Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Seeing Glory

Only a few days left until Christmas and for more than a few women, life is at its ultimate craziness. Decorating, shopping, parties, baking, recitals and concerts, travel plans, cleaning, packing, wrapping, card writing and a myriad of other seasonal activities seem to add themselves to a woman’s already traditionally long “to do” list. Rarely does a new year roll around that I do not hear at least one woman exclaim, “I’m so glad the holidays are over.”

In addition, there are many of us who struggle to see this as a joyous time of year due to the circumstances of life. Children not returning home for the holidays, aging parents with issues, military family members deployed far away from home, a doctor’s diagnosis you never wanted to hear, facing Christmas without the presence of a beloved family member who has passed on, or one of many other painful situations. So, between the stress of the season itself and the stress of life in general, where do we find the joy?

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
we have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

As a teenager, I learned the hard way that Christmas is not always a joyous time when we unexpectedly lost my brother just three days before Christmas. His loss was not only devastating to us as a family, but also to our small community and church. I still remember the pastor’s message in that dark hour. He preached about how Christmas is not always a joyous time, but it always brings joy because it brings Jesus. Jesus came and we can see His glory.

How? This week, He has graciously shown me His glory in so many ways. I see His glory when my tired husband makes time to call me on the computer no matter how long and stressful his day may have been. I see His glory when my oldest son comes out from the city to take his sister Christmas shopping. I see His glory when my daughter-in-law travels out to the suburbs not once, but twice, in one day to take my daughter to get her hair cut. I see His glory when my younger son rearranges his schedule to come home early and help out his family. I see His glory when my daughter prepares a meal for me after a long day at school and rehearsals. I see His glory when meals show up at the door unexpectedly to make our lives easier. I see His glory as people give my daughter rides to and from school. I see His glory when friends call and say they will pick up my son at a distant airport very late at night. And more than anywhere, I see His glory in that He would send His only Son to save someone as messed up as me.

Biblical scholars can illuminate much more profound demonstrations of seeing God’s glory. But for me, per usual, the lessons must always be kept very simple. God’s glory is evident all around me in the small occurrences of daily life. And seeing His glory brings joy to my Christmas.

So how about you? Where is your stress level this Christmas? Could you use some joy? May I encourage you to begin to look for His glory? Look for those small places in your life where God has reminded you how very much He loves you. It may be the best gift under your tree this year.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


No matter how advanced our GPS systems, how adequately we have timed our travel, how little luggage we have to clear through the airport security lines, or how short a distance we may have to travel to share time with loved ones during the holidays, all of us are probably going to encounter traffic. Road construction, snaking lines at the airport, even just the checkout lines at the local discount store or grocery (do they ever think to go on and open all those lanes?) can quickly change our mood of holiday joy to a character that would even spook Ebenezer. So if we all know that traffic is probably in our future during the next few weeks, what can we do to keep ourselves from being miserable in the midst of it?

“Step out of the traffic!
Take a long loving look at me, your High God,
Above politics, above everything.”
Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

What a concept. Step out of the traffic. But how do we realistically do that as women who need to get places, feed others, wrap gifts, do some laundry, decorate our homes, write some cards, stuff a turkey and buy some groceries? No matter how delightful our spouses or children, we most likely cannot expect to go soak in some bubbles and come out finding all our chores accomplished. To get on the interstate in late November or December and expect to glide away with no brake lights appearing in front of us as everything narrows to one lane is probably not going to happen either. Nor are we going to show up at the airport and be asked to walk straight through security without waiting our turn. And let’s face it ladies – Walmart is never going to open all those checkout lanes, not even on Black Friday or Christmas Eve.

I think the key to stepping out of the traffic is found in the second part of this verse where it tells us to “take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” But how am I supposed to do that in a season when I can never seem to get everything done? Believe it or not, this is something we can do, even in the November/December crazies.

Taking a long, loving look at God can be as simple as focusing on the Christmas carols playing in Walmart while we wait in line. “Glory to the newborn king – God and sinners reconciled.” That is us! Reconciled to God no matter how much we have screwed up our lives or continue to make mistakes each day. We are reconciled to the sovereign God of the universe. Focusing on a life changing truth like that can definitely make the lines easier to tolerate, even turning what seemed to be an unnecessary delay into moments of peace.

Taking a long, loving look at God can be as simple as choosing to rehearse everything He has done for us while we are stuck in traffic. Instead of glancing repeatedly at the clock the next time I am stuck in a jam, how might my attitude change if I choose to use that time to start listing all the things God has done for me and my family this past year? I may arrive later than I wanted to at my destination, but won’t I be more pleasant when I get there?

Taking a long, loving look at God can be as simple as standing in the airport security line and smiling at all the agents who have been on their feet all day, remembering how much God loves them too. Do they know how much God loves them? He tells me He came to reconcile them too. I may not get to share this truth with them, but could I make a difference in their day by just being nice and sharing a smile or asking them about their day? If nothing else, it will certainly change my focus from my agenda, to what God might have for someone else today.

So where is God calling you to “step out of the traffic and take a long, loving look at me” today? He is “above politics, above everything.” Above the traffic I find myself in today. Let’s step out together and look at Him.

Monday, November 2, 2009

30 Days of Thanksliving

As I drove down the interstate heading back home to Orlando at the beginning of that November, it was looking to be a long month. In fact, it was looking to be a long several months. I had just said goodbye to my husband as he deployed to Bosnia where he was scheduled to stay until summer of the next year. While my ten year old daughter alternated between entertaining herself and sleeping in the back seat, I listened to a book on CD to try and keep myself alert and focused on the task at hand.

Jan Karon’s Mitford novels have always been favorites of mine. This was not my first exposure to this particular tale of Father Tim (In This Mountain, Jan Karon, 2002), but I felt the repetition of the story would be comforting and not distracting as I drove. As is often the case with rehearing a familiar story though, something struck me differently this time. Father Tim was learning a lesson in being thankful during the difficult seasons of life from 1 Thessalonians.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

As I heard Father Tim learn the lesson of “in everything give thanks,” I realized that God was speaking to me. Yes, the months ahead were not looking particularly appealing. My heart was hurting and I was quite frankly afraid. Would I trust God enough to give thanks “in everything”? That seemed to be the challenge the Father was laying before me.

Upon my return home, I was greeted with the normal small catastrophes that greet many military spouses as quickly as the door closes behind the deploying service member. The funniest (now, it’s funny – it certainly wasn’t then) memory was sitting at the dinner table while wasps began to come in through the kitchen chandelier as we ate our meal. This was followed by a fore ray into the attic with one of the boys trying to balance across attic beams to hunt down and spray the offending wasp nest. Give thanks – really?? The only thing I knew how to do was just begin by simply obeying what I felt I had been told. “Thank you God for the wasps.” It felt really stupid, but obedience is often awkward, especially in the baby steps.

My circumstances by no means were changed. Rob was still very, very gone. I was still trying to balance what life looked like as a single parent with two boys in the house, homeschooling a daughter, and another son away at college. But something in my heart began slowly to change. Life did not seem as heavy. As I began to give thanks, my mind seemed to turn more frequently to the many positive things going on in my life and the lives of those around me. I was a little less grumpy and probably easier for the kids to live with, certainly more pleasant for my husband to hear from each day. The main difference was the peace that was seeping deeper and deeper into my soul as I focused on what I had, not what I lacked, trusting God to be good in all things that were coming our way during that season.

Who knew that six years later I would find myself in another November with my husband deployed a world away. So the challenge is once again renewed in my heart. Will I choose to obey God in His word and “in everything give thanks”? This month, I am issuing myself a challenge. I want to spend the next 30 days with an attitude of “thanksliving.” Every day, I will find at least one thing to be thankful for and write it down. Some days, it may be the obvious things like my great husband or awesome children. Some days, there may be wasps coming out of the ceiling. Whatever my day looks like, I want to choose an attitude of thanks.

Would you be willing to join me? What difference could it make in your life if you took God seriously and “in everything gave thanks”? I would like to challenge you. Grab a dollar store journal, a composition notebook or even a gum wrapper out of your purse and write down one thing each day for which you are giving thanks. Let’s see what God will do in our lives and hearts when we take Him at His word by “thanksliving.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Walking through the Storm

Confession: I am a total geek for musicals. Most of the time, the older the musical, the better I like it. Drag out the Lerner and Lowe, the Irving Berlin and especially the Rodgers and Hammerstein. I love watching characters walk around through the most dire or joyful of life circumstances and at the most improbable possible moments bursting into song. How totally unrealistic, escapist and just plain marvelous.

One of my favorite scenes in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “Carousel” is when a pregnant young wife named Julie (played by Shirley Jones) is comforted by her cousin Nettie after the unexpected, tragic death of her husband. Nettie sings the famous song to Julie, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”* Meant as words of encouragement for this young grieving woman unsure of what her future now holds, the song speaks these words to her grief:

“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.”
*music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (1945)

So lately, whether it is due to the rainstorms of our Virginia fall weather, or just observing the storms that come into life, this song has been on my mind. With all due respect to Rodgers and Hammerstein and great musical theatre, may I make an assertation? For a child of God, this song is pretty much bunk. Yet the words of it speak strongly to what is a common default mode for myself and, I believe, many of us as women.

Life is hard. Maybe in small ways, maybe in large ways. The baby will not sleep at night, the grade school child is struggling, the teenager seems like an alien who has inhabited the body of the sweet child you once knew, the adult child makes choices you cannot understand, the medical report does not bring good news, the mailbox brings unexpected bills, the phone rings with words you never wanted to hear, the military orders are not what you wanted to see, the job takes an unexpected turn, the marriage is not what you thought it would be, the nursing home calls with yet another problem with your elderly loved one – have I hit everyone somewhere in their life yet??

As women, so many of us respond with a Rodgers and Hammerstein mentality. Hold your head up high, don’t be afraid of the dark (or at least don’t even think about admitting you are afraid of the dark), and walk on. Walk on. Sounds very good on the surface. Sounds very American. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and all of that good stuff. But, wow, how truly very dangerous.

God has graciously shown me there is only one place I need to be when the storms of life hit, small or large. And it is not with my head held high. I need to be face down on the ground before Him. Mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically in a position of submission. This is not where my default mode takes me. Frankly, this is also not always a particularly comfortable way to handle the storms of life. When I am face down, I have to admit several things that do not roll easily off my independent minded tongue. Like the fact that I need help. That I cannot make it on my own. That my storms, no matter how small they may appear to another, are more than I can manage. It involves a lot of humility which is not a very fun place to be.

So where is the good news in this? I thought you would never ask. :)

"Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation, brought joy to my soul."
Psalm 94:17-19 (NIV)

Notice, the psalmist does not say that his circumstances have resolved themselves for a storybook happy ending. He simply says that when he admitted that his foot was slipping, God’s love and consolation brought joy to his soul. As difficult as it is to fall facedown in my heart and admit my inability to deal with my storm, when I do, God is so faithful to bring joy to my soul. Sometimes instantaneously, sometimes not. Sometimes the healing is painful, long and slow. Sometimes my circumstances reverse themselves. Many times, they do not. But the change in my heart from a soul in the storm struggling to hold its head up high to a humble submission of slipping feet is astounding.

So how about you? What is the storm in your life today? Are you, like most of us tend to do as women, struggling to hold your head up high? Why not stop right now and ask the God of the universe, who is in total control of your situation, sees your situation and knows your inability to walk on, to give you a hand? Can you right now go facedown in your heart instead of walking with your head held high? The storm and winds may contain to rage, but God is willing to bring joy to your soul in their midst.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All the Wrong Places

As a young mom raising two active preschool boys, most days were filled with drama with a little d. Arguments, rambunctious activity that caused injuries or spills to be cleaned, tears, and various other dramatic scenes played themselves out during the days when our boys were young. On a few days however, we encountered drama with a large D. This was one of those days.

One of the Saturday morning activities we enjoyed from time to time was going to garage sales. The boys loved having a dollar that would bring them home some of the most interesting loot. On this particular Saturday, I had loaded up David to go with me while leaving Mark home with Rob. We had recently returned from a Tennessee visit with Rob’s family where I had contracted a nasty case of poison ivy which had required medical intervention in the form of steroids. Little d drama. As we were out shopping, I began to realize that the rising heat and humidity of Florida were not helping my poison ivy, so I decided it was time for David and me to head back home to Rob, Mark and some air conditioning. When I went to start my car, it was completely dead. Little d drama. This was in the days before we were all using cell phones, so I had to approach the home where we were shopping and ask to use their phone. Little d drama. I called Rob and asked him to pack up Mark and come and get us. When Rob arrived, he looked over the car and felt our own only option was to call a tow truck. Little d drama. When I tried to reassure him that this would work out okay and commented on his countenance looking like someone had just died, he looked me in the eyes and said, “My father did.” Now drama had a large D.

We returned home and began to make plans for going to Tennessee. Since we had just returned from a week there, we were unsure about the wisdom of packing up our preschool boys and returning with them to assist Rob’s mom and attend a funeral. Having no family living in Orlando, several members of our Sunday school class offered to share childcare for the boys so Rob and I could attend the funeral and be of some help to the family. The difficulty was that none of these families were well known to our boys or had ever kept them before. One family had no children and the other one had only one baby girl. How would they adapt to our rambunctious preschoolers? And how would the boys feel being left with these families for a week? To add to the confusion, it was the day before Mother’s day. This preschool mom did not relish the idea of spending Mother’s day without the two people who had made her a mother. What were we to do?

As Rob and I ran around the house doing laundry, trying to pack some suitcases, stopping the paper and all the other chores a family needs to complete before travel, I pleaded with God to give me wisdom about our choice. Should we leave the boys or should they stay? What was the right thing to do?

I called my mom who offered to have her and Dad meet us in Knoxville and take the boys home with them. I called some friends and asked their opinion. I asked Rob more times than he could count, “What are we going to do?” I was looking hard for wisdom, but was I looking in the right places?

By late afternoon, we had not reached a decision and our window was rapidly closing. A tad bit put out, I reminded the Lord that I had asked Him multiple times for an answer and He had obviously not given me one yet. “Lord, have you seen what time it is? I need to know something here.” Graciously and patiently, He reminded me that I had not opened His word that day. How was I to hear Him speak if I kept doing all of the talking, but none of the listening???

I knelt down by my son’s bed with my Bible. I reminded the Lord again that time was of the essence. Can you just picture Him laughing? I can. I prayed something along these lines. “Lord, I know you do not having anything in the Bible about a father’s funeral and burial, but if you could be really specific here, my addled brain would greatly appreciate it.” I opened my Bible to where I had been studying and read the next passage. Here were the words He gave to me.

Joseph threw himself upon his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel . . When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said . . . . “Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.”

Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him-the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt-besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen.
Genesis 50: 1-2a, 4a, 5c-8 (NIV)

I came running out of the bedroom yelling at Rob, “We’re leaving the kids in Orlando!” and we began to make the necessary preparations. The boys had a wonderful week staying with friends and Rob and I were able to do what we needed to do with his family.

Though this was not the first time or the last time God has directly answered my prayers for wisdom in His word, it was one of the more dramatic times. In fact, it happened again this morning. I pleaded for answers to my little d drama only to go to His word and have Him meet me right there. So what distracts me down from going there first? Why do I tend to look in all the wrong places for answers before looking to Him? Do you struggle like I do?

I am not sure it is as important to answer why I make incorrect choices as it is to understand how I need to grasp truth that will guide me to make the correct choices. If I truly understand how completely in control God is – then I can look in the right places. If I wrap my brain around the fact that God chooses most frequently today to speak to us through the Bible, His word – then I can look in the right places. If I trust that God is a loving Father who cares more about me than I cared for those little boys around my ankle years ago – then I can look in the right places.

What do truth do you need to grasp today to help you stop looking in all the wrong places?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

At My Right Hand

One of my favorite pieces of equipment that we used when Libby was a baby was the infant sling. It was hard to imagine when we first began to use the sling all the advantages this piece of cloth would provide us. Life with a baby was very different when Libby came along because we had two boys in elementary school. Our activities could not stop because of the baby’s schedule, so she had to quickly adapt to whatever the need of the moment was in their lives. Did we spend quiet mornings cuddling and nursing her when she first woke up? No, more often we were pulling her out of her crib, throwing her in her car seat (often still wearing a wet diaper) and nursing her while sitting in a lawn chair at the soccer field, very thankful for the wonderful privacy of a baby sling. As she grew older Libby enjoyed riding in the sling like a kangaroo baby. She would sit with her legs crossed, back next to me and have a wonderful view of the world while still feeling safe being swaddled next to her mom.

For all the advantages the infant sling gave in raising a baby, one of my favorite aspects of the sling was the freedom it gave me to do other things with my hands. While Libby was securely swaddled against me in whatever position was comfortable for the moment and situation, I had still had two free hands. As the mother of two young sons this was helpful and important. As the mother of Mark, it was critical.

Mark was very active and often impulsive as a youngster. Having a free hand in order to hold onto him helped to avoid numerous disasters, both large and small. When we crossed the street, I did not have to worry about him running in front of cars. When we walked in the afternoon after a Central Florida thunderstorm, I could lift his feet over the puddles, instead of watching him drag his tennis shoes through them. As we watched Rob play softball, I could stop him from running out on the field to join the game. The baby sling provided the free hands I needed in order to provide Mark the safety and support he needed in that season of his life.

When I remember those days of carrying Libby while reaching down to grab Mark’s right hand and support him, I also see a beautiful picture of what my heavenly Father does for me.

I have set the Lord always before me.
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:8

When my Father is holding my hand, numerous disasters, both large and small, can be avoided. He will keep me from running out into danger. He will lift me up when I am tempted to drag my feet through the mud puddles of life. He will even graciously hold me back when I want to join a game that was never designed for my level of play.

There is one key difference between my Father’s holding of my hand though, and my holding of Mark’s hand those many years ago. Mark held my hand by my choice, whether that was his decision of the moment or not. Often he had other plans and other ideas, but Mom’s hand usually won out. My Father does not reach down and grab my hand against my will. He waits for me to choose to hold His hand, to set Him always before me. I have to first make a decision to trust His wisdom instead of my own decisions or perceived skills.

So how about you? Are you finding yourself today dashing into dangerous streets, strolling through mud puddles or playing in games not meant for you? Are you willing to let go of your own abilities and/or desires to “set the Lord always before you?” Are you tired of feeling shaken? The Father waits patiently, anxious to assist you. The moment you reach out, you will find him willing and ready, at your right hand.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting My Way

Rob and I have had the privilege of raising three very independent people. From a young age, though vastly different in personal temperaments, each was known to utter loud proclamations of, “I do it myself!” Like most toddlers and preschoolers, they wanted to get their way, when they wanted it and how they wanted it.

One such incident from Libby’s childhood comes to memory. Libby and Rob had come to meet me at the airport. When I spotted them in sight, I also heard a fairly dramatic tantrum coming out of my very young daughter. Thinking I would be clever, I approached Rob as if he were a total stranger. Speaking loud enough that those around could hear me I announced, “I am so sorry sir. It must be difficult having such an ill-behaved child.” Being quick witted, my husband looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes, unfortunately she is exactly like her mother.” Ouch.

Sadly, Rob’s quick witted response was far too accurate. I do want to get my own way. And I often find myself the ill-behaved child when I do not get it. Fortunately, my choices have matured through the years. I no longer have a fit because I cannot have a treat when I want it (at least most of the time). My desires of today lend themselves to a more serious nature.

I find myself wanting to get my way concerning those that I love and care about. I want their lives to be free of pain. When the report comes from the doctor, I want the news to be good. When the results come back from the job interview, I want to see them hired. Let the mechanic say the automobile will be just fine; it only needs a small, inexpensive adjustment. I want the teacher to say the child is succeeding marvelously in school, not struggling and failing. If the phone must ring at three a.m., let it be to herald good news. How about the military saying, “All is safe, everyone go home.”?

In spite of my wants and desires, this is not the world I encounter each day. The doctor’s news is not always good. People end up without work. Phones ring late in the night and not for happy tidings. Cars die, children struggle and our military is not resting safely at home. Where is God when all these things come to pass? If my aims have matured, why can’t I get my way? How do I deal with these disappointments? Am I doomed to become the ill behaved child?

The subject of why God allows pain has been written about by much more knowledgeable sources than I. These two simple truths from the Bible help me when that question arises in my mind.

The Lord has established His throne in heaven and
His kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103:19 (NIV)

For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
Lamentations 3:33 (NIV)

The truths that God is both in control and about my good bring me peace when the world around me seems to be falling apart. Mature aims or not, I do not need to get my way. Memo to my slow learning brain – I am not in control because I do not need to be. My control equals disaster for all concerned.

In order to deal with disappointments without becoming the ill behaved child, I need more truth. I need to know there is some greater purpose to the pain I see all around.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, know that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approve faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.
Romans 5: 3-4 (AMP)

I love the description of this endurance in "The Message" translation of the Bible – passionate patience. Not being one given to waiting quietly, this description gives room to the idea that I can wait on God expectantly, busy with hope, even when things around me are not going my way. These trials, which range from inconvenient to devastating, are roadways to habits I want to see developed in my life and the lives of those I love. Would I choose these things? No. Can God work good out of them? Absolutely.

How do I know? I have seen Him do it. Not once. Not twice. Actually, more times than I can count. God has evidenced to me over and over again in my life and the lives of others that He is the Master at weaving beauty out of enormous pain and ugliness. Are you not getting your way today? Keep your eyes peeled and look for the beauty God is weaving amidst your pain.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

Becoming lost and confused over what the time of day is at any given moment or season is one of my particular gifts. When my loved ones are away and in different time zones, I often confuse whether they are an hour or two behind or ahead, tripping up not just over the math, but the entire concept. Consequently, Daylight Savings time presents a similar quandary for me each year. Is it time to spring forward or fall back? When we get up in the morning, the clock will say 5:30 a.m. Does that mean my body will think it is 4:30 a.m. or 6:30 a.m.? On the questions roll through my mind making me doubt my abilities with basic math functions. This year was no exception.

Spring forward weekend found me enjoying a truly awesome time with two other girlfriends at a women’s retreat. Kay Arthur was the speaker and she came each session with a challenging message from the truth of God’s word. On Saturday night, the conference organizers informed us that the clocks in our hotel rooms would automatically reset themselves for daylight savings time. When we went to bed, I set the alarm on my cell phone. The next morning when my alarm went off, I noticed there was a discrepancy between my cell phone time and the time on the room clock. I was perplexed as to why my phone had not caught up like the hotel clock, but decided to move on with the morning ignoring the time on my phone. I explained what had happened to my roommates before I headed off for a few quiet minutes by the lake before breakfast. I promised to get us spots at a table so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast before checking out of the hotel and attending the final conference session. When I made my way to the breakfast area, I congratulated my often time challenged self on actually arriving ten minutes before breakfast was to begin. Imagine my surprise when I found the ballroom already crowded with women. When I finally asked someone why everyone had arrived so early, a lady responded, “Early? They are closing the breakfast buffet in ten minutes.” Suddenly, the light broke through to me. My cell phone had been correct all along. Due to an error in our room clock and my confirming misinformation, my roommates and I were all one hour behind.

You can imagine the scene of flying suitcases and slight panic when we realized we were totally unprepared for the morning, all now finding ourselves running one hour behind. I felt like a total dolt having told my girlfriends that our room clock was correct when in fact it was wrong. We thought we were on track, but in truth, we had no idea what time it really was.

The similarity between our time confused situation and what Kay taught us from God’s word during the weekend was striking. Kay started the weekend with a verse from 1 Chronicles:

men of Issachar, who understood the times and
knew what Israel should do.
I Chronicles 12:32a (NIV)

Kay continued to teach throughout the weekend about our responsibility to know God’s word so that we can understand the times in which we are living and know what to do. Kay is not the only one sounding the alarm that we may be walking in the last days. It is easy sometimes for us to think, “Well, I have never really understood the book of Revelation anyway, so I will just leave all of that end times stuff to people more knowledgeable than I. “ However, Jesus said:

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree; As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
Matthew 24:32-33 (NIV)

Basically, if we can tell the difference between winter and spring, we can observe the signs that Jesus’ coming is near.

So how do I know what to do once I read God’s word and know the times? What difference does that make in my daily life? For me, it means I need to be more focused on what the Father has for me to do each day than my own agenda. I have to take the time to stop and hear His voice. I need to be focused on His priorities, rather than distracted by my own. No, I do not plan to give up doing laundry to go stand on a street corner in D.C. with a sign saying, “The End is Near.” However, can I forget about finishing my “to do” list today to be available to someone who needs to hear that Jesus cares about them? Can I be bold in sharing with those I meet that there is a God who loves them and sent His Son to redeem them? When conversations begin drifting towards fear concerning the economy, the swine flu, or any other number of current issue panics, will I share the hope that I have for my future because it is safe with Jesus Christ?

As I learned during “spring forward” weekend, not knowing what time it really is can cause problems for me and those around me. Today, I want to be conscious of the correct time and act accordingly. Father, please show us all how to live by your watch . . . . . the one that always knows what time it really is.

Friday, March 6, 2009


In Washington, D. C., everything is about access. In most parts of the world, access behind closed doors is achieved through who you know, what you own or maybe even how you are dressed. Washington lives on a different currency. Access in this town is all about that little piece of plastic normally hanging from a lanyard around your neck - your i.d. badge.

It is amazing how quickly doors open and closed based on what your piece of plastic says about you. Rob has multiple ones which he uses based on what he is doing at any given moment. On the other hand, the only plastic card I own which grants me access behind otherwise closed doors is the military i.d. which Rob’s military service has entitled me to carry.

Not one day of my life have I served in the United States military. However, I can drive to the local fort, meet the armed guards at the entrance, flash my little piece of plastic and the gates open for me to enter. What did I have to do to get my piece of plastic? Well, besides saying “I do” to that cute man many years ago and spending some time in the military i.d. office waiting my turn, not very much. Rob accepted the commission in the United States Navy. Rob has served for twenty eight years. Rob has gone overseas, spent Christmas day doing paperwork in an office alone, and found himself in places I would never have the nerve to go. Rob even had to get the paperwork filled out and the proper signatures acquired for me to even go sit in the military office for my piece of plastic.

Yet, when I go on base, I am granted access, just like Rob is, to places I otherwise could not go. At the commissary, at the px, even at the swimming pool, they let me in when they see the plastic. Plastic I did not earn, plastic that is only mine because of my relationship with Rob, the one who truly pays the price for my access.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the
precious blood of Christ,
A lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19

While the access granted to me by my military piece of plastic is indeed interesting, it pales in comparison to the access given to me by “the precious blood of Christ.” The Bible tells me that on my own, I am hopelessly lost and cut off from any kind of relationship with God. He is Holy. I am so not. I rarely even have to get through my morning tea before my words, thoughts or actions remind me of this truth.

Through a process I will probably never fully grasp or even come close to understanding though, I have been granted access to God. Christ’s blood spilled out on the cross is the payment required for me to have a relationship with the God of the universe. Christ took my sin, so God could then look on me and smile. And here is just one of the many amazing things to me about this concept. God pursued this whole process for me. All I had to do to get my military i.d. was basically agree to show up, accept the paperwork Rob had prepared for me and have my picture taken. In much the same fashion, all I have to do to earn my access to God is accept the work Christ has already done for me. Believe in, rely on and trust the “precious blood of Christ.”

So how about you? Would you like access to all that is yours in a personal relationship with the God of the universe? This is the good news. He has already done all the work. He has paid the price, served the time and gotten the paperwork. If you already have your access, thank Him again today for the sacrifice He made to give it to you. If not, why not go get your access right now? He is ever waiting, paperwork stamped with the “precious blood of Christ,” just for you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Recently, I went on a little search to learn more about gold. It is a very popular internet topic. Wanting to learn more about the processes surrounding this element, I watched YouTube videos, read articles and learned several facts I had not known about it.

Gold is considered a precious metal. Sought after since ancient times, it is highly valued in our society; its value one of the most frequently watched predictors of world economic conditions. Gold usually is found mixed in with other metals, but can be reduced to its purest form through a process of refining. The refining process most frequently involves using extreme heat to separate the gold from other metals. There seems to be some debate, even between scientific minds, as to whether or not gold can be heated to the point at which it evaporates. Affected very little by either oxygen or water, it is considered to be one of the most durable of all metals.

So here is the nugget which started my search about gold:

In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire –
may be proved genuine
and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV

First question: Even scientists seem to debate whether or not gold can be evaporated, so why does the Bible talk about it perishing? I read one article that suggested the passage in 1 Peter chapter 1 is talking about the fact that the Bible tells us eventually everything on earth will perish.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Matthew 24:35

Jesus talked about the earth perishing. One day, all that we know on this planet will be gone. Even the gold, that scientists now debate its destructibility, will eventually be gone. But the Bible tells us that something will be left behind. Our faith.

Second question: The Bible acknowledges the worth assigned by the world to gold, how does that really compare to intangibles like faith? Gold is a very valuable substance in our world. You may be picturing objects which can be enjoyed, but affect little change in our world such as pretty jewelry, etc. Yet, gold can be used as currency to affect serious change such as feeding the hungry or providing fresh water wells in countries where children die of water borne illnesses. The value of gold we can get our brains around, but sometimes placing a value on our faith is not so easy. So Peter compares a substance we can understand with one we may know little about. Gold, the substance we do understand, is a very valuable one. But the Bible tells us there is something more valuable than gold: Our faith.

Third question: Gold’s refinement occurs in fire – very hot fire. I do not sleep very well if the temperature in our house gets above the mid-seventies. So how do I find peace, or even learn to rest and sleep, in the midst of the fires (trials) that come into my life? What happens when the heat gets turned up in our lives? Refinement occurs in gold under fire. Refinement of our character can also occur under fire. The Bible tells us what is ultimately refined in trials: Our faith.

What is our faith? It is nothing more and nothing less than our living, breathing relationship with the God of the universe. It is our simple acceptance of His son Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for our sins and turning over of our life to Him. All we have to do is ask Him. It is becoming a part of His family. Being adopted. Becoming His princess.

Gold had a lot to teach me this week. Many of the things I now hold valuable are not lasting, but my faith is lasting. More valuable than anything I own or treasure is being a part of God’s family – His princess. My relationship with Him, my faith, will become even stronger when it is refined in the fiery trials that are a real part of life in this world. What today, my friend, is God wanting to teach you?

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Free Cup of Coffee

Ever had one of those mornings? You wake up with the intention of having a positive outlook, reacting to things in a godly fashion, excited about the day, but before you finish blow drying your hair or even have a cup of coffee – things go downhill. Maybe it is an email you receive, maybe the disaster you found in the kitchen, maybe just the smallest thing or the largest, but suddenly, you find yourself in a place that is not happy, to say the least.

I was having one of those mornings. A combination of issues, large and small, starting mushrooming in my brain and by the time we pulled out of the driveway, I was in tears. Rob patiently listened all the way to his office, in spite of having much weightier matters on his own agenda, held my hand and assured me of his support. But I could not shake the cloud.

Often when I feel this way, writing is a way to process my thoughts and feelings. So, in my cloud, I began to think about taking some time to write. Writing is something that is often difficult for me at home. While the keys of the computer pull at my heart, the demands of 21st century life tend to pull at my mind. Distraction being a major issue for me, I have found that getting away somewhere, even if it is crowded or noisy, will often allow my brain the peace to focus on what I am writing.

One of my favorite spots I what I call my “McDonald’s office.” Pull into Mickey D’s and I can find coffee and Wifi, a great combination for getting some writing done. So knowing I had some time before my next destination, I stopped at McDonald’s to find some peace and maybe a little lift for my clouded spirit. I wanted to email a couple of friends to ask them to pray for me and search for some words from God for myself.

That’s when it happened. I went to the counter and saw a beautiful smiling lady named Amber. She greeted me warmly and asked what I wanted. I ordered my usual cup of coffee as I got out my billfold. She smiled and said, “Oh – then you don’t owe anything. Coffee before 9am is free.” Smiling again, she handed me my cup and wished me a nice day. And I heard His voice.

No, it was not audible. No, there were no bolts of lightning or choirs singing. But it was as real to me as any of those things. The voice of my Father said, “I see you. I know you are struggling. Your struggles matter to me. Enjoy your free cup of coffee. I love you.”

Some of you, by now, are definitely snickering. Right – a free cup of McDonald’s coffee is from God? But honestly, when was the last time you were struggling and just needed to know that someone larger than you, someone who was actually in a place to affect change for you and those you love, noticed your struggles? In those moments, what would you give for a real kernel of love and affection, peace and power? Sounds like a tall order, but that is exactly what God gave me in that cup of coffee.

Yes, I now understand that apparently McDonalds has a promotion this month giving away free coffee before 9am. Yes, my cup of coffee did not change one iota of any actual reality in any situation over which I was concerned. But here is my truth. I have a Father who loves me. And He hurts when I hurt. And just as I strive to “make it all better” when I see my children hurting, He reaches out in love to me.

Some will call it rationalization. Some will call it psychosis. Some will brush it off as another blogger sharing too much of the boring details of their daily life. But some will look beyond and see a Father that loves me and how about that – might just love them as much too. Which “some” will you be today?

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress,
I will not be shaken.
Psalm 62:5-6 (NIV)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Real Thing

We recently had some favorite friends come to visit. To say that these ladies are troublemakers would be an understatement, but boy do we have fun when they arrive. Their recent visit was scheduled so that they could get a look at the White House all decorated for Christmas. When we started placing their luggage in our car though, I noticed they had brought something extra along. In the words of my twenty-four year old son, “Mom, please tell me we do not have a cardboard cutout of our president in the back of the car.” Yes, my friends had brought a life-sized cardboard photo of President George H. W. Bush.

On the day of the much anticipated White House tour, we met downtown with George in the back seat. After the tour, they brought him into the White House Visitor’s Center to surprise a friend. What happened next was really interesting. As they began to make photos of themselves and the cutout next to a replica White House Christmas tree, a small group began to gather. Complete strangers began asking if they could have their picture made next to the cutout. George was soon packed up and taken to the gate in front of the White House south lawn for more photo ops. Again, total strangers wanted to have their photo with the cutout. We laughed until we cried. How could a piece of cardboard create such excitement?

Is it not amazing how in our culture today, we are often more excited over replicas than the real thing? Sometimes I think we are such a media saturated culture that we relate more easily to an image than to reality. Have you ever been in an auditorium using large screen projections of a speaker and found yourself looking at the screen instead of the speaker – even when you were close enough to see the real thing? I know I have.

There is one particular area in life where we must be ever vigilant that we do not let image take the place of the real thing. Our relationship with God must be based not on images or replicas. We cannot latch onto the faith of our parents or grandparents, spouses or friends. We must not hang onto the ideas of a pastor or the thoughts of a good teacher. Our relationship with God must be a real, vital, personal, living thing with the Creator of the universe.

So how does that look in daily life? What does that mean as I go through the normal routines of my average days? For me, it is about whether or not I am thinking about Him, talking with Him, and spending time in His word allowing it to transform my mind. My real relationship with God looks different from day to day, just like my relationship with my husband has not been the same each day over the past twenty plus years. Some days, we talk a lot. Some days, we do not. Some days, I read His word a lot. Some days, I do not. What does it mean for you?

My relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, is meant to be a living thing. Just like all relationships, it will have ebbs and flows, based on my current moods, disciplines, etc. Thank goodness, there is no ebb and flow in Christ. The Bible tells me He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that my friend is the real thing.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)