Oh… what a great day of reading.  Today I covered Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians.  WOW…Wow…wow….

So, I can’t chose just one thing that stuck out.  And, because I seem to have been making up the rules as I go… I’m going to pick one from each Book. 

Philippians 4:12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

This verse always speaks to me, but especially at Christmas time it really hits home.  You see, I have been in need.  Big time.  Like, couldn’t afford to eat type of need.  I remember rejoicing when my parents would have me out for dinner, and I remember my girlfriend Di having me to her house to eat.  I’m not certain that anyone knew that I was likely not going to eat if they didn’t call.  (or maybe they did!)  I wasn’t starving, because I had a job that provided meals often during the day.  I’ve come to realize their is a difference between hunger and starvation.  I was just hungry (Praise God!)  And… it was for a short period of time, just until I could get back on my feet…  But it gave me perspective.  It taught me not to judge.  It has sunken into the core of who I am.  (Like, I LOVE to shop at second hand stores!) 

Right now, I am in a time of blessing.  I have plenty.  And I praise God for that.  However, I also remember that he gives and takes away.  Therefore, my identity is not in what I have, but in whose I am.  I don’t care where I live, as long as I have God and my family.  For now, I’m emjoying my nice house… if tomorrow holds something different, then I’ll praise God in the midst of it. 

And then the infamous… “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”  I am always surprised when I read the bible how we miss the context of so many verses.  Don’t get me wrong, I typically hear this in the right spirit.  However, when you read it with what Pual was saying right before it, it has SOOOOO much more meaning. 

Colossians 2:16-17

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
I literally wrote the words COMPEL next to this in my bible.  You see, when planning the conference, it is so EASY to get hung up on the details.  We sincerely want it to be a great conference.  However, most of all, we want it to be founded on Christ.  I have said this before, but we have such a great group of women on the leadership team.  Prayer time with them is incredible and sincere.  I praise God for that.  So… the music may not be exactly what you are used to.  You may not have the “perfect” meal.  They may run out of coffee just when you go to fill your cup, or you may sit under a vent.  HOWEVER, we’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and will continue to pray over this event.  And I trust that Christ will be glorified.  Lysa does an awesome job, and we’re smothering her in prayer.  That she may hear His voice and speak exactly what we need to hear.  That is in His control.  So… this is a good challenge for me.  To not worry so much about what people “think” or if it appears to be all put together and buttoned up.  God isn’t into the details.  He’s into us… 
1 Thesalonians 5:16-18
 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Sometimes we just need a little reminder.  Rejoice or be joyful always.  Seriously God????  Ok girls, I’d love to tell you that this is what people say about me… you know that Jen, she is just always so cheerful and happy looking and always praising God…  BUT…. I am the mom of 3 small children and 2 big children, the proud owner of 2 dogs (1 of which is on my very short list today:-)) and I can be down right crabby…  unbearable even.   AND… I love to pray… but, like all of us, I don’t feel like I do it enough.  The list could go on and on of my shortcomings.  (Tom isn’t home, or he’d maybe want to add to it:-) 
However, I don’t see this verse as a “correction” verse.  I see it as a reminder.  Whatever is going on in my day to day, God wants to use that.  Perhaps it will turn into a story I use in one of my talks, perhaps it will help me help someone else at work, perhaps it will impact my family when the grow older, perhaps it will touch the life of someone who I don’t even know…  The point is, I am not in control of today, but I am in control of my choices.  If I chose to look upward, no matter WHAT is going on in my “world”, I will be reminded that God can use everything.  And for that I can give him thanks, and be joyful!  
I end tonight in prayer for my friend Lynn.  She’s in the office next door to me at ATLAS, and I’ve grown to appreciate her in so many ways.  Tomorrow at noon she will undergo surgery to determine if she has liver cancer.  “God, I pray that you would take these circumstances and use them for your glory.  You know my heart would be for mis diagnosis and complete healing.  However, I trust you in all circumstances God.  Lynn is in need right now God.  She needs your healing hand, and the peace that surpasses all understanding.  At the same time God, let her have plenty.  Plenty prayers, plenty faith, and plenty love.  Block Satan in his attacks now Lord, that she may see you and you alone as she undergoes what might be one of the scariest days of her life tomorrow!  Thanks for your promise that we should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is your will.  May we give you thanks for this trial that Lynn is going through, and may we be obedient to the path laid out for us.”