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!"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Wife's Words

"... And his wives led him astray." 1 Kings 11:3b

I learned very early in my marriage that a wife holds the power to breathe life into her husband or suck it all out.

When I was first married I had a bad habit of mentally keeping score with my husband. Every task I performed during the day, I'd make a mental tick mark in my head. At the end of the day, if my husband dared breathe one sigh or mention how tired he was I'd pull out my score sheet! If his tick marks didn't add up to mine or exceed them, then I'd let him know in no uncertain terms that he had no reason to be tired! In fact, I had EVERY reason to be more tired than he felt and I'd proceed to name off everything I did! Pronouncing myself the winner, my husband would promptly hand me his pulverized heart as my prize.

That was such a hurtful game to play. I don't know why I even played it. Maybe I felt the need to compete for sympathy? I don't really know.

Like the first woman, Eve, every woman holds the power to create at the tip of her tongue. Unlike the words from his mother that slide of his back into rebellion, the words of a wife sink deep into her husband's skin and soon become the definition of his form.

King Solomon was known as the wisest king that ever was and no other man has been made wiser since. He held the entire future success of Israel in his hands as long as he sought after God with all of his heart and kept God's laws. But, Solomon had an insatiable craving for women...women who worshiped gods...not God. We're told in 1 Kings 11:4 "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David is father had been." With his change of heart, God tore the kingdom away from him.

If the wisest king who ever lived can be transformed by the words of his wives, how much more the lives of our husbands by the words we deliver or the scores we keep? I don't know about you, but I want to be a wife who breathes words of life into my husband.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dawn's New Day

"...he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain..." (2 Samuel 23:4)

Squinting the red, LED numbers into focus I pulled up the covers in frustration knowing there were at least six hours left to my slumber. Hour after hour, hard as I tried to bury myself deeper into my pillow, sleep still evaded me. My mind raced to the side of old fears. My mind wandered to thoughts that God and I had once resolved. I was restless and exhausted trying to figure out why I was battling with these thoughts again.

Soon, daybreak overwhelmed me and so did my prickly mood. Instead of sending my husband off to work with a kiss, I met his cheek with a grumble and stubbornly stayed wrapped in my covers of uneasy melancholy. Although I crawled out from them a while later and busied myself with my "to do" list my heart still felt heavy, uneasy, troubled. I just wanted to shake it off like a dog after a bath and dry off in the Sonshine. Each time I tried it seemed my efforts were thwarted by yet another reason to continue wearing a thick, syrupy, unwanted cloak of discontent.

Then, in the middle of the day, after finally accomplishing the simple task of sending out press releases for my Big E appearance with my book, "Auntie's House," I received an email from heaven! I received an invitation from a local network television producer to join her on her morning news show! My heart did the "happy dance" and I sent up a "Thank-you, Lord!" And yet, as soon as that gift came, my heart was covered in that thick syrupy cloak of discontent, again!

By evening, I threw up my hands and went to sulk by the pool. I watched the sun set behind the trees and felt my joy being swallowed like a bug in the mouth of the bats at dusk. "What's up with this, Lord?" I cried. Why can't I hang onto that joy you gave me? What's warring inside of me and why? With no clear answers, chalking it up as "one of those days," I retired early, praying for rest, hoping for a new day.

I woke the next morning, again before the alarm. This time it was already daybreak. I felt beckoned not tormented but I still craved my sleep. My body still reeling from the day before, I groggily asked, "God, are you waking me this morning?"


"Can I have just ten more minutes, please? I'm so tired."

"Yes. But, only ten!"

So, I closed my eyes and God woke me again, exactly ten minutes later. "Okay. I'm awake, God. Can I make myself a cup of coffee?"

"No. You can make yourself a cup of tea." (He knows me so well! When I drink coffee I can't sit still for very long)!

I quietly snuck downstairs to the kitchen, made my tea and tip-toed upstairs behind the door of my sanctuary. There I sat, sipping my tea and reading my Bible where I left off the day before. Nothing really struck me as I read. I wondered if I had just been talking to myself a few minutes ago in bed.

But, God assured me in his whisper, "No, it was me. I've called you out of slumber. Yesterday was a battle brought on from your Enemy to rob you of your joy. Today is a new beginning. I've called you into a new day to reclaim your joy...the joy of the gift of heaven. "

And, He brought me to this verse:

" 'When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after the rain that brings the grass from the earth.'

Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?" (2 Samuel 23:3b-5)

Although this message was from God to King David, He used it to speak joy back into my heart. Yesterday was an attempt of my Enemy (Satan) to rob me of the joy God gave me...a desire of my heart come to pass by God's doing. If God hadn't gently called me out of my bed this morning, I would have never known and probably would still be wrapped in melancholy today.

Today is Dawn's New Day! It's secured by God's promise that He is my hope, my salvation, my joy and the great Giver of gifts. He delights in me and entrusts me with His message of hope and encouragement to those who will listen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Making Memories

Today we made memories...Dakota and me...

We sat and cuddled

We sang all the Pooh Bear songs

We danced in the living room

We giggled at our silliness

We swung on swings

We picked pretty flowers

We touched the dew drenched clover

We walked around the block

We shared a few meals

We read our favorite bedtime stories

We said our prayers

We kissed and hugged

We whispered, "Goodnight"

It was a very, very good day.