Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resist the Devil, and He Will Flee From You. Draw Near to God, and He Will Draw Near to You

Do you have a “the worst mistake I ever made” moment in your life? I imagine most of us do. I am not sure about you, but I have made NUMEROUS mistakes over the years. One, however, vastly exceeds the rest! What is “the worst mistake I ever made”? I went against God’s word. It seemed small, at the time, but no sin is little. ALL sin is VERY serious to God. And mine, though seemingly tiny, came with MASSIVE consequences! You see, as someone once told me years ago, sin only gets worse! That feels so true, I cannot even begin to tell you!

So, why go against God’s word? That is just asking for trouble, right? YES, it is! DON’T DO IT!!! But I, in my prideful youth, did not heed the warning. I know,
12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12. ESV.)

(B)but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
(C)for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.
(Isaiah 38:17. ESV.)

(C)You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:19. ESV.)
But the consequences are still intense.

The point here is this, I KNEW better but I did it anyway. I wish I could say, “Well, if I knew then what I know now…” But, I don’t know. The most important thing is obedience to God…so I do not think anything would have deterred me at that time in my life given I was (VERY foolishly) rebellious. Ick! I am such an idiot! John MacArthur from “Grace to You” stated the following,
Now, temptation works like that. As long as we stare at it...as long as we look at the baubles or the bangles that Satan dangles in front of our eyes...as long as we entertain ourselves on that and feed on it, we're susceptible, obviously. And temptation is a very common problem for all of us, and perhaps, victory over temptation is not so common…. The problem is we entertain ourselves by looking at the temptation rather than staring into the Master's face. (MacArthur, John. Grace to You. “How to Overcome Temptation”. 1970. http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1205/how-to-overcome-temptation?
Very well said, Pastor John MacArthur. Time for me to concentrate harder on my “Master’s” face!

7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10. ESV.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Earth is the LORD’s and the Fullness Thereof: 50 Things I Am Going to Miss About California (#38-#36)

In celebration of our move from California to Texas, I am listing 50 things I am going to miss about this state. So far, I covered:
50. Earthquakes
49. Traffic

48. The freeways
47. The crazy expensive cost of living

46. The Oakland A’s
45. The Sacramento River Cats
44. The Stockton Ports

43. Disney’s California Adventure Park
42. Hiking to the Summit of Mt. Diablo

41. San Diego, CA
40. Los Angeles, CA
39. Long Beach, CA


Which brings me to the next THREE:

38. The Redwood Trees
Though I have not been to the “Avenue of the Giants” through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. I have been to see some of the Redwoods at Big Sur. I am told the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) are not nearly as magnificent as the Redwoods of “Avenue of the Giants”, however I feel they are quite a sight to behold just the same! My only regret (that nags at me to this day) is not taking my dad (who really wanted to see the Redwoods) into the forest of them at Big Sur (on his last visit to Cali). I did drive by them but we did not walk among them. He most likely is not going to get out here, again, before we move.

The first time I ever went to Big Sur, hubs was doing a portable power job for a party or wedding. We seemingly went deep into the massive Redwoods which remind me of the trees in “Lord of the Rings” and we were like the Hobbits. The sound of their leaves rustling and branches cracking as they swayed (or even as they stood still) was enchanting. Their colossal size is (hopefully) forever burned into my mind. In my opinion, the Redwoods are a “must see”! Each states has its charm and alluring qualities!

37. The Beautiful Drive Along Highway 1
Have you ever seen Hearst Castle (which I will cover more extensively at #32) or traveled highway 46 (which was included on James Dean’s last ride? When we did, there was a convenient store which claimed to be “James Dean’s Last Stop”.) But, I am getting ahead of myself, a little. We started at Monterey (about which I will get into more detail at #24), followed Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), through Carmel and Big Sur, past Hearst Castle, along highway 46 to the 5 freeway and on to Los Angeles. The highway 1 route is simply exquisite! The road winds around and the cliff drops off (on one side) to the Pacific below. The waves crash upon the rocks and the view is nothing short of breath taking. (Each time I have made this drive the visibility was great and it was not overcast. If you want an idea of the scenery, just Google “Pfeiffer State Park”.) The redwoods tower over general stores, small restaurants, and cabins. The sea lions bask in the sun on the coast near Hearst Castle. And a lone convenient store claims to be the “Last Stop”, for James Dean, on hwy 46.

I have never stayed overnight in Big Sur. I believe, if memory serves me well, we did stay in Carmel one night (when hubs was on a work trip--- so long ago I can scarcely remember it--- back when he was a lowly “technician” for a portable power company. He used to do quite a few jobs at Pebble Beach).

36. Big Sur/ Carmel
Our last trip through Carmel and Big Sur was circa 2009, so I suppose we are due for another visit before we move. Perhaps with our moving truck and stuff as we head out of dodge, on our way to Los Angeles. Originally, I figured three days to make the drive (mainly 12 hour days… Northern Cali to Phoenix – day one, Phoenix to New Mexico – day two, and New Mexico to TX – day three. That’s what I did on my road trip across country circa 2008). But, I guess we should take our time and see some sights (and friends) along the way.

While reminiscing about my visits to Carmel/Big Sur, I stumbled across a fabulous article on the “Huffington Post” website. It is called “14 Things You Need to Know Before Driving California’s Big Sur” and it can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/David-Landsel/california-big-sur-driving-the-coast_b_5095299.html. I feel writer David Landsel covers some great information worth viewing, especially if you think you might want to plan a trip!

1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8Who is this King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle!
9Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory!
(Pslam 24. ESV.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

No Temptation Has Overtaken You That is Not Common to Man

Lately, I have been mentioning unhealthy, toxic relationships I am currently phasing out of my life. To be honest, all of them began with sin so, really, why would God bless them? Further, the repercussions (of said sin) have been hellacious! (Please know, I do not take this lightly. I would never distance myself from something or someone simply because I could not be bothered or he/she/it “rubbed me the wrong way”. The unions about which I speak are unkind, ungodly, manipulative, controlling, oppressive, ugly, verbally (and sometimes even physically) abusive, and very unhealthy…and have been such for nearly 20 years.)

(Side bar: Regarding Hell, Tommy Clayton from “Grace to You” states,
…hell is not a state of mind or a hard life on this earth. Your state of mind can change; your circumstances can improve. Hell never changes, never improves. Hell is not chastisement; it’s everlasting, insufferable punishment at the hands of an angry God. (Clayton, Tommy. Grace to You. “The Truth About Hell”. 2011. http://www.gty.org/blog/B110430/the-truth-about-hell.)
I do not want to blur the line with my analogy of “hellacious” strife, etc. in life. This particular post is not about Hell. I am simply using it to paint a picture, this time. For the record, though, I do believe Hell is a real place. One about which I tell/warn those I love. Unfortunately, I feel some of them have come to the conclusion, if that is truly God’s character (to throw people into eternal suffering) they want nothing to do with Him.
Satan continues his efforts to make sin less offensive, heaven less appealing, hell less horrific, and the gospel less urgent. (Clayton, Tommy. Grace to You. “The Truth About Hell”. 2011. http://www.gty.org/blog/B110430/the-truth-about-hell.)
But, that is not what this post is about, either.)

It is about how God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13. ESV.)
“The way of escape”? What is that, exactly? G. Gabriel Powell of “Grace to You” offers the following explanation,
This makes me think of the paratrooper dropped into enemy territory who needs to make his way back to safety. He has no trap door or tunnels to crawl through; he won’t be rescued by helicopter or beamed to safety. He has to find a way through enemy territory.

In the same way, God has provided, in every situation, a path for you to take. There is always a choice of roads to travel. When faced with the temptation to sin, you can choose to succumb or you can choose to resist and flee. When you are confronted with a difficult ordeal, you can succumb to despair and anxiety or you can endure with the strength He provides. Whatever your situation, God’s Word will light the way of escape and show you the path to follow to get you through the situation and out of enemy territory.
(Powell, G. Gabriel. Grace to You. “I Can’t Handle This”. 2014. https://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Blog/B110308.)

I have been walking a very difficult path for nearly 20 years. (I have no one but myself to blame.) And, there have been a multitude of times, during those years, when I felt I could not handle it. I wanted to rebel, yell, scream, sin, etc. (which only would have brought on further horrible consequences). So, I have been sticking to God’s word (with the strength of Christ). And, an escape has been provided…which, of course, I am taking (with gusto)! I am almost “back to safety”! Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I Cry Out to God Who Fulfills His Purpose for Me

Every year, for the last 15-20 years has basically been the same. I am determined 2015 is going to be different! It is going to be better! I am FINALLY phasing out the negative influences in my life--- life is too short for that nonsense (James 4:14)--- and building toward the future. The “empty nest” season is creeping up on me and I want to be prepared! Two years ago I started distancing myself from unhealthy, toxic relationships I had allowed to remain in and influence my life for WAY too long. One and a half years ago I went back to school to pursue a law degree. I have roughly 58 more credits for undergrad studies and then I can move on to law school. I am currently working to master blue belt in the Tracy’s system of Kenpo. (Their belt system goes white – beginner, yellow, orange, purple, blue – intermediate, green, third brown, second brown, first brown, first black – advanced). And, in June, my crew and I are moving to Texas. I feel God has provided all of this and I am stronger, today, than I have EVER been! If God grows us through adversity and tribulation, then I have grown BIG TIME over the last 15-20 years!

Every 20 years is like a new season for me. The first 20 were spent studying, learning, traveling, seeing the world, training in dance (with a focus on ballet), working for the Disney company, showing up on television, in the newspaper and TIME magazine…the next (nearly) 20 were spent being a wife, stepmother, and mother. And now, as I get dangerously close to 40 years old, I find myself transitioning into the coming season. I am excited at what God has in store for me! He blesses me abundantly, even in the desert with “storms of destruction”…even with the thorn in my flesh.

1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
2I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

4My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

6They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
9I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
(Psalm 57. ESV.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Be Gracious to Me, O God, for Man Tramples On Me

I get my heart broken so many times when it comes to this very thing: “Don’t overlook the people who genuinely love and support you, trying to impress the ones who don’t.” I do not understand it. I do not think I ever will! Still, to this day, this happens! And, I tell myself I am a fool for continuously giving my heart to those who do not seem to want it! It is as though I do not exist or have feelings.

But, those days are over! I never thought I would EVER say that…which is actually ridiculous if you know the full story…I should have said it many, many years ago! Yet, here I am, expressing it. “Stick me with a fork, I’m DONE!” After nearly 20 years of serving, unconditional love, forgiveness, heartache, sweat, tears (a multitude of tears), being threatened, yelled at, called unbelievable, despicable names (among “stupid” and profanity), being manipulated, played, taken for every dime, spat on (yes, literally), stolen from, trespassed against, lied about in a court of law (yes, someone perjured themself and was not punished for it…where is the justice?), deceived, conspired against, etc. I am FINALLY setting myself free! I do not feel most (of those who know me) will even notice. And, those that do, I pray might understand. However, I’m sure some will be disappointed. But, I can say without doubt or hesitation, “I tried my absolute best.” And, most importantly, God knows! He was there, every step of the way. He heard my every prayer, kept count of all my sorrows, and put my tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). Our moving to Texas is going to be the BEST thing for us, ever! Unfortunately we are leaving behind dear friends but we are also distancing ourselves from the “bad elements” that are tearing us apart.

This Christmas was the final straw, for me. 2015 is going to be a year full of adventures in a new place far from negative, unhealthy, unpleasant relationships! My cup runeth over! Thank you, Lord, for making it possible!

1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
5All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
8You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
12I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
(Psalm 56. ESV.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

May the LORD rejoice in his works: 50 Things I Am Going to Miss About California (#41-#39)

San Diego Skyline.  Photo Information:
www.freeimages.com/photo/1313570
I have finally finished fall semester and am looking forward to CHRISTmas break! It is overcast and rainy outside, the house is quiet, and I am sitting here with you and a hot cup of coffee. (Which, by the way, I’m thinking it is time I switch to tea. Do you have any suggestions for me?)

In celebration of our move from California to Texas, I am listing 50 things I am going to miss about this state. So far, I covered:
50. Earthquakes
49. Traffic

48. The freeways
47. The crazy expensive cost of living

46. The Oakland A’s
45. The Sacramento River Cats
44. The Stockton Ports

43. Disney’s California Adventure Park
42. Hiking to the Summit of Mt. Diablo


Which brings me to the next THREE:

41. San Diego
Oh, beautiful San Diego…about two or three hours (driving) from Los Angeles! Though (I feel) it is quite pricey, I believe it is a must see (and experience)! I have been there twice since moving here… once for Thanksgiving (circa 1999) when my cousin was living there and once with my parents, sibling, and a couple of my children (circa summer 2009). I would like to go visit one more time before we move. Maybe, I could catch up with a good friend of mine while down that way! San Diego is picturesque and lovely. My cousin’s apartment was in the downtown area when I visited with her and the hotel where my family and I stayed was near the harbor. Actually, come to think of it, I was there one more time when hubs did a job for work…years ago…somewhere between 2001 and 2006. Anyway, the San Diego Zoo is remarkable! It is huge and quite a sight to see! We went there around 2009. I would not mind going back, again. If I had, had the opportunity, I probably would have liked living in San Diego…aside from the cost of living.

40. Los Angeles (L.A.)
I do not believe it should be any secret I am not a huge fan of L.A. It has its charm, of course. Visiting Hollywood Blvd is fun (but I would not want to live there) and Rodeo Drive is a treat. But, L.A. also has its drawbacks. The two that spring to my mind the quickest are pollution and traffic. There generally seems to be this brown haze that hovers over and around L.A. Most days (when I lived in the area) I was not even able to see the city skyline. It is a stark contrast to Northern California in the quality of air and even the trash that lingers and is scattered about on the ground. And, as I mentioned at #49, traffic is a beast. The 405 is especially bad, in my opinion. I used to have to allow myself two hours, whenever I went from my house in Long Beach to an audition in the L.A. area. My absolute favorite part of L.A. is Santa Clarita. It is right on the outskirts of L.A. near the “Grapevine” (on the 5 freeway). It is close enough to visit all the sights yet, not smack dab in the middle of it all. There is a quietness, a peace and serenity to it. In Santa Clarita there are plenty of hotels (which I highly recommend to visitors of L.A.). There is Six Flags “Magic Mountain” and restaurants close by. Not to mention, relatively speaking, the prices are not too shabby. A word to the wise, though. Please take extra care in driving around in L.A. There are some pretty intense areas (so stick to the ones with which you are the most familiar) and NEVER, EVER tailgate on the freeways! The traffic will seemingly, spontaneously come to a complete stop from 65-70 miles an hour. Stay alert!
(Sidebar: Los Angeles named as one of “the most unequal places in America” (CNN Money).)

39. Long Beach
Oh Long Beach. When I first moved to California (CA), hubs and I lived in Long Beach for about a year. We were just a few blocks from the beach (and breakwater) and magnificent boardwalk (which I will cover at #27). We rented a room in a house with a garage off of an alleyway. I worked at the Rock Bottom Brewery (which is a fun microbrewery, by the way, which I highly recommend). The food and atmosphere there were great! For me, Long Beach was a left exit off of the 710 freeway. I forgot this when I first made the drive and ended up getting lost. Thankfully, one or two of my roommates came to my rescue! (I was not too far away from the house.) I actually liked Long Beach and think back on it fondly. We spent our Christmas there on the beach with our older children (who were about ages four and seven at the time). So, I recall the climate to be a bit warmer than Northern California. In addition to working at the Rock Bottom Brewery, I also held a position with a Real Estate Organization in Huntington Beach. I recall all of the beaches in that area (Laguna, Newport, Huntington, Seal, and Long Beach) to be lovely. We could even see Catalina Island and the Queen Mary from where we used to play in the sand. I also enjoyed strolling down 2nd Street (but I will address that at #28). As I mentioned, our time there was limited but it sure was action (and unfortunately drama) packed. It felt more like three years than just the one. I met a lot of wonderful people there. Sadly, I believe I am still in contact with only a couple. But, I think about all of them from time to time and they each have a special place in my heart.
31May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works,
32who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
35Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more!
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!
(Psalms 104:31-35. NASB.)


(Click here to go to #38 - #36.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

In All Circumstances Take Up the Shield of Faith, Praying at All Times in the Spirit

This world is unpredictable and, at times, hostile to God’s word. But, I feel, that does not give anyone an excuse not to follow scripture. When hubs and I were first married, he traveled and was gone three or four months at a time. However, just because he was absent did not give me permission to rebel against the word of God. I stayed faithful and steadfast with the strength of Christ. Whenever he has to go out of town on business (or work long hours), presently, it remains the same. No matter what, regardless of any other factors (good, bad, or indifferent), my number one priority is to glorify God.

I believe the same can be said for when someone (a loved one or stranger) sins against us. We are not called to “forget”. No one, no matter how hard he/she tries, is capable of erasing memories from his/her mind. It is impossible. It is my opinion, not even God “forgets”. But, we are called to forgive. You see, regardless of the situation, we are to remain constantly standing on the rock of God, Christ Jesus, and His commandments.

The bible is full of examples of nearly every circumstance of which you can think. Saul killed innocent people who were most likely survived by friends or family members. Has your loved one been murdered? David took Bathsheba as his own then had her husband put on the front lines of battle to die. Has someone committed adultery against you or forced him/herself on you? Abigail had a “badly behaved” husband. God only knows what he did to her. Have you been abused or maltreated by an individual? Delilah deceived Sampson and she was the death of him. Are you being lied to or cheated? (These just name a few and scratch the surface.) It is my opinion God gave us all of the answers (big and small) in His love letter to us. It might take some searching through the text and prayers of wisdom, but you will find it if you look.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11. ESV.)

Whenever I am faced by something…a life choice, a temptation, a difficult decision, strife, tribulation, a problem to solve, etc. I ALWAYS ask myself if I am behaving in manner consistent with God’s instruction. In other words, am I sinning? If my choice is “unorthodox”, out of the “norm” (out of the box), or difficult for others to understand…am I doing the “wrong” thing? No. I learned many years ago to NOT listen to men.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
(Psalm 118:8. ESV.)
As well meaning and with the best of intentions, I (and all human beings) have limited knowledge. We cannot see the big picture or all of the details. There is so much information missing. Yet, God knows and the Holy Spirit directs us.

God NEVER deviates from His word. So, I encourage you and myself to do likewise. And, pray…ALWAYS! Put on the full armor of God.
16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:16-18. ESV.)

Think "outside the box", not "outside the bible". (Okay, that's lame but you get what I mean.)

(Photo Information.)

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