Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nineveh Or Bust

Picture yourself heading out on a trip.
A trip you want no part of.
You are "supposed" to go somewhere for your Father.
Somewhere you REALLY don't want to go.
Your Father says, "Go to Nineveh."
But the directions You printed off of Map Quest to get you there have you heading straight for Tarshish.
A city in the opposite direction.
But you keep going there anyway.

This is the situation Jonah found himself in. Minus Map Quest, of course.

Jonah 1: 1-3
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

Jonah intentionally boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction of where the LORD told him to go.

Have you ever done that? I know I have, even though I know there is no where I can run to that God doesn't follow me.

Jeremiah 23:24
"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.

So many times in this life, we run from what we know is right, because it's too hard. We choose instead to head straight to what is wrong, because it seems easier. It's familiar. It's comfortable.

Problem is, that comfortable feeling doesn't last for long.

It's fleeting.

Then one day you wake up and find yourself in a very uncomfortable place having to finally face yourself. Face your mistakes. Face your fears.

Just like Jonah did.

Jonah 1: 4-17

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.

Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Can you imagine? He was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights. Alone. In the dark. Surrounded by what must have been the foulest odor imaginable.

Jonah was definitely uncomfortable.

I've often wondered why God stuck Jonah in the belly of a huge fish to get his attention. As I was talking to my friend the other day about a difficult period in my life, she pointed something out to me that I had never thought of before. During that time, all of my friends seemed to scatter. I was left alone. Or so I thought. It wasn't until years later that I realized God had my friends scatter, so He could get my full attention to help me work through my problems. Maybe that's why God stuck Jonah in the belly of the huge fish as well. There was no escape. There was no one to run to or talk to for comfort. No distractions. It was just Jonah and God.

After his days and nights in the belly of the huge fish, Jonah prayed to the LORD.

Jonah 2: 1-9

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”

Jonah finally got it. After three days and nights in the belly of the huge fish, he finally got it, so the LORD set him free.

Jonah 2:10
And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah 3: 1-3
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.

The LORD told him a second time to go to Nineveh.

I would imagine the stench of the vomit alone would have kept Jonah on the right track the second time.

Scripture says that Nineveh was a large city that took him three days to get through. Three days. He sat in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights.

I've read before that the number three in Scripture is used of God to signify His Purpose or His Will. That's interesting to me. Every single word of Scripture is significant. As is every seemingly small detail of our lives. We need to see God in the details. We tend to see Him only in the BIG things that happen in our lives, instead, we should see Him in ALL the things that happen in our lives. God is in to details.

If Jonah had listened to and obeyed the LORD the first time he told him to go to Nineveh, he could have made that same trip in a more timely manner without stinking to high heaven.

Thankfully, the LORD loves us and is patient with all of us. He is the God of Second Chances.

The Bible is full of stories of men and women just like you and me that made mistakes in their lives, yet God did not give up on them.

He will NOT give up on you either.

1 Chronicles 16:34
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."

Are you heading to Tarshish in your life right now, even though you know the LORD has called you to go to Nineveh?

One way or another, you will have to go to (your) Nineveh just like Jonah did. It's up to you if you want to arrive there earlier and smelling nice, or if you want to show up later with the stench of vomit on you.

"Remember, if you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns!" ~Allison Gappa Bottke

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

♫ Get This Party Started ♫

With Labor Day Weekend coming up, I decided to share this recipe for cheese dip with all ten of you again. It's a family favorite. And probably the only reason I ever get invited anywhere.

Do you pop out at parties? Are you unpoopular?

Well, today, I am going to show you how to make the ultimate cheese dip....Once you take this dip to your next church potluck or family will be the most poopular person at the party. (Just kidding!)

So join me in my kitchen, and I'll show you how to make the magic happen in yours.

Here's all you will need to help you pop out at parties.

The first step in making this cheesy goodness is to cut the cheese. (Just ignore me; I live with three boys. Sorry.)

You only need one pound of cheese for this recipe.

Now cut the cheese (again, just ignore me) into cubes. Like so.

Now get out a small saucepan and a can opener. (See how rustic we are; that's right, you can't plug that can opener in. It's a manual know, so I can cook while the power is out!)

Now dump pour the rotel into your saucepan.

The next thing you will need to do is to add one-fourth teaspoon of black pepper. Like this.

Now throw in one teaspoon of garlic powder. Trust me; it will be goooooood!

The last spice you will add is ground cumin. Just toss in one teaspoon of that as well. (This is the secret ingredient; but don't tell anybody.)

Grab a spoon, and stir it all together. Like so.

Place your saucepan on the stove and bring the rotel and spices to a boil. Let them boil for about two minutes. Then remove from heat. (Thanks!)

Now you are ready to dump the cheese that you just cut (sorry) into the blender. Like so.

Then dump pour the rotel and spices right over the cheese. (Be careful though; it's hot!)

It should look something like this.

Now for the most important step of this entire recipe.....Make sure the lid to your blender is on good and tight!

Put your blender on the High speed and blend.
(Note to self: Next time remember to clean the blender before showing it to tens of people on the internet.)

When it is all blended together and looks something like this picture, it is ready!

Now it is time to dump pour it all into your serving bowl. Like this. Mmmmmmmmm!

If you stick your finger in it accidentally get some on your finger, feel free to lick it off......I won't tell anybody!

Now for the "official" taste test. Grab a chip and dip it.


If you still have some left after the taste test is finished.......quickly leave the house and head to the party.....(Trust me on this; if you don't leave quickly, the cheese dip could possibly disappear before you are able to get out of the house. This has often never happened to me, of course, but I've heard stories.)

When you arrive at the "party" carrying a bowl of this cheese dip and a bag of chips.......

All eyes will be on you, and you will start to hear Pink's voice singing in your ears.

Then you'll dance with your cheese dip and chips all the way across the room.

That's right!

Like this........

I'm coming up so you better get this party started
I'm coming up so you better get this party started

(get this party started)

Making my connection as I enter the room
everybody is chillin'
as I set up the groove
Pumpin up the volume
with this brand new beat
everybody's dancin'
and they're dancin' for me
I'm the operator
you can call anytime
I'll be your connection to
the party line

I'm coming up so you better get this party started
I'm coming up so you better get this party started
I'm coming up so you better get this party started
I'm coming up so you better get this party started

Okay, well maybe I'm exaggerating a lot a little bit, but trust me, if you take this cheese dip to the next social gathering that you are invited'll get invited back!

I'm just saying is all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fairy Tales, Storms, & Stuff

After 20 years of marriage, Shannon and I finally got to do something we have been talking about for several years. We renewed our wedding vows in a ceremony on the beach.

It was a very sweet and private affair. Just Shannon, me, the minister, the ocean and sand, and God.

During the ceremony, the minister said to us, "After 20 years of marriage, I'm sure you two have been through all kinds of stuff." To which we both very romantically gazed into each other's eyes.....and laughed out loud.

We have definitely been through some "stuff." To say the least.

All marriages go through "stuff." That's an absolute given. It's how you handle the "stuff" that life throws at your marriage that makes the difference between the marriage ending or lasting.

A lot of people like to compare "stuff" in marriages. Since we have made it for 20 years, many people assume that our "stuff" wasn't as difficult as their "stuff," so that's why our marriage has lasted this long.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We have had to work through our "stuff" just like every one else. Nothing worth having in this life is easy. Nothing. Even good marriages.

In the Book of Matthew, there is the story about the wise and the foolish builders.

Matthew 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

If you look closely, you'll notice in these verses that the storms the two houses faced were exactly the same. The only difference was their foundations.

God doesn't want us to focus on the storms in our marriage; He wants us to focus on our foundations.

If God is the foundation in your marriage, you can weather any storm.

The rain can come down.
The streams can rise.
The winds can blow.
But with God as your foundation, your marriage can still stand.

Shannon and I are living proof of that.

We are by no means a "perfect" couple. There is no such thing this side of Heaven. However, we are a perfectly flawed couple, weathering the storms that life throws at us together with God.

During our vow renewal ceremony, the minister said, "You two are promising to love each other for always."


The preacher did not know this, but around my neck was a necklace that I purchased to wear for that special day. It was a little silver heart on a chain with the word always inscribed on it.

Always is now our new favorite word.

The verses on our rings are from Solomon 6:3. "I am my beloved's. My beloved is mine."

This post is not to judge anyone that has had a marriage end due to the storms that happened in their life, but to encourage those of you who are or who one day will be in a marriage to not compare the storms you face in your relationship to the storms of any other couple. Focus only on your marriage and the foundation on which your marriage is built. Work on weathering the storms together with God.

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Later in the evening after our vow renewal, we received the disc of all of our pictures from the ceremony. Imagine our surprise as we were scrolling through all of them and saw this one.

It's our personal favorite.

I once read that what makes a fairy tale so wonderful is not the absence of dragons....but the slaying of them.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Shunammite Woman

The woman I read about this week in my devotional book is "The Shunammite Woman."

Her story has SO many facets that I want to discuss (and I will do another post in the future about her), but there is one in particular today that really touches me. It has to do with her hope in the face of unimaginable pain.

The Shunammite Woman's story is found in 2 Kings 4: 8-37.

8 One day Elisha went to Shunem, where an important woman lived. She begged Elisha to stay and eat. So every time Elisha passed by, he stopped there to eat.9 The woman said to her husband, "I know that this is a holy man of God who passes by our house all the time.10 Let's make a small room on the roof[a] and put a bed in the room for him. We can put a table, a chair, and a lampstand there. Then when he comes by, he can stay there."
11 One day Elisha came to the woman's house. After he went to his room and rested,12 he said to his servant Gehazi, "Call the Shunammite woman."

When the servant had called her, she stood in front of him.13 Elisha had told his servant, "Now say to her, 'You have gone to all this trouble for us. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak to the king or the commander of the army for you?' "

She answered, "I live among my own people."

14 Elisha said to Gehazi, "But what can we do for her?"

He answered, "She has no son, and her husband is old."

15 Then Elisha said to Gehazi, "Call her." When he called her, she stood in the doorway.16 Then Elisha said, "About this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms."

The woman said, "No, master, man of God, don't lie to me, your servant!"

17 But the woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son at that time the next year, just as Elisha had told her.

18 The boy grew up and one day went out to his father, who was with the grain harvesters.19 The boy said to his father, "My head! My head!"

The father said to his servant, "Take him to his mother!"20 The servant took him to his mother, and he lay on his mother's lap until noon. Then he died.21 So she took him up and laid him on Elisha's bed. Then she shut the door and left.

22 She called to her husband, "Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys. Then I can go quickly to the man of God and return."

23 The husband said, "Why do you want to go to him today? It isn't the New Moon or the Sabbath day."

She said, "It will be all right."

24 Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, "Lead on. Don't slow down for me unless I tell you."25 So she went to Elisha, the man of God, at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her coming from far away, he said to his servant Gehazi, "Look, there's the Shunammite woman!26 Run to meet her and ask, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the boy all right?' "

She answered, "Everything is all right."

27 Then she came to Elisha at the hill and grabbed his feet. Gehazi came near to pull her away, but Elisha said to him, "Leave her alone. She's very upset, and the Lord has not told me about it. He has hidden it from me."

28 She said, "Master, did I ask you for a son? Didn't I tell you not to lie to me?"

29 Then Elisha said to Gehazi, "Get ready. Take my walking stick in your hand and go quickly. If you meet anyone, don't say hello. If anyone greets you, don't respond. Lay my walking stick on the boy's face."

30 The boy's mother said, "As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I won't leave you!" So Elisha got up and followed her.

31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the walking stick on the boy's face, but the boy did not talk or move. Then Gehazi went back to meet Elisha. "The boy has not awakened," he said.

32 When Elisha came into the house, the boy was lying dead on his bed.33 Elisha entered the room and shut the door, so only he and the boy were in the room. Then he prayed to the Lord.34 He went to the bed and lay on the boy, putting his mouth on the boy's mouth, his eyes on the boy's eyes, and his hands on the boy's hands. He stretched himself out on top of the boy. Soon the boy's skin became warm.35 Elisha turned away and walked around the room. Then he went back and put himself on the boy again. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha called Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite!" So he did. When she came, Elisha said, "Pick up your son."37 She came in and fell at Elisha's feet, bowing facedown to the floor. Then she picked up her son and went out.

A lot takes place in between verses 8 and 37. But what I want to talk about today is what she says at the end of verse 23 when asked by her husband about why she was going to see the man of God now at this time on this day...she simply responded, "It will be all right."

Her son had just died. The son that this man of God had promised her. The son that she wanted so desperately that she couldn't even let herself dream of ever actually having him. This son, was gone. Dead.

Yet she says, "It will be all right."

She was obviously very upset, but she did not run to her husband in panic. She held on to hope and went straight to the man of God that had promised her this son. She went to him. With hope in her heart. With the hope that if God could bring this miraculous baby into her life to begin with.....He could most assuredly bring him back to life in the same miraculous way.

And He did.

It's hard to imagine having that kind of hope.

Just after reading the Shunammite Woman's story, I watched the Diane Sawyer interview with Jaycee Dugard. I'm sure most of you are very familiar with her unbelievable story. If not, click here to read about Jaycee Dugard.

It was a powerful interview to say the very least.

All I could think when listening to Jaycee speak was....Jaycee is a modern day Shunammite Woman.

When Diane asked Jaycee questions about her ordeal and how she managed to survive it, she said so many things that really touched me. Overwhelmed me. Humbled me.

"You just do what you have to do to survive."

"Sometimes you have to hold onto any hope to survive."

"I was still alive. There was still hope."

She suffered and survived through unimaginable horrors. Horrors that precious few could even ever comprehend, let alone survive and thrive. Yet in her heart she held onto the hope, much like the Shunammite woman, that one way or another, "It will be all right."

Here is a picture of Jaycee Dugard today.

You'll notice in the picture that she is wearing a necklace with a pinecone charm hanging from it. (You can purchase one of these necklaces from the JAYC Foundation, INC. The money raised through the sales of these necklaces goes to help families that are recovering from abduction and other traumatic experiences.)

Jaycee said, “Back then (the pinecone) was the last thing I touched. You know, the last grip on me. Now, it’s–it’s a symbol of hope and new beginnings. And that–there is life after something tragic....” Dugard told Sawyer that she now wears a symbol of a pinecone around her neck to remind her of the hope that helped her endure 18 years of captivity and the long-delayed freedom she now enjoys.

Jaycee went on to say, "I am so lucky and blessed for all the wonderful things I do have. Even if it is just one thing or person you have to be thankful for, that is enough."

Like the Shunammite Woman, Jaycee held onto hope. In circumstances that most of us will never have to endure, they both held onto hope. They both believed that one way or another, "It will be all right."

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." ~Hebrews 11:1

I'll never look at a pinecone the same way again. Pinecones have been a nuisance to me in the past, as they fill up our yard and make mowing the grass quite difficult. But now, I will see them longer nuisances, but symbols of hope.

I'll end with this prayer.

Lord, thank you for sharing with us the story of the Shunammite Woman and for the unbelievable spirit of Jaycee Dugard. Now when I face troubles of any kind...whether relational, physical, financial, or spiritual, regardless of the outcome and no matter how painful the situation may be for me at the time, like Jaycee Dugard and the Shunammite Woman, I know that I, too, can boldly say with You in my life, "It will be all right." In Jesus' Sweet Name, Amen.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." ~Hebrews 10:23