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  )
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