Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sabbath Rest

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
-John Wesley

Usually that expresses my passing days fairly accurately. What matters in my life is Jesus and loving people. I continually work toward ruthlessly eliminating hurry from my life and replacing it with the peace that passes understanding. We all have so many choices in our management of time that daily staying focused on our goals can have us rather worn out. I enjoy weekends so much more when I have a sense of completion and know that, while my work is not finished, I have accomplished much of what God set out for me to do.

Sabbath rest does not come because the work is all done, but rather in spite of the fact that there is much left to do. Father simply knows our need for rest and refreshment by quiet waters. (I love that about Him. No harsh task master, not the God I love.)

When he says we're forgiven, let's unload the guilt.
When he says we're valuable, let's believe him.
When he says we're eternal, let's bury our fears.
When he says we're provided for, let's stop worrying.
When he says, "Stand up," let's do it.
-Max Lucado

God's efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless. It is comforting to know as I begin a time of rest and celebration today that I put in the efforts to maintain my housework, to reach out to my neighborhood and world, to teach my piano students and do the work of my callings with enthusiasm and diligence. God has something, however weak and small, to use. I once was frustrated and discouraged because of my perfectionism. Once I realized that it is better to rest in the joy of reaching for excellence and loving the adventure of interruptions, Sabbath rest beckoned me with new satisfaction and delight that refreshes and reassures me.
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:13,14

Are you headed into quiet green pastures today? Are you living where still waters flow? It may be that your Sabbath rest comes at a different time from mine because of what God has called you to do, but do make time for His gentle rest and refreshing. It matters. It very much matters.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Songbird Learns About Sharks

Carolanne was in much need of a break from pestering her mother who was expecting a third child. Snuggling with a stack of library books, I shared one interesting fact after another in a book about sharks.

"How do you know so much about sharks?" she said softly, snuggling closer. "I like sharks." In reality, I know very little about sharks, but it's easy to impress a small child when reading a book and pointing out details described beside a picture.

"I learn things from books just like you do, Songbird."

"Well, you know very muchliness about things," she said.

I do know "muchliness" about things. More than any previous generation we are bombarded with information. We are even bombarded with information about how we are overwhelmed with information.

Oh, Father, won't you help me know Your ways?
Teach me Your pathway, Your wisdom, Your truths.
Fill my head with Your words.
Open the eyes of my heart to know You.
I will be still. I will let down my hands to pursue peace.
I delight in Your ways and I will not forget Your words.

Carolanne, my precious little Songbird, decided after our discussion that perhaps it would be ideal if her mommy gave birth to a baby shark rather than a baby person. Frequently we take in too much information and it totally warps our thinking.

How comforting to know the Bible is true with information to treasure, ponder and enjoy. It never warps our thinking ...and how comforting it is to know that God in His wisdom sent us Katherynn rather than a baby shark.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Training on the Vine

One of my cucumber vines is lazy. Vines all around it are holding tight to the trellis, staying on course, productive, beautiful and strong. No matter how many times I have folded Miss Lazy into the trellis, she zings out into chaotic directions refusing to be trained. As a result, she has accomplished nothing, become colorless and weak and now is dying in the pile of weeds.

Laziness is the easy way. Training is the hard way. Easy does not mean good. Hard does not mean bad. Strength, endurance and wisdom come from consistent training. If we want a productive relationship with Father, we must train. If we want an abundant life, we must train. I'm not talking about a grudging, resigned "Man, I'm trying to deny myself daily, take up this heavy cross I bear and follow God's laws the best I can, but woe-is-me" kind of life.

I'm talking about having a passionate faith and noble purpose that wakes you up with energy and creative thought; running the race because your passion sets your footsteps on fire and spurs you on; freed by grace, motivated by love and living a life that is full of adventure and made glorious by the God who sees and the God who is able.

"God's training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself." -Oswald Chambers

I'm standing still at the dawn of a new day. I can choose to mosey through daily tasks, mope about all there is to do, groan over my lack of accomplishment or I can choose to run the race, to train and grow step by step, to receive coaching when I need it and give my all toward the goal of winning the prize set before me.

It's not so much about what happens to you in life, but how you take it that's important. God is watching to see whether we allow the problems to defeat us or whether we will go through them in His strength, being made stronger for the next problem, diligently trained for the final end battle. Everything in life is training for the work we will do next. If that is true, then whatever happens is not a big setback or an interruption, but a stepping stone to even higher service and more glorious adventures of faith.

Be strong and take heart. You have been loved with an everlasting love. Serve God's purpose. Run with disciplined passion. He will take you by the hand, guide you with counsel and afterward take you into glory.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Heart Dripping With Grace

"God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need you will abound in every good work."
-2 Corinthians 9:8

I've been reading this verse repeatedly this morning. For one thing, it's written on my coffee mug, a birthday gift from my Elizabeth, I think, and I'm having a multi-cup day. But, also, Father has reminded me over coffee this morning that the little word "All" is full of power and opportunity.

"God is able to make ALL grace ABOUND to you, so that in ALL things at ALL times, having ALL that you need you will abound in every good work."

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a cinnamon scone off the platter and really think about this for a minute...

My day and my purpose is covered in grace, soaked up, dripping with grace...ALL of His grace. SO THAT (for the reason and purpose of) in ALL THINGS at ALL TIMES, having ALL that you need...Wow, right?

Every minute, no matter what happens, I have everything that I need!

And, why is this true? Read it yourself..* that we will abound in every good work. Doesn't that just set your heart and feet to dancing?

I don't know about you, but I am fortified and ready to run the race! God is using me for His special shine His light and share His love and shape His people. He wants to use you, too. Come on! What could you do today with a heart that is soaked up and dripping with grace?

Sing with me: "All of You is more than enough for all of me...for every thirst and every need. You satisfy me with Your love...and all I have in more than enough!! More than all I want. More than all I can see...You are more than enough for...All of You is more than enough for all of me..."

Change your world one person at a time. Live your dream. Complete your calling.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Punky Brewster Comes to Tea

Come along inside.We'll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.
~The Wind in the Willow~

Her single-working-two-jobs dad calls her Missy because, as she tells it, "he doesn't have time to remember my name". I'm thinking it might be because she hates being called Melissa and his choices seem limited. She asked me what I was going to call her since it better not be Melissa and I volunteered, "Hepsebobbical Windowshade Delicatessen Frog Nose". She rolled her eyes at me, laughed and agreed. Mostly I call her Froggie or Deli for short.

We met when I began taking walks around my new neighborhood several weeks ago. Since then she often just happens to be available when I walk by her house. Most of the time while she's "living on her own independently" this summer, she is rereading Harry Potter, writing in the journal I made her or learning to be a "house maiden like Cinderella".

On the outside, she looks like a 10 year old punk...piercings, bleached hair, sloppy clothes and black nail polish, words about death and gloom and darkness. She told me not to let that scare me. (Are you kidding me? I've been in Campus Ministry for 30 years!) On the inside she's all about pink and princesses and hearts and flowers...secretly, on the inside, she's all about life.

This morning she came to visit. Guarding her enthusiasm, and thus her heart, she talked of unimportant things while drinking tea from a china cup, eating cookies from a heart shaped plate and pouring tea from "a real live teapot".

What causes us to learn so young that we can not allow others to see us as we really are? Behind every mask is a story to be shared, not to be guarded. Guard your heart, but share who you really are with people.

I don't know if I'm making much of a difference in Froggie's life yet, but she's making a big difference in mine. As she was leaving she laughed self-consciously and said, "I've never been to a real tea party before. It was really fun. Did I do it right?" I assured her that since she had a good time, that, yes, she had done it just right. "Can we do it again someday?" Oh, indeed yes.

When it comes to tea parties, maybe we're all still little girls behind our masks.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
Proverbs 4:23

Quiet Time

Your plan for a "quiet time with Father" is a noble one. Your head fills up with the delight it would be to daily spend time in prayer and reading the Bible, maybe even getting some journal writing done. Full of hope, you once again pen your schedule. You want so much to "Number your days aright, that you may become wise". But life gets really busy for young wives and mothers. And time after time, your heart becomes piled with guilt and disappointment because in the shuffle of busy days, your "quiet time" couldn't happen.

A young woman called me this morning in tears. Her head was about to explode from lack of sleep and her highest dream for the day was a hot shower. She was convinced she was a bad mother. Her house was a wreck even though she cleaned it yesterday. She wasn't sure she could handle another round of hot dogs and macaroni with cheese. Certainly she should quit teaching Children's Church and on top of it all she forgot to pay a bill and her husband left the house this morning not at all happy. How on earth was she supposed to have a "quiet time"!

I'm not here to tell you that you never need a quiet time again and you'll be fine, but you do need to understand that your "quiet time" is not the bedrock of your faith. Your relationship with God is not measured by how long you read scripture or how much you know about prayer. Many people practice a "quiet time" for years and yet never hear Father speak to them, never figure out their calling, never have a relationship with Father that fills them up with joy.

Spending uninterrupted time reading the Word and enjoying prayer, writing in your journal if it helps, hiding God's Word in your heart...All these are important and with some creativity can take place on many of your days. Keep your reservoir as full as you can. Know that during the early stages of motherhood, you desperately need God, but may feel it impossible to connect with God for a daily quiet time.

Sitting on the park bench with Father and talking to Him about those sweet playful children you're watching counts. Washing the dishes (Read: Playing in the bubbles where nobody will bother you because they'd have to help!) is a good time to memorize that Bible verse you jotted down and taped to the paper plate art over your sink. Falling asleep with that friend's prayer request popping into your tired brain is a whisper from God that He's sharing it with you. Planting Mommy Appleseed thoughts about why Father thinks green is a good color for zucchini but not yellow squash is evangelism. Praying for marigolds with your child over the freshly planted seeds is indeed prayer time. Raising the children God has trusted to your care is a spiritual discipline that will teach you much more than you ever expected.

Live your life WITH Father not just FOR Him or IN Him. The more you get involved in the messy lives of messy people whether they are splashing loudly in your bathtub or living in a prison cell, the more you will grow in your relationship with Father.

Often people pray so that they are prepared to do some grand work. Often people read the Word so that they are prepared to know all about life and godliness. What if, instead, on those tough days, you looked at prayer as BEING the grand work and reading the Word as an active, living part of your busy day? What if instead of setting time aside to "be with Father" you took Him with you through the busy day?

My young friend was refreshed to remember that what she's doing matters. I called another friend to deliver supper and arrange babysitting for date night. The housework will get done. The children will have rest time after the park and McDonalds. The world will turn back on its axis. But the important thing is that now she understands that when Father says "the yoke is easy and the burden is light", He had her in mind. And that makes life just a little bit more bearable.

Isaiah 40:11
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arms He will gather the lambs (your little ones)
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (that would be you)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Believe You Can Fly!

"The old woman was lying on a small sofa, propped up by pillows. Her body was bent and twisted by multiple sclerosis. Her aged husband spent all his time caring for her since she was unable to move off the sofa. I (Corrie ten Boom) walked across the room and kissed her wrinkled cheek. She tried to look up but the muscles in her neck were atrophied so she could only roll her eyes upward and smile. She raised her right hand, slowly, in jerks. It was the only part of her body she could control and with her gnarled and deformed knuckles she caressed my face. I reached over and kissed the index finger of that hand, for it was with this one finger that she had so long glorified God.

Beside her couch was a vintage typewriter. Each morning her faithful husband would rise, praising the Lord. After caring for his wife's needs and feeding her a simple breakfast, he would prop her into a sitting position on the couch, placing pillows all around her so she wouldn't topple over. Then he would move that ancient black typewriter in front of her on a small table. From an old cupboard he would remove a stack of cheap yellow paper. Then with that blessed one finger, she would begin to type.

All day and far into the night she would type. She translated Christian books into Russian, Latvian, and the language of her people. Always using just that one finger...peck...peck..peck...She typed out the pages. Portions of the Bible, the books of Billy Graham, Watchman Nee and Corrie ten Boom, all came from her typewriter.

"Not only does she translate their books," her husband said as he hovered close during our conversation, "but she prays for these people every day while she types. Sometimes it takes a long time for her finger to hit the key, or for her to get the paper in the machine, but all the time she is praying for those whose books she is working on."

"Oh, Lord, why don't You heal her?" I (Corrie ten Boom) cried inwardly.

Her husband, sensing my anguish of soul, gave the answer. "God has a purpose in her sickness. Every other Christian in the city is watched by the secret police. But because she has been sick so long, no one ever looks in on her. They leave us alone and she is the only person in all the city who can type quietly, undetected by the police."*

Oh, Beloved Ones. Let us believe God can do what He says He can do! He likes His plan of using weak, imperfect people to carry out His will. In our weakness, He is made strong.

Did you ever wonder, "What if I took a leap of faith? What if I were willing to risk everything for Him, to walk by faith,not sight? What could God do with the little I have to give Him? Is He calling me?

Oh, my darlings, go to the edge of life and jump! You'll fly. I promise! You'll mount up on wings like an eagle. You'll rest beneath the shelter of His wings.

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet thoe who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." --Isaiah 40:29-31

"Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you! Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." --Isaiah 41:10

I believe in you.

*The above is a true story from Lithuania, on the Baltic Sea in Russia,recorded by Corrie ten Boom,in her wonderful book, "Tramp for the Lord")

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Heart to Heart: Little Things

Summer breeze at sunrise. Flowers bursting with color. Antique china with pink roses. Father met me for breakfast on my patio this quiet Sabbath morning. My Bible, prayer book and journal were never yet, what a lovely morning tea we enjoyed! Some of the most precious times with Father are spent in stillness, quietness, peaceful enjoyment of being together.

When we finished breakfast, Father helped me weed the garden and we discussed several lessons learned from growing tomatoes and peppers. Afterward, I went back inside the house, refreshed and strengthened.

A question lingers in my mind this morning. "What would bring God to the edge of his seat, that would make him smile and say, ”I like her faith!"

Father reminded me that when it comes to vegetable gardening, I have little experience and knowledge. My hands and energy are weakened by arthritis, but I can stir up the soil, pull small weeds, tie up tomato branches and harvest the smaller vegetables. Most of the time I am very aware that bigger jobs, more important jobs, need to be done, but I simply do what I can do. Someone who loves me and is able will take care of the rest.

It's true in life as well. I don't know what I could do in my life that is big and amazing. Father says if I am faithful in little things I will be faithful in much. My growing faith is not about how unique or amazing or big what I'm called to do is in the eyes of others. My faith grows when I do what I can do. Without faith it is impossible to please Father, but He makes it easy. He tells us faith the size of a mustard seed matters. Someone who loves me and is able will take care of the rest. And my little bit of faith can move mountains!

Do what you can do. Let God do what only He can do. He who gives refreshing will indeed be refreshed. Doing little things opens up conversations that can one day become relationships Father can develop to woo people to Him.

School begins soon, but there is still time to milk summer for all its worth. Find a friend with a convertible and go follow the sun as it sets. Take your shoes off, roll up your pant legs, and let your feet dangle off the dock into the water. Grab a Mason jar and stand still…you’re never too old to chase a firefly or two! When you hear the ice cream truck making its rounds, go inside, grab your wallet and savor an orange push pop from the comforts of your favorite lawn chair. Hide-n-go seek, water balloon fights, bike rides, a cannonball to soak the lifeguard, an evening watching little league baseball, a tall glass of cold lemonade, running through the sprinkler…

Just simply be with people. Encourage others as you go through your days...Ask a waitress what you could pray for her. Giggle and play with the children in your neighborhood. Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger. Go through McDonalds to get a 49 cent ice cream cone and buy one for the stranger in the car behind you...Refresh others and you will be refreshed. Live life with your eyes wide open and your heart full of faith that God is able to do more than we even ask or imagine!

Do what you can do and let God do what only He can do. He who refreshes will be refreshed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Father's Heart: A Song in the Night

Johnnie smiled over at me, love-tears in her eyes, as she cuddled newborn Bethany Joy closer to her heart. She swallowed hard, took a shaky breath then laughed, surprised by the depth of her joy and emotions. "I always want to be there for her even in the middle of the night, even if she's just lonely and wants to see me," she said softly. She tossed the yellow terry cloth burping towel to me and set the rocker back into motion. As if time stood still, we sat in silence watching Bethany sleep, delighting over her with quiet love.

Oh, Elohim, God of all creation, what a wonder that You want me as Your child! You hold me tightly grasped within Your hands. You are El Roi, the God who sees and responds! You are YHWH-Shalom and YHWH-Rohi, the God of peace, the God who loves...even in the middle of the night, even if I'm just lonely and want to see You, Father, You are there. My childlike eyes look up to You and You are there! You are not silent. You are singing over me with quiet love.

"Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away His judments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
You fear disaster no more.
In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
"Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
-Zephaniah 3:14-17

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Vintage Heart

She speaks with words of wisdom
For life has taught her much.
Charm and grace adorn her.
There is softness in her touch.

The tales she tells are bittersweet,
A blend of joy and pain,
For as her loved ones pass away
Her memories still remain.

She talks to God throughout the day
For he’s become her friend,
The one she can depend on
Time and time again.

She reaches out to those in need.
She is quick to lend a hand.
Many share their problems
For she seems to understand.

She labors daily for the lord
For heaven is her goal,
And though her body age and die
There is strength within her soul.

Her days on earth are numbered
For life goes by so fast.
But all that she has done for Christ
Has value that will last.

Good morning, beloved ones.

The writings of Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael inspire and delight me this summer. Dare I hope that they will mold me as well? These two treasures in jars of clay, now sharing Heaven with their own spiritual mothers, have blessed me beyond measure through their teachings of hope and possibilities, strength in challenges and daily journeys with Father. I want to be a loving servant and make a difference in the world, too, don't you? As the old saying goes, "Hitch your wagon to a star...and add a T"...*smile.

"I want to sign Your Name to the end of this day knowing that my heart was true." -Casting Crowns

Thankful for the "Great Crowd of Witnesses",

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Changed Heart

For years she has risen at 4:00 a.m. to be numbered among the inmates. She trudges to a prison job that earns her $7.00 monthly for treasures like shampoo and toothpaste. The bright colors she craves are not to be found in a wardrobe of only gray and khaki. Each day she pulls on her ill-fitting black boots and renews the blisters on her feet.

In the cold of winter she shivers through the night. In the heat of the summer she soaks her 1-inch mattress with sweat. Marriage at 14 allowed her escape from an abusive father, exchanging that nightmare for an abusive husband. His death sent her to prison for decades to come.

Date night for my husband and me is Monday nights. We go to the women's prison and have a Bible Study and worship with the ladies. One cold Christmas evening as I looked out over the crowd of women I was about to teach, I realized that my husband was right. Though dressed alike, they resemble any other crowd of women. Some seek truth, some want fun, some friendship and some are just along for the ride.

And some, though their stories began in horror and pain, are the salt of the earth. They have discovered Jesus walking alongside down the broken road. God can use them now that they are healed far more than without the pain. They are "out of the salt shaker", full of grace, eager to share the good news. Nobody on earth spurs me on toward love and good works like Christians who are changing their world from prison.

You, too, can be better used by God healed than you ever would have been without the pain. The only sound heart is a broken heart, a heart that Father has mended. Make a difference. Don't wait until you're good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough. Step out in faith and change your world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Like Smoke Through a Keyhole

The clock keeps ticking. I'm watching the morning slip in on cat paws. Time keeps on slipping away into the smoke through a key hole. My days on earth are numbered.

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." I've sung that old hymn since childhood, but it's now, in the middle years of my life, that the thought has permeated my innermost heart and surprised me with joy.

I love getting older. For decades I have shared that truth with the young women I meet in campus ministry. In a world where society values outward appearance and fights to "stay young", it is new thought.

My spiritual daughter, Angela, once asked me when I discovered the best time of my life. Was it when I enjoyed young children? No. Watching children grow and change is even better. Was it when I became a spiritual mother? No. It is delightful having spiritual children and grandchildren, but it gets even better.

As time passes, my relationship with Father grows deeper and more precious. He opens my heart and fills it with joy over-flowing and peace that abides in the midst of trials. So is now the best time ever? No. As my spiritual daughters delight in having spiritual daughters of their own, I am amazed. The great passion of my life has been putting Titus 2:3-5 into action. It has worked just as Father promised it would. He blesses my humble-stumble of effort and gives me multiplied portions of blessings.

Even though aging does add difficulties, life continues to get better and better. Then I will die...and I'm thinking Heaven will be better than anything I've ever known!

The clock keeps ticking. I'm watching another morning slip in on cat paws. Time keeps on slipping away into the smoke through a key hole. My days on earth are numbered...*smile...Living forever? Priceless.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Heart for Titus 2:3-5

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." -Titus 2:3-5

This scripture, tucked away inside a book written very much to a man, perfectly expresses my passion, my dream, my goal, my delight. When I am old, may it be said of me, "She fulfilled her calling to teach younger women so that they may be encouraged."

After over 30 years of practicing, I have decided to write down what I've learned...*smile. So come, beloved daughters of my heart. Let us sit down with a cup of tea and visit awhile.

Living my dream,