Friday, August 28, 2009

It's More Than Just Sunday Dinner

"Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done." (Deuteronomy 11:2,7)

Tagging along at the end of the baby boomers I barely recall the significant days of the free-lovin', drug tokin', party hoppin', bell-bottom wearin' generation. The closest I came to resembling anything from the '60's was the one pair of brown bell-bottom, hip-hugger jeans I wore that sported huge, white daisies all over them. Thank goodness I grew out of those in a year!

The '60's may have been a tumultuous decade, but as a kid, I never knew it. It's not that my family resembled the Cleavers from the '50's reruns of "Leave it to Beaver" on T. V. where life was never more difficult than a bad grade on a report card! But, like them, we'd gathered 'round the Sunday dinner table to share life and a good meal with those we loved most. Although we didn't live close to many relatives, my parents grew to love a few friends near by as though they were family. It was with those dear friends that we'd gather every week. We'd reconnect on every level from worshiping together to sharing stories over dessert or washing dishes.

When my own children started marrying, moving out of the house, and establishing families of their own I realized staying connected had to be a deliberate action. I didn't want to be that control freak mom or, God forbid, that overbearing mother-in-law but I did want to see my kids and grandchildren often. Even though I don't find joy in cooking, I do enjoy my children. So, hanging onto my Sunday dinner memories, I thought, "If you feed them, they will come," and I asked my kids if they'd like to establish a Sunday dinner tradition. Surprisingly, everyone looked forward to it.

Our first family Sunday dinner was last fall and except for an occasional weekend trip or event, our kids haven't missed a beat since! We've come to covet our time together and don't let anything take its place. When someone does have to miss out or come late, there's a heavy heart because this family connection has come to mean so much. We've establish a home; a place where we can be ourselves, share our hearts, our faith, tell stories from the past, dream about the future and everyone knows they're safe and they're loved.

God created life around family. He gave us the desire to make family connections from the very beginning of time. It's through the family that He intended His story to be shared with the next generation.

I cringe when I hear parent's say, "I don't want to force my religion (faith) on my kids. When they get older, they can decide for themselves if they believe in God, or not." My question for them is, "How can they believe in what they've never known?" How will they know unless we teach them?

Children learn everything by what we say and do; by what we don't say and don't do. The message of our lives, our beliefs are crystal clear to them. God knew this. That's why, in Deuteronomy, He says, "...your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of God...but it was your own eyes..."! In other words, our children won't grow up knowing God's story unless they hear it from us! What better time to share our faith than over a meal?

It's more than just Sunday dinner that holds our family together. It's our common bond of faith in God woven into everything we do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Magic Wand or Magic Eyes?

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

If life were like the fairy tales we grew to love as children, I believe that magic wands would be a hot commodity. Spouting a spiffy phrase and with a flick of the wrist our reality could be changed to suit our own desires. Wouldn't that be glorious? We could be the masters of our own destinies! We could control our own universe! Think of all the possibilities!

Remember that guy who cut you off in traffic this morning? Presto! He's now a squashed toad in the middle of the interstate. Oh, and your boss who seems to be less than fair when handing out accolades? Presto! She's been fired and replaced by someone who can't stop singing your praise! What about your kids who refuse to do as you say? Presto! They're the national poster children for the "honor your mother & father" campaign. And, that friend who talked behind your back yesterday? Presto! She's now come down with a permanent case of laryngitis.

Okay...the sadistic side of my evil self is showing. But, honestly, don't we all think in these cartoon images sometimes when people wrong us? Isn't inflicting pain for pain something we tend to want when we've been hurt, humiliated or angered? Or, don't we find ourselves wanting to change the negative realities of a wounding experience instantly into a fairy tale ending where everyone loves us and we live happily ever after?

That's not reality. People hurt us. We are wounded. We do experience pain. We bleed. There's no such thing as a magic wand that can change our world instantly. But, we do have choices. One choice is to allow our wounds to bleed, fester, become infected with poison and kill us (spiritually or physically). The second choice is to ask for magic eyes!

"Hold on!" you exclaim. "You just said there's no such thing as a magic wand! But, you now tell me to ask for something even more ridiculous, like magic eyes?!"

Yes, magic eyes. They're not literally new eyeballs that you insert into your head. It's all about perspective! It's best said in a short story called "The Magic Eyes: A Little Fable" included in the book "Forgive and Forget" by Lewis B. Smedes. Here is an excerpt:

"There was one remedy, (the angel said), only one, for the hurt of a wounded heart. Fouke would need the miracle of the magic eyes...a new way of looking at things through magic eyes could heal the hurt flowing from the wounds of yesterday.

"Fouke protested. 'Nothing can change the past,' he said....

" 'Yes, poor hurting man, you are right,' the angel said. 'You cannot change the past, you can only heal the hurt that comes to you from the past. And you can heal it with the vision of the magic eyes.'

" 'And how can I get your magic eyes?' pouted Fouke.

" 'Only ask, desiring as you ask, and they will be given you.

"Fouke could not ask at once, for he had grown to love his hatred. But the pain of his heart finally drove him to want and to ask for the magic eyes that the angel had promised. So he asked. And the angel gave.

"Soon Hilda (his wife) began to change in front of Fouke's eyes, wonderfully and mysteriously. He began to see her as a needy woman who loved him instead of a wicked woman who betrayed him."

Like the angel in this fable, God grants us a viewing of others as He sees them, through His magic eyes. When the pain of our hearts drives us to want God's magic eyes, all we need do is ask. Then, and only then, will our wounds begin to heal.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"What?! The Curtains?!"

" 'Test me on this,' says the Lord God Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.' " (Malachi 3:10b)

One of the first "official" dates we had, Peter took me to see "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." I quickly found out, sitting next to him in the lounge-style, Jerry Lewis Theater, that British humor is a bit, shall we say, "off." I could barely understand their accents, let alone catch the punch lines or make sense of the plot. But, it's one of those classic quotable movies, filled with one-liners that seem funnier hours after you've left the theater.

Our favorite scene is where Sir Lancelot is trying to convince his son Herbert there are benefits to marrying a girl of which Herbert has no interest. They're standing in front of an open castle window, curtains blowing and Sir Lancelot surveying the land outside says, "One day lad, all this will be yours!"

"What? The curtains?" asks Herbert.

"No, not the curtains, lad! All you can see stretched out over the hills and valleys of this land. That'll be your kingdom, lad," Sir Lancelot explains.

Weeks have passed since I mentally put away the knights, the pawns, my queen and the king of my cosmic chess board. I'm not playing games anymore. So, prayerfully, I've placed our full tithe in the offering plate for over a month. God has stood next to me at the open window of my heart and said "Test me in this...test me to see if I will not provide for all your needs and bless you beyond your imagination." I wasn't interested in testing God. There were enough examples in my past that pointed to His faithfulness. I just wanted to put aside my fears, be obedient and trust Him for everything. I mean, EVERYTHING...even the curtains.

The same curtains have hung in my living and dining rooms for twenty-two years! I know this because my daughter-in-law asked my son a couple weeks ago, "How long has your mother had these curtains?" He replied, "They're the only curtains I've ever known." Oh my! I knew they were old, but I'd never counted the years until that moment! He turned twenty-two a few weeks ago.

I've been meaning to buy new curtains for quite some time, especially after the last washing when the ball fringe started falling off. So, with God's promise of provision engraved on my heart, I stood under the archway between the two needy rooms a few days ago and said, "Lord, I don't have the money to buy new curtains, but I know you do. I'm trusting you to provide."

That afternoon my mother-in-law dropped in and unknowingly asked me if I could use some curtains. She wasn't fond of some she'd purchased last year but she thought they'd look nice in my downstairs rooms. I answered, "What?! The curtains?!" Not only did she have enough curtains to replace the weary ones, there's even more to go into my new office whose windows have remained bare since spring!

It's such a little thing, curtains that is, in the bigger scope of our financial needs. But, to me, it was a big thing. God says, "Test me in this..." He is faithful even with the littlest of needs.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cosmic Chess Game

"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full." John 10:10

I use to think that tithing was like playing a cosmic chess game with God. I thought God would bless me according to how much I gave. If I didn't give enough or anything at all then I'd coward away from God expecting some crisis to hit my household the next week. You know those crises: the dishwasher and the washing machine break within moments of each other and that routine $25 oil change for the car turns out to be $1000 repair!

It was times like those that I'd spin my head heavenward, arms raised above my head, shaking my clenched fists at God screaming, "What's up with this? If I can't afford to give you enough, why do you keep taking more from me than I ever have to give?!! How does that work, God?!"

I'd get angrier with all of the taking. I'd stop giving all together until I heard another tithing sermon. Again, I'd sit and listen for something I may have missed all the other times. Again, I'd try to give what I could (less than 10% God asks) because that's all I could bring myself to trust God. Again, the cosmic chess game began until God called "Check mate!"

That's how it was until a month ago. My pastors began a series called "Kingdom Economics." That first Sunday I settled into my pew for the "tithing sermon" and mentally pulled out the chess board. I started setting up my imaginary pawns, knights, my queen and the king. Once my side was setup I noticed that God's side remained empty. His chess pieces were still in the box.

"Hmmm," I thought. "Not interested in playing this time, God?" No response.

I listened more intently to the pastor and nearing the end of his sermon based on an all too familiar scripture, (Malachi 3:6-14) he said something I'd never heard before: "When we tithe 10% of our income, 90% of our income is submitted to multiply under God's (umbrella) of blessing. When we don't tithe (at all), 100% is open to the Robber, the Destroyer, the Devourer, Satan himself! Our blessings are not protected by God...Satan will steal all of your increase!"

At that moment I cleared the chess board of all my pieces and put the game board back into it's imaginary box. It wasn't God's cosmic chess game I was being forced to play. It wasn't His chess pieces on the board all these years! I'd been playing a cosmic chess game with my Enemy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


"...he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions."

1 Samuel 15:11b

I think the GPS is the greatest invention since....I don't know...indoor plumbing?!! (I didn't want to say sliced bread). For someone who is directionally challenged it's been a huge help.

Back in the dark ages of 1978 when I first got my licence I remember the angst I felt when all I had to rely on was my parent's written directions. Since my father was a truck driver, they were always great directions but he assumed I'd paid attention to where all the streets were in town (and all the surrounding towns from here to Maine) all my years as his passenger! I remember his frustration with me when I'd have to ask for the same directions over and over again. Finally, after a few weeks the streets became familiar and I could cruise around town on my own with confidence.

Then, I graduated to maps! I hate maps! They're like reading a foreign language. Did I tell you I was directionally challenged? Do you know what it's like to try to read a map when you can't locate your destination on the map? Do you know what it's like to do all that while you're driving...alone...on an interstate? Not happening! So...if I got lost (which, thank God never happened) I'd have to pull off the highway, find a gas station, physically get out of my car and ask for directions from the gas attendant. Also, not happening!

Most of my successful map reading took place from the passenger seat after meeting my husband, Peter. We love traveling by car especially to places we've never been before. Peter's got a great sense of direction (hallelujah) but there were times he's needed me to navigate off a map. Again, frustration showed up when he'd have to point out where we were and where we were going before I could make any sense out of where we were.

Finally, on our last trip to Orlando, Florida we were introduced to my friend, GPS! What a pleasure it was to travel with her! She had a soothing yet confident voice that successfully guided us to every destination without one drop of sweat from our brow (or armpit). Even if we took a wrong turn, she redirected our path with her reassuring phrase "recalculating route." We learned quickly that she would constantly repeat that phrase until we followed her directions and got back on track. We also learned, rather quickly, where the mute button was located. We could choose to ignore GPS and go our own way. That's not to say we wouldn't find our destination if we continued to ignore GPS. Sometimes there were more scenic routes we preferred or we'd found a faster route but they weren't always the best route.

It was the same for king Saul in the Old Testament (see 1 Sam. 13-15). God gave him specific instructions on what to do to succeed in battle. But in the heat of it all he questioned God's timing. He thought his ways were better. Sure, he won the battle. Sure, he got to his destination. Sure, there was great celebration. Sure, he plundered great wealth. But, he deviated from God's plan. He followed his own directions and took credit for it all. That's when he lost everything. Here's what Samuel tells Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13-14

" 'You acted foolishly,' Samuel said. 'You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command.'"

It's like that when God give us clear directions isn't it? He maps out our route and if we follow it we get to His planned destination. But, if we veer off His path, taking everything into our own hands, He'll warn us a few time, like the GPS, "recalculating route." If we get down-right arrogant about choosing our own route to get there, God will mute himself and leave us to get there on our own. We might reach our destination thinking we accomplished something great but we may have missed out on God's mission altogether. God's mission will still be accomplished, just not by us. We end up losing it all.

Have you received clear directions from GPS (God's Planned Strategy)? Are you staying on course, listening for that familiar voice? Has the phrase "recalculating route" been muted and you're now following your own directions? If so...STOP! Un-Mute! Let God recalculate your route before you lose it all!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Get Ready... Position Yourself

"...Samuel called to Saul on the roof 'get ready' and I will send you on your way." (1 Samuel 9: 26 NIV)

July marked the end of the dreary, rainy, trapped-inside-the-house days. Living here in New England our summers are short and frankly, by the end of June, I felt cheated! But alas, as sure as June turned into July, summer finally appeared. The long-awaited days of sun, heat and humidity were welcomed like a long-lost friend.

Each day the sun kissed my cheek I felt beckoned to play outside and reacquaint myself with God's beauty. It's those sun-kissed days that God feels especially close. It's as though He inspires, teaches, speaks through his creation directly to my soul. Whether it be a lesson in abiding taught by a patient, fluttering monarch perched on the blossom next to my lawn chair or understanding his divine plan of sowing and reaping by tending to my vegetable garden, I know God is speaking.

Sometimes God is more direct. The Sunday before I was to attend the She Speaks writer's conference I attended church without my husband, Peter. As the worship service ended and the pastor was introducing his sermon he said God had given him a lot of words for people during his prayer time that morning. Luckily, I had already opened my journal and was ready to write. I mean, if God had spoken I wanted to record everything he said! Then, the pastor looked directly at me and said, "Dawn. I don't know where Pete is but the Lord spoke to me in the prayer room about you guys and somebody else got these words that I think are applicable...'Get ready and position yourselves.'" I not only wrote those words down, I promptly texted them to my husband!

In the three weeks that have followed those words have continually rung in our ears. "Get ready...position yourselves." For what, Lord? My new book? A new opportunity? Spiritual warfare? A good hunt for Pete? What? What could God possibly have in store for us?

Then, today God lead me to read 1 Samuel 9 & 10 that tells the story of Samuel anointing Saul to be Israel's first king. Samuel instructs Saul to "get ready" to be sent. Getting ready isn't passive. It's active. You're making preparations, getting things together, doing the necessary things in order to go.

Once Saul is ready, Samuel gets him alone, anoints his head with oil and prophesies over him. Samuel explains that Saul will come to the land of Gibeah where he will meet some prophets. The Holy Spirit will empower him and he will prophesy as well. But, most importantly he "will be changed into a different person." Then, Saul was to position himself in the land of Gilgal and "wait" seven days until Samuel meets up with him. Together they will worship God and Saul will receive further instructions.

I'm not exactly sure what God is preparing us for. I'm not sure if we're getting ready for the right task. But, until that task is revealed, we are readying our hearts, submitting our plans, our desires, our passions before our God. We're allowing change in ourselves and with each other. We are positioning ourselves before His throne and waiting for further instructions.

What is it that God may be readying your heart? Are you asking, what's next? Are you willing to get ready? Do you see the situation you're in as part of that readying process? Are you willing to let God change you? Are you positioning your heart to wait for further instructions?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Behind Every Good Woman...

We often take advantage of "Cheap Tuesday" at our local movie theater. My husband, Peter even sits through chick flicks with me now and again. A few years ago it was Julie & Julia. The movie is the story of Julia Child, best known for her 1960's televised french cooking show and Julie, a New York City woman who took a year to cook and blog her way through Julia Child's recipes.

I'm not at all passionate about cooking. In fact it's inconceivable in my mind how the words joy and cooking can be in the same sentence! But, I do like the actress Meryl Streep who played Julia Child and I like every role she's played. If I were honest, I really went to see Meryl.

Surprisingly, the movie was NOT about the love of cooking. Yes, it was about two women who loved to cook. Yes, they made outrageous dishes that made the audience drool but more importantly it was about two women whose passion could not be contained in a sauce pan. It was about the journey of sharing their passion through writing and the husbands behind their success. Now that's something I identify with more than cooking!

Writing has been a passion of mine since fifth grade. Back then, I wrote all the time. If I wasn't writing in my journal I was writing a letter to my cousin, my grandmother, or a long distance friend. I was happy just writing, writing, writing. But, what I lacked was direction, guidance, and mentorship. I've fumbled my way through a few internships in college but nothing that lended itself to any significant writing career choice. I settled for writing as a hobby - something I enjoyed but nothing I would ever be able to share.

Then a few years ago, a sweet woman placed a Proverbs 31 Ministry magazine in my hands. Part of the ministry of P31 is to mentor and train Christian women who have a passion to speak or write the words God has placed in their hearts for the encouragement of others. They do this through their annual She Speaks conference. As I read more about the conference I knew this was a divine appointment. For the first time, there was someone who understood my passion. There was an outlet to do more with it than just write in a secret journal that I kept to myself.

Much has happened since I first learned about She Speaks. My journey in my passion for writing took some funny twists through physical injuries, spiritual warfare, family crises, forgiveness and release. Through all of these turns, never once was I left alone to manage on my own. Never once was I allowed to let my passion to write dwindle. Like Julie & Julia, I too have been given the precious gift of a supportive husband. He nursed me to health, sacrificed financially, weathered heavy spiritual battles, courageously saw us through family crises, walked alongside me as I learned to forgive and praised God for the release of my heart's desire to write.

There isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for God giving me such a loving, supportive husband who wishes only the best for me. Don't get me wrong, he's not perfect, but neither am I. Trust me, we have our ugly, stinky moments when we wonder what the heck were we thinking when we chose each other. But, in the big scope of our lives, when I see all the little things he does each day to show me he loves me: when he constantly encourages me to write, when I consider all that he does to point me toward Christ, when I witness God in Him then, I know I've been blessed.

The old saying goes, "Behind every good man is a loving, supportive woman." I say, it goes both ways. Thank you, Peter, for being a loving, supportive, godly man behind this woman! I love you.