Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Heart for Children

A pretty young mother named Sarah dwells in the prison where I love women to Jesus on Monday nights. A few years ago while she was driving her van under the influence of drugs and alcohol, she crashed and her children were killed.

Every day in our schools, supermarkets, playgrounds and neighborhoods children and young moms live days of unseen pain and misery. My heart swells with emotion to know there are little ones who have no soft place to fall, no one who cares that they drew a picture or did their math, no one who knows they fall asleep crying each night. We are called to encourage, to love them like Jesus.

In my own city, probably in my own neighborhood, there are children and young women needing my assistance, love and encouragement. It is a call to action that weighs heavy on my heart and in my prayers. I am learning to watch for children more diligently, to notice needs in the lives of strangers.

With so many children to love, how does it happen that there are people who have the empty nest syndrome? Won't you help Jesus find the lost children and love them?

Let the little children come to us, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. We can bless them, know them, love them, in His name.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Camels and the Single Girl

The camel that lives in my neighborhood is a good teacher. He remains calm and steadfast whether the heat of summer scorches or the icy winter chills. Maybe camels never get very excited about anything, but the one I know is definitely not equipped with a panic button.

I don't know about in your neighborhood, but camels are not native to Missouri. Growing up on a Midwestern farm provided lessons in milking cows, shearing sheep and delivering piglets, but not so much about camels.

One of the few tidbits I learned about camels before meeting one is they can spit. I have no idea why. I mean, do camels spit because they drink 20 gallons of water at a time and overload? Do they spit for entertainment when bored on long distances? Is it an anger management issue? I do not know the answers to these questions and my neighborhood camel is not talking. Frankly, his mouth is usually too full of cud to speak in polite company.

But Rebekah knew all about camels. When God's servant went to seek a wife for Isaac during Biblical times, Rebekah was found watering her camels. She was not out tent hopping, investigating the lives of rich bachelors on television or shopping for a colorful luring tunic. Therefore, when she was least expecting it, in God's perfect timing, God's man came searching and found her doing what she had been called to do, watering her camels.

Probably you are not called to be watering camels. It's possible you don't even know any camels, thirsty or otherwise. But, what is it you are called to be doing today? If you are a single girl who would like to be married someday it's an important question to ponder. Where will you be when God's man comes searching for you? What are you doing with your singleness?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tumeric, Guernseys and Cinnamon Rolls

My husband is often quick to assure me that Google knows all. This is reassuring because what I don't know is vast indeed. Yet the Biblical calling to love and teach younger women is as relevant now as it was when Titus 2 was written.

Welcoming younger women into your life allows them access to what you know and who you are becoming, your successes and failures. If we took our calling seriously and joyfully we could turn around the downward spiral caused by broken homes and wounded spirits. We are called to change the world simply by being available to younger women.It will light you up from the inside out, create adventure and fill your life with purpose.

The spice turmeric is what makes chicken soup have that "yummy yellow" color. I needed to know this for a spiritual daughter at 7:00 this morning. As the morning progressed, I also needed to know various breeds of dairy cattle, a good recipe for cinnamon rolls and how to make vegetable soup without a recipe. Later I reported on reasons farmers appreciate snow and helped a new librarian know authors that would delight a six year old.

Those seemingly unimportant tidbits we pick up along the way create conversations that lead to relationships. The relationship formed from more easily researched questions makes you available for deeper spiritual searching. How do I know if he is the right guy for me? Why didn't anyone ever tell me the mistakes I was making? How do I have joy when my child has died? How could God love me when my own parents didn't want me? How do you know God is real?

The Bible has answers for life and godliness. In your lifetime of learning to walk with Jesus you are continually gaining wisdom and discernment. The classroom of your heart is filled with notes from lessons learned and file folders stuffed with thoughts and experiences. The classroom of your heart was never intended to be a hidden closet cluttered with secrets.

How many times have you longed for someone older and wiser to guide you? Who in your life loved you enough to open the door to the classroom of her heart? Teach what is good and encourage younger women so that the Word of God is not dishonored.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No God Like Jehovah

You are the Holy One of Israel, Father. You are the true living God.
You are worthy of honor, of sacrifice and of praise.
Mighty and wondrous are Your deeds throughout all generations.
Your splendor decorates the world from glory to glory.

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will My people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

I don't know. But You have set me apart to be Your faithful servant, to please You. You hear when I call to You. You know I want to do what is right.

Tremble and do not sin. When you are on your bed, search your heart and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust Me.

I offer my life in spirit and truth. I will pour out the oil of love as an offering. You are faithful and I trust You.

Fill my heart with joy because I see Your provision. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. You alone are my glory and the lifter of my head. You alone are the God who is holy.

There is no God like Jehovah. I am jealous for you.

There is no God like Jehovah. I will be jealous for You.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The God Who Upholds

The road into today looks long, Father. I want to be Home. No more sorrow, pain, sickness or death. No more grief or shame. No guilt.

No brokenness. No more battles to fight?

Yes. I'm too tired to keep fighting.

Come. Let us go away to a quiet place.

You know I can't. I have work to do, a race that must be run.

My work to do. Remember Paul.

II Timothy? We read that this morning.

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

I promise to keep the faith. I trust You. Help me to finish strong.

I am with you even to the end of the age. You can do all things through Me. I will strengthen you. I will uphold you with my right arm.

There's not much for You to work with today.

In your weakness I am made strong. My grace is sufficient for you.

Come with me. Carry me a few steps further, Sovereign God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

You are the apple of My eye, My beloved disciple. Surprises and blessings will unfold before you. Walk by faith not by sight.

I want to be Your hands and feet in a broken world, but I'm not very adept.

I am the God who is able to do more than you ask or imagine. My peace is with you. Come. Follow Me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Missional Living

Eat with Non-Christians We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal, invite a non-Christian friend. Or take your family to family-style restaurants where you can sit at the table with strangers and strike up conversations. Have cookouts and invite Christians and non-Christians. Flee the Christian subculture.

Walk, Don’t Drive If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox or convenience store, walk to get mail or groceries. Be deliberate in your walk. Say hello to people you don’t know. Strike up conversations. Attract attention by walking the dog, carrying along a 6-pack to share, bringing the kids. Make friends. Get out of your house! Last night I spent an hour outside gardening with my family. We had good conversations with about four of our neighbors. Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Engage. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet, and some people.

Be a Regular Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, eating out, and coffee, go to the same places at the same times. Get to know the staff. Smile. Ask questions. Be a regular. I have friends at coffee shops all over the city. My friends at Starbucks donate a ton of leftover pastries to our church 2-3 times a week. We use them for church gatherings and occasionally give them to the homeless. Build relationships. Be a regular.

Hobby with Non-Christians Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try city league sports or local rowing and cycling teams. Share your hobby by teaching lessons, such as sewing, piano, knitting, or tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun. Be yourself.

Talk to Your Co-workers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form moms’ groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively non-Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids. Work on mission.

Volunteer with Non-Profits. Find a non-profit in your part of the city and take a Saturday a month to serve your city. Bring your neighbors, your friends, or your small group. Spend time with your church serving your city. Once a month. You can do it!

Participate in City Events Instead of playing XBox, watching TV, or surfing the net, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, cleanups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city.Participate with the city.

Serve Your Neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, building a cabinet, or fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Under Enemy Fire

Oh, Lord, how my enemies have increased!
They are unseen, but I hear them taunt me. They are bent on destruction.
They speak to my very soul.
"You'll never be pure in heart." "You aren't lovable."
"You'll never make it." "Loser." "Weak." "Helpless."
They aim for me. They are like tanks, strategically placed.
War is declared and I am the battlefield.

But, You, Oh, Lord, are a shield around me.
Your favor and love protect me.
You are my glory and the lifter of my head.
You are the One who is mighty to save.

I cry to you with pleadings and fears.
You answer me from high on Your holy mountain.
You are the God who calls me to You.

You quiet me with your love. Tenderly You hold me.
You comfort me with your singing.
You sustain me. Even in sleep, You are there.
When I awake Your voice is the first I hear.

I will not be afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me.
You are the God who sees me. You are the God who answers me.
You are the God who is able to protect me.

I am the apple of your eye.
I am your bride.
You have the power to save, the desire to save.
Salvation belongs to You. Victory belongs to You.

Keep blessing Your child with favor. Do not stop being the God who is mine.
You are my King. You are a faithful warrior and a steadfast comforter.
You fight for me and I stand back to hold my peace in battle.
You sing to me and I rest in Your arms.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The God who Listens


I am Immanuel, the God who is with you.

I look behind me and You are there, then up ahead and You are there, too. Your reassuring presence is with me whether I am going or coming. If I went to the depths of the sea, You would be there. If I traveled the width of the Milky Way, still You would be there.

This is too much, too wonderful. I can't take it all in.

I am the God who is able.

I'm an open book to you. You know what I'm thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back. I'm never out of your sight. You know everything I'm going to say before I start my first sentence. You are the God who is there, the God who listens.

When You slip from my mind I feel as if I have hurt You, deserted You. It feels like I have lost something precious in my journey. Walk with me. Talk with me. Hold my hand all the way, every hour, every day from here to the Great Unknown.

I love you from everlasting to everlasting.

I love You, too.

Come. Let us walk further still.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Infinity and Beyond

Last night my president encouraged the country as we ache together over tragedy. A dream woke me this morning with recent sorrow in the foreground of my emotions. The morning local news reported a tragedy near one of our schools. Each of you reading this blog are fighting demons, battling for a faith that keeps fighting. Life rips our hearts and tramples our hopes.

My Elizabeth shared little Ben's prayer last night: "Dear God, Thank you to infinity and beyond. Amen."

It made me laugh because he is seriously cute, but then I began to ponder. Confession. Sometimes infinity and beyond gets forgotten in my prayers. Tragedy and sorrow remind us there is a God who is able. Then, in frustration, we ask, "He IS able, so what sort of God won't stop the crisis before it happens?"

The God who sees me loves with infinite love beyond what I can grasp. He is indeed the God who is able. He is the God who is in control. It is true even when I don't understand His ways. It is true even when my heart is broken.

Father, I am grateful to be led by a child. Teach me to thank You even when I don't understand Your ways. Help me to acknowledge Your goodness and mercy in the midst of tragedy and sorrow. I trust You with my life even when I am angry, disappointed, frustrated and filled with sorrow. You are the God who bottles my tears and hurts with me. You are the God who is infinite beyond what I can grasp. You are worthy of my trust and I will walk by faith and not by sight. Thank You for Your people who are available to encourage me through my suffering.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The God Who Calls

Oh, Father, would You show me all the wonders of Your love? Show me Your ways. Teach me truth. Help me to find the clues to the mysteries of life.

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

You are the Ancient of Days. I love getting older, changing every day, slowly becoming the me You want me to be. Truths to discover and lessons to be learned are beckoning me today. My eyes are opening wider and my feet are itching to travel forward over new pathways. It's a new day. Let's go up to higher ground.

Come. Follow Me.

I'm coming with You. I like walking by faith and not by sight. I am beginning to see and understand much more clearly.

Seek first the Kingdom and godliness. You are my friend and the disciple whom I love.

You are the God who is there and is not silent. You are the God who is with me. When You call me, I will answer.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Seedling

The sun is shining on me. I am like a seed sprouting after the long, cold winter.

How blessed I am because my growth does not depend on the advice of the wicked. I am not a lone reed broken in the midst of those who trample ruins. I am not a neglected seedling, threatened by those who would pluck me from safety and cast me away.

No, I delight in the words of the Great Gardener!
Like a young plant digs deep into the soil for nourishment, I sink my roots deep into the rich, fertile soil of His Word. Like a young plant reaching toward the sunlight I bask in His warmth and compassion.

I will be like a tree planted by the streams of water.
I will yield strong abundant fruit in each of my seasons.
In whatever I do I will blossom with rich, lush color.

My leaves will not wither and grow dull from lack of attention. I will not shrink from my Gardener or cause Him disappointment and regret. He knows my needs and tenderly cares for me all my days.

He is the Vine and I am the branch.
I am not only connected to Him, but part of Him.

The wicked are not so. They may appear to flourish, but they are rotting from the inside out. They will wither like lifeless plants the wind blows away. They who blight the glory of the garden will perish.

The Great Gardener will complete His garden and cause me to bud, blossom and bear fruit. He created me. He sees me. He will complete His garden around me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dance of Joy

I have chosen joy to be my life guiding word. Because it is my name, I have pondered joy since childhood. Not only do I desire to cultivate joy in my life, but I long to share it with others.

Joy bubbles forth from the very heartspring of the Giver of Life. God is the author of joy, the fullness of complete joy. Celebrating His joy motivated Him to share His joy. The Great Joy-Giver came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. The abundant life is a joyful life.

Joy comes from denying ourselves and bearing up under burdens. It arrives in the midst of pain, sorrow and difficulties, surprising us with its intensity. Unlike happiness which is temporary and dependent on circumstances, joy bubbles forth from the inside out, eternally flowing from the source of joy, God.

When I am weary, God calls me to Him for Sabbath rest. His peace, which passes understanding, floods my heart. As peace soothes away weariness, His joy fills me up and overflows. This wellspring of joy is available to me no matter what may be the circumstances in my life.

His joy splashes over me, drenching me, causing me to dance with pure delight as I keep in step with the Spirit, walking by faith and not sight. I must become less. He must became greater.

Corrie ten Boom explained worry as "a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear". Wouldn't joy be a cycle of efficient thoughts dancing around the center of life?

"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." ~I Peter 1:8, 9

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Faithful Hand

Oh, the comfort,the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words,
But pouring them all right out,
Just as they are,
Chaff and grain together,certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
Keep what is worth keeping
And with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

~Dinah Maria (Mulock) Craik (1826-1887)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Walk by Faith

I like Mondays. I like mornings. Being up early to catch the world awakening charms me. It's like the moment when you crest a hill and view all the beauty waiting to be discovered. New creative thoughts delight me. Deeper insights fascinate me.

"Come," Father beckons me. "Walk by faith and not by sight." Hope floats in during my prayers as grace washes me clean. Joy comes, refreshing me, spurring me onward. I am learning to welcome the passing of time. Morning by morning new mercies I see. It is both reassuring and motivating, this mystery of aging.

Anticipation. Whether we approach life with joy or sorrow, eagerly or filled with dread, much depends on how we have discerned our time and priorities. Worry, fear and regret eat away my heart and health as well as my hours. I find myself resigned to loss, failure and disappointment. I become selfish, crabby and discouraged. That hasn't worked well for me.

On this, the first Monday morning of the new year, my life is a clean slate. I am choosing an inspiring guide word for myself each year of this decade. My word for 2011 is walk.

I'm moving forward and climbing higher this year. Will you journey with me by faith and not sight? Come. Walk alongside.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One Road for Katie

Determined to make changes in her life, Katie prints a list of new year resolutions on her favorite stationary. With a committment born of determination, she signs her name at the bottom. When the scrapbook page has been designed, it is posted on the bathroom wall where it can be a daily inspiration for change.

On a dreary February day, Katie studies her list and sighs. Discouragement has replaced hope. She still admires the creative page, so beautifully color co-ordinated with the bathroom decor. She still wants to accomplish her goals. She is still praying that God will help her become a better person. The reality of Katie's life, however, reveals not enough time and energy to recreate herself in one year.

When Katie phoned me to discuss her frustration, her question for me was simply stated. "These changes need to be made in my life. I'm running out of time. How am I supposed to change when it's too hard? I can't do this and I hate failure! Tell me what to do!"

"You can't do it, my darling," I agreed gently. "You are going to fail. Not because you don't want to change bad enough. Not because you aren't strong enough. Not because you aren't praying enough for God's help. You're going to fail because it's too hard to change so many things at once. You're spinning in all directions yet going nowhere. Change one thing. Put it on project status and you'll make it happen this year."

As we leave 2010, land of missed opportunities, we begin our journey into 2011, land of possibilities. Choose one resolution for change, one new road to walk. Like Katie, you may discover hope flowering all along the way.