A New Year

Are you ready for it? Don't you stand at the end of a year and wonder how your life will have changed by this time next year?
How will you be different?
Will your family have changed by adding someone new or saying goodbye to someone you love?
Will your health be the same or will you be battling a challenge you can't imagine at this moment?
Will you be more successful or will your dreams seem crushed?
A year can bring so much change and it can be frightening to look ahead into that dark unknown and wonder.
I cannot fathom facing the unknown without the One who designed it holding my hand.
I had no idea that Christmas of 1997 would be the last one I'd spend with my father. Or that New Year's Day of 2001 would start the countdown to my mother's death 29 days later.
Who could have predicted on New Year's Day 2004 that by the next year, my eleven-year-old child would have suffered a life-altering brain injury? Aren't you glad we don't know these things ahead of time? I couldn't take it.
But I know the One who holds tomorrow already has it under control. That's the only way I can face with confidence another year of unknown. If you don't know him, let this be the year you place your hand in His so that next New Year's Day, you can say, "Who'd ever imagine this would be the first year I learned how to live!"

Approaching Christmas

Here it is again. The holiday season. Can't believe it's been a year since the last one. My dad was right--time passes faster the older you get.

I'm another year older. The world is another year older. Twelve months worth of time has gone by, and for what? Have I learned anything this year? Was it a wasted twelve months?

In this year, I've decided to pursue writing as a career. I signed with a fantastic agent, and started stacking up a pile of rejection letters. It's called paying your dues. We all go through it and hopefully learn from it. My husband lost his job and remained unemployed for 7 months. Thank God, he was hired yesterday for a job he enjoys! My wayward daughter has made some progress and my younger three continue to grow wiser and more delightful.

So, what have I learned that makes this year profitable for me? What do I have to show for it that will make God glad he gave it to me?

I learned:
1. I can't control everything. Most of life is outside my control, but inside God's, so stop freaking out about it.

2. God is far more concerned with developing Christlike character in me than he is with my present happiness. Happiness is a bonus, so be thankful when it's there but don't expect it.

3. I am not responsible for the choices my grown children make. Their sin is theirs alone. They answer to God now, not me.

4. Sometimes there is no one right answer, one perfect way to respond. I have to accept that if God is directing my paths, then whatever response I make will be used for good.

5. I cannot create Heaven on earth, no matter how hard I try. Sin resides in the heart, and no matter how perfect the outside may be, sin will corrupt it. There's only one utopia, and this isn't it.

6. God is not baffled by my problems and doesn't see them as earth-shakingly impossible as I do. I need to try to gain more of His perspective.

7. God's definition of success is not the same as mine--in fact, it is the opposite. So I need to seek what feels backward to me to be a real success for all eternity.

Not bad for one year. I wonder what I'll learn in the next?

Giving Thanks

We know Thanksgiving is a time to thank God for the blessings in our lives. Our thoughts go immediately to whatever we term "good."

We even learn, as Christians, that we are to thank God IN every circumstance. But do we thank God FOR the circumstance?

It's easy to thank God for the beautiful sunset, our child's recovery, our new car. But what about rain on your wedding day? Your child dies. Your only car is wrecked. Are we honestly supposed to thank God for it?

What we call "good" may not be the same thing God calls good. If He is truly in charge of this world, if He in fact cares for us, if He notices when a sparrow falls from a tree, then our "bad" circumstances are there by His design. He sent them to you! He wasn't a helpless, hand-wringing God who stood by and bit his nails when Satan lambasted your family. He designed it--just for your good!

That is a hard pill to swallow; yet in Ephesians, Paul instructs his followers to thank God FOR everything that happened to them.

Why?
Because there is a freedom in that. By the act of thanksgiving, we are admitting to ourselves that God is ultimately in charge of it all and whatever we are going through was lovingly sent as a gift to us, to enable us to become more like Christ.

Nothing more humbling than to fall flat on our faces and cry out to God for mercy. And that is right where God wants us. It is only then, He can teach us.

Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you to all who have served our country, and to the families who've lost loved ones in the military. We are forever grateful for your sacrifice.

The Heart of the King

This year's election has some of us distraught and others jubilant, but listen to what Proverbs 21 says: The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and like a river, He turns it whichever way he wants."

God uses people to accomplish his plans, whether they know it or not. No matter who sits in the White House, God will use him to bring about Righteousness in us.

OUR plans are for our leaders to bring us financial gain, easy living, prosperity of every kind. Those are most likely NOT God's plans. He couldn't care less how rich you are, whether you want a new dishwasher... His goal is to bring holiness to our lives. To make us more like His Son.

If hardship and ungodly rule will bring us to our knees in humble contrition, that very well may be God's plan for America.

As Christians, we now need to pray as never before that God will use these circumstances to bring righteousness back to our nation, no matter who occupies the White House.

Dancing With Jesus

Yesterday morning, another party broke out in Heaven. Didn't you hear it? I was certain I felt the earth vibrate with the noise of trumpets and the rumble of a million dancing feet.

She's there at last--twirling, leaping waltzing with Jesus, allowing only her husband, Waddie, to cut in. Her limbs don't have eighty-four years worth of wear on them anymore. Her feet are lithe, quick on the turn as she spins again, her laughter echoing through another universe.

They're all there, waiting their turn to hug her: the ladies she drove when they couldn't, the poor she donated clothes to, the hungry she fed,the sick and dying she tenderly cared for. They can't wait to celebrate with her.

"It's party time!" the cry echoes from a thousand excited voices. "Dixie's here!"

Well done, Dixie McCombs. Enjoy the party.



If My People...

What can Christians do to reclaim our nation? Is this land of excess and debauchery what our founding fathers had in mind? How horrified those first Pilgrims would be to see what this "land of the free" has become.

Scripture is filled with examples of God's people turning away from Him and reaping the results. They were always quick to wail and demand that God give them answers for their problems, but not so quick to humbly follow Him from the start.

God gives a simple prescription for healing the wounds of a nation. "If My people, which are called by my name, will HUMBLE themselves and PRAY, and SEEK My face, and TURN from their wicked ways...THEN, will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land."

We're usually quick to do one or two of those requirements. We'll pray--but not repent. We'll seek his face--but not humble ourselves. We're all for talking about what God should do, but very short on what he tells us to do.

There is a strong remnant of people left in this country who strive to live Godly lives, but we must let our voices be heard. If God's own people won't do what he requires, how can the world do better? It is his own people he makes the request of, not the wicked.

Is God about to judge America for the sins of His own people?

But If Not...

Those three words are some of the most powerful words of faith in the entire Bible and for me, have come to represent real, living faith in its purest form.

What is faith? How do you trust that what you believe needs to happen will happen? When it doesn't, what do you do? Is God asleep? Are you alone in your suffering? How do you have faith in something that very well might not happen whether you pray or not?

You're up against the wall. The tests came back positive. Your job suddenly disappears. Your loved one is dying. The bills keep coming and you have no way to pay them all. What do you have faith in? Where is God?

Three very courageous young men set a shining example of what attitude to have when they faced certain death for not giving in to powerful pressures. In the book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood nose-to-nose with the king and refused to bow down to his idol.

"Will your God save you?" the king smirked.

"He's certainly bigger than any fire you could build, king," they answered. "And yes, He could save us."

Without blinking, they plunged on into the real heart of faith. "BUT IF NOT, O King..."

They acknowledged God's power to rescue them, but in doing so, acknowledged that He had the freedom not to if He so chose. And that is the essence of faith. Not commanding God to do our will by invoking some mind game we have named faith-prayer. It is in submitting totally to His control, no matter what that means for our immediate situation.

It is my goal to pray in faith believing God hears and answers and can send immediate help. But I want to go that one step further and say, "But if not, O Lord, I still trust you."


What's Ahead for America?

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to people.

Proverbs 14:34 forecasts our nation's downfall as we turn further and further away from God and right living.

Sins that were only whispered about twenty years ago are now flaunted proudly everywhere you look. And we call that progress. Tolerance.

God doesn't.

The United States has enjoyed a long history of freedom and blessing that most of the world only dreams about. We've taken God's mercy for granted. Forgotten Who brought us this far and has given us so much.

Unfortunately, payday is here. We've had many warnings that our riotous living and glutenous excess is an offense to the rest of the world and a stench in God's nostrils, but we don't care. As long as we have what we want at the moment, we don't want to think about changing anything.

"Anything goes," "live and let live," "to each his own." Catch phrases that sound so kind. So patient and tolerant.

But God is not tolerant of sin and for us to do less is the height of arrogance. Is our standard of holiness more appropriate than God's?

America, America, God shed His grace on Thee... But how much longer will He tolerate our willfully disobedience? How much longer can he stand the stench of the sins we so proudly tolerate?

If righteousness exalts a nation, then what happens to that nation who has rejected righteousness?

I fear we are about to find out.

Can I give up now?

Giving up...

When is it OK to give up? Something or someone gripped you with such passion, such purpose and you gave it everything you had. And the result was not what you wanted. In fact, it was a disaster. Is it OK to give up?

Yes...if it was your idea, your passion, your purpose. We all know those things come and go with our emotions. Your all-consuming fire one day may be nothing but a spark the next. That's fine. You're human.

But where did the idea come from? If your drive and goal came from somewhere other than your own fantasy, then you don't have the option of giving up. It's not your decision.

As a Christian, striving to listen to God's voice, I have to know where the passion originated. Was this God's doing? Is this God's assignment for me right now?

If the answer is yes, then I don't have the option of giving up. It's His party. Discouragement can come in waves, despair can flood my soul until I can do nothing but tread water and pray for help. But I can't give up.

When you give up, you lose. As long as you hold on, keep going, keep believing, keep trying, you're in the game. You have a chance to be used by God, part of his unfolding plan. God can only steer a moving ship. When you give up, you're already dead in the water, good for nothing but sinking.

Tighten your grip, take a deep breath, squeeze your eyes shut if you can't stand to watch, but don't let go. Don't give up.

Fall is here

Fall is almost here. Some people are "fall people" and some aren't. I'm not. My dad used to love this time of year, when the air turns crisp and the foliage turns brown and orange and yellow. I see that it has its own kind of beauty, but fall makes me sad.

I'm a spring person. It's hard to be depressed in the spring. Even the air seems charged with life and energy. Plants turn a vicious shade of green, birds are everywhere, giving free concerts, and the air smells warm and inviting. In spring, everything looks possible.

Fall reminds me that everything dies. Those excited plants are weary and drooping. The birds say, "Forget it. I'm tired of singing." The whole world seems to be winding down, aching, exhausted from the busyness of a summer that is ending.

But fall also reminds me that nothing in this life is permanent. No matter how fun, or beautiful, or exciting something may be for a season, it will not last. It makes me yearn for a place and a time where happiness, beauty, relationships go on and on forever. Fall brings restless dissatisfaction with this world and its offerings.

And that's a good thing. If it was spring all the time, who would need Heaven?
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Remember...

Let's remember the families and friends of all those killed in the terrorist attacks on that day in 2001 that will forever be remembered as 9/11.

The war rages on, with so many more Americans being killed or maimed, trying to prevent another tragedy like that one. Is it possible to win a War on Terror?

Of course not. Any one of us can be a terrorist at any moment if we choose to. It's impossible to find and root out every individual who may in the future murder someone else. But what about whole nations who raise their babies on the idea that murder is somehow noble? Can we stop them? Change their ideology with a war?

No. But at least we are making them take notice. It's a warning to those nations who blatantly mock and hate the United States and any western peace-loving country. As soon as we turn a blind eye, pretend we can all be friends, seek peace at any cost---we've opened the door to more devastation. We won't last long.

Pray for our troops today:
"If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways....THEN will I hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sins and will heal their lands."

100 Years



My Grandma Davis is celebrating her 100th birthday this week! She seems frail as a butterfly's wing, but her tenacity has carried her through a car crash, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and recently a broken hip. All after the age of 80!

Her mind is feeble, but she still communicates her love in unmistakable ways: kissing of our hands over and over, reaching out to touch and hold your hand, and offering everyone nearby that electric smile that lights her whole face.

Grandma has weathered four wars, the Great Depression, and the loss of her husband and one son, but she has never wavered for one moment in character and grace.
At 100, she still defines the word "lady."

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Patience

That I would even attempt to write on this subject almost makes me laugh. It is so NOT my strong point. But these days, I have a feeling God may be laughing, too.

What a summer already! In May, my husband lost his job through a massive layoff that caught them all by surprise. With his education, skills, and years of experience, we hoped it would be a quick turnaround to find another one. But one ideal job after another passes by and we look at each other quizzically.

"What? Why not that one?"

Then we turn our puzzled hearts to the Lord. "Did you see that?" we ask. "Are you sure?"

What do you do when Heaven is silent?

Our 15-year-old daughter, Susie, has a stack of learning issues due to her brain injury (see sidebar, Saving Susie) and we hoped to get her into Tulsa Technology Center for her junior year of high school so she can learn skills she can use. Many academic subjects just bounce off her poor little head and forcing her through two more years of it is senseless. But...we're not in the right county and have to drum our fingers at the bottom of the waiting list, so we still do not know what classes she will be allowed to take when school starts in ten days!

Patience! Ugh! I prefer to have my entire life mapped out ten years in advance, right down to the meal planning! God does not seem to work that way.

I specifically asked the Lord to rebuke the devourer from our finances when Wayne lost his job. Citing the story of the Israelites in the wilderness, when their clothes did not wear out (actually, I've always felt sorry for the women. Can you imagine, girls? Forty years in the same outfit?!), I made it a point to mention the cars. I felt I had a good foundation to stand on.

The next week both our cars started falling apart out of the blue--including Wayne's less-than-2-year-old Impala which we bought so we wouldn't have car issues! We're still camping out at the mechanic shop. They're thinking of giving us our own parking space. So much for my theory.

So, now what? Do we get angry at God for not being more clear? Or...do we take the approach that maybe he IS being clear, just not saying what we thought he would say? As I balanced our checking account this week, he tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "See? All that car trouble you're so worked up about, and your account is as plump as ever!"

Hmmm. How'd he do that?

And the complete lack of job choices all summer long has started Wayne in a new direction, one he would not have considered while ensconced safely in his beige cubicle. He's developing ideas for expanding his own business. Ideas that leave me a bit quaky at the idea of launching out on his own, but...it's what he has really always wanted to do.

So I'm trying to view patience with a better attitude and stop accusing the Lord of sleeping on the job. Sometimes, it's the only way he can direct us away from what looks so right to us.

However, I'm still suspicious that my husband is stalling until my book comes out so that he can then be a "kept man!"

Anger

Unresolved anger is the fuel of rebellion. That's one reason Scripture speaks so sternly about it.

"Be angry and sin not" implies there is a way to be angry and not offend God. Anger over injustice. Fury at evil itself. Anger at the way Satan uses and manipulates people. In those cases, you and God are on the same side. God gets angry, too.

But when anger is left to fester on its own, it becomes rebellion--a rampant fire that is very difficult to contain. Dr. Phil says anger is simply "hurt turned inward." When a hurt is so deep, so impossible to understand or accept, too often we pull it inside, tamp it down in a dark place in our souls, and refuse to admit it is there. But it IS there, poisoning and infiltrating everything we do. It may start out turned inward, but it soon swells so big that it turns outward too, maiming and destroying relationships, potential, and most importantly our connection with God.

"Make no friendship with an angry man" is Solomon's warning to us about the devastating results of unresolved anger. You are going to get burned, he says, if you hang around an angry person. And it is true.

Once that initial hurt has rooted and started to grow, it is a natural catch-all for every hurt that comes along later. A big anger-pot is already simmering, just toss in another one. An angry person views others in his life as potential hurters--one wrong move, one unpleasant encounter, and the inflicter of hurt gets added to the pot, and the lid is slammed shut. Soon the pot is boiling and churning and so hot it is untouchable. It has a life of its own.

That's where rebellion begins. Sin prances along, enticing, beckoning, and the angry one lifts a brow of interest. Conscience rises on her hind legs, shouting, "No! No! Wrong! Don't do it!"

But the anger is bigger, louder, more powerful than anything else and conscience is easily shouted down time and again until she rarely bothers to warn anymore. Every time sin calls, the angry one has only to whip the lid off the simmering pot, peek inside at all those who've inflicted pain, and nod with satisfaction. Sin choices are justified...after all look what ___?___ did!

Soon the anger is a necessary and valued part of life. To give it up would be to give up a reason for being! It's the fuel of life, the whole reason he can sin and not feel guilty: "I deserve this right to rebel! I've been hurt! I owe it to myself to get what I want, because life dealt me a low blow. You hurt me. He hurt me. God hurt me!"

And so the pot boils on, conscience is tossed into the flames as useless tinder, and unless the anger is dealt with completely, the boiling pot tossed out, it leads to what Romans calls a "reprobate mind."

To sin without guilt! Isn't it wonderful? Following my own path...charting my own course...a free spirit we call it, and it sounds like such unfettered freedom! But God calls it a reprobate mind, past the point of no return. His Spirit will not always strive with man, Scripture says.

The day you can live comfortably in sin, prefer your acquaintances be others of like mind, toss conviction to the wind...that is the day you begin to die. Just as in the garden, when Adam took a bite, the Scripture says, "In that day, he died." Not physically, but his soul set the course away from God and Hell yawned before him.

Conscience is a gift to us, not a curse. Once it is killed, you have cut the connection between your spirit and God's. He'll let you stomp straight ahead in your rebellion if you choose to. But it's with sorrow that He watches you go.

Let Him deal with the rage that drives you deeper into an uncharted wilderness. Give it up before you no longer have that option. Escape from conscience may look like freedom, but it's merely a prison from which there is eventually no escape.

The Sacrifice of Praise

Several places in Scripture talk about bringing to the Lord our "sacrifice of praise." We sing it glibly without really considering its meaning. We usually think of the word sacrifice in relation to finances or time. In the Old Testament, sacrifice usually involved killing of something. But these past few years have taught me about a new kind of sacrifice--praising the Lord when your heart is below sea level.

When your husband is out of a job, your kid is destroying her life, a child lies near death on life-support, everything in the house seems to break at once...Who wants to praise the Lord? We'd rather approach him with a stern look and a lifted brow. "What's going on?" we demand.

And Heaven is silent. No fluffy answers fill our hearts. Platitudes ring hollow. Then the music director instructs us to sing "All I Need is Jesus." and we want to sit it out.

It is then you have the power to bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. Praise is no sacrifice for the guy pulling in six figures a year, the mom with all her shining-faced children in a row, the healthy, the rich, or the sheltered. Praise comes easily then.

But I believe God sees what it costs us to offer praises when our hearts are breaking and it is a pleasing aroma to him. When you feel you have nothing left to give. The world has taken it all. Try offering the sacrifice of praise.


Proud Mom and Dad. Sam's graduation day, 2006. 12 years of homeschool finally completed! Now he's a college man, and we couldn't be prouder!