Thursday, February 4, 2016

In the Beginning...

February is known as the Month of Love. I've been loved my whole life. My parents loved me. Family and friends love me. Twenty-nine years ago this April I married the love of my life, the bestest hubby in the world! When I gave birth to two amazing little boys, my understanding of human and God-love grew exponentially!

But let me tell you about a different kind of love affair...

I love my Bible. I mean, I love my Bible. I love my Bible!

Get it?

God's written word has become like breath to me. I can't live without it. I can't function without the life-giving nourishment it gives my soul. If I try to begin my day without getting into the Word, I get the feeling something important is missing. And more often than not, I'll have a really icky day. Not because of the things that happen necessarily, but  because of my own attitude and thought process toward whatever comes my way. It's just so much better to start out the day with a word from the Lord, ya know?

I didn't always feel this way. Growing up in a Christian home, we had plenty of Bibles around. I often saw my Mom reading her Bible, and when my Grandma moved in with us my Senior year, I found comfort in passing her open door to see her sitting in her Lazy-Boy recliner reading the Word. But very seldom did I pick up my own Bible to read. Very seldom did I turn to God's word for answers to life's problems. I was a married woman with children before I fully understood the powerful resource I had within my grasp. Now I cherish God's word! Like many of you, I have an abundance of Bibles to choose from:

  • A white-covered King James version given to me by "Mother and Daddy" on June 30, 1971
  • A Children's edition of the Living Bible given to me by our church Christmas 1973
  • The Living Bible given to me by "Mom and Dad" Christmas 1980. I would graduate from high school and head off to college a few months later. I'm sure my parents hoped the Word of God would go with me!
  • For Christmas 2001, my sweet husband bought me the New International Version Bible. Funny, he accidentally bought a Large Print, but I'm so glad! My eyes ain't what they used to be, so the larger print is awesome! This is the Bible I read every morning. I have so many, many scriptures highlighted or underlined, with notes written off to the side, some with meaningful dates. If our house ever caught fire (Lord, never!), that Bible would be the first thing I'd grab! It is literally my life. 
  • In 2003, hubby gave me The Message Bible, which is a way-cool version. Makes things so, so clear sometimes. 
Every Bible, no matter the version, is God's word to us. It's a story of His great love for mankind. So many, many lessons are within those pages. So many, many lives touched by God's amazing grace. I honestly don't think I will ever tire of reading my Bible. Seriously. I learn something new every single time I open it!

But I came to an interesting conclusion while reading in the Book of John. Despite the fact that the Bible contains 66 books with 1,189 chapters and somewhere around 31,000 verses....

...there are only TWO verses that really, truly matter when it comes to our faith. Twenty-seven words, to be exact:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

Those two verses sum up everything we need to know about God. In fact, you can whittle those sentences down even further:

"In the beginning GOD!"

"In the beginning was the WORD!"

God is the Creator of everything. He has always been and will always be. And John 1:1 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus--the Word--is God. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Those two truths -- God is the Creator and Jesus is God -- are the very foundation of our faith. They are what we build everything else upon. Without those two principals firmly rooted in your heart, the rest of the Bible probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense. 

If you aren't a regular Bible reader, I encourage you to become one. God speaks through His word. Let Him speak to you today!

This week's Shout-Out countries are:
USA, UK, Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Georgia, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Africa, Slovenia

Friday, January 1, 2016

No Resolutions....Just Gonna Live Life


My hope and prayer for you is that 2016 will be one of the best years of your life! True, some years hold more problems than we can bear: heartache, pain, sorrow, illness, financial woes, relationship woes. But one thing I've learned as I've aged is that each of those situations can be overcome when you have Jesus Christ in your life. Allowing Jesus to be Lord doesn't mean you'll never experience bad or sad things. It simply means you don't have to bear them alone. He is willing and able to carry you, heal you, restore you, provide for you, etc. How do I know? Because I've experienced it! Life can be messy and downright mean sometimes. To the point there is no way to make it on your own strength. So before the year gets underway, if you are struggling with life issues or maybe you've never invited Jesus to be Lord of your life, today would be a GREAT day to let Him have control of your future!


Wow! Hard to believe yet another year has come and gone. 2015 was a good year for us. Lots of changes, but good ones. Our oldest son graduated from college in December -- Whoop! -- and is now busy sending out resumes. Our youngest son joined the Army in November -- Whoop!! -- and is in the throes of Basic Training. We are beyond proud of both of them and pray God's perfect will for their futures!

What will the new year look like? Much like the previous year, I imagine, but with different changes sprinkled in here and there. I've never been keen on making new year's resolutions, mainly because I don't stick with them very long. A month or so at most. Weight loss. Eating healthier. Spending more time in the Word. All the usual suspects.

So instead of starting the new year with a list of "to do's," I thought I'd instead start with a list of "right now's." More like a list of blessings and Hoorah's than a list of "get 'er dones or else feel like a failure." Below is my Top Ten List. Feel free to share your own in the comments.

  1. I have a Savior who loves me unconditionally.
  2. My Bible is my favorite book!
  3. I'm married to my very best friend. We will celebrate 29 years of marriage this year!
  4. My two sons are becoming amazing young men with amazing futures. Trusting God to make His plans and purposes fulfilled in their lives. 
  5. All four of us are healthy. 
  6. I'm down 15 lbs from where I was last year at this time. 
  7. We are making healthier food choices most of the time. 
  8. We have a really good job that allows us to work together on a beautiful ranch in the hill country. 
  9. Despite a mound of bills, we always have everything we need and many things we want. 
  10. I am loved by family and friends. 

I hope you'll make your own list. Focusing on the positives definitely helps when the negatives come up, as they tend to do.

I'll leave you with a favorite passage from Psalm 139:23-24. It seems appropriate for the beginning of a new year. Kinda makes you want to start out with a clean slate.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

This week's Prayer Shout Out countries area:
USA, Germany, China, Taiwan, France, Kenya, Poland, Russia, Malaysia, India, Romania, Portugal, Luxembourg

Thursday, December 24, 2015

An Angel's Story: Part 3, The Conclusion

What was it like to be an angel on that first Christmas? Our story's conclusion...


I was going to see the Lamb! I practically shouted with joy! 

Gabriel and I made our way back to earth. We passed over the same land, water and grassy field where we'd been moments before. Only the sheep stood there now. Soon a small village came into view. The streets were crowded with people, even at this late hour. I guessed they had all come to worship the Lamb.

Gabriel took me to the edge of town. I looked about for the palace. All I saw were simple houses and a place where animals were kept. 

"Why are we here?" I asked, confused. "I thought we were going to see the Lamb."

"We are," Gabriel replied. We stopped at the entrance where animals lived. The sound of lowing cattle met us.

I turned to Gabriel, thinking he must be mistaken. "Here?"

He nodded again. "See His star?"

I looked to where he pointed. A brilliant light shone down from the black night directly onto this place. I didn't understand. Why would the King of kings be in a smelly, dirty stable? Why would he leave the riches of heaven and come here?

Gabriel motioned me inside. I took hesitant steps into the dimly lit space. I was surprised to find the shepherds from the field there. They knelt in front of a small wooden structure. I noticed a young woman sitting on a blanket on a bed of straw. She looked tired but happy. Her eyes shone bright as she spoke softly with the shepherds. A man stood nearby. I got the distinct feeling he was alert to every noise and every movement, as though watching, guarding.

I followed Gabriel as we moved closer to the humans. They couldn't see us, for which I was glad. I was confused about what was happening and didn't want them to know it. We stepped into a circle of lantern light, and I gasped at what I saw before me. 

A tiny, brand new baby lay in a manger, wrapped in cloths. His eyes were closed, and he slept peacefully. 

I looked at Gabriel. "The Lamb?" I whispered in shock.

"Yes. Our Prince." He looked at the baby. "The Savior of the world."

I gazed at the small, helpless lump of humanity. I didn't recognize him at all. Gone was the Prince of heaven, to be replaced with a creature who could do nothing for himself, let alone the entire world. I glanced at the lowly shepherds, ragged and dirty, worshipping him. At his mother and earthly father who clearly did not live in a palace but were forced to take refuge with animals.

It didn't make any sense. None at all.

"How can this be?" I asked. "Where is his throne? Where is his palace? Why should God leave the riches of heaven to come to earth in this manner?"

Gabriel shrugged. "In what manner should he have come? As a Warrior God, forcing the people of earth to worship him?"

I frowned. "No." God doesn't want anyone--angel or human--forced to worship him. "Tell me then. Why is the Lamb here, like this?"

"For them," Gabriel said simply, indicating the shepherds. "And for others like them. Had the Lamb come to earth with an army of angels and set up his kingdom in a palace, many humans would have come and bowed before him. But they would not have come with a pure heart seeking a Savior. And that is why the Lamb came: to seek and to save the lost. To do that he must dwell among them and know life as they do. He must face the same temptations, the same trials and, ultimately, the same death. But when he is raised to life again, then they will know that he is their King. Then those whose hearts are open and receptive will bow down in true worship."

I understood then.

God had asked the Lamb to sacrifice himself for all mankind. He left the perfection of heaven, knowing he would be born in a barn to a humble couple with lowly shepherds as the only worshippers. He knew he wouldn't live in a palace or be honored as Lord. He knew the people of earth would eventually reject him and kill him. 

Yet he came anyway! He came because of his great love for mankind. He came because he wanted the people he loves to be free from the bondage of sin. He wanted them to live a life of joy and peace with God. And He wanted them to spend eternity in heaven with Himself and the Father.

I looked at the baby again. He was awake now, silently studying the faces around him. Then he looked at me, and I fell to my knees.

"My Lord and my God," I whispered.

His tiny lips lifted in a smile. I smiled back. 

While Mary, Joseph and the shepherds laughed and cooed over the smiling baby, I stood, ready to return to heaven.

I knew God had things firmly under control here on earth.

Jesus left the glory of heaven to dwell on earth for one reason: You! His love for you is beyond anything you could ever imagine. It is full and complete. It is everything your heart and soul desires. If you don't know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, my prayer is you will take time this Christmas to truly seek him.

Merry Christmas to You and Yours!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Angel's Story: Part 2

What was it like to be an angel on that first Christmas? Our story continues....

Heaven seemed different without the Lamb.

As though the very light of heaven had dimmed somehow. It hadn't, of course. God is our Light and His presence is always near. 

But still, an emptiness that could not be filled persisted. 

We angles went about our work as usual. We sang praises to God. We took care of heaven's business. With God's permission, Gabriel shared with us about his mission to earth to prepare the way for the Lamb. Angles didn't often appear to humans, even though many of us are serving and working throughout the earth at all times. He told how he spoke with the young woman--Mary--whom God chose to carry the Baby in her womb. I was pleased to hear that Mary understood what an honor was being given to her. I was also pleased to hear that the man who would be her husband was righteous and humble. It would take a man like that to be father to the Lamb! 

One day God summoned us all before the throne again. It troubled me to see the Lamb's empty throne. I hoped God would tell us the Lamb was coming home. 

When all were present, God smiled. "Today is a blessed day for the people of earth," He said. "Today Salvation will come to the world. The Lamb will be born unto a virgin."

 Angles around me cheered. I knew I should be happy for the people of earth, but my shoulders slumped. It seemed as though half of eternity had passed since the Lamb departed heaven, but He hadn't even been born as a human baby yet. He wouldn't be coming home anytime soon.

"I am sending Gabriel to announce the birth to my people. Some of you will join him in the celebration."

An angel stood beside God with a scroll. He began to read off names. I held my breath, waiting. Name after name. Angel after angel came forward until a very large group circled Gabriel. Finally, just when I began to give up hope, my name was called! 

We left heaven and traveled through the stars and planets. God's handiwork truly was beautiful. Gabriel led us to earth, across water and land, until we finally came to a wide-open grassy area. It was dark, but I could see several men relaxing around a fire. A herd of sheep stood nearby. 

I looked around, waiting to see the crowds of humans who would receive Gabriel's message about the Lamb's birth. Surely all the kings of the land and the important leaders should be here, ready to pay homage to the King. 

But Gabriel didn't wait for anyone else to arrive. He showed himself to the men in the field, who seemed terrified when they beheld Gabriel.

"Do not be afraid," Gabriel said to them. "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Gabriel turned to us and suddenly the men in the field saw us too. 

"Glory to God in the highest heaven!" we said, lifting our voices as one. "And on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

The men stood wide-eyed. When they couldn't see us anymore, they talked among themselves excitedly.

"Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about!" And they set off, leaving their sheep unattended.

We started our journey back to heaven.

I felt...disappointed. Why had we delivered the most wondrous news to a tiny group of lowly shepherds? Why hadn't the kings of earth been there to hear the message? Why hadn't we been allowed to announce the Lamb's birth to the entire world?

Before I could stop myself, I came up alongside Gabriel.

"I don't understand," I said. "Why are we leaving? All the men of earth should be told about the Lamb. They should all be summoned to his earthly palace to worship him."

Gabriel studied me for a long moment before he spoke. "Come," he said, taking me by the hand. We separated ourselves from the group of angels returning to heaven and went in the opposite direction, back to earth. 

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"To see the Lamb. Then you will understand."

I couldn't help but smile. I was going to the palace to see the Lamb.

Watch tomorrow for An Angel's Story: Part 3, the Conclusion.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Angel's Story, Part 1 of 3

What was it like to be an angel on that first Christmas? 

Excitement tingled in the air. I and all the angels of heaven, as well as those serving on earth, had been summoned to present ourselves before the LORD. Something big was happening, but no one knew what. I hurried to take my place among the multitude, anticipation making it hard to stand still. When we'd all assembled--ten thousand times ten thousand and more!---Gabriel stepped forward and stood near God's throne. The Lamb sat on a throne on God's right. He looked peaceful, serene.

God rose from his seat and everyone grew quiet.

"Today the prophecy I gave my servant Isaiah will be fulfilled." His voice thundered through the heavens.

A hushed murmur rose from the crowd of angels. We knew God spoke of the covenant he'd made with a human named Isaiah, one of God's chosen race, the Hebrews. Isaiah was obedient and faithful, and God had placed upon him the responsibility to be His voice throughout the ages to the disobedient Jews. Through Isaiah, God promised to send a Messiah, One who would save the entire world from sin. God's patience with mankind continued to amaze me. They deserved the same fate as the people in Noah's day, but God promised never to destroy them again. Instead, He set in place a plan of salvation that even I didn't fully understand.

Seeing Gabriel standing beside God, I wondered if perhaps he was being sent to save the human race. Gabriel would be a good choice. He was strong and mighty, and God had sent him to earth on other occasions.

But just when I expected God to call Gabriel forward, the Lamb stood.

A collective gasp went through the crowd. Surely not the Lamb!

"I am sending the Lamb to be a sacrifice for all mankind," God said. "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life with us."

"No!" angels shouted all around me. "Not our Prince!"

God raised his hand for silence. "It must be so. There is no other way."

I looked and saw Michael and his army draw their swords. Relief swept through me. The Lamb would be protected. No harm would come to him.

But God instructed them to put their weapons away. "The Lamb will go alone. He will become human. He will be born of a virgin, and he will grow in wisdom and stature. After a time, however, the men of earth will reject him and kill him."

A terrible hurt rose inside me. I'd heard humans talk about something called sorrow, and I knew this must be what they meant. The pain grew deeper than anything I'd ever known as I watched my beloved Prince--heaven's treasure--depart God's presence. I didn't understand how God could allow this to happen, but I trusted Him to know what was best. He had never failed us before, and I knew He would not fail us now.

I felt a strange wetness on my face and was surprised to find tears dripping from my eyes. I looked and saw others around me wiping wetness from their faces too.

I hadn't known before.

Angels can cry.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Watch for Part 2 tomorrow: The angels come to earth to announce the arrival of the Messiah!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Run YOUR Race

A bicycle race took place in our area yesterday. The day was sunny and overly warm, but that didn't stop hundreds of cyclists from pedaling mile after mile through the Texas hill country. Down one country lane and up the next. Past detour signs and spray-painted arrows on the road marking the way. Only one person eventually came in first, but I have a suspicion most of the participants were simply happy to have competed and completed the race.

So the past few days I've been pondering the parallels between living life and running a race:

  • A route is marked out by those in charge. They know where the finish line is and the best way to get there.
  • A prize awaits the winner.
  • There are hazards, distractions, and all manner of obstacles between you and the finish line. 
  • It often takes years of training and hard work to win the prize.
  • You can't run someone else's race. 
  • You need the right equipment if you want to win. 
  • If you get lost, you should retrace your steps and get back on the right path. 

God has already marked your race route. From the moment you were conceived, he knew you and he knew how your life would turn out. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139: 13,16) God has a plan and purpose for each of his creations. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) There is work to do -- and races to run -- that God has already prepared. It's up to us to be in relationship with him so we don't waste our time running the wrong race.

God has an eternal prize waiting for us. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." Every person on earth is running a race, but only a few will actually win. Jesus himself said, "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14) The promise of eternal life in the presence of God is the prize we should all be striving for.

When obstacles get in the way, keep going. We may have to hurdle obstacles both large and small in this life, but we can't let them trip us up. "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?" Paul asks in Galatians 5:7. Notice he asks "who?" Other people will often get in your way of the prize. Satan, too, will try everything he can to thwart you in your race. Keep Truth in front of you and kick everything else out of the way!

Winning a race takes perseverance. Olympic athletes train for years and years before they get a chance at the prize. While salvation through Jesus Christ happens the moment we confess our sins and accept him as Lord in our lives, most of us still have a lot of life to live and races to run before we reach the pearly gates. "...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2) Perseverance, baby!

I can't run your race and you can't run mine. Comparing ourselves to others is futile at best, dangerous at worst. Each of us is unique. Each of us, as the scriptures above prove, has a race marked out for us. While I may secretly wish my race looked like someone else's, I really have no idea the struggles, hurdles, and pain they've gone through to get to the point where my path crosses theirs. "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many...God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." (taken from 1 Corinthians 12:14-31) As with a body, different parts preform different functions. The body wouldn't be complete without each one.

God will equip us with what we need to win the race. Having the best equipment goes a long way to helping someone win a race. God has provided everything we need to win our prize. "Put on the full armor of God...the belt of truth buckled around your waist...the breastplate of righteousness...your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace...the shield of faith...the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (taken from Ephesians 6:10-18) A racer set on winning the prize will never, ever leave home unequipped.

Sometimes we lose sight of the finish line. Even racers with the best intentions get lost. Especially when there are lots of twists and turns and detours on the route. When a racer is lost, one of two things has to happen. Someone needs to go find him, or he needs to turn around and go back to where he took a wrong turn. Jesus, in his great love and compassion, reminded us that a Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine safe sheep to go find the one that is lost. "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:1-7) But rather than waiting for someone to come find you, wouldn't it be better to head back on your own once you recognize your wrong turn? "When he came to his senses..." the prodigal son went home. (Luke 15:11-32) Get back on track! The prize is just ahead!

Racing is not easy. It takes hard work. It takes training. It takes keeping your eye on the prize. You have to stay on the marked route and not get distracted or lost. But once you cross that finish line...


Let the celebration begin!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Africa, France, China, Hong Kong, Portugal, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Singapore

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sonograms, Tumors, and Why Abortion is NEVER the Right "Choice"

The most recent damning video released against Planned Parenthood and its practice of harvesting and selling baby body parts is beyond horrific. I cried and cried and cried at the image of the tiny little boy, lying in a medical dish of some sort, while listening to a former abortion worker describe the horror of seeing and participating in cutting open the face -- the FACE!!!--- of a tiny little boy probably very  much like the one shown in order to harvest his brain.

There are not enough words to describe the disgust, the anger, the heartbreak I feel watching these videos. Like you, I am fully aware that abortions happen every single day. Like you, I've read articles or heard speeches or even watched a video or two about why abortion is wrong. But never has it been so real. Never has it been so despicable. Never has it hit me to the point of deep, deep grief for the precious lives that are being treated like scientific experiments.

Let me tell you a story...

Way back in the fall of 1992 we were thrilled to learn we were expecting our second child. Having been through this before just a couple years prior with our first son, I had no reason to think everything wouldn't be completely normal with this pregnancy. At six weeks along, I went for my first doctor's appointment. My sweet mother-in-law accompanied me so she could keep my toddler, Taylor, occupied while I went in for a sonogram. I couldn't wait to see the tiny pulsating "blob" on the screen and maybe hear its heartbeat. Laying on the table as the nurse smeared cold gel on my flat stomach, I wondered who was inside of me! Was it another boy or a maybe a little girl this time? Time would tell. This appointment was strictly about confirming that yes indeed I was pregnant and to get the ball rolling.

Dr. Kaplan, with his South African accent, chatted with me as he swirled the sonogram device across my abdomen. After a while, though, he quit talking. He stared at the screen intensely as he kept running the little device over the same area. When he began to frown, fear started to rise in my heart.

Something was wrong. I could tell just by looking at him. Was my baby all right?

Finally, he moved the device way over on my side, nodded, and then went back to the troubling area. After what seemed like eternity, his eyes met mine.

"The good news is you are pregnant," he said, swishing the device on my side again, where the familiar little bleeping blob resided.

Pure relief flooded me. My baby were there, safe and sound. But just when I started to relax, he moved the device back to the top of my stomach.

"But I'm afraid this," he said, pointing to a large, dark area, "is a problem."

"What is it?" I asked, completely baffled.

"It's a tumor."

I can't remember how the rest of the conversation went exactly, but suffice it to say it was not good news. The tumor was directly behind my uterus. It was the size of a plum. Dr. Kaplan calmly laid out my options:

1. Terminate the pregnancy, remove the tumor, and go on with life.
2. Wait until the first trimester was over and then do surgery. It would require lifting out the uterus with the baby inside through a huge incision to remove the tumor. There were, of course, risks involved. I could lose the baby. The tumor could grow and spread while we waited. Recovery would be horrendous due to the large incision on a growing belly. The baby could suffer damage. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I don't say this to pat myself on the back like I'm some kind of saint or something, but I never ONCE thought about myself and the dangers to my person. My thoughts were 100% for my baby. Termination of the pregnancy was not ever an option. God planted this precious life inside me for a reason. He created the little boy or the little girl with His own hand. Yes, I was frightened about how all this was going to turn out, but killing my baby before it ever drew a breath was unthinkable.

The next weeks were filled with anxiousness but also with trust in God and a whole lot of prayer! We had all our family and close friends praying. I'm sure the words, "Not my will but thine" passed over my lips a multitude of times.

The day for our second sonogram arrived. Brian and I went to the doctor alone, leaving Taylor with Grandma Shocklee. There would be serious decisions and plans to make regarding the surgery and moving forward. When the doctor began the sonogram, Brian and I fully expected to see the dark mass, maybe even bigger. I think the doctor expected that too. But as he swirled the sonogram device over my still fairly flat stomach, what we saw is still imprinted in my memory.

A perfect little person, facing us on the screen, literally DANCING! Not big enough to require being tucked in the normal fetal position yet, this little person's arms and legs were moving like crazy. He seriously looked like he was dancing. We heard his heart beating. We saw his little hands and arms and legs and feet.

He was 13 weeks gestation. The same age as millions of babies when they are aborted.

It was Dr. Kaplan's turn to be baffled. He looked and looked for that tumor, but it wasn't there. I think he was an atheist, but when I shared that people had been praying for this very thing, he seemed a little impressed.

On May 22, 1993 our Austin James Shocklee arrived 3 1/2 weeks early but perfect in every way. He's grown into an amazing young man with God-given gifts and dreams. Our lives would not be complete without him. While I would have been justified in the eyes of the world to have an abortion due to the danger to my own health, I would have missed the miracle that God wanted to do. Not only did He remove the tumor, but He gave us a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

I realize my story does not look like others. Our baby was very much wanted and planned. But an unplanned baby is still just as precious. An unplanned baby is still a baby. An unplanned baby was created by God, so it is IN FACT a PLANNED baby!

No matter the circumstances of a pregnancy, one thing remains absolutely certain. Abortion is NEVER the right answer. Never.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A God-Stirred Spirit

There is a verse tucked away at the end of the first chapter in Haggai that, I believe, if we got down on our knees and prayed for this very thing, it would rock our nation. Our world! Revival would happen in every heart, in every home, in every church.

Before I quote the verse, let me give a little background. Haggai was a prophet of the LORD. He and the exiles had returned from Babylon where they'd been held captive for years and years. If you know your biblical history then you know that the Babylonians destroyed King Solomon's beautiful temple before taking the Israelites captive. Now, the children of God have returned to their beloved city and are beginning to rebuild their lives.

But, like most of us, they focused on rebuilding their own homes first. Certainly they needed a place to live and sleep and be, and God no doubt understood they needed to take care of personal business. But eighteen years have come and gone since their return. When are they going to start work on God's house? "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?" God asks in Haggai 1:4, revealing his impatience with their selfishness. Rebuilding the temple, God's dwelling place, was not their priority. And if rebuilding the temple was not a priority, it kinda makes sense that ultimately GOD was not their priority.

(Definitely begs the question: Where are MY priorities?)

"You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is ever warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them in a bag with holes." (Haggai 1:6)

Life, God seems to be saying, will always use up our energy. We will always have bills, always need groceries, always get hungry, always be tired. There will always be problems to deal with. Are those good enough reasons to neglect the LORD? To neglect the LORD'S house?

Something had to change if the LORD'S temple was going to be rebuilt. The Israelites were too self-centered, too tired, to manage it on their own.

And that leads me to the verse that holds the key. The power.

"And the LORD stirred up the spirit  of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God." (v.14)

The government, the pastors, and the people. All stirred by God to move!

Can you imagine what the world would look like if we asked God to stir up our spirits the way He stirred the spirits of those folks? Can you imagine how many lives would be changed? How much kingdom work would get done? How much evil would be thwarted? Apathy would be non-existent. Desensitization would be reversed. The orphan would be fed. The poor would be clothed. Churches would be fully funded because everyone would tithe as they should. Huge changes could take place, all because God stirred the spirits of His children.

Beginning today, I am going to pray for that very thing! That God would stir up my spirit, and your spirit! That He would stir the spirits of our pastors and spiritual leaders. That he would stir the spirits of our government  leaders, including those who want to be the next President of the United States. We need men and women in leadership who are stirred up! We need men and women who will listen to God and obey Him (v. 12).

Will you join with me and pray for a mighty stirring throughout the world? Beginning in our own hearts!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Japan, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, China, France, Canada

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hold Planned Parenthood Accountable!

There are no words strong enough to describe the horrific, depraved practice Planned Parenthood is undertaking. That is, the illegal sale of human body parts. Precious little baby body parts. Torn from their mother's womb in the name of Women's Rights. Abortion is murder. It is the taking of an innocent life in the most horrific way imaginable. It is the mutilation of a human body. Yet abortionists are not satisfied with simply destroying life. They want to maximize the profit to its fullest, disgusting potential.

Help stop this shameful, diabolical practice. Watch and share the video.

God bless the precious, innocent souls being sacrificed for monetary gain.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Goodbye, Sweet Boy: Copper, The Fastest Wiener Dog in Texas

With broken hearts and deep sorrow, we said goodbye to our beloved Copper today. Once known as The Fastest Wiener Dog in Texas, he lived the last eight years of his life the way a retired champion should -- sleeping, eating, and enjoying his family. Without a doubt, Copper was the sweetest, smartest, most loving dog who ever walked -- and ran -- the earth. God blessed our family mightily when He gave us Copper. We will desperately miss the little fellow. 
Copper Ebenezer Shocklee was born on January 2, 1999. When he was seven weeks old, he came to live with us, his Forever Family. Full of energy and playfulness, we immediately fell in love with him. It wasn't long before he was chasing tennis balls and other toys, and we couldn't help but notice how fast he ran on those short legs. 

When he was a year old, he was invited to enter the Wiener Dog Nationals race in Houston. Out of a field of 65 dogs, Copper came in 2nd, with his "cousin" Simba Shocklee coming in 1st. In April 2000, Copper and Simba competed in the Buda Wiener Dog race with 200 other dogs. Simba came in 1st, Copper came in 2nd.

It would be the last race Copper ever lost. 

That summer Copper won the Summer Invitational Wiener Dog Nationals race in Houston, earning a spot in the annual race in January where cousin Simba reigned. Although that race was close, Copper pulled ahead and won, beating Simba and 63 other dogs. We were hooked! Copper competed in the Houston race one more year, the Buda race six more times, and a race in Belton, winning every single time. He was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, On the Porch with Jim Swift (KXAN Austin), several local news programs, and in newspaper articles. The last year he competed in the Buda race, it had grown to a field of 600 dogs! Copper was an old man compared to the other dogs and the competition was gunning for his title, with some dogs coming from as far away as Florida. But even though he'd slowed down some, he still managed to come in first, winning by a nose. His legend lives on in the hearts and minds of those who love a good wiener dog race. No dog has beaten his record of wins in the Buda races and we proudly doubt anyone ever will. We retired him in 2007, but he enjoyed chasing a ball and favorite squeaky toys in the backyard for many years to come. 

We, his family, will cherish our memories of our beloved Copper, knowing we were the lucky ones the day we saw an ad in the newspaper advertising Dachshund puppies for sale. There will never be another dog like him.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. You've earned it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Unsearchable Things

Search engines are my friend. I love that I can type in just about any question or subject and get an answer or information within moments. Sometimes I miss the days when a trip to the library was a necessary event if I needed to do some research or wanted information on a topic that interested me. But I must admit the convenience and the vastness of the information on the Internet amazes and thrills me daily.

So it makes sense that a phrase I read in Jeremiah the other day would stop me in my happy tracks:

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

That is the LORD speaking to Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet of God in the days leading up to and during the years Jerusalem was attacked by King Nebuchadnezzar. God's warnings through Jeremiah were ignored by the people of Judah and they suffered because of it. Many lost their lives, their homes, their families. Some, like Daniel, were taken into captivity to Babylon, while others rotted in prisons. Ultimately, the beautiful temple and the City of David were destroyed, all because of the disobedience of God's chosen people.

Yet in the midst of all the turmoil and uncertainty, God tells Jeremiah something utterly amazing. Not only about what can happen when someone is obedient to God, but about God himself. He promises to reveal "unsearchable things" to Jeremiah.

Unsearchable things.

I don't know about you, but those two words absolutely, positively hold me captive! Think about it. There are things about God and about the world and about who knows what that are unsearchable. No earthly search engine created by man knows these things! No library has a book on them. Only God knows them and he's willing to reveal them to Jeremiah. All Jer has to do is ask!

If you look up the word unsearchable, this is the definition you find: "Not capable of being searched or explored." Understand those first two words: Not. Capable. The things that God wanted to reveal to Jeremiah were things that he as a human was not capable of knowing on his own. They were not something he could search for either, because, as we see at the end of that verse, they were things he didn't know. And remember, Jeremiah wasn't an ordinary guy. He was God's prophet. God spoke to and through Jeremiah. If anyone would have known these unsearchable things, it would have been Jeremiah.

Is your mind whirling, wondering what these unsearchable things could be?

Isaiah 40:33 (ESV) says God's "understanding is unsearchable."

David tells us in Psalm 145:3 (ESV) that God's "greatness is unsearchable."

Job said the number of God's years was unsearchable and that we "know him not."

And Paul writes in Romans 11:33 (ESV): "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways."

God had a message for the people of Judah and he needed Jeremiah to understand it. I think God has messages for people today, too. His promise to reveal unsearchable things was made to Jeremiah, but I believe God actively wants to reveal himself to us in the same way. Sending his Son Jesus into the world is evidence that God wants a personal relationship with each of us. His Spirit is as close as our breath when we put our faith in Christ.

I, for one, want to know and experience everything God wants to reveal to me, including unsearchable things.


This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Ukraine, China, France, Greece, Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Turkey, United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When God Calls You Home...

We lost a dear friend from our college days yesterday. Allyn Pepper went Home to be with our Lord Jesus. He'd fought a fierce battle against brain cancer for many months, but through it all he remained an amazing inspiration to me and countless others. His Facebooks posts were filled with scripture and encouraging words, evidence that Allyn was hanging on to God's hand through the storm he and his family had to go through. His testimony is so powerful and beautiful, and I'm so glad he shared it on YouTube. Allyn is now enjoying the sweetness of heaven and the presence of our Lord Jesus. It doesn't get any better than that!

We will miss you, dear friend! Can't wait to see you on the other side. Our hearts and prayers are with your family.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Does God Watch Over Us?

Last year was not a good year for our sheep. We started losing lambs in February 2014 and it didn't stop until April. Coyotes, bobcats, and even some wild hogs killed every single lamb that was born during the winter and spring. It was a sad, depressing time for us. Each day we would hop into the 4-wheeler to check on the sheep, wondering who would be missing from the group. I'd taken to naming the babies as they were born, but after Gimpy, Valentine, and Junior all went missing, I stopped giving them names. It was just too hard on my heart. When the easy-pickings-lambs were gone, the predator started on the ewes. Our herd dwindled down to what we referred to as "the lucky thirteen." Thirteen very skittish, unhappy survivors.

Mighty Hunter and I knew we had to do something or else the entire flock would be wiped out. But what? How do you protect sheep on 400 open acres of land, bordered by property dense with trees where all manner of predators live? We tried traps, snares, hired guns, and cameras, but still the sheep disappeared one by one. 

Then one day I read an article about guard llamas. Llamas have a natural alertness to their surroundings. They dislike dogs and are not afraid to attack a coyote or any other predator that threatens. The more I read, the more I liked the idea, so I passed the information on to the property owners. It was soon decided we needed a llama! 

One week later, Jaxx arrived at the ranch. We moved him and the sheep to a pasture a few days before Easter 2014 so they could bond. And you know what? We haven't lost one sheep since that day! Our herd is now up to 35 sheep, with all kinds of sweet babies. They are happy, content, and not the least bit afraid. Instead of staying huddled together in a tight group, they spread out to graze and bask in the sunshine. The lambs love "Uncle Jaxx" and follow him around when their mama's are busy eating. 

It's amazing what a difference one year and one llama made!

I can't help but think about how our Great Shepherd is always watching over us the way Jaxx watches over the sheep. Like our sheep, we are often in danger even when we don't realize it. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that our adversary, Satan, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. In Job 1:7, Satan describes how he stays busy: "...going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it." And you know he is doing his best to wreak havoc in our lives while he's here!

Like our sheep, we need a protector. We need someone who will stay alert to dangers we can't see or anticipate. We need someone who isn't the least bit afraid of the enemy and is willing to do battle for us. I don't know about you, but I need someone who is willing to keep his eye on me 24/7/365 so I don't get myself into trouble! All too often we try everything but God.

Psalm 121 (NLT) pretty much says it all:

I look up to the mountains--does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let you stumble, the one who watches over you will not slumber. 
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 
The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. 
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go.
Both now and forever. 

So on those days when you wonder if God is watching over you...on those days when you're frightened and feel alone...on those days when you sense the enemy is near...know without a doubt God is right there. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Rest in that peace.

Jaxx and his peeps, er, sheeps ;)

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, France, Russia, Philippines, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Romania, Ukraine 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Beautiful Story of Adoption

This is such a beautiful story of little Jacob's adoption, but it's also a story of how each of us is adopted into God's family when we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. 


This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Philippines, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Poland

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 the Garden of Eden?!

Genesis chapter two is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. Why? Because it goes into detail about how and why God created Adam and Eve and what his plan was for them. With Valentine's Day just a few days away and the release of a movie that is a shameful, distorted lie about what sex should look like, let's see what God says about sex.

"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (2:7) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (2:15) The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper for him." (2:18) So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (2:21-22)

Think of it! God didn't want Adam to be alone so he fashioned the most perfect companion for him. A woman. She was similar to him in many ways, but oh so wonderfully different in others. Then God himself brought the woman to Adam! What a beautiful picture of God's love and faithfulness. That, my friend, is what every marriage should look like. God at the center of two human beings fashioned for one another.

Now comes the best part!

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." (2:24-25)

"One flesh." 


"No shame."

This is God's perfect plan for sex, folks! Adam and Eve were naked. Adam and Eve became one flesh through sexual intercourse. Adam and Eve felt no shame. Keep in mind this all happened before sin entered the world. Adam and Eve had sex in the garden and there was no shame in it whatsoever.

No shame.

Let that sink in for a moment. We are a generation that is bombarded by sexual images all day long. On TV. In movie theaters. On our computers and phones. In books, magazines, and newspapers. And the vast majority of it is shameful. Sinful.

There is no shame in sex the way God intended it--between one man and one woman who are committed to one another through marriage. Anything outside of that is a distortion of the original plan. God created sex for us to enjoy. He wants us to enjoy being with our mate intimately. But when sin entered the world, sex became one of Satan's favorite tools to destroy our relationship with God and with one another.

Sex was God's gift to Adam and Eve. There was nothing shameful about it. Don't accept anything other than God's gift when it comes to sex. If you're married, keep only unto your spouse. Work at your marriage if it's not what it should be. If you're single, abstain from all forms of sex. If you have same-sex attraction, you also need to abstain. God has a plan for your life and same-sex union is not it. Seek Him only.

We may not be able to return to the perfection of the Garden, but we CAN choose to keep ourselves pure and holy for the God who created us!

This week's Prayer Shout-Out Countries are:
USA, Germany, South Korea, Australia, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Netherlands, Russia, Kuwait