Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Psalms of Ascent

Last week began my journey through the Psalms of Ascent. Our small group is doing Beth Moore's study "Stepping Up ~ A Journey through the Psalms of Ascent"

I have to admit, it was not until I started this study that I understood what the Psalms of Ascent consist of...

Psalm 120 - 134 (15 Psalms) These Psalms are associated to the Three Great Feasts (see Exodus 23:14). These feasts were also called the Pilgrimage Feasts.

I cannot tell you how excited I was to start this study... and how excited I am that with each lesson I am more excited to "step up" to the next lesson. It's going to be a journey. I am learning that I too am on a Pilgrimage... walking the desert toward the city of peace! We have three tasks as we work through the 15 Psalms. Say it, Work it, Pray it! What fun I am having (and will have) in God's Word!

Although I love many Bible teachers... Beth Moore's studies seem to really draw me in, speak to me and bring me back to a place that I need to be!

A few things that spoke to me in Beth's first introductory session:
Beth talked about "happiness" (not joy) but happiness...

"Happy has to do with circumstance. Your circumstances will feel a whole lot better if you get it in your head that you are only passing through that moment." Our joy can be with us at all times. Good and bad. But happiness... that has to do with our circumstances. And what joy can fill my heart when I know that when I am going through a tough time that it's only temporary. I am just "passing through that moment." Am I down? God has a remedy for that! He will lift me up!

Beth also pointed out "In God's economy the way up is down." How contrary is that to our present day economy. Beth has encouraged us to go face down before the LORD every day... at a time that works for us. Particularly prior to doing our study. (she does understand that some physical limitations might keep someone from physically getting face down on the ground with their nose in the carpet.)
I have been going face down before the LORD - to demonstrate reverence and surrender to the Most High. I want to grasp the greatness of God in humility. It's been a wonderful time for me to honor my extraordinary God!

I wish I could share how much more the Lord has spoken to me in this study. If I did, you would be reading for hours. I know I would put you to sleep! :) So for now I will leave you with a few more tidbits that jumped out throughout the first 5 days of study:

"If God had already taken us everywhere He intended, we'd be at His glorious feet by now." While I/we still draw breath, God has more for me/us to do and experience!

"I am reminded that God never dozes off, even when for a time the air is smooth and the way is clear. He doesn't jolt awake when the earth rumbles beneath your feet. He is in perfect attendance to your every step." Oh how I long to be that way with my God. Isn't it easy when things are going well to not necessarily pray as much, study as much etc. But oh when something big happens we are right there at His feet, calling out to Him. But He's right there... He never left. He never closed His eyes or turned His back. Always there to protect and guide.

"The Lord lets no harm befall us in the world where the truest threats lie." God always protects us. "... often from the physical threats of the world around us, but ALWAYS in the unseen realm where demons hiss and the gates of hell quake." Whew... those are frightening words. Demons, gates of hell... but God always protects us from the unseen spiritual realm that desires to destroy us! Snuggle up dear friends... under the protection of His mighty arms.

I encourage you to either take Beth's study, or read through the Psalms of Ascent for 15 days... Say It (out loud) Work It (circle every reference to to God or title given to God, underline any passages that stand out to you or speak to you) Pray It! In your own words personalize the Psalm in a journal or in a spiral notebook. If it doesn't pertain to something you are experiencing now, perhaps it can apply to a past experience.

Tonight we have our first session after the first 5 days of study. I can't wait t to meet with my beloved group to share God's Word!

I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
~Psalm 121: 1-2

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weekend Update

I chuckled as I typed "Weekend Update"... I recalled Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner and the original not ready for primetime players. I think they still do Weekend Update on SNL, but I have to say... I am usually snoozing about the time it would air. Ah youth... I used to be such a night owl. Now if I am up at night it's insomnia! LOL

We had a wonderful weekend. Friday's have turned into "house cleaning & grocery day" for me. I am thankful that I am self-employed and can "schedule" this into my work week. The weather was wonderful... I had the windows thrown open and a Yankee Country Linen candle burning. Dinner was chicken on the grill, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, cottage cheese & cantelope. We ate on the back deck and it truly was a taste of things to come this summer. Dining al fresco is a common occurance here.

Saturday's in the spring and summer mean long rides on our bikes. We got a nice 45 miler in this past Saturday. Looking forward to some longer rides as the weather gets warmer. The wind was brutal, but we had a great time. I think there were 16 of us. Being the only girl, the guys take good care of me. Protecting me from the wind and an occasional shove up a hill if I fall off the fast pace. Once home I made lunch, we putzed around the house and then headed to a friends to watch the Little 500 (any of you seen the movie "Breaking Away"?) We had some great food and enjoyed a good night w/ friends. Once home... I had to turn on the A/C... yes, turned on the A/C in April. It was humid and warm in the house and I refuse to try and sleep when the house is too warm!

Sunday was worship... and what a day to worship the creator of heaven and earth! The weather was wonderful! Flowers and flowering trees are blooming, grass is so green. This time of year reminds me of Easter, re-birth and the life we will have with the Father - everlasting!
I washed windows and put up the screens... I was tired of the bugs getting in on Friday & Saturday! Flower pots were removed from the barn, the rocking chair was put in it's place on the front porch... I rocked a bit w/ a glass of lemonade and my newest Better Homes & Gardens Magazine. We had some leftover rotisserie chicken for supper and a salad. Watched a bit of television, went through the ads in the paper and then fell into bed. We were tired!

Gotta love the weekends!

Not much else to report except that the Lord is good! Oh... I almost forgot... I wanted to share w/ ya'll that my friend Paula who is adopting the twins from Ethiopia got word that they were approved - they passed court. Thank you to those who have lifted the Spears family in prayer... I ask that you continue to do so as many more adventures are to follow. They are making plans to head to Ethiopia as a family to pick up the girls! Click here to see the lovely pictures of these sweet little ones.

Have a wonderful day my friends!

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! ~ Psalm 118:24

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wow how time flies... and how little of it I am finding these days to really sit and write on my blog. Quick snippets here and there on Face Book and Twitter keep me connected with friends near and far. The slower months of winter definitely gave me more time to visit favorite blogs as well as write down thoughts on my own.

Fortunately the weather has been conducive to riding outside. Spin class is great, and is a wonderful change of pace in the winter months, but now it's time to get back out on the road. We have enjoyed some good training rides and some longer Saturday rides. Hitting the hills earlier this year than last. I am feeling good w/ my climbing skills this spring. I am still enjoying my strength and endurance class on Monday's and Wednesday's. A class I am continuing throughout the year. Love that our instructor Dodi kicks our rear ends twice a week! A blessing that has come out of my winter workouts is my new friend Paula! She has been a real blessing and keeps me accountable and motivated to stay working out. She runs marathons and does adventure racing. She has "talked" me into doing a 3 person triathalon this summer - she does the running, I do the cycling and another gal will do the swimming. I am also competing w/ her in an Urban Adventure Race in downtown Indy. The only part that I am REALLY concerned about is repelling down a 6 story building. I do not like heights - so that's gonna be a scary moment(s). She hasn't done much cycling and is excited to start riding w/ a group of us this summer to improve her skills!

Business has picked up and we are so grateful for that. God is good and will provide - always! It's still tough out there, but we are seeing improvements. We are still be good stewards with the gifts He has given us. I continue to pray for those of you that have been touched by this difficult economy and hope things are getting better for you.

Tomorrow our small group begins a new study. We had a wonderful 7 weeks going through The Workbook of Living Prayer & now we begin "Stepping Up ~ a journey thourgh the Psalms of Ascent" by Beth Moore. I am excited to be facilitating another study by Mama Siesta Beth... and also excited that the men in our group are excited as well! How awesome is that! Your prayers are appreciated as our group begins another journey in our walk with God!

It's also hard to believe that Easter has come and gone... well the day of Easter has come and gone. We are Easter people and Easter lives in our hearts all year long!

I wanted to share some pictures of my tables from our Easter celebration. Easter is the holiday I host w/ our families. We bring both sides together for our Resurrection Celebration. I started getting things together on Maundy Thursday. Preparing food, moving furniture, setting tables. What was wonderful about this year is that I definitely had the Martha/Mary thing balanced! :)

A close up picture of one of the tables

Jim & I clear out the living room and set up 3 additional tables... the dining table and sideboard are moved a bit to make more room to accomadate our family.

Each guest received a coaster. I made them and used them as the placecards(a craft I learned from my blog friends Christy & Kim)

My mom made this wonderful dessert. I will include the recipe at the bottom of this post! I was delish! Loved how she did the bunny!

My kitchen pig always has something good to say! He is Risen Indeed!

Chocolate Macaroon Tart
Active time 20 minutes
Total time 1 hour plus chilling
Makes 12 servings

1 package (10 oz.) soft coconut macaroon cookies
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec (if you don't want to use liqueur you might try orange extract or orange flavoring... but I would maybe only use a tablespoon)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. confectioners’ sugar
1 naval orange for garnish
1. Prepare oven to 350 degrees, spray 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom (I used pie pan) with nonstick cooking spray. In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse macaroons until fine crumbs form. With hand, press crumbs onto bottom and side of pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden-brown; cool completely on wire rack (about 30 minutes).
2. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat ¾ cup cream to boiling on medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; with wire whisk, whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in liqueur and vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into tart shell. Refrigerate 2 hours or until set.
3. When ready to serve, in small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cream. With electric mixer on medium speed beat cream until soft peaks form. (I used Cool Whip)
4. With vegetable peeler, from orange, remove 3” by ½” strip of peel. With paring knife scrape off and discard white pith from peel; very thinly slice peel lengthwise. One at a time, wrap each strip around chopstick or pencil and hold 10 to 15 seconds or until curled. Garnish tart with whipped cream and citrus curls.

Have a blessed day friends!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday...

And They Crucified Him

Mark 15:22-25 -- They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him . . . 25 It was the third hour when they crucified him.

1Cor. 15:1-3 -- Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

This is the King of the Jews

John 19:19-22 -- Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write `The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews." 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

Rom. 5:6-8 -- You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

His First Word on the Cross

Luke 23:33-34 -- When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals-- one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

Rom. 5:9-10 -- Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Casting Lots for the Seamless Robe

John 19:23-24 -- When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

Rom. 3:23-26 -- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus

Blasphemed and Mocked by All

Matt. 27:39-44 -- Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, `I am the Son of God.'" 44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Luke 23:36-37 -- The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."

Gal. 3:13 -- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

His Second Word

John 19:25-27 -- Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

1Pet. 2:24 -- He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

His Third Word

Luke 23:39-43 -- One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

1Pet 3:18 -- For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

His Fourth Word

Mark 15:33-36 -- At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah." 36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.

Col. 1:19-23 -- For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

His Fifth and Sixth Words

John 19:28-30 -- Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished."

1John 2:1-2 -- My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

His Seventh Word and His Death

Luke 23:46 -- Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Heb. 2:14-15 -- Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Col. 2:13 -- When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The Miraculous Signs

Matt. 27:51-56 -- At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" 55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons.

Heb. 7:26-27 -- Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

Heb. 9:25-28 -- Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

They Pierce His Side

John 19:31-37 -- Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

Eph. 1:7 -- In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace

1Pet. 1:18-19 -- For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

The Burial

John 19:38-42 -- Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Matt. 27:60-66 -- He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. 62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, `After three days I will rise again.' 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." 65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Gal. 2:20-21 -- I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

However you spend this Good Friday (one of the greatest days in history) may what Christ did for you penetrate every ounce of your being.

... Easter is coming my friends!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Matthew 26: 1-29

The Lord's Supper
17On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

18He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' " 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."

22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

23Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"
Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."[a]

26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

Blessed Savior Jesus, You have given Yourself to us in Holy Communion. Keep us in Your faith and favor that we may live in You even as You live in us. May our body and blood preserve us in the true faith to life everlasting. Amen

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week Journey

~ Matthew 21: 1-11

1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."

4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5"Say to the Daughter of Zion,
'See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' "[a]

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"[c]
"Hosanna[d] in the highest!"

10When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"

11The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

This week as I journey from Jerusalem to the Cross I desire to ponder the scriptures... walk with Jesus in his final days on earth. Join me won't you... today take in Jesus' entry into Jerusalem - the Palm Sunday Gospel.