I need some time...ALONE!

Are you tired this morning?

Are you full?

Do you feel exhausted already from shopping, decorating, preparing for Christmas?

Take some time to slow down....and be alone!

As I was reading from Mark this morning, I noticed some things about Jesus. He took time to be ALONE! He took time to pray. He purposed to get away from all of the people (including those closest to Him) and spend some one-on-one time with the Father.

In Mark 6, Jesus says to His disciples, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

Don't you LOVE that? Jesus, who is God incarnate needed to get SOME REST! He recognizes that these earthly bodies are not perfect. We need to take care of our physical bodies and rest them. The SuperMom in me just doesn't get that.... I push and push and push UNTIL I crash and burn.... Then, I get the rest I DON'T like- the crabby, just yelled at my family, feeling lousy, got to go to bed, feel a cold coming on- REST! Before I crash and burn, I need to follow the example of Jesus...and purpose to REST.

As I continue to read on... I see that all the people ran ahead of Jesus. He had been taking a leisurely boat ride to the solitary place, but the people all ran on land and made it there first.

I love that when Jesus saw them, "He had compassion on them." He didn't turn them away. Instead, "He began teaching them many things."

AND THEN...to again show His love and compassion, He FED THEM! They were at this solitary place (remember Jesus wanted to go to a "quiet place" and rest??) where there were no stores to buy food. The disciples tell Jesus to send the people away so they can eat.

But, Jesus wants to feed them. And, I love that He tells His disciples YOU give them something to eat. They think He is crazy....but Jesus has a lesson for us in here as well. Earlier, it says Jesus has compassion on them because they are "like sheep without a shepherd." The message is for us, along with His disciples, to FEED HIS SHEEP, FEED THE LOST. (John 21)

So, Jesus performs this beautiful miracle of feeding over 5,000 people with just five loaves and two fish. He satisfies the people....first their spirits by teaching them, then physically by feeding them. This story in John 6 includes Jesus teaching afterwards that HE is "the Bread of Life."

Some things I notice about "Quiet Time"...

Miracles happen in quiet time.

I am taught "many things" during quiet time.

I am fed in quiet time.

And then, IMMEDIATELY Jesus "made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd." Mark 6:45

I love the word "immediately." Jesus knew that He needed to be filled as well. He doesn't wait and teach one more principle. He doesn't tell one more story. He doesn't heal one more person. He immediately dismissed the crowd....

After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray. Mark 6:46

Jesus knew the importance of getting alone with the Father. No crowds. No disciples. Just Him and the Father. Maybe to worship? Maybe to thank the Father for the amazing miracles? Maybe just to sit in His presence and be filled.

I know that I also need to do the same thing. I need to go ALONE to a solitary place and sit before the Father and BE FILLED.

Father God, thank You that You sent Jesus not only to be our Savior (like that isn't enough!!!), but also to be an example for us. Help me each day, especially when I am spent, to remember to sit before You and be filled. I love You Lord. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Black Friday....

(image from MSN opening page)

Do you go shopping on this most dreaded of shopping days? Do wake up in the middle of night to get out by 4AM (or, like this year as many place begin at 12 midnight the night before)? Do you scour the adds looking for the best deal? Do you feel exhilarated as you brave the crowds hunting down the items from your list? Does your list resemble more of a notebook, filled with times and items listed for each store, along with needed items for every person on your Christmas list?

If so, I am right there with ya! The above describes me to a T! I LOVE "Black Friday"! I LOVE this shopping day more than any other! I have no problem waking up, getting ready (no, I am NOT one who basically rolls out of bed and comes in her PJs). I do it all- hair, make-up, traditional Christmas sweater....

But, as we look for all of the best deals, let us remember what is THE best "deal"- trading our life of sin for His robes of righteousness. As we hunt for the "perfect" present, let us remember the Father's gift to each of us.....His precious and beautiful Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And.....what a PERFECT day to shine the Light of Jesus and share the Gospel! Not only do I wear my cross and my friendliest SMILE, not only do I clothe myself with patience and grace.... but I make a point to shine of the Light of Christ to every person I come into contact with...

Which may mean you give up your spot in line to someone else. You may have to offer the last sale item to another. And, I make a point to share the Gospel with check-out clerks with a GREAT tradition we do every year- Gift with Purchase (from the book, Redeeming the Season).
day before Thanksgiving the kids and I sit down and make craft items to give away as gifts to the salesclerks. We usually make ornaments of some kind... I make sure to thank the clerks for being there for us (shoppers). And, I make sure to say, "MERRY CHRISTMAS"! The ornament always has a message of God's love for us. We have also done bracelets in the past as well. It is an awesome way to bring some joy on a very CRAZY day!

For another Black Friday post click here.

Happy shopping!

The most wonderful time of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I pray you will be richly blessed as you focus on His bountiful goodness in your life.

As we approach the Advent season and begin thinking about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I want to encourage you to take a look at Him again through the Gospels. I am trying to read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in this Christmas season. I began today in Mark and again am so blessed as I see the compassion and love of Jesus as He heals all who come to Him. I hope you, too, will take time everyday this Advent season to prepare your heart for Jesus, pondering His life, love, Words, and sacrifice.

Be blessed!

At the Well....

I am at the Well today talking about fostering an "Attitude of Gratitude" in our children. I hope you can join us!

Pictures from Las Vegas

The view of the pools from our room.

Me snoozing at the pool....

I thought I would post some lovely pictures of the beautiful hotel we stayed at in Las Vegas. Caeser's Palace really is majestic! Please take a few minutes to read "The Lost in Las Vegas" from our first trip there.

And...check back tomorrow for Word-Filled Wednesday and a devotion At the Well!

Do you have your oxygen mask on?

Listening to the flight attendant tell us all about oxygen masks, I couldn't help but make the "spiritual connection"- especially when she began talking about children. She said that it was very important to put on our own masks BEFORE we put them on any children seated next to us.

I thought about me, as a mother, Sunday School teacher, mentor to teenage girls.... I need to get my oxygen on BEFORE I attempt to help them put on theirs! I need to make sure I am seeking MY oxygen- Jesus Christ- before I help them to seek Him as well. Like the oxygen, I may start to help them before I am secured, but I pass out! And, my deepest desire is for them to be SAVED and SECURE as well....but I can't make a difference if I am lying unconscious next to them! I must first secure my own mask, then reach over and put on theirs... What may be really cool, though, is that they have WATCHED ME and learned how to do it themselves. I am there to check on it and make sure it is secure.


Lord, may I always seek You as my life-giving, life-sustaining oxygen! May I also help others to secure their "oxygen" masks as well! Lord, I love You! In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

Lord, give me an ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE!

Please join me today at Laced with Grace to chat about gratitude as we prepare our hearts for THANKSGIVING! Simply click here to read this devotion....

Fall Pictures

Abby and I recently went on a nature walk to admire the beautiful fall foliage. I am so glad we brought the camera! It is amazing, though, two weeks later, most of the trees are bare. Seasons are getting ready to change again.....

Word-Filled Wedneday....What's in a NAME?

Have you heard of "Willis Tower"? You may have or not.... But, I bet you have heard of the Sears Tower- the tallest skyscraper in the world! Well, the Sears Tower was recently bought by the Willis Insurance Co. and promptly changed its name. Now, for some people, this magnificent building will ALWAYS be "the Sears Tower"- no matter what the "official" name may be.

What's in a name?

Names can be very important.

Mother. Grandmother. Wife. Teacher. Doctor.

Names can be hurtful.

Dummy. Failure. Slob. Ugly.

No matter what the WORLD may have named you, God has a special name for you....daughter...beloved....chosen...precious. Isaiah tells us that we have nothing to fear- God has redeemed us. He has called us by name. We are His.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Have a BLESSED Word-Filled Wednesday and please link here for more inspiration!

By the way- I am DESPERATELY trying to learn this new graphics program- Jasc Paint Shop Pro. The only trouble is....I'm NOT a "pro"! It is hard! Anyone familiar with it?????

Lost in Las Vegas

Brian and I are again on our way to Vegas for another work convention. This time, I will know what to expect! Please be praying for me. Pray that God would provide an opportunity for me to reach out in Jesus' Name. Pray that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Pray that He would fill my mouth with His words everywhere I go and whenever I speak. Here is the post from 3 years ago after my first trip there.

We are home from Las Vegas, and it is always so wonderful to get away together as a couple, without the kids! Although it was wonderful spending time with Brian, and socializing with people at the convention, Las Vegas was truly a hard city for me to visit. Brian's brother called us on the cell phone while we were there, not knowing that we were in Vegas. When he learned that I was there, too, his reaction was, "Tracy will have to go to church for a week!" Funny.

But, he knew what we were experiencing because he had just been there. Gone is the "family theme" and Vegas revels in its new theme, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Las Vegas truly lives up to its nickname as "sin city"- sex, drugs, materialism. When you think of Vegas, the first thing that comes to mind is the lure of gambling. And, of course, watching people in the casinos, you could see people caught in the bondage of gambling, as they plugged away (what looked like) their last nickels in the slot the machines. But, what stood out more than anything was the sexual sin. From the first moment entering Vegas, visitors are bombarded with sexual images once we step off of the airplane. Beginning at the airport and all down the strip and in front of every casino and hotel, there are large screen TVs looping commercials over and over, promoting everything from Cirque du Soleil's new "Zumanity," a show of acrobats appearing naked simulating sex in every imaginable "fantasy," to a choral review with women "dripping rhinestones barely covering anything," to the Chippendale's dancers to Tangerine nightclub, with a view of the "strip" both inside and outside (a strip club located in our hotel!). Walking down the street, there are flyers and booklets promoting prostitutes. Even at the "mall," stores openly displayed nipple jewelry and sex toys (next to "normal" stores like the Gap and Children's Place!).

But, as "yucky" as it all sounds, the overwhelming emotion I felt the most was grief. I looked around at my beautiful surroundings and watched people having fun in the glamorous environment, oblivious to everything else. I believe as we walk closer to the Lord, we grow more sensitive to His Spirit, and the more we begin to know His heart. I could feel the grief of the Father's heart as I walked around Vegas. There were times I could barely hold back the tears. He so opened my eyes, truly seeing these lost women, women without a hope or future. I had such a sense of His grief for them. They were beautiful women, and they looked satisfied, glamorous. They probably would tell you they are happy in their lifestyles, having no idea they are ruining their lives. Watching an interview with a woman on TV, she told how she was more comfortable without clothes than with clothes. She even "bragged" about having sex with five men at the same time. My heart broke. How they need Jesus!

It gave me such a sense of how we are failing as a Church, how we are NOT reaching the lost, who so desperately need Jesus. The world is looking for "something," not knowing exactly what it is. The enemy is right there, deceiving the lost into thinking this lifestyle is it! The attention, the money, the "power," the glamour they receive from it. You may be thinking, "But, Tracy, I can not pick up and move to Las Vegas to minister to the lost there." But, I wondered, as I thought about all of this, how many of those girls were once living in small town America (maybe even Cedar Rapids!), searching and seeking and no one reached out to them. No one told them about Jesus. No one told them there was freedom in the Light! Oh, Father, may we all be a Light shining for You! Help us to get out of our bubbles, out of our comfort zones and reach the world for You! Give us words to share Your love to everyone we meet! Lord, give us eyes to see the lost You directly place in our paths!

Father, I lift up the Lost to You, especially those in Las Vegas. Father, Your Word says Jesus came to set the captives free. I pray these women will be set free! I bind the enemy, in the name of Jesus, to the deception of their hearts and minds. He has darkened their minds with His deception. Satan, you are a defeated foe, and I declare you have no power over these women! I pray for a release from their chains! I pray for release from deception, the seduction, the lure this life has over them. Jesus paid too high a price for them to live and die and not ever find You! This is a question of heaven and hell, where will they spend eternity. Lord, it sad that they are caught up in this lifestyle now, but the thought that they would never know You is heartbreaking. Lord, help us Christians to get out of our comfort zones, out of our own self-centered lifestyles and tell people about Jesus! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Jesus, I am again reminded of how thankful I am for You- that I have You in my life! I love You, Jesus!!!!!!!

Blessings to all of you!

Hospitality....At the Well

Today at the well, we are talking about hospitality.......A subject I LOVE! Although some of us DO have "the gift" of hospitality, we all are commanded in scripture to practice hospitality. Chelsey wrote a wonderful post about it here...

I have been thinking about this topic recently because I have been teaching my daughters about friendship and how to be a Biblical friend. I was pondering hospitality in this context and thought about how the girls have opportunity everyday to practice hospitality- even at school!

Someone who is "hospitable" is welcoming. She is inviting. She tries to make someone else feel comfortable....accepted. When a group of girls are playing on the playground, and there is someone who is left out or alone, it is hospitable to GO TO THAT person and invite her into the group....welcome her in.

How often, as adults, do we face similar situations? Do we invite an outsider "in" to our circle of friends? Do we make the effort to welcome newcomers? Do we GO TO THAT person (pick up the phone) and invite her?

I watched a perfect example of exactly that same kind of hospitality in my home. I host an annual cookie exchange every Christmas. By the way, this IS a perfect opportunity to practice hospitality. Instead of just inviting my close personal friends, I try to go out of my way and invite new people.....people who may need a friend....unchurched. I pray every year and ask God to show me more people who would benefit from my hospitality. There usually is a big group of women who come- sometimes as many as thirty or more. My family room and kitchen are busy with chatter and laughter. One year, as I was surveying the crowd, checking drinks for refills, chatting with different groups of ladies, I noticed one lady sitting by herself on the couch. As I was approaching to talk to her, another one of my friends sat next to her and began a conversation. As I watched, they laughed and talked for most of the evening. After the party, I asked my friend who sat with the lone lady how she knew her. I will never forget my friend's response. She said that she didn't know the lady, but noticed that she was alone. So, she sought her out and spent the evening with her.

To me, that is the perfect example of hospitality......to seek out the lost....to extend a hand of friendship.....to welcome and make the person feel at home...at ease....comfortable....and accepted.

Lord, may I always welcome others in Your Name. Make my home a place where the doors are always open to strangers and those who need a refuge. Give me a HEART willing to share my home and my comfort with others. Help me to develop the SKILLS of hospitality. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

Don't forget to stop by the Well to read more great inspiration. And, please join in the conversation! I would love to read your thoughts on hospitality! Link here.