Monday Morning Meditation...

Starting the week out meditating on these verses from our Bible Study last night...SO challenging, convicting, encouraging, and especially timely...2 Peter 1:1-4:

1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2  May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,   
by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love our church?  We are tiny, but God is doing great things, and we are so excited to see what He is going to do in and through us from here!   I love our church family, I love the simplicity of our worship, I love the truth preached boldly by our pastor, and I love the laughter and fellowship.  I also love teaching youth Bible Study on Sunday nights.  I love that our whole family is studying the same truths through the Answers in Genesis Sunday School curriculum we're using for Sunday night Bible Study.

Last night's lesson was on studying the Bible.  The above verses from 2 Peter were part of that lesson.  I had never noticed before the last part of verse 2..."those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours".  I was struck by Peter's emphasis there...he was one of the 12 disciples, an apostle, one of the closest people of all to Jesus during His three years of ministry...and Peter makes a point of saying that the standing of our faith is equal to his.  What a reminder...there are no "lower-level" Christians.  If we have been called as followers of Christ, we have equal standing with the likes of Peter!   That is not only an encouragement, but a challenge...we have no excuses...we have everything that Peter, James, John, and Paul had.

That thought was reinforced in verse 3..."His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness", or as the NIV says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life".   "All things", "everything we need"...as I've heard over and over from various preachers/teachers through the years..."all means all".  If we are His, there is nothing that we lack that is needed to live a godly life.  He has already given it to us.  Again, encouraging and convicting all at the same time...and so timely, as I've struggled lately with being overwhelmed in so many areas, and over the weekend God has lovingly but firmly pulled me up short and done a heart-and-mind-cleaning.

One of my favorite quotes from Bro. Kent is "We don't have to MAKE God's Word relevant; IT IS relevant."   SO true.  As Hebrews 4:12 (which also happens to be part of this same lesson, which we'll get to next week :)) says,

For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

God has shown His Word to be living, and active, and sharp once again.  There is much more great, meaty truth in those verses from 2 Peter, as well...I'm planning a little project so that I can have those verses hanging above my desk soon.  I need to be reminded of them often!  

This post is already longer than I'd planned, but I have to share a little bonus photo in this post, speaking of our church.  Yesterday I posted this status on Facebook, 

Things you don't hear at just any church on Sunday morning...."Rachel, come look at this cow!"

A friend responded that we must be close to a pasture.  I had to giggle just a bit...because we are not just "close to" a pasture...we are right in the smack dab middle of one!  That's another of the little things I love about our church...being able to look out the window and see the cows looking in. :)  Occasionally we'll even hear them mooing during the sermon!  So...I thought I'd share a picture or two of our church in the pasture and of the cows our children enjoy so much. :)

Our "Church in the Pasture" :)
These are the cows across the highway.  I love this view. :)

Linking up with Michelle DeRusha's "Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday" today...please visit her to see what others have to share this week!

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St. Paul {Guy Penrod} Weekend, Part 7 ~ My Very Favorite Moment of the Whole Whirlwind Trip!

(AKA, focused on Glory ~ Christ in Us)

This post has been a LONG time coming.  I've said before that I'm going to do a post someday on my "blogging process" to try to provide a bit of insight into why certain things get posted...or not...at certain times.  However, I'm afraid it would be a little like my "stir and dump" method of cooking which makes sharing recipes a bit of a challenge at times...it just doesn't always make sense to anyone but me!

I don't make New Year's Resolutions as such, but I usually do sit down and make some general goals and plans for the year during the week between Christmas and my birthday.  This year the expected "lull" after an even-busier-than-usual holiday season didn't materialize, and I haven't managed to put any goals or plans for the year in writing.  I'm hoping that isn't a sign of things to come!

One of the things I would really like to do this year is become more intentional and organized in my blogging.  I have great plans...but life just too often gets in the way.  I'll probably never be a terribly "structured" blogger, but I would like to be somewhat more consistent.  We'll see about making that happen in 2013. :)

In the meantime, I have some catching up to do around here.  I have a list of about 25 posts from 2012 that were never finished...or never even started, other than in my mind or on my blog planning sheet.  I'm going to try to finish a few of those this month.  Today's post is one of those that's been partially finished,  hanging around in draft, for months. It's #7 in a series of what will probably be 9 posts in all on our trip to Minnesota for the St. Paul Guy Penrod concert last May.

So...without further ado...7 months later...My Very Favorite Moment of the Whole Entire Trip!

The concert itself, as I described in prior installments, was amazing. Guy's concerts always are. :)  But the post-concert time is even better to me than the concerts themselves.  It's such a blessing to watch Guy interact with those who've come to meet him, have their pictures taken with him, and get autographs.

He never appears to be in the slightest hurry. He treats everyone who comes through the line as though they are friends. He acts as though he truly loves every minute...and he says that he does.  He tells the story of standing at the back door of the church every Sunday morning of his childhood with his preacher father, wearing his little suit while greeting the congregation. 

He posed for pictures with the girls, and willingly signed shirts, cds, and other paraphernalia for our little group.  I was snapping pictures like crazy while we visited...although I somehow managed to completely miss getting a shot of Bayley getting her shirt signed.  We chatted about driving all the way from Arkansas for the concert, about the previous concerts Jodie, Bayley, and I had been to, and about the fact that it was Emlyn and Ammah Grace's first concert.   But...as much as we enjoyed that time, it wasn't *quite* my favorite moment. :)   

My favorite moment came just after this picture was taken: 

As we were waiting in line, we'd been visiting with the "friends from the computer" we'd finally gotten to meet on the trip as well as meeting some new friends and hearing their stories.  This adorable lady is our friend Sue.  Sue was one of our "friends from the computer" who we finally met in the hotel lobby the night before the concert.  Before we'd ever met her in person, she had become a dear friend.  One of the great treats of the trip was meeting her (and Denise, Heidi, and Kerri) in person.

The greatest treat of the trip for me, though, was a phone call that occurred just after the above photo was being taken.  Just after the shutter snapped, Guy said, "I think your pocket is ringing, Mrs. Sue".  Now...Sue has been to even more concerts than my friend Jodie.  She's been on at least one cruise with Guy.  They are old friends. :)  Sue has a grand-daughter named Emma.  Emma has some special needs, including a seizure disorder.  Sue was a wonderful encouragement, resource, and prayer warrior when we were in the process of learning that one of our children has a seizure disorder.  We, in turn, have prayed regularly for Emma and her family.  Although we've never met her, we've heard many stories about her, seen pictures, and prayed for her so much that we feel like we know her.

So...when the phone rang, Sue pulled it out and said, "It's Emma."  Guy immediately wanted to talk to her.  You see, Emma LOVES Guy's music..she knows it all by heart.   Guy and Emma had met at a concert, and they had sent messages back and forth at other concerts with Sue.  So Guy took the phone from Sue, and stood there in the midst of all the hubbub chatting on the phone with this sweet little girl.  It made Emma's day.  Sue later told me that Emma was at some sort of party at the time, with a bit of commotion going on in the background, and when she got off the phone, she yelled, "I. JUST. TALKED. TO. GUY. PENROD!!"  She was so excited.

And I was standing there wiping tears from my eyes. 

Because that moment summed up the reason that we appreciate Guy's ministry so much.  Because it's not just about the music, although the music is wonderful.  Because it's not about the hair, although just after this picture was taken, Bayley rushed over to me whispering, "MOM! I touched his hair.  And his hair is SO SOFT!" :)

It's about Guy's heart for God and his love for people.  In every encounter I've had with Guy (and in so many stories I've heard from others), the love of Christ just flows out of him.  One morning in youth Sunday School, the girls and I talked about the fact that Jesus just "oozes" out of some people.  The girls weren't thrilled with my word choice, so we came up with some others, but that one still nails it the best, I think.  And Jesus "oozes" out of Guy Penrod.  His heart for God and his love for people make the message he shares from the stage in word and in song authentic. 

And that afternoon, Guy's love for people just glowed, not only with the people who'd bought tickets to his concert and stood in line to meet him, but with a faraway little girl with special needs whose day he made by taking the time to stop and chat with her on the phone.  THAT was my favorite moment of the whole entire trip.  (Which says a lot, because I pretty much loved EVERY moment of the trip.  Well, except that whole "we're never going to find a bathroom" thing in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. Oh, and the storm sirens the night we arrived in Minnesota.  Those weren't my favorites. :))

Another favorite moment for the girls...having their picture made with Keith, Guy's "brother from another mother" and road manager. :)

Keith and Sue making faces. :)

More people who "ooze" Jesus's love...Kerri, Sue, and Denise.  Love these ladies!
Sue and her sweet friend Carol.    

Still to come in this series:

Heading Home! Adventures en route to Arkansas

God's Glory Behind the Scenes...an Amazing Story 

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Previous posts in this series:

Part 1 ~ "Let's Start at the Very Beginning"

Part 2 ~ "We're Going on a Road Trip!"
Part 3 ~ "A Road Trip with Mrs. Jodie is Always an Adventure!"

Part 4 ~ "The Friends Who Live in Our Computers"

Part 5 ~ "At Long Last...The Concert!"

Part 6 ~  "More Concert!"

Although the photos in this post are not current, nor are they the greatest technically or artistically, I've planned for this story to be a focused on Glory feature ever since last May. :)  focused on Glory is a sometimes-more-regular-than-others collaboration with Tauna at Creative Confetti.  Be sure to hop over and check out the latest there!


{Vintage Eats} Daddy's Mexican Cornbread

So...my pastor AND the "Queen Bee" gave me strict instructions to post this recipe on the blog.  I've been wanting to post some "old family recipes" here, and I decided this was a good one with which to debut "Vintage Eats"...an occasional feature showcasing old, mostly-family, recipes and the stories behind them. 

I have to start out by saying that while this recipe will always be "Daddy's Mexican Cornbread" to me, it actually wasn't original to my dad.  It came from an old church cookbook...don't most of the best recipes come from those?  However, Daddy tweaked it a bit and it became one of his "regulars" back in the day when he used to cook for the annual men's night in the church in which I grew up.  I also requested it most years for my birthday meal.  (One of these days, I'll post Daddy's chili recipe which was the other half of that meal. :))

Here's the recipe...

Mexican Cornbread

1 Can Chopped Green Chilis
1 Can Cream Style Corn
1/2 Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 Eggs
1 Cup Corn Meal

Mix ingredients well and pour into 9x9 square pan.  Bake in 400 degree oven for one hour.  Let cool a bit before removing from pan.  

(I doubled the recipe and used 2 9-inch round pans.  I also put a dollop of bacon grease in the pan and melted it before adding the cornbread mixture.)

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In His Hand...

Held in the palm of His hand...what  thought! It's a thought I've been dwelling on a lot lately. I've needed to be reminded...for myself, for my family, and especially this week for precious friends.

I blogged about being held in the palm of His hand several years ago.  That post,  In The Palm of His Hand, has become the all-time most-read post on this blog. I've re-read that post more than once this week. I've also re-read this related post more than once: Trust His Heart.  I'm so thankful for the reminders of God's sovereignty, His faithfulness, and most of all, His love.

Isaiah 40:11 has been a favorite verse since a friend shared it with me a few days before my dad died.  I've treasured that image of God carrying us close to His heart as a shepherd carries a baby lamb ever since.  I've prayed often that friends going through trials would feel God holding them close to His heart in that way.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

I love these verses about the Shepherd and the sheep as well...what a wonderful reminder that no matter what happens, nothing and no one can pluck us out of His hand!  He is holding us securely and won't let go...ever. 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.  ~ John 10:27-30

Isaiah 49:14-16 say that not only does He carry us in His hands, but He has engraved us on the palm of His hand.  That is some kind of permanence and security!  

No matter what we or our loved ones are going through...if we are His, we are safe in the palm of His hand.  Amazing comfort in amazing love!

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Saying Good-bye...

I kept expecting to see him today...snitching a piece of dessert early with that "innocent" twinkle in his eye, standing there deep in conversation with Bro. Gary about no telling what, or honking the horn on the truck with the remote for the pure delight of aggravating Beverly, and then hearing her in that "Somebody's about to get it" voice..."ROY GENE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" 

But Roy wasn't there.  He wasn't going to give the kids "wet willies" or poke fun at Jodie and Becky and I or laugh that wonderful cackling laugh because Peter was tormenting Beverly with a dead snake.  Last Thursday night, very unexpectedly, Roy went to be with Jesus.  Today his family and friends celebrated his life and the God he served.

As the kids and I were driving home from the funeral this afternoon, a blog post began to compose itself in my head.  I thought at the time, "By the time I get to the computer, I'll have forgotten all of this...", and sure enough, most of it has gone "poof!"  into whatever black hole most of my best thoughts disappear before I get to the keyboard. The ideas are still there, but the tidy composition is long gone.  (Sometimes I think  I really need a dictaphone like I used to use to dictate case notes back in my DHS days. :))

So...instead of the neatly composed post from the van this afternoon, this post is going to be some random, rambling thoughts from the day...(from two days, actually, because my body and my brain gave out last night before I managed to finish this post...so the green is from last night, and the black is from today.  Unfortunately, a night's sleep did not bring back the post I'd so neatly composed in my head yesterday, so you're still getting long and random and rambling.  Sorry about that!  At least I don't have my shirt on backwards and my slippers on the wrong feet like a certain pastor posted on Facebook that he did this morning.  ;-)  It's been a long week!)

Grief...The Awful and the Wonderful

Grief is a horrible, awful, terrible part of life.  But...as horrid as grief is, a life without it would be even worse.  The richer and more wonderful our lives have been because of what we have  lost, the harder we grieve.  I remember my aunt, who'd lost her own father, my beloved Papaw, many years before, saying to me when my dad died..."The more we love them, the deeper the hole they leave in our hearts when they are gone."  So true.  As hard and long as I grieved when my dad died, the relationship that we had was well worth that grief. 

We never in a million years expected to be having a funeral in our little church family so soon...especially for Roy.  I never would have imagined that the sense of loss and grief for someone we'd known such a short time could be so deep...for all of us.  But as I sat in the funeral home yesterday listening to Bro. Gary preach about the gifts God gave through Roy's life, I realized something.  As much as I've cried in the last week...as much as missing our friend hurts...as much as my heart aches for and with Beverly in her unimaginable loss...I am so thankful for those months that we got to spend knowing Roy and worshiping, serving, and laughing with him at Grace.   I am so thankful that last summer, God said, "Go!", and we went...even though in so many ways it didn't make a lot of sense at the time.   In addition to all the other blessings God has given through our move to Grace, our lives have been blessed and changed greatly by knowing Roy even for that short time.

Speaking of "Short Times"...

God's timing is not our timing.  We often say that, and it's usually in response to something negative in our lives.  I know I've thought it often in the last week.  God's timing certainly wasn't ours in taking Roy home to Heaven.  If we'd had our way, we would have been throwing a 50th anniversary party for Roy and Beverly in 20 years.  We know His timing is right and perfect, but sometimes it's awfully hard.

But...there are also times when God's timing is amazing in an "earthly good" way.  I'm blown away  by the way that God can knit together the hearts of His people almost instantly.  He's done that in the past for me with certain friends.  Usually, close friendships grow slowly...they take time to take deep root and flourish.  But there are times...and it's always so clear that it's totally God's working...when a connection is sudden and deep.  We've marveled at the way that God has done that with Bro. Gary and Becky and Roy and Beverly in recent months.  

And this week we've talked about how crazy it is that Roy's death has affected us as much as it has.  We first met Roy a year and a half ago, went back to help with the Grace Baptist Community Thanksgiving Meal a few months later, and only about four and a half months ago became part of  Grace Baptist  and began truly getting to know Roy and Beverly.  But in those few months, they've become like family.  They immediately loved on us, laughed with (and sometimes at :)) us, prayed for us, and made us feel as though we'd been "part of things" forever.   We have a wealth of memories from our short time with Roy. 

I realized this week that we weren't the only ones for whom that was true.  When we first met Roy and Beverly, I got the idea that they were related to Bro. Gary and Becky somehow.  I thought that for a long time, and when I realized that they were "just friends", I was under the {again mistaken} understanding that they had been friends for many years. From their relationships and conversations, it just seemed like they'd been part of each other's lives forever.  Just this week I discovered that the two couples had only met a very few years ago...but again, God had knit hearts together quickly in His own amazing way.  That says a lot to me about God's mysterious workings, but also about Roy and Beverly's hearts and their love for people. 

There are Little...and Big...Eyes on You

I've also been reminded this week that we rarely truly realize the impact we have on people, good or bad.  Tuesday the kids and I were running a quick errand on our way to the church to prepare for the funeral meal when we were accosted by a very rude man in the parking lot.  We were all in a bit of a fog of sadness as the reality of what we were preparing for had begun to sink in, but so far we hadn't succumbed to negativity in it.  Suddenly this man...who I'm sure thought he had the "right" to his anger...began a curse-laden tirade at us.  The children were shocked, and I was so stunned I could do little but gather my chicks close and hurry in to the store.  The short incident cast a pallor over the rest of the day, and I will never forget that man's snarled up face or his ugly, ugly words. 

In contrast, over and over again this week I've seen Roy's twinkling eyes and mischievous grin and heard that wonderful laugh in my head.  I've realized again and again the ways that Roy influenced and changed my life and the lives of my family and friends for the better.  I've remembered his smile-that-was-trying-not-to-turn-into-a-chuckle when Ammah Grace put her coins in the offering plate Sunday before last, and the hug and "Merry Christmas" we exchanged as we said good-bye for what we had no idea would be the last time.  I've re-read his "Merry Christmas-Love y'all" response to Bro Gary's Christmas message on Facebook.  I've listened to Bro. Gary tell story after story of Roy's service to the church...and seen his handiwork every time I walk in the building.   

I'm sure he had no idea the impact he would leave on so many people.  I'm sure that the man from the parking lot has no idea how much harder he made an already sad day, or how he has become a permanent part of my memories from this week.  We have no idea the impact we are having on those around us, good or bad.   I so want others to think of love and laughter and service when they think of me...but in order for that to happen, I have to live in the Spirit so that His love and joy and service will spill out of me.  {Ouch}

Noticing a Theme...

Speaking of love, laughter, and service, I posted this last Thursday night:

There are four things I'll always think of when I think of Mr. Roy...

1. He loved Jesus.
2. He loved people.
3. He was always ready to help meet a need.
4. He had one of the best laughs ever.  And he used it often.  And his eyes twinkled.  We are going to miss that laugh and those twinkling eyes!

Yesterday in Bro. Gary's funeral message, he talked about God giving us three gifts through Roy:
           1. The gift of love...His love for Beverly, his love for others, and his love for Jesus.
           2. The gift of laughter.
           3. The gift of service. 

Notice a theme there?  Yesterday at the funeral meal I heard story after story of those three gifts as well.  What a wonderful way to be remembered!

The Body in Action

Yesterday was filled with sadness.  There were lots of tears as we hurt for and with Beverly and the rest of the family and as we missed Roy and kept waiting for him to pop out somewhere laughing.  But there was joy in the day, too.  God gave comfort and encouragement and love and even joy in the midst of the sadness.  When I look back at the day my dad died, and his funeral, there is definitely sadness, but the sadness is overwhelmed by the blessings God gave during that time.  Yesterday was much the same...abundant blessings wove through the sadness like a beautiful ribbon.

One of those blessings, for me, was seeing the true Body of Christ in action.  It transcended church membership boundaries, it wasn't part of a committee or program...it was just people loving other people and serving Christ from their hearts, and it was beautiful.  Our church is small...just a few core families right now...and the funeral meal yesterday was to be large.  There was the temptation to worry...will there be enough food?  Will we have enough help?  Then Jodie said, "God just keeps reminding me of the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fish.  He provided then, He will provide now."  And provide He did.  There was more than enough food, and God sent the perfect people to help.  And what a blessing they were! 

Wrapping Up

I know this post is long, even for one who's never been known for brevity of the written word. And it really barely scratches the surface of the thoughts that have been in my mind and on my heart the last few days.   We miss Roy.  We hurt for Beverly, for his family, for Bro. Gary and Becky and others who have lost a dear friend.   We know that our grief is tiny compared to theirs.  We know that God is sustaining and comforting and working, even in this, and we are thankful for the certainty of His faithfulness and love as we continue to pray for Beverly, the family, Grace Baptist, and all those who loved Roy. 

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold. ~ Proverbs 22:1

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