Dancing in the Light

I John 1:7 "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin."

Location: North Platte, Nebraska, United States

I am a christian wife, mother and grandmother. I am a licensed Social worker and a licensed Christian counselor. I am most proud of the relationships I have with God, my family and friends all over the world. I have been blessed beyond my dreams.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Cataclysmic Kind of Love

"For God so loved the world . . ." that He made a plan to redeem us with a blood sacrifice. He gave the very best heaven had to offer to reclaim for His own a sinful people. Knowing that many would refuse His gift, He gave it anyway. Knowing that others would accept without allowing it to change their lives, He gave it anyway. Knowing that this Gift, this precious Gift would hurt and bleed and weep for these people, our God gave it anyway. His omniscient sight would detail how violent this sacrifice would have to be. He would see the tears in the Garden, He would see the kiss. He would see the beatings and the scourgings, the whip tails flying through the air, landing on the back of the Son and withdrawing with a tip full of flesh. The sound of the hammer hitting wood, then flesh and then nail would ring out in His ears. The cry of His beloved, calling for Him, oh how it must have pained Him to hear the anguish in that voice. He would be able to see us, the object of His affection. He would be able to see the wishy washy worship of His people throughout the ages. He would be able to see man's attempts to change His words, change His will and change His worship.
How steadfast is the love of our God for He has not given up on us. He lovingly and patiently waits for us to come to Him, to fall on our knees in penitent appreciation. He longs for us to accept His gift, the magnitude of it to cause a permanent change in our lives. How unfathomable is this kind of love? How precious and life changing?
The Sacrifice, a violent upheaval of worldwide proportions, changed the face of religion, changedthe object of patriotism, changed the independent nature of mankind. This event, this one event rocked the world and continues to do so today. The death of the Son on the cross became the very definition of love. The world cannot deny the impact! Neither should we! All day, every day, we should eat, drink and live the death burial and resurrection of our Lord. I pray that this very day more lives will be shaken by this event, more hearts touched by this sacrifice and more souls changed by this kind of cataclysmic love.

" . . . that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life "


Friday, April 27, 2007

Spring Cleaning

The pristine snow of winter's beauty has taken its leave. It has been replaced by rich green grass carpeting the earth, begging barefoot play. The plants and trees are heavy with tiny buds promising fragrant beauty in the near future. And everyday, we are awakened by the songs of beautiful winged creatures whose seasonal job is to herald the springtime. Winter is gone and Spring is here.
Every year, many of us take this seasonal change as an opportunity to do some Spring cleaning. We wash windows, flip mattresses, oil cabinets, vacuum under beds, shampoo carpets and clean drapes. We wash, wipe, dust, and clean everything as if our mother in law was coming to visit! From past experience we know how wonderful it will feel when it is done. We know the pleasure that will be ours when we wake up to a house so clean one could eat off the floor. We know how we come to enjoy the smell of Pine-sol, Windex and Pledge. We like that we would not be embarrassed if any unannounced guest showed up. We also know that just like every other Spring, we will make a resolution that "this time, we are going to keep it this clean".
Perhaps we all need to a little spiritual spring cleaning. Perhaps we need to take a real and honest inventory and clean up a little. First we need to cleanse our hearts. We need to identify our sins and weaknesses, and ask God to help us, ask a brother or sister to help us, to pray for us and then surrender to God's workings in our life. We may have to lift up some rugs to see what sins we have been hiding under there and then with God's help sweep those sins out the door rather than in a corner or under another rug. We also need to iron out any problems we have in our relationships. Whether the wrinkle is our doing or the doing of the other party, we need to put forth the effort to smooth out the wrinkles. Then we need to de-clutter. There are so many things, so many possession, so many activities in our lives that many of us find it difficult to "find" time to spend with God. We cannot have an intimate relationship with Him if we don't spend time with Him. He should be our top priority. We need to sweep away all anger, bitterness and envy from our hearts. Those emotions leave a sticky film on every conversation and every interaction. We must get rid of them. This will require liberal use of forgiveness and forbearance. Most of us see the world through our own filters. ( I am working on a post about this for a later date). Our filters are made up of knowledge and life experience. They are the windows through which we view the world, the church and the Father. If our filter is smeared and smudged or out of focus, we will have a distorted view of everything. So, we need to wash some windows. We need to spend time in God's Word to insure we are seeing clearly and keeping life in focus. Finally we need to dust off our Bibles and get back into the Word. Only in His book will we ever find the plan for keeping our heart clean.
Spiritual spring cleaning is very important. Important because we do have a houseguest. We are hosting Deity. He lives in us and our hearts and minds need to be clean and ready for Him. This may require getting down on our knees. It may require elbow grease and effort. It may require help from other Christians. Spiritual spring cleaning may require all of that---but the effort will be worth it. A clean house is healthy, germs (sin) can't abide here. A clean house is calming, stress stays outside. A clean house is welcoming, goodness and light can thrive here. A clean house is necessary. Where sin lives, God will not. Light and darkness cannot co-exist in the same home. Friends, lets all welcome this change of season, welcome it as a time of new birth, a time of growth, and a time to clean up the place of the heart.


Hab. 2:20 "But the Lord is in His holy temple . . . "

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reclamation Proclamation

Today is going to be an amazing day! After spending some time over coffee with the best husband in the whole world, (truly), I am going to go to work at the local nursing home. We only have about sixty residents right now. Their lives are rich with memories and experiences. They are almost always happy to see me and always very kind. There will be puppies at work, (three baby yorkies) and they too, are always happy to see me. What is better that holding and hugging a puppy? Tonight, I will get the privilege of being with my church family. We will sing and pray together and then share a meal. I will come away spiritually, physically, and emotionally filled. It will be an amazing day.
Today will be an amazing day! Today we can make a proclamation. We can blow the trumpets and herald to the world that we have been reclaimed. We belonged to God and then we were lost. And satan claimed us as his own. He kept us enslaved by sin, bound and entangled, helpless and hopeless. He kept us blindfolded so we could not see the glory of God, or His love working all around us. We could not see His plans for our rescue unfolding. Satan tried to desensitize us, filling our minds and hearts with a constant barrage of negative violent and lustful thoughts. He held us captive, deceiving us, convincing us that the entire world did not extend past his dungeon of sin and that our entire purpose was looking out for number one. And we, we were miserable.
But, Today will be an amazing day! Today we can make a proclamation. We can blow the trumpets and shout to the world that we have been reclaimed. God loved us and sent a Knight in shining armor to rescue us. He burst into our hearts and reclaimed us as His own. He released us from the chains of sin, and disentangled us from the choking stifling darkness of the world around us. He removed the blindfold, allowing us to see the beauty and splendor of an awesome God. He removed the gag and gave us a voice, a voice to sing His praise, the voice of reclamation.
Today will be an amazing day! Today is the day we will make a proclamation! We will blow the trumpets! We will shout to the world ---we have been reclaimed! We were lost, now we are found. We were blind, now we see. We were captives and now we are free. We were dead, now we live. We have found our voice----and today----Today is the day we proclaim it to the world. Today will be an amazing day!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Critical Condition

I have a very dear friend, in a far away place, it's someone you don't know but I love her dearly. She would do anything for me and together we have had much fun. She and I have laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. We have rejoiced at victories and wept over tragedies. She is a good person and I try to be a good person. However, we are not good for each other. When we are together, it is just a matter of moments before we start criticizing everything and everyone around us. We whisper to each other about the bad breath of the salesclerk. We laugh at the mistakes of others. We give each other that sly, "See, I told you," smile when another friend misuses a word. We find typos in the restaurant menus. We talk about strangers and mock their choice of clothes. We rate people on a scale of one to ten. We discuss too much salt in the food or too little taste and how there is either too much or not enough fizz in our cokes. We talk about the exorbitant price of everything and the brazen behavior of everyone. We are sarcastic, condescending and disrespectful. And at the time, it seems like fun.
The problem is when I go back home and lie in my bed, sleep does not come. Although totally exhausted from all the "fun", my conscience nags me, prods me, pokes at my heart and keeps me from a restful sleep. I try to talk my conscience into believing it was really all in fun and there was truly no harm done. My conscience doesn't buy it. I try to force myself to talk louder than my conscience, to talk it down, not listen, force myself to ignore it. But my conscience is very tenacious---it does not give up. I toss and turn and toss some more. Finally, I realize that I have a critical condtion!
I don't believe I am the only one with this problem. I also don't believe I am the only one who wants to get control of this bad habit. You may not personally struggle with this but I bet you know someone who does. Those of us with a critical condition, well we are the ones who don't really get involved in activities, but we know we could do it better than the ones who do. We are the Monday morning quarterbacks, although the sermon was pretty good, we wouldn't have said that way and we definitely wouldn't have used that illustration. The singing sounded lovely but it would have been so much more uplifting and encouraging if we'd had a better mix of songs. When we sing all those old songs, most of our young people don't sing. And when we sing only the new songs, well, then it sounds like a youth rally or something--what with all that clapping and stuff. And the children at church---we are all glad to have so many young families but it is really difficult to worship when the children are so unruly. What they need is . . . And honestly can't we march in the Lord's army just a little bit quieter? The guy who led the prayer for the communion bread did a pretty good job, too bad he didn't look in the mirror before he came to church. Does he really think short, wide, gawdy ties are back in style? It was very distracting. We put forth very little effort but we know if we did, we could do it better and faster.
Oh, the thoughts that go through the mind of a critical christian. While it is bad enough the thoughts are there, usually it is not long before they become words, a part of conversation with others. Many of us remember the old joke about "having the preacher for dinner" ---not meaning an invitation to fellowship. I am not sure we recognize just how sinful and detrimental criticism can be. They say it takes something like fifteen positives to make up for every one negative. I don't think that is enough. I think the impact of fifteen good comments about the church and the worship is quickly negated by one harsh criticism. No one wants to step up and be involved when they know they will be critiqued. No one wants to be vulnerable and transparent when they know their efforts will be coffee club fodder in the morning. We cannot expect our churches to grow when we have so many with critical conditions. This condition is very contagious and without the proper treatment, it is fatal. It is indeed disrespectful, hurtful and irreverant.

Father in Heaven, please help us to love one another, to bear with one another and to forgive one another. Teach us to guard our tongues. Put a stopgate on our mouths when we are on the verge of unwholesome talk. Help us to cleanse our minds of arrogance and pride. Teach us humility. We know you desire a loving healthy growing body. Help us want the same. In your Son's holy name.

" . . . by this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another."
John 13:35

Monday, April 23, 2007


Change is both difficult and exciting. The contract at our last preaching job required a 3-month notice. So, when after much prayer and thought, Ned decided he wanted to leave and go to school, we gave our respective notices. Ned told the elders, as I told my boss, that we would not "quit" working until our very last day. And we didn't. In fact, our last day, after Ned preached and before we left town, we went to the hospital to visit one of our church member's mother. But it was very difficult to keep "working" when we were excitedly making plans for the next phase of our lives. It was hard to stay focused and give our best when our hearts had already moved on. Had we not had each other to offer support, encouragement and reminders, it would have been even more difficult. But we knew we did not want to be "short-timers".
We have all been exposed to short timers, haven't we? You know the folks --they have decided to quit and already planned to move on to greener pastures. From the moment they make the decision, (whether they have officially given notice or not), both the quality and quantity of their work begins to slide downhill. They usually develop a rebellious, defiant and entittled attitude. "What are they gonna do, fire me?" becomes a favorite phrase. There is no more loyalty to their employer, no more pride in their work and their only motivation is getting out. They have a seeming disregard for their reputation and have forgotten they are still under contract or verbal agreement to give this employer their best.
It seems to me that some who have been in the church for many years have developed "short-timer" syndrome. These short timers are not necessarily elderly, but most of them have been in the church for quite some time. Once, they were really involved, working to bring others to Christ, working to mature and equip the saints, but recently, both the quality and quantity of their "work" has been sliding downhill. They have taught classes before, now they don't. They hosted home Bible-studies, but not anymore. They were involved in benevolence, funeral cares, baby showers, men's business meeting, church committees, door-knocking, etc. but . . . not anymore. "I did all that, now the new people can do it." has become a favorite phrase. They truly believe they are going to heaven. They have done their duties and now they are just sitting on the pew, waiting for the Lord to come, looking to greener pastures.
God, our Employer, our Master, our Redeemer, never intended us to sit and rest, and simply wait for Jesus' return. He wants us to work right up to the moment He comes. He wants us to do everything in our power, by His power, to do His will. (His will according to II Peter 3:9 is that no one should perish). In that very passage He uses words like "make every effort"---implying more than sitting and waiting. He expects us to continue working, continue serving, continue ministering, continue evangelizing, continue praying, continuing to press on, straining toward the prize, to keep fighting the fight, keep running the race, until He returns. Holy Scripture tells us that even Jesus doesn't know when that day will be. But, we know when He comes, He will take us home with Him. Until then, our work on earth is not over. And we don't get to say when it is over--only He does.
We have given our notice, we are looking forward to our new life, our new home, our new job.They say "home is where the heart is" and this world is not our home. But for today, planet Earth is where we work. For today, our focus must be the lostness of the world around us. We cannot quit until our last day here. There should be no "short-timers" in the church, only the hardworking faithful, working for the Lord until time is no more.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Fear Finds Us

When those around us fall prey to senseless tragedies and devastating trauma, fear begins to permeate our hearts. The empathetic of us try to put ourselves in the place of those firsthand sufferers. We try to imagine how they felt in order to imagine how we can help them. We play over the scenes broadcast over the airwaves, dissecting and analyzing the situation in an attempt to prevent future horror, only to realize that satan is still at work in this world, that sin is no respecter of persons, and that pain and grief are neither predictable nor preventable. And our courage begins to wane, our feelings of security drain away and hopelessness threatens to join the helplessness in our hearts. We stop sleeping and start crying. We stay indoors, frightened and trembling. Worry, stress and grief become our constant companions. Our minds and hearts are full of thoughts of tragedy and the flood of tears ever present. We become weary from weeping, worn out from worry and overcome by the suffering. Listen to what Holy Scripture says:
Job chapter 11:
  • vs. 7 "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? "
  • vs. 8 "They are higher than the heavens--what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave--what can you know?"
  • vs. 9 "Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea"
  • vs. 10 "If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him?"
  • vs. 11 "Surely he recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?"
  • vs. 13 "Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him,"
  • vs. 14 "If you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,"
  • vs. 15 "Then you will lift up your face without shame, you will stand firm without fear."
  • vs. 17 a "Life will be brighter than the noon day . . . "
  • vs. 18 a "You will be secure because there is hope; and you will look about you and take your rest in safety."
  • vs. 19 "You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid. . . "

This is such a rich text. Zophar is responding to a long tirade by his suffering friend Job. While the theology of the friends is later condemned by God and penitent sacrifice commanded, Zophar makes some very valid points here. First of all, there is a God and we are not Him. We cannot understand all that has happened or all that will happen. God is in control and our feeble attempts to control the situations, emotions, behaviors of others is simply futile. Only our Creator truly knows our minds. Only He truly understands our hearts. Only He can truly heal and comfort our wounded souls. Secondly, He owns us and whatever He chooses to do with us is His perogative, His privilege, His right. We are not our own---we have been bought with a price and should He choose to allow us to struggle, should He decide a refining fire or a spiritual spanking is in order, He can do so. Thirdly, He sees and knows what is happening. Evil is not hidden from Him. His ear is not dull and His eye is not dim. Evil does not go unnoticed. Satan's devious work is evident to the Father of the Universe. And finally, He offers us security and safety. He offers us peace but--notice what it says, ---give Him your hearts, reach out to your Father, stop sinning and do not let evil dwell where you live.

When we make room in our hearts for Him, He comes to live there, bringing with Him all the peace and security and safety we crave. From that moment on, we are instilled with a new sense of courage and conviction. We can stand tall without shame because we belong to the Almighty God. We are His possession and no gunmen, no threats, no terror, no cunning adversary can stand against us. Once again the sun shines in our lives and in our hearts. Our tears are dried and our hearts can smile again. We begin to sleep again, without nightmares, or bad dreams, without fear. We have hope and in that hope we have security and assurance. We are God's own and in spite of the darkness and ugliness around us, we live in light. We are no longer afraid, our Protector has promised to wrap His arms around us and bring us to a new home where there is no darkness and where ugliness is not welcome. Praise God for the security we have in Him. Praise God for His protection, His comfort and His promise! Praise God for His presence in our lives.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dance of Satan

I imagine that satan is having a rough day today. Monday morning, he thought he was going to have a victory. He had convinced a child of this world that he should unleash a horrible rage of terror on his classmates. He convinced him that he should shame his parents and family by bringing such horrible grief to other parents and families. He convinced this young man that he should take his own life after taking the lives of many others. What delight satan must have felt as he anticipated the pain and sorrow that would rock our nation. I can almost see him smiling and dancing at the very thought that many would blame God for this and some would turn from God because of this one event. I can see him jumping up and down excitedly that now fear would be what students learned at this education facility, they would no longer trust, they would no longer be comfortable and calm, they would now live cautiously and constantly afraid. I can picture the pleasure and excitement on his face, difficult to contain, his feeling of one-upmanship, his joy that this time he would be the winner--------ahhh, but his delight would be short-lived.
Satan has been here before. He doesn't seem to be able to learn that he cannot win. When the earth was so evil that God decided to send a flood, satan must have been dancing then, but God saved eight righteous souls. When Pharoah decided to slaughter all the baby Hebrew boys, satan's feet must have started tapping only to stop when a princess pulled that precious basket from the river. Over and over again, the scriptures paint a picture of what appears to be "near-victory" for the adversary. And over and over again, the Word tells us that God thwarted those plans and triumph was saved for God and His people. The tomb that once held the Hope of the universe is empty!!!! We know that!! Satan cannot overcome, he cannot claim victory, he cannot win.
Monday, as the news broke, Christians fell to their knees all over the world. They rallied round the hurting, offering comfort and consolation, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold. Once afraid to pray in public, they held vigils and prayed together, nationally televised. Newscasters who once avoided the mention of spiritual things, now encouraged a nation to pray. Many whose walk with God has been marginal have begun calling on His name. Many who have been "too busy" to pray are now making time to communicate with the Father. We are hurting, we are grieving, we are weeping, but we are also praying. We are not defeated. We believe in a promise-keeping God. We are looking toward the eternal, knowing this horrible event will have no place in the heavenly realm. We have questions but we know we don't have to understand everything to climb up into God's arms and let Him calm and soothe us. We will not be overwhelmed by satan's attempts. He will not dance!!!

Peace and prayers

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pinata Therapy

Ever felt like you were a pinata and the rest of the world was wielding the stick? You have been working your fingers to the bone. You pay your bills, on time, albeit with occasional struggle. You try to be kind to others, although sometimes you fail. You go to worship. You make sure your family is there, too. You serve in any way possible, whether it is in teaching a class, waiting on the table, whatever. You are involved with your children, PTA, soccer, little league, t-ball, scouts, anything your children are involved in, you lead or sponsor or bake cookies for or sell cookies. You try to make time to spend with your spouse, to show them just how much you love them and how grateful you are for all they do. You try to be a good neighbor. You keep your lawn mowed and your yard looking nice. You speak kindly over the fence and help when help is needed. You are a good steward. You do the scheduled maintenance on your vehicles and complete the needed upkeep on your home. You are busy being good! And yet, time after time after time, life throws you a curve ball. No matter how hard you try, you find you are faced with one struggle after another--unplanned for expense, unprepared for heartache, unmanageable stress. And you are left wondering, "why can't I just get a break?" You have tried so hard and yet the world just keeps pounding at you with the stick. Have you been there? Isn't it frustrating?
Throughout my life, I have been the pinata many times. I remember wondering how much more I could take, wondering if God was giving me a "spiritual spanking" so to speak, wondering what lessons I was supposed to be learning. I truly felt like a pinata. And I felt like those times would never end, but they did. They were unpleasant but they were most definitely learning experiences, most definitely faith builders and wisdom increasers. These are some of the things I learned from my pinata therapy.
First, God never expected me to get through negative experiences by myself. He gave me resources, not the least of which is a Heavenly Father who loves me and cares for, who provides for all my needs including a way of escape. He also gave me His Holy Spirit to comfort and guide me, to remind me of His word and His promises. He gave me His Church, to walk along with me, to help bear my burdens, to offer encouragement and edification and to rejoice with me at victory.
Secondly, God gave me the example of His people. Their lifestories are peppered throughout scripture, stories of trials and struggles in their lives, throughout the ages---stories of their victories. If God helped them overcome, He can and will help me overcome. These stories give me hope.
Thirdly, He gave me eternal perspective. He tells me that this life is but a breath. My job is to remain faithful during that breath.There is so much more that our time on earth. There is life eternal, the life after this one, the one that never ends, the one when we live with Him forever. This perspective assures me that there is an end to the sufferings and struggles, and that there will come a time where there are no more. That promise gives me purpose.
And lastly, He gives me memory. I remember the last struggle and when God maneuvered my soul through the storm. When I was standing on the shore, I could still feel the storm, but I knew I was safe and the safety and peace I once took for granted, well, I now have a new appreciation and gratitude. My life has a newfound calmness, a newfound peace and sincere respect and appreciation for God's rescuing hand. Where pride was, gratitude is. Where worldly busyness was, prayer is. Where independence was, dependence on God now is. Where focus was, it is no longer. The energy spent on maintenance of "the important things in life", is now spent on important spiritual things. And life----life is good again.
All of us, at one time or another, experience a little pinata therapy. Sometimes we all find ourselves being smacked around by the world. But, when our pride is broken, when we call on God and rely on Him to rescue us, then we are left with all the sweets, sweets that shower down not only on us, but all those around us. A little pinata therapy---never hurt anyone.

II Corinthians 4:16-18
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal."
(Way cool, huh?)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Convicted by the Cock-a-Doodle-Do

"I would never!"
"Yes, you will---you all will."
"Well the others might, but not me, I'd die first."
"Funny you mention dying, the very possibility of death will make you do it three times."
"Not me---I am not like that"
"Yes,----- you are and it will happen today before the rooster crows."

(Chaos, crowing and crying)

Don't you know that for the rest of his life, everytime he heard the rooster crow, his heart hurt and he hung his head? Don't you know that from that moment on, he had a better understanding of the cost of discipleship? Don't you know that that one look from Messiah, heralded by the rooster's crow, haunted him until he died?

We are all very much like Peter. We are people of conviction, people who believe Jesus really is the Son of God, the Giver of Life Eternal, the Promised Healer, the Savior of the World. We believe that He is our only hope. We have manifested our faith in obedient baptism and a walk in the light. We made a commitment to own Him as our Savior, to recognize Him as our Lord and to proclaim His message until we die.
And then, we act in a way that says, "I don't know Him"---"Jesus who?". We laugh at inappropriate jokes, we rationalize our behaviors with "That's just how I am". We say we are tired or have a headache in order to justify treating others poorly. We fill our lives with everything worldly and give Jesus the leftovers----leftover time, leftover thoughts, leftover money, leftover attention, leftover heart. Like Peter, we say, "I am not like that" ---oh yes we are. Like Peter, we say, "the others might but not me"----yes, me too. Like Peter we say, "I would die first" ---if only that were true. Like Peter, I think we mean those things. But perhaps, like Peter, we need a rooster. Perhaps a good rooster's crow once in awhile would change the way we do busines, would change the way we love, would change the way we live.
Perhaps we could then remember the cost of discipleship, remember our mission and look forward to sharing the message. Perhaps a cockadoodledo is what it will take to truly convict us.

(The story is paraphrased---read it in the Word---Matthew 26)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Building A Broken Heart

Nobody likes to have their heart broken. But, if we live any length of time and have any quality relationships, if we participate in life to any degree, we all end up at one time or another with a broken heart. I am not just talking about the kind of broken heart we get when we are in Jr. High and the boy we like doesn't like us and our feelings get hurt. And I am not just talking about the kind of broken heart we have when we don't make the team. Those events can definitely have devastating effects on a young, tender spirit. It usually doesn't take much time for such breaks in a tender heart to heal. But, as one grows and matures, the opportunities for broken hearts increase. As we grow into adulthood, our world expands and therefore the potential for relationships expand, the recognition of the value of relationships expand and even the expectations we have of others expand. All of these are a recipe for a broken heart.
God has given us the ability to love. Most of us, could at any moment, list a dozen or more people whom we truly love. That list might include our parents, our spouses, our children, our siblings, our best friends, or church family. There are some on that list that we love enough to lay down our lives for. Some who, if not there, would leave a chasm too large to cross--some whom we love so intensely and so deeply that our hearts are forever marked by their presence in our lives. These relationships are sweet and wonderful and we have grown so used to them. Our lives are completed by them--they are more than accessories to a good life, they are components of a good life. Because we love them so intensely and so deeply, we also can be hurt by them just as deeply and just as intensely. Whether our heart is broken as a result of a betrayed trust or the loss of a loved one or because of sin, I believe our hearts break in direct proportion to how much they love.
When our hearts are broken, I mean really broken, the kind of broken where we fight back tears on a daily basis, the kind of broken that feels like our hearts are shattered into the bottom of our stomach, the pieces rubbing back and forth, grinding and cutting all day and all night, the kind of broken where the loss is so heavy we can barely breathe, that kind of brokenness---when we are broken like that, we usually feel so alone. We feel the grief is more than we can bear, more than we will ever be able to bear. We feel that no one else on the planet either understands or even cares. And despair becomes our bed partner, our soul mate, and ever present shadow. Our lives are impacted to the point that our broken heart handicaps us. We don't know what to do. We find ourselves unable to make wise decisions. We are helpless and hopeless and our heart just keeps on breaking.
If someone only had a magic remedy, something that would miraculously take away the pain, that would immediately heal and mend the heart, something that would help us breathe again, love again, hope again. That kind of immediate healing would rob us of the experience. I know, I know, those who are grieving wonder , "why would I even want this experience?" And they are right, none of us want this experience, none of us would choose to suffer this way. But I encourage us to just consider what happens when our hearts are broken. First, we become so helpless that we become more dependent on God than ever. We may reach out to others and to other things to help comfort us, only to find they are ineffective. We end up turning to the only One who can help---that is a good thing. Second, when we are on the other side of grief, we can minister to others with an empathy others lack. II Corinthians 1:3-4- tells us that we are comforted so that we can comfort others, broken hearts expand our ministry--that is a good thing. Third, we develop a new appreciation for the sacrifice God made. We cannot lose someone, we cannot experience the betrayal of one closest to us, we cannot be falsely accused, lied about and have our reputation slandered without understanding a little bit more just how much Jesus loves us. And that is a good thing.
There is a verse in Psalm 51 that says "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart O God, you will not despise." When we think of the word "despise" we think of synonyms like loathe and hate, but the word also means "to regard as unworthy of one's interest or concern." God does not despise our broken heart---He is concerned, He does care, He is interested and He will provide healing and comfort.
We cannot escape broken hearts. Day by day, we build relationships. We marry, we have children, we make friends. We build a loving heart--that is only right. God wants us to love, He wants us to be loving people. As we build our loving heart, we are aware of the potential for heartbreak. I believe this is one way we are created in God's image. He loves us, His heart is filled with love for us, but we have broken His heart more than once. As we become more like Jesus everyday, we will love more deeply and more fully. And on the flip side, we will also suffer more intensely.

"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing His sufferings. . ." Philippians 3:10

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Christians Don't Pray"

Our friend Elaine, called this morning to tell us to check out an interview on Good Morning America, with Diane Sawyer speaking with muslim children in Saudi Arabia. This group of third graders were very similar to American children. They spoke of Wal-Mart, Target and even Dr. Phil. They had typical future dreams, wanting to be architects and doctors. Ms. Sawyer continued the interview asking them about religion. The Saudi third graders had this to say, "Christians are bad, Muslims are good----Christians don't pray."
Wow!!! What an indictment! I mean, we pray!!! We do!!! Every Sunday morning, we open our bible class with a prayer, we start worship service with an "opening prayer". We pray before we take the bread and before we take the wine and even before we give our offering, right? And most of the time, we even close the service with a prayer---sometimes we incorporate the prayer for the fellowship meal afterward into that one prayer, don't we? Sometimes, we even pray during the week other than at church on Wednesday evening. How dare they say we don't pray?
I did an internet search on Muslim prayer--this is what I found out: According to my understanding, "devout" Muslims pray a minimum five times a day facing Mecca. There are many rules or aspects to their prayers. They must make sure they themselves, are clean and the area where they will be praying is clean. In preparation for their prayer, the recite the entire first book of the Kuran and then any pertinent verses. They stand and raise hands, praising allah and then inviting him to hear their prayers. They recite a series of statements usually three times all as a part of their prayer. The usual prayer, according to my research, lasts over ten minutes. The crier who calls them to prayer at dawn starts by saying, "Prayer is better than sleep". Their practices suggest they place prayer above most other activities in their lives.

While I am not promoting praying to allah, I believe we can learn from their devotion to prayer. Prayer is our communication with God---the One and Only God. It is commanded, it is exampled, its success is promised. I could cite so many scripture references here, but you know them, we all do. And yet, prayer seems to be one of the most malnourished areas of our lives. Prayer should not be optional for Christians, nor should it be an afterthought. The God of the universe wants us to talk to Him. We should want to do that. We don't really take prayer seriously. We don't make preparations to speak to God. We don't make time to speak to God. We don't. I don't believe that we, (me, included) spend enough time in prayer. I don't believe that we make prayer a priority over sleep, over food, over entertainment, over leisure, over ________. (You fill in the blank). And, brothers and sisters, we should!!! Perhaps our endeavors are not as succesful because we have not asked God's blessings on them. Perhaps the heart of that soul is not softening, their eyes not opening to God's message because we have not asked for God's intervention. Perhaps our finances, our relationships, our ministries, our own spiritual health, are not flourishing because we haven't asked God to make it happen. Perhaps our church is not growing and our leaders aren't leading and our members aren't active because we haven't asks God's help in making it so. We (again me included) should repent, change, become a prayerful people or -----perhaps, all those little third graders will be proven right---Christians don't pray!!!

"Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God . . . " Daniel 9:13

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pride and Joy

Have you ever been invited to a friend's home for dinner? Excitedly you and your spouse walk up the path, ring the bell and are graciously invited inside. The smells of dinner waft over you and simultaneously your stomachs growl. Just this afternoon, you and your spouse had talked about how much you enjoy the company of these friends, how you had so much in common, and how stimulating the converstaion always is. And lets not forget what a great cook she is!! So, you have been anticipating this evening all day, in fact, you even skipped lunch because dinner tonight would be so delicious. Now imagine, sitting down to eat, only to hear your hosts begin talking about the accomplishments of little Joey. Joey, who is three, and should be in bed, arrives in the room and with a burst of that kind of energy only children possess, he begins to sing, one song, and then two, and then three and then four. The child then somersaults across the floor, he brings in his drawings to show you, tells you his favorite color, offers you his new toy and then jumps up on his mother's lap and smiles broadly. Joey's parents then begin to tell you even more about Joey. He can almost write his name. He is the smartest kid in his Sunday school class and he knows all the songs. The preschool talent show seems to have no end. You are both hungry and surprised but you try to be polite. His parents are beaming because they love to show Joey off. They are very proud of his accomplishments, his talents and his personality. Joey is their pride and joy.

I was reading the book of Job the other day and I began thinking about the question God asks of satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." I can almost hear the pride in God's voice as He lauds Job's accomplishments. I can almost see the smile on His face as He tells satan just how special His servant is. Now, we all know the rest of this story. We know that satan sets out to prove that Job's obedience to God is not love driven but out of a sense of duty and payback. He wreaks havoc in Job's life, to such an extent that Job's very name has become a synonym for patience and suffering. But satan is unsuccessful and Job lived a faithful and prosperous life. We are inspired and encouraged by the story of Job. Most of us have read it and aspire to live that same sort of faithful life. The message most of us get from this story is just that.
But as I read this story, I found myself returning again and again to God bragging about Job. Can you even imagine being of such character, such faith, such spiritual strength that God proudly speaks about you to other spiritual beings with pride and joy? Can you imagine being blameless and upright in God's sight? Being one who fears God and shuns evil in such a manner that God brings up your name in conversations? Don't you want to be that kind of person? Don't you want to be of such character that the creator of all universe brags about you? Don't you want to be God's pride and joy?
My goal--to be like Job, so that I can be my Father's pride and joy--the apple of His eye.

Zechariah 2:8 ". . . for whoever touches you, touches the apple of His eye."

What Preparations?

I have been thinking about the story of the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany. The text, (Mark 14) says she came to Simon's house bringing an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. It was obviously expensive in that it was worth a year's wages. As the crowd witnesses her extravagance they begin to gossip to each other and rebuke her. What is interesting to me, rather haunting, in fact, is Jesus comments to them. He says, "Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing" "She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." Wow!!!!
This woman, this uninvited guest, arrives with a very expensive and extravagant gift. She did not brag to them how much it was going to cost her --this gift for Messiah. She apparently did not ask anyone's permission, and did not wait for an invitation. What a powerful testimony of faith! What an extravagant show of worship---not because of the financial cost but because it appears to be the very best of all her possessions. In a truly selfless act, seemingly uncaring that eyes were watching, not dissuaded by the comments and rebukes, she shows her love for the Lord. Jesus says, she is preparing Him for His burial.
Yesterday, much of the western world celebrated the resurrection of Christ. We know because of His resurrection, we have hope. Because He is no longer in the tomb, we don't have to stay in one, either. Because He was resurrected and ascended to Heaven, we will be able to follow Him to life eternal with the Father. We know that one day, we will be resurrected to face God and our eternal destiny. So today, I am wondering how much preparation we are making for our resurrection? Are we putting forth the very best we have to get ready? Are we extravagant with our worship and praise, uncaring whose eyes are watching? Are we discouraged and dissuaded by the comments of others? Are we sitting around waiting for someone else to show us how to behave, waiting for an invitation or permission? Or are we giving our very best in worship, no matter the cost, extravagantly preparing for the resurrection?


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Secondary Healing

After my husband died, I had an opportunity to return to college to finish up my degree. It was 1996 and I was an alternative student (that's what they call old people when they go back to school) at Lubbock Christian University. I had been having weekly Bible studies with college kids at my house and every Saturday, I fed them breakfast while they used my washer and dryer to do ltheir aundry. Sometimes, I made 100 pancakes and cooked 2 dozen eggs. We spent the morning singing and talking about God. It was wonderful! I developed some very close relationships with many of these kids. Some were baptized, some later came to visit with their boyfriends or girlfriends and after studying together were able to witness their baptism. They came at all hours of the day and night. When they were in need of someone to talk to and their parents and grandparents were far away, they knocked on my door. My boys stopped being surprised to wake up to a college kid or two sleeping on the floor, in the guest room or on the couch. (We were very blessed and in the three years I went to LCU, we joyously witnessed around 32 young college students put on the Lord in baptism. It was amazing!
If you have ever led someone to the Lord, you know what it feels like. You know that you tremble as you stand beside them, witnessing their confession. You know that once you see the flicker of spiritual recognition in their eyes, your heart begins to pound. And by the time they say they want to be baptized, it takes everything in your power to not jump up and down and scream, "Praise the Lord" so loudly that you scare them and the neighbors. You know that days later you are still feeling spiritually high and are still so excited you can barely sleep. You know that you can think about nothing else but bringing another to the Lord. It is truly the best feeling in the world!
I am very grateful for a Father who allows us to be His messengers, who allows us to witness the joyous new birth over and over again, who allows us to feel like we live on the top of the world. There are few things better than being instrumental in bringing someone spiritual healing. To watch the Word restore sight to one spiritually blind, to watch the Gospel of Love make a dead heart beat again, to watch one be completely healed from the sickness of satan is a feeling one will never, ever forget. The eternal impact on the soul once lost is awe-inspiring. But, the newly saved person is not the only one spiritually impacted. Yes, they are healed and they are reborn. But, when you have led them to Christ, when you have shared with them the Gospel of Encouragement, when you have plunged them into the waters of baptism and been the first to welcome them to new life in Christ, when you have done that, my friend, something happens to you, too. You experience a secondary healing of sorts.
No longer is courage lacking. No longer do we wonder about our purpose. No longer do we listen to the father of lies telling us we cannot save the world, because they are too far gone. No longer are we "too busy" to evangelize. " No longer are we content to live uninspired, unmotivated, unevangelistic, pew-sitting, merry go round riding, lives. We are also healed and with that healing comes the insipiration to go out and save the world-----one soul at a time!! And that is both addicting and awesome!!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Moral Limbo

There was a guest on the O'Reilly Factor last night who make some very interesting comments. Her name was Cora Daniels, author of a new book entitled Ghetto Nation. Ms. Daniels' book details how we, in America, have become an essentially shameless society. She spoke about the recent antics of famous pop stars, and said that we embrace vulgarity and lewd behavior and that the stars, whether music, movie or sports, know that in order to get our attention, they must do something immoral. She went on to say that we have lowered the bar of our standards too low and continue to lower it even more.
It reminded me of that old game from the West Indies. Do you remember Limbo? The bar balances precariously on two poles and the object is to walk under it while leaning backwards, careful not to knock it from the poles. I think there was even a song or a chant --- "How low can you go?" Remember?
I have been wondering that about the morals and values of our society--how low can we go? I am appalled that not only are people doing what is despicable and horrible, but then we all talk about it over and over, on the tv, on the radio, at the water cooler, on the playdate, just before ladies Bible class. And the shamelessness continues. We seem to have lost our filter and our ability to differentiate between what is suitable to speak of and watch and do and that which promotes shamelessness. There are subjects now a part of everyday conversations that were at one time considered private and inappropriate for public discussion. We have "dumbed down" our values.
One of the problems with dumbing down our values, (besides the obvious that God never wanted us to live by our values but by His), is that we continue to lower them lower and lower. We have become a limbo nation and those around us could ask. "how low can you go?"
Sin is sin, calling it a publicity stunt does not make it any less sinful. Lying is lying, calling it little white lies, makes it no less a lie. Gossip is gossip, calling in shared concern does not make it something else. Adultery is adultery and calling it an affair, (as if it were a gala or a party) makes it no less harmful and sinful. WE don't even blush anymore and we should.
I know the blood of Jesus takes our guilt away and we can live confident in the faith. But if the Holy Lord, God Himself, looked down on His people and was so ashamed of their behavior, He regretted making them, we can also feel shame and we should. We are God's people, people striving to be like Jesus, and as such we need to be more discriminating. We need to be people who blush. In the game of moral limbo, we need to be able to make it under the bar, standing up straight!!!!

Ezra 9:6 "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Charisma of the Message

Consider the following verses:
Isaiah 53:2b "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him."
Mark 1:45 "As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in the lonely places. Yet the people still came to Him from everywhere."
Mark 2:2 "So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door when He preached the word to them."
Mark 2:13 "Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to Him."
Mark3:7 "Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed."
Mark 3:20 "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples were not even able to eat."

The passages which speak of large crowds and multitudes following Jesus are too numerous to list. But, just read the book of Mark, and you will be amazed at how many followed Jesus.
What makes people want to follow another? Some believe it is charisma. One of the definitions of charisma is "a magnetism that draws people in". We all know people with charisma. My brother has it oozing out of every pore. He is a terrific salesman. In fact, he has been told he "could even sell ketchup popsicles to an eskimo in a wedding dress". He is that good! Everyone who meets him is smitten by his charm. He smiles and waitresses bring free pie. He speaks and men practically beg to partner with him in business endeavors. He has always been that way, even at a young age, talking my sister and I into doing his paper route and somehow owing him for the privilege! Everyone wants to be his friend and he is never alone. He has charisma!
The verse in Isaiah makes me think Messiah did not have this same kind of charisma. It says He had nothing that we should be attracted to. And yet, crowds followed Him everywhere. There was obviously some type of charisma, some kind of magnetism that drew crowds to Him. So what was it?
I believe one of the things that drew the crowds was the evident authority in His message. Over and over again, we are told "He spoke as one having authority". There was something different about His message. There was something different about His teaching. There was more substance, more value, more genuine-ness. It came from God. He had a message of authority. And thousands of people responded to the charisma or pull of that message.
He also had a message of healing. The verses above are just a few that show that His ability to heal was a drawing point for the crowds. The message that He could and would cast out demons, restore health, restore sight, restore life, spread quickly and He was mobbed by those needed His healing. That message of healing was a type of charisma, pulling the crowds to Him.
Many also came because He offered a message of hope. For four hundred years, God had been silent, not speaking to His people. And yet, they hoped, hoped for the promised Messiah, for the rescue He would bring. They were tired of being captives in their own land, an occupied people. They were tired of living by the rules and laws of countries other than their own. They were tired of trying to please another king. Jesus brought with Him the idea that life on earth is not all there is. He brought with Him the assurance that God still has a chosen people and they will one day be the heirs to a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom with only God as king. He offered the blood that would free them from sin and punishment, free them from sin's captivity. This message of hope was just what they needed and they followed in droves. They responded to the charisma of His message.
It seems that we too, should be converting the multitudes. We too, should have a message full of charisma. The Great Commission tells us that when we make disciples, when we baptize, when we teach---we are doing so in His name or by His authority. Our message is different from the self-serving message of the entertainment industry. We have a message of authority. It is God's message, His words we share. We also have a message of healing. Where sin and it's ravages are present, we bring the cleansing and healing blood of Jesus. We bring life where death once was. We bring light where the darkness of sin once kept us stumbling and falling. We bring healing waters and the bread of life. We bring a message of healing. That makes our message charismatic. And of course, we have the message of hope. The world no longer has to die in sin. They no longer have to face eternal punishment. They no longer have to worship the prince of darkness. We have Messiah, Redeemer, Sacrificial Lamb, the propitiation of sins. We have the assurance that this life is but a breath and after that ----eternity with God. That is indeed a message of hope.
This message is still what the multitudes need. And yet, most of us can go into the city without being mobbed. Few of us have ever been so surrounded by listeners that someone had to be lowered through the roof. And seldom do we get so busy with lost people that we have no time to eat. So perhaps this message is outdated. Perhaps it does not fit in our society today. FOX News has an advertisement that says "America has problems but America is not the problem"
Brothers and sisters, the message is not the problem. The problem is the messengers. We have to speak up, share the message. We must believe we have what the world needs. We must be willing to share it everyone and anyone. We don't have to have charisma to win the world. The message will do it for us.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


He knew he was dying. Every bone and muscle and tissue in his body hurt. He hurt when he walked and when he sat still. He struggled through each and every minute, laboring to breathe, the oxygen tank and canula his ever present companions. He hadn't been able to sleep for many days, the increasing pain keeping his exhausted body from resting. He knew he was not long for this world. He knew it was just a matter of days before he would leave his young wife and their two sons. But oh, how he wanted to stay.! He remembered he had come this close---even closer, several times before, but this time, it was different. He knew this time, it really would be good-bye.
But, tomorrow was a special day. No, it wasn't the day the hospice nurse came-- that was Thursday. And it wasn't the day the doctor would try to hospitalize him again. (That time was soon coming) And it wasn't the day they would up his morphine, although that would perhaps allow him to get the rest his weakened body now craved. No, tomorrow was not the day for those things.
He knew he must make plans. He knew this time--this one last time, it had to be really special. He would have to call in some favors. He made the first call to friends, telling them he needed their help if he were to pull this off. He had to rest between calls, lying back in his chair, gasping and sucking the oxygen into his dying, air starved lungs. The second call was to a restaurant. He asked for a table in the back, in a darkened corner, someplace where an oxygen tank would be out of the way and not too noticeable. They assured him everything would be ready for tomorrow. He leaned back in the recliner and smiled. Yes, tomorrow would be a special day.
The next morning, he sent her on an errand so he could share his plans with his sons, gaining their conspiracy and eliciting from them a promise of silence. Together they began to put the plan in place. He smiled as she looked almost relieved when the boys told her they had both been invited to a friend's house for dinner that night. They were supposed to go early to jump on the trampoline and play video games. Smiling slyly, the boys kissed their parents good by and off they went for an evening of fun and friends. After they left, she asked if he needed anything---he didn't. She plopped down on the couch, laid her head back and closed her eyes. Sadly he thought how much his illness had aged her. It was difficult to see her so young and so worried, so tired. She caught him watching her and immediatley jumped up with an offer to get him something. He said what he really wanted was to go for a ride. She looked surprised but could tell it was something he had his heart set on. She busied herself making all the preparations it now took to take him places. To be honest, he really didn't feel like going anywhere, but earlier he had taken extra medications so that he could carry out this plan. She helped him to the car, stowed the chair and the oxygen tank. (He wished his insurance had paid for one of those little portables). She asked where he wanted to go and he said, "Just drive". They drove around for awhile and he asked her to pull into the local steakhouse. She looked confused and worried. He smiled and said he had been planning this for two days and he really wanted to take her out to dinner to celebrate. She helped him into the restaurant where he gave his name and the waitress escorted them to their table. It took everything he had to make it to their table, back in the darkened corner with enough room to stash the oxygen tank where no one could see, just as he had requested. His bride smiled and began to cry when she saw the roses and the candles. She was surprised, touched, and confused. How had he done this?
His pain was almost unbearable as they ordered their food. His hands shaking, he willed himself to make it through the meal. After all, it was a celebration. The food came and with tears in his eyes, he asked for her understanding. In spite of extra medications, the pain was just too much and would she be upset if they took the meal to go and ate at home? They quickly had the waitress box up the food. She helped get them to the car, roses, food and all. By the time they reached the house, he was unable to help her get him out of the car. They were fortunate that a neighbor, who often helped them, was available. Together the two of them got him into the house and helped him into the recliner. His wife sat with him and held his hand. He could not get enough air to tell her that he loved her and how sorry he was he had not been able to give her this special night. But she didn't need to hear the words. After seventeen years of marriage, she understood the sentiments conveyed by his eyes and tears. And they wept together.
Ten days later, he would be gone, leaving her to raise two boys. The next ten days would be very difficult, days they would try so desperately to forget. But after twelve years, the pain and anguish, the desperation and the heartbreak would all be less memorable. Oh, but that night, that special night would never be forgotten. Although he did not feel like it, although it took everything he had and more besides, although it did not quite go as he'd planned, she would never forget their seventeenth wedding anniversary. The steak dinner--$22.00, the roses--$35.00, sacrificial love---priceless!


I try to make a spiritual analogy to everyday things in my life. I don't think I need to with this one--I will leave it up to each of you--