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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday School - Psalm 23 Lesson 3

“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2a)

I want to roll around in a muddy field. I think that it would be fun to play like a kid, get covered in mud, and not care. Maybe I’ll get my chance when I’m a mother. With a kid I could play it off like, “Hey, just trying to relate to the child.” Without a kid, I might be committed.

Doesn’t that look like fun?

I guess “green pastures” are a’ight too. Soft and pretty. And undoubtedly filled with bugs. Consequently, I have no interest in playing in a green field. No ma’am. Wouldn’t want a Horton Finds a Who thing going on.

Sheep, on the other hand, are quite fond of a green pasture.

This picture reminds me, in an opposite kind of way, of our yard. When we moved into our house, the yard was brown and filled with weeds. Bushes were overgrown or stunted. The flowerbeds were filled with rocks. So my darling husband got to work. He went to Lowe’s and bought all manner of lawn equipment. Weed killer, fertilizer, mowing, edging, and a good soaking provided a major improvement.

But there was more. One Saturday morning, while I was sleeping the sleep of angels, Garrett headed over to Home Depot (twice before I ever woke up!) and bought bricks, mulch, and more fertilizer. Then came the physical labor - pulling out bushes, digging up rocks, laying down fertilizer and mulch, and placing bricks.

Our front yard started out like this.

And ended up like this.

And it’s still not finished.

But there’s only so much a body can do in a day. Garrett's back reminded him for days that he’d poured himself into the yard project. But it was totally worth it for the pride he felt in a job well done. Years from now when our future children enjoy the yard, they will have no idea of the work that went into making it beautiful.

My favorite Psalm 23 book of all time reminds me of an important fact: green pastures don’t happen by accident in Palestine (where this psalm was written). Shepherds cleared fields and planted tasty sheep treats in order to provide nourishment for their flocks. Shepherds were active, not passive, in the care of their sheep.

In the same way, God is at work around us all the time. He is not like Dr. House –enjoying a soap opera while ignoring the tragedy filling the building. Our lives are much more than a soap opera to our Creator. Last weekend I wrote about how He prepared me to enjoy the man He had for me as my husband. But I wonder how else he’s worked in my life. How many times has He protected me from a car accident? Or from a negative friendship? Or provided an encouraging friend at the moment that I needed it? Things that some might ascribe to coincidence or chance but that we can ascribe to a God that is active in our lives.


  • How do you work for the welfare of those that you are responsible for (families, employees, pets) in ways that they don’t see or understand?

  • They say hindsight is 20-20. Looking back at your life, can you recognize how God was at work around you, even when you didn’t see it? What’s an example?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

I have finished all the interviews for Edward Jones. I am now awaiting an answer from the company. I hope to hear something tomorrow, but it may take until Wednesday of next week. Ugh! The waiting is killing me. Please say a little prayer for me to get the job. I know in my heart this is the road God has prepared for me.

Have you ever been in an interview situation where you really wanted the job? Post some interesting stories about a job you were itching to get.

Enjoy your upcoming Memorial Day weekend!

Bloggy Giveaway Winner

Hello peoples,

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted and announced the winner of this lovely gift. I've been sick for the past week and just haven't been up to blogging. I'm now on the mend and ready to give something away.

And the winner is (sorry this is so difficult to see)...
...Julissa! Congratulations!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Falling In Love

I sat on my balcony in the darkness, ignoring the parking lot below in favor of the moon and scattered stars above. The moon – what a good idea! The genius of a heavenly night light provides both beauty and function. After noticing the change in position from the night before, I moved my attention from the moon to the few stars visible in the city’s glow. I saw three stars in a row – surely they must be part of a constellation…

These internal dialogues were the catalyst for a sweet relationship with the Creator. I learned what it was to delight in Him by enjoying and acknowledging the genius of His creation. Wonder over creation in general moved to wonder over being created. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) My trust in His love and care for me grew until I was confident that He would not keep anything good from me.
Including marriage.

I approached my Creator with my desire to marry. Every night in my prayer journal I wrote, “Please send my husband soon.”

And something unexpected happened.

My prayers transformed from pleading requests to confident expectation. On August 27, 2006, I wrote, “I feel like the Beloved in Song of Songs 5 – my heart is awake. I feel as if I’m ready to fall in love. First waiting. I don’t know what I’m waiting for, but I am.”

As I waited, an image formed in my head of the type of man that I wanted to be with. On November 2, 2006, I wrote that I would like “someone that adores me, that respects me, that I can respect, smart, smiles, loves Jesus, loves his church, loves animals, friendly. Love of music would be a plus. But, most of all, someone that You have designed for me and that You have designed me for.”

And how would I meet this man? On October 3, 2006, I wrote, “Pease send my husband soon. I have the feeling that it will be in a way that I don’t expect.” Truer words were never spoken! Although out-of-character for me, I grew excited about the idea of online dating. This was so unusual for me that I knew that the Holy Spirit had a hand in it. God was up to something.

In November of 2006, I embarked on an online dating adventure. A friend took some pictures and I posted them along with an “I want only Jesus boys” profile. At first things didn’t look good. Most of the men that contacted me were decidedly NOT Jesus boys, and I couldn’t dredge up much enthusiasm for the others. But Garrett contacted me two weeks into the process. He was the first and last of my online dates.

Garrett and I were married six months ago today. Our lovey-dovey behavior often prompts people to ask if we’re newlyweds, which we are, but I suspect that we will always be cheesy in love. I respect Garrett for his character, intelligence, musical talent, and work ethic. I adore his smiling blue eyes, dimples, and generous smile. His humor is medicine to me, his voice my music, and his arms my home. I am proud to be Mrs. Garrett Thomas Maddox. I love you, sweetie. Thank you for asking me to be your wife. It all began with me learning to delight in God, and now He’s teaching me how to delight in you. I pray that He gives us many years to delight in each other.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Works For Me: Bible Study Software

I love books. I really do. I love to look at them and touch them. Sometimes even smell them. I am an official Bookworm.

Preparing to teach a Bible study provides ample opportunity to be surrounded by great books, what with commentaries, word studies, and the Greatest Book of All (the Bible). But there's a better way. I have grown a love that is wide and deep for Bible study software. Here are my favorites:
  • PC Study Bible - I use this to prepare for any Bible teaching endeavor. Noteworthy features are numerous Biblical translations, original word study, commentaries, Bible dictionaries, pictures, maps, and concordances. You can copy text from the software to your notes and even get a reference with the copied text. You install the software on your computer, so you don't need to be online to use it. It's a little on the pricey side, but I've found it to be well worth the money.
  • Bible Gateway - This is a nice online tool that you can use for word searches and Scripture lookup and several different Bible translations. I like to use it to link Scripture references from my blog. They also provide the html code to add the search feature or a verse of the day to your website.
  • Crosswalk Bible Study Tools - Crosswalk provides online access to the same types of tools as the PC Study Bible. One noteable addition is that the Strong's lexicon provides an audio file of how to pronounce the word in its original language. Here's "psalm" as an example. Also, since these are online tools you can link to them from the blog. Since I'm doing Sunday School lessons on my blog this is a nice tool to use.

Check out Shannon's blog for more tips!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

(BLOGGY GIVEAWAY) Sunday School - Psalm 23 Lesson 2

[Enter a comment and you will be eligible to win this beautiful print. Deadline is Saturday, May 17, at Midnight CST.]

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1, NIV)

“THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.” (Psalm 23:1, The Amplified Bible)

Sometimes I daydream about what I would do if I won a million dollars (I’m shallow that way). A few things come to mind.

As you can see, I’ve given this topic some serious thought.

But Jason Castro (channeling Neil Diamond) gives us a little reminder about money.

(Isn’t he a cutie? I want to squeeze his cheeks every time I see this.)

(And take scissors to his hair. Please, Lord, get the boy a fauxhawk.)

(And the thing about blue jeans? They can be quite expensive these days.)

Anyhoo, when David said, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want,” he wasn’t declaring God to be a disburser of winning lottery tickets. As a matter of fact, when a rich young man came to Jesus asking how to gain eternal life, Jesus told Him to give up physical riches to gain spiritual ones.

So as our Shepherd, what does He provide for us? We’ll be learning more about this in the weeks to come, but here’s a few examples just to get us thinking:

I’m a computer engineer (i.e. NERD), so of course this idea of “lacking nothing” reminds me of computer games. (What, you too?) I like the type of game where you travel through a mythical land, pick things up along the way, and solve puzzles. When I reached a puzzle that I needed to solve to continue in the game, I would look at everything I’d picked up and see how I could use them to solve the puzzle and move forward. (“Surely I must be able to use this used bubble gum and bungee cord to find the invisible map!”)

In the same way, if I stay connected to Him, God gives me everything I need along the way to fulfill His purpose for me. Be it wisdom, a particular skill, the right friend at the right time, or even some much needed cash, it all comes from Him. And if I don’t think that I have what I need? Well, I know where to go to find it. It’s amazing how Scripture can speak to my specific situation during my quiet times and give me an idea or change in perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t turn down a million dollars. (Cash please.) But it will not meet all of my needs. Instead of looking at the cash, I look to the Shepherd. And He’s worth much more to me than a lottery ticket.


  • What do you want or need?
  • How has Jesus met your needs?
  • What skills, abilities, experiences, and relationships has God given you to equip you for your future?
  • Do you feel comfortable approaching Him to meet your needs?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Knock, Knock, Who's There?

I am in the interview process with Edward Jones. I've passed the initial 2 phone interviews and background check. Today I completed the next step in the process. It is the experience of being out in the field. I had to go door to door with a simple survey. I went to businesses and residential homes around where I live and ask them questions about how long they have lived here, what do they like about the area, etc. I will tell you that I had a good time doing it except for a few things.

1) The inital look of "Oh crud, what is he up to?" from the people I approached - You know that look because we've all been in that situation.

2) People not being home. - I had knuckle cramps from all that knocking.

3) Not having the ability to tell them who I represent. - I think it would have disarmed them quicker had they known who was asking me to do the surveys.

Once the interviewee knew I wasn't trying to be shady everything went fine.

I know how frustrating it is when someone knocks on your door to try and sell something to you. Edward Jones' corner stone of success is doing the door to door approach. Once hired they will train me how to be successful with talking with prospective clients.

Now I want to hear from you. What do you think makes a good or bad salesman? Any input would be helpful because I want to try and avoid those things that turn people off.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sunday School - Psalm 23 Lesson 1

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1)

The long day eases into a cool night. I crouch near the warmth of a fire and allow the murmur of conversations and the warmth of the blaze draw me into a thoughtful state. As my mind drifts from thought to thought, the sounds of muted chatter and crackling campfires give way to the strum of a harp. Music! The perfect companion to a melancholy mood. I come to my feet and search for the source of the melody. A large crowd surrounds one campfire, with all eyes directed toward the center. Could it be David? I’ve heard David touches hearts with his voice. Now is my chance to hear for myself.

As I approach the crowd, I hear the first words of the melody - "The Lord is my shepherd…." My heart catches. David sings with conviction and something else..gratitude...relief? Or are those my own feelings? As I reach the crowd, I see David's face illuminated by the glow of the fire. He sings with eyes closed and head thrown back to revel in the care of an unseen Shepherd. I then look at the faces around me. Some shine with tears, others soften with tenderness. All reflect the power of revelation. After all, this group knows the life of a shepherd...

Sheep go baaa. That’s about all I know about those critters, other than they’re tasty and provide wonderful wool skirts. And shepherds? Well, in my mind, the word "shepherd" inspires a vague image of someone herding sheep with a big stick. Wikipedia offers me more information than I ever cared to know about sheep and shepherds, but the over-share prompts only a “Look at the pretty sheep faces!” from me.

The psalmist David did not require Wikipedia or pretty pictures. The word "shepherd" brought to his mind, not a vague image, but memories. Before he became King David, the young man with ruddy appearance and handsome features lived as a humble shepherd. It’s likely David expected to tend sheep for his entire life, but God had another purpose for him.

God used David’s time as a shepherd of sheep to enable him to become a shepherd of men. As a shepherd, David learned to provide for the physical needs of his sheep, to protect them from enemies, and to care for the weak…all worthy lessons for a king-in-training. David would also need the heart of worship that he developed in solitude to lead a nation in worship of God. There quite possibly would not have been a King David if there had not first been a shepherd David. And from the offspring of David, the Shepherd King.

God prepares each of us the same way that He prepared David. God determines when and where each one of us will live so that we will know Him better. He uses our past experiences, skills, abilities, and gifts in order to serve others and to make Himself famous through us.

An awesome book gave me an interesting tidbit: shepherds cut distinguishable notches into the ears of their sheep to mark ownership. The mark of ownership is obvious from a distance. Though I do not bear a physical mark to distinguish me as a Christian, I bear a permanent spiritual mark. The Holy Spirit marked me and sealed me as belonging to Jesus. Life provides many opportunities to hide that mark, but Psalm 23 instructs me in how to keep it obvious by reminding me of the character of the One that cares for me.

I don’t know much about human shepherds, but my heavenly Shepherd teaches me about Himself in Psalm 23. Good-bye Wikipedia, hello Scripture. Holy Spirit, please teach us.


  1. Has there been a circumstance in your life that God has allowed in order to bring you to a greater understanding of an aspect of His character?
  2. Can you recall a time when you accepted Jesus as your Savior and Shepherd? If not, what has held you back?
  3. If Jesus is your Shepherd, would you say that it’s obvious to the world that you belong to Him? How?