Monday, November 12, 2012

The Golden Rule in Marriage

As a young wife, I had a mean side that loved to present itself during an argument with Mike.  While I don’t like to admit it, I’m sure I often used the “s” word (‘stupid’) with the intent of stinging the heart of my husband.  He soon shared how much he disliked my approach to fighting, which had the same effect as pouring gasoline on a flame.  Knowing how much my words wounded him caused me to use them to my advantage to “win” arguments.   How sad to look back and realize that I wasn’t winning at all, but pushing him away and causing him to withdraw.  My words and actions were causing my best friend to wish to be anywhere else but by my side. 

Over time, I learned that we could disagree and still speak kindly to one another.   I could express displeasure without using my claws on his heart.  The Bible teaches that I am to treat my husband in the same way that I would want him to treat me (Matthew 7:12), and that means I should keep my sharp tongue caged, to the very best of my ability, by allowing Christ to work in me.  My husband is not a stupid man; in fact, he is extremely gifted and intelligent.  If I could see those traits on a daily basis, why did I express the exact opposite during a fight?

It has become a high priority for me to speak kindly to my husband at all times.  Sadly, some friends and relatives who think that I am too passive have mocked me for this, hinting that I am not forceful enough with my man.  But here’s the thing:  I do not relate to my husband with a goal of winning the approval of my friends.  I relate to my husband in order to bring glory and honor to God.  Therefore, I do my best to pray before I speak and have learned that I communicate more effectively when I show him my constant respect.  By speaking with kind words instead of hurling insults, we avoid most fights, have a deeper understanding of each other’s views, and move toward faster unity.  

When we do disagree, I do my best to use phrases like, “I feel ___” rather than “You always _____.”   It is my aim to share my heart and the ‘how and why’ of my feelings instead of accusing him, which helps us keep our sights on our shared vision of unity.  Make no mistake, I’m no doormat and I don’t lay all of my wants, desires, opinions and knowledge aside so that he can always have his way.  Instead, I share my viewpoint with respect and kindness rather than making him feel foolish. 

At times when I blow it, and I occasionally still do, I go before the Lord and ask that He help me show honor and respect to my husband in abundance, not with a manipulative spirit, but to encourage and build him up.    

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)


Monday, November 5, 2012

Lessons from the Front Lines - Part 3

Spiritual Battles Call for Spiritual Weapons…
praying together in marriage

While marriage it is one of the most rewarding and satisfying relationships, it is one of the toughest to navigate, and can bring heartache, pain, and confusion.  One practical thing that we can do to combat such feelings is to pray through them, and as couples, we must pray together. God’s Word teaches that we should not be anxious about anything (including our marital relationship), but in everything, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present our requests to God (Philippians 4:6 NIV).  In other words, through the teaching of the Apostle Paul, we learn not to worry, but instead, to pray.

Prayer is simply spending time with God, talking to Him, finding joy in His presence, and awaiting His leading as we seek His direction.  There are no special formulas to prayer and no special vocabulary required, yet many feel intimidated by the thought of having a conversation with God.  It’s no big deal to cry out, “help me!” when an emergency arises, but to set aside more than just a few seconds to spend with him may feel frightening and, well, maybe a bit silly.    We may think it an embarrassing thing to do in front of others, particularly our spouse! The thought of praying together as a couple is so foreign to some, we may scoff before we consider all of the blessing it can bring.

A little over a year ago, Mike and I found ourselves in one of the biggest arguments of our marriage.   Nearly 24 hours into the fight, it occurred to both of us, almost at the same time, that we were fighting a spiritual battle without our spiritual weapons.  Even after all of our years of learning together through God’s Word, we were duking it out, each trying to come out as the victor, and forgetting against whom we were actually fighting.  

Suddenly, in the midst of a long and painful battle, we got down on our knees and prayed together.  Each of us confessed to the Lord (and to each other), how hurtful we’d been to one another and asked for forgiveness (from the Lord and from each other).   If we’d stopped there, we would have put healing salve on the wounds we had each inflicted, but we continued and poured out our hearts to the Lord in even deeper ways. 

We asked for His wisdom and direction on how we should move forward.  We asked the Lord to soften our hearts toward the ideas and thoughts of the other.  We each presented a willingness to look at the situation from the other side, and a readiness to take a step closer to each other in the process.  In prayer, we realized that it really didn’t matter who was right or wrong.  What mattered was that we each wanted to agree with the Lord.  We wanted His way and we asked Him to show it to us.   We entered this time of prayer still angry and hurt, but came out with softer hearts, an ability to see the situation from new angles, and a willingness to walk together toward a solution.  

We’re still learning.  We continue to grow together, following the Lord’s ways of relating to one another.  We have not “arrived,” nor do we ever expect to reach a point where we know it all.  We do know, however, that when we pray together, we bear our hearts, allow total vulnerability, share complete honesty, and surrender it all to the Lord.  He has never let us down.  Each time we seek Him, we find Him.  He meets us where we are and ministers to us through our trials. 

If you’ve never prayed with your spouse, start small.  Devote just a minute or two to your first try.  It might feel uncomfortable and unbearably long, but do it anyway.  Each time you meet on your knees, the process will feel more natural.  Pray together for something on which you agree:  the children, a request for direction with finances, or an upcoming decision.  As you grow in your united prayer life, begin praising the Lord for how He is working in your life, confessing ways that you have fallen short of pleasing Him (particularly in your marriage), thank Him for blessing you in specific ways, and then begin to present your requests and needs.  Don’t avoid periods of silence, but use them to allow Him to speak to and minister to your heart.

Prayer is not optional; it’s a vital foundation to unity in marriage.  Make it your immediate, go-to source of strength rather than turning to it as an after-thought when all else has failed.
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:12-13

This post is part of a series that details what we've learned over the last 25 years about honoring God with our marriage.  Click Here to see our last post.   

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lessons From the Front Lines - part 2

Did Your Marriage Vows Say: “I Will, But Only if You Will?”

I recently read that wedding vows are speeches that a husband and wife make to each other on their wedding day.  Speeches?  Really?  While I disagree with the idea that vows are nothing more than words, I can’t argue that this is a common mindset in our society. 

 Do you remember your wedding vows?  It is possible that they went something like this:  “I   take you, as my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, to love and to cherish until death do us part.”

When a bride and groom stand before the Lord and promise to love, honor and respect each other - come what may for the rest of their lives - it represents far more than a sentimental speech or a contract with one another.  Vows represent an unbreakable covenant with God and a binding promise that spouses make to each other and to the Lord.   

There are huge differences between a covenant and a contract.  A contract implies the following: 

·         Promises are conditional

·         I have to do my part only if you do your part

·         I will, but only if you will first! 

·         If you blow it, I’m outta here!

In contrast, a covenant is a commitment with no strings attached. 

·         Promises are unconditional

·         If you fail to meet my expectations, I must uphold my promise to love you as the Lord loves me.  

·         When you disappoint me, I remain obligated to treat you with love and respect. 

·         “I will, no matter what” (this sounds like our wedding vows, doesn’t it?)

We can expect that disappointment in marriage will come.  When it does, how will you respond?  Will you focus on what your spouse has done and act in retaliation, or will you ask the Lord for strength and perseverance as you fight to uphold your promises to Him?  As we rise each morning, we must choose to fulfill the covenant we made with God and decide moment-by-moment to love, honor, and cherish our spouse.  No matter what. 

When Christ surrendered His life, He proved His unconditional love.  May He provide us with the strength to love our spouses the same way, keeping in mind our unconditional marriage covenant.  

Questions? Comments? Please post them here. We’re here to minister to and pray for you and your marriages. Please let us know how we can. We know that we’ve touched just the tip of the iceberg, and we’d love to continue the dialogue. Let us know your thoughts (anonymous comments are welcome).

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (NASB)
Michael & Cathy

This post is part of a series that details what we've learned over the last 25 years about honoring God with our marriage. Click here to the last post.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons from the Front Lines

Soldiers in the Same Army

Our nephew married his high school sweetheart a few weeks ago, just days after our 25th wedding anniversary.  The ceremony was beautiful and the reception carried a great feeling of celebration for the bride and groom.   There was a message on our hearts for the couple, but sometimes, heartfelt words that are encouraging - yet paint a darker picture - aren’t appropriate to share during such a day of joy.  What we wanted to say, but decided to wait for better timing, was this:

Marriage is not merely difficult.
 It’s a battlefield. 
You are in the middle of a spiritual war zone.

You can see why we didn’t think their wedding day was the best day to share our hearts.   Since we can safely assume that no one is reading this blog post on his or her wedding day, we’ll get the message off our chests, as it were. 

We know that marriage is God’s design. He created it in the beginning along with the earth, the heavens, the waters, and every living thing.  God knew it was not good for man to be alone, so He created a helpmate – a woman – who would live her life alongside the man and journey through life with him.    

We also know that we have an enemy – Satan – who despises everything good that God provides for His children.  Marriage is a gift from the Lord, and Satan wants nothing more than its complete annihilation.  Truly, marriage is one of the things that Satan rails against most vehemently.  There is no need to take it personally.  He despises the institution of marriage as a whole and spends much of his effort trying to rip apart our God-ordained relationships.

That’s not very cheery news and, we realize, not much of an encouraging word.  But here’s an important reminder:  In the battle, the enemy tries to convince us that we – husband and wives – are in opposing armies.  When he successfully deceives us into thinking that our enemy is the one who shares our bedroom, his work is finished.  We do the rest of his dirty work for him and he can sit back and laugh at our expense.

God joined us together and no one can separate us if we lean on Him and stand firm in His truth.  Husbands and wives are on the same team – soldiers in the same army.  We fight a common enemy, and must not be fooled into thinking that our fight is against our closest human ally.  We’ll share some practical help in the coming weeks on how to lay down our swords against each other and turn to watch one another’s backs. 

If you are feeling today as if your husband or wife is against you, please pray – immediately – and ask the Lord to soften your hearts toward one another and begin to see each other as vital allies in His army.  Your spouse is not your enemy.  You’ve shared your hearts, your dreams, and your very lives together.  Stand firm for one another and trust that your husband or wife is your ally, not your foe.

Our practical help for today:  Treat your spouse as you did when you were newlyweds (yes, even if your spouse doesn’t do the same).  Speak kindly.  Touch gently.  Make a commitment to battle as one against the enemy instead of battling each other.  This will require huge amounts of prayer, but rest assured that each battle is won by partnering with the Lord.  He’ll provide all you need.

Questions?  Comments?  Please post them here. We’re here to minister tand pray for you and your marriages.  Please let us know how we can.  We know that we’ve touched just the tip of the iceberg, and we’d love to continue the dialogue.  Let us know your thoughts (anonymous comments are welcome). 

Michael & Cathy

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  
Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV)

This post is part of a series that details what we've learned over the last 25 years about honoring God with our marriage.  Click here to see last week's post.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Better Than a Bed of Roses

It’s been over 25 years since Michael and I said, “I do” before God and our loved ones.  We married on June 20, 1987 in Arvada, Colorado and, while sometimes it seems like only yesterday, it was over a quarter century ago! We’re planning a trip to the beach this fall to get away and celebrate.  We look forward to the quiet and rest of a sabbatical where we can slow down, reconnect, and just be.  There’s not much I love more than having Michael by my side (unless, of course, you count the time we spend with our kids), and I’m already getting butterflies thinking about having him all to myself.  No meetings, very few phone interruptions, great conversations, lots of time to pray and study God’s Word together, sleep late, catch up on our list of “must see” movies, walks along the water, and hours of comfortable silence with my very best friend.  I can’t wait!

It is easy to make our marriage sound as if it’s always been romantic and filled with bliss, but that is not the case.  Throughout our blessed years of raising beautiful children, living life, and enjoying many reasons to celebrate, we’ve seen our share of struggles.  We’ve buried loved ones, experienced job loss, watched our kids suffer, and battled spiritual attack.  We’ve each worked to the point of sheer exhaustion and family neglect, placed inappropriate priorities ahead of each other, and wondered if our marriage should continue.  There were times we handled the stress of heartache, disappointment, and near-collapse situations by attacking each other.  Yes, we’ve experienced separation and at various times turned our back on the Lord. 

In His great mercy and abundant loving-kindness, God has always drawn us back to Himself, both individually and together as a couple.  He alone has helped us refocus on the big picture and learn to let the small stuff go.  Christ has knit our hearts together in love and deep friendship and to Him alone we ascribe the glory - not only for the longevity of our marriage, but the joy and happiness that we experience. We realize that we walk in His strength, together as a team of three (God, Michael, and Cathy). 
Our marriage has not always been a bed of roses, but I’ll tell you in all honesty, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Each trial has made us rely more fully on the Lord and has drawn us… eventually… closer to one another and closer to Him.   It has not always been fun (but most of it sure has been), and not one single moment was wasted.  God has used every second for our good and for His glory.  Our marriage has been worth the effort, worthy of the fight, and it is, without question, a gift from the Lord.

In honor of 25 years together, Mike and I, for the next many weeks, will write these blog posts together and share our best advice as a list of “Top 10 Tips for a God-Honoring Marriage.” We pray you’ll be blessed and that you’ll find these posts worthy of sharing with those you love.  We hope to offer our stories honestly, vulnerably and selflessly with you, with the aim of glorifying the One who gave it all.   

Stay tuned.  Our Top 10 List is coming soon!

Monday, July 2, 2012

100 Times More

Missionaries visiting our church this weekend delivered a beautiful, blessed and heart-felt message where I was reminded of a verse that I haven’t visited for a long while.  The concept of the verse has been rumbling around in my heart for months, but I was directed to Matthew 19:29 on Sunday:  “And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of my name will receive 100 times more and inherit eternal life.” (HCSB)

In other words, when we are obedient and follow His calling to the point of sacrificing what is dear to us, He promises to bless us by returning even more than what we’ve given.  I’ve seen this many times in my personal journey: with time, with things, with relationships, with financial matters, and so much more.  The Lord returns that which we lay at His feet and sacrifice to Him.  When we are willing to give it up, He is willing to give it back, in an even better form.    

Let me give you some recent examples:

·         When my schedule is tight and I don’t know how I’ll ever complete my “To Do” list, I still make a choice each morning to begin my day with Him.  I give Him my time and my focus.  Somehow, He returns the time that I dedicate to Him.  Sometimes I feel that He supernaturally blesses me when tasks fall into place easily, like this week when I had some special packages to ship for our church.  I did not have the correct sized envelopes and knew that it would require some shopping to get the task done.  When I arrived in my office on Friday morning, there was a large box of envelopes on my desk – the exact sized envelopes I needed, mind you - with a sticky note that said, “donation.”  I have no idea who brought them, but I smiled knowing that the Lord took care of my need and saved me the time (and money) it would take to shop.  
·         I’ve laid difficult relationships at His feet, too, surrendering them to Him to heal in His perfect timing.   While I wait, I’m often met with a renewed sense of rejection and heartache.  I had a difficult time with this just last month, but then my daughter and some in my beloved church family reached out and gave us the most genuinely loving gift.  At the end of a long weekend where I had to face a number of difficult emotions stemming from difficult relationships, we received an invitation to a dinner that –SURPRISE – was in our honor to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  The timing was all God’s.  The group told us they had been trying to schedule the party for many weeks, but the day that it finally worked out was the day it touched my heart the most.  God reminded me that He loves us with an everlasting love and gives us all that we need.  At the end of a weekend of renewed rejection, I basked in love that He poured out through His people.  I’m still glowing.

While we must guard our motivation for giving and use care that we don’t “give to get,” how have you seen the Lord return something to you “100 times more?”   I’d love to hear your story!  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Will We Accept Defeat or Walk in His Victory?

Yesterday was Father’s Day and the kids came home to visit and celebrate over dinner.  After a very hot day, we received the blessing of some cloud cover and the four of us soon found ourselves in the back yard playing catch with a football.  

I broke away for a few minutes and spent a little time in the front yard watering flowers and doing my best to keep them alive (not a strong suit of mine).  Coming back around the house, I heard the familiar sound of clinking horseshoes and realized the game had changed.  Now, there are many things - like gardening and math - that I don’t do well, but throwing horseshoes is one of the things I do worst.  Seriously.  When I throw a horseshoe, it looks more as if I’m bowling.  It’s a pathetic sight and often rather embarrassing.   I usually try to wiggle out of the game somehow, but since there were just four of us, I knew there was no hope of sitting out as a cheerleader.

Our family is competitive.  Very competitive.  We play games to win and, let’s just say that mercy is not a strong spiritual gift for any one of us.  At the end of a game, there is always grace and kindness combined with sometimes-gentle ribbing, but in the heat of the battle, we’re focused and purposeful.  Our mission is clear:  beat the socks off our opponents, in love, of course.   

As I neared the horseshoe pit, Mike called out, “Taylor and I are on a team against you and Chris.”  Grand.  Not only did I have to play, I found myself paired with the most competitive person in our group.  “I’m sorry, Chris,” I said immediately.  “I’m terrible at this game.”

My son who often has tremendous wisdom that can only come from the Lord called back from the opposite end of the pit, “Don’t be sorry!  Be successful!” 

We had a wonderful evening and I made many terrible throws that brought snickers and jokes from those who love me most.  Chris and I won the game, and by the grace of God, I even contributed a few points.   This morning as I reflected on the joys of the time we share (too infrequently) as a family, Chris’s words struck my heart.  “Don’t be sorry!  Be successful!”  While he delivered them as encouragement to buckle down and win a game, they offer sage advice and are words to live by.

Before I continue this thought, let me clarify:  I don’t believe that God cares a lick about who won our game of horseshoes or whether or not Tim Tebow throws a touchdown pass.  His concern is that we glorify Him with our lives, win or lose. The Lord’s concern is not about our winning games, but about our standing victorious over the enemy of this world, honoring Him, and advancing His Kingdom. 

Too often, we accept defeat before we ever begin a thing, when the God of the heavens is on our side and provides for our victory!  How many times have we said such things to ourselves as:

  • “I can’t kick this addiction”
  •  “I just can’t please my husband so why try?”
  •  “I know carrying this extra weight isn’t healthy, but I don’t have the willpower stop snacking or start exercising.”
  •  “They’ve asked me to serve at church but I can’t muster the energy."
  •  “I can’t stop worrying about my kids and it keeps me awake at night.”
  •  “I’m afraid of failure (or success) so it’s best to not even try.”
  •  “I’ve been hurt in the past, so I avoid getting close to people.”

We often accept defeat without reminding ourselves that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).   It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, yet we burden ourselves with a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).  We are often so bogged down with slavery to fear, worry, guilt, shame, and confusion, that we settle for mediocrity rather than the very best that God desires for His children.  We see ourselves as victims rather than victors, and turn our backs on the blessing and joy that God has waiting for us when we seek Him and allow His power and strength to work through us.  

My challenge to you is to accept the sound advice of my son and “Don’t be sorry, be successful!”  I’ll rephrase it, however, and encourage us all to refuse defeat and walk in His victory!   It’s ours for the taking and when God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

How has God shown you that He strengthens you personally and enables you to do all things through Him?   Please share your comments.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I recently read an author who shared something like this:  Some of my most significant times of spiritual attack have come after periods of great accomplishments with the Lord. How I wish I’d have listened, really listened to that statement, and done a better job of preparing for battle. 
My book is published and marketing is going well, praise the Lord!  Stepping out in obedience to the Lord has brought great joy, but instead of resting on a mountaintop, in the last 4 weeks the enemy has come with considerable attacks.  It has been tough to stand firm in the Lord.  I believe this is among the most difficult periods in my spiritual journey thus far, and the battles some of the most significant I have faced, yet HE continues to prove Himself faithful. 

We are all soldiers in the Lord’s army where battles rage continuously. Until we become warriors, until we face off with our enemy, until we find ourselves trembling with our heads ducked for cover behind our shields of faith, we – especially we women – may think that spiritual warfare is meant only for others.  Perhaps we believed that God uses only the strong and mighty as warriors, but in reality we, too, stand on the battle lines.  Our role as soldiers becomes evident when particular trials get personal, when resisting the enemy is crucial to survival, and when we can do nothing else but stand firm in our faith.

Paul teaches that our weapons are not of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).   This is a spiritual battle to fight with spiritual weapons.  He instructs us to stand firm, and when he teaches about each aspect of the full armor of God, (Ephesians 6:10-20) we see that the complete armor leaves our backs unprotected.  We make ourselves very vulnerable if we turn and run, so we must stand and face our foe.  Peter tells us to resist the enemy, staying firm in our faith.  He then gives us the encouraging reminder that the Lord will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish us.  (1 Peter 5:8-9).    

As you begin to see yourself as a warrior, perhaps for the first time, let the truth sink in.  Our orders are simple:  stand firm, resist the enemy and stay firm in our faith.  This is the good fight.  Our only offensive weapons (prayer and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God) are divinely powerful.  Our armaments may seem meager if we judge them by what we can see, but we are in the Lord’s army, after all.  Do you believe He would send His soldiers into battle with anything less than what is needed for ultimate victory?  We are more thoroughly equipped than any army and we know that victory is ours.  Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King.  Stand firm, then, and praise His holy name!

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
Ephesians 6:10  (NASB)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dreamer

I tend to dream big… too big, sometimes, with tons of details and specifics.  I’m not talking about what happens when I sleep, but the sort of dream where I imagine my future.  Sometimes I dream so vividly that I can feel what it’s like 100 steps down the path.  I can taste what I believe God has for my future the moment He gives me the first glimmer of an idea.  Some people say I’m a visionary.   That might seem complimentary, but the truth is, I become so focused on my vision, I risk stepping off of the path that God has for my life. 

Dreaming is a good thing.  I believe that God often places dreams and ambitions in our heart.   The danger comes when an intense focus on goals blinds us to curves that God places in our path.  In our minds, the course is firmly set and when the Lord asks us to move in a different direction, we’re no longer following His map, but the course we’ve plotted for ourselves.

I’ll give you an example.  Many years ago, I accepted a position with a company that offered tremendous opportunity for success and advancement.  Even while in the entry level position, I could see myself at the top.  I knew this was the path that God set for me and believed that he wanted me to flourish in this new role.  I loved the position and I worked extremely hard, but became frustrated when it seemed that I could move only a few steps up the proverbial ladder, rather than climbing all the way to the top as I had imagined. 

Finally, it occurred to me that God was calling me in a different direction.  Originally accepting the position was the right decision.  God used it to teach me many things that I needed for the journey.  The path was His, but the dream was mine.  He never intended for me to become wildly successful in that role, but used my time there to prepare me for serving Him in other ways.      

I’ve had to do some refocusing of late.  It has required some re-surrendering to Him and His plans rather than allowing myself to get caught up in my own ideas and agenda.   I’ve asked for His wisdom and discernment on which dreams are my own and which of them He has planted in my heart.  Truly, those are the only ones that matter.

I once heard a teaching that God wants to stretch us, but He does not desire to frustrate us.  Any time that we feel frustrated, it is likely that we are acting too much in our own strength and not relying on His power working through us. My husband who is in law enforcement likes to say, “That’s what we call a clue.”  I am learning to recognize that when I feel as if I am beating my head against the wall, perhaps I am doing something that the Lord never intended for me to do.  When I feel frustrated I’m learning to bathe the matter in prayer, to step back and re-focus on the calling He has confirmed for me.   

When I walk in His path and obey what He has instructed, sometimes I can only see my next step.  My visionary nature can imagine the final outcome, but I’m learning to relax knowing that He is responsible for the results.   If I think back, I almost never achieve a dream exactly as I’ve envisioned, but without exception, His end results taste even sweeter than anything I’ve imagined.

The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 NASB

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Joy for the Journey

From before creation, God desired that His children not only possess great joy, but also experience it, and ensured that we would carry it with us always.  He made joy a characteristic of the fruit of the Holy Spirit so that, with Him, it would reside within us and remain protected from the schemes of the devil who desires to kill, steal, and destroy.  The enemy desires to displace our joy by shifting our focus from the sovereignty and love of God to our own distresses and uncomfortable situations.  However, the delight of joy goes beyond our circumstances.   The key to living it out is keeping our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  The sovereignty and perfection of God fuels our joy and provides a Savior to invite our fellowship with Him for all eternity.

The presence of God produces true joy, regardless of our circumstances.  Paul, as an example, had joy in prison, while awaiting news of execution.  The Spirit dwells in all who have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, yet many believers do not allow His manifestation in their lives. They continue to push away the still small voice of the Spirit and neglect to allow His work to become evident.

With a willingness to live for Christ, we learn to not only accept but also embrace the good... and the trials that He allows.  The Spirit helps us in our knowledge that each trial moves us toward completion so that we will not lack any good thing that He desires for us (James 1:2-4).  Then, we have reached a monumental goal.  It is here that we can experience deep, abiding joy.

From Finding Joy in the Journey: Savoring the Fruit of the Spirit on sale now at

Saturday, April 14, 2012

From the Archives: "I Want That!"

This was my very first blog post for Strengthened by the Word.  Although it's not one of the most polished, it remains one of my favorites.  I pray it inspires you to embrace God's very best.

If someone said to me, "pleroo," I would politely say, "God bless you!" Many words that I don't recognize sound like sneezes to me. But dismissing this term with a casual joke would be a shame, for I would then miss an important gift from God.

Our Father desires that we be made complete - or filled - in may significant ways. "Pleroo" is the transliteration of the Greek word meaning: to fill to the full, to cause to abound, or to fill to the top so that nothing shall be wanting, to full measure, fill to the brim.

Think of the familiar illustration of a jar that is filled with rocks. The jar looks full - as if nothing else can be added. But we can now pour a large amount of sand into that jar and the sand will, indeed fit into the nooks and crannies of the rocks, especially if we gently shake the jar so that the sand will filter to the bottom. All of the spaces now look filled. But, if we pour water into the jar and add enough water so that it is level with the brim of the jar, NOW, the jar is truly filled. It has not been left wanting and is, indeed filled to the top. We cannot add anything else to the jar without causing the water to run over the sides. The jar is complete or filled and meets the definition of pleroo.

Paul prays that believers in the church of Colossae be filled with knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding. King David is quoted in Acts as saying that the Lord fills us with gladness in His presence. Also in Acts, believers will be filled with the Holy Spirit. The first letter of John is written so that our joy may be made complete and Jesus, Himself prayed that we may have His joy made full.

When my daughter was small and spent time toddling around the house, the music from a TV commercial would often catch her attention. She would stop whatever she was doing, stare at the TV for a few seconds and give her full attention to the commercial, which was usually trying to sell her a toy. At the end of the commercial she would say with certainty, "I want that!" And within seconds, she was back to her toddling. Her words return to me often, mainly when I read a promise from God or see the light of Jesus shining through one of His people. I say to myself, "I want that." When I study what it means to be complete and filled with what God wants for me... peace... knowledge... wisdom... comfort... understanding... joy... gladness... and so much more, my spirit cries, "I want that!" And God is ever faithful!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why did Jesus have to Die?

That’s a great question, and one that many people may ask this season.  Today, Good Friday, is the remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross. Why was His death necessary?

Way back in the Garden of Eden, the first sin of Adam and Eve resulted in separation in their relationship with God. Instinctively, this couple knew their relationship with God had changed.  After all, they were used to walking through the Garden in constant fellowship with Him. Once they sinned, however, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, feeling shame for the first time.

Today, sin isn’t a word that is used much in everyday lingo. Many believe in order to classify something as “sin,” it must be egregious, and cause great harm to another.  The truth is, in very simplistic terms, sin is anything that we think, say, or do that is not pleasing to the Lord. Most of us sin in one way or another every day of our lives. Such sin separates us from God, and results in spiritual death.

When Jesus gave His life on the Cross, He took on the burden of the sins of all of His followers for all time.  The shedding of His blood washes His followers as white as snow – as if they had never sinned in the first place – and offers a way for restoration of our relationship with God the Father.  In essence, the Cross provides a bridge to enter into fellowship with God.

Do you have sin in your life?  Have you made a habit of thinking of it as merely a “hang-up” or a “certain struggle” that you have?  Truth be told, these things (if they are not pleasing to God) are sin, and keep us from a right relationship with God.  Without the sacrifice of Jesus, who was perfect in every way, there is no way to cross the chasm between God and us.  Without the cross, there is no way to spend eternity with Him in heaven. 

If you have never known Jesus as your forgiver and as the leader of your life, you can simply and easily accept His sacrifice right now.   First, admit that you have sinned and that you need His forgiveness and peace.   Believe that Jesus Christ died for YOU on the cross and that He rose from the grave on the third day.   Talk to God through prayer (no special words are required) and ask Him to forgive your sins and become the leader of your life. 

If you have taken those steps for the first time, I would love to hear from you!  I would love to help you find encouragement and accountability as you walk toward a meaningful relationship with God. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 NIV

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whom are you trying to punish?

I’ve had a question rumbling around in my spirit for a couple of weeks now.  It hit me while trying to help a friend through a trying situation, but it has personally convicted me to my bones.  The conviction is not for my actions, but for my thoughts… my attitude… my heart.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the overwhelming significance of humility is evident.  As a Sunday school class, we recently read Chapter 2 aloud then listed every word and phrase in the chapter that emphasized humility in Christ, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Nearly every single verse of the chapter points toward humility and gives example for its demonstration in our own lives.

The convicting question continued to interrupt my thoughts.  As our class discussed humility and what it means to empty ourselves – pour ourselves out like a drink offering – and allow the power of Christ to complete us into becoming who He created us to be, the question flew into my head one more time.  Then it came out of my mouth, addressing myself as much as anyone:  “Whom are you trying to punish?” 

Does anyone besides me, in their struggle toward humility…
  • in considering others as more important than themselves (Phil 2:3),
  • in having the attitude of Christ (Phil 2:5),
  • in doing all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil 2:14), and
  • in proving themselves blameless and innocent (Phil 2:15)
battle feelings of revenge when they feel wronged by another? 

Honestly.  I’m completely comfortable showing humility to those that I respect and agree with, but how do I relate with those who have wounded my heart or hurt me in ways that bring lingering pain?  Personally, I fight the fleshly desire to take things into my own hands, and handle matters as I believe just and correct.  Instead of waiting on and trusting the Lord, I have an urge, almost a need, to deal with those who have hurt me by carefully aiming both barrels.  Oh, how I hate to confess this truth!

I am confident that others share these same ugly struggles and concerns.  I leave you this week with a request to consider the following questions for yourself:  Whom are you trying to punish?  Why do you wish to punish them?  How have you acted on such desires?  How do you believe that the incarnate Christ would have acted if He were in your exact situation?  After reading Philippians Chapter 2, how would Paul have behaved?  Or Timothy?  Or Epaphroditus?   

I’ll post again soon and look at God’s instruction on how to deal with such matters in ways that are pleasing and honoring to him.  I cherish your prayers as I continue to dig into His Word.  I'll pray for you as you search for answers, too.

"You shall not take vengeance,
nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; 
I am the LORD."  (Leviticus 19:18 NASB)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Just as He Created

I remember an old T-shirt with the saying, “Please be patient.  God is not finished with me yet.”  I love the spirit of this message and the realization that the Lord continues, throughout our lives, to complete the exact design that He intended for each of us as His created children.    

I can’t put my finger on the exact time when, as a society, we stopped desiring spiritual growth and allowed the word of our day to become “tolerance.”  At some point, we (yes, we Christians) became those who feel entitled.  We recite the words, “to thine own self be true,” demand our personal rights and expect others to tolerate and accept us with all of our blatant imperfections.  Somehow, we consider ourselves “good enough” precisely as we are and accept the deception that we behave just as God created us to be.  It is almost as if we believe that the Lord finished molding us into His likeness and took His hands off the clay on the potter’s wheel. 

Once upon a time, it seemed folks realized that life consists of a process of spiritual growth and developing strength through reliance on God.  Most Christians recognized their need for continual improvement and transformation into the likeness of Christ.  In the past, I believe that we did more self-examination and less justifying.  We listened more and explained ourselves less.  Rather than stubbornly sticking to our guns, we tried to see things through the other person’s perspective and made an honest effort to meet them half way.  Now we seem to come at each other with the mindset of “accept me as I am, or you’re outta here.”    

The problem with this attitude is that it is not Biblical.  Throughout his writings, the apostle Paul taught that we should put to death the things of the flesh, pour ourselves out like a drink offering, and put on the attitude of Christ.  Paul used expressions like “put off” and “put on” to show the importance of purposeful, deliberate action when we trade our fleshly wants and desires for the attitudes and actions that resemble those of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Apostle taught us to empty ourselves in humble service to Christ and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us.

Only by setting aside the traits to which we so selfishly cling and recognizing that without Christ, there is nothing good in us, can we begin to become who He created us to be.  His work in us is ongoing.  The transformation is continual.  Our metamorphosis will not reach completion until He calls us home.  We cannot serve Him as He desires, or resemble Him as He instructs, until we lay down our personal identity and fully surrender to Him.  We must give up “who we are” and allow the power of His Spirit to perform its work in us.  When we walk in full surrender, only then, can we become who He created each of us to be.  

"As you therefore have received Chris Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him, and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude."  Colossians 2:6-7

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Bible Describes Women as Helpers? Really?

A short excerpt from our presentation at the Prairie Community Marriage Retreat over the weekend:

Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  Now the word “helper,” doesn’t sound very flattering, does it?  What if your husband introduced you at a party and said, “I’d like you to meet my helper?”   It sounds like an assistant, or a subordinate, or one who is of less significance. 

The Lord fashioned woman from the rib of the man (Genesis 2:22).  The Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, who died in the year 1714 and wrote long before anyone tried to convey "political correctness," explains it this way:  She was “not made out of his head to top him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected and near his heart to be beloved.”   

While the term “helper” doesn’t sound very romantic, it comes from a Hebrew term meaning, “to surround.”  The role of the helper is not a secondary one, but a vital role of surrounding a husband with support, encouragement, and comfort.  In fact, the Hebrew word for “helper” used in Genesis 2:18 is the exact same word that God used to describe Himself in Psalm 33:20, saying,  Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.”

In the role of "helper," wives simply make available all the godly qualities placed within us to enable our husbands to lead as directed and to help them develop into the godly men that they are called to be.  For me, it is an honor to be my husband's helper.  I cherish my involvement in his walk with Christ and equally cherish his involvement in mine.  

Have you ever thought of yourself as your husband's "helper?"  Please share your comments!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Well, How DO You Kill 11 Million People?

I am not a book reviewer… nor a critic.  But I feel a need to share a particular book that touched my life this month.  It stopped me in my tracks.  It made me think.  It called me to action.

How Do You Kill 11 Million People? Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think is by Andy Andrews (   It is a quick, easy read, yet packs quite a punch.  I read it while having my oil changed on a Wednesday.  I passed it onto a friend on Thursday, and she had it at church on Sunday, ready to share it with two more people.  

Andrews has a way of concisely demonstrating how history affects us today in our real-life situations. The book is about truth, or the lack of it, in politics.  It is not a pro-Republican, nor a pro-Democrat writing.  Rather, it is pro-USA and calls citizens to investigate facts for ourselves instead of accepting the word of many politicians, and media outlets, who don’t bat an eye when telling a lie.  

After reading it, I still have the following convictions buzzing in my mind, even two weeks later:

Why do I sit idly by and leave the political decisions of our country to others (especially when they may not consider themselves accountable to Jesus Christ?)

Why does our entire nation tolerate lies from the politicians we elect, at every level, and from both sides of the political aisle?
Why do we allow the bias of the media to sway our decisions instead of digging for truth?
Why have I allowed myself to believe that as one person, I can’t bring about change?

Why, when the Internet offers such vast information, have I neglected to learn and understand the political process?

How do I justify a lack of involvement that will affect my children and grandchildren?

Why, until now, have I shirked my responsibility to get involved?  

How Do You Kill 11 Million People is one of those books that I can’t stop thinking about.  It’s in my head, and, quite honestly, I can’t wait to get my hands on it again and read it one more time.  I encourage you to purchase it, read it immediately, and share it with as many people as you can.  Accept the call to action to get informed and get involved. 

 2 Chronicles 7:14

 If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 Lord, help us.  We need your healing.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Speak the Truth in Love

I had a great conversation with a friend this morning about the Apostle Paul, his words in Philippians 1:15-18, and the relevance of those words today.  In our own day and age, there are those who proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives.  Instead of voicing frustration, Paul stated in verse 18 “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes and I will rejoice.” 

Quite honestly, the hair on my neck stands up when I hear about false teaching or see evangelists who only desire fame and financial contributions.  Yes, I confess, I judge them, and there is no value in that.  There is little I can do when a preacher, teacher or leader – especially those on a national or international level – proceed to mishandle the word of God and act with selfish motives when proclaiming Christ.  Instead, I can adopt Paul’s attitude and celebrate the proclamation of our Savior.

I do feel a measure of responsibility, however, to friends in my circle of influence that may fall prey to such teaching.  When I see a beloved sister in Christ who is misled, I must gently take her by the hand and help her discover the truth.  This can easily become a teaching moment for both of us.  I cannot strive to teach her out of my own wisdom (especially because I do not have great wisdom), but by saying, “Let’s look at God’s Word together and see for ourselves what it says.” 

By helping my sister dig deeper into God’s Word, reviewing any questionable teaching by reading the Scripture in context, and prayerfully seeking the Lord’s wisdom and discernment, we discover the truth of Christ.  With an aim to help her delight in a more complete understanding of God’s character, I can help her see the relevance of the Bible in real-life, current situations.  In this, like Paul, I rejoice. 

Speaking the truth in love means not coming across as if I know every answer, and humbly seeking the power of the Holy Spirit as we walk shoulder-to-shoulder with one another.  Together, we can ask for the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we can walk in a manner worthy of Christ (Colossians 1:9-10).  Then, we can embrace the truth of Scripture, knowing that our love will abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9).
How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
Psalm 119:2

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ringing In the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!  Some of you have already boxed your Christmas decorations but I encourage you to keep a piece of Christmas in your heart all year long.  In Luke 2:10-11, the angel proclaimed to the Shepherds,

“Do not be afraid; for behold,

I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people;

for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior,

who is Christ the Lord.”

On a day-to-day basis throughout the New Year, will you choose to find great joy in your salvation?  Contemplate what your salvation means to you and dig through the Scriptures to find the truths that surround this mystery.  Christ died to take the punishment for your sins, to redeem your relationship with the Father and to ensure that His followers spend eternity with Him.  As children of God, we never have to walk our path unsure and alone.  Jesus is our Confidence, our Strength, our Redeemer, our Friend, and our unending Source of joy.  Indeed, good news of great joy came to all the people on Christ’s birth. 

When we continuously reflect on the glory of our salvation, it will affect every moment of our lives throughout 2012 and beyond.  Reach for something more than a happy New Year, and grab hold of your joy-filled future!