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Friday, June 29, 2007

Home Reflections

My husband Jason and I are musicians. We are often hired to sing or play for events in whatever area we are living in at the time. We've had some interesting experiences and met some wonderful people along the way and one that especially comes to mind was a singing job we did in Cincinnati a number of years ago.

We were hired to sing our musical theater revue (he plays and we both sing) for an older couple's 50th anniversary party. This particular couple wanted to meet us and hear what we had planned before the actual event, which is not unusual. We made our way with our oldest son, Colin, who was one at the time, to their home and introduced ourselves. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Heimlich and they lived in a beautiful home in a wooded area nearby the city. From the moment we walked in we felt at peace. Mr. and Mrs. Heimlich had spent a lifetime creating togetherness in their marriage and a sense of calm in their home. I don't remember much of what their home looked like, except that they had a bunch of knick-knacks from other countries on the shelves. I do remember part of our conversation:

Jason: So what do you do, Mr. Heimlich?

Mr. Heimlich: It's Dr. Hemilich, and I invented a little procedure you may have heard of called the Heimlich Maneuver. (he said with a smile and a wink)

Jason: Oh, that was you! Wow.

Yes, it was the Dr. and Mrs. Heimlich. The famous ones. Pretty neat, hunh? But beyond the novelty of who they were, the way they made us feel in their home has stuck with us all of these years.

I do not know if they were Christians. They didn't mention Jesus and I don't remember Christian symbols in their home. But if there had been a clear presence of the Holy One in their home, the impact would have been huge. I have often thought over the years about how my home feels. What is the first impression people have when entering? What do they see, smell, and hear? Do they sense love, peace and joy? Do they sense God here?
"I want my home to reflect you...I really want the walls of my home to reflect the work of you in my life, in our lives...I want your presence to be the direct and indirect lighting in every room."

I am no decorator. I don't have the creative eye that allows me to match contrasting fabrics and patterns. I don't have the time or the money to attend every Southern Living party that comes my way. My home isn't always spotless either and I find myself making excuses for the toys all over the floor when even the appliance repairman comes!

But that isn't what really matters. What matters is who and what are reflected in my home.

"I want the chaos, the joy, the magic that comes from sitting for hours at the feet of the Savior and having that time reflected in the life of my family. In our home."

More than I want the latest fad in decor or expensive things hanging on the wall, I want guests to feel at home here. To feel that they are welcome. To want to come back. I want our friends to know that they are on holy, though cluttered, ground and that all life here revolves around the Author of Peace, the Giver of Love.

We still talk about Dr. and Mrs. Heimlich once in a while. We reminisce about the calm that stayed with us long after we left. We recall the shared looks, the gentle touches between the two of them. I hope someday others will remember crossing the threshhold of our home in much the same way and that this place will simply reflect God's presence.
"If the Spirit of God lives in the folks at your house, make sure that is reflected on the walls and gates of your home. Bring the holy home. Let it be evident in every corner of your dwelling."

Quotes by Carol Brazo

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Time away...

I am late getting this post published for today because I am sitting on a flight heading west to a conference for several days with my husband. My children are at home being well taken care of by their grandparents. I had tried to post something last night in our hotel room, but I was having trouble with the wireless connection in our room. It was getting late so I decided to go to bed since we had an early morning flight to catch.

I have been looking forward to this time away for several weeks. We have only been gone for twenty four hours at this point and have already enjoyed the quiet moments of talking and sharing with one another. Over the next several days between meetings and other events, we hope to spend time resting, reading and reflecting on our life.

I just finished re-reading a small book by John Piper titled, “When the Darkness Will Not Lift”. The words he shares in chapter two page 35 spoke to my heart so powerfully as I sit here high above the earth looking out at the beautiful skies and the soft puffy clouds which seem to be carrying us through the air. I have pondered his words and the scripture he shares as I reflect on those places in my heart where I am waiting for the darkness to lift. So, I thought I would share them with you today:

“Then comes the king’s cry: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” One of the reasons God loved David so much was that he cried so much. (Have you ever been there) “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” (Psalm 6:6) “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” ( Psalm 56:8) Indeed they are! “Blessed are those who mourn” (yes, it says “blessed”) Matthew 5:4. It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God.

Then after the cry you wait. “I waited patiently for the LORD.” This is crucial to know: saints who cry to the Lord for deliverance from pits of darkness must learn to wait patiently for the Lord. There is no statement about how long David waited. I have known saints who walked through eight years of debilitating depression and came out into glorious light. Only God knows how long we must wait. The prophet Micah experienced prolonged and painful waiting. “I sit in darkness…until the Lord pleads my cause and…will bring me out to the light.” ( Micah 7:8-9). We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or he delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving toward his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don’t mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ.

What comfort I found in these words in confronting those places in my own life in which I am struggling in my fight for joy! I pray that they would bring comfort to you as well.

In Him...Chris

Visit Chris at her personal blog Come to the Table

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Spears of the Heart

Someone once said, “It’s a safe bet that if a pastor is ‘stuck’ on one topic in the pulpit that he himself is struggling with that issue.”

I’m not sure about that, but I eventually came to apply this theory to my life, recognizing that repetitions of certain themes are probably God’s attempt to gently shape, direct, or correct my inner man. If I still don’t pay attention, He is then usually less subtle. I prefer the subtle method!

And now, with a deep sigh, I reveal to you that lately, due to recurring pop-up instances, I apparently need to re-visit the problem of envy.

Honestly, my first self-preserving inclination is to point out to you that I am NOT super envious—not as bad as, say, that insecure, disobedient, spear-hurling King Saul, who was delirious in his jealousy of David--nay, not I! My envy is way less “sinful” than Saul’s! I’m being facetious, of course. Sin is sin, and to qualify sin is useless. Like cancer, sin manifests itself in stages, and whether it’s stage 1 or stage 4, it’s all bad. A little bit of leaven, you know.

Envy is admiration gone south, and it’s particularly destructive. It begins when we see gifts and strengths in others, or some blessing befalls them, and we are caught up in their charisma or accomplishments, and we admire them. So far, so good.

If we’re not careful, though, we start to wonder why we are lacking in those qualities or blessings. Slowly at first, an emotional downward spiral begins twisting, and we go from rejoicing with to wishing we had what they have, then to focusing on our deficiencies, then to becoming discontent, self-absorbed and bitter. In fact, at the spiral’s vortex is selfishness. We lose sight of who we truly are in Christ and inexplicably forget the goodness He has poured into our lives.

I’m reminded of Saul in 1 Samuel 23:21 when the men of Ziph betrayed David by telling Saul where David was hiding: “Well, Praise the Lord” Saul said. “At last someone has had pity on me!” [Living Bible]. When I read that, I laid my Bible down, cracked a sarcastic smile and thought, “Boo-hoo. You were an idiot. You had the most loyal servant in David, but you were blind. Sheesh! Glad I never have those pity parties!" I must confess, however, that I do throw myself the occasional "pity blow-out."

By chapter 23, Saul was not only peeved with David, but he had convinced himself that no one around him understood him or was loyal. And we all know what became of this envious King who once stood head and shoulders above the rest. He became the object of scorn and pity—ugly attributes became his legacy.

I suppose you want the lowdown on my envy. I’ll give you my latest example. Recently I opened our newspaper and read about a local author who said, “I never wanted to write at all. The book contract just sort of fell into my lap.” Well, I’ve always wanted to write, and publishing opportunities are not miraculously floating in my cereal bowl each morning or cropping up like dandelions in my lawn. Therefore, I felt a twinge of resentment when I read about her good fortune. I’m sure she deserved to be published. I’m sure she’s more talented than the average person. I’m happy for her, really I am. There’s room enough in this world for gazillions of authors. But my internal brat cried out, “How long, O Lord, how long? (Before a contract falls into my lap?)” In other words, I believe I grumbled. I also believe grumbling and resenting are tiny arrows hurled from an imperfect heart, or sin, if you must make me say it.

The antidote to the poison arrow is two-fold:

Part 1--Prayer for forgiveness, cleansing, creating within me a clean heart and right thinking, expressing gratitude for innumerable blessings, blessing the person for whom I had resentment, laying my feelings at the foot of the cross, etc.

Part 2—Surrendering my insecurities and my desires. This act is more difficult than asking forgiveness. In fact, Dr. Daniel Harrell, Pastor of Park Street Church in Boston has said, “A prayer of surrender, a prayer of genuine trust is the hardest prayer to pray. To be someone after God’s own heart is to be someone not after your own.”

At this point, I must ask myself: If, for any reason, God does not wish me to pursue being published, am I willing to lay that desire down and pursue His plans? Or, suppose he wants me stop my negative self-talk and pity parties and work more diligently at being published. Am I willing to sacrifice—to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to this plan? Am I totally surrendered, no matter what?

Our great Enemy launches enough spears at us without our mimicking him with each other. I do not want to cast arrows at my brothers and sisters. So once again, I’m laying down my arrows and surrendering my will to my Father's plan. Because more than anything, I want to be a woman after God’s own heart, no matter what path he directs me to. I only know that on that path, there is no room for envy.

Please visit my blog at 2nd cup of Coffee

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Written on My Heart

The words scratched into the painted, metal surface of the stall door caught my eye. Some were profane, some crude, and others gently whispered, “I exist…”.

Like this one: Leah wuz here.

She had scratched her simple statement into the middle of a particularly gruesome display of skulls, which were in turn surrounded by profound testimonies of undying love… “Angie *hearts* Rob”.

We have a need, don't we, to make our mark? Something scratched into the surface of this world that does more than simply mar its pristine surface. Our legacy, left behind, for others to remember.

I do not pretend to know why Leah carved those words into the door. More than likely, they did not come from a deep place in her heart, a desire to leave her mark on the world. There will be time enough for that.

But…She was here.

Three little words for everyone – and no one – to see. A short, voiceless letter, neither weighty nor shallow, and yet it takes my breath away.

What is my mark?

Graceless moments leaving my mark are better off forgotten. How can I demand a character trait from my children when I, in that moment, show utter contempt for the trait itself with my conduct?

In opportunities for ministry, to really share God’s truth, I have remained silent.

A thoughtless expression, an unkind word, a raised voice... Elise was here!, my actions cry.

But as I traced Leah's jagged message on the bathroom door with my finger, He whispered to me...

...Beloved, you are my letter.

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)
A letter from Christ. And what is His message? This is my Beloved. The mark she carries denotes her sin, but also grace and pardon. Oh, let me not forget that, far more important than the mark I leave behind, is the mark I already bear!

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Does my heart, as a letter, say "God is here"? In Jesus, through Him, because of Him, I exist. That is the mark I bear. If I carry it, the mark I make is sure to reflect it.

Father, may all of my actions be signed, “Love, God”. The world will be reading.

Feel free to visit my little place at A Path Made Straight

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lessons from the Campground

God intrigues me. He always finds me while I am camping to impart a new life lesson with each tent experience. Last weekend was no different.

Saturday night I am snuggled in my fluffy sleeping bag, fast asleep. In the early morning darkness I become painfully aware a bathroom trip is imminent. I fumble with the tent zipper which is stuck. While struggling to dislodge the nylon from the teeth, I begin to dance the potty dance. My feet are tapping and I am tugging. Finally I give it a forceful pull while praying over the tangled mess and the zipper roles up. Whew!

After I rush to the bathroom, I slowly amble back up toward our campsite. On the trek back I notice a strange phenomenon, a subtle roaring is emanating from every campsite I pass. For a second I wonder if wild animals have congregated looking for leftovers. No, I don’t hear wild beasts.

I hear men snoring.

I giggle, completely amused by the various pitch, gurgling, and roaring noises which fill the night air. I arrived back at our campsite to find our tent is rockin’ and a rollin’ in unison with my husband’s wood sawing.

My six-foot-two, tall dark and handsome, can snore better than most. He has been known to register a 5.2 on the Richter scale occasionally. We live in California - this can be sacary. As for myself, I might breathe heavily or sigh politely in my sleep. *grin*

For years I informed my spouse his snoring was perhaps a bit “over the top.” Of course, he did not believe me. Not once in his entire life had he heard himself snore. He was convinced that I was daft and suffering with oversensitive ears.

Finally, it happened. While rooming with a buddy on a trip, my husband’s snoring became so loud his friend picked up and checked into his own room to get a good nights rest. At last, my husband believed.

All of this snoring has led me realize, I too, have ignored loud and annoying parts of my character. I chose to believe my circumstances were an exception to specific teachings of scripture. So much of God’s Word I want to apply but have willingly left certain verses sitting idle. I have ignored God.

Specifically, over the past two years, God has been pointing out several scriptures I refused to believe were for me. Today, I surrender. I cannot see my life as an exception. I must see my life through all scripture, even passages which point out my spiritual snoring. At last, I see, I believe!

Slowly, patiently God waits for me to open my eyes. He never gives up, never tires, never sleeps. He waits and works, crafting my heart and soul.

The Lord has an amazing future planned for me which is born out of obedience. I can’t wait to see what awaits tomorrow as I surrender willingly today.

Jesus obedient: John 4:34
Jonah obedient: Jonah 3:3
Moses and Aaron obedient: Exodus 7:6
Mary obedient: Luke 1:38
Lynn obedient: In progress

John 14:21 (New International Version)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

I retell this story with a hug from my husband and his encouragement....

Tall, Dark, and Handsome, thanks for allowing me to share you with my friends.

Please stop in for a visit at my place: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

A New Word ...

This week I was preparing a Bible study lesson and meant to type the word, 'righteousness'. I noticed my spell-checker protesting bright red so I scanned to see what I had mis-typed. The mistake I found was one which stirred courage in my heart therefore I fell in love with it instantly. The word? 'Fighteousness'. Don't you love it?

I immediately thought of this verse:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.' 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Girls, we do not achieve righteousness without fighteousness. I can not tell you the name of one individual sanctified by a passive practice of Christianity. No crowns have been earned by any human save through overcoming trial and tribulation. Paul knew this full well. Stonings, beatings, humiliation, rejection were all his earthly sentence for an exemplary faith yet he pressed on for the verdict and reward of a Righteous Judge.

My faith has not been an easy one. I have experienced many heartaches, weathered devastating storms, and revisited debilitating old wounds. I can honestly say Christ has blanketed every hurt of my heart with His Word and continues to fill every needy place. There are still many periods of time when the voice of Satan says, 'you can't take one more day of this. It will destroy you to be obedient. Why is He so strict with you and not her? He wants way too much from you. Just lay it down.' That voice can be so winsome, the way it coos and beckons. That evil, slumber-inducing lullably can only be silenced with a Holy Spirit smack of the cheeks which calls, "Wake Up! Fight! You are stronger than this...Not in your power, but Mine."

I am reminded once again of another verse that has spoken so freshly to me these past two weeks,

"I have written to you , fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." 1 John 2:14

Where the Word of God abides, there stands an Overcomer. There is a wife who will not grow weary in well-doing. There is a mother who will persevere. There is a daughter who loves nothing more than His Appearing.

There is a woman with some Fighteousness.

I would love for you to visit my personal blog, The Preacher's Wife.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Idols of the Heart

"… these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity…”

"Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols,

I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols." Ezekiel 14: 3-5

In the passage above, Ezekiel is not talking about the idols where people bowed down and worshiped. Here he is telling the Israelites that there are idols in their heart. There are “things” they have given power to.

What is idolatry of the heart? How does it begin? First there is a desire. I currently have my house up for sale, so I desire a bigger house for my family. A person could desire a higher position, or the best education for their children, or desire to have their child become a great athlete. These are all desires of our heart, and these desires are not evil. God wants us to have and pursue the desires of our heart.

Overtime our open hand of presenting to Christ our desires can become a closed fist of idolatry. Then as a Christian you become someone who says, “Lord send me where you want, lead me wherever…but please don’t touch this.” Many times we can find ourselves doing anything to make our desires come to fruition. If one desires a higher position, then they become a workaholic. If the best schools is your desire as a parent, then you do whatever possible to make that desire come true. Or like me, if you desire a bigger house, you may find yourself placing parameters on how God should bless you. We don’t do this consciously, but I bet we can think of a time we each have fallen into this trap.

Suddenly when we have an idol in our life, we are not turning our hearts to an all knowing, all loving God of the universe who blesses us as he sees fit. Instead we are praying to a deity we want to fetch our desires for us.

I desire for my sons to grow up in a safe environment, I want them to be successful in whatever they do, I want them to marry a pure, strong Christian woman who has saved herself just for them, and I desire many grandchildren. But if I am not holding these desires of my heart with an open hand up towards the Lord, then they become an idol in my closed fist. Who am I to say how their life should go, the Lord may use suffering in one of my kids lives to bring Glory to Him. I hope not, but I have to keep an open hand to his will.

I believe many Christians today don’t move forward in their walk because of idols in their life. They attend church, volunteer during functions, and sing all the hymns out loud, but somewhere deep within they are saying, “Lord I praise your name and I am yours, but please don’t touch this area.” Just don’t. Want to know a biggie in this area? Finances! But that is just one of millions. In the end the Lord turns you over to your idols and says “have at it.” To me there is nothing worse then God turning me over to my sin; I would be begging for punishment, just don’t walk away.

So do you have any idols in your life? No one on the outside can see them; he is ready and willing to meet you right where you are if you ask God to reveal any idols. I am not free from this sin; it is a daily battle of putting Christ first. But my prayer is that I may never get confused and think that anything is mine (not even my children). Father I stand with my hand open to your will, if there is any area I keep off limits help me to turn them over to you.

You can visit me at my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

*This message was based on notes I took from a sermon from The Village.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Costly Freedom…

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” ~ Hebrews 10:19-22 (ESV)
Over the last couple of days I was reading through Hebrews. As I was reading the passages of our High Priest, I was reminded of a story from my childhood—a true story.

Many of you know that I grew up in Germany—a divided Germany. In 1975 our class took a trip to Berlin. As we visited all the touristy places in Western Berlin (the free side), we ended up at the Elbe River. The Elbe River had a dark history. You see, Berlin was divided between England, France, the US and Russia. People living in the English, French and US sections lived as free people. Not so the people in the Russian sector.

Many people tried to swim across the Elbe River to reach the free sections of Berlin. The bad part was that the river was saturated with mines. Many lost their lives trying to reach freedom. I remember standing in front of all the crosses that were erected on the free side in memory of all the lost lives. I was devastated—a little too much for a 14-year-old girl.

On our return home, I told my parents how deeply this visit had affected me. Before my dad became a police officer, he served as a border guard between the two Germanys—at one time in Berlin. He told me the story of a young man who tried to cross over to the free sector. The young man got shot right before he reached the free sector—right before the eyes of my dad. You can imagine how this affected my dad. He told me that he sometimes could still see the young man’s face, reaching out for him, reaching for freedom…
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” ~ Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)
My sweet sisters, Christ set us free from sin and death. He gave us the freedom we were reaching for—freedom in Him. Freedom is always costly. We are blessed that Christ paid the price for us. Let us share the good news with all the ones who are ready to listen.

“Lord of Heaven and Earth. Thank you for shedding Your precious blood in order for us to be free. Help us to never forget how costly this freedom was for You. Open our mouths to reach the ones who have not experienced Your love. In the precious name of Jesus ~ Amen”

You can also find me at my personal blog Sting My Heart

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Moment With Him

This past week, fellow blogger Christine sent me a quote for "In 'Other' Words" which read,

"As Christians, we are called to convert our loneliness into solitude. We are called to experience our aloneness not as a wound but as a gift--as God's gift--so that in our aloneness we might discover how deeply we are loved by God."

~ Henri Nouwen ~

It was God's way of whispering, "I wanted to spend that moment with you." I knew exactly what that whisper meant as my mind travelled back a few weeks to an evening of loneliness when all I could do was drive, and pray, and wipe the tears from my cheeks. Not a wound waiting to be healed. Not a space needing to be filled. A gift. Although I hadn't realized this gift at the time, I did later when I reflected on the alone time I spent with my Lord. The answered prayers in the morning, confirming that He heard my hearts cry. The gift itself wasn't the answer to prayer, it was that moment when my spirit of weakness was laid in His hands.

Every once in a while we find ourselves emotionally stripped, as all that life holds is swept away. We find ourselves kneeling at the feet of our Lord, grateful that He's there--His spirit a balm to our weary soul.

There have been times that I've felt this throughout my life, and like this time, each one has brought me a little closer to my Lord.

I pulled up in the driveway yesterday, and just before I stepped out of the car, the same feelings of loneliness crept up for a second--just a wee second--before a smile spread over my face. "Your grace is sufficient for me Lord," I whispered back at Him, "Thanks for this moment with You."

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Visit me at my personal blog: Darlene Schacht dot com :)

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Forgetting What Is Behind

Quick- what did you have for lunch yesterday? Where are your sunglasses? How about your car keys?

If you're like me, you had to pause and think... I'm still thinking! I actually can't remember what I had for lunch today, muchless yesterday. And let's just say it's a good thing I have several pair of sunglasses! But, boy can I remember other things. I can readily recall things I feel really guilty about, past sins, or hurtful things people have said to me. I can immediately call to mind things I've done that made me feel proud or accomplished- even if just for a moment or a season in my life.

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

"Forgetting what is behind." Sometimes that's so hard, isn't it? I find it interesting that Paul doesn't say we are just supposed to forget the bad things. We are to forget "what is behind," anything from before this moment that might hold us back from pressing ahead. Sometimes those are negative, painful events. It might be past sins we have committed. But it might also be our past righteous acts done in service to the Lord, the "works prepared for us" that we've already done (our "track record") in which we might be tempted to rest instead of seizing fresh, new opportunities to serve Him. Regardless, if we keep holding on to the past, it's harder to "strain toward" what is ahead.

But, some things are so hard to forget! Here are three steps on how to do that, from one of my favorite resources, Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. Her advice is so wise and it has really helped me to forget what needs to be forgotten, or to as she puts it, "remember to forget."

Find the Gold. When prospectors would pan for gold, they would scoop up dirt, rocks, sand and silt, and look for what had value. If God has allowed certain events in your life, it must be because it has value. Perhaps it was a character quality it brought forth in you, or an attribute of Himself He wanted to reveal to you. Without become bogged down in the dirt and silt of your past, dig down and look for the gold. Keep what is good and let the rest go. I have felt such joy in "finding the gold" in past situations and circumstances. It truly is like finding treasure! Sometimes I want to celebrate as loudly as they must have during the Gold Rush! But it doesn't stop there:

Find Forgiveness. If some of what you are "digging up" involves sin on your part, ask forgiveness for the sins and for the resulting bad that happened. As 1 John 1:9 promises, God is faithful to forgive. What a promise!

Forgive Others. Once we have found the gold in our situations, and have come to God for cleansing and forgiveness ourselves, we must extend forgiveness to others. To fail to do so is to choose a life of bitterness, which will surely hold us back from "pressing on toward the goal." If, after all, the goal is becoming like Christ, then we must forgive as He did.

Mrs. George says, "With the gold gleaned from the past, and forgiveness both extended and received, you can now reach forward and tackle the challenges of the present with all your energy."

Oh, how I pray this for all of us in the days to come.

Press on!

Please visit my personal blog, One Day More.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Just a sip

The breeze is nearly still as I sit out on the porch trying to calm a fussing baby. The air is fragrant with dampness and spring flowers. The quiet, dusk sounds of our neighborhood are drowned out by the whimpers and cries of our youngest as I try to soothe him. The notes of the windchimes occasionally poke through and make themselves known.

Then I hear it. The soft "zhhhhhhhhh" of a hummingbird joining me. Its jagged, yet deliberate, flight toward the hanging feeder catches my eye and I watch it as it approaches for a drink.

Sip, sip, sip.

Then, with another "zhhhhhhhhh", it darts away into the fading light of the day.

We can see them from our living room as they come periodically throughout the day. They never stay longer than a few seconds- just long enough to take a sip of nourishment- and are soon on their way again. For some reason they bring me peace. Their tiny bodies are so perfect, the blur of their wings mesmerizes me, their graceful hovering movement is unique. For me, God is very present in the hummingbird.

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

Their habit of coming briefly just for a sip reminds me that I, too, can take my sips at the fountain bit by bit. I cannot, in this season of my life, find time for a long leisurely visit in my hectic day. But I have moments. Moments of activity I perform by rote. Moments of blessing with my children. Moments of daily routine. All these are time enough for a sip.

Will I remember, as do the hummingbirds, where I can find the nourishment, the Living Water? They don't seem to get lost. Their short visits to our porch are second nature, punctuating their days, keeping them filled and never thirsty. How many times do I find myself at the end of my rope, when all I really need to keep my grip is a simple and habitual sip, sip, sip?

How do I get to the place of habit that I long to find?

Watch the hummingbird. It's my reminder to you...


Photo credit


Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Letter...

This is a letter my husband shared with our congregation a few months ago that he had written to a dear man and his wife who had influenced his life and lead him into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at a very young age. Never underestimate the influence you can have on the life of a young child. The love that this man and his wife gave to a young boy not only impacted his life for Christ, but has now gone on to impact everyone who he shares the gospel with weekly as a Pastor.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV)

Dear Papa Kiemel,

You probably don’t remember me. I was 4 or 5 when we met. You were the Pastor of the Nazarene Church in Hayward, California. My family had recently moved to this community and began attending your church.

I remember one sunny Sunday afternoon when you invited our family to come to your home for lunch. You had a globe and so many interesting items and pieces of artwork from all over the world. They were from places where you and or your daughters had shared the Gospel. As a very young boy, I had no idea what that really meant at the time. I did know that it must be something special and important.

I have another memory of you and Mama Kiemel. I remember that you did not have a TV that worked well, toys or other kids to play with. I realize now that it was because you both were older at the time and that you had no grandchildren yet. Well toys or no toys, playtime buddies or not, TV or no TV, I always longed to come to your home.

I longed to come to your home because it was one of the few places I could go, outside of being with my own family where I felt so loved and where I did not stand out as the white kid in a brown family. You see Papa and Mama Kiemel, I was adopted as a baby, yet you never treated me as the scarlet-letter child. The genuine love you gave to a scared and confused little boy opened the door for me to trust in the love of my Heavenly Father that my Dad and Mom so wanted me to personally know and love.

I asked Jesus into my heart shortly after we moved from Hayward at a VBS my Mom and her friend put together because I wanted what you had and what you gave me.

As a pastor, I am sure you wondered at times if the two of you made a difference in the lives of the people you shared your life with. How many of your prayers for other people actually stuck and resulted in fruit for the Kingdom. Well, I just wanted you to know it made a difference in my life. For 35 years I have anchored my heart on the same Jesus that shined and radiated out of both of you.

I regret that I did not get a chance to say thank you to you in person before you both went on to be with Jesus. Please accept this belated gratitude from the kid you allowed to call you Papa and Mama.
In Him...Chris
Visit Chris at her personal blog Come to the Table

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Friday, June 15, 2007

A Marathon, not a Sprint

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

During the baby and toddler years of motherhood, I remember going through so many overwhelming emotions, from joy to frustration. I would be in the middle of late night feeding, diapers, and potty training, wondering at times if I was fulfilling my purpose--if I was using my talents and abilities where God wanted me. As I prayed through those questions, I also came to a peace that I was right where God wanted me for that season of life.

A few years ago, I saw an interview with Maria Shriver about how she balanced family, work, and community service. She cited something her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, told her. Basically her mother said you can do it all, just not all at the same time--that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

I am sure that God has many plans for my life and if I allow Him, will use the abilities He has given me in various ways. That is exciting! What is more exciting is when you can be content where God has you in life at this moment. He has a purpose for you now. Being a mom may not be glamorous by the world's standard of achievement, but is of great worth in God's eyes. My husband and I feel that we have found our greatest purpose and joy in being parents--how God has blesses!

As our children get older, God opens other doors to use the gifts He has given us. Blogging is a wonderful way to use gifts of writing and teaching to honor and serve Him. I feel so blessed to be a part of the Christian Women blogging community--you ladies bless me!! Be encouraged as you share your heart that God is using you to minister!

In Him,
Kelly at A Spacious Place

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ode to a Naive Bride, June 14, 1985

On June 15, 1985, I was a college graduate of three weeks and a bride of 24 hours. I remember languishing poolside in Floridian bliss, humming along to the popular song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” sipping a cold drink and exchanging smiles with my groom. I didn’t want to rule the world exactly, but I did have big plans for my new married life.

When I hear the song now, I smile at the irony of the first line: “Welcome to your life; there’s no turning back ….” At 22, what did I know about a commitment to care forever—no turning back?

Occasionally, I wish I could return to June 14, 1985, and meet myself as a young bride at the back of the church. I’d whisper candidly to the young me about my expectations vs. the reality of the years ahead. If you had asked me then if I understood the scope and weight of my vows, I would have said yes, but I didn’t really.

Being in love didn’t prepare me for those first grocery shopping ventures when I plopped favorites into the cart, and he promptly removed them. I didn’t know that without due warning he would change my radio stations. Who knew we’d spend 22 years disagreeing about how to mow the lawn? And how could I have known that he had a sleeping disorder? Or (and this still puts a chill up my spine) that we would have kids with sleeping disorders? I didn’t understand that he couldn’t be “everything” for me. After all, he was the love of my life, with emphasis on “my.”

And that poor groom--he didn’t know the half of his bride’s self-centered capacities. He didn’t know his fun-loving girlfriend would be so uptight about clothes on the floor and dust on ceiling fans. How could an affectionate girlfriend neglect to meet her husband when he walked through the door after work each night? And how did she manage to break so many things weekly? Imagine his confusion about a wife who six months into marriage began daily afternoon naps that merged into nights. Had he married a narcoleptic? No, the power naps were due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy, and he would be a dad in only his second year of marriage.

Who knew?

God did. He knew we would go through seasons of joy alternated with frustration, depression, family deaths, disappointment in each other and in ourselves. But by the grace of God who remained faithful to us when our commitment has lagged, and through the support of church family and friends, we stand together twenty-two years later.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Three strands: God, my husband, and me.

At times, the cord frayed but didn’t break, because ultimately, we love God and value who we are as a couple and a family more than we love our individual selves. Not because we’re noble or martyrs but because God’s spirit in us “grew” this counter-human commitment to something bigger than ourselves as individuals. Based on statistics, it’s a safe bet that without positioning our marriage and family on his principles and grace, we wouldn’t be together today.

A line in the aforementioned songs says, “There’s a room where the light won’t find you/holding hands while the walls come tumbling down/When they do I’ll be right behind you ….” In the tropical sun of 1985, I wouldn’t have believed that darkness could ever threaten us. But by banding together when it came and walls fell, we defended each other when one was weaker. And when we were both tired, our anchor strand was strong enough to get us through.

I am not as naïve about life and expectations anymore. I do know that when my husband is pushed, I’ll be right behind him, supporting him. When walls tumble, I’ll be right beside him holding his hand.

And even if I could time travel and enlighten myself about the triumphs and trials to come, I’d trust in the outstretched hand of my groom at the altar, squish my puffy dress through the vestibule, and confidently meet him there—no turning back.

Please visit my personal blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007


He weeps for her, my friends.

He does not laugh, as so many have done at her expense lately. He weeps. His precious daughter cries out in her fear, calling for her mother. And He weeps.

And as a shepherd leaves the other ninety-nine to look for the one lost, so He searches for her.

I do not keep up with the news so much anymore, but the story of the lonely heiress has captured my heart lately, in a way that has surprised me.

You see, I laughed at her.

And the moment I did, I felt His sadness. Oh, Beloved.

For I, too, have strayed. I left the safety of the fold and wandered, though tags still circled my neck... "My name is Beloved", and "If found, please return me to the Master". Like a bell, they tinkled and warned me that I wandered too far, but I pushed ahead recklessly.

And when I strayed so far that I lay weak and motionless, He found me. Carried me to the safety of His fold and secured me there, and then set out to find another wandering lamb.

Having been on both sides of the gate, my compassion is great for those who wander. And yet I have stood by and laughed at her pain, delighted in her quandary, safely munching on my green grass and surrounded by others who have been rescued.

"This is the supreme command. Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Jesus called to him, high in the tree, to come down for a dinner party. He knelt and wrote in the sand for her, leading all who accused her to drop their stones. He touched the shriveled hand on the Sabbath. Breathed the same air as the ten lepers. (Luke 19:1-10; John 8:1-11; Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 17:12-19)

She is not my enemy. Still, I am leaving the safety of the fold again, but this time it is to stand by her side, and plead for her to God.

Join me?

(The title of this post, Schadenfreude, is the German word for "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune.")

You are welcome to visit my personal blog at A Path Made Straight

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

At the Well of Contentment

You know this woman. It is likely you have read her story so many times she no longer speaks to you. Perhaps you feel disconnected from her life circumstance. Her life is a distant problem and your life is a sharp contrast to everything she is.

Let’s take another look. Possibly we will find we are not so different after all.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

This woman, a Samaritan, is astonished to realize a Jewish man is speaking with her. The brilliance of Jesus in this scene blows my mind. Jesus crosses over the cultural barriers of the time. He still does this today.

Jesus and the woman begin to talk about the ancient well and the water therein.

He says to the woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman replies, “Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus turns serious here. He says to her, "Go, call your husband and come back."

Why did Jesus say this? We know from scripture she is divorced for the fifth time and currently living with a man who is not her husband. Do you think Jesus wanted to expose her guilt? I think, perhaps He wanted to expose her thirst. Jesus helps her to realize her attempts to find satisfaction have left her with an ever-growing thirstiness.

Each marriage was a new taste of sweet wine. Each suspended her deep longing, at least for a time. In the end, each failed to quench her thirst and left her desiring ….something else.

You and I are not so different from this woman. We also struggle with longing, restlessness, dissatisfaction, and yearning. Even though we know Jesus, we still can feel a restlessness rise up in us from time-to-time. If only I could loose a few pounds, I know I would be happy. If only I had a new home, I would finally be happy. If only my husband…. If only my mother-in-law….If only…If only….If only…..

Jesus does not come to condemn us and riddle us with guilt. His desire is to help us realize our own hidden longings which keep us bound in knots. He wants to free us from dissatisfaction and give us a life of contentment.

I am a visual learner with a vivid imagination. I hope you can imagine the following scene. Imagine yourself walking into your kitchen and there, standing by the sink is Jesus. He is wearing a white robe and holding a crystal clear glass of water.

You stop in your tracks and stare, daring not to move. He smiles. You relax and return His gaze. He holds up the glass and speaks your name then says, “I have come to give you freedom today. Surrender to me your secret longing and I will give you a carefree day of glorious living. Drink up!”

Can we see ourselves in this story? Are we truly drinking the living, sustaining, satisfying water, or sneaking a sweet wine substitute?

Let's take our longings before the throne, Jesus is waiting to meet us there.

Please stop in for a visit at my place: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

As Waters Gone By...

"Yet if you devote your heart to Him, and stretch out your hands to Him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by." Job 11:13-16

When I was 7 months pregnant with my daughter, I went on a rafting trip with our church group. It was a relatively calm river with no perceived dangers so I didn't have any hesitation about going. Needless to say, because of my delicate condition, my boat was the place to be for all the other wives who didn't want to be continuously capsized by our horse-playing husbands during the entire 3-hour journey.

The Sissy Raft was barely 20 minutes into the trip when it was caught by a rock and I was thrown overboard, heels over head. I was then trapped under the boat as it began to move again when a man in another raft noticed what was happening, dove into the water, and helped get me back into my own boat. Where was my husband you ask? Several boats ahead, UNAWARE that both his unborn child and I were about to drown. I'm not bitter about it. Really.

I can think of that day now and laugh, but there were several moments of panic while I was under that boat. I was naive to think there was no risk. Thankfully, that day only resulted in a few cuts and bruises for me, but without that hand to pull me out of the water, I hate to think what could have been. Less bizarre things have happened than a person tragically drowning during a day which began as fun.

Sometimes, we make a game of floating on our waters, our sins, our troubles, until suddenly we find ourselves in over our heads in panic mode. When we first jump in that icy water, the shock is enough to take your breath but the longer you remain, the more numb to it you become. After a while, those waters can actually feel pretty good. A relationship with a coworker of the opposite sex gets too close and you can't get out. Concern about a sister in Christ turns to gossip and she finds out. You are feeling over-aged and under-appreciated so you decide to start letting it all hang out. Bitterness over a betrayal borders dangerously near hatred and you don't want out.

God's Word to you? GET OUT!

There is a Hand extended that says, 'Come to me and I will give you rest'. (Matthew 11:28) God desires to pull us from those dangerous waters to steady ground where we can be objective about the situations Satan will use to devour our testimony. Obviously we will never be perfect, but we can live a life of clear conscience. Conscience is a great word that means, 'to see completely'. I want to know when I lay my head down at night that I am fully confessed and that there is nothing I am holding on to, no waters I am floating in, that will hinder God being able to use me to the point of full effectiveness or cause great pain to myself and others.

Job 11 continues by saying:

"Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor."

God desires nothing but your good and His glory. Satan is working towards your destruction and his glory. You can float in those waters, or watch them pass by. Which will you choose?

Here is a lesson best learned from the creek bank - Get out before it finds you out.

Come visit my personal blog, The Preacher's Wife. :)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Not Only Sundays...

"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!" ~ Psalm 95:1-2 (ESV)

Talking on the phone, reading the newspaper, shaving, putting make-up on. Believe it or not, but this is what I see every morning while driving to work. Some mornings it is really frustrating to drive behind someone who drives 35 in a 45 zone. They are pre-occupied with other things instead of driving.

But isn't that what we do with God? We are pre-occupied with our daily stuff and forget worshiping Him until Sunday. Then we put on our Sunday's best and congregate with other believers. Is our Lord only to be worshiped on Sundays? What about when we do our daily chores? When we change diapers, fold the laundry, cook food or drive to and from work? I challenge you this week and the weeks to come to worship and praise Him every single day. When you fold you laundry sing a song. When you change the diaper, thank and praise Him that you have a bundle of joy to change the diapers for. When you cook, put on your headphones and worship Him. Believe me, everything will go faster when you are in His presence.

As for me, when I am frustrated during the morning commute -- I turn up the music and make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise. If the driver next to me at the stop-light thinks I lost all my marbles because I raise my hands to Him -- I just turn and smile...

"Lord of Heaven and Earth. Remind us that worship is not only for Sundays. Lead us in praise and songs throughout the week. Through the power of Your Spirit let us declare Your glory in all things we do. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen."

You can also find me at my personal blog Sting My Heart

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Be Faithful

How would you like to arrive at the twilight of your lifetime and God says, “you have followed me fully, now I am going to bless you.” I know that is my desire. Today we live in the age of “instant,” instant food, instant communication, even instant gratifications. There was nothing instant in God’s blessings towards people in the bible. The Israelites knew they were promised the Promised Land but there was nothing instant in their possessing it. If there was any man in the bible who deserved instant blessings, it was Caleb.

Caleb was a man who stood for courage, truth, and faithfulness. Moses sent out a group (24 men) to spy the Promise Land. Then they returned to report back to Moses:

"But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it. Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:30-31
Caleb and Joshua were the only people who believed they could take possession of the land, even though everyone KNEW God’s promise to them. When Moses reminded the grumbling Israelites of God’s promise they wanted to kill Caleb

"Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones." Numbers 14:10
God was so angry at the men who gave Moses a bad report, they were killed. Only Joshua and Caleb remained among the original spies.

The circumstances around Caleb looked grim, the majority was against him. If he looked to the people around him he would have failed. Instead Caleb stood for truth; he relied on God’s promises, despite what his physical eyes saw around him. And even though he was blameless Caleb still had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. He never blamed God, but just waited patiently for God’s promise to enter the Promise Land.

"But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it." Numbers 14:24

Caleb’s faithfulness did not go unnoticed. After they arrived and Joshua led them in their battles, the Lord blessed Caleb with Hebron, which became a city of refuge and is the place where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located. During Caleb’s lifetime, it was a place of rest from any war.

You really don’t read that much about Caleb, he is a “background” figure. I want to encourage you, during your daily walk with Christ. If you feel like you are being faithful, and not being noticed. God notices. If you feel like all the hard work you do, sometimes feels like it is for nothing. God notices. If you find yourself discouraged because you are living through a “desert” because of someone else’s sin. God notices. There is nothing instant in God’s blessings, but when God blesses…it is big! Remain faithful and rely on God’s promises despite the circumstances you see around you.

I want God to be able to say, she “wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel."

Paul says: ‘Everything that people wrote in the past was to teach us. They wrote those things so that we could have hope. That hope comes from the patience and strength that the Bible gives to us’ (Romans 15:4).

You can visit me at my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

I Am A Servant

I had just walked in the door after managing to dodge the heavy rainfall. It felt good to be home--warm and dry. The crazy morning had me on the run, and I was finally ready to sit back, dig into email, and put my painted toes on a chair. The phone rang.

In that moment it took to pick up the phone, I made a covenant with myself. It was a quick covenant because the phone only rang two or three times, so I'm guessing that I can talk at record speed in my brain. Whoever is on the phone, I told myself, is going to get my full attention and care. I'm taking this moment out of my life just for them, for in serving others, I'm serving God.

It was my teenaged son. "Mom, you probably don't want this call right now, but it's raining, and I wondered if you could pick me up from school. Sorry to bother you."

I had a choice to make--either I could lecture this kid on how I just passed his school 15 minutes ago, but didn't stop because he wanted to stay there, or I could stick with the plan, honor the covenant, and be a servant. I stuck with the plan.

"Not at all!" I said, "I'd love to pick you up, where are you right now?"

I think the boy must have fallen over, which is a long way to go since he's six feet tall, but if so, he managed to pick himself off of the floor to tell me he'd be at the back door of the school in ten minutes.

He made apologies when he got in the car about how he should have told me to pick him up in the first place, how he could have taken the bus in the rain, how he would try to come up with a better plan next time...

"Don't worry about it," I said, "I'm happy to spend this time with you."

And I was. The rain poured down quenching our thirsty land, as the Spirit moved, quenching my thirsty soul. It felt good to be living my purpose.

This little covenant, got me thinking... Since I practiced it yesterday, it served as a constant reminder today to put others first, I mean really put them first--by taking that "moment" out of my life to warm someone elses. To be a servant for the Lord.

Yesterday is was this ride from the school; today it was patient understanding in miscommunication. And what will you require of me tomorrow Lord? I am your servant.

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
~ Colossians 3:23, 24

I am a servant, getting ready for my part
There's been a change, a rearrangement in my heart
At last I'm learning there's no returning once I start
To live's a privilege, to love is such an art
But I need Your help to start
Oh please purify my heart I am Your servant...
~ Larry Norman

Visit me at my personal blog: Darlene Schacht dot com :)

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The Great Wall

Last week I stood on The Great Wall. I never thought I would. In fact, I determined years ago that I wouldn't.

As a newly married couple in 1991, my husband and I were sitting in our comfortable twenty-something, "young married's" Sunday School class one Sunday morning, when some visiting missionaries from China spoke. I remember noticing that my husband was becoming increasingly interested as they shared about their ministry in China. I also remember thinking, "No way!" I distinctly told God that day in my heart, "I'll go anywhere you send me, but never China." Why? Because China, to me, represented everything I feared- being on the opposite side of the world, completely away from the "familiar," having to eat food I probably wouldn't like... being totally out of my comfort zone. Furthermore, I never considered myself to have the "gift of evangelism," so the prospect of being about as far away from home as I could imagine, sharing the gospel, made me even more nervous! Nope. Not for me.

Long story short- I went. In 2005, I found myself in China on a short term mission trip. It was quite a journey to get there, but by God's grace, He brought me to that point. I remember two years ago climbing, climbing that huge wall, looking out across the vast expanse beyond it... and singing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." This year I didn't climb quite as far or sing, but I was reminded that there I stood, once again, in a place I had told God I would never go.

That wasn't the first "Great Wall" I'd climbed, actually. I'd climbed the "Great Wall" of stay-at-home motherhood, even though I thought I would be a lifelong "career woman." I'd climbed the Great Wall of homeschooling after teaching public school, which I loved. As I write I can think of many other "Great Walls" in my life, those "I'll nevers" that I've said to myself and to God. Brick upon brick, building my Great Walls.

Do you have a Great Wall? Something that you've told God you'll never do, or are hoping He'll never ask you to? Maybe it's a place you don't want to go, or a ministry in which you don't want to serve. Perhaps it's a place you'd feel very insecure or don't feel you have the necessary gifts. Maybe it's a role that just seems downright unattractive or uncomfortable.

Today I'm encouraging all of us to yield those walls to Him. I discovered, as so many women have as they've found themselves in a place they thought they'd never be, that it was a place of great blessing, a place of great peace. There is nothing like knowing that you are in a place you would've never put yourself, and that it must be the hand of God that led you there. Nothing compares to knowing that you are smack in the middle of His will and His plan. And there's nothing like standing in that place, knowing that you are not standing alone. The hand that leads you there is the hand that holds you in the mighty grip of His grace.

Visit my personal blog at One Day More.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007


There's nothing like a funeral to make you look carefully at your life. It's a time for contemplation, repentence, and most of all, grace. As a singer I have attended and performed many funerals. The most meaningful part for me, whether I shared the life we are celebrating or not, is when friends and family stand to recount a memory. Emotions sit right at the surface, people are vulnerable and transparent, even those who rarely cry, and the dead are honored in such a special way.

My grandfather died last week at the age of 79. Actually, he was a leap year baby and his birthday of February 29, 1928 afforded him only 19 real birthdays, as we always joked with him. I packed up our newborn, leaving the other three in Jason's care, and flew to North Carolina to attend the funeral, share memories with my family and support my Nanny. Zachary, though completely unaware of his effect on everyone, was a healing presence, a tiny angel sent to give solace.

We stood around before the actual service as friends of Papa poured in the church, took my Nanny in their arms and laughed and cried together remembering his life. As I looked at all of these men and women, most of them 70 or above, I was taken by the sheer amount of history in the room. Every one of them had a story. Each one had made mistakes in their lives and lived to tell about them. Maybe some were harboring feelings of pain and guilt even then. Their careworn faces smiled and their eyes shone as they opened their hearts to receive the blessings of friendship and fellowship as they celebrated my grandfather.

What will my legacy be? I am creating what will someday be my history. Now is my chance to write a story that my children, friends and loved ones will want retold again and again. Like Joshua and the Israelites, I am carefully placing stones day after day that will tell my story to the generations that follow.

Am I placing stones of worry? Frustration? Impatience?

Or am I tenderly laying stones of faith, mercy, love and the faithfulness of God?

It's amazing how much my children remember from day to day. It gives me pause to think that each action or word in my day could make or break theirs. And it's humbling to hear the positive words my friends and family use to describe me. Then again, it is an arrow to the heart to hear a rebuke from my husband or read scripture and know that God's discipline is upon me. What keeps me on the upward climb to Christ-likeness is knowing that my life has an eternal influence, or eternal consequences, depending on how I live it.

So as I stood back and watched the people who loved my grandfather fellowship with one another, I looked ahead to the time when people will meet to remember me. I pray that each moment in my life, the good and the bad, leads to a lesson learned. I want my legacy to be one that points others toward the saving grace of Jesus.
I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy.

Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred
Just want to hear instead, "Well Done" good and faithful one...

Nichole Nordeman

Visit my personal blog at Fruit in Season.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Twice the Fun!

When Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come to me," did he mean twins?

I'm watching my sister's two-year-old twins for her this week while she and my brother-in-law are in town looking for a place to live. That's right - they're moving to Texas from Seattle! (hooray!) Actually, they're looking about 3 hours south of my house, so I won't see them all week. Why anyone would want to move her from Seattle is beyond me, but so is keeping twins for a week. So, if you feel inclined to pray for me, that would be awesome.

I will say this: I'm doing remarkably well so far. By that, I mean it's been 48 hours now and they're still breathing. I can't really take credit for this amazing feat; my own children have been a great help! They played with the babies most of the day Sunday and when they got home from school yesterday. They came up with all sorts of clever amusements to keep the little tykes entertained, like computer games, DVD's and my guitars.

After all, they're just guitars. They can always be repaired. Uh...or replaced. Very soon.

So here I am on day three of seven and I miss my best helpers. My kids have school every day this week. That means I'm pretty much on my own until the school bus gets here in the afternoon. Every day this week. All day. With twins. Two year-olds. By myself. Prayer, please.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 10:13-14

I'm so thankful God never feels overwhelmed by me. I can certainly be twice the handful compared to most folks I know. And He doesn't even need help to manage my tantrums, my messes, my quirks and demands. Even in the midst of my most troublesome moments, He has compassion and patience with me. He teaches me and loves me, comforts and protects me. I am, after all, His child.

My only question: how does He get a shower?

Carol's blog can be found here.

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Monday, June 4, 2007

Your Marching Orders

I want to share a wonderful principle with you that my dear friend Carrie gave me. At a point when she was trying to carry a very heavy personal burden, God showed her what she was to do. And He spoke from the story of the children of Israel bringing down the walls of Jericho.

In Joshua 6 we read this remarkable story where the Lord said to Joshua,

"See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." Joshua 6:2-5

... So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua 6:11

Here was a problem facing God's people, and it looked like a total impossibility. How would this group of Israelites destroy the walls of Jericho and conquer the land God had promised them? Well, God gave them the directions: March around the walls with the ark of the Lord once each day. Then go back to the camp and do what you have to do that day.

Here's our own marching orders: When you've got a burden that is heavy for you to carry and your heart is breaking and you don't know what to do, you need to march around your burden - your problem, your walls of Jericho - once each day with the ark of the Lord, the Word of God. Every morning march around that problem and tell God everything that's on your heart. Take the Word of God and find promises and comfort for yourself for the day and mentally march around that problem with the Word that God has given you. Some days I march on my knees in my mind praying and speaking the promises God has given me in His Word, and other days I literally march around my house speaking forth His Words loudly.

Then, once you've marched around it once, go out and do whatever it is you must do for that day and let the burden go. When the problem crops up in your mind, say, "No, sorry, but I marched around you once this morning and that's all for today. One time per day and I've left it with the Lord. It's His problem for the rest of the day."

I don't know how many days (or months, or years) you'll have to march around your problem before those walls come down, but I do know that God has a future plan for you that is good, and that you can trust Him.

Remember, Jesus never intended for us to carry heavy burdens. When you try to carry them all day long, you can't think of anything else, you can't get anything else done, and you're no good to anyone else. The burden you're carrying starts to have drastic effects in other areas of your life, which eventually increases the burden you are carrying. It's a lose-lose situation. But if you will follow your marching orders and turn the heavy burden over to the Lord once a day, releasing it to Him for the rest of the day, you'll discover freedom from that impossible burden you've been trying to carry.

In Him...Chris

Chris can also be found at her personal blog Come to the Table

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Perfect Mistake

We serve an amazing God who chooses to work through and allows us to be part of miracles! Enjoy the following story and celebrate today!

My mother's father worked as a carpenter. On this particular day, he was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to some orphanage in China. On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what happened; the glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were heading for China!

The Great Depression was at it's height and Grandpa had six children. He had spent $20 for those glasses that very morning. He was upset by the thought of having to buy another pair. "It's not fair," he told God as he drove home in frustration. "I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this."

Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday at my grandfather's small church in Chicago. The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage. "But most of all," he said, "I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year.

You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate. Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top.

The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: "Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that." The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas. But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.

In Him,


Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Fox and the Hound

When we bought our house in a quiet neighborhood of a college town, I never expected I would need to research wildlife. After all, one mile down the road, there’s a small shopping plaza. A couple of miles the other way, there’s a cluster of offices, yogurt shops, miniature golf course, etc.

In short, a fox family should not be content to frolic in my yard. We offer no thickets or chicken coops. One reason they could be prowling around my backyard, driveway and front yard, however, is to meet and greet my 5-lb Yorkshire Terrier. Not gonna happen.

Maybe I’ve absorbed too many Beatrix Potter stories, but a fox is a bad guy to me--tricky, cunning, predatory, and omnivorous. He is also beautiful, especially the red fox.

As I researched ways to get rid of these interlopers, I couldn’t help being reminded of our great Enemy. In many ways, he is like the fox: intelligent, cunning, predatory, and omnivorous—and in the guise of meeting our deepest needs, he can appear as a beautiful solution to many problems, unless we are wise to his deceit.

Omnivorous? Yes, it doesn’t matter who a person is—young, old, rich, poor, male, female--if he or she is human, he is God’s creation, and nothing gives Satan more pleasure than driving a wedge between the Creator and his creation and ultimately destroying lives.

1 Peter 5:7-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” As Christians, we may be lulled into feeling untouchable by his stalking. But just because he prowls the perimeter of our lives and isn’t invited inside the cottage to sit by the hearth doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous. Here are some tips I read for getting rid of foxes that might apply to our predator, as well:

--Get rid of your garbage ASAP. Foxes will raid trash cans and compost piles. Likewise, if there is sin we haven’t acknowledged and asked forgiveness for, we are mistaken to think it is safely buried in the past. We’re still open to raids and to our own bondage to that sin. In fact, we are warned in Proverbs 26:11 that we are likely to return to that sin like “a dog returns to its vomit.” Unconfessed sin weakens our fortress against recurring failures and against staving off new sinful invasions. Thankfully, we have a place to take our ugly baggage, the cross of Christ, where no one is ever turned away. Ever.

--Don't feed them or get close enough to pet them. I’m going to get a little more exhortative here than usual: Do not “flirt” with trouble. Do not so much as dip your toe into the waters of sketchy behaviors. Do not tolerate within yourself a thought or habit out of line with what you know your Father approves of. Do not allow yourself to get too close to a stronghold to prove you have overcome or been delivered of it. You are not a superhuman, no matter how much you’ve been set free from. Christians are vulnerable to any sin. I speak from personal experience when I say never kid yourself or claim to someone else, “I would never be involved in [X],” whatever nefarious situation that might be, slight or blatant. Before the mist from your breath carrying those spoken words dissipates, Satan will be licking his chops and drawing up plans to bring you down.

--Watch over your small pets. When I think of what could happen to my little, innocent dog, I get goose bumps. Now, this is a stretch, but protect your little ones, your children, even those who live in your house who are not so little anymore. As children grow older, parenting does not grow easier; the issues simply change, and we face challenges from the child in addition to those from the outside. My little dog cannot understand why I won’t let her roam in the backyard, but she has no idea what danger lurks there. My kids have not always understood why we chose to do or not do certain things. They may have thought I was foolish, but they did not fully know what I know. And if I have occasionally over-reached in protecting them, I have been a fool for lesser things.

--Don’t let the fox immobilize or intimidate you. He is a menace, but he is not omnipotent. He may threaten; he may attack, but Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

We are not powerless. However, we conquer the enemy only through the power of Christ, which he gives to every one of his children as they daily confront the foxes and giants in their lives. His word tells us to humble ourselves, obey him, and believe in him who conquered death and whose name is above all. The way to keep the fox at bay, then, is to trust in the “Hound of Heaven,” who specializes in finding lost children and subduing the frustrated, defeated fox.

Please visit my personal blog at

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Lori M

Lori's mom insists that she came out of the womb 'talking' and has not stopped since. Lori however, insists that over the past 41 years she has learned a thing or two about listening as well. Especially, when it is God who is doing the talking.

Having grown up in the church, Lori knows that her 'true spiritual journey' began with an experience with infertility and surrendering to the Lord, allowing HIM to break her and remake her.

The smile she wears tells that she is so happy to be on the journey that she is on now. A journey that includes homeschooling 3 wonderful children! Lori is the co~owner of Internet Cafe Devotions, an online daily devotional site for women. She is also involved in several other online ministries. You'll find her at Heart of the Matter and most recently she became the Moving Toward Holiness columnist at Exemplify. Lori is passionate about helping women apply the teachings of Christ to their modern, busy lives. Lori is involved in women's ministries and youth ministry in her church, Crossroads United Methodist, a plant church in her community. Along with church ministry, Lori teaches classes at her homeschool co-op, keeping her continually connected with today's young people. She often wishes she could shout from the mountain top that this is all by the grace and mercy of God.

Praising HIM every step of the way, she encourages you to enjoy the journey with her at her personal website, All You Have to Give, where she can be found daily, enjoying each and every season to its fullest!

Lori and her family live in Atlanta, Georgia, the deep south where you'll often find them wandering around without shoes.

What others are saying about Lori:

"Lori's blog is an incredible, artsy, uplifting, spirit-filled blog. Her photography paired with scripture sets the tone for her site. She's also a home school Mom, contributes articles for several publications, and she's one of the kindest encouragers in blogworld."

"She is so versatile and shares what she learns with enthusiasm from God. Such wisdom and inspiration found there!"

"This blog is beautiful not only in design, but content as well. Lori has a gift of visual worship to share, and I worship each time I go there. Beautiful, anointed blog."

"Lori, you truly have the JOY of the LORD! I love your humor and passion for Jesus."

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Of Love and Scapegoats

"Does there have to be someone to blame?" His eyes were bewildered, his hands outstretched, beseeching me.

"Well...yes. Doesn't there?" I cast around for excuses, reasons why there must be a scapegoat, but found none.

I was twenty-one; the mother of a baby boy, the wife of a minister. And the pressure was getting to me. Rather, I was letting it creep in and get a nice, solid grip.

Exhausted from lack of sleep, and mentally handicapped from the same, I had been pushing and poking at my husband daily, sending him to the edge and beyond.

He was gone too much.

I couldn't be expected to be at every single teen event. Didn't he understand I had a baby to care for?

Money was tight. I had no clue how to manage it well, and my guilt over that fact was just another reason to be angry.

Day after day had ended in deblilitating arguments, followed by angry silence, and now, eight simple words phrased into a question had finally stopped me in my tracks.

Does there have to be someone to blame?

Well, yes, and anyone but me, Lord! I work the hardest, sleep the least, and suffer the most, don't I? So if I am not to blame, that leaves him!

I looked into my husband's eyes and saw the hurt and confusion there, and I despised myself. I saw instantly that my own guilt for holding him back, not supporting him with my presence, and managing our money unwisely had translated into the blame game. And he was the easiest target. (Well, he is really tall.)

It was a turning point. I had always believed that in order to truly resolve a problem, the person to blame must be sought out. They must apologize and make things right. In that moment, however, I realized that when there is no blame, a resolution is reached so much quicker!

His words really, really pierced. And you know what? I'm still amazed that they penetrated! I speak so quickly, especially when angry, that one can hardly get a word in edgewise, much less say anything I really hear. With my heart.

I am confident that God had His hand working in that moment. For as quickly as I saw the truth, I moved to my husband and looked into his eyes, asking for forgiveness.

"No. There doesn't. We're a team, babe. How can we fix this together?"

Oh, thank God, thank God He does not take the time to make me a scapegoat every time I fail. It would be so easy, too, because if it's a choice between me and God, He's going to get off scot-free every time. As it should be.

How can I do any less for my husband? And everyone else in this world?

[Love] not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:5-7)

Thank God for grace that is lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Lavished.

I purpose to be lavish with my grace as well. Join me.

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