Monday, December 19, 2011

Beauty for Ashes

My Dad used to tell me that everything works out for the best.  He could list the disappointments in his life that had turned into blessings never imagined.  So, since childhood, I have watched to see God move in unexpected ways.  I’ve seen it many times:  A life that falls apart and then months or years later, looking back to see how the Lord used every tear and every experience for our good and for His glory.

As I try to pass this on to the next generation, I hope my kids and future grandchildren will know from the tips of their toes that God is in control.  Not only is He in control, but those who follow Him are His children, whom He loves more than we can ever imagine.  Therefore, we can rest in the assurance that He will use each heartache for our good and for His glory.  The Lord does not waste a single minute or experience, and does not allow anything to enter our lives that is unnecessary for His purpose and plan. 

Sometimes life takes turns that we do not expect.  We may feel blindsided, disappointed, and even betrayed.  When Peter faced an unexpected event, the Lord comforted him in Luke 22:31-32.  Jesus reminded the Apostle that He can see the outcome of all things, and prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  He let Peter know that he would turn back and glorify the Lord as he strengthened his brothers.  Such words of encouragement apply to us still today.  Our Lord knows all things (Romans 4:17), He prays for us (Romans 8:26-27) and comforts us so that we may comfort others (2 Cor 1:3-4).

We can’t foresee the future, even when it looks predictable.  By keeping our eyes on Jesus, abiding in Him, and trusting in His goodness even when we can’t see it, we can maintain a measure of joy when life crumbles around us.  We can await a glorious outcome knowing that He is in control and works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose.  To God be the glory.

Isaiah 61:3 (NASB)
“ … Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. 
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Get Your Hands Up!

No, this is not a stick up or a police raid, but encouragement from a simple, recent observation.

I’ve been trying to exercise regularly.  Really.  Exercise TV is my new favorite cable channel and there are dozens and dozens of workouts to do right in my living room.  I love the movement, the stress relief, and the way that it clears the fog from my brain.  I’ve discovered that it is a very effective writing tool, but that’s not the point of this post.

When the trainers want to increase our heart rate, I’ve noticed that our hands go above the head.  Hamstring curls, for example, are a great exercise, but when I do them with hands raised to the ceiling, several things happen:

·         My heart becomes fully engaged

·         My midsection tightens and I feel the exercise involve the entire core of my body

·         There must be endorphins released or something, because my outlook brightens immediately.  (Is that just me?)

So I was wondering… why don’t we raise our hands in worship to the Lord more often?  Imagine praising Him while driving in your car.  If you have a sunroof, open it and raise a hand (only one, please) above your head!  No sunroof?  Press a palm against the ceiling of your car.  While you sing in church, lift your arms and engage the entire core of your body in worship!  Can you imagine worship that fully connects with your heart, involves the entire core of your body, and immediately brightens your outlook?

Praise to the Lord draws His response as He accepts our offering.  Allow Him to capture and consume your attention and shift your focus from yourself to the One worthy of adoration.  The enemy flees as the light of the Lord casts out all darkness.  Through praise, we can have uninterrupted, unhindered time with Him, enjoying the satisfaction that comes through such wondrous communion.   Grab onto it with joy, with hands raised in the air and involve all of your heart and core!

Just do it.

John 4:23 (NASB)
But an hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth;
 for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Stop, Don't Give Up!

I apologize for posting video two weeks in a row, but this one is very inspirational and, well, it makes me giggle.  I hope you enjoy it and sing the song in your heart as I do!

Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Breath of Heaven

What has the Lord called you to do for Him today?  Mary demonstrated a beautiful heart of submission to her King - may we all be as fully surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.   While none will be as miraculous as the birth of Christ, even our simple callings will be used in mighty ways for His Kingdom when we bow in obedience to Him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Cup Runs Over

Its Thanksgiving week!  Where has the time gone?  Soon our small family will join hearts around the table and enjoy a feast of kings to celebrate what the Lord has done in our lives.  What reasons to rejoice! 

I’ve been in a reflective frame of mind.  I take so much for granted, and wish to be purposeful rather than cavalier with my thanksgiving.  If you will indulge me, I’ll share my thoughts …

·         I am thankful for the promise of eternity with Jesus.  By His sacrifice on the cross, He paid my ransom and set me free from the bondage of sin and eternal death.   Thank you, Lord, for making it so simple to receive You in my life!  Your Word says that whoever believes in You will have eternal life.  We need to do nothing more than accept Your forgiveness and leading in our lives.

·         He desires relationship with us.  The only thing needed to enter the presence of the King of kings is a heart that seeks Him.  When I seek Him with all of my heart, I find Him.  He is Immanuel – God with us – and He stays by my side, always.  His Holy Spirit dwells in me (and in all of His children), and I am grateful that He promises to never leave nor forsake us.  He is here to stay, and I couldn’t be more appreciative!

·         We do not walk this journey alone.  I am thankful for the loving family and caring friends that He has placed in my life.  I never imagined the support that God’s people offer one another, even in the most unexpected ways.  For those of you who have poured into my life through prayer, encouragement, love, laughter, quiet listening, Godly counsel, and an occasional cookie, I thank my Lord for you.  You know who you are, and I pray you understand the difference you make. 

·         I am thankful for the blessings He brings through trials.  I do not always feel happy or comfortable, but I can always be joyful because of His power and love in my life.  I am grateful for His promise to work all things together for the good of those He calls according to His purpose.  I wait with eager anticipation for the redemption of the hardships in my life.  There is often excitement in waiting to see how God will next reveal His power, even when things may look hopeless or impossible.

·         Without Him, I am nothing but I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.  I am grateful that in His strength alone, even someone like me can serve His Kingdom.   I love to feel His pleasure, even when those around me sometimes scoff and scorn.  He gently reminds me that His work is for His glory and that His grace is sufficient.  

I wish you a joy-filled Thanksgiving as you reflect on the goodness of the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1(NIV)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Like the Bereans - Even on Facebook!

We’re all learning, aren’t we?  We receive an urgent e-mail from a friend saying that our house will burn down in 3 minutes unless we unplug our televisions.  As soon as we finish scurrying around the house unplugging televisions, we forward the e-mail to our entire address book because, after all, we don’t want the homes of our friends to burn down.  A few minutes later, we receive a reply from a levelheaded friend who informs the entire distribution list, “This is not true information.  Please disregard the e-mail and plug your televisions back in.”    We feel a bit foolish, but thought it better to be safe than sorry.

It’s happened to all of us – we get caught up in the hype, then react out of care and concern for our friends.  Sometimes we receive not-so-gentle reminders that we should have taken a moment to verify the information before passing it on.   ( is a good source for that, by the way).   

So, we’re learning.  But are we handling the Word of God in the same way?  This next example is true (I made up the story about unplugging televisions).  A friend of mine posted a wonderful graphic about loving others on Facebook.  I don’t believe she was the original source.   It listed practical steps to love others with a Scripture reference for each step.  Since I am facilitating a study on love in Sunday school, I thought to share it with the class. 

As I looked at the list more closely, something looked a little fishy.  One of the verses caught my eye and as I recalled, it had nothing to do with the action step listed.  When I looked it up in my Bible, I found that I was incorrect and the scripture reference was accurate.  But it made me wonder, how many times have I blindly forwarded references to God’s Word that aren’t correct?  As careful as I have become with potential urban legends, am I taking the same measure of care with God’s Word?

Sharing information seems to become easier every day.   When receiving or sharing the Word of God, we have a responsibility to examine the scriptures as the Bereans who “were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. “  Acts 17:11 (NASB).    I love that they were eager, but still verified the information.    We can be excited to learn more about the Lord, but must be careful not to soak in every Internet post as fact. 

There’s a lot of garbage out there.  Take care not to blindly accept it all as truth.  Let’s dust off our Bibles to see for ourselves, and then share God’s truth with confidence.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's Time to Order Cookbooks!!! :)

If you'd like to order a cookbook, you can order at church or comment on this blog post and I will be in touch with you soon!!  Thank you for supporting Prairie Community Church Women's Ministries!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Sword of the Spirit

I have to share something fun with all of you!  I went before our church's Board of Elders last night to introduce my writing and speaking ministry.   I wanted to ask for their blessing and prayer support as well as their doctrinal authority.  As I prepared for the meeting, I put together a "ministry summary" handout, which, of course, needed a logo so I quickly put one together yesterday morning before heading to the office.  Quickly is the key word. 

Our meeting went very well and just as we wrapped up my segment, our Pastor said, "Of course you know this says 'sword!'"   My immediate thought was that he found a typo on my handout and I asked, "where??"  Pastor Brian said, "In the logo!  It spells out "SWord!"

This is a gift from the Lord, my friends!  I got chills and I hope you find it as exciting as I did.  I LOVE it when the Lord finds special ways to show us His presence!  Check it out:

Spelling the word Sword was completely unintentional!  I think I need a picture of a sword in the logo now, don't you? 

(I'm sorry I haven't posted lately - I've been up to my eyeballs in writing.  Please know that you've been on my heart and I continue to pray for you!)

Much love,

Ephesians 6:17
And take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit
which is the word of God.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When the Lord's Word is Repeated

How does it make you feel when you hear the same message from God’s people over and over?  I often hear a message on a radio sermon and read a similar word in ladies Bible study.  It usually moves me to action!  Do you have the same response?

Over the last several weeks, from many different sources, I’ve heard the same thought repeat itself and I finally believe that I should put what I’m learning into practice!  Here is the chronology: 

·    In our ladies Bible study (Becoming a Woman of Simplicity by Cynthia Heald), we learned about choosing what is best over what is good.  As we discern the “good” from the “best,” God’s children should keep in mind that He created each of us for a specific purpose.  Neglecting the roles He has given us, especially the ones He has specifically created us to do is disobedient!  My conviction is to get moving on what the Lord has called me to do.

·    Our Pastor reminded us in a recent sermon that we must not value time more than we value serving the Lord.  This is how that message hit my heart:  Get to work and take your eyes off of your busyness!”  What blessed assurance it brings to know that the Lord, Himself, manages my time.

·    In our Home Group study (Becoming a Contagious Christian by Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel and Bill Hybels) we learned that the Lord places us in our particular surroundings for a purpose.  It is no accident that we have our group of friends or worship in our church, because the Lord has specific roles for us there.  My marching orders are to “get out there and serve as He has uniquely equipped me to serve!”  Every moment of my life has prepared me for this exact situation and I am not to squander the opportunity to serve Him through it.

·    In a dimly lit room on Saturday, a friend of mind whispered to my heart without even realizing it.  She said, “I wonder if Amy Grant ever wishes she were more like Sandi Patty or if Sandi Patty wishes she were more like Amy Grant.  But when God created Amy Grant, He didn’t need another Sandi Patty.”  Ouch.   My conviction:  Get over the temptation to neglect your calling because you wish you were more like someone else!”

·    My Pastor stepped into the mix again this week with a sermon titled, “Like No Other.”  The message to my heart is a reminder that I am crafted to serve the Lord differently from anyone else.  I hear you, Lord, and today I get busy!

I have a new deadline, my friends, and I covet your prayers in this.  My entire manuscript for Finding Joy in Your Journey must be complete and fully prepared for submission by January 31st.  It is a very tall order and one that I can accomplish only through Him who gives me strength.  If it is His will, I will complete the task and only by His Spirit am I up for the challenge.  I humbly ask for your unceasing prayers as I take this leap of faith.

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 
There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 
And there are different activities,
but the same God activates each gift in each person.    
1 Cor 12:4-6 (HCSB)

Friday, September 23, 2011

At a loss for words

Sometimes it's more about listening and less about blog posting.  Psalm 46:10 - "Cease striving and know that I am God;  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  (NASB)

:)  I hope you enjoy this video - an oldie but a goodie. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Feeling Paralyzed

Have you ever felt paralyzed?  To be honest, this is a feeling that I fight often. I feel paralyzed when my task list swells and I don’t know where to begin. It hits me when I’m afraid of the future… or the past, or when I have a decision to make. It overtakes me when I feel I can’t discern the Lord’s leading over my own emotions. Sometimes my insecurities paralyze me from obeying the Lord’s will in my life, when someone I love needs to hear about Jesus, when ministry needs become overwhelming, or when I anticipate an unfavorable reaction from someone. My list is long, and believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Even when I know that the sensation is all in my head, the paralysis begins to feel physical and impossible to reason away. When I feel paralyzed, it’s as if my feet are stuck in deep mud and I no matter how much strength I muster, I can’t make them budge to take a step in faith. Sadly, this feeling is so common to me that it becomes comfortable and makes me want to stay stuck.

In spite of this, I cannot allow myself to wallow in the mud, because the Lord whispers through His Word that He has plans for me. He reminds me that He created me for a specific purpose, one that no one else on earth can accomplish in exactly the same way. (He has that same sort of purpose for you too, my friend!) The Lord bestowed a unique combination upon each of us: spiritual gifts, talents, personality traits, and individual life experiences, all woven together into the beautiful tapestry of our lives. When I look at my life from an eternal perspective, I see that every prior moment has led me exactly to this point. Sensing the Lord’s hand on my back and moving forward in His strength, I can begin to lift my feet from the miry clay. My desire to move forward for Him and for His glory alone equips me to take a step in the direction of His calling.

In her book Becoming a Woman of Simplicity, Cynthia Heald offers the following quote by Bruce Bugbee:

“Why are you doing what others can do,
when you are leaving undone what only you can do?”

I encourage you today to step out in faith. Move toward serving Him in a new or deeper way. Simply say, “Yes, Lord!”

I can’t wait to hear your story!

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Monday, September 5, 2011

Finding the Joy!

Happy Labor Day, everyone! I hope you are enjoying some rest and family time today!

I have “holed up” this long weekend to focus on writing. Focused writing is hard for me to do at home with so many distractions (dust, laundry, animals, etc.), but at 4:30 on Monday afternoon, I finally feel a measure of productivity. I appreciate your prayers in this project (Finding Joy in the Journey). The outline is complete; in fact, I presented the class at our women’s Sunday school group earlier this year. I am now trying to make it ready for publication and that, truly, will take an act of God to accomplish. I believe that this is His will; otherwise, I would just put this topic away and begin drafting something new for our Sunday school women.

Today I wrote on finding joy in our trials, which led to Chapter 21 of John. Peter and several of the disciples spent all night fishing and came back to the shore with empty nets. Matthew Henry comments, “The hand of the diligent often returns empty. Even good men may come short of desired success in their honest undertakings.” Not very encouraging words for a wanna-be writer. I could put a tremendous amount of work into this project and end up with an empty net.

However, here is the joy: Jesus stood on the shore and instructed the disciples to throw their net again, on the right side of the boat where the fish were. Behold, the fishermen were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish! As the boat reached the shore, the disciples saw a fire burning with breakfast ready. Jesus invited them to enjoy the breakfast that He had prepared for them.

If Jesus desires that I have filled nets, filled they will be, and in His perfect timing, not my own. Even if my nets stay empty, He loves me just the same and prepares a feast for me that we will someday enjoy together. Jesus ministers to our hearts and it is He who provides. There is great joy in that!

“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” John 21:9

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sometimes He Shows Us

Do you ever look at your spiritual walk and think, “I’m still so far from where I need to be?”  Paul said, “I do that which I do not want to do and that which I want to do I do not do.”  That sounds like a word puzzle, but the bottom line is this:  I have trouble controlling my flesh.  No matter how Godly I strive to be, I am human and my fleshly nature is still strong.  I may have walked with the Lord for years but I fall short of pleasing Him every day because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Michael’s Great-Grandmother Osa, considered a spiritual giant by her family, went home to be with the Lord at the age of 98.  She passed away several years ago and Mike and I are collecting some of her life stories from family members who knew her best.  Last weekend we learned a bit about her spiritual walk.  She came to know the Lord at a revival in her city at the age of 13 (around 1912).  She was the very first person baptized in the Fairview, OK Christian Church, and from that day forward, was considered their oldest church member.  (Unfortunately, not knowing immersion took place while fully clothed, she did not bring a change of clothes and had to walk home dripping wet in November!)  She lived a life of love and service to Jesus.

After decades of walking closely with the Lord, at the age of 89 Osa still had hurdles to overcome.  There were truths that the Lord revealed to her about herself that her flesh wanted to reject.  She spent the summer of 1989 with her grandson, addressing specific areas of pain in her life.  He would speak the Lord’s love and truth to her until he sensed she needed a break. The next week, they would be at it all over again until Osa surrendered, at last, even the most difficult parts of her life to her Lord and Savior.

It took most of her life, but the Lord gently and graciously drew Grandma Osa to Himself through even the deepest areas of hurt in her life.  His timing and methods were perfect.  The glorious love of our Savior carried her until she could draw from His strength to stand by His side. 

That story is beautiful to me.  We’ll never “arrive,” never “be good enough” and we will never cease growing in Christ.  Our Lord is larger than life, more complex than we can ever imagine, and will continue to mold and shape us until our dying breath if we will allow it.  

In His great mercy, sometimes the Lord shines His light and allows us to see a measure of growth that we have achieved thus far.  This is a completely silly thing, but this weekend He showed me how much my life has transformed from solely serving my flesh to truly desiring to serve Him: 

Taylor completed her first week of college and then over the weekend, asked if I would color in her giant coloring book with her.  The invitation was an honor, and as I sat down with crayon in hand, my natural inclination was to pray before beginning.  Clearly, this is not work that will ever been seen by anyone outside our home, yet something in my spirit said, “Glorify Him in this.”  I felt God’s smile and His heavenly hug, showing me that I truly have taken a few steps in His direction.  My progress may not be great, but it is progress, indeed, and glorifying Him is becoming more natural.  Sometimes He shows us the path of our past and uses it to encourage our hearts toward Him.  May we cling to those moments with both hands!

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  Psalm 36:9 (NIV)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Beautiful Picture of Prayer

I came across something today that I wanted to quickly share with you.  It's from a recorded sermon by John MacArthur and in the sermon, he references a book titled No Common Task by George Raindrop.  A story is told of a nurse who teaches a man to pray by using the fingers of her hand.

  • The thumb is the closest digit to her, so when she sees her thumb, she prays for those who are close (family, friends, co-workers, etc.). 
  • The first finger is often used by teachers to point to their students when calling upon them, so with the pointer finger, she remembers to pray for the teachers in her life.
  • The middle finger is the largest, so she prays for VIP's, church leaders, government officials, etc.
  • The weakest finger is the ring finger, so she prays for those who are sick, hurting, or injured.
  • Finally the little finger is the smallest and least important.  The nurse explained that the little finger represents herself.

Romans 12:10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor

The link to the John MacArthur sermon is:

Monday, August 8, 2011

She Shined Like a Star in the Universe - a tribute to Julie Walker

44 years ago today, a lovely friend was born.  I met her the summer before we began kindergarten, and growing up together, we enjoyed sleepovers under the stars in my back yard, practiced American Idol performances long before the show existed, and spent many, many hours on horseback together in 4H.  Julie was my very best, through-thick-and-thin friend.  Growing older, different interests and new friends caused us to take separate paths, but our hearts were knit together.  She was the kind of friend that you don’t see for years, but pick up your conversation as if you had talked just yesterday. 

Two years ago, I received word through a mutual friend that Julie was in the hospital.  Julie fought hard against MS and other difficult medical conditions that plagued her body.  Hospital stays weren’t very unusual, but being hospitalized on her birthday was a little more than I could imagine.  I stopped in to see her and we walked down memory lane one last time.  The next time I saw Julie, she was clinging to life a few short weeks later.  I stroked her hair and whispered into her ear that it was time to let go and enter the arms of Jesus.  I will never know for sure, but I believe she heard each word and prayer from a room completely filled with people who deeply loved her. 

It is amazing what can flood your mind in a split second.  Stories and memories came rushing back like an overflowing river.  As I watched Julie fight and as I reflected over her life, I began to see with new eyes how fearless my dear friend was.  Opposites attract, and this was no exception in our friendship.  Julie was feisty, brave, and pursued life with gusto.  My opposite personality is more timid, worrisome, and fearful, and I like to know what is coming before I move forward. 

Her childhood home life was completely different from mine.  I was the last child living at home and Julie’s home was active with three older brothers.  They would hang her by her arms over the basement stairwell and swing her as if she were a vine in a jungle.  One day her oldest brother offered to do the same to me and I nearly fainted.  My home was quiet; Julie’s home was loud and confrontational, and felt like a completely new world to me.

Reflecting on her life, I see clear evidence that God gives us exactly what we need to live the life He has planned for us.  Julie learned to hold nothing back, to attack life, and to live every moment to the fullest.  He taught her, throughout her life, to be a fighter and to be fearless.  These were traits she not only needed, but also demonstrated beautifully as her life glorified Him, even to the very end.

I remember when Julie shared her MS diagnosis with me.  Even as close as we were growing up, this was the first time that I ever realized Julie was a woman of faith.  She was clinging to the Lord through her trial and showed no fear during our conversation.  I recall that the doctor advised that pregnancy and childbirth would inflame her condition, but in the typical “don’t take no for an answer” style that Julie had, she was soon the proud, doting mom of two beautiful daughters.  

The life of Julie Ann Janich Walker was not lived with the purpose of being a genuine friend, supportive wife, loving mother, cherished sister, or beloved daughter.  Her purpose was to glorify God – to let His light shine through her for others to see – and she accomplished this purpose with excellence.  Even now, Julie continues to inspire my life.  I am still timid, worrisome, and fearful.  But when I remember my friend, I see that she would not let adversity stand in her way.  She faced more trials than any one person should endure, yet she pressed on in the face of fear and carried herself with grace and dignity. 

Her memory and the faith she modeled somehow make me stronger.  Life is too short to let anything keep us from sincere devotion to Christ.  Her life, lived with excellence in every way imaginable, had a single purpose – to let the light of Christ shine.  I am so grateful that we will share eternity together in heaven.

Happy birthday, my friend.  I will always miss you.    

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  (John 14:1 NIV)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's Not Lost! I Just Don't Know Where It Is!

I have issues with hotel keys.  I try my hardest to be responsible and even have a special “place” in my wallet for a hotel key.  But the first time I walk down the hall for ice, room key proudly in hand, I return to the room, put my key in the slot, and come on in.  No more than 12 seconds later, I have no idea where the key is.  It happens every time, no matter how purposeful and diligent I try to be.  It seems like the second I feel victorious, I let my guard down, and everything falls apart. 

My family rolls on the floor laughing when I explain to them, “My key isn’t lost.  I just don’t know where it is right now.”  They don’t see the difference between something that is lost and something that simply can’t be found.  While I do follow their logic, I see a clear distinction between two such items.  After all, I just had the room key in my hand.  It’s not lying on the street somewhere.  It is right here in this very hotel room, but I don’t know exactly where.  I have no doubt that I will locate it soon.   

On our last trip, I took a mighty ribbing that continued for days about things that weren’t lost.   

“Has anyone seen my cell phone charger?” 
“You can’t find it?  That’s weird, but don’t worry, Mom.  I’m sure it’s not lost!” 

You get the picture.  My husband finally said, “Honey, I just don’t see you ever living this one down.”

The more kidding I took, the more cemented the idea for this blog post became.  While my situation is funny, at least to the Mac’s, I believe I have sisters out there who feel the same way about their faith.  They may be saying in their hearts, “My faith isn’t lost; I just don’t know where it is right now.”  And that, my friends, is far from funny.

Maybe once upon a time, they had faith that could move a mountain.  Perhaps they have experienced one too many trials in life and can no longer find such faith.  Maybe they have prayed and asked for God’s intervention but have seen little of the help they expected.  Maybe work life interferes with church attendance and spiritual growth stalled.  Maybe… maybe… maybe…

May I suggest that you do whatever it takes to find your faith again?   Life is too short to journey without a cemented faith in Christ.  I can say with all honesty that I would not wish to live a single second questioning where my faith is or in Whom it lies.  Life is too difficult, too painful, and requires too much strength to do it on my own.  Looking back on my years without faith, I see every moment as empty and without purpose, even when looking at the happiest memories.  With faith, my life has meaning, purpose, and joy, even through the most difficult parts. 

If you faith is somewhere close, all it will take is a bit of concentrated effort to find it.  Search it out!  Look for it!  Find it!  Ask the Lord to show you where it is.  Chances are very good that He will show you it is right where you left it. 

Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
(Hebrews 11:1)
Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” 
(Matthew 15:28 a)
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 
(Luke 17:5)
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
(2 Cor 5:7)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pouring Out or Overflowing - Part 4

We have spent several weeks together searching out ways to draw close to the Lord and to accept His filling to the point of overflowing.  When we pour out, we risk emptying ourselves, but when we are filled with HIM to the point of overflowing, we have unlimited resources from which to draw.   

In my last posts, I covered accepting His filling through worship and time in His Word.  Today I will discuss receiving His filling through prayer, which is a topic near and dear to my heart.   

I spent many years participating in and/or leading prayer groups for Moms In Touch International.  This organization consists of moms gathering weekly to pray for children and their schools.  While I focused mainly on public schools in my tenure, groups also exist for private and home schools and college / career aged children.  I’ll say without hesitation that this is where I leaned to apply the word of God directly to my life and where I truly learned to lean upon and trust the Lord.  We followed a simple, 4-step approach to prayer consisting of praise, thanksgiving, silent confession, and intercession. 

Often, when my kids share particulars about their lives, I can look back and remember praying for that specific thing.  Even years later, the Lord is still answering the prayers that I put before Him in my beloved MIT groups!  I know that the Lord hears prayers.  I know without a doubt that He answers them in ways that He deems appropriate, and I have come to trust with all my heart that His way is best.  Prayers are never wasted, and every single prayer is answered (although not always as we hope or expect). 

What I have learned most recently about prayer, however, is that I find Him there.  Prayer is more than my wish list presented to the God who controls all things.  It is fellowship with the Lord of Lords and is a great opportunity watch Him work, and receive more of Him in my life. 

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  In some versions "Be still" is translated “cease striving." In our stillness, in stopping all of our work and effort we find God.  In the quietness of our prayers, we enter His presence.  Prayer, for me, has become as much about being still before Him as it is about listing my needs and the needs of others.  When I allow my mind to focus on His Word, on His character, and on His truth, I accept His filling – to the point of overflowing.  He is real, and He is with me.  When I pray, it is as if I hear Him knocking.  I open the door of my heart and He comes in and dines with me.  (Rev 3:20.) 

I pray that you will allow Him to meet you where you are when you silence yourself before Him.  The time can seem uncomfortable at first, but I encourage you to press on until it becomes second nature to you.  May it become an essential in your life, and may you never wish to spend a day without it.

Blessings to you, my friend, as you receive His filling in your life.  May you overflow with His love, strength and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pouring Out or Overflowing - Part 3

Today we continue our discussion about receiving (aka “accepting”) the Lord’s filling to the point of overflowing.  I encourage you to review my lasts two posts to gain insight to the context of this teaching.  In the meantime, let’s take a look together at a 2nd means of entering the Lord’s presence to be filled by Him – time in His Word.

When we approach the Word of God, our primary focus should be on discovering more about our Lord and Savior and drawing near to Him.   Reading for the sole purpose of learning facts robs us of a richness that stems from the simplicity of faith.  We do not need to know and understand everything about His Word to find Him there.  Beauty comes in believing and accepting His Word as truth.    

I had the rare blessing Monday of sipping coffee (iced, because it was nearly 100 degrees in the Denver area) with my daughter.  She mentioned the historical accuracy of the Bible and it reminded me of the first time I fell in love with the Word.  I realized that the stories were not about imaginary people and fictitious events.  The Word contains testimonies of real people who lived real lives, struggling with real emotions, and experiencing real victories.  Their stories are true (yes, even Jonah) and recorded so that we may know and believe that He is God. 

So how do we meet God in His Word?  As you begin to open the cover of your Bible, stop and pray – every time.  I cannot over emphasize the importance of this.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you and give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. I can sense a clear difference in my reading when I have first stopped to pray.

My dear friend, Doreen, advises that we read “only until the Lord stops us.”  Practically speaking, here is what this can look like:  prayerfully opening His Word and reading in whatever passage is most inviting to you.  As you begin to read, often a particular verse(s) may seem to jump off the page and touch your heart in a way that you did not expect.  Stop and meditate on that verse alone and carry the Words in your heart throughout the day.   (There will be days when you read for a long time and realize nothing has spoken to your heart.  Please do not be discouraged and repeat the process tomorrow with the expectancy that He will speak to you through His Word.) 

Daily time in His Word is a soul-satisfying exercise.  I believe that you when opening your day with Him in praise, in His Word, and in prayer, your day will be more peaceful, you will have a calmer heart, and a joy-filled spirit!  Give it a try!

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Ps 16:11 (NIV)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pouring Out or Overflowing - Part 2

In my last post, I mentioned that a Pastor recently prayed for our church staff to be filled to overflowing.  Instead of pouring ourselves out to those we serve, He asked that we be given enough of Him to serve out of the overflow so that we never run empty. 

Through my next few posts, I plan to look at the “how to’s” of becoming filled with the Lord to the point of overflowing.  This is not a magic formula, but rather advice gleaned from Scripture and found to be effective in my own life.  I don’t look at it as a way to achieve the filling, but a way to accept it.  After all, as believers we are already filled by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17).  Our task then, becomes receiving that blessing to the point that our cups run over. 

Our first “step” is praise and worship, which comes through quiet meditation or by outwardly writing, speaking, or singing about Who we recognize the Lord to be in His Word.  There are many ways that we can daily express our adoration for the Lord and praise Him for Who He is.  If you don’t know where to begin, turn to Genesis 1:1, which states “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  (NASB)   What character traits do we see in this simple sentence?  First, God was there in the beginning.  Next, He is the Creator of heaven and earth.  Those two aspects alone can keep us praising Him for a lifetime!   

The Psalms are a wonderful place to visit when praising the Lord.  Regardless of where in the Psalms you land, you are sure to see His goodness and power expressed.  It glorifies the Lord when we simply read His Word back to Him, so I encourage you to borrow the words of the psalmists and lift up our Savior!

If you enjoy praising through song, do it!  Choose songs that declare His greatness and majesty and focus solely on Him.  Do not get wrapped up in a performance or a particular artist, but set the compass of your heart toward the Lord and worship Him with all you have.  

You may ask how worship can help us accept the Lord's filling.  Psalm 22:3 tells us that the Lord inhabits the praise of His people.  Through praise to the King, we can enter His gates and courts (Psalm 100:4).  Many believe worship to be a response to something great that the Lord does in our lives, but it is really quite the opposite.  God responds to us and begins to move freely within us when we lift Him up in worship.  It helps us turn our focus from ourselves and place it squarely on Him, to the point that we are humbled and He is magnified.  I can think of no better way to accept His filling.  

This week, take time to praise the Lord, even outside of Sunday church service.  Pour out your heart in gratitude and rejoice in His presence!  I would love to hear how this simple, yet powerful act affects your life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pouring Out or Overflowing?

Have you ever thought to yourself, I just can’t take it anymore!  Or, I have nothing left to give that person?  How about the thoughts of, I’m too drained to stop and offer to help, or if my kids ask me to do one more thing, I’m going to drop!

As women, we often pour ourselves into those around us:  our, husbands, children, families, friends, bosses, and even strangers.  We serve fervently to the point where we run out of spiritual fuel.   Then, if even the smallest of crises hits, we have no energy left to deal with it in a reasonable manner.  While we trust the Lord, our emotions get the best of us and push us to what feels like the edge of a cliff.  Suddenly, instead of being able to serve those we love, we react with drama, or more as victims of our own circumstances.  We feel paralyzed from effectively supplying the support that others need, let alone keeping ourselves afloat.  

What if the cycle could be broken?  What if, when we gave all we had to others, we could somehow keep a “full tank?”  Imagine – if that were the case, we would never run dry.  We would constantly be full, even as we give of ourselves and serve others.  Imagine not running on empty but staying adequately supplied to do all that we need to do.

Recently one of our Pastors prayed for our church staff and asked the Lord to fill us to overflowing.   Instead of pouring ourselves out to those we serve, He asked that we be given enough of Him to serve from the abundance – out of the overflow – so that we, ourselves, never run empty.   Something clicked in my heart and his prayer continues to resonate deep within my spirit.

How would our lives look if we allowed the love of Christ to overflow through us?  What if we were so filled with the Spirit, with God’s love, with HIM, that it just naturally spilled out of us and into the lives of others?  I believe miraculous things could happen, but how do we reach that point? 

Over the next few weeks, I will show you how I believe it can be done and, perhaps, we can begin to walk the path together!   Until then, I encourage you to pray this for yourselves (from Colossians 1:9-12).  Will you please also pray it for me?  I’ll return the favor!

“Lord, please fill me with the knowledge of your will all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that I may walk in a manner worthy of You.  Help me to please You, to bear fruit in every good work and to increase my knowledge of You.  Strengthen me with all power according to Your glorious might, and fill me with steadfastness and patience.  I joyously give thanks to You, my Father.  In the power of the name of Jesus, I pray.”  

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Nearly Missed It All

Michael and I began our 25th year of marriage this week.  We have shared nearly every joy and trial together since we became 4-H club friends in 1981.  He is my confidant, my best friend, and the love of my life. 

Someone complimented us on our “rock solid” marriage and I thought through our journey together.  There was a time when we barely liked each other.  He drove me completely nuts with the things he found funny, the way he chewed his food, absolutely everything.  I shudder to consider how he thought of me during that time and how I affected him with the disasterous things I was doing.  Our marriage was far from rock solid, it was on the edge of a cliff, about to fall into the abyss.

We were on the verge of divorce and I can think of only a handful of people who knew we were having trouble.  None of them was prone to pray.  If we were prayed for at all during that time, it was by the Spirit.  Romans 8:26 says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning to deep for words.”  (NASB)

By the grace of God alone, I recognized a willingness to fight for our relationship.  For reasons I cannot explain, I began to find some good in my husband and over time, we re-established the friendship we once shared.  The walls I had erected were coming down, one brick at a time.

As the Lord called us both back to Himself, I fell on my knees.  I started to pray specifically for our marriage and we began to stand on the foundation of Christ.  I prayed these specific verses, among many others:

·         That God would knit our hearts together in love (Colossians 2:2)

·         That we would find the good in one another (Philippians 4:8)

·         That Mike would be the head of our home as Christ is head of the church (Eph 5:23)

·         That I would submit to my husband as is fitting in the Lord (Colossians 3:18)

·         That God would restore the years that the locust had eaten (Joel 2:25)

Over the next 3 years, our relationship was slowly and deeply restored by the grace of God and for His glory alone.  We have become “rock solid” indeed, not by our own efforts but because we now stand on Jesus, the rock and our firm foundation. 

After we had been out of the fire for some time, I came across a verse in Romans that summarized our journey in two sentences:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (NIV).

We are evidence of God’s transforming work through the renewal of our minds.  Once I could not imagine spending another minute with my husband and now I cannot imagine a single moment of my life without him.  I eagerly await the number of years that the Lord allows us to share together.  I thank Him for giving us a willingness to grow, humility to lean on His strength, and the gift of bountiful blessings that our marriage brings.  Just think.  We nearly missed it all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Practical Prayer Helps

Today’s post is part of a devotion that I presented at our church’s Mother-Daughter Tea on Saturday. 

Who is praying for your children?  Instead of owning this responsibility yourself, many rely on others, like a Sunday school teacher, Children’s Minister, or perhaps Great Grandma who has prayed for every family member by name since 1942.  Whether kids are small or grown, we moms have the responsibility and the honor of praying for them.  This is true even if for those who have never prayed for their children before.  

Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing.  This sounds very overwhelming, but if you pray a little more today than you did yesterday, you are on the right track. 

If you are just developing your prayer life, you may start by identifying a point of worry and asking the Lord to carry the burden for you.  For example:  “Father, in the name of Jesus, please protect Taylor as she drives today.”  Instead of worrying, I offered a simple prayer and laid my concern at His feet.

When we look at the examples of prayer in the Bible, they are hard hitting, specific, and most often, short.  We do not need to fill hours of time with flowery words to the Lord.  Simply speak from your heart – that is all He desires.  He not only knows our hearts, but He knows our needs before we ask.  Asking for exactly what we desire gives us the honor of watching to see how the Lord answers.  It is amazing to see His answers, but we have to pay attention!

When we pray His Word back to Him, we know that we are asking things that are His will.  This sounds tricky, but it is actually easier than thinking of what to say on our own.  It’s like a spiritual, permissible cheat sheet.  Simply insert the name of someone that you love right into a scripture passage.  For example, Psalm 85:7 says:  “Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. (NASB)” Turning that into a prayer looks like this:   “Lord, I ask that you would show Joan your unfailing love, and grant Joan your salvation.”   

I just prayed for my Mom’s salvation without having to struggle with words.  I used God’s Words and prayed them right back to Him.

One last example, and this time I will pray generationally using what Jesus called the Greatest Commandment.  From Matthew 22: “Lord, I pray today that Chris and Taylor would love the Lord their God with all of their heart, mind, and soul and that they would love their neighbors as themselves.  I also ask this upon their future spouses, and upon their future children and grandchildren.  May each person who joins our family love you fully and glorify you by loving their neighbors as themselves.”

It is never too early to pray for the future family of our children.  Psalm 78:6 speaks of influencing future generations, even the children yet to be born.  I encourage you to begin today and watch how the Lord will touch your kids through your efforts.   

Monday, June 6, 2011

You're Never Fully Dressed Without...

Do I have any sisters out there who also love the story of Little Orphan Annie? When Taylor was small, we spent hours enjoying the 1982 movie version with Carol Burnett. The story featured a musical radio commercial and the orphaned girls sang its jingle together, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”

This jingle popped into my head the other day when I saw a friend at church. I hadn’t seen her for a week or two and she looked amazing. She was all but glowing – there was something different and very lovely about her that I couldn’t put my finger on. Her countenance was confident and almost radiant, and the smile she wore was larger than normal. Her eyes sparkled and her peace was evident. I hugged her tightly and told her what I saw in her that morning. She just smiled some more, thanked me, and moved on through our hallways.

Later that morning, I sat in the same Sunday school classroom as this friend. During discussion, she mentioned that she had meaningful quiet time with the Lord nearly every day that week. I knew in an instant what was making her so radiant – the joy that comes from being in the Lord’s presence!

Nothing in her life had changed. Her circumstances were essentially the same as they had been for weeks, and yet, she was displaying joy in abundance. She shared the effect that reading His Word and focused prayer time had, and listed benefits such as restful sleep, a peaceful attitude and calmer relationships in her life (among other benefits). I wondered why, when we get busy, our time with God is the first thing pushed aside.

Do we realize that our time with the Lord can become our most beautiful fashion accessory? I know that I don’t often think of it that way, but the song from a fictitious radio commercial came into my head and I recognized that we are never fully dressed without first enjoying our quiet time with the Lord. True, inner joy has its foundation in spending time in God’s presence. Such joy is expressed in mighty ways, without saying a single word. My friend was the perfect example.

I offer the following challenge: As you fix your hair, perfectly apply your eye makeup and add color to your lips, remember that our most beautiful accessory is the radiant joy that manifests itself after enjoying deep communion with our Lord and Savior. Try it on for size and see what transpires!

You will make known to me the path of life;
In your presence is fullness of joy;
In your right hand there are pleasures forever.
(Psalm 16:11 NASB)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Reading

Today is the very last day of May, 2011 and temperatures are predicted to reach upper 80’s in Brighton, Colorado.  A wet, dreary month has passed and it looks as if summer really will arrive.  I was beginning to wonder!

I thought it might be fun to put together a list of some of my favorite titles for summer reading.  My preferences are not the sappy romance, make-you-feel-good titles of my earlier life.  My fancies have turned almost exclusively to that which will help me grow, make me think, and equip me to encourage others.  If you’re looking for light reading over the summer, this may not be your list.  But if I can encourage – dare I say inspire – some of you to reach for something on the mostly serious side, you may just find that you come out of the journey feeling a little closer to God and understanding yourself a bit more.  

These books have affected me in significant ways and it is my pleasure to share them with you!  Drum roll, please… introducing a few of my “must read” recommendations:

1)      Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan). This book is a gripping testimony of the transformation of The Brooklyn Tabernacle through the prayer of its people.  If you have wondered what impact prayer can really have, read this book from cover to cover! 

2)      I Should Forgive, But… by Dr. Chuck Lynch (Word Publishing).  We have all experienced hurt by the actions of others and this book helped me realize that forgiveness doesn’t make the offense OK, it makes me OK.  The Lord used this book to set me free in many ways.  Praise Him!

3)      Jesus the One and Only by Beth Moore (Broadman & Holman Publishers).  I love the writing of Beth Moore (if you’re hearing that for the first time, where have you been?!) and this is one of my favorites.  I laughed, cried and fell in love with my Lord through this devotional journey of the life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke. 

4)      How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart (Zondervan).  This is a great narrative for laypeople who want to know more about the Bible.  The most immediate help I received came through a deeper understanding of the Psalms and how man’s word to God can be also used (divinely) as God’s word to man!  I also learned how 7 specific chapters of the Old Testament can give significant insight to the books of prophecy.   

This book helps me develop deeper understanding and appreciation for God’s Word that is alive and active.

5)      Epicenter by Joel C. Rosenberg (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.).  Timely, relevant, and tied with current events, this book helped me see the world through God’s eyes.  We in the US often feel that WE are the center of the world.  Clearly, God’s Word tells us that Israel is the “epicenter” of our planet and ties current events with Biblical truths.    

Please know that I do not agree with every word printed in each of these books.  Nothing written by man is infallible or inerrant and should be read carefully, with wisdom and discernment.  I encourage you to study as the Bereans did and to test all things against Scripture!

Happy Reading!