Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Most Useful Gifts

Most of us have unwrapped our Christmas many of you got "useful gifts," the kind you might need but don't always appreciate? The joy of receiving useful gifts seems to differ according to gender; men stereotypically love to receive power tools but women groan over new pots and pans.

Sometimes we receive a gift and fail to appreciate the magnitude of it; this is what happened with the gifts I've received from my Heavenly Father. I (modestly and humbly) know that I have the gift of writing. The spiritual gift list would say encouragement and exhortation, with some faith, teaching, and word of knowledge thrown in, which all comes together in the written word for me. The fact that the Lord allows me to speak to other hearts and share His word is a gift, one that I didn't ask for but appreciate and treasure nonetheless. But here is what I am discovering...

It is through using our gifts that we can more fully worship the Lord. I have taken a bit of a break from writing. Lack of focus, time, and honestly, desire, have taken their toll. Sitting down to write was falling in the same category exercise and eating right...something I should probably do but don't really feel like. But, in this time of not writing, I have also felt my connection to God growing weaker. Not that He went anywhere, but the awareness of Him was less consistent. I was feeling lukewarm, and we know how the Lord feels about lukewarm.

Thinking I was on to something here, I looked up verses pertaining to gifts and worship. In Romans 12:1, we are told to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual act of worship. Just a few verses down Paul teaches about the different gifts given and that we are all to use our gifts as members of one body. There is a connection between using the gifts given to us and our worship. When I fail to use the gifts God has given me as part of His body, I am limiting my ability to worship Him in all fullness, holy and acceptable.

I am looking forward to getting back on track, to moving from lukewarm back to on fire. Read along if you like...and know that as I write, I am engaged in worshiping the Lord through the gift He has given me.

What about you? Do you see the connection between the gifts the Lord has blessed you with and your worship of Him? What an amazing God, that He would give us gifts that would allow us to connect with Him as we use them.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Preparing for a Birthday

All the gifts are bought and mostly wrapped.

I've baked a few different kinds of cookies and countless batches of caramel corn.

Christmas Eve and Day menus are planned and groceries stocked.

As I stood at the sink washing my third load of dishes for the morning, I thought, "Finally, I am almost ready for Christmas."

And the still, small voice whispered, "Really? This is how you prepare for My coming?"

The words to Joy To the World came into my head: Let every heart prepare Him room.

I considered how the whole time I was baking cookies I was rehashing the "discussion" my husband and I had last night. While I raced between the bedroom and the bathroom, alternately wrapping gifts and bathing children, I was hardly exuding Christmas joy, snapping at one child that the best way he could help would be to let me I did my grocery shopping guiltily grateful for a missed appointment that opened up a window of time.

I wonder what Jesus thinks of the way I am preparing to celebrate His birth. I'm thinking He would be better with store bought cookies, frozen pizza, and presents wrapped without perfect corners than what I offered. Definitely not my first fruits, at least not to anyone but myself.

I suspect I am not the only one caught in the last minute frenzy. If you took time to read this blog in the midst of the hustle, take time to pray with me for a fresh start. Right now, even if your kids are playing full contact Wii like mine are.

Father, please help us to remember what matters this Christmas.  Lord, be real to me right now, remind me that it is YOU that I am celebrating, and that everything else is secondary. Prepare my heart to receive You this season, and everyday to follow. In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Invitations to Glory

If you hopped over from the Scriptural Nugget, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy this story of another type of invitation...

I sat on the mat against the wall, staring at the game of Bubble Explosion on my phone, subconsciously ticking the time away with each bubble's popping. Having interrupted my home improvement frenzy to bring my kids for a hula-hooping afternoon at the Y, I'd be lying if I said I wanted to be there. I wanted to be home watching drywall patch dry.

"Why aren't you hula-hooping?" asked the director.

I offered a sad smile and said I really didn't feel like being there. The thought came, though, that I was acting like a spoiled teenager who wasn't getting her way. I put my phone away, took off my shoes, and headed to the floor mat to grab a hula-hoop. Much to my surprise, I could still do it.

My boys and I enjoyed an afternoon of hula-hooping, followed by an impromptu stop at Grandma's for some Christmas cookies. I would have missed an afternoon filled with joy if I hadn't answered the invitation to get off the mat.

Driving home, we caught a glimpse of the full moon hanging low between the houses, like it was trapped in the subdivision. We crept slowly through twisting side streets trying to see the moon full-on, in all its splendor. Our hunt took us to a dead end where the moon greeted us, yellow and full, over a field. The boys were awestruck, the car silent for a precious few seconds. We followed the invitation of the moon to behold glory.

Often in our lives we wait for the perfect opportunity, the right timing, the carefully planned event, to see the glory that is our's to see just by being fully in the moment. As you embrace this day, look for the invitations to glory. They are there...

 "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bible: A Love Story

I taught this lesson in Mom Time a few weeks ago, but it is not mom-specific. Add richness and depth to your Christmas by understanding that the Bible is truly God's love story to you, and Jesus is the promise of that love.

The Bible: A Love Story

I don't know what the Bible represented to you growing up. In my house, it was a huge book for pressing flowers and keeping yellowed scraps of obituaries. We didn't actually read it. As a matter of fact, I didn't know we were supposed to. I thought only nuns and priests read the Bible. About six years ago I read a book that referred to the Bible as a love story, and that took me by surprise.

History book, yes.

Basic instructions before leaving Earth (BIBLE), yes.

Love story, not so much.

Understanding that was the catalyst for the transformation God performed in my life.

There are five key truths that, when you really "get" them, will open the door to a richer relationship with Jesus. It is my desire to add a new level of awareness to your Christmas season through this knowledge.

He knows your name: Have you ever been called by the wrong name? Felt anonymous in the world? Wonder if your existence makes a difference at all? I wandered through my own life feeling like that for close to 25 years, not sure of my place in life. Isaiah 43:1 says "I have called you by name. You are mine." Mine. I belong to God. He calls me His. The God of the Universe knows who I am and He knows who you are too. Let that sink in for a minute.

He will never leave you or forsake you.(Hebrews 13:5) In this world of inconsistency, divorce, and job loss, we learn to view relationships as temporary. "Until irritation do we part...." God does not operate that way. His promise to us is to never leave us or forsake us. He will never turn His back on us when we disappoint Him. He will never choose a better opportunity over us. Never is a very long time, unfathomably actually. We can't understand that with our conditional, human thinking minds, but God is not limited by our standards. He will never, ever leave you. He promises.

He came for you. With the life of Jesus, who is God in the flesh, over 365 prophecies from the Old Testament were fulfilled. One of my favorites is the connection between Isaiah 61: 1-3 and Luke 4:16-21. (Click to read the verses.) He came to set us free from all the weighs us down and steals our joy and contentment, to make a way for us to have a right relationship with God. You can read more of my personal journey if you want here. 

He cares for you. "Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)" Do you realize that God is intimately involved in every detail of your life, that He is not some distant entity asleep at the wheel, and wants you to come to Him with your concerns, fears, and celebrations? When you have had a long day of worrying about everyone else's needs, don't forget that God is actively concerned with yours. Share it all with Him; He can take it.

He has a plan for you. You were not created without reason or by accident, no matter what circumstances you come from. I was born to young parents, and often felt like an "accident." What I know realize is that God planned for me, and that every day I wake up breathing is a day He still has planned for me. Amazingly, He has a plan for each one of us to fulfill. I think that is the coolest ever. Check out these verses for confirmation: Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Ephesians 2:10.

My prayer for each of you is to know how much you matter to God, and to view Christmas as the birth of the promise and evidence of God's love. Celebrate the wonder and majesty of this season with the eyes of your heart opened to the truth that the Bible is the Living Word of God, and that Jesus is that Word made flesh. May you contain to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Meandering My Way

I'm meandering my way through the book 1000 Gifts  by Ann Voskamp, which is really the only way to read this book. She was the keynote speaker this summer and listening to her was like listening to spoken music. No real way to do her style justice...let it suffice to say that she is not a quick read, but one you have to process through. At least for me.

I came across a line in the book that said if you were thirsty you wouldn't read a book about getting a drink. You would go get a drink. That is where I'm living these days. I am meandering my way through life, taking a drink of Living Water instead of reading about it.

I'm not writing near as much as I used to, but I am living each day fully in the adventure that following a wild and crazy God brings. Instead of writing about the big dreams I have, I'm taking steps towards them as God leads. For example, somehow I am the new team writer for an organization called the Oneness School Initiative. Basically it means using my nitpickiness for the Kingdom, editing and proofing documents on their website. This came about because one person knew another person and mentioned me, and now that person is helping me with my dream saying yes to one thing it set me on the path I am really wanting to be on. Cool, huh?

I always seem to have about ten irons in the fire, but none of them are calling my name loudly. I asked a friend a few weeks ago if it was a bad thing to not feel urgent about everything, but just to take each day as it comes. I am so used to chasing after things, but I think the Lord has led me to a desert of sorts. I am learning to walk, to listen, to just be. Her answer was reassuring...just keep honoring God with each thing I do, and He will continue to lead.

It is my prayer for each of you that you recognize what the leading of God looks like in your life, and that you follow hard after Him.  Even if that means a little meandering.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011





Do we really notice the word, or do we just think of a big meal and a bit of history? We acknowledge the word as the act of giving thanks. Being thankful for what we have. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude, like we talked about here. But let's look at the word in another sense: Thanks-giving.

It struck me this morning that we are not truly grateful for our blessings as long as our hands, hearts, eyes, and wallets are closed. Thanksgiving to me means giving in recognition of all that I have been given. I am not showing true appreciation for the gifts in my life as long as I am not sharing them, paying it forward.

In 1000 Gifts, AnnVoskamp dissects the word eucharisteo, which is Greek for thanksgiving. But to go deeper, the word eucharisteo holds the words charis and chara, grace and joy. Her focus is on finding joy through the giving of thanks, being thankful for all of her blessings.

I am wondering, though, if another way to look at that is to find joy through thankful giving. I know that when I live freely, not counting the cost to me to serve another, I find joy. My heart finds peace. I'm less concerned with my own issues when I reach out to another. I find that as I express my thankfulness to God for what I have by giving of my time, talents, or funds, I am the one that is truly blessed and even more thankful than I was to start with.

I think I might be on to something here. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

This past week has been filled with doctor appointments, kleenex, midnight coughing, turkey, stuffing, and holiday preparations. Life to the full, as He promised. Here is a blog I posted over at our Mom Time blog on gratitude, appropriate in this season of Thanksgiving. I pray you will be blessed by Luanne's teaching as I was.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Creating a Little Breathing Space

Here is the talk I gave Friday night at the Girls Night Out Breathe event at Fox River Christian Church:
Do you ever find yourself eating something yummy while you are doing something else, only to look down and realize you've eaten the last bite and "forgot" to taste it? Or do you ever pile so much on your plate and can't enjoy any of it, the goal instead to eat everything you had to have? Or is that just me...?

Life can be like that, and the holidays are like life on steroids. We either race through November and December, trying to accomplish everything perfectly, or, we just wake up January 2nd, which incidentally, is only 43 days away, and wonder what happened. Where did the holiday season go already? I finally got everything done and now I’m ready to celebrate and I missed it. Again.

We need to learn to slow down, to breathe, to savor this season, instead of just trying to "get through" them.  I took the word SAVOR and made a little acronym out of it to help us remember to savor not just this season, but each day as it comes.
S: SIMPLIFY Did you know that 6,020,000 websites pop up on google when I searched "simplify life?" After reading through a few, most of them have to do with decluttering your life and your stuff.

I read through a few of them, lots to do with decluttering, both our stuff and our lives. Now, I’m not talking about Martha Stewart’s kind of simple, where I iron my sheets, roll them around paper tubes, and tie them with ribbons so they fit better in the linen closet. I’m talking more about the “don’t be afraid to use Chinet at the holidays instead of dishes that need to be washed before you can even eat off them” kind of simple. You know where you tend to go overboard. Trim it back and give yourself some breathing space.
A: Accept your season of life. Maybe you have grand visions of a giant Christmas tree, with twinkly lights and decorations handed down through generations. Except that you have a toddler. I can’t even tell you how many Christmas’s I had a half decorated tree, but the memories are still sweet. Maybe you are an empty nester and you are wondering if you should even put up a tree. I say do what makes you happy. My mom loves to decorate for Christmas, but the tree itself seemed like too much work for just her to enjoy, so she hangs her favorite ornaments and twinkly lights on evergreen swags, and gave the rest of her ornaments to me for my family.
Accept that financially or relationally you are where you are. If this has been a tough year in either respect, do what Paul tells us to do in the book of Philippians. Focus on whatever is good, true, noble, beautiful, or praiseworthy. It won’t change the circumstance necessarily, but when you focus on these things, the following verse promises that the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4: 8-9).
Accept others in their seasons as well. You know the saying you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family…this time of year gets pretty intense. Give a little grace towards those you didn’t pick to be part of your crowd, but they’re in it anyway. Do your best to get along with everyone, (Romans 12:18) and that will bring everyone a little breathing room.
V: For the next letter, V, I want you to think about your EXPECTATIONs. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t start with V. Now, cross it out in your brain and replace it with the word “VISION.”  We are replacing our expectations with visions. Expectations and visions start out in the same place but leave us in different places. Both begin with anticipation. But, if your expectations aren’t met, disappointment, anger, or frustration can be the result. If you begin by casting a vision, every step in the right direction is part of the journey of making that vision a reality.  Do you see the difference?
I have a vision that my family will grow in their compassion towards others, especially around the holidays, and that at some point in the future, we would spend Thanksgiving or Christmas serving someplace together. That is my vision. Each year, I feed it little by little. Last year we rang the bell for the Salvation Army in front of Sears at Brookfield Square. And let me tell you, nothing says festive like two boys rolling on the floor in front of the red kettle fighting about who was going to ring the bell. And there I stand, big fake smile on my face, hoping I don’t see anyone I know.
This year we added to that vision by filling a box for Operation Christmas Child. I am planting the seeds for the vision I want to see. If I expected that we would all stand singing Christmas carols in front of the red kettle looking angelic, or that my boys wouldn’t whine about wanting to keep some of the toys we were picking out, I would be disappointed in the outcome.
Cast your vision for how you hope this holiday season plays out.  Remember the Andy Stanley quote: Direction, not desire, determines your destination.
Are the things that keep you busy supporting your vision, or just taking up time? Those might be some of the things you trim as you are simplifying, as you are creating a little breathing space.
O: Opportunities, to serve, to live, to laugh. Don’t fill your plate so full that you don’t have time to take advantages of opportunities that come up. I always say that I am fine with spontaneity as long as I can plan for it.
You can serve in an organized way that requires a committee to plan for it, or you can just look for the opportunities that come up in everyday life to bless someone. Playing “Follow the Leader” through a crowded parking lot, I was excited to see the second spot from the front open up and quickly put my blinker on. I checked my rearview mirror to make sure the rest of the parade knew I was stopping, and noticed that the car behind me was driven by an elderly couple. I turned off my blinker and kept going, and watched them pull in, knowing they would appreciate a close parking spot more than I would. I was able to serve someone in my regular day just by being aware of the needs of others.
Last year I invited a few friends over one afternoon to watch “The Nativity”, an afternoon I could have spent trolling the mall in search of the perfect gift. Instead, I made some soup and we gathered to be reminded what this season is really about.
So, leave yourself the opportunity to grab coffee with a friend, or take the neighbor’s kids for a while so she can get some work done. Leave yourself some breathing room in your own schedule so you can reach out to someone else.
R: The last thing we need to do is REMEMBER.
Remember that relationships are more important than activities. If we are snippy with sales people and impatient with our families because we are busy creating the perfect holiday, we are missing the point. If cooking rights for Thanksgiving outweigh the gratitude of having family and friends to celebrate with, it is time to re-evaluate our motives.
Remember to leave room for the unexpected. Cookies will burn. The perfect gift will not be stocked in the size you need. Your kids will tell you the morning of the class party that you are supposed to bring cupcakes. (You might wake up the day before a big engagement with strep throat like I did on Thursday…)
Remember what we are celebrating, the season of Jesus’ birth, the season of Emmanuel, which means God With Us. We are celebrating that God is with us, and realize what a gift that is. Sometimes it is when we try the hardest to have that Holy Spirit spark in our holidays that we miss it. Relax, see where the Lord leads you and the who the people are He has put in your life, and you will see Him. Here is a link to the blog that I wrote in 2009 about missing Him for the entire season.
And lastly, remember to breathe. All together, let’s take one deep breath, think about the vision we have for this season, and focus on SAVORing what we have, instead of just trying to hold our breath and make it through.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jesus in Dirty Jeans

Wide-eyed wonder played on the four-year-old's face as he looked up in disbelief. Walking toward him was an old man, white beard touching his chest and round spectacles on the bridge of his nose. The boy looked from the man to his mom, looking for confirmation that this was Santa in his regular clothes.

I'd chuckled to myself that day as I watched this exchange from my vantage point on the elliptical machine at the Y; the same thought had crossed my mind.

"Did you ever see Me in him?", came the whisper softly.

"Uh, no," I'd thought to myself, confused. Then the Holy Spirit brought a picture to my mind of this same guy a few months prior. He'd been pedaling slowly next to me on the recumbent bike. His white undershirt was stained and had sweat circles under the armpits, dirty jeans on instead of work-out pants. His beard was matted, and the smell of him made me want to change bikes.

Not one of my finer moments.

"Did you ever see Me?" came the question again.

Jesus tells us what He looks like in Matthew 25:
He is the hungry and the thirsty.
He is the sick and the lonely.
He is the naked.
He is the prisoner.

He is the child on the playground with no mittens or hat. He is the single mom at Wal-mart hoping there really is a Santa to bring her kids presents this year. He is the old woman looking out the window of the nursing home, wondering if anyone will visit. He is the guy down at Frame Park huddled under the bridge. He is the smelly old man on the exercise equipment next to me.

"Oh Lord, forgive me. Forgive me. I didn't know..."

I let my thoughts trail off because I did know. I do know. Sometimes it's just easier to pretend we don't. Again the Spirit brought a verse to me..."You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17)"

"Forgive me," I'd whispered that day, slowing down on my machine as my eyes welled up. It is a painful process, learning to see the world through Jesus' eyes, but it is a beautiful pain. I cannot look away anymore.

I am praying not only to see Jesus in others, but thinking that as I learn to do that, they might catch a glimpse of Him in me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Master Plan

Lately I have been learning how to live.

When I went to She Speaks this summer, I had two goals in mind. One, get a book deal, or at least be headed in that direction, and two, hit the ground running as a speaker. I thought I would come home and send out my carefully prepared bio sheets to every church and organization, get an organizer to keep my speaking engagements straight, and finish the chapters on the book I started.

As I sat in each session, listening carefully for that one thing God wanted me to take away, I began to feel sad. Like I was trying to fit into clothes that weren't mine. I thought maybe it was nerves, or the enemy trying to shake my confidence. Instead, it was actually the one thing I was supposed to be hearing. God was not telling me my dreams were dead, but that we were going to rest and just be for a bit.  You might laugh, because I know I did, but the message was "Go home and play with your kids."

Now I won't lie, half of me was like, "Really? I came all this way and did all this work so You could tell me to go home and play with my kids?"

The other half, truth be told, was relieved. This is my favorite season of motherhood, and I don't know why I insist on living with one foot out the door all the time. I needed to travel across the country so God could remind me of what I already knew.

In this season of resting and waiting, He is at work. My eyes and my heart are being opened in new ways. Taking time to read, watch movies, and just hang out with friends with no other agenda than enjoying each other's company are not luxuries, they are the details that make life richer. By sending me home without a clear plan, God gave me a gift.

"God wants me to get where He wants me to go more than I want to get where He wants me to go" is a saying I read in a book by Mark Batterson. God knows His plan for me. My role is to listen and obey.

How about you? Are you taking time to just enjoy life, or are you constantly working towards something? Maybe it's time to take a deep breath, and do nothing at all for a little while. The world won't end or forget you, and you may just find yourself again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Trust In Relationships

A friend apologized after Mom Time for texting during my lesson. Actually, I hadn't noticed, but I would not have been upset with her because I trust her. If I had noticed, my first thought would have been "I hope everything is ok." We have built a relationship on mutual respect; to be upset before knowing the details would not have been fair to her or our friendship.

Someone has been irritated with me on and off lately...I know, right?! Each time has been due to a misunderstanding or misperception, but here is the deeper question: What does this person really think of me? Do they believe I am a person who would do the things they think I did?

Instead of being angry back or launching into defense mode, I consider where they are coming from. What irritates us or hurts our feelings often speaks to what is going on in our hearts. When this person was irritated at me last time, it was because she felt hurt and left out, which speaks to a deeper insecurity and loneliness that I know this person carries because we have talked about it.

Dr. Henry Cloud spoke on relationships at Women of Faith, and he said that when people don't behave as we want them to, it really isn't their problem, it is our problem. We are in charge of our reactions and feelings. If dogs barking and kids fighting really bug you, the problem is not with the dog and the kids. Our responsibility, no matter what, is to live in a manner that glorifies God. Lashing out in anger does not produce the righteousness of God.

What do we do on a practical level? We pause, considering the other person's perspective, while not owning it, practicing humility and gentleness. The Bible reminds us to live in peace with everyone as far as it depends on us (Romans 12:18), and the first step of that is giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dress Rehearsal

“Grab your hat, buddy. We’re leaving in a minute,” I hollered into the playland at our local McD’s.
“I can’t reach it,” came the muffled reply.
Looking through the window, I could see my eight year old son stretched out on the floor trying to slide his arm under the mesh-enclosed steel barrier, his hat about 6” out of his reach.
“How did your hat get in there?”
“He told me to throw it over the fence,” said my son, pointing at his friend.
Seeing the teaching moment, I decided not to ask anyone to unlock the fence so we could retrieve his hat. Instead, we left our name and number with the cashier, planning to follow up later in the week after the cleaning crew was able to get the hat for us.
This experience opened the door for a great discussion on peer pressure with both of my kids. He knew it was a dumb idea to throw the hat over the fence, but he wanted to impress his buddy.
“Now is the time to stand up for what you know is right,” I told him.  “This time it was a hat. Next time it might be someone offering you a smoke or a drink. Or wanting you to steal something with them. Or worse. And the consequences won’t be as harmless.”
While the stakes were pretty low this time, I hope he got a glimpse of the bigger picture.
This life is both the dress rehearsal for future experiences, and the real deal, all at the same time. We can’t undo a decision, and the choices we make today affect the choices we will make tomorrow.
Are the things you are saying “yes” to today opening the doors that you want to walk through in your future?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Change of Pace

Did you ever have it happen that you were losing weight just by the natural process of your life instead of going to the gym and counting every calorie?

OK, me neither. But, stay with me for the sake of the analogy.

I have been one to hunt down God's purpose and plan for my life, trying to fit each day around what I think His will is for me. Lately though, I have taken a giant step back. Instead of over-analyzing and "seeking" myself into a frenzy, I am listening. Instead of "following" God where I assume He is leading, which is akin to staying one step ahead of Him, I have waited and watched for the doors He will open. This is new for me.

I find myself enjoying a front row seat to His work in my life as He leads me in new directions and sears new passions onto my heart. Things that didn't use to phase me now break my heart to the point of tears. I don't know where this is all going, but I don't have to. There is freedom right now, freedom to not worry if all the pieces don't fit into a tidy picture or preconceived notion. My God is bigger than what I could dream up anyway, and to base my life on my own limited scope is, well, limiting.

So, for those of you who "follow" this blog, I have not fallen in a hole. I am just living each day in the direction He points to. It's not that I don't have lots to say; I've made a priority of putting God first, husband and family second, and everything else behind that. Sometimes following God is sitting down to write a blog that He pours into my head, other times it is sitting with the kids watching bedtime tv.

He was been faithful to give me one pure and holy passion, to know and follow hard after Him.

Will you join me?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Other Ditch

Last night I wrote a post called How Good Is Good Enough that only represents one ditch, one point of view. On the other side of the road is the equally dangerous ditch of "I'm not good enough." Sometimes we recognize our sinfulness in contrast to the holiness of God and think we are never going to be good enough to get into Heaven. Again, I don't believe you can read the Bible and come away with that message.

Don't hear me wrong...I'm not saying we will someday be good enough to get in on our own. What I am saying is that none of this is about us, but about God. When we tell ourselves that we aren't good enough for Jesus, as I did for a long time, we are making it about us, which is a subtle form of pride. To tell God, who sent His son for me, that it wasn't enough, is a slap in the face. I wrote about this a few months ago after a conversation with a friend, if this is a ditch you find yourself in.

Here is the truth: God loves you. He sent His son to die in your place, so that He could have a relationship with you. And in the words of the Apostle Paul,  I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I sometimes find myself so overwhelmed by the weight of this truth, the very weight of glory, that I can't get a breath. To live in the powerful presence of Jesus Christ, to taste a small sampling of what eterntiy holds...there are no words. I cannot get over Him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Good Is Good Enough?

Standing in church Sunday morning, singing a song that begs God to pour out His grace and mercy into my life, I was so thankful for the freedom found in Christ. I am done worrying about being good enough, or not good enough, to freely approach the throne. The Book of Hebrews tells us that is through confidence in Christ that we can come to God...He made the way for me, and I get to live in the freedom that brings. I felt sad for those still struggling, still in darkness, still trying to earn God's favor.

Andy Stanley has a small book by the name, How Good Is Good Enough, which examines the question of how we get to Heaven. According to a survey on Christian Answers, 60% of people surveyed feel they are going to Heaven because they are good enough.

I have to believe that most of those who say they are headed to Heaven because they are good enough have not actually read the Bible. That may be a bold and divisive statement, but I have yet to come across anything that makes me think that my final destination has anything to do with my goodness. I can store up treasures in Heaven, but that presupposes that I will be there to enjoy them in the first place.

Why do I need mercy if I am good enough?

Why do I need to repent if I am good enough?

Why does God offer grace and forgiveness if I am good enough?

Why did God send a Savior if I am good enough?

If I am good enough, why do I even need God? I've got it covered.

Friends, if you think God is going to let you into His Heaven on the basis of you being good enough, please don't be offended, but keep reading. Someday I want to look around and see everyone I care about worshiping God with me. It is only by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that we do not go to hell for our sins. Ephesians 2:8 says "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works so that no one may boast."

A gift by definition is something that is given, not earned. We do not earn our way to Heaven by doing more good than bad. One little "bad" keeps us out. We were sunk before we even knew it.

The reality is this: without Christ, I would be lost. If you find yourself tired of wondering if you are good enough to go to Heaven, I hope you find rest in the truth that there is no such thing. That is why we need Jesus.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Women of Faith Reflections

Our Women of Faith event was two weeks ago...

I waited to blog about it because I wanted to see what would make the most-lasting impression. With so many great messages, it can be a little like drinking from a firehose. In the heat of the moment, EVERYTHING was my favorite. Now that life has settled back down to a low boil, here are my biggest take-aways:
  • Dr. Henry Cloud's "Monkey" talk. In the days before PETA took over the world (his words,not mine, lol) a monkey was put in a cage with electrodes attached to his head. They were then seriously stressed out-buzzers, flashing lights, shaking cages, that sort of thing-and there stress indicators went through the roof. Then the cage was opened, and a buddy was put in with them. Although none of the stimuli changed, their stress levels came down because they were no longer alone. The moral of the story: grab your monkey as you go through this journey called life. We were not meant to travel alone.
  • Another Dr. Cloud: there is no shame in taking medication for depression. As Christians, we often feel like failures if we are clinically depressed, like we aren't praying hard enough or properly tapped into the joy of Christ. Medically, depression can result from our brain chemicals being out of whack or neurons not firing the way they are supposed to. Just like you would feel ok treating diabetes with insulin, you must respect the way God created you and care for that creation with what you need. There is no shame in helping your body be healthy.
  • The last take-away is not my own, but it is a great story. I received two tickets for blogging but gave them to a friend because I already had one with my church group. She took her mom who has been somewhat antagonistic towards the whole "Jesus" thing...By the end of Saturday, her mom bought a Bible and asked my friend to help her learn how to read it. Because of the stories and testimonies shared, she is willing to look afresh at Jesus Christ. I got the holy goosebumps when my friend emailed me. Praise God...He will never stop pursuing us.
Thank you, Women of Faith, for all you do to strengthen and encourage our relationships with the Lord and with each other. See you in Milwaukee next year!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Feeling Jabez-y

A few years ago, I picked up a little book at the Dollar Store called The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. I came home, read it in a few days, and went back to buy 20 more, just in case someone else wanted to read it. (I still have a few...)

We sometimes get the feeling that to ask for more blessings is unchristian, greedy even. We are supposed to be satisfied with whatever God provides and thank Him profusely for it... the good, the bad, and  the ugly. To define the word blessing, here is what Wilkinson has to say:
To bless in the biblical sense means to ask for or to impart supernatural favor. When we ask for God's blessing, we're not asking for more of what we could get for ourselves.

I have picked up my Jabez book again, because I am dreaming of big things, God-sized things, and need to get my mind back to a place of recognizing that I do not serve a meager God, a God hoping He has enough to go around. I serve a God of limitless possibility, a God who can feed 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish and still have leftovers,  and to be frank, I want in. I want to be part of what God is doing, wherever He is doing it. I want in.

We are in a time that cries out for hope. Social programs and throwing dollars at problems only go so far. People need the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their lives, the power that opens the eyes of the blind and heals nations. We need that Hope for our city and I am believing God for it.

I took my boys to play on the school playground tonight where "Little Isaac" is attending, and walked the borders of the blacktop praying for light to come into that darkness, for the playground to be a place of safety and joy, for the teachers doing the best they can in an overwhelming situation, and for the new principal to create an environment of unity there. I prayed the "Jabez prayer", that God would bless us indeed there, that He would expand my influence there for Him, that His Hand would be upon me, working through me to make a difference for Him. I have been doing my best to trust Him all along on this journey, sitting in the dugout, waiting. Tonight I feel like I stepped onto the playing field.

When I got home, I opened my Jabez book to continue reading, and here is what I read:
Like any loving dad at the playground, God is watching and waiting for you to ask for the supernatural power He offers.
Oh. My. Word. And if that weren't enough, it was followed by one of my favorite go-to scriptures: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are turned towards Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)"

Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done, in this city. Expect it, and stay tuned.

What are you believing God for? Is it big enough to need His help, His blessing? If it's something you can do yourself, alongside God, instead of Him working through you, it's time to dream bigger. Greater things are yet to come...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is There An App For That?

The three of us huddled close, my phone held tightly in my outstretched hand, all eyes watching the white arrow pointing us in the direction of the day's treasure. I've learned to use my smart phone for geocaching, looking for hidden caches based on GPS satellites.

Can you imagine if we could download an app to hear from God just as directly? I would call it the Jeremiah 29:13 app: You will seek me and find me when you seek with all of your heart. I get the seeking part; we need to pray and read His word to hear Him speak, and be attuned to the Holy Spirit whispers. But really, I would just like an arrow sometimes to tell me which direction to go and how many meters until I get to the prize.

 Scripture makes some things crystal clear, like don't lie or steal, honor your parents, and stop looking at your neighbor's new patio furniture with envy. Often, though, there is no right or wrong answer involved. Here is some of what He has shown me along the way:
  • Sometimes we get a glimpse of the big vision, but the timing is still in God's Hand. It doesn't mean we didn't hear Him or understand Him correctly. We just need to spend some time in the desert.
  • Following Him today opens doors for tomorrow. Our job is to honor Him at each little step and let Him reveal the next one and the one after that.
  • Time spent wandering in the desert is not wasted time. Often He is building up a character trait that we will need further on down the road.
Because we are new to geocaching, we sometimes go home without having attained the goal for the day. This is where seeking God and playing with my phone part ways. God says, in Isaiah 55:11, that the word that goes out of His mouth will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.

So, sit tight my friend. Sit tight. He hasn't forgotten about you.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    A Place To Let Go

    Sitting here in my pj's, ipod playing Your Great Name by Natalie Grant on repeat, with my dog, Gracie,  curled up next to me. It was no small process for her to settle in so close. Lots of sniffing, circling, walking back and forth across my lap, and test driving a few different spots was required. As she curled her little body in close to me, let out a deep sigh, and went to sleep, I saw my own journey flash before my eyes.

    We are all created with a need to fit in, to find meaning and significance. On my own journey, I sniffed around lots of places I didn't belong. My spiritual walk included the occult to a small degree in the 80's and "religion" in the 90's, trying to toe the line in a religion that measured success by following rules, with some Jesus thrown in for good measure. I turned to my own gods in the later 90's, trying to drown out the cry of my heart with illicit relationships.

    By 2003, I was exhausted. Imagine wandering around in a dark room, thinking you were in one place, and someone switches on the light, and you realize you have no idea where you are or how to get out of there. That pretty much sums up how my life felt at that time.  It was then that I heard Jesus calling my name, and finally turned to see Him. Not that He hadn't been there the whole time; I was just walking around Him, back and forth across His lap, in search of a better spot to curl up.

    Can I just tell you, as you find yourself wandering in your own life, that there is no sweeter place to rest than in the lap of Jesus Christ? Stop searching, stop trying to make things perfect, and just snuggle in. He is waiting for you. (I feel the need to say that this applies to Christians as well. Knowing our Savior does not mean we are immune from the wandering. We just do it in the Name of Jesus instead.)

    Take a minute and let yourself sink into His lap while listening to this amazing song of worship to our King, Jesus Christ.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Name Calling

    Remember the sing-songy rhyme, sticks and stone may break my bones, but names can never hurt me? We all know that's not true. Names can hurt. I've been called lots of names in my day...true or not, the insults still ring in my ears. Names hurt.

    God has a name for you. Isaiah 43:1 reads "But now says the Lord who created you, I have called you by name. You are Mine."


    Gives you visions of two two year olds fighting over a toy. Mine. Or the seagulls from Finding Nemo...mine,mine,mine,mine.

    Consider a few things about that statement, though, You are Mine. The God of the Universe, the Great I Am, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, says that I am His. I belong to Him. I belong. To Him. Have you ever had it happen when you thought someone was trying to get your attention, and you were excited and flattered, until you realized they meant the person behind you?  God does not do that. When He says you are His, He is looking straight at you, calling your name.

    Like a two year old in the sandbox though, God's grip and desire for us is just as tight. He is not letting go of you, or me, for anything.

    Next time someone calls you a name that is less than flattering, remember that God has a name for you as well.


    This Little Light of Mine...

    I love watching people moving into a new house, especially for the first time. They hang up flags outside, set special lights on the porch, and just do things to let the world know they have arrived. I was comparing that to inviting Jesus into your life. What do we do as believers to let the world know we are here?

    "Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and
    give thanks to your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    What Are You Doing?

    Leaving a vision-casting session at church last night, to say I was pumped for Jesus would be an understatement. I felt like staying up all night to read Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, a great book that showcases that intersection of faith and experience.

     Anyway, after loading the kids in the car, the song Waiting Here For You by Christy Nockels came on the radio. Being sort of chilly, I wanted the windows up and the kids wanted the windows down. I said they could roll down their windows if they got their praise on nice and loud and let the whole city know about Jesus. (Yeah, I'm sorta like that.)

    So, here we are, driving down the road, all three of us singing at the top of our lungs, hands held high, when I look in my rearview mirror and see the slapfest that has begun. "Boys," I said sternly,"That is not glorifying God."

     "I am too horrifying God," came the reply.

    "Yup, yup you are,"

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Living by Faith? Really?

    "Whoever gives up their life for My sake will find it." Matthew 16:25

    These are the words that nearly poked my eyes out last night as I was reading a book called Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup. The chapter was about living by faith, heavily built around Hebrews 11:6, which says that whoever comes to God must believe that HE IS and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Now, I totally believe that He exists, and that He has a master plan that is only to my good and His glory.


    Why then am I still wrestling the school district in regards to "Little Isaac's" placement?

    I am trying so hard to be faithful and follow God where He is leading, but I'm not thrilled. I wish we were standing on the playground with all his other little friends and the moms I already know. At the same time, I fully believe that God has a plan. I feel like I am standing with a foot on each side of the line. I want Justin at the same school as his brother, even though I am willing to engage where ever God wants me. To bloom where I am planted, as the saying goes.

    I can see the sin of what I am doing. I'm operating out of fear and frustration, still sending emails to the school board to fix what I feel is their injustice. On the other hand, as I've been saying all along, God is in control. He has a plan. I've never understood the verse "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." more fully.

    In the life of the faithful, there is not room for "I believe, but...". Either you do or you don't. God is not a contingency plan. He is the master. I have the tattoo on my wrist to remind me of it, which incidentally, I got a few days before finding out about the school mix-up. Hm.

    Today I am beginning anew. I turned in my paperwork to volunteer in "Little Isaac's" class, which I was holding out on, hoping to switch schools. Last night, after reading the verse about losing our life to find it, I realized that God is trying to lead me to life in Him, and I am the one dragging my feet. I must lose this life, that playground, in order to find my life. I begged forgiveness for having so little faith. I have to let go, and it is scary. As much as I want to see God at work in my life, and the lives of those I will meet, I am afraid. The what-if's fill my mind. What if Justin never makes friends? What if I fail at whatever He wants me to do here? I feel like I'm on a scavenger hunt without a list of what to find. 

    I'm done, though, standing on both sides of the line. I don't want to be like Lot's wife who missed out on her future because she kept looking backwards. This morning, before taking my son to school, I prayed,committing myself to His plan, whatever it is. And two kids called  Justin by name to say Good Morning. Yes it is... a very good morning for a fresh start.

    How about you? Is there a situation that you are playing both sides of the fence on? You can't hedge your bets and fully follow God at the same time. You must lose your life to find it.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    She Said What???

    "It is to one's glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11

    But sometimes that is easier said than done.

    Have you ever had someone upset with you due to a misunderstanding, and then get mad right back at them for being upset with you in the first place for something that didn't actually happen? Confused? Let me give you an illustration:

    You think I am fixing meatloaf for dinner and get mad about that. I was never fixing meatloaf in the first place but now I'm kind of irritated with you for being mad about the meatloaf that never existed. I'm feeling like my cooking judgment is being questioned and if I wanted to fix meatloaf in the first place that should be just fine anyway.


    Now I'm finding myself getting worked up about a situation that is totally made up but I feel like defending my choice to make a freakin' meatloaf.

    Anyway, enough about meatloaf.

    Something along those lines happened to me this week; a person receiving wrong information levelled a judgment against me. Even after clearing up the misunderstanding, I could feel the indignation bubbling up. Bitterness was creeping in. Because this relationship is important to me, I called a friend to talk me off the ledge. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you the things you already know.

    Here's what she said:
    • How can I glorify God in this situation?
    • How can I serve the other person?
    • How can I become more like Christ through this?
    Conflict is not easy, or random. It not only  reveals what we are passionate about, it reveals the condition of our hearts. No matter how justified I felt in my response, it was not right.

    How about you? Ever get bent out of shape and not know how to get back into shape? Maybe try the three questions. Just don't let the situation become more important that the relationship.

    Click here for a one minute video on dealing with conflict.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Changed Forever

    The juxtaposition of unbelief and knowledge rival for dominance.

    While my eyes knew what I was seeing, my brain could not wrap itself around the fact that airplanes had crashed on purpose into the Twin Towers. I stood in the break room of Bakers Square, the smell of grease and cigarette smoke heavy in the air, watching the news unfold on a 12” grainy black and white television with tin foil on the antenna. Normally, the television use was reserved for Packer games only, employees who wished they were someplace else gathered around because there were no customers anyway.

    That morning, we gathered around, despite a restaurant full of customers, wishing we were someplace else but not even sure where that would be.  The world had changed. Our cocoon of safety had been ripped open, flames and dust filling our vision.

    I did not have a relationship with Jesus in 2001. I believed in Him, knew there was a god, and “knew” that the scales had tipped out of my favor.  In that moment, though, watching the tv on the flickering picture, towers crumbling to the ground, I wondered where He was and felt that first push to get close to Him. The world was a scary place, and if there was any safety to be found, it would be near Him. While it would be three years before I began my relationship solidly with Him, seeds were planted.

    I attended Christmas Eve services that year at the church across the street, looking for hope in the message. I was still wandering in the fog of disbelief and fear as the landscape of our lives changed. I wanted to live deeper and with more love, with more meaning.  I needed connection with something bigger than me to help me make sense out of it all.

    9/11/2001 changed me ultimately for eternity. Ironically, a day of death and destruction brought me new life. I now know that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of boldness, love, and self-discipline, and with Him, that is the way I try to live.

    How has that day changed you?

    Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
    Hallowed be YOUR NAME.
    Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done,
    on Earth as it is in Heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread, and
    forgive us our trespasses as we forgive
    those who trespass against us.
    Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
    For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever.

    "LET'S ROLL!" Todd Beamer, Flight 93

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    At What Cost?

    I heard a story not too long ago that one of the richest men in the world was giving away 99% of his money, but that it would not impact his lifestyle or that of his descendants in the least. I remember thinking, then so what? Now, I realize that his money that he is giving away will go to help lots of people, but if there is no cost or loss to him personally, then what difference does it really make? If there is no discomfort, there is often no growth. That is why Jesus died such a painful death.  It cost Him. It cost the Father to allow that for His son. In His words, he could have given the word and had ten thousand angels come free him from the cross, but he paid for our freedom with His sacrifice.

    This summer, when the temperature hovered around the 85 degree mark, I did not have the air conditioner on. I wanted to know what it felt like to be uncomfortable. We have so many luxuries and privileges at our disposal that I don’t think I understand what it feels like to suffer. I wanted to stand with those who don’t have a choice, who don’t live in a comfy house with the modern perk of central air, and feel what they feel.  I realize that is a small and trivial thing to say, but it struck me that we don’t know how to be uncomfortable for very long. We scream for situations to be fixed, for equality, for fairness all the time. What that really means is I deserve what he has. I deserve to have what I want.

    We give to several charitable organizations, but it doesn’t really cost me. We have our cable with 300 channels. We have our Y membership. We have a full freezer and pantry. We are not people of luxury, by many standards, but we are comfortable. But not so comfortable that when a big bill came in unexpectedly, the resulting financial tantrum put the charities on the chopping block. I offered up alternatives…cut the cable, live with less…and was met with indignation. I found myself waffling to offer up the Y membership in trade, and was sickened by my own indecision.


    We did come to an agreement, but the feeling of shame is left. At what cost will I serve the least of these? When does the price become too high, and who am I to decide? Feeling like my heart is being broken in a new place. That’s a good thing.

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Faith Enough to Follow

    Abraham, Isaac, and Jonah walked on to the school playground. . .

    Sounds like the beginning of a joke except that this week has been no joke. My son began kindergarten at the school that, although it is two blocks away from our house, is not our school of choice. But somehow, back in January, I mixed up the paperwork, so he is not attending the same school as his eight year old brother. Follow me? We "choiced" out of this school four years ago, but here we are, standing on the playground in Nineveh.

    Why does it always come back to Jonah with me?

    I will tell you that I feel like God definitely has a plan here, which is a silly thing to say in the first place because of course He has a plan. He's not in Heaven saying "Oh crap, I can't believe she didn't fill out the paperwork."

    The first day of school dawned muggy, and my five year old rode his scooter to his line on the playground where he knows no one; his circle of friends is at the other school. In that moment, I wondered how Isaac felt about being brought to the mountain because his dad was busy following God. Did he question being tied to the altar, because scripture tells us that it was as Abraham was raising the knife that the angel called out? I kissed "little Isaac" good-bye after helping him find his cubby, swallowing hard so I didn't turn into that mama.

    Stepping into the bright sunshine, I realized his scooter was nowhere in sight. Seriously? SERIOUSLY, Lord? You sent me to this school, and now someone steals his scooter?! My neighbor had passed this scooter along to us a few years ago, and now it was gone.

    "Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.  But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” Jonah 4:10-11

    Feeling bad for my snarkiness, I asked God to help me love the people that I would meet, and show me why I am here. All I could think was that it had to be an adult who had taken the scooter, because all the kids were in class already, and these are the people I am supposed to be reaching out to. Jesus did not come to call the righteous to repentence, right? He hung out where people needed Him, and expects us to do the same. He has definitely knocked me out of my holy huddle.

    So here I am, feeling like Abraham and Jonah all rolled into one, with Isaac trailing along behind, wondering what God is up to. Is it a test of obedience for me? Is there someone at this school that I am supposed to meet? God gives us just enough light for the next step, and while me feet may drag a little, my heart wants to follow willingly. If my head could just stop thinking so much, I'd be good.
    ps: I called the school secretary and learned that someone had brought the scooter to the office thinking a kid had left it out. In that moment, all I could do was cheer for God. He is so good! He confirmed once again, that He knows exactly where I am and has the situation under control.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    A Jabez Kind of Day

    And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your Hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what He requested. 1 Chronicles 4:10

    I have been in the habit of praying this semi-regularly, not like it is a lucky charm, but because it communicates so directly to the Lord the deepest cry of my heart, to reach others for Him. Apparently, enlarging my territory is exactly what the Lord had in mind for me.
    We had reached the point of the summer that we moms live in dread of, the doldrums. The other day, my eight year old yelled at me, “You are the worst mom in the whole universe.  Ever.”
    And I stopped to thank God for expanding my territory.
    I had moved from being the worst mom in the world to having my stature encompass both time and space.  I’m not even sure how I got there . . . apparently movies, rootbeer floats, and trips to the pool are the direct route.
    Seriously, though, I did pray that He would keep us all from evil in this time of great drama, that I would react as an adult and not on equal footing with an eight year old. One of my favorite tools is just a little question and answer session, asking my nominator of the “Worst Mom Ever” award to tell me how I qualified for it. When kids, and adults, live in a space of absolutes, our reality will feed into that. When we are required to list concrete occurrences, we start to lose our footing and can see, rationally, that maybe, just maybe, we are overreacting.
    Once the intensity of the moment has passed, I am free to extend a little grace. Being on the receiving end of the Worst Mom in the Universe award is really no easier than nominating someone for it. Heat, humidity, boredom, and just plain old being a kid, can take its toll. I remember those days, of feeling trapped in a world that I had no control over, and can afford a little compassion.
    After the talking is over, that is.

    What strategies do you have ready to go when someone needs to be the adult in a situation? Come up with a few “diffuser questions” now, before you need them.

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Hanging with Mary DeMuth!

    Mary DeMuth is a force to be reckoned with. She writes fiction that challenges you to dig deeper into your own life. In her memoir, Thin Places, she invites us to experience the times in her life, good and not so good, where the space between her and God was transparent, and also to look for our own thin places. As an author, she reaches her hand to help those on the same journey. It was my privilege to bawl my head off in the front row of her seminar at She Speaks, Memoir Writing 101. In it, she said that some of us would change the face of the Kingdom by sharing our stories, at which point I was reduced to a pile of goo, which explains the pretty picture, lol. I'm excited to be featured on her blog today, which you can read by clicking here.  Please take time to peruse her will be blessed beyond belief!

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    A Bug's Life

    This time of year, the song of the cicada fills the air. I posted this awhile ago, but thought of it this morning as I picked up a cicada still in its shell and placed it on a tree where it would have a chance.

    "You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world..." Ephesians 2:1.

    I was looking at a cicada still in its shell, walking around on my neighbor's shirt. Before it started to move, I thought it was actually dead, one of the leftover shells. Then it started to move. I was reminded of this scripture because I used to be dead, then I started to move. Not dead like in the ground, but dead in that I had no hope. I was very caught up in this world, the fears, the temptations, the emptiness of it all, never quite feeling complete but not knowing how to get there. To anyone who looked at me, I looked very much alive. And depending on which side of the fence you were on, I might have even looked happy.

    "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..." Ephesians 2:4

    But God...these are two really important words. But God...can take that which was dead, hopeless, empty, and breathe new life into it. Into me. By nothing I did either, except accepting it. The word mercy means kindness to one undeserving. It has nothing to do with cleaning up our act first, it is all about recognizing where we are...lost...and following the Only One who can lead us home. But a God of transformation. He can take something with a hard shell and give it wings to fly and a song to sing.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    A Sure Thing?

    Standing in front of the school secretary, I listened in disbelief as she told me that my five year old was not on the list for admission to kindergarten. This is the same school that my second grader has been at for the past three years. I thought we filled out everything that was required for his entrance to kindergarten in the fall. How could this be?
    This was our home.
    This is where all of our friends were.
    I thought this was a sure thing.
    While this is a big deal in our little world, it is not the end of the world. Let me tell you what is.
    Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Mt. 7:21) Narrow is the gate that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Mt. 7:14). I don’t want anyone to be mistaken about entrance to Heaven, which is a very real place. So is Hell. Just like I thought I was all set for our elementary school, there are many who think they are a shoo-in for Heaven.
    You might be a really good person, generous and compassionate, but it is by grace alone that we are saved, not by works (nice things we do), so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8)
    You might be a good rule follower, never breaking the law, honest to a fault, but the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) It is these sins that separate us from God, and a price must be paid, that price being death. (Romans 6:23
    You might have been baptized as a baby and even have a preacher in your family tree, but choosing to follow Jesus is an individual commitment that must be made by you alone. The Bible says that we will each stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives, one on one, just us and Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
    Before you start to feel like there is no hope, that there is nothing you can do about this whole “getting into Heaven” business, let me share some good news with you: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gospel actually translates as good news. If you’ve ever watched a football game, you’ve seen this.
    For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son so that all who believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
    Here’s the thing, God knew we would sin. In the days of the Old Testament, before Jesus, every sin needed to be atoned for, a price paid, through a blood sacrifice. Because of His great love for us, He sent Jesus to be a once and for all sacrifice for our sin. When you come to God and acknowledge yourself a sinner, and  confess with your voice and believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the grave after three days, you will be saved from an eternity in Hell. You will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
    Now, you may not believe any of this. You may be of a religion or a lifestyle that says none of this matters. But, smokers who don’t know anything about the dangers of tar and nicotine still get lung cancer. People who don’t understand reproduction but have sex still get pregnant. And sinners who don’t believe the word of Almighty God will still go to Hell. It doesn’t really matter if you think differently today. The consequence still applies.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Raising Tyrants?

    “You have no idea what nice things I had planned for the rest of the afternoon, but you are ruining any chance of seeing it now,” I told my wailing puddle of a son at Kohl’s department store.

    When school starts this year, I will be an empty nester, at least from 8:30-2:30. I had planned a day of taking each child out by themselves with me, to spend a little one on one time while we still can. I enjoy surprising my kids with little things, whether it is a trip to Dairy Queen or a chance to pick out something special while school shopping alone with mom.
    However, something special does not include a Wii game.
    So there we were: me, with a flagging sense of enthusiasm and my son, having a complete and total meltdown because I wouldn’t change my mind about the video game.  All the whining, pleading, and bargaining this eight year old keeps in his arsenal would not cause me to add a Wii game to the school supply necessities. Instead, I was deciding if I was just going to drop his behind back home and forget about the rest of the day. I felt sad for my son, because he really didn’t know what he was risking losing with his tantrum at the store.
    In that moment, I had a glimpse of how God must feel.
    We only see what we see. We have no idea the wonderful future God has planned for us, the gifts and opportunities He intends to lavish upon us. We just know that we don’t have what we want RIGHT NOW  and do our best to pray Him into submitting to our plans, using the term pray loosely.  Just because it ends with “In Jesus Name” doesn’t mean we aren’t begging and whining . . .
    I just have to wonder if God is up there shaking His head sometimes, knowing what the rest of the plans for the afternoon were supposed to be, but holding back until our tantrum and sense of entitlement has passed. I also wonder if I miss seeing what He has for me because I am still busy telling Him what I really want.  Sometimes I think it would be easier to go through life with no expectations at all, just so I could be grateful for everything that comes my way.
    I know that would have made my son’s afternoon a little smoother.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Winding Down and Gearing Up

    The clock is ticking louder by the day...September and all that comes with it is three weeks away. Soaking up the last bits of summer fun, then this blog will be smokin'.  So many thoughts to share, but trying to get them in line is like herding kittens. Or kids at the department store.

    The tooth fairy will be paying a visit to my eight year old who lost two teeth today. One was knocked out by his skateboard, and the other one was wiggly already. Watching him dig his tongue into the pulpy space brings back memories.

    The Lord has been faithful to continue the work He began at She Speaks, work that I didn't know needed to be done. Marianne Williamson said it best: You think you are in a good place with God, then you glance out the window and see a wrecking ball. Or something like that. Anyway, there is a wrecking ball in my front yard and I am doing my best not to belly crawl across the floor, staying out of view. I am kneeling in front of the throne, allowing the work that will fill the dark places to be done, even though....Even though.

    Enough said on that. Chlorine-scented days are running low and I will live each day in the fullness that the Lord brings.

    Thunder in the desert!
    "Prepare for God's arrival!
    Make the road straight and smooth,
    a highway fit for our God.
    Fill in the valleys,
    level off the hills,
    Smooth out the ruts,
    clear out the rocks.
    Then God's bright glory will shine
    and everyone will see it.
    Yes. Just as God has said."
    Isaiah 40:3-5, The Message

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Imagine 2011 (and a contest!)

    October 1, 2010, found me standing in the dark, arms outstretched, singing Revelation Song along with the Women of Faith worship team. God spoke to me in that moment, reminding me that He alone is God, worthy of all praise, regardless of what path He calls me to. He then was gracious to me, reminding me of the dreams He has buried in my heart, dreams that only came once I knew Him. Each speaker, from Marilyn Meberg to Patsy Clairmont, confirmed the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

     Life is hard sometimes; Jesus Himself told us that in this world we would have trouble. But occasionally we get a respite, and the Women of Faith conference provides that. Hearing the victory that Patsy Clairmont and Sandi Patty found in Christ inspires me to find my own victory. Listening to Andy Andrews speak of the connectedness of our world helps me to feel  a part of something bigger, realizing that nothing is random and that I am not alone.
    God has a message for each one of us, whether you are just checking Him out, wondering what this Jesus business is all about, or whether you have been a Christian since God was a boy, as the saying goes. Even if you aren’t sure who He is, He is quite familiar with you, and loves you.  Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there with us. Can you imagine the excitement of being with 10,000 gathered in His name?!  
    This year at the conference,  I know that as I listen to Angie Smith, Sheila Walsh,  Lisa Harper, and the iconic Luci Swindoll, I will hear the Lord through their words. The music will be led by Mary Mary and Natalie Grant, each bringing a chance to stand in worship to our God.  Attending a Women of Faith event gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself  in the Word, leaving behind the cares and responsibilities of daily life for a little while. Gather up your girlfriends and Imagine what can be!
    What dreams has God placed on your heart? What has He whispered to you, deep down, where you are almost afraid to acknowledge it aloud? For being a Women of Faith blogger, I get two tickets to this year’s event in Milwaukee. Leave me a comment and be entered in a drawing to be my companion for the two day conference. The contest closes September 1st. (Not that I am such a prize, lol, but I thought this would be fun!) As for me and my dreams, let’s just say that when I am a Women of Faith speaker, I will wear a turquoise shirt. It never hurts to dream big for God, right?

    If you are from Fox River Christian Church, click here to purchase tickets  so that you can be with the rest of the FRCC group.