Sunday, January 31, 2010

Love Dare Day 26

Love Dare - Day 26

Love is Responsible

When you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. – Romans 2:1 HCSB

Today will be hard. But as you seek God’s strength and wisdom, you will be able to get through it. This day could be a milestone in your marriage if you allow it to be. So resolve to focus on what the Lord may be saying to you, and purpose to follow His leading.

Today is about personal responsibility. It’s something we all agree others should have, but we struggle to maintain it ourselves. Over the past few decades, there’s been a decline in personal responsibility. More and more, people seem less likely to acknowledge their own mistakes. We see it in politics. We see it in business. We see it in celebrity headlines.

But this is not just a problem with the rich and famous. To find an example of someone who has an excuse for every action, all we have to do is look in the mirror. We are so quick to justify our motives. So quick to deflect criticism. So quick to find fault – especially with our spouse, who is always the easiest one to blame.

We tend to believe that our views are correct, or at least much more correct than our mate’s. And we don’t believe that anybody, given our same set of circumstances, would act much differently than we have. As far as we’re concerned, we’re doing the best we can. And our spouse just ought to be glad we’re as good to them as we are.

But love doesn’t pass the blame so easily or justify selfish motives. Love is not nearly as concerned with its own performance as with other’s needs. When love takes responsibility for its actions, it’s not to prove how noble you’ve been but rather to admit how much further you have to go.

Love doesn’t make excuses. Love keeps working to make a difference – in you and in your marriage.

That’s why the next time you’re in an argument with your spouse, instead of working up your comebacks, stop and see if there’s something worth listening to in what your mate is saying. What might happen in your relationship if instead of passing blame, you first admitted your own wrongs? As the Scripture says, “Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool” (Proverbs 17:10 NKJV).

Love is responsible and is willing to admit and correct its faults and errors up front. Are you taking responsibility for this person you chose for yourself as the love of your life? How deliberate are you about making sure your spouse’s needs are met? Or are you only concerned with your mate fulfilling yours? Love calls us to take responsibility for our partner in marriage. To love them. To honor them. To cherish them.

Are you taking responsibility for your own faults? Have you said or done things to your spouse – or to God – that are wrong? Love desires to have a right relationship with both God and your mate. Once that is right, the stage is set for other areas to fall into place.

A real heart of repentance may take a while to grow in you. Pride is very resistant to responsibility, but humility and honesty before God and your spouse is crucial for a healthy relationship.

This doesn’t mean you’re always wrong and your spouse is always right. This is not a demand that you become a doormat. But if there is something that’s not right between you and God, or you and your spouse, then that should be the first priority.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). However, “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confess your areas of sin first, then you’ll be on better ground to work things out with your spouse.

In order to walk with God and to keep His favor, you must stay clean before Him. That doesn’t mean you can never stumble but you confess it to God and ask for forgiveness when you do.

Can your spouse say that you have wronged or wounded them in any way and never made it right? Part of taking responsibility is admitting when you’ve failed and asking for forgiveness. It’s time to humble yourself, correct your offenses, and repair the damage. It’s an act of love. God wants there to be no unresolved issues between the two of you.

The problem is, to do it sincerely you must swallow your pride and seek forgiveness regardless of how your spouse responds. They should forgive you, but your responsibility does not lie with their decision. Admitting your mistakes is your responsibility. If they have wronged you, leave that for them to deal with at another time.

Ask God to show you where you have failed in your responsibility, then get it right with Him first. Once you’ve done that, you need to get right with your spouse. It may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but it is crucial to taking the next step in your marriage and with God. If you are sincere, you may be surprised at the grace and strength God gives you when you take this step.

Today’s Dare

Take time to pray through your areas of wrongdoing. As for God’s forgiveness, then humble yourself enough to admit them to your spouse. Do it sincerely and truthfully. Ask your spouse for forgiveness as well. No matter how they respond, make sure you cover your responsibility in love. Even if they respond with criticism, accept it by receiving it as counsel.

Each one must examine his own work … in regard to himself alone. (Galatians 6:4)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Love Dare Day 25

Love Dare - Day 25

Love Forgives

What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 2:10

This one is tough – perhaps the toughest dare in the book. But if there is to be any hope for your marriage, this is a challenge that must absolutely be taken seriously. Counselors and ministers who deal with broken couples on a regular basis will tell you that this is the most complex problem of all, a rupture that is often the last to be repaired. It cannot just be considered and contemplated but must be deliberately put into practice. Forgiveness has to happen, or a successful marriage won’t.

Jesus painted a vivid image of forgiveness in His parable of the ungrateful servant. A man who owed a sizable sum of money was surprised when his master heard his appeals for mercy and totally canceled his debt. But upon being released from this enormous load, the servant did a most unexpected thing; he went to another man who owed him a much smaller amount and demanded immediate payment. When the master heard of it, things changed dramatically in his arrangement with the slave. “His lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him” (Matthew 18:34). A day that had begun with joy and relief ended in grief and hopelessness.

Torture. Prison. When you think of unforgiveness, this is what should come to your mind, for Jesus said, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Imagine you find yourself in a prison-like setting. As you look around, you see a number of cells visible from where you’re standing. You see people from your past incarcerated there – people who wounded you as a child. You see people you once called friends but who wronged you at some point in life. You might see one or both of your parents there, perhaps a brother or sister or some other family member. Even your spouse is locked in nearby, trapped with all the others in this jail of your own making.

This prison, you see, is a room in your own heart. This dark, drafty, depressing chamber exists inside you every day. But not far away, Jesus is standing there, extending to you a key that will release every inmate.

No. You don’t want any part of it. These people have hurt you too badly. They knew what they were doing and yet they did it anyway – even your spouse, the one you should have been able to count on most of all. So you resist and turn away. You’re unwilling to stay here any longer – seeing Jesus, seeing the key in His hand, knowing what He’s asking you to do. It’s just too much.

But in trying to escape, you make a startling discovery. There is no way out. You’re trapped inside with all other captives. Your unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness have made a prisoner of you as well. Like the servant in Jesus’ story, who was forgiven an impossible debt, you have chosen not to forgive and have been handed over to the jailers and torturers. Your freedom is now dependent on your forgiveness.

Coming to this conclusion usually takes us a while. We see all kinds of dangers and risks involved in forgiving others. For instance, what they did was really wrong, whether they admit it or not. They may not even be sorry about it. They may feel perfectly justified in their actions, even going so far as to blame you for it. But forgiveness doesn’t absolve anyone of blame. It doesn’t clear their record with God. It just clears you of having to worry about how to punish them. When you forgive another person, you’re not turning them loose. You’re just turning them over to God, who can be counted on to deal with them His way. You’re saving yourself the trouble of scripting any more arguments or trying to prevail in this situation. It’s not about winning and losing anymore. It’s about freedom. It’s about letting go.

That’s why you often hear people who have genuinely forgiven say, “It felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.” Yes, that’s exactly what it is. It’s like a breath of fresh air rushing into your hear. The stale dankness of the prison house is flooded with light and coolness. For the first time in a long time, you feel at peace. You feel free.

But how do you do it? You release your anger and the responsibility for judging this person to the Lord. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

How do you know you’ve done it? You know it when the thought of their name or the sight of their face – rather than causing your blood to boil – causes you to feel sorry for them instead, to pity them, to genuinely hope they get this turned around.

There’s so much more that could be said and so many emotional issues you may need to fight through to get there. But great marriages are not created by people who never hurt each other, only by people who choose to keep “no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Today’s Dare

Whatever you haven’t forgiven in your mate, forgive it today. Let it go. Just as we ask Jesus to “forgive us our debts” each day, we must ask Him to help us “forgive our debtors” each day as well. Unforgiveness has been keeping you and your spouse in prison too long. Say from your heart, “I choose to forgive.”

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34).

Friday, January 29, 2010


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Past pics....

I found a bunch of pics...I wasn't sure if I had posted them yet or not....

Here are the kids playing the Candyland DVD that Major got for Christmas... Here is MaKenna and Major at SkateDaze...the pictures are so little because I have lost my camera as you all know and I was using my video camera.

Major is in the tubes in this can't see him because it is so little...but it is proof that he went in the tubes which he had never done before!!
Here is MaKenna acting is a sideways picture...I made it upright, but it won't post here upright...don't know why....

Here is Major asleep on the floor....

Here are the Filleman kids and the Flanigan kids making tents out of blankets and couch cushions during one of the many snow days we had in January...

Love Dare Day 24

Love Dare - Day 24

Love vs. Lust

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. – 1 John 2:17

Adam and Eve were supplied with everything they needed in the Garden of Eden. They had fellowship with God and intimacy with one another. But after Eve was deceived by the serpent, she saw the forbidden fruit and set her heart on it. Before long, Adam joined in her wishes, and against God’s command both of them ate.

That’s the progression. From eyes to heart to action. And then follows shame and regret.

We, too, have been supplied with everything we need for a full, productive, enriching life. “We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7). But the Bible goes on to say that, having basics of food and clothing, we should be “content.” And Jesus promised these two things would always be provided to God’s children (Matthew 6:25-33).

God’s blessings, however, go so far beyond these fundamental needs, we could rightly say that we want for nothing. Yet like Adam and Eve, we still want more. So we set our eyes and hearts on seeking worldly pleasure. We try to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. For many it’s seeking sexual fulfillment in another person or in pornographic images designed to feel like a real person. We look, stare, and fantasize. We try to be discreet but barely turn our eyes away. And once our eyes are capture by curiosity, our hearts become entangled. Then we act on our lust.

We can also lust after possessions or power or prideful ambition. We see what others have and we want it. Our hearts are deceived into saying, “I could be happy if I only had this.” Then we make the decision to go after it.

“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).

Lust is in opposition to love. It means to set your heart and passions on something forbidden. And for a believer it’s the first step out of fellowship with the Lord and with others. That’s because every object of your lust – whether it’s a young coworker or a film actress, or coveting after a half-million dollar house or a sports car – represents the beginnings of a lie. This person or thing that seems to promise sheer satisfaction is more like a bottomless pit of unmet longings.

Lust always breeds more lust. “What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? (James 4:1 HCSB). Lust will make you dissatisfied with your husband or wife. It breeds anger, numbs hearts, and destroys marriages. Rather than fullness, it leads to emptiness.

It’s time to expose lust for what it really is – a misguided thirst for satisfaction that only God can fulfill. Lust is like a warning light on the dashboard of your heart, alerting you to the fact that you are not allowing God’s love to fill you. When your eyes and heart are on Him, your actions will lead you to lasting joy, not to endless cycles of regret and condemnation.

“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Are you tired of being lied to by lust? Are you fed up with believing that forbidden pleasures are able to keep you happy and content? Then begin setting your eyes on the Word of God. Let His promises of peace and freedom work their way into your heart. Daily receive the unconditional love He has already proven to you through the cross. Focus on being grateful for everything God has already given you rather than choosing discontentment.

You’ll find yourself so full on what He provides, you won’t be hungry anymore for the junk food of lust.

And while you’re at it, set your eyes and heart on your spouse again. “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth … Be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths” (Proverbs 5:18-21).

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Lust is the best this world has to offer, but love offers you the best life in the world.

Today’s Dare

End it now. Identify every object of lust in your life and remove it. Single out every lie you’ve swallowed in pursuing forbidden pleasure and reject it. Lust cannot be allowed to live in a back bedroom. It must be killed and destroyed – today – and replaced with the sure promises of God and a heart filled with His perfect love.

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil. (1 Peter 2:16)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Love Dare Day 23

Love Dare - Day 23

Love Always Protects

[Love] always protects. – 1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV

Marriage is made up of many things, including joys, sorrows, successes, and failures. But when you think about what you want marriage to be like, the furthest thing from your mind is a battleground. However, there are some battles you should be more than willing to fight. These are battles that pertain to protecting your spouse.

Unfortunately your marriage has enemies out there. They come in different forms and use different strategies, but nonetheless they will conspire to destroy your relationship unless you know how to ward them off.

Some are clever and seem attractive, only to undermine your love and appreciation for one another. Others try to lure your heart away from your spouse by feeding you unhealthy fantasies and unrealistic comparisons. It’s a battle you must wage to protect your marriage – when love puts on armor and picks up a sword to defend its own. Your mate and your marriage need your constant protection from things like:

Harmful influences. Are you allowing certain habits to poison your home? The Internet and television can be productive and enjoyable additions to your life, but they can also bring in destructive content and drain away precious hours from your family. The same thing goes for work schedules that keep you separated from each other for unhealthy amounts of time.

You can’t protect your home when you’re rarely there, nor when you’re relationally disconnected. You have to fight to keep balance right.

Unhealthy relationships. Not everyone has the material to be a good friend. Not every man you hunt and fish with speaks wisely when it comes to matters of marriage. Not every woman in your lunch group has a good perspective on commitment and priorities. In fact, anyone who undermines your marriage does not deserve to be given the title of “friend.” And certainly you must be on guard at all times from allowing opposite-sex relationships at work, the gym, or even church to draw you emotionally away from the one to whom you’ve already given your heart.

Shame. Everyone deals with some level of inferiority and weakness. And because marriage has a way of exposing it all to you and your mate, you need to protect your wife or husband’s vulnerability by never speaking negatively about them in public. Their secrets are your secrets (unless, of course, these involve destructive behaviors that are putting you, your children, or themselves in grave danger). Generally speaking, love hides the fault of others. It covers their shame.

Parasites. Watch out for parasites. A parasite is anything that latches onto you or your partner and sucks the life out of your marriage. They’re usually in the form of addictions, like gambling, drugs, or pornography. They promise pleasure but grow like a disease and consume more and more of your thoughts, time, and money. They steal away your loyalty and heart from those you love. Marriages rarely survive if parasites are present. If you love your spouse, you must destroy any addiction that has your heart. If you don’t, it will destroy you.

The Bible speaks plainly about this protective role, often using the analogy of a shepherd. God warned, “My flock has become prey … food for all the beasts of the field.” How so? “For lack of a shepherd.” Not because these men were too weak to perform their duties but because they didn’t pay attention. Instead of watching to make sure that the sheep weren’t being picked off by predators, “the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock” (Ezekial 34:8). They took extra good care of their own needs and appetites but gave little thought to the safety of those under their supervision.

Wives – you have a role as protector in your marriage. You must guard your heart from being led away through novels, magazines, and other forms of entertainment that blur your perception of reality and put unfair expectations on your husband. Instead you must do your part in helping him feel strong, while also avoiding talk-show thinking that can lure your attention away from your family. “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1).

Men – you are the head of your home. You are the one responsible before God for guarding the gate and standing your ground against anything that would threaten your wife or marriage. This is no small assignment. It requires a heart of courage and a head for preemptive action. Jesus said, “If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matthew 24:43). This role is yours. Take it seriously.

Today’s Dare

Remove anything that is hindering your relationship, any addiction or influence that’s stealing your affections and turning your heart away from your spouse.

You will be restored if you remove unrighteousness far from your tent. (Job 22:23).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's been a year already....

Mom and her best friend CoraLee Hauder who also died of breast cancer a year before mom.

One year ago today was the worst day of my life. The day Mamma went to be with the Lord. Happy day for her...sad day for us. But we want her to be happy, and I KNOW she is happy...but it is still hard to lose her...we are selfish human beings and want her by our side.

It is hard to believe that it has been a whole year. Dad and Rhonda and I went to Milford this past Saturday together. Since today falls in the middle of the week and we have church and hockey games, we knew we wouldn't be able to go today, plus I babysit a 2 year old on Wednesdays, so that made it more difficult. So, Rhonda and I will go to lunch next week some time. Dad is going to lunch today at noon with our Pastor Steve Moltumyr. Dad was pretty surprised that Steve would remember the exact date of mom's death. I am sure this is a rough day for dad too. I haven't spoken to him yet today...but it can't be easy. is just another day. No day is easy without mom. I can't tell you how many times I have picked up the phone (I know this is true of Rhonda too) and wanted to call mom and tell her something. I had a dream the other night that there was a phone line direct to Heaven. It was nice...I got to talk to her on the "phone". That was one of my happy dreams. Too often though I have bad dreams. I relive the last few days of mom's life in my dreams. That is no fun. I am looking forward for those particular dreams to end.

One thing that we all have going for us though...including dad to some extent, is that we are all busy. We were just talking about this in Milford the other day. It is somewhat of a blessing that we have been busy...we haven't had time to deal with the grief. However, that is not always a good thing either. Unfortunately none of us have had time to deal with it which makes it linger a bit more.

My only prayer is that the images stuck in our minds from the last few days of mom's life will go away. We want to remember her how she was in happy, healthy days. I would never change the past....but it was incredibly difficult to see her go through that. I am so happy I was with her at the end, but the memories that invade my mind are more of the last few moments of her life, rather then the happy times. I am told that those will fade with time and soon I will remember only happy times...that can't come too soon.

We had a good time in Milford though. We visited with mom's uncles Alvin and Harry, saw dad's aunt Rose and Connie along with his uncle Mo. Then we went to the cemetary. We had to "dig" mom's headstone out though. We have had more than 2 ft of snow in the past month and the winds have been horrendous, so some places are deeper than others. Her headstone was completely covered. Luckily, dad knew he would need to bring a shovel. I can't imagine it looked good carrying a shovel into the cemetary...but hey...we're Stutzmans...just old farm people! People come to expect weird and odd things out of us! :-) We took some pictures, lingered for a bit and then left.
Me, Rhonda, Dad, Harry Anderson and Alvin Anderson

We went into Seward for lunch because we had heard that dad's cousin Sharon was in the hospital up there. So we thought we would go visit her...but we had lunch first. It was good to eat together and not have 7 kids running around yelling and screaming at us.

After lunch we ran up to the Seward hospital, but Sharon had been discharged, so we didn't get to see her after all. Rhonda and I had hockey games to go to (4 of our kids were playing in several different games that evening), so we hit the road. Dad had a lame horse that needed to see the vet too...and his horse means the world to him, so we had to get home! I tell ya...sometimes I think that Sparks has taken over. Rhonda and Tonya who??? But Sparks, that is another story! :-)

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers over the last year. We can feel them, and we so appreciate them. We feel lost without mom, but sadly life has to go on...whether we are lost or not. Dad's learning to cook better...I am learning to clean better and talk about crime shows with my son instead of mom...Rhonda is learning to shop alone...or with me better....we are all learning. She was such a HUGE part of our family, but we are all coping and managing. We can fight it all we want, but it won't change the fact that she is no longer with us. We take comfort in knowing that she if living it up in Heaven!! I just wish that "heavenly phone" was hooked up.....

Love Dare Day 22

Love Dare - Day 22

Love is Faithful

I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. – Hosea 2:20

As Christians, love is the basis of our whole identity. Our spiritual rebirth came about because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

When asked to clarify what the greatest commandments of all were, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … your soul … your strength … your mind … and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Our love for each other is supposed to be how people distinguish us as Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). It is the root and ground of our existence (Ephesians 3:17), meant to be expressed with passion and fervency (1 Peter 4:8). It is a quality that we are to “abound” in more and more (1 Thessalonians 3:12), always getting better at it, becoming increasingly defined by it.

So if love is what we were created to share, what do you do when your love is rejected? How do you handle it when the one to whom you’ve pledged your life stops accepting the love you’re called to give?

The account of prophet Hosea is one of the most remarkable in the Bible. Against all logic and propriety, God instructed him to marry a prostitute. He wanted Hosea’s marriage to show what Heaven’s unconditional love looks like towards us. Hosea’s union with Gomer produced three children but, as expected, this woman who had long made her living in immorality was not content to stay faithful to one man. So Hosea was left to deal with a broken heart and the shame of abandonment.

He had loved her, but she had spurned his love. They had grown close, but now she had been disloyal and adulterous, rejecting him for the lust of total strangers.

Time passed, and God spoke to Hosea again. God told him to go and reaffirm his love for this woman who had been repeatedly unfaithful. This time she had reached a new low and had to be bought off the slave block, but Hosea paid the price for her redemption and bought her home. Yes, she had treated his love with contempt. She had dealt treacherously with his heart. But he welcomed her back into his life, expressing an unconditional love.

This is a true story, but it was used as a picture of God’s love for us. He showers His favor on us without measure, though in return we often don’t pay attention. At times we have acted shamefully and deemed His love an intrusion, as if it’s keeping us from what we really want. We have rejected Him in many ways – even after receiving His gift of eternal salvation – and yet He still loves us. He still remains faithful.

Even so, His love doesn’t keep Him from calling us to account for our mistreatment of Him. We pay more of a price for our rejection than we often realize. Yet He still chooses to respond with grace and mercy. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). In Him we have the model of what rejected love does. It stays faithful.

Jesus called us to this kind of love in the passage known as the Sermon on the Mount. He said to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same" (Luke 6:32-33).

"Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:35).

From the vantage point of the wedding altar, you would never have dreamed that the person you married might later become to you a kind of "enemy," one you would need to love as an act of almost total sacrifice. And yet far too often in marriage, the relationship does indeed dwindle down to that level. Even to the point of betrayal or, sadly, to unfaithfulness.

For many, this is the beginning of the end. Some respond by rapidly moving toward a tragic divorce. Others, more protective of their reputation than even their own happiness, decide to keep the charade going. But they have no intention of liking it--much less of loving each other again.

This is not the model, however for the follower of Christ. If love is to be like His, it must love even when its overtures are returned unwanted. And for your love to be like that, it must be His love to begin with.

You can give undeserved love to your spouse because God gave undeserved love to you--repeatedly, enduringly. Love is often expressed the most to those who deserve it the least.

Ask Him to fill you with the kind of love only He can provide, then purpose to give it to your mate in a way that reflects your gratefulness to God for loving you. That's the beauty of redeeming love. That's the power of faithfulness.

Today's Dare
Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction. Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it. Say to them today in words similar to these, "I love you. Period. I choose to love you even if you don't love me in return."

I have chosen the faithful way. (Psalm 119:30)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tea with Hezbollah, book review

Tea with Hezbollah
by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.
Comment by the end of January for a chance to win your own copy!

Is it really possible to love one’s enemies? That’s the question that sparked a fascinating and, at times, terrifying journey into the heart of the Middle East during the summer of 2008. It was a trip that began in Egypt, passed beneath the steel and glass high rises of Saudi Arabia, then wound through the bullet- pocked alleyways of Beirut and dusty streets of Damascus, before ending at the cradle of the world’s three major religions: Jerusalem.Tea with Hezbollah combines nail-biting narrative with the texture of rich historical background, as readers join novelist Ted Dekker and his co-author and Middle East expert, Carl Medearis, on a hair-raising journey. They are with them in every rocky cab ride, late-night border crossing, and back-room conversation as they sit down one-on-one with some of the most notorious leaders of the Arab world. These candid discussions with leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas, with muftis, sheikhs, and ayatollahs, with Osama bin Laden’s brothers, reveal these men to be real people with emotions, fears, and hopes of their own. Along the way, Dekker and Medearis discover surprising answers and even more surprising questions that they could not have anticipated—questions that lead straight to the heart of Middle Eastern conflict.Through powerful narrative Tea With Hezbollah will draw the West into a completely fresh understanding of those we call our enemies and the teaching that dares us to love them. A must read for all who see the looming threat rising in the Middle East.

Author Bios:
Ted Dekker is the author of many nationally bestselling novels, including Bone Man’s Daughters, The Circle Trilogy, Thr3e, and House, which was coauthored by Frank Peretti. His unique style of storytelling has captured the attention of millions worldwide. Visit him at
Carl Medearis is the founder and president of International Initiatives, LLC, an organization that promotes cultural, educational, and commercial exchange between the East and the West. He is an advisor on Arab affairs to the members of the U.S. Congress and leaders in international business.

WOW! That is truly all that needs to be said! I thought this was an outstanding book!!! DEFINITELY more than I ever could have expected or even imagined! I have to be honest, I didn't think I would like it. I put off reading it as long as I could. I opened it up one night at 11pm, thinking I would only read a chapter or two and be done soon to go to bed....I finished HALF the book THAT night! I couldn't put it down!! It is a VERY real, VERY true story and it is just absolutely CAPTIVATING! Dekker and Medearis did an incredible job writing it and kudos to them for doing what it took to write this book! I can't say I would have ventured to the middle east to try and find the last remaining members of the Samaritans and talk to known terrorists along the way. WOW! My heart was pumping harder just reading it! I am a very visual person though and I tend to put myself directly into the story, and the way Dekker truly felt like you were right there with them! Amazing book! I would recommend it to anyone. In fact, I have already loaned my copy to my dad to read!!


Cam had his 11th birthday party at ZZZapp!! this past Sunday night. He had tons of fun!! I don't have pictures yet though! My friend April was helping me at the party and she took the pictures with her camera....she just got back to Orlando this evening, so hopefully she will upload soon and I can post them! We had a REALLY great time! ZZZapp!! is a Lazer Tag place!! April and I went, and Cam and Jake, Cam's cousin Shawn and then Cam had 5 other friends there! We had such fun!

The night started with the first game of Lazer Tag! Cam picked another team captain and he and the other captain picked team members. I...ME...MOMMY was his FIRST pick!!! I was so floored! I figured I would be like the fat, nerdy kid that never gets picked...but I was FIRST!!! YIPPEE!! He DOES love me! Anyway, my code name was Tomcat...April was on my team too...we CREAMED the other team. April was the winner! Pretty good considering neither of us really knew what we were doing!

Then it was back to the "black light" room for pizza from Pizza Hut and drinks. After we ate, and everyone was done comparing scores, they took us back for ANOTHER game of Lazer Tag. This time it was free for all. April and I formed an alliance....those boys didn't know what they had comin'! We just obliterated them! April and I stayed on the bottom floor and got them from below when they least expected it. One kid, I followed around and hid behind walls when he turned around...he couldn't figure out why he kept getting shot! It was hilarious! We had a really good time! Great exersize too!

Then it was back to the room for cake. I had got Cam Hot Tamales out of the vending machine...his favorite candy! Then we opened presents...he got ALL BIONICLES! I have never seen anything like it. He must have told everyone that is all he wanted!

Then it was time to go home. I am so happy I had April there to help me with those rambunctious boys! We are definitely getting older though....April and I then got everyone to bed, sat on the couch, watched the Food Network and were both in bed by 10pm. PATHETIC!!!!!!

Last night, Cam took a couple of his Bionicles back because he had them and he was so excited to get a bigger, better Bionicle!!

He really enjoyed his ZZZappp!! time!!!! Thanks to all you who made it possible!

Love Dare Day 21

Love Dare - Day 21

Love is Satisfied in God

The Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire. – Isaiah 58:11

Day 20 was a vitally important day in the Love Dare – and in your life. You came face-to-face with the glaring need of every human heart. And perhaps for the very first time, you became aware of how personal this need really is. You may have realized that nothing in your toolbox of talents and resources could repair the damage that sin leaves, and that Jesus is the only One who can supply what you’ve been missing. If you’ve received Him by faith and have turned your life over to Him to manage and lead, then His Holy Spirit is renewing your heart. His wisdom, grace, and power can now be released into everything you do. Including, not the least, your marriage.

But whether this is new territory for you or if you’ve been a follower of Jesus for quite a while, now is the time for you to firm up one thing in your mind: you need God every single day. This is not a part-time proposition. He alone can satisfy, even when all else fails you.

Your husband may be late coming home. Again. But God will always be right on time.

Your wife may let you down. Again. But God can always be trusted to deliver on His promises.

Every day you place expectations on your spouse. Sometimes they meet them. Sometimes they don’t. But never will they be able to totally satisfy all the demands you ask of them – partly because some of your demands are unreasonable, partly because your mate is human.

God, however, is not. And those who approach Him in utter dependence each day for the real needs in their life are the ones who find out just how dependable He is.

Can your spouse give you an inner peace? No. But God can. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Can your spouse enable you to be content no matter what life throws at you? No. But God can. “In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled … I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).

There are needs in your life only God can fully satisfy. Though your husband or wife is able to complete some of these requirements – at least now and then – only God is able to do it all. Your need for love. Your need for acceptance. Your need for joy. It’s time to stop expecting somebody or something to keep your functioning and fulfilled on a non-stop basis. Only God can do that as you learn to depend on Him. But He wants to do it His way. “My God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

The needs of love, peace, and adequacy are real. No one is saying you shouldn’t have them. But rather than plugging into things that are unstable at best and are subject to change – your health, your money, even the affections and best intentions of your mate – plug into God instead. He’s the only One in your life that can never change. His faithfulness, His truth, and His promises to His children will always remain. That’s why you need to seek Him every day.

Our only reason for not doing this is because we really don’t trust God to supply what we need. And yet the Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). When we are seeking Him first, loving Him first, making our relationship with Him top priority, He promises to supply us with what we really need – which, actually, is all it really takes to satisfy us.

Jesus once spoke to a woman at a Samaritan well, a woman who had tried getting her needs met through a string of failed relationships. With both her life and water bucket empty, she had come to this place broken and hardened yet still desperately in need. But in Christ she found what He called “living water” (John 4:10) – a supply that wasn’t just for quenching temporary thirst. What He offered her was a drink of soul satisfaction that never quits giving and refreshing. And that is what’s available to you each morning at sunrise and each night before bed, no matter who your spouse is or what they’ve done to you.

God is your everyday supply. Of everything you need.

Today’s Dare

Be intentional today about making time to pray and read your Bible. Try reading a chapter out of Proverbs each day (there are thirty-one – a full month’s supply), or reading a chapter in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). As you do, immerse yourself in the love and promises God has for you. This will add to your growth as you walk with Him.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:16)

Dear President Obama....

Wow! Took the words right out of my mouth....

Dear President Obama,

My name is Harold Estes, approaching 95 on December 13 of this year. People meeting me for the first time don't believe my age because I remain wrinkle free and pretty much mentally alert.

I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1934 and served proudly before, during and after WW II retiring as a Master Chief Bos'n Mate. Now I live in a "rest home" located on the western end of Pearl Harbor, allowing me to keep alive the memories of 23 years of service to my country.
One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct even to the head man. So here goes.

I am amazed, angry and determined not to see my country die before I do, but you seem hell bent not to grant me that wish.

I can't figure out what country you are the president of.

You fly around the world telling our friends and enemies despicable lies like: "We're no longer a Christian nation" "America is arrogant" -- (Your wife even announced to the world, "America is mean- spirited." Please tell her to try preaching that nonsense to 23 generations of our war dead buried all over the globe who died for no other reason than to free a whole lot of strangers from tyranny and hopelessness.)

I'd say shame on the both of you, but I don’t think you like America, nor do I see an ounce of gratefulness in anything you do, for the obvious gifts this country has given you. To be without shame or gratefulness is a dangerous thing for a man sitting in the White House.
After 9/11 you said, "America hasn’t lived up to her ideals."

Which ones did you mean? Was it the notion of personal liberty that 11,000 farmers and shopkeepers died for to win independence from the British? Or maybe the ideal that no man should be a slave to another man, that 500,000 men died for in the Civil War? I hope you didn't mean the ideal 470,000 fathers, brothers, husbands, and a lot of fellas I knew personally died for in WWII, because we felt real strongly about not letting any nation push us around, because we stand for freedom.

I don't think you mean the ideal that says equality is better than discrimination. You know the one that a whole lot of white people understood when they helped to get you elected.
Take a little advice from a very old geezer, young man.

Shape up and start acting like an American. If you don't, I'll do what I can to see you get shipped out of that fancy rental on Pennsylvania Avenue. You were elected to lead not to bow, apologize and kiss the hands of murderers and corrupt leaders who still treat their people like slaves.
And just who do you think you are telling the American people not to jump to conclusions and condemn that Muslim major who killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and wounded dozens more. You mean you don’t want us to do what you did when that white cop used force to subdue that black college professor in Massachusetts, who was putting up a fight? You don’t mind offending the police calling them stupid but you don’t want us to offend Muslim fanatics by calling them what they are, terrorists.

One more thing. I realize you never served in the military and never had to defend your country with your life, but you're the Commander-in-Chief now, son. Do your job. When your battle-hardened field General asks you for 40,000 more troops to complete the mission, give them to him. But if you're not in this fight to win, then get out. The life of one American soldier is not worth the best political strategy you're thinking of.

You could be our greatest president because you face the greatest challenge ever presented to any president.

You're not going to restore American greatness by bringing back our bloated economy. That's not our greatest threat. Losing the heart and soul of who we are as Americans is our big fight now.

And I sure as hell don't want to think my president is the enemy in this final battle.
Sincerely,Harold B. Estes

Monday, January 25, 2010

Love Dare Day 20

Love Dare - Day 20

Love is Jesus Christ

While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. –Romans 5:6

The previous day and dare lead to no other conclusion that this. Thankfully, it’s a conclusion you can live with—today, tomorrow, and forever.

Jesus has come “to seek and to save” you (Luke 19:10). Everything you’ve failed at and haven’t been able to do, every minute you’ve wasted trying to fix things your own way—all of it can be forgiven and made right by putting your life into the hands of the One who first gave it to you.

Maybe you’ve never done this. Then today is your day. “Now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Maybe you did it years ago, but you’ve wandered far from your spiritual roots. Then “repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Even if you’ve already made Christ your way of life and have never stopped walking in fellowship with Him, the following Scriptures will be a grateful reminder of all He’s done for you.

The Bible says we are sinful from birth, from the moment we arrive. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). It’s not as though God sends innocent people to hell.

We deserve it. We simply can’t be good enough to live with a pure and holy God.

However, “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (I John 4:9). “Although He existed in the form of god, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (I Peter 2:24). By His death, He made invalid the very idea that you are unloved and devalued. If you ever feel that way, you’re not looking at the cross. He proved His love for you there.

Love like this cannot be fully understood. “One will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).

Nor can love like this be earned. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But it must be received. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

And when you have received this new life and love as your own, you are free to love in ways you’ve never been capable before.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…This is His command; to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us” (I John 3:16, 23 NIV). “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:8).

He was willing to love you even though you didn’t deserve it, even when you didn’t love back. He was able to see all your flaws and imperfections and still choose to love you. His love made the greatest sacrifice to meet your greatest need. As a result, you are able (by His grace) to walk in the fullness and blessing of His love. Now and forever.

This means you now share this same love with your spouse. You can love even when you’re not love in return. You can see all their flaws and imperfections and still choose to love. And though you can’t meet their needs the way God can, you can become His instrument to meet the needs of your spouse. As result, he or she can walk in the fullness and blessing of your love. Now and till death.

True love is found in Christ alone. And after you have received His gift of new life by accepting His death in your place and His forgiveness for your sins, you are finally ready to live the dare.


Dare to take God at His Word. Dare to trust Jesus Christ for salvation. Dare to pray “Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. But You have shown Your love for me by dying to forgive my sins, and You have proven Your power to save me from death by Your resurrection. Lord, change my heart, and save me by Your grace.”

Write about what this experience has been like for you. Even if you are only renewing your commitment to receive and express His love, what has He shown you today?

In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them. (Isaiah 63:9)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Love Dare Day 19

Love Dare - Day 19

Love is impossible

Let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. –I John 4:7

The Love Dare starts with a secret. And though it’s been an unspoken element throughout each day, you’ve likely grown more and more suspicious of it all the time. Now that you’re this far, it’s a secret you’re discovering for yourself, even if you haven’t exactly known how to put it into words.

The secret is this: you cannot manufacture unconditional love (or agape love) out of your own heart. It’s impossible. It’s beyond your capabilities. It’s beyond all our capabilities.

You may have demonstrated kindness and unselfishness in some form, and you may have learned to be more thoughtful and considerate. But sincerely loving someone unselfishly and unconditionally is another matter altogether.

So how can you do it? Like it or not, agape love isn’t something you can do. It’s something only God can do. But because of His great love for you—and His love for your spouse—He chooses to express His love through you.

Still, you may not believe that. You may be convinced that with enough hard work and commitment, you can muster up unconditional, long-term, sacrificial love from your own heart. You want to believe it’s in you.

But how many times has your love failed to keep you from lying, from lusting, from overreacting, from thinking evil of this person you’ve vowed before God to love for the rest of your life.

How many times has your love proven incapable of controlling your anger? How many times has your love motivated you to forgive or brought about a peaceable end to an ongoing argument?

It’s this failure that exposes mankind’s sinful condition. We’ve all fallen short of God’s commands (Romans 3:23). We’ve all demonstrated selfishness, hatred, and pride. And unless something is done to cleanse us of these ungodly attributes, we will stand before God guilty as charged (Romans 6:23). That’s why if you’re not right with God, you can’t truly love your spouse because He is the Source of that love.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t call up inner reserves and resources that aren’t there to be summoned. In the same way that you can’t give away a million dollars if you don’t have it to start with, you cannot pay out love in greater measure than you own. You can try, but you will fail.

So the hard news is this: love that is able to withstand every pressure is out of your reach, as long as you’re only looking within yourself to find it. You need someone who can give you that kind of love.
“Love is from God” (I John 4:7). And only those who have allowed Him into their heart through faith in His Son, Jesus—only those who have received the Spirit of Christ through belief in His death and resurrection—are able to tap into love’s real power. “Apart from me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing” (I John 15:5).

But He also said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). God has promised through Christ to dwell in your heart through faith so that you can “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 NKJV).

When you surrender yourself to Christ, His power can work through you. Even at your very best, you are not able to live up to God’s standards. But He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s how you love your spouse.

So, this unsettling secret—as defeating as it may feel—has a happy ending for those who will stop resisting and will receive the love God has for them. This means that the love He has “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5) is always available, every time we choose to submit to it.

You simply won’t be able to do it without Him.

Perhaps you’ve never given our heart to Christ, but you sense Him drawing you today. You may be realizing for the first time that you, too, have broken God’s commands, and that your guilt will keep you from knowing Him. But Scripture says that if you repent by turning away from your sin and turning to God, He is willing to forgive you because of the sacrifice his Son made on the cross. He is pursuing you, not to enslave you but to free you, so you can receive His love and forgiveness. Then you can share it with the one you’ve been called most specifically to love.

Perhaps you’re already a believer, but you would admit that you have walked away from fellowship with God. You’re not in the Word, you’re not in prayer, maybe you’re not even in church anymore. The love you used to feel coursing through your veins has dwindled into apathy.

The truth is, you can’t live without Him and you can’t love without Him. But there is no telling what He could do in your marriage if you put your trust in Him.


Look back over the dares from the previous days. Were there some that seemed impossible to you? Have you realized your need for God to change your heart and to give you the ability to love? Ask Him to show you where you stand with Him, and ask for the strength and grace to settle your eternal destination.
What do you believe God is saying to you? Is there a stirring in your heart? What decision have you made in response to this?

This is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Love Dare Day 18

Love Dare - Day 18

Love Seeks to Understand

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. – Proverbs 3:13

We enjoy discovering as much as we can about the things we truly care about. If it’s our favorite football team, we’ll read any article that helps us keep up with how they’re doing. If it’s cooking, we’ll tune to those channels that share the best grilling techniques or dessert recipes. If there’s a subject that appeals to us, we’ll take notice any time it comes up. In fact, it’s often like an area of personal study.

It’s fine, of course, to have outside interests and to be knowledgeable about certain things. But this is where love would ask the question, “How much do you know about our mate?

Think back to the days when you were courting. Didn’t you study the one your heart was yearning for?

When a man is trying to win the heart of a woman, he studies her. He learns her likes, dislikes, habits, and hobbies. But after he wins her heart and marries her, he often stops learning about her. The mystery and challenge of knowing her seems less intriguing, and he finds his interests drifting to other areas.

This is also true in many cases for women, who start off admiring and building respect for the man they desire to be with. But after marriage, those feelings begin to fade as reality reveals that her “prince” is a flawed and imperfect man.

Yet there are still hidden things to discover about your spouse. And this understanding will help draw you closer together. It can even give you favor in the eyes of your mate. “Good understanding produces favor” (Proverbs 13:15).

Consider the following perspective: if the amount you studied your spouse before marriage were equal to a high school diploma, then you should continue to learn about your mate until you gain a “college degree,” a “master’s degree,” and ultimately a “doctorate degree.” Think of it as a lifelong journey that draws your heart ever closer to your mate.

· Do you know his or her greatest hopes and dreams?
· Do you fully understand how they prefer to give and receive love?
· Do you know what your spouse’s greatest fears are and why they struggle with them?

Some of the problems you have in relating to your spouse are simply because you don’t understand them. They probably react very differently to certain situations than you do, and you can’t figure out why?

These differences – even the ones that are relatively insignificant – can be the cause of many fights and conflicts in your marriage. That’s because, as the Bible says, we tend to “revile” those things we don’t understand (Jude 10).

There are reasons for his or her tastes and preferences. Each nuance in your spouse’s character has a back story. Each element of who he is, how he thinks, and what he’s like is couched in a set of guiding principles, which often makes sense only to the person who holds them. But it’s worth the time it will take to study why they are the way they are.

If you missed the level of intimacy you once shared with your spouse, one of the best ways to unlock their heart again is by making a commitment to know them. Study them. Read them like a book you’re trying to understand.

Ask questions. The Bible says, “The ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15). Love takes the initiative to begin conversations. In order to get your mate to open up, they need to know that your desire for understanding them is real and genuine.

Listen. “Wise men store up knowledge, but with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand” (Proverbs 10:14). The goal of understanding your mate is to hear them, not to tell them what you think. Even if your spouse is not very talkative, love calls you to draw out the “deep water” that dwells within them (Proverbs 20:5).

Ask God for discernment. “The Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). Things like gender differences, family backgrounds, and varied life experiences can cloud your ability to know your mate’s heart and motivations. But God is a giver of wisdom. The Lord will show you what you need in order to know how to love your spouse better.

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4). There is a depth of beauty and meaning inside your wife or husband that will amaze you as you discover more of it. Enter the mystery with expectation and enthusiasm. Desire to know this person even better than you do now. Make him or her your chosen field of study, and you will fill your home with the kind of riches only love can provide.

Today’s Dare

Prepare a special dinner at home, just for the two of you. The dinner can be as nice as you prefer. Focus this time on getting to know your spouse better, perhaps in areas you’ve rarely talked about. Determine to make it an enjoyable evening for you and your mate.

Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)

Friday, January 22, 2010

MLKJ day

Martin Luther King Junior day was this past Monday. Yet ANOTHER day with the kids at home. wasn't soooo bad. Jeff was home too! I just can't seem to get my house clean though! It seems like just when I start trying to clean up...the kids are home!!!! Which...makes it a mess again!!! Someone once told me..."trying to clean with kids is like trying to shovel during a blizzard." Amen sister!

We had a fun day though. It started out relaxing. I took Chocolate in for his 12 week check up. He is fine. He got shots, and next month I can declaw and neuter him! It should only cost me about $150 for all of it! WOW! I asked the vet if he could neuter my husband too and that price!!!! He didn't think that would work out. Oh was worth a try.

Then we all went snowboarding again! What fun we all had! Rhonda, my sis, and her kids met us out there too. It was great as the snow was so packed down and used it was like ice!! The kids had a ball....well....all except Major. I ended up sitting in the car for a majority of the time with him. He is just not a cold weather guy. He is a "fair weather fisherman" apparently.

We had a great day though. Sorry I don't have pictures to share. :-(

Love Dare Day 17

Love Dare - Day 17

Love Promotes Intimacy

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9 NIV

You can be close to a good friend you’ve known since childhood or college days. You can be close to a sibling, your parents, or a cousin who’s about your same age. But nothing rivals the closeness that’s experienced between a husband and wife. Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships.

That’s why we need it so much. Each of us comes into life with an inborn hunger to be known, love, and accepted. We want people to know your name, to recognize us when they see us, and to value who we are. The prospect of sharing our home with another person who knows us down to the most intimate detail is part of the deep pleasure of marriage.

Yet this great blessing is also the site of its greatest danger. Someone who knows us this intimately can either love us at a depth we never imagined, or can wound us in ways we may never fully recover from. It’s both the fire and the fear of marriage.

Which of these are you experiencing the most in your home right now? Are the secrets your spouse knows about you reasons for shame, or reason for drawing you closer? If your spouse were to answer this same question, would they say you make them feel safe, or scared?

If home is not considered a place of safety, you will both be tempted to seek it somewhere else. Perhaps you might look to another person initiating a relationship that either flirts with adultery or actually enters in. You may look for comfort in work or outside hobbies, something that partially shields you from intimacy but also keeps you around people who respect and accept you.

Your mate should not feel pressured to be perfect in order to receive your approval. They should not walk on eggshells in the very place where they ought to feel the most comfortable in their bare feet. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). The atmosphere in your marriage should be one of freedom. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, your closeness should only intensify your intimacy. Being “naked” and “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25) should exist in the same sentence, right in your marriage – physically and emotionally.

Admittedly, this is tender territory. Marriage has unloaded another person’s baggage into your life, and yours into theirs. Both of you have reason to feel embarrassed that this much has been revealed about you to another living soul. But this is your opportunity to wrap all this private information about them in the protective embrace of your love, and promise to be the one who can best help him or her deal with it.

Some of these secrets may need correcting. Therefore, you can be an agent of healing and repair – not by lecturing, not by criticizing, but by listening in love and offering support.

Some of these secrets just need to be accepted. They are part of this person’s make-up and history. And though these issues may not be very pleasant to deal with, they will always require a gentle touch.

In either case, you and you alone wield the power either to reject your spouse because of this or to welcome them in – warts and all. They will either know they’re in a place of safety where they are free to make mistakes, or they will recoil into themselves and be lost to you, perhaps forever. Loving them well should be your life’s work.

Think of it this way. No one knows you better than God does, the One who made you. The writer of Psalm 139 was right when he said, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:2-4).

And yet God, who knows secrets about us that we even hide from ourselves, loves us at a depth we cannot begin to fathom. How much more should we – as imperfect people – reach out to our spouse in grace and understanding, accepting them for who they are and assuring them that their secrets are safe with us?

This may be an area where you’ve really failed in the past. If so, don’t expect your mate to immediately give you wide-open access to their heart. You must begin to rebuild trust. Jesus Himself is described as One who doesn’t barge into people’s lives but who stands at the door and knocks. “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

The reality of intimacy always takes time to develop, especially after being compromised. But your commitment to re-establishing it can happen today – for anyone willing to take the dare.

Today’s Dare

Determine to guard your mate’s secrets (unless they are dangerous to them or to you) and to pray for them. Talk with your spouse, and resolve to demonstrate love in spite of these issues. Really listen to them when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you. Make them feel safe.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jake's fish

So the other day Major got ahold of the fish food and poured a full container into the fish tank. Woops. The smell was devastating even to the cat. Jeff cleaned it out later that night, but we had one fish that was a floater, but couldn't find like three others. The water was SOOOO murky though, we figured they were stuck in a bush, or alive and just hiding.

A few days go by and the water clears up....still no sign of the missing fish. Not really sure what happened. There is one fish left living. Anyway...Jeff finally found one fish behind the tank. Apparently the abundance of food caused him to "jump ship."

Still two left though...hmmmm...where oh where could they be???

Fast forward a couple more days. Jake is looking for a toy in his toy box. At the bottom he sees one of his old rubber fishing lures....a fish. He picks it up....squeezes it because those are so fun to squeeze and promptly realizes that....that is not a LURE!!! AAAAHHHHH that is a REAL DEAD FISH!!!!! HE FREAKS OUT! And I mean FREAKS OUT! I was the BASEMENT...he was two floors over me and I heard a blood curdling scream! I didn't even recognize WHO the screamer was. Suddenly within seconds Jake comes "shaking" down the stairs like Scooby Doo who had just seen a ghost. I mean...I am not exaggerating...his whole body was shaking and he was doing the ibby gibby dance. His mouth was in a form that I didn't even recognize and he was shivering all at the same time. After he mumbled in a seizure like state, "!!!" I knew what had happened to my poor, white, shaking, shivering little boy...and I could help escaped my lips....a hysterical laugh. I felt bad all the while....but it just came out...there was no stopping it!! Only because I have done it a similar way, and can remember the was bad....but in retrospect, pretty funny too!!!

The rest of the night was hard. I had taken my cough medicine with codeine and Jake wouldn't get out of his bed to use the bathroom without somebody there to help him to the bathroom because he was afraid that third and final fish was somewhere out of the tank and would jump out at him. I tried to explain that it could no longer jump out at him...but he didn't believe me. Poor Jakey.......needless to say....he is done with fish. He wants the whole tank GONE.

Oh....Jakey, Jakey, would be so dull without you.... :-)

I'm here!!

You'll have to excuse my absence....I have been here...just sick...and busy! I am currently being treated for ear infection, sinus infection and bronchitis! This is life as Tonya Filleman....when I get sick...I go all out!!! I am feeling better though. I have been sick for almost three weeks...not bad...but I wasn't functioning as well as I should have I finally went to the doctor this past Tuesday. Whew...and I am already starting to feel better!! Yippee!! So for the past few weeks life has continued to go on and on!! I have a lot going on....Bible study started again...Mops started again....but now that I am back in the swing of things, I may not be so absent!!! No camera yet though! Dad did let me borrow his...but he took it back to take some pictures. Suddenly his zoom wouldn't work. I SWEAR it worked when I had it!! it is in my life....everything I touch has to have drama with dad sent the camera in to get fixed as it was under now neither him NOR I have a camera! Ugh!


So....I went to SkateDaze the other day. For those of you not in Omaha it is a roller skating rink with lazer tag, party rooms, rock climbing, arcade, roller coaster and a play place like at McDonalds only on 5 times the steroids. It also has kiddie rides, a ball pit and a bouncy castle. HUGE....and I must say TONS of fun. It was supposed to be "Mommy and me, play for free." The idea is, during the week between 10-2 mom and kids get in for free, as long as you purchase one of their lunches for like $3 a piece. Good deal right???? So, I call the night before to make sure that "Mommy and me play for free" is still going. He says, "Yep! It is still on the website, so it is still going...and even if it weren't, which it is....they would still have to honor it because it is on the website." Okay...fair enough. So I take the kiddos there for a "cheap date" day. I figure I will spend $9. That is less than what I spend at McDonalds and they have a TON more fun playing and even I can play with them and not feel cramped. I am telling you...this place is HUGE!!! So we go and I tell and two kids. She gave me a total of $18. Huh? That is double what I expected. So I said, "Oh...we are here for Mommy and me play for FREE." Enhancing that free part. She says, "That ended yesterday." I told her I had talked to someone the night before who said it was STILL going on and that I would be fine going today. She said, "Well...he was wrong." I told her how he said if it was on the website and didn't have an end date that you would have to honor it. She told me....and I quote...."Oh...I took that off the website this isn't there it is $18." Ugh! You've got to be kidding me. By this point the kids were so pumped to go....I just paid it and went inside. I was so mad though!! So....if you are local and you plan on going to Skatedaze on a "special"....DON'T BET ON IT BEING A SPECIAL ANYMORE WHEN YOU GET THERE!!!!!!!!!

They did have a lot of fun though...and so did I.....

Love Dare Day 16

Love Dare - Day 16

Love Intercedes

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. – 3 John 2

You cannot change your spouse. As much as you may want to, you cannot play God and reach into their heart and mold them into what you want them to be. But that’s what most couples spend a large part of their time trying to do – change their spouse.

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But isn’t that what happens when you try to change your mate? It’s frustration at the highest level. At some point you have to accept that it’s not something you can do. But here’s what you can do. You can become a “wise farmer.”

A farmer cannot make a seed grow into a fruitful crop. He cannot argue, manipulate, or demand it to bear fruit. But he can plant the seed into fertile soil, give it water and nutrients, protect it from weeds, and then turn it over to God. Millions of farmers have made a livelihood from this process over the centuries. They know that not every seed sprouts. But most will grow when planted in proper soil and given what they need.

There is no guarantee that anything in this book will change your spouse. But that’s not what this book is about. It’s about daring to love. If you take the Love Dare seriously, there is a high likelihood that you will be personally changed from the inside out.

And if you carry out each dare, your spouse will likely be affected and your marriage will begin to bloom in front of your eyes. It may take weeks. It may even take years. But regardless of the soil you’re working with, you are to plan for success. You are to get weeds out of your marriage. You are to nurture the soil of your mate’s heart and then depend on God for the results.

But you won’t be able to do this alone. You will need something that is more powerful than anything else you have. And that is effective prayer.

Prayer really does work. It’s a spiritual phenomenon created by an unlimited, powerful God. And it yields amazing results.

Do you feel like giving up on your marriage? Jesus said to pray instead of quitting (Luke 18:1). Are you stressed out and worried? Prayer can bring peace to your storms (Philippians 4:6-7) Do you need a major breakthrough? Prayer can make the difference (Acts 12:1-7).

God is sovereign. He does things His way. He’s not a genie in a lamp that submits to your every wish. But He does love you and desires an intimate relationship with you. This doesn’t happen apart from prayer.

There are some key elements that must be in place for prayer to be effective. But suffice to say that prayer works best when coming from a humble heart that is in a right relationship with God and others. The Bible says, “Confess sins to one another, and pray for one another … The effective prayer of righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Have you ever wondered why God gives you overwhelming insight into your spouse’s hidden faults? Do you really think it’s for endless nagging? No, it is for effective kneeling. No one knows better how to pray for your mate than you.

Has your scolding or nagging been working? The answer is no, because that’s not what changes a heart. It is time to try talking to God in your prayer closet instead.

A husband will find that God can “fix” his wife a lot better than he can. Wife will accomplish more through strategic prayer than from all her persuasive efforts. It is also a much more pleasant way to live.

So turn your complaints into prayers and watch the Master work while you keep your hands clean. If your spouse doesn’t have any type of relationship with God, then it’s clear what you need to start praying for.

Beyond this, begin to pray for exactly what your mate needs. Pray for his heart. Pray for her attitude. Pray for your spouse’s responsibilities before God. Pray for truth to replace lies. Pray for forgiveness would replace bitterness. Pray for your heart’s desires – for love and honor to become the norm. Pray for romance and intimacy to go to a deeper level.

One of the most loving things you can ever do for your spouse is to pray for them. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to” (Matthew 7:7)

Today’s Dare

Begin Praying for your spouse’s heart. Pray for three specific areas where you desire for God to work in your spouse’s life and in your marriage.

If anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him (John 9:31).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Love Dare Day 15

Love Dare - Day 15
Love is Honorable

Live with your wives in an understanding way … and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life. – 1 Peter 3:7

There are certain words in our language that have powerful meanings. Whenever these words are used, an air of respect is associated with them. These words never lose their timeless quality, class, and dignity. One of these will be our focus for today. It is the word honor.

To honor someone means to give them respect and high esteem, to treat them as being special and of great worth. When you speak to them, you keep your language clean and understandable. You are courteous and polite. When they speak to you, you take them seriously, giving their words weight and significance. When they ask you to do something, you accommodate them if at all possible, simply out of respect for who they are.

The Bible tells us to “honor” our father and mother, as well as those in authority. It is a call to acknowledge the position or value of someone else. Honor is a noble word.

This is especially true in marriage. Honoring your mate means giving him or her your full attention, not talking to them from behind a newspaper or with one eye on the television. When decisions are being made that affect both of you or your whole family, you give your mate’s voice and opinion equal influence in your mind. You honor what they have to say. They matter – and because of the way you treat them, they should know it.

But there’s another word that calls us to a higher place, a word that isn’t often equated with marriage, though its relevance cannot be understated. It’s a word that actually forms the basis for honor – the very reason why we give respect and high regard to our husband or wife. That word is holy.

To say to your mate should be “holy” to you doesn’t mean that he or she is perfect. Holiness means they are set apart for a higher purpose – no longer common or everyday but special and unique. A person who has become holy to you has a place no one can rival in your heart. He or she is sacred to you, a person to be honored, praised, and defended.

A bride treats her wedding dress this way. After wearing it on her special day, she covers and protects it, then sets it apart from everything else in her closet. You won’t catch her in it when she’s working in the yard or going out on the town. Her wedding dress has value all its own. In this way, it is holy and sacred to her.

When two people marry, each spouse becomes “holy” to each other by way of “holy matrimony.” This means no other person in the whole world is supposed to enjoy this level of commitment and endearment from you. Your relationship is like no other. Your share physical intimacy with only her, only him. You establish a home with this person. You bear your children with this person. Your heart, your possessions, your life itself is to be wrapped up in the uncommon bond you share with this one in individual.

Is that the way it is in your marriage? Would your mate say you honor and respect them? Do you consider them set apart and highly valued? Holy?

Perhaps you don’t feel this way and maybe for good reason. Perhaps you wish some outsider could see the level of disrespect you get from your wife or husband – someone who would make your mate feel embarrassed to be exposed for who they really are behind closed doors.

But that’s not the issue with love. Love honors even when it’s rejected. Love treats its beloved as special and sacred even when an ungrateful attitude is all you get in return.

It’s marvelous, of course, when a husband and wife are joined in this purpose, when they’re following the biblical command to be “devoted to one another” in love, when they’re giving “preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Hebrews 13:4 NIV).

But when your attempts at honor go unreciprocated, you are to give honor just the same. That’s what love dares to do – to say, “Of all the relationships I have, I will value ours the most. Of all the things I’m willing to sacrifice, I will sacrifice the most for you. With all your failures, sins, mistakes, and faults – past and present – I will choose to love and honor you.” That’s how you create an atmosphere for love to be rekindled. That’s how you create an atmosphere for love to be rekindled. That’s how you lead your heart to truly love your mate again. And that’s the beauty of honor.

Today’s Dare

Choose a way to show honor and respect to your spouse that is above your normal routine. It may be holding the door for her. It might be putting his clothes away for him. It may be the way you listen and speak in your communication. Show your mate that he or she is highly esteemed in your eyes.

I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant. (Jeremiah 30:19)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Love Dare Day 14

Love Dare - Day 14

Love Takes Delight

Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life. – Ecclesiastes 9:9 HCSB

One of the most important things you should learn on your Love Dare journey is that you should not just follow your heart. You should lead it. You don’t let your feelings and emotions do the driving. You put them in the back seat and tell them where you’re going.

In your marriage relationship, you won’t always feel like loving. It is unrealistic for your heart to constantly thrill as the thought of spending every moment with your spouse. Nobody can maintain a burning desire for togetherness just on feelings alone. But it’s also difficult to love someone only out of obligation.

A newlywed takes delight in the one they now call their spouse. Their love is fresh and young, and the hopes for a romantic future linger in their hearts. However, there is something just as powerful as that fresh, new love. It comes from the decision to delight in your spouse and to love him or her no matter how long you’ve been married. In other words, love that chooses to love is just as powerful as love that feels like loving. In many ways, it’s a truer love because it has its eyes wide open.

Left to ourselves, we’ll always lean toward being disapproving of one another. She’ll get on your nerves. He’ll aggravate you. But our days are too short to waste in bickering over pretty things. Life is too fleeting for that.

Instead, it’s time to lead your heart to once again delight in your mate. Enjoy your spouse. Take her hand and seek her companionship. Desire his conversation. Remember why you fell in love with her personality. Accept this person – quirks and all – and welcome him or her back into your heart.

Again, you get to choose what you treasure. It’s not like you’re born with certain pre-sets and preferences you’re destined to operate from. If you’re irritable, it’s because you choose to be. If you can’t function without a clean house, it’s because you’ve decided no other way will do. If you pick at your mate more than you praise them, it’s because you’ve allowed your heart to be selfish. You’ve led yourself into criticism.

So now it’s time to lead your heart back out. It’s time to learn to delight in your spouse again, then to watch your heart actually start enjoying who they are.

It may surprise you to know that the Bible contains many romantic love stories, none more blatant and provocative than all eight chapters from the Song of Solomon. Listen to the way these two lovers take pleasure in one another in this poetic book …

The woman: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:3-4).

The man: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along! O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret place of the steep pathway, let me see your form, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your form is lovely” (Song of Solomon 2:13-14).

Too sappy? Too mushy? Not for those who lead their heart to delight in their beloved – even when the new wears off, even when she’s wearing rollers in her hair, even when his hair is falling out. It’s time to remember why you once fell in love. To laugh again. To flirt again. To dream again. Delightfully.

Today’s dare may be directing you to a real and radical change of heart. For some, the move toward delight may be only a small step away. For others, it may require a giant leap from ongoing disgust.

But if you’ve been delighted before – which you were when you married – you can be delighted again. Even if it’s been a long time. Even if a whole lot has happened to change your perceptions.

The responsibility is yours to relearn what you love about this one to whom you’ve promised yourself forever.

Today’s Dare

Purposefully neglect an activity you would normally do so you can spend quality time with your spouse. Do something he or she would love to do or a project they’d really like to work on. Just to be together.

Give me your heart … and let your eyes delight in my ways. (Proverbs 23:26)