Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 0 comments

I have to hand it to the people at Nintendo. I never would have guessed I'd be buying a gaming system at my age, but just over a year ago we were able to borrow someone's Wii.  I faithfully used it to exercise with several times a week, so when it came time to give it back we decided to purchase one. 

I thought "The Biggest Loser Challenge" looked like it had potential, so my son bought the program for me as a Christmas gift last year.

Don't buy one.

I'd say it has more glitches than any program I've ever used, but since I've only used maybe three that statement probably doesn't carry much weight. (Weight...Biggest Looser...grin)



I have to say though, it did give me a very helpful fitness tip: The first thing you should do each morning is to drink a large glass of water.  The reason?  Your body gets dehydrated overnight and needs to have an infusion of water to function properly. 

It makes sense when you think about it, doesn't it?  It's simple enough that I found it easy to incorporate it into my daily routine. 

I think the same concept can be applied spiritually.  I just finished my chronological Bible this morning and read, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." ~ Revelation 22:17

Just as our bodies needed to be physically hydrated with H20, our souls need a DAILY infusion of Living Water to be spiritually hydrated.

Do you take a long drink every day?  A small sip?   Or are you parched?


Did you know the events depicted in the Bible are not in chronological order?  I was surpised at just how much it jumps around, but I have to say I really enjoyed reading the events in the order they occurred.  Then again, I am a chronological kind of gal.  I've read through "The Daily Bible" a few times now and I highly recommend it!

This particular version combines duplicate passages (as is found in Kings and Chronicles, for example) and lists the Scripture references in the side margin.  The Psalms, for the most part, are interjected into the events about which they were written.  For me, reading the four Gospels meshed together was the feature I appreciated the most. 


This year, I'm going to give a new chronological version a try (also a Christmas gift from my son - such a nice boy!) 


"Reading God's Story" doesn't have the date at the beginning of each day's reading like "The Daily Bible" does but is instead divided into 52 weeks, each broken down into seven daily segments.  Every day has a check box to mark as you complete it.   

This Bible is divided into three acts: 

Act 1: God's Plan for all People (Creation, the fall, and the flood)
Act 2: God's Covenant People (divided into 9 scenes)
Act 3: God's New Covenant People (the New Testament)

This year I hope to focus on the New Testament, and plan to read through Act 3 at least four times, hopefully five! 

What's your plan?  Unlike "The Biggest Looser," you have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

Lord, thank you for your Word!  Increase my capacity to absorb all you have to say to me!  I regret all of the years I foolishly neglected it and praise you for being the God of second chances.  I pray that you will work in the hearts of all who are reading this and give them an unstoppable desire to immerse themselves into Scripture daily.




Lisa
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 3 comments

My friend Cindy Bultema has put together a challenge to memorize 26 verses of Scripture in 2012.  That's only one verse every-other week!  I told her to count me in - the question is, who else is with me?

Before you start telling yourself why you couldn't possibly do this, let me share my experience with Scripture memorization.

I wish I could say I started memorizing Bible verses as a child (because I think the younger your brain, the easier it is) but I was close to thirty years old before I started even reading Scripture (and that was sporadic, at best). 

Back in 2004 I was blessed to attend a lecture series given by one of my all-time favorite Bible teachers, Ray VanderLaan.  Throughout his lecture he'd be rattling off Scripture from memory, and I loved to hear the Word spoken as opposed to read.

Then, the unthinkable happened.  In the middle of his lecture, mid-verse, he lost his train of thought.  He took a moment, but never did get back on track.  I was very new at teaching, and this was one of my greatest fears, but it didn't seem to faze him a bit.  He said something like, "Well, I guess that's gone" and continued with his teaching. 

His stumble actually gave me confidence, because I thought if he can act like forgetting part of a verse isn't a big deal while in front of this large crowd, then it shouldn't be a big deal if it happens to me in my little class. 

I was scheduled to teach a series of classes on John 15, and with this new confidence I decided to memorize that chapter.  It was a bit more of a challenge for me, however, because just a few years earlier I suffered a closed-head injury.  I had a hard time finishing my own sentences, let alone someone else's. 

It took me a year (remember, I was working with half my brain tied behind my back) but I eventually memorized the entire chapter.   

Then, in 2009, I knew I'd be teaching a 9-week series on the book of James.  In early June I felt called to memorize it, so I printed out the verses and had them with me everywhere - while scrubbing the floor, out for a walk, wherever!  Three months later, when the class was ready to start, I had memorized the whole book - five chapters!

If I'm introduced to you, I'll probably need to hear your name twenty times before I remember it, but by the grace of God (and much repetition) I can memorize Scripture.  (And if I can do it, what's your excuse?)

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." ~ John 14:26
I think this is one of the most exciting verses in the Bible!  God has given the Holy Spirit all the work!  I just need to get the verses in my mind, and then He will remind me of what I need when I need it!  How cool is that?

So...who's with me?  I'd love to know who's taken up the challenge, so please leave a comment if you choose to join me!

You can find more info on the challenge by clicking on Cindy's button here:


She Sparkles Scripture Memory Challenge 2012
Blessings,

Lisa

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ORGANIZING




Tips for Tuesday


For many of you, the Christmas celebrations are over and now you have the daunting task of dealing with the aftermath.  If your household is anything like mine, everything has been carried in from the car to the kitchen where it is now congregating on the table. 


Rather than looking at this pile as a chore, try seeing it as an opportunity to bring some order to a few more areas in your house.  (I know it's a stretch, but work with me here!)

This is a great time of year to find good deals on containers and organizers, or perhaps you already have something around the house that can help you with this task. 

I have a room upstairs that was supposed to one day be a bathroom, but after almost thirty years I'm thinking that's not going to happen.  For now its been converted into a storage space full of shelves.



It's difficult to see in this photo, but I used a vertical sorter (the kind used on an office desktop) to hold all my shirt boxes that are reusable.  I have them in order of ascending size to make it easier to find what I need the next time I go to use one.  On the left I have gift wrapping supplies such as tape, scissors and ribbon in the top container and bows in the lower one.  I prefer the clear containers since it's easy to see what you have in there, but I'm all for using what I already have around the house rather than buying new, which is why my containers differ.


Here I used a step file to organize my gift bags, though I think the vertical sorter works better because you're not loosing height with each section.

As you put away new clothing, remember the moratorium on hangers we talked about last fall.  Retire one item you no longer wear to make room for each new item you have to find a place for.  (This method also works great for toys, and it's easier to get your kids to part with something old when they have something new in their hands.)  If you turned your hangers around, this task will be a cinch!  If you haven't done this yet, there's no time like the present!

Lisa
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We often get so caught up in our holiday traditions that we don't spend any time thinking about the real reason for our celebration.  I know you've probably heard this before but the real question is, have you ever acted on it?  Have you ever stepped back from the busyness and taken a moment to ponder the Christmas story?

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  ~ Luke 1:4-5

Scripture tells us that Joseph (and Mary) were in David's lineage.  This was an important pronouncement because it had been foretold that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David.

In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it — one from the house of David — one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness. ~ Isaiah 16:5

Many years ago I realized that Jesus was not actually a blood relative of Joseph, and more recently it occurred to me that He probably wasn't biologically related to Mary either. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. ~ John 1:1-2

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ~ John 1:14

Jesus is the Word made flesh.  If He has always existed - and Scripture tells us He was present at the beginning - then He could not possibly be Mary's biological child. 

Am I the only one who never considered this before? 

It makes perfect sense to me that if the Holy Spirit has the power to cause Mary to become pregnant, He also has the power to place Jesus in her womb, the Jesus who has existed from the beginning.

Have you ever stopped to imagine what this must have been like for God the Father?  If Jesus was taken from heaven and placed in Mary's womb, wouldn't this be the first (and only) time in the history of the universe that the members of the Trinity were separated?

It puts John 3:16 into a whole new light.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

This is one of those verses that we as Christians can rattle off without even really thinking about it.  Is that a good thing?

God so loved the world that He was willing to be separated from One He had never been apart from in all eternity.  Many of us have suffered from separation and loss.  Did you ever stop to think that God knows exactly how you feel?

God so loved the world that He was willing to allow His Son to be born into poverty rather than riches, not only so we could relate to Him but so we understand that He can relate to us.


God so loved the world that He was willing to allow His Son to be persecuted and abused, to the point of death, to pay the penalty for our sins.   I have to be honest, if the fate of humanity depended on me sacrificing my son, the world would be in big trouble. 

We hear "the world" and it sounds so impersonal.  It's important to remember that God doesn't think of a bunch of nameless, faceless individuals when He speaks of "the world;"  He thinks of YOU, and me, and each one of us, whether we think of Him or not. 

Instead of "the world," insert your name:

For God so loved me that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Father God, I pray for each one reading this, myself included.  Help us to step back from the busyness that presses us from every side and stop to ponder the miracle that is the cause for celebration.  May this be a Christmas like no other - one with Christ at the center!


Lisa




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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 3 comments



Instead of dog tags jingling, I wake to silence. 


There's no one to trip over every time I turn around;


No enthusiastic greeting when I come through the door.


Food falling on the kitchen floor no longer disappears in an instant.


There's no alert each time a squirrel dares enter my yard. 


No one tries to beat me up the stairs.


I walk to the mailbox, alone.


It's quiet . . . far too quiet.



On December 9th I said goodbye to my constant companion of almost thirteen years - my faithful sidekick, Daisy May (she came to live with us on May 1, 1998.)  A.K.A Daisy the Wonderdog.  Lazy Daisy.  Daisy Crockett - the dog with the wild front ears...


God is constantly teaching me, but all too frequently I'm too busy to notice.  I seem to hear Him most often and most clearly when I'm away from the house, whether it be at a conference, retreat, mission trip, or just out walking with Daisy.  I've learned many lessons through her over the years, perhaps because we spent so much time together.  That, and I don't listen to music when I walk, I listen for God.  Seldom does He disappoint! 


We went for what would be our final walk just a week before her parting.  Daisy loved going outside...and woe be it to anyone between her and the door!


While I was out there to exercise, Daisy appeared to be there to leave her mark on the world.  About every three feet of it, or so it seemed.  Just as she was marking her territory for the umpteenth time and I was beginning to lose patience, God pointed out to me that we all do the same thing.  We want to leave our mark on the world.  We think we're doing something grand, but God is as impressed with our marking as I am with Daisy's. 


Ouch!


You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." ~ 2 Corinthians 3:2-3


Any monument we build to ourselves is sure to topple into a heap of rubble.  The only mark any of us can hope to leave is what we write on the hearts of those whose lives we touch. 


The question is, what kind of mark will it be?  One that builds up, or one that tears down?  One that points others to Christ, or one that points anywhere else?


Lord, thank you for the many years I've spent with Daisy and the many lessons You've taught me through her.  May the only marks I leave be arrows that point directly to You!


Lisa

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This season marked a milestone for my husband Bob.  He had his first-ever "Black Friday" shopping experience!  And no, we did not camp out.  We did, however, get up early and get in line at 5:15 a.m., waiting for the store  to open at 6:00.

Actually, Bob got in line.  I don't do lines.  Instead, I went to the nearby grocery store and bought supplies for the next day's baking marathon.  This is possible only when you follow my shopping strategy - go where everyone else is not (i.e. stay away from the mall!)

What motivated Bob to go to the store that morning (and if you know Bob you know that it had to be some pretty strong motivation) was the hope of a new computer at half the going rate.  Our desktop was over ten years old which, I'm told, in the world of technology is considered ancient.

I returned from getting groceries to find a happy husband.  Bob had managed to get the last ticket for the computer he wanted - and there were only three in the store! (See what I mean about no one being there?)

While he was focused on a computer, I was focused on somthing else.  One word, actually - FREE!  If it's free, count me in!  If I can't use it, I'm sure I know someone who can.

The free items offered that day were actually very practical - mainly batteries and computer labels - but they came with a catch:  I had to pay for them at the store and then claim the rebate. 


You see, showing up at the store isn't enough.

Just giving them money isn't enough.

Simply believing the rebate exists isn't enough. 

If I don't personally go through the process of claiming the rebate, I won't receive the promised reward of my money back. 

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

The same is true for salvation.  Yes, it is a free gift given to us by God, but those who don't go through the process of claiming it as their own won't receive the promised reward of an eternity with God in heaven. 

You see, merely showing up at church isn't enough.  (Ask yourself, "Am I standing on the promises or sitting on the premises?")

Just dropping your money in the collection plate isn't enough.

Simply believing God exists isn't enough.  The demons believe that and they will be spending eternity apart from God in hell.  James 2:19, Matthew 25:41

Yes, Scripture says, "If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" ~ Acts 10:9 but "believe" doesn't merely mean you agree that the statement is true. 

Believing requires action.

        Are you living like everything Scripture says is true? 
        Do you read the Bible on a regular basis so you know what Scripture says?

Believing requires trust.

        Do you trust in God's leading even when it doesn't make sense to you?
        Do you spend time seeking God's direction?

Jesus, thank you for paying the penalty for my sins so that I may spend eternity with you.  Lord reveal to me when I am just going through the motions so that I can live with a vibrant faith that points others to You!


Lisa



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ORGANIZING

Tips for Tuesday

When it comes to organizing, there are some things that I'd just rather avoid.  Like that large stack of boxes and containers looming under my basement steps...


YIKES!!!

If you're like me, the only time you come into contact with your Christmas decorations is when it's time to put them up or take them down.  Why not make things easier on yourself next year by paring down your holiday paraphernalia while you're into it anyway?


This is the perfect season to donate those unwanted Christmas items- while there are people out there looking for them.

Why not take a look into each box and take note of the things you're not putting out this year.  Ask yourself these questions:


Does it have sentimental value?

Is it a family heirloom?

Do I like it?

When was the last time I used it?

Does it still serve its original purpose?

Do I have any idea where it came from or why I have it?

Is it still in its original packaging?

I have some ornaments that my children made back in elementary school, and some that belonged to my husband's family when he was growing up.  For me, those are keepers.

I also have some decorations that I'm sure I got a good deal on at an after Christmas sale, but I've never used them.  Those need to go. 

Then there's the artificial Christmas trees.  Yes trees - plural.  We have two bay windows at the front of our house and at some point in time (probably when I didn't have anything better to do) I set up a tree in each.  Now I hardly have the time or inclination to put one up, but I'm not ready to get rid of one just yet either.  One tree is smaller - and therefore quicker to decorate - while the larger one has been in my family since I was in the 5th grade and is still a very nice tree.  I may need to think on this one for a while, and that's okay. 

It's also okay to take a pass on decorating.  It's not mandatory - it should be something you enjoy.  I didn't have a tree up for several years (my kids were grown, which made it easier) because of mission trips just before and just after Christmas. 

For you parents with an artificial tree, here's a great hiding place for your children's gifts!  Put them in the empty Christmas tree box or in the tubs that held your other decorations.  Kids never think to look in there because they saw that they were empty when you put the boxes away.

Happy decorating (or not!)

Lisa






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Most of the response I got from part one of this story, "GOD SHOWED UP AT P.F. CHANG'S" included disappointment in the fact that I did not describe the food! 

I was trying to be nice, but you asked for it...

                        

We began our dinner the way any meal should start at P.F. Chang's, with Lettuce Wraps -  a stir-fried mixture of chicken, mushrooms, green onions and water chestnuts over crispy rice sticks that you place in a crisp piece of lettuce, roll up and eat.  Yummy!

Since it was still happy hour and appetizers were half off, we also ordered the Crispy Green Beans.  These were battered, deep fried, and came with a spicy, tangy, dipping sauce.  They were good, but if I was only going to get one appetizer I'd definitely stick with the Lettuce Wraps.

My choice for an entree was the Sweet & Sour Chicken, stir fried with pineapple, peppers, onions and ginger.  It was delicious, with a serving size big enough to share and still have some left to take home.

Because we were sharing (like all good Christian girls do) I also sampled several other entrees, all of which I would order myself if given the chance.  (And if my husband is reading this my chances should be looking pretty good!)

Chang's Spicy Chicken was not too spicy, and personally I like it that way.  If you're looking for something hot, this isn't it, even if it does have the little hot symbol next to it. 

The Mu Shu Pork consisted of pork loin, egg, mushrooms, bean sprouts and onions.  I only tasted the filling, but it's served with Chinese pancakes that the waiter will wrap it in. 

Even the Almond & Cashew Chicken, which I've had at other restaurants and never cared for, won me over!

Well, now that I'm ready to leave this computer and head on over to Chang's, here's part two of our story:

After taking ample time to marvel and praise God for providing us with a table, our team got down to work reviewing feedback and other information from the "Imagine Me...Set Free" conference.

Our waitress - who we later learned was a Christian - inquired as to what the papers covering the table were, giving us the opportunity to tell her about the conference.  Our conversation with her continued periodically throughout the meal.

When it came time to start clearing our plates, our waitress asked if we could tell her one story from the event. 

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect," ~ 1 Peter 3:15 

Because we didn't want to betray any confidences, the story we told was that of Pat Layton, the speaker, who had openly shared about poor choices in her past, one of which was an abortion.  

When the waitress told us she had a friend she has been trying to minister to who has had several abortions, we knew that this was why we were there.  Two of the women at our table lead post-abortive recovery groups! 

So, not only did God provide a table for us when there was none, He also brought us at the right time and sat us in the right section so we would have the waitress we did!  We exchanged contact information and committed to pray for her and her friend.  Who knows what God will do through this divinely arranged encounter?

Lord, thank you for caring about even the smallest details in our lives.  The lengths you go to to give us the opportunity to minister to others never ceases to amaze me! Give us eyes to see where you are working and the courage to proceed in obedience when opportunities present themselves.

Lisa
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