Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Zebras and Other Evidence of God's Love for Us"


Zebras and Other Evidence of God’s Love for Us”
By Shelly Burke, Author and Editor

WOW—I can’t believe today is the last day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge! It has been a lot of fun! I’ve found some great new blogs and made some new online friends. The Challenge forced me to write and blog every day—on two blogs! After doing it twice a day (except for Sundays) I’m getting very good at posting on the new Blogger format and on Facebook as well. I’m thrilled to have more followers, too! I prayed that the A to Z Challenge would be successful for me and my businesses and it has been. I plan to continue to blog on a regular basis (not every day, but 2-3 times a week) so check back often or sign up for e-mail notifications whenever a new post appears.

This fun (and fake!) photo
is from www.jokeroo.com
The letter “Z” gives me the chance to write some thoughts I’ve had for a long time.

Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I love nature—sunsets, sunrises, the changing of the seasons, animals.

These things make me so grateful to God for His love for us.

Think about it: God could have given us one kind of tree. Instead, we have many different kinds, with different size, color, and shaped leaves.

He could have given us one kind of flower. Instead, we have flowers of many kinds, with different sizes, colors, shapes, and smells.

We could have just one “big” animal to look at, or one breed of dog, or one kind of cow. Instead, we have hundreds of different species.

He could have made the weather the same all over the world, every day of the year. Instead we have hot, warm, cool…rain, sleet, snow. Very dry areas, and tropical rain forests.

He could have made every sunrise and sunset look exactly the same…yet I’ve never seen two that are exactly the same.

We have almost endless variety in almost everything, throughout the world!

To me this is proof (as if I needed more proof!) that God loves us and wants us to enjoy life!

Today, take some time to enjoy the variety of nature…and thank God for loving us enough to give us such beauty and variety.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky…Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds; livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:1, 20, 24

Thank You, Lord, for creating such variety and beauty in our world! Amen.


I’m also blogging today at Home is Where the Mom Is.
Today’s post is titled “Zoo…and Other Ideas for Summer Fun.” 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "You in 6 Words"


You in Six Words”

How do you describe yourself? Today I challenge you to describe yourself in six words. I thought it would be easy to do so but it was not, at least for me!

I’ve read funny peoples’ funny descriptions of themselves or their life philosophy:
o      * Still fit into high school earrings.
o       *Might as well eat that cookie.

Type “You in six words” into your search engine and you’ll find plenty of examples to get you started.

Here are several I came up with to describe myself. This is a fun exercise--try it!

            Facing the empty nest. Opportunities abound.
           
            Sings loudly…if no one hears!

Love spending time with my daughter! (Morgan and I had a great day together today! The photo at the top is of our pedicures.)

            God’s child. Loved no matter what.

            He knew me before my birth. (Psalm 139:13)

What describes you in six words? Share in the comments.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
Psalm 139:13-14

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is.
Today’s post is “You, as a Mom, in Six Words.” 

Friday, April 27, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Thx, Lord, for Answered Prayers"


“Thx, Lord, for Answered Prayers”
by Shelly Burke, Editor, Nebraska Family Times; To inspire, encourage, and motivate you on your Christian walk.”

It’s FREEBIE FRIDAY! Subscribe to the Nebraska Family Times before Sunday, April 29th and you will  receive a FREE copy of my book Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home. For only $20 you’ll receive 12 issues of local, state and national news from a Christian point of view. Click on the button on the right side of this page to subscribe. Please make payment via PayPal to shelly@shellyburke.net, and leave the address to which you’d like your book sent! Home is Where the Mom Is makes the perfect Mother’s Day gift, and all books will be shipped on Monday, April 30th!

Jenny the beagle, used by God
to help make Morgan's college
decision. 
A few days ago I blogged about my ever-growing prayer list in the post, “"Lifting Up in Prayer"

Today I looked at the list again and realized that many of my prayers had been answered over the last few weeks. Some are prayers that will continue indefinitely—those for healing for people with cancer, prayers for continued safety for my family and loved ones, prayers for God to lead me in my work.

I will never stop praying these ongoing prayers…but I need to remember that some are answered every single day…and even when I don’t know the final outcome of other prayers, they are being answered on a day-to-day basis; one young man continues to recover from cancer-related surgery, a lady continues her treatment for cancer, friends feel God’s comfort after the death of a loved one.

I have had several specific prayers answered in very obvious ways in the last few weeks. These answers were unmistakable, and although the answers might not have been what I expected, they were answered in a way better than I could have imagined. I am so thankful for the reminder that God listens and He always answers our prayers.

One prayer was answered just yesterday. Morgan, our daughter, will graduate in a few weeks and was having a very hard time deciding on a college. She’s not sure exactly what she wants to major in and after visiting five or six colleges, had her choice narrowed down to two very different colleges—different in size, distance from home, and majors offered.

She’d been accepted to both colleges, and scholarships and financial aid offered were very similar. The choice was a difficult one—and only she could make it. I have been praying for God to give her a very clear sign as to which college to go, and when she talked to my sister a few days ago, Becky suggested she pray for the same thing.

Morgan and Jenny
Yesterday when she was getting ready for school I heard her laughing in her room. She came out with a piece of paper and said, “I got my sign!” She explained to me that her dog, Jenny, had rolled over on her floor to have her tummy rubbed and Morgan noticed a piece of paper under her.  Morgan unfolded it, and inside found…a check for more than the amount she needed for the housing deposit that, at one of the colleges was due! To make the message even clearer, the check was from a cattle show that was sponsored by Colorado State University, one of her choices for college! (Morgan isn’t the neatest person in the world, but she is always very careful with checks she receives—so clearly God put it there on the floor under Jenny!)

Could the message be more obvious? Morgan is relieved and so happy with her decision—and I am so thankful that He answered our prayers in such an unmistakable way.

Thank You, Lord, for answered prayers.

“…Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” Mark 11:23-24

“Truly, truly I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My {Jesus’} name, He will give it to you. Ask and you will receive, that your job may be full.”
John 16:23b-24


I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is.
Today’s post is titled “X Marks the Spot”. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Wind"


Wind
By Shelly Burke, Editor and Publisher, Nebraska Family Times and author of Home is Where the Mom is; A Christian Mom's Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home

“Wind” is a part of living in Nebraska, and today was (and is!) one of those days when the wind just howls across the wide open spaces.

A friend and I were driving back from an errand today, and I had to hold on to the steering wheel with both hands and really concentrate to keep my vehicle in my lane. The road was hilly and curvy, so occasionally the wind would be blocked and let up for a few seconds…only to quickly blast us from the other direction.

The seals around the windows on my vehicle are not tight, so the wind was loud as well as strong! Tracy and I almost had to yell to be heard. When Tracy called her daughter to make sure she’d gotten home from school, she had to plug her other ear with her finger to block out the noise of the wind.

Life is sometimes like that loud, windy ride home. We are blown about by trials and troubles and tribulations. We are pushed and pulled from side to side with the demands of family, friends, work, home…and even church. The “wind” noise of life can be such that we can hardly hear each other—or God.

When Elijah was running for his life from King Ahab, the Lord told him to stand on the mountain and wait for Him to pass. 1 Kings 19:11 tells us, “Then a great and powerful wind tore the  mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind…{then} a still, small voice.” That voice was the Lord, who then gave Elijah instructions to escape to safety.

To hear that still small voice on a “windy life” day, we may have to plug our other ear (or both ears) to block out the noise of the telephone, kids, and dirty laundry--all calling for our attention--so we can hear that “still, small voice.”

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.”  Rather than continually fight to keep your life in the right lane, take time each day to pull over, take your hands off the wheel, be still, and just listen.

Life will always push and pull you around, and the “winds of life” will interfere with hearing God. Some days will be “windier” than others. But after you’ve been still…and listened for God’s still, small voice…you’ll be better able to navigate the roads of life.

Lord, thank You for being with me through all of the winds of my life. Please help me to remember to be still and listen for Your still, small voice to guide me. Amen.


I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is
Today’s post is titled “Every Mom is a ‘Working’ Mom.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Verse of the Year"


Verse of the Year”
by Shelly Burke, Editor, Nebraska Family Times

Do you ever get discouraged in your work, whatever it may be?

I get discouraged as a mom when my kids have troubles, don’t listen to what Tim and I say or are having a hard time.

I get discouraged as a “home manager” when (like today) there is laundry to be done, the kitchen is a mess, and clutter threatens to take over (if whatever smells funny in the refrigerator doesn’t take over first!).

I get discouraged as a business owner when I’m behind on updating files, my computer is sllloowwwww and the checks are not coming in (but the bills, of course, are!).  

I get discouraged as a child of God when I know I haven’t acted as His child should.

As always, when discouraged, the best place to look for encouragement is the Bible. Colossians 3:23-24 has always been one of my favorites, and I decided to make it the “verse of the year” personally, and I’ve challenged Nebraska Family Times readers to do the same. Tracy, who does the graphic art for the paper, laid out the verse so it can be cut out and hung on bulletin boards, the refrigerator, or even your bathroom mirror—and I’ve put it all three places!


Colossians 3:23-24 reads, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance for the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”


The verse always encourages me. I ask the Lord to guide me in whatever I am doing and I pray every day that He will walk with me in whatever I do—as a mom, home manager, business owner and most importantly, child of God. I listen for His “still, small voice” to guide me, and I look to His word for direction. I know that I do not always follow and do His will and I imagine that there are many times He is rolling His eyes at me and my actions.

But…I know that He is walking with me and guiding me…I just need to listen. I know that He forgives me for not doing what He wants me to do, and for doing what He does not want me to do.

I know that I am working for Him, and that kids’ actions, the state of mess in my home, and the other frustrations are just part of living here on earth. I can be sure that when I am working for Him, everything will work out. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…and maybe not while I live on this earth. But when I believe in Him, believe that He sent His Son to forgive my sins, the little discouragements in my life just do not seem important. They are part of doing His work and serving Him. I will receive an inheritance from Him—and eternal inheritance--and that is what matters.

And then I resolve to work with all my heart at being a mom, home manager, women, business owner, and child of God, because in whatever I do—even the seemingly insignificant tasks like cleaning the refrigerator—I am serving the Lord.

Thank You, Lord, for the encouragement that You give through Your Word. Please lead and guide me as I strive to do Your will. Amen.


I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is.
Today’s post gives suggestions for “Instilling Values in Your Kids.”



Below  is the graphic of the verse of the year; cut it out and put it where you’ll be able to see it when you are discouraged!























Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Lifting Up in Prayer"


Lifting Up in Prayer
By Shelly Burke, Editor and Publisher, Nebraska Family Times

As I read through my prayer list this morning, I noticed how long the list has gotten over the last few months. It’s just one of those times in life where it seems I know a lot of people who are experiencing heartache, stress, or sorrow of one kind or another. Whether I know them personally or not, I feel sadness for their circumstances and what they are experiencing. 

My prayers are for a wide variety of people—some I’ve known for years and some I have never met but know of their need for healing through others. They include:

An 11 month-old with leukemia who just had a stem-cell transplant.

A 7th grader, diagnosed in November with bone cancer, who is facing an extensive surgery to remove the tumor from his leg, and then a long recovery.

The brother of a friend, who, after four years fighting cancer, recently had a stem-cell transplant.

One of our pastors who has been unable to work for several months due to various health issues.

A friend’s daughter, whose progressive disease is taking more and more of her abilities from her.

A lady who is facing the death of her mother, and a couple facing the loss of their son.

Another friend whose father is experiencing many health problems.

My elderly grandparents, who, after many years of good health, have experienced broken bones, surgeries, and other serious health issues in the last year.

And then I looked at my list of those for whom I pray God’s peace and comfort. Their situations are all very different…yet they are all grieving.

A friend whose daughter was killed in an accident just a few months after her mother died.

Another friend whose husband was killed in an accident.  

Two more friends whose husbands died very unexpectedly.

A friend whose sister and grandmother died within just a few months of each other.

The families of my private-duty nursing patients. My patients were both very disabled and died within days of each other a year ago this month.

Several families who experienced the death of a loved one recently, after long battles with various diseases.

A family who, within a few days, lost two loved ones; one death was expected and one was very sudden and unexpected. One friend lost his brother and his wife.

Some on my list will experience the full restoration of their health, through God’s grace and healing. Although I am confident God can provide full healing to anyone, according to His will, it seems that some I pray for are nearing the end of their earthly lives, and will only be healed in heaven.

Several of those who have experienced the death of a loved one have shared how God has comforted them; some are comforted in knowing that their loved ones are out of pain and in the presence of God now. But the loss of a loved one leaves a hole in many lives no matter what the circumstances.

I have been praying with a feeling of sadness for those on my list who are facing long recoveries or will not be healed and for those who are learning to live without a loved one and facing other challenges and heartaches.  

This morning, though, I realized that none of us will ever experience full health, or total happiness, while here on earth. From the moment sin entered the world, the perfection of God’s creation was gone. As Romans 6:23 tells us, “The wages of sin is death.” As sad and hopeless as that sounds, the verse goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What a blessing! What reassurance! Anyone who accepts God’s offer of eternal life—including every single person on my prayer list who has accepted His offer of forgiveness—will experience full healing, complete health, and total comfort from every heartache when they get to heaven!

In Philippians, Paul tells us, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” (Phil. 3:20-21). So even if the ones we pray for are not healed on earth, they will be transformed in heaven!

And Revelation tells us that in heaven, God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” (Rev. 21:4) With our glorious, perfect bodies, we will also be completely filled with joy!

What wonderful reassurance that is, to all of us who believe—especially those who are sick, or mourning or in pain. Here on earth we will never be free of all illness or sorrow…but we know that in heaven each and every one of us will be free from all illness, pain and sorrow.

Lord, I continue to pray for healing and comfort for those I know who are sick or suffering in body, mind, or spirit. I thank You so much for Your reassurance of the joy and perfection that awaits us in heaven, and pray that You will remind everyone – on my prayer list, and on every prayer list! – of Your love and promises!

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is
Today my post is titled “Family Shorthand—How R U?”

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Talents and Tasks"


Talents and Tasks”
By Shelly Burke, Nebraska Family Times Publisher and Editor

“Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with what the Lord has commanded. And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.” Exodus 36:1-2

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God Who empowers them all in everyone…for just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, tough many are one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corin. 12:4-6, 12

A few months ago our LWML circle met to make the final arrangements for our church’s annual salad luncheon. As the chairwoman went through the list of tasks that needed to be done the last few days before the luncheon and on that day, I heard the following comments:

“I have nerve damage in my fingers so I can’t carry anything; I can move them in hot water so I can wash dishes.”

“It’s hard for me to walk but I can sit and pour coffee.”

“I have to leave by noon so I can watch my kids at the track meet, but I will come early and set up.”

“I used to work as a clerk so don’t mind taking money.”

“I like to see all the people who come; I’ll help them find a place at the tables and carry their food for them.”

“I’m free all day—let me know when you need help.”

I said, “This is my first year helping, so I’ll be here and you tell me what needs to be done!”

Several things struck me:
  • People didn’t focus on their limitations, but looked beyond them to the tasks they could do.
  • Everyone at the meeting had different skills and abilities, different things they preferred to do, different things they didn’t like to do—and there was a task that fit every preference.
  • By the end of the evening all of the tasks, down to who would bring empty containers for leftover salads, were filled.
  • Every single task was necessary to making the event a success.

The task of bringing containers for leftovers after the salad luncheon was as important as the task of setting up the tables, which was as important and making phone calls to remind people to bring the salads and actually making salads! Without all of the tasks being done and all of the people involved using their talents (despite their limitations), it would not have been a success.

In the verses at the beginning of this devotion the task was to build the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the altar for burnt offerings, and everything the Israelites would use for worship and sacrifice. The specifications for these items takes several chapters. There must have been hundreds if not thousands of people working, and they all had their own gifts and talents and worked according to their own specific gifts and talents.

We don’t have to worship in a tabernacle or sacrifice animals any more, thanks to God sending Jesus as a sacrifice to die for us and take away all of our sins.  But God still wants us to be a part of building his “church”—the body of those who believe in Him.

Just as the human body is made up of many parts, all of which (ideally) function together,  the church body is made up of many parts, all necessary for the church body to function in spreading God’s love and His Word and message of sin, grace, and forgiveness. He calls us to, instead of focusing on our shortcomings and limitations, focus on our sills and the things we can do.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10

God calls all of us to use the skills and talents He has given us. Romans 14:12 tells us that we each will be called to give an account of what we did here on earth, to God. I want to tell Him that I made use of my gifts, despite my limitations. Don’t you want to say the same thing?

What gifts and talents can you use for God?

Lord, thank you for the unique gifts and talents You have given to me. Please lead and guide me and give me opportunities to use my gifts for Your glory. Amen. 

(I'm also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Iscom. 
Click to read today's post, "Time for Yourself; Finding It!")

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Shamrocks and Faith"


 "Shamrocks and Faith"

I bought a shamrock plant several years ago. I have a rather brown thumb so wasn’t too surprised when a few months later the individual stems and leaves began to turn brown and shrivel up. Despite my brown thumb, I really hate to throw plants away—just in case they might have a little life in them. So I continued to water my dead-looking plant and left it in the sun by my kitchen sink—just in case there was a little life left.

A few weeks later I glanced at my shamrock and was surprised to see a single green stem poking through all the dead leaves and stems. Within a few more days the pot was full of green stems and leaves again!

This pattern repeated itself several times over the last few years—the plant would go from green and full to brown and empty. The last time everything turned brown was over a month ago. When I cleaned the kitchen last week I thought about throwing the plant out—surely it wouldn’t come back after months of looking so brown. Yet I decided to give it one more chance and wait a week or two to throw it out.

Then, several days ago, it happened again—there was a tiny leaf of green sticking through the brown. Now, a few days later, the pot is almost full of those distinctive green leaves yet again.

As I was looking back at my prayer journal for this year, I realized that more than a few of my prayers were answered as I asked for them to be answered. But from the dates in the journal, I saw that I often prayed for weeks or even months—and even when my prayers were not being answered, I continued to pray and read my Bible and go to church.

And just like the shamrock plant, coming to life long after I thought it was dead, my prayers were answered as well.

As I thought about the shamrock plant, I realized that my life is sometimes like it. Even when my life—or issues in my life—seem brown, dead, and hopeless, I continue to pray to the Lord and wait for him to answer my prayers. I try to keep the faith—by reading my Bible, going to church, and partaking of Holy Communion to strengthen my faith.

I know God is always working, sometimes in the light of day, other times beneath the surface where I can’t see Him…but I continue to pray and have faith, knowing that an answer WILL shoot up.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
  
Dear Lord, I thank you so much that I know that I can always count on You—You will always answer my prayers. Please give me patience and faith, even when it seems there is no hope. Amen.

Due to lack of time (it’s prom night and I’m on my way
to take pictures!) I’m posting the same entry in both blogs:
My other entry was going to be titled “Sunday, a Day of Rest’, and give
pointers I’ve used to make Sunday my day of rest.
That post will appear one day next week.

Have a great weekend! God’s blessings!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Are You a Radio Skipper?"


Are you a Radio Skipper?
By Shelly Burke

I am a radio skipper. I listen to a station for a few seconds (or less) and change the station if I don’t immediately recognize and like the song. I automatically skip if it’s a commercial, too. I can detect any word even distantly related to sports in a millisecond, and again, the station is changed immediately. (You might be glad to hear that this only happens when I’m driving in wide open spaces of Nebraska, and don’t worry—the radio control is on my steering wheel so I don’t need to look away from the road as I’m radio skipping!) It’s a wonder I don’t get “skipping” thumb!

When I do hear a familiar song—especially if it’s from the 80’s--I listen (and often sing along. Sometimes loudly.).

My skipping habit drives my kids crazy! “How can you even tell what song is playing?” they often ask. And I give that “all-purpose” mom answer—“Just because I know.”

But once in awhile their ears detect familiarity in the few notes they hear before I change the station, and they say, “That’s a good song—switch back!” I always go back per their request…and believe it or not, many times when I actually listen to the song, I like it!

Are you a Bible skipper? Do you open your Bible, look at the verse on which your eye lands, and immediately turn to another page if you don’t recognize the verse, or if your eyes land on a word like “sacrifice” or “thou shall not”? Do you prefer to read comfortable and familiar passages?

Any time you read God’s Word, you will benefit from it. However, “Bible skipping” has its problems, just like “radio skipping” does.

By turning the page when you read a certain word or phrase, you’re missing out on God’s Word. Every single word in the Bible is His Word and is there for a purpose—even if the lesson isn’t one you particularly want to learn or read at that time.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man {and woman!} of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Next time you are tempted to skip, stay on that page. Read the whole verse, or even the whole chapter. See what God is telling you. You might very well learn a lesson He wants you to learn or find a new “favorite.”

Have you ever listened to a song over and over again before you finally realized what a certain word or phrase was? The same thing can happen when you read the Bible—after reading a verse or chapter over and over you might suddenly gain new insight as to what it means or how you can apply it to your life.

I often learn something new when I reread something I’ve already read many times. It’s ok to stay on a familiar “station” in the Bible, but read the verses or chapter before and after the words which are familiar with you—you’re sure to learn more when you know the context of the verse or verses by reading what comes before and after. Ask God what message He wants you to get from His message that particular day.

How can you break your habit of “Bible skipping”?
  • Read a Chronological Bible, which presents events of the Bible in the order in which they occurred.
  • Follow another reading plan; type “Read the Bible in a Year” into your search engine and you’ll get many plans to choose from.
  • Study a word, person, or book of the Bible in depth.
  • Read the chapter of Proverbs corresponding to the date.

The more I read and study the Bible, the more I enjoy doing so and the more I learn.  I pray that you will find the same to be true in your life.

Paul says to Timothy (and therefore to us), “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all of this.” 2 Timothy 2:7

 Dear Lord, thank you for giving us Your Word, the Bible. Please give me the urge to read, study, and learn from it, and help me to discern Your messages and how they apply to my life. Amen. 




I am also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is
Today’s entry tells you how to “Break the Shopping Rules.”



Thursday, April 19, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Not Quite Finished"


"Not Quite Finished"

It’s what I refer to as “paper week,” the week I “put the paper together”—find and write all the articles that will be printed in the next issue of the Nebraska Family Times. I’ve been the editor and publisher of the paper for 3 ½ years; it was started by a lady in Norfolk who became ill and could not continue publishing.

One of the reasons I love being the editor and publisher of the Nebraska Family Times is that I enjoy the wide variety of tasks involved. I especially enjoy doing research and finding new websites or authors whose work I can print in the paper. Every month as I begin looking for articles, I pray that I will find articles that will touch the hearts of readers, encourage them, teach them something they’ve wanted to learn about, and bring them closer to the Lord.

In every issue I try to print a variety of articles about Bible Study, families, finance, marriage, and issues parents face when their kids are at different ages and stages. One of my goals is to find and print articles that give readers a different way to view a problem or a solution, other than what they’ve probably read or heard before. I also print news from Nebraska and nationally, from a Christian point of view. I get e-mails daily or weekly from several organizations, websites, and blogs. If I think I might be able to use them in the paper I put them in an e-mail folder for that month; during “putting the paper together” week I decide which ones I’d like to use and request permission as necessary.

Before I print articles I request permission from the author. It’s usually fairly easy to find their contact information but once in awhile it’s impossible to. That’s especially disappointing when it’s an article I really want to print. Several authors have given me permission to reprint anything they write. I try to “discover” a few new authors/blogs/websites every month to keep the material in the paper fresh and interesting. It’s amazing how much great information there is on the internet!

I try to find articles of varying lengths; I was surprised to find that it’s a lot easier to find long articles than short ones. I have several columnists who write for the paper every month or almost every month; I’m blessed to be able to count on them for good material every month.

One of the most challenging articles to find is the main one on the front page. The title of that article is the first thing that people see when they see the paper. The lady who owned the paper before I did gave me some good advice; “Picture the front page of the paper in your head as you’re choosing the articles. Will people see the titles and be interested enough to pick the paper up and read it? How will the graphics look?”  I always know when I’ve found an article that would work for the front page; I get a gut feeling of excitement. It’s a great feeling, especially if I’ve been looking for awhile!

These pictures and the ones below show
printing at the Wayne Herald.
For the first year or so that I published the paper, it took me 4 or 5 days, with late nights, to get everything put together. After the first few months I made myself a checksheet to better keep track of what articles I need. After 3 ½ years I’ve realized that I need to plan about three full days to find and write all of the articles needed each month. Those days are long but fulfilling.

The lady who does the layout of the paper lives in Pierce, NE. I e-mail her the articles as I find them, and then she does the layout of the articles and ads. She also finds the graphics that go with the articles. I’ve tried to find graphics but I’m not very good at it; Jennifer always finds ones that are perfect for the articles.

I think I’ve found all the articles needed to fill the May issue of the Nebraska Family Times, and Jennifer is in the midst of putting everything together and laying it out. She will let me know if she needs more articles to fill the space given, but I usually send her a few extra just to be sure. Tonight or early tomorrow she will e-mail me the layout to proofread. I’m always excited as I wait for the file to open; how will everything look all put together as it will look in the paper? I proofread the articles and make sure that I’ve remembered to include the names and contact information for authors. Then I give Jennifer the “OK” to send it—again via e-mail—to the Wayne Herald, where it will be printed next week.

The paper isn’t quite done as I’m waiting to hear from Jennifer…keep a look-out for the May issue of the Nebraska Family Times next week! If you would like a FREE sample copy, or know someone who would, please e-mail shelly@shellyburke.net with the address you’d like it sent to.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

I'm also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is 
Check there for my post titled "Some Days I just want to Quit"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Peace"


"Peace"

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
            Psalm 4:8


Does this ever happen to you? You go to bed, ready to sleep…and as soon as you turn off the light you begin to worry, fret, relive the negative parts of the day, worry some more, go over and over things you said and did, things you should have said and done, things you shouldn’t have said or done…


David, the writer of this Psalm, certainly had reason to fret and worry over his actions and decisions. 
  • Saul, the king of Israel, became jealous and was trying to kill David (1 Sam. 19).
  •  David and his men came back from a battle and found that their wives and children had been captured  (1 Sam. 30).
  • There was fighting between the houses of Saul and David (2 Sam. 3). 
  • He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and when she became pregnant David schemed to have Uriah, her husband, killed so that he and Bathsheba could marry and the adultery wouldn’t be discovered. As a result, the prophet Nathan told David that his son would die (2 Samuel 11). 
  • David’s own son, Absalom, was plotting to kill him (2 Sam. 14) 

With all of this going on in his life, it’s amazing David got any sleep at all! But clearly he knew that God was faithful, had forgiven him, and would keep him safe, despite his sins. He was not able to only lie down, but to sleep, despite the turmoil in his life. And in Psalm 3:5 David says, “I will wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”  He is confident that he will not just lie down and sleep, but that he will wake again. .

When you lie down tonight, ask for forgiveness for your sins. Then you can sleep in peace, knowing that the Lord loves you, forgives you, and will sustain and keep you safe through the night.  

Lord, please let me feel Your presence tonight as I lie down to sleep. Give me the reassurance that you will keep me in safety and sustain me. Thank you! Amen.

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is .
Today’s post will help you to “Prepare for Sick Days” for
yourself and/or your kids.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blogging A to Z Challenge "Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord"


Open the eyes of my heart, Lord..."

The words of the song  "Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord"  went through my head all last week. When that happens I know I need to take note and figure out why they keep going through my head. When I was planning entries for this blog over the weekend, I realized that those words would make a great devotion for the letter “O”. Here it is!

How can we open the eyes of our hearts to the Lord? The most important way is through reading His word.

The Bible tells us that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

If God wants us to use His word for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training, clearly He wants us to be able to understand it! In his letter to Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to “be strong” as he preaches; “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:7) God gave Timothy insight into His Word, and He will give us insight and understanding as well.

Do you find the Bible confusing and difficult to understand? Some parts of it are, of course (like the visions in Revelation; Bible scholars don’t even agree as to what they all mean). But much of the Bible is very clear; the narratives show us obvious lessons and God gives us clear commands, encouragement, and guidance for every aspect of life.

How can the eyes of your heart be opened to what God has to say to you?

  • Study your Bible every day. Whether you read and meditate on a few verses or a few chapters, make it a habit. Use a study Bible, which has notes about the verses, culture, and background of the passages. You may also choose to use a Bible dictionary and/or Bible Handbook (I use Halley’s Bible Handbook). For more suggestions on Bible Study, see The Bible Tells Me So and Spiritual Discernment.
  • Before you begin studying, ask the Lord to open your eyes to what He is saying in what you’re about to read. Ask Him to open the eyes of your heart to His message to you that day. James promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
  • After you read and re-read the passage you’ve chosen, take a few minutes to just think about it. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” After you read His word, give God a few minutes to impress upon you the message he wants you to have from that Word. Write down your thoughts about the reading, questions you have, and how you can apply it to your life.
 When I read through my Bible study journal notes, or look at notes I’ve written in the margins when I’ve read that part of the Bible in the past, it’s interesting that sometimes a verse will mean something completely different to me today, than it did months or years ago. The Bible is an amazing book; what happened and was written thousands of years ago can teach us in our lives today.

“Let the words of my heart and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight.” Psalm 19:14a

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your word. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, to Your Word, to the message you want me to get and understand. Open my eyes to Your plan for me, and give me the courage to follow the path You have for me. Amen.


I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is.
Today’s entry is titled “Ordering Morgan’s Graduation Cake.” 

Monday, April 16, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Lessons from Nehemiah"

"Lessons from Nehemiah"
by Shelly Burke 


(The photos in this post are
photos of the walls of
Jerusalem.)
Nehemiah was the governor of Jerusalem in 445 BC. . He wanted to spur the people into action in rebuilding the protective wall around Jerusalem (which had been destroyed in 586 BC).

The rebuilding was tricky because many enemies of the Jews did not want the wall rebuilt. Their armies marched against Jerusalem to try to prevent the rebuilding. When Nehemiah heard of the plot to cause confusion and prevent the rebuilding, he took proactive action; some of the people worked on the construction of the wall, and some “held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail” and protected the others (Nehemiah 4:16).

Later, when the wall was almost rebuilt, Nehemiah’s enemies tried to distract him by asking him to meet them to talk. They tried four times to distract Nehemiah, but he refused to leave his work. (Nehemiah 6:4)

Later another enemy tried to scare Nehemiah into retreating to and living in the temple so he wouldn’t be killed. Nehemiah wisely saw that God had not sent the man, but Nehemiah’s enemies had, hoping to scare him. (6:10-12)

Once the rebuilding started, it took only 52 days to finish.

I’m always amazed at how the narratives (not stories; to me the word “stories” indicates non-fiction, and I believe every event recorded in the Bible happened) in the Bible give us lessons thousands of years later. We can take several messages from Nehemiah’s examples.

  1. Be on guard. We don’t need "spears, shields, and bows” like the people in Nehemiah’s day did, as we go about our daily work,  but we can and should “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17) to guard us against the temptations of today. 
  1. Avoid distraction. Our lives today are full of distractions; work, work at home, the internet, Facebook, cell phones, sports, children, grandchildren, etc., etc., etc. Nehemiah realized that his enemies were trying to distract him from finishing the wall; today we are distracted from worshiping God, studying His Word, and praying. 
“Finally brothers {and sisters!}, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

  1. Be discerning. Messages with the potential to scare us come from every side. Foreign nations threaten us. It seems a new “cause” of cancer is found every day. Things we previously thought were “healthy” are found to be harmful. The economy stinks. Politicians from both sides tell dire tales of what will happen if someone from the “other” side is elected. How do we know which messages of today are true? How can we live without constant fear? Look to the best source for guidance and reassurance. 
“But the wisdom from above {which you can find by reading the Bible} is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”            Romans 8:31   

  1. Be focused. It took Nehemiah and his men only 52 days to finish the rebuilding of the wall. The references I’ve looked at say it’s difficult to figure out exactly what parts of the wall were restored, despite Nehemiah’s detailed list. One of the maps I saw shows the wall being shaped as a rough triangle, about 3000 ft. long on the long sides and about 1000 ft. long on another side. Any way you look at it, there was a LOT of wall to rebuild! 
Nehemiah and his men were clearly very focused on completing the job—they had to avoid any type of distraction to get the wall done, especially considering their enemies could attack at any time.

When I’m working on a devotion or article or putting the Nebraska Family Times together, I have to be focused too. It’s difficult—I do much of my work on the computer so am tempted to check my e-mail or Facebook, or throw another load of laundry in or…I need to remind myself to FOCUS on the task at hand. I do this by praying—praying that I would find articles and information that would touch the hearts of my readers and bring them closer (or lead them for the first time) to God. I ask Him to guide my work.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Proverbs 16:3

How can you use the lessons of Nehemiah in your life today?

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is
Read the entry today and learn how to “Never Run Out!” of anything. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge "Monitors"


 Monitors

David wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…When I was woven together…your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16 (excerpted)

My mother-in-law recently had knee surgery and I sat with her as she was recovering after the surgery.

As a nurse I’m naturally interested in all of the monitoring devices—many things have changed since I was in school! Various devices monitored her oxygen level, blood pressure, and temperature.

A device collected her own blood from the surgical site; later her own blood was infused back into her body to help speed recovery. Although her oxygen level is fine, she is breathing extra oxygen through prongs in her nose; this has also been found to speed healing.

IVs administer antibiotics to prevent infection.

A device automatically moves the leg that was operated on to speed healing. A device on her other leg periodically squeezes it from toes to thigh to prevent blood clots from forming.

Special nerve blocks, in which medication was injected into nerves that lead to her leg and knee, should keep the surgical site free from pain for hours.

Lab techs come in to draw blood and check if her hemoglobin level drops too much.

All of this technology is necessary to monitor my mother-in-law’s condition and speed healing.

But for One, none of the monitoring is necessary. He was there when she was being knit together in her mother’s womb. He created her inmost being. He knows the number of hairs on her head and the number of days of her life has already been written in His book (Psalm 139).

He knows her temperature, blood pressure, pulse, oxygen level and hemoglobin level without the use of any machine. He has designed her body so that it will heal; the man-made devices will help speed healing but He has formed the cells, the fibers, the muscles that will actually heal, and He has set in motion that process that is more complicated than we can imagine.  

Despite all of the technology, the devices and tools to measure function and speed healing and prevent complications—we remember that He is the Great Physician. He is the true Healer.

I praise You, Lord, that I am so fearfully and wonderfully made. Even as we are thankful for “modern” equipment that helps us maintain and regain health, we know that You are the ultimate Healer. Amen.

I’m also blogging at Home is Where the Mom Is.
Check out the post today about “Making Preparations for Severe Weather
and Spiritual Storms.”