Wednesday, September 25, 2013


"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

     This little PT Cruiser has taken me quite a few places over the last couple of years. It's taken me to visit family and hopefully be of some encouragement, which I feel is how God wired me to be. I've gone out of my way to help others to places where the temp gage hit triple digits. I've engaged in everyday dullness and exciting adventures. 

     As wonderful as my car is (the color rocks!) it doesn't know where I am going. Only God knows that. I wish I was like David and could say with confidence that I know what He wants from me. Oh, I'm sure I'm on the path to Heaven which is what I feel this Psalm is talking about but it's all the daily side trips along this road that concern me. I know God wired me to help others and I believe I'm on the right path to strengthen this servant's heart but it's a long road. 

     Just like with any road trip it's good to take rest/stretch breaks. There's a lovely rest stop on the way to San Diego with clean restrooms, vending machines, and a scenic view. In my life that rest stop is my daily devotion time. I try to take time every morning to read my Bible and I pray and listen to Christian music throughout the day. As for stretching, school is taking care of that. I haven't been in school in over 20 years and am out of my comfort zone. 

     But that's okay because Jesus is always with me so there is joy here. I'm looking forward to Eternal joy while trying to remember that eternity started yesterday so I am living in joy now.

     Remember friends, you're never alone, Jesus is always with you and if you've gotten off-track His guidance is just a whisper away.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Spring Up Oh Well

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

Early morning and the park is deserted or at least empty enough for me to feel like I'm strolling alone talking to The Father. I don't think I've had the same conversation with Him twice even when the subject matter was the same as the day before. (Okay, there was that time I walked around the lake singing the Cares Chorus because I just didn't know how else to pray for the heavy burden my friend was carrying and for which I agreed to pray.) The point is, my conversations are like my relationship; they are alive. They change with the circumstances--sometimes animated and happy and others, not so much. 

But always He listens.

I can't pass this fountain without thinking of the Sunday School song River of Life: 
I've got a river of life flowing out of me! 
Makes the lame to walk, and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free! 
I've got a river of life flowing out of me! 
Spring up oh well, within my soul!
Spring up oh well and make me whole. 
Spring up oh well and give to me,
That life abundantly. 

The nice thing about having Jesus as a confidant is that you know He won't spread gossip and He's already said He's come to heal. (See Matthew 11:5) Since God is unchanging and unchangeable He's still in the business of healing as He sees fit. Not all infirmities are healed but that doesn't mean we can't still petition Him. Who are we to understand who He heals and who He chooses to use in another way, in spite of illness.

Now I tend to take things both literally and figuratively. God can take away your need for a wheelchair or He can kick the emotional crutches out from under you and let you run. He can heal glaucoma or open emotionally blind eyes. He IS the river of life both physical and spiritual. 

That thought is as refreshing as the mist from a fountain on a hot day. I know I can trust Him with my physical and spiritual needs because He is concerned with both. 

What about you? What cares do you have to share at the fountain today?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Caring For My Inheritance

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance." Psalm 16:6

An old, but recently remodeled house in Santa Ana and a LARGE bin of beads were my inheritance when my mother passed away. The blue beads above are just a very small portion of what Mom gave me. I've used some, given away some, and stashed some. All in all though, they have brought me delight by either delighting others or bringing back fond memories.

All but the light blue tri beads in the lower right corner have been used to make angels. When I'm making my patriotic version (red, white and navy blue) I pray for our military. I end up giving away most of the angels I make though I've tried to sell them. It brings me more joy to give them away. 

I don't currently have a craft pattern for those blue tri beads. But Mom used them to make little baskets at Easter time. When I gave away a bunch of beads I wasn't using I just couldn't let them go. Fond memories and "maybe someday" ensures they'll stay around for a while.

This is my tangible inheritance from my mother. I have an intangible one as well: the lessons she taught either directly or indirectly and the faith she instilled. And if I go back to that Psalm I truly have a delightful inheritance. God is my Father and I've inherited the riches of His mercy and grace.

Heavy sigh. Inheritance comes after death. It is sad to only have Mom's things and not Mom. In the same way Jesus had to die for me to inherit from His Father but no heavy sigh here. Jesus rose from the dead and lives within me, providing a living inheritance resting in pleasant places with Him.

The only time my bead inheritance hasn't been delightful was the other day when I stepped on one of the beads on my tile floor. (It's the crafters equivalent of a kid's Lego.) A container of red beads had been dropped and I got tired of picking up beads. I thought they were all in the back of the closet.

This has me wondering if I'm as careless with my spiritual inheritance. Do I sometimes falter and tire of picking up the pieces?  Have things I thought wouldn't bother anyone somehow find their way out of the closet and into the open just waiting for an opportunity? Do sins I've allowed to go unnoticed bruise my heel?

The B-I-B-L-E Yes That's The Book for Me

"Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it." Habakkuk 2:2

What you see in the picture above are 9 Bibles that belong to me representing 8 versions. I've got: New Century, New Living, New King James, New International, New American Standard, New Revised Standard, King James and The Message. The last one is a paraphrase, not a translation. They all serve the same purpose---to make scripture understandable, or plain. The New Century and one of the NIV's are also devotional Bibles to help me deepen my walk by spending time reflecting on The Word.

Over the years I've heard different debates on whether or not certain versions are acceptable translations. I don't care about that. I care about understanding and will sometimes consult 2 or 3 versions when reading. The versions I have are readily accepted by the church and agree with each other so I'm not likely to be steered wrong. But sometimes slightly different wording will turn the "oh I get it" lightbulb on in my head.

Isn't that the important part? Understanding? 
"The B-I-B-L-E, yes that's the book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E." 

No, I don't stand alone on one version but I do stand alone on one Word.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Basic Istructions Before Leaving Earth

"Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life." Proverbs 4:13

They're scattered all over the apartment: the kitchen catch-all drawer or as it's more appopriately called the junk drawer; the computer desk; the file marked 'user manuals'; and more than likely wherever I set one of them down after reading. I don't even think I have some of the appliances represented in the photo above and I know before I cleaned out the file I had instructions for Robby the Robot and my electric typewriter from high school. (I won't say how old they are but let's face it, there are kids today who don't even know what a typewriter is.) 

The manuals above are rarely consulted since I pretty much know how things work. Life is a different matter though, I don't know how it works. Even after all these years I need to be referring to The Manual daily and putting the instructions in a safe place. Hiding it in my heart sounds like good advice and it's found in The Manual as well.

Proverbs is a book full of wisdom. There are gentle admonishments full-blown warnings, blessings and curses. I really like how chapter 4 reads; as a father giving his son advice. It lends itself to how we relate to God as our Father. 

We must hide His instructions in our heart right next to our adoption certificate declaring us His children. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, that adoption certificate is signed by His shed blood. 

I wonder if people look at my life if they can see His instuctions scattered about at the ready for consultation as a situation arises. What about you? Are you reading The Manual and holding onto instuction?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cattle On A Thousand Hills

"And my God will meet all your needs
according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

I wasn't worried, not really, even when our finances were as thin as tissue paper we've always had our needs met. We've had a roof over our head, food (not fancy but adequate), and at least one roll of TP in the bathroom. Now, because I'd made a decision a bit late in the game and another move later than I should have I was facing a big expense. So there I stood in the financial aide office asking why my daughter got a waiver but I didn't and how much funding I could expect and the young man had no answers.

He told me to go ahead and register and gamble that my classes wouldn't get dropped before I could come up with the money. He was sure it would be fine and explained the process to me since no one gets their disbursement until after classes start anyway. It sounded like a lot of hoops to jump through as I held my breath waiting for my first financial aide check. Then he smiled and said, "Don't worry."

But his words weren't what stopped me from worrying. It was my mother's words coming to me earlier. She'd always said God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. So once again this week I decided to trust, just like I did when I started to freak out over how hard classes would be. I know it won't be easy becoming a nurse and finances should be the least of my concerns so I'm going to rest in God's promise to never leave me or forsake me.

This bench is across the street from the financial aid office. I sat in it and thought of myself as being in the Hand of God. Well, no more time for sitting. It's time for me to follow this desire God has given me and hold His Hand as I walk a new path.

I hope you can see yourself in the Hand of God no matter what you're facing.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Like Sand Through The Hourglass

When I said, "My foot is slipping,"
your love, O Lord, supported me.
Psalm 94:18

When times are tough snippets of Amy Grant's song "Arms of Love" comes to me. It's a song about storms and trying to walk in shifting sand but there's a line in there that can't be overlooked. She talks about staying in God's protective arms even when the sky is far from gray. Hmmmm. How often do we miss that point? We casually walk across the stepping stones on the path of life and carefreely find ourselves skipping from time to time.


Until we start to slip and then we're reaching for help. As I was reading the lyrics and listening to the song the opening from the soap Days Of Our Lives came to me. I didn't hear the words as much as I saw that big ol' hourglass and it dawned on me, it's hard to walk in this world. The sand in our personal hourglass is constantly shifting but so is the sand of circumstance. In this fallen world we are all just one slip away from a stumble but we are also one slip away from a Savior.

And a realization.

He's there to catch us because He never left. We can walk in shifting sand because we walk with a never changing God. His steadfast love steadies us. The psalmist said it, Amy Grant sang it, we just have to believe it. 

Believe and then receive.

When the sand runs out of my hourglass I will stand with Him on streets of gold. How about you? 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't Drink The Water

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.
Revelation 13:18

That's the water meter in front of my apartment building. If you drank my tap water you might wonder what evil things it was doing to my body. It doesn't taste foul all the time so I suppose that's why I let my guard down and grab a cup to take a pill. Then there are times I'm apologizing to my taste buds for that momentary lapse.

That momentary lack of wisdom.

I'll never have the wisdom it would take on the complicated calculation mentioned in the verse, (good thing I was given the answer), but I can at least use the brains God gave me. He at least made me smart enough to understand 10 simple rules (commandments) and know when to use good judgement. I know when to walk away and I know when to run. But I don't always take the advice Kenny Rogers gave me.

Sometimes I drink the water.

I don't stand my ground. I get pulled in. I let my guard down. And it leaves a bad taste in my soul.

I apologize to my Soul Dweller.

When I drink of the things this world has to offer I may not see the consequences right away. But sometimes I feel the shame. I actually prefer those times. I can apologize right away, sometimes even spitting out the bad water.

Momentary lapses are just that--momentary.

They don't have to have lasting consequences. I pray to my Soul Dweller, sink His Word in my heart, and vow to stop going to the tap for my water. I ask for wisdom and I share my insight with you. What the world has to offer isn't worth the consequences.

So please, don't drink the water the world has to offer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Replica Christian

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my
Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21

What you see before you are replicas: they don't function like the things they represent. And it's pretty obvious. The rocker will never welcome a weary grandma at the end of the day. The camera is a pencil sharpener so it has some purpose but it won't record a memory. The dial on the phone doesn't move so it will never make a memory but it will remind me of my childhood.

There are replicas in our faith community as well. And they aren't so obvious. Jesus is warning against false prophets in this passage that come as wolves in sheep's clothing. Now I don't know why anyone would want to be a false prophet unless of course they're working for the enemy. He is pretty coniving so I wouldn't put it past him to lead us astray by making us feel we are being led by truth.

Truth is Light though and that Light nourishes fruit so look closely at those you follow. Under the fluff and pomp and circumstance is there fruit? If the branches are barren ... run! Find a tree with fruit. Become a tree that bares fruit otherwise you're just a replica Christian and replicas may look pretty on a shelf but we all know they are dust collectors. I had to clean those little knick knacks before I took the picture. Can't have dust in the picture just as God can't let His streets of gold become dusty. He's a bit harsher when it comes to keeping the Mansion clean.

Replicas have no purpose and replica Christians have no place in heaven. Sobering thought.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time: Welcome Ally or Wasted?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die,
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

Jim Croce would disagree with King Solomon. According to his song Time In A Bottle, "There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them." I hate to disagree with a King myself but I'm with Jim on this one. Time runs out.

A time to die.

But what if there was still purpose? What if the person who just passed still has things to do? It happens alot in times of war which King Solomon mentions in verse 8. Colonel Potter said it best on M.A.S.H.: "There are two rules in war. Rule number one, young men die and rule number two, you can't change rule number one." 

Yet this time is known to God. Sitting here reflecting on watches, it seems interesting to me that when Ecclesiastes was written mankind wasn't so concerned with exact hours and minutes. They knew it was day when the sun was out and night when the moon and stars were out (pretty much). Then came the sundial but it wasn't until recent history that we wanted a way to know the time on overcast, rainy days.

We wanted a more reliable way to tell time and we came to rely on time. Of course clocks came first and then pocket watches and then wrist watches. But they all spoke to the same desire: to know what time it is since we can never truly know what time is. Sure Solomon made a nice little contrasting list but it's still a mystery.

So we watch the hands move around the dial and we make our appointments and schedule our days and we look for that elusive bottle so we will have enough time. But the watch runs down. No One replaces the battery or winds the stem. The hands are still.

A time to die.

We've laughed, we've cried and hopefully made the most of this mysterious thing we cannot control. The best we can do is mark its passage with busy hands doing The Lord's work aware that time is running out. Maybe that is a watch's greatest purpose, not to help us be on time but to remind us of time so we don't waste it.

This post was sparked by the passing of a dear family friend, Betty McCollum. She used her time well and she had an abundance of it as I believe she was in her early 90's. She served in the church and was a good friend to my mother. She was beautiful inside and out and will be missed by her children and grandchildren.

Time's either welcomed as an opportunity to live for God or wasted. Which camp are you in?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Will Remember You

"Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it
and remember the everlasting covenant between
God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."
Genesis 9:16

Maybe it was a sense of vanity but I wanted a permanent marker to sign copies of my first book before sending them off to friends who'd asked for them. The store I went to didn't sell single packs of the turquoise color I wanted so I grabbed the rainbow pack. Then at the register I noticed the display of single colors ... every color but the turquoise. I signed my books with the color that reminded me of my favorite cross necklace and there sat the rest of the pens in the craft drawer.

The thing about these permanent markers is that they aren't really permanent. I used to label my young son's toys in case he left them outside but "Billy" eventually faded. I wrote the local phone number of my health plan on the back of the card which is barely legible now. I guess that means my signature will fade too but not as fast. It's not exposed to the sun or being rubbed against the inside of my wallet regularly. 

But God's covenent is everlasting, another word for permanent. His promises do not fail, nor does He break them. Now, being that He's God I doubt He'd ever forget but He created a rainbow as a sign. The sign is not the promise however so even if you can't see the rainbow after the storm, His promises remain.

Enviornmental circumstances won't fade them. Excessive handling won't fade them. Unlike permanent markers which are useless when they run out of ink, the well of His provision will not dry up. Just as the Psalmist said, His mercies are new every morning. 

The problem with most humans, myself included, is that we relate to words through our experience. According to the dictionary permamnent, especially in regards to ink, means non-fading but I can barely read my little boy's name on his squirt gun. I have not experienced permanent so it's hard sometimes to grasp this everlasting covenant God has with His people. And because of that, I don't think I claim His promises as often as I should and I find myself worrying which means I doubt His provision.

I need to start seeing God the way He sees Himself ... in living color at the ready to keep His promises. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
1 Crinthians 13:4-5

      She sees the shirt in the Christian bookstore and has to have it. Nevermind that she's of a generation that didn't experience the joy of shiny new vinyl or the fun of playing records at the wrong speed. Her generation is more familiar with shiny silver, not shiny black discs and they're half the size of my albums. CD's will never have "chipmunk mode" and they don't really lend themselves to clever Epistle Tees but they do travel better.

      So now this teenage carrier of my and my husband's DNA is sporting a shirt with a colorful graphic of albums and words that say, "Love keeps no record of wrongs." It's a tough lesson to remember. Especially when you have teenagers. I used to think "the love chapter" was about wives and husbands but now I'm seeing things differently.

     The love chapter is not the lover chapter, it's for anyone you are called to love. It's for children to learn to relate to their parents. It's for parents to learn to relate to their children. It's for neighbor to learn to relate to neighbor. It's for you to relate to me and me to you. 

     The chapter starts with these words, "And now I will show you the most excellent way." The most excellent way to what? To live in harmony as one body with many parts as Paul was telling the church in Corinth to do. Keep no record of wrongs.

      There is a smudge on the album above that I didn't notice until I looked at the picture. But I've played that album and the smudge doesn't affect it ... still I need to buff it out. There are things we in the church do to each other that do affect us and they are to be dealt with. It's like when the record skips, you get up and move the needle and continue listening.

    So deal with the wrongs but keep no record of them. Keep on loving and living in harmony with each other. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Domino Effect

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;
I will never leave you or forsake you." 

Joshua 1:5b

          The concept was this. Your decisions affect other lives and you can have a positive effect, like the amazing domino creations we saw on a video from Domino Day 2008 or negative like a mistake that destroys what was being created. God means for us to do beautiful things and tell the generations to come of His works and provision. Again and again, He called the people of the Bible to tell of His works and goodness, to set up memorial stones and share the story of what He had done. 

         He calls us today to do the same thing. To live a life that compels others to learn about Him. He calls us to be one of the dominoes in the unfolding picture. After our pastor explained this to us, he called us to come get a domino as a reminder that God wants to work in and through us and that our decisions affect others. The main thing he wanted us to remember was the promise of Joshua 1:5 which says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

        I had a time in the not-too-distant past where I felt God reminding me of that so I chose my domino with purpose. I wanted one with six dots and I found one that had one side that had six yellow dots. The other side was ten orange dots. I knew immediately what the 6 yellow dots meant but would come home to ponder the ten orange. 
When I claimed Joshua 1:5 as a promise from God I was with my mother who was terminally ill. I had brought a new CD over for her to listen to. She asked me to turn it up so I turned to the player to adjust the volume. When I turned back to face her, there was a beautiful rainbow of light above her head. In that moment I felt God tell me to claim a promise and I immediately thought of Joshua 1:5. There were tears in my eyes as I retrived my camera from the car and took a picture. 

Mom's rainbow of light
        She was blind most of her life and a Braille reader. In Braille code 6 dots (2 columns of 3 side-by-side) is called a full cell. Mom had told me that yellow is the color of light. Those six yellow dots mean that Jesus is the light of the world Who makes my joy complete (full). 

      Now about those orange dots. Orange is a combination of red and yellow. Red, the color of His shed blood and yellow being His light. The orange dots surrounded an empty space which represents how alone I sometimes feel. What He did and Who He is combining to surround my emptiness in a merciful embrace. But why ten dots? I remembered a story about the 12 spies who went to check out the Promised Land. Two said the land God was giving them was beautiful. Ten said there’s no way we can take it. There are giants. 

     Ten forgot God’s provision.

     There will always be those people who surround me to say, ‘There’s no way you can do it. You don’t deserve God’s love. He’d never use a loser like you.’ But God is there with me in the midst of the negativity. He leans in and whispers, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” That is all I need to hear. 

     Even if you hear ten negative comments a day; even if your rent is raised by more than ten percent; even if ten months out of the year your child struggles with school God is there. The truth spoken in Joshua 1:5 is still true. 

He will never leave you or forsake you.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Clogged Up Shaker

You are the salt of the earth.
But if the salt loses its saltiness,
how can it be made salty again?
Matthew 5:13a

        I read the e-mail with concern and hit reply. Then the blinking cursor taunted me. A week later a friend typed words in a chat box that no daughter should have to type. I can write 50,000 words in 30 days but didn't know what to type into my chat box.

      Old friends reaching out, including me in their lives and my salt shaker was clogged. You see I long to be salt, not salt in an open wound but the kind that enhances and brings out good flavor in food. I guess they're the same salt but the application differs. Anyway I wanted to encourage but the words wouldn't come.

     My friends are both believers so I could've pulled out a familiar scripture and maybe that's what was expected of me but which verse or verses? I wanted my e-mail to bolster my friend's spirits and give him the strength to stand. I wanted my chat message to reach out and hug my friend as she cried on my shoulder. Truth be told I wanted to do something practical to help the first friend and run to the side of the second but all I have is words.

     My words are my salt. The shaker wasn't empty. I had this feeling of encouragement within me. I just couldn't get it out. 

    I know leaving the shaker clogged will allow the salt within to lose its saltiness. I'm not sure what's clogging it. I think it is this overwhelming feeling of sadness. Now if I could just figure out how to get rid of the gunk of this emotional state so the salt will flow freely.

    The place to start is the place where I should always stay ... under the shadow of His Wing. I shall let Him comfort me so I can be the encourager He created me to be.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Until Then

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face. 

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

     I sighed when I saw the e-mail. The subject said it all. My friend was still living in a boxing ring taking hard blows and fighting to stay on his feet. All I can do is encourage him from the sidelines until the bell rings, signaling the end of this round and for his sake I hope he can take off his gloves and rest a while. 

     This personal trial as well the scary stuff I see on the news has me shaking my head and wondering why. I want to see the end of my friend's trials and I want bad things to stop happening to innocent people. I know it's futile to even ask but I can't help it. I feel like it's not just a poor reflection, due to the dust of pain and suffering but there's a crack going through it as well, a crack called evil. 

     What I see now brings tears that will be washed away Then. What I don't know now, will have meaning Then. But for now I must deal with the dust and the cracks that distort the picture. For now all I know is that people hurt people and it makes me long for Then more and more every day.

     Until Then I will take the polishing cloth of His promises and run it over the dust being careful not to cut myself on the crack. 

Identity Theft

     "He calls his sheep by name and leads them out. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:3b and 28 NIV)

     I have one name but many identities. My birth certificate identifies me as Henry and Delores' daughter. My marriage certificate identifies me as David's wife. The DMV identifies me as legally able to drive in California, well the DMV and AAA combined. Kaiser identifies me as one of their patients and to the library I am a patron. I used to work for one of the largest school districts in Orange County and volunteer for a company whose motto is "embracing quality of life." 

     But all those identities mean nothing in comparrison to who Jesus says I am. He says I am His and that's never going to change. As the pastor was saying words similar to this a few weeks ago the Life Lock commercial flashed in my head. For a fee, this company will protect me from crooks who seek to steal my identity, creating a credit crisis and possibly ruining my good name. Even if that happens, my most important identity will not change. 

I am a child of God, my place in Eternity locked in place by His Son's very life. And so are you if you believe. 

Polished Praise

"Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name." 
(Psalm 30:4)

     The lyrics were displayed on the screen of the church formerly known as a movie theatre. Some were standing but some for health or other reasons stayed in their fold-down red cushioned seats, the offering envelope tucked in the cup holder beside them. The worship leader and her team were all in their places up on stage. Some hands were lifted, palms up paralel with the shoulders. Some were raised in full surrender. Some would have reminded my college professor of the days of Hitler. Some hands found the lent in their pockets very interesting.

     Still for all intent and purposes if a stranger walked in from the back he would think he was witnessing a worship service--with the volume turned down. We just weren't giving it our all. Pastor Chris came out and apparently seeing the looks on our faces said that if we didn't like worship now, we'd be bored in Heaven. It's praise 24/7 and we'd better be getting ready. And he was right. I think we mean well but let our humanity get in the way. We can't sing well enough so we sing quietly. Or we're unsure of the song. Okay, that works for the volume but why did our pastor think we were bored? I wasn't bored. I was smiling but perhaps worry was showing on other faces. Or else people really were bored. I don't know.

     But if we weren't singing because we felt less than capable, what are we waiting for? I looked at many verses and none of them said: Sing if you can make all 4 judges on The Voice turn their chairs withing seconds of your first note. It doesn't have to be polished, it just has to be. Praise. So next time you're in a worship service, sing out for an audience of One. Sure it may be rough and unpolished but if it's from the heart it's beautiful to Him. I used to have a rock tumbler that promised to take plain old rocks and turn them into stones similar to those above. It was a long, noisy process involving sand paper and water. I couldn't get the machine to keep its promise.

Maybe that's where I am now, in the tumbler belting out my praise, knowing when the process is over and I am Home, it will be polished.  

Hope Springs Eternal

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; 
Be still, and know that I am God;"
Psalms 62:5a and 46:10a

In his Essay on Man, Alexander Pope says that, "Hope springs eternal." It's a nice, oft quoted sentiment but do we really believe it? We have hopeful anticipation when the indicator line is a plus sign, when a nervous groom-to-be pops open the lid on the ring box, when the eager college graduate has his first job interview but do we live in hope? Hopeful anticiaption differs from hope for it is based on circumstances. 

Like the popular spring toy hopeful anticipation needs a catalyst to be put in action. It depends on circumstance. Now I know the happy little spring joyfully descends stairs but hopeful anticiapation is not a downer. Nervewracking moments are present to be sure but there's still hope--there's still joy. Then the spring hits the bottom of the stairs with a birth, a giggly yes, a handshake from the new boss and hopeful anticiaption is over. Or rather it's just sitting there waiting for a new catalyst, a new circumstance.

Sadly we treat hope just like hopeful anticiapation but this time when the spring hits bottom we misinterpret its meaning and think hope is gone. But hope is not gone. It is just still and in that stillness we can find God. Those who put their hope in Him need not wait anxiously for the next catalyst to find joy. We can let ourselves be still, knowing God is with us in all things. He's there when life is making a whooshing sound on the stairs and when it lands with a boinging ker-plunk. 

Hope is not a temporary event. It is not dependent on circumstance. Hope simply is. And it is found in God. 

In God there is eternal hope springing forth from His infinate Mercies which are new every morning.

Praising In The Chasm

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet,
the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40
     A long year brought me to this spot on the rugged trail, a guide and handful of other woman stopped to rest. Considering I was the lagger, the stop was probably for my benefit. It was a beautiful day. For me it was a fought for day. I battled poor health to be able to hike that day. The year before I was winded just walking around the retreat center and it was relatively flat. 
    Being out of shape had become my giant and I'd battled it. I still have a ways to go. I haven't conquered it but I'm not going to let poor health conquer me. I thought of David and Goliath as I looked at the stones in the path that day. When others laughed and said you can't, David said my God says I can. I was already thinking about this new blog so took a picture.
     A funny thing happened on the way to the keyboard. I read Luke 19:40 and had a new perspective. I happened to look across the room at my bookcase and noticed Max Lucado's Facing Your Giants. Hmmmm, I wondered, what if the stone released from David's sling was singing praise as it flew through the chasm of fear between the people and Goliath? 
     We are called to praise Him in all things. What if we hurled praise at our problems while standing in the chasm life has placed us in? Whether it be a chasm created by poor health, lost jobs, divorce, or grief--what if we just praised God in it? It would call God into our pain, and it would serve another purpose. There's a certain Giant out there that can't stand to hear God's praises so when the praises start he takes his scaly little self and slithers away. 
     So next time you're facing a giant, pick up a stone and let it sing praises through the chasm and join in the song.

Behold The Rebel

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." 
Revelation 3:20

For whatever reason, the contractor removed this old door knocker from my mother's home when he remodeled it in 2006. He was using the same door and filled in the hole, sanded it smooth and painted the whole thing. I salvaged the old piece of hardware. It was full of memories of the friends that came to visit. As you can see, I did not polish it. To do so would erase their fingerprints so to speak. It would be to forget that my parents invited them in to relax in the living room and enjoy each other's company.

When I see that old door knocker sitting on my shelf, I think of the verse in the book of Revelation and usually I think of Jesus knocking. But not today. Today I am thinking about that hole in the door that was left when the contractor decided to take the knocker/peep hole out and maybe the only reason he took it out was because it was tarnished and didn't match the new look of my remodeled childhood home.

Jesus didn't come to the world polished, and by polished I mean following the rules of the time. No, Christ was a rebel with a cause---a Kingdom cause. He broke the rules of the Sabbath by healing, He touched the untouchable, He told the leaders things they didn't want to hear.

If the door referred to in Revelation 3:20 is the heart of man then what is to be said of the removal of the hardware? Think of it this way. That little piece of brass is Jesus' private knocker which no one else can use. Sometimes mankind gets tired of hearing his knocking so they think removing the knocker will silence Him. And for a while they are fine with the hole.

His knocking was unbearable to them. It echoed off the walls of a scarred heart. A heart scarred by pain. What they didn't realize is that He came to heal that pain. And now they're left with pain and a hole where others can look in and see it. So they try to fill it. They keep busy at work, they self-medicate, they indulge in self-destructiove behavior, anything to fill the hole and hide the pain. 

But Jesus doesn't walk away. He doesn't need a fancy knocker to knock on the door of a heart. He's still knocking, but now it is muffled by the noise of those fillers. Man sits there on the other side of that door with a choice: keep ignoring, or surrender and invite Him into the mess. Oh, I know the mess is embarrassing. We'd never dream of inviting someone into our real home if the living room was such a mess. 

But Jesus comes to comfort as He makes Himself comfortable. He won't condemn you for the mess. Nor will He ignore it, but He will help you deal with it. It may take a while and won't always be easy but it will be worth it.

The Rebel is knocking on that old tarnished piece of brass that matches your heart. Won't you let Him in?

Sin For A Season

"He (Moses) chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to 
enjoy the pleasures of sin
for a short time." Hebrews 11:25

I don't know what's in it or how it's made. I'm pretty sure the box labeled "Nutrition Facts" is a misnomer because there isn't any. The small print even says, "Not a significant source of other nutrients." But who reads the small print. I certainly don't.

I don't read the small print or care about the nutrients, or rather the lack thereof. I don't even wonder if this little stick of gum has any harmful effects. I just know it tastes good and I trust the claim of long lasting flavor on the front of the package. That's not in small print. The manufacturer wants you to know his product is the best. I'm pretty sure the nitrition information was put there by some legal department. 

So I take off the shiny silver wrapper and if I'm in my car drop it in the cupholder. If I'm out a purse or pocket will due and then I put the sugar free sperarmint piece of gum in my mouth. It freshens my breath. It takes away any bitter taste that was there before. It is chewed and enjoyed. Until ...

Until the flavor is gone.

Isn't that how sin is? We don't worry about the consequences, don't think about the compromise. We just want what we want. We want pleasure to soothe our pain. We've bought into the claims of long lasting pleasure, never counting the cost. Moses knew the cost and he chose not to sin. He read the bold (but small) print that said "Contains Phenylalanine" and took it as a warning. I'm not sure why my gum package says that. I'm sure it's some chemical that people need to be aware of. Maybe it's a known alergin. That doesn't stop me from chewing. When it comes to gum, I do not have the resolve of Moses.

But I wouldn't mind having some of Moses' DNA running through me when it comes to sin. My head knows the fun won't last: that guilt, shame and other consequences must also have their seasons in due time. Yet, that shiny wrapper lies crumpled in the cupholder as I endulge, as I let my sinful nature drive me once again. But there's one other season that will come. It's the season of redemption and it starts with repentance---turning away from my sin.

So what season are you in?

Stop Staring

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past." Isaiah 43:18

      I reach up and adjust the rearview mirror on the PT Cruiser and I remember a Facebook post by a friend almost a year ago. If I remember correctly, he was venting about the way he'd been treated, but a friend admonished him to stop looking in the rearview mirror. I had to disagree with the friend. 
     Rearview mirrors have their place. No, we are not to dwell on what we see and that is why they are smaller than the windshield. (I took the picture of the smallest rearview mirror I've ever seen at a car show.) Still they serve a purpose when it comes to safety as we take a quick glance before backing out of the driveway. 

     In life we are not to dwell on the past. Still I believe we need to look back to find the lesson in what lay behind and search for the triumph in the tragedy. Then as we turn our focus back to the road ahead it is our job to carry the message that comes out of the mess. At the time my friend was just processing but I'm trusting he'll find the message.

     Then there are days like today when the rearview mirror is all you have. I am drafting this post on the anniversary of my father's passing. It's not that there is no future in this relationship because there is in Heaven ... someday. But for the last 31 years the only way I could see him is by looking back.
     There's no mess, no tragedy, and what lay behind are pleasant memories. I do not dwell on my childhood memories but once in a while I reach up and adjust a mirror that is sticky from the syrup on silver dollar pancakes, smells of old leather, and sparkles like the stars in the sky.
     The Isaiah passage goes on to talk about how God is going to do a new thing for His people. That new thing lies up ahead. God, wanting what's best for us, wants us to look ahead, focus on the bigger picture. He doesn't want us to glamorize the past because it devalues the present. 
     The beautiful thing about trusting God is that those cherished memories in the rearview mirror are safe, the message is safe, and the future, which will one day be in that little piece of reflective glass is safe as well.
     That's what rearview mirrors are for--safety. Just make sure you're glancing, not staring.

Throwing Away The Cards

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

When I think of solitaire this little snippet of a pop song by Laura Branigan comes to mind: "Solitaire, it got so lonely. Solitaire, no one to hold me. Where were you when I played solitaire?"

Yeah, it's a break-up song but that is not the point. The point is that solitaire is a game played by one. It's a game my father loved to play in the evening after dinner but he wasn't lonely. It was just his way of unwinding after a long day at work. 

I remember watching him deal out the cards. I think they had a simple red pattern on the back. They certainly weren't like the decks I've collected over the years with pictures of places I've been. I watched Daddy put the Aces up in the top row when he found one and keep flipping and turning cards moving some on top of others.

He dealt three at a time playing the top card or moving on. Unlike games played with two or more players there is nothing discarded in Solitaire. The hope is that all cards will eventually be played with a king on top of each of the 4 piles started with a singular ace. But sometimes the cards you need stay hidden and the game is lost.

I've played plenty of solitaire in my time both with decks of cards that still have fingerprints of my family on them and on the computer. There's a line in Laura Branigan's song about the guy leaving her alone to play solitaire but the truth is, Solitaire was a game of my choosing. Whether playing with vacation souvenirs or a mouse I dealt the cards. I chose which ones to play.

And sometimes I cheated.

When things weren't going my way I'd look through the deck to get the card I needed. If I saw it I'd do some creative shuffling so it'd come up the next time through. I can't do that on the computer but there is an un-do button. If I have a choice between two cards to move in the playing field and my first choice doesn't work out, I can take it back and hope the other choice is better.

In the last year I've played a lot of Solitaire both physically and spiritually. It is a game of my choosing. Or is it? From April of last year until about February of this year, I wasn't really myself. Something or someone had a hold of me that drove me to isolation right when I needed to be seeking others out.

I played Solitaire and it cheated me.

In the last couple of months I've caught myself saying, "I'm back." People around me don't really get my meaning because to them I've never left. But I knew Lisa was gone, damaged physically and spiritually by playing a game dealt by the deceiver. I was powerless to cheat and make the game go my way.

I was powerless until the day I threw the deck of cards at the foot of the cross. Yes, I lost almost a year of interacting in a positive way with my family. My health suffered from too much idle sitting. I ruined a friendship. But today is a new day.

I've come to Him weary and heavy laden and been given rest. That rest has renewed me physically and spiritually. I can look back and know that I am forgiven for my doubt---for the times I cried out, "Where were You when I played Solitaire?" I can look forward with renewed determination to remain faithful, not letting anything or anyone else choose how I shall live except for my King.

He'll never leave me or forsake me and together we shall cheat the deceiver's games.

Embossed With Love

"Let love and faithfullness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart."
Proverbs 3:3

That lovely green piece of metal is Mom's slate and the tool with the worn wooden handle is her stylus. They are used for writing Braille and this set dates back to her college days. Braille is written on cardstock weight paper--strong enough to handle the embossing without being pierced through and the heavy-weight paper holds the shape of the raised dots better than notebook paper. It can stand up to multiple readings but is not read until the writing is done because it is embossed so the writer is writing on the backside of the paper (and backwards, BTW.)

I think the tablet of my heart must be just as sturdy. God is faithful but sometimes the only way to learn this is through trials. His stylus embosses our tablet and it may hurt but when we turn the tablet over, when we see the other side, there written on our heart is a message of love. It will stand up to multiple readings because it needs to. 

One of the things that can destroy Braille is water. When I worked in a class for blind students one of them was quite upset one day because he had to re-do his homework. The page had gotten wet and illegible from the rain. That happens to our hearts too. Tears and sorrow drown out the message. Instead of another trial though, God just gently replaces the dots, reminding us of His faithfulness. 

Braille can get worn down. I'm not sure how many readings an average page has but over time and if the reader scrubs the page rather than skims it gently the raised dots can get flattened. While He will always be faithful, the message can get dulled by life's circumstances. Rough handling of our hearts (i.e. carelessness) dulls us and the message isn't as easy to read anymore. We need to be careful how we live and continue to be in fellowship with Him through reading His Word and prayer. These things reinforce the message. 

If God's writing on your heart today and it hurts a little, just wait. Let Him finish. The message on the other side is worth it.