Friday, December 12, 2014

Not Just the Lions' Den

You know how you hear of celebrities who complain about only being recognized for one role they played? While it may have been a role that they weren't too proud of, it was a role that propelled them to stardom.

Just like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, I think that if the prophet Daniel was still alive he would get tired of people only remembering his role in the lions' den.

This amazing man survived being kidnapped - somewhere around the age of fifteen - and taken to a foreign, pagan country where he eventually became the counsellor of kings throughout the rise and fall of two major kingdoms. God gave him prophetic visions to foresee the arrival of the Messiah seven hundred years in the future as well as events that we have yet to see fulfilled. Pretty amazing.

However, I think the thing that Daniel never gets sufficient credit for is an event that happens in chapter nine: he prays.

No, this isn't the prayer that results in his trip to the lions' den. This is a completely different event when  Daniel fervently and boldly prays for God to act on behalf of Israel in restoring the nation after their captivity.

Take a few minutes and read Daniel 9:1-19. Look! I even made it easy for you and linked to it. Go ahead, I'll wait while you read.

Did you notice anything remarkable about Daniel's prayer? Reading that prayer puts me on my knees - not just in prayer, but in awe of how limited my prayers can be. Three huge things jump out at me as I see what Daniel prayed:

1. Absolute Repentance: Fall on your face, put on the sackcloth and ashes, humble yourself before God, admit that open shame is all yours. Twice Daniel mentions his "open shame" (v. 7,8 in NASB). There's the kind of confession you don't usually hear about! When was the last time we had that type of attitude as we came to God in prayer? Daniel isn't just grieving over his own sin, but that of his people.

We tend to have more of the attitude of "Oh, sorry, God, about getting mad at the kids." What would our prayers be like if we felt the grief and shame of rebelling against our holy God?

2. God's Character is the Focus: Daniel isn't running through a grocery list of things he's demanding from God. He's worshipping God throughout his prayer. He keeps coming back to God's character and how God's character is the basis for his bold requests. Daniel recognizes God's righteousness, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Not only that, but God's holiness is emphasized throughout the entire prayer as Daniel contrasts it with his own sin.

3. It's not me, it's You, God. Sometimes we think that God should be answering our prayers simply because we're pretty amazing people. Daniel certainly didn't have that perspective. I love this line - "For we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Thy great compassion." (v. 18) See how Daniel takes it back to God's character? For Thine own sake, O my God (v.17, 19) should be the emphasis of our prayers - in other words, making bold petitions so that God receives the glory.

In verse 13, Daniel admits that the calamity that is about to fall on Israel is a result of not seeking God's favor.

Yikes. I certainly don't want to be guilty of not seeking God's favor. Yet Daniel gives two simple ways that we can seek God's favor: (v.13)

1. Turn from iniquity.
2. Give attention to God's truth.

What was the result? God sent the angel Gabriel - yes, the same one that we hear about at Christmas - to respond to Daniel's prayer and to explain to Daniel what God was doing.

There's a lot more to prayer than we realize sometimes. Take the time to look at some great prayers that faithful followers of God prayed. It can revolutionize your prayer life and pull your prayers in line with what God desires.

Here are some more great prayers in the Bible that are worth checking out:

I Kings 18:36-37
II Kings 19:15-19
Ezra 9:5-15 (talk about repentance!)
Nehemiah 1:4-11

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

San Antonio

Well, believe it or not, we don't take our kids EVERYWHERE we go.

In fact, John and I somewhat recently decided we were loooooooooong overdue for an actual weekend away. With just me and him. And no children.

It's possible that it had been 17 years since we'd had more than one night away from all of our kids. Unless you count the nights I've spent in the hospital giving birth over the past 17 years. Those nights don't really count.

There's a lovely little bed and breakfast northwest of San Antonio - Haven River Inn - that is open to the public but also has a ministry on the side that gives two free nights to people in full-time Christian ministry. How could we say no to "free"!?

I had never been in San Antonio before so we knew we had to be tourists for at least a day of our trip. We have a good friend, Russ, who lives down there and he was a great tour guide. Thanks, Russ!

Note to self: It's a good idea to mention to the waitress that moving the phone while taking the picture will make the picture blurry.

John and I both love history, so the Alamo was our first stop --

And also the Riverwalk - both iconic San Antonio landmarks. 

(Oh my goodness, I look pregnant in that picture! And, no, I'm not.)

For Texans, the Alamo continues to be a symbol of the desire to be independent.

To show his solidarity with the independence of all Texans, John wanted to lie down on the spot where Davy Crockett fell. I refused to be a part of such showmanship.

One of the nice things about being married for 22 years is that I have the ability now to look at a picture and know exactly what conversation was taking place between me and John at the time.

Like this picture of the National Museum of the Pacific War (World War II) in Fredericksburg, TX. I was saying, "John, you're not getting me in that picture, are you?"

And this picture of the Japanese mini-sub which was captured after Pearl Harbor. Here I'm just turning around and saying, "John, you're not getting me in that picture, are you?"

And in this picture of a Japanese tank, I'm saying "John, you're not getting me in that picture, are you?"

Albeit that time I was also giving him a nasty glare. Attractive, I know. But historical.

Fredericksburg is near San Antonio and, while being very popular with tourists, it's also the hometown of Admiral Nimitz - hence the WW2 historical emphasis. If you've never heard of Admiral Nimitz then you really need to study history more.

The story behind this flag is amazing. The American POWs had been ordered to destroy a captured American flag, but in defiance, they cut out all 48 stars (yes, this was before Hawaii and Alaska) and distributed them between 48 POWs to keep throughout the war. When they were released, they sewed the 48 stars on to an American flag they made from parachute materials. The museum has the actual flag displayed.

Other than the museum, which we spent all day at, we didn't do much at Fredericksburg. It's a pretty pricey little town which explains why you have to pay $15 for a hamburger.

We ended our time away by spending a whole lot more than $15 for a burger. My sweet husband took me to the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio. Yes, that meant we had to go all the way to the top of this thing --

You know how I love heights. (ha!) And the fact that the restaurant at the top of the Tower - the Chart Room - is revolving too made for an interesting experience. I was a little lightheaded, I'll admit. John thought it was hilarious. But how many times in your life do you get to have a hot (expensive) date with your husband while revolving 700+ feet in the air?

I'm guessing about once every 22 years.

Which ironically is the same number of times I get John to wear a suit coat. (You looked hot, honey!)

Have a great Wednesday! And while you're at it, let me know about your most recent date with your spouse!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

'Tis the Season . . .

. . . For women all across the United States to see how much food it's humanly possible to stack into one fridge.

Ah, I miss the days of living up North when I could use the garage for a second fridge. If you're a Southerner you have no idea what I mean. But I know that you Northerner ladies know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Am I right??

I'm in the middle of roasting 40 lbs of turkey - that's two separate birds in my "thank God for my industrial size Viking oven". I'm also cooking at least 15 pounds of potatoes which will go in the slow cooker and baking cornbread for stuffing tomorrow. And doing laundry. And listening to the two little girls argue over whose turn it is to be the "counter" in Hide and Seek (you'd think it would be easy to remember when only two are playing the game). And making a salad. Oh, and cleaning the house. (kind of)

If you can't multi-task, you have no business being a woman.

We plan on 22 people for our feast tomorrow so it should be a full table. Or, as we say at the Toliver house, just a normal day.

John took the older six kids to Six Flags today - you remember how much I love that Death Trap Amusement Park - so I just have the two little girls home.

But while I'm scurrying around like a madwoman - y'all know that if you have big and little kids it's always busiest when just the little ones are home with you - my husband sends me sweet texts like the following.

First, I must explain though because I couldn't make these things up if I tried. The following is just a little glimpse into our marriage -- he gives me compliments on my physical appearance and I correct his grammar --

So have a happy Thanksgiving! And thank God for those crazy people He's blessed you with - even if they take joy in getting "your" and "you're" mixed up.

Monday, November 24, 2014

If You Ever Consider Taking All of Your Kids to a Formal Banquet . . .

Have you ever walked into a fairly formal banquet with six young children and had to walk all the way up to the front of the room and you feel like everybody is staring at you because no one else has kids at the banquet and people have to leave their tables to make room for you and when you sit down the first thing that happens is that your very verbal toddler loudly announces she wants to go to sleep?

No? Oh, never mind. Apparently, things like that just happen to me.

Last week our two older kids were serving at a completely different Wycliffe banquet, and we were invited to attend a Wycliffe Associates banquet. It's possible that we were just there as table-filler.

(If you want to learn more about the relationship between all the various Wycliffe organizations see: The Nobody Really Understands It Because It's Enormous file).

While we work really hard to train our kids to sit still and handle new situations properly, it was hard to not find the situation humorous. I kind of felt like the bull in the china shop.

Remember when I told you about only letting my kids have one "picky food"? Well, apparently the part about "That doesn't apply when we're out in public" didn't get through to my nine year old.

She took one look at the marinated vegetable salad and quietly asked me if she could change her "picky food" to marinated vegetable salad. Um, no, dear.

In this picture we're all laughing at John because he's afraid my dad's camera flash is going to reflect off of his bald spot. (We love you anyway, honey!! Your bald spot is barely noticeable at all! Ahem.)

With that said, the evening was excellent, the speaker was fantastic, the food was delicious, and hopefully we weren't a deterrent to any people who want to give generously to the ministry of Wycliffe Associates.

These Wycliffe Associates banquets are hosted all around the United States and are really a great way to get to know more about Bible translation. Look up this link to find out more. The banquets are free and you can even bring children if they've had their naps first . . .
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