Friday, May 27, 2011

Tsunami Warning

I've heard that before a tsunami hits, the tide rolls out, leaving the sand and all the debris normally hidden by sea exposed. People, in their ignorance of what is coming, flock to the sight, and are caught unaware by the force of the water as it explodes onto the beach.

Wednesday, through the words of a five year old, I heard the tide roll out. My son, in the midst of a selfish moment, wouldn't allow his buddy to hold any of the toys strewn across the backseat during our ride to school. His friend said, "Justin, if I'm gonna be your best friend, you're gonna have to let me touch your stuff."

And the water began to recede.

I heard Jesus in those words, and moved on to the beach to see what He might be talking about. I considered how far I've come in trying not to micromanage my big kids, diligently trying teach my little kids what following Christ looks like, and the effort I put into not being my husband's Holy Spirit, trusting that God is always at work. I thought about my finances, and saw room to let Jesus carry my purse, instead of passing out a meager allowance when I had a few dollars extra.

I looked to the horizon, wondering where the sea had fled to.

Thursday morning brought counseling class, where I am learning to help others apply biblical principles to the plagues of life. Had I been listening for it, I might've heard tsunami siren begin to blow. I would've fled to safety, but instead, I was still captivated by the secrets of the ocean laid bare, wondering what "stuff" I wasn't letting Jesus touch, unaware.

At the close of class, we were given our homework assignment: create homework for a counselee based on the scenario contained on a card we would draw from the stack. "Pick a card, any card," my instructor said, the deck fanned out like a magician.

And the water began to pick up speed.

I reached out my hand, picked directly from the middle, and flipped my card over. Still looking down at the sand, I never saw the towering wave before it hit me with all its life-altering force.

"Sexual abuse in my past still haunts me or impacts me."

The tsunami crashed onto my beach, knocking me to my knees, ripping the breath from my lungs. Already retreating, the water stole the sand I stood on and dragged it deep into the ocean.

The power in the wave took me by surprise because I thought I was on solid ground here. I thought I could swim in these waters. I reached out for the only Hand I could see through the salty water stinging my eyes and filling my nose, the murkiness of the depths almost blocking out the sunlight.

And Jesus said, "If I'm gonna be your best friend, you're gonna have to let me touch your stuff."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is Hope Enough?

She hung up the phone in disbelief, then called me. "Mom, remember Jake...kidney boy? He has cancer now." A few summers back, when she was having trouble finding a job, I encouraged her to find a volunteer opportunity. Taking my advice, she went on craigslist and found someone her age who needed a kidney transplant and offered hers. Not exactly the dog-walking position I was hoping she'd find...anyway, her offer was not accepted but she struck up a friendship with the young man. Last night he called to say he'd been in the hospital for the past week, newly diagnosed with lymphoma.

I could hear the question, the challenge, in her voice. How can a God who is supposed to be good do this? When your faith is not solid, all ground is sinking sand. Gently, not diminishing the starkness of the situation, I said that God must have a brilliant plan for her friend to allow this, and that I would pray for him and his family. "Yeah mom, but this sucks" was her reply. And from where she's standing, it does. It's in moments like this that I am so grateful for the hope I have, the hope that does not perish.

Eating dinner last night, enjoying the sunshine coming in the patio door, we could hear the live updates from a tornado in Oklahoma. Surreal does not describe the feeling of knowing there were people seeking shelter in their basements at the same moment I was just doing what I normally take for granted. I suppose though, that every day is like that. Someone is living while someone else is dying.

Joy and pain.

Sun and rain.

Endings and beginnings.

And God never changes.

What do we, who have the hope of Christ, do in times like this? Do we stand, heads hanging, giving voice to fear and complaint, with the world? Or, as Peter put it so eloquently, will we be a people chosen to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9)? He is supplying no end of darkness these days. Just turn on the news, read a newspaper, look into the faces of the people around you. The need for hope is overwhelming in this world. What will we do? Cluck and sigh and wring our hands...or claim the promise of peace and use the trials He provides as an opening to share the truth?

C.S. Lewis says that God whispers in our good times but shouts in the bad times. He is shouting right now. Will you be bold in your faith and lead someone to the hope that Christ offers? We don't have to defend Him or try to make sense of a tragic situation. We just need to share what we know...that Jesus offers refuge, a haven. He alone is enough, and we should live like we believe that.

Hear the reminder that He alone is the Hope of the world, His promise to never let go, in this song by David Crowder..

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spice Cookies and Kudos

Hearts at Home is a great organization that supports women in their role and wives and mothers, a sacred role that, in the last 50 years, has almost become second class in society. How many of us feel, when someone asks what you do, that if you don't have resume worthy answers, you tell them what you used to do before you had a family? Like training up, nurturing, and sacrificing for the next generation isn't good enough to stand on its own? Of course, when someone asks what I do, somehow playing legos, flying kites, cooking meals that no one really wanted, and doling out discipline doesn't seem to be the stuff that will change the world, we just might be surprised. I know that for most of you, I am preaching to the choir. You might be trying to read these recipes while the kids are napping or busy undoing everything you just did to earn a few minutes of quiet. Mine are supposed to be getting ready for church, but I'm thinking by the noise level over my head they are re-enacting whatever they saw Phineas and Ferb doing. Anyway, kudos to Hearts at Home for resourcing women in the vital, God-given role that we seek to embrace. Despite the fact that sometimes it is like embracing a porcupine.

When I asked my youngest kids, 5 and 8, what is their favorite thing that I make, one said Dairy Queen and the other said tomato soup. Their answers notwithstanding, my favorite things to cook are those that can be multi-purposed, like a roast or a chicken into soup or potpies, or a big batch of sloppy joes frozen by the scoopful on a cookie sheet to have on busy nights. Truth be told, though, I am a candy head, and love homemade treats. I did not personally discover these spice cookies, but every time I make a batch, I get requests for the recipe. Take the extra 15 minutes and make the pumpkin dip. It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, but I can promise the cookies won't last that long. This is a great recipe for bringing to a book club because it makes a ton. Last Christmas, I made a double batch, portioned them out, and froze them on the cookie sheet. Once frozen, I just put them in a giant ziploc bag and was able to make homemade cookies with a moments notice. In reality I am pretty unorganized, so just having this small victory was worth the prep time.

Spicy Pumpkin Butter

1/4 c Dark brown sugar, packed
2 T. Sugar
1/4 c Water
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp. Ginger
1/4 tsp. Cloves
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 1/2 c Pumpkin (about 1 regular sized can of pumpkin)

Combine the two sugars, water, allspice, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon in a 4-cup glass measure. Mix well and microwave on high 3 minutes; stir. Add pumpkin and mix well, microwave on high 5 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate. Keeps several weeks in refrigerator or can be frozen.

Yield: 2 cups Use as you would apple butter.

Pumpkin Dip for Spice Cookies
To one recipe of Spicy Pumpkin Butter above add:
1 - 8oz. Package cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix above together well with pumpkin butter and fold in 1-8oz. tub of cool whip. Serve with cookies.

Spice Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened (I use butter flavor crisco)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. each ground ginger and cloves
3/4 tsp. salt
Additional sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add molasses; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, spices and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Shape into 1/2 balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire rack. Serve with pumpkin dip. Makes a ton of cookies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Powered by Grace

Let me paint a picture of an all-too-common cycle in my life: I stop working out as much as I think I should, then I start letting the healthy eating habits slide too. Now before you get the idea that I am a fitness machine, allow me to clarify. I like to work out three times each week, and I try to eat as much junk as healthy stuff. I have a fondness for sugar and salty crunchy things that come in air-puffed bags...doesn't really matter what it actually is hence the generic description. Anyway, back to the picture. I eventually slink back to the gym and tiptoe past the door to the locker room that has the scale in it, knowing full well that I need an accurate measure of where I'm at before real progress can be determined. I feel much better about standing on the scale when I know I've been being good. Can you relate?

I can see the same method being applied to my relationship with God. If I've been reading my Bible faithfully, being extra gracious to those around me, remembering to pray for the Pygmies and everybody else, I feel good about approaching the throne of God. Like I'm good enough to be there. Those days that I've been sniping at everyone, complaining, skipping the early morning devotions, and judging instead of praying, I feel like I need to hide from Him.

Yes, I know there is no place that I am actually hiding from Him. I know that before a word is on my lips He already knows it. And I know that I am saved by grace, not works, and that my good to-do list is nothing but works. Not that He doesn't want those same things for us, but play along for the sake of the illustration.

If you have been hiding out, waiting until you get things cleaned up before you try to hang out with Him, you should stop. Don't stop trying to clean up, but don't wait to hang out with Jesus. According to Eric Ludy, author of The Bravehearted Gospel, "Grace has become simply a gigantic hug from God and is no longer the muscle of God brought to earth to aid the weakness of men (women, too) and to give them strength."

Come to Jesus, today, and again tomorrow, and the next day, and the one after that. Let the grace of God make a difference in your life, not just make you feel better about your shortcomings. According to, grace is the influence or spirit of God (Holy Spirit) operating in humans (us) to regenerate or strengthen them. I have been writing about the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life lately, enabling me to do things I don't feel like doing, and allowing me to dream dreams that I never would have considered. And I soon as I start to think it is all about me deserving these things, I am, once again, missing the point. It is about the grace of God allowing us to live in the grace of God. Think on that for a bit. You'll get it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Running Free

I have a song in my head today, and a whole lot of deep thinking to go with it. The song is Victory, by Gateway Worship. "There's victory in the cross...I'm breaking free, all my chains are gone. I will sing, until my lungs give out, cuz I have found, I've found...victory." Such a great song to have in my head, and such a shame if all I am doing is singing it.

Truth lives in these words...there is victory in the cross. When we are alive in Christ, our chains are broken and sin has no hold on me (Another line in the song.) Why, then, do we continue to live as victims instead of victors? Need convincing? Take a trip through Romans 5 and 6 and see for yourself. I especially love 6:17-18, which says
"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."
Most of the letters of Paul are telling believers (you, if you have chosen to follow Christ) how to live. Romans explains why this is possible. It is through Christ dying and beating the punishment for sin, which is death (Romans 6:23), that we can live in His victory. On our own, we cannot do this. We can try, but we do not have the capability to live a life free from sin without His help. All the self-help books in the world will only take you as far as you can go. God, through His Holy Spirit, will take you as far as He can go. I could not break the chains of my particular sin pattern on my own; it wasn't until I recognized Jesus for who He is and allowed Him to work in my life that those chains were broken. Not seeing a psychiatrist, not watching Oprah, not singing I'm Every Woman by Whitney Houston...all these things helped explain why I did the things I did and empowered me to want to change, but true change was not possible without the Holy Spirit working in me.

When the old sin wants to take over, Christ in me reminds me that I am dead to that. I am a new creation. I am His and He is all I need. I hope that if you aren't living in victory, but still falling victim to the same things,  you will seek His truth in your life. I can't phone this in for have to do the work. I might be able to say some encouraging things and point you in the right direction, but you will only find God when you seek Him with all of your heart. Hold your arms out to Him, with your handcuffed wrists, and ask Him to set you free. Take a step toward Him with your shackled feet, and ask Him to take your chains.You can do this. I'm living proof.

If you need a new song to sing with your life, check out the one I have in my head...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Do You Need a Gift Receipt?

You've heard of divine appointments before, right? Would you know if you were on your way to one? I had a feeling that something was up last night, on the way to the training I was attending, but I thought it was for an entirely different reason and I almost missed it. When God invites us to take part in the soul work He is doing in someone, He doesn't always wait for our RSVP.

A conversation sprung up with a newer friend (we are moving from the acquaintence stage to friend stage) last night, after learning how to lead someone to Christ. She said that she isn't qualified to lead anyone to Christ because of the things she has done in her life. She can't stop thinking about decisions she's made and how they have affected others. When I asked her if she had confessed her sin and asked God to forgive her, as we are told to do in 1 John 1:9, she said she had. I then asked her what more God to do to prove that He had forgiven her besides give His only Son to cover her sin and give her a way to come home to Him, because at this point she's telling Him that His gift wasn't enough. We both teared up and knew that those weren't my words, but that the God of the universe heard her cry, and answered. She saw that her refusal to stop thinking about her own sins, which had been forgiven, was a slap in the face of God.

The conversation moved on to dealing with sins committed against you. How do you move on? We talked about the sovereignty of God, being willing to walk a path that we wouldn't have chosen for ourselves, for His glory alone. I could see burdens being lifted from her shoulders as we hung out at the foot of the cross together, which is exactly why Jesus wants us to come to Him. 

I don't tell you all of this so that you'll think I'm pretty smart. The whole time we were talking, I was waiting for another conversation to take place with someone else, thinking that was the divine appointment. I almost missed it. Probably only the talking donkey in the Old Testament was more surprised than I was when I said those words. I write these things because I know that I'm not the only one who struggles. We need to go through our godly repentence, feeling genuinely sorrowful for the hurts we have caused, and then stop living in that place. It doesn't mean we become insensitive, but that we live in the freedom that Jesus offers through forgiveness and repentence. Anything less is asking God for a gift receipt, choosing to wear the filthy garment we deserve instead of the righteousness of Jesus that He gave us.

When we insist on holding on to the sins others commit against us, we may feel more justified but we are just as wrong. We are telling God that His perfect plan isn't that great and that He could have done better by us. From the smallest detail, like a nasty comment from someone that replays in your mind, to something so horrific I won't try to make up an example, all are part of the path God has set before us. Adversity is the greatest platform we will have to share the gospel, a living breathing hope named Jesus Christ. Will you allow God to use your adversity to draw others to Him? Is He worth it? Or would you like a gift receipt instead of the blood of His Son?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sleeping with the Enemy

I am unsettled this morning thanks to a dream that I had right before I woke up. Not a nightmare, even pleasant at times, which makes it even worse.

I dreamt that I was in a room like a hotel room, with two double beds, but I knew it was where I lived. It just looked like a hotel room. My first husband was sleeping in one of the beds, and I was in the other one with a guy who used to be a boyfriend. A boyfriend from my unfaithful days.

Did I just hear you say "Oh"?

Kind of puts a new twist on it. Stay with me here, because God has used my infidelity to illustrate something we desperately need to be aware of.

Anyway, I was laying in the wrong bed, and I kept looking over to make sure my husband was still asleep. Sometimes it would seem like he was looking, but he never said anything, so I figured he was oblivious. Conflicting emotions ran through my mind...I shouldn't be here, this would break his heart if he knew, I don't want to leave because I like it my dream, I never left the wrong bed.

As the sleep cleared from my brain, the dream lingered. Actually, lingered is too nice a word. It sat on my chest, making it hard to breathe. My dream was not just a reminder of my past, it speaks to my present, and yours. Before you get all twitchy and tell me your not being unfaithful, let me challenge you.

God so clearly gave me the picture of what being in the wrong bed means. Every time we choose the world, or flesh, as we like to call it, we are sleeping with the enemy. He knows where we are, and it breaks His heart. As in the book of Hosea, when he is called to marry the whore (His word, not mine), God uses that as an illustration of Israel's unfaithfulness. When we chase other lovers, such as recognition, being right, the approval of others, at the expense of what we know God wants for us, we are in bed with the devil. When we thank the world for our money, possessions, and successes, we are thanking a lover, not our Husband. He has given us everything, and it grieves His heart to not be acknowledged for His goodness. We are no better than the woman Hosea was told to marry. 

In spite of it all, He still wants us as His bride. Hear His words to Israel, to Hosea's wife, to us:
And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. Hosea 2:19-20
It shames me to know how I have treated my Husband, and that He still wants me. All I can do is confess to Him what He already knows, turn away from my own propensity for wickedness, and fall on His grace. Such a picture I will carry with me of His mercy. O Lord, give me a heart that is faithful to You alone.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Really Big Ask, and A Dream

Hey there Jesus girls!

I look around at my life sometimes and the blessings God has poured into it, and I stand amazed. All I can do is serve Him out of humble gratitude, knowing that on my own I am nothing, but that He makes the difference. Then I look around at the people I am blessed to serve with, and love that He has taken so many of us from a pit of our own making and given us His solid ground to stand on. That information makes me look at people still in the pit with a new eye...God is not finished with them yet even though they may think that He is.

I would love to write a book that would impact the woman who thinks she is beyond the reach of God, either through her own sin or the sins of others. I want to wave the banner of freedom that is only found in Christ, and that is available to everyone, not just a select churchy few. I'm headed to She Speaks this summer to pitch a proposal for this idea, and am praying that the meeting would be favorable. Be aware that barely anything gets published these days by the big houses, so don't be disappointed if the answer is no. That just means we haven't found the right avenue yet. If I can put this together, and do it well and professional-like (is that a word, lol?) there is always the possibility of doing an e-book and just making it available to people.

If you would be interested in telling your story of how God has set you free, let me know. Ideally, I see this being a 40 day devotional type book, with a devo and a real life profile for forty days. That seems to be the holy number of God, so let's incorporate it. If you know of others with a story to share, and really, everyone should have one, please give me their name. I would love to contact them. By July 10th I would like to have a rough draft or outline to start working with.

I will trust the integrity of those reading this blog to email me at with your story. Just for the record, this is not a money making venture, so there will be no financial compensation if this is published. You would receive two free copies for your participation, retain the rights to your own pieces, and whatever else we could work out with the publisher.

Let's proclaim Him from the rooftops, and let the world know that Jesus saves! Thanks for dreaming big with me!