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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whats the Deal?

Imagine if you will, the sun just setting, bathing the Wal-mart parking lot with rich hues of orange, red and yellow. The air is fresh and crisp, a product of the early afternoon rain shower. The couple, obviously in love, walk hand in hand, smiling at each other as they make their way toward the entrance. The man looks lovingly at her and says with ever so much feeling, "Sweetheart, I love you so . . . " His words are cut short as she stomps in a mud puddle splashing water up the front of his pants. Still holding her hand, he stops and looks incredulously at her standing there with that impish grin on her face and he begins to stutter, " . . . uh. . uh . . . what's the deal?" My, I mean her, response was not what Ned, I mean he, had anticipated. He had opened up his heart to share his feelings with her, hoping at the very least, for a similar response. Instead he got muddy pants.
We are a such a blessed people, living in a free and wealthy country. We have a community of believers to worship with. We have each other. And we have the greatest blessing of all, redemption from sins. According to James 1, our heavenly Father is the giver of these blessings. Because He loves us He showers us with blessings. It is because of that same love that He was willing to offer the very best of Heaven to bring us to Him.
I have often imagined the crucifixion scene. I imagine watching the Son of God be tortured, beaten and murdered for an angry mob, on behalf of the very one with the scourge in his hands, for the benefit of the same one who just recently spit on the Christ, to save the maker of the thorny crown. What an ungrateful group of people! To stand there and watch the dying Messiah ask God to forgive you as you taunt and ridicule Him, seems outrageous to me. How could one not be moved by that scene? How could one not respond appropriately?
And yet, I often wonder how ungrateful my response for that sacrifice is. Do I live day to day acting as if I alone, am responsible for the things that I have? Do I ridicule and taunt the Giver of the sacrifice when I complain about the blessings? Is it my spittle He feels on His face when I condemn and slander His bride? Are my hands the ones weaving the thorns into a makeshift crown, as I waste my talents on making money, having money, spending money and otherwise entertaining myself? Are my actions like lashes from the whip, scourging the back of my Redeemer?
I am sure that just as the first century did not respond like God would have liked, neither do we. Whether we are so busy with worldly things that we forget to thank God, or whether we have become such habitual complainers that we speak without thinking, the response is still that of an ungrateful and immature lover, stomping in the mud puddle at love's declaration.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

But, I Wanted to Pray

You learn a lot when your grandchildren come to visit. Madi is five going on thirty(smile) and Kyle will be three in August. They have been here ten days and we have had so much fun. They have been very good. Today I really wanted to share what I have learned from these two beautiful children.

I have learned about faith:

  • "I asked God to take care of baby Mason and now he is all better, right Grandma?"

  • "When I wake up, you and Grandpa will be here to love me, right?"

  • "The thunder and lightening is nothing to worry about, God is taking care of us."

  • "God made the whole world so we would be special, didn't He?"

I have learned about love:

  • "When I am here, I cry for my mommy and when I am home I cry for you. You just don't know what to do with me, do you?"

  • "Don't make my sister go to time-out!"

  • "We get to go to church today because we are special, right Grandpa?"

  • "I love you oodles and oodles, for twenty hundred days."

  • "God thinks I'm special, doesn't he, Grandma?"

  • "I need a hug--hug"

  • "My mommy misses me very much."

  • "I love you, Grandpa"

  • "Now you say 'I love you too, Kyle'."

I have learned about prayer:

  • "After Kyle prays, can I pray too?"

  • "Dear God, thank you for the trees and the flowers and the sky and my blankie and momma and daddy and grandma and grandpa and baby Mason and Kyle and backyardigans and Remi and Mim and Pop and cereal and chips and milk and birds and swimming pools and popsicles and . . . . "

  • "But, I wanted to pray . . . "

These are but a few of the daily lessons. I watch their faith. I am amazed that when they are afraid, they willingly accept the reassurance and comfort offered and they don't forget it. They remind anyone who will listen that God is watching over them and that the people in their lives are trustworthy. I pray God will give me the faith of these children, that I will believe what He says, take courage from knowledge of Him and be brave enough to tell everyone about Him. I watch these two children play and fight and forgive and then play some more and I ask the Father to make me more forgiving, to help me let go of grudges and bitterness. I watch their complete confidence in the love of God and others. They don't worry that their parents or their grandparents or God are ever going to stop loving them. They give their love freely and frequently. You don't have to ask for a hug, you just have to be available for one. I pray God will make me a more loving person, that He will rid my heart of the insecurities that cause me to seek affection and attention, rather than give it. I listen to their songs and their prayers. They do not care if they sing off key, if they have all the words exactly right, they just sing. And they want to pray. They don't care if the prayer takes a long time. They want to thank God for everything, and they want to do it often. I want to be a more prayerful person---to want to pray and to not look at my watch when the prayer seems long. I want to be grateful for all my blessings. I want an open heart, one that is willing to learn, even from a precious child.

Matthew 18:3 "And He said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Death of the Dreamer

There are few true visionaries in this world. Often misunderstood, visionaries do more than just dream. They work to make the dream come true. They see the dream in fulfillment while it is still a fledgling vision. They share the dream with anyone who will listen, believing it will enhance lives, benefit others, and is always worth the dreaming. The true dreamer never ever gives up on the dream.
Cline Paden was such a visionary. Around 1962, he began dreaming--his dream---that the Spanish speaking world would come to know God. Before long, his dream became a school to train Spanish speaking preachers. From there, the dream continued to grow. "If we can train Spanish men to take the Gospel into their countries, why can't we train men everywhere to take the Gospel everywhere?" This dream would be the catalyst for the now Sunset International Bible Institute and although changes would be made, teachers would be hired, programs would be added, the dream that the entire world would know God----that dream never changed.
As he bestowed the duties of managing SIBI on younger men, Cline spent his days on campus, still working and still dreaming. He didn't need a classroom, for he mentored with his very presence. He served the church and the school and the Lord, and he smiled as he watched his dream unfold, watched it catch fire in the lives of student after student. He smiled as, in true visionary style, he dreamed of carrying the Gospel to Cuba, Iraq, and other places not so welcoming and he never stopped dreaming.
I am not sure exactly how many christians call SSOP/SIBI their alma mater, I know there are thousands. I know there are men and women, of all ages and all races, in countries across the globe, who work hard for the Lord, having been smitten by the dream of Cline Paden. By now the news of his passing has traversed the world. This morning, christians in every nation, are smiling through their tears. This week we will all take a moment or two to say goodby and then we will again be about the work of the dreamer---the work of preaching the Word.
We will never know how many souls were impacted by Cline and his dream. But, we each know how ours was. As the dreamer goes on to glory, he leaves with us the task of dreaming. The dreamer may have died ---but the dream---his dream, lives on in all of us. Preach the Word so the entire world will know. We can dream (go) big or go home. The dreamer, Cline Paden, did both.
Sweet dreams, dear Cline, sweet dreams.


Friday, May 25, 2007


A few months ago, Kara Leverington happened on this site. She visited some of your sites also, and was encouraged by what she read. She began asking questions and a few weeks later she and her husband became so much more than just blog readers, they became our brother and sister in Christ. Recently Judd and Kara have been asking for prayers for some friends of theirs, Larry and Donna. New christians themselves, Judd and Kara have been having twice weekly Bible studies in their home. Their involvement minister, Spence, has been there helping them.
Tuesday night, Donna put on her Lord in baptism. (Larry was at work and Kara asked for continued prayers for him.) Last night, after their home study, Larry was baptized.
Please rejoice with these new brothers and sisters, pray for them, and join with me to encourage Judd and Kara to keep on sharing the faith!
It is indeed a great day!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Storm Shelter

I think God was trying to teach me something last night. He used two children, a storm and the kindness of neighbors. The weather turned ugly just before church time. My granddaughter was afraid, she does not like lightening. Grandma and Grandpa continued to reassure her and her little brother, that we were safe and God was watching out for us. We convinced them to "March in the Infantry" and sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" very loud, hoping to drown out the sound of the storm and calm their little spirits. The thunder, wind, rain, lightening and hail came and went all through services. We prayed in class that God would protect and care for us. During our devotional time at the end of services, our elder spoke of the assurance we have in Christ and the confidence we should have that once we ask, He will answer.
We'd been home just a few minutes when the second storm hit, bringing with it the same rain, hail, wind, lightening and thunder. Again we sang and laughed-----until the tornado siren sounded! Although she is only five and her brother only two, and I think this was their first time with the siren, they knew it was loud and scary and that it couldn't mean something good. God bless our good neighbors, the Harpers, who called and invited us to share their storm shelter. We bundled up the kids, already in their jammies, wrapped their blankets round them, grabbed little dog and ran next door. The children were frightened and clung to us. We reassured them again, as did our neighbors, that we were safe. Before long, the children were talking and singing and playing ring-around-the-rosie, oblivious to the storm outside and the almost constant news on the weather radio. As long as we were in the shelter, they felt safe enough to play, sing and do what small children do. After awhile, we were given the all clear, the weather warning was lifted and we made our way home. The children were afraid again as we began to leave the shelter, and once again, reassurance was in order. As we arrived back home and tucked them in with hugs and kisses, Madi said "I am so proud of God for keeping us safe, aren't you Grandma?" And within a few minutes, both she and her brother were sound asleep. How amazing is the faith of a child and the protection of the Father?

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Feel The Burn

We lived in Montana when Glacier National Park suffered a massive forest fire. We were over twenty miles away from the fire but we still felt the effects of the fire. The air was heavy and thick with smoke, stifling and difficult to breathe. The smoke burned our eyes and made them water. The days were dark, the sun obscured by thick, black clouds. A layer of gray ash covered our cars and windowsills. The smell of charred wood clung to the air, tainting every breath with that unforgettable smell. It was a pretty large fire, started by a lightening strike, and left to burn itself out. (National Parks policy is to let the fire burn and not fight it) It destroyed thousands of acres and drove wild animals out of the park. It was devastating and destructive. It was awful!
"Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."
James 3:5-6
What a strong warning by James! Scattered throughout the Bible, are numerous admonitions and warnings to watch our words, to guard our tongues, to be careful of what we say, and to think before we speak. Negative, harmful, ugly and downright ungodly speech is an epidemic in our country. I was talking with a friend just yesterday about the power of words, their power to offend, to destroy, to crush. We live in such a sit-com society. Conversations are no longer kind and gracious but are now filled with curse words and vile slang. There are no private topics anymore, anything is deemed fit to talk about in public. Most of us think it is okay to make jokes at another's expense with little or no thought to the effect the "joke" has on their spirit. Most of us throw around words haphazardly, oblivious to their meaning or intent. Brothers and sisters, I think we ought to be more careful with our words. There is a reason we are to use caution. We are Christians and as such we represent Christ. We are to be different from the world, that means in our language too. And words can be dangerous! James says our tongues are a spark. They can set the course of a life on fire. Some of us have been burned by the careless words of friends. Our hearts and our spirits have been charred, scarred beyond recognition. We are not the person we were, thanks to that little spark, the spark that changed our life. Some of us are firestarters, we toss around words soaked in the kerosene of crude and lit with a carelessly tossed attempt at humor. And then the fire is lit and the damage is done.
Many years after the fire in Glacier, the scars were still visible. Visitors to the park noticed blackened fields, barren of growth, a few dark, gnarled and broken sticks, standing where the lush, green forest once was. No longer could one see bear and moose, bighorn sheep and herds of elk just barely out of reach. Signs of life were there alright, but now they were difficult to find, requiring binoculars and a keen eye. Likewise the beauty of God's magnificent creation was now draped in black and death, as if in mourning.
The same can be said for the spirit set ablaze by destructive and devastating words. The scars are visible for years to come. Signs of growth are obscured by the wounded heart and the aching soul. Life is there but visible only to the keen and compassionate eye. A once vibrant and sparkling life is now draped in blackness, as if grieving for the past, a time when their confidence was intact and their spirit soared, a time when they were willing participants in life. Bitterness and unforgiveness grows where love and friendship once flourished.
If our tongue has sparked this calamity, we need to repent. We need to listen and really hear the warnings of the Word. We need to control our tongues--whether our words are written or spoken, I believe the same principle applies. Our words can either destroy a spirit or heal one. They can tear down a city or build one up. They can encourage or devastate. Both are eternally significant. The significance is not only for the victim of our tongue-lashing but for us, also. "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26 That says that no matter how faithful I am in attendance, no matter how benevolent to the poor, no matter how evangelistic, if I am not trying to control my words, the rest is worthless. Worthless as in having no value, futile, useless. That is both powerful and convicting.
God wants us to be on fire. He wants us to be ablaze with passion for Him. He wants us to set others on fire. He does not want the fire to be the fire of destruction and death. We have the Spirit within us to set the world on fire for God. We have the power of the Word. Let's be careful that our fire is the fire of passion rather than evil. Both will change the course of our lives and the lives of others.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Day I Died

I recently saw an interview with Jean Harris. Harris now 84 spoke about the day she killed famed Scarsdale diet doctor, Herman Tarnower. The two were engaged in a long time affair that had all the shades of a steamy novel. There were episodes of infidelity, prescription drug abuse and a struggle that resulted in the death of the doctor and the conviction of the headmistress. Harris, later pardoned by governor Mario Cuomo, speaks of the day she shot and killed the doctor as "the day she died". She talks about grieving for the doctor and their relationship, grieving for her freedom, saying goodbye to her drug use, to her career, and to her lifestyle of wealth and prestige. Her interview made me think about the day I died.
I remember that day. It was a cool September Wednesday in Columbia Falls, Montana. I was a young mother with three year old and almost one year old sons. We lived out in the country at the base of the beautiful Whitefish Mountain. I'd spent the day alone with the boys, playing, listening to christian music and reading my Bible. My heart was heavy and tears fell with great frequency. I had been examining my life, thinking about where I was and where I came from. I wondered what the way I lived said about who I belonged to. I began to question where I was going and then, how I was going to get there. The thoughts were not merely passing thoughts, fogging up my mind for a brief moment, only to be blown off by more pressing thoughts. No, they came and stayed, setting up camp in my heart and my mind. I fixed supper and got the boys ready---faces washed, hair combed and clean clothes put on. While I got ready, I sat them both on the front step to watch for our ride to church. That evening's lesson was on Romans 6 and the invitation song was number 633---Prepare To Meet Thy God. I was very quiet on the way home, struggling with my heart, struggling with my sins, struggling with the inescapable consequences. As we pulled into the driveway, I began visiting with the minister and his wife. As my convictions overtook me, I knew we had to go back to the church building. And back we went!
That was the day I died. With three adults and two small children in attendance, in a darkened cavernous auditorium, I was to say goodbye to my life as I knew it, but unlike Jean Harris, I did not grieve. I remember coming up out of the water, I remember the lifting of my heart and the arrival of joy and confidence. I remember feeling no shame, no guilt for past sins. I remember feeling empowered, ready to share the gospel message with every single person I would meet. I remember the overwhelming sense of peace that engulfed my soul and seeped into every nook and cranny, even the secret hidden places where sin and shame used to live. For the first time ever, I felt brand new. My old life was gone, replaced by a new and glorious life--a life with purpose, a life with passion--- a life like I'd never known before.
That was the day I died and it was the day I was born again. I will never forget that day. I will never forget what God did for me, never forget the blood sacrifice. Everyday, I try to live this new life, try to be God's woman, a woman with a message. Everyday in this new life, is a day that should be spent walking with God, loving for Him and living for Him. I will always remember that cool September day because that was the day I died. As I work in the Kingdom, every day should be memorable, because everyday is the day I live!


Friday, May 18, 2007


In my strivings to have a more prayerful life I have been trying to be more specific in my prayers. Instead of just saying, "thank You for this day and all the blessings that You give", I am trying to list those blessings. I am making efforts to pray with purpose rather than just pray from habit. And so, I have been studying about prayer and meditating on prayer, reading about prayer and most of all, praying about prayer. I so desperately want my prayer life to be pleasing to God, an integral part of an intimate relationship with Him.
This process has led me to ask God for revelation. I have asked Him to show me the attitudes and thoughts, even the secret ones, that hinder my prayers. Psalm 66:18 tells me that sins hidden in my heart, sin that is "cherished" will keep God from listening. I had never thought of "cherishing" sin before but the more I thought about it the more I realized that cherished sins are those sins we justify, those sins that are always explained with, "I know I shouldn't but . . ." or "I probably shouldn't even say this but. . ." Those sins are the ones that I continue to commit even when I know they are wrong. I am cherishing them, keeping them in my heart and they are coming between me and my God. I must no longer "cherish" those sins if I want my prayers to be heard.
I also asked God to reveal other behaviors that are detrimental to our relationship. He tells me that when my prayers are asked in doubt, He will give me nothing. (James 1:6-8) I often find myself asking God in a sort of "well I know you probably won't but if you could . . ." type of attitude. God says my prayers will never be effective unless I ask ---believing. God also revealed to me that if I ask for selfish or wrong motives, the result will be the same as the doubting prayer. James 4:1-4 says that if my prayers are motivated by selfish desires, if I quarrel and fight, I will receive nothing. The point of asking God is to get answers and doubt and selfishness only guarantee the answer will be "no".
Proverbs 21:13 tells me that my intimate relationship with God will suffer if I am not compassionate toward others. In order to have a successful prayer life, I have to be benevolent. God and me is also about me and others. I know from passages like Mark 11:25 that unless I stand before God having forgiven my brother, I will stand before God unforgiven. If my horizontal relationships are tattered and torn so will my vertical relationship be.
Through His Word, God has revealed His desires for me. I pray God will teach me to forgive, teach me to believe, teach me to obey, teach me to love, teach me to feel compassion so that He and I may have the best relationship possible---the relationship of Father and daughter, of Bride and Groom, of Redeemer and redeemed. My prayer for you is the same.

" . . .and God heard them for their prayer reached heaven, His holy dwelling place."
II Chronicles 30:27

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In the Midst of Greatness

Matthew 18:4 "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

We are surrounded by false humility on one hand and a striving to be the greatest on the other. It is truly rare to find one who is sincerely humble. Where would we find one who thought of others first, one who put forth extra effort to show God's love to everyone he met? One who went out of his way to make everyone feel special? Who saw needs others were too busy to see? Where could we find such man? I know this man and tomorrow morning, along with countless others, I will say goodbye to him.
Norman Gipson was truly an amazing man. He touched every heart he met. Nationwide, souls were moved by Brother Norman. I met him when I was six years old and my dad was a Bear Valley School of Preaching student. Norman and his lovely wife Ann, reached out to my family. He was one of my father's favorite instructors. He taught Biblical Doctrines and my dad often talked about what a brilliant man Brother Norman was. I remember as a child, being so impressed that he was a walking song book. He must have known every song in every book. He enjoyed singing and would burst into song at the drop of a hat. I was very young and I don't remember everything about that time, but I remember that Brother Norman was a servant, a servant who loved to sing.
Many years later as an adult, I would once again cross paths with this man of God's. It was a wonderful surprise that he would be my and Eddy's instructor at Sunset School of Preaching. Other than saying goodby to his beloved Ann, Brother Norman had not changed. I was surprised that he remembered me. Our friendship was renewed and I looked forward to seeing him everyday at school. There are so many things I could tell you that made me love this man. Today, I am not sure I can do him justice, but I will tell you just a few things that touched my heart then and continue to touch it now.
  • Brother Norman whistled or sang all the time. I could hear him coming down the hall and it always made me smile.
  • He always wrote nice things on my tests. After grading my exams, he would write a verse from the Bible or a few lines from a hymn or just a "I am proud of you." He was a true encourager.
  • All of the single women his age thought he was the catch of the century, but he was still madly in love with his Ann. He was very kind in rebuffing their attention, so kind they didn't even realize he had just redirected their attention.
  • He lived a simple life. He wore the same ties and suits he'd worn for many many years, no matter how out of style they were. He chose to spend his money on other things, usually other people.
  • He smiled and laughed all the time. He found humor in everyday experiences. He was happy.
  • He saw needs that others looked over. Several times when Eddy was in the hospital, Brother Norman came to visit and would offer to take the boys out for lunch or sit with Eddy while I went home to change and rest. After Eddy died, Brother Norman took me out for dinner several times, just thinking I might need an adult to visit with and a chance to get out of the house and not cook.
  • He wrote beautiful songs and often came to my office at Sunset to "teach" them to me.
  • He read and studied out of the Greek New Testament. Seriously, that was the bible he took to church. It did not have Greek and English both. He knew the Greek. He was brilliant!
  • He was grateful for all that God did for him and was quick to express his gratitude for the little things others did for him.
  • He was a servant and did not mind helping with the most menial of tasks. He was humble and willing and always a cheerful giver.
  • When I was getting remarried, he ran into me at the bank. He asked about my wedding plans and when he heard I was wearing an older dress, he said that every bride needed a new dress to get married in. He took me shopping and bought my wedding dress. I will never forget that act of kindness.

Everyone has good memories of this man. These are a few of the many things I remember about Norman Gipson. He was amazing and when in his presence you could not help but feel special. You knew you were in the midst of greatness. He was what God's people are supposed to be. He was the Beatitudes. The past few years have been difficult ones for Norman, healthwise and he has struggled. On Monday, he was released from this life and those struggles. I am convinced he is singing again. From humble beginnings came a great great man and today he is in the midst of greatness, right where he belongs.

I am glad you are home, Brother Norman


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Knowing When Its Time To Give Up

We live in a society that values persistence, tenacity, and endurance. The veritable "never give up spirit" is the fodder for made for tv movies. It is the theme for graduation speeches, Sunday morning sermons and the words written in "Thinking of You" cards. We like people who never give up!
Certainly there are things on which we should never give up. We should never give up working for the Lord, even when it seems fruitless. We should never give up praying for ourselves or for others. We should never give up worshipping together. We should never give up loving one another. We should never give up growing in our faith, love and mercy. No matter what happens, no matter how long time extends, no matter what struggles come our way, on these things we should never ever give up.
But, there are somethings in our lives that have become detrimental to us spiritually and have crippled and handicapped our spiritual walk. There are times when we need---for our own well-being, sanity and even spiritual growth,---there are times we need to give up.
Sometimes we have to give up on a dream. When Eddy was alive, we dreamed about growing old together, becoming a part of the Sojourners group, traveling in our RV, helping small churches, visiting our grandchildren and our children. We'd shared that dream for quite some time and as his illness progressed, we adapted the dream to fit his physical abilities. But we never gave up our dream. When I kissed his lips for the last time and they lowered him into the dark ground, I knew I was not only burying my husband, but that very casket also held my dreams. And I wept for both of them. I knew it was time to give up on that dream.
Sometimes we have to give up our hurt. I have a friend who has been married for almost twenty years. Her wedding was eventful and in her mind "ruined" by her in-laws. Everytime the family is together, my friend replays the entire wedding day. She hopes that by bringing it up, she will be able to show them how much they hurt her, show them how they ruined what was supposed to be "the best day of her life" and that in doing so, they will feel guilty. But, it never works. It re-wounds her heart and makes her angry and bitter. The family, they still think that was a fun and funny day. They still don't see what the big deal was and they feel like she is overreacting----still. It is time for her to give up on her hurt. She cannot elicit an emotion from anyone else. She cannot make them feel the pain they caused her. She cannot force them to be sorry.
Many of us have hurts in our lives, we have huge heartwounds and enormous emotional scars. And it really isn't fair that those who have harmed us go on about their daily lives, as if nothing happened, while we are left to bleed and weep. We want them to acknowledge their part in our pain. We want them to hurt and we want them to apologize. But some people are devoid of conscience, they are oblivious to the effects of their actions and they are selfish. Their world is limited, very small and only what happens inside their world, only what effects them at this very moment, is important and worthy of their attention. We cannot instill a sense of remorse or an awareness of others in one like this. And yet we try! Eliciting an apology or a confession becomes our life work, becomes our ambition, becomes the very filter through which we view the world. And our walk with God suffers. Our relationships with others suffer. We make the other person our focus and our ability to heal is inhibited. But our Jesus can heal us whether our nemesis is involved or not. And He will if we let Him. That may mean giving up on our hurt.
Sometimes we have to give up our control. Control of the situation, control of the actions of others, control of the outcomes. Sometimes it is time to let go. We often hold on so tightly to situations that growth and experience are hindered and wisdom is therefore absent. When my children were small, there was a time when all I really wanted was to be a great housekeeper. I wanted my home to be so spotless that someone could eat off the floor. I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I taught my children how to make their beds and then I remade them so they would look perfect. I became easily frustrated when they brought in dirt or bugs. I said ugly things to two small, cherubic boys with dirty faces, holding out a wildflower bouquet with roots still intact, the roots letting go of dirt all over a freshly mopped kitchen floor. I needed to give up that control. I needed my children to learn to make a bed, the same way I did, by trial and error and gentle instruction. I needed to appreciate my children for being little boys, for their adventurous and inquisitive spirit. I needed to weep with gratitude for wildflowers bouquets, roots and all, even if it meant giving up control.
While this was a simple story with a simple lesson, it is a complex struggle for many of us. We exert so much effort trying to get our congregations to do certain things, trying to get our families to behave in certain ways, trying to get our spouses to feel certain emotions. We rob them of the chance to grow. We rob them of the chance to learn and we rob God of a chance to bless us all. Sometimes we have to give up control.
I will never ever stop praying for my wayward son to return to God. I will never ever stop loving my Lord and striving to work for Him. I will never stop trying to be the best minister's wife and best mother, mother-in-law and grandmother I can be. But it is time for me to give up on some of my dreams, I can dream new dreams. It is time for me to give up past hurts, I can not only heal but can use those past wounds to expand my ministry for the hurting. It is time for me to give up control. God will not force His control on my life. He will take control if I let Him. It is time for me to raise my hands and surrender----it is time to give up.


Monday, May 14, 2007

When God Comes Walking

Have you ever waited and waited for someone to show up? I remember as a child, being so excited at company coming that I ran to the window every few minutes, pulled back the curtain, looked both ways and then sat back down with a disappointed sigh, only to jump back up and repeat the process, stirred by even the slightest sound outside. I am still very much that way. I love, I mean really love, having company. I make all the preparations in advance and then I watch . . . and watch . . . and watch. I can hardly wait to spend time with the people I love.
I can't imagine ever seeing them pull into the driveway and then running into the bedroom to hide. I can't imagine holding my breath, trying to calm the dog, and doing everything in my power to remain unseen. I want to spend time with them and hiding would only come into play if it were a surprise party.
Now, imagine hiding when God comes to visit. Imagine hearing God come walking by and running to hide. Imagine sitting as quietly as you can, slowing your breathing and willing your heart to pound less loudly. Imagine your legs beginning to cramp from sitting so still and silently enduring the pain, refusing to move, for fear of being discovered. Can you imagine that? From God?
Genesis 3 tells us that Eve was deceived by Satan and disobeyed God. Adam followed suit. In their new found awareness, they discovered they were naked and so they made coverings out of fig leaves. Then verse 8 says "Then man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Wow! They tried to hide from God! They tried to hide from God in the garden He created from nothing. They tried to hide from God in HIS GARDEN!!! The text goes on to tell us that God called them and they came out of hiding. I can almost picture the scene.
They hear the footsteps of the Father, Adam grabs the hand of his wife and practically drags her into the thicket. He is grateful to be clothed with leaves, hoping it will camoflauge their presence. "Where are you ?" God calls as He looks at the very bushes where they are hiding. I can almost feel their discomfort as they feel His eyes looking right at them. They keep their eyes closed and tremble. For a fleeting second, they run through possible outcome scenarios, could they run? If they don't move and don't respond will He move on? Could they play dead? Finally, with a recognition of who God is, they step out from the bushes, heads hanging low, eyes focused on the ground, clutching at each other's hands.
What would make someone even try to hide from God? Only one thing, sin! I think we do this more often than we care to admit. We sin and we, "in our newfound awareness", decide to try and cover it up. Our fig leaf of choice is usually a lie. We attempt to cover up our sins by lying, hoping no one can see through it. We do a pretty good job convincing those around us that we did not sin, that it was not a very big sin, or that we had no choice. Then we hear the footsteps of God. Then we hear God come walking and we panic. We avoid church, hiding among other sinful people, hoping we will be sufficiently camoflauged. We try to remain inactive, hoping to not draw any attention to ourselves, we do nothing, willing the small voice in our conscience to whisper, with the sound of a guilty heart beating loudly in our ears. But, then we hear, "Where are you?" and like Adam and Eve, we are afraid, we know we are caught. All the options run through our minds. We cannot play dead, because our God can raise the dead. We cannot run, because our God is everywhere, we cannot hide because our God sees everything. We swallow deeply and we stand, we come forward, tears streaming down our face, falling on our knees and we stammer-----"I . . . I disobeyed and I . . . I was afraid, I am so sorry."
The scenario has played out very much like the scene in the garden but the ending is different.
We are not cast out, we are not punished. Instead, God reaches out His hands to us, (you know the ones with the nail holes). He welcomes us home and He throws a party. We are amazed, we are humbled, we are in awe that He still loves us and we vow to never run and hide again. We vow that we will be ready . . . next time God comes walking.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

God Knew

I remember growing up and visiting with my friends. Like all kids, we talked about our families. We talked about our annoying brothers and sisters. We talked about how handsome our daddies were and we talked about all the "mom" things our mothers did. I have often marveled at how different all our familes were and how God gave us the exact parents He knew we needed.
  • God knew that our daddies would teach us to sniff our clothes before we put them on, so He gave us mommies to teach us about dirty clothes and clean clothes.
  • God knew that hotdogs and fritos would not have enough nutrition to sustain active children for long, so He gave us moms to prepare balanced meals and to convince us that we would learn to like "yukky stuff".
  • God knew that holding a fishing pole or a shotgun or a remote control would not teach us to hold a pencil and pen, so He gave us mothers to send us to school and help with our homework.
  • God knew that other kids very well might be mean to us and break our hearts, so He gave us mommas with soft hands and laps to provide comfort.
  • God knew we would live in a world that was full of heartache, full of violence, full of pain, so He gave us mothers to example compassion and caring and forgiveness.
  • God knew we would struggle as we went through puberty, that we would be embarrassed by our skin and by our hair and by our bodies and so He gave us moms to tell us how beautiful or handsome we were.
  • God knew we would not always win and we would be hard on ourselves and feel like a failure and so He gave us mommas to tell us she was proud of us and remind us that there would be a next time and we were sure to do better.
  • God knew sometimes we would forget how to love and so He gave us moms who love us forever and always, no matter what.
My mom is currently in Croatia for three months. I already miss her but I know she is doing God's work. I think God knew the people of the former Yugoslavia would need some extra encouragement. I think He knew it would take someone with a sense of adventure, the wisdom that comes from years of studying His word, and the courage to speak for Him, and so He sent them my mom. I cannot be with her tomorrow, I will not be able to talk to her on the phone and I will not be able to send her roses. This is a picture of a rose bush in our back yard. I am sending these roses via cyberspace to my mom and all the other mothers out in blogland.
Happy Mother's Day !!!
You are just what we needed, God knew it all along!

Friday, May 11, 2007

There's a Flaw in My Filter

When my first husband was alive, he was a real camera buff. He had the entire photography set up, from backdrops, to lights, to darkroom supplies, to specialty effects. He had many cameras and multiple lenses. He also had an entire case of filters. These specially shaped and colored lenses were amazing to me. They screwed onto the very end of the lens and their job was to add some sort of special effect to the finished photograph. Some were tinted a deep rose, others a smokey gray and others a sky blue. Some had different effects, rather like fun house mirrors. For instance the fish eye filter elongated the picture, while the halo filter made, of course, a halo effect around the photographed subject. Each of them did something different. But each of them distorted the real picture.
It occurred to me that each of us also has a filter. We have our own special lens through which we view the world, our family and even our God. Our filter is made up of our life experience. And it is through that filter that we see everything, and it is through it that we base our decisions regarding behaviors and relationships. For example, I had a friend named Carrie. When I met her she was twenty-two years old and searching for a faith. Upon meeting Carrie, one had to notice that she had burn scars on one side of her face, neck and arms. She was in fact, missing the lower part of one arm and two fingers on the other hand. She did her best to camoflauge her scars but they were still glaringly visible. Carrie and I quickly became friends. We studied God's Word for several months. I could tell that she was ready to claim Christ as her savior, ready to put Him on in baptism, but something was holding her back. I prayed for her daily, asking God to open her heart and give me the words she needed to hear. One night after Bible study, I noticed Carrie was very quiet. She did not want a brownie or coffee and she was not her usual smiling and conversational self. She said she was very tired, she gave me a hug and headed home. At one o'clock in the morning, my phone rang. It was Carrie. She was sobbing and asked if she could come over. A few minutes later she arrived at the door and I could tell she'd been crying for quite some time. We sat on the sofa for what seemed like forever, she sobbing, me handing her tissues and patting her hand. Finally she spoke. She said, "Neva, I know I need Jesus as my Savior and I know I need the Holy Spirit to guide me, but I don't know how to get that without having God for my Father." I was shocked and I remember swallowing very hard, hoping it was not also very loud. We talked for quite some time before she finally began her explanation. She told me that she'd had a very bad childhood. She told me that her mom worked all the time and that her dad was very abusive and mean. She said that often her dad would come home and inform the family that they were moving, right then. They would gather up what they could and sneak away, away from the bill collectors, away from the landlord, away from the job he'd just been fired from and away from any friends she might have made, any support system she might have had. Her dad had a temper and her mom, and Carrie and her sister had often been the object of his rage. The constant moving allowed him to take out his anger on the nearest person, move on to a new job, a new neighbor, a new school, a new hospital. They had all suffered broken bones at his hands and wounds that required stitches. Carrie and her sister Evelyn, learned from their mother and none of them said a word. They did not cry out when his fists and feet came at them, tearing their skin, bruising their muscles and breaking their bones. They knew to take the abuse quietly and then when he was spent, to comfort each other. Carrie remembered a time when her parents seemed to argue more than usual. She remembered her mom asking her father to leave. She remembered the three of them lying in the same bed all night, watching the door, jumping at every sound, her mom holding a hammer, all of them fearing her dad would come back home and the rage would start again.
Their worst nightmare came true and one night he came home angrier than ever. He beat them all, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. Carrie's mother died in the fire, as did Evelyn. Carrie was taken to a burn center and remained in critical condition for quite some time. After many months in a rehabilitation center and multiple skin grafts and other surgeries, Carrie remained a scarred and disabled young woman, a young woman with a broken heart and a young woman with a distorted view of what a father is.
I cried with Carrie that night. We talked until morning, looking at scriptures about God's love, about His providence, about His protection. Together we found a Christian counselor and after many months of intense therapy, Carrie decided she wanted a Father after all. She remained my Christian sister and a dear dear friend until her death in 1996.
Carrie's suffering was horrible, my words do not accurately portray how vile the abuse was. Her body and her filter were changed and shaped by this evil, sick man. She could no longer view the world without the distortion. She could not accept a Father because she had a flaw in her filter.
It took a lot of work for her to begin to see clearly.
Every single one of us has a filter through which we view the world and while Carrie's was indeed flawed, I believe each of ours is also. Its a lot like buying a new car. Have you ever noticed when you purchase a new vehicle, all of the sudden they are everywhere? You pass the same make and model on the highway, they park beside you at the supermarket, you see ads for them allover. You see them in places they had not been before. So either everyone saw how cool you looked in your new car and tried to emulate you or your filter changed and you began to notice all the cars like yours, in the same places they had always been, now just catching your attention. Look at the stories that touch our heartstrings, notice the ones that evoke the most intense gut reaction. If you have lost a child, stories about grieving parents get to you everytime. If you have been widowed, you relate to those stories. If you have suffered or loved someone who has suffered from a terminal illness, you relate to illness related stories of survival. We all do this, it is because our filter has been changed, altered by our experience. This is not all bad, it makes us more empathetic and more compassionate.
However just as the filter on a camera lens distorts the picture, so do our filters. We view the world through our emotional experience. This distortion causes a change in the way we relate or don't relate to others. It causes a change in the way we decide where to put our energies, who to cheer for. It can even change the way we look at God and our relationship with Him, just as it did Carrie. Our filter can cause us to see things emotionally with total disregard for the facts. Our filter begins to form our expectations of ourselves and others. Remember the post yesterday? Sometimes our expectations become so unrealistic and so control driven that we end up drowning in disappointment.
Please let's be very careful when we interact with others. We don't all come from the same place. We don't all share the same experience and we don't all carry the same baggage with us. Therefore we all have very different filters and very different viewpoints. Our goal as Christ's bride, as God's people, is to view the world, view the lost, view the Father and His word and view ourselves through His filter instead of viewing them through ours. His filter is the only one that gives us a clear, pure picture, with absolutely no distortions, no flaws. What makes up your filter? How does it impact your relationships, your emotions, etc. ?


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Disappointment--More Than a Mountain

In the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, California, one is surrounded by mountains with spectacular views. Their jagged peaks cut into the sunset sky, making for a beautiful and uniquely uneven skyline. The majestic summits call out their challenges to nature photographers and mountain climbers alike. Hikers have their pick of trails leading to the top, each with varying degrees of difficulty. A favorite of mountain enthusiasts and host to a yearly race is Mount Disappointment. Cradling Lake Palisade, Mount Disappointment was thought to be the highest peak in the range and the ideal spot for survey triangulation. In 1874 a group of surveyers climbed the mountain and discovered, to their disappoinment, their calculations had been off and San Gabriel Peak was 167 feet higher. Needing to reach the highest height, they moved their camp the half mile to what was indeed the highest in the range. They dubbed the peak, Mount Disappointment, a name which sticks even today.
Washington state boasts a Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming lays claim to a Disappointment Peak and along the Lewis and Clark trail in the great state of Montana, we find Disappointment Camp. There is even a Disappointment Day--October 22 carries this dubious name since 1844 when a group of 50,000 Millerite Baptists stood and waited for Christ's return. Convinced by their leader William Miller, that this was indeed the day, they waited and waited and waited, finally leaving in disapointment, most of them falling away from their faith.
Disappointment, according to the dictionary means to "sadden, disillusion, dishearten or disenchant, to fail to satisfy the hope, desire or expectation of," Given all the feelings in the emotional spectrum, disappointment is the most difficult for me personally to deal with. Over the years, I have learned how to manage anger, grief, confusion, sadness, and most other emotions, but when disappointment comes knocking, I find it tends to manage me. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, knowing that satan can use disappointment to hobble us, just as he does rage and anger. So like I said, I have been thinking and praying about disappointment. I know we can be disappointed in ourselves, in our failings, in our ineffectiveness, in our inabilities. I also know we are often disappointed in others, who have made choices we don't approve of, who have chosen not to listen to our "sage advice", who have seemingly abandoned the values we thought we shared. We are often disappointed when our "friends" say hurtful things, do hurtful things, seemingly unaware of the pain it causes us.
It seems that most disappointment has it's roots in misguided thoughts. First we have unrealistic expectations. We have based our desires on emotion and feelings rather than facts and data. Sometimes, we build up the event in our minds to such a degree that reality cannot even come close--very similar to Clark Griswold's dream of family holidays vs. reality, in the Vacation movies. Our hopes and dreams are based simply in emotion, and there is no factual basis for such faith. Secondly, we are disappointed when we begin to believe we are in control, our way is the only way, and others have no free will. Those of you are parents know that this is a recipe for disappointment. If you are like me, it is a struggle to exercise self-control, much less control the actions, thoughts, behaviors of someone else. It seems to be a pride issue. We have a puffed up view of ourselves and the ways we handle situations and cannot seem to think that there is perhaps another way, maybe even a better way. We are so full of ourselves that our mind becomes narrow and our attitude haughty and arrogant and then we face disappointment.
There are times as a minister's family, that we become disappointed with the church. We feel we preach and teach and minister and example, comfort, guide and offer support, only to feel that we are making absolutely no progress. I am sure most in ministry have felt this way. We forget that the members of our churches and our communities have free will. We forget that we cannot see their hearts and only the Father knows whether the seed that has been planted has taken root. We begin to feel disappointed and we fight the urge to give up. If you are a parent, you know this same process happens often. We tend to forget that there are differences in temperment, coping skills, and levels of understanding. Perhaps we are making more headway than we know. Perhaps we need to look closer for snippets of progress. Perhaps growth should be measured by God and not by us at all.
Then there are times for most of us, for me at least, when I am disappointed in me. I expect better behaviors, I expect more self-control, I expect to not fall into the same trap before, knowing how long and hard it was to get out last time. I often do not live up to my expectations. Do I expect everyone to love me? No, not at all, but everyone likes to be loved. Do I expect everyone to take my advice? No, I know they have a mind of their own., but they did come to me. Do I expect everyone to be nice to each other? No, I know that we are all human and each of us brings our own baggage into relationships, but I am still rather shocked when folks are downright ugly to each other. My expections of me do not allow for my free will, do not allow for my humanness, do not allow for my mistakes. And thus, I am often disappointed in me. You know what I am talking about. I think the Apostle Paul was talking about this when he said he found himself doing what he did not want to do, and not doing what he wanted to.
While I realize it is a part of life, I don't really want to be disappointed anymore. I am trying to look outward and upward instead of inward. So daily, I remind myself that I am a work in progress. I ask God to guide me, shape me, mold me, open my eyes to real expectations, to godly expectations. I ask God to give me more compassion and more patience with others, with my children, my husband and my church community. When disappointment comes, I will ask God to help me see it, not as an emotional mountain but as an opportunity to yield to Him and to grow spiritually. And I remind myself that as surely as I have disappointed God in the past, He has not and will not ever disappoint me. He is the God who always comes through, giving only good gifts, only what is needed for my growth and well-being. He is patient and kind and He loves me. I am ever grateful for a Heavenly Father who never ever disappoints.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Night at the Museum

We just saw Night at The Museum---cute movie. Larry Daley, (Ben Stiller ), takes a job as night watchman at a museum. This will be a life changing job for him as the exhibits come to life as soon as the sun sets. As you can imagine, the movie is filled with action and little snippets of historical fact. From Sacajawea to Attila the Hun, Larry's list of new acquaintances quickly begins to expand. At one point in the movie, Larry is asking for help from the horse mounted-Teddy Roosevelt, played by Robin Williams. Teddy replies that he really can't do anything, he says, "I am made of wax, Larry. What are you made of ?"
It seems that church is becoming more and more like a museum. Pews are filled with more and more elderly and fewer young people. Conversations center more and more around the "good old days" than they do around the struggles facing the 21st century church. Every member is on their best behavior just in case there is a visitor. When visitors come, they are very often impressed with the service, the singing, the preaching and the praying. And generally when they leave, they feel like they got their money's worth. The visit merits talk for the day but then becomes a sort of "been there, done that" type experience. There will be no follow up and no phone calls. And the church continues to make changes and perfect their "exhibit" as they wait for more visitors to come.
WE ARE THE CHURCH! We are not an exhibit. We are not made of wax, not created by man. We are the bride of Christ. We must get out of the building---out of the museum. We must go get visitors-- go get the lost. When they come, they have to get more than a show. They have to get relationship, relationship with God's people and with Him. We have the gift of salvation. We can tell them how to receive the very same gift. This gift will become so much more than a one time experience, it will be a life-changing, long-term event. But, in order to do this, we cannot continue to be simply a part of the exhibit. We can no longer sit back and say, "I can't do anything." We have to decide what we are made of.


Friday, May 04, 2007

The World Wide Web

Ned and I have been talking about the world wide web, not the iniversal, computer-driven, cyber information highway, but the web of deceit spun around the world by satan, the father of lies. Unlike the cyber highway, satan's web came upon the scene with little notice and masked in subtlety. From the very beginning, this adversary has set out to deceive mankind. He has "gently" colored the truth, making it more pallatable for sinful man. He has provided a veritable buffet of sinful pleasures, and we have become addicted to the point of craving more and more. His web threatens to entangle us and choke the hope out of us. It is a web of lies.
One of the lies he tells us is : Nothing we do really matters because God is a God of mercy and grace. Satan is crafty and he knows mixing a little truth with a lot of lie makes the lie easier to swallow. We know that God is indeed a God of mercy and grace. We know that He truly wants to save us. But, inasmuch as mercy and grace are attributes of the Almighty, so are honesty and truth. God tells us we will be held accountable for our sins. (Romans 14:12). He tells us there will be a day when we will come face to face with the Creator and at that time, every sin that has not been washed away by the blood of the Lamb, must be dealt with. God's truth refutes satan's lie.
The adversary also tells us that it does not matter how we worship, if we worship, when we worship or who we worship with. Everyone belongs to God and everyone will get to go to heaven. The inhabitants of the entire earth will be the inhabitants of heaven. This is a lie, spun by the devil to lower our resistance to sinful behaviors, to discourage preaching of the truth, preaching about accountability and stewardship and obedient faith. Again God is a just and honest God and He says in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who calls Him Lord will be saved. His Son tells us that there will be but a few who are saved but many who are lost. The thought that many "good" people would be lost is distasteful to us and so we choose to believe that perhaps God will re-examine His promises and change His mind and save everyone whether they believe in Him or not. That He will reconsider and take every living being to Heaven regardless of their obedience and love for Him. Another lie satan wants us to believe.
The devil just keeps on spinning his web of deceit. He convinces us that evangelism does not work. He tells us that no matter what we do, how we live or what we say, others will not be brought to the Lord. Door-knocking doesn't work. Friendship evangelism doesn't work. Small groups ministry does not work. Nothing that has worked in the past will work now. In order to be effective, we have to change God's Word and make it relevant to this progressive and driven world. This is another lie. There are both commands and examples of evangelism. God loves us and He would not ask us to do something that had no chance of working. He would not ask us to preach, to teach, to make disciples if this were a futile activity. In His omniscience, wouldn't He tell us exactly what changes to make so that we could make the Word more "relevant" ? The text says that He is not willing for any to perish (II Peter 3:9). Wouldn't He have instructed us on how to be successful soul winners? He did,He told us to preach and teach and live uprightly. He told us and showed us that souls who were seeking would find and that He would use us to show them the way. He told us to be evangelistic, but we have been deceived.
Satan also tells us that each of us is but one person and cannot possibly make a difference. This is perhaps one of the biggest lies he tells. All one has to do is read the Bible to see that God has often used one person, one single solitary soul to save an entire nation. Look at Noah and Moses. Look at Esther and Rahab. Then look at Jesus. Our God can and does use each and everyone of us for a grand purpose--salvation. We have been sold a pack of lies.
My friends, we are caught up in the world wide web. We are a spiritually gullible generation and we have become entangled in the lies of the deceiver. Like the fly trapped in a spider web, we are in grave danger. This web of satan is keeping us from feeding on the Word. It is keeping us from reproducing---conversions. It is keeping us from flying home to God. We are in danger.
But it is not over yet. We believe in a God who is a promise keeping God--He says He will rescue us. He says He is the truth. He says the truth will set us free. Praise God for His ability to save us from the web of satan.


Thursday, May 03, 2007


My daddy was a preacher and for the greater part of my childhood, I went to church, I sang hymns and I memorized scripture. I went to youth rallies, bible camps and bible bowls. I am very grateful for an upbringing that focused on God. However, when I became a young adult, a wife and mother, I realized I did not have a faith of my own and I began to question the faith of my parents. I rebelled against God, railed against His people and avoided His worship. My parents had moved out of state and so I knew they would not notice. I embraced sin, even sought it out, although I believe now, it would have found me anyway. While I was not out drinking and carousing and using drugs, I was a prime candidate for the corps of satan. I was headed down a path that would mean the destruction of my soul. I was miserable and lost and afraid and hopeless. And God noticed.
He sent someone to love my soul, someone to remind of the love and zeal that had once been a part of my character. He pricked my conscience and broke my spirit and I fell to my knees, seeking His forgiveness, searching for my faith, striving to regain my spiritual footing. And God noticed. He wrapped His arms around me, He used a Christian sister, full of compassion and evangelistic fervor, a woman without a judgemental bone in her body and together they drew me back into a committed and intimate relationship with Him, back into a relationship with His body, back into peace. Once again, I experienced that overwhelming sense of hope and the unrelenting sense of purpose that propelled me into service for Him.
Sometimes, I feel burned out and overwhelmed with ministering. Somedays I feel like I have been beating my head against the wall. Sometimes my heart is broken by the decisions of those I love. I feel satan pushing, pulling, attacking, aiming to harm and destroy my faith. Sometimes my own selfish wants and desires keep me from choosing the path God would have me choose. Then I get confused, blinded by the cares of the world and I begin to think it truly is about me. Sometimes I feel all alone. So I withdraw, try to hide in the crowd, believing if I am really quiet and don't make waves, I can escape unnoticed. But God notices.
His Spirit reminds me that I am not my own, that I am not alone, and that my Father has plans for me. His Word instructs me, shows me the path I should take, shows me that my God is a promise keeping God and teaches me to rely on Him, to focus on Him, to look to Him. His people encourage and uplift me. They tell me that they love me and pray for me, reminding me that I am not alone. His daily blessings remind me that He loves me and that I am nothing without Him. All that I am and all that I have are because of Him, and I re-learn that it is not about me---it is about God. (Thanks Chris)
When my Lord returns, I have faith that the King of Kings will recognize me as one of His own. I have the assurance that He will take me to live with Him eternally. I have the promise that there will then be no more hardship, no night, no tears.
This journey we are on is often difficult. Times are often hard and discouragement often runs rampant. But we have the God of Creation on our side. We have His promises and His helps and His guides. He is the Giver of strength, the Giver of courage, the Giver of hope. And He is never far from -----us all we have to do is take notice.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

God Has Smiled On Me!

God has smiled on me, again and again! Yesterday, I went to work at the nursing home. The morning was wonderful. I visited with residents one on one. We talked about Spring and Mayday and the beautiful flowers outside their windows. We talked about how amazing God is to welcome the change of seasons in such a beautiful way. My boss brought the puppies and so I carried around a baby Yorkie most of the morning. The residents love her and she loves them. Puppy kisses just made the day better. And God smiled on me.
At lunch time, my wonderful husband brought me a rose, carefully chosen from our rosebush. It was barely opened, the perfect color of pink and it smelled simply wonderful. He took me to lunch to the local diner, where I am convinced one can buy the best cheeseburger in America. We visited with friends while we ate. And God smiled on me.
In the afternoon, we took the residents out on the patio. The plants had been carefully chosen and placed where they would surround us with beauty and fragrance. The heat was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. We all drank root beer floats and laughed as we watched the puppies bark at the spring birds. The birds of course, chattered back and taunted the pups, staying just far enough away to make a quick escape. The fountain gurgled and bubbled and we were all at peace. Suddenly it began to rain. The rain coming in torrents, soaking the residents before we could maneuver all the wheelchairs back inside. As the staff stood drenched and dripping, the residents began to giggle. And God smiled on me.
When I walked into the house, my dog was so happy to see me. She wagged and jumped and even smiled at me. (Really she did !) My amazing husband and I sat together and visited. God sent rain again and the grass hungrily drank up every offered drop. We spoke to friends and family on the phone. We watched American Idol and answered email. My dog sat in my lap, her favorite place to be. We went to bed totally content. And God smiled on me.
This morning, I excitedly begin my day. Because He has made me His own, because He loves me, I have no doubt that today, God will again smile on me. I can hardly wait!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

T-Ball Evangelism

Like many bloggers, I have a list of titles for future posts. As I went over the list yesterday, this one jumped out at me. Perhaps because fellow bloggers Trey and Bobby C. recently posted on a t-ball or softball theme or maybe because of the season, I don't know but today, it seems appropriate.

All children love to play ball. Baseball has been called "America's Favorite Pastime". Movies like "The Sandlot" use kids playing ball as the setting for their stories. During the Spring, one does not have to go far to find a field full of gloved kids, focused on the helmeted batter, or at least being yelled at by their coach, usually one of their fathers, telling them to pay attention to the child with the bat. Parents fill the stands, visiting, laughing and cheering on their children as they make plans to eat pizza after the game.
I will never forget the very first time one of my sons played t-ball. He was so excited. He was four years old and he and his friends had been talking about this day for quite some time. His dad got him a glove and helped him break it in, showing him how to wear it, how to catch with it, and how to take care of it after the game. Gameday came and off we went, the whole family and grandma too---off to the ball field. The coach was there along with two other dads, recruited to stand at first and third. The kids were assigned their positions. My son was placed just behind second base and was told to cover that area. Along with the other parents, we watched as the first ball was hit, it was a grounder and five children ran to retrieve it as the batter stopped at first base. The second batter took his position and hit the ball just inches from my son. My son, feet firmly planted, held out his arm with the mitt on the end, but the ball hit the ground six inches away. Again, children ran to the ball like ducks at a pond chasing bites of bread. The scene was repeated several more times, each time, my boy held out his glove and each time, the ball landed six or seven inches away. The game ended with him standing in the exact same spot he'd first been assigned. He had not moved any body part the entire game, except for the one arm with the mitt. That arm was thrust out to catch any ball coming within a two foot radius.
After the game, his daddy asked him why he didn't go after the ball. To which my son, with all the wisdom a four year old could muster replied, "I held out my glove but the ball didnt land there."
Sometimes I feel like we practice evangelism the same way. We have our church builidings, the sign outside tells the exact times of worship. We take special pains to make sure the lessons are uplifting and encouraging. We choose songleaders with good voices, who can read music and can effectively lead a group. We develop programs and classes that appeal to all age groups and genders. We have up to date electronic helps so that neither our classes nor our worship service will be boring. And yet . . .we don't get many visitors. Our seats are taken by the same folks who have sat there for the last 15 years. The only new faces are those of family members who have come to town for a visit. The only baptisms are the children who have grown up in the church and have now reached the age to make this decision. We all stand there holding out our glove but the ball just doesn't land there.
Just as my son had to learn to go get the ball, to dive for it if necessary, to position his glove where the ball was going to land, we need to learn to go get souls. We have to be out among the community, being involved in their lives, ministering to their needs, exampling Christ, and inviting them to worship with us. Even Jesus went from town to town. He could have stayed in Bethany with His friends Mary and Martha. But He went out to where the people were. His message, its the same as ours--"salvation has come". We have much to tell the world, much good news to share with them. But we have to get it out to them.
Every once in awhile, my son may have gotten lucky and the ball may have landed right in his glove without him moving an inch. But these instances would have been few and the number of lost balls in between would have been many. T-ball evangelism does not work. There are many lost souls---all of whom need us to do whatever it takes to bring them to salvation. It requires action on our part, desire to share the news with them, and a true faith that one day Jesus will return and we will be gathered up to our new home. Let's take our friends and neighbors with us.