She died when I was 19.

Terrible.

As a result, at her funeral, 15 people raised their hands to say they accepted Christ into their lives. As a result, I came to truly know God.

Beautiful.

Then I thought of how this concept applies to a friend’s life.

In the last few years, this friend** miscarried twice and had to deliver her deceased 20-week child…on Father’s Day.

So, so terrible.

As a result, she and her husband are pursuing adoption. A child who wouldn’t have had a home will have two loving parents who couldn’t want him or her more.

Amazingly beautiful.

Then I thought of how this concept applies to the world.

Sin has infested the world. People do awful things to each other. Sickness strikes. Tragedy prevails left and right.

Terrible.

And so Jesus died a horrible death. Nailed to a cross. Bleeding from his side. A mocking crown of thorns jammed down on his head. Punishment for things he never did.

Terrible.

As a result, we were given life. Hope in this life and the next. Love unending.

Beautiful.

And so now I understand. What a terrible, beautiful cross.

Your Turn: What reflections do you have on this Good Friday?


*If you want to hear the song I’m referring to, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsam4AJiPaA

**To learn more about my friend, Karen Harrison, and her family’s journey, visit their website at http://ouradoptionfaithwalk.blogspot.com

***Photo from ourordinarylife.com

April 4, 2012

Names of God: Jehovah-Jireh

All in all, I’m very blessed.

Roof over my head. More food than I probably should eat. Nice clothes. A loving husband, amazing family, great friends. A job that I enjoy. Time to pursue my dreams.

And yet, I still need more.

I’m not talking more stuff. I’m talking about something that’s deeper. Something felt in my very soul, something that resonates to the core of my being.

Because that job I have? I could be laid off.

That house I have? It could be repossessed.

That food? Those clothes? Those relationships? All of it could be gone, gone, gone in an instant.

Real joy doesn’t come in having the stuff.

Real joy comes from knowing that there’s Someone out there, providing for us.

Someone who knows our needs…and does something to meet them.

Someone who, when all else fails, is there to give us exactly the “right amount.”

Perhaps even Someone who changes our “needs” so we are more content with what we do have.

Who is that Someone?

Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Who Provides.

Moses thanked the Lord for providing a sacrifice so he didn’t have to give his son Isaac as one.

As Easter approaches, we give thanks for the Ultimate Sacrifice: Jesus died so we don’t have to.

What amazing provision.

What amazing love.

“Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God, shouldst die for me?”

Your Turn: How has God shown himself as Jehovah-Jireh in your life?
*Photo from http://travancoreann.wordpress.com

April 2, 2012

Shake It Up Monday

A vanilla shake. Get it? Shake it up... 
I know that Fridays are generally when I have the more “fun” posts, but on this Monday, I feel like shaking it up.

So I’m gonna.

So, here’s the deal. Last week, my friend Jessica R. Patch participated in a virtual game of tag where she answered 11 questions and told some random stuff about herself. (Check out Jessica’s blog here.)

Jessica asked her readers to answer 11 questions on their blogs. I’m not totally following the rules, because I’m not continuing the tag, but I figured you guys could get over my lack of rule following and love me anyway.

So, without further ado…my answers to some fun questions.

Chocolate or vanilla and why?
Sigh, I know my mom would disown me if she heard this, but vanilla. Hello, my name is Lindsay, and I’m a vanilla girl! But that doesn’t mean I’m boring! You can just mix so many things in with vanilla (Oreos…gummy bears…yes, I love Cold Stone), and vanilla goes well on top of various desserts (pile on the calories, baby!).

And I just like it, OK? Why do I have to justify myself, Jessica? Why?

Have you ever shoplifted? Ever thought about it?
Heck no, are you kidding? I’ve always been an extreme rule follower…until now, with this tagging game. Ha.

Colored polish or French manicure?
While I admit that I love hot pink polish, I always opt for the French tips. Probably because I rarely get my nails done (and never do my own), and when I do, it’s usually for a special occasion.

On a side note, one of my friends is really freaked out by French pedicures. I don’t know why, but they creep her out. *shrugs shoulders*

Where's the last place on earth you'd want to visit and why?
Uh, Alaska in the winter, I guess? (Even though my aunt and uncle are there…they’d be the only reason I’d go in winter! But four hours of daylight…really?! And you know this desert girl would be shaking in my probably-not-warm-enough boots.)

What's your least favorite food?
Seafood!! Blah…Good thing I live in Arizona and not Florida or Maine or something where seafood is, like, a staple.

How many licks do you think it really does take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?
107.5 licks. That half-lick (0.5) is extremely crucial.

Hotels or camping?
The older I get, the more I say hotels! But we’ve had lots of fun memories camping. When my husband was in law school, sometimes camping was the only vacation we could afford. Though I have to say, it’s the worst thing in the world when you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s raining…and you have to pee. Like, now. No amount of talking yourself into going back to sleep helps because you just keep hearing the pitter patter on the tent wall…ugh. Makes me shudder just thinking about it!

Which celebrity that is alive (there is no Jesus loop-hole here, people) would you like to meet and why?
I always wanted to sing a duet with Josh Groban…

Do you have a smart phone? Can you live without it? Be honest...okay you can. Would you want to? Be honest.
Yes. No. I would die a slow, cruel death without my daily Internet feed. Seriously. I’m not joking here. Not. Even. Joking.

If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why?
A bird so I could fly…or a horse so I could gallop.

Home-cooked or 5-star meal?
Home cooked all the way. I mean, I like going out to nice restaurants, but don’t 5-star meals usually involve eating something…unusual? Let’s just say I don’t have very sophisticated taste buds…

Your Turn: Which celebrity that is alive (there is no Jesus loop-hole here, people) would you like to meet and why?

*On Wednesday, I’ll be continuing my Names of God series, talking about Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord Who Provides. I’d love for you to chime in.