Friday, November 29, 2013

Pilgrim Essence

Leftovers.  The word receives such a bad rap.  Yet, my fridge is full of delectable yummies just waiting to be devoured.  And perhaps the best part of it all?  I don't have to cook for a few days.  Ah, now that merits a sigh worth mentioning! 

However, this condition did not come about by magic or slump.

Long before turkey day, preparation was made.  It started with recipes, a dinner plan, and grocery shopping.  The house was swept through with a gusto, clutter corners mercilessly transformed, and even furniture rearranged.  This hobbit house, so accustomed to midget people, must be ready for the tall.

At last 'twas the day before feast, and all through the house, every creature was working, even the washing machine, the vacuum . . . the oven.  Oh the sacrifice of that oven, giving its heat to produce one dish after another. 

Our country has enjoyed the leftovers of our forefathers for quite some time now.  As I think on these first pilgrims I cannot help but be truly thankful.  Without their courage, endurance, patience, sacrifice, and tenacious trust in the Lord, our country would not be what it is today.

My favorite story comes from William Bradford's diary.   The pilgrims had planted their corn with the fish, as Squanto advised.  But the skies produced no rain.  From May through July, 12 weeks, they experienced drought like never before.  Desperate, they proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer, calling out to the Lord for mercy . . . all the while, watched by the Native Americans.

The very next day, clouds rolled in, and God sent a gentle, drizzly rain which revived the crops into an abundant harvest.  It was not a rain met with thunder and lightening, not a rain with fierce downpours, but the softest falling of grace.  God heard their cries and responded with favor.

It was after this harvest that William Bradford called for an official feast of celebration that we now know as Thanksgiving. 

Someone inquired about what was written on the back of these adorable party favors made by my mother-in-law.

This post is in answer to that question.  Written here, is the exact quote from Bradford's diary of the proclamation of Thanksgiving.

The history of the United States has many accounts of such heroes, men and women of valor.  But secular society has contorted the story, leaving out select portions . . . the faith in God parts.

I don't want my children to neglect their heritage, because leftovers do not last forever.  And flowers fade. They themselves must be active participants in creating history for generations yet to be born.  Real reward still comes from courage, endurance, sacrifice, and an unwavering faith in God.

May God be merciful to our beloved country, this U.S. of A.  Oh God of our fathers, we seek Your face, longing for Your smile.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Football Disasters

Today we face a disappointed Colorado.  Oh the hope at halftime of a 24-0 lead against the New England Patriots.  But its never over until its over.  Five swift possessions by the Patriots led to scores which toppled the Bronco pride into stinging defeat. 

Life is like that.  We think we are gaining ground, when, in reality, scores purchased on the fault of others are not what it takes to win the game.  Yes, I know, the Patriot victory in overtime was achieved by a grave mistake of the Broncos.  But they never should have been in that place to start with, of fighting to the wire for a win. 

Likewise, in life, when all we do is react to what is wrong, we lose.  The social network has made it so convenient to do this.  We spout our views about issues thinking that somehow we are making a difference, that we have done our part towards righteousness. 

There are hot topics, such as abortion, same sex marriage, welfare, adoption, education, diet, and even mice, of country or city.  We all have views on such things and like to promote them.  While God does call us to care for the orphan and widow in their distress, that is not our offense. 

Our primary purpose is to hold out abundant life in Christ, salvation by faith in His death and resurrection.  (1 Cor. 15:3-6)

Fighting social ills by spewing my pet peeves to the world never changed much.  It only repels and results in an unpleasant taste.  Real transformation only comes about from the inside, from lives changed by the power of Christ.  That is how the game is won. 

A life that creates, which points toward the Savior, is attractive.  A grateful heart, a life surrendered to God, draws others in.  In this season of thankfulness I hope I never forget the lessons learned from defeat.  Surely, failures are the stepping stones to success, providing we respond in humility. 

And for this, I give thanks. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


"We're not plannin' it, we're just doin' it!" is one of my favorite quotes from a movie I enjoy watching.  While the main character frets about schedule, his new-found friends let time slide.  Ironically, the relaxed friends make the desired rendezvous which is missed by the uptight character.

It is true that if we aim at nothing we will hit nothing.  Plans are good.  But when planning becomes so tight that we are wound up like a toy, forcing our feet and family to move with the rhythm, all joy is lost. 

Recently, my husband and I went for a spontaneous night walk in the rain.  It was beautiful.  Soggy leaves underfoot with the stillness of night settling in, added to the warmth of glowing windows.  It was not something we planned.  It just seemed like a good idea.

As we enter the holiday season, I'm making a point of savoring the moments.  There was a day when I let December become a whirlwind of people pleasing and expectation.  It was all I could do to keep up.   By January I was a frazzled mess.

This week, I received a jury summons for the busiest time of the year.  At first I complained, but then caught myself.  I remembered the lesson I learned before about grumbling.  Instead, I kept with the mantra, "we're not plannin' it, we're just doin' it."  I could let it ruin my day, or I could just go with the flow. 

With tight plans come expectations.  When those are not met, we become flustered and irritated.  Flexibility is such a noble quality when it comes to this season.  Kids get sick, jury duty happens, and schedules conflict.  If we can take it in stride, breathe deep, and let it go, we will be happier people. 

And maybe, just maybe, we will be held in wonder at what the season is about.  Perhaps the old old story will deepen, refresh, and transform our lives as it was truly meant to do. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For Real

When a man in the grocery store informed me that God was a myth I almost laughed right out loud.  I told him that he was mistaken, that God is for real.

He then went on to state that evangelical Christians held the same faith as Muslims, all a wishful clinging to ancient stories.  I responded with, "No, they are not the same, because Jesus is exclusive.  He says that He is THE way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6)

We talked more about the validity of the writings and the testimony of changed lives.  At this point the man decided he was done speaking with me and disappeared out the door.

I was left with a flustered clerk who had overheard our conversation.  She explained that this man often visited their establishment pestering people with his ideas.    

But what this man did not know is that I was on an assignment from the very God he called a myth.  I was seeking to bless where there had been strife.  A mending of what had been broken.  It was not me, but Christ in me, giving grace to obey. 

A soul storm raged within, but was held simultaneous with overwhelming joy.  An authentic miracle.  Impossible of my natural self.  It was God Himself who was raising me up to be more than I could ever be on my own.  

I had planned on going to a different store, but at the last minute changed my mind.  I even had to turn around to come back to this store.

The God of heaven, the real, living, breathing, resurrected Jesus, was pursuing this man, and he didn't even know it.   A fairytale God?  I think not!

Something else this man did not know is that I had just spent an hour with the Lord.  The radio was on and every song of that hour, ministered to my need.  I was swept up in the shelter of God, hidden under His wings . . . not made up self-talk, not an emotional trance, but the real, tangible presence of the living God!

This is why I could scarcely keep from laughing right out loud.  I thought, "You, sir, do not know who you are speaking to.  Have you given this God a chance?  Have you read the words He left for us?  These words which speak life to our souls?"

I have traveled with this God for some time now.  Long enough to truly know Him, to have seen Him faithful through thick and thin, to see His goodness when circumstances shout otherwise.  And I have not seen the end of it.  God never stops moving and working in my life, always pressing me further to growth in Him. 

The man started out fishing, wanting me to respond with the woes of my day.  Instead, I told him that I was having a great day.  Because I was.

"What?  You don't have ups and downs?" he probed further.

"I do have highs and lows, but God helps me through them," I answered.

God is for real.  He is not a list of rules, nor a sugar daddy, nor some ancient long lost history, nor some vapor in the sky.  No, God is more real than every breath that breathes on this earth.

In fact, He raises me up for this very reason, that I might stand on difficulties with triumph.  Instead of being 'under the circumstances', He enables me to prance over them, these heights taking me into the presence of God where the air is invigorating.  I inhale, breathing His life, and I am renewed.

No, it goes far beyond God being real.  God is actively involved in my life.  He loves, protects, enables, and yes, even disciplines.  He does whatever it takes to turn my heart towards Him for He knows this is for my good.  Near His heart is what we are made for.  It fits like a glove.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Oaks

It is in our nature to settle, but we all have a choice as to where that settling will be.  Unless I live life on purpose, I default to habits, which, if left alone, pull me away from God.  And that is my plight.

 Lot, Abraham's nephew, got caught in this trap.  He followed the natural inclination of his heart--selfish through and through.  Then he chose to dwell near immorality.  Later, he moved right into the city itself and made his home there . . . settled.

At the same time Abraham made a choice--to deny himself.  Abraham treated Lot kindly and lived among the oak trees of Mamre . . . settled there.  (Gen. 13:18) 

Believers in Christ are referred to as, "oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD."  (Isa. 61:3)

He has planted . . . settled us, immovable, in His purity, His sacrifice, His grace.  I find it significant that several times in the life of Abraham, mention is made that he settled near the oaks.

Yet, I find that selfishness can still become a trap.  I take the bait by watching one show, or reading one magazine, (you name it), an innocent, fun activity, and before I know it, I have wasted the evening . . . settled.  Maybe not even on purpose, but by default I begin to dwell near that which does not honor God. 

The danger of settling in the wrong places is that it can become an addiction where our only way out is to be pulled, even forced away.  Lot's wife looked back with longing for her beloved city.  So my heart, by its own desire, is pulled away.  (James 1:14)  Did you catch that?  The evil desires are of my own longing.  That is why sin is such a temptation, because deep down, I love it.  Ouch!  And in that place I become useless to the Lord, a wasted life . . . a pillar of salt.  (Gen. 19:26)

But what thriving and encouragement there is next to the oaks!  In fellowship with other believers I am spurred on toward right living.

Furthermore, there is less chance of falling, and more strength to stand.  This is one reason why it is crucial that we do not neglect meeting together. 

I wonder?  Where are we settling?  Is it in the house of believers or at the house of Hollywood?  In Christ I am free, yet, I cannot underestimate the power of my own heart.  If I venture too close to the trap, I might get bit.  

"See to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."  Heb. 3:12-13

Monday, November 11, 2013

Land Ho!

As the first pilgrims sighted land their hearts must have swelled with promise.  At last their long voyage would be ended.  But their hardship was anything but over.   That land would soak up their sweat . . . and their blood.  Generations to come would fight, yes even die, to defend it, to keep it free. 

Abraham, of the Old Testament, was promised a land, but he was only a nomad within it, living among foreigners.  Now, as his wife Sarah breathed her last, he faced a dilemma.  How could he bury his wife in a land not his own? 

God proved himself faithful as the 'Lord of his laughter', but what of his sorrow?

Would Abraham now return to Haran, the place of his relatives, to bury his dead, claiming it as home?  Never!  For God had specifically called him out of Haran . . . to the land of Canaan.  (Gen. 12:1-3)

Yet, Sarah's death holds double grief for Abraham.  Through the lines of Scripture, I can hear the ache and frustration in his voice, "What am I to do?  I own not a stitch of land in Canaan!  How can I bury my wife without returning to Haran?  You promised land, Lord.  Where is the answer to your promise?(Gen. 23:1-3 paraphrased)

Abraham is emphatic about stamping down a stake, claiming Canaan as home . . . an act of faith.  He buys a cave to bury Sarah, insists on buying it, but the cave cannot be bought without the field where it lay.  And so the only real estate Abraham owns is a grave yard.  Land ho!  (Gen. 23:17-20)

I cannot get over the significance of this story for our own lives today.  If we are to own territory in the Christian life, if we are to gain ground in growth . . . we must die.

The point at which we surrender to God, releasing our own selfish desires, the illogical, and the circumstances that echo lies of God's character, is where we take possession of the land.

In belief against all odds, the type of death spoken of above, is when we bear down on faith with our full weight.  This is crucial for, "without faith, it is impossible to please Him"  (Heb.11:6a) 

Abraham burned a bridge.  There was no turning back.  By burying Sarah in Canaan, he was declaring it his home, an expression of faith.  So in death, he was given the fulfillment of promise . . . land.   And God became the 'Lord of his sorrow'.  

You awaken my heart from slumbering
Meet me in the mourning and You speak to my grief
You're the light in my darkness, the delight of my eyes
The hope of the daybreak when the sun's slow to rise
I trust that every moment's in Your hands.

by Gateway Worship

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I am fascinated with the life of Abraham.  Oh, I know, he is such a familiar character in the Bible that we often brush him off with, "been there, done that."  But every time I study his life I am drawn deeper into the wonder of my God.  Wow!  Just wow.

Last night I was doing some artwork to aid in teaching children at our Bible club today.  This type of activity is very therapudic for me.  Plus, I had turned the dial to a Christian radio station, (KJOL), where I love listening to the worship hour.  A few pumpkin spice candles added to the soothing effect.

My youngest daughter, of her own ambition, came and joined me with her drawing.  I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I didn't notice her handiwork until this morning.  Here is what she drew.

'Lord of my laughter' caught my attention because I had recently read of Abraham and Sarah's laughter at the birth of their son Isaac.  What joy to at last see the fulfillment of God's promise!

Yet, this morning I arrived at Genesis 23, where I learned that God is the 'Lord of my sorrow' as well.

Abraham has already gone through a huge test regarding the promise of descendants.  He was to offer up his son Isaac to the Lord, thus destroying the very one through whom he would receive grandchildren, greats, and great greats. . . as many as the stars in the sky.

At precisely the right time, God stopped Abraham, protecting his son Isaac from death.  Abraham had passed the test with flying colors, being swift to obey.  (Gen. 22:12)

Yet, God did not leave the sacrifice undone.  He provided a substitute, a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.  (Gen. 22:13)

Oh the picture of this story!  Jesus, becoming our substitute, bearing the crown of thorns on His head . . . the curse of the ground, for "thorns and thistles it will bear for you."  (Gen. 3:17-19) 

And just as Isaac carried wood for the sacrifice up Mt. Moriah, so Jesus bore the cross up a hill for His ultimate sacrifice for sin.

As Abraham held the knife and the fire, so in the offering of Jesus, God remained true to His justice.  Sin had to be paid for, the slash of death and the fire of suffering.  

There is even more, so much more, in application for our own lives, that I won't go into right now. 

You would think that would be enough.  Case closed.  But years later, Abraham is faced with another test . . . this one in deepest sorrow.  Sarah, his beloved wife, has died.

God was the Lord of his laughter.  Would He prove true in Abraham's grief as well?  That is the subject of my next post.

God is never done with us.  Never.  We do not 'arrive' in the Christian life, but rather move from faith to faith.  All the while, growing deeper in love with Jesus.

p.s.  I'm certain my daughter's artwork was inspired by this song, which I assume had been playing on the radio.  I don't remember. 

You're the God of my days
The King of my nights
Lord of my laughter
Sovereign in sorrow
You're the Prince of my praise...

by Gateway Worship

Monday, November 4, 2013

Inside Out

I believe that all of life is ultimately a picture of spiritual realities.  The family unit, in its perfection, is the deepest illustration of God in His relationship with us. 

And so, I want to speak again of children . . . spiritual children . . . fruit.

There have been stages in my life where I did not walk in close fellowship with God.  I faked it.  And though I continued in ministry as usual, making a show of  'doing good works'  to the people around me, God and I both knew that it was illegitimate. 

Since then, God has revived my heart.  I cannot get enough of the Word and often find my soul bursting with its fullness.  I desire Him more than anything on earth. I won't deny that I still struggle with disappointment or times of silence from God.  But through that breathing of the relationship, I no longer desire the 'fruit' so much as my Beloved.

Jesus says that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.  (John 15:5)  Though not always visible to us, it is a given.  While we are to remain intentional about sharing our faith, we do not have to strive so hard, because it is the Holy Spirit who draws people to Christ.  For this reason, it cannot be forced. 

I'm reminded of intimacy within a marriage.  Only as the husband and wife draw near to each other are children conceived, and even then they are given almost while they sleep.  (Psalm 127)  The exact moment of conception is known only to God.  Likewise, the moment the Holy Spirit births a new believer . . . a mystery.

Yet, what of those times when we draw near but still come up barren?  This tests our faith to the limit, just as infertility can derail and devastate a couple to exasperation. 

However, infertility often leads to other avenues of gaining children.  So spiritually, the empty, the ache of longing, can be the calling to a different place . . . the fruit of faith.  Can I trust God when it seems like He is going against His promise or His character?  When it seems like He is not loving?  When He has not granted my heart's desire?  One peek at the lives of Abraham and Sarah, who were given a child in their old age, show us that God remains faithful against all odds. 

I spent the last year in one area of ministry that seemed like a total bomb. . . a failure.  But looking back, I believe God was testing my faith.  Would I be obedient even without seeing fruit?  Is love for my Savior enough?

God is not a liar.  What appeared barren actually produced something unseen which I believe may result in tremendous fruit in the future.  But there needs to be more ripening.  The fruit is too green to be picked.  And maybe it is only still a bud, a seed buried at rest.  But one thing I do know.  Though the experience left me reeling in disillusionment, I am closer to my Beloved because of it.  And this I love, absolutely love. 

Devotion to God needs to come from the inside out.  Ironically, when the focus is on gaining numbers for ourselves, there is no fruit: only wood, hay, and stubble, which will be burned up into nothingness.

Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord, my soul cries out . . . to You.
(by Hillsong United)