"Welcome to my blog space. I believe that God has carefully placed gems in our paths to fill our days with joy. The challenge for us is to take the time to notice them. My desire is to share the gems in my life so that, hopefully, you will see the ones He's placed in yours. I hope what you read here will be worth your time and you'll want to return often." - Cathy

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Unfailing Love: A Deeper Look into the Life of Hosea

          Please welcome Rita Schulte as my guest blogger today. She is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. Enjoy her insights into the life of Hosea and leave a comment about how this information impacts you.  Blessings of joy - Cathy

          Marry a whore. Keep her as your wife. She will betray you continuously, but you must love her and never leave her. You will be rejected continuously. You will be seen as a fool. Your life will be painful. Your reputation challenged. You will need to trust me. You will need to depend on me. You will always need to forgive, always show unconditional love, and always remain faithful in spite of your feelings of betrayal.
           Who would ask such a thing? ---God did—of the prophet Hosea. Why? He likes using the dramatic to drive home a point. God uses real-life people like you and me to demonstrate the commonality of our struggle. But the purpose of this story illustrates something profoundly deeper. God is telling us the story of his heart here. By using the sanctity of the marriage bed, and its defilement-- something he knew we could understand-- he shows us something of his pain regarding the betrayal of the children of Israel. Did you catch the part about Hosea loving his wife and never leaving her? Close your eyes for a moment and freeze-frame that scene. You’ve discovered your spouse has been unfaithful. Not once but dozens of times. This is a person you thought you knew. This is a person you trusted. The truth has seared your soul like a hot iron. Every part of your being cries for justice. Hurt outweighs reason. What should you do?
          Now, think about the worst betrayal you have experienced. Close your eyes for a moment and recall the pain. Now imagine you have to experience that pain every day for the rest of your life. And you have to do it with love. By now, most of you are probably thinking, “No way! I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it." But that’s what God does. You may be thinking, Ok, but he’s God he’s supposed to love unconditionally. You’re right. And he does. Over and over he demonstrates his faithfulness to us in spite of our rebellion, just as he did with Israel. He does it to paint a picture of his heart toward you and me. Don’t get me wrong—he was angry at Israel’s betrayal and continual idolatry. But consider this:  here in this story, as always, mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath. Rejection of his children is not an option. God never leaves for a better offer. His love is unfailing and his mercies are new every morning.
          The story of Hosea provides a powerful window into the heart of God and how his heart breaks over our constant infidelity and wandering. While this story is symbolic of God’s relationship to Israel, it is nonetheless applicable to each and every child God has loved and desired intimacy with. I believe God’s heart is saddened under the weight of our lack of faith and trust in his goodness. I believe he is disappointed that we often choose not to see the love of his heart toward us. And just as he lamented over Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, I think his heart is broken at how quickly we forget him to chase after another. So consider this; God wants to show us that even though we whore after other things, even though we don’t trust him, even though we rage at him and blame him for our plight—just as the children of Israel did—he waits patiently for us, constantly showing us the mercy and compassion of his heart.
           So, the next time you’re tempted to believe no one understands your pain----remember the story of Hosea, and how God demonstrates his faithfulness to us in spite of our wandering hearts.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who continue to kill the prophets and to stone those who are sent to you! How often I have desired and yearned to gather your children together [around Me], as a hen [gathers] her young under her wings, but you would not!" Luke 13:34 AMP

Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This. Her shows can be heard on 90.9FM in Lynchburg, Va. and 90.5 FM in NC, and soon to launch on Christian Life Internet Radio. Her book, Sifted As Wheat: Finding Hope and Healing Through the Losses of Life is currently with Hartline Literary Agency. Follow her at www.siftedaswheat.com, on FB at Rita A. Schulte, MA, LPC and twitter at heartlinepod. Her blog Life Talk Today is www.siftedaswheat.com/blog.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is that Stop Sign Moving?

Huge windows covering two-thirds of each wall gave me a panoramic view of the scenery outside as I ate lunch in the Japanese restaurant. The scene was full of life – people moving here and there, mountains, a school yard, industry, a gas station – most of which I wasn’t noticing because I was eating with a dear friend, my granddaughter and my great granddaughter. 
But then, out of the corner of my eye, something caught my attention. Was that what I thought it was, a stop sign moving down the road? A small hill blocked out all but the sign itself. The sign appeared to float toward us. I blinked my eyes and it was still there. I asked the other girls at the table, “Is that a stop sign?” Just about then the Department of Transportation utility truck carrying the sign high and proud above its cab moved into the picture and everything was explained.
This incident reminded me of another moving stop sign from years ago. My Daddy, an Irishman who loved his ale, had stopped at the corner bar after work. As he headed home, he dead centered a stop sign, leaving the indentation of the metal post from the grill to the window. The next day Daddy told Larry (later to become my husband), “Larry, I don’t know what happened. That stop sign just jumped out and hit me.”
What might God be telling me through these two stories? What is the function of a stop sign? A stop sign says to me, “This is as far as you can go without stopping to assess the road ahead.” A stop sign presents a choice – be lawful and come to a complete stop (obedience), don’t stop at all and suffer the consequences (disrespect for the law, myself and others), or pretend I’m going to stop and then roll through the stop sign at the last second (hypocrisy, trying to fool myself and others).
A moving stop sign is of no use at all. It brings confusion. Child psychologists say that it is important for children to know their boundaries. Though they may try to push the limits, when the limits are enforced it gives children a sense of comfort and security. In the adult world, pushing our boundaries farther out, one bad decision at a time, soon brings disorder and destruction similar to a wreck caused from running a stop sign. Can you imagine the chaos in a world with no stop signs?
Thankfully, God has placed the Holy Spirit within me to whisper warnings to me when I get close to stepping over the line. Just as if I were pulling up to a stop sign, I have choices. Obedience is always the right choice and brings me joy. I don’t always make the right choice, but I know what my choices are. When the options seem constricting, Holy Spirit nudges me again with the truth that God has my best interest at heart and His way is always the best way.
God gives each of us boundaries. How do you respond to His boundaries for you?
Look for the joy in your world today-

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Extravagant God

Please welcome Kimberly Rae, my first guest blogger. Each Thursday I will post an offering from a guest writer. Be sure to leave a comment.

Beauty:what is it?  Roses, sunsets, music, love?
I think of a rose on the brink of maturity, opening slowly, softly, to the first welcome rays of the dawn.  In celebrating its beauty, I celebrate my God. 

God did not have to make roses, nor did He need to create the sunrise.  Yes, the reasons the earth circles the sun are all scientific enough, but God did not have to add the extra brush strokes of orange, purple and pink across the sky each morning and evening.

Birds are necessary in their own right, but God did not have to make their songs so sweet.
The sense of touch is necessary, but God could have made it a mere biological necessity without any feelings of joy or comfort or security in it.
He could have made life with no music.  It is not necessary for our existence like oxygen or water are.
Nature speaks of God, the Bible says so.  Nature itself says so.  So what should we hear from all the extra touches God created to infuse our lives with beauty?  The very fact that we can recognize beauty and cherish it is in itself an extra gift.

These wonders do not portray a distant God of wrath and condemnation; they sing of a God who loves. A gracious, tender and extravagant God, full of mercy and compassion.
Yes, there is evil in the world.  There is harshness, horror, filth and poverty. But sin brought this on, not the Savior. He is the giver of life, joy, peace, love and all other good things.
God whispers love and tender care into every flower and every sunrise.  If we have ears to hear, and eyes to see, in God we find all beauty.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” 
James 1:17 NKJV
Kimberly Rae has lived in several countries overseas, but now health problems keep her in the US. Her first novel, Stolen Woman, a Christian suspense/romance novel on international human trafficking, made the amazon bestseller list. Find out more at www.stolenwoman.org, read Kimberly's real-life adventures on her blog, www.stolenwoman.blogspot.com, or contact her on her Facebook Page: Human Trafficking Stolen Woman.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Family Secrets

            Thirty-some years ago when times were a lot different than they are now, even in the small rural area where we live, we had a neighbor who was a champion at pulling information out of people. This neighbor didn’t have any children of her own but she loved children and they loved her. Occasionally our four-year old daughter, Kelly, would decide she was going to walk up the road and talk to the neighbor.
            Kelly was a talker herself and was easily enticed to tell everything she knew, or what she thought she knew. As she was going out the door, I’d always say, “Now Kelly, don’t tell all the family secrets.” This went on for several months before Kelly stopped as she was going out the door one day, put her hands on her hips, and with dramatic flair said, “Just what are the family secrets anyway?” I laughed and told her not to worry about it because if she didn’t know them, she couldn’t tell them.
            Cute stories aside, family secrets aren’t really anything to toy with. When I was twenty-one, my mother told me a family secret. I have been burdened with it every day since then. It is a life changing, hurtful secret for the ones involved. I don’t know what my mother was thinking when she divulged it to me. Maybe she was looking for a means of confession and absolution for her part in it. Maybe sharing it with me lessened the load she carried.
            In my research on the word “secret” as it appears in the Bible, I found Old Testament Hebrew words translate as: to be ashamed, disappointed, delayed, thing that is hidden, to hide, a mystery, inward council, weaken or become weak. New Testament Greek words translate as: hidden inwardly, concealed, and private.
            I’m sure my mother was ashamed and disappointed with herself so she hid it away inwardly. The problem with delaying the truth is that, eventually, the weight of carrying it weakens your resolve and you tell someone. For every person who knows the truth of the situation, there is the additional worry of knowing they might weaken and tell someone. The cycle continues until the thing that was meant to be hidden, concealed and private becomes public and it takes on a life of its own, destroying the lives of those involved.
            You may be wondering about now how there could be anything joyful in this revelation. It is hard to find, but when I dig deep enough, I do find reason for joy. In the forty-plus years I’ve held the family secret, I have not weakened. The Holy Spirit has kept my lips zipped anytime I was tempted to spill the beans. I have spent many sessions with The Father over this. He has been faithful to answer my questions and show me the consequences to revealing this truth. Anything that drives you to a deeper relationship with your Creator brings joy. Two scripture verses have helped me stay strong.
“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34 NIV
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 ESV
            What experiences have you had with keeping a secret? Is there a word of advice you can share with my readers?
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be joy-filled and glad-

Friday, June 15, 2012

On the Other Side of the Shift

In my first blog, (A Shift in the Universe) I explained the premise of a hospital clown’s mission: changing the atmosphere in the patient’s room for just three seconds causes a shift in the universe. It’s a proven scientific fact. One of the reasons I enjoy hospital clowning is because I know that over and over each visit, I am doing something to change the outcome of the day for the patient, a family member or one of the health care professionals.
A few weeks ago, God allowed me to be on the other side of a shift in the universe, not causing the shift but benefitting from it. I am forever changed.
It happened one Sunday after church. My husband and I went to a local buffet to eat lunch. We sat in the back dining room with some friends. When I came through the door into the main dining room to serve myself, I immediately sensed that something unusual was happening.
And then I saw it. My pastor was standing in the kitchen door praying with one of the cooks. It was fervent, deep, meaningful prayer, not a few token words to satisfy the request for prayer. The air was electrified. I was pulled closer to the two men as though every molecule in the room was moving toward them.
My heart has been overflowing with joy since that encounter. I am thankful to have a pastor who will stop what he is doing to pray, really pray, for a soul in need. I am also thankful for the man who realized his lack of power in his situation and, by joining with a brother in Christ, turned it over to God who is never lacking for power and answers.
When calling on the Father, it only takes two willing souls praying in agreement.  The Amplified Bible describes it this way: “For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as My followers) in My name, there I Am in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
               I am overwhelmed to have been in the presence of I AM at lunch that day.
               How do you handle the curves in the road in your journey? Please share with my readers. We’ll all be at that point at some time. Give us something that will help us hop right over those bumps.
Have a blessed and joy-filled day-

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Oritis and Other Maladies

“When are you going to blog about me, Grandma?” asked my twelve-year old granddaughter, Morgan, after she read some of my posts that included mentions of other grands. We talked about it for awhile, considering one approach or another, with no success. Some of the stories we thought about would embarrass her, but still she was serious about wanting her time in the spotlight.
I have had the pleasure of being present when all four of my grandchildren were born and when my great granddaughter was born last year. I’ve seen them all take their first breath this side of Heaven. It's an awesome thing to be part of.
Morgan is the only grand to be ushered into this life with the help of a midwife. I was concerned about my daughter’s choice at first, but my fears were allayed when I found out the delivery would be in a hospital and help would be available if needed.
Morgan - Six Months Old
The midwife was wonderful. She maintained a calm, controlled atmosphere in the room making gentle suggestions. After Morgan arrived she was taken to the nursery. I was gazing at the newest member of our family through the nursery window when the midwife came in after caring for my daughter. She checked Morgan’s vital signs, weighed her, and tested her reflexes and other functions.
Then the most amazing thing happened – she started dressing our baby and, as she did, she softly prayed blessings over Morgan. How could life be anything but good when it starts that way?
Morgan has always been a character, doing quirky things that make us smile. She is her mother’s duplicate in looks, actions, temperament, and outlook. Morgan has grown up in a medical atmosphere. with both her mother and aunt being nurses.
Lots of Morgan’s playtime mimicked the medical language she heard at family gatherings. When she was about five years old, her grandpa was lying on the couch reading a book while Morgan played nearby. She brought a long plastic tube with corrugated edges (the kind you can swing overhead and it whistles) over to him and shoved it in his mouth. She said, “You don’t feel good. You need a feeding tube.”
The real shock came when she came back in a few minutes and, with no warning, jerked it out of his mouth nearly pulling his teeth out. “You’ve had enough to eat,” she said matter-of-factly and moved on to her next patient.

Morgan at her
Dance Recital
When she was about two and a half, she came hobbling into my bedroom one day bent over and holding her hip. That day, her “oritis” was bothering her. And it continues. A few weeks ago she was spending the night with us and she was hurting all over from a go cart near-accident the day before. “Do you think I have artherfibermyitis?” she asked. I had to laugh.
I feel so blessed to be Morgan’s grandmother. She is a uniquely made, highly blessed and favored child of the King. She keeps me smiling with her commentary on life. You never know what she might say next. Wherever God leads her, it gives me great joy to know that He chose me to be her Grandma. We make a great pair!
Do you have a grandchild story you’d like to share with my readers today? Leave your comments below.
Show love to someone today and make their journey a little more joyful-