Friday, June 22, 2012

Books and Beauties

"A sweet friendship refreshes the soul."  
Proverbs 27:9

It was fun to have a few of my beautiful friends share their hearts for God and their devotionals here this past week. Their personal testimonies of God's faithfulness and their lessons they are learning from God's Word have refreshed my heart, as I hope they have yours as well.  I believe we are to tell and share of the good things God is doing in our hearts and lives and families!  "With all my heart...I will glorify Your name forevermore."  ~ Psalm 86:12

God's Word is life.  God's Word is life changing.  Pure and simple.  Daily soaking in His Word is essential to our growth and vitality, and to our relationship with Him and our relationships with others.  "Your Word has given me life." ~ Psalm 119:50

A good book can be refreshing as well!  My favorite books to read are life-application topical Bible studies, testimonial books of how God is transforming someone's life, a great devotional, inductive Bible studies and light-hearted, down-to-earth women's books that confirm for me that I am normal!

Authenticity pursuing holiness.  I love those kinds of people and those kinds of books!

We all need encouragement.  We recently had a guest pastor at our church who said, "If you are breathing, you need encouragement!"

Giving away a book for each of my beautiful girlfriends' guest writing posts, I pray the winners (and all of you) are encouraged!

For Jennifer's devotional "Sippy Cups and Surprises", the winner of "Out of The Mouth of Babes" by Wendy Pope is --- CHRISTA!!!!!!!   Wendy's book offers Biblical principals to apply to your life while raising children.  Holiness and motherhood are two high callings God places on our lives. Holiness can be pursued by making the choice to daily be in God's Word and applying His precepts to our lives.  I LOVE this book and I LOVE Wendy Pope!!!  She is one of my favorite sisters in Christ!  Congratulations Christa!!

For Maria's devotional "Complete, Not Too Complicated", the winner of "Stumbling Into Grace" by Lisa Harper is DANIELLE!!!!!!!  Congratulations!!! This is my current favorite book!  The sub-title had me at "spiritually clumsy"...that's me!!!  Part diary and part devotional, this practical and often humorous book has a meaningful Bible study at the end of each chapter.

For Heather's devotional "Baby Love", I have a surprise winner!  As a special serendipity, I am giving away another copy of "Stumbling Into Grace"!  That winner is ERIKA!!!  Congratulations!!!

Winners ~ be sure I have your your complete name and mailing address!

What fun!  I hope you enjoyed getting to know a few of my friends a bit through their writing this past week.  I hope you will continue visit!  We love making new friends!

May He refresh you today!

"...times of refreshing 
come from the presence of the Lord."
Acts 3:19

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baby Love

Hello!  Thanks for stopping by His Table For Two!  Reservations are not required...our door is always open, and He always has a place set for you!  Today I am delighted that my friend Heather is guest posting!  She is a gracious hostess, and we are delighted you are here!

The Beals Family 

"Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God ~ for God is love. God showed how much He loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." 1 John 4:7-10

 Hannah Joy

It was a simple sticky note.


Stuck to my Bible on my nightstand. And it said,
"I'm not your baby anymore. But I still love you, mama."

I rubbed it gently between my fingers fighting my hot cheeks and imminent tears, as I grappled with the reality that my sweet kindergartner was beginning to show her independence and ability. I thought back to earlier in the day when I lovingly and with great affection answered my youngest with the words, "Yes, baby." Obviously, my gently used moniker for our little one left her feeling less than great. Compelled to tell me the truth, she left the note to make her point. How often does God point out the truth, painful as it is...always ending with, BUT I STILL LOVE YOU. A precious message and life lesson I received from my tender child that day.

This child...a child whom love escaped for quite a time. Living in an orphanage the first eleven months of her life, thrust into a new home, new world, new family. Not yet ready to love with full abandon, she eased her way into commitment and attachment.

Slowly, like a flower opening petal by petal, she grew and emerged, blossoming into the loving girl I now see. I adored her before I ever knew her; she had reason to doubt love. She has taught me daily about God's the threshold of parenting, we can most closely feel that unconditional love God has shown us in the love we hold for our children. It is possibly one of the finest representations of that original love that we can find. He loved us before we loved Him. 

It is the simple truth.

As a toddler, our daughter held onto raw emotions, causing us to seek deeper, stronger, more passionately God's truths and how to parent her without shattering her beautiful spirit. The first time she uttered the words, "I love you Mama", she held my face in her little hands. She was two and a half and we were visiting my older daughter's school as they rehearsed for the winter concert. Literally, a choir of angels sang as she melted into my own frame. I have to believe that my rejoicing resembles that of the Lord's each time a new son or daughter receive Him lovingly into their hearts. Oh how He must dance!

May it be that in gladness, sadness, truthfulness, and life, we can accept God's instruction and guidance all the while knowing BUT HE STILL LOVES US.

Is God speaking to you or has He spoken to you?  Has He whispered to you truth, perhaps painful to bear?  Let that not discourage you, rather encourage you as you grow in your relationship with Him.  Seek His truths, knowing full well He loves you with a love uncompromising, unyielding, unlike anything else we can ever experience.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your love.  Thank You for Your truths.  Lord, help my heart be open to both. May my eyes see clearly what You need me to see and may my heart seek to love as You do.  May it be that simple, Lord and when it is not, please remind me that Yyou are there, beside me, loving me through each moment as only You can do.  Amen.

"God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:8

© 2012 by Heather Beals. All rights reserved. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Complete, Not Too Complicated

Welcome to His Table For Two!  We are delighted you stopped by.  I have a special guest blogger today ~ my friend Maria Reyes.  We pray you are blessed as she shares her heart for Him!  

Maria and her husband, Tito,
and their beautiful children

Complete, Not Too Complicated
 "For I am confident of this, 
that He who began a good work in you 
will be faithful to complete it..."
Philippians 1:6

Have you ever taken on a project and then half way through you wish you hadn't?  With the excitement of a first-time mother, I took on one of those huge projects many years ago for the love of my first-born son.  Titus loved Sesame Street as a toddler, and I over-zealously decided that I would paint all of his favorite Sesame Street characters in full-size on his bedroom walls. 

With enthusiastic ambition, I started my artistic project with Elmo and Dorothy, then I moved on to Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar and finally Big Bird.  Big Bird was enormous!  He took up one entire wall all on its own!

Whew...finally I was done!  

No, no, no, wait!  Super Grover!  I had almost forgotten Super Grover.  The room was not entirely complete without... Super Grover!  So, I decided that I would paint Grover suspended in mid-air in a flying position smack in the middle of Titus' biggest wall!

I knew exactly what I wanted Super Grover to look like.  Exactly!  But Grover in action was not an easy task.  Every time I attempted to sketch Grover's legs, they appeared to be dangling instead of flying.  Over and over and over,  I erased and re-sketched those long, furry, skinny, blue legs.  I grew so frustrated with Grover that at the end, I decided to leave him without legs at all!

Moving Titus' tall hutch across the room, I placed the convenient piece of furniture right underneath Grover.  It was perfect!  Perfect to hide the bottom part of Grover's body.  Only I would know Grover was unfinished and legless.  

The room looked great, even with Grover looking like he was flying from behind the hutch.  

But every time I saw Grover, I knew he was incomplete.  I knew I had not completed my Super Grover masterpiece.  Grover served as a gentle but poignant reminder to me.

So many times I have wondered Am I making it difficult for God to complete me and will be stubbornness or pride cause God to leave me this way?  Incomplete.  Just the way I had left Grover.  

See, I can be pretty difficult for Him to paint me just the way He always pictured me.  Not because He's not a great artist, but because I constantly resist Him.  There are things in my life that I refuse to surrender to Him.  And there are other things that I feel like no matter how hard I try to surrender them to Him, I can't.

Do you ever feel like you're a project too complicated for God to finish?

Philippians 1:6 tells us that God will never give up on us, no matter how difficult we may be or how complicated we make matters.  He doesn't leave us dangling.  He won't hide our imperfections behind a dresser because He didn't work to finish us.

The Lord diligently works on making us into the perfect masterpiece He created each of us to be.  You are not too complicated for our Creator!  He will never leave us unfinished.  He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it!

For we are God’s workmanship
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. 
Ephesians 2:10

Dear Lord, forgives us for resisting your work in our lives.  Change is difficult.   It's so much easier and more comfortable to remain the same.  But Lord, deep, deep inside, we truly desire to be made perfect in our Creator's eyes.  We don't just want to appear to be godly by hiding our imperfections.  We want You to complete us and to make us holy, just as you are Holy.  Thank you for promising that you would never give up on us.  Amen.

As a visitor to His Table For Two, if you take a moment to leave an encouraging comment for Maria, you will be entered to win my newest favorite book (Lisa had me at "spiritually clumsy"!)!!! Lisa Harper's book "Stumbling Into Grace"

Stumbling Into Grace : Confessions of a Sometimes Spiritually Clumsy Woman, Lisa Harper

© 2012 by Maria Reyes. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sippy Cups and Surprises

Pull up a chair...we have a place set for you!  Enjoy this guest post today being served today by my friend, Jennifer Wood. 

 Geoff & Jennifer Wood and their beautiful children

Jenn and her son, Judah

Sippy Cups and Surprises

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power…….to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filledto the measure of all the fullness of God." ~ Ephesians 3:17b-19

"My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life..."
Psalm 23:5-6

Ear-piercing shrieks and a contorted scowl.  That is the reaction I received from my 15 month old son, Judah—my surprise baby, when I took the sippy cup from his high chair tray to refill it in the middle of lunch.  He didn’t know why I took it.  He just knew he really liked milk and I was removing his toddler-sized vessel of his white, creamy drink. 

I was slightly understanding but mostly just surprised that he hadn’t yet learned that I don’t just try to rob him of good things.  “Sweetheart,” I said, as I walked to the refrigerator, “I will bring it right back, filled with more milk.  You have to trust me!  Trust that what I am doing is good for you because I love you.” 

I stopped in my tracks as the last phrase came out of my mouth. "You have to trust Me!  Trust that what I am doing is good for you because I love you.”

It came over me like a comfortable, warm blanket.  The Lord was speaking to me through my own words!  Isn’t that just like Him!? 

How many times in my life had He whispered those words to my heart but I was so busy shrieking in my head about my circumstances that I couldn’t hear Him remind me that His love was guiding His will for my life.

Prior to our precious son’s birth, I had 2 school-age daughters and a 3-½ year old daughter who was potty trained and no longer napping so we hit the road of small adventures every day.  We were “free to move about the cabin” as the captain of an airplane would say when flying through smooth, non-turbulent air.  We were cruising at a nice altitude and I was just beginning the journey that I thought God had marked out for me and placed in my heart as a dream—speaking, teaching, writing, visiting the nations to bring the Gospel to those who have not heard the Good News.  I was very excited to feel like I had a new calling when it seemed to come to a screeching halt with the discovery that a baby would be joining our family.

Anyone who looks at this objectively could see that this new journey was far better than the previous one…….but I was not objective. 

I could not have been more subjective!  I felt old, tired, spent, disorganized, ill-equipped, already over the edge.  Did I mention old? On top of all that, it appeared to be the crashing and burning of these dreams and the 9-month challenging transition to a new-old dream……the privilege to raise a little boy. 

Well, that little surprise is now 3-½ years old and God is showing me that He may be filling more than one sippy cup in my life.  There have been glimmers along the way that my crashed-and-burned dreams may somehow become resurrected and today I am writing my very first devotional………EVER!  I just took a sip from that cup and am looking forward to drinking of the rest, whatever God’s best for me is.

I believe Matthew 7:9-11 which says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" 

The second cup that God is filling?  The obvious!  The privilege of raising a little boy—having him come into this world to change it for God’s glory.  And to change us….for God’s glory, too!

God’s love and provision for me are not always displayed in the form of Him taking something away, only to give a fuller version of that same thing back.

Two months ago, the Lord took my dad.  The pain was searing.  Several times I thought this shell in which my soul lives would die too.  But God reminded me that it is His mercy that we get to leave this place which is filled with sin and hardship, and go to be with Him in glory.  For now, I wait patiently(sometimes) and desire to live out His plan for me here, listening for His whispers of love, until the day when I worship our marvelous Maker in His glorious kingdom alongside my dad and all others whose hearts belong to Jesus.

Jenn and her daddy

I pray that you have ears to hear.  He loves you and is filling a cup for you, too.  In fact, He is filling many cups for each one of us.  Abundantly.

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
John 10:10b

 Lord Jesus, would You help us to hear You when you whisper to our hearts that we need to trust You because your love for us is great?  Remind us of Your faithfulness and lovingkindness.  Give us the faith to trust You and live in your abundance.  In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen. 
By Jennifer Wood
© 2012 by Jennifer Wood. All rights reserved.

How can you relate to Jenn's testimony of God's goodness?
Leave a comment for Jenn and you will be entered to win 
Winner announced Monday 6/18/12!
Comments welcome all weekend!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When A Wave of A Hand Is Not God's Way

"Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, 'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.' 

But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, 'Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’"  
2 Kings 5:9-11 NKJV

Often times, God's ways do not make sense to us. Sometimes His ways can frustrate us...or even infuriate us.  Like Naaman, we know God has the power to heal us or change our circumstances by simply waving His hand.  Why then does He sometimes ask us to do certain things before bringing about His plan?  

In my article "Why Is My Raincoat 'Dry Clean Only'?", I write about how we must follow God's instructions even when they don't seem sensible.

Joshua was commanded by God to march around the walls of Jericho for seven days, have priests blow trumpets and give a battle cry and shout!  This may have made no sense to Joshua, but he obeyed and the walls came down.  "When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys."  Joshua 6:20-21

Throughout scripture we see examples of God requiring things that may not make sense at first glance.  In our own lives we see that too.  As I wrote  in my article, "Writing and following my own instructions can seem more efficient and gratifying, but only temporarily.  His instructions for care may require me to wait, sacrifice, experience heartache or to remain silent when I want to speak up.  But as I seek His will and follow His instructions, He sows a beautiful, more valuable product for me."  

Obedience.  Humility.  Reverence.  Gratitude.

With our hearts postured properly before God, as we yield to His ways and not our own, He can choose to bring life and healing and restoration.  His ways are not our ways.  His ways are perfect.  "As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless."  Psalm 18:30  

God graciously healed Naaman through the prophet Elisha, but it was not by the wave of a hand as Naaman had hoped.  Naaman was required to "go and wash".  Naaman had to obey and labor.  "And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, 'My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?' So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."  2 Kings 5:13-14

Why does He ask us to do things even when it doesn't make sense to us?  We won't know all the reasons this side of heaven.  But I am venturing a guess at three:
1.  God is God.  We are not.
2.  The joy that comes with obedience is unmatched.
3.  Only God gets the glory!

"And [Naaman] returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, 'Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel...'"  2 Kings 5:15

Has God asked you to do something that doesn't make sense?  Follow His perfect instructions and see what His perfect way is for you!  There is none like our God!

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways May ways," says the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, June 4, 2012

Untied, But Not Undone

 "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2

"Mom, what should I do if I mess up?  What should I do if I misstep?"  Gabrielle was feeling the jitters of dancing in her very first Irish Feis (dance competition).  She had practiced and prepared, yet she was asking me about the "what ifs" of the feis.   I answered her, "Honey, if you mess up your steps, just keeping looking up at the judge, keep smiling and keep on dancing."  I knew as I said these words, they were more about a life lesson than an Irish dance competition.  And it wasn't a matter of if, it was a surety of when.

We misstep.  We mess up.  We all do.  And while there is comfort in us all being on the same dance floor of life, none of us want to mess up or misstep.

Before leaving home, Gabrielle asked me to tie her competition shoes.  I did so with care, and I double knotted them, just to be sure.  We prayed together as I drove Gabrielle to the feis.  She was feeling excited and nervous all at the same time as we arrived.  Telling her that was normal, we held hands tightly as she bravely walked into the feis venue.  Animated Irish music and the buzz of excitement filled the air.  She squeezed my hand and smiled.

Gabrielle works hard at those things to which she commits.  Whether it is a friendship, a God-given talent, a Bible memorization kids club or an academic goal, she works diligently.  So,when her shoe came untied in the middle of her third (and last) dance for the feis competition, she looked at me from the stage with wide eyes holding back tears, and I mouthed to her "Just keep dancing, Honey.  Keep your eyes on the judge.  Keep smiling." 

And she did.  Ice arms and fire feet...she kept on Irish dancing and fixed her eyes on the judge.  Her long untied laces seemingly whipping her legs, she kept on kicking up her Irish feet.  Gabrielle's composure moved my heart.  She was dancing, keeping her eyes on the judge and smiling.  

I had been the one to tie her shoes...I double-knotted them.  But they came untied.  Yet she did not come undone.  Digging deep into God's treasure of truth, the life lesson was playing out on stage before a crowd of witnesses.  And she kept on dancing...keeping her eyes on our true Judge, our Heavenly Father, looking to Him for strength, courage and joy.  She was looking unto Jesus while dancing with her untied shoes.  And she did not come undone...because His power is made perfect in our weakness.   "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthian 12:9

The grace and understanding of the judge exemplified for Gabrielle the grace and compassion of our Lord.  She kept her eyes on him and had joy in her heart as she kept on dancing.  After some seemingly long moments for this Irish momma, he quietly and gently signaled for the Irish musician to stop playing so Gabrielle could re-tie her shoes and start her dance over again.

Grace and compassion to start again.  Thank you, Lord, for this life lesson lived out for Gabrielle before an audience and with a wise and gracious of judge.  You, God, are amazing. Gabrielle had not misstepped, even with the untied shoe lace dancing around in a dance all its own.  Yet the judge knew it was distracting her and also possibly dangerous to her.  So, he paused the music so she could begin again.  Wisdom.  Gentleness.  Grace. 

As Jim, me, Joshua, Nan Nan, Uncle PJ, Aunt Anne and many others looked on, Gabrielle started again.  Composed and joyful, she smiled and completed her dance with enthusiasm, grace and gratitude.  I could hardly wait to hug her; not because she had danced well, but because she kept on dancing, she smiled and she kept her eyes on the judge. 

Gabrielle was so thankful and excited to receive 2nd place out of 23 dancers for the dance in which her shoe became untied, and she received 1st place in her other two dances.  We are so proud of her, and we give God the glory and thanks. 

Yet, our proudest moment of Gabrielle wasn't the awards she won or the places she earned.  Our proudest moment of Gabrielle in her first Irish feis was when she kept on dancing with a distracting and menacing untied shoe.  Our proudest moment of Gabrielle was the life lesson of truth she lived out on stage while many watched.  "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him..."

Our sweet Irish Lassie kept her eyes on the One that mattered most and she kept on dancing.

Untied, but not undone.  Thank you, Jesus.  We give You praise!

"My eyes are ever on the LORD, 
for only He will release my feet from the snare."
Psalm 25:15