Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Becoming Minimalist Blog

    If you are looking for a great blog to read that gives you encouraging words and motivates you to become a better person day in and day out then check out Becoming Minimalist!  A friend of mine has sent me two or so emails from this blog and today I just couldn't help but share.  This one post in particular is good, but be sure to keep checking it out because he has some great words of wisdom! 

This Speak Joy blog post is completely written by Joshua Becker.  I had no part in it and take absolutely no credit.  Check out his blog to read more good stuff!

Speak Joy

In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” - Brennan Manning
Seth Godin, who I enjoy reading, once wrote, “If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all. Not adding value is the same as taking it away.” In Seth’s context, he was writing about business and organizational contribution. But the thought holds true for each of our interpersonal relationships as well.
Not adding value to the people and the conversations around us is the same as taking it away.
For one reason or another, we have been brought into the lives of the people around us. Sometimes we are involved in their lives because of choice (a spouse, a friend), sometimes because of a mutual interest (groups, clubs, churches), other times the nature of our relationship may be out of our control (work, assigned groups). But regardless of the nature of each relationship, we have a unique opportunity to add value.
There is incredible potential in the words we use to speak hope and joy and peace into the people around us. We need to be reminded of this truth often. And it should impact our approach to nearly every conversation we enter into.
Correctly understood, this simple, profound thought calls us to be more intentional, more thoughtful, and more persistent. It calls us to speak joy and contribution into our relationships whenever possible. It invites us to:
Speak with optimism. Optimism always lays a foundation for hope.
Give more compliments. Genuine words of praise are powerful. Yet, too few.
Draw on past experiences. Because of your history, you have learned unique life lessons—some have been positive, some have been negative. But nobody else in the entire world has had the same experiences as you. Draw on them. And when they are helpful, pass along the lessons you have learned.
Learn to listen. Every story is unique. Every life circumstance is different. The first step in adding value to another person’s life is to correctly understand their worldview and situation.
Ask more questions. Asking questions communicates interest, concern, and care. Plus, you can learn a lot about a person by simply letting them speak uninterrupted.
Earn the right to speak. Live an others-centered life seeking to put others first with your actions. You earn a far-weightier right to speak improvement into other’s lives after you prove with your actions that you genuinely desire to help them. Words are cheap. Actions reveal our true motives.
Speak always in love. All truth—even the most difficult—can be communicated with love. In fact, the more difficult the truth, the more love is required.
Our lives hold great potential. So do our words. What you say matters, choose wisely. And speak joy. "

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nehemiah 8

Nehemiah 8

   The walls are built, now what?  Well, it has been over a hundred years since some of the Jews have been in Jerusalem.  There could even be children or young adults that have never heard the word of the Lord before.  They have been living in foreign lands and foreign cultures for years now, so it only seems appropriate for The Word of the Lord to be read to His people.  I'm sure the Israelites were wide open to hearing what God had to say after they just witnessed and were a part of His miracle of the wall being built in 52 days.  (Even the surrounding nations knew it was a miracle from God: Nehemiah 6:16)
     - The Lord had prepared their hearts by protecting them and bringing them through the 52 day struggle of hard labor and fear of war. "And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law."

   Verses 4-8 stump me.  I try to picture like a church service or ministry environment but cant seem to understand what ALL those people are doing.  We have Ezra reading the Book of the Law.  Then we have 8 other men on stage with him, 4 to his left and 4 to his right.  Then we have 13 Levites who are instructing the people, also reading from the Book of the Law, and giving it meaning so people could understand. 
     -I just feel like there is a lot going on here.  I don't understand how all of them are reading, instructing, etc to the people at the same time.  Even if it is a big group, I could understand them being in small sections or circles and one man reading to or instructing a few, but that is not the picture I am getting from the text.  Especially with 8 men just standing on stage with Ezra.  Maybe they are leaders and are on stage to show their support, maybe they all took turns reading (although there is no text to support this it may be valid since it says the Word was read from daybreak to noon, about 5-6 hours!), maybe they are crowd control- who knows!  All we know is that they are on stage with Ezra.  

   I love how reactive and emotional the people are being to the Word as it is being read.  They lift their hands, they shout AMEN, they bow down, and they cried. ALL of them cried! "For all of the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law."  Sometimes I really long for this in the modern day church.  Don't you even find yourself wanting to stand up and shout HALLELUJAH!  AMEN! JESUS SAVED MY SOUL!! GOD IS SO GOOD!!!!  Don't you ever just want to clap and dance and sing loudly when you're worshipping without people looking at you like you are a lunatic!  I mean come on people- THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH!! THE JOY!  Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything.  And of course there needs to be structure and containment in a church service. But sometimes I just think there needs to be more time and places for praising our God LOUDLY!  Without holding back.  I'm saying this to the church as well as myself.  Too often I hold back.  I think I might make it my personal goal to sing louder than that old lady in church, dance more than the little kids and blare my praise music louder than some hoodrat's rap music. They won't know what hit em! :)

   Celebration is a major theme I got out of this chapter.  It is true and right a good to celebrate, especially on special occasions.  I'm all about the holidays!  But I just love how verses 10 and 12 mention to "send portions to those who have nothing prepared."  The celebration and joy is not just for those who can afford it- it is for everyone!  It is our call to share that joy with others as well.

   The Feast of Booths is very interesting to me. The feast was to remind those in the promised land what it was like for their ancestors to live in the desert.  In captivity, the significance was probably lost because 1. they weren't in the promised land anymore and 2.  they may not have been taught or would have gone astray from the Lord's teachings.  After the people were read The Law and were reminded of the Lord's promises and could rest in peace in their promised land, they celebrated the Feast of Booths "and their joy was very great!" 
     - The ancient rabbis said, "He who has not seen Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths does not know what rejoicing means." (Quest Study Bible notes)

If you have anything to add or any questions about Nehemiah 8 then please feel free to leave a comment.  I'll get back with any questions as soon as I ask someone wiser than me;) Have a wonderful day! Love, Devon

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nehemiah 7


   Nehemiah has been in charge of the rebuilding of the wall but now that the wall is built and they are to begin making it an inhabited city, Nehemiah wisely appoints new leadership.  He appoints leadership in worship as well as leadership in government.  
     - It is important to note that he appoints God fearing men of integrity for both position in the church as well as the government.  
     - The Lord appointed Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, but even though it was a task given to him, he did not do it on his own.  The Lord provided helpful leadership from other, he provided the men and women to do the hard labor, he provided the King's assistance, resources and protection.  We, as believers, can apply this in our own lives.  Nehemiah is one name of many many people that carried out the work of the Lord.  Nehemiah did a great job of recording the workers and the work they did, and that is for a good reason.  No matter where you are serving, whether you get worldy recognition, whether you ever see a difference, YOU are a critical part in the success of the Lord's work.  That is such a sweet characteristic of the Lord, that He uses us to fulfill his will in so many ways.  From the stay at home mother that is raising her children up in the faith to the sun-scorched missionary taking care of the ill, every little service matters and is cherished by the Lord.

The List of the Exiles
     -Its hard, but try to read through every name and think of them as actual people that lived.  So often i read through a list of names and they just don't seem real to me.  They are just names, in history.  But try to put a face to the names and cherish that we have a list of descendants who lived in the days of Nehemiah and Esther and Daniel and try to make it as real as possible.  These were 100% real people with beards and hairy legs and stinky armpits.  They had family problems, they struggled with sin, they had jobs.  Don't just skip through the names, read them and say them out loud if it helps.  But try to do this throughout the whole Bible, not just through genealogies.  The Bible is alive, these names were alive.  Do whatever you can to read the chapters and stories believing that.

     -The list of the exiles in Nehemiah differs slightly from the list of names in Ezra.  There are many reasons floating around for these discrepancies, some of which seem very fair:

     > Perhaps errors occurred in the process of copying subsequent manuscripts.
     > The lists may have been made under slightly different circumstances: Ezra may have listed those who announced their intentions of returning to Judah, while Nehemiah may have listed those that actually arrived.
     > Perhaps Nehemiah spelled some of the names slightly differently than Ezra
     >The number of women may account for the difference in the totals, but that would mean three times as many men returned than women.
     >The difference in numbers could also represent the number of children under 12
     >The difference in numbers could also represent Jews from tribes other than Judah and Benjamin

    -Both Ezra and Nehemiah use the same grand total, 42, 360, so the differences in the other numbers is not something to worry about.  

Verses 63-65: Not allowing these descendants to be a part of the priesthood may seem harsh, but it shows the dedication and fear of the Lord in His people.  "There were strict requirements for the priesthood that symbolized the purity and holiness needed to come into God's presence, and any priest that attempted to minister while unclean risked death.(Leviticus 8-10)" (Quest Study Bible notes)  They could not be sure that these men were truly the descendants of Aaron, and the Lord had appointed only the descendants of Aaron to be priests and eat of the most holy sacred food.  

If you have anything to add or any questions about Nehemiah 7 then please feel free to leave a comment.  I'll get back with any questions as soon as I ask someone wiser than me;) Have a wonderful day! Love, Devon

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Neapolitan Cupcakes

Yuuuuuum!!! These are delicious!!

The original recipe is from but it uses vanilla and brownie instead of strawberry.  I found the strawberry and brownie idea from the blog iheart2stamp.

I followed the original recipe down to a "t."  The only thing I did differently is I used cream cheese icing instead of vanilla.  YUM!!

Be sure and follow the ingredients and directions because its not the same as the box. The cake and brownies need to be a different consistency than normal to go well together.

*Beware though, the recipe says it yields 4 dozen cupcakes, but I got a little less than 2 dozen.  My cupcakes are a little larger than a normal cupcake because I have never gotten down the "fill 2/3s of the way full" concept, but even if they had been the right size I think the recipe might yield a little over 2 dozen.

I have had people rage about these cupcakes every time I have made them.  They really are delicious.  I am not even a strawberry cake fan, but mixed with the chocolate these cupcakes are ridiculous.  I encourage you to try them and in doing so you will become everyone's favorite baker. :)  Happy baking!

Love, Devon