Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's all over!!

2013, that is! It’s actually almost over; only hours stand between the old year and a fresh new one.  As I think about the old year, I have to admit, it has been a challenging one.  Probably, it has been so for all of us; time is change in itself, hours passing by that we cannot retrieve, so the question is – what do we have to show for 2013.
For me, the first half was about finishing well.  Every school day for a year, I lightened the shelves in my office and weighed the little table outside of it with books – resources from nearly thirty years of college ministry.  The books disappeared, and still I have tons that followed me home.

Not only was the first half about finishing well, it was about watching our grandson, who lived with us, get engaged, plan a wedding, graduate, get married and start a new life with a wife and a job.  And the nest was empty again, Jesse’s room becoming my home office.  My husband married Jesse and Kate at the family homestead, a wonderful day.
So, I prayed about how to fill my time and God answered. I taught a class at the public library and a monthly Seminary wives class.  Then the last two months of the year, I taught two online classes.  OH, if anyone thinks teaching online classes is a walk in the park, they haven’t done it.  But it was wonderful to meet my students in cyberspace from all over the country, and who ranged from 17-61 in age.

What have I learned?  God is faithful and blesses us daily, too often in ways that we don’t even see, because we aren’t looking. I learned again the beauty of unhurried times of prayer, not squeezed in between the busyness of school and work.  My appetite for God was stirred in new ways, and I attribute part of that to Andrew Murray’s book/devotional on prayer.  Every year I have tried to use a devotional on prayer, and I am looking forward to doing it again this year.  You can never learn enough about prayer by reading about it alone; you have to do it as well.
I have been so refreshed in prayer this year that I recognize again why the evil one does everything he can to convince us that little snatches here and there are enough.  I do believe that there are times in our lives, as new moms for instance, when little snatches are as good as it can get.  But I also believe that the more we cultivate an awareness of the presence of God, and prayer does that, the greater is our peace and joy and confidence in Him and His perfect will.

So, I wish you a Happy New Year, and a blessed New Year, a fresh start to write on the pages of the lives that God has given us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What do you mean, you know him?

Andrew Murray referenced John 17: 3, “This is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”  The word know kind of stuck out to me, to know God, and somehow I did not think that word know used there meant the same thing as how I know one of my neighbors, by sight, to say hello to, to share a few words with when the weather is nice and we are both outdoors.

 Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines this word translated know this way: "to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand," or "to understand completely.” Hmmm, to recognize and understand God; this is different from seeing a “picture” of God or hearing the word, and thinking “a superior being.” 

 I think about how one know is like the way I know my dry cleaner; I see the face and know where from, but I know nothing of what motivates this person or what they think or love or live for.  BUT, I know God loves me; I know that He sought me out and gave me an understanding of the gospel, that He loved me enough to give His only begotten Son to die in my place, paying my sin debt.  I know that God, through Jesus is preparing a place for me in heaven, and I will be with Him there, John 14: 1-6.  I know that He wants to hear my voice; He calls me to stop worrying and bring all my desires to Him, and trusting Him leave them with Him, and He will give me peace, Philippians 4: 6-7. I know God personally, intimately.

I fear there are a lot of people who think they know God because they know some things about Him; they know Him intellectually.  But they do not have a personal relationship with Him.  They don’t really care what He thinks about what they do, nor do they care about what He says to them, in His Word.  They don’t love Him.

And that is what it is all about, this Christmas season, taking time to obey the great commandments found in Matthew 23: 37-39: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart (not just know and acknowledge who He is)  and with all they soul and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment.  The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself.”

I think God wants us to look at life through His eyes, to think about what He would want for us, to do, to be, to love.  And I think He wants us to do the same for our neighbors, those people our lives touch.   Somehow, if we love them, these people in our lives, we will long for them to have what we have, an intimate personal relationship with the God Who made it all, the same God Who cares about us.  The question is then: What will that longing move us to do?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving for what? An apology!

When I lived in Africa, Thanksgiving smelled different, and it certainly sounded different.  No familiar laughter in the kitchen as my sisters and I and our kids shopped and cooked and baked and tried to find enough dishes and plates and serving spoons and forks for it all.  No fragrance of roasting turkey and fragrant dressing and oh, the aroma of rich gravy and cheesy broccoli and yesterday’s baking hanging in the air. No cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles squeezing into their places, places that used to be big enough, around the table.
Oh, in Chad we usually had chicken and rice and squash pie and if someone had saved a can of cranberry sauce from their barrels and maybe a jello salad of some kind, again from the barrels.  And instead of family, maybe other missionaries, or Chadians we had grown to love around our table, but it wasn’t quite the same.

And Thanksgiving wasn’t the only day we gave thanks, we did that every day - why, every meal, for heaven’s sake. But traditions are important.  They form who we are, part of something bigger than ourselves, perhaps family, but maybe a circle of friends, people with whom we have laughed and cried with, hoped and mourned, hurt and healed with.  Across our Thanksgiving table, we see faces like our own, histories like our own, people who have taught us and picked us up when we didn’t get it and rejoiced with us  when we did.
This morning I read a post on facebook by a missionary friend about missing Thanksgiving, and I fear I was too brusque.  I asked if she was missing the dinner or the giving of thanks, because we give thanks every day.  I was cruel! And I am sorry! I didn’t even think of it at the time…maybe too early in the morning to post.

 Today, I am grateful for those who have answered the call to carry the gospel to people around the world, to people who are celebrating Thanksgiving in another language because God called them to translate the Bible or teach nationals to reach their own or who use medical ministries as a way to show the love of God and reach the lost.  And today I pray that they find joy in the ministry and sense the presence of God loving on them as they honor Him by their service.  I pray that laughter fills their hearts and when the hurt and loneliness threatens an overflow of tears, that they know that’s OK.  Sometimes loving hurts, and sometimes sacrifice hurts, but we have a blessed hope, that God knows our hearts and His love is a healing love, and He will wipe away every tear. And some day, there will be no tears.

the roof settled back in its place

 I’m not sure just how it happened, but my prayer time has really developed these last few months.  Maybe it might have something to do with working my way through “The Best of Andrew Murray on Prayer,” with the focus recently on intercessory prayer.  Maybe it has something to do with being home all day long and having more time to focus on prayer…though a lot of it happens at night or early morning.  Maybe it comes from listening to people differently.  However it happened, I have been deeply burdened by the weights so many people are carrying this time of year.
Yesterday as I was praying, I was feeling especially heavy as I prayed for a number of people I have committed to, and then as I prayed for other things God brought to my mind.  I think it is valuable to feel the weight; it shows you really care about people, but I knew I needed refreshment as I finished my time in prayer yesterday.

Then one of those divine coincidences, an angel’s touch, perhaps.  One of the sources I use for my time alone with God referenced Psalm 63, and I knew something important was happening.  So I read Psalm 63, then 62, then 64-67.  What a time of rejoicing and remembering God’s goodness.  Let me share a few phrases from these passages:

My soul finds rest in God alone…He is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress and I will never be shaken. ..Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.  I will not be shaken….He is my mighty rock, my refuge.  ..O God, you are strong and you O Lord are loving… .Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me…Come and see what God has done, how awesome are His works in man’s behalf!                                                                                        

Then last night, as I rehearsed those passages, especially the last one, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to think through some of God’s works in my behalf.  Maybe because I have been working on my memoir, I remembered standing in our kitchen with my kids and looking up to see the harmattan winds lifting our roof off.  We knelt and prayed and the roof settled back in its place.  I thought then about what could have happened if the roof had gone flying, the wind blowing all manner of debris into the house and sucking out all manner of things.

I remember when Beth was sitting on the porch reading her Bible, and she called out “Snake.”  There at her feet a viper writhed.  She could have been bitten, but she wasn’t.  I prayed that God would protect my children, and I know that I don’t know all the times He did that – like keeping little Jim from blood poisoning when a long thorn drove bits of tire into his foot from his flip flops.  And then there was the day Daniel, a Bible school student who helped us, came in early, and saw the stranger I was entertaining in the living room; he said he wanted to talk to my husband who was teaching.  Daniel called me aside and asked me why I was giving coffee to a “voleur” or thief.  God protected us, and with Daniel there, the voleur decided he would go….and God brought many other things to my mind.

 All of that to say, we need God.  He will be faithful! He has been faithful!  He will be faithful!  He just wants to hear from us.  And there are  lot of people who need us to pray for them; God will answer.  I know sometimes the answer is different from what we think is good, but He sees the end from the beginning and knows how to give good gifts to His children.  We just need to rehearse His faithfulness in the past, and trust Him for the future.
photo from   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_Rock

Monday, November 18, 2013


He would have been 104 years old this week, had he lived.  But my dad didn’t; he  passed away 35 years ago.  Every year, sometime around the beginning of November, even this long ago, I begin thinking about him.  How about you, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, are there any empty places around your table….even  if they have been empty for a long while?
We tend to give people a couple of weeks to get over it, when they lose a loved one, at least to get over it enough that their grief doesn’t spill over onto anyone else.  But somehow, that seems rather cruel and unloving.  As I think about this holiday season, I cannot help but think about all of those people who will be grieving, probably trying to keep their grief from being a bother, but nonetheless hurting.  And I wonder if there isn’t something we ought to do about it.

Now I admit that what I’m going to suggest may not be within your comfort zone, or mine for that matter, but maybe it is what love would do. Maybe in these weeks, we should send another kind of card before we send the Christmas card. Or maybe we could include the note with the card, a note that says something like,
“I know this has to be a time of mixed emotions for you, a time of missing your…..and a time when everyone else wants to celebrate.  Be assured that I am praying for you right now, that you will be able to enjoy happy holiday memories you shared with your…..  I know that grief surprises you, and sometimes tears come from out of the blue.  That’s OK.  When you love someone a lot and you lose them, you hurt, and you grieve the loss.  So sometimes tears are natural and healing. Nonetheless,  I am praying that you are able to enjoy this time with your family, making new and good memories because that is what …..would have wanted for you.”

Now words like that don’t work for everyone, but you can find your own words that say I know you are hurting and I love you.  Grief out loud heals more quickly that grief stuffed.

Just something I have been thinking about….


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What my students teach me!

Right now I am teaching two classes online: Ministry in Marriage and Motherhood and Writing to Inspire – a nonfiction writing class.  In the Ministry class, though both are really about ministry, we have been talking about single moms, their needs and how the church could and should minister to them.  In the Nonfiction class, we have been talking about writing profiles or interview pieces, and some of my students have chosen to interview people who have had to overcome painful issues, like abuse, divorce or other kinds of loss.

My students, good Christian men and women, have experienced some horrific trials, and they know whereof they are speaking, and the question I asked them, I am asking you: what did and what should the church do to minister to these population groups? According to America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2010: 69.4% of American children live with both parents.  That means over 30 percent do not.  Where are all those single parents and their children in our churches and what are we doing to minister to them? 

James 1:27 says this: Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 3: 10 -11says this, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” So what does that look like in the Church?

I know that most of my readers are women.  I know also that women are to help men.  I know that men don’t think a lot about these things because we women were created to be nurturers, and we see the needs of hurting people, many times, before men do.  I know also that our church leadership is male, so??? It is our responsibility to encourage them to do something about these empty places in our church, the ones that should be filled with single parents, children from single parent homes, parents and children dealing with disability issues, and just generally hurting people.

 So we need to come up with some solutions to give to the men, some ideas of ways to minister to these populations, to do more than guilt trip them.  What about creating a team to address the needs of the disabled in our church?  The American Disabilities Act requires this giving of equal opportunities, but I haven’t seen much evidence of effort in our churches, other than to build a ramp or install an elevator.  What about doing some training in the care of disabled children, for regular nursery workers, Sunday School teachers  or youth workers? What about having a few people really trained to go alongside the needy child, like the public school does? I think they are called “wraps,” an aid who accompanies the child.  Can you imagine what this would do for the parent(s) of disabled children, showing them love and giving them a few moments of freedom to worship, learn and fellowship?

 What about creating a group of people, perhaps to include teenagers, who would minister to single moms and widows, raking leaves, cleaning out the gutters, shoveling snow, winterizing the house or car?  Perhaps a church could offer a weekend class on how to minister to this population.  It’s not that I think the church chose to ignore these people, they just haven’t thought about it or haven’t had leaders who thought about it.  SO maybe we could be part of the solutions.




Monday, November 11, 2013

Anna, and Kristi, and Christie, and Vonnie and Connie and ?

Today is Veterans’ Day, and I have been thinking of all the men in my family who have served during times of war: my father and father-in-law, my brother and brothers-in-law, my husband, my son and now my grandson.  Some of those wars were bigger than others, some longer, but all of those men  risked their lives for their military service.
As I was thinking about that, it occurred to me that we are also in a war, we who stay home, a war for the eternal lives of those around us, and our own life.  Scripture is pretty clear about this.  Consider John 3:17 and 18, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Those who do not believe that God loved them enough to send Jesus who also  loved them enough to die for them, taking on Himself the punishment for all their sins are condemned. 
Our soldiers, my family members, left all that was home and security, risking their lives that we might have a safe life humanly speaking. But what about us, what about me, our battle has much more long lasting results…eternity. What are we doing about that battle?

This morning as I was writing in my journal, I started listing the women, in particular, who are serving God in missions or vocational ministry, soldiers for Christ: Anna in France and going to Africa, Christie in England,  Kristi in Germany, Laura in Ireland, Connie – in the Far East, Becky in Togo, Vonnie in Kazachstan and my niece Heather, working in England but active in seeking opportunities to show Christ. 
I have been reading about and studying intercessory prayer these last couple of weeks, and feel the weight of it today.  We do have an enemy out there, who walks about seeking whom he may devour.  But I wonder if we really believe it, especially in regard to those who are on the front lines of this war for the eternal life,  Paul asked his readers over and over to pray for him, to pray without ceasing.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of how Jesus “offered prayers with a loud cry and tears to the one who could deliver him out of death.  And God heard his prayers.” (5:7)

As I read and thought about it, I wondered if we pray anemic prayers, “God be with the missionaries,”  like sending soldiers out with BB guns or water pistols. Paul, in Ephesians 3: 16 prayed that “from his glorious unlimited resources he(God) will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.”   In Ephesians 6:14, Paul writes this, “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”
As I read those words, it was like reading a soldier’s orders: Be on guard. Stay alert all the time.  And use your weapons, pray!  In the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself!  The big guns!!  We, you and I can pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We can load our weapons in the Word. 

We can get fit
  • by exercising prayer,
  • by earnestly seeking God’s leading for what we do with what He has given us,
  • and grace to love and forgive(as need be)  and serve those around us,  
  • and strength to believe when the battle rages  ( the evil one speaking lies and doubts into our ears), 
  •  and wisdom to speak the truth in love, first for us, and then for those out front – our pastors and church leaders and missionaries. 
And not just today, but daily, because this is one war that will not get over for us until the return of Christ.

photo from http://www.theeverydaywarrior.com/2011/12/31/soldier-story-saturday-hardest-part-of-being-deployed/


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Waking up in Heaven?

I’m writing a memoir, so when I was at the library a couple of weeks ago, I browsed the newer book section for memoirs.  I found two intriguing ones: the first To Heaven and Back was written by Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, who was kayaking the rapids in Chile and drowned, having been caught in her kayak wedged under the water.  Though her body was pulled from the water, it was only after she had been dead for many minutes.  Her book recounts what happened after she died and how it changed her from a nominal Christian to a believer.
The second, Waking up in Heaven by Crystal Mc Vea had a greater impact on me.  She also died, in the hospital, was clinically dead for nine minutes – we are into brain damage time, but was remarkably returned to life.  Her book recounts her life before and after this event.  I want to share one and a half paragraphs from this book – these are her words about part of what she experienced after her death.

Many people who describe dying talk about finding themselves in a pool of light, but that description doesn’t cut it for me.  For one thing, a pool suggests it was somehow confined, but in fact it was vast and endless, with no beginning and no end.  For another, it wasn’t just light - or at least not light as we know it.  It was the closest to the color we call white, but a trillion times whiter that the whitest white you’ve ever seen or could imagine.  It was brilliant and beaming and beautifully illuminating, and that’s why I call it a brightness.  In the words of the apostle John in Revelation 21:23, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
                But there was another dimension to it.  There was also the sensation of absolute cleanliness.  It was a feeling of absolute purity and perfection, of something completely unblemished and unbroken, and being immersed in it filled me with the kind of peace and assurance I’d never known on earth.”(p13)

This morning as I was reading II Corinthians 5: 8-9  “We are confident I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it,” those words from Mc Vea’s book came to me.  I wondered how many of us read those words, and say we believe them, that they are true of us, but maybe not really.
How many of us fear or dread death?  How many of us don’t even want to think about it?  Mc Vea’s description of what she experienced, for the first time, seemed to capture what it might be like.  Certainly it is like nothing we have experienced, to be with God where there is no sin. 

If the book(s) do nothing else, they cause us to think about what we really believe about life after this one, and more than ever before, I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Are we missing something?

So simple, those words in James 5: 16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  Then James follows this up by illustrating what he is trying to communicate with these words, “Elijah was a man just like us and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain for three years.  Again he prayed and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. Prayer works!

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul writes, “And pray in the Spirit pm all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this is mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Then he continues asking the Ephesians to pray for him.  Similarly, in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul encourages the Thessalonians with these words, “Be joyfully always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
It seems that God wants us to pray for each other, and not the “Be with them,” kind of prayers.  If they are believers, he never leaves them.  The problem is that sometimes they don’t notice His presence. Our prayer then might be, “Help my friend to be aware of your presence and your love.  Help them to recall and be encouraged by your Words of encouragement in Scripture or song or messages that they have heard.”

Andrew Murray wrote, “It is because of lack of prayer that the working of the Spirit is so weak.”  And I wonder if there is any relation between the number of churches that no longer have prayer meetings. 
I was the parent of three kids, all of whom had church activities on different nights.  We could only have unhurried dinners about two nights a week, so I understand the desire to “tighten up” the church schedule allowing for more family time.  However, I wonder if there is another way to fix this, a way we can show that we understand God has called us to pray for each other.  Certainly we can pray alone in our homes, but I wonder what happened if we really gave ourselves, corporately, to prayer.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

For many years, I worked with learning challenged students, and one of the learning tools I taught them was visualization. I told them to picture the content they wanted to learn, to see it in their minds, making pictures of the concept or the page.  I also suggested that do more than read the words, but use all the senses they could in the process of learning.  They might see it, then imagine what it would sound like or say it out loud.  In some cases they could think what the material might smell like (this works better for some things than others) or even feel like to accomplish their goal, and the material would stick longer.  Those pictures are truly worth a thousand words when it comes to storing material.
For many years I was part of the number who didn’t understand the use of icons in prayer. I thought people actually prayed to the picture, but I have come to understand more about that icon, and how it is used in meditation.  The icon is really just a tool used to help the believer focus his or her attention on the God behind the story told in the icon.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book on sacred practices, and the topic came up again: the use of images in worship,  note in worship, not to worship.  Several images came to my mind, as I read, probably due to childhood Sunday School pictures:  of the cross, the tomb with the round stone in place, then rolled away, of Christ stepping over sleeping friends to get up early to pray, and of Christ getting into a boat to both get away from the crowd and to have a better place from which to teach.
Life of Jesus of Nazareth | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline ofAs I meditated on each of those images, the reality of the God-Man Christ became more vivid, His pain and life experience more real, and tears began to fall.  Then I remembered seeing the movie: The Passion of the Cross, and its impact on me.  Once more, those images reinforced the words I had read in the gospels, the life of Christ.  It was real. He did live and die and rise again.  He was beaten.  He did all that for me, and you.

The pendulum always swings, doesn’t it.  In reaction to churches full of statues and glorious stained glass images, again teaching tools to cultures that had no written Bible for the common people, we, so much more sophisticated, or in fear of idolatry worship in barren boxes.( painting by Warner Sallman – Christ in Gethsemane – Christ-Centered Art found at  lupaintin.com  )
I know that the fear of idolatry or emotionalism is strong, but I wonder what we might be missing.  It also occurred to me to wonder if once more we have allowed busyness (even doing good things) to rob us, to cheat us from real worship, that exercise in showing God that we want to really know Him, that we want to honor Him, that we want to show Him our love, our adoration.   Those practices take time.

It is true, we could get carried away with admiring the human who made those images, but we can also be intentional about focusing on the God whose story is being told, and allow His Spirit to bring things to our minds as we are still before Him, not still before the picture, but still before the God of the picture.
I'm not trying to redesign churches today, just been thinking!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

True Confessions and I need you!

True confessions; I have been working like mad on my memoir of our time in Africa because I needed to get it finished before my online classes begin. Those classes take several hours a day and I have always found it tough to mix academic and creative writing.  So, I put this blog on the back burner.

Superwoman does not exist, no matter how much we want to believe we can do it all, and more.  I learned this in Chad, and a few more times here in this country.  It's funny how we can succumb to what we perceive as peer pressure, or our own internal desire to please (pride) or real pressure to do what is on our TO DO list.  But, we can end up either not doing anything well, or crashing.  NO is a really good word, and one we should use after carefully consulting with God, so I used it last week, and laid the blog aside.

But now I need your help.  A publisher called yesterday and they are interested in the book.  He is calling again tomorrow and I will have to make some decisions, one of which is braving the process.  It is always risky sending your work out, even if they say they are very interested.  Rejection hurts, no matter how old you are, and no matter how much you say you want God's will.  There is still that fragility that comes.  Anyway, would you please pray for me, that I know and obey God's direction in this process.

Here's a freebie from the book:
Two memorable things from entertaining Africans in that house:  they used the bucket (the one I forgot in the bathroom after cleaning) for a toilet and they must have wondered at why the white people saved that stuff in their house.  And, again, wanting to do my best, I made zucchini bread with raisins, precious raisons from the States for their midafternoon tea.  After their meeting and tea, I cleared up – this was back in the days of cups and saucers.  And like a parade, under the saucers, all the little raisons marched in ring formation.  I asked Daniel, the young man who helped us in the house and who was a student, what this was about.  He told me that they thought the raisons were goat droppings and they couldn’t eat them.  But they did eat right up to the edge of each dropping, let me tell you…because there was no bread left around the raisins.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reading someone else’s mail and your relationships!!

Back in the day, when we were pastoring, Jim was teaching about reading someone else’s mail….like Galatians, Ephesians, or Philippians.  We classify those books as epistles, or letters, and he helped me think of them that way.  When I read much of the New Testament, I am reading what eye witnesses saw and what they wanted other people to know.  This idea brought to life these books or letters in the New Testament; it was as though I were reading over the shoulders of those first century recipients of these letters.
This morning I was reading in I Peter, and Peter is writing about something that people are still trying to figure out, the fulfillment of prophecy – then the first coming of Christ, now the second.  As I read this, it brought to mind how real the return of Christ was to me as a young believer.  That awareness of his imminent return kept me from doing some things and caused me to plead with Him not to return while I was doing other things. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense now, but to me, as a kid, it was a guilty conscience pleading with God.  I just didn’t want Him to return in the middle of my sin.

This morning I was wondering what happened to that awareness,  that He could come back today.  Have we become so used to the gospel that we take it for granted?  We simply don’t even think or allow the reality of his soon coming to affect our behavior. And we don’t even think about the reality that He sees it all anyway.
Then I wondered about our relationships, our marriages.  Do we conduct them ignorant of the reality that God sees it all, whether we can see Him or not, or do we just not care?  I wonder how cultivating the reality of His presence might affect the way we interact with, and react to, our mates, to our children, to our in-laws or parents, and to those around us.  Would we use the same words, the same tone of voice, the same body language if we owned the reality that He is in the room?

I was a sponge at camp every summer, soaking up anything that would help me grow.  One summer I picked up the idea that not just the regular four-letter words were bad for us as Christians, but any words we used in anger.  When we were not functioning controlled by the Spirit, we were yielding ourselves to the control of the evil one.  All of that comes from someone else’s mail too,  Ephesians 5.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Funny how one thing leads to another to a legacy!

Funny how one thing leads to another…I use a couple of different resources each morning, the first of which is The Best of Andrew Murray on Prayer – it is a devotional journal, with some of Murray’s writing, a biblical passage, and space to write.  This morning I was challenge by these words, “The continuance of the morning watch can be maintained by quiet self-restraint, by not giving the reins of our lives over to our natural impulses.”   I have followed my time in Murray with the very simple Daily Bread and today the thought was on seeds and soil, and the challenge was “What kind of soil am I?”
After reading, and sometime between reading, I spend time praying, and I try to pay attention to the moving of the Spirit as I pray.  This morning I believe the Spirit brought to my mind family Bibles, and I wondered what was written in the ones I have downstairs in the book case.  I thought it was Jim’s dad’s Bible, but I found that it was his mother’s Bible, given to her as a child by her mother, nearly a hundred years ago.  Back in those days, the only thing you wrote in a Bible was family birth, marriage and death dates, and it was apparent that she had added them over the next decades.  At first I was disappointed, as I had somehow hoped I would find Jim’s dad’s Bible, and some great treasures of wisdom underlined, but I didn’t.

As I returned to my desk, I wondered what that was all about; I believed I was following the Spirit’s guiding, and as I sat back down, it occurred to me that maybe I was missing the point.  God didn’t want me to look at Jim’s dad’s, but his mother’s Bible. That Bible was given to Jim’s mom, a by her mother, who loved God and wanted her daughter to know and love God as well.  My mother-in-law, Lesta, told me that she had  accepted Christ as her Savior at a tent meeting when she was twelve, and her mother gave her this Bible for Christmas not long after in 1918.  God wanted me to think about a woman’s legacy.
The legacy of those two women continues:   Jim’s mom took her boys to church alone every Sunday.  In fact, Jim had perfect attendance from birth to age 15.  That was the year she told my father-in-law that she wanted to go to church as a family, and he told her the only church he would go to was a Baptist Church.  The next Sunday they attended the Independent Baptist Church in Towanda, and it was there that I met my husband, her son.

Lesta modeled hard work and godly living. She never taught a class or led a ministry, but she would give you the shirt off your back if you had need, and everyone knew that about her, a rich legacy.  I’m sure she saw others around her who “had more,” but she lived by quiet restraint.  Oh, she wasn’t perfect, but she was faithful.
This morning, I wonder two things, what will my legacy be, and what about yours. What will we teach our daughters about loving our husbands, about restraining our natural impulses, about being good soil so that God’s Word grows the kind of fruit that is still visible after 100 years?


Friday, October 11, 2013

The list that saved my marriage

Not long ago I surveyed a group of women concerning the topics they would like to get some help with and I was surprised at how many of them mentioned marriage, how to get along with husbands and how to have a happy marriage.  So, that has been on my mind for a couple of months, which you can tell if you have been following this blog.
This last week I have been combing through old files and came across a great article written by Becky Zerbe and published in Today’s Christian Woman” in September of 2008: “The List That Saved My Marriage.”   Now I know that is a millennia ago by today’s time standards, but it is still very apropos.

Ready to leave her marriage, Becky sought sympathy and counsel from her mother.  Her mom listened but then she gave Becky a sheet of paper and pen and suggested that Becky make an inventory of her husband’s shortcomings on one side of the paper – like one column.  Then next to it, she was to record how she responded to his shortcomings.  Finally Becky's mom took the list, ripped it in half, returning Becky’s list of her responses to her husband back to her.
What he does
And how I respond
Forgets to take the garbage out
Nag him until he does and then point out often that he forgets this.
We cannot change our men, but we can and must start with ourselves.  I wonder what our lists might look like.  Then I wonder, and I think this was Becky’s mother’s purpose, how I would respond if the shoe was on the other foot, if I was on the receiving end of my own behavior.  We pout, we close/slam doors, we reject sexual overtures, we use the always and never words, we ignore, we shout, well, you get the picture.  We turn into someone who is not all that attractive, and he might think that if that’s how we are, why should he change?
Or, he may not have a clue as to why we are so ticked off.  He may be honestly ignorant.  So, I think Becky’s mom‘s list idea is a good one, but I also think we need to check out our communication skills.  Is he doing something that he could or should change, and have we talked with him about it, lovingly, sharing how we feel when he does or says that?  Are we getting ticked over things we knew about him before we married, but we never addressed …so he might think those behaviors are just fine.  Are we I Peter 3 wives, the kind that are easy to live with, the kind that win him over by the way we live with him, easy to love…again and again.
It’s easy to list his faults, and ignore our own.  SO let me encourage you to google that title and read the article on your own and check out the possibilities it might unleash – before it is too late, for you, or for someone you know who needs you to help her.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

So what does "hot" say?

I’ve been thinking about all the things we do to show our lover that we love him, and it occurred to me that there is another question that must be answered,  and they kind of go together.
We love our husbands because first, we can’t help it.  Somehow it kind of happened. We saw him, met him, got to know him and about him, and began to develop an affection for him, an appreciation for who he was and could be…and we liked how we felt with him, how he made us feel.  And at some time, we determined that we could see ourselves spending our life with him.  We use the word love, and we gave it to him and with those words, “I love you,” made an unspoken commitment to him, that we would give ourselves and our love only to him, this unique man/woman love.

As a Christian, at least the readers here, we learn that we are to continue to love him, to show him our affection, to love him in a way that he feels loved.  Our culture however, has a different take on all of this – love him until he no longer makes you happy.  Then start over.  Wow, as I think about that I see a whole lot of pain and misery and insecurity and anxiety, to be repeated over and over, because there is no one person who will ever meet all of our needs, who will never disappoint us at least a few times.  Remember, we are imperfect and selfish beings to begin with.  But God’s plan, love each other, commit to each other, keep showing love to each other, essentially work at it, seems a much better plan.
However, I know my saying so doesn’t make it so, nor does it convince everyone.  As I thought about that, I wondered if some of those relationship failures happen because of another relationship failure – our relationship with God.  Since I know we can take other human beings for granted, ask any mother, I wonder if we can take God for granted and begin to drift away from Him…finally getting so far from Him that we no longer recognize His voice.

Andrew Murray said this,” However, it is true that it is impossible to live our daily Christian life, or maintain a walk in the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, without a daily, close fellowship with God.”  A few years ago I saw stats about the most satisfying marriages – fascinating stats, the couple who worship together and who pray together, have the most satisfying marriages, including the best sex.  Hmmm, it looks like there is a relationship between a couples’ relationship with God and their relationship with each other.  Could that mean that if we want the one, a happy and fulfilling marriage, we must first have a happy and fulfilling relationship with God?  And do we need to encourage young Christian women to put perhaps more serious thought into how He relates to God than how “hot” he is?
Recently I have seen the words “hot” or “studly” used to describe Christian guys on facebook, and it made me sad, especially because I can’t remember when I saw anyone post anything about how much a guy loved God, how a guy is a great spiritual leader.  Older women post about their “hot” husbands and I wonder what message they are giving young women, that “hot” is more important than godly. And I wonder what thoughts they put in the minds of their readers; somehow it doesn’t seem to me that it points them in a good direction.  Should young women think about how "hot" their pastor is, for example? Wouldn’t it be more important to share how he continues to guide their family in godly ways, or he continues to be a good husband loving her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it…well, you get my train of thought, and my struggle just now.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Who are you to think you can help other people?

Maybe I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility as an oldest child; I know I am the middle of five, but the older two were eleven and thirteen years older than I was, and not really living at home by the time I started school.  Anyway, I have always felt as though we are stewards of everything we have, stewards of more than the stuff you buy or make, but the stuff you learn.
Last Thursday night I had the amazing privilege of teaching the Seminary wives, part two of a six session series, preparing them to minister as women teaching/counseling women.  This morning in my blessing journal I recorded the blessing of teaching last night, and it came to me about how this is another one of those areas where the evil one whispers lies, like “You don’t have the education for counseling, so you wouldn’t be any good at it. Or Who are you to think you can help other people, look at your own broken pieces.  Or You think you can help other people, that’s a sin issue, pride in your life!  Or, There’s no place in your church for you to teach women, so just relax.  If you should do it, someone will come after you.

So we give up, and all those amazing opportunities to make an eternal difference evaporate.   In 1 Corinthians 4: 1-2 Paul writes these words to the Corinthian believers, and down through time to us, “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God, Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”  (NIV)  The King James version puts it this way in verse 2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”
First, man here is not just male, so don’t get hung up there.  The question is, What have you done with your stewardship of the Word of God and the learning you have acquired in personal study and in your reading and in whatever kind of classes or services God has used to teach you?  Certainly, if you are a mom, you have a great audience in your children and great opportunities to teach them.  And Sunday School teachers and youth workers have amazing opportunities to pass on what they have learned.

My fear is that too often we allow others to set the agenda for what and when we teach, and we settle for that…and too many young girls and young women and adult women never have the opportunity to learn what you have learned, about what it means to be a godly woman or how to handle the crises that life hurls at you or how to delight in God.  And men, you can just substitute men and boys for women and girls.  Paul was writing to all of us.
Too many young people are going into marriage ill prepared, perhaps because we are not doing a very  good job of preparing them, and that’s why the divorce rate in the church is so close to the divorce rate outside of the church.  And we are the church...we as individuals.  So when we are looking for ways to escape responsibility, there are none.

Well, I have been delighting in the privilege of teaching the Sem wives, and I see this blog as one more way to pass on what I have learned and right now, I am praying about how I might be used in my church.  Oh I serve now, but not as a teacher of women.  And maybe, it will only be in one-on-one opportunities, but I feel like God is poking me, so I will follow as far as He leads me.  How about you?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The grass may look greener, but…

Six couples got divorced!  These were not just any couples, but couples we had in our home, couples from our Sunday School class and church and even, attended Bible College with.  But their marriages failed, and it stunned me that this could happen to Christian couples. So, I started paying attention to why it happened.
You know how after you have been married a few years, it may become too easy to take each other for granted since you have grown comfortable with each other.  The energy and passion of the pursuit is over, and kids come, and you may feel like you are in a dry rut.  Unless, someone else starts complimenting you, whether you are a husband or a wife!  I saw this happen to couples in my church – she had been a stay- at- home mom until they felt financially she must go back to work. Now, I am not against women working, but I think we need to pay attention to what is happening, besides the going to work.

Those husbands had gotten so distracted as providers, that their focus centered on the job, and at the end of the day, on getting some peace and quiet, not on noticing or appreciating their wives.  Herein lies the real problem, lack of communication.  She failed to say, and he failed to hear, how much she needed his attention, his words of affirmation and appreciation.  Unfortunately, she did find those words at work.  Suddenly these women felt attractive and sexy again, appreciated by men who might or might not have her best interests at heart.  And instead of talking about what happened at work, the temptation she was experiencing, it became her secret, and secrets from our mates are never a good thing.

The reality is that it becomes too easy to become a different person at work – the one who dresses to be appreciated, dressing up outside, different from the sweats and stained tee shirts she might wear at home.  Hubby may walk out the door remembering her as still asleep or in her robe, yet unbathed,  while the women at work spend an hour on their appearance before they leave the house.  Sounds harsh, but it is reality.  We forget that we are sending our husbands out to a world that cares little about the ring on his finger.  And if he is a good listener, in a helping career, the women he helps may soon transfer their allegiance from  what they perceive as heartless husbands at home, to this kind and caring and listening man…and ladies, that was the very scenario experienced by others of our friends.
These men did not set out to be unfaithful, but their wives had stopped being their husbands’ lovers, nourishing their men, not just sexually, but spiritually and emotionally and intellectually.  And someone else stepped into the vacancy.  This is why I believe God’s design was for women to teach (counsel) women.

The bottom line is some infidelity can be headed off at the beginning, by honest communication of our needs, by creating the kind of space where you can talk about these things without falling apart in tears.  And, we have to avoid temptation.  I think women notice earlier when they are being pursued, but I think men ought also be careful to avoid situations where their attention could be misunderstood. At work, be careful about touching each other, and be careful of  conversations, meaningful conversations taking place with a member of the opposite sex.  From such little embers, great fires grow.

 image from www.funnyrinx.com 



Monday, September 30, 2013

So what gets in the way, of loving him?

It is one thing to talk about what it means to love someone, and as important to look at what gets in the way.  If you only are conscious of the do’s, you may really mess up through the don’ts.
First, although it is important to we talk about loving our husbands by doing certain things or showing it in certain ways, it is important first to have the commitment to the relationship – to recognize that you, as a married couple, are now one flesh.  That means you care as much about this other person, this other half of yourself as you do yourself.  You commit yourself to that person’s well-being because you love them. Hurting him would be like hurting yourself, like taking a hammer to your right arm.
Now, if you are one of those people who think that it is absurd to love him as you love yourself because you don’t love yourself, let me ask you, what do you do for yourself?  You feed yourself, and pick out foods you really like, don’t you? You bathe yourself, and choose as nice clothes as your budget will afford; you care for your appearance, and you rest yourself, think a lot about yourself and what you want, and you entertain yourself, don’t you?  It is not bad to love yourself and take care of yourself!! The bottom line is that we do a lot of things for ourselves…and Scripture says we are to love our husbands…in essence, do for them the same as we want them to do for us.  (PS, if you really struggle to love yourself, then you have another problem and really need some help.)
So, let’s talk a little more about what actually gets in the way of your loving him as you love yourself.  First, isn’t there a part of you that does for him, so he will do for you?  We arrive at the altar with a whole lot of expectations.  We, even if we don’t realize it, assume he will have all of the best traits of our fathers.  We assume he will be able to read our minds and know what we want – to have, to do, and to feel…and where we want to go on date night.  That assuming thing is not playing fair!  He is a guy, and I promise you, he cannot read your mind, so you better quit expecting him to.  He desperately wants to please you, but he cannot know how unless you tell him.
Then we need to do a searching inventory of our own motivations; whether we like it or not, and whether it is easy to admit or not, the evil one is busy messing with our minds so he can mess with our marriages.
Let me ask you to look at a few obstacles to good communication, an essential to a good marriage.  Is there a little part of you that wants things your way?  A part of you that wants to be in control?  Is there a part of you that thinks more about how things affect you than how they might affect him?  How much time do you think about what would be good for him or how you can help him achieve his goals – and do you know what they are?  Do you assume he will have all the bad traits of your father and then behave toward him relative to that assumption? The evil one whispers into our ears thoughts about how we need to protect ourselves, how we need to be strong, not vulnerable, that we need to use our feminine wiles to get our way. 
Any of these things sound familiar? I know many of these things described me in the early years of our marriage, and I am subject to these temptations even now, but if we want a godly marriage, we have to have more than a good act.  We have to have a right heart, right with God and right with our mate, be truly one with our mate.
image from http://joshfults.com/tag/two-become-one-one-flesh/