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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Magic of Giving Never Ends

The magic of giving… it all started around 2,000 years ago.  God gave.  Jesus came. He left the glories of heaven and plunged Himself into earth’s miseries and sorrows. He came as “The Light” to dispel darkness.

Darkness still surrounds. A sick boy lying in the hospital bed---doctors unable to make his pain go away.  A single mother hardly making it, working long hours, short on sleep. Thirsty, hungry souls, empty and unaware that Jesus satisfies. Loneliness casts dark shadows upon the young and old, the rich and poor. Darkness is everywhere.

Then Jesus arrives. Darkness cannot hide from “The Light” and the magic of giving tells its secret.

When we believe in Jesus, we receive “The Light” and become carriers of His supernatural power. The Light bends down to reach the discouraged, downtrodden, and despairing. The impossible happens. No longer do they have to live in darkness because faith, hope, and love rise up.  

It happened in an odd sort of way the Christmas our House Church adopted a needy family. At Gordmans, I loaded my arms with clothes that fit the needs and sizes of one woman and her children, and my phone rang. Tucked deep in my purse, I let it ring and ring and ring. Finally it stopped… then started again. I answered to an excited voice.

“Mom! Facebook says that if you go to the guest services counter by 2 o’clock and say, ‘Something unexpected’ and wink, you will get a $50 gift card.”

I debated, is this true? Will I make a fool of myself? My heart pounding, I took my place in line and risked it. 

My turn led me straight to a male cashier. “May I help you?”

“I was told to say, ‘something unexpected.’” and I winked at him.

“You’re the first winner!” he exclaimed and handed me a $50 gift card. And there was more! When I checked out all my purchases, I received an additional $10 reward.

That seemingly small gesture became unusually big because that’s what “The Light” does. The presence of Light shows up and a friendly smile generates hope, simple hospitality cheers a grumpy heart, and a few dollars multiply. Resistance foils in Light’s presence, making room for understanding and forgiveness to move in. “The Light” causes seemingly impossible things to happen.

Giving is nothing short of magical when “The Light” dwells within us and stirs.  And best of all, giving never seems complicated. “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Matthew 7:12

And just when you think you’ve given all there is to give, the magic of giving returns…to the giver… because “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. (Matthew 5:7 The Message)

The magic of giving never ends!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Shortcut for Shopping

A precious, white-haired woman sat speechless when I inquired, “How might I pray for you?” Certainly life was weighing on her. Big and small, she carried weights that God could take care of…if she’d ask Him.

Silence hung between us. Then, finally, came her shy reply. “Oh, the good Lord has bigger, more important things to take care of than what concerns me.”

 Sadness filled me. This sweet, Christian woman was missing out on the joy that comes from believing “small matters” are never too small for God. Bottom line, short on faith, she felt unworthy of her Father’s care.   

The truth is, God longs to hear us ask for help. He cares about all concerns, personal, and small. He owns the game plans and doesn’t expect us to figure them out. Even for shopping!

Christmas shopping began, for me, in November, when Kohls advertised a huge sale. I purchased presents for all the men in my family, including what I considered a “pretty” blue, fleece sweatshirt for my daughter’s boyfriend. With a bundle of presents, I drove home. One glance at my daughter’s dull look at the sweatshirt stopped my merry momentum.  Together, we returned to Kohls, she found a “better” gift, to her liking, and we landed at the customer service desk.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Peace and Joy During the Holidays...Is It Possible?

Giant snowflakes whirled outside, just like my mental “to do” list, was whirling inside my head. “Bake five dozen cookies for the Christmas cookie exchange, get groceries for our open house, and write your Christmas newsletter.” I secretly vowed one more thing. I would shop for Christmas presents early, avoiding picked over merchandise. With a scrutinizing eye, I’d choose gifts that wouldn't get stashed in drawers or returned immediately after Christmas. I aimed to make that Christmas an unforgettable, super-sized happy holiday!

Instead, agitation and grumpiness grew. Noisy “holiday” chatter, kept rambling in my head, reminding me of my duties, drowning out hope-filled Christmas messages. Instead of “joyful and triumphant”, I grew joyless and discontent.

One evening, after tucking my five-year-old in bed, I snarled at my husband for allowing our fifteen-year-old to talk on the phone before finishing her homework. Stinging words drove a thick wedge between us. I snubbed his apology and stormed out of the room. Rather than going to sleep in “heavenly peace”, I grumbled, “I have to take care of everyone and everything!”

In the morning I knew I had to make a change. I removed myself from all the holiday stress. I quieted myself at Jesus’ feet. But, to be honest, it wasn't easy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Nothing is hidden from God!

  “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight…” (Hebrews 4:13).  God sees all; He understands; He sympathizes. (vs. 15)

*Time runs short for a couple searching to find another home to move into before their current home’s closing date. Meager finances provide limited options!
*A friend totaled her car. She had liability insurance only and now no funds to buy another car.  
*A job lay off threatens to evict a family from their home.
* Three dear women cry out to God with emotional and physical pain. They are desperate for help and healing.
* Lingering sicknesses drain energy, dash hope, and invite fears.

 Nothing is hidden from God. When we come to the end of ourselves, God shows up! He did for Hagar.

Hagar became Abram’s mistress when Sarai had lost hope of conceiving the long-anticipated child of promise. Trying to fix the problem, Sarai made matters worse.  “Abram, sleep with our maid, Hagar.” Sure enough, Hagar became pregnant.

 Imagine 2 wives and 1 husband living in the same household! Naturally, jealousy, resentments and mood swings kept the household heated. Now, add to the mix, Hagar’s pregnant hormones.  Sarai won’t put up with her. She treats her pregnant maid so harshly, Hagar finally flees.

Hagar believes no one cares; she feels alone and lonely.  But God reached out for her.   
Collapsed by a spring in the desert, the angel of the Lord appears and speaks to Hagar. He gives her hope and direction for the future. The truth grips Hagar’s heart. “You are the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:11)

God had seen Hagar! He had found her! He had called her! He knew all about Hagar’s troubles. He showed her where to go and what to do and He gave her a promise for her future.

Isn't it awesome to think that the living God sees us?  Every moment of every day, He sees with eyes of love. Nothing can separate us from His love. Are you convinced of that? (Romans 8:38) Others may overlook you; others may not understand what you’re feeling or going through. But there is One who does understand. He reaches out to you in love and compassion. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Remember God's Goodness this Thanksgiving

I’m searching for the perfect ‘thanksgiving keepsake.’ On it, each family member will record “what I’m most thankful for this year!” Last year, all fourteen of us, (adult kids, their spouses, grand-kids and John and me), inscribed our thanks upon an oval shaped 24” x 20” thick, flat, grayish, rock. Each of us scanned our bank of good memories to choose “one thing” to write on it which we were most thankful for!  

This keepsake currently sits in a prominent place in our sun porch. It’s a perpetual reminder of God’s goodness. Every time I glance at it, thankfulness feeds my soul.

 “I am thankful for God calling me out of darkness into His wonderful light, and for blessing me with an amazing husband and 3 perfect girls.” Noelle (my daughter-in-law)

 “I’m thankful for Ally’s pre-marathon injury because God used it to allow us to grow together in Him, and to be the husband I’m called to be.” Jason (my son-in-law)

 “I’m thankful for Jesus and my mom and dad.” Lana (my 5-year-old grand-daughter)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Greatest Thanksgiving with the 'Least of These'

A week before Thanksgiving, my husband, John, and his college buddy, Tim, scouted out St. Paul’s run down central district. Tim, a former missionary kid, persuaded John and I to help feed the homeless. We considered ourselves nothing more than “poor” college students with little to offer this outreach.

A dilapidated diner grabbed Tim’s attention. “Let’s go in.”

Tim gently pushed open the wooden door dangling from its rusty hinges. The stench of grease saturated the room.

“What can I do for you?” asked an elderly lady wiping the counter.

“We’ll have a cup of coffee,” Tim answered politely. The coffee poured out jet-black, thick like gravy, tasting like tar.

“We’re serving a free turkey dinner at my apartment on Thanksgiving Day,” said Tim. “We can feed five homeless people. Would you get the word out?”

On Thanksgiving, I peered through Tim’s apartment window. Four shabbily dressed guests crawled out of Tim’s car and shuffled up the sidewalk. My stomach did somersaults.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rescued from Satan's Grip

You and I will face death one day. After death, either an eternity of heaven or hell awaits us.  The good news is that Christ came to set us free from hell. Free from the fear of death. Debra tells, in this true story, how her husband was rescued from Satan’s grip.      

For many years I prayed for Brian’s soul to be saved. The week before his death my worn faith had nearly given up. But God didn't.

The afternoon before my husband died, my sister, Pam, joined me at Brian’s bedside. When I fell asleep on the couch, Pam asked the Holy Spirit to fill our home. At that moment, a white dove perched on the bird feeder, tap-tap-tapping the bay window and it was peering in at Brian. Pam gasped. Then she heard, “It’s OK. He’s mine.”

Never before or since had a white dove come near our house. A white dove symbolizes peace and love. Spiritually speaking, it’s a sign from the Holy Spirit.

That evening fear tormented my husband. Horror distorted his face. He stared at the ceiling wide-eyed, his arms flinging upward to protect himself. Brian couldn't talk when I asked him what he saw. Gently squeezing his hand calmed him, but only until the next terrifying vision. Would Brian spend eternity in this frame of mind, I asked God. I told Brian I loved him and said good night. To my amazement, he said “good-night,” the only words he had spoken in two days.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Forgiven, but Still Feeling Guilty?

Last week I attended the 8th annual Come to the Fire conference.* Hundreds of women from across the U.S. gathered together to worship God, to pray, learn from anointed speakers, and to seek healing.

Women came forward, single file, eager for healing.  I listened to their stories and prayed. Dabbing anointing oil on each forehead, I made the sign of the cross.  I trusted Jesus to touch their afflictions: physical illness, shattered relationships, and loneliness. At times I observed discouragement and sadness lift. For many, past sins pressed a guilty message upon their heart. 

Yes, those women had confessed their sins. Some asked for forgiveness for the same sin time and time again. Guilt remained. They believed Jesus forgives.  But, sadly, they couldn't forgive themselves. Like dent marks, past transgressions stamped their thoughts and feelings, leaving negative impressions about themselves.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Failure is Not Fatal

I was tempted and I failed. 

At my daughter’s diving meet I saved “bleacher seats” before leaving the pool. After the long intermission, my husband and I returned, and our sweaters, occupying our saved space, lay squished between two spectators.
I entertained two thoughts. 1. Those seats were saved!  2. That’s ok, we’ll find other seats. Unfortunately, I dwelled on number one.  Irritation boiled and provoked my pride. Pride magnified this slight injustice into a colossal violation.

I’ll just squeeeeze in there. Afterall, we were here first. Without excusing myself, I forced a place between two large women.

The lady on my left frowned. “If you want to sit here, why don’t you just ask?”
Half-smiling, I motioned, “I had these seats saved, you know.”
She threw me a dirty look and a built an invisible wedge between us.  
“I’m sorry for cramping you,” I mumbled and scurried to a nearby wall to stand with other parents.
 I didn’t really feel sorry at that moment; it just seemed like the appropriate thing to say. But shortly after, I began to feel lousy. I had failed. I knew my thoughts, words and deed missed the mark of Christ-likeness. I had disobeyed the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge to overlook the situation and move on.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why I Never Stop Praying

 Sleds, saucers, and four rambunctious kids crowded our van. Pursuing Mt. Baker’s 11,000-foot summit, huge snowflakes began to fall.  The higher we ascended, weaving around the steep mountain, on a narrow paved road, the heavier the snow fell. The kids cheered.

Suddenly, the van started to fishtail, tires spinning. The speedometer nose-dived….25 mph…15 mph…10 mph…5 mph…we slid backwards! I swung to the rear and commanded the kids, “Pray!”   Panic triggered my prayer, “God, please keep us from going over the edge. Stop the van!”

We stopped. Our van’s rear wheels teetered on the edge of a 200-foot ravine. Fearful that any slight movement would capsize us, we sat motionless.

Somehow… my husband maneuvered the van to safety. The kids spent the afternoon throwing snowballs and sledding down the base of Mt. Baker! God rescued us on the summit.

God’s chosen people, the Jews, following their captivity and deportation to Babylon, remained prisoners for two successive empires. Meanwhile, their once-beautiful temple in Jerusalem lay in ruins. Years rolled by. A frustrated people must have wondered, will we ever escape this situation? Will our temple always remain in shambles?

 Have you ever wondered if you would escape a situation that seemed destined to destruction? Destined to never change?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Remedy for Worry

Everyone tends to worry. It robs us of peace and joy. Worry steals our hope. Our good Shepherd knows how worry creates adverse effects upon our health. Jesus advises, “Do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”(Matthew 6:25-27).

How do we not worry when we’re facing a deadline? When a car payment is due and finances are tight. When our children make foolish choices. When we receive a gloomy medical report.
What is worrying you?

Several years ago my 18-year-old daughter planned to move out of the house on the heels of high-school graduation. I worried! Worry caused me to imagine awful scenarios. I lost sleep. I rehearsed a plethora of “what ifs.” Worry dragged me around by the neck and choked my faith.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Comfort for Someone in Pain

“To everything there is a season… a time to be born, and a time to die” Ecclesiastes 3:2. After a long, painful illness, Kay, a deeply loved mother, died. I was only a phone call away. A weary husband beckoned me to come and be with his grieving wife. Heartache choked his words.  

When I arrived, I bore witness to grief. The burden of loss rested heavily upon my friend. Sorrow made her shoulders sink. The depth of Lynn’s pain revealed how deeply she loved her mother.  

“What should I say?” “What should I do?” I wanted to heal Lynn’s heartache. I hugged her tight; I cried with her; I listened to her; I prayed with her. But I couldn’t heal her. 

I’m learning that mourning/grieving is a necessary part of dealing with loss. Loss of a child; loss of a spouse or a parent; loss of a pet; loss of a dream. What loss is familiar to your friend or loved one?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Judging Others Can Be Hazardous!

A tattoo, covering the entire forearm of a young woman, arrested my attention. I read and reread the dark blue inky words, “God is my Judge”. An unpleasant memory triggered.

I had been judged and snubbed by close friends, those whom I trusted and had felt especially close to. I was sorely misunderstood. Now, I felt that pain, sadness and heartache prick my heart again. It rekindled an old, familiar adage: “Unless you've walked a mile in my shoes, don’t judge me!”

Until judged harshly, until false presumptions left me feeling like I had been punched in the stomach, I had failed to personally understand how wounding judgmental words are. They crush and reduce a person’s character. They ruin relationships.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Victorious in Impossible Situations!

I’m one click away from alarming news. Military strikes, chemical attacks, political debates, casualties and conflicts plague the world. Another click and I silence the alarm. Off goes the TV, radio or internet. I resume life, unharmed and safe.  

Spiritual battles, however, can’t be so easily silenced. We read that the devil “went off to make war against…those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). Scripture describes a “beast” who “was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them” (Rev. 13:5-7). Satan hunts.  He intentionally schemes to “steal, kill and destroy” us. (John 10:10) Strong and cunning, he’s relentless. (1 Peter 5:8)

Every believer is in “spiritual warfare” against the world, the flesh and the devil. Winning daily battles takes serious commitment, spiritual knowledge and tough obedience.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

"God...Don't You Care?"

In troubling times it’s easy to question God. “What have I done to cause this?” “How long must I wait?” “Why should I keep praying?” “Have I not prayed enough?” “Do You really care?”

Our natural senses become short on spiritual insight. We conclude, “This isn’t fair!”

John the Baptist, chained in a bleak dungeon, asked his friends to send a question to Jesus. John felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually beaten. In a dark place, infested with rats and reeking of urine and feces, confusion flails John’s understanding of Jesus.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Death of A Dream

I vividly remember the day my pregnancy test strip turned positive. I fumed and cried angry tears. My inner being furiously fought, screaming for freedom, “I don’t want another baby!”  

My kids, (then one teenager, a twelve, ten, and eight-year-old), no longer depended upon me every minute of the day. I enjoyed their independence, playing with friends, and attending school. Each one was assuming more responsibilities. I had begun to dream of more “me time” to create, to read, and nurture my talents. Those dreams exhilarated me!

 The death of my dreams and desires hit suddenly and swiftly! I was pregnant and pushing 40. I felt like a wild canary being forced in a cage.  Fears, nibbling at my faith, fueled panic attacks.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Breathtaking Verse

 “From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16.) Grace is a gift.  Our heavenly Father is the giver. We don’t earn grace. We don’t deserve it. We don’t bring it about.

I used to believe God reserved blessings for deserving people. That the most deserving received bigger blessings!  That a person’s merit persuaded God. If my prayer life impressed God, if I attended church, memorized Scripture, or read my Bible, I could earn a heap of blessings.

 Then I discovered some breathtaking truths about grace. They crushed my humanistic ideas. God’s grace exceeds reason and logic. His generous blessings reach beyond my computation. If I am to embrace and enjoy His infinite goodness, I must stop believing that I must earn it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Always Be Thankful...How?

“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT 1 Thess. 5:18) Most Bible verses recording praise and thanksgiving are by people who faced crushing heartaches, injustice, slander and other difficult situations.
The apostle Paul penned these words to baby Christians facing fierce opposition. I wondered how could young believers give thanks feeling pressure, persecution and suffering?
How is it possible to stand in the wake of severe disappointments, struggles, pain and sorrow, and give thanks? We pray, we expect, we hope. When God’s sovereign plan and wisdom turns out different than what we’d like, how can we thank Him?  
Pain, Grief, Tears
 Scriptures answers this.
 Solomon’s great temple, in Jerusalem, was pillaged and destroyed. It lay flattened, ruined and burned. Jeremiah witnessed a hostile army harassing, robbing and killing Jews. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

No Reason to Give In or Give Up

About 92% of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital. Statistics prove that if more people knew CPR, (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), it can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival.

Christians are especially at high risk. Distractions, worries, fears, and doubts attack our faith-- always aiming to destroy our spiritual life. These deadly adversaries can be stopped!

Our Lord offers to rescue us with spiritual CPR: Courage, Power and Rest. With His spiritual CPR, nothing is too difficult to handle. Without it, we’ll struggle to make it past today’s first hurdle.

Courage/to trust God daily
It takes courage to trust God. Courage to stop trying to figure out everything on our own. Courage to stop peering into the future to plan for every possibility. Courage to listen to God’s voice in everything we do, everywhere we go. Courage to trust God to keep us on track. (Philippians 3:12-14 MSG)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

God Turns Things Around

God often turns things around in amazing ways.  Perhaps that’s why He’s rightfully called the “God of Hope.”

Recently I listened to a young woman share how three years of frustrating, unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant suddenly turned around. I also observed an elderly divorced woman enjoy a rich, satisfying life after suffering several years in an abusive marriage. God can often turn miserable situations around to glorify himself and bless His children.

The same is true for Esther. Although the name of God appears nowhere in the book of Esther, He is not absent. He’s there! He’s waiting to turn things around in amazing ways.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

How Do You Love When You Don't Feel Like It?

God says that we should love one another because He first loved us. (1 John 4:7-11).  Raising five children, and caring for my pastor-husband, while also meeting needs among our church flock, I thought, was “loving” enough! Additionally, shy people, like me, simply don’t reach beyond their comfort zone into other people’s lives. Certainly, Jesus would understand. And…well, did Jesus really mean love everyone? My excuses to exclude myself from this command seemed reasonable.

My excuses to pick and choose who I wanted to love began to unravel. Meditating upon God’s love for me, oftentimes made me weep.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Do You Think You Are Beautiful?

Recently I read “only 4 percent of women worldwide find themselves attractive.” I believe it’s because our culture fixates on the exterior, and therefore defines beautiful as a bronzed, toned body with white teeth, full lips and long, voluminous eyelashes. To be honest, if I’m focusing on my outer appearance, it’s difficult to believe I’m beautiful!

I’m not suggesting we ignore style and exterior beauty. I eat healthy, exercise, color my hair, and wear jewelry and make-up! But we must beware! When we believe our culture’s definition of beauty, we end up with a bag full of illusions.  

Beauty was marred when sin entered the world. God made Adam and Eve, in His image. They were beautiful! After they ate from the tree of knowledge, forbidden by God, they hid from God and no longer felt beautiful. Instead, they felt shame, guilt, and condemnation--ageless beauty stealers. So they covered themselves with fig leaves.

We also cover ourselves.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

God's Hand Holds You! (Part 2- A True Love Story)

God desires to fill us to overflowing with agape love. The apostle Paul declares it’s so wide and long and high and deep that it surpasses knowledge! (Ephesians 3:19) So, how can we be filled with this infinite, unfathomable love?

With prayer and a believing heart. Prayer is the means our heavenly Father designed so we can ask and receive His good and perfect gifts. Prayer unleashes divine revelations of agape love.

So let's continue with prayer!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A True Love Story: God Longs to Embrace You (Part 1)

There’s a quest in everyone’s heart. A quest to be loved without conditions or limitations. A quest to be loved always and forever. A quest to be loved with honor and dignity.

When we seek this perfect love outside of God, we never find it. Because humans love only when there’s something lovely to be loved.

God’s unconditional love excels. God launched agape love when He sacrificed His son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Greek language coined the unique word, agape, to express God’s unfathomable love for sinners.  

Agape love specifically seeks the highest good for the other person…always…no matter what. Agape is a self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return. It does not consider the worth of its object but is a love by choice. God chose to love us in spite of our miserable condition. “…while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Prayer to Unleash God's Love

 The odor of fresh paint drew me back to when my dad built homes. As a child, I roamed those framed structures, pleased to smell woodsy lumber and hear hammers pounding. Best of all, I recall Dad’s voice, echoing, giving orders.

Dad quit speaking to me when a misunderstanding occurred. Irrationality won. Dad declared, “I’m no longer your father.”  It age 19, I was stripped of love just as suddenly and unexpectedly as fire strips land bare.

Dad’s decision, stated irrevocably, caused deep pain and loneliness. I held onto my hurt, hoping in some way, to protect me from more pain.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Name of the Lord Delivers!

Monday morning…bulging grey clouds and pounding rain. Dismal, just like me. I shuffle to my study. Sips of hot coffee help me formulate one, single thought. How will I get through this day?

On Mondays I usually rest after a week of working hard and serving hard. I enjoy a long, leisure quiet time in God’s sweet presence, delighting in His Word. Then my husband and I feed on more manna, together. We rejoice in God’s truths and pray. Our afternoon is reserved for nothing or no one, unscheduled and uncluttered.  

Except for that Monday. Tasks leftover from the weekend loomed and there was dinner company coming. Without energy and motivation to get up and get going, I felt like my pink hardy geranium, pelted flat to the ground by the rain.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Keys to a Richer, Happier Life

 “Hey, Pamela. Let’s get together and catch up!”

I highly underestimated the significance of Margaret’s invitation. I expected simple small talk, while enjoying my favorite “fuji apple chicken salad” at Panera. Fortunately, Margaret had much more in mind.  

She leaned across the table, probing my soul with pointed questions. Margaret listens well, and then digs deep. It’s her caring way of re-entering my world.  

“How are things really going… with you…family…ministry?”

Margaret looks beyond what she hears. This 5 foot seasoned missionary detected a thread of discouragement in my neatly packaged answers. So she drilled deeper. Finally we discovered its source. Dreams God designed for my life had gotten buried beneath daily, essential duties. 

Margaret exhorted me, “Don’t hide your faith and talents! Use them for God’s glory!” Her heartfelt counsel, danced with encouragement and passion. Margaret has credibility. Twenty-two years of living life the way God designed for her, trusting Him for finances, transportation, health care and more, and never lacking!  

I left the restaurant, optimistic and joy-filled. Margaret’s encouragement inspired me to tread a pathway to a richer, happier life.  To intentionally pursue the dreams God stamped on my heart.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to Live with An Unfair Advantage

Afternoon sunshine warmed Sparta Day’s festivities. The one-mile kid’s race drew a handful of red-shirted 5 through 7-year-olds. Parents busied themselves at forming kids’ wiggling bodies into a straight line.

A shrill whistle signaled the runners and spiked adrenalin. Starry-eyed winners, every one of them, were including John Jr., our 5-year-old son, with spindly, over-long legs. Suddenly, I wanted to scoop him into my safe arms. “Never mind.” I pushed away nervousness. “Let him run.”

 “Get ready, get set…” Bang!

Parents began chiming, “Run fast!”  “Don’t slow down.” “Run faster!”

My husband leapt onto the cinder track about 2 feet from John Jr.’s side, jog-trotting. Just close enough to link hearts.

“Pace yourself. Slow down.” Wise words spoken by a Father experienced at running life’s race.  

This man knows full well about starting too fast, full of optimism. Then bam. Everyday pressures, family problems, unemployment, financial difficulties and health issues take their toll. Weariness and discouragement knock him windless.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

5 Words That Could Change Your Life

  “Look! The water’s rising above the street curb. I’ll call Skip and ask if this is normal.”  Our native California neighbor chuckled at my husband’s inquiry.

“The rainy season is here. Relax!”

Our four children, then ages 8, 6, 4, and 2, peered out our living room window, intrigued by nature’s water show. Within minutes, water covered the brick John had placed in the middle of our driveway.

With rain still pounding, John called again. “Skip, are you sure this is normal?”

Strong winds pushed waves of hungry water half way up our front yard. Skip’s car bobbled down the street like a water toy. Fear gripped us.

“Let’s move as much furniture upstairs as possible,” John ordered. Our feverish efforts paled compared to forceful, fast rising flood waters.

“Let’s pray,” I said. Prayer empowers me to keep fear from dominating.

Knees to the carpet, I suddenly didn’t know what to pray. That God save our lives? That our house is not destroyed? Booming thunder mocked my puny faith.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Heartaches Can Be Healed

I peeked into the third-grade classroom and panicked. Every chair was neatly stacked on top its desk, except for one. My daughter slumped in her chair with her face buried in her hands.

Miss Maney, Bonnie’s teacher, softly confirmed my nightmarish suspicion. “You missed the Mother’s Day Tea.”

I rushed to Bonnie’s side and pulled her close. Gentle tears trickled down her flushed cheeks.

“Oh Bonnie, I’m sooo sorry. I thought the Mother’s Day Tea was after school.”

The peach terry cloth bunny perched on her desk stared at me with beady eyes.  For days Bonnie offered whimsical hints of this Mother’s Day gift she had crafted. I squeezed it close to my heart.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Cure for Criticism

I whisked through the airport lobby toward my car. I had parked my Hyundai at the curbside because my mother clearly needed help pulling her luggage to check-in. My impulsive good deed framed me a criminal.
When the airport door slid open, I froze. A monstrous, heavy metal chain hooked to my car’s front bumper slowly tugged my car onto the tow truck’s ramp.

Another accelerated “vroom” sent me running toward the woman police officer.

“This is my car! What are you doing?” I panted; my face red with embarrassment.

She stood stoically silent. Then the white-bearded tow truck driver confronted me.

“You’re illegally parked. We’re towing your car away.” For him, it was a done deal.

I turned to the police woman, pleading and mildly demanding. “You can’t tow my car away. I’m here!”

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Remember the Past, Shape the Future

Take a close look at my picture, please. 

Does it appear as nothing more than a plastic tub… with junk?  Absolutely not! You’re looking at my monuments! They convey messages of hope, and that God is real and powerful. During hard times, they remind me that God is faithful. And I need plenty of reminding because life is full of challenges, trials and strong temptations!

In the Old Testament, a stone monument was commonly used as a memorial to remind future generations of what had happened at each place. Just to name a few:
--A monument at Gilgal reminded the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt.
--Samuel raised up his Ebenezer stone when God delivered Israel from the fierce Philistines.
--Goliath’s huge sword, placed in the tabernacle, served as another reminder of God’s deliverance.
--A monument was raised when God backed up the waters of the Jordan for Israel to cross into Canaan. Twelve men placed twelve large stones where the priest stood as the waters parted.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

When Suffering and Sorrow Happens

Hinds’ Feet on High Places, my favorite children’s story, is an allegory about Much Afraid (someone inside each one of us) and the Shepherd—Jesus! Much Afraid lives in the valley with her relatives Gloomy, Spiteful, and Craven Fear. Oftentimes Much Afraid makes the mistake of allowing them into her cottage, causing her to feel weaker and more helpless.

The Shepherd encourages Much Afraid to leave the Valley and climb the steep mountain to the High Places. The air is clean there, and the healing streams wash away anything unlovely. No fears of any kind are there because ‘perfect love gets rid of fear.’

“I will help you when you call,” the Shepherd promises. “And as you begin your journey, I will give you my very best and strongest helpers, Sorrow and Suffering. They are two of the best teachers I have.”

Much Afraid burst into tears. She begged for Joy and Peace to go with her. It seemed she was faced with the impossible.

 Do you know someone who loves the Lord, but is experiencing sorrow and suffering? The journey seems ominous.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fear, Leprosy and Praise!

When I arrived at Alicia’s doorstep, she met me with a ‘why are you here’ look. I expected to color her hair, as planned, and enjoy some girl talk. 

 “I guess you didn’t get my text message or phone message,” she said.

Apparently, my dear friend Alicia had canceled our appointment due to not feeling well. She assumed it best to remain quiet and not meet with me.

Earlier that day, I had been outside raking leaves. Then I rushed to get ready to go to lunch with my husband and our elderly friend. I ignored my cell phone and missed Alicia’s messages.

 “Well, you’re here!” Alicia graciously hugged me. “It seems the Lord wants me to get my hair colored today, anyway.”  

Alicia took careful consideration that God’s plan was different than hers.  She accepted it in spite of her physical and emotional struggles.   

While I saturated Alicia’s hair with color, she skimmed over what was upsetting her.  I suggested we pray because Alicia didn’t have the power to deal with her fears. I sensed this was the reason God had me show up.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Meet 'Miss Noboby'

Thea's 80th birthday celebration
in our home!
   “Let's visit the old people!”

     My husband and I had reached Shawnee Garden’s nursing center, our one-mile walking landmark, where we usually turn around and go home.

John resisted, “I’m wearing jogging shorts!”  

“Elderly people don’t care what you’re wearing. They’re lonely; they only want someone to talk to.” John consented.

    After introducing ourselves to the receptionist, we walked down a long corridor where one small framed woman, crouched over in her wheel chair, stared ahead. Hmm…I wonder if her mind is as shriveled as her body.

     “Hi, I’m Pam.” She returned a skeptical look for our smiles. “I’m Thea,” she responded, gruffly.

Thea’s thick German accent aroused our curiosity, triggering a string of questions. She methodically shared pieces of her life story.

Thea grew up in Munich, Germany, during Hitler’s cruel reign. Sometimes she hid for days from the Gestapo. “I still dream of bombs exploding.” One explosion left Thea unconscious and seriously injured.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Guess What's Happening in My Basement

Cold air gripped me the moment I crawled out of bed. Our furnace had died. 

My handy husband made several good attempts to fix it, while I stayed wrapped in my soft afghan, sipping a hot cup of coffee. I figured I’d soon enjoy a comfy, warm house again!

Instead, my nose and toes grew colder. I threw another blanket over me that wintry day, but I couldn't escape the chilly sensation. It triggered a burdensome thought. How do the homeless survive these freezing temperatures without adequate food and clothing?  With my bible open, Jesus’ words fueled my discomfort, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes…” (Matthew 25:35-36 MSG).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Do You REALLY Need?

My needs change daily. Friends tell me I need to go on a cruise. Compelling online messages inform me I need the newest spring fashions, Botox, a steak dinner, a massage, and better toys and apparel for my pet!  Last week, peering out my window, I complained, “I need sunshine!”

Sound superfluous? How about these needs expressed by women friends? “I need the man of my dreams, a baby, more intimacy with my husband, friendship, healing, a successful ministry, more money.” Needs are as numerous and diverse as people in the world.

What do you really need?
Many years ago, I discovered a shocking truth in God’s Word: “I lack nothing!” (Psalm 23:1) Because God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-caring; He is enough. He is sufficient. With Him I need nothing else! (Psalm 73:25-26)  So, why do I sometimes become burdened, sometimes driven, by an “I need” mentality?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why I'm Still Married

After two months of marriage, I frequently threatened divorce. My deep-seated mistrust of men, including John, caused many heated arguments. Such as when my husband grabbed my sewing machine and hurled it to the floor. I stormed out of our apartment, crying.  Staying married seemed as far fetched as climbing  Mt. Everest!

Our good friends, Tom and Sue, flashed through my mind. Their marriage modeled joy and respect, something I wanted.

Sue held my hand as I spilled exaggerated stories about John’s faults. I swallowed my pride, returned home, yet held onto my resentment.

A week later, our friends invited us to their church. After one too many hymns, I mumbled something to John about wishing we had never come.

Pastor Andy called the next day and visited us. He shared about his wild hippie days, his broken marriage, and threatening his wife with a knife. What kind of a preacher is this? I wondered. Then he explained how God transformed him and saved their marriage.