Shouting from the Rooftops!

 I actually watched the Astros win the World Series. I am not a sports fan. As a matter of fact, my husband doesn’t watch sports either. But I got pulled in to the excitement and the anticipation of this great win for the team and for our city of Houston. And yes I am one of those that only watched the last two games!  I’m even thinking about getting a t-shirt. Would I stand in line all night waiting for a store to open to get one—no. That’s what many people did. They were so excited and couldn’t wait to get their shirts that it made me think, “Why aren’t people this excited about God?” Why don’t people stand in line waiting for the sanctuary doors to open? Now of course I’m not dissing the Astros…they worked hard to win that title. I’m proud of the team and our city needed an uplifting event after the horrors of Harvey. The Astros worked together to bring about this victory. Though I know one got the title of MVP, there would be no MVP without the rest of the team. As a church, we should see how every member of the team is necessary. Every member of the body of Christ is necessary and we all work together as a team to fulfill the mission of making disciples. We can’t all be preachers (can you imagine?)! However, we can do what we do to the best of our ability to make the team/church work for the good and glory of God. But somehow, somewhere along the way, many have lost their enthusiasm for team Jesus. Just like the enthusiasm for the Astros was contagious, our enthusiasm for Jesus can be too. I would have never watched the games if not for the desire to be a part of this thing that was happening. We want others to experience our enthusiasm for our faith so that they want to become a part of this Kingdom fulfillment that is happening. Matthew 10.27 reads, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” Have you been proclaiming from the rooftops or do others even know you’re a Christian?  Get excited about your faith. After all, what could be more exciting than salvation?

Blessings,
Rev. Deanna
 
Standing and Kneeling

Well, we got along for a little while. People rescuing people. Everyone coming to the aid of the flood victims. State helping state. There was a kind of unity that is heavenly! But it didn’t last long. Oh how we are like the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, forgetting what God has done for us! Our country is moving on to the next divisive thing. Unfortunately, this debate over the national anthem—stand or kneel—has gotten out of hand. In my opinion, there is only one to whom my knee will bow, my Almighty Savior. Kneeling is an act of reverence, submission and obeisance (Romans 14.11).Turning it into protest somehow doesn’t seem right to me. Don’t get me wrong, we live in a great country where we are free to speak our minds, but I am confused about the way this protest is being manifested. Being an American, I stand for the national anthem because I appreciate those who have fought for my freedom and this is one way to honor them. There are so many that have given life or limb so that we can have our freedoms. I’m struggling to see how disrespecting those people has anything to do with anything. As we stand before the flag and the anthem is sung, Americans are just that—Americans. The people who fought, and fight, for our freedoms do it for every American, no matter color, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, and gender. I’m not saying “don’t protest”. I’m asking, “please don’t do it in this way”. Let’s honor the reason that we have the freedom to protest and do it somewhere else. Let’s be the UNITED States of America and stand for the flag.  As for me, I will always stand for the flag and kneel only at the cross.

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna
 
 
 

Find God.

Warning. This devotion may give you the willies. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. Last Saturday evening, Scott and I took my two daughters and their girls to a restaurant for dinner. We have been to this place many times before. Because there were 7 of us, they put us in a booth that you have to step down into after you take your shoes off.  Yes, it was a Japanese restaurant. As I’m getting in, I’m thinking—hope I can get out. Anyway, we are sitting there waiting for our main course and both Vic and I see at the same time something fall from the wall onto the booth right next to Wee. Wee didn’t see it. We are trying so hard to take care of this without scaring her but to no avail. She sees this gigantic roach and she screams at the top of her lungs the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard. Then her scream gives way to crying. I don’t blame her. The waiter comes over and we apprise him of the situation. He tries to take care of it. Now I’m still sitting on the other side of the table—blocked in.  And he says, “It’s coming for you.” No, I didn’t scream. But I did say to Scott and Vic, “Get out! Get out!”  I had no problem exiting that booth. Ok. So he got it. The owner comes over and makes excuses for the roach and says, “I’m taking 20% off your meal.” I am dumbfounded by this. Who wants to eat now anyway? As we are discussing the 20% among the adults, Eliza says, “That’s very nice of the man, isn’t it?” You see, I was considering what I would do next, and it didn’t include calling him nice. Should he have given us our meal for free (the meal I couldn’t eat)? Yes. We had a choice to make—follow the lead of Eliza or make a scene. We followed her lead. We gave that poor waiter a nice tip—after all, he was my hero. We will never go back to the place. But all in all, I think we handled the situation well after the little child led us.  I always say, it’s not our circumstances that define us, but instead how we react to them. We could have been angry jerks. But what good would come from that? Jesus was never a jerk. Jesus always handled everything in love and compassion. He didn’t make excuses, He just made a way for us to do the same. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19.14). Little children have a great sense of love, trust, and faith. This child didn’t focus on the circumstances, but saw the best in the situation. Maybe more of us should be like this. What are you dealing with today that makes you want to scream and cry? Find the good in today. It’s there because God is there with you every step of the way. (I warned you this devotion might give you the willies.)

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna M. Young

Be Healed

One member of my congregation has been dealing with nasty kidney stones. As most of you probably know, kidney stones are terribly painful. I, thankfully, have never had them. My husband has and it brought him to his knees. The thing with kidney stones is most often they need to be taken care of by a surgeon. Carrying them around is painful; having them removed is painful. But ohhh, how much better it feels when they are gone. Carrying around guilt, unforgiveness, and worry is painful; learning how to let go of guilt, and worry can be painful as well.  Sometimes we let it go, and then we take it back. I call it boomerang guilt or worry. We just can’t seem to believe that God holds us guiltless because of our faith in Jesus. We just can’t seem to fully trust God. We worry about the guilt. We worry about not feeling guilty. We worry about other people’s guilt. We worry about our children, our parents, our country, our church and sometimes we worry about our future with God. Guilt, unforgiveness, and worry are emotionally painful and spiritually unproductive. These are heavy burdens to carry around. If we go to the surgeon for kidney stones, then why wouldn’t we go to our Heavenly Physician to help with these spiritual maladies…ohhh how much better we would feel. Jesus tells us time and again not to worry. He showed us on the cross how important we are to God and how forgiving He is. He died so that our guilt could die. He lives so that we could live guiltless, forgiven lives. He lives forevermore, and so can we. James 5:15-16 reads, “And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick. The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power to prevail.” Be healed, my beloved. You have no idea how good it will feel!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

Caring

I, like anyone else that lives in the Houston area, or the Rockport area, or the Beaumont, Lake Charles, Vidor area, am emotionally drained these days. This, I’m sure, comes as no big surprise to those of you who live in or near these areas. You might say, “Well, I’m tired of hearing about disaster recovery.” However, my beloved, we cannot put disaster recovery aside. We must be in it for the long haul because it will be a long haul. For some who feel like they cannot contribute to the recovery process for physical, financial or other reasons—I say, “Yes, you can!” We can continue to pray into this process. Some who are older and cannot muck out homes, there are many other things that can be done—putting together flood buckets, cooking a hot meal for someone, picking up their prescriptions, the list is endless. I was taking a day of rest and finding that I still needed to do something productive. I baked some cookies, went and picked up 4 of my young grandchildren, picked up water and then we drove around one of the neighborhoods that had been flooded. The idea was to hand out cookies and waters to the people mucking out the homes. I told my grandchildren what we were going to do and I asked them “Why are we doing this?”  My 5 year old granddaughter, Madeline said, “Well, Mawmaw, I’m doing it because I care about people.” My heart swelled and I said, “That’s right!” Out of the mouths of babes. We do all of this because we care about people. And, because we care, it can be very emotional. But, here’s the thing my beloved, we must choose to see the good and the God in the recovery process. We must choose to be hopeful and positive about the future—because we have a God that is all about the future of His people. God knows our suffering and God is with us. God is working and God’s people are joining Him in His work. God is present and powerful, healing and soothing, guiding and encouraging all of us to do what we can. Our church has been collecting and giving out food, water, diapers, clothing. We are a small church but we are doing what we can. Some of our people will be helping our adopted school to register all the displaced children in their new schools. Some are helping their children’s teachers. Some are serving at the George R. Brown shelter. These are disciples of Jesus Christ serving as Christ taught them to serve (John 13:12-16). There will be plenty of opportunity to serve in this recovery process. Let us spread hope as we serve with smiles on our faces. Let us do it because we care about people.

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna M. Young

Unity 

There are no words to explain how I am feeling today. The thing is, I didn’t have to evacuate. I didn’t lose my car. My house wasn’t flooded. My family is safe. There are still no words to explain how I am feeling today—but I will try. I am sad and I am grateful. I am emotional and exhausted but ready to work. I can’t even imagine how those people feel who lost their homes, cars, employment, and some who lost loved ones. I try to imagine but I cannot. All I know is that this disaster changed many lives forever. Because I am a part of this city, then it has changed mine as well. Every time I watch the news of rescues and see the devastation…I find myself in tears and also find myself needing to do something. Our church is doing something. Our little church is providing food, water, etc. to those in need. And prayer. We pray with every person that comes to receive. And so they receive physical help and prayer. It never seems like enough, but there will be help needed for a very long time—both physical and spiritual. But, if I can help people understand that God is present in the recovery process—through the hands and feet of strangers—but that God did not DO this to them, I will have helped build one bridge to hope. The way people are helping one another regardless of color, age, religion, gender, orientation, socio-economic status—this is the kind of unity this world is so lacking. But we see it can happen. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster like this one to see this unity. Can we learn from this?  I hope so. Will we? I’m not so sure. What can you and I do to promote unity? See each individual as a human being—not as a color, nationality, poor or wealthy, etc.—but each as part of the same race—the human race. Treat each individual with respect. Love each as you love yourself. Help when they need help. Receive help when you need help. Listen when they need an ear. Cry with them. But don’t judge them—that’s not our job. I know it seems idealistic. But, as Christians, it’s how we are called to be and what we are called to do. Let us be the ones who set this world on fire with this kind of unity, this kind of love. It’s happening now, in the midst of this disaster. It is my prayer that in the years to come when the disaster is a bad memory, the unity and love live on.  AMEN

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna M. Young

I Will Praise You In This Storm

A storm is coming…literally. We have watched and waited. We have listened to the meteorologists make their predictions. We have remembered the last time we “rode out” a hurricane. We have made our preparations. And we wait. We wait to see what this weather will bring and we give thanks to God who promises to be with us in the storm. Here’s the thing. No matter what kind of storm we are going through, there are certain things we should do to be prepared. People waiting on a hurricane make sure they have batteries for flashlights, water, non perishable foods, fuel in their cars, and medicines needed. They also put away anything in their yards that might be thrown about by the winds; some board up their windows; secure their animals, etc. Then we wait. Many fear what might happen. Many fear what will be left when the storm is over. I remember how afraid I was in 1965 during Hurricane Betsy. I was 9 years old and it is something I will never forget. I have never been that afraid since. It’s not because I’ve grown up—it’s because I know my Savior. This doesn’t mean that I don’t watch and wait and pray. Because I certainly do. I am vigilant as we all should be. But, no matter what happens, I continue to praise God. I praise God for our ability to track these storms. I praise God for enough warning that we can prepare. I praise God for a family that heeds the warnings. I praise God for the fact that no matter what happens, life continues. My sister is proof of that. She and her family lost all their material possessions in Hurricane Katrina—but the family was safe. They began again. I praise God for that. So my beloved, if you are in the path of the storm…pray, prepare, and praise God! Fear not, just call out to Jesus and He will calm the storm of fear in your hearts (Mark 4.35-41).

Blessings,
Rev. Deanna M.Young
 
Will They Know You Are Christian?

As I sit at my ipad today preparing to write this devotion, I know there is only one thing I should write about today—bigotry and hate. I denounce anything that demeans, disrespects, and villainizes others. I am a Christian who loves. I’m not saying that I’m perfected in love, but I do know that hate should not even be a part of my vocabulary much less an action in my life. Unfortunately, there are people hiding under the wing of Christianity who denounce anyone who is not like them, who do not believe like them, and who lives a different kind of life than them.  This is not Christian and no matter how it’s dressed up, no matter how much money is thrown at it, no matter how many bible verses are cherry picked and misused, no matter how many people stand behind it—it’s wrong, sinful, and contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His life. We must remember that Jesus died for ALL—not just those with whom we agree. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.35).  Yes, this country has a past that we’d like to keep in the past. We cannot go back and change our history, but we can change our future by our behaviors in the present. If we do not speak up, who will? If we do not act, who will? I ask you to search your soul, and I’ll search mine, listen for the Spirit to tell you where you have missed the mark, where you have not loved, and where you have been prejudiced. Repent and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into a Christian that is known by LOVE. Leave the past in the past and change the future by loving in the present.

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna M. Young
Pride?

“Let me be employed by Thee or laid aside for Thee.” It might be easier to understand the first part of this fourth line of the Wesley Covenant Prayer rather than the last. I’m thinking that anyone reading this devotion would want to work for God–to do the job to which God has called you. I am a pastor today because this is the work to which He has called me. Prior to living into my call as a pastor, I believe I was called to help others take care of their physical being. There are teachers, nurses, accountants, mothers, fathers, engineers, musicians, caretakers, volunteers, etc., that have been called by God to do what they are doing. Whenever we are doing the thing to which He has called us–it is a good and noble thing. But sometimes God wants us to step aside, move ahead or take a step back. Sometimes the more difficult thing is to allow someone else the opportunity to use their God-given gifts which means we are “laid aside for Thee.” Sometimes we just know we could do the job with greater skill, more efficiently, quicker, and with a much better outcome. But we must understand that it is not about what we can do but instead about what God is doing. That’s the bottom line–it’s really not about us–though we’d like to think it is. Pride often destroys our ability to truly understand and be obedient when God wants us to step aside. Proverbs 16.18 reads, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Let us pray together, “Holy God, forgive me for those times when I have been prideful and help me to have a humble, discerning and obedient spirit in all things present and to come.”

Blessings,
Rev. Deanna

Charging Source

My husband, Scott, gave our 17 year old grandson, who needed a watch, one of his watches. As Christian is putting his new watch on his wrist, Scott tells him it needs to be set to the correct time and that it runs on solar power. He said, the watch has to “stay in the light to be charged”. By now you probably know how I think.  Of course I immediately thought about how relevant that statement is to our spiritual lives. We need to stay in the light to be charged!  If Christian leaves that watch in a dark drawer, the watch will be useless for giving the correct time because it has not power to do so. If we, as Christians, spend our time in the darkness, doing things that are contrary to the gospel, we will be useless for spreading the gospel message because we have not power to do so. But once the watch is in the light again, it begins working because it has the power of the sun. It is the Son, Jesus Christ, who calls us out of the darkness and invites us to live in His light (John 8.12). It is the Son who has overpowered sin, shame, and death so that we could live in His light. The same power that is in the Son is in those who call Him Savior. It is that power, the power of the Holy Spirit, that charges us!  But here’s the thing my beloved, we can lose the charge if we choose to be in the dark. We can lose the power if we deny where the power comes from. We can lose the power if we become disconnected from the Source. How do you stay connected? How do you stay charged? Prayer, worship, study, and serving are all ways we stay charged. For this type of power we do not need a source of electricity—but instead open and contrite hearts. Remember, stay in the light to be charged!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

Life-Burrs

 

If you read my last devotion I asked you to pray for Camp Legacy. It was wonderful! The kids had a great time and I provided them with many options for play and studying together. I think they really liked their time at our place, except for the burrs. I warned them about the burrs. I told them to bring jeans and closed-toed shoes. Every time they started to go exploring I reminded them of the need for these things. When they arrived back at the house, their pants and shoes were covered with burrs. If you don’t know what a burr is, let me tell you—it is pain. If it sticks to you, or your clothing, when you try to pluck it out, OUCH! Here’s the funny thing, the kids would carry those burrs into the house unintentionally or they’d pick them off and drop them on the floor. Then they would walk around barefoot or in their socks and step on them. No matter how many times I told them that it would be better and less painful if they wore flip flops, they continued to do it their way.  Hmmm, reminds me of how we are with God. We experience the burrs of life, God tries to guide us onto a better path, and we continue to do things our way. Then we ask “Why does this hurt so much” or “Why is this so difficult?” We may even ask “God, why do you do this to me?” I wonder how many times I told those kids to put flip flops on? But they continued to experience the pain. They could have chosen differently. It is the same way with God. We make our choices. Sometimes we experience pain because of someone else’s choices or because of circumstances beyond our control and God tries to guide us into healing and restoration. But sometimes we just remain, abide, and wallow in the pain when we actually have another choice. With the burrs, one has to be very intentional about plucking them off (with tweezers). With the life-burrs, one must be very intentional about plucking them off, allowing God to soothe the pain and deciding that you are not going to go there again. It takes prayer and obedience from us…and a lot of grace and guidance from God (2 Corinthians 12.9). What life-burr are you dealing with? Pluck it off, pray, and follow where God leads. Don’t just throw it on the floor and experience it over and over again.

 

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

 

The Spirit Can

Sometimes the Spirit urges us to say “I’ll do that” before we have time to even think about what we are saying “Yes” to! This has happened to me recently. Our students at church could not find a camp time to attend together because of various reasons. One of the parents said, “Can’t we do our own camp?” This is it…this is when I said, “I’ll do that”. Yikes. I have written and led retreats, I have written and taught bible studies, I have taught conference level classes, I have led teamlife, our student group, and I lead a church, but never have I even been to a student retreat, much less put one together.  “What was I thinking” keeps coming to mind!  I really wasn’t thinking but doing what the Spirit urged me to do.  I love, love, love our students. I want to spend time with them and I want them to know how important they are in the Kingdom of God. We are taking them to our place in Fredericksburg, Legacy Ranch. I’m calling this Camp Legacy and I know the students are looking forward to this time together. I am very excited and very nervous as well. Of course I am not doing this alone, my husband and other parents are chaperoning as well. Thank God. I’ve prepared, maybe over prepared. I know that I cannot possibly be “ready” for our week together, but I know that the Spirit has got this. If I rely on the Holy Spirit to lead me, I will be able to lead these students with love and in fun! This is one of the many times that the Holy Spirit equips the call to do something (Hebrews 13.21). Thank God.  What is it that the Spirit has urged you to say “Yes” to that you think you can’t possibly do? Remember, the Spirit’s got this! Be empowered, equipped and amazed! Oh, by the way, please pray for all of us at Camp Legacy.  
Blessings, Rev. Deanna

Unplug

I took some time off.  I unplugged and went on vacation.  I wasn’t constantly checking emails and facebook.  I wasn’t waiting for the next phone call. I spent quality time with my family—without our phones in our faces. When was the last time you unplugged? With all of our connectivity in today’s world, it becomes more and more difficult to have down time, to spend quiet time with the Lord. Think about the time when Jesus walked the earth. He often went away by himself to pray. Jesus was always “prayed up”! How much time do we spend on our devices (cell phones, iPads, computers, etc.) unnecessarily? Wouldn’t that time be better spent praying, or actually having a conversation with those around us? Of course I am pointing my finger as much at myself as you. It was very freeing to not be chained to electronics. But the moment I got back from vacation, I resumed my previous habits. That’s just what it is—a habit—picking up the phone to check texts, checking to see if there’s any emails, seeing who’s posted on facebook. These electronics help us in many ways. It does help us stay loosely connected with others. The gps helps us find our way to where we are going. I’ve seen facebook spread the word about a missing person—and helped the person to be found. These are good and useful things. However, when more of our time is spent on our devices than in actual relationship with others-this is a problem. So I challenge all of us—put the phone down, step away from the computer and have an actual conversation face to face with someone or undertake a service project, or visit a sick friend, or help someone with something just because. Above all else, pray. Pray that our God will lead you into deeper relationships that lead others to Him. Start today. Unplug from electronics and plug into a deeper relationship with God. 

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna M. Young

Pruning & Tending

Last Saturday, Scott and I decided we needed to work in our yard. We have been so very busy that everything was overgrown and out of control. We have quite a large yard to take care of and, truth be told, Scott does the lion’s share of the work. However, I wanted to help him because this was a big job. I asked what he wanted me to do and he asked me to take the big clippers and go around the yard and clip the overgrowth from the trees and bushes.  So I began and, of course, I also began thinking about our spiritual lives.  In our yards, when we allow overgrowth, it prevents the light from getting to all the plants and grass.  It also deprives other plants from nutrition-water and food.  When we don’t tend to this overgrowth, then our yard suffers.  In our lives, when we allow overgrowth, it prevents the light of God from getting to all areas of our lives.  For instance, if I spend all my time working and don’t take time to study the Bible, go to worship, serve others, etc., worldly overgrowth in my life occurs. As this overgrowth occurs, I become more and more deprived of the nutrition that only Jesus can offer. After all, Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  (John 7.37-38).  If I allow worldly overgrowth in my life, it not only deprives me of the living water, but also deprives others because my life will not be fruitful for the Kingdom of God.  The pruning that I did last Saturday, will allow greater growth for all the other plants. The pruning that is necessary in our lives, will allow for our spiritual growth which will in turn impact those around us. Read John 15 and you will see how important pruning is for the life of the believer. Do you have worldly overgrowth in your life? Is it so preoccupied with worldly things that the spiritual things are dying? If so, it’s time to prune and see how your spiritual life will come back alive as you drink from the river of living water. 

Blessings,
Rev. Deanna

Choose Light!

 What’s your attitude today?  Did you wake up and think, “Thank you God for this day and all that will be in it?  Or was this your thought, “Oh man, I have to go to work and this day is gonna stink.”  Do you know that each will determine how your day will be?  Your attitude is crucially important in your life and the life of those around you.  Matthew 5.16 reads, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Your attitude either brings light or darkness.  I sure do want my life and work to bring light into this dark world. Now there are times when I certainly need an attitude adjustment.  I think all of us do every now and again.  When this happens, either the Holy Spirit or my sweet husband points this out to me. Then I have a choice…change my attitude and change my life or stay miserable. Hmmm–which would you choose?  I’ve learned over the years that a positive attitude waters seeds of hope in others and grows joy.  Negativity is like a boomerang.  It deprives the seeds of hope of the water of grace, joy is diminished and negativity comes back upon you threefold.  We, as Christians, are to let our light shine.  Light brings growth and glorifies our Lord and Savior! Think of your positive attitude as light and a negative attitude as darkness. It’s difficult for us, or anyone else, to find a way forward in the darkness. Let your light shine. Begin today. Choose to have a positive attitude and it just may change your world and the world of those around you.  Choose light

 Blessings,

 Rev. Deanna

Bonus Moms!

 This Sunday is a big day for mothers. As a mother and grandmother–who loves being a mother and grandmother–it seems a bit over the top. My joy is in the being and doing and my children appreciate me year round. But o.k.–a day to celebrate mothers.  But what about those women who are not mothers?  What about those people whose mothers were less than motherly?  What about those who had a mother that abused or deserted them? It is a very difficult day for them. I know that there are people that avoid church on Mothers’ Day because it is too painful for them as the church “celebrates” mothers.  Maybe, just maybe we should celebrate ALL women–that’s what we do at my church.  We celebrate both biological and bonus moms.  I see examples of bonus moms at my church all the time…the women that influence the lives of the children of the church. We are all “raising them up” in the way they should go.  What is a bonus mom?  Well I was a bonus mom for a fawn that was left stranded in our yard this past week (see picture).  There was a mamma and a whole bunch of bonus moms with this fawn.  A truck backfired as it passed and the fawn dropped to the ground and everyone else took off.  Now I knew the mother would eventually come back and get this baby. But she was a brand new baby and tiny and I was worried about predators. And the vultures found her.  When I checked on her there was one vulture on the fence and one on the ground next to her very still body. I shooed them away.  But they kept flying overhead.  So then Scott and I knew we had to get her to a safer location without touching her.  We figured out how and did and she was safe. The mother eventually came for her…so then I could stop worrying about that baby.  A bonus mom loves, cares for, and leads the children around them. So if you are an aunt or a stepmom, a friend of a mom, or someone who teaches and cares for children in any way–you are a bonus mom! Let us all celebrate the women in our lives who love and care for us–whether they are related to us or not.  God’s created woman is a beauty to behold and a force to be reckoned with–if you mess with any child under her care!  Thanks be to God for moms, both biological and bonus!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna 

Refueling

 It’s always exciting to come to Legacy Ranch in the spring/summer to see the flowers.  Every year since we built this place, the landscape has been very different.  The first year before we built, the landscape was all yellow flowers. So that’s what we expected the year after…but the flowers were more diverse. Each year, we are graced with a different palette of color. This year will be no different. Why am I always amazed by our amazing God? The flowers are just beginning to bloom. In a couple of weeks it will be as if God dropped a paint palette on our land. There will be yellows, oranges, reds, purples, whites. The cacti will be blooming orange, red, and yellow. The bee bush is now blooming white with a fragrance of almond oil and the bees busy, busy, buzzing and buzzing around. I am being serenaded by the sweet music of a variety of birds. The wind in my face reminds me of God’s Holy Spirit. I have nothing on my agenda today except to enjoy God’s majesty and provision. This is my refueling station. Where is your refueling station? When we live for God, we must refuel. A car cannot continue to take you where you want to go if you never refuel. God cannot take you where He wants you to go if you never refuel. Jesus often went away by Himself to refuel (Mark 1.35; 6.46). Even though He was fully human and fully divine–Jesus took time to refuel. How can we expect to continue pouring out God’s grace to others if we are running on empty?  We cannot. Where is your refueling station? In your prayer closet? In your backyard? In your favorite chair?  If you want to go where God wants you to go and be productive for the Kingdom of God–find a refueling station and refuel often

 Blessings,

 Rev. Deanna

Fight or Flight

 We are fearfully and wonderfully made!  Built into each one of us is what is called a “fight or flight response”.  This is a physiological reaction that occurs when a perceived harmful situation presents itself. You know what I’m talking about.  You want to run in the other direction to escape harm. My husband, when he was a boy, brought a snake into the house to show his mom.  Her flight response kicked in and she stood on a lawn chair…and fell through and broke her leg. He never lived that down.  But sometime the perceived danger is not physical–it’s emotional. Even so, the fight or flight response kicks in.  Recently, I was faced with such a situation. I will admit, I wanted to get away from that situation as fast as I could.  But something (or should I say someone) wouldn’t let me.  In my quiet time, I was shown very clearly that God would work for the good of the situation. It was as if a spotlight and magnifying glass were on this Scripture from Exodus 14.14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Be still, that sounds easy but is very difficult when you want to run!  I am a person of action, especially when I don’t think things are right. Being still in the face of adversity was exhausting both emotionally and physically. But I kept the Scripture in my heart and on my lips. God is faithful. I made it through–there are scars, but God carried me and fought for me. Being still was the best thing I could do–but the hardest. The next time you are faced with the fight or flight response (and I’m not talking about running from a snake), let God show you what you are to do–or what He is doing!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

Easter People, Easter Days

What a glorious day Easter Sunday was. There were a lot of people in church–many we only see a couple of times a year.  I am always joyful when they are with us. We always want to put our best foot forward; but on Easter Sunday there seems to be a little more pressure (self-applied) to make sure everything goes as planned. Well, I got so into our singing and praising God, I asked the congregation to sing when it was supposed to be a solo by our pianist. Therefore, there were no worlds on the screens, the choir did not have the words to the song and I did not have the words in my book.  Of course the congregation could see from the screens that it was supposed to be a “solo”!  I finally realized what I had done when I stepped forward and read the screen. Oops. The choir actually sang the chorus and the congregation did too. They made the best out of this situation. When the song was over, I stepped forward and admitted my mistake. Apologized to the pianist and informed the congregation that I was in the wrong. Do I wish this wouldn’t have happened–of course. Am I losing sleep over it–no. You see my beloved, we are Easter people.  We know our sin has been taken away by the blood of Jesus. Not only sins we have committed, but those we will commit. We live as forgiven children of God. When we make mistakes, we repent, accept forgiveness and move on. This is not only on Easter Sunday–but all days.  John Indermark wrote, “We are Easter people. Not because of where we spend our Easter morning, but because of how we bring Easter to our other days.” To dwell on my mistake would be contrary to bringing Easter to all my days. Easter is about forgiveness–of others and ourselves; it’s about hope in God; and it’s about mercy–just to name a few things. Was our Easter worship perfect–no. But we have a perfect God who looks upon any worship as pleasing to Him. 

1 Chronicles 16.23-24 reads, “

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”  This is what we were doing and this is what we should try to do–to bring Easter to each day. How will you celebrate Easter today?  Whatever you do to celebrate doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be real. 

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

Were You There

 Last night, during our Maundy Thursday/Tenebrae Service, we sang the beautiful song, “Were You There?”  “Were you there when they crucified my Lord” is one of the verses. I am thankful that I wasn’t there to see this tragedy unfold. But as I consider this scenario, I wonder what I would have done. Would I have shrunk into the shadows afraid of what might happen to me? Would I have watched with tears streaming down my face? Would I have tried to stop this from happening? The fact of the matter is I don’t really know what I would have done. I know what I’d like to think I would have done. But regardless, in this day I have the opportunity to live a fruitful life that glorifies Jesus instead of a fruitless life that ignores His sacrifice. Each day I must remember what He did for me and live the life that Jesus taught His disciples–to love, to serve, to glorify Him. When I make life about “me”, it’s like saying that His sacrifice didn’t matter–it didn’t change anything.  But you see, my beloved, it changes everything. It’s not only about how Jesus lived, or how He died–it’s also about the fact that He lives forevermore. Jesus conquered sin and death. He broke my chains of guilt, greed, and unforgiveness. He took a broken heart and made it new again.  It’s a heart like His. I’m a work in progress…I’m unfinished…but He is still working on me. The work that He’s doing on me is rarely painless, but it is profound. It is rarely simple, but it is sanctifying. I am eternally grateful and I am changed and changing. Are you? Today, on Good Friday, contemplate how your life glorifies the glorious Jesus Christ. 

Blessings,

 Rev. Deanna M. Young

Christ-Bearers

 I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself. I’ve been kind of preoccupied and my sweet husband keeps asking me what is wrong. There’s nothing wrong. It’s just that I want everything to be so right. Palm Sunday is upon us which initiates Holy Week. As we journey to the cross with Jesus, let us be mindful of the ways in which we contribute to the sins that Jesus bore on the cross. The things that we won’t give up. The things that we deliberately do which we know is contrary to living like Christ asked us to.  The things that we refuse to do because they are too difficult. The things we pretend not to know about. As I sit here soaking up a beautiful day at the ranch, I see a cow in the distance. This cow is just meandering, eating, not a cow care in the world. She disappears from sight and then reappears again somewhere else.  This makes me think of how we never disappear from the sight of God and we can never hide our sins from God. God made us and gave us free will. Many of us act like we’ve not a care in the world–much like that cow. We take care of self and no one else. We become our own gods. We forget about our neighbors and the needy because we won’t give up our time or our money. We gossip in the guise of praying for someone. We won’t accept others who aren’t like us. We choose everything else over spending time in the Word or in service to others. Each one of these sins makes us just like the disciples who deserted, denied and betrayed Jesus. How we do it is just a bit more subtle. This week should bring to mind all the ways we are complicit in the death of Jesus. He didn’t have to do this for us–He willingly allowed Himself to be crucified for our sins. He knows how we are and He loves us anyway. We are not like that cow, without a cow care in the world. We have been put in charge of much. We have been given great responsibility and the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out our responsibility. We are to be Christ-bearers to the world (Matthew 5.48). That’s no small thing and it is a great privilege. This week, reflect on what actions or inactions you need to shake off so that you can become the Christ-bearer Jesus asks you to be

Blessings,

 Rev. Deanna M. Young

Spring Has Sprung

 I love spring. I love watching the colors burst forth from the seemingly dead remnants of winter. Here we are in the fourth week of Lent (lent is taken from Old English word “lencten” meaning springtime or spring). Hopefully this Lenten season has been fruitful for your faith journey. As spring bursts forth into color, your faith should be blossoming as well! Lent is a time of preparation– preparing to sit at His table for the last supper; preparing to stand at the foot of the cross; and preparing for that glorious day when we sing “He Lives”!  Many give up something for lent without really understanding why they are doing that. Before He began His ministry, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness preparing for the ministry for which He came. During that time of fasting and praying, He did not depend on things of this world to sustain Him, but trusted and relied on God to do so (read Matthew 4). Jesus knew Scripture–the promises and the commandments–and He allowed God’s Word to be His guide when tempted by the devil. I suspect Jesus knew He was in the wilderness preparing to hang on the cross. To journey through the beatings, mockery, cruelty, and the pounding of the nails into His hands and feet without using His Divine power to stop it or stop the pain, would have been a bigger temptation than anything the devil put before Him in the wilderness. But He was prepared to do what he came to earth to willingly do–take on our sins and shame so that we could be holy and righteous.  So as we journey through this season of Lent, I pray that Jesus reminds us of our need for Him; replenishes us as we spend time reflecting upon the meaning of the cross; and renews our Spirit for our continued journey with Him. 

Blessings,

 

Rev. Deanna

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Wonders of God

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by what is going on around us, not only in our lives but in our country and world, we get sad, depressed, bummed, and/or despondent. We argue with each other, or ourselves, about how to dot an i or cross a t, and our attention is hijacked from our main goals to what we think is wrong. This is not uncommon. We focus on problems instead of possibilities; obstacles instead of opportunities; our earthly failings rather than God’s Holy desires. Sometimes we disagree but we still love. Pope Francis tweeted, “The unity of love is realized when we announce together the wonders God has done for us.” YES! It’s like the disciples being fearful on the boat when it was being tossed by the storm–even though Jesus was in the boat with them (read Matthew 8.23-27)! The disciples did not know Jesus’ power and assumed the worst when faced with a storm. When we find ourselves in the midst of the storm, we do not know His power in our lives–or at the very least, we lose sight of Him and the wonders God has done for us. I’d venture a guess that it is both–we don’t fully know His power in our lives AND we we lose sight of Him and His wonders. What the disciples did right on that boat is call on Jesus. I don’t think Jesus was upset with them for calling His name; but instead, I think he was upset because they were afraid even though He was with them. Remember, my beloved, that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4.18). Jesus is perfect love and Jesus is with us. Let’s together focus on possibilities, opportunities and God’s Holy desires and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into greater community and unity in love. Just love–no fear.

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

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The Whirlwind

I was reading Job 38 again today and the majesty and magnificence of our God jumps from the pages. It begins “Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind….” This in itself reminds me that sometimes through the storms of life we hear God more clearly. Maybe, because of the storm, it’s that we are waiting for God to speak. Maybe we are at a loss and know there is nothing that we can do to change what has happened, but are waiting for guidance from God for a way forward. Maybe we have hit rock bottom and there’s no way to look but up. Maybe we have exhausted all of our human capabilities and finally come to the conclusion that only God can get us through the storm. Maybe we need to understand that sometimes we need to stop striving and just “be” with God. This in itself will calm us, center us, and remind us what this life is all about. It’s not about you and it’s not about me. Our lives are about God, how we glorify God and contribute to the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We are a part of God’s love story. We are not the main characters. God is. If you find yourself in a whirlwind, stop, be present with God, and listen for God’s inspiration for the next chapter in God’s love story and how you can be a part of its fulfillment.


Blessings,
Rev. Deanna

In The Dead of Winter

In the dead of winter, new life is forming. 

In the dead of winter, rest and restoration is happening. 

In the dead of winter, though unseen we know that new growth will come. 

In the dead of winter, what we see is not truly what is. 

In the dead of winter, there is always hope for spring. 

In the dead of winter, what seems dead is really alive.

What is happening in the dead of your winter?  New life is forming; rest and restoration is happening; though unseen, new growth will come; what you see is not truly what is; there is always hope for new life to spring forth; your spirituality is alive; you are alive!

In the dreary, seemingly stagnant times of our lives, God is preparing to do something new. Wait for it….

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna
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Epiphany!

Today, January 6, is Epiphany.  This is the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. Some call today the Day of the Kings remembering the Magi who followed that star and ultimately found Jesus–their epiphany or “AHA” moment. Because the season of Christmas is over, I’ll be taking down my Christmas decorations this weekend.  It’s certainly not as much fun as putting them up.  But even through the decorations come down (all except for my nativity which I leave up year round), this is not an ending–but a beginning.  Think of those Magi and their experience when they found Jesus.  It was different than they thought–He was different than whatever they thought they would find.  And so, their AHA was just beginning. What does this mean? They somehow knew Jesus was different. After all they brought Him gold which was a gift that brought to a king; frankincense which was a gift bought to a priest; and myrrh was given to someone who was about to die. These Magi made a journey based on what they believed (about stars) and they were committed to that belief–that a star would lead them to royalty. They found what they were looking for, even though I am sure they did not fully understand their discovery. Faith is like that. We believe without fully understanding. However, God provides many AHA moments (epiphanies) along the way. Sometimes our journey to understanding takes us places we would have never gone, much like the Magi’s journey took them into unfamiliar territory. Sometimes our journey takes us into risky territory. The Magi were disobeying Herod when they returned home another way (Read Matthew 2.1-12) and they took risks to follow their beliefs. Yes, they had an epiphany, an AHA moment; but that was another beginning for them. If you’re reading this, then more than likely you’ve celebrated Christ and you’ve given gifts to others.  The Magi brought gifts to Jesus.  Ultimately Jesus gave the gift of Himself for their salvation–and ours. What gifts do you bring to Jesus?  Maybe we should consider that our gifts might just be like the Magi’s gifts–not the gold, frankincense and myrrh–but the commitment to our faith, to follow wherever it leads, and to expect that God will do the unexpected as we journey with Him. I pray that your life is filled with AHA moments of God!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

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The Light of the World

In the midst of the Christmas lights and the joyful celebrations, sometimes we find ourselves in our own darkness…we don’t feel like celebrating or singing joy to the world. But the Christmas story reminds us that Jesus meets our darkness with a miracle. When we find ourselves in that dark place and if we acknowledge our sadness and talk to God about it, give it to him, and let it go, we will remember that Jesus came in the darkness as the hope and light of the world.
We know that Jesus was born at night because scripture tells us that the shepherds were living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night when the angel of the Lord came to them and gave them the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2.8-20). Throughout the gospels we see how the darkness is the setting for many encounters with Jesus. The Magi followed the star at night to get to Jesus. It was at night that Joseph was told to take baby Jesus to Egypt. Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus at night. Jesus prayed at night in Gethsemane before his betrayal and arrest which also happened at night. Mary arrived at the empty tomb while it was still dark. After Jesus’s death, when the disciples were locked in the house for fear of the Jews–Jesus arrived and showed himself in the evening–in their darkness and fear.

A miracle is the answer. Jesus is that miracle. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus comes to you in your darkness…He will not leave you alone.
Let him know how you feel, that you grieve. He knows what it is like. Let him know that you’re hurt, angry, lost, and that you want Him to hold you, lift you, guide you, and give you strength for the journey ahead.

Jesus will be the light in your darkness because He is the light of the world. Jesus will be the hope in your hopelessness because Jesus is the hope for our future. But you must allow the light and the hope to overcome the darkness. Jesus is the miracle and the answer to your prayer.

I invite you to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ gathered together with your church family. If you don’t have a church family–find a church and go celebrate the Light of the World. Merry Christmas!

Celebrating His Light,

Rev. Deanna

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JOY

As I sit in my study writing this devotion, I look out my window and see JOY on my front lawn (of course it looks like YOL from my vantage point!). Last Christmas we found a man selling joy on the side of the road. It’s beautiful wooden letters painted red with the nativity in the “O”. Oh if it were that easy to have joy in our hearts. For some, especially at this time of year, it might be that much harder to be joyful. If we find ourselves alone, short on cash, out of work, missing a loved one, first holiday since the divorce, battling an illness, or whatever battle you are fighting, it might seem that joy is elusive. That’s one of the reasons we are having a Blue Christmas Prayer Service at my church this year. I hope that this service will allow these people to honor Christmas in authentic ways without pretending to be in what others call “the Christmas Spirit.” We each can celebrate the gift of our Savior in our own way. For some, it might be a quiet prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus knows what we are going through. That’s the thing, my beloved. Even if you don’t feel like putting up a tree or singing “Joy to the World”, Jesus understands and He gives us permission to express our true feelings to Him. That’s the kind of Savior we have. Not one who is removed from our lives. Not one who doesn’t care. Not one who demands that we sing. Our Savior is one that cared enough to dwell in this world with us as Jesus Christ. And He dwells with us now as the Holy Spirit. You are not alone–you are never alone. When you find yourself in darkness, remember, Jesus is the light of the world and He will help you overcome your darkness. He knows how because He’s already done it. Learn from Him, live like Him, and love like Him. I think when you do this, you will find joy. This joy will not be dependent upon your outward circumstances but totally on your Jesus. Jesus Joy.

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

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Love

This Sunday in church we light the Advent candle of love. Hopefully every one of us has experienced love in some form–a loving parent, friend, spouse, or child. As I sit here drinking coffee from my “I ❤️ NY” cup, I ponder the many ways we use this four letter word “love” and the multiplicity of meanings. I really don’t ❤️ NY like I love others. I love my sweet husband differently than I loved my parents. My children are loved by me in a whole different way that only people with children can understand. I love my friends and my church unconditionally. All of these expressions of love are borne from the love God has for me. When we understand that God loves others as much as he loves us and that God became one of us because of His love…how could I do anything different than love? The music artists “Jars of Clay” have written a song called “Love Came Down at Christmas”. This song was taken from the poem written by Christina Rosetti in the late nineteenth century. Yes, love came down to earth at Christmas because God came down in Jesus Christ. God came to us. God came for us. God came like us. God, in all God’s divinity, was born, just like we were–as a human. Divinity+Humanity=Jesus. How? Because God is God and God can do whatever. Why is the more important question. Why did God become human? God came to be our friend, our teacher, our leader, our king and our savior. There is no greater love. 1 John 4.12 reads, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Complete love–not just loving when it’s easy. Complete love–even when we disagree. Complete love…love born on Christmas Day. Give this some thought. Is love complete in your actions toward others or do you withhold God’s love from others? May the Holy Spirit convict us when our love is incomplete. Go and “be love” today, tomorrow and always–just as God is!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

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Peace
Every Sunday during Advent, we light what we call the Advent Wreath. Each candle represents the virtues of Jesus Christ which are imparted to us as Christians–peace, hope, love and joy. The first candle we will light this year is the candle of peace. Peace at Christmastime seems elusive for many. The nature of the holiday season and all of the “things” we do can be daunting. It doesn’t have to be. We have to choose–will we remain focused on the meaning of the season or will we get caught up in the world’s idea of what Christmas should be? Sometimes we have to prepare for peace. I get to practice preparing for peace a lot with my dog Gizmo. The other day while we were in the country, we were trying to lay in hammocks and relax. The weather was exquisite and the day was peaceful…until…Gizmo decided he needed to go get in the muddy creek and then run circles around us laying in the hammocks and shake the water off under us. He got Shep (our other “good” dog) all worked up. Gizmo can certainly be a peace-stealer for me. I have to make the decision not to let him. No one can steal my peace without my allowing it. It’s the same for you. Do not allow the chaos of the season steal your peace. In Matthew 24.36-44 we read of Jesus telling us that He will return and no one knows when. Jesus also says we better be ready. Now that’s what Advent is about…waiting and preparing expectantly for His return. We wait in peace, hope, love and joy. What can you do this season to make sure no one steals your peace? Read the Scripture provided with your family and discuss things that steal your peace and how you might change things this Advent. I pray God’s peace that passes all understanding for you and your family as we celebrate the birth of Jesus and wait for His return.
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Oh No! The Holidays are Here!

I don’t know how anyone else feels, but I cannot believe how fast this year is flying by. My mamma always said that the older she got the faster time seemed to pass. Now I understand. Here we are preparing to celebrate another holiday season. Thanksgiving is less than a week away and Christmas 🎄 follows quickly after. I know those who are already getting overwhelmed because of the holidays. I used to get caught up in the holiday chaos as well until I realized what my panic did to my attitude toward Christmas–how it took my focus off of the reason we celebrate. I used to be a Martha at Christmas–but not anymore. Read Luke 10.38-41. I’m not saying that I don’t get caught up at all in the accoutrements of the season, but I allow myself space to just “be” (like Mary). When we begin to resent the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, it’s time to put the credit card down, step away from the decorations, turn off the oven and sit with our Bibles and read the beautiful, miraculous story of Christmas once again. Think about how Jesus was born in the manger of our hearts ❤️ and how our lives can be like that of the angel Gabriel as we announce to others that Jesus can be born in the manger of their hearts as well. Let us not rush through Thanksgiving to get to Christmas. Let Thanksgiving adjust our perspective and enter into the season gratitude for the miracle of life and the miracle of Jesus in our lives. I invite you to begin a new tradition in your home…a tradition of spending time discussing how your life is different because of Jesus. Each week of advent talk about peace, hope, love, or joy. I’ll provide Scripture’s each Friday. Let’s do this and I pray that you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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God Bless America!

Before the election, many were wishing the election was over. Now that it is over, there are many who are despondent, angry, and even downright mean over the outcome. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…God is still on the throne. For all Christians, no matter how we voted, scripture tells us that we are to pray for the leaders of our country. 1 Timothy 2.1-2 reads, 

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” We have a responsibility, as Christians, to be bridge builders and peace makers in our society. I take this responsibility very seriously. You should too!  I know people are worried about the future of our country. What I also know is that God can take all this chaos and turn it into order. He did it before (at the creation of the world). God holds my future and God holds your future. Replace worry with prayer–prayer for this nation to become once again, “One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Pray that our leaders will follow where God leads. Pray that this new president will be successful in the things that matter to God. How can anyone hope that he will not be successful?  Someone said that if we hope he is not successful, it’s like being on a plane and hoping the pilot fails–we would all crash and burn. I know that no one wants that.  Let us all pray daily for our country, her leaders, and for unity to be restored.  We live in the greatest nation in the world. I believed it before and I believe it still. Do you believe this?  If so, commit with me to praying for our country and her people every day. God Bless America.
Rev. Deanna
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Juggling?

Have you ever seen a dog juggle? It’s hilarious to watch my dog, Gizmo, try to carry two racquet balls at the same time. It actually looks like he’s juggling the two balls with his mouth. Carries one and the other one bounces, then he drops the one in his mouth to pick up the other one. Over and over and over again. (Sometimes he even tries to catch the ball with his paws…but I digress!) As I was watching him do this the other day, I thought about how we try to juggle so many things in our lives. Often we drop the more important things in order to pick up things that should not be priorities in our lives. For instance, I know many people who prioritize other things on Sunday morning over worship–sports for their children, sports to watch, sports to play such as golf, sleep, etc. Just as Gizmo cannot carry both those racquetballs in his mouth at the same time, we cannot carry all the things in our lives we try to carry. Something will get lost in the process if we try. We were created to love God and others. One of the ways that we love God is worship. We cannot juggle other things on Sunday morning (or whenever you attend worship). We all need to hold on to worship and put the other things down. Don’t make excuses for why you cannot do other things on Sunday morning. Don’t be apologetic. Tell others, “I’m going to worship” or “I can’t miss worship” to do that. Set an example. Challenge others to do the same. Just as Gizmo cannot hold on to two things at once, neither can we. Therefore, we need to prioritize. Psalm 150 reads, “Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary….” It is the very best way to begin a week. Worship the LORD!

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

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God Cares! 

The other day Scott and I were going out to dinner to celebrate my birthday.  We had to stop at Walgreens to pick up a prescription. An older gentlemen and I were each standing at a register.  What transpired between the two of them made me sad.  Let me explain.  His prescription wasn’t ready and the kind lady told him that she could have it ready in 20 minutes.  He said he would just have to come back and pick it up the next day.  Oh, and by the way, I wasn’t eavesdropping….they weren’t quiet!  They said some other things and then he said, “Nobody cares anyway.”  It broke my heart that he said that–and obviously felt that way.  I wanted to run over and hug the man.  But the kind lady ringing up his other purchases was very quick to answer, “Well, God cares and I care!”  Then I wanted to run over and hug her!  This kind truth she told this forlorn man sure made me happy and I hope and pray it made him think.  Sometimes all someone needs is a kind word or to be reassured that God cares and others care. Matthew 6.26-33 reminds us that God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and He cares much more for us.  Psalm 8.4 reads, “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?”. Haven’t you ever needed a kind word to lift your spirits?  Have you ever experienced a difficult day that seems like it will never end and then someone offered a kind word and it changed everything?  Someone you come across today will need a kind word from you.  Be on the lookout…tell you what–just say a kind word to everyone you meet and you will have it covered.  Be love and show others that God cares and so do you.  

Rev. Deanna

 

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Screen Sharing with Jesus

My cell phone saga continues (read last devotion). After I changed my personal cell phone number, for some reason I couldn’t create a voicemail. I tried everything I knew how to do. I googled for help. I called my son who is way smarter than me when it comes to this kind of stuff. My phone kept directing me to sync with my itunes on my computer. I really didn’t want to do this because I suspected it wouldn’t work out well. I haven’t had the need to sync for a very long time. Unfortunately, I was forced to do it and my phone was really messed up after that. It was asking for a password that I had no idea what it was. I couldn’t even wipe the phone clean without the password that didn’t exist. I finally resorted to calling the Apple help line…and the first guy was no help. I’m sure you can imagine my frustration with all of this and the fact that I never want technology to get the better of me. An Apple representative actually called me back to see if everything was as it should be. It wasn’t. This new guy named Phil screen shared with me on my computer and we did what the other guy was supposed to tell me to do. My phone had to be wiped clean and we had to start from scratch! Luckily, icloud backed me up! I have to say that I was very nervous about wiping my phone clean. What was I going to lose in the process–my contact list, my photos, my apps, my emails. I think many people who are making a decision about allowing Jesus in their lives are concerned about the same thing. If I accept Jesus, what will I lose in my life? If I accept Jesus, what contacts (people) will be removed from my life? Jesus will wipe my life clean, but what will that look like? Going from my old life to my new one will be challenging. I’ll have to do things differently. I’ll have to re-establish my relationships from a different point of view. My friends, Jesus wants to “screen share” with you. He wants to direct your thoughts and actions. He wants to show you how to do life “right”! He wants to be a lamp to your feet and a light on your path (Psalm 119.105). Calling the Apple help line was a last resort for me. If I had done it first, I would have saved myself time and frustration. Unfortunately for many of us, we call upon Jesus as a last resort rather than simply “screen sharing” with Him all the time. Do you allow Jesus full access of your life? Beloved, don’t you think it’s about time?

Blessings, Rev. Deanna

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I Can’t Live Without My….

How would you finish the statement, “I can’t live without my…..”? My iphone screen was cracked. I went to Office Max to get it fixed because they advertised same day repair. Since my church is connected to me through my personal cell phone, I needed quick repair in case anyone needed to contact me. It was Saturday and they couldn’t have it to me until Monday evening. So then we went to the AT&T store where we buy our phones. They told me that Office Max was the place to get it fixed. Uh oh. What to do? How could I be without my phone for that long? I can’t live without my phone. Apparently I can. We are so attached and connected in ways that are beyond reasonable. I do remember a time when we had no cell phones and that was just something you read about in futuristic novels. That time is now. What I had to do is something I should have done a while ago–I bought a phone for my job while my personal phone was being repaired. I switched my personal number to the job phone and got a new personal number. Therefore I had a phone for my church people to contact me while my personal phone was being repaired. So I wasn’t without a cell phone, but I was without my personal cell phone. I survived the ordeal. But it really makes me think about how nervous I was without my personal phone. I felt out of touch and like something was missing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all were as attached to Jesus as we are our cell phones. Should that statement be, “I can’t live without my Jesus”? Shouldn’t we feel out of touch and like something was missing when we don’t stay connected to Jesus? Do we spend as much time with Jesus as we do on our cell phones? Do we rely on Jesus as much as we rely on our cell phones? I could go on and on but I won’t. I think you know what I’m talking about. So I have a challenge for all of us. Every time we pick up our cell phones, think about Jesus and lift His name. Check in with Him, reconnect with Him. Maybe something like, “Jesus, you’re my salvation.” Or, “Jesus, I love you.” Or “Jesus, thank you.” How about, “Jesus, you are all I need.” Because He should be the beginning and end of everything in our lives. Philippians 4.19 reads, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Do you believe this?
Blessings,
Pastor Deanna

 

 

 

 

 

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Dizzy or Focused?

“Dizzy, I’m so dizzy my head is spinning, like a whirlpool it’s never ending.” Now I know some of you will not be able to get those lyrics out of your head today! It was written in 1969 and it was quite a catchy tune about a girl who makes this guy dizzy! Well I get dizzy at times, but it’s because of vertigo–not because of a guy! And the vertigo is just like his description above–head spinning and never ending. Even when I close my eyes–still spinning. My family calls it “the spinnies”. I call it debilitating. But generally I know the triggers and can feel it coming on and take appropriate action–which usually includes meds and sleep for about 24 hours. I cannot work my way through it. I cannot take enough meds to completely obliterate it. I cannot wish it away. Sometimes I have no idea what triggered it. Therefore, when I get vertigo, I am basically sidelined until the vertigo is vertí-gone. It doesn’t matter what I had planned, I’m out of the game until I allow it to takes it’s course.

Sometimes this is how we manage life–or life manages us. We run through life at a dizzying pace now knowing when to slow down or even take a break–until we get sick, or have an accident. But the difference between this and my experience with vertigo, we don’t see it coming. We are so wrapped up with our self-important lives, doing our self-important things, that we cannot focus on what’s most important because we’ve got “the spinnies”. I will tell you this, it is impossible to focus when you’ve got the spinnies. Hebrews 12.1-3 basically tells us that we should “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and to “fix our eyes upon Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” We need to move from “I’m so dizzy” to “turning our eyes upon Jesus”. As we stay focused on Jesus, He will help us to move from leading a dizzying life to one of peace. Because if you are anything like me, you don’t want to be sidelined with the spinnies; you want to be peacefully productive for the Kingdom of God! Shalom my beloved.

Rev. Deanna
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Just Breathe!

 Last week I talked about our air conditioner failure at Legacy Ranch. This week we had the service people come to our home in Magnolia to check out the air conditioner here.  Every time the upstairs fan would come on, there was a very loud noise and vibrations (and not good, good vibrations from the Beach Boys!) apparently from that fan.  We had all of our units replaced not so long ago, we thought.  It turns out that “not so long ago” was three years ago.  But still, these things should last longer than three years!  Turns out, there was a small piece of paper, the size of a post it note, inside the fan and that paper was throwing the whole fan off balance.  Well, that’s an easy fix.  They took the paper out and it was fixed–voila!  I wish it were that easy to fix our lives when they get off balanced. The need for balance in my life seems to be an ongoing theme. I do think I’m better at it than I used to be; but, still have work to do. Someone once said, “When you love your job, you never work a day in your life.”  I love my job; my calling.  This makes it difficult to balance between work, family, exercise, rest, friends, etc. I suspect that I am not the only one who struggles with balance in life.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.  Isaiah 26.3 reads, “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” Though this Scripture does not speak specifically to balance, it does speak to what will lead to balance.  Steadfast minds and trust in God.  Trust God to help us prioritize.  Trust God to help us to say “No” to some things so that we can say “Yes” to greater things.  Finding time to be with family and friends, to rest and to exercise are part of the balancing act we do.  If all we do is work, then our health will suffer and so will our relationships. Johnny Diaz just put out a song called “Breathe”.  It’s a beautiful call to rest at our Lord’s feet when life gets crazy.  When we rest at His feet and just BE with Him, we will be better equipped to find balance in a busy, crazy world.  REST, BREATHE, BE, and TRUST!

 

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

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Bad Capacitors & Heart Conditions

The air conditioner at Legacy Ranch is not working exactly right. I was here last weekend with a friend and we couldn’t get the temperature to drop inside.  I tried everything with the thermostat.  Then I called the service people and of course they couldn’t come out that day; so, here we are again.  We know the fan is running, but there is no cold air circulating.  Something is definitely wrong.  This makes me think of our spiritual lives.  Sometimes we know something is definitely wrong. We think we are doing all the right things–going to church, studying the Bible, serving in different capacities, praying.  But something is still off.  It may feel like the Holy Spirit has left the building (our body)! The service man just told us the capacitor was not working on the compressor.  Therefore the compressor was not working.  Well no wonder there was no cold air.  Sometimes it is our capacitors too.  If our capacitor has a blockage or a faulty connection, we can go through the motions but still feel off.  Our capacitor is our heart.  Sometimes our hearts are not right with God.  What do I mean by that?  It could be that there is anger or hatred residing in our hearts.  It could be that we are being deliberately disobedient to the will of God. It could be unconfessed sin.  There could be many things that give us capacitor problems–heart problems.  So what do we do?  We call upon the Heart Healer to diagnose and prescribe what the correct course of action is.  Proverbs 4.23 reads, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Because if you don’t get that problem fixed, eventually your life will start breaking down.  The service guy just told us that because the capacitor wasn’t working right, one of our compressors burned up.  So, yes because of one bad capacitor, now we have to replace both that and the compressor.  Don’t allow this to happen in your spiritual life.  Let the Heart Healer give you regular checkups. Then listen to the diagnosis and follow the Healer’s prescription to get that heart right with God again.  Be ready, be willing, and the Holy Healer will make you able to allow the Holy Spirit to move in your life again. Is your capacitor not working right?  It might be a heart condition.  Have God check it out.

Blessings,

Rev. Deanna

 

14021520_1499426316749484_1516393729689013157_nKnow God, Know Hope

Once again I am writing about devastation and tragedy. I would prefer to write about what my dog teaches me about God. However, I cannot ignore what is going on in my home state of Louisiana. How can one put in words what these people are going through? I cannot because I have not experienced it. I wonder what they’re thinking? I wonder if they even have time to think? I wonder if they’re asking “Why?” It’s a natural thing to ask that question. I’m

 hoping they don’t blame God and turn from their faith. God didn’t make this happen in order to teach them something. BUT God can take what has happened and teach the rest of us something. It seems in the midst of this horrendous devastation, there is no black and white, no rich and poor, no educated and uneducated–there is humanity. The blood that runs through their veins is the same color. The air that they breathe is the same. The tragedy they face is the same. The journey ahead is the same. They have to repair, rebuild, and start over. These Louisianians are an inspiration to me and hopefully to the rest of the country. In the midst of this tragedy, they are living one of the Great Commandments–love your neighbor as yourself. They are doing just that–taking care of each other regardless of their own circumstances. As I witness these acts of selflessness, it gives me hope for the future of our country. Hope is one of the most powerful gifts that God gives us. I know that many of these people might be wondering about their futures. It’s more important to know God Who holds your future. Knowing God through Jesus Christ gives us power in the present to overcome our circumstances and hope for a future with Him. Know God, know hope.

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

13882322_1491614880863961_2588412885945854172_nEverything Is Not What It Seems

My husband has begun to do something he said he’d never do. He’s cooking our dinners. He always said he’d do anything around the house except cook. Never say never my beloved. One day he decided that he would go to the grocery store and he would cook dinner. O happy day. I have been cooking dinner for 40+ years. I thought, this is a one time deal…but it wasn’t. Alleluia. He has been cooking most nights of the week now. I told him that I would eat whatever he puts in front of me. I’m not stupid. The other day he put a piece of chicken in front of me. He had grilled it. He asked me to check it to see if it was cooked to my liking. I said, “yes.” I didn’t want to be negative, but it sure had a strange texture. But I ate it anyway as I’m thinking, “This chicken is very strange and has a weird flavor and texture.” I was slow in eating it and I ate my veggies and was playing around with my chicken. He noticed and asked why I wasn’t eating it. I finally said, “This chicken has a very strange texture.” He replied, “That’s because it is a pork chop.” I said, “Well this will make a good devotion one day.” We both laughed. So what does this have to do with Jesus? Everything is not always what it seems. Sometimes a piece of chicken is really a pork chop and sometimes when we “think” we are helping others, we really are the ones being helped. Everything is not what it seems. We try to be Jesus to others, and they in turn become Jesus to us. We go on mission trips to bless others, and they bless us. God has a beautiful way of taking our efforts and making them spiritual food for our own souls. Deuteronomy 15.10 says that if we give generously, then God will bless the work of our hands. When we give of ourselves in helping others, we are blessed beyond measure. Though we do not serve others in order to be blessed by God, God feeds us and fills us with a desire to do more and be more. God is amazing like that. God takes an act of service, something that might seem simple to us, and turns it into a spiritual feast. Have you feasted lately?

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

Roger Raymie Benefit Concert

Miracles in Our Midst

The piano player at our church has journeyed a very difficult road this year.  Without much warning, Roger’s health began to decline.  He was a healthy man with his own business–he taught piano lessons–as well as played for our worship services.  He is truly gifted at the piano. In February of this year, he got sick.  He thought it was a virus or something that would pass.  Eventually Roger couldn’t walk and he found himself trying to navigate life from a wheelchair. He continued to play for our church and teach his lessons until his hands no longer cooperated with his brain. He couldn’t play the piano, therefore, he couldn’t work and it wasn’t much longer after this that he no longer was in touch with reality.  I felt helpless to know what to do for Roger.  The prayers never stopped.  I prayed for a miracle and I know church members prayed for a miracle as well.  The doctors said he wouldn’t get better. One of Roger’s friends, who tunes our piano at church, said he couldn’t get in touch with Roger.  I had to explain why Roger was not returning Jerry’s phone calls.  I told Jerry I felt helpless and we wanted to help.  Jerry offered to do a benefit concert for Roger’s family and I knew that would be the most helpful to this family at this time.  So tonight, at 7pm, at Fairbanks United Methodist Church, Jerry Greene will be donating his time and sharing his gift of music so that we can raise money for Roger’s family.  The prayers for a miracle continued.  On July 13, I told Roger’s son,  “Don’t ever give up hope.  I’m still praying for a miracle.  A lot of people are praying for a miracle.” On July 20, I got a call from Roger. Those words don’t seem that impressive; however, the fact that Roger knew me, found my number and called me was impressive enough.  But then, when we talked, it was Roger–he was back. Yes, this was the miracle we had been praying for.  It was a miracle in the making because we didn’t stop praying.  A friend and I went to visit him that Friday.  He could lift himself into her car.  We took him to the bank so he could check on things. He discussed important things with us. He made total sense and we sat in awe of the miracle in our midst. I didn’t think God is finished with this miracle….and He wasn’t. I got a video from Roger’s son this past Wednesday morning.  It was the sweetest sound…it was the sound of amazing grace…it was the sound of a miracle in our midst…it was Roger playing beautifully on his keyboard! Romans 5.3 reads, “…but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  I’m still praying that Roger’s strength and balance return to his legs.  Even so, Roger’s healing this far (because I don’t think his healing is complete yet) is a miracle. Whether that miracle came through doctors, or medicine, or a word from God, this is a miracle in our midst. Hope and prayers are beautiful things. Thank you Jesus!

Blessings,

Deanna

image1Sharing a Meal

If you happen to know anything about horses, they are voracious about their hay and grain. They are always ready to eat and always eating.  If it is not breakfast or dinner time, they are eating whatever grass they can find.  When we put the food down for one, AJ bullies King away.  Then we put the food down for King and AJ goes and bullies King back to where he has already eaten some of the grain. King is not the King around here. It’s like a dance they do…but they love their food. They even sometimes try to trick us into feeding them again.  Scott generally feeds them.  But sometimes he has to leave earlier than I do and when I go outside the horses knicker at me suggesting that they have not been fed.  I then have to call Scott to make sure they have–and they have.  The point is that they love to eat.  So color us surprised when the horses began allowing this doe to share their meal (see picture).  Scott says that now in the morning she is waiting alongside the horses to be fed.  This strikes me as hopeful.  Given the tension in our country these days in the recent attack on law enforcement officers, these two animals sharing a meal gives me hope that humanity can transcend any differences.  As Christians we have a responsibility to speak “peace” into this world and “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12.9-12).  Let us begin each day with a prayer of hope and peace.  Do a random act of kindness today. Help someone. Love everyone. Make this day better than yesterday and make it count to the glory of God

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

13726620_1464917316867051_487596278323343322_nPray for Nice, pray for Unity.
On a day that stands for Liberty and unity in France, someone intentionally tried to instill fear into our lives. This terrorist attack in Nice, France is another tragedy that makes it challenging to live without fear for our families, our country and ourselves. However, this is exactly what we should do–be fearless in the face of those who try to divide us, kill us, and make us run and hide. “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.” (Psalm 118.6). National unity is an enemy of those terrorists. France President Hollande, said, “France is afflicted, but she is strong, and she will always be stronger than the fanatics who want to strike her today.” We can say the same for America…She is afflicted, but she is strong, and she will always be stronger than the fanatics who want to strike her today. Americans–be strong, be love, be fearless, be one. Love your neighbors–Jesus said to. But he also said, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In this time of desperation in the United States of America, be one who unites not divides. It begins with you and me.
Blessings,
Pastor Deanna

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I just don’t know what to say that hasn’t been said.  I wonder if anyone is listening anyway.  I’m talking about the events that have taken place recently–shootings near Minneapolis, in Baton Rouge and the shootings at the “peaceful” protest in Dallas. How long, O Lord, how long until we work together–all human beings–to heal your land.  If we truly see each other through your eyes, Lord Jesus, then we would see beauty in one another.  We would see people that are beautifully and wonderfully made–instead of seeing “other” or “enemy” or “them”.  We would see everyone as one of “us”.  We would together work toward peace, love, harmony, and caring for one another rather than killing one another. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5.9). We are constantly looking for solutions to this evil problem when the answer has already been presented to us. The answer is Jesus.  The struggle is simply that not everyone has the answer.  So it is up to those of us who have been taught, by Jesus’ example, to have love and humility, to be love and to humble ourselves no matter what the circumstances.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” “We cannot hate evil more than we love good” was written by an Oklahoma police officer recently as he was telling the story of how a woman and her children pulled their car over and got out, stepped up to his car and asked if they could pray for his safety.  He shared his experience because he wanted people to see through this one encounter that we should give others a chance, “regardless of race or profession….You simply cannot judge an entire group of people because of the actions of some.” Why is this significant?  The woman and her children were black and the police officer is white. I’m reading more and more about incidents like this.  People are trying to build bridges rather than creating larger divides between us. Jesus, we need more of this.  We cannot allow hate to spur us on to violence; but we should allow our love to spur us on to humility and peaceful resolution. How long, O Lord, how long?  The question for each of us becomes, “What can I do today to build a bridge?”

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

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What’s the strangest thing God has ever lead you to do?  You know what I am talking about–that time you felt nudged to do something that you couldn’t possibly have thought of yourself.  It might have been something completely out of your comfort zone and it might have even scared you a little bit (or a lot)!  You see something happening and you know you have to be a part of it.  You somehow know that this is where God wants you.  You think, I’d better commit to this before I get cold feet.  Then God gives you voice and courage to commit and whatever skills are needed to do that thing He has guided you to.  It’s an amazing thing.  God is amazing. I believe this happens way more than we recognize or for which we give credit to God.  God works through Vacation Bible School.  Seeds of love, caring, helping, sharing, serving, listening are planted in the little ones–and the big ones too! I have watched and served through VBS in many different ways.  This year I was led to lead the 3-4 year olds. Yes this was out of my comfort zone; but, I knew God was at work through VBS and I joined Him in His work.  I was challenged–ok I was a bit nervous about working with those littles.  But what a blessing they were.  When I watched them sing and dance=blessing.  When I heard them answer Bible questions with “Jesus!”=blessing.  When they held my hand=blessing. When they got so excited about a snack or a craft=blessing. When we were batting balloons around with pool noodles and I saw one of the shyest girls laugh out loud=blessing.  God was at work and I joined Him.  Over 30 people joined Him to make VBS happen. I hope and pray that everyone experienced the great blessing of joining God in His work.  Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” (John 5.17). We worked with the Father together.  Was I tired–you bet. On Monday I wondered if I could make it the whole week.  However, God provided just exactly what I (we) needed to finish the week strong.  God is always at work around us.  Pay attention. Join Him in His work. Don’t join Him for the blessing.  Don’t join Him for the praise. Join Him because He wants you too! There is nothing more important in the world than His work.  Where do you see God working around you

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

devo pic 2Dusty Bibles and Fading Flowers
 

As a pastor there is something that tends to make me sad–dusty Bibles.  I’ve seen many dusty Bibles in my day.  Some of those dusty Bibles even used to be in my own home. Now I must confess that I have a lot of Bibles (at least 10) and I have my favorites, so I may still have a dusty Bible or two in my home.  What makes me sad is when the only Bible in a home is a dusty one.  I think what I will start doing is writing “Read me” in the dust just like people put “Wash me” on dirty cars!  Seriously, I would do that.  A dusty Bible tells me that the owner does not know the value of reading the Bible or the nuggets of wisdom to be found there.  Isaiah 40.8 reads, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Devos pic 1Several weeks ago I posted about the beautiful flowers at the ranch.  They were as far as the eye could see.  Yesterday Scott sent me a picture of the flowers now.  There are still some flowers but they are fading away.  Fading flowers makes me sad too! Look at the two pictures together.  Scripture tells us this happens and it tells us that God’s word will never fade away.  When I think of God’s word, I think of Jesus Christ.  In the Gospels we read of how God revealed Himself through Jesus and the promise of the Holy Spirit when Jesus ascended into heaven.  Now God speaks through the Holy Spirit.  These things were revealed to me through the Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit.  You can learn how to live, how to love, and how to have life eternal from the Scriptures. Now I know there is a lot of controversy over interpretation of Scripture.  I’m not sure there will ever be full agreement upon just exactly what Scripture means.  What I do know is that Jesus changes everything and I interpret all Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ, His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  After all, Jesus is the living Word of God (read John 1.1-5).  Through Scripture I can read about His passion and purpose for living and dying. That will never fade away.  The fact that God did that for us will never fade away.  God’s love story with humanity will never fade away.  God’s love will never fade away.  I know these things because the Bible tells me so. Dusty Bibles–why?  There are children around the world that would love to have a Bible to read….maybe we should send them our dusty Bibles OR maybe we should pick up our dusty Bibles and read-ask questions, ponder, challenge–but read the Bible (yes, I did try the guilt thing).  If you have questions when you are reading, just ask me and we will try to figure out the answer together.  NO MORE DUSTY BIBLES….

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

13434940_1440272752664841_3390006351647273137_nFinding Nemo, Trusting God!

As I am doing my lesson in my Bible Study (“Experiencing God”), the topic for this day is “Love God”. The author writes of God’s nature of love and how His will and what He asks us to do is always perfect. He also writes of the way we are to demonstrate our love for God–obedience.  This is a difficult thing for many. The author writes that if we have an obedience problem, then we have a love problem.  In other words, if we truly love God, then we will be obedient to His will, His directions and allow Him to equip and empower us to do His work. This makes me think of the movie “Finding Nemo.”  Hopefully you’ve seen it.  (If not, you really should rent it and watch it.) Remember when they took the East Australian Current because they wanted to get to Sydney?  The current was quickly carrying Nemo, Dory, and all the turtles to the place they wanted to go.  They swam with the current and enjoyed the ride. But what if they decided to swim against the current?  They would work and work but never get anywhere.  I’m sure they would feel frustrated and wonder “what’s the point?”  Sometimes I think that’s what we do with God.  Let me explain.  God has shown God’s love for us in ways that are too numerous to count (John 3.16).  God has given us commandments and then Jesus netted it out for us in the two Great Commandments–love God and love neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22.36-40).I know many people who love God but seem to swimming against the current when it comes to being love.  I have to wonder if love is the problem or if trust is the problem.  It is a very difficult thing to trust what or whom we don’t know.  If we think of God as some other worldly being that is disconnected from us, that has more important things to do than to listen to us, guide us, comfort us, or simply be with us, then how can we trust Him?  It would be like a stranger walking up to you and saying “trust me” when he gives you directions.  It’s a funny thing, how many times have you trusted a stranger with directions but won’t trust God with directions?  (Except for the men who don’t ask for directions 🙂 ).  Trust is a necessary step to lead to obedience.  And obedience will help us to trust God more.  Yes, I definitely think that love leads to obedience, but we must know and trust The One to whom we are being obedient. If we don’t trust and obey, then it will be like swimming against the current.  Our lives and work will not be fulfilling, we will feel like nothing matters, and we will feel tired and empty. But, if we know God, love God, believe God, and trust God, we will obey God. In our obedience we will find our life and work fulfilling and meaningful.  Remember, Jesus promised us abundant life (John 10.10).  That’s what I’m talking about here–abundant life.  Our relationship with God will deepen and our love for Him will envelop all we do–including all of our relationships and interactions with others. Nemo had to trust others to help him find his way home and all the while Nemo’s father was looking for Nemo and never gave up.  We must trust God’s love through Jesus Christ in order for us to be at home in God’s love.  But know this, no matter how lost or disconnected we feel, God never gives up on us and He continues to call us home.

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

devo picIs That You God?

There are two Bible Study classes at my church that are doing the updated version of “Experiencing God”.  I am not facilitating this one but I am doing the study on my own so I can be where they are.  “Experiencing God” was the first study I ever facilitated and it was very helpful to me on my journey with God. It’s interesting that this time it seems that I am doing the study through the lens of my church.  Since we are in the midst of some major changes, I want my congregation to be sure that we are on the right track and joining God in His work.  As I was doing this morning’s lesson, I was reminded of a time when God invited me to join Him in His work and I said “Not now.”  It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was when I was in my first career–fitness and personal training. I can now look back and see what was happening; but, in the moment I didn’t have a clue.  I thought that “I thought” (no that’s not a typo) I should hold a Pilates class at my church. As soon as I thought about it, I thought “not now–maybe later”.  Later came and I thought about it again. I said to myself (what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was actually saying to God) “Summer is not a good time to begin this. I’ll wait until school starts again.”  Summer came and went and the “thought” that “now is the time” came.  I still said, “Not now.”  Then one Sunday morning when I walked into church, one of the Pastors told me, “I think that you should do a Pilates class here.”  In that moment I realized that all this time it was God asking me to do something and I had been putting Him off.  You see, I had not had a discussion about my thoughts with anyone. How could she possibly ask me to do the thing I had been putting off except for God?  My response to the pastor, “Well, I guess I’ll be doing a Pilates class here at the church.” I was so overwhelmed with the knowledge that God had been nudging me, inviting me, asking me and maybe even telling me what to do and I had been putting God off.  I know you know what I am talking about.  There is something that He has been inviting you to do, and you have been putting Him off. Philippians 2.13 reads, “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  For some reason, I didn’t even consider that it was God inviting me to join Him in His work.  But I now know it was.  I did the class.  People came–for a while.  Then I canceled the class and I learned something (else) very important about my journey with God.  I thought that because it was His idea that it would be a big success.  It wasn’t.  It wasn’t about my success; it was about my obedience.  It was about learning how to hear Him and discern His voice from all the other voices in the world.  This experience was a major spiritual marker for me.  I was changed because I could not possibly remain the same after encountering God–and neither can you.  What is it He has been asking you to do? He waits for your obedience.  I promise, you will not be sorry you joined Him in His work.

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

13322164_1422737611085022_6145951799615571213_nWell, Nobody’s Perfect!
Scott, my husband, took Shep and Gizmo to the vet this morning for their regular check ups. Unfortunately Shep is a bit fluffy (translated–he weighs too much for his short little legs). We have been feeding him less, we have tried diet dog food, but he still put on weight. Gizmo is the perfect weight. Physically, Giz is the perfect dog, but as you know (because I’ve written about his behavior so many times) his behavior leaves a lot to be desired. Physically, Shep has problems–his weight and degenerative joints, but his behavior is perfect. If we combined the two dogs, we’d either have the perfect dog OR a mess of challenges. Neither of them is perfect. I feel bad for Shep because no matter how hard we try, he just doesn’t lose weight. I resemble that remark. Since I was a little girl I have struggled with my weight. Not a newsflash for anyone that knows me. I’ve tried every diet one can imagine, every physical type of exercise, yet I still struggle. Don’t we all struggle with one thing or another? Our struggles may be different–physical struggles, emotional struggles, spiritual struggles–but we all struggle. That is a common condition that exists in all human beings. For our dogs, we offer them the help they need. We adjust Shep’s diet once again and we give him glucosamine for his joints. Gizmo suffers consequences for his bad behavior. He spends much time in his “bed”. For us, God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us the help we need–guidance, instruction, self-control, patience, etc. When we behave badly, we suffer consequences for our actions. Consequences are a natural outcome of behavior–there will be good consequences or bad. When God gave us free will–consequences, or cause and effect, is a natural outcome. Either way, we all, with our imperfections must look to the only perfect One to help us stay focused on being who He wants us to be. He loves us just as we are, fluffy or not and in all of our sinfulness. Listen to this Scripture from Psalm 139.14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” No matter what your struggle is, know this: You are a beautiful work of art. Allow God to continue to mold you into His likeness. Trust Him. Praise Him. Follow Him. Love Him. When you do these things, “peace that passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4.7)! AMEN!

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

Stop It Devo PicStop It!

When I let down family, I wonder.  When I let down friends, I wonder. When I let down my church, I wonder. When I let down God, I wonder.  I wonder, why in the world can I not make everyone happy? Then I have to do a little self talk, “Self, why are you trying to make everyone happy? It’s God you want to please!”  Then I reorganize my thinking and priorities, I set some things aside and reorient myself to seeking, loving and serving God.  It’s amazing how peace settles in and helps me de-stress from my self inflicted unrealistic expectations of myself (and of others). I absolutely believe that there are many of us that suffer from the superman/woman syndrome (and yes, I just made that up). We try to be all things to all people, and sometimes we wear ourselves out doing it or we are so focused on being all things that we forget to enjoy life.  Can I get an Amen to that?  So, what is my answer for that?  STOP IT. Do you think Jesus tried to please everyone?  He came, did what he came to do and ruffled many feathers all along the way. He prayed a lot and I believe that His prayer time enabled Him to stay focused on His mission to save His people. Our prayer time will enable us to stay focused on our mission to love Him, others and ourselves.  Do you see, in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22.34-40) we are told to love God, love others as we love ourselves?  That implies that we love ourselves.  The best way to love ourselves is to love God first–the rest will fall into place.  He will show us the greater good that we should be working toward. He will show us that prayer is not only frequently necessary but should be necessarily frequent to shore us up, keep us focused and in communication with the only One who is all things to us

 Blessings,

 Pastor Deanna

 May 13Just Be Held

Last weekend when we were at the ranch (remember I showed you God’s glorious garden in pictures), I decided that I would do the whole “sit in the flowers and have my picture taken” thing. Scott and I were walking around with the dogs, Shep and Gizmo, and found the right spot to do this.  So I plop myself down on the ground, making sure no snakes or ants were around, and am trying to get situated for the picture.  Next thing I know, Gizmo is right there with me.  He didn’t know what was happening but he sure did want to be a part of it.  Scott just kept snapping pictures because it was obvious that I was not going to be alone in this picture. I’ve included the picture and I want you to look closely at Gizmo’s face. Is that not the most peaceful face you’ve ever seen?  He is in my arms and he is letting me hold him. It is difficult to explain the peace, rest and trust that is happening in this moment. If dogs could purr, I’m pretty sure he would have been purring at this moment (but instead there is something going on with his tongue!). My beloved, that look on his face…that peace, rest and trust…that’s what I feel when I know that my God’s got me. Sometimes, we’ve got to let go of everything and trust God to hold us and grant us peace and rest. Just be held. Casting Crowns has a song called “Just Be Held” that speaks to letting go and letting Him hold us. It is a beautiful song that speaks to what I am talking about here. I know that it is difficult to let go of the things that hold us captive to going, doing, and trying to control everything, and never allowing us to “just be held”. But, envision the arms that were spread out on the cross, enfolding you in His embrace. No one loves you more than Jesus. Not your parents. Not your significant other. Not your children. Not your best friend. Not even your pastor. And they all love you beyond measure.  Jesus loves you to death…literally. He is our “refuge and strength” (Psalm 46.1) and He is our rock and shield (Psalm 18.2).  You might be thinking, I don’t know how to “just be held.”  Try this:  Find a peaceful place and sit quietly.  Close your eyes and imagine Jesus’ arms wrapping you in His loving embrace.  Feel the warmth. Feel His breath. Feel His love.  Hear in your heart, “I love you.” Now let go and just be held.  

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

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God’s Glorious Garden
Last week I was blessed to have some sister time at our place in Fredericksburg. All five of us piled into my truck (good thing I had a truck with a cover over the bed because no car could have fit all that luggage) and I drove us to our destination. I have been hoping and praying that my sisters would get to experience God’s glorious garden on our property. They did! I wish I would have counted how many times the word “beautiful” was used. God never ceases to amaze me with his beautiful creation. We had a spectacular time walking among the flowers and marveling at the varieties, colors, and shapes. I had to store these pictures up in my mind because I figured the next time I came out they would be gone and a picture never really captures the full essence of the beauty. It would be another year before God’s glorious garden of color would be displayed there again. Unfortunately, before we left I discovered our security system was dead as a door nail (what is a door nail anyway) and Scott and I had to come back to meet the security guy to fix it. I thought last weekend it was as beautiful as it could get. I was wrong. God’s glorious garden was even more glorious, more colorful and more full than last week. Oh, I do love that God is a God of more! I’m including a photo of just a glimpse of God’s glorious garden. This is my “Field of Grace”. Where is your field of grace…a place where you experience a tangible presence of God’s grace, beauty, and peace? I cannot help to think of the Scripture from Matthew 6.30, NLT, “And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” Today I will revel in God’s glorious garden peacefully and in gratitude for His care for me. How about you?
Blessings,
Pastor Deanna
 
 
But God Promised…
This week our city experienced devastating flooding. Some newscasts reported that 245 BILLION gallons of water was dumped upon Houston and surrounding areas in less than 24 hours.  Today, the sun is shining and it is a glorious day.  I have to wonder how those flood victims feel today.  I have to wonder if some are saying, “But God promised never to flood the earth again and here I’ve lost my home, everything in side, and my car to this flood.  How would you respond to that statement?  How would I respond?  I would respond with help and hope. I’m sure you would to–and have helped in any way you could. This is not the time to have a theological discussion about how God didn’t “cause” the flood.  Though He didn’t.  This is the time to show these people that God is present in the helping hands and hearts.  This is the time to show these victims that they can become victors as they accept the help of their community and begin again. For these people, their whole world has changed and they will spend the next season of their lives trying to rebuild their lives. It will be a long haul.  I myself have experienced some frustration because I want to help. I called someone at the Conference Office the other day and asked how we could engage in relief.  I was told we couldn’t do anything until all the rescues were completed. I called the Red Cross today so that I could volunteer at a shelter.  I was told they didn’t need help there but at the Administration Building. The places listed as shelters near me, where I was going to volunteer today, are not active right now.  My frustration in no way compares to the devastation that these flood victims are experiencing.  So I will continue to look for ways to help.  You should too.  Be love. UMCOR, United Methodist Committee on Relief, will be setting up teams to go in and help in the devastated areas.  This is what they do.  They provide long term assistance to help people rebuild/repair their homes.   This Sunday, we will take a special offering for flood victims that will ultimately help in this process.  I will be looking for ways for our church to be involved with UMCOR.  But don’t wait, my beloved.  If you see a need, fill it.  If you need help, let us know.  We are in this together.  When our sisters and brothers suffer, we suffer (1 Corinthians 12.26).  Let us share the burden as we show others God’s love in action.

Blessings,

Pastor Deanna

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