My sun porch

My sun porch

Monday, September 29, 2014

Living and Active Week #1 Day 1

 "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." -- Ecclesiates 4:12

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." -- Proverbs 27:17

Good morning! My mom and I have committed to ourselves and to each other that we are going to be part of the Peak313 Living and Active 5 week Challenge! It is a Bible-based healthy living plan that hopefully will get both of us on the right track to a more healthy lifestyle. 

I know I have been a part of a program something like this in the past, and when I work WITH someone, and make myself accountable, I have more success. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle now, EXCEPT that I am too sedentary. I am a librarian who sits all day and then has trouble being motivated to move when I get home from work, so I sit some more. So, I am using this challenge to challenge myself to get off my behind and MOVE! 

So, on Saturday my mom and I made a plan and scheduled times this coming week to walk together. We weighed ourselves (UGH!) and I went to the store and purchased some good healthy food. I bought some new tennis shoes - BRIGHT PINK ones!  I had already used Loseit.com in the past to keep track of my food and exercise, so I signed mom up for that too and she is already more aware of how many calories are in things she is eating! We are ready to roll! I thought I would use my blog to track our progress and encourage mom and I (and others who MIGHT read it too!)

The Bible verses above are our memory verses for this week. They are familiar ones, but good ones to keep in mind as my mom and I begin this challenge together. 

Sitting here writing about this has gotten me really excited! In a couple of hours I will be taking a break, and putting on my hot pink tennis shoes and taking a brisk walk about the beautiful Muskingum University campus where I work. Then tonight when I get home I will do the first workout posted by Clare on the Peak313.com website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy10Zpe-kLE

Since I know myself, I know without God in this plan, it will fail. I tell my KidsPraise kids that whenever something is hard for me, the first thing I do is pray! So...

Dear Loving Father God, 
Thank you this day! A beautiful morning drive to work gave me time to marvel at the wonders of your creation. One of the things you created was me...I am fearfully and wonderfully made! It is time for me to take care of this body that you gave me! Help me to stay motivated and strong during this challenge so I can rebuild healthy habits into my life. Thank you for the friendship between me and my mom and help us to help each other stay strong and sharpen each other, just as iron sharpens iron. It is in the precious name of Christ that I ask all these things. Amen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Questions are blowing through...but my FAITH stands firm!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV)

When writing this blog, most times I am writing to encourage others and show God's love to people reading. Today, I write to try to put my latest thoughts and questions about God in order. Don't get me wrong, I am not doubting God, or His plans for this world. But I am trying to understand Him better so I can be a better servant for Him.

I received an email yesterday from a friend...one of those forwards where you are to send it to 8 people. You know the kind I am talking about. The message of this email was about how we shouldn't mock God, and those who do come to untimely deaths. For instance, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, and other world leaders and people who claimed publicly that they didn't need God, or that Christianity was wrong, or they made fun of God...and then soon after they died.

I am having trouble reconciling in my mind and my heart my God who created us all (see Psalms verse above) and is our loving father, and the vengeful God who kills someone off for making fun of Him. I know God is an all powerful God who can smite his enemies with just a word. I also know the verse that was quoted in that email:

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7 NIV)
I am a mother and even if my child mocked me and made fun of me and spoke bad about me, I wouldn't want to KILL her!

But, maybe I am thinking about this all wrong. Maybe God wanted to prove to his doubting children that He DOES exist! Maybe He wanted to bring these doubting children to Him so they DID believe. We have no idea what God does in the last seconds of a person's life. I am not suggesting that mockers of God are rewarded by going to heaven...I am just saying that perhaps our all powerful, all knowing and loving Father has other plans for his children who have either lost their faith or never knew Him to begin with. 

Why am I worrying my head about this? This is what I do. I see things in this life that are troubling and I go to God and ask Him to help me understand. Questions of this world blow hard...but my faith in God stands firm and keeps me strong. I seek Him every day.

Dear Loving Father,
You are so amazing! Your power and might give me strength when I am weak and confidence when I doubt. Help to ease the questions that arise in my mind and heart from time to time and reassure me that You have EVERYTHING under control! Help me to take that reassurance and let that light shine through me so that others can see You and the love of Christ in me. Help me to have a better understanding of Your ways so that I can live a life that is pleasing to You and use my life to serve You and others every day. In Jesus Holy name, Amen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." -- FDR

"Be strong. Take courage. don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." --Deuteronomy 31:6 The Message Translation

I seem to have a fear, or a great distaste for being alone. I have struggled with this all my life. I don't LIKE being by myself! I have friends who cherish their alone time, but that is not me. While I have read studies that report that extroverted people like myself get their energy from other people and NEED to be around others to be at their best, I have come to realize that this may not just be a personality trait...this might be one of my biggest character flaws.

In the past week, I have been recuperating from a minor surgery. For the first few days, my husband and daughter sat with me and kept an eye on me, especially while I was hopped up on pain meds. From the stories they tell, I have a feeling that I was great entertainment for them during this time. Then, after a few days were over and I was doing better, they left me to rest and heal on my own as they got back to their busy lives. There were a couple of times I wanted to get up and grab their legs and cry "Don't leave me!" But, my body wasn't able to do that, and it wouldn't have been dignified. So, I read, watched movies, watched TV and moped. I'll admit to a few crying spells...there was obviously still pain medication in my system, right?

Feeling better last night, I went to a prayer and healing service, recently entitled The Well, at my church. It was a wonderful time of amazing worship music, prayer, testimonies and fellowship with some of my dear church family members. I am very glad I went. While I prayed for continued healing for my body, I also prayed for emotional healing. There is something broken in me when I have this irrational fear and dislike for being alone.

One of my favorite Bible verses has always been Joshua 1:9 -- "Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Well, one of today's verses in my daily devotional was a very similar verse from Deuteronomy that I began this post with. Why is it so hard for me to remember that I am NEVER alone! God is with me wherever I go, whatever I do and however I am feeling. Even when I can't feel Him, He is there. Even if everyone I loved on this earth was gone, I would NOT be alone.

How do I keep this in the front of my mind when I am having my own little pity party about being alone? In the past, I have tried fixing this problem on my own. I filled my time with so many activities and duties there was no time to feel lonely. After all, if I didn't want to be alone, I should be with other people right? Well, the sentiment is right, but the motivation is wrong. When I fill my calendar with things that I HAVE to do, even if they are good and noble things, I am not serving others out of the goodness of my heart. I am serving to fill a void in my heart, and that kind of serving can only lead to resentment, exhaustion and burn out. I have experienced that feeling several times...you would think that I would learn.

One of the people that gave a testimony last night spoke about how sometimes there is something broken in us that we haven't let heal correctly. We have tried to heal that brokenness on own own instead of letting God heal us the way we NEED healed. Because of that, we need to allow God to "re-break" us and heal us in His way. I am praying for that "re-breaking" today. Anytime you know that you are going to have something broken in you, you know it's going to hurt and you dread it. However, today I look forward to God breaking and healing what is broken in me that fears being alone.

Dear Loving Father,
I know that you see in me what needs to be healed. You know exactly what I need to lose my fear and bask in the knowledge of your presence with me at ALL times, especially when I am alone. I ask that today you "re-break" the brokenness inside me and lead me to total healing. I also know that you know my personality better than I know myself. I ask that you help me to schedule my time to serve you from the bottom of my heart and for the right reasons. Fill my days with times of personal time with you, as well as time to mix with other people in my life who feed my need for personal interaction. I thank you for the insight into my own soul so I can ask you for this healing that I didn't even realize that I needed. You are truly a good God...one who fills all my needs! In your awesome name I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Peace comes in the morning...

"For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" -- Romans 1:17

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." -- Exodus 14:14

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." -- Romans 8:6

Whether you believe it or not, I believe in my heart that my Father God speaks to my heart exactly when I need Him...when I open my eyes to look for Him. This morning was one of those times. I woke with worries and thoughts racing around in my head; trying to figure out how I was going to fix all these problems that were laying themselves at my feet.

Standing in the shower, almost in tears, I stopped myself and prayed. I asked God to take control of those thoughts. I told God I knew He was in control of everything anyway, and asked Him to quiet my worried soul.

A little while later, I opened the devotional book that I have been reading most mornings and the verses above appeared before my eyes. Call it coincidence if you want, but I call it God speaking to me and reassuring me that it will all be okay. I have FAITH that God IS in control! The Lord is fighting for me, I just have to be still and let Him. The last verse confirmed that I can have peace in my heart when I allow God to control my mind. I gave Him that control standing in the shower. He wouldn't just TAKE control...He was waiting on me to give it up and when I did He then reminded me and reassured me that He has my back.

I know several of my friends have worries and problems on their heart right now. I write this today to encourage them and anyone else reading. If you give up control of your mind and be still...even for just for a moment...God WILL give you peace. Be blessed today!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Unswervingly...

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." -- Hebrews 10:23 NIV

She slammed the car door, turned the ignition and the car revved to a start. Without a moment of hesitation, she pulled the gearshift into drive and sped down the road. Her anger burned in her gut as she wiped the frustrated tears from her eyes. The fact that she was crying over this whole thing made her even madder and without signaling, she whipped her car onto the next street on her right. She had to get out of here! Just as she turned the corner, she heard a loud crash of thunder and big fat raindrops appeared on her windshield. Perfect! The weather matched her stormy mood and she urged the car to go faster. It was now raining so hard that the wipers weren't cutting it and she didn't see the sharp left turn ahead. Her tires squealed as she hit the breaks quickly to avoid swerving off the road and landing in the deep gully on the other side. Unnerved, she pulled off to the side of the road and took a deep breath. It's time to slow down and think about this before going any farther.

Unswervingly...is it even a word? When we swerve to avoid something in the road, we depart from the directed path of the road. We go off course for a second. So, I know how to swerve...do I know how to do something unswervingly? Logically, one could think that unswervingly means without swerving...staying ON the directed path and staying ON course.

The Hebrews verse above says we are to hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess. We are to stay on course with that hope and stay on the directed path. WHY? Or, better yet, HOW? The last part of that verse says that He who promised is faithful. Look at these promises:

"I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths." -- Proverbs 4:11

"A person's steps are directed by the Lord. How can anyone understand their own way?" -- Proverbs 20:24

If we believe that God keeps His promises and He promises to lead us and direct our steps, the HOPE of that belief will keep us on the right path. We just have to hold on to that HOPE unswervingly. Life, circumstances, our emotions and our hearts will try to knock us off our directed course. Like the girl in the scenario above, when we let our emotions rule us, go, go, go and don't stop to think through something, swerving is sometimes the only thing we can do to avoid the collision ahead of us. God is more powerful that the worst storm and more forgiving than we deserve. Even if we do swerve and lose sight of our path altogether, He will lead us back on the right path if we allow Him to.

There have been many times when I swerved and went off the path that was in front of me. There have even been times when I didn't hold unswervingly to the hope that comes from God's promises. During those dark times I felt weak, vulnerable and alone. It was like I was stuck in the deep gully off the side of the road I was supposed to be on I couldn't figure out how to get out. From the gully, I reached out to God and He heard me. He lifted me up, instructed me how to get back on the wise path and my HOPE was restored!

Our lives are filled with twists and turns...there will always be opportunities for us to swerve off the road. God wants us to rest in the hope that our faith in Him provides for us. There is always a way back to the right course. THAT is what I am unswervingly holding on to!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mothers and daughters...learning to put up with one another in love.

"Don't be proud at all. Be completely gentle. Be patient. Put up with one another in love." -- Ephesians 4:2

Again, I am reminded of the fact that teaching a lesson to a group of kids at KidsPraise often does more for me than it probably does for the kids! The Ephesians verse above was what we worked on this past Sunday. We are focusing on friendship this summer and this lesson was teaching kids to be patient and gentle with their friends...even when they are annoying.

Well, can I just say this...teenage kids are...annoying! Parenting an almost 18 year old is not fun most of the time. Parenting is NOT for sissies! There is such a battle of the wills going on. My daughter is trying to figure out who she is and enjoying new found freedom. She is learning how to make her own decisions, make money by working for someone else, manage her own money, and spending most of her time away from home with her friends. As her parent, I am trying to get her to still keep up with her chores, respect the authority of the people who still take care of her (her dad and me,) keep her from making life-changing mistakes and I would love to spend some quality time with her every now and then. Many times, what she is trying to do and what I am trying to do collide and cause tempers to flare, voices to raise, feelings to get hurt and the relationship between her and I to suffer. This is not a new story. This same story has been going on since the beginning of time. It is the natural way of things. Children are SUPPOSED to grow up, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and become independent adults who do not need their parents as much any more. If I KNOW this in my mind why is it so HARD and why does it hurt so much in my heart?

Two things struck me this morning as I was reading my daily devotional and thinking about my daughter. First of all, I need to trust God. He is in control of EVERYTHING, even when things seem to be in chaos. Even if she makes huge mistakes, God will still be there for her. I have raised her to know God, love Jesus and trust in the faith that God is a loving and forgiving God. Even if she runs away from this for a while as she is growing up and learning who she is, I trust in the fact that the seed of that faith will remain in her heart and it will bring her back. Secondly, I need to listen to the KidsPraise lessons I teach. As her mother, I need to take the Ephesians 4:2 verse to heart each and every day.

** Don't be proud at all. Ok, I will be honest with you and with myself...many times my daughter's behavior is more about how people will look at ME instead of how they look at her. What will people think of me if my daughter makes mistakes? What kind of mother does that make me? Yep...pride goes before a fall. It is natural for me to think like this, but I need to be aware of this pride thing, acknowledge it for what it is and put it behind me. It really doesn't matter what other people think of me or my parenting skills. What matters is my daughter and doing what is best for her.

** Be completely gentle. That word completely is the one that is hard. Really...you mean I shouldn't yell and scream when I feel like it? Balancing being gentle with her feelings and saying the hard things that mothers need to say is very difficult. But the ego of an 18 year old is completely fragile and I need to remember that. Yelling and picking at her has NEVER worked...why is that the first thing that my flawed personality flies to? I need to count to 10...calm down...think before I talk...stay gentle but firm...keep my voice low and easy.

** Be patient. This too shall pass. A good friend of mine who has been through this same thing with her daughter and came out on the other side has reassured me that this constant battle is only temporary. It's part of the growing process...I need to let her work though this stage of her life with support, forgiveness, calmness and understanding.

** Put up with one another in love. Gee! You mean I have to PUT UP with eye rolling, a lack of respect, heavy sighs, the obligatory "I know, Mom." ???? Yep! I think it is still my job to make her aware that this kind of behavior is still not appropriate, no matter her age, but I need to do so in a gentle and patient manner. I know she loves me. I love her. We have to put up with each other!

Most importantly, I need to remember that none of this is possible on my own. It is in my human nature to yell, scream, argue, punish and feel bad when things don't go my way. I need to constantly be in prayer that God will guide me and give me the wisdom, strength and endurance I need to be the kind of mother that lives this Ephesians 4:2 verse every day. Only when I give up and let God guide me will I be able to do these things.

I hope these lessons that I am learning and sharing here can help another mother going through the same thing! And...I hope I can remember them tonight...when my daughter gets behind the wheel for the first time! God bless us both! :-)


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Burdened...

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5, 6 NIV)

Have you ever carried a heavy box for a long distance or hefted an awkward backpack on your shoulders on a long hike? How about carrying the dead weight of a sleeping child from the car to her bed in the dark? All of those actions are hard work and take endurance to complete.

I also invite you to think about a time in your life when you felt the weight of a difficult problem or situation. We all have things like that happen in our lives that weigh us down making it hard to just make it through each day. It feels like walking up a steep mountain with the heavy pack of a soldier pushing us down to the ground. Each step is difficult and we get the point that we don't think we can make it five more feet, let alone make it to the top.

I have been there. I know what that feels like. In times like those I remember something Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -- Matthew 11:28-29

What the heck does that really mean? How do I GO to Jesus? How can I take his yoke? Huh? I know, it doesn't seem to make sense. I have found that when I am weighted down with a problem, all I have to do is say the name Jesus...yep, that's it. Just say Jesus and believe in my heart he is listening and feels the heaviness I am carrying and helps me lift it, making it easier to carry. Just that belief and that simple action has helped me so many times.

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." (Psalm 68:19 NIV)

I don't understand how just saying the name of Jesus helps and makes me feel better and allows me to work through whatever issue is weighing me down, but I do understand that it has worked for me time and time again. God is just THAT good and THAT powerful!

Are you feeling weighed down by something today? Just say the name Jesus and have confidence that God is listening and will bless your faith and lift your load and help you carry it through!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Well equipped...

I"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NIV)

There are days I don't feel equipped to do anything. I feel my skills as a mother stink sometimes. At times I don't feel smart enough to be a good academic librarian. I have burned my share of suppers, so my cooking skills are lacking at times. I have been in situations when a friend is asking for advice on a difficult problem and I just don't know what to say. I have had a child ask me a hard question about the Bible or about God and I don't know how to answer. Yep, there are MANY times I am poorly equipped.

However, since I trust God and His word, I know that He will provide me with exactly what I need to do the things he has called me to do, and in His perfect timing. He has done this for me more times than I can count. I know I just named several times when I felt ill equipped, but I could also name HUNDREDS of situations when I knew just what to say, just what to do or just what to write. I am not smart enough to do that on my own, so I believe it was God giving me the skills I needed to do what He needed me to do.

I also trust God to provide for me when I am weak. In the last several years I have gone through cycles of being content and satisfied with my life to times of confusion, boredom and complete dissatisfaction. I feel called to do something and I pray for guidance and I hear nothing clearly. During those times, and lately they have been many, my mind, body and soul seem very weak and I just flounder along each day, not moving forward in my life at all. I drift away from my quiet time with God and cry a lot and wonder if I will ever shake these feelings. I have a feeling a lot of this comes from middle age and menopause creeping in, but that doesn't help me deal with it. During it all, though, I have kept the faith and hope that God does love me came has not left me. I TRUST that He will bring me out of this, just as He has many times before. 

In the last week, just like the sun breaking through after a bad storm, I feel my funk is lifting! I have returned to my daily morning quiet times on my sunporch and I have been reading some good books and checking my daily Bible verse. I have also been reading the daily devotional that is being provided for the kids and families in our church this summer. All of this has helped me feel the closeness of God again! See, He is again equipping me to get back to the good works He is putting before me!

Dear Lord,
Thank you for this BEAUTIFUL morning! Thank you for the birds singing to me, for the warm sunshine on my neck, and for  your words that bring me hope and comfort. Thank you for once again lifting me out of the funk I let myself fall into. Thank you for equipping me and helping me get ready to serve you and for whatever is coming my way! I hope whoever reads this message today reaches out to you as I have and feels you equipping them as well! I am ready to face the day! Amen.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Order My Steps...

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." -- Proverbs 16:9


For almost a week now I have been reading a daily devotional that my church and small group are reading together. It is a 40 day prayer challenge, called Draw the Circle written by Mark Batterson. So far, it as been very enlightening and motivating for me.

A few things have jumped out at me this week that I thought I would share with you.

First, in the Proverbs verse above, it points out that we humans try to plan our lives away, but it is God who establishes our steps...IF we allow Him to. He will prepare us, direct us, set a path for us, and makes that path secure IF we ask Him to. Our role in this life plan is to ask him to lead us and then follow that set, secure path.

To do this, we must first consecrate ourselves. Oh, no. A big word! What does consecrate mean? If comes from this verse:

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." -- Joshua 3:5

Consecrate means: to set apart; to be designated for a special purpose; to be completed dedicated to God. It is a process of surrender that never ends.

So, instead of me getting ahead of myself with plans for my life, I need to first ask God to order my steps, and then I have to dedicate myself to God, putting Him first in my life. Mark Batterson says, "If I give more of myself to God, God will give more of Himself to me."

I have also taken a hard look at my prayer life this week. What do I pray for? I pray for health and happiness for my family and friends and myself. I pray for guidance and wisdom. Some things I pray for are hard things, some are not. Some of my prayers have been the same prayers for YEARS! Looking at my prayers by looking at my journals over the years and looking back through the blog posts of the past few years, I see that my prayers are in some ways selfish prayers...prayers to make MY life better, or my family and friends lives better, but NOT prayers to glorify God. Again, I look at the words of Mark Batterson in Draw the Circle, "The primary purpose of prayer is not to change circumstances, but to change US."

I pray a lot of "take it away' prayers, where I ask God to take away some pain, some hard problem, or some terrible circumstance. I don't believe God wants to take our pains away, but wants to take us THROUGH the pain so we can come out stronger on the other side. As a parent of a teenager, I can relate to this thinking. If I make everything easy for my daughter, fixing her problems and do everything for her, she won't know what to do when she is on her own...she will be weak. She needs to experience some pain and hardship to develop and get strong enough to handle the really hard stuff that will undoubtedly come her way. This is so hard for me, as I don't want to see her hurting in any way. Imagine how God feels about seeing us, his children, suffer through our problems. I'm sure he hurts for us too, but knows we NEED those problems to get stronger.

Does that mean we shouldn't pray for God's help in getting through our tough problems? ABSOLUTELY NOT! He WANTS us to ask, and KEEP asking!

"...yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need." --Luke 11:8

Jesus said these words after he taught the disciples how to pray. He is saying that we should keep asking, keep knocking on God's door for an answer and keep seeking God's wisdom. We need to be persistent!

When we pray what seems like impossible prayers...during the tough stuff...when we are deeply hurt...when we don't see a way out...when we need a miracle...we are showing our faith to God and He will reveal His glory to us. He WILL answer. We might not like the answer, mainly because many times we don't feel we GET an answer. Just keep asking...He will give us exactly what we NEED.

So, today, I pray that God will order my steps on the path that He has laid out for me. I pray for strength and wisdom to keep me on that path, and faith enough to keep asking for God's help with EVERYTHING I encounter on that path.

Here is a link to an amazing praise song that goes right along with this topic: Order My Steps

Friday, February 28, 2014

A loving, open door conversation over coffee...

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. – 1 John 4:19-21

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

She sat across the small table from me, fidgeting with her coffee cup and letting me do all the talking. It had been a long time since we had last talked and I had a lot to catch her up on. One of my favorite things to do is reconnect with old friends! After a time of hearing only brief responses from my friend, I asked her if everything was okay with her. She stared at her coffee cup for a while and then looked up at me with such pain in her face that it startled me.

“What is wrong?” I asked as I took her hands and squeezed them gently, encouraging her to open up to me.

“You are going to hate me and run out the door if I tell you,” she replied with tears welling up in her eyes.

“I could never hate you and I am not done with my coffee yet, so I am not going anywhere,” I tried to lighten the mood and reassure her.

“Okay,” she began. “Here is the deal. I am gay…I met someone…I love her.” She said all this looking deeply into the light brown coffee and then looked up at me again, expecting to see disbelief and hate.

“Well…that is definitely NOT what I was expecting,” I said. “Let’s talk some more. And let me reassure you: I don’t hate you and I am NOT running out the door.”

“Oh, Linda! I’m an abomination! I AM AN ABOMINATION! What am I going to do?”

This was the beginning of a LONG conversation. Let me give you a little bit of information about my friend. She and I have known each other for a long time and she has always been a “church girl” like me. She was raised in church and has always been very active with her family in her church. She never married, so she got even more involved in the activities of her growing church and she loves the Lord with all her heart. Her quiet and contemplative personality made her the perfect “worker bee” and many people counted on her to work hard and get things done. She and I have had “God conversations” MANY times over the years, so I know she knows the Bible and has a good handle on what Jesus did for us on the cross.

During this conversation, I found out that this church life she has led has both cradled her in God’s love and frightened her to death. Since she was a young girl she realized she was different from other girls, in that boys didn’t seem to excite her as they did her girl friends. When she was a teenager, she realized what was going on inside of her and she was so ashamed. She hid who she was and what her body was telling her she wanted. She studied the Bible, searching and searching for God’s guidance. What she found there told her she was unnatural…she was a sinner and an abomination in God’s eyes. She buried those feelings of desire for other women down deep in her heart and soul. She got MORE involved in her church and lived a lie for more than 30 years. A year ago at an out of town conference for her work, she met a woman who she instantly connected with and one thing led to another and the feelings she had been hiding and squelching inside came pouring out. Her new friend had had a similar experience and my friend felt she had finally found someone who understood her. A relationship between the two grew over time. My friend now finds herself in love with this woman and feels so split. Part of her is awakening to a part of herself didn’t even know existed. At 45 years old, she is discovering what most of us discover much earlier in life. She found who she considers her soul mate. But, she is also in fear for her soul…in fear that the life she had once lived is gone. She is afraid of what her friends and family will now think of her…afraid of what her loving Savior now thinks of her. How would that feel to think you are an abomination?

She was afraid of what I would think of her. My heart broke for her. There were many tears shed over those coffee cups that morning. I did what Jesus taught me to do…I loved her. I didn’t judge her. I didn’t run away from her. I didn’t tell her that she disgusted me. I didn’t slam the door in her face. I LOVED her. I don’t have all the answers for her. I don’t understand what she is going through, but I could see that this poor woman needed to be loved at that moment.

If I reacted the way some Christians might have, the way she EXPECTED me to react, I might have pushed her FARTHER away from the God she loved so much. I would have affirmed what she believed about herself…that she was an abomination and not worthy of my love and not worthy of God’s love. I KNOW what the Bible says, but what God put in my heart at that moment was love.
So, as I watch the news and the Facebook posts about how we should support those Christian businesses who want the right to not serve and shut the door on people just like my friend…my heart hurts. Why would we shut the door on some of the people who need to be shown God’s love the most? We SAY that God is love and we SAY that whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God who gave his life for us will receive eternal life. But do we really believe what we say? Do we LIVE what we say?

If I opened a restaurant and I reserved the right to only serve the people who were without sin and lived a perfect life and believed as I do and lived their lives the way I think they should, my restaurant would go broke very quickly as NO ONE would be allowed to eat there! It would be a business without God’s love in it and the closed doors would keep out the very people who needed nourishment the most.


I realize that many will not agree with me and many would have walked away from my friend, letting her know that she was as unclean and unworthy as she believes she is. I am just not willing to let her lose faith in a loving and forgiving Father because of my actions!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Does it really have to be Faith VERSUS Knowledge???

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." -- Hebrews 11:1


"For wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." -- Proverbs 2:10


Recently I have been hearing a lot of debate about faith and knowledge. I have friends of all types and friends of all different faiths, so I have seen many different sides to this debate. I don't mind debate, in fact, I rather enjoy it. I mean, I like to think about all sides of an issue. It helps me better understand my own opinions, and it also helps me to empathize with people who think differently than I do. It is when debate turns negative and hateful that upsets me. We humans tend to get our feelings hurt easily and feel like if someone disagrees with us, they are ignorant and we then move on to judging those who think and believe and live differently than we do. I try very hard NOT to do this.

One the topic of faith vs. knowledge, I say why can't they coexist in harmony with one another?

Many of you know that I spend a lot of time teaching KidsPraise at my church. The lessons I teach and the stories I tell are meant to give the children listening a background in God's word and create a strong foundation of Christian love. I have told many that I think these lessons benefit me even more than they do the kids! I learn something new about my God every time I teach. We focus on a different virtue each month. Guess what? Last month's virtue was knowledge and this month's is faith!

Our definition of knowledge is: discovering something new so you can be better at whatever you do. This encompasses Biblical knowledge as well as general knowledge.  I believe that we human beings are "wired" with a natural curiosity  to know what we do not know. We WANT to know and we WANT to find the answers to life's hidden secrets. Ever watched a magician and really want to know HOW he did that amazing trick? When we search for the answers, when we pursue those answers with all we have, we DISCOVER. Discovery helps us understand that God IS real because we see His work and His mastery in everything. Discovering who God is excites us! Many times, discovering some answers leads to more questions!

God wants us to know Him better. God wants us to WANT to know him better, so he doesn't give us all the answers. If we understood everything there is to understand, we would stop discovering who God is because we would stop looking. God would be no bigger than our understanding. This would lead to boredom and disinterest. God is bigger than we can EVER imagine, and He doesn't want us to be bored and disinterested in our lives. 

How do I KNOW this? I have SEEN God's handiwork in our creation and been excited enough to want to learn more about Him. AND I have also been on the other side. There was a time in my life that I doubted God and stopped searching for Him. I didn't look, so I didn't discover anything new. I became bored and disinterested in God. Was He even real? But, something sparked my interest again and I again found excitement in learning new things about my God and the more I discovered the more I believed. 

Our KidsPraise definition of Faith is believing in what you CAN'T see because of what you CAN see. Did you know that a great percentage of scientists and mathematicians truly believe in God? What??? I thought that science and belief in God can't possibly mix? One mathematician put it like this, "And it [algebra, geometry, analysis, etc.] all intertwines and works so perfectly, so beautifully, that you realize that Somebody or Something must have done this. It simply could not have happened by chance. It's a kind of revelation, I guess. And it's very convincing." (Why the mathematicians, more than other scientists, tend to believe there's a God Ted and Virginia Byfeld, British Columbia Report, June 2, 1997, p. 31.)

I have a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science, so it is evident that I value education and what learning new things can do for you. I had anthropology classes in school where I saw with my own eyes fossils and bones from creatures that I don't understand. Do I totally understand how the Biblical literal timeline fits in with what scientists have discovered from studying all they see? No. Does that make me believe less in the God I have discovered for myself? No. While I don't have all the answers, I have seen things in my life that HAD to be from God. What I HAVE seen helps me believe in a God that I can't see. I also know that there are many inconsistencies with our current culture and the Bible, which I believe is God's word. However, this doesn't make me believe God's word less...it makes me want to study ALL of it so I better understand what it means for the people of today's world. 

Too many people give up on God too easily. When something happens to cause them to question or doubt, they just give up and say there must not be a God, or at least not the God they thought they knew. I have said this many times, and for me, it is still true: I believe God WANTS us to question Him and SEARCH for the answers to those questions. 

So, once again, I conclude that faith and knowledge CAN coexist in harmony in our minds, hearts and in our world. I thank God that my heart and mind are open enough to let the debate rage on and know that even though I learn new things, my Faith in my loving Father God will stand strong. I encourage my friends to keep open hearts and minds themselves and allow God to grow their faith while learning new things as well! 



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Frozen

Photographer: Ingolf Kristiansen  Source: Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/15/fish-frozen-in-place-norway-herring-photo_n_4596811.html

"So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." -- Romans 12:2 The Message Translation

These "polar vortex" sub-zero temperatures we've been having have been a shock to our systems and caused our daily routines to change in so many ways. It also has made me think about being frozen in a different way. 

The picture above was taken in Lovund, Norway, last weekend. It was so cold, in fact, that a school of herring that strayed too close to shore apparently froze in place. As I looked at this picture, I couldn't help but feel sorry for these fish. They are just following the crowd, swimming along and when they got too close to the shore on this one cold day that they froze right in place. I also couldn't help but think about the times when I have been frozen.

I don't mean frozen in the same way as my body temperature getting so low I am frozen solid, (although this week there have been times I thought I was close!) I mean frozen...stuck...I can't move forward no matter how hard I try or no matter how much I want to. This specific predicament of being cemented in one place has happen several times in my life. It is frustrating and erodes my self esteem and my energy. I also don't think I am alone. From talking to my friends, I find that many people feel frozen from time to time.

How does one become frozen? I wonder about that often. I mean, I am a very busy person, running from this activity to another; from this responsibility to the next. How in the world do I have time to allow myself to get stuck? For me, I think many times complacency is the culprit. Since I am so busy, I become semi-satisfied with the way things are, even if they aren't the way I thought I wanted them, because it is easier to be satisfied than it is to do the work to change. Changing an ingrained habit or routine takes hard work and I just simply don't seem to have then energy.

That's why I keep going back to God's word for support, strength, courage and energy to thaw out my frozen self! 

In the recent Disney movie "Frozen," Queen Elsa sings 
"Let it go...
It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small. 
And the fears that once controlled me, can't get to me at all. 
It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. 
No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I am free!" 

She breaks free from the habits and routines that had her frozen in her own castle. (Ironically, she discovers this on a frozen mountain top.) Elsa may not go to God's word for her strength, but she does realize that she has to let the old behaviors go before she can move on.

I need to let it go. I need to move forward...again. I need to break free from this frozen comfortable cocoon that I have allowed myself to get trapped in yet again. I used The Message Translation of Romans 12:2 above because it explains what I need to do to a tee. First of all, I need to allow God to help me. I need to the give my life and every thing I do back to God...again. I don't believe God gets tired of me needing to thaw myself again. I believe He is there, cheering me on, encouraging me, pushing me forward, and giving me the "heat" I need to begin to thaw.

By stepping back, and really looking at the behaviors that have me frozen, I believe I will gain some new perspective. If I stay where I am, I will not grow. I will stagnate in my frozen state and I will die a little bit every day. I need to listen for God's coaxing. If I really listen, I will learn to understand what my Father wants from me. He has given me everything I need to thaw from this frozen prison. The things that once controlled me: my laziness...my complacency...my need to please...my fears...They can't hold me down any more!

Those frozen Norway fish didn't have a chance against the freezing waters and howling winds close to the shore. They weren't aware of their circumstances...they didn't know where they were. They were caught unaware. 

Dear Father, help me not to be caught aware! Thank you that I have realized my frozen state! Now, let me open my heart, my mind and my spirit to your teachings that will allow me to break free from those habits that are holding me back. I let them go! I give my life and everything I do to you AGAIN and know that you willing accept. Help me to grow, do the work, and Lord, bring out the best in me. Amen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Christ is enough for me...

"Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." -- John 8:12

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." -- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Some of my friends may say that today's post will be "too Jesus-y" but I can't help it today.

When things feel too much for you, or conversely, when things are not enough for you...where do you turn? What do you do to keep going? I confess that I at first I go into my self-pity party mode. Why CAN'T things be better or the way I WANT them to be? I sulk around. I frown and growl at those around me. I eat, I sit, I cry, I eat some more. However, I have found that I cannot sustain this self pity for very long. I realize it is getting me nowhere and I search for a door out of that particular party.

"I AM the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." -- John 10:9

My next instinct is to reach out to my friends when I get in these moods. They lift me up, remind me of all my blessings and gently lead me to the one who REALLY can pull me out of the pit. My friends pray with me and for me. While I am so very grateful for these faithful friends, whom I believe God has strategically placed in my life, I also know that even if I didn't have them in my life, I would be alright. I know this because I know I have Jesus in my heart.

Over the three years of Jesus' ministry on earth,  there were many times He said two specific words when speaking about Himself. In some of the statements, He simply said, "I am." Other times He followed "I am" with other words that explained and defined who He was exactly. It is these statements that I reach for.

I AM from above.
I AM the good shepherd.
I am the Son of God.
I AM the bread of life.
I AM the resurrection and the life.
I AM the way, the truth, and the life.
I AM the true vine.
I AM Jesus.
I AM leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.
I AM gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
I AM the light of the world.

The following statement is not an "I am" statement, but it is no less important: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."  -- John 14:1-3

I DO believe in Christ! I believe that one day I will be Jesus in my Father's house and there will be no more tears, no more disappointment, no more anger and no more fear. I will have EVERYTHING need and my desires will be met! 

So, there are those who say you can't live this life waiting on the good stuff to happen in the next. I do believe you can't just sit around, waiting to die so you can go to the better life in heaven. However, when this life disappoints and leaves me weeping in a puddle on the floor, I look for those "I AM" statements and look up and forward for my Father's salvation plan. God keeps His promises, and I for one, am going to hang on to those promises!

Jesus also says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." -- Matthew 16:24

I have decided to follow Jesus. So what if I don't have everything I would like to have in this life?? So what?? If I am following Jesus, there is no turning back! I don't want to live in the darkness of the self pity party! I want the light of life! Christ is enough for me!

And, for those friends who think this is too "Jesus-y"...all I can say it is my story. This is the reason I can get up out of bed in the morning. It is the reason I can push through when my heart is breaking. Whether you believe or not, it is my story, and I am sticking to it! Amen!



Friday, January 17, 2014

People like us...

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." -- Genesis 1:27

People like us...this sentence has been playing in my head for days now.  There are times when an idea percolates in my brain and won't leave me alone until I write about it and get it out of my system. This is one of those times. There are many ways you change the phrase "people like us" just by the inflection of your voice or the word in the sentence that is stressed. It can really change the meaning of the phrase, AND, that phrase can be used to explain much about our world and society today.

PEOPLE like us. Human beings are all people. While we all look different in many ways, our bodies work in basically the same way. We all have a brain and a heart and blood and complicated body systems that keep us alive. It helps me at times to remember this fact. When I am feeling intimidated by someone for whatever reason, I am more able to deal with that person when I remember how much I have in common with him or her. I have a loving nurse friend who once told me something that, while a bit crude, puts everything into perspective. "Everybody poops." It's true. Every one of us, even the most beautiful, perfect, intelligent person who intimidates me has to deal with eliminating waste from their human body. Knowing that has helped me in several situations! 

People LIKE us. We all want to belong. Even most of the loners among us have a need to belong and fit in. Some of us care more about this than others, but we all seem to want to be liked by at least a few people in our lives. Some people, like me sometimes, seem to worry about this too much. We want people to like us so badly that we will put our own wants, needs or desires aside just so another person or group of people will like us and want to be with us.

People like US. Now, this one can get us unto trouble. Since we want to be liked so much, we sometimes find others that have similar characteristics, hobbies, traits or even the same skin color or same religion and group ourselves with them to the exclusion of others. We also are good at putting others outside our group into categories as well.  I think our minds are also built to put things into categories or groups. Remember the old Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other?" However, we seem to forget the part where we are all people...we are ALL made in God's image no matter what makes us different. We fear those who are different. We don't understand people who are different because we don't open our minds and hearts enough to let God help us understand them and help us love them the way we should.

So, why was this topic so important that it wouldn't leave my head until I wrote about it? Well, I think it's because I wish all PEOPLE would think about this phrase a little bit more before they use it. When you think about it, we are ALL people like US. We are all in need of love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance. Isn't that what Jesus taught us?

"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -- Matthew 22:36-40

If you loved your neighbor, who is a PERSON, just like you, as much as you love yourself, and treated them as such, wouldn't this be a better, more peaceful world?


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reflection...

"When I said, “My foot is slipping,”  your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy." Psalm 94:18-19

What do you see when you look in the mirror? There are times I look at my reflection and I don't like what I see. I am not just talking about how my face and my body don't look the way I would like them to look. I mean, yes, I see the wrinkles, grey hairs and bulges I would rather not admit were there, but there are also things I see that most people do not see. I see reflections of the person I don't want to become. I see the angry words said in haste. I see the bad habits I try to hide. I see the pride and vanity that sneaks in and steals the joy from the things I love to do. I see the weak spirit, jealousy and indifference that keep me from doing the things I know I should. I see the pettiness that keeps me from letting things go. I see the low self esteem and fear that keep from following through and doing the big things I dream of doing. I see the things about myself that cause me the greatest anxiety. It makes me want to take my flat iron and throw it into the mirror, crashing through the unappealing reflection I see so I can look at it no more. I do NOT want to be THAT person!

However, instead of crashing the mirror and hiding the reflection, perhaps I need to evaluate that reflection. Maybe I am not seeing things how they really are, but how I AM at that moment. I am a human being and by my very nature, I am not perfect. I have flaws: physical, emotional and spiritual. When gazing at THAT reflection, who could POSSIBLY love me? At THAT moment, I am not very lovable, but there is one who DOES love me, my creator and Heavenly Father. 


“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 2 Corinthians 5:17 

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand"  Isaiah 41:10

God DOES love me! I don't have to let the darkness of my reflection I see right now dictate who I am becoming! When I am slipping off the mountain into despair, God loves me enough to support me. He loves me enough to lift me up and strengthen me so I can do the hard work of examining and changing those human flaws. God loves me DESPITE those flaws and knows me well enough to NOT want me become the person I don't want to become! That knowledge consoles me during these times of hard reflection, eases the anxiety in my heart and brings me joy. If my creator Father can love even the ugly parts of me, I have hope that I can change!

Sometimes it is good to look at the reflection you don't like to see. When I look deeply at the reflection of who am becoming, I then can see past the flaws and love myself despite my flaws as well. I can then look even deeper and see that I really AM created in God's image! I can see the beauty of God reflected back at me! I can do the hard work and allow GOD to change who I am becoming!

Dear loving and gentle Father, today allow me to look into the mirror and see YOU looking back at me! Please help me to feel your love enough to allow you to lift me up and support me in these times of self doubt and fear. Thank you for reminding me I am worthy of your love because you created me in your own image! I CAN become the person you want me become! Change is not easy, but it is doable when I have the joy and hope that comes with the acceptance of your unconditional love. Amen.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Can I be happy for 100 days?

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -- John 16:33

I have accepted a challenge from a friend...to see if I can be happy for 100 days. This is a good time of year to accept this kind of challenge. Winter, and especially one like this one where we've already had a lot of snow and today will be one of the coldest days in 20 years, tends to bring out the sad side of me. I know a lot of people who truly suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that makes them feel sad, lethargic and sick because of a lack of sunlight. I don't think I have this disorder, but I think I it is easier for anyone to find reasons to be sad and depressed in the cold, grey and dreary winter days. Add in some problems, some worries, some sad memories and some things not going my way and you have a recipe for a good minor case of SAD for me.

So, my friend's challenge came at a very good time for me. I know that my happiness may not last all day, and 100 days are a LOT of days to stay happy. However, for 100 days, I am going to be taking pictures of things that make me happy and posting them in this blog AND on Facebook. This way I can look for even little things that make me happy and by sharing it with others, maybe other people can be happy for a little bit too!

To start things off, I have to share my #1 post in my 100 Days of Happy...


Because of the frigid temperatures, I am off work today. I still woke up early. Wrapped up in my cozy blanket, I had the TV remote all to myself. I actually squealed out loud when the channel landed on the Brady Bunch! I love this show because it brings back happy memories of watching this show when I was a kid and it just makes me smile! It is corny, sappy and sometimes pretty silly, but I still love it! A good start for my #1 happy day, don't you think?