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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Are you struggling with loneliness?

A few months ago a friend asked me, "have you ever experienced loneliness?" Without hesitation I immediately responded, "yes". I know my response surprised her, in fact at times with five kids and a busy ministry life it even surprises me, but only in the last several years have I been able to recognize it or even understand how it creeps into my life. I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't desire "alone" time. But this wasn't what my friend was referring to. She was talking about what Harold Rupp quotes in the book, "A Woman in her Home", "loneliness is not so much a matter of isolation as of insulation." There are many circumstances in which I have found myself insulated from others.

I have felt the deep loneliness of location - often separated from family.
I have felt the loneliness of being alone - in a strange land, pressed on every side by many people.
I have felt the loneliness of wife hood - when my husband's tasks took him away, often and long.
I have felt the loneliness of motherhood - when no one understood or could lend a helping hand or just the sheer demands with young kids.
I have felt the loneliness of friendship - when the phone doesn't ring and my inbox is empty.
I have felt the loneliness of standing up for what is right - while others mocked, laughed, and looked on with pity.
I have felt the loneliness of deeply involved decisions - which no one else could solve.

At times I still experience loneliness. The hardest thing to do during intense struggles, change, disappointments, pain, weariness, all of which can take place in the day to day life of a wife, mother, employee etc. is to continually reach out to others. It is during these times that we sometimes insulate our hearts in a defensive nature assuming that we will be protected. When in actuality we are allowing the disease of loneliness to have its perfect breeding ground. One of the distinct characteristics I noticed in experiencing loneliness in my own life was my focus had slowly shifted from pleasing God to looking at myself and allowing my circumstances to dictate how I felt rather than God and His word. I needed more than ever to reach out to others, stay committed to regular church attendance (yes, I am a Pastor's wife, but you would be surprised how easily it would be to have an excuse to miss a church service or two in an effort to insulate myself from others), attend a weekly bible study, mom's fellowship group or invite someone over for coffee or tea and yet during these times I have every excuse in the world not to go, not to reach out, not to risk the possibility of feeling worse. Dee Brestin in her book, "The Friendships of Women" states,

"Intimacy is risky. No doubt about it. If I reach out to a woman to whom I am drawn, she may reject me. If I tell a woman that I love her, that I cherish her as a friend, she may respond little (or not at all). If I open my soul to another, trusting her with my dark side of failure, she may draw back in shocked silence (or she may tell others). If I love out of the overflow of my heart, promise another unfailing love until the day I die, then I have bound myself before God( and I bring upon myself His wrath if I break my vow) Risky. Risky. Risky."

It is risky, but as I shared with my friend, "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."
Deut. 31:6 I encouraged her to begin attending the ladies bible study in her church. I told her, "It will take courage to fight through the walls that have been built up in her heart, but God will be waiting at the door." I prayed with her and reminded her that "she is not alone!"
Today is Sunday. It is my prayer that each of you will attend or have attended a worship service wherever you are and reached out your arms to another and bring forth an encouraging word. We never know when our hands and feet will be what ministers to the heart of a lonely person. Go now, get dressed and deliver the promise that "He will never leave us or forsake us."
In Him...Chris

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

One of Those Days

It's been one of those days today. I've been able to find a good balance with family and CWO, and I've been happier than I have been in years. God's been good. This month was the busiest one yet for CWO, but with the new balance and God in control, I was able to get it all done, and stay on track--until this morning.

I woke up realizing that I had a problem to solve, and just as I put my hands to the computer to work it all out, the computer crashed, big time. I put my hand on the off button, but that wouldn't work, regardless of how many times I counted to twenty while holding the button. All I kept seeing was "memory load dump" accross my screen, while visions of the past thirty days work washed down the drain.

I closed the computer, and prayed, "God if it be your will that I go through a trial, I will rejoice, and if you restore my computer I will also rejoice."

I went downstairs and painted a door, then I called my sister, and when she picked up the phone, I felt myself starting to lose it while the tears brimmed in my eyes. Argh! Why is it that when I want to rejoice, I still get the tears? Thank you God for accepting my human frailty, and for loving me despite my weakness.

God accepted my weakness, but He also worked to restore my computer so I didn't lose the work I've done thus far. He is merciful.

I often wonder why I keep doing something that can be so stressfull at times, and perhaps we all wonder why we blog, or why we are involved in the ministries that we are. I've been able to see four women draw near to God and accept His salvation through online ministry, which when I do tells me that our words are not lost in the wind. It's not CWO that is doing anything, or the blogging community, but it is Him that works through us that is growing His church--as we work together as one. Thank you for your writing, for your prayers and your encouragement--all of you. Praise be to Him that giveth the increase in our ability to minister.

In Him...Darlene

Friday, April 27, 2007

Intimacy with Christ

I should’ve named my tiny Yorkshire Terrier “Enigma” instead of “Zoe” because her quirkiness could stump the best dog whisperer.

For example, she loves to sit on laps, so whoever is planted comfortably is the momentary apple of her little eye, and she begs to sit with the sitter. The problem is, she cannot jump high enough to get to us. We have to lean and scoop her up. Oddly, she then darts away, looking over her shoulder as if to say, “What are you trying to do, imprison me? Why are you so possessive?” She repeats this approach and retreat until she is far from the sofa, causing us to forfeit prime couch potato time by getting up and carrying her back to our laps, thus creating a whole new frustrating version of “fetch.”

We’ve analyzed her bizarre routine, wondering if she is …

• afraid of being lifted to 2-ft heights
• playing a screwy game of chase
• a control freak
• communicating, like Lassie, that Old Man Hanson is trapped in a burning shed which toppled onto a railroad track and is now in the path of a locomotive and we must go save him

Exasperated, I announced one day, “I wish I could become a dog and learn what is in that head of hers. I’d be able to tell her to stop this madness and convince her to trust us.” My family nodded in agreement, but I saw my son furtively dialing Dr. Phil and my daughter tracing “!PLEH” on the foggy window.

Allow me a very rough parallel here—do you suppose this scenario is similar to how we often respond to the Father? In other words, do we “play” at knowing him, claiming we want intimacy but dart away when he gets too close?

Do you think we really fathom how far-reaching Jesus’ love was, how he left a holy place and condescended to us on earth? Humanity didn’t just happen to Jesus; he chose it. And John 10:18 says he gave up his life for us voluntarily. That is big love.

Because he decided to be Jesus and not a stone image or despot, we know he was misunderstood and despised. We know he endured temptation. He grieved when John the Baptist and Lazarus died. He celebrated weddings and loved children but never married or had biological children. In Jesus’ death, the Father experienced what it means to have your child brutally killed. All of Jesus’ earthly experiences culminated in propitiation for our sin but also in our assurance that he knows our struggles and our needs because he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Jesus still reaches for us, and not half-heartedly—he goes to great lengths—leaves the couch, if you will, to bring us to him. Luke 15:4 and John 10 tell how he is the Good Shepherd who searches for the lost and for those who stupidly run away from his protection and love.

Do you sense the Shepherd reaching for you? Do you know your shepherd’s voice? Do you vex him with indecisiveness and lukewarm responses? Do you trust him, or do you doubt his ability to carry you?

Don’t just glance at him over your shoulder when he beckons you. Stay a while. You can never thank him enough for the great length he went to so that you can be with him forever and know him right now.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Humble Pie With a Dollop of Grace

It was a lovely evening.

We sat around my in-law's dining room table and laughed while Corban and Micah filled their plates yet again with turkey, cranberry jelly and mashed potatoes. It was funny because we had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner at my brother's home, not quite an hour before! But they are growing boys, so we just sat back and watched, remembering a time when we could eat whatever we wanted.

The conversation flowed over slices of pie and coffee. It really was enjoyable, but I found myself irritated that I had needed to remind the boys several times to say "Thank you!", and "Yes, please!" instead of "Yeah!"

They know these things - I've taught them to be respectful their whole lives! Are they on politeness overload from this long day of visiting family? I grumbled to myself, wiping the baby's nose and handing her the toy she'd dropped. Yes, Mama was on overload as well.

"Kevin, would you like a slice of pecan or pumpkin pie?" my mother-in-law asked him as he eyed the delectable pastries on the table. "Or perhaps a slice of both?"

He leaned in closer, licked his lips, and said, "Yeah!"

I couldn't stop it.

"Yes, please!" I hissed.


I clapped my hands over my mouth. My father-in-law did the same, but his eyes were twinkling. My mother-in-law burst into laughter, and my sweet husband winked and smiled at me, putting his hand on my arm in reassurance, instantly extending his loving form of grace.

I felt the blood rush into my face; I'm a terrible blusher. I honestly wanted to sink into a hole and disappear. Or at least to rewind the last five minutes.

I'm always extra anxious about behavior and manners when we're at my in-laws' home, but this was a new low for me. I had let my concern about appearances rule my mouth, and in so doing, had demeaned my husband, in front of his parents; in front of his children.

Oh, was there ever a woman more wretched than myself? I wash my mouth out with foot more often than I care to remember. I strive to be everything God wants me to be, and fall so short.

"So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin." (Romans 7:14-25)

I affectionately (and perhaps innapropriately) call this the "doo-doo passage". (There are a lot of "do's" there, people.) But Paul's struggle mirrors our own, doesn't it? And even though I would love to blame sin for everything and say that it is too powerful to resist, I know that I have been freed from that trap - thank God - through Christ. The sin is mine to claim, and release. No longer does it carry the blame while I skate perilously close to the edge.

The trouble is not with my desires, for they are right and good - cherishing my husband, being a good mama, an upright disciplinarian, keeping a clean home - the trouble is with me.

I will fail.

And when I do, God reaches out his hand, lays it reassuringly on my arm, and gives me a wink and a smile. And I start again. Same desires, same goals, same struggles, even the same outcome more often than not.

So, would I like some forgiveness, or some grace? Or perhaps a helping of both?

Yes, please.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Don't Go To Jupiter Without Me!

Over the past several months I have enjoyed participating in an e-panel for a Christian publisher. My service on this panel will conclude this month. The final question is excellent: How does your hope of heaven impact the way you live life on earth?

What a great question! I thought I would share my reply:

“Mom!” my eleven-year-old, daughter drew out the word with heavy pronunciation. It sounded more like Maw-u-m. I looked up at her. She was standing in the kitchen a few feet away, staring straight at me, arms akimbo. “Don’t go to Jupiter without me,” she stated with annoyance in her voice.

I smiled as I considered our conversation.

Just before this stern statement, I was preparing dinner, chopping away at a head of lettuce. I was absorbed in travel imaginings I might have when I become a permanent resident of Heaven. As Mini-Me was setting the table, I off-handedly stated, “Jupiter is one the first places I plan to visit after I arrive in Heaven.” My daughter was distraught. How dare I consider going on an adventure without her while she is still living on earth? She was quite serious.

You see my daughter and I talk of heaven all the time. We dream, we plan, we giggle, and we save our imagined adventures in our hearts. We plan to visit the dinosaurs, pop in to witness Paul deliver his speech in Caesarea. Experience the Orion Nebula. We plan to ride horses and pick flowers. Visit the past, explore the present see the future, and talk with everyone in-between. Moses, John, Noah, Eve, Mary, to name a few.

In the New Heaven and New Earth, you won’t find me in the city, though I plan to visit often. You will find me in the garden – Eden! I have already made my request to the Master for a gardening position on the planet, thank you very much.

I dream, dream, dream, fully aware my imagination can run wild. I envision myself sitting on the marble steps of the throne room for a thousand years, gazing at the King, face-to-face. I have much to ask Him. I want to talk with the angels who were my protectors on earth. What was it like for them? I want to thank each and every person who pointed me toward Jesus. I want to hug everyone there.

I know heaven may not be like my dreams. It will be far more fantastic!

Heaven is very real. Because of heaven I have hope for today and for tomorrow. I am free to live the impossible. I am able to forgive the unforgivable. I am empowered to love lavishly! I can live fully! I am genuine when others are deceptive. I am optimistic in a world gone mad.

Hope of heaven carries me when life is ugly, cruel, unfair, and dangerous. Hope removes fear, doubt, and cynicism. Hope of heaven is my lifeline.

One of the best parts of heaven is like a sea bird. Imagine the bird flying to the shore of an ocean where it picks up a grain of sand in its beak and flies away. Every million years, the bird returns for another grain. When the sand from the beach is finally gone, the bird moves on to another beach, then another, one-grain, one million years. The day the bird picks up the last gain of sand, is only the beginning of our time in heaven.

Heaven is where I will spend my days delighted with the King, living fabulous adventures, and loving His children.

I have hope for today. I trust God with tomorrow. I have heaven in my heart because I know the Redeemer of mankind, Jesus, the Messiah.

How does your hope of heaven impact the way you live life on earth?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Exhale of Heaven

"And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them,
'Receive the Holy Spirit'." John 20:22

The phone call was one I'll never forget. "Guess who is moving?" my husband asked. I was not prepared for his answer. I immediately hung up the phone and cried my eyes out when I found out he was referring to a senior couple in our congregation who are beloved to us as well as every single person in our church and community. These two have a vibrant, healthy marriage after 50 years. They are the life of the party everywhere they go, love my children as their own, and are faithful co-laborers in Christ. They still keep the nursery for Pete's sake! Though we have only known them two short years, I can not imagine my daily life without them in it. Their going will leave our church body with a limp much like the one Jacob had after wrestling with the angel. Jacob was able to function, but he never forgot. Neither will we.

Preparing to tell these dear ones goodbye has drawn my thoughts once again to the Cross and the devastation the Disciples and others who loved Jesus experienced when they had to part with their Beloved Savior. How do you let go of someone with whom you have shared so much? Who accepted you when no one else did? Forgave you when no one else would? Mary couldn't let go in the Garden after Jesus' resurrection which prompted His gentle rebuke, "Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." (John 20:17) Do you blame her? Had it been me, I can just see Jesus trying to walk away, dragging me on His leg behind Him. What Mary did not understand at the time is that Jesus was not going to leave her or the Disciples. He had another kind of Presence in mind.

Since the Garden, God has longed for fellowship with His Creation. Even before sin caused the Great Separation, He had a plan in place for bridging that divide so that He could once again dwell among us. God first hovered above the Israelites in the desert in a pillar of cloud and fire. He then talked 'face to face' with Moses and His Presence filled the Tabernacle. He was getting closer, but not close enough for Him. He was aching to touch His creation again. To have them see Him and not die. To speak to them and not have them cover their ears or hide their faces. The joy of communion was destroyed in the Garden and He's been missing us ever since.

The next step in His drawing near is what captures my imagination. I think of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in Heaven just before Jesus came to Earth. I picture Jesus saying to the Father, "I'm going in". Just then, He inhales deeply of the Spirit before diving into the waters of humanity. With the breath of Heaven inside, Jesus plunged into our atmosphere in order to provide atonement and infuse us with the Spirit He possessed. And then, much like a swimmer just before he emerges out of the water, He exhaled. Jesus breathed the Spirit out. We breath the Spirit in. You can't get much closer than being indwelt.

Jesus never intended on leaving His creation alone yet there would be a new way of relating to Him after His ascension. John 16:7 says,
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."
The Helper is the agent of conviction of sin and remembrance of God's Word when times of testing come. He guides in all Truth and glorifies God by disclosing His will to His children. He comforts, He teaches, He exhorts. No, we are not alone. We are empowered and full of Christ Jesus in a way we never could have been if He remained in human form self-limited in His Presence. Though we would love to have Jesus in the flesh before us, we all have to agree it is to our benefit to have an equal measure of Him dwelling inside.

So my thoughts return to our friends who will be leaving soon. I will treasure every moment still remaining and while doing this, I will also ponder How God blesses us with the ability to experience this mystery of relationship with Him and one another. When they go, I will turn my face towards the sky as the wind of His Spirit breezes into my face. And I will breathe deeply of the Exhale of Heaven for the comfort I can find in no other Name.

I will miss you terribly, S. and L.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

So which one are you?

But Thou art making me, I thank Thee, sire. What Thou hast done and doest Thou knows't well. And I will help Thee; gently in Thy fire I will lie burning; on Thy potter's wheel I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel. Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell, And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.-George MacDonald,Diary Of an Old Soul, October 2..

While talking to my Mom the other day I explained to her, as you blog and get to know a wide variety of women your heart becomes more and more tender. Life just is not fair, and you find people who are going through situations that are just plain hard! Part of me wants me to crawl back into my hole and put my rose color glasses back on.

But that is not where the Lord wants me; the blessing lies in opening up your heart and loving. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by pain that other people have to bear. And being a sister who stands before the throne for women who are going through a difficult time can be overwhelming for the person praying also. There is a part of me that says, “why Lord, why are you allowing this to happen to the person I care for? My heart breaks for them.”

Why does God allow these difficult trials? While pleading to God this week, He has shown me that He is not only teaching the one going through the difficult time, but also the one who stands before the throne praying for them.

The person going through a difficult time:

Christ said each one of us will go through a season of pruning. God is the Gardner, we are the vine and if we are to bear fruit then we will need to go through some pruning. When a tree is pruned, not only is the bad cut away, but also what appears to be the good. (ie. bad things happening to good people). “This is my Father's glory, that you may bear fruit in plenty and so be my disciples" (John 15:8, NEB). What we need to realize is that we don’t need to understand why; we just need to realize this is part of the process of growing.

Secondly, Christ might be refining us through our difficult time. When a potter creates a clay pot, the pot is first shaped, molded, and then made beautiful. Then the last step is a firing process.

According to Wikipedia, it states the “firing produces irreversible changes in the body. It is only after firing that the article can be called pottery.” If God stopped at just shaping us (no matter how good we looked), we would bend and break when the slightest trial came our way. It is the firing that makes us strong, it is the firing that makes us useable to God. And while going through the firing, God promises in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is all you need; power comes to its full strength in weakness" (NEB). And I don’t know about you, but I like the fact God will develop “irreversible changes” in me.

Then after the firing process, you have something beautiful, molded by the masters hands, but very sturdy against storms that may come your way.

But I suggest not only is the one going through the fire or difficult time is the only one being taught by God.

The person who stands before the throne for another:

This person is taught the power of prayer. James 5:16b – 17 " The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years." There is power in prayer.

Secondly, we are taught to be faithful. Romans 12:12 “When you hope be joyful. When you suffer, be patient. When you pray, be faithful.” In Strong’s concordance the word faithful is defined as “to persevere.” We are to persevere for a friend or loved one. We stand strong when they are weak.

Then in I Peter 3:12 we have the promise, “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

So when one person’s prayers are answered and another person emerges from the firing process, both individuals have been taught an important lesson before God. There is nothing more exciting then to see a prayer for a friend or family member answered that you have been praying for. The same goes for when you emerge from the firing process; you are strong and ready to take on whatever winds may blow.

How awesome is our God, that no matter what position we are in, the difficult time, or the one praying…..each person emerges blessed and renewed.

So if you are going through a time of fire, gather some prayer buddies around you to stand before the throne. If you are in a season of peace, take on another and persevere in prayer. I promise in the end both will be blessed.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Find Refuge in the Storm...

"God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah"
~ Psalm 46:1-3 (ESV)

My life has been running like sand through an hour glass. Nothing I can do to stop the days running past me. Some days I can’t even remember what day of the week we have. I had to install a calendar on my laptop to remind me if I have to work or I am off…Ever feel that way? Although I know that I can’t breathe without His Word to get me through the day, I have to ‘sneak in’ time with Him. Let me tell you what happened to me this past Friday…

During the week our alarm goes off at 4:15am and 4:30am. Most mornings I get up at 4:35am. Why? I like the stillness that permeates the house at that time of day. I love to read my first devotional with my first cup of coffee—alone. It is a great start for my busy day.

This past Friday, the alarm went off at its usual time, but I didn’t make it out of bed until 5:18am. I was devastated. No devotion—no coffee. All I could think off was getting my Sweetheart his first coffee made and heading for the shower. For some reason I couldn’t get my eyes open or even form a coherent thought in my head.

Somehow I got the coffee made, woke up my Sweetheart and headed back into our kitchen/dining area. I poured the coffee in a cup and realized that it was not the right coffee. You see, I drink flavored coffee; my hubby likes his coffee darker than dark (almost burned flavor)…’Oh no’, I thought—‘quick, make another coffee before he will notice’.

By that time I could not breathe—literally. Close to tears, I plopped on my chair to have a few minutes with my Lord…I started praying “Lord I am tired, I am burned out…I”. He stopped my prayer in mid-sentence to calm me…
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

The rest of the morning went without a hitch. I got ready in time…I prepared breakfast for my Sweetheart, prayed, read a post from one of my friends, made coffee for myself, sent a quick note to some of my sisters in Christ and left the house at the appropriate time…with a song of praise in my head (and material for a CWO post *smile*).

My dear beloved sisters in Christ, we are all busy women—if at home or outside the home. We have responsibilities to keep the household running, to be a wife, mom, friend and co-worker. The only way we can do all this is to have Him fill our cup every single day.

"Lord, You are our refuge and strength. You are always ready to help in times of trouble. We will not fear what our days have in store for us. Even if our daily oceans of responsibility seem to overwhelm us, we know where we can find refuge. Lord, remind us to be still before You; you are our calm in the storm. In the precious name of Jesus ~ Amen."

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dig In!

Thursday, on the drive home from school, I told my daughter that I was digging a garden. Plants have become the newest passion for this little girl, so much so that 5-year-old Nathaniel bought one on Wednesday, and surprised her by placing it on her window sill before she got home. It's all she's been talking about lately, so we couldn't pass by the Gerber daisies without wondering what Maddy might say if we brought one home just for her.

Talk of the new garden in the backyard, got all of the kids excited. In fact, the minute I parked the car, they all ran to the back yard so they could get involved. You should have seen my kids in the garden, it honestly was the most precious thing I've experienced in ages--maybe ever.

So, we started digging the garden I had started earlier--each one of them are helping out. It's adorable to see them pitch in because they are excited that we're creating something pretty. We took turns using the shovel, the spade, the fork, and even the garden gloves. Little muscles rolled back sod, grunting, and puffing all the while, then the teenaged eating machine came out and made the job easier for us until either his back was sore or the kitchen was calling his name.

I see so much love going into this garden, that I know I'll cherish it for as long as I live. Right now we're only preparing the soil, but they've already asked if they can be in charge of planting or watering, or weed digging--too cute. About an hour into the project, I could tell that Maddy was a bit annoyed. Being the girl with the passion for plants, she wants to do it all. She didn't like the fact that her little brother was stronger and had more schutzpa when it came to tugging on the sod, nor did she like the fact that her older brother was a better digger than all of us put together. The last straw came when Graham said, "Mom, I want to water this garden every night, ok?" I could tell it was the last straw because she threw down the shovel as the pink rose in her soil stained cheeks.

I guess you probably know the lesson that little girl needed to learn. It's the same lesson we all need to hear every once in a while as we're planting this garden of love for our Father...that "he that planteth and he that watereth are one."

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." ~ 1 Corinthians 12:5-11

Just this week, my friend leaned on the fence, looked at the soil and said, "They say that you're closest to God when you're out in the garden." know what? Metiphorically speaking, that just might be true, but the question is are we in there working with our brothers and sisters, giving it all that we've got, or have we thrown down the shovel to let the pink rise in our soil stained cheeks?

Grab a shovel ladies, we've got a garden to plant! :)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Loaves and Fish, Days and Weeks

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."

Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."

"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.

"Bring them here to me," he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (Matthew 14:15-20 NIV)


As evening approached, I came to Jesus and said, "I don't remotely have enough time to get everything done this week. It's getting late. Please tell me which commitments to let go of! I know you brought these people and ministries into my life as a result of prayer, but it's obvious that I can't handle all of this. Can't someone else do it?"

Jesus replied, "The responsibilities I have ordained for you do not need to go away. You fulfill them."

"I have here only five weekdays and two weekend days," I answered.

"Bring them here to Me," He said. He directed me to sit at His feet. Taking the five weekdays and two weekend days, and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke them into moments. Then He gave them to me, and I gave them to my precious family as well as to the duties and ministries He has faithfully entrusted to me. Each obligation that week was fulfilled, each responsibility carried out with joy. And I found that I had some moments (and a little energy) left over!

Oh, what abundance we experience when we yield our moments and our days to the One Who spoke them into being! The touch of Jesus is all it takes to transform "meager" into "bountiful." Let's go before Him today, offering Him our loaves and fish-- the days and weeks that we clutch in our baskets, which so often don't seem like enough. He will take them, bless them, and make them enough to satisfy His perfect will... feeding and nourishing all- including us! When I relinquish all I have to Him, I can be certain that what He places back into my hands will be more than sufficient to accomplish His purposes.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

yoke: (n) something that couples or binds together; a bond or tie. (v) to join, couple, link, or unite.

burden: (n) that which is carried; load.

With what are you yoked today?

Are you yoked with worry? Material possessions? Envy? The approval of others? Money? Perfectionism? Your children's whims? Doubt? Fear? Comfort?

We are all yoked, united, with something. The something that we are yoked with defines us. When animals are yoked together, they have no choice but to go the same way. They need to join in common purpose to complete a task or nothing gets done. The yoke guides, confines. The yoke creates constant companions of two beings or entities.

We often choose to be bound with and defined by that which is not of God.

Jesus offers an alternative. Jesus offers himself. He never says, "Come to me and I will unyoke you. I will give you freedom from responsiblity, burden, hardship." Instead he says, "Take my yoke upon you".

Freedom, yes, but not freedom as the world sees it. Freedom from captivity to sin transforms into a partnership with Jesus. What does this look like?

Being yoked with Jesus means being yoked with:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." John 21:15

The Lord brought me forth [wisdom] as the first of His works, before His deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. Proverbs 8:22-23

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

[The Lord] has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted. Isaiah 61:1

Jesus doesn't say, "I will unyoke you and remove your burden." Jesus says, "Take my burden instead." We will still have something to carry, a load which is our own and yet shared with all of the body of Christ.

What is your burden? Your God-given burden? Do you treasure it? Use it to learn from, grow in, and gain strength? Or do you complain about it, try to give it to someone else, tell God you don't want it.

If it is truly yours, from God, then you are to honor it. Carry it, bear it with dignity and humility as you remain yoked with Christ. Jesus is infinitely stronger than us but even those of us that are yoked with Him are constantly trying to pull our own way.

Be yoked. Choose to be bound with Jesus and nothing else. Make the daily decision to strap yourself in and be led. The accountability is strong and the rewards are great.

Saying Grace


Now, there’s an interesting word. Believers toss it out all the time in all sorts of situations. But, ask an unbeliever what grace is and she might say something like, “It’s what religious people say before they eat.” Makes you wonder what “non-religious” people do. Maybe they just say, “Dig in!” or “Bon appetite!” or just “Pass the salt.”

It also makes you wonder what definition of religious they’re talking about. Religious as in anybody that worships some sort of higher being? Like maybe Hindus? Or Buddhists? What about folks that worship celebrities? Or money? I think that should count. After all, they do see those things as being higher than themselves.

I’m just saying.

Other than Christianity, however, and really other than evangelical Christianity mostly, other “religious” people don’t really have much to do with grace. Grace in the biblical sense is the thing that separates us from all the other religions. We only get a shot at eternal life because of God’s grace. The gift of salvation for those who believe is the result of this grace. If you don’t accept the grace, all that’s left to you is your own works – your own ability to do…something. I don’t know what, but whatever it is you think you need, want, or can do to try to earn your place in heaven. You know, the works that don’t work because it’s only by grace that we have been saved, not by works. Because seriously, what can I possibly do that's great enough to merit eternal life? Even if I did come up with something, why should I get bragging rights? (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Being the oh, so not higher beings that we are, we have this propensity to mess everything up though, don’t we? Rather than accepting the grace and living in it as we should, we toss in our gold-plated monkey wrenches and mess it all up.

We start with doubt. Just a little doubt goes a long way. Kind of like Peter, who was told by Christ to step out of the boat and walk on the water. Things started out okay, but Peter had this little doubt and began believing in the power of the waves more than the power of the One who said, “Come.” And so we believe in the power of our situations more than the power of the One who put us there.

Then we fall into despair. We become the Merry Martyrs and put ourselves into an emotional state that God never intended for us. Because we trust our emotions more than we trust our Creator.

Then we become undisciplined in our habits and our routines. We let things go; our appearance, our responsibilities, our walk with the Lord. Because we put more faith in what we want to do than in what He wants us to do.

Then we get really good at making all sorts of excuses. We beg off, we shun, we reject, we avoid… We are masters of the art of excuse-making, aren’t we? I totally impress myself with how superbly creative I can be in the excuse-making department. I’m so good at it, I’m surprise someone doesn’t pay me to write a book, “The Best Excuses for Any Situation You Want to Get Out Of.” It would make the NY Times Bestseller list in a heartbeat.

Lastly and probably most impressive of all, we give ourselves permission to blame. Doesn’t matter who we blame. God is a good target. Family members work. Friends, neighbors, strangers, the dog…we’re pretty random and not all that selective sometimes. Whoever happens to be handy at the time will do just nicely. Because, after all, we can’t possibly be expected to be held responsible for the lack of grace with which we live our lives. Can we?

Instead, of entering into such a messed up cycle, we could actually live in the grace Christ extends to us through His death. Oh, we accept the salvation part of it okay, but do we really live out the grace part? Here’s what it looks like:

--We resist all thoughts that speak against the character and goodness of God. That includes hurtful thoughts about ourselves or others. We all are, after all, image bearers of God. If Jesus wouldn’t think it about us, should we think it about ourselves? (2 Corinthians 10:5)

--We destroy that place of self-pity and self-indulgence. While you’re at it, go ahead and destroy all the self stuff; self-service, self-esteem, self-righteousness…everything except self-control. That one’s okay. (2 Corinthians 10:4)

--We truly be crucified in Christ. This life you live may not be the life you planned, but it’s exactly where God has you at exactly the time He has you there. Can you live it for the One who suffered and died for you? (Galatians 2:20)

Them’s fighting words!

To live in Christ is to die to self. How different this world would be if everyone just stopped thinking about themselves all the time. Their feelings, their opinions, how smart or thin or fat or sick or hurt or beautiful or talented or depressed or angry or whatever they are. Can we actively and audibly refuse to let those things block the grace Christ extends to us? The whole “What about me?” thing has us so bound and enslaved that we lose sight of God’s grace altogether.

Can we allow ourselves to have the grace to forget about ourselves and let Christ live in us and through us in the little everyday things? What about in the big things? Can we accept that we are who we are, where we are, in our present situation and allow His grace to flow in and through us?

Before each meal and in every moment in between, and with the power of the Holy Spirit at our disposal, I believe we can indeed live in His grace!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Dressing Room

I once attended an afternoon spring wedding at a Yacht club in the Marina wearing a new tea length soft green dress with subtle lavender flowers in the pattern. As I stood at the door waiting to be greeted by the ushers, I noticed the woman in front of me with a black knee length dress with thin spaghetti straps. I casually turned around and noticed another woman walking up behind me wearing a long black sleeveless dress with a beautiful silver shawl wrapped around her shoulders. I quickly fumbled through my purse to see if I had missed something on the invitation about a specific dress code. I hadn’t, but I still felt completely out of place in that moment. On another occasion I arrived at a minister’s conference in my black blazer and dress pants with a pink blouse and my favorite pearls, only to discover all the other wives seemed to be wearing their best sweat outfits or casual wear. Again, I wondered did I miss something. I have had many occasions in which I did not receive the dress code memo. After many years of fumbling through this and too often wishing I had access to a dressing room in which I could slip behind a curtain and change clothes, I have learned to wear what seems to be the most appropriate and what seems practical for the occasion and if I didn’t get the memo, oh well.

In many social settings the message is very clear. To be accepted, you must be clothed according to the “standard”...whatever that is. God also has a standard. But thankfully His is one in which when you come out of the dressing room it’s perfect every time. He makes it possible for you to be acceptable to Him at all times and on every occasion. According to Job 29:14, He gives us “righteousness as [your] clothing”. The word righteous means acquitted, vindicated or free from sin and guilt. Your faith in Christ enables God to regard you as righteous. He doesn’t see your sin any longer, but he sees you as clothed with the righteousness of Christ. If you have struggled with feeling unworthy to be called “the righteousness of God”, 2 Corinthians 5:21 reminds us, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This “clothing” we are given is like a uniform. Whenever a police officer, fireman, or anyone else in a uniform walks into the room we take notice. The uniform regardless of its purpose has undeniable authority. At the moment of conversion you were issued a righteous uniform. The Lord not only covered your past but also gave you authority over your future. Ephesians 6:14 reminds us, … and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. He has done all the work; we just have to get dressed according to His Standard. As a child of God, you have the righteousness of God. You have the power that backs the badge.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

What Can You Get for $160, 140?

Through the challege of parenthood, a reminder to check our perspective is always good. Please enjoy this wonderful reflection that someone sent me.

The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month, or $171.08 a week. That's a mere $24.44 a day! Just over a dollar an hour. Still, you might think the best financial advice says don't have children if you want to be "rich." It is just the opposite.

What do your get for your $160,140?
* Naming rights. First, middle, and last! * Glimpses of God every day. * Giggles under the covers every night. * More love than your heart can hold. * Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
* Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies. * A hand to hold, usually covered with jam. * A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites, building sandcastles, and skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain. * Someone to laugh yourself silly with no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

For $160,140, you never have to grow up. You get to finger-paint, carve pumpkins, play hide-and-seek, and catch lightning bugs. You have an excuse to keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies, and wishing on stars. You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.

For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof, taking the training wheels off the bike, removing a splinter, filling the wading pool, coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless. You get a front row seat to history to witness the first step, first word, first bra, first date, and first time behind the wheel. You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren. You get education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there with God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits, so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.


In Him ... Kelly

The Gospel Cheerleader (Finding Meaning in the Small Stuff)

Recently, my pastor paused his sermon and joked, “This would be a great place to insert an ‘amen.’” People chuckled and obliged him. Then he added, “Sometimes when you preach, you have to be your own cheerleader.”

That’s all it took to send my mind floating out the window, where it promptly bought one ticket to “Imagination Station” and created a brand new ministry.

I whispered to my daughter, “What if there really were a ‘Gospel Cheerleader?’ She could stand to one side of the pastor and do her thing when he pauses--you know, pump up the crowd!” She gave me that teenager-to-mom look that says, “Even your very thoughts embarrass me, Mother.”

I’m not being irreverent; I’m used to thinking in terms of creatively engaging youth. Plus, I’m an old cheerleader-- very old--so I couldn’t let it go. For example, suppose the pastor were recounting the scene at the empty tomb. He would pause, look to his right, and then Gospel Cheerleader would step forward in her uniform and chant, “I said He’s not here! It’s not a con; Jesus, Jesus, He is GONE! Yaaaaaay Jesus!” After a jump and wild cheering from the congregation, she would step back, snap her arms behind her, lower her chin and reverently wait for the next pause.

Anyway, I thought about his words again: “Sometimes, you have to be your own cheerleader.” Besides your own vocation, I think you could also apply this to whatever it is that you set out to do--housework, leading the kids’ praise team, carpooling, folding bulletins, paying bills, lawn mowing, etc. -- because those accomplishments often go unappreciated, and yet, they need to be done.

A long time ago, I earned a college degree and made plans for my life that never included stuffing envelopes. Although youth ministry can be fun and fulfilling, on days when I’m stuffing hundreds of envelopes, I often lose sight of the significance of the task. In those moments, I have to remember that each envelope represents a student who will hold the enclosed message/ coupon/ event promotion. Depending on what’s going on his life, he may look over the contents and decide to come to church that weekend, where my boss can deliver the Gospel in a way this kid can relate to.

True, it’s tough to see significance when you’re moving rocks from one place to another on neighborhood clean-up day, but in Matthew 25:21, we’re reminded that God does notice our faithfulness in small tasks: "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’” and in Zechariah 4:10, we’re told that God is pleased by the quality of our work, no matter how menial it is in others’ eyes—we are not to “despise the day of small things,” or the infant steps taken as we learn to stride.

Knowing that God is pleased by our faithfulness in routine tasks is energizing. Romans 15:5 says that he’s cheering us on (supplying encouragement and the power of patient endurance). When it all comes down, I need to remember I’m planting seeds in kids’ lives. And if you go a little further with this, you could say I’m stuffing envelopes for Jesus!

So for all I know, when I’m working on a bulk mailing, there may be a cheerleader Angel of the Lord sitting on my desk chanting:

“Come on, Linda, you gotta stay tough; into those envelopes stuff, stuff, stuff! Now fold it to the left; fold it to the right! Get this mailing out tonight! Bulk mail, postcards, yucky glue! Do it for Jesus; He loves you! Goooo youth ministry! Yay!”

(OK, Gospel Cheerleader Angel is a little over-the-top, but he can’t help it; he’s full of Spirit.)

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Meetings with God

This mama doesn’t get out of the house very often (which is fine with me!), and so the lessons the Father teaches me are most often found in my everyday life, my children and their spiritual development. I’m so grateful that He meets me where I am!

Today, it finally happened.

I’ve been waiting and waiting. Hoping. Longing.

Eliana brought me her slipper.

It fell off when she was pushing her baby in the stroller, and from where I was in the kitchen, I watched her stop, pick it up, and contemplate it for a moment. Then a light bulb seemed to click on, and she looked around anxiously until she spotted me at my post, where I pretended I wasn’t watching and stirred the pot nonchalantly.

Quickly she made her way over to me, making a nonsense sound that ended with a question mark, and held out her pink butterfly slipper.

I swooped down to her level. “Oh, you lost your slipper! Do you want me to put it back on for you?” I asked. She clapped her hands (her sign for please) and plopped down on her fat diaper.

As I slid the slipper back on to her tiny foot and watched her toddle back to her toys, the significance of the moment was not lost on me.

Usually, the baby who lost her slipper either (a) didn’t even notice, or (b) screamed and threw a fit when she couldn’t get it back on by herself. I had been waiting for her to recognize that instead of wailing and carrying on, she could just ask me for help.

As the day passed, she brought me her empty water cup, her baby whose hat would not stay on, and patted my leg, signing the word “Lovey”, for her special rag. There wasn’t a tantrum to be seen, nor did I spy any indifference to her plights. She asked, and I helped.

How is it that Eliana has known me as her food source for sixteen months, and yet when it came to something she could not do on her own, it took her that long to figure out I was also a source of help?

Like a chant, the words ask, seek, knock began to trail through my mind. And like so many other moments in this Mama’s life, I sensed the Father was showing me something.

Beloved, I’ve always been here. You needn’t carry on so; I will help, if only asked.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)

His is the food source above all others. I know this. But so many, many times, I fumble about on my own, and carry on in frustration as I struggle to get by, rather than asking for help and trusting that He will come to my rescue.

In asking for and receiving His aid, I am learning how to live and lead, just as Eliana will soon learn how to put on her own slipper, just by mimicking my motions. It’s so much more, really, than receiving help; it’s accepting guidance that will lead us into His will for our lives.

And for you, I pray that your eyes may be opened to the beautiful sight of the Father, coming to meet you where you are.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Shake Shake Shake

Is it possible to have an entire week of bad hair days? I mean seven consecutive days of follicle revolt? Last week the part in my hair crossed over to the dark side. Literally. The top of my head looked like a dark river ran through it. Even my geriatric Dalmatian with cataracts could see I needed color. He barked at me as an unrecognized intruder last Thursday.

But this story is not about my bad hair week. This story is about what happened during my color weave at the salon. For those of you who have never experienced a foil color weave, let me just share this. You pray a thunder storm is not brewing overhead for fear of a lighting strike.


A warm greeting, a hug and into the chair I go. For the next 45 minutes my stylist colors and weaves foil through my hair while we talk incessantly. We cover all the hot topics such as Dancing with the Stars, the book The Secret (don’t get me going on this. Fodder for another post), husbands, marriage and finally we move to matters of faith. We chat about her children and her husband’s faith.

She pronounces me ready for the dryer. I rise from the chair, the black cape swirling around my ankles, head full of foil and walk to the hair dryer. Color works faster under heat.

She shoves a magazine in my hand, turns on the dryer and walks away. I read, glance around at the other patrons. I love to watch people. Just two minutes pass when she returns wearing a serious look on her face. She sits close to me in the adjacent chair, apprehension oozing. I could tell something is burning in her mind.

I hold up the magazine to shield our whispered conversation. “What is it?”

She stares seriously at me, hesitates then whispers quickly, “Is it true that when you sneeze you breathe in Satan.” My eyebrows shoot up. I cannot fathom why she would believe such a thing. I smile warmly and gently shake my head, “No, it is not true.”

I can see her shoulders relax; her serious look is replaced with relief. She jumps up and walks into the other room leaving me puzzling under the dryer.

Because of her covert questioning I realize this odd rumor is currently circulating among the stylists in the shop. I am amazed to think these intelligent, adult women believe such nonsense.

That is when it happens. I am struck by lightning. Not because of the foil in my hair. A spiritual lightning bolt hits home. I hear God whisper, “These women are greatly deceived about many things. They need salt and light.”

Shake, shake, shake. We are the salt shakers. He is the salt. Only through shaking out truth can we bring light to a dark world. So many people live in fear, believing half-truths or outright lies. They desperately don’t want to be afraid but they are. Christ’s followers know the truth and can set men and women free. Free from fear!

I am thankful I had the courage to discuss my faith over the last several months with my stylist. It opened a door for light to shine on deception….. Satan in a sneeze for crying-out-loud!

Jesus is salt and light. He illuminates deception. We need only be available, He will do the rest. Amazing!

Salt and Light
Matthew 5:13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Drop and Give Him Five!

How are your toes today? I hope yours are strappy-sandal ready but mine, dear sisters, are broken and bloody. That would be because C.S. Lewis through his book, The Screwtape Letters, has stomped all over them. Stomped and jumped and then flattened with the Mashed Potato Dance. I am knocked off my feet for the moment but in this case it is a good thing because I am reminded I should be on my knees anyway.

For those who have not read this masterpiece (okay, so I love Lewis), it is presented as a series of letters from Screwtape who is an demonic under-secretary of Satan. He is writing to his nephew, Wormwood, with advice on causing a new convert to Christianity to fall. Throughout the book, Screwtape mentors Wormwood in attacking areas of Christian weakness. One of the first subjects discussed is prayer.

The assault on my pedicure began when I read these words in Chapter 4 of the book: (Yes, I am broken to pieces by Chapter 4. By Chapter 30 I will be in ICU.) In speaking of the new Christian breaking from the habit of 'childhood parrot prayers', Screwtape says:

"..he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward,
informal, and unregularised; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will
be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real
concentration of will and intelligence have no part. One of their poets,
Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray 'with moving lips and bended knees'
but merely 'composed his spirit to love' and indulged in a 'sense of
supplication'. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a
superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practised by those who are
very far advanced in the Enemy's (God's) service, clever and lazy patients (new
Christians) can be taken in by it for a very long time. At the very least, they
can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no real difference to their
prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they
are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny
how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our
best work is done by keeping things out."

As a somewhat young mother of four, I can not begin to tell you the number of books, articles, and teachers I have heard encourage the matter of 'popcorn prayers' or 'praying as you go' in this season of life. Let me be perfectly clear when I say, AMEN, we should absolutely do this! I need Jesus when I am staring at 12 loads of laundry or caring for a sick child or driving between three different baseball fields. I talk to God all day long and it is often in the most mundane errands when He gives me teaching illustrations that are relevant to women like me. Now that I have established I am a total 'pray as you go' kind of girl and that I in no way condemn this practice, here is what I believe the Spirit began to whisper to me:

1. Have I let this type of 'praying as I go' produce in me a devotional mood which leaves me with only a sense of supplication?

2. Do my prayers require a concentration of my will and intelligence in my approaching the throne of a Holy God? Am I praying in spoken word so my sentences have to make real sense?

3. How often do I take a physical position of bended knee or face-on-the-floor prayer?

4. OUCH.

Now that I have honestly answered these questions for myself I feel the need to change my prayer rituals. Don't get me wrong, I DO pray. I must. It is in the Preacher Wife Handbook. But often I am seated in a chair or lying in bed or driving down the road. I am in no way suggesting there is a holiness in positioning - legalism is SO not my thing- but I am saying that I agree with Lewis' Screwtape in his suggestion that 'what their bodies do affect their souls'. Consider with me the intensity of our petitions of the Father that are offered in spoken word while prostrate or on bended knee. Would you agree with me that it is during these times we go down as one woman and come up as another? Do you think perhaps this is the kind of prayer which frightens Satan most? I think of times past when I have been in serious pursuit of the heart of God and realize this is when I have made the most concerted efforts to get in the floor on my face before Him.

So I wonder, what would happen to a group of women who made this their habit? What Godly fire would ignite in a community where women were being changed a little bit every single day because they would not let go of God until He blessed them (Gen 32:26)? I think we would turn a place upside down, girls. Will you be willing to try?

Here is the challenge: Will you join me in carving out five minutes of your day to bend the knee and offer a spoken prayer to the One who is continually making intercession for us? I am going to commit to this and if there is a day I feel I may not honor my word, I will remember you and know I am being held accountable. Do not feel you have to do this but I hope you will. We may fail but you know what? God will not be mad. Let our motivation be a desire to be women who pray like Jesus:

"And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)

I don't know about you, but I have a whole lot of cups before me. Many of them pass, many of them don't. No matter what is placed in front of us, it is on our faces where we will find the strength for His will. The more we exercise this privilege, the stronger we will become.

Let's start now.... drop and give Him five!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Do you use protection?

It was almost dinner time; I was in the kitchen with my new baby trying to figure out what to make for dinner. This was a difficult time in life, our family was living in a rental home, and I had three kids under the age of 5. I was battling depression; there was just not much I found funny.

I was trying to keep up with two boys running in opposite directions and having a brand new baby. Tired was my middle name at that time. Sometimes when you are not even expecting it God shows up in the smallest way, but in a mighty way. I remember praying to the Lord how I am feeling crushed on all sides, this is not the life I had planned. I wanted the three kids, but I wanted a nice house with a white picket fence. I wanted to have the big smile on my face, lots of girl friends and tons of family all around. This was not where God had me. So as I was planning dinner, I was crying out to God. I was telling him how tired and weary I am, I think I did a lot of whining to him to be honest. I kept asking, how am I going to survive?

You know when you have two toddlers in your house and it is quiet, that is not always a good thing. But the Lord used my boys to teach me. I was appreciating the peace and quiet; all messes could be cleaned up later I rationalized. I was standing at the stove beginning to brown my hamburger meat for dinner. Then I hear, “Mom we have something to show you, but don’t look yet.” Any Mother with boys know the phrase “we have something to show you” is like opening up a can of worms (sometimes literally). So I played along, feeling my pity party heart, and taking to God. “Are you ready Mom?” they giggled. My curiosity was beginning to grow, what did they get themselves into I thought.

Suddenly before my eyes I had two little toddler boys jump out from behind the wall yelling, “nothing can get us now, we have our shield and protection on.” They each had a superman cape tied around their necks blowing behind them, and all over their body (up the legs, up the arms, all over their chests) were taped maxi pads.

“Mom, we can battle anything with our shields,” they said in their loud Superman voice. At first my eyes were as big as saucers, and then I laughed and laughed and cried and laughed some more. They then proceeded to run around the house pretending to fly and dodging all evil and bullets that may come their way. For they were protected.

After I called every relative I could think of and share this story, and their Father (oh manly man was so proud). The Holy Spirit hit me with a 2 by 4. And I heard this voice almost as clear as day say, “Do you have your shield on? Are you protected? Where is your amour? Where is your protection?”

Therefore, take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the
evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Stand firm
therefore, having girded your loins with truth,
and having put on the
breastplate of righteousness,
and having shod your feet with the preparation
of the gospel of peace.
(Ephesians 6:13-15)

Belt: To a Roman soldier his belt was an essential part of his armor. His belt gathered his armor together and secured his sword to his side. The belt also served to secure long garments so that they would not interfere with fighting. The belt tied it all together.
It is truth which ties together the believer's armor (John 8:32).

The Breast Plate of Righteousness: The breastplate protects the vital organs of a Roman soldier. It is righteousness which protects us in those vital areas of our relationship with God.
Without it we will be susceptible to every temptation Satan brings along. (Mark 14:38)

Boots of Peace: The Roman soldier's shoe served much the same purpose as a football player's spiked shoe. It was made to help the soldier stand his ground and advance on his enemy. Traction was very important. Most combat was hand-to-hand. A soldier could not afford to be pushed backwards. He could not afford to fall down.

It is the gospel of peace which enables us to stand firm. We can stand secure knowing that we have peace. Peace with God as Romans 5:1 talks about, and peace of God that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7).

So from that day, while fighting my pity party I began to clothe myself in protection. I strongly believe my “protection” is what helped me through more difficult days to come. And from now on, whenever God reminds me of my sweet boys and their shields, he is reminding me to arm myself for battle. For with my armor, evil and bullets can be deflected. Also, I will be the first to say God has a GREAT sense of humor!

Almost 10 years later, I was riding in the car talking to my teenager this week. He was sharing how Satan has been tempting him, and when he wants to do something wrong he almost feels a physical pain in his heart. I shared with him how the Holy Spirit guides us between right and wrong, and sometimes God allows these temptations to exist in our life so we can depend fully on Him. Knowing we can not battle the temptation on our own strength, but ask God for strength. And now I have the honor to share with my son what tools God gave us to fight off all sorts of evil and bullets that come our way. So he can say once again: “Mom I can battle anything with my shield,” in his loud Superman voice.

Are you armed for battle? Hard times will come, this does not prevent that. But to have the right armor for battle is everything, it is the difference between winning or losing. So I ask again. Are you armed for battle?

Was this what you were thinking of when you read my title.....yeah, I thought so. Have a blessed day, don't forget to laugh.

I am sorry to say there were no pictures, this was before the digital camera age....believe me I wish I had a picture. Can you image the bibery I could get out of that now?? =))

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


"Ancient Words, ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart."
~ Lynn DeShazo~

Jesus had promised another gift before His ascension. The gift of the Holy Spirit. He told his disciples and followers in Acts (and us):
‘And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."’
~ Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)
The waiting began. The early Christians didn’t just wait. They read His Word, they prayed, they broke bread together. Sometimes I long for being like the first Christians. Sure, I wouldn’t like to be persecuted like them—I just long for their community. Certainly we have our churches where we worship behind closed doors. We have our doctrine we follow. Please don’t misunderstand me—there is nothing wrong with that.

What I do long for is that we worship all together on Sundays. We all believe that Jesus is Lord; that He died for our sins. We believe that there is one God, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God gave us all the same Holy Spirit. His Spirit is changing us from the inside out to become more like Christ…

Okay, so maybe I am just dreaming too big. I probably just have to wait for His second coming to see my dream come true--the dream of a unified Church without the ‘walls’ of doctrine. I think that is why I love the on-line community so much. We respect each other; pray for each other, love each other as Christ commanded us to do…
‘And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ ~ Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)

My sweet sisters, let us continue to encourage each other and reach out to the ones that don’t know Him yet. With His help and the community of believers we will reach the finish line…

Lord of Heaven and Earth. You gave us Your Holy Word and Spirit to change us from inside out. Help us to reach the finish line. Continue to guide us in Your Word that we may never depart from it. In the precious name of our Lord and Savior, in Jesus’ name we pray ~ Amen…

Please visit this week's hostess Loni to read more takes on this week's IOW quote...

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Monday, April 9, 2007


The music starts while heads turn to the back of the church where a crowd of little ones has gathered. Palm branches suspended by small hands wave in our sight, Hosanna’s escape from lips like butterfly kisses that float in the air. Eyes searching for parents, elbows bumping one to the other, they make their way to the front, where they lay their branches on the altar. I smile hoping no one will notice the pink in my cheeks, and the tears that burn in my eyes, threatening to spill over staining my cheeks. I take a deep breath, lift hands to my mouth and exhale.

Paths crisscross with children searching for seats; I wave to Madison who holds the hands of her brothers, trying to guide them toward us. They find their seats, settle in, and the music continues to play. I sing a little, but wonder if perhaps it’s best I hold back, my throat is sore, and congestion has gotten the best of me. Noticing the woman beside me has flashed a smile my way, I pull lint from my sweater and smirk, revealing my imperfections in hopes that they may mask another. I continue to sing.

Nathaniel is clapping alone, unaware of the beat, until my husband grabs hold of his hands and leads him along. He doesn’t notice or care that he’s a one man marching band, so he continues to clap while we worship. Then he stops, tugs on his big brothers sleeve and speaks over the music, “Can I sit on your soldiers?” he asks.

Brendan unable to understand what he wants throws him a puzzled look. “He wants to sit on your shoulders,” I translate.

Brendan smiles, but shakes his head, “Not right now guy.”

I continue to worship.

The pastor speaks, while I write. He asks us to turn to the book of Matthew, and I do while in wonder I ask myself why I carry the Bible when the words appear on screen. I leaf through the onionskin pages, till my eyes rest on the passage at hand where I follow along. Marveling at the annotated reference notes, I wonder if others know the secrets I’m learning, my eyes rest on the page for a while until the silence tells me I’m lagging behind. My eyes rise to meet the eyes of the pastor, while I lean in to hear more.

Michael moves closer and whispers pointing out how the couple in front of us looks identical to the other couple just down their row. Together we study the back of their heads, discovering that they do look alike except for the fact that the women have slightly different lengths in hair, and the color is a shade or two off.

The woman sitting to my right passes her baby behind her. Taking the opportunity, I turn and smile to the people behind me, admiring the baby they hold.

I pick up my pen and continue dictation, trying my best to absorb all that I can.

Hearing the music I return to my feet, smoothing my skirt and clearing my throat. Tugging on Michael’s sleeve with one hand, and scratching his nose with the other, Nathaniel calls out, “Can I sit on your soldiers Daddy?”

We smile, while Michael answers, “Maybe later, my soldiers are sore now, ok?” Nudging his arm I hold in a laugh.

The music winds down, while closing words dismiss us from the service. I drop to my seat, and pick up my pen sliding it past the smooth leather wallet where it finally comes to rest. Picking up the notebook, I take one last look at the scratches I’ve put down on paper, hoping to remember all that I’ve learned.

What kind of worshipper are you? It asks…

Are you one of those who found themselves caught up in the moment singing “Hosanna in the highest” waving her palm branch high in the air, because it felt right? Perhaps you’ve said, “Why not? It seems fun.”

Or, are you one of those who liked the company of this man who took care of her. Perhaps He fed you in the group of five thousand, or healed a friend that was sick. You like Him because there’s something in it for you.

Or, lastly perhaps unlike the others, you know what the cheering is really about because you have a relationship with the One that you worship. You know that there’s nothing else that you’d rather do than cheer and wave your palm branch high in the air; you know that He is the one and only King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You want nothing else but to find your way through the crowd to get a glimpse of the one they call Christ.

Bowing my head I whisper a prayer, “Teach me to find my way through this crowd I call the world that pushes around me and takes my eyes off the one that I love. And, when it does press in, Father,” I ask, “can you lift me high on your shoulders, so that I might glimpse the man who died for my sins?”

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Unwrapping the Gift

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:23

What do you usually do after you have picked out the perfect gift for someone? Do you simply thrust it at them right out of the shopping bag, with the price tags flying and the receipt still stuck to it? As tempting as that is (because it’s just so hard to wait!) we usually take care to choose just how we’re going to present it. We may choose just the right gift bag or wrapping paper because part of the gift is in the presentation.

John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life." God chose a very special wrapping in which to give us the gift of His Son. According to Psalm 104:2 "He wraps himself in light, as with a garment," but this is certainly not how Jesus showed up! No, in fact God chose a different "wrapping," one much more costly. He, for a time, gave up His garment of light. He went from "wrapped in light" to "wrapped in skin."

Have you ever held a present and once you moved or shook it you could figure out what was in it? While wrapped in flesh, Jesus certainly gave evidence of what was God is like. The Bible says that He was "moved with compassion" for the hurting people around Him. He healed, He comforted, He performed miracles. The Bible also records that he was moved by the misuse of the His temple, giving us a glimpse of His righteous, holy anger.

Ultimately, His outer wrapping was torn. He was beaten, whipped, pierced and cut. His physical wrapping was finally "opened," for gifts are not meant to stay wrapped forever. He didn’t stay inside His mother, Mary, he didn’t stay in His swaddling clothes, neither did He stay in His human skin. But there was still one final wrapping. Just as He was wrapped in cloth when He was born, He was wrapped in linen after His death. And just as all the former wrappings had been shed, this one would be as well.

Mark 15:46 records that Joseph "bought some linen cloth, took down the body, and wrapped it in the linen." What I found extremely interesting was that the Greek word for "wrapped" in this verse comes from a root word which means "bound to the law." For so long, men were bound to continue falling short of keeping the Ten Commandments and to making sacrifices to atone for sins. All of this pointed to man's need for a Savior. The empty grave tells us we are free from death's power. The empty grave clothes remind us that we are no longer bound to the law, making sacrifices with bulls and rams. In Christ we are free! Free from death for eternity, and free from the power of sin in our daily lives even now.

How do you suppose it would feel to give someone a gift, and for them to acknowledge receipt of it but never open it? Wouldn't you feel they had not truly accepted your gift? God wrapped and sent us the gift of Christ. (Though, unlike our hypothetical unopened gift, this Gift has been unwrapped and is in His rightful place. The grave was not powerful enough to hold Him inside and despite his unbelief, man is not able to keep Him in His grave clothes.) However, each of us must acknowledge for ourselves that the gift was for us personally and not just for someone else or the world at large. It is in this way that we truly accept His gift. We must admit our own need for His sacrificial atonement. To truly open and accept this gift is to repent of our sins and make Jesus Lord of our hearts and lives. We can then enjoy the daily gift of freedom from sin's rule, and the unspeakable gift of the assurance of spending eternity with Him.

We are invited to unwrap God’s gift of salvation and freedom found only in Christ, and to share that gift with others. The grave is open, the grave clothes have been cast aside, Christ is alive!
May this Easter find each of us unwrapping and accepting His incredible gift.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

It is finished.

The Sabbath. Not just any Sabbath, but the day between.

Between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

Between despair and renewal.

Between evil's apparent victory and Jesus' triumph.

What must it have been like on that day? Did the remaining 11 disciples spend the day in shock- weary, drained, even perhaps feeling a touch of anger at being left behind? We know that they did not understand much of what Jesus said as He predicted His death. They weren't waiting at the the tomb on the third day, expecting Him to appear. Were they fearful of their own arrest? Could they eat? Did they weep?

We look back now with the knowledge that "Sunday's comin'!" and miss the devastation that must have been present among Jesus' followers. People who expected great things- political overthrow, a new kingdom, physical freedom. People who listened to His sermons and parables without comprehending their true meanings.

But the chief priests and Pharisees understood, for they were the only ones mentioned with an activity for that Sabbath day.
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

"Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Maybe they considered, even for a just a moment, that Jesus was who he claimed to be. They had perhaps been witness to the tearing of the curtain before the Holy of Holies. They certainly had seen the sky blacken and experienced the earthquake. They could have heard the centurion's realization that this man was the Son of God. And yet, their pride, their human desire for control, their absolute certainty of their righteousness led them to Pilate. Were they really concerned about the disciples taking off with the body, or were they unsure of Jesus' seemingly sealed fate?

The women who went to the tomb the following morning had spent the Sabbath in "obedience to the commandments". As they remained in their homes, or wherever they were staying, did they weep throughout the day? With so many regulations, the Sabbath must have seemed so long, especially this Sabbath. No cooking, no cleaning, no carrying certain amounts of weight, no mending, no washing. How did they pass the time? Despair settles easily and quickly in the midst of inactivity. Jesus had treated them as no other man ever had. They were worthy in his eyes. They had value. They were welcomed at his feet. How could they go on without him?

I challenge us to sit in silence on this Sabbath day and feel the pain and the lonliness as we experience the between. Wonder at how long the day must have felt as we go about our business- the business of living. Their Lord was dead. They saw it with their own eyes. Touched His lifeless body. Prepared Him for burial and left Him in the dark tomb, alone. If we had been there, would we truly have believed that He would be coming back to life? If it happened today, could we suspend disbelief enough to dream it could be true?

Be silent. Make your Sabbath meaningful. Look forward to tomorrow but remember what today means. Only in the between can we find the true glory of the resurrection.