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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Stingy Grace

If you look up the word, "stingy" (stinjee) in the dictionary, you will find the following definitions: "miserly, stressing a pathological pleasure in acquiring and hoarding", "mean, ungiving, penurious", "scanty, meager", and "a small minded, ignoble way that leads to miserable, cheerless living." There are several other definitions but you get the jist of the word.
Recently, Ned and I have been forced to deal with several situations wherein one or both parties are very stingy with their grace. I am amazed that we so readily forget just how much God has done for us. When we find ourselves withholding our gifts because someone has offended us, withdrawing our participation because we are not getting our way, or disengaging ourselves from our Christian family because we simply don't agree with everyone, I believe we are exhibiting all of the negative words that define the word "stingy".
In the past few weeks I have personally heard discussions about whether or not the church should be benevolent and offer help to those who are not a part of the body. I have heard conversations about whether or not we should give the same recognition to members who are very involved as we do those on the fringe. I have been privy to an argument about how much we should actually reach out to an unwed mother in our congregation, because our help to her might be misconstrued as approval of her situation. Where is grace? Have we forgotten that we were lost in sin and wallowing in unrighteousness and Someone (God) had compassion on us? Is our memory so short that we have forgotten how He loved us anyway and loved us enough to die for us? He was generous with His grace and yet we tend to hold on to ours, saving it for only those we deem "worthy". How sad is that? It seems that too often we behave as if we only have a limited supply of grace and must therefore hoard it or be very selective about who receives it. Don't we know that grace never runs out? That so long as we walk in the light, His grace and mercy continually makes us clean and whole? Have we never read Luke 6:38? "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." In the context, Jesus is speaking to His disciples about judging and condemning, giving and forgiving. He is telling them how to act like His disciples and He talks about generosity.
Maybe I am just incredibly naive but I believe the things, the money, the time, the possessions, we have do not belong to us--they belong to God and He, out of His generosity gives them to us. He expects us to share these gifts with others, to use them to further the message of redemption and saving love. I truly believe, and I believe scripture teaches that when we give graciously and generously, we receive in abundance and will not be in want. Grace will not run dry---but will constantly be renewed and refilled by the blessed Giver. Why then do we hoard our grace?Why do we base our giving on whether or not the person deserves it or what their response will be? If they misuse our gift, that is between them and God. We are accountable to Him only for our response to their need!
I want to be kind and gracious, full of compassion and mercy. I want to be a good steward of what God gives me, but I want to be a true giver. I realize that as long as we are stingy with our grace, we will live "a miserable and cheerless" life. Let's live this week, this month, this year, this life as people who are known for our generous grace! What do you say?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wonderful Wyoming

I was born in Wyoming and raised just over the state line in Northern Colorado. I got used to living in the mountains, seeing wildlife in my front yard and falling asleep to the peaceful sounds of the river. This past weekend, I was blessed enough to relive those childhood experiences. I was honored to be the speaker for a retreat sponsored by the Worland Church of Christ. Resting on the Western slope of the Big Horn Mountains, Worland is everything beautiful I remember from my childhood. The retreat was held at nearby Circle J camp in tiny Ten Sleep. (The circle J is a reminder that Jesus is to be the center of all that happens there.) With the red rock cliffs on one side and the rambunctious Platte river on the other, the camp is surrounded by the majesty of creation. While we were there, the snow came--someone said there was a total of 8 inches. All I know is that it was white and pure and very beautiful, the perfect setting for the deer that boldly ambled into camp. It was so peaceful and awe-inspiring and the scenery alone would have been enough to make it a great weekend!
But my God gives me more than enough! I am always, always impressed that Father God takes just the right mixture of relationship and setting to inspire and encourage. The women came from Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. They represented every age group, lifestage and marital status. Some were friends of my parents when they attended Bear Valley School of Preaching, some had lived in North Platte and worshipped with us there, some had heard me speak at the Casper retreat a few years earlier and some I had never met before. They were so very beautiful, these sisters of mine. They each encouraged and inspired me---from the prayers to the songs, to the fellowship and fun, I left the retreat wanting to do better at being a woman of God---wanting to be more bold in proclaiming His love, desiring more compassion and praying for a gentler spirit and gracious attitude. I left there grateful that God made me part of a community of believers and that He had allowed me to be the recipient of such an outpouring of Christian love and community.
The retreat was over just after lunch on Saturday and we returned to Worland. Ned and I were given the blessing of staying with our good friends, the Mayas. We laughed and ate and prayed and sang! It was so wonderful---I knew that this was just a taste of what Heaven would surely be like---all of the very best things God has, just for our pleasure! Sunday morning we were able to worship with the Worland congregation. What a gift this body is---to each other and to those who visit. The love and concern, the feeling of family is tangible and truly wonderful!
Goodbyes and tears and we began the ten hour journey home. The time passed quickly because we travelled with a godly Christian couple who love and mentor us and who always seek out the spiritual best of those they love. We arrived home just before midnight--excited, tired and inspired. What a great weekend!
When I was a child, the signs at the border of Wyoming said, "Wonderful Wyoming" and that is exactly how I found it to still be. God is so good to me and the blessing of this past weekend just reiterates what I know to be true---I am His favorite child! I am His favorite child! :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Born Hungry

This is the time of year when the birds are building nests and laying eggs. I love Spring! Our church building serves as home to mother robin. She returns every year to build a nest in the windowsill of one of our classrooms. It is wonderful for our children to watch as this mother diligently builds and shapes and builds and shapes her nest. The kids can hardly wait to see how many eggs she will lay this year. And then before long, there are babies! (One year, we were excited to watch the babies hatching DURING our Sunday School class) There are so many lessons our children and adults alike, learn from watching these creatures. We talk about what an amazing God who could create something like this. We talk about how He cares for these birds, providing just what they need, and how He loves us even more. We talk about the way the momma bird feeds and protects her babies until they are mature and then they are pushed out of the nest to fly on their own. Each year, we look forward to the arrival of this momma bird --it is something we never tire of.
One of the things that strikes me about these birds (besides the fact that they are born really ugly) is that they are always born hungry. It is a matter of mere seconds after their birth before they begin squawking, little mouths open, begging for their mother to provide some sustenance. It seems that most creatures are born that way--it is usually not long after birth that puppies and kittens are nuzzling up their mothers and before long human children are put to the breast, cradled in mother's arms, needing sustenance. Even we are born hungry!
I believe we are born hungry---I believe we want mother's milk. I believe we are created with an appetite for that which we need---food, water, love! But, I also know that appetite can be changed--substitutions can be introduced, a taste can be developed and that which we crave can be changed. Isn't that exactly what happens to us spiritually?
I suppose one could read yesterday's post along with todays and be able to tell what is on my mind. They are similar---but I can't seem to help myself. I am concerned about the changing appetites of our society. Think about our seeming insatiable hunger for reality television? How could that be healthy? Not only do we all watch it but we set our schedules around it so we won't miss it, and we pay more of our hard earned money so we can afford to tivo that which we cannot schedule around. We can't seem to get enough scandal, enough gossip or enough of other's dirty little secrets. (Whatever happened to that obscure little verse that says love keeps no record of wrong and does not rejoice in evil?) Why is it evil that whets our appetites? Why is is sin we are hungry for?
I believe satan molds and shapes our appetites as much as we allow him to do so. He will convince us that a day without television is a bad day. He will convince us that we need to know what is going on in the life of Britney Spears and Barak Obama. He will tell us that informed intelligent people need to be acquainted with all the skeletons in everyone's closet. And then, he will give us a taste--just enough to make us hungry for more. And taa-daaa, we have a new hunger, a learned hunger!
Just as babies can develop a taste for cokes and cookies, so can Christians develop a taste for sin and smut. But the only way it happens is with constant exposure. My husband and I were talking about beer one time. I told him I didn't understand what the appeal was. I have never tried beer because I can't get past the horrible smell. Ned said very few people become alcoholics because they like the taste of alcohol. He says most people think the first taste is awful but the more they taste, the more they like. (So, you have to deaden your senses completely in order to enjoy a bad habit?) Please don't hear me say if you drink beer you are going to hell---that is not what I am saying! I am saying that if Ned is right---it is an acquired taste. I would think cigarettes would be the same way, since most people hack and cough and almost get physically ill the first time they try one. We have to develop the appetite.
Don't you think sin is the same way? I would bet that most of us would be repulsed by our first foray into the porn world and yet there is a huge percentage of Christians who are addicted to pornography. Most sinful behaviors are uncomfortable if not down right repulsive the first time and then whether it is the thrill of the adrenalin rush that accompanies being naughty or the after effects of the sin itself---most of us are able to squelch our conscience and embrace our new hunger.
I have a friend who suffered some pretty severe cardio problems. After surgery and rehab, the entire family changed their eating habits. They eat low fat, low salt and low cholesterol foods. At first they didn't like the taste, because their taste buds had grown accustomed to french fries and potato chips. But now, they like it? They say they do--and they don't seem to notice that their food all tastes like cardboard--really! Now, I know that they are doing the right thing--and they feel so much better since they started eating tofu and other things that even ketchup doesn't make yummy! The point is, they were able to change their appetites--instead of craving barbecued chips, they can hardly wait to get home and eat some carrots! They learned to hunger for something wholesome!
Spiritually we can do the same thing! Our minds have only so much room! We choose what goes in and in essence then choose what comes out! We have allowed the world and its evil king to decide what we have an appetite for! David in the Psalms talks often about his hunger for the words and laws of God. He talks about his desire to absorb God's goodness through His statutes and precepts. David had obviously developed quite an appetite! Perhaps it is time we put some effort into shaping and reshaping our appetites. We must crave Him and His word! It is time we got really hungry----and developed wholesome spiritual appetites. After all, right out of the waters of baptism, most of us couldn't get enough of God, His people or His word! We were simply born hungry! As our appetites changed so did our spiritual health. Poor spiritual nutrition means we are prey to more and more spiritual diseases and we are less able to fight off evil. We need to feed ourselves better--and more often than three times a week! Let's work together to change our appetites, to become a hungry, hungry nation!

Monday, April 14, 2008

". . .your heart's desire."

Psalm 37:4 "Delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desire." This has long been my favorite verse. I find myself singing it throughout the day, reminding myself to focus on delighting in Him and occasionally, I must admit, checking and re-checking what exactly is on the "HD List". The older I get the more changes I notice in my heart's desire list and to be honest, the fewer items there are on the list. I think about the verse, the list and mostly the delighting--often. In fact, most of today was spent in revelling in the joy that comes from belonging to Him and being one of His! Not a day goes by that I am not blessed far, far beyond that which I deserve and yet, He keeps giving and blessing and loving me all the more.
As I was thinking about this today, I had a phone call from a very old friend. She is not a member of the church, much to my sadness, but our friendship has remained true. As is her custom, her phone call began with the new car she'd purchased, then progressed to the house they are building once they return from their cruise. Over and over again, intermingled with lists of more and more new purchases, she told me just how busy and how very happy she was. She said that for once in her life, she "had almost everything she wanted" and she said "it must be Karma".
It was interesting that like me, she also had her heart's desire. It made me think. I wondered if perhaps everyone gets what is on their list. Okay, I didn't wonder it for long--after all, I am a social worker. Well, perhaps she'd simply adjusted her list to match what she already had----nah! That is the secret to contentment and I didn't mention that she still had some things on her wishlist. So, how could it be, that both of us, living entirely different lives, could both be content and both feel we had received our heart's desire?
I remembered that we'd had similar conversations in the past----and her list five years ago had many of the very same items on it. She was in love (different husband, that time), they had just purchased a new Escalade. had moved into a new house and were planning a trip to Vegas. If I remember correctly, even then, she thought she'd received "almost everything she ever wanted". And she sounded very very happy--truly she did--both times.
And so I wondered, if she wasn't ever really happy---or if she just became unhappy? Or if her tastes changed? If the joy she felt just went away and her heart no longer desired the same things. No, I think what happened was the things she delighted in, the things that brought her joy were earthly things. Earthly things, according to scripture, are disposable and corruptible. So it would make sense that should it be corruptible things that delight our hearts, the feeling of joy and contentment would be transient and sort of up for renegotiation, if you know what I mean. I believe we can convince ourselves to be happy--that we can talk ourselves into believing our life is good when it is really not and that we can be convicted that a new car, a new dress, a new attitude, a new man, a new address, whatever, will be just what we need to get just what we want. And as we continue to delight in worldly things, it is the worldly desires that get fulfilled-----and then fade away.
Notice the part of the text that tells us just who to delight in--"Delight in the Lord"---and when we do--our heart's desires change---when we focus on the spiritual--it is the spiritual things that make us happy! And as we continue delighting in Him, He delights in giving us our heart's desires. The desires of a spiritual person--the desires that never fade and never die--for they are eternal, redemptive and beautiful.
PS--Thank you for your prayers--I am doing well--unless this post makes absolutely no sense to anyone and then . . . I am still on pain meds! :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Update on Neva...

Hi, this is Traci, Neva's daughter in law and I just got off the phone with her. She is doing really well. They got the entire cyst out and it was fast growing so it was a good thing that they got it so quickly. They tested it and it was benign, so praise God for that!

She is in some pain from the surgery but nothing like the pain she's had so she's feeling good. She may not get out of the hospital until Saturday and they are having really bad weather so pray that they can get home safe and sound once they are on their way.

Thanks again from all of us for all of your prayers.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request--Update

I have been suffering with some back pain for the past month. Physical therapy and medications are not helping. Saturday was a very tough day, spent in the local urgent care center. I was sent to the hospital for an MRI. The results were in at 1:30 pm today. It seems I have a 9cm mass on the my L4-L5 nerve root. I was sent to my internist who made a referral and am scheduled for neurosurgery at 10:30 tomorrow morning in Kearney NE. I would appreciate all your prayers. I want to heal quickly so I can be about the Lord's work with little interruption.

We have returned from the preop stuff--I am scheduled for surgery Thursday morning at 6am. I will be in the hospital for a couple of days depending on how difficult it is to extricate the cyst from the nerve roots. We are praying it is a synovial cyst--we have been assured that is the best kind to have--almost always benign and seldom return. However, there is much he does not know until he gets in there. He says the odds are good there will be no paralysis or permanent nerve damage. He recommends 6 weeks down time--I am praying for much less. Thank you all for your prayers---please continue to remember us.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

When the devil gives you lemons . . .

. . . God gives you flowers! I just have to share with you the most amazing blessing! It seems that a local supercenter type store has very specific rules regarding their floral shipments. If the truck is more than 30 minutes late, the flowers are considered unusable and are disposed of. This very thing happened yesterday---but rather than dispose of the flowers, 12-14 cases were brought to the facility where I work. After vases of spring bouquets were delivered throughout the facility and placed in every nook and cranny, there were still several cases left over. Four cases were given to me and so last night, as soon as I got off work, Ned and I spent over three hours delivering beautiful spring bouquets to all the church ladies. It was so wonderful to walk up to the door and hand each beautiful woman a beautiful bouquet. They were thrilled and so were we. Ain't God cool?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Didya Ever Notice?

Didya ever notice that sometimes when people you love are really really hurting that your heart hurts too? And didya notice that although your spirit longs to know that others are praying for you and your loved ones, somehow you just can't seem to find the words to ask?