Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank You

"I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you..." Romans 1:8

It's been an awesome year! I want to take just a few minutes to say thank you to all of my readers. Your kind words of encouragement on Facebook, your comments directly on my blog, your emails and even your face-to-face conversations have been used to encourage me deeply.

When I sit in front of a blank computer screen or journal page I want you to know I don't take the task of recording words lightly. Words are powerful and can be used to build-up or tear down; to draw people close or to push them away; to enlighten or bewilder; to challenge or quiet a reader's heart.

It's my prayer that God will always challenge my heart so that my words may encourage you to know Him better.

Blessings to you & your families for 2010


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33

My mind is resting on thoughts of the coming New Year, 2010. I wonder what sort of frivolous resolutions people will vow to keep (like losing 20 #'s, giving up smoking or gossiping so much) only to know that two days later their vows will have been broken by lack of self discipline and will. I'm guilty too. So, I usually choose not to make New Year's resolutions at all. Oh, there are plenty of things that I need or want to see improved in me but, I know I can't improve just by simply willing the changes into being.

It has to be a posture of the heart first and foremost. I have to ask myself, "Do I really want to change?" If I do, then what am I waiting for? Does one more day, one New Year really make a difference? If I wait, am I just hanging onto the poor choices, bad habits, old ways for myself like a toddler who's reluctant to give up her blanky or binky on their own? We all know it’s impossible for a toddler to give up something without strong persuasion or parental nudging. If it makes us feel good, we want to hang onto it! It’s our comfort.

But Jesus doesn’t call us into comfortable situations. Discipline and repentance are not easy. Change isn’t usually without pain and discomfort. The feeling of loss, disappointment usually overwhelms us so that in a few days, weeks, months we find ourselves cuddled up in the comfort of our blanky sucking on our binky.

So, what are we to do if hollow resolutions don’t motivate us to change? We need to consider WHO we want to follow and WHEN we want to follow. In Matthew, Jesus calls his disciples and asks them to drop everything NOW in order to follow him. The changes those hard-core, out-to-sea, “Deadliest Catch type of characters needed to make would come as long as they sought after Jesus FIRST…NOW.

So, I'll begin TODAY (not December 31st or January 1st) by throwing my hands up toward heaven and say, "I give up!" I give up trying to control the outcome of every situation. I give up worrying about the past and wondering about the future. I give it all up and say, "It's all yours, Lord! NOW! I’ll follow you TODAY and leave the changes all up to you!" Not just for the New Year but every moment of every day.

God Bless and Happy New You!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arise and Leave the Piles

"Arise my darling, my beautiful one and come with me." Song of Songs 2:10

I sit her on my couch in peaceful solitude. Dressed still in night clothes at one in the afternoon. Part of me fears my husband walking in and wondering, "What have you done all day?" as he notices the laundry piled high, the sink full of dirty dishes, the dusty holiday decorations, the crooked star still tilted on top of the Christmas tree and me sitting there in the place he left me four hours earlier.

The fear that wins me over though, is that I shall run out of time to stop and hear what God might be trying to say. It's times like these that my heart must win over my logical wisdom of time. The clothes won't grow legs and walk away. The dishes won't vanish into thin air (although, I wish they would). My husband seems to always understand when I'm "in the zone" and encourages me to take that time alone with the Lover of my soul. The chores will always be there but the call of God to sit with him may vanish. Not by choice, of course, but by mere interruption of a phone call, an unexpected visitor at the door, an emergency of some sort.

So while the house is empty and quiet, I'll obey His call to come away. It's when I've been away with Him that I can love honestly, purely, unselfishly. It's away where I'm unburdened, renewed and filled with joy. Arise! Leave the piles for awhile!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Abide and Go

"Oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel!"

These old familiar words to a famous Christmas carol ring in my ears today as I sit in front of a fire recalling God's simple whisper to my heart this time last year, "Abide and go forth." At first it seems God was telling me to do two different things by telling me to stay AND go, doesn't it? How can one remain and yet go?

Abiding does mean to remain but it is an active word. It takes action to remain in any intimate relationship, spiritual or human. I can say I'm in relationship with my husband but if I don't speak to him, spend time with him or love him, then that relationship is merely a legal living arrangement not a true, intimate marriage between partners who claim to love each other. It's the same with my relationship with Jesus, too. I can say I have a relationship with Jesus but if I don't spend time with him, communicate my thoughts, desires or needs to him or worship (love) him I have no relationship, just an arrangement. I'm not abiding in him or him in me. We're more like acquaintances living in the same room rather than truly intimate partners. It takes action, moving toward him, to be considered abiding in him.

Does moving toward him, abiding in him, account for his command to go forth? No. By abiding in Jesus I gain his wisdom, his discernment, his boldness, a confidence that through him all things are possible...even and especially what, in my own strength or knowledge, is impossible. To move forward into something without intimately abiding with Jesus is like crossing a busy city street blindfolded. I may survive but there's a huge chance I may get run over by oncoming traffic!

In the 400 years prior to Jesus' birth, Israel was crying out for God to come to them, abide with them. When he arrived many rejected him as Messiah. Then and still today, Jesus calls to all of us, "Come to me. Abide with me, your Lord, Emmanuel!" Will you?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Read Between the Lines

"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth." Luke 1:39-40

She was favored by God and her parents. Quietly and willingly she helped her mother in any way she could, humming softly as she went about her business. Simply, she was a joy to have around the house. She delighted her parents and found favor with her God. She was that picture-perfect child with a great big heart. But, she had a secret. A secret that could not be contained by words or her clothes much longer.

Unable to suppress this secret any longer she gather a few of her belongings and ran to the hills to the safety of her aunt's home. Trudging up into the rocky hills of Judah, Mary finally reached the one person whom might actually understand all that she held inside.

The Bible's account of the angel Gabrielle appearing to Mary doesn't read like a novel but let's just fill in the blanks, shall we? What was it like to be a young teen-aged Mary trying to work up the courage to tell her parents the exciting news that she was God's chosen mother of His son? How could they ever believe such a story when God himself had been silent for over 400 years? Why, they would just think she was trying to fabricate a wild story to cover up her own illegitimate pregnancy and shame! Who would ever believe her?

God did provide one person for Mary to run to. It was her Aunt Elizabeth, who in her own old age had miraculously received a similar miracle from the same God. She too was pregnant with a child who would prepare the way for Mary's son, Jesus. Even then, while John the Baptist and Jesus lay in their mother's wombs, God was working His plan to prepare the hearts of mankind to receive Him. Can you imagine the conversations Mary and Elizabeth must have had in the three months they spent together?

This old, old Christmas story is so much deeper, so much more moving than the birth of a baby on a cold winter's night. It's about God piercing our hearts with relationships, conversations, emotions of everyday life that lead to His coming.

Even today, as we prepare for Jesus' second coming we need to take time to read between the lines of our everyday situations...good and bad; easy and challenging. What is God preparing our hearts to do, to see, to witness?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do You Believe?

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." Luke 1:45

Hearing God's voice in the stillness of our hearts is a promise we have if we truly seek his face. When we know God is leading us into something it takes courage to take those first few steps toward that journey but eventually our stride meets up with God's pace and we're moving in sync with Him. We find ourselves in the middle of some exciting journey and the world is full of possibilities and opportunities.

Suddenly, there's a bump in the road and we hit it hard. It came out of nowhere and we're thrown off course, dazed a bit, confused and once we come to we wonder if we were just dreaming. Now there's an emergency that's taken our attention and people are crowding our path in all directions. Sitting in the midst of all the confusion, we wonder, "Did God really mean for me to take this road? Was I just talking to myself or was it really God at all?"

I'll admit following God's lead in my life is sometimes like finding my way through a labyrinth while blindfolded. I hear His voice. I'm convinced I'm going in the right direction but I keep hitting a brick wall. But, just like in a labyrinth, if I keep on course, following God's voice I'll eventually succeed in finishing the journey to the end.

Preparing for this Christmas season today, I've started to move through an Advent devotional. It focused on Mary's faith. The story says she "simply" opened her life to the Lord as his handmaiden in obedience to the angel Gabrielle's message to be the mother of Jesus. But, I've no doubt her journey in the next 9 months was not smooth going. I would think amongst the ridicule and embarrassment of her illegitimate pregnancy she thought more than once if she was following the right path; wondered if she should be the chosen one of God to carry his child. What was she thinking? Life would have been so much easier if she said no and just went about her business as Joseph's betrothed.

Thank goodness for Mary's belief; her faith that the words God spoke to her were true. Where would we all be if Mary hadn't believed to the end?

Has God asked you to step out in unspeakable faith toward a journey that seems impossible? Are you in the midst of a faith journey that has hit a few bumps and you're wondering if God's words were really true? Are you questioning God's ability to accomplish great things through you?

Let's take today to reflect on Mary's 9 month journey towards Jesus' birth . When we think our journey is rough, when we start to question God's work in our lives let's hang on one more day and walk a little longer on the path guided by his voice. He will accomplish all that he has said. He is God. He is the great I am!.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For the One Who Waters

"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." 1 Corinthians 3:6

My husband and I love to host small dinner parties at our home. It's not the food that we enjoy as much as it is the conversation with loved ones and friends that comes so naturally as everyone lingers long past the coffee and dessert. It's those times of conversation and laughter that hearts are joined together in the fabric that memories are made.

One one such occasion a few years back I received a hostess gift. It was a miniature, rustic watering can with an attached note that said, "For One Who Waters." As unique as the giver, the message carried in on this tiny can caused my mind to ponder it for days.

Of course, having the love of gardening, I first thought about the rules of gardening and nature. A plant starts in the form of a seed placed in fertile soil. With the right amount of watering and sunshine the seed germinates, sprouts it's little head above the soil . With much continued prayer for more sunshine, watering, weeding, and patience it grows into a mature, adult plant within a few months. Without all of these steps in the right amounts the seed will not grow. Some of the steps we can control. Other steps is up to nature and the weather patterns.

If we hold this parallel to our spiritual walk like Paul did in 1 Corinthians, he's saying that some of us plant the seed of the Gospel in people's hearts. Others of us, water that seed, providing a way for the nutrients of the soil of God's word and His Holy Spirit to penetrate or condition the soil or heart of the listener. Still others are there to pull out the weeds (bad influences, choices) that might choke the seedling (new believer) while others are there to witness and harvest the mature plant (mature believer) from the vine that will be food for others. But, no matter what input we may have in someone's life, only God himself can make a person's faith grow.

As we all enjoyed the bounty around the table this Thanksgiving Day, I pray you all received the blessing of the fabric woven into memories of family and friends. For those who planted, watered, weeded, harvested or were fed may you feel the fullness of knowing you were chosen for that purpose by the God who makes us all grow!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tell Me That Old, Old Story

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
Romans 15:4

I've been busy all day preparing for my story time with a new set of three-year-olds tomorrow. All the toys have been carefully placed in the toy box. New sets of stickers have been printed for the children to take home. A bright, colorful, big-book version of the story has been assembled and copies of the picture book have been boxed for resale. Everything is set and ready to go!

At least that's what I thought until I started to retell this familiar story using my new big book illustrations! I recited the first few lines and stopped. I started again and stumbled over the wording! Oh my! Again, I started and stopped but pushed forward toward the end. You would think, being the author of the story, that I'd have the words down pat! But, like any other story, if it's not told or read over and over again, the words become forgotten. And, that's exactly the case with my performance. I'd not read the book in about a month and my memory of the exact wording was fuzzy.

It's like that with God's story too, isn't it? We think we know what His story is because we've read it or heard it so many times before. But if we stop reading or listening to that old, familiar story our memory tends to fail us. Oh, we might remember enough to paraphrase His thoughts and we might even be able to quote our favorite verses. But, when it comes to actually recalling God's story, we fall short of the details.

In today's verse, Paul states that the Bible "was written to teach us so that, [through the endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures], we might have hope." The Bible doesn't exist just to tell us stories. It's purpose isn't to entertain us or just give us an account of history. It's there to teach us God's plan for living life. It's meant to be emulated in our lives and passed onto our children, our grandchildren, our friends. God had His words written down so that all generations would know them, learn them, live them and teach them so that "we might have hope" for a future with God himself.

Now, the next time we're cuddled up with our children or grandchildren reading their favorite story book let's be reminded to introduce them to God's story so that they too might be taught to be encouraged and have hope in that old, old story!

Friday, November 6, 2009


"For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." Romans 11:29

It's been a couple of weeks of crisis, chaos and confusion. Just as I walked through that open door of opportunity, a roaring rush of wind shook my foundation and instantly my quiet life was spun out of control. In the middle of a deafening cyclone of flying debris coming at me from every direction I've had no time to think or ponder or speak my heart aloud. I've only been able to react, to survive until at the end of every day, my body could physically take no more.

Finally, this week, the rushing wind subsided. The deafening cyclone of crisis fell silent. The dust settled and I was left standing in a stupor. My eyes scanned the horizon searching for the comfort of familiar. The faces were strange, yet welcoming. My surroundings, new but oddly like home. My heart reeled with emotions of pain, loss, change and renewal simultaneously. I questioned God's call on my heart. With all this change, was His call still the same?

Walking through this new territory seemed hard work at first but eventually, the rhythm came. In the quiet moments that returned I found comfort in God's familiar voice. He whispered to my heart, "Come away, my beloved and write down my words. Come away, my beloved. My promises never change. Come away, my beloved where my blessings overflow. Come away. Follow me."

Although my surroundings have changed a bit and my circumstances have shaken the foundations of my life God's promises and call on my heart have remained the same.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Open Doors

"What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."
Revelation 3:7

In the fog between slumber and wakefulness where my mind is caught between the images of my dream and the reality of the dawn, the surrounding silence is broken by the imposing "meow" of my Maine coon cat. Pulling the covers up to my ears, I roll to one side showing my back to that cat, with hopes she'll get the hint and simply settle down for at least one more hour. But in the world of cats, there's no such thing as giving into the desires of their human masters and so her ensuing "meows" contest my sleep, only satisfied with my complete consciousness and tending to Her Majesty.

So arise, I do, to search her out and understand her insistence. Her coat is cool to the touch, so I know she's just returned from her night prowl. Her plate I find licked clean, so food isn't her desire. But, there she stands, in front of a closed, bedroom door begging it open.

Three other doors are open wide in that hallway, two of which held the warmth of sleep in their beds. "Why so persistent on this closed door?" I ask as I obey her command. Into that now opened door she prances, her furry hind legs wiggling away from me in pure defiance only to promptly turn around and walk back out the door! Finally, she walks through the open door to my daughter's room and settles next to her where she stays for hours.

What is it about closed doors that makes even us humans curious? What makes them more appealing than the ones that already lay open before us? Is it that we pray the possibility of our greatest imaginings might exist behind them? Is it that we don't like what we think we see from the thresholds of the open doorways? Do we assume what lays beyond an open door before we actually step inside?

Maybe, it's a matter of control. Sometimes what we see through those open doors is not what we pictured our opportunity to be at all. So, thinking that God got it wrong, we stand in front of those closed doors with our ensuing prayers begging God to open them. Luckily, God does not give into our begging like I do with my Maine coon cat. He leaves us to struggle in front of that closed door until we become frustrated enough to finally walk through the one that lays open down the hallway.

God says in his Word that we cannot open the doors that he shuts and we cannot shut the doors that he's opened. Although the sights from the thresholds may not appear to be what we imagined or hoped for, God has a plan that suits us best.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In My Own Little Corner

"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
Philippians 1: 13

Growing up in the first decade of color television and only three networks, it was a big deal when the family gathered to watch the annual showing of a movie. There was no such thing as a VCR nor did we have DVR as an option to tune into the show at a later, more convenient time. If we wanted to watch a show we had to be present at the hour it aired.

My favorite was Rogers & Hammerstein's 1965 version of Cinderella starring Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella and Stuart Dammon as the Prince. It aired only 8 times from 1965 to 1974 and I believe I watched it every year.

I'm sure when I was younger I was enthralled by the beautiful princess story and the happily ever after ending with her prince. Today, however, I identify more with the scene where she's sitting in her "own little corner", in her "own little chair." That's where I've wanted to crawl since Saturday. It's where I want to be when I'm challenged and uncomfortable with me.

In an effort to hone my writing skills I participated in a local writer's workshop this weekend. The teaching was excellent. The assignments, somewhat challenging. The talents of the other writers, exceptional. When given 15 minutes to write a narrative paragraph about the main protagonist in our new book, the pens were scratching tirelessly around me, filling page after page with carefully, creatively structured description. My pen, however, stalled after the first sentence. I felt as though I were in third grade all over again, falling behind my classmates and questioning my ability and talent for writing. I literally wanted to crawl into my own little corner, in my own little chair and pretend I was an excellent writer of prose, like the rest of them.

I came home and slunk up to my room. Behind the door I sat on my bed with an open journal and pen until the ink of my heart spilled onto the page with rapid speed. All the raw emotion of inadequacy formed words in black and white. I wondered why I couldn't have done that earlier during the workshop? Why was it so easy to write about my emotions but not about my new main character?

Funny thing happens when you spend so much time with yourself, you come to know yourself very well. Writers write from the familiarity and passion of their experiences. I hadn't spent enough time with my new found friend. I could describe her like I would when meeting anyone for the first time, but I didn't know her intimately or how she would react in any situation.

Isn't it like that between us and God sometimes? We can spill out all our raw emotions to him but, when we try to figure out what he's saying to us or if we try to share what he's done in our lives we come up short of words. We may listen to our friends' God stories; hear them describe an active, living God who seems so intimate and exciting but, when it's our turn, we fall silent. Our experiences don't seem to hit the mark. So, we take our inadequacies and crawl into our own little corner, into our own little chair where we can only imagine being so close to God that we can feel his breath.

It's in that corner though, that we can hone our skill of listening to God rather than complaining about what we are not. We may just find he'll tell us what we are. We may find the more time we spend with God, the more familiar he becomes. The more familiar he becomes, the more intimate we become with him. The more intimate we become, the more we start to imitate him. The more we imitate him, the more we will encourage one another to become the best of what God created us to be.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Heart All Their Own

"And you, my son...acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts." I Chronicles 28:9

I'll never forget the day I discovered that my children had hearts of their own! I don't mean physical hearts but spiritual hearts.

When my eldest turned thirteen I was prepared for that typical teenage rebellion of crazy fashions, blue hair, breaking curfew and screaming-loud music. But, I never prepared my heart for these words, "I'm not sure I believe the same things you believe. I'm not sure I even believe in God!"

Those words stabbed me right in the heart. For weeks my brain scanned all the stored video clips of my memory, looking for where my husband and I had gone wrong. I begged God to show me where my faith was weak; where I failed to live a godly life in front of my child that created such disbelief.

Then I got angry. I felt betrayed by God. I wondered, "How could you do this to me, God? I have raised my child to believe in you! Why aren't you honoring that training?" You see, I assumed that Proverbs 22:6, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it," was a promise. I thought if I raised my children to embrace my faith that I was guaranteed they too, would have my heart for God.

But, Proverbs 22:6 isn't a promise at all. It's only meant to be a word of wisdom for parents. It simply mean that as parents we should train, should discipline, should instruct our children in the way they should go so that when they get older they will know the way to go.

Just like we cannot force a stranger to grasp our heart for God, we cannot force that in our children (or any loved one) either. We can only live by example and pray for the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Jesus reassures us in John 14:26 , "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." This truth was the only hope my husband and I had for many, many months.

Our child's rebellion against God wasn't for us to solve. Did we need to keep the truth before that child? Absolutely. Did we need to allow the questions to be asked? Positively. Did we need to show unconditional love? Undoubtedly, yes! Did we need to wear holes in the knees of our jeans from praying for this child? Indeed! Was God faithful? Most amazingly so!

There is nothing more precious now, than to know my child has a heart of their own, a faith in God they can call their own and to watch that child train up the next generation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Into His Stride

"Now devote your heart and soul to seek the Lord your God."
I Chronicles 22:19

I had to laugh when I came back into my office a few minutes ago. The light on my printer was blinking "Reload" at me from across the room. I chuckled at God's sense of humor because that's exactly what I needed to do!

This morning when the house was empty except for me and my two cats, I thought I'd had the whole day figured out. There was much to accomplish so I dove into the day all on my own with both feet planted firmly underneath me. From one task to the next my pace picked up speed and before I knew it, my "to do" list was half done. "This is great!" I thought. "I'm off to a great start. Now, what's next?"

As I settled into my office chair to make some phone calls, my eyes caught a glimpse of my prayer journal and Bible on the corner of my desk. "Oh yeah," I breathed and then justified, "But, God's not on my list, today. I've got so much more to do. I'm sure He won't mind if I just squeeze Him into my day here and there."

So, as I continued to ignore God's voice to focus in on with Him, I felt like I was wading through a pool of molasses! My network was slow and kept crashing. Skype kept dropping my calls. My laundry wouldn't dry. My crock pot dinner wasn't cooking evenly. The whole afternoon ended in a crescendo of frustration.

Finally, I stopped and opened Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest and read, "Getting into God's stride means nothing less than oneness with Him. " My heart was convicted. My mind wasn't talking to itself all day was God calling me to spend time with him first and to leave the tasks for later. God further made His point when I opened His word to 1Chronicles 22:19, "Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God."

I'm not saying that "to do" list isn't important. Those tasks do have to get done. We may plant our feet firmly beneath us and start the race but we may find our pace is way off to have a successful run. When we hear God calling us to his side, we need to go and fall into His stride to finish well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Home Coming

"Then all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family." I Chronicles 16:43

In the 1970's the show "The Waltons" was part of my weekly line-up of T.V. shows. It was an endearing story of a large, extended family and their West Virginia mountain community set in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Every week my mother and I would watch this together. I guess for my mother it was a trip down memory lane but, for me it was a celebration of family!

The joy of watching "The Waltons" wasn't always the drama of solving a problem but it was the ending. Every week before the swell of the theme song and the scrolling of credits, the camera focused on the Waltons' moonlit homestead. Then, one-by-one each family member would say goodnight to each other, like they were reading Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown! "Goodnight Mary Ellen, Goodnight Erin, Goodnight Jason, Goodnight Jim Bob, Goodnight John Boy, Goodnight Grandma, Goodnight Grandpa..."And so it went until either Mama or Daddy lovingly hushed their ramblings with their own "Goodnight!" No matter how difficult the problem they faced each day, the Waltons' always ended their day together and at peace.

King David gave us a great example of this too. In 1 Chronicles we're told David spent days maybe even weeks of planning the return of the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David. He sent word out for all of Israel to gather in the city. He delegated responsibilities to the priests and musicians. Finally, the parade of worshipers began and David joined them in song and dance. He worshiped the Lord with sacrifices and prayer. He fed the people and blessed them. Finally, when the celebration was over, King David gave his last orders to the priests and made sure everything was in order for Israel to worship God properly, according to the Law of Moses. Then, after everyone had returned to their own home, David returned to his home and...collapsed from exhaustion...grumbled on his way in the door...demanded dinner right away...asked to be left alone...shut himself in his room and didn't come out for an hour...NO! The Bible says, "David returned home to bless his family!" What did THAT look like?

How many of us can say that after a day of work, let alone weeks of work, we feel like coming home and blessing our families? It's so much easier to unload the daily frustrations on them than it is to unselfishly put aside our own concerns to bless them. It sounds so counter cultural to even think this way that it's hard to imagine what a homecoming of blessing would look like. But, let's imagine it for just a minute.

As you enter your home, you take a deep breath and greet your family with a warm smile. You wrap your arms around your spouse, who's making dinner and tell them you've missed them. Your spouse returns the embrace and says, "I missed you, too." You then give a warm "hello" to your kids, ask how their day was at school and listen to their answers. There's a give and take of responsibilities after dinner and you finally wind down with your spouse for a few stolen hours together after the kids have settled into bed. You both share the frustrations of your daily grind and encourage each other to be the best you can be.

Does this sound too good to be true? Maybe it does for some of us. Is it attainable? I believe it is if we employ David's example to "return home to bless (our) his family!" Although our technology and family structures may have changed a great deal since the time of King David or even the era of "The Waltons," I do believe we all still have the need to gather in our homes and end our day in peace. The secret is to put others needs before our own and serve them rather than be served. The funny thing is, when they're needs are met, they WANT to meet our needs as well!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's A Boy!

"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." Luke 1:31

"It's a boy!" Those lovely words rang through the phone today when my son and daughter-in-law called with the results from the ultrasound. What music to my ears! Oh, I'd have been just as thrilled to hear "It's a girl!" but there's just something about your son having a son that makes a parent glad. It's like you're assured that your name, your family legacy, your place in history will hold it's place for at least one more generation.

Upon our living room mantle and piano, I proudly display our generational story with old black and white photos of great grandparents I've never met. Intermingled are more current family photos and I wonder, what will the stories be that my grandchildren tell? What snapshots of our times together will spin a yarn around their family table? Will they be proud to wear the family name?

And then I think of Mary. You know, the mother of Jesus? Her family wasn't so thrilled to hear the words, "It's a boy!" uttered from her lips. There was no celebration or public announcement or shouts of joy. There were only murmurs, accusations, hiding and tears. And, when Jesus was born, what legacy could Mary and Joseph ever offer him? Joseph was just a carpenter, and nothing they had or did could ever match to the riches and glory he left in heaven!

But the thoughts of leaving a legacy grew dim as the "now" of 2 a.m. feedings, kissing skinned knees and raising a growing family took precedence. Their family probably acted like any other family except for maybe those few times when Mary or Joseph lost their temper. Picture it. Mary's scolding her second-born and says, "I just don't know what I'm going to do with you! Why can't you just be more like Jesus?!" Oh man! Talk about second child syndrome and sibling rivalry! Or think about when Jesus went missing for three days and his parents finally found him in the synagogue. When they try to discipline Jesus for making them worry, Jesus says, "Didn't you know I would be in my Father's house going about his work?" (my paraphrase) Can't you just see Joseph standing there speechless except to say to Mary, "He's YOUR son!" But Mary, one hand on her hip, points towards heaven with the other and snaps, "Oh NO he's not!" I bet neither one said a word to each other on that long journey back home!

When all was said and done, Mary and Joseph had no legacy to leave Jesus. It was Jesus who left his legacy for them...for all of us. He took our punishment; hung in our place so that we might accept his eternal inheritance. He offers us life if we only believe so that in the end, "The King will say to those on his right 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Raise My Banner High

"We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God." Psalm 20:5

After 9/11/01 it seemed every home in town was mournfully, yet proudly adorned with an American flag. If I recall correctly, I believe department stores sold out of them. Americans even painted flags on their roof tops, stuck them on their cars and wore them as symbols of their love of country. It was an emotional time when patriotism and anger were at their highest levels. It was a time when we were all forced to take a hard look at our country, the value of our freedoms, our families and decide if it was all worth fighting for.

About three weeks ago in the middle of a worship service at church, God planted this phrase in my heart, "Raise my banner." Now, there are banners (flags) in the back of our church sanctuary for people to use as an expression of worship so naturally, not wanting to step out of my comfort zone, I ignored what I was hearing. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, especially since I can't even chew gum and walk at the same time let alone wave a flag and walk...gracefully.

Since lightning didn't come out of the ceiling and strike me, I figured I was in the clear. But, honestly I haven't been able to shake this phrase. It keeps coming back to mind. So, I've had some candid discussions with God of late asking, "What is up with this?!" No answer. I was even willing to take up a worship banner during church this past week if the service leaned toward that type of expression. But, it didn't.

So, feeling like God is obviously trying to get my attention, I did some research on the word "banner" in scripture to see what the message could possibly mean. To my surprise I found that the word banner is only found in the Old Testament (Exodus 17:15, Psalm 20:5, Psalm 60:4, Isaiah 18:3 and Jeremiah 51:27). Much like today, banners symbolized a tribe or a nation and were used to rally their people together. But, when it was raised and placed on a mountain or lofty place it was a call to war. Once the flag was positioned, the war trumpets were blown and the flag served as a source of encouragement for the troops below. It signified what they were fighting for and why.

In Exodus 17 after a battle God instructs Moses to record the battle and to build an altar. Moses called it "The Lord is my banner" or "Jehovah-nissi." Moses wanted Israel to know that it wasn't by his own power, his own arms that they fell into victory, but it was God who raised the banner of His protection, presence and aid that brought them victory. (Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary, Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary).

So what does "raise my banner high" mean for me? Since I do fear the Lord and in light of what I "see" playing out in my life right now, it means two things. First, I must constantly remind myself that "the Lord is my banner." If I experience victories, it is only by God's grace and favor; not my own abilities. Second, I think God is calling me to rally around Him; to look toward Christ as my banner, my sustainer, my encourager, my protection, my Victor as I face any battle before me especially as I walk obediently with Him.

What does it mean for others? I'm not sure. But as I worship corporately on Sunday, if God calls us to battle, if He prods my heart to make Christ known as our banner, I will raise a worship flag. May God guide my clumsy feet with grace!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Giving Birth to My Second One

For me, the creative process is like being pregnant. I have a moving experience, I hear an inspiring story, or something strikes me funny and suddenly I'm in love with a story idea. In a rush of inspiration I grab a pad of paper and a pen as soon as I can and write that idea down while it's fresh in my mind. If I wait until the next day or the next minute, sometimes, the passion is gone and the story is lost. But, once the thought is written down, it sits in my journal, spins around in my head and germinates. I think about it every day. I play with scenarios, dream about it, and let it just rattle around for awhile as I live life.

For awhile it seems there's nothing happening. The ideas I have are disjointed. The words aren't clear. Then one day, a few phrases or sentences are formed. I keep repeating them to myself or write them down hiding them away in a folder marked, "WIP" (work in progress). Every now and again, I take out that folder, look at the words I scribbled on the page and pray something strikes me. If it doesn't I file it away and go on with life.

But then, in the midst of wondering if the words will every flow; if the story will ever take form, it does. It usually comes after discussing the story, out loud, with someone I trust. There's just something about speaking the words. It's like breathing life into them and suddenly, the story becomes real. It takes shape and form and matures until it's ready to be birthed on paper.

Today was that day! I'd been waiting since August to see the story on paper. Having spent some time down south this summer, I gathered some great ideas. They've rattled around in the cobwebs of my upper room just waiting to get out. Finally today, one of those stories eked out. I can't tell you the relief to finally see printed words on a page; the beginning of another children's story in black and white!

I can see an end in sight. There's the pain of laboring over words and form but I know there will be overwhelming joy when I hold my new baby!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Well Done!

"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!'" Matthew 25:2

Anyone who has spent any time at all with a young toddler knows how much they crave attention and praise. They understand that if they do something that pleases us adults with a smile or a belly laugh a round of applause will follow along with "Hooray!" or "Great job!" or "I'm so proud of you!"

My granddaughter and I have shared so many of those moments recently. She's just at that age when she's accomplishing something new every day: walking, talking, singing or counting. Whatever the task, she's sure to look for praise and I'm sure to offer it bountifully whenever we're together! And if she thinks I'm not watching, she cheers for herself with a clap and a "Hooray!"

Even now, as adults, doesn't it feel good when someone gives us a compliment or notices a job well done? It's even nicer when it takes us by surprise, isn't it? This week I was blessed with such a surprise. As I set up for my first Big E author signing of "Auntie's House" last Thursday I was told that CT's governor, Jodi Rell was looking for me the previous day. She told my fellow CT authors that my book was her granddaughter's favorite story! On the outside I humbly said, "Awww...that's so nice to hear," but on the inside I was like a toddler jumping up and down, clapping and shouting "Hooray! Hooray!"

In reflecting on this today, I thought of my pastor's teaching this Sunday on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Two out of three servants did a great job. They were faithful with what they were given; multiplied their efforts and affects. To them the master said, "Well done good and faithful servant!" And, he increased their area of influence. Yet, to the third servant who did nothing but bury his money for safe-keeping, the master scorned him and took everything away from him.

We're like those servants. God has invested in us freely. He's given us a mission and equipped us to accomplish great things for His sake. What we do with those abilities; wether we decide to use them or bury them out of fear or false humility (my idea, not the pastor's) will bring about praise or disappointment from our heavenly Father. What we do will either bring us greater influence to bring about change in our world (big or small) or we'll just be that person watching life happen all around them, not through them.

God's sphere of influence through me comes by writing. It happens to be my passion (hint, hint). God has equipped me to use the written and spoken word to influence my world. Did I ever imagine it would be through a child's story book? No. But, I followed (and continue to follow) where God led without hesitation. I obeyed and did my very best.

My challenge to my readers: ask God to reveal His mission for you. Take the first step, in faith, knowing he has fully equipped you to accomplish great things. Then, get ready for an amazing journey!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mindful of Us

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3,4

Do you remember laying down, face up in the soft green grass of summer with your children naming all the funny cloud sculptures before they drifted out of sight? Lately, I've realized how little time I spend looking up. I've been so focused on the minute details of life that my perspective has become a bit near sighted.

Then, while watching the evening news one night last week, this photo (above) filled my T. V. screen. This image is a shot of the Globular Star Cluster Omega Centauri taken from the Hubbell telescope. There are 100,000 stars at its core which is 16,000 light years from earth and 100 times more brilliant than earth's sky!

I literally choked-up when I saw this image and thought, "Who am I, Lord that you should even care for me?" Why would the God who created the universe, with all of its beauty and complexity want to know me?

As my eyes took in the breath-taking images God readjusted my vision. He took my nearsightedness and adjusted my lenses to view my world (His world) from His perspective. I felt very small and yet very loved.

With all the beauty that abounds in the earth; in the depths of the seas, throughout the skies and in every galaxy, nothing compares in the light of God's love for us! NOTHING! He cares about the details of our lives, the substance of who we are, the depths of our hearts and the breadth of our thoughts. Not one star, nor even an entire galaxy, not one angel commands His attention more than you and me.

Keeping that in mind today, take a deep breath and look up! His eyes go to and fro in the whole earth, looking for those whose face is looking up and seeking Him. God is mindful of us!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hope For a Future

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Opening week of deer hunting season hadn't allowed much time to connect with my husband. So, Saturday as I rode shot-gun in the passenger seat of his truck on our way to the Destiny Africa Children's Choir concert, I started to run through the list of things we needed to talk about.

By the time we arrived at the concert, I was starting to hyperventilate, my heart was heavy, aggravated and worried. When you got right down to it, I wasn't sure God was big enough to handle everything that was on our plate. We took our seats, made small talk with those around us and waited for the show to begin.

Finally, the African drumbeats filled the air. The most beautiful parade of smiles began and the sound of pure joy flooded my ears! With jubilation and glee these children filled the auditorium with hope for the future as they shared their dreams of becoming teachers, doctors, nurses, journalists, aerospace engineers and the president of Uganda!

Each child, from ten to fifteen, had experienced more tragedy than anyone in the room would ever know. All of them were orphans by disease or war but all by death. They witnessed horrible things, unspeakable things. Yet, they were full of joy. They were full of hope. They were full of dreams and they believed in their dreams.

These children had lost everything; suffered much. Yet, through Christ they had everything! Through Christ, everything was possible. How many times had I heard that but really never believed it?

As I sat there, tears flowing uncontrollably from my eyes, I felt ashamed that I had doubted God at all. Who was I to worry about anything? Who was I to think God was too small? Who was I to be burdened...burdened about what? I prayed, "Lord return to me the joy of my salvation! Return to me the joy!"

Tonight, on the eve of my first television interview for my book, "Auntie's House" God has reminded me that I, too had a dream. My heart's desire was to become an author, to spend my days forming words into pictures and speaking hope and encouragement into the hearts of those who needed to hear my message. I never imagined it would take the form of a children's book but, God did. I'm just following His lead.

What greater joy is there than having a dream, a heart's desire and watching God bring it to fruition? What greater hope can you give the world than to show that through Christ, ALL things are possible? Just follow his lead.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Angels With Fiery Swords

"...and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around..."
2 Kings 6:17

When my children were very little sometimes their fears kept them from sleep. They were normal fears that strike the imagination of all small children; fears of the boogie man, monsters under the bed, strange noises from outside and such. These fears, although born of their imaginations, seemed very real to them.

One particular night, I remember one of my children was especially anxious. As we closed the book of his chosen bedtime story he grabbed my arm and asked me to stay a little bit longer. It wasn't the normal request that led to talking past bedtime. There was an uneasiness that his little mind could not express but only a mother understood as fear. No song or story or night light, no peek under the bed, in the closet, or any hug and kiss could calm his heart. He was afraid of something he couldn't see but only imagined.

Finally, I said, "Let's say our prayers." That night (and every other night of his childhood) we prayed something like this, "Dear God, please send great big angels with fiery swords to protect our house. Please put two at the front door and two at the back door so we will be safe. Amen." With a kiss good night planted on his forehead, he pulled up his covers and fell fast asleep.

I don't know how long exactly, but soon after we prayed our first angels-with-fiery-swords prayer, one of our angels showed up in the Sunday paper! There he was, in the Rose is Rose comic strip! Rose was fearing her trip to the doctors and called on her guardian angel for company. The angel first appeared as a little fairy-like angel but Rose said, "I'm still a little scared. Would you mind?" The angel says, "Not at all" and proceeds to pump himself up 10 times his size until he looks like "our" angels, with a fiery sword and all!

Chuckling out loud I proceeded to snip it out of the paper and call the kids over to see. "Hey look at this! One of our angels is in the paper!" And there he was in living color! I hung that comic on our fridge to remind me and my kids of God's protection.

Elisha prayed a similar angels-with-fiery-swords prayer in 2 Kings 6 for one of his servants who was fearful at the sight of their enemy. Elisha prayed, "Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see." God opened this servants eyes to see the Lord's army of horses and chariots of fire that way out numbered those of his enemy.

Rose Is Rose stills hangs on my fridge almost 20 years later...a bit yellowed and faded. I leave it there to remind me of God's protection even when I can't see it. "If God is for me, who can be against me?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Double Portion, Please.

"'Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,' Elisha replied." 2 Kings 2:9b

Food is probably on my mind way too much, especially in the fall. When the thermometer registers a decline in temps my kitchen stove gets fired up. Although I'm not a great fan of cooking a gourmet meal, I do enjoy whipping up a delicious dessert, especially a home-baked pie!

Pies are easy to make with very little fuss or mess and their aroma is a welcomed delight on a nippy day. It's one of those scents that wakes me from a sound sleep or reminds me of happy family gatherings. In fact, I'm always the one who volunteers to make the pies for Thanksgiving.

More so than baking pies, I love to eat them! My family has heard me say on many occasions, "I'd rather you bake me a birthday pie (especially blueberry) any day than a birthday cake!" To me, pies are perfect. They're not too sweet. They're never dry. They come in lots of flavors and beautiful colors inside. They can be served hot or cold and a la mode!

So Saturday, when my mother served dessert at her table, guess what we had? Pies! Not just one...but two! What's better than a pie for dessert? Two pies! What's better than two pies? Two different choices of pies! Now what's a woman to do when she's watching her waistline and she's faced with such a dilemma? The answer is simple! She asks for a double portion!

As three generations of our family sat around the table enjoying my mother's dessert we all had stories to share. Some were stories of what's happening now. Some were memories of by gone days when my parents were children while others were reminders of times us grown up kids had just forgotten. I love listening to all the stories, especially of times before I was born or before my memories began. It ties my family history together and fills in the blanks of how things once were or why things turned out the way they did.

Most of all, it makes me wonder what stories or memories my children and grandchildren will share about their childhood or family times.

Elijah was like a father to Elisha in the Old Testament. Elijah spiritually raised up Elisha as his successor as prophet to Israel. I'm sure Elisha spent many days at the side of Elijah learning all he could, like a son would with his father. When Elijah knew his time on earth was coming to an end, he asked Elisha "What can I do for you before I am taken from you?" (2 Kings 2:9).

Think about it. That was an open ended question. Elisha could have asked for wealth, possessions, rank, position, honor...anything. But, he replies, "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit." (2 Kings 2:9b).

When I think of some of my relatives, I certainly would not ask to inherit their spirit, their personality or their habits! Elijah, however, was someone whom God's Spirit rested. He honored God in everything he did, how he carried himself, how he served people, how he spoke. God oozed out of every pore so much so that Elisha desired a double portion of his spirit for himself.

My heart is brought into check this morning, as I reflect on my spirit. May God fill me with His Spirit to overflowing that the aroma of my life will be more delicious than a fresh baked pie. And in the end, may my children and grandchildren ask for a double portion for themselves.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Change Comes

I wish summer would ease its way out gradually, allowing its warm caress to linger just a bit longer. But not so. As I sit here, close to midnight, searching for words of wisdom or encouragement to share, the winds of autumn rattle the leaves outside my office windows. I haven't much to say. No inspiration here. The only thing I know, change is coming.

Change is everywhere: the bright colors of leaves, the coolness of air, the south-flying birds, the timing of night. As hard as I may wish, I cannot stop the change. It comes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's Time

I want to twirl and dance and sing at the top of my lungs! I want to laugh and giggle from the tips of my toes! That long awaited moment in time when everything is right! And yet, I fear my joy be misunderstood for pride.

When all is right in your world how can you hold it all in? Isn't it time to celebrate, to shout it from the mountain tops? I can't contain all that I feel so I start to ask the first person that I meet, "Join me, won't you, in the dance?" Yet, somehow my voice gets lost before it's found.

"What will they think? How can you speak?" my Accuser whispers in my ear. "Your pride is showing boldly, my dear. Speak not a word, skulk back behind the door and say no more."

So I run away. I fall silenced behind the door; the finger of my Accuser pointed straight at my heart.

But the One; the One I asked to dance, lifts my chin and speaks the Truth. "This isn't pride, my beauty. This is joy!"

Then suddenly with a strength beyond my own I turn the mirror of my Accuser on himself. Truth pierces his heart to the very core and drives him far away.

I stand accused, no more. I make my way out from behind that door of silence and shame. My heart is light. My toes start tapping. I start dancing. My voice is found. The words are flowing. My eyes finally meet the speaker of Truth. I ask once more, "Join me, won't you, in the dance?"

With gentle eyes and the softest voice the lifter of my chin says, "Yes. Yes, I will join you in the dance. It's time to celebrate! It's time to sing and shout from the mountain tops! It's time!"