Monday, September 29, 2008

Keeping It Hot

Today was a busy day! We are having revival services at our church this week, so there are extra things to do, and a shorter day to do them in. I think I poured myself at least five cups of coffee (that's a lot!), but I only finished one. The rest cooled off before I could get halfway through. They were all really hot when I poured them (just the way I like it), but before long, I would get busy doing something, and when I'd come back to my coffee, it hadn't stayed hot.

In my last post, there was a "temperature test". I don't know about you, but on most of the questions, although I may want them to be a 10 or know they should be a 10, I can't honestly say they are currently a 10 in my life. I wouldn't say they're a 1 either. These things are important to me, but on many things I scored somewhere in the middle.

Now, I want to say to myself, "That's not so bad. It's not that you don't care about those things, and nobody's perfect. You're doing pretty good." There is always room for improvement in our lives, but the scary thing is that we're often content to stay right there.....somewhere in the middle, in our comfort zone. Spiritually, that is lukewarmness - not cold, but not really hot either.

God said in Revelation 3 to the church at Laodicea, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."

We need to be spiritually "hot". Some other words that may describe being hot or having heat are fervor, ardor, passion, zeal, fiery, or boiling. This isn't just a little heat that God desires for us. He wants us to be blazing for Him.

We have taken our spiritual "temperature", now let's look at some symptoms of being spiritually "hot."

1. I will be fervent or boiling.

Apollos is a good example of someone who was fervent for God. Acts 18:25 says that he was "fervent in the spirit". The word fervent means boiling. When we are "hot" spiritually, it will bubble up and boil over in our lives.

2. I will be fiery or blazing.

A fire consumes what it burns. If I am on fire for God, I will allow myself, my desires, my will to be consumed by God.

A fire is conspicuous. If you are on fire for God, you won't have announce it to people. It will be evident in your life.

3. I will be fearless or bold.

Spiritual heat makes us bold to speak for God. Jeremiah tried to refrain from speaking the Word of God, but it was "as a burning fire" (Jer. 20:9). When we are fervent for God, we will speak the Word without fear.

4. I will be faithful and believing.

A "hot" Christian will have great faith.

Back to my earlier illustration, my coffee began to lose heat the minute I took it away from the coffeepot, and the warmer under it. It had gotten away from its heat source. As Christians, Christ and His Word are our "heat source". If we want to be "hot" and stay that way, we must stay continually close to Him.

Tomorrow's topic: Brrrrr......that's cold!

The Temperature Test

Do you like your coffee steaming hot, or do you prefer it iced? How about lukewarm? I like my coffee HOT! I do like iced coffee, but it is not really my favorite. Whatever your preference, my guess is that you prefer one extreme or the other, but you don't want it lukewarm. Maybe that's why you never see coffee shops advertising, "Special of the Day...Tepid Coffee".

God used this very truth to speak to a church about their spiritual condition. That is what I would like for us to consider this week. Instead of dealing with a different aspect of this each day, I would like to think about this topic all week, and in our hearts and minds, ask the Lord to help us apply it to our marriages, our families, our ministries and our music. The truth is, my spiritual temperature will affect all of these other areas. So, rather than concentrate on those individual areas, I should deal with my spiritual condition first.

Today, I would like for us to take a little test. There are 15 questions here. I'm sure there could be a multitude more, but these cover the basics. You may want to grab a piece of paper to write down your answers. On a scale of 1-10, rate yourself in each of the following areas (1 being "I don't really care", and 10 being "It's extremely important to me".) These results are for you to know, and no one else, so be honest with yourself.

Where would I rate myself on.....

1. Daily time spent reading God's Word?
2. Daily time spent talking to God in prayer?
3. Meditating on, studying, and memorizing God's Word?
4. Faithfulness to God's house?
5. Faithful service in the ministries of my local church?
6. Being a faithful witness for the Lord?
7. Faithfulness to tithing and giving to my local church?
8. Having a pure life and testimony?
9. Having standards of personal holiness in every area of my life?
10. Being right with others (kind, tenderhearted, forgiving)?
11. Being filled with the Holy Spirit?
12. Allowing God's Word to be the final authority in my life?
13. Striving to be the wife God designed me to be (if married)?
14. Striving to be a godly mother (if you have children)?
15. Honoring the Lord in and through my home?

Total Score (Out of possible may need a calculator!)

Check back tomorrow to see how you did!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Poetic Scents

I finally got my cup of pumpkin spice coffee! I enjoyed every drop of it. Something about the smell and flavor just speaks fall with each sip.

I love the changing of the seasons. One of the things I enjoy most about Pennsylvania is that there are four distinct seasons. I like each one, but there is no doubt that fall is my favorite. Fall inspires me, motivates me, energizes me, and yet relaxes me. This week I have been in a flurry of fall decorating, baking, and sewing. Autumn puts me in the mood to be creative, to fill my house with beautiful colors, aromas, and flavors.

Today is my "miscellaneous" day, so I'm just rambling a bit. Instead of a devotional-type thought for the conclusion of the week, I want to share a poem just for fun. It sums up my feelings about each of the seasons God gives us. Thanks for dropping by this week. I hope you'll be back soon!

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Elbows rest upon my kneecaps,
Cupped hands underneath my chin,
Breathing steam upon the window,
Watching snowflakes dance and spin.

Snuggled up in something fuzzy,
Sipping chocolate warm and sweet,
Curled up like a caterpillar
In my cozy window seat.

Warmer panes against my shoulder,
Spring's sweet scent is in the air,
Bursting buds and baby bunnies
I am seeing everywhere.

Making plans to clean and garden
As I hear the steady beat,
Dreaming dreams and counting raindrops
In my cozy window seat.

Summer days are hot and hazy,
Evenings filled with summer's glow,
Weddings, picnics and vacations
Keep me running to and fro.

But when twilight falls around me,
Seeking refuge from the heat,
I slip in and watch the fireflies
From my cozy window seat.

Fingertips touch glass now chilly,
Glorious days and brisk, cool eves,
Watching as the autumn sunsets
Match the colors of the trees.

Looking for a place to run to
When I need a safe retreat,
Finding all I rest contented
In my cozy window seat.

Copyright 2003 Niki Lott

"Note"-able Scents

I think it is fascinating that coffee blends are often described as having "notes" or "tones". These descriptive terms are used to try to help us understand the aromas and flavors of the coffee blends we choose. I went on a coffee website this morning ( to see what some of their descriptions were. Here are just a few....."high, lemongrass notes", "subtle floral aroma", "sweet, spicy, and berry notes", "smoky, berry notes".

As a coffee drinker, I tend to prefer medium or dark roasts. I especially enjoy those that are described as smoky, nutty, or spicy tones. I don't usually like the ones that are considered to have fruity or citrusy notes.

Music is made up of notes and tones, but they are more than just sounds on a musical scale. Music can and does express attitudes and feelings. Last week, we discussed a little about the attitudes of the music we listen to, and the attitudes it produces in us.

This week, I would like to think about the aroma and attitude of our music as musicians. If you sing or play an instrument, what kind of attitude do you have about your music? What kind of "aroma" does your music project? Is it heartfelt or is it cold and emotionless? Is it timid or confident? Is it Christ-centered or audience-centered, or worse yet, self-centered? Is it designed to bless or just to impress?

I will confess, as a pianist and a singer, I have struggled with many of these issues. I want to play and sing with confidence, and yet not be arrogant. I want to sing with emotion, but not be an actor or performer. I used to worry about my music being perceived as too "showy" or flamboyant, so I would play and sing with little emotion or feeling. That just made my music appear timid, weak, or lifeless.

I. A Note of Encouragement

There are several Scriptures that have helped me learn how to have the right "aroma" in my music. In Colossians 3:16, the Bible states, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." If the Word of Christ is dwelling in me, if I have "grace in my heart" and I am singing to the Lord, my music will admonish and encourage others.

II. A Note of Excellence

Colossians 3:23 says, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;". We need to sing or play "heartily". Put your heart into it! Don't do it for people; do it for the Lord. When I worry too much about what people think, instead of what the Lord thinks, my music will reflect that. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might...." Give your best to the Lord!

If I am to give my best, I must be willing to work to develop my skills. Again, this is not to impress others, but so that we may offer our best to Christ. Psalm 33:3 says, "Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise." If I have not practiced a song much, and am not confident that I can play (or sing) skilfully, I tend to play timidly. Most of us won't play with strength, and "a loud noise", if we have not worked to be skilful.

III. A Note of Expression

One of the hardest things for me was singing with feeling. Part of this is because I get so nervous. The other part is because I worried too much about what people thought. (The fear of man bringeth a snare..." Pro. 29:25.) Music is a very expressive thing. We shouldn't inject emotion just to impress others, but if we are singing with our hearts, then we must learn to express the feelings of what we are singing about. If I am singing about the joy of the Lord, and sing with a blank expression, and an unemotional voice, then I am sending a mixed message. The Psalms are filled with the emotions of David. "My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed."(Ps. 71:23). He speaks over and over about singing praise to the Lord, singing with joy to the Lord. Many of the Psalms begin with David describing feelings of discouragement and despair, but end with His assurance that the Lord is with him and will meet all of his needs. When we sing (or play) songs of faith, we should do so with assurance. When we sing of the love of God, we should show the love of the Lord in our hearts.

IV. A Note of Earnestness

The most important part of this is to allow the Holy Spirit to work in you. Keep your focus on pleasing the Lord, not people. Ask the Lord to help you. Choose songs that are true to what you believe in, and that you can sing with honesty and sincerity in a heartfelt way. If I am going to sing "I Surrender All" and I am in rebellion to the Lord, then I cannot sing honestly to the Lord. The solution here would not be to choose a different song, but to get our hearts in tune with the Lord.

So what are the "note"-able scents in your music? Do people perceive the attitude and overtones of your music to be sincere, sweet, and Spirit-filled? If not, let's ask the Lord to change our hearts, and give us an aroma that would be pleasing and honoring to Him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Giving Makes "Scents"

I have a sweet friend who brings me Dunkin Donuts coffee on a regular basis. We both love it, and she often brings me a big cup when she comes to church. It is such a thoughtful and enjoyable gift! I certainly don't expect it, but it means a lot when someone gives you something out of the kindness of their heart.

My husband is also a considerate and wonderful person. He recently brought me a beautiful bouquet of roses! I love it when he surprises with something like that. Think how I might feel, though, if I found out he only did because he felt it was duty, or that he really didn't want to buy me roses at all. Thankfully, that isn't the case. A gift can lose it's value if it is not given sincerely or freely.

I. The Ministry Is Giving

Today, we want to think about the aroma of our ministry. Ministry is giving to the Lord. Often, when we think of giving to God, we only think about money; but God desires that we give of our substance, and more importantly, of our selves. God describes the right kind of offerings and gifts in the Bible as a "sweetsmelling savour." Ephesians 5:2 tells us, "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour." Christ is our example, and He admonishes us to remember, "...freely ye have received, freely give." (Mt. 10:8).

In Philippians 4:18, Paul spoke of the gift he had received from the church, "But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God." As this church was obedient to Christ, and they gave to Paul, they encouraged him and met his needs.

What kind of aroma does my ministry have? As I give of myself to the Lord, and to those around me, is it "sweet smelling"?

II. The Measure of Our Giving

God does not look at the amount of our gifts compared to what others give. He looks at the amount of our gifts compared to what we could give. Think of the story of the widow with two mites. Jesus called the attention of the disciples to those who were giving to the treasury at the Temple. He said that "many that were rich cast in much." However, His praise was for "a certain poor widow" who threw in two mites. He told His disciples, "....this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."

Many times, I think we hesitate to give our talents and our time to God, as well as our treasures, because we think it isn't enough. We get caught up in comparing ourselves with those around us instead of just doing our best for God. God says this is not wise. (II Cor. 10:12). God will hold us accountable for giving out of what He has given us.

He also tells us in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." We were talking in Phebe Fellowship last week about giving. I was telling the ladies that I always think of brown sugar when I think of this verse! When you measure brown sugar, you pack it in, and add a little more, and pack it down some more. That's what I think of when I think of "...good measure, pressed down.....". The end of this verse is very important though, because God tells us that He will measure to us the way that we measure to others. If I give to God and others with a "teaspoon", that's how God will give to me. If I give with a "cup", God will fill it up and give it back. What if I give with a bushel basket?

God doesn't measure the way that we do. If we want to see the blessings of God on our homes, our families, and our ministries, we need to give everything we have to Him. Hasn't He given everything to us?

III. The Motives of Our Giving

God not only measures differently than we do, He sees the motives behind our giving. God is less concerned with the amount of our gift than He is with the attitude in which we give it. Consider II Corinthians 9:7, where God says, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." Just as I would not want my husband to give me a gift because he felt he "had to", so God does want us to give to Him in that way. Am I doing my service for the Lord "grudgingly", dragging my feet, wishing I could do something else? Or, am I giving "of necessity", because it's my "duty" to do? God isn't pleased with either one. God loves cheerful givers. He wants us to give to Him because we love Him and desire to please Him.

When we give to the Lord cheerfully, we can be assured that it is a sweet smelling sacrifice to Him. How precious it is to receive a gift that is given out of love. How wonderful that God desires our gifts! Let's determine to "serve the Lord with gladness" and give our all to Him.

These are the lyrics to a song I wrote last year (the music is not yet in print....sorry!). I pray that I can do what this song says.

I Must Give All

Christ left His throne in glory, and dwelt with sinful men,
His perfect blood was offered in payment for my sin.
He gave salvation freely; not one part did I earn,
What can I give Him in return?

I must give all! I must give all!
How can I dare to bring Him less when at His feet I fall?
He paid the highest price to be my sacrifice,
A portion of myself will not suffice,
I must give all!

He asks that I would love Him with all my heart and soul,
My mind, and strength, and body placed in His full control,
And when I look into His face, and at His nail-scarred hands,
How can I question His demands?

I must give all! I must give all!
How can I dare to bring Him less when at His feet I fall?
He paid the highest price to be my sacrifice,
A portion of myself will not suffice,
I must give all!

Copyright 2007 Niki Lott

Tomorrow's Topic: "Note"-able Scents

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Scents" and Sensibility

Do you like flavored coffee? I do...sometimes. Right about now, a cup of pumpkin spice coffee sounds yummy! It smells and tastes like fall.

Last year, I was visiting my sister and decided to buy some flavored coffee. She's not really a coffee drinker, but she likes cappuccino, so we thought we'd get a good flavored coffee and "doctor it up". The flavor we bought (some kind of chocolate) sounded so good, but when we started brewing it, it smelled a little strange. But, we figured that it had to be good. It was chocolate, right? We poured ourselves two big mugs, and took our first sip. It was terrible!!! However, I had paid good money for the coffee, so neither of us wanted to admit that it wasn't any good. After about three drinks, I couldn't stand it any more. "Do you think this tastes funny?" I asked. I could almost see her relief as she said yes.

We didn't want to give up on it just yet, though (it was chocolate, remember?). We thought maybe we had just made it too strong. So we poured out that pot and made another one. It was just as terrible as the first!

The moral of this silly, but true, story is that the scent was warning us that our other senses may not enjoy this experience very much, but we didn't have the sensibility to listen. Aroma and smell can tell us that something very enjoyable is in store, or it can warn us to stay away (think skunk!).

I. Scents

Think about your home. What scents surround you? What scents greet visitors when they walk in the door? What aromas do people associate with you and your home? Now, I'm not talking about air fresheners or candles here, although I like both. My mom always says that she wants people to associate certain aromas with her home.....the scent of freshly baked bread, chocolate chip cookies, and clean laundry are just a few of the scents that I associate with my mom's house. It's fine to have a banana nut bread candle burning (one of my friends just gave me one....mmmmm!), but when was the last time it was actually banana nut bread baking that smelled so wonderful? 0ne of my husband's favorite scents in our home is Pine-Sol because it means I've been cleaning!

Scent is important because it is helps us identify things. When we smell smoke, we think fire! When you smell something good in the oven, you get hungry. Moms, when you smell a dirty diaper, you know a change is needed.

As the keepers of our homes, we should recognize that scent is important. Does your home smell inviting, clean, satisfying? Or does it need a little maintenance in the scent department? When your kids are grown, what scents will remind them of home?

II. Senses

Scent is only one of our five senses. One of the things that we can think about as creative homemakers is appealing to all five senses in our homes. A sweet-smelling candle won't cover up a home that looks dirty, floors that feel sticky, noises that are annoying, and food that isn't tasty.
It is a big task to try to get all of these things together at the same time! As I write this, my desk is cluttered and needs a good straightening! However, we should think about this, and make the effort to keep our homes at their best.

III. Sensibility

We mustn't conclude without using our sensibility to think about the spiritual side of this. We've talked all week about attitude being our spiritual aroma. What is the attitude or atmosphere of your home? The most beautifully decorated, sweetest smelling home is worthless if it is filled with attitudes of bitterness , greed, spite, or selfishness. Proverbs 15:17 says, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."

Our homes should be filled with love, joy, peace, kindness, laughter, and patience. If there is a spirit of tension or contention, then we need to work on the spiritual aroma of our home.

Let me ask you, when people come to your home, do they feel comfortable, welcome, at peace, relaxed? Do people know that your home is a Christian home when they walk in the door?

Set the mood in your home. Use all of your abilities and sensibilities. This doesn't have to require large budget. Just do your best to keep your home neat (it doesn't have to be museum quality), sweet-smelling, and sweet-spirited. Pop something good in the oven, or put on a fresh pot of coffee. Play beautiful music. Make your home a place of comfort and welcome for your family and for others who may enter.

Tomorrow's Topic: Giving Makes "Scents"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Take Time to Smell the.....Coffee

Do you ever stop before you take your first sip of coffee in the morning, and just inhale the aroma? Mmmmm. Life is so busy, and usually I just grab my cup and go. I drink my coffee while I'm busy at my desk or doing my housework. I enjoy it, and I know that rich smell is there, but somehow, it is so much better if I take a moment to savor it.

I. Take the Time

Today, I want us to stop and think about being a mom. It's a full-time job (but you didn't need me to tell you that!). Life is so hectic and busy, and many times we are just doing our tasks at a run. However, sometimes we need to pause, and take a few moments, and "smell the coffee".

When was the last time you took the time to take a deep breath and think about the joy and privilege of being a mother? Babies grow up so fast! Savor the moments with your little ones. Life's busyness can often consume us, and cause us to neglect the most important things in our lives. Take the time to hold and hug your children. Take the time to talk to your children. Take the time to pray for your children. Take the time to play with your children. Take the time to appreciate and thank God for your children.

II. Take the Test

If the "aroma" of motherhood doesn't seem all that sweet to you, maybe you need to take this little test. What is your attitude toward being a mom? Do you perceive your children as a blessing or a bother? Do you see them as a delight or a distraction? Do you view your role as a mother as a sacred trust or a stressful task? The truth is that God says our children are a blessing, a gift from Him. He has entrusted them to our care and keeping, and it is a huge responsibility to seek to raise them up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord".

There is no doubt that sometimes are children can bother us, distract us, and stress us out! But if that is our overall attitude toward motherhood, then we need to ask God to change our hearts.

If you're feeling a little overwhelmed with being a mom (and who doesn't at times?), then I would encourage you to take a mini time out. Think about the child or children God has blessed you with. Think about what your life would be like without them. Think about what a precious gift they are. Then, thank God for them. Take time to enjoy and appreciate the gift of motherhood.

Tomorrow's Topic: Scents & Sensibility

The Aroma of My Marriage

Happy Autumn! Fall is my favorite season of the year. I love everything about it....the cool air, the changing colors of the leaves, and all the smells of fall....leaves burning, apple cider, pumpkin bread, and so many more.

Isn't it interesting how smells can evoke emotion in us? When I think of the aromas I just mentioned, it makes me feel happy, warm, nostalgic. I mentioned earlier that one of the things I love about coffee is the aroma. It is one of my very early memories. My parents are both coffee drinkers, and there was almost always a pot on in our house. I love the smell, not only because it smells good, but because it reminds me of my home and family, of sweet companionship and good night kisses.

Our devotion this week began with thinking about our attitudes being like aromas. People may not be able to touch them or see them, but our attitudes identify us nonetheless. How can we apply this to our marriages?

I. The Perception of My Spouse

Think about it this way, how would my husband describe me as if he were describing my attitude as a "scent"? Would I be more like a rose or a skunk cabbage? Would I be more akin to a hot cup of coffee or a cold cup of vinegar?

Our attitudes determine the atmosphere of our homes and families. Ever heard the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"? As a wife, if I have a "stinking" attitude, that odor will pervade everything about my marriage, and eventually everything about my entire family.

There are many attitudes we could discuss, but there are a few that are clearly commanded in the Bible. One, is that I am to have an attitude of reverence toward my husband (Eph. 5:33; I Pet. 3:2). If I have an attitude of disrespect toward my husband, it will create great problems in my marriage. Another attitude that goes right along with this is submission (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18). A wise person once said, "Obedience is action; submission is attitude." In my own life I have found that I may be obedient, but still not have an attitude of submission. If I am not submissive, my attitude is not pleasing to the Lord.

One more attitude I would like to mention is an attitude of contention (which will lead to being contentious in action). The book of Proverbs speaks much of the contentious, brawling, angry woman. It has nothing good to say about her. One interesting passage in light of this topic is found in Proverbs 27:15-16. " A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself." Here we see that a contentious woman is both annoying, and cannot remain anonymous. If you try to hide her, it's like trying to hide the scent of a strong will tell on itself. When we have a contentious attitude, it will reveal itself, and it will never be perceived as something pleasant. Do you always have to have the last word? Do you need to "speak your piece" about everything? Proverbs 25:24 says, "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house." I think sometimes we drive our husbands to their "corner", and then wonder why they don't want to come back out!

So, what is your husband's perception of your attitude toward him, and toward your marriage? Do you think it is positive, something sweet and attractive, or negative, something disgusting and repulsive?

II. The Purpose of My Scent

Our attitudes reflect what is going on in our hearts. Just as a scent can whet our appetite, warm our hearts, and bring back memories, a good attitude can do the same. In our marriages, our attitudes can make our relationship with our spouse sweet, warm, and desirable. On the other hand, odors can do just the opposite.

When there are difficulties in a marriage, they can sometimes be hard to define. Often that is because they are the result of attitudes more than actions. An attitude of ungratefulness, of disrespect, of superiority, can often be the wedge that comes between a husband and wife.
You may say, "But you don't know what kind of attitude my husband has." That's true, but the only person whose aroma you can change is your own. If your attitude begins to reflect the attitude of Christ, it will influence those around you. Aromas are pervasive. If you start a pot of coffee, you will soon be able to smell it, not just in the kitchen, but throughout the house. If you change your attitude, you will soon see the effects of that throughout your marriage.

The purpose of our "scent" is just like everything else in life. It is first of all to be pleasing to Christ. Then, in my marriage, it should be pleasing to my husband.

III. Some Practical Suggestions

On a practical note, think about using aromas in your marriage. Do you know what your husband's favorite scents are? Do you know which ones he doesn't like? What is his favorite perfume? Does he like candles? Fruity, flowery, warm and spicy? If you don't know, find out! As I already mentioned, scents can evoke strong emotion. Find a "signature" scent that you only wear for your husband. Ask yourself, what aromas greet your husband when he walks in the door (more on this on Thursday)? In your bedroom, does it smell like dirty socks, or a relaxing spa?

The strange woman of Proverbs is a horrible person, but one of the "tricks" she used to entice a man was the power of scent. She perfumed her bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.(Pro. 7:17). Now, I would never recommend that we have the attitudes or actions of a strange woman, but if we want to guard our marriages against the likes of her, we might want to consider trying to keep our husband happy at home!

To conclude, all the scented candles in the world won't disguise a bad attitude. But if we work on the aroma of our marriages, first in our attitudes, then with some practical action, we may be surprised how much sweeter it will be.

Tuesday's Topic: Take Time to Smell the.......Coffee!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!

There is nothing like waking up to the aroma of coffee brewing. Many days I get to do that, because my husband usually gets up before me and turns on the coffee pot! Long before I liked the taste of coffee, I loved the smell of coffee.

One of my favorite movies is "Facing the Giants", and one of my favorite lines in the movie is where the coach tells his team, "Attitude is the aroma of your heart." (That may not be an exact quote!) How thought-provoking! If our attitude is the aroma of our heart, then I wonder, what kind of aroma do I have? Is it even an aroma, or more of an odor?

There are many interesting things about smell. One thing is that it often helps us to identify something before we can see it (think coffee in the morning!). It can whet our appetites (think coffee again), or ruin our appetites (think sour milk) without our ever tasting anything.

This week, I think we should "wake up and smell the coffee" of our hearts and lives. Let's examine our attitudes, and find out what they "smell" like.

This morning, I want us to think about the attitude of our hearts. What is my attitude toward God? How does God perceive my attitude? Is it a "sweet smelling savor" to the Lord, or more of an obnoxious odor? Let's my aroma:

Grateful or Griping?
Faith Full or Fearful?
Prayerful or Pouty?
Content or Covetous?
Agreeable or Argumentative?
Compassionate or Calloused?
Giving or Greedy?
Submitted or Stubborn?
Sweet or Sour?

This list could go on and on. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if your aroma needs sweetening. The Word of God is a "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart". Let's determine to have an aroma that is pleasing to God.

Monday's Topic: The Aroma of My Marriage

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pep or Power?

I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of decaf coffee. I don't like the taste, but I also don't like the lack of caffeine. Granted, I probably don't need as much caffeine as I consume, but I do like the boost of energy it gives me, especially in the morning.

However, the truth is, one cannot live on caffeine alone. While it will give you a temporary "pep in your step", it fades after awhile. There is really no nutritional value in coffee (it really hurts me to say that!). Thankfully, there aren't any calories either (unless you load it with cream and sugar).

We need nutrition if we want more than just pep. It's okay to start the morning with a cup of coffee, but you'll feel much better throughout the day if you follow that coffee with a healthy breakfast (not the bagel or donut that tastes so good with that mug of hot stuff). Good, solid food provides our bodies with the nutrients we need to function. If we are going to have the strength for the day, we need to make sure that we're feeding our bodies the proper things. However, many times, instead of eating something nutritious when we begin to feel weak or tired, we just go back to the coffeepot for another temporary jolt of energy.

Another admission I don't like to make is that coffee can be addictive (ouch!). It doesn't have to be, but it can be. If we are dependent on it, instead of something more healthy, then we need to be careful and maybe think about how wise (or unwise) this is.

I would like to apply these thoughts to the music we ingest. Music is one of my favorite things in the world. I love to listen to it, and I love to participate in it. I love to sing and play the piano, but I have learned that music is an amazing force. As a Christian, I need to examine the music I am listening to. First and foremost, I must ask myself if it is pleasing to Christ in every aspect. I think, with this in my mind, we could ask ourselves if we are listening to the music we listen to because we desire pep or power?

Many people, even in Christian circles, are feeding their minds and hearts with music that may give them a temporary "boost" of energy or emotion, but has no spiritual nutritional value. In fact, it may even be detrimental to their walk with the Lord. But instead of choosing to feed on something more healthy and sustaining, they just "drink more" to get that next jolt.

God desires that we speak to ourselves "in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord." (Eph. 5:19). Godly music will sustain us spiritually throughout our days, and even through the night (Ps. 77:6; Job 35:10).

So let's examine our music. Is it just for pep or will it give us spiritual power?

I. Examine Its Appeal

Does the music you're listening to primarily appeal to your flesh or to your spirit? Does it make you want to dance or does it make you feel more devoted to God? Does it appeal solely to you on an emotional level, or does it encourage you to take spiritual action? Does it appeal to you solely on a physical level, because you like the way it sounds, or does it feed your spirit? Can you sing this music "in your hearts to the Lord?" If my music is appealing to the sensual rather than the spiritual, I need to change my heart, and then change my music.

II. Examine Its Associations

What kind of people (in general) listen to the music you enjoy? Is it the kind of music you are comfortable talking about at church? What about to your pastor? What about to someone who you consider to be a spiritual role model? Most importantly, what about Christ? Would you change your radio station, your ipod playlist, or your CD if Jesus got in your car, or put on your headphones?

What kind of people sing the music you're listening to? Are they associated with the world or with the Lord? What kind of people are associated with the genre of music you enjoy? Are they godly people? Let me say here that much of so-called Christian music is far more worldly in its associations than it is with Christ. If it sounds like the world, and looks like the world, it is the world.

III. Examine Its Attitude

All music has an "attitude" and will compel an attitude in the listener, whether the listener is conscious of that or not. Some music is very calming, while other music is energizing. Some music is very depressing, while other music may be uplifting. Music can have attitudes and overtones of rebellion, lust, anger, depression, or it can have attitudes of love, joy, peace, and worship. It cannot have both at the same time. You cannot have opposing attitudes in the same song. That is what much of contemporary Christian music pretends to do. They claim to have spiritual lyrics with carnal music. The messages are conflicting and confusing. "God is not the author of confusion...." (I Cor. 14:33). If the words of the music are telling me to be surrendered to God, and the music is telling me to serve my flesh, there is a battle and conflict in every beat of that song. There is nothing spiritual about that, no matter what the label may say.

What attitudes does your music produce in you? Does it make you desire to do more to Christ? Does it make you honor Him? Does it draw your mind and your heart to reverence His holiness? Does it challenge you to live a godly life? Does it encourage you to go out and serve Him with all your heart?

IV. Examine Its Addiction

I mentioned that coffee can be addictive. Music is one of the most addictive things I know of. If you have always listened to a certain type of music, particularly worldly music, the prospect of not listening to it anymore can make you feel absolutely hostile. I've heard people say, "I just can't live without my music." Isn't it amazing that it can have that kind of power over us?

Let me ask you, what kind of music are you "into"? Could you stop listening to it tomorrow? Have you given your music to the Lord? I think that an interesting verse regarding this aspect is found in I Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." This does not mean that any action or activity is permissible for me as a Christian. That is clear from the previous verses. I do believe that it means that even those things that are "lawful for me", that are not clearly forbidden, are not to control me. We are to be under the power of the Spirit of Christ.

V. Examine Its Agenda

All music, good or bad, has an agenda. It has a message that it seeks to convey, and a purpose it seeks to fulfill. Even without words, music conveys messages. I already addressed that a little bit when discussing the attitude of music. If you listened to your music without the words, would someone automatically assume that it was Christian or secular?

I write music, and one of the things that I seek to do is to get my point across in a song. I start with a thought that I wish to convey. I then work to find the right words to articulate that thought in a clear way. I then seek to write music that matches the overall message of the words. Is it a meditative, contemplative song? Then I would not seek to match it with a fast tempo, bright song. Is it a song of glad testimony for what God has performed in my life? Then the brighter music would suit it better. Some songs are more subtle in their message, while others are very forthright. But never forget, every song has an agenda.

Again, if the message, or agenda, of the words does not match the message of the music then its overall message is one of confusion and rebellion. The Bible says that the same fountain should not produce sweet water and bitter (Jas. 3:10-12). This is also true of our music. It should not be sending mixed messages.

What "agenda" does your music promote? Is it a godly, spiritual one, or a worldly, carnal one?
Let me conclude by saying that there is nothing wrong with music that is lively, "peppy", or stirring. The Bible says that we are to make a joyful noise. I think of songs like "Saved,! Saved!", "Power in the Blood", and "Jesus Is Coming Again". These are stirring, exciting songs. However, they are also songs with spiritual meat, and without a secular, driving beat.

The "pep" factor should also not be the sole qualification we seek in our music. Some people refuse to listen to a slower song. They don't like "church music" because it is too slow, or too "old-fashioned". Just as we need a balanced physical diet, we need a balanced musical diet. We need songs that encourage us, motivate us, and bring us joy. We also need songs that inspire us to be prayerful, repentant, and in awe of the majesty of God. We do not need spiritual "junk food", music that sounds spiritual, but is really all sugar, and no substance. It is spiritual "cotton candy". We also do not need the poison of the world's music.

All music has power. The question should be, is it empowering my old nature or my new nature? Does my music appeal to me simply at a physical level, or does it appeal to my spirit? Is it giving me temporary "pep" or long-term "power"? How balanced is your musical diet?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Are You Diluted?

My post yesterday never happened because my baby was sick. It appears that she has a virus, but she has been rather miserable, and just wants to be held. She has slept very little the last two nights. Consequently, my morning cofffee has felt more like a need than a want! Because I missed yesterday, today's post will be about ministry, and tomorrow's will be about music.

This week, we've been talking about coffee, and our lives. Weakness can come from a variety of reasons. One is not having sufficient strength to start with. If I brew my coffee without enough coffee grounds, it is going to be weak. However, another source of weakness is dilution. When something gets watered-down, it loses flavor and potency. One of my least favorite things is a watery drink, whether it's coffee, tea, Pepsi, or Kool-Aid, there is just nothing good about it when it gets diluted.

Today, I'd like to take a little about our ministries. What would you consider your ministry to be? Ministry is more than just what the preacher (or preacher's wife) does. Ministry is something that every Christian should have some part in. Ministry is service to Christ. While we may serve in different aspects or different roles, every member of the body of Christ has an important function, and needs to be performing it.

Many times I think we confuse activity with ministry. Mary and Martha are the classic examples of this. Martha was busy and was serving, but in Christ's eyes, she had lost focus of what real ministry was all about. If we are not careful, we can do the same thing. We can be "cumbered about much serving", and yet be missing the point of ministry altogether. Our ministry, instead of being vibrant and powerful, can become diluted and weak. Just as a weak cup of coffee is barely palatable, so a weak ministry is ineffective and unappealing to the very ones we are seeking to minister to.

So what causes our ministries to become diluted? Our ministry will be diluted if....

I. We Forsake the Person

We must never forget that ministry is supposed to be all about Christ. Most of the time, we serve Christ through serving others, but our true motive is serving Him. If we get our eyes off of Him, and on those around us, we will become discouraged and often weak. Mary's focus was on the person of Christ (Lk. 10:42), and Jesus said that she had "chosen that good part...". If we do not spend time with the Lord in a personal relationship, if we fail to read His Word, and walk with Him, all of our activity is in vain. Jesus told Martha, " thing is needful." We must never lose sight of why we do what we do. It is about a Person, not people. It is about a relationship and fellowship with Him, not just the amount of busyness we can involve ourselves in.

II. We Forget Our Purpose

As we walk with Christ, He leads us by His own example to our purpose, which is to please the Father. Jesus gave His first statement about His ministry in the Temple at the age of twelve when He said, "....I must be about my Father's business." As His ministry continued, He did many wonderful things. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, and more. Yet, He said in John 5:30, "...I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." He said in John 8, "I do always those things that please Him." Even in the Garden, before He was taken to be crucified, He prayed, "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." While the ministry of Christ achieved everything He was sent to do, He did it all by fulfilling the will of His Father.

Christ is our great example. If we will simply focus our purpose on pleasing our Heavenly Father, He will see that we fulfill all that He desires us to do. When we get sidetracked into pursuing our own ideas and purposes, our own ambition and desires, even in the name of ministry, we become diluted and lose the power God desires us to have. We must learn to pray, as Christ did, "Not my will, but thine, be done."

III. We Are Not Filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit

When we seek to do the work of God in our own power and strength, it is doomed to weakness and failure. While I may appear to accomplish great tasks for a period of time, spiritual ministry cannot succeed through the power of my flesh. This is true whether our ministry is in our homes, our churches, or our communities. I cannot be the wife, mother, teacher, musician, or anything else that God desires me to be without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Being filled with the Spirit is not a mysterious or "charismatic" thing. I think it can be summed up in one simple verse, "He must increase, but I must decrease." The less full I am of myself, the more full I can be of the Holy Spirit. As I die to self, and surrender to His ways and His will, and am obedient to His Word, I will be filled with His Spirit.

A Spirit-filled ministry will be strong and powerful. A self-filled ministry grows continually more diluted and weak.

IV. We Fail To Pray

The first three things we looked at are the keys to a strong ministry. They are the crux of the matter and are vitally important. These last few things can cause us to be distracted or to lose sight of the person of Christ, the purpose of the Father, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we fail to pray, we are not making use of one of the greatest ministry tools God has provided us with. Prayer is our open access to the throne room of God. It is there we meet with Him, fellowship with Him, praise Him, and seek for His guidance and wisdom. When we neglect to pray, we are essentially saying that we do not need God. How sad!

Have you ever tried to make a pot of coffee and forgotten to plug it in? You added the water, put in the filter and carefully measured out your coffee grounds. Then, you turned on the pot and walked away. But when you came back in 15 or 20 minutes, there was no coffee. What happened? You neglected to "plug in" to your power source.

Many of us are like that in our Christian lives and ministries. God has given us everything we need to be effective for Him, and yet we never really get "plugged in" because we try to do it in our power. We must not neglect to seek the Lord's guidance, help and provision in our lives every day.

V. We Feel Things Too Personally

I believe this is an easy trap to fall into, especially for women. When we minister for the Lord, and we minister to people, not everyone is going to appreciate our efforts. As a pastor's wife and a pastor's daughter, I have been involved in some aspect of "the ministry" for almost 30 years. When we, or the ones we love, receive criticism, blame, false accusations, and more, it is often very hurtful. However, we must be careful not too allow this to taint our view of ministry. Again, we must examine our own hearts and motives. Why are we doing what we're doing? Is it for the appreciation or applause of others, or because we love and desire to please Christ?

The great prophet Samuel ran into this very difficulty. After years of sacrifice and service to the children of Israel, they rejected him and wanted a king. Samuel was grieved and hurt by their sinful choice and their personal rejection. God reminded him that their true rejection was not of Samuel, but of the Lord.

If we are truly seeking to please God, then we must, as always, look to Jesus Christ as our example. "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:" That entire passage (I Pet. 2:19-25) is a great comfort and encouragement to me. When I'm feel a little blue, or a little "black and blue", I try to remember that Jesus never did anything wrong to anyone, yet He was "despised and rejected of men". I often fail and disappoint those I am seeking to help, but Christ never did. When I keep my focus on Him, I realize that He has never failed me, and He will never forsake me.

VI. Lose Focus of our Priorities

I believe this is also a special area of danger for women. We know that our first priority should be our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but after that, it can get a little confusing when it comes to ministry. We are often bombarded with opportunities for service and each seems important. It is hard to know when to say no, and is often hard to do so even when we know we should.

My mom has helped me with this so much. We must learn to examine and prioritize our lives by what is important in God's Book, not ours, or anyone else's.

I am a wife, and now a mother. It is my responsibility to care for my home and family, and to do it with all my might (Eccl. 9:10). I believe that, after my walk with the Lord, my priority list goes like this:

1. My husband ~ meeting his needs, loving and caring for him (Eph. 5; Tit. 2)
2. My child/children ~ meeting their needs, loving them, training them (Eph. 5; Tit. 2; Deut 6)
3. My home ~ keeping my home, guiding the house (Tit. 2; I Tim. 5; Pro. 31)
4. Other service ~ extra ministries in my church and community, as I have time

Faithfulness to church is part of our faithful walk with the Lord, but there are many extra avenues of service through my church that I can be involved in. I need to examine these carefully, prayerfully, and with the counsel of my husband, choose wisely what to be involved in and what not to be.

Each person's level of availability is different. When I was single, my priorities were totally different than they are now. Before I had a baby, I had much more flexibility in my schedule, and there were activities that I could be involved in that I may not be able to do right now.

We must be careful not to lose focus of our God-given priorities. If I am busy serving at church, to the neglect of my family and home, I have lost focus, and my ministry will weaken. My home and family are my primary mission field, not my only one, but my primary one. If I am weak and ineffective there, how can I have a strong ministry elsewhere?

VII. We Faint Under Pressure

"If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. " (Pro. 24:10) We all face adversity, pressures, and stress. If you are seeking to minister to the Lord, you can be assured that you will face adversity, because "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:".

Someone once said that pressure does not test your character, it reveals it. That's not an exact quote, but I believe it is true. God often allows us to go through the "furnace of affliction" to refine and purify us. Job said, "when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

It is often difficult not to give up when the going gets tough. But if we do, we dilute the message that God is seeking to send through our lives. If we are seeking to tell the world that His grace is sufficient, that His power is unfailing, and that His promises are true, then we must allow God to prove these things in and through us.

So, let me ask you, how strong is your ministry? Has it become a little diluted? If so, take heart. His strength is made perfect in weakness. We must simply get our eyes back on Him.

Tomorrow's Topic: Pep or Power?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Realize Your Strength

Alright, fellow coffee lovers (and non-coffee lovers), what's your favorite kind of coffee? Do you like a breakfast blend, a medium roast, or a dark roast? Are you a flavored coffee drinker? Do you like yours black, with cream and sugar, cream only, sugar only, or some other variation?

I like just about any kind of coffee, but my favorite is a dark roast coffee with cream and a little Splenda. My dad often reminds me that a serious coffee drinker doesn't need cream and sweetener, but that's just the way I like it!

If you like some level of sweetener or creamer in your coffee, you may know that it's hard to have someone else "doctor" your coffee. Unless it's a barista (can you believe we know that word?) and you give very specific instructions, it's easiest to add your own cream and sugar to get that perfect taste and strength you're looking for....not too strong, not too weak, not too bitter, not too sweet!

I love being a "keeper at home." On top of it being my part of my calling from the Lord, it's a great creative outlet and opportunity to express myself. I am not only the "housekeeper", I am the interior decorator, the chef, the seamstress and much more. I'm sure you could add your own titles to your homemaking resume. Being a homemaker can be a rewarding job, but it's also a challenging one.

If we are going to find joy and fulfillment in our role as "keepers at home", one thing we need to do is to find and realize our strengths.

I. Realize the Strength of Your Place

By this I mean, do not diminish the importance of the role you have. God has commanded us to be "keepers at home" (Tit. 2:5), and instructed us to "guide the house" (I Tim. 5:14). This is no small responsibility. If we see our place and our purpose in our homes as something that is important and precious to God, we will realize that it is not only a duty, but a joy to seek to fulfill it.

II. Realize the Strength of Your Personality

Every personality has strengths and weaknesses. We need to learn to incorporate and make the most of our strengths in every area of our lives, including our homes. We then need to ask God to help us in our weak areas. The wonderful thing is that He tells us that His "strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9).

Let's look at some examples. Maybe you're an organizer and a perfectionist by nature. This can be a great strength. You may excel in the cleaning of your home, and the organization of your family. Your weakness may be that you tend to expect perfection, and feel frustrated and disappointed because it's always just out of reach. Make the most of your strength! Use your organization and detail skills to keep your home at it's best. Then ask the Lord to help you give your expectations to Him, and to enable you to relax enough to enjoy your family.

Another example may be the opposite of this. Maybe you're a very laid-back, relaxed personality. Your strength may be in the ability to be flexible and creative. You probably take the time to go outside and play with your kids, and not worry so much about the house being perfect. What a gift that is! On the other hand, you may need to ask the Lord to help you to not be so relaxed and fun-loving that you neglect the tasks of keeping your home "clean enough to be healthy".

Maybe you fall somewhere in between these two examples. The key here is to find your personal strengths, and make the most of the gifts God has given you. Then, seek God's help in your areas of weakness, and know that He is able and willing to give it.

III. Realize the Strength of Your "Palace"

Part of the joy of being a homemaker is learning to enjoy our home. If you're expecting to have your "dream house", you may live in a world of disappointment. It is easy to focus on the problems and shortcomings of our homes, instead of maximizing their potential.

My house is 80 years old. Now, I love old homes, but when we first looked at our house, it really needed some love! It has been a lot of fun to fix it up, and make it reflect our personalities and lifestyle. It has also been a lot of work! Be willing to invest in your home, not only financially, but with love and creativity.

If you're on a budget (and who's not?!), don't use that as an excuse to do nothing. Instead, use that as inspiration to get creative. Go to your library, and find books that reflect styles you like, and get ideas. Then, adapt them to your home and budget. Will it take some effort? Sure. But is it worth it? Absolutely!

View your home as your own personal "palace". Realize the strength of a welcoming home, not only to serve your family, but to serve the Lord. Use it as a place of hospitality. Your home is a reflection of you. So as you look around today, are you pleased with that reflection? More importantly, is the Lord pleased? If not, begin to make some changes. Find your strengths.

I'm going to add some before and after pictures of my home. Hope you enjoy!

Tomorrow's Topic: Are you diluted?

The "befores"

living room

living room looking into dining room

dining room



breakfast nook


our bedroom

The "afters"


living room

breakfast nook

our bedroom


breakfast nook

living room

dining room

Monday, September 15, 2008

Worth the Wait

I mentioned yesterday that my coffee pot is not the fastest thing in history. It takes several minutes to make a pot of coffee. However, especially early in the morning, when I finally get to take my first sip of steaming coffee, I know that it was worth waiting for.

In Sunday's post, I told you my life verse, Psalm 27:14. It says, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." I chose this verse while in college, and never imagined how God was going to teach me what it meant.

My husband, Brian, and I married in September of 1996, just a few months after graduating from college. My goals in life were always to be a wife and mother. I hoped for a large family, and was excited about the prospect of a houseful of children to raise for the Lord. Months slipped by, and no baby announcements came. Within a year, we realized that having children wasn't going to be as easy as we anticipated. Another year came and went. By now, I was really discouraged. As friends and family around us began to have children, well-meaning people began asking, "Hey, when are you guys going to have a baby?" That question became harder and harder to answer. Soon the doctor visits began....tests, questions, more tests, more questions, and few answers. After about four years, we finally did have a diagnosis, and it wasn't encouraging. For me, getting pregnant was looking highly improbable, if not impossible.

Now, I am condensing this story quite a bit. Throughout these years, my faith ebbed and flowed. I knew that God was able to give us children. It was just so confusing, wondering why He didn't. I fought feelings of frustration, anger, discouragement and even fear, just to name a few. Waiting on the Lord was not a fun process.

We tried several medications and treatments, and found it was a seemingly never-ending roller coaster of hope and disappointment. We considered adoption, and came to a point where we realized this may be the way that God would choose to increase our family. Both Brian and I are blessed to already have adoption in our family. I have three adopted siblings, and Brian's mother is adopted.

In 2004, we were contacted about adopting a baby girl. Through a number of circumstances, the birth mother changed her mind. While this was discouraging, through the process of seeking an attorney for the first possible adoption, we found out about another possibility, this time a boy. He was due in just a few short weeks. We met the birth mom, and she agreed to place her child with us. How exciting! We began making preparations, buying baby clothes and furniture, rearranging our house. The week before the baby was due, as we were finishing painting the nursery, we received a phone call that the birth mom had changed her mind. We were devastated. This situation had seemed so perfect, and I felt angry and even betrayed. Why had the Lord let us get so close? I still can't answer that question fully, but I am so thankful for the Lord's patience with me, and for the prayers and encouragement of my family and friends through our grieving.

Over the next months and years, my heart began to heal, but my hopes were still so low. I was afraid to try adopting again. I wasn't sure that I could handle another disappointment. We received many phone calls over the next two years. We would hear of a baby that was going to be placed for adoption. We always said that we were interested, but each time, it didn't materialize.

At the end of 2006, while we were back at my parent's house for Christmas, my dad said that we were going to watch a movie. That's really not something we do much when we all get together. We'd rather spend time singing or playing games, or just visiting. However, that night we did. He put in "Facing the Giants." That evening was so difficult, and yet so wonderful. I felt like everyone in the room was watching me and Brian, even though they weren't. The Lord used that story to help strengthen my faith, and give me hope that God could still give us children. I wish I could say that my faith was strong throughout this entire process, but many times it was very weak. I had always known that God could give us children. I had just come to the place where I questioned if He ever would. We bought the movie and watched it several more times. I began to pray with a stronger faith, and really felt in my heart that somehow God was going to give us a baby in 2007.

In August, we began to go through a very difficult time in our ministry. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding us. We were both very discouraged. My dad said, "I wouldn't be surprised if God gave you a baby right in the middle of all this." I kind of laughed, and thought that would really be something. Just a couple weeks later, one year ago this week, we received a phone call from a pastor friend. It started out much like many other calls we had received before, "Are you still interested in adopting? I know of someone...." But this time was different.

A few days later, we met a young woman who was carrying a little girl. She wanted a Christian family for her child. Six weeks later, our daughter was born. We were at the hospital that day, and I cannot begin to describe the overwhelming emotions that I felt. The most outstanding one was absolute gratitude, to the Lord, and to this courageous young woman. We named our baby Halle Simone. Halle means, "unexpected gift" and Simone means, "the Lord has heard."

Halle is now ten months old. She is an adorable, silly, sweet baby, and I treasure her as the gift that she is. Her arrival could not have been timed better. Her coming was an answer to prayer for multitudes of people who had held us up before the Lord for years. She came in a time of discouragement for us, and strengthened our faith in an incredible way. Because we had to wait, people could see that her coming was of the Lord. Every circumstance was orchestrated by His hand.

I would never have chosen this long path of waiting, but I am so thankful that God chose it for me. I would not trade my Halle for anything in the world. I know that this was God's plan. Many times, I was tempted to give up, and I am thankful that God sees our faith, even if it's as small as a "grain of mustard seed." Becoming a mother was not easy for me, but it was definitely worth the wait.

If God has you in waiting mode, I would challenge you to hold on. Keep your eyes fixed on Him. Trust that His plan is right. "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."

Tomorrow's Topic: What's Your Strength?

A Quality Blend

I am enjoying a fresh, strong cup of coffee right now. Thankfully, the coffee finished brewing before our power went back out this morning (remnants of Ike). Just because a cup of coffee is strong doesn't mean it tastes good. I can make my coffee strong by adding twice as many coffee grounds to the pot, but if I'm starting with a poor quality coffee, the flavor isn't really going to improve.

A good cup of coffee starts with fresh water and a quality blend of coffee. Now, I can't really afford to be a "coffee snob" (that's what my brother-in-law calls it), and only buy premium roasts. However, I do love a good French Roast or Dark Roast coffee. Starbucks Verona.....mmmmmm!

Our marriages need to be a "quality blend". I just celebrated my twelfth anniversary. I am so thankful to have a loving husband who loves the Lord and loves me. He is such a treasure! I want to see our marriage grow stronger every day, but I am realizing that the strength of our marriage cannot be produced without quality ingredients. We can add things to our marriage to try to improve the strength, but if these things come from the world or our own fleshly efforts, the strength is not going to be lasting or satisfying. I thought of four things that a marriage must have in order to be strong. These things are the "quality blend" that will produce a strength that is concrete, not contrived.

1. A strong marriage needs a strong foundation.

This strong foundation is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ. We must have faith in Him, and be obedient to His Word. Think of the parable of the wise man and the foolish man who built their houses, one on the rock, the other on the sand. The wise man, whose house stood, was the man who heard and obeyed the Word of God. In order for a marriage to have lasting strength, a husband and wife need to be hearing and obeying the Word of God.

I am thankful to have a husband who is a Christian, and who is seeking to hear and obey God's Word. However, as a wife, I must always remember that I am accountable for myself. If my husband were unsaved or disobedient to the Lord, I must still do my best to follow Christ. I should also follow Christ's instruction for how to win my husband's heart to the Lord (I Pet. 2:20-3:7).

Am I doing my part to see that my marriage has a strong foundation?

2. A strong marriage needs a strong fidelity.

Fidelity seems to be an old-fashioned concept in the culture we live in. The idea of being faithful "till death do us part" is often seen more as a pretty sentiment than a binding vow. That is part of the reason that a large percent of marriages, even in "Christian" circles, are falling apart.

A strong marriage requires fidelity. Our fidelity must first be to the Lord. If I am only faithful to my husband, then if he ever fails me, I may be tempted to be unfaithful to him in return. Also, if I am not faithful first to the Lord, I can be tempted "of my own lust". However, if I realize that I have made my vows to the Lord, and my desire is to be faithful to Him, then faithfulness to my husband will come naturally.

Is my fidelity strong, both to the Lord and to my spouse?

3. A strong marriage needs a strong friendship.

This is an important component of marriage, but should not be the sole foundation. We are commanded to love our husbands (Tit. 2:4). This "love" must mature beyond the basis of our emotions. "A friend loveth at all times..." We need to have a love that is loyal and committed. We need to seek to meet the needs of our spouse.

Friendship is a strong bond, and we should always seek to build on it in our marriages. Continue to seek for common interests and common goals. Determine that your husband will be your best friend, and that no other relationships (even family) or friendships will be allowed to come between you. Many times as women, we unwittingly undermine the strength of our marriages by confiding too much in other friends, complaining too much to other friends, or simply caring more about other friend's opinions than we do our own spouse's.

Is your husband your best friend? Do other friendships stand in the way of the strength of your marriage?

4. A strong marriage needs a strong followship.

By this I mean that we must fulfill the place in our marriage that God has designed for us. As a wife, my role is to follow my husband. I am to submit to him and to obey him (Eph. 5; Tit. 2). This is not "politically correct", but it is biblically correct. This does not diminish me in any way. It simply creates strength and stability in our home because there is not a constant tug-of-war for who's in charge. If I am committed to being the wife God desires for me to be, and I desire to have a marriage that is strong, I must learn to follow the leadership of the Lord through my husband. It takes just as much faith and strength to be a follower as it does to be a leader.

If the strength of my marriage is based on the level of my submission, how strong is it today?

As we blend these four ingredients, we will find that we can have a strong marriage that is fulfilling, satisfying, and most of all pleasing to Christ. What's the quality of your blend?

Tomorrow's Topic - Worth the journey to motherhood

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Is Your Strength?

I love a good, strong cup of coffee. I really don't think it can be too strong....maybe too old, but not too strong. The thing is if it's a little strong, you can always add some cream or sweetener, but nothing can enhance a weak cup of coffee. The best thing to do with it is pour it down the sink!

My life verse is Psalm 27:14, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." The making of a strong Christian requires many things, but one thing God uses is waiting on Him. This is not an easy process. We live in a time of instant everything....instant oatmeal, instant coffee (yuck!), microwave dinners, drive-thru banking, drive-thru pharmacies, even drive-thru wedding chapels. We seem to expect everything to happen instantly and easily. In reality, life just doesn't always work that way. And many times, in the life of a Christian, it is because God is working to strengthen us.

A weak cup of coffee is rather worthless. It has little taste, and certainly won't put any pep in your step! A weak Christian also has little value. A Christian is to honor Christ and to reflect Him in our lives. We should cause people to desire to "taste and see that the Lord is good." When we are weak, we are a poor reflection, and we will put a bad taste regarding Christianity in the mouths of people around us.

Unless you have a super-speedy coffee pot (which I don't), a good, strong cup of coffee is going to take a little time. Strength in our Christian life will not happen overnight. God develops strength in us as we learn to wait on Him, as we learn to trust Him when we do not see Him working, as we learn to follow based only on His Word, and not on any outward evidence of the result we desire.

This week on CoffeeLotte, we want to examine how strong we are in our marriages, as mothers, in our homes, and churches. Where would you rank yourself? How does the Lord view strength, and how does that differ from what we traditionally view as strength?

If you are waiting on the Lord in some area of your life, "be of good courage". God is working, even if He is waiting. He will strengthen your heart. "Wait, I say, on the Lord."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Welcome to CoffeeLotte

Welcome to CoffeeLotte. My name is Niki Lott, and I am looking forward to getting to know you. My desire is for this blog to blend some of my favorite love for coffee, my love for writing, along with my love for the Lord, my husband, my daughter, my home, my church and music, plus some extra things just for fun. That's a lot! I am going to do my best to post daily on a variety of topics. Each day of the week will cover a general topic, but the specific focus will change every week. I hope that you will grab your morning (or afternoon, or late night) cup of coffee and visit with me as I share my heart.

The daily topics will be:

Sunday ~ Meditations
Monday ~ Marriage
Tuesday ~ Motherhood
Wednesday ~ Manse (my house!)
Thursday ~ Ministry
Friday ~ Music
Saturday ~ Miscellaneous

I'll look forward to hearing from you!