The Sweet Ones and the Wild

Well it is summer time and here in the deep South you can tell that just by the Vacation Bible school flyers and announcements on every corner in every sleepy, little town.  With tireless dedication an army of adult and teen volunteers pray, plan, pray, revise their plans, pray some more and then open wide the doors of each church to a group of wide eyed, energetic children from every walk of life.  To those of you who have prayed, donated, taught, worked and mostly loved these children to the heart of Jesus this summer, I want to say thank you!

Our boys are all a bit past Vacation Bible School age, but many years, many prayers and much love was poured into each of the for many summers when they were younger.  I remember your love for them.  Mostly, they remember your love for them, your love for Jesus.  This poem, one I wrote several years ago as a thank you to those of you who touched the lives of our boys, I want to share in thanks and honor of all who continue to touch the lives of countless children for the sake of Christ!

The Sweet Ones and the Wild

by Laura Taylor

The air buzzed with great excitement

on that hot Judean noon.

Crowds of anxious people knew that

Jesus would be there soon.

Tons of children laughing, playing, running everywhere

Some with clean, scrubbed faces

and neatly braided hair

Waiting patiently, obedient, with

manners all in place.

Little angels, oh so tender,with

sweet smiles upon their face.

Others, not so angelic, yelling,

running, acting wild

With many parents thinking

“I’m glad that’s not my child!”

Jesus soon arrived and great things

He did proclaim.

So full of love’s compassion

those he touched, never the same.

Parents who loved their children,

both the sweet ones and the wild

Took them up to see Jesus so that

He would bless their child

Angrily the disciples began to

shoo them all away.

Jesus the great Teacher, only had time

for important things that day!

But, Jesus gently took one  squirming

child into his arms,

Looking up at confused disciples,

he said without alarm,

“Le me bless these children, don’t

you ever hinder them!

For the kingdom heaven belongs

to such as them.”

He blessed each child that came

both the sweet ones and the wild

With kindness and love

He touched the heart of every child.

And you have done the same

as you gave your time and love

Touching the lives of little ones

you’ve touched God’s heart above.

Thank you for being Jesus to

the sweet ones and the wild

And touching for eternity

the heart of every child.

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Book Review: Hard Fighting Soldier Joe Cannon: 65 years of Pioneer Gospel Exploits for the Glory of God

The story of Joe Cannon is truly one of incredible exploits and deeply abiding faith in the God who called him to go and preach the gospel!   One quote from Hard Fighting Soldier (p 37) says it all: “When missionaries through the years asked him how to know where to go, he would say, ‘Open your bible, open a map, and pray to the Lord of the harvest. That’s how you get you orders from headquarters.’ ”

And go he did!  From the shores of Japan and Okinawa post World War 2 to the tribes of New Guinea, he and his wife fearlessly shared the love of God with all whom they encountered.

It is apparent that author, David Sitton, truly desires to honor this man of God by providing accurate and detailed information about Joe Cannon’s life and ministry.

For more information on David Sitton’s book Hard Fighting Soldier click the link below:

http://ambassador-international.com/book/hard-fighting-soldier-joe-cannon-65-years-pioneer-gospel-exploits-glory-god/.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher Ambassador International

Family Time: God’s Amazing World: And it was GOOD!

Welcome to the Laurel Wood

Home of EE Otter and Friends

God’s world is a wondrous and miraculous place!  He created everything in it, both the things we see and the things we cannot see and His Word, the Bible tells us the story of creation.  Here’s an invitation to  you and your family join me and EE Otter here in this corner of the Laurel Wood as we discover the amazing treasure of truths in God’s Word and how we can apply those truths to our lives everyday!

As we travel along learning about God’s love, you might find having a copy of my children’s book EE Otter and the Bullfrog Bullies would be helpful as we will be using it as a resource for our exciting journey.  However, you can adventure along with us regardless since our compass will be the unfailing Word of God himself.  Let’s get started!

God’s Amazing World: And it was GOOD!

Scripture References: Genesis 1:1-20; Colossians 1:16

EE Otter and the Bullfrog Bullies: Chapter One: Meeting EE

Grown Up Preparation

     Take some time to re-read the Genesis account of creation and the verse from Colossians.  You may also know of a few other verses, such as Acts 17:24-31, that can help as you prepare your heart and mind for this family devotional time.  Think about the amazing world God created, about the truth that Christ was there with Him, about the fact that we were created for Him and spend a few minutes just praising Him for these things. Decide, depending upon the ages of your children, which verses you will read and if there are other verses that you might want to use to support the fact that God designed and created this world. You may want to make a list and have your children look up verses on their own throughout the week and use these as talking points during car rides, dinner, or bedtime.

Let the Adventure Begin:

Things you will need:

  • Bible (your Compass for our adventures)
  • a timer
  • slips of paper with categories on them: flying creatures, swimming creatures, land creatures, insects, flowers, fruit…………
  • copy of EE Otter and the Bullfrog Bullies (optional)
  • 3×5 cards, one for each family member
  • Play the game: “Take-A-Moment”

Decide who will go first and have that person draw a category slip.  Now set the timer for 30 seconds and see how many creatures he/she can name from the category drawn.  You can decide if you will have a winner and award a prize.

Begin by asking what they think of the how many different creatures that exist.  Where did they all come from?  How could they all be so different?  Why are there so many types and kinds?  Which is their favorite?

Next, open God’s word, and then pray together for His wisdom and revelation as you learn more about what an awesome God we serve.  Read from Genesis 1.  As you read about what was created on each day, you can ask the family to recall some of the creatures they named during the game.  Ask them what God had to say about His creation. “It was good” It had to be good because God is only and always good and His creation reflected His character.

How did God define days in the Genesis account? Some Christian teachers and pastors teach that it is possible for God to have used evolution as a way to make the world; that each day could have been a million years since God exists outside of time.  This is not Truth!  What does God say?  He says “and the evening and the morning were the…….day”  Once God set the sun and moon into their orbits, He then created a timetable for His creation that was a 24 hour period.  For further proof of God’s definition of days and how He used 24 hour periods to create our amazing world, see what He said to Moses in Deuteronomy  20:4.

The very beginning of the Bible tells us God created the world, what does the New Testament have to say about that?  Since the Bible, from its’ first word to its’ last word is all about God’s love for us and His plan of redemption for us through Christ, He must tell us something of creation in the New Testament too!  Read Colossians 1:16, and/or Acts 17:24-31.  Talk about how these verses reinforce what God said 2000 years before in the Genesis account.

If you are using EE Otter and the Bullfrog Bullies, read chapter one and then let the kids tell you some of the things mentioned that God created.  Also, have them repeat Opaah’s saying, “Seasons will come and go.  The river’s water will rise and fall, but the Word of God stays true through it all!”

Finally, get out your compass!  Write the bible verse that your family will be meditating on and memorizing this week on a 3×5 card.  Then let all of the adventurers find a place to “post” their compass.  It should be somewhere that everyone will be able to see it throughout the week.  It will serve as your weekly Compass point to keep everyone headed in the right direction.

Perhaps a snack of animal crackers would be a great treat for everyone after their adventure today in the Laurel Wood!   And come back here on Monday for a list of fun activities, quotes and discussion ideas that will reinforce today’s devotional.

Review of By God’s Design: Overcoming Same-Sex Attractions- A True Story

I guess it goes without saying that the whole topic of homosexuality, same-sex attraction, and gay marriage is an explosive one these days.  In By God’s Design: Overcoming Same-Sex Attractions–A True Story, author Judith Hartzell handles the topic with much grace yet she doesn’t compromise the truth of the gospel nor the truth of the love of a God who came to save and transform the lives of  the broken.

This book is the biography of Alan Medinger, a man whose life was spiraling out of control due to his hidden, risky homosexual involvement.  He was an incredibly bright and successful businessman; a Sunday school teacher, father of two girls and pillar of the community.  Yet he struggled with same-sex attraction and felt hopeless and trapped.

When Alan truly encounters Christ as his personal Savior he realizes that God didn’t just come to change him, but to transform him.  Not to change his heart but to exchange it for the heart of Christ.

Ms. Hartzell does a wonderful job of weaving the story of Alan and his wife Willa into the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ who came to make all things new.  It is a story of love and power and transformation that is full of love, grace, and kindness.  By God’s Design is not only a fascinating read, it is also full of practical information that can help anyone who may struggle with same-sex attraction or those who desire to minister the love of Christ to someone they know who is engaged in this struggle.

I highly recommend it to anyone who desires a deeper understanding of the truth of God’s Word and His design for man.  It would be a great asset to a pastor or christian counselor’s reference library.

If you would like more information about this please visit the following website:

http://ambassador-international.com/books/gods-design-overcoming-sex-attraction-true-story/.

I received this book free of charge from Ambassador International.

Endings and Beginnings: a graduation letter to my son

me and andrew at lake

My dear Andrew,

So, here I sit in the quiet of my classroom, in this place where we, you and I, launched a new beginning seven years ago. Seems like yesterday.  And, here I am, tears pooling in my eyes, lump in my throat, shaking my head at the pain and the wonder of it all:

 Beginnings and endings

Endings that must occur so beginnings can burst forth

with new life, with grace, with power, with light

Beginnings that can never be embraced and enjoyed

If we get caught up in the endings.

     Time passes.  I marvel at the young man you have become.  I hurt for the walls that have closed the endings inside, walling out the hope of beginnings.  Of new beginnings.  It seems, in the quietness of this place that has notch marked into my heart a litany of beginnings and endings, time is standing still.  The heart of this mom caught off guard between desperately grabbing fast onto this ending and the letting go into a new beginning.

     I examine each memory, each moment etched into my heart: moments and memories that have ticked away into years.   Herein lays the dichotomy of it all; the opposites that crash and collide inside of me. Joy and heartache; belly laughs and gut wrenching sobs; bitterness and sweetness; smiles and tears mingled together welling up. Tears spilling damp onto this page as I write and laughter echoing softly in my heart.  So it is the same with endings and beginnings, my son, two seemingly opposing forces battling for the upper ground.

                        0515151352                             sissy and andy

     And there have been many endings for us, ones that stung, that crashed, that smashed into us, stole our breath and shattered our hopes.  Endings that we thought would break us down, and perhaps did.  Endings that seemed to gain the upper ground in our lives.  Endings we thought were just that—–THE END

          0515151352a                           0515151351a

     Yet the clock still marked the passage of time—-seconds to minutes, minutes to hours, to days, to years.  The sun rising softly in muted hues, beginning on its journey, faint and hopeful. Steady rising to intense brilliance, to its fullest potential only to pause momentarily and then journey on to its setting, seemingly fading away into the darkness of night.  Yet the ending of the day never means the ending of the Light.  Don’t ever, ever forget that, my son.

     Because of all the things this Mom may not know; of all the things this Mama’s heart may not be certain of–this one thing I’d bet my every breath and heartbeat on–there is ALWAYS LIGHT!  Encapsulated in the blackest, darkest of nights there is ALWAYS LIGHT somewhere.  At times it screams in intense brilliance, at times it quietly shimmers like a million stars a million miles away.  And if ALWAYS LIGHT, my son, then there is always this: HOPE!

     Here as this Mom’s tears fall, the clock having ticked away far too furiously, a childhood gone, a boy-man almost grown, all in an instant.  My heart melts, hurts for all that seems too quickly ending.  Counting those broken and beautiful notches on my heart, all of the beginnings that have come to endings way too quickly, have come to this ending, my son: boy to young man.

0515151349          0515151351       0504150732a (1)

Would that I could but grasp the last fleeting seconds of daylight in my hands refusing to allow the sun to complete the course carved out for it by its’ Maker; that I could somehow stop it all from ending.

     I know, child of my heart, “Foolish Mom!” Silly.  No one can stop the sun on its course, no one was ever meant to do that.  And, no one can stop a boy child from growing into man.  No one was ever meant to do that, not even a Mama!  Endings and beginnings appear to be crashing mad against the other again.  Yet, just as light can be found in the darkest places, so too, found in every ending is a new beginning.

           0515151351b                                   graduates

     Just as darkness serves to prove the very existence of light, so every ending serves to prove to us the existence of a beginning.  Not seeing the light in the darkness, not seeing the new beginning enclosed in the ending is always a matter of our own choosing.  AS bittersweet as endings can be, as this particular ending is, may they only serve to shout to our hearts from the megaphone of truth: THIS VERY ENDING IS PROOF OF A NEW BEGINNING bright as the noonday sun!

Keep this truth close, my son:

ALWAYS LIGHT, ALWAYS HOPE

And always, ALWAYS a NEW BEGINNING

ALWAYS the choice is yours

     O yes, in this moment, or any moment, it is so easy to get caught up in the darkness, in the consuming sadness of the endings.  Time continues its steady rhythm.  We can become stuck there, marking our hearts to the stagnant beating of the past; the drumming of darkness building walls to shut out the light; the bitterness of the endings sucking out the sweet of new beginnings.

     I find myself  at this very place now, wanting to somehow stop the ending here, to cling on to the moments: the sound of your boyish laughter, your chubby arms wrapped around my neck for a hug; rocking you to sleep; kissing away your hurts, laughing at your latest lame joke…… I just want to get stuck here, in this moment, in the steady rhythm of all that is past and passing too quickly. But, remember this as well, child of my heart: Just because something is past doesn’t mean that it is gone; doesn’t mean that it is supposed to be gone.  Hearts were meant to savor moments gone by, to savor endings, not to marinate in them.  Therein lays the difference between celebrating the ending and embracing the new beginning, or getting stuck in the ending and resenting the new beginning.

     So now, my child, my boy grown to young man, this is that moment for you–for me–for us, the moment of choice.  The moment to choose to seek the light; to always look for it blazing or shimmering knowing that darker days only prove that Light is always there.  ALWAYS!

                                                                andy joe and the katies

     And this is the moment we get to choose to unwrap this gift of this ending and all of the endings yet to come.  To savor and enjoy the wonder of the journey knowing that inside of the ending is a beautiful new beginning!

This is the moment, child of my heart

EMBRACE LIGHT
EMBRACE HOPE
EMBRACE the NEW BEGINNING of all that IS TO COME!

YOU were born for such a time AS THIS!

                                                                 Bushels and Pecks,

                                                    Momish

Live Television Interviews This Weekend – What I Learned

I was so very glad to share my Greemville experience with my friend Maria! This week we’ll be blogging about some of the things we learned from our first tv interviews and our book signings. Today I am re-blogging Maria’s post. She does a great job giving you a window into lessons learned from two newbie authors. I know you’ll enjoy it! And, check out her blog at: mariabostian.com for great author interviews, fire safety tips and just plain, good, old writing! I am so blessed to have her as a friend, encourager, and fellow traveler on this writing journey.

Maria Bostian

Had the wonderful opportunity to go on two live interview segments this weekend. I was a guest author, along with Laura Taylor. We had a great time, but learned a few things, too. Laura and I met last year at the Write 2 Ignite Conference at North Greenville University and have been fast friends ever since. We’ve walked (hopped, skipped, tripped, etc.) along this path to publishing together and are here in Greenville this weekend for interviews and a joint book signing later this afternoon at Barnes and Noble, Inc.

On Friday morning, we were part of the Your Carolina Segment that was filmed during the 10:00 a.m. hour at Michelin on Main, right in the heart of Greenville. The studio is part of the Michelin store and is directly on the street corner. It is an interesting location, fore sure. We met some other unique people being interviewed, as…

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Bullies and Easter? Freedom from the Grip of Sin

RELEASE DATE: 10/24
EE Otter and The Bullfrog Bullies

What a wonderful and busy weekend our family had as we traveled to gorgeous Greenville, SC for some great PR related to my book!  It was a fun-filled learning adventure and I was glad to have my friend and fellow author Maria Bostian to share it with as well!

Bullying is such a hot topic these days!  Just about every day on news channels, in newspapers, magazines or the web you’ll find a story about bullying.  While it seems so much more prevalent these days, it is certainly not a new thing!  Bullies have been around since man decided that he knew better than God and was going to do things his own way.  Thus, the heart with the potential to bully was born.  And, I am sure most of us have a tale or two of our own to tell about bullies.  And, if you’ve ever been the victim of bullying, even if the experience is years old, the remembrance of it can bring back strong and painful emotions.

This Easter weekend all we have to do is look at the cross to see bullies in their cruelest hour beating, scourging, mocking Jesus.  An innocent man, accused by covert bullies under the guise of religion, tried by cowards who refused to stand on what was right,  betrayed and denied by those who claimed to be his friends.  In a short period of time, less than 24 hours Jesus experiences mental, emotional, spiritual and physical bullying to the most extreme measures!  How is it that I still doubt that He “gets it” when my heart is broken and my spirit crushed by the bullies that I encounter?

Enter the cross where Jesus laid down His life, spilled His innocent blood so that those who repent of their sins and accept His gift of salvation can have their accounts wiped clean by a Holy God!  And the song that has been playing in my heart and head: In Christ Alone (by Stuart Townend) . His death became my freedom from the curse of sin that separated me from a holy and righteous God.  He is my Righteousness.  His death has made me free as Galatians 5:1 says “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free”

And I come back to the song playing in my head; to this phrase that has got me thinking about sin’s curse and the collateral damage that we feel from sin’s curse when someone chooses to bully us: “And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its’ grip on me” .  Reality is this: many people use their “freedom” to inflict pain upon others;  bullies choose to sin and their choice inflicts a hefty price for anyone on the receiving end of their ugliness.

We hear this truth preached: that Christ died for our sins, once and for all, and that anyone that receives Him is no longer separated from the Father by their sin.  In essence, the curse of sin, which is separation from a Holy God, no longer has its’ grip on us!  Hallelujah! “And as He stands in victory sins’ curse has lost its’ grip on me!”  But, what if there is more?

What about the devastation that can grip us when we have been victimized by bullying?  The residual effects of that pain can hold us fast in its death grip and slowly choke all life right out of us.  Please hear this truth: the horrible effects of the sins someone else commits against us were also dealt with when Christ arose!  No power could hold Him down!  There was nothing that was going to stop Him from defeating the curse of sin; nothing that was going to stop Him from rising to power over the effects of sin (our own sin or the sins committed against us) and raising us up with Him to victory!

Will we feel pain when someone hurts us with their words or their actions? Unfortunately, we will.  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t or won’t feel the pain of it.  What I am saying is that this Easter celebration just gives emphasis to the fact that we can choose to live Easter everyday when we stand in the rightful power of our Savior Jesus Christ and in His love!  Maybe that is the mystery behind why He told the people on that hillside centuries ago in the book of Matthew chapter 5 to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  Perhaps this is where true power to overcome lies?

He gives us very simple instructions here.  Not easy, but simple and straightforward.  When He rose again, He provided the power to make these simple, but sometimes difficult instructions completely possible to follow.  We do not have to live in the grip of the curse of sins committed against us!

Not only saving us from our own sins, but giving us a power to live free from the vice-grip of the pain and bitterness caused by those who bully and hurt us.  The beauty and the power of Easter is meant to be an everyday thing for the children of God, for the church of Christ!  We celebrate and live in the power of Christ Resurrected!

What the apostle Paul prayed for his brothers and sisters in Ephesus is my prayer, also, for all of you:   Ephesians 1:15-23

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[a] toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers,  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Amen!

HAPPY (everyday) EASTER!

Enjoy the link to the song: In Christ Alone