Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Deep Repose

O Thou who art my quietness, my deep repose,
My rest from strife of tongues, my holy hill,
Fair is Thy pavilion, where I hold me still.
Back let them fall from me, my clamorous foes,
Confusions multiplied;
From crowding things of sense I flee, and in Thee hide,
Until this tyranny be overpast,
Thy hand will hold me fast;
What though the tumult of the storm increase,
Grant to Thy servant strength, O Lord, and bless with peace.

by Amy Carmichael, India

(A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, written by Elisabeth Elliot, copyright 1987)

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Hour of Prayer

Hour of Prayer
Devote 5 minutes to each of these to make an hour spent in prayer:

1. Singing songs of praise
Sing songs of praise from your heart

2. Praise God
Tell God the many ways He is great and worthy of praise

3. Confession
Open your heart and confess your sins to God

4. Read the Word to Him
Select a section of Scripture and read it to God

5. Petition
Ask God for things you need for yourself

6. Intercession
Pray for the needs of other people

7. Read the Word for Myself
Read the Bible and apply it to your own life

8. Thanksgiving
Thank God for the many things He has done

9. Singing
Sing songs of praise from your heart

10. Meditation
Think deeply about the Scriptures you just read,
about the prayers you prayed, or about who God is

11. Listening
Be still and quietly listen for God

12. Singing songs of praise
Sing to the Lord

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Children’s Prayer

Father, hear us, we are praying.
Hear the words our hearts are saying.
We are praying for our children.
Keep them from the powers of evil;
From the secret hidden peril,
From the whirlpool that would suck them;
From the treacherous quicksand, pluck them;
Through life’s troubled waters steer them,
Through life’s bitter battle cheer them;
And, Father, Father, be Thou near them.
From the worldings hollow gladness;
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Holy Father, save our children.
And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.
Amy Carmichael

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Coffee at the King's Throne

Daddy called coffee the king’s fluid. He would sit in his special chair, cheerfully referred to as the king’s throne and drink a cup of coffee while he rested. I don't remember the first time the aroma of coffee reminded me of him. It simply has always been that way. I always knew that once I learned to like the taste of coffee I would be grown up. I know, odd compass, right? But it's truth.

This morning I was sitting in my special chair having a delicious cup of hazelnut coffee and cinnamon toast, a perfect sunrise moment to wonder: When did I become a grown-up? Early in my adulthood I chose to become the older woman God needs to teach younger women...my simple, difficult, wonderful dream. I have spent my life so far with that purpose and focus.

I hit a new spiritual plateau this summer and I'm spending some time this weekend in retreat to evaluate goals and plans. I have time to pray as long as I want, to praise, to read and study and prepare for my ministries. I've decided I rather like this stage of life. I have the time to go about doing good like Jesus did. Rather than going from house to house with a specialty in busybody, rather than a hobby focusing on self and fleeting delights of happiness, I want to spend this time living my dream of loving spiritual daughters and fulfilling my calling.

Americans think that if you believe enough and work hard you'll achieve your dream. It will merit a Starbucks life and contentment. My dream crept in on cat paws, gentle as a sunrise. I was walking along by faith not sight, stumbling sometimes, climbing sometimes, falling sometimes, and one day I looked around and there I was living my dream.

Sitting in my living room among the antiques and quilts that I have inherited from generations of women who had a strong faith, I am contented. I know where I came from and I know where I'm going. A lantern glows with warmth and welcome, reminding me that I am a light in a dark world. I'm living my dream and it matters. It matters very much.

There are always things we would change if we could have a lifetime "do over", but God’s grace covers regrets. I love living my dream and I am amazed that God really did have a plan for my welfare and not my calamity, a plan for living in me and walking with me up the mountains and through the valleys. My life is an adventure, an amazing journey...not my story, but God's story about me.

Daddy is aging. We drink coffee together when we can. We talk about my spiritual daughters and his spiritual daughters, about Father and about what we know, what we don't know. Time slips by like fog through a key hole. All too soon I will have moved a row closer to heaven and he will join the great crowd of witnesses at the King's throne.

I don't know what the King's fluid will be at the great banquet when God and man at table are sat down, maybe it will be coffee. What I do know is that until I reach the King's Throne I'm going to continue sitting in my special chair with a delicious cup of hazelnut coffee and cinnamon toast, enjoying perfect sunrise moments of wonder.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dressed to Kill

Three days zipped by with no organized prayer time or Bible reading, no sitting at my table soaking in the love of God, no time to luxuriate in stillness, no resting in His presence.

Praying "on the hoof" sustained me through battles. Snatching moments to quote scripture, minutes here and there for meditation kept my mind focused on things above. I can stay encouraged by the praise music in my Ipod and the encouragement of the Christian comrades who walk alongside. The prodding and reminders from the Spirit keep me walking by faith not sight when over-scheduling and interruptions crowd my days.

Life happens and sometimes I simply must do my best to keep fighting through the battles. Three days, though, is my limit. Beyond that, I stop being alert in battle and my focus turns to accomplishments and routines.

My heart tugs with a pang this morning, urgently reminding me that Father is calling me to Him so He can refresh my spirit. I am wounded and vulnerable, suffering from battle fatigue. The evil one, my enemy, is still within sight, waiting, wanting me back in the battle zone. He’ll have to wait until the splashes of joy bubble up in my reservoir and fill it to overflowing. He’ll have to wait while I am soothed and restored by the abiding peace found only in Father’s gentle hands. He’ll have to wait until Father’s faithfulness restores my will to keep fighting.

My need for Him creates determination to fight for you, dear children, to fight with you, against this enemy who would rip your souls, devour your time and destroy your lives. Nobody believes in you more than I do. Years of loving you has made me wide awake, fully alert to your needs and my own.

 Busyness destroys the heart. It allows time for the evil one to begin lining up his tanks and strategically placing his bombs in areas that will perhaps not even be noticed for several days. Later his accusations will go from a faint hammering to incessant pounding, but in the beginning he is subtle, a predator hiding in the grasses, waiting to devour and seeking the right time for attack. He knows when my defenses are down. He sees where I am vulnerable. He waits patiently for the kill because he has had a plan for my destruction from the first day God began knitting me together in my mother’s womb.

He has the will and motive. Especially now while I am resting, tired and overwhelmed by the noise and fray of life, he watches for opportunity. It is so easy to spend more time being busy than resting in the safe haven of my first love. He is a God who is there and is not silent, but I can become too busy to be still and know it.

I will return to battle with a full tank, ready to run back into the trenches of spiritual warfare with a heart well-guarded and a mind well-trained for battle. So let the evil one wait because when I return to battle I will be in full armor, dressed to kill.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Till the Stars Appear

Make us Thy labourers,
Let us not dream of ever looking back,
Let not our knees be feeble, hands be slack,
O make us strong to labour, strong to bear,
From the rising of the morning till the star's appear.

Make us Thy warriors,
On whom Thou canst depend to stand the brunt
Of any perilous charge on any front,
Give to us skill to handle sword and spear
From the rising of the morning till the stars appear.

Not far from us, those stars,
Unseen as angels and yet looking through
The quiet air, the day's transparent blue,
What shall we know, and feel, and see, and hear
When the sunset colours kindle and the stars appear?

by Amy Carmichael

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teach Me to Dwell Within Thy Calm

Before the winds that blow do cease, teach me to dwell within Thy calm;

Before the pain has passed in peace, give me, my God, to sing a psalm.

Let me not lose the chance to prove the fulness of enabling love.

O Love of God, do this for me: Maintain a constant victory.

~Amy Carmichael, India
(The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot, copyright 1987)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Who Am I?

"I am a child of God and I'm not really comfortable with any other name, title, distinction or classification. My value, my worth, my identity, my standing and my future are all defined by that one statement. I am a child of God. That is the one truth that will remain in my heart forever. I have a Father who loves me and it is His love that has transformed my life forever.

I am also, out of that, a Jesus-follower. I consider everything a loss compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. Jesus is my standard by which all things in this life are measured for me.

I am a student of the Bible. The Bible is what tells me about Jesus, this Jesus who not only embodies my life but represents everything that I want to become. This is way more than a book, this Bible of mine. It tells me the very words of my creator, God, His words, His deeds, His wisdom. It's more than a book, it's the very breath that feeds my heart and my mind on a daily basis. It is a wellspring of living water that quenches an eternal life and longing in my soul. It defines what I believe. It dictates how I am to behave. " ~Jon Weece~

(I quote Jon, rather than using my own words, because I love the way he expressed this summary and I know he stands true in word and deed. He's out to change his world and while I don't get to see him nearly as much as I would enjoy, I'm always walking alongside him. ~Karen)

God is real. The Bible is true. Jesus is alive.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dancing Over the Finish Line

Dancing the Charleston to "Mighty to Save" with Husband before breakfast? Romantic. Dancing with Katherynn to her newly written song,"Dancity-Dancity-Cackeley-Backeley"? Silly. Dancing thru life to the beat of a different drummer? Risky. Dancing on streets that are golden someday? Priceless.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a dancer for awhile. My parents didn't think it was a very practical dream for someone diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Being a musician is the dream I'm living, but I still love to dance.

Rain came in and washed away the possibility of dancing this morning. I'm counting it a blessing to be able to type without an onslaught of pain, but on the inside? On the inside my heart is dancing and I find that reassuring during tough times.

Sometimes during the "just-dropped-peanut-butter-toast-on-my-clean-shirt-and-I'm-late-for-work" days my dance steps get a little bit awkward and forgotten. It makes me wonder if I would stand true and finish strong during persecution or turn tail and run.

Sharing that concern with Father over coffee this morning I learned that He knows the more difficult dance steps and He will teach me on a need to know basis. If I'm dancing like 2 year old Katherynn, then it's because that's the dance step I'm ready to do. The more days I have danced through the pain in life, the more I am prepared to stand true and finish strong during a much more difficult time.

Life does indeed get difficult and it's often like dancing through a minefield, but as Garth Brooks sings, "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have missed the dance".

I'm ready to run the race with a strong and steady pace. Sometimes it's a stumbling along walking by faith not sight, sometimes it's breaking into a strong fast runner's stride and sometimes....I'm dancing.

I'm thinking that if I practice my dance steps with the diligent discipline of a dancer I might just get to Charleston across the finish line someday! Maybe I'll even wake up dancing with the great crowd of witnesses on streets that are golden....gonna be some kind of street dance!

Surprised by Change

When did it happen? How did it happen? I'm not sure I even understand why it happened, but You changed me from the inside out, Father.

I walked by faith and not by sight. I loved deeply with my whole heart. I gave everything I had, everything I am and ever hoped to be. I sacrificed and I learned as I walked. And all my weaknesses and failures were not only covered by Your grace and mercy, but used to cause good and successes and growth and blessings.

You were changing me while I went through every day trying to obey, trying to give You my whole heart, trying to fulfill Your calling in my life...just trying to keep walking until I can be where You are.

I was simply delighting in You, following hard after You and somewhere in all those days You took my most painful, hurting, broken place and not only repaired, but replaced it with the desires of my heart.

Your grace was enough to bring me this far by faith. You are the God who sees and You are the God who is able. Your heart was so full of perfect love that You had to share it so that I could enjoy it. As I think about these things that are too marvelous, too awesome for me to grasp, I realize that I don't to have to understand it. Maybe I'm not even supposed to understand it. Maybe You just want me to have it and enjoy it.

You are my Father and Your grace is enough for me. Oh, perfect love, oh, human thought transcending!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Take a Risk

Dull, boring, lifeless, harsh and mean...ugly, sometimes...like U-G-L-Y, you-ain't-got-no-alibi kind of ugly....That's how some people see the Christian life....But, what if?

What if we resolved to love Jesus more, to risk everything to love people more?

"When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. And when safety becomes our god, we worship the risk free life. Can the safety lover do anything right? Can the risk free life acomplish noble deeds for God? For others?" ~Max Lucado

The answer is no. The fear filled life cannot love deeply because love wages war against fear, love takes risks. Want something amazing to happen in your life? Want to do something brave that makes a difference? Take a risk.

Look around you with eyes wide awake. Children are hurting and going without the affection that they need. Most marriages are ending in divorce. Prisoners are starving for someone to call them by name and provide hope. The aged are so lonely they die from broken hearts. There are sick people to be visited and encouraged.

The safest thing you can do is to take a risk. Take the risk to love someone like they've never been loved before, the way you have been loved. Love them, not with the weaknesses of your own love, but with the love of God. Love them with the love that flows through you and bubbles up out of you.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." ~I Corinthians 13:4-8

Why does love never fail? Because there is no fear in love. Fear never lets you be brave. Fear never lets you love others deeply from your heart. Yet most Christians seem to live in fear, never taking a risk, thinking fear is a security net. The battle is not meant to be between us and God. The battle is all around us in the world and we are the soldiers, bravely fighting, risking everything to make a difference.

You'll never regret loving too much, giving too much. The risk is always worth the reward. Risk involving your true self. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken. The person who risks nothing, has nothing, does nothing and is nothing. They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they can't learn and feel, change and grow, live or love.

They are chained by their fear. Only a person who risks is free. Choose to live your life free of fear and full of love. Do what Jesus did. Spot that one person who needs your attention the most and risk loving them.

Jesus didn't wait for the people to come to Him. He was watching with a heart wide awake to the needs around Him. He ate with the criminal, Zaccheus. He played with the children. He touched the sick and talked to the blind and crippled. He encouraged and loved and taught. Jesus lived a life of risk and it was a life of adventure worth living, a life without fear, a life that made a difference.

Jesus calls us to come and follow Him, dares us to join Him in the life of adventure, to get involved in the messy lives of messy people. C'mon! Take a risk!

(Special thanks to Jon, Megan and Lindsey.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Today is the Day!

The sun is rising in a warm rosy glow over the trees behind my house. The glowing color reaches through my window to light up the computer screen and announce to me that morning has broken like the first morning. (It also makes my coffee look a bit odd, but that's beside the point.)

The rising of the sun and the going down of the same never gets old to me. A fresh, new greeting from Father: "Good Morning, beloved daughter. I'm here. I will not be silent in your life today. Come and talk with me awhile. Do you want some coffee? I have such a lot of wonderful things to tell you this morning. Let's get you prepared for the day, for the people you will see and the things that will happen. Good morning. You are loved with My everlasting love. You're the apple of my eye."

He is who He says He is. I am who He says I am. It sets my heart to bubbling and my feet to dancing...Today is the day! Wake up! Joy is here!

I'm casting my cares aside.
I'm leaving my past behind.
I'm setting my heart and mind on You, Jesus.
I'm reaching my hand to Yours.
Believing there's so much more.
Knowing that all you have in store for me is good...It's good!

Today is the day You have made!
I will rejoice and be glad in it!
Today is the day You have made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!
And I won't worry about tomorrow. I'm trusting in what you say!
Today is the day!

I'm casting my fears aside.
I'm leaving my doubts behind.
I'm giving my hopes and dreams to You. Jesus.

I will stand upon your truth. All my days I'll live for you.
Today is the day!

Today is the Day! by Lincoln Brewster

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pray for America

President and his advisors
Elected Officials
Justices of the Supreme Court and all other judges
Military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines Coast Guard and Border Patrol
Exposure of crime and terrorism
Revival of spiritual interests
Unity among believers
Strong economy and vision
Educators, teachers, students
Protection from enemies foreign and domestic
Ambassadors, Embassies overseas
National unity and patriotism
Purity and leadership among the churches
Service and emergency relief organizations
Efficiency of hospitals and medical care
Airline Security, Safety and efficiency
Law Enforcement, Fire Dept and Emergency Services
Media – News and Entertainment
International crisis

Sweet Land of Liberty

President John F. Kennedy challenged us in his speech to ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country. Did you ever wonder what there is that you can do for your country?

Perhaps you are not in the military or a city employee. Perhaps you are not a teacher or a nurse or a grocery store clerk. There is something that each of us can do to make our country stronger. We can pray for our country believing in the God who is able. We can pray specifically for our country. God hears the prayers of His children and He blesses their homes, their towns and their countries. He is good and His love endures forever.

Before you say those negative words about my president and before you say those negative words about my country, please be sure you have spent enough time in prayer. Prayer is quite often the most militant thing to be done and yet, for every Christian who spends time in prayer, dozens more simply add to the negativity. It's wrong. His people will be held accountable for it.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”

~2 Chronicles 7:13 and 14

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seraiah's Eyes

I remember the first time I held Seraiah and looked into her beautiful eyes.

I love the way Seraiah's eyes sparkle when she bubbles up with excitement and the way they tear up before she even realizes she's going to cry. I love the way they snap when she's angry and the way they widen when she's surprised. I love the way they light up when she runs into my arms for the hug she knows is always waiting.

When God was knitting her together in her mother's womb I prayed for her to have her mommy's smile and her daddy's eyes. God said yes and she has both the twinkle of her daddy's eyes and her mommy's beautiful smile.

One Sunday morning an exhausted and fussy 2 year old Seraiah fell asleep in Shannon's arms during church. Shannon and I treasured the moment as we sat together, both because of the sweetness of the sleeping child and because Seraiah had quite worn both of us out that morning.

Seraiah woke up with a big smile and bright eyes, ready to delight in life and the people around her. She put her little hands on the face of her mother and looked her in the eyes. It reminded me of a quote by George Eliot:

"My life began with waking up and loving my mother's face."

Never underestimate the importance of being there for the little ones that God has entrusted to your life. Who you are matters. What you do matters. Your loving smile, your tender touches, your welcoming eyes, your gentle hugs and your encouraging words.

Love the children. Enjoy them. Bless them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Following Nathanael

Having recently learned to walk instead of crawl, Nathanael marched eagerly into his first Spring of independence and nature discovery. Since rocks never fail to fascinate me, I wanted to share that thrill of appreciation with him.

He had no idea that dropping small rocks into a pail could make a splash. Neither was he aware that the rocks would darken in color when wet. What a miracle to see clear water turn to dirty brown! Who knew that sunbeams could return wet rocks to their original texture and color?

God knew. He knew it all along, but perhaps appreciated it most when watching Jesus toddle alongside Mary discovering the wonders of the very world He had helped create.

Nathanael has always known there is a God because his daddy says so. He knows there is a God because even the rocks cry out in praise. If someone had to make a pail to splash rocks in, then someone also had to make the water that it held and the hands that toss rocks. It’s basic logic for even a one year old.

"Nathanael, did God make rocks for us to play with?” I asked.

He grinned at me, reaching little arms upward toward the sky. "Yes!" he shouted with a sprinkling of giggles. “Thanks you!”

His faith was complete. His cup of joy overflowed with praise. It is no wonder that we are to become as little children.

"A little child will lead them." Why is it that we have such difficulty following?

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Teacup Full of Gentleness

Gentleness is not so impressive to people as it was in past generations. People are sidetracked from gentleness by hectic schedules, fast paced entertainment and lifestyles that call "Hamburger Helper" a home-cooked meal and 6 hours of sleep a good night’s rest. Being in an atmosphere of intensity, continual ambition and hurry leaves us feeling overwhelmed, depleted, bone weary. Much is missed when we neglect the fruit of gentleness in our lives!

Gentleness takes time. It requires stepping back and taking the time to seek peace, to be intimate with God, to pause from continual action. Children crave gentleness. They seek quiet times to refresh and think. They create mild moments and are quite willing to interrupt their day for gentle words, gentle touches and gentle thoughts. I learned this the year that Kaelyn was 4 years old. We were planting a gladiola garden which later, forgetting the flower name, she would call her "Happy Garden".

Karen: What’s wrong, Peanut? Are you done helping me make the garden?
Kaelyn: Yes. I’m dirty. I require tea. Let’s dip graham crackers in our tea.
Karen: Do you need some books and a nap?
Kaelyn: Oh no. I just need tea. In the pretty cups. With the golden spoons.
Karen: Anything else?
Kaelyn: I really think not.

To have the strong, healthy, sweet fruit of gentleness, we must take time to cultivate it. We must give the Spirit time and opportunity to produce it. We get tired, dirty, wrapped up in our busy lives and so quickly forget the gentleness of our Shepherd Savior. I have learned to take that step back and enjoy the God who is there and who is not silent. A glowing candle, a cup of tea, a mild moment to be still and know God, to be reminded of His words and His ways.

Sometimes it’s not so much that life is hard as that I just need some gentle moments added into my life. Sometimes I just require tea.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Take Notice

It would be such fun to see below the topsoil to the wondrous unseen world below my garden.

This morning on my early morning walk through the garden I watched a mound of earth pulsate and hopefully waited for an animal to break through and peek out at me. It never did...It just kept moving below the mound of dirt continually pushing up almost to the brink of breaking through and then subsiding.

So much we miss because we do not take the time to see... And, yet, even when we do take the time to see, there is so much more to God's creation than meets the eye.

There are so many blessings and surprises tucked into the corners of every day just waiting for me to discover them. Beyond all that I notice are layers of blessings that I passed by without even noticing. God is always so very far ahead of me.

I've prayed that God will bless you today. And I'm hoping you see something special that you never noticed before.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wake up! Joy is here!

My great-granny was well past 102 years old when she died. During her last weeks she was without clear thought and speech. After giving drops of water and gentle touches to her, my sister, Nancy, and I spent our last minutes with Granny singing "Jesus Loves Me". She calmed visibly. I know she could hear us.

Hearing is often the last sense to go. As people drift away from consciousness, they may hear and process more than we realize. As children, we close our eyes trying to imagine blindness. Have you imagined losing all your senses except hearing?

Let me hear the joyful sounds of Vivaldi and Mozart. Sit with me and sing the hymns and worship songs we love so dearly. Help me remember those who cheer me on from the great crowd of witnesses so that I can hear them saying, "You can do it! I made it and so can you!" Let the little children read to me their books and tell me of their days at play. Read the "Wonderful Words of Life" to me, especially the Psalms and the life of Jesus. Come and pray with me in thanksgiving and delight, with depth of heart. Say to me that I mattered to you and tell me what God is teaching you.

Let's start today. Let's not wait until "someday" to say our last words of encouragement and love. Let's not wait for tomorrow to look back and wish for today. Let's live life with our hearts and eyes wide open. Oh, the joy of being with you and hearing your voice! You have the power to change my world. I can change yours. Wake up! Joy is here! Wake up! Joy is here!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Things to Pray for Your Children

Praying for Your Child’s Faith
-to love God’s Word
-to use gifts, strengths, and develop weaknesses
-to promote God’s Kingdom

Praying for Your Child’s Character
-wisdom and discernment
-a servant’s heart
-kindness and compassion
-diligence, self-discipline

Praying for Your Child’s Safety
-physical health and safety
-spiritual protection
-emotional well being

Praying for Your Child’s Relationships
-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins
-teachers, coaches

Praying for Your Child’s Future
-purpose in life
-management of time and money
-education, confidence and independence

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oft' times He weaveth sorrow;
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reasons why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who choose to walk with Him.

Grant Colfax Tuller (1869-1950)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Never Too Little for Jesus

"Is that up there the cross Jesus died on?" Lydia whispered to me, pointing to the decorative wooden cross hanging above the baptistry in our church building.

"No," I whispered back. "That one helps us remember that Jesus died on a cross."

Earlier on that Resurrection Sunday, we had gathered around a handmade, life-size cross. Each of us, including the children, had taken turns dipping our fingers in red paint and putting our fingerprints on the cross to illustrate the lesson that it is our individual sins that caused the necessity of the crucifixion. Lydia, age three, was completely fascinated by the entire process.

She studied the cross with a frown on her face, silently reaching over to hold my hand. She was thinking deep thoughts during this particular communion time and I continued on into my prayers, thinking she was done with her question.

"Because the other one has blood on it. Because we did that up there?" she said somewhat softly, pointing to the cross covered with red fingerprints.

"On Easter we put pretend blood on it to remember Jesus died to forgive us our sins," I smiled and explained. Her big blue eyes lit up with understanding and she grinned.

"And now this cross," she said in a voice growing louder with excitement as she pointed to the decorative cross over the baptistry, " we get a clean cross because the sins all wented away."

"Yes," I agreed. "We are clean inside because Jesus died for us. His blood forgives sin."

"Why? So it would be blood?" she reasoned, leaning against me.

"Jesus loves us," I assured her in a soft whisper. "We're having quiet communion time to remember Jesus loves us enough to die for us."

"And we remember every day right? Because we pray." She nodded and the frown disappeared.


"I like Jesus did that."

"Me too. Do you want to taste the communion with me?"

"Is it blood and bread?" she asked, disgusted by the idea.

"It's juice. To remember about blood. And this tastes like crackers so we remember his body hurt and there was blood when he died."

Apparently she had stretched her mind around as much theology as it could hold.

She climbed onto my lap and tilted her head up to ask, "Are those trees up there pretend ones?"
"Yes," I answered. "To help us remember God made tress."

"Well," Lydia sighed as she thought that through. "I like trees. But just the real ones."

I have no idea what the communion meditation was about, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Songbird Dances with a Butterfly

"Hurry, Songbird! Come and see!" I called through the door to Carolanne.

"What is it?" she asked, eyes wide with expectation.

I pointed to the milkweed bush. "Look, Songbird! Our first Monarch butterfly!"

With more enthusiasm than could be contained in her little body, Carolanne danced with joy. When she stopped her "Happy Dance" to rest, she snuggled in to me, perfectly still, delighted with God's creation.

Perhaps the butterfly simply happened into our yard, but possibly she was born here last year and has returned. Carolanne is sure it's returning to see her. The Monarch hasn't said. We have been watching for signs that the Monarch will stay and lay eggs so that we can watch the fascinating process of life in the making.

Tonight as I was watering the tomatoes in my garden, the Monarch landed on the blackberry bushes beside me to dance about in the cooling sprays of water. She must have had more enthusiasm than she could contain in her little body because once she stopped her "Happy Dance" to rest, she snuggled in, perfectly still, delighted with God's creation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kaelyn and Joya Come to Tea

The year that Kaelyn was six and Joya was four, most visits to my house required a tea party. One day, we decided to write poetry after we had finished our tea party. (apple juice and cinnamon Mini-Wheat cereal that particular day...served, of course on china with cloth napkins. It's all about being fancy, don't you know?)

Kaelyn EmmaLaughing
She’s the dancing princess of drama.
Princess Wildflower in her own fairyland.
Kaelyn Emma

Joya CorrineCreative
She’s the princess of imagination.
Spectacular Miss Fancy in her own parade.
Joya Corrine

Teaching children to enjoy reading and writing poetry rounds out their imagination and triggers a delight in vocabulary and expression. The writing of poetry can progress in very simple ways. I asked them to write a poem describing themselves first in 4 different words then in two different sentences. The beginning and ending is, of course, their names. We discussed word pictures and experimented with the sounds of many words and discussed a variety of examples, but the poetry is their own and it's quite wonderful and fits them well. It's a format that even 3 and 4 year olds can do with a little bit of help. Give it a try! It will add some razzle dazzle to your family night this week whether you are 8 or 18 or 80!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Make Me Thy Fuel

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

Amy Carmichael, India, 1912

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Be Still

The dormancy of a plant, dying so that it can bear fruit in the spring, helps the plant become resilient, to thrive despite weather extremes. The seed ignores the environmental clues and begins to live from the inside-out rather than from the outside-in. Being still does this for us. We stop being driven from the world outside and begin to live from the quiet place inside of us.

God uses us to meet the needs of people. He likes His plan to use His weak, flawed people to shine His light in a dark world. Have you discovered that there is a whole pile of needs? People aren't used to being cared for, are they? They can suck the life right out of you with the demands of their needs.

To "be still and know God" requires a backing away from worldly environment, a time of dormancy so that we can thrive despite the changing weather of people and circumstances. I'm not talking about just taking a needed break, but being still in a way that restores you and makes you grow.

In Mark 1, Jesus, we are told, rises early in the morning, while it is still dark. He goes to a quiet place to be alone, to be still. It kept Him going. It made Him able to thrive. The disciples told Him, "Everyone is looking for you!" As if Jesus isn't meeting enough needs and doesn't see the pile of brokenness all around Him, right?

Haven't you felt that way? A young mom heads into the bathroom for a piece of quiet and suddenly the 6 year old is yelling, "MOM!" and the happy thump of the dog's tail sounds to her like the beating of a drum keeping in time with the toddler's crying and the 3 year old's knocking on the door. Be still? Yeah, right.

The college girl drags her exhausted body from bed, zips across campus from class to class, racing the deadlines, speeding off to a job, already late, homework looming at the end of her shift. Be still? Yeah, right.

Jesus was so much busier than we are, but yet he wasn't a heart attack waiting to happen. Our theme song is "I am so busy!" and though God invites us to be still, we are too busy to accept His invitation. Jesus openly showed us that being still is not just a suggestion, but is rooted in His very character. To be like Jesus, you must be still.

I am not saying don't feed the hungry toddler. I am not saying ditch your job and homework. I am saying that the Creator of the heavens and earth has given you permission to rest. He has called you to "let down your hands", to be still. He has commanded you to be still because you need it to live from the inside-out. You need it to grow, to thrive in the worldly environment.

Be still. He's waiting to hear from you.

God's cell phone number: Jeremiah 33:3..."Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Loving Hands

When I held Seraiah’s tiny newborn hands for the first time her eyes opened and widened so that I could look deep into the soul that had so recently entered my life, fresh from the heart of Father. She lives far from me now and those tiny hands have grown into little girl hands that are learning to play the piano. It's been a few months since I last saw her, but I can bring her hands to mind as easily as I can picture the hands of her mommy or daddy. Love does that.

A man’s hand, strong as steel and big enough to cover half of a woman’s face, can caress with enough gentleness to hardly disturb a single tiny soft hair on her cheek. It can wipe away a fragile tear so tenderly that it leaves a trail of renewed strength in its path. Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing is so gentle as true strength.

My husband has strong hands with long fingers and firm muscles. They are roughened and calloused from hard work, making music on a guitar, and picking up the pieces of broken hearts and putting them back together. A thousand years from now I will still be able to picture his hands – hands that cradled the tiny heads of countless newborns, hands that have loved and cared for me for over a quarter of a century. There are times when I glance at his hands and, in an unexpected rush of emotion, I fall in love with him all over again.

My own hands are weakened by arthritis and wrinkled in places that match the hands of my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. They are hands that have done bad things, harsh things in their lifetime. They are also hands that carried dandelions lovingly to my mother and tenderly caressed broken hearts as I aged. Sometimes as I watch a small child cradle my hands, mindlessly drawing a picture memory of me, I am amazed at how little we think about our hands. Our hands speak volumes about our lives. I love that.

God formed the miniature hands of His Son in Mary’s womb. He watched as Mary lifted the tiny hands on her newborn to count each finger. He knew what was coming later as Mary caressed the soft cheeks on Baby Jesus and bathed him with gentle hands, splashing bubbles to make him laugh. He watched as she mothered him through childhood covering those small hands with kisses, licking off droplets of honey from a messy lunch and smoothing away boo-boos and tears when Jesus fell down and skinned his palm.

God watched as Joseph’s roughened carpenter hands guided small eager fingers, hammering nails into wood, building a toy boat. He must have laughed, watching protective, calloused hands catch the little boy as he was tossed playfully into the air and caught up in a big hug. God’s heart must have smiled with satisfaction as Joseph’s hand rumpled the tired sweaty head of an exhausted little boy smelling of fresh air and sunshine, his little Jesus.

How God must have watched with a ravaged heart as the strong loving hands that had tenderly held and blessed men, women and children dripped blood from an old rugged cross until our sins forced Him to close His eyes in pain and turn away.

I know Mary’s heart. She would have lifted those battered hands, pale and lifeless, and bathed them with her tears and covered them with kisses before Jesus was taken to the tomb. The sight of those bloody torn hands that she loved so dearly would have ripped her soul and broken her heart. It was a sight she would remember all of her days.

Who among us is worthy to look upon the resurrected hands of Jesus, hands with lightning in their fists? Those same precious nail scarred hands hold on to me so securely that I am forever shielded from harm by grace, by the powerful love that held him to the cross.

My name is carved into those hands. I am loved with a fierce abiding love.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”--Jesus

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dancing Through the Minefield

With eyes closed, hands raised and tears streaming, Amy sings praises to God with her whole heart. She is 34 years old, a beloved wife and the mother of 4 young children and she is dying of cancer.

Tonya will be in prison for a long time. Drunk and drugged, she crashed her van and her young children were killed. She is a lead-follower of Jesus ready to give a reason for the hope that is within her, equiped to counsel and busy with doing good for others.

Gina, age 14, lives in a world of oppressive heat. People penniless, no beds, living on concrete in boxes. A little sister in a wheelchair, no parents to love and guide. Every day she fights for their survival...no stranger to heartbreak and disappointment and no stranger to her Bible, hymns and giggles.

Life is hard and for some people it is devastating and full of tragedy. Suffering is so terribly difficult and horribly personal. I do not know all the answers and I'm not sure it would help if I did. But I do know the One who has the answers and knowing Him makes all the difference. Amazing love, how can it be? That God should plunge the knife in His heart for me - all the while that I am cold and indifferent, dedicated to my sinful life. And then a stone moves, the earth shakes and birds start singing. My chains are gone! I've been set free!

There is reason in the midst of tragedy to count it all joy. We don't have to have the answers to all of life's questions to continue trusting the God who sees and the God who is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine. He welcomes His children with all of our doubts, weaknesses, insecurities and failures. He is not bothered or surprised by that which is lacking because He holds the future in the palm of His hand and knows there is enough grace to cleanse us and enough power to sustain us. He has a plan even in our suffering because we die at the foot of the cross daily and are healed and comforted and transformed It's hard, but it's worth it.

"He's a host issuing party invitations left and right. He's a shepherd leaving the ninety-nine in the field, seeking the one lost lamb. He's a king lavishing a party on beggars. He's got a place reserved. He's interested in relating. I want to know a God like this! Shove me under the waterfall of Trinity's joy, which splashes and spills over heaven's walls. If he's always in a good mood, I want to catch it. If I'm lost, I want him to find me. Part the heavens, Lord, come down, kick aside the money tables, trash the "Don't Touch" rules and embrace me. " -Joni Eareckson Tada, "When God Weeps"

I can live my life in a close relationship with Him and enjoy a life that is passionate and rich no matter how desperate my situation. The book of Psalms expresses the depths of our anger, disappointment and suffering, and yet still brings to life the expressions of a quiet spirit and peaceful heart. We can do this big thing, this hard thing called life.

However loudly the waves crash around me, God is with me as I sail through the storm. However loudly the explosions of life that threaten me, I can dance through the minefield.

Muddy Boots

Father, Dr. Luke and I just finished sharing a glass of iced tea and some cranberry-oatmeal cookies. I was fairly quiet and ate most of the cookies while they did most of the teaching. My heart seems to have paused on Luke 18:1 and the admonishment that we "ought to pray and not to lose heart".

Pray and do not lose heart...*smile. In the land that is plentiful, where the streams of abundance flow, I can still find myself discouraged and disheartened. I feel the splash of muddy waters filling up my boots on my faith-walk and suddenly realize that once again I have taken my eyes off Jesus, started trusting in my own thoughts and ways....and like Peter walking on the sea I begin to sink.

I am a Christ-follower with decades of learning to walk in His steps. I am a lead-follower with many who trust what I say and do. My faith is strong, but my heart is "deceitful above all things". The evil one is alive and busy with trying to implement his plans for my life. There are no pedestals you can put people on that protect them from failures and disappointments.

Pray...Such a small word, isn't it? When Peter was sinking and turned His eyes back to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of his faith, his faith-walk straightened out and his heart began to soar rather than to panic. We ought to pray and to not lose heart.

I like it out of the boat, walking in the rapidly changing waters with Jesus. I have learned that sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms my heart and lets the storm rage around me. He has a plan and if I have to be disappointed and wait or if I need to sacrifice without understanding why, greater glory will come for the kingdom.

"Pray and do not lose heart" ...I believe that's one doctor's advice I will follow because it came straight from Father's heart...the God who sees and is able.

As I held hands with Dr. Luke and Father this morning for prayer, it occurred to me that in 6 small words Dr. Luke gave me Father's prescription for good health as I walk by faith and not sight...and I will finish strong.

Pray hard. Love deep. Finish strong.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Making of a Woman

The counter in my kitchen is never so beautiful to me as it is when it's a big mess. It looks lovely with an antique cloth and a cheery vase of flowers. And I do enjoy Monday morning Windex shine to celebrate my cleaning day. But today it was at peak beauty because I taught Kaelyn to make her first scones. I love the mess involved in teaching a little woman to cook.

Dots of butter smears, splashes of sour cream, carelessly tossed measuring spoons and cups, wayward blueberries smooshed about and whatever a writer should call "flour mixed with cooking spray and sugar muck", my counter never shined so brightly.

During Kaelyn's eight years of growing up she has tasted nearly every type of scone I have ever made. We have had countless tea parties, both real and pretend, fancy and common. We have served at our tea parties everything from the pink frosted Mini-Wheats that I convinced her were tea cookies when she was little to the most fancy of my sandwiches and scones. We have had china and lace tea parties in grown up settings and we have had paper cups and grubby tea parties while covered with garden dirt.

As she finished cutting the triangles (I get to use THIS big knife? Whoa!) she grinned up at me and said, "I made scones."

Kaelyn may forget who taught her to make scones. None of us understand why some memories of our childhood remain and others are forgotten. What really matters to me is that Kaelyn learned just a little bit more about trying something that looks hard to do. She became a little bit better at homemaking skills and going the extra mile to bless others with something she made. She learned all the valuable lessons that she soaks up just by being loved and loving me in return.

As she grows older, God will be teaching Kaelyn lessons, too. She may not remember just how it was she learned the big lessons, or even always remember it was God who taught her. He's pretty good at wiping away the messes left behind. What really matters to Him is that she becomes a stronger person, a better person.

He will smile and say, "I made a woman."

As Kaelyn danced off to play with Nathanael and I washed the dishes while waiting for the scones to bake, I found tears running down my cheeks. Not because of the mess required in the making of a scone, but because of the precious mess required in the making of a woman.

Heart to Heart: Home to Home

A little girl was once asked if she was sad because her family was homeless. "My goodness, Mister! We aren't homeless! We just don't have a house to put it in right now."

A small corner in your parent's house, a college dorm room, a honeymoon hotel, a first apartment.  Though ever so humble, it's home sweet home. It will be up to you to create a place that welcomes, encourages and comforts. Make a shalom house, a house of peace. Create a home no matter what house you have to put it in.

Laurie looked about our humble apartment and grinned. "Everywhere you live you make it a home. I walk in and feel peaceful. It looks as if you've always been here and always will be." Since then God has placed us in six new residences and the one we now inhabit has been our home for only 2 months.

Do you spend too much time collecting creative ideas for the future in the midst of a messy room and disorganized life? It will breed frustration and discontentment.  Build a creative peaceful space for your life. It will generate comfort, hope and welcome.

Look around the room. Are there whimsical things that make you smile? Photographs that make you remember? Is it clean and tidy? Does it welcome weary souls to stay? Create a home whether your house is a castle in a faraway land or a small room in an attic.

Simple beauty is available for everyone. The centerpiece on my kitchen table may be a mason jar of flowers, a bowl of autographed baseballs, a basket of memory verses, or as is true today, a hand painted bucket of rocks and shells.

If I had waited until we bought a house before I created a home and welcomed people into it, I would still be waiting after 33 years of marriage. That was not God's plan for our life and ministry. But every day I make my home a soft, comforting peaceful place.

I cannot prepare a room for Jesus the way that Martha and Mary would do. How I would love to make Him cinnamon rolls or a glass of iced spice tea! But, Jesus is a constant presence in my home and others are welcome here in His name.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Walk By Faith, Not by Sight

Lord, when my soul is weary and my heart is tired and sore,
And I have that failing feeling that I can't take it any more;
Then let me know the freshening found in simple childlike prayer,
When the kneeling soul knows surely that a listening Lord is there.
~Ruth Bell Graham

This morning you leave for a journey that takes you far away from me. No longer will you be able to pick up the phone and send a text or give me a quick call. No longer will you sit at my table for meals or nap on the sofa, exhausted from homework. Today you will land on foreign soil and begin to live your dream.

To be a spiritual mother is to know what it is like to have your very heart walking around outside of your body. To be a spiritual mother is to bear the burden of your broken past with you and to share the overflowing of joy that comes when you are healed strong and ready to fly on wings like eagles. To be a spiritual mother is to stand the gap with prayer, to write the words of encouragement before you need them and to watch over from afar with a faith that can move mountains when your faith wavers.

You have come so far from that young girl I first met and yet there are so many miles yet for you to travel. Walking by faith and not sight takes practice, my darling. You won't always do it right. You won't always feel confident. Life is as full of pit falls, blind corners and rocky ditches as a Missouri road, but you will walk strong and true because you are brave and you know the God who sees and the God who is able.

Strength and courage grow not in absence of fear, but in the presence of God. Keep in step with the Spirit. You can do this big thing that you so wholeheartedly have worked toward all these months. Walk by faith and not by sight, knowing for sure and for certain that Father can see you and Jesus traveled the road before you. Father is able to do more than you ask or imagine that He can do. I can see the top of this mountain you are climbing from where I am and you're doing just fine.

"Do not call to mind the former things or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. Now it will spring forth; Will you not be made aware of it? I will ever make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give a drink to my people, the people whom I formed for Myself will declare my praise." ~Isaiah 43:18, 21

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance." ~2 Thessalonians 3:16

You are loved with an everlasting love....and I am walking alongside praying without ceasing.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Know the Word

If you are not determined to know God through His Word it will never happen.

So many things will crowd Him out of your life. So many other tasks, many of them noble and wonderful, will fill up your days...days that turn into weeks then turn into years. If you do not read His Word, study it, ponder it, fill your soul up with it, how then, will the real you know the real Him?

The seed of life is planted in your heart and He has sent His very Spirit, the Great Gardener, to insure that you will grow and produce fruit. The fruit you seek to see on the branches of your life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. To grow into that tree planted by the water that bears strong abundant healthy fruit, you must take a look today at your root system.

My spiritual son, Tim, knows much about gardening and plants. For a decade, he has faithfully watched over me, helped me, taught me patiently and thoroughly as I learn to garden, first flowers and now vegetables. He spent hours transplanting flowers after we moved to the Campus House. I tenderly watched and watered and guarded those transplants faithfully, sadly disturbed as green turned to brown, strong turned to weak and then inevitably, winter came bringing death. He reminded me time after time: "It's what's under the soil that matters."

Come spring there were flowers...beautiful pink ones. So it is with the root systems in your heart. An increase of the fruit comes from what is under the soil. Build your root system with a strong foundation in the Word. It has everything you need for life and godliness. It is necessary for knowing Him, having a healthy life and bearing good fruit.

Do you have a teachable spirit? Are you using the "Miracle Grow" of knowing the Word?

As I look at my life and all God, the Great Gardener, has done to grow me to this point, learning the Word, knowing the Word, understanding the Word, practicing the Word is what gave me roots to stand strong and bear fruit.