"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Mother's Prayers

I've missed blogging. I hope once I adapt to my new schedule I'll find time to fit it in again.

This won't take long. (to write or read.) I had to share this video with you. My daughter tagged me on facebook and I saw it this morning at the gym.

How many times have you seen a woman at the gym watching a video on her iPhone with tears streaming down her face?

Well that was me this morning!

Here's why.

The note next to her video post read:

Well, momma's prayers are being answered. the Lord has really been tugging on my heart lately. wrote this song tonight.. still needs a lot of work, but it's definitely the cry of my heart. i hope it touches yours.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

My husband and I have been in business together for over 20 years. We own Bryant Digital Media and get to do all kinds of creative work like making commercials, designing websites and producing DVD’s.

But the past two years have been a real struggle. Everything you’ve been hearing on the news about the plight of small business owners in this economy is true.

But that’s okay, because the Lord has a new assignment for me.

Starting tomorrow I will be working two jobs. I will continue in my long-standing capacity at my husband’s company, and I will begin a new 
full time job as a writer for Children’s Hospital of Central California.

I go from working side-by-side my husband and a little band of amazing subcontractors—and no one else—to working for one of the largest employers in Central California.

Life is about to change!

Is it any wonder the Lord brought this wonderful verse to mind?

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Okay, so it’s not Monday.

I missed posting a memory verse earlier this week, and this particular verse has been chasing me ever since.

I taught from this little passage of Scripture for 50 minutes last Wednesday night. 

In other words, today’s memory verse has a whole lot to say!

I know God called me to teach from Proverbs 3:5-6 because I needed to be reminded of the things this verse says so succinctly.

  1. Make a conscious decision to trust God
  2. Trust Him when He doesn’t make sense
  3. Surrender fully to Him because He is God and I am not

If I will do that, if I will

  1. Trust in the LORD with all my heart
  2. Lean not on my own understanding
  3. Acknowledge Him in all my ways

Then He has promised to make my paths straight.

I’m keeping the “if/then” promise contained in these verses ever before me.

Hopefully next week I’ll find the time blog about the other two things God has been hitting me over the head with. (I can’t hold these truths in for much longer.)

For several weeks now, every minute of my day has been filled to maximum capacity. (Hence the trickles of oil flowing from this jar and onto this blog lately.)

But I have much I can’t wait to share. (Oh how I wish there were 48 hours in each day!)

In the meantime—as the hours rush by from dawn to dusk—I’ll be trusting in the LORD wholeheartedly.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Closer Look at Philippians 3

I couldn’t get to my computer yesterday (my usual blog day). I had a wonderful guest staying in the room housing my computer. (I didn’t think he’d appreciate the sound of clicking keys late into the night.)

On Monday, I implied the difficulty of living out Paul’s words from our memory verse this week. I promised to blog about it and I fully intend to.

But first I wanted to give you Monday’s memory verse in context.

I love how it comes across in The Message.

And that's about it, friends. Be glad in God! I don't mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don't mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry—so here goes.

Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they're interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ's praise as we do it. We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. Philippians 3:1-14 The Message

I’ll be back a little later with my thoughts on how to live this out.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

The three dots on either side of today’s memory verse suggest that it comes out of a greater context. I’d love to make the verses on either side part of your memory work this week, but since it won’t all fit on one slide, I had to trim it.

Paul opens the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians by pointing out all the reasons he has for putting confidence in himself.

His motivation for self-confidence could stem from who he was (“a Hebrew of Hebrews”) and also what he had done (“legalistic righteousness”).

It’s one thing to recite Paul’s words and testimony from memory.

It’s quite another to live it out.

This week I plan to blog about what it looks like to live it out.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dreams that Speak

In my dream I was standing on the bow of a tiny cruise ship. (I’d call it a yacht, but I’ve never been on one, so I can’t be sure that’s what it was.)

The crew had prepared the boat for departure. Everyone should have been onboard, but I saw a man I knew from church standing on the dock. He looked confused and borderline desperate.

I assumed he wanted to board, and hurried to help him. I couldn’t find a single crewmember, so I looked for a door to open for him. I searched and searched for a way to help the man climb onboard, but the boat was sealed up tight. 

I felt urgency and a profound sense of responsibility for his wellbeing.

The little ship started moving and I knew I had failed. I peeked through a porthole and watched the man from my church grow smaller and smaller. I hated leaving him behind.

When I turned from the porthole, I discovered I’d wandered into the engine room.

I stood in the heart of the ship and somehow I knew I was blessed to be onboard.

But the dear man had missed the boat.

And the blessing.

Suddenly I heard loud, rushing water and the ship began to lurch. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

I struggled to make my way back to the deck, and soon found a door. It led me to the bridge. The captain and crew looked grave. Fear crept into my throat.

Would I survive this frightening ride?

The force of water threw me forward, but I held on. The ship plunged over a waterfall, but I still held on.

I remember thinking the man on the shore was better off.

I cried out to God and immediately everything stood still. The sound of rushing water and the lurching of the boat stopped.

I looked out over the bow and saw that not one drop of water remained. The boat sat on dry ground.

The captain issued orders to engineering, to other members of his crew, and even to all the passengers. He told us someone had to figure out how to get the ship sailing again.

All kinds of theories came forth.

1.    Send for a large truck and trailer.
2.    Put engineers to work building wheels.
3.    Trace the source of the drainage and dam it.

The captain considered each idea and rejected all.

I prayed, “God, how are we supposed to get out of this mess?”

“They’re trying to solve the problem with things they can do,” God replied. “They haven’t considered the miraculous. All they have to do is ask me, and I will send the water they need.”

Everyone was scrambling, trying to fix the situation. But no one asked God to intervene. No one expected a miracle.

I awoke convicted. When I try to fix impossibilities on my own, my efforts look as silly as putting wheels on a boat.

But what did the man from my church have to do with it?

Her explanation floored me. She said that I couldn’t do a single thing to guarantee someone’s salvation.

I could try and try to show the way, but ultimately God has to open the eyes of the blind. God has to reveal Himself.

If a man from my church wants to stand on the dock, attend Sunday morning services, and read the Bible but not get onboard, I’m powerless to keep him from being left behind.  

But I can expect a miracle. I can ask God to offer living water to that person. Who could refuse that? 

Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a sping of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:14 NIV

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Worry?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27 NIV

After Jesus asked this question no one stepped forward and said, “I can.” I guess that means no one has a good enough reason to worry.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. Matthew 6:25a NIV

Jesus told us not to worry about any of the circumstances that come into our lives, but his lesson on worry in Matthew 6 applies to one particular part of life.

Our finances.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:24-25 NIV

I’m pretty sure that means when I worry about my financial security, I become a servant to money.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

When I fret about making ends meet, I place a little less of my heart in God’s hands.

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 NIV

I can’t add a single hour to my life—or dollar to my wallet—by worrying.

But when I spend my energy serving God instead of money, I can rest securely in His promise to give me all the things I need.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Last Monday our memory verse from the Gospel of John taught us “the flesh counts for nothing.”

I took a little hiatus from blogging because I was wrestling with God over that concept. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the Word of God is spirit and life, just as Jesus said in our memory verse last week.

In fact, the gift of a perfectly timed Bible verse has breathed life into me more times than I can count.

What I meant is that, for a few weeks now, God has been asking me to set aside the things that “count for nothing.”

The things I’m struggling to let go of aren’t sinful. All I want is a little financial security for a change.

But God wants me to find ALL my security in Him. Only Him.

I recited last Monday’s verse like a mantra all week, until the one I’ve chosen for today popped into my head.

Perhaps Jesus was thinking of it when He said the words I quoted last week.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Jesus had a way of telling it like it is. He’s repeatedly quoted in all four gospels as saying, “I tell you the truth.”

Jesus knew the power of His words.

By checking in with Oil from the Jar for Memory Verse Monday, you demonstrate that you also believe in the power of His words.

While all Scripture is “God-breathed” (see 2 Timothy 3:16) our memory verse for today came directly from Jesus’ mouth.

He does not mince words.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Apple of His Eye

It probably won’t come as a surprise if I tell you I don’t make a living writing blog posts.

For longer than I care to admit (only because I’m far too young to have been at this since 1985) I’ve written advertising copy for a living.

Since my husband and I have our own production company, Bryant Digital Media, we can be selective about the types of businesses we work with.

For example, we don’t do casino commercials.

Yesterday I struggled more than I could’ve imagined writing copy for a brand new luxury medispa.

The “medi” part of the word means they offer more than facials and massages. It’s almost, but not quite, plastic surgery.

I wrote the “spa ambiance” commercial first. Then I sat at my computer looking at the list of medical services on the medispa’s website.

Is that what the baby boomer movie stars do to look so good?

I’d write a sentence. Then delete it. Then re-word it. And delete it again.

All I could think of was the Jonny Diaz song “A More Beautiful You.”

The prophet Zechariah proclaimed that God insists whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye. See Zechariah 2:8.

You are the apple of God’s eye.

This truth applies to both men and women. 
Did you know that God is enthralled by your beauty?
As a woman, I especially love this verse:

Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear… The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Psalms 45:10-11 NIV

I muddled my way through writing the second script. (And began to covet having a flawless face and figure.)

Within an hour of emailing the advertising copy to my client, I received this response:

I really like the Spa spot, but I think we need something stronger for the audio of the Medical side. We need to really hit on the points about…

I read the email on my iPhone and planned to respond as soon as I returned to my office, but by the time I got there, another email from her awaited me:

We're working on the medical one now—needs to have a little more "meat" in it but will take a stab at it and send it back over.

A reprieve! Thank you, Jesus.

I don't have a problem with people undergoing procedures to appear younger or more shapely. I also don’t have a problem with people who don’t undergo those procedures.

But I did have a problem with my covetousness.

So I took a good look at myself, confessed my discontent, and praised God for being such an awesome Creator!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalms 139:13-14 NIV 

Try this the next time you look in the mirror:

Say, "Your works are wonderful, God. I know that full well! 
I am the apple of Your eye."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Benefits of Belonging

Last weekend marked the second anniversary of my family’s regular attendance at our new church. (I guess I can’t call it my “new” church anymore.)

I love my church because even though it’s a really big body, it’s a Romans 12:5 body.

…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

The people at my church belong to me and I belong to them.

God never created us to live on our own. He wants us to experience the benefits of belonging.

At the genesis of man’s existence He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 NIV

The wisest man who ever lived concurred. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one.”

Even Jesus sought friendship. The Bible says of his final hours, “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’” Matthew 26:37-38 NIV

From our first Sunday at our new church, my family knew we belonged. Just last night we went to the home of a family we met that Sunday two years ago. They'd invited a handful of people from our church—including a brand new couple who just moved to town—to come over for homemade salsa and deep fried ice cream.

My heart swelled hearing the new couple express their appreciation for the way we had reached out to them. I grinned at hearing my brand new friend say, “It’s one thing to shake visitors’ hands and welcome them to church. It’s another to invite them over to your house!”

I knew how she felt. It sure feels good to belong.

If you’re lonely, I pray you find a Romans 12:5 body.

If you’re blessed with a sense of belonging, I challenge you to reach out. God just might treat you to a new friend. 

And an even greater sense of belonging.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

Happy Labor Day!

In light of the holiday we observe today—and every first Monday in September—I thought you would enjoy the promise God gives us in our memory verse this week.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Would I Really Rather Have Jesus?

Giving Tuesday’s blog the title of a favorite hymn reminded me of something that happened when I was a young bride.

God speaks to me in a variety of ways, but rarely has He spoken in the manner He chose this particular day.

I stood at the kitchen window of our humble first home looking out on my street thinking about nothing of consequence.

Then I saw my neighbor pull into her driveway in a brand new Mercedes.

She and her husband had listed their house for sale just days before, and she had taken me to look at an amazing house she was thinking of buying.

We were about the same age, but her husband—who had joined the family business upon receiving his degree—was moving up the corporate ladder at break neck speed.

And now she had a brand new Mercedes.

Standing with my hands in dish soap, I broke the tenth commandment.

My run-on thoughts sounded something like this:
My husband and I both work hard
while she goes shopping.
Her last car was newer than the one I’m driving now.
Little Miss Perfect, she was homecoming queen, winter formal queen and prom queen and now she’s the Mercedes queen.

My mind was so noisy with negativity that I didn’t hear the positive sound coming from my lips.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold.
I’d rather be His than have riches untold.
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands…

I didn’t even notice the music I sang until I burst into the refrain with a loud, “Than to be the king…”  

I fell silent.

I felt convicted. And I confessed.

My thoughts suggested I would rather have a Mercedes and a big new house.

But my voice sang out a different tune.

I realized God was speaking to me through me and I laughed out loud.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

I belted out the rest of that dear hymn and I meant it with every fiber of my being.

Steve and I had tried to share our love for Jesus with our neighbors one evening over a backyard barbeque.

Far from showing interest, they slammed the door on that conversation.

I dried my hands and quieted my spirit. I no longer wished I had what she had. I prayed that she might have what I have.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything 
This world affords today.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Yesterday my mind was making more noise than the car radio and rush hour traffic combined. In those clamorous times very little can break through my busy brain.

But when I braked for a stoplight near home, everything became still. The silence jolted me and focused my attention. In the next moment I heard a phrase sung by Casting Crowns that would haunt me the rest of the day.

When the song on the radio ended, I pulled out my iPod and listened to it again.

Then I played only the first line. And I played it again.

The Holy Spirit convicted me not only of the truth in that phrase, (and of every word in that powerful song) but God also revealed that this particular truth is not always reality in my life.

The song is called “To Know You.”

Line by line the lyrics declare the truth of what it means to really know God, and I couldn’t get passed the fact that knowing God means we never worry.

Since I truly have an intimate relationship with God, I should never worry for my life. But I do.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

If it’s true that knowing God means never worrying for my life, then why isn’t it true for me?

Because I get sucked into thinking reality is truth. If I have a reason to worry, if circumstances produce worrisome possibilities (or even outcomes) then it makes sense to worry.

But God doesn’t always make sense.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Faith is believing the truth of God’s Word even if we don’t see it. It’s being certain of the things we hope for. (See Hebrews 11:1)

When I’m worried it’s because I’ve taken my eyes off God. And just like Peter I get sucked into thinking I’ve got a reason to worry.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:22-31 NIV

The words to a brand new song challenged me yesterday. 
The words to an old hymn call to me now.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

The memory verse I decided to post today gives me hope.

It also boggles my mind.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m down in a slimy pit covered with mud and mire I don’t want to wait patiently. In fact, I don’t want to wait at all.

I want out now!

But David (the author of today's memory verse) waited patiently.

He didn’t claw at the sides of the pit. He didn’t whine or grumble or yell. He waited.


I’m beginning to think our attitude while waiting for God’s deliverance may affect the duration of our pit visit.

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pictures on my Refrigerator

My grandmother had red hair and loved to think it gave her an excuse to be feisty.

Her picture is stuck to the side of my refrigerator way up at the top. There’s a reason for that.

The location of Gram’s picture reminds me of where she is buried and why.

Sam’s picture has hung beside hers for several years. My dad’s is up there now too.

Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NCV

Last night at dinner my husband made a random comment about the dead in Christ rising first.

(Our conversation didn’t mix in the normal dinner hour ingredients, but our life hasn’t been entirely normal lately.)

Was it a coincidence that I’d been gazing at the precious pictures on my fridge while preparing dinner? And now my husband wanted to talk about the dead in Christ rising first.

I can’t help but smile at the memory of my redheaded grandmother telling us at Sunday dinner over a decade ago why she’d purchased a top drawer at the mausoleum.

She’d pushed her chair back from the table and looked at me with that familiar gleam. “I made sure your grandpa and I got the top row,” she’d said as she raised one arm and pointed to an imaginary spot on the kitchen ceiling.

“Because when the dead in Christ rise, I want to be the first one out!”

We who are living when the Lord comes again will not go before those who have already died. The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And those who have died believing in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 NCV

I love that memory every bit as much as Gram loved her red hair… 
and her Jesus.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians so they would “not be sad, as others who have no hope.” (v. 13)

In the Bible “hope” isn’t a wish. It’s a firm conviction. It’s a rock solid knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. (Hebrews 11:1)

That’s why the upper corner of my refrigerator warms my heart. One day soon Gram, Sam and Dad will rise.

After that, we who are still alive will be gathered up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 NCV

Maybe last night’s dinner conversation was exactly what my husband and I needed to chew on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Holding vs. Casting

A missionary to a Third World country once told me of an observation made by an indigenous church member.

“You Westerners take your requests to God and hand them over to Him palms up,” he said as he cupped his hands in front of his face. “But we offer our prayers palms down.” He dumped his imaginary handful and flicked his fingers to make sure nothing remained.

The missionary’s illustration reminds me of the way Sally mailed her stack of letters in the Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal movie When Harry Met Sally.

She would tip open the big blue mailbox, place one letter inside, close the lid, then open it again to make sure her letter had disappeared. Then she would repeat the process with the next letter.

Eventually, Harry grabbed the stack from Sally and threw the whole bundle down the chute.

I wonder if God can relate to Harry’s exasperation when it comes to the way I deposit my prayers.

I hate to think my trust issues may compel God to practice an inordinate amount of patience with me. I’m afraid I’m guilty of carefully holding onto my needs, even as I offer them up to Him.

Do I fear God will drop them?

David’s Psalm counsels me to dump my bundle palms down.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.  Psalm 55:22 NIV

So does Peter’s first letter.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV

I don’t know about you, but I think “casting” our prayer requests isn’t something we can do with cupped hands. Wouldn’t you agree that “casting” more closely resembles Harry’s method of mailing Sally’s letters?

You and I need to cast off our cares and anxieties, and fasten our hope on God, who is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

We need to let go of the things we’ve placed in God’s hands, and hold firmly to the faith we profess (Hebrews 4:14)

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, …for I myself will help you’," declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:13-14 NIV 

I’m learning “holding” takes a lot more energy than “casting.”

Excuse me, I’ve got a bundle to unload…

Monday, August 23, 2010

Memory Verse Monday

I believe with all my heart that God speaks in a variety of ways.

He often communicates to me through my circumstances. For example, I might hear a perfectly timed song on the radio that comforts me… or convicts me.

Sometimes God will speak to me through my husband or a friend or even a stranger.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you already know that He speaks to me through my dreams.

Even though I’ve heard God speak in a variety of ways, I truly believe He most often speaks through the Bible. I’ll go so far as to say that I don’t think He’s likely to speak to me in the other ways I mentioned unless I regularly read His Word.

In other words, because I read, study and memorize God’s Word, I’m more apt to hear His voice whenever and however He chooses to speak to me.

Your commitment to read Oil from the Jar on Memory Verse Monday means you are also “tuned in” to hearing God’s voice.

The verses I’ve chosen for today speak volumes about the power of God’s word. 

Even though this memory work may take a little longer than usual, it will be worth it.  

Today’s Memory Verse:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dreams that Speak

In the middle of last night I found myself in a hospital room.

Upon awaking I didn’t consider it strange that my dreams took me there in light of the circumstances of the past two weeks.

But this time the patient needed a new heart instead of new lungs.

I rode the elevator to the surgery waiting room with a stranger, but she looked at me with a flash of recognition.

“I’ve heard you pray!” she exclaimed with delight. “You pray like no one I’ve ever known.”

I smiled and thanked her and felt a little unsettled inside.

As I neared the door to the waiting area, another stranger greeted me in a similar way.

“You’re that lady who prays!” she sang out with enough admiration to make me feel even more uncomfortable.

I smiled again and mumbled something about believing God hears us when we pray.

To which she replied, “You pray like you believe a friend is listening, a close friend.”

Her words followed me into the waiting room, but were chased away by the scene I stepped into.

A party?

A long table decorated for a child’s birthday party filled the room. Cheerful balloons and brightly colored cups and plates seemed so out of place.

But the celebrating crowd was the strangest sight of all. How could they rejoice at a time like this? A little girl was about to undergo very serious transplant surgery. What were they thinking?

I looked around the room filled with happy faces and was surprised to see the patient sitting alone in the corner.

She was around 8 years old, I can picture her face even now. It revealed bitterness and anger.

I crossed the room and asked a man at the head of the party table why they were celebrating.

“Her heart is cold,” he replied. “God is about to do surgery on her so she won’t become hard-hearted.”

“That’s why we’re celebrating,” another man at the table piped in. “This painful trial is going to soften her heart, her cold, cold heart.”

I woke up shivering with chattering teeth.

I live near Fresno, California. With our valley’s heat, no one ever wakes in August with a chill. Never.

So I asked God why I was cold and if it had anything to do with my dream.

This Scripture immediately popped into my head:

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-15 NIV

And I knew the girl needing heart surgery was me.

I’ve prayed lots of prayers lately that haven’t been answered the way I wanted.

I’ve suffered severe loss in many forms.

I’ve felt betrayed and trampled by someone I love more than my own life.

I’ve lost sleep night after night and cried enough tears to make my eyes permanently swollen.

And my heart has hardened.

Will I become angry and bitter like the girl awaiting surgery?
Or will I remain the woman of prayer even strangers recognize?

I choose prayer.

And this morning, I chose to pray a Psalm of David:

You want me to be completely truthful,
So teach me wisdom.
Take away my sin, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Make me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
Let the bones you crushed be happy again.
Turn your face from my sins and wipe out all my guilt.
Create in me a pure heart, God,
And make my spirit right again.
Do not send me away from you
Or take your Holy Spirit away from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation.
Keep me strong by giving me a willing spirit. 
Psalm 51:6-12 NCV

Before putting my dream into words on this page, I looked up the 
verse from 1 Peter to make sure I remembered it word for word. 
(I’d memorized it from the NIV.)

Out of curiosity I also looked it up in The Message.

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. 1 Peter 4:12-15 The Message

Life is hard.

But glory is just around the corner.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

Yesterday I opened with this line:

And I concluded with a promise to write about a friend whose “believing” recently became “experiencing.”

I’ve written about her before. I hope you had the chance to read of Pam’s radical and terrifying surrender. In describing her desire to yield everything to God, she wrote, “I know that ultimately I want nothing more than to live in total surrender and abandonment to Him every moment I have left on this earth.”

Pam’s daughter, Jaimee, surely must have learned the beauty of walking in the Spirit from her mom.

Jaimee went home to Jesus the day before yesterday.

Her young—in the way that Timothy was young—husband spoke of the final days of her fight to live with Cystic Fibrosis this way:

Jaimee's Journey Home
by Rony Renfrow III

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

After years of battling Cystic Fibrosis, our Jaimee now has a pair of lungs that will never fail. No longer trapped in a broken body, her beautiful spirit can once again sing, dance and run in the presence of God. 

If you don't know Jaimee's God, or if you want to understand what Jaimee is all about and what her faith is made of, you should read what she wrote, weak and nauseous, 2 days before being started on life support.

(Note from Shawna: I will include Jaimee’s glorious prayer of praise at the end.)

Our last two weeks with her have stretched our faith and changed our lives forever.

After being started on life support on Saturday July 31st, Jaimee beat down severe aspiration pneumonia and this was only the beginning of the roller coaster the last 2 weeks have been.

Miracle after miracle has paved her and our way.
  • Being placed on top of the transplant list against all odds.
  • Surviving a medically impossible level of CO2 of 225 thanks to months of chronic breathing issues.
  • Fitting a man's lungs into her little chest and breathing with them an hour later.

We don't understand why after all this God chose to still take Jaimee home. We know that we see things through a mist and one day will know fully.

Perhaps it was to bring us together as a family, to lead us to depend on one other and learn to love each other more than we could have ever naturally known how.  

Perhaps it was to rid us of our preoccupation with the useless things in life and teach us how to lean and trust on God alone. To shift our focus on what really matters and therefore truly live—the way she did when she would sing, "Take my life and let it be Yours!"

Perhaps it was to bring light and life to the people caring for her in the hospital.

Perhaps it was so we could rest on the fact that everything had been attempted and Jaimee's wishes had been fulfilled, and that with the situation perfectly in hand, He was choosing to take her home.

Perhaps it's so we could have the chance and the time to say goodbye.


All we know is that Jaimee believed in and was surrendered to her purpose, awake or asleep, and that she would go home when that purpose would be fulfilled. Be it that in a week or in 30 years, she was fine with whichever.  

And today, after pushing the limits of medicine and of the believable, she has finally gone home, her heart sealed for the courts above.

Jaimee's last request before being anesthetized and started on life support was this: 

Tell them to live for Christ.

After reading how Jaimee’s husband, Rony, beautifully chronicled this family’s commitment to radical and terrifying surrender, I can tell you this: I’ve certainly learned how to better live for Christ.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 NIV

I promised to include Jaimee’s prayer.

As Rony mentioned, she wrote it two days before being placed on life support. Jaimee named her praise offering:

A prayer and praise written to my God in song lyrics

I realized that the things I wanted to express to the Lord today have already been beautifully articulated by talented and spirit-filled song-writing brothers and sisters.

Dear God,

I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you. 
Today is the day You have made,
I will rejoice and be glad in it.
Even though I walk through the valley 
of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear. 
I fear no evil for my God is with me; 
and because God is with me, whom then shall I fear? 
No one and nothing. Because my hope is found
In Christ alone. He is my light, my strength, my song. 
No guilt in life, no fear in death...
This is the power of Christ in me. 
From life's first cry to final breath, 
Jesus commands my destiny. 
No Power of he'll, no scheme of man, 
Could ever pluck me from His hand. 
Till He returns, or calls me home, 
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand. 
My comforter, my all in all, 
Here in the love of Christ I stand. 
Your love, God, is extravagant. 
Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens. 
Your faithfulness stretches to the skies. 
For His infinite love, sing Alleluia. 
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 
Even the rocks cry out, even the heavens shout. 
Sun, moon, and stars rejoice on high. 
All creatures of our God and King 
Lift up your voices and sing with us. 
Praise to the Savior, praise to the Lamb of God, 
Praise in all of His splendor, 
And praise for saving my life. 
My God is mighty to save.
He rose and conquered the grave. 
My Savior loves, my Savior lives, 
And my Savior's always there for me. 
He is the God who was, is, and is
Always going to be. 
Glory to God forever! 
Creator God, You gave me breath so I could praise 
Your great and matchless name all my days. 
So, let my whole life be a blazing offering. 
A life that shouts and sings 
the greatness of our King, because 
How great is our God? 
Take my life and let it be all for You 
And for Your glory. 
Take my life and let it be Yours. 
This world is empty pale and poor 
Compared to knowing You, my Lord. 
Lead me on and I will run after You. 

Compiled by
Jaimee Baker Renfrow
September 14, 1986 - August 15, 2010

Never has a dash represented so much life.

P.S. I think Jaimee would've liked this video.

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