Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Grandma and the President

My friend recently returned home from a foreign country. While at her local market she was reminded that American workers have a cheerful welcome, a kind greeting and helpful smiles. It's not like that where she lived across the ocean.

Yesterday during an hour of errands, I was asked for help from people who spoke with accents from four different countries. They were hard to understand because they were new in America.

They asked me for help and it was an honor. They trusted that I would be helpful, patient and aware so they were comfortable approaching me. It's what we do in America. We help one another, even strangers.

I like living in a country where people say, "Happy ThanksGiving!" and "Happy Turkey Day!"

I like it that people can go to work and earn an income or go shopping with family on the holiday. I like it when people stay home to watch football and eat pizza together instead of shopping.

And I like it that families can choose to neither shop or watch football, instead boycotting those choices they disapprove.

I like living in a country where people say "God bless you, ma'am" and "Merry Christmas!". A place where people can say "Happy Holidays" and celebrate the season even if they don't believe the Messiah has come.

I like living in a country where I can eat watermelon in July, caramel apples in Autumn and candy canes in December.

I like living in a country where people stop at a stop sign in the middle of the night even when nobody else is watching,.

I like living in a country where people pay their taxes because they would never cheat millions of fellow citizens. I like living in a country where I can respect and trust my government, my judicial system and decide for myself if I want to vote. I can hang my flag whenever or wherever I choose.

As a child, I once repeated something unkind I had heard about the president.

My gentle Christian grandma, who did not upset easily, said with snapping angry eyes and tense voice, "He is your president and he has been elected by the people of America. Whether you agree with him or not, you do not speak disrespectfully of the President of the United States. You are an American. You will respect the office of the president even if you don't respect something a president does."

She felt so strongly because she was honored to be a citizen of the United States of America. She liked living here. So do I.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Johnathan Goes Home

My home is familiar to Johnathan. He runs through the house from favorite spot to favorite spot almost every day. He is contented and secure here.

Favorite rocks, toys and gourds were scattered around the toddler as he played in front of the cozy fire. I was reading a book when he left his play, crawled into my lap and snuggled sleepily with his Pooh Bear.

Having already had his milk, evening snack and changed into pajamas, I said, "Time to go home. It's night-night for my happy boy."

Johnathan nodded and repeated, "Hap Boy. Nigh-Nigh."

As soon as I set him down on the threshold of his house next door, Johnathan ran toward the kitchen. "Mommy! Mommy!"

There was no welcoming smile on the dearest face he could see, no reassuring hug. Mommy was with the rest of the family attending a volley ball game. He ran back to me and, though a little bit disoriented and disappointed, there were no tears.

I cuddled him close, prayed over him and sang to him, our usual routine before I put him in the crib. He nestled happily under his quilt and was singing softly as I left his room.

I'm familiar and loved, but I am not Mommy, the center of his universe. My house is familiar and Johnathan loves it here, but it's not home.

I listened to Johnathan singing in his crib for several minutes. Even though he still mostly speaks baby talk and I couldn't understand the words, there was a sweetness in his singing, a peaceful security.

Almost daily I sit in front of a cozy fire and snuggle under a quilt with a cup of coffee in my familiar chair. I read my Bible, write in my journal, sing worship songs and pray.

It is my favorite spot in all the world, not because it's home, but because I'm with Jesus, the center of my universe.

This world is familiar, but it's not home. It is His welcoming smile I seek, the dearest face I could ever see.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Story Worth Reading

My home is familiar to Johnathan. He runs through the house from favorite spot to favorite spot almost every day. He is contented and secure here.

Favorite rocks, toys and gourds were scattered around the toddler as he played in front of the cozy fire. I was reading a book when he left his play, crawled into my lap and snuggled sleepily with his Pooh Bear.

Having already had his milk, evening snack and changed into pajamas, I said, "Time to go home. It's night-night for my happy boy."

Johnathan nodded and repeated, "Hap Boy. Nigh-Nigh."

As soon as I set him down on the threshold of his house next door, Johnathan ran toward the kitchen. "Mommy! Mommy!"

There was no welcoming smile on the dearest face he could see, no reassuring hug. Mommy was with the rest of the family attending a volley ball game. He ran back to me and, though a little bit disoriented and disappointed, there were no tears.

I cuddled him close, prayed over him and sang to him, our usual routine before I put him in the crib. He nestled happily under his quilt and was singing softly as I left his room.

I'm familiar and loved, but I am not Mommy, the center of his universe. My house is familiar and Johnathan loves it here, but it's not home.

I listened to Johnathan singing in his crib for several minutes. Even though he still mostly speaks baby talk and I couldn't understand the words, there was a sweetness in his singing, a peaceful security.

Almost daily I sit in front of a cozy fire and snuggle under a quilt with a cup of coffee in my familiar chair. I read my Bible, write in my journal, sing worship songs and pray.

It is my favorite spot in all the world, not because it's home, but because I'm with Jesus, the center of my universe.

This world is familiar, but it's not home. It is His welcoming smile I seek, the dearest face I could ever see.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Soldier-Princess Gratitude

For every lost dream that crushed my heart because You dreamed bigger for me, thank You.

For every broken road that brought confusion, anger, doubt and fear, thank You.

For every night I lay prostrate before the throne pleading and You silently waited, thank You.

For swinging a wrecking ball into my heart for noble purpose, thank You.

For allowing what You hate to accomplish what You love in my life, thank You.

For watching me choose a pit over shady green pastures and never leaving my side, thank You.

For hearing my mocking voice among the scoffers and enduring the cross anyway, thank You.

"This is who asks us to trust him when he calls on us to suffer." -Joni Eareckson Tada, When God Weeps"

Consider it all joy.  Consider it all grace. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Maisy and the Ragamuffin

Luna, Maisy's doll, has bright blue eyes in a clean, polished face. She is sturdy and easy to hold, ready to travel through life with Maisy.

"Can I play with Rockitty Ann?" asks two year old Maisy.

Raggedy Ann has been with me since childhood. The decades have crippled her, left her with stains and scars. She is neither pretty to look at nor easy to hold. Printed over her heart are the words "I Love You" and to a little girl, this gives her great value.

Maisy is cautious and gentle when she plays with Raggedy Ann. A special name is given and Maisy sings over her with love and kisses the limp doll's boo-boos.

We are created by a loving, versatile God. He gives each of us a knapsack of gifts, prints "I Love You" on our hearts and sends us on our life journey.

Nobody but me can see the rough moments my ragamuffin doll has survived. I am the one who first saw her heart. I am the one who walked alongside her through the years. She was a gift in my knapsack and that gives her value.

Who are the ragamuffins in your life?

Raggedy Ann children with annoying habits. Raggedy Ann teenagers with rebellious attitudes. Raggedy Ann workers with boasts and complaints. Raggedy Ann elderly with urine smells and boring words.

You are poor if you do not spend time with ragamuffins. Find one and give her a special name. Sing over her with love and kiss away her boo-boos.

You may be the first one to read "I Love You" on her heart. God put it there for you to discover.

Seek and you will find.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Enough Time

Tears of frustration pooled in Mattie's eyes. Lifting her small hands off the piano keys to cover her face, she said in a muffled voice, "I can't do it, Teacher. It's too hard."

"But you love this song and you want to learn it," I reminded her. "You will definitely be able to play this song when you are 80 years old."

She moved her hands to smile at me. "I'm only eight."

"Then we have enough time to learn it little bit by little bit, don't we?"

God says, "Be holy as I am holy" and "Forgive one another as I have forgiven you" and "Love one another as I have loved you". If we don't hear the mercy of a Savior and the patience of a Father in His voice, we can be frustrated to tears.

"I can't do it, God. It's too hard."

Nothing happens as fast as we think it will so we need not be disheartened. To God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. The Author of our faith sees all the way to the end result.

Mattie first learns to love the song. The rules of technique and skill are learned little bit by little bit through practice, but her motivation is loving the song.

Our motivation for spiritual growth comes with peace, hope and delight when we read the Bible to know and love the heart of God. We can trust Him because He has a plan and a vision for teaching us.

Reading the Bible as a set of rules to follow will bring heartbreak and discouragement. The skills and techniques of a mature Christian are learned through practice, little bit by little bit.

My days are numbered by Him. My times are in His hands. The Author and Finisher of my faith is not pressured for time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ethan's Treasure

The door opened and closed so quietly that I wasn't even certain someone had entered the house.

Eight year old Ethan sat on the couch mesmerized by something in his hand. I paused, surprised, not because he was on my couch, but because he usually comes to me in a run, with a bang and a shout.

Life is an ongoing party for Ethan and it's one of my favorite things about him, but this time he was very still. When he looked up, his eyes were full of joy and wonder.

"Oh, Nana," he tells me, opening his hand to reveal a shiny black arrowhead. "Look what Carolanne gave me!"

I am amazed by the magnitude of Carolanne's generosity, wondering if it really should be seen as a gift. Ethan immediately senses my question.

"Really. She gave it to me. She said I will keep it," he whispers. "I need to draw it."

Working methodically through the disappointment and pain of my life with rheumatoid arthritis, a new appreciation is unfolding. I find myself awestruck with wonder at this gift, this treasure, this opportunity held in my hands. God is listening to me just as I listened to Ethan.

"Oh, Father. Look what You have given me. You said I will keep it. I need to capture my gift on paper, study it from different angles, appreciate it with gratitude.

"You can have the drawing, Nana," Ethan said, hanging it on the refrigerator. "I don't need it. I have my treasure."

He tucked the arrowhead in his pocket and hugged me even tighter and faster than usual. "Bye, Nana! Thanks!" he yelled, leaving the door to bang loudly behind him.

And I have a treasure, too. I have been given an opportunity to live fully awake to God's presence in every moment, every circumstance, to discover grace even in disappointment, even in pain.

It makes my life an ongoing party. I have a treasure that makes me want to create something colorful to give away...and maybe hang on the world's refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In the Whole World

Delicate toddler arms reach wide. Maisy's hands open and close as if to grasp the whole wonderful world in her arms.

"I love you in the WHOLE WORLD!" She laughs as she runs and jumps into my hug, giving me a tight squeeze.

Maisy lives life wide awake to the joy of being in the world.

With little girl innocence, she expects goodness and generosity, beauty and happiness. Having the freedom to simply be who she is in the moment gives her a delight in life that is fresh, enchanting and original.

She is neither too busy nor too insecure to seize new opportunities to learn and express herself. There is always enough time to offer a hug, a helping hand, a pat of encouragement.

She needs no permission to be herself. She needs no self-promoting. Nobody has to convince her she is wonderfully made. She simply shows up for life hopeful, grateful and joyful.

Why do we think we need permission or approval to simply be ourselves, alive in His grace?

I'm an original and I get one chance at life in the whole world. No one can show up to live it but me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Let's Sing Loud!

Elyce Feliz Photo
"Let's sing loud," Katherynn, age four, whispers passionately.  "Let's sing really REALLY LOUD!"

She is learning to weed in my flower bed. Since not even the flowers are asleep, we sing so loudly that we are soon laughing and working harder.

We are still sweaty, blistered, hot and tired, but we are refreshed. Singing loudly has brought the joy necessary for motivation and strength to finish our work.

What does your life song sing? Is it a joyous melody? An encouraging song? What are you singing into a world of turmoil, grief and disappointment?

During the last three days I have heard life songs that say: "I'm so bored." "My life is falling apart."  "I hate Mondays." "The President is a Joke." "Look how gorgeous I am!"

We need to wake up! If you sing louder you will hear what your life song is saying. It helps to drown out the voices that distract, the words that discourage and the songs that speak weariness.

 "Anyone can sing when the sun is shining bright," the old hymn promises, "But you can have a song in your heart at night." 

How lovely on the mountains are the songs of those who sing good news, who announce peace and proclaim joy! Awake, my soul, and sing! For Christ has died for me!

Let's sing loud. Let's sing really REALLY LOUD!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Look! A Hero!

"You're one of my heroes," I say, knowing Marjorie will burst into loud, infectious laughter.

She's a plain woman, stooped from nearly a century of hard work and disappointment. Though sometimes she appears at my doorstep looking a bit odd,  gray hair straggling about,  sans glasses and teeth she often misplaces, she is always a welcome sight.

"Good morning, my dear one. How are you today?" she always greets me, collapsing  into a chair, ready for her piano lesson.  She hands me her books and begins to play an old hymn. Arthritis and age have twisted and gnarled her hands, but the music comes from her heart.  Her fingers become a part of the instrument as sweet music fills my home..

"I love those old hymns. Never forget them." she laughs, after a hymn or two played by ear. "Alright, Girl! Now, teach me how to play this piano right. I've spent hours in practice. You're going to be so very proud of me."  

She studies diligently, learning  the names of the notes she has been playing by ear for well over half a century. It's her way to rest from work. For a couple of hours each afternoon she plays her assignments over and over again.

Most of her days are spent raising a grandson and caring for an elderly neighbor who is twenty years younger than Marjorie. She studies the Word of God long past midnight, preparing sermons for her church on Sunday.  Besides cleaning her house, mowing her yard and working with people who live in poverty and weariness, she visits a prison every week.

"I don't have a real big ministry," she explains. "I just go around seeking out the lost and seems like I always find some. I just encourage folks. That's all."

It is common to believe we must have an opinion on every issue and tragedy in our news focused world. People complain about the world around us, about the weather, the cost of food and gas, or how often we all complain rather than give thanks. 

When we stop wasting time wondering where the heroes have all gone, we find them. And, more importantly, we are inspired and motivated by them. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Visit with Miss Kitty

A Time to Rest
As a child, I never could understand how our neighbor, retired from teaching in a one room school house, knew I was coming to visit. Miss Kitty watched for me out of longing, out of love, out of a watchful heart. At the time I only knew I would be welcomed with her toothless grin, a giant molasses cookie and a glass of milk made cold by her ice box.

"Come, child, sit a spell," Miss Kitty would greet me, wiping arthritic hands on her faded gingham apron. "My work is all but plumb done up."  She would sit down to rock in her life-scarred rocking chair while I munched cookies and rested.We talked about everything and nothing, just enjoying one another's presence.

The book of Hebrews tells us that when Jesus finished bringing salvation to the world, He sat down at the right hand of God to wait for his enemies to be His footstool. His work was plumb done up on earth and He could sit in the Father's presence now that it was finished.

Do you find yourself living for the weekends when your work is done and you're finally able to relax? Do you sometimes feel like a hamster in a cage as a young mom because when weekend arrives, there is still more work than you could possibly get done? 

Sabbath rest is a gift from God even though our work is not done. Sabbath rest is a gift the Father gives to His child because the work of Jesus is done. Jesus is alive, sitting on His throne, victorious.  He brought salvation to a dying world and now it is finished.

All week long we are generous with our time, going the extra miles of doing good to others, working heartily as unto the Lord, taking heed to fulfill our callings.  Christians are points of light in a dark place, salt that flavors the world around us, soft places for the brokenhearted to find healing.  

We are able to endure, to run our race strong, because of the rest of God. The essence of a Sabbath heart is paying attention, living wide awake to the presence of God in every moment. Jesus sits on His throne, longing for you, watching for you to arrive for a visit. Come, child, sit a spell. My work is plumb done up. 

The wealthy, the famous, the elite, the educated, the proud often miss this quiet enjoyment of the presence of God.  Their eyes grow weary from paying attention to their work and personal victories. Seekers of grace, shepherds, children, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned...the least of us...more easily accept the call to the rest of God. 

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.  I will give you rest," Jesus offers His people. We are invited to sit a spell, to rest in His presence. It is up to us to pay attention. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Song for Test Day

"I'm kind of worried," Katherynn confessed before her math test. "What if I don't know what to do?"

"Then you can ask me and I will help you," I explained. "I love you, Katherynn. I know you can do this or I wouldn't ask you to do it. You've worked hard in kindergarten. A test tells us what you know and what you still need to learn and practice".

Life is full of tests on our character. That prick in your heart is the guiding of the Holy Spirit as He trains you to make right choices. If we learn our lessons, we do well when we are tested. 

A cashier gives us a ten dollar bill rather than a one dollar bill. Will we admit the error?  We decide against buying the item in our grocery cart. Do we lay it on the nearest shelf or return it to the correct shelf?  Do we hit the snooze button or get up?  Our day falls apart, do we pray or yell? God says no to a request.  Do we doubt His goodness or submit to His plan for us?

One of the most frequent counseling concerns I address is the doubt of God's presence in times of hardship. Why don't I feel God's presence when I'm struggling with my sin?  Where is God when I hurt?

Heather was learning volumes in a new Bible study. "I can hardly wait for each new day because I am learning so much about God. Life has never been so exciting!" Her bubbling joy lasted for several months.

"I don't understand," Heather told me one morning. "I don't feel like God is there any more. Is He mad at me for something? I keep praying but He doesn't seem to be helping me. Are my prayers getting through?"

A test matters because it shows how much you know and what you still need to learn and practice. God is faithful.  He always hears the voice of His child. He is there, but a teacher is often silent during testing.

During the math test, Katherynn began to sing softly as she worked:  "I am special and I can do this.  Karen loves me and I can do this. This is hard but then we can have a tea party. Karen loves me and I can do this."

 A ribbon that states "Hard Worker Award" hangs in a place of honor to show that Kathernn is ready for first grade math, for lessons that will continue to challenge her to grow.

The student has taught the teacher. I plan to sing more and worry less.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dangerous Women

"Aren't you afraid to be in the prison with all those dangerous women?" my neighbor asked.  "Do you have to be around any serial killers?"

The truth is that I am safer behind prison walls than I am on the highway or walking around downtown. My movements are on security video. I carry a body alarm. My husband carries a two-way radio. Armed prison guards would immediately be available if a situation was dangerous.

It's also true that the prisoners we meet in the chapel have murder, child abuse, prostitution, rape and drug crimes in their pasts.  But they look like any other group of women, except for the way they're dressed. With hands clapping and feet dancing as they sing, they sound like any other group of women praising God. Leaning in to hear my teaching, they take notes and ask questions, diligent in their study of God's Word.

They are not dangerous women because of their crimes. They are dangerous women because they are Jesus Followers, because they are becoming women after God's own heart.  They dare to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a fallen world.

Sierra, a Jesus Follower in prison, grips my hand as she tells me her story. She will die inside the prison walls. Society has rightly sentenced her to multiple life sentences. She smiles through tears of compassion for her fellow prisoners, women who live in darkness, slaves to their sins and wrong choices.

"There is so much power in God's love! I'm much more dangerous with a Bible than I ever was with a gun. Satan should be afraid. Very, Very afraid."

And Satan is indeed afraid. He knows his time is almost up. He holds no power over the truly dangerous woman, the princess-soldier who lives courage, gives wise counsel and goes about doing good. His name is defeat and the battle belongs to the Lord.

The most dangerous women in the world write Bible verses on the hearts of children. They act out Bible stories, making it fun to be in Sunday School. Pots of vegetable soup and loaves of fresh baked bread sit on their counters ready to be taken to the sick and weary. They have time to listen, to bind up the brokenhearted, to stretch loving arms to the needy and to change the course of history with their prayers.

They wage war on selfishness, divorce, abortion and cruelty. Dangerous women send notes to young wives encouraging them to love their husbands and children.  They babysit for young moms when rest becomes long overdue. They care for the widows, the orphans, the homeless. Dangerous women counsel alongside the Holy Spirit. They love people deeply from their hearts, changing the world one step at a time.

Just how dangerous are you?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Grace Splashed My Skirt

Hurrying to accomplish much this morning, I grabbed the wrong spray bottle to treat a spot on my favorite skirt. 

Moments earlier, a soft voice had whispered through my fatigue: Storing Clorox Bleach Kitchen Spray next to the Spray and Wash Stain Removal for clothes is foolish. I thanked God for the reminder and planned to finish the laundry then rearrange my shelves more wisely.

As I realized my error, I burst into frustrated tears and instant begging that God would make this awful disappointment go away. How could I have failed to listen to His warning and immediately obey?  How could I be so careless with something so precious to me? Why did I never learn my lessons to slow down?

As my skirt hangs on the drying rack God has once again somehow cleared away my disappointment.Oh, the skirt may be ruined. I won't know until it dries. 

But God cleared away my disappointment by reminding me to slow down and live my life awake to His presence even in the frazzles of daily life.  Maybe He has removed the problem and my skirt is not ruined. Maybe He will provide a different skirt that is in my new smaller size, a skirt that fits me and is as versatile, cute and comfortable.

Either outcome, the good news is that my Father loves me with personal everlasting love.  My times are in His hands, every ordinary day of my extraordinary life.  Grace like rain splashes all around me.  All I have to do is open my eyes and see.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Johnathan and the Walker's High

"Stop worrying about how much you're accomplishing," my friend Karen told me thirty years ago.  "You'll get done what you get done."

Good advice from one new mother to another. Three decades later, I still pray daily: "Lord, keep me awake to my moments. Teach me to number my days right that I may become wise. Teach me to see with Your eyes."

It's called a "runner's high", but like many runners, I find the "walker's high" to be much less illusive.  The end of a run often leaves me feeling depleted, exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. It takes whole body sacrifice to finish with a personal best excellence. Walking the same distance leaves me refreshed, weary but strong. I am renewed, bubbling with creativity, goals and new insights...a "walker's high".

Johnathan tugs on my finger pulling me from my water bottle back toward the street. I have finished my housework and clocked a six mile run this morning, but he is only beginning his day..I am wearing a slow tired smile.  He is bursting with the pure joy of being awake. Four small steps and he drops my finger to study a zinnia. He notices the neighbor, pats a tree encouraging it to grow, talks to the sun, stops to hug me. He sees the pond, pulls me onward, intrigued by each new sight on the way. One wonder at a time, he shows me life through his eyes.

Suddenly he stops splashing his hand in a water puddle.  Big blue eyes widen and he shrieks with laughter.  The sky music he has enjoyed all his life is coming from these delightful creatures called birds! For several minutes he stands with hands swinging in pure joy at such wonder-filled accomplishment. God has made a bird that sings!

Noise and fray dwell where we run our life journey. Distractions await us around every corner. Exhaustion overwhelms us mentally, physically and emotionally when we take our eyes off the goal. Disappointment slides into discouragement. We consider easier trails and can be tempted to give up. We fail to notice a neighbor, to talk to the Son or encourage a young sapling tree trying to grow in difficult soil.

Walking with Jesus is training me to live awake in each moment, to see the world through His eyes, one wonder at a time. There is a difference between what I want to accomplish and what God wants to accomplish in me and through me.

As I am writing this post, Johnathan stops running to and fro testing his limits and exploring the world around him. He crawls onto my lap, snuggles into a comfortable spot to sit awhile, watching closely to see what I am doing.

He leans back against my heart and with a pudgy little hand quietly pats my arm. I change the structure of a sentence by deleting with one touch of a button. Part of this post is erased, gone in a flash of bright blue.

Laughing with amazement at what I have accomplished, he points to my creation and says, "OH! Oh, WOW!"

As I kiss his precious weary head and cuddle him close, I know exactly what I want to accomplish in my life journey..

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Litany for Children

In an old hymnal that I discovered among my Great Aunt Sis's treasures, I found a lovely gem calling me to love the children and bless them, and in so doing, to become like them.

Jesus, from thy throne on high,
Far above the bright blue sky,
Look on us with loving eye:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Little children need not fear,
When they know that thou art near:
Thou dost love us, Saviour dear:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Little hearts may love thee well,
Little lips thy love may tell,
Little hymns thy praises swell:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Little lives may be divine,
Little deeds of love may shine,
Little ones be wholly thine:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Jesus, once an infant small,
Cradled in the oxen's stall,
Though the God and Lord of all:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Jesus, thou dost love us still,
And it is thy holy will
That we should be safe from ill
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Be thou with us every day,
In our work and in our play,
When we learn and when we pray:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Make us brave without a fear,
Make us happy, full of cheer,
Sure that thou art always near:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

May we prize our Christian name,
May we guard it free from blame,
Fearing all that causes shame:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

May we grow from day to day,
Glad to learn each holy way,
Ever ready to obey,
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Jesus, Son of God most high,
Who didst in a manger lie,
Who upon the cross didst die:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Jesus, from thy heavenly throne,
Watching o'er each little one,
Til our life on earth is done:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.

Jesus, whom we hope to see
Calling us in heaven to be
Happy evermore with thee:
Hear us, Holy Jesus.  Amen.

~Thomas Pollock, 1871

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Piano Man

Cortney Chintermeyer
A large crowd gathered in the noise and fray around the auctioneer.

The man in the red hat wanted to buy the piano.

The man in the green hat wanted to buy the piano, too. He called out a bid to counter the first offer.

A woman in the crowd asked who was bidding against the man in the red hat. Someone answered, "Frank Sutton."

I looked up at my Grandpa. His jaw was tight.  His eyes were focused. He held my hand, squeezing it too tightly.

Time seemed to stand still as my mind recorded snapshot moments. The sun in the blue sky. The man in the red hat. The man in the green hat. The auctioneer with his hands scanning across the sea of faces.

A hush fell over the crowd as the crescendo of anticipation intensified, but in my head there was a roar as loud as a freight train.

 " the man in the green hat.

Someone yelled,  "Did that little girl get her piano?"

Grandpa laughed and waved his green hat in the air as he pulled me into a hug.  My life had been forever interrupted,  changed by one extraordinary moment tucked into the corner of an ordinary day.

Usually we are too preoccupied with the mundane around us to live fully awake. But life is in the interruptions. The moments that catch us off guard wake us up and cause us to focus on the important rather than the urgent.

My piano student stopped suddenly in the middle of a song and stared at blood dripping on the keyboard..  As she touched her wiggly front tooth, her eyes widened with panic.

After I had pulled the tooth and cleaned her mouth, she poked her tongue through the hole and laughed. "I'm bigger now, Teacher! I got bigger right here in the middle of my piano lesson. We didn't know that would happen, did we?"

Monday, June 3, 2013

Arms of Love

Mary Cassatt
Four month old Lydia would not be comforted.  I followed the familiar sound of her increasing wails to the church nursery.  Peggy, who was loving the children in the nursery that morning, smiled at me in relief. "I think she needs one of her own,"  she said.

I snuggled Lydia close to me and began to quiet her with my love. Singing songs over her that she had been hearing since birth soothed her quickly to sleep.

She needs one of her own.

Baby Ellie was struggling with Tarry, a gentleman in our church who was trying to give her a bottle. I gave him a couple of suggestions, but when they didn't work he handed a frustrated Ellie to me. "She knows you. Why don't you try?"  Ellie settled into my arms, reached her hand up to touch my face as she always did when I fed her. She smiled at me, closed her eyes and began to enjoy her bottle peacefully.

She knows you.

Johnathan snuggled against me with his bottle. As the other children came to tell him good night, he pushed them away and began fussing. "He's tired now. He needs to be alone with me so he can go to sleep," I explained to them.

He needs to be alone with me.

When Nathanael was small, he would leave the noise and fray of other children to hold my hand.  It comforted him while he rested. Sometimes he would talk with me.  Sometimes he simply held my hand, reassuring himself he was safe and loved. After a few moments he would return to his play.

Comfort and rest in my presence.

 Maisy runs to me, arms outstretched, eager for the love she knows is always available for her. Looking at my familiar face, hearing my familiar voice, she delights in being with me. We like each other. We like being together. We think of one another and talk about one another even when we are apart.

Love and joy in my presence. 

Three year old Hannah looked up from her playful dancing to see a crowd of unfamiliar faces. Panic and tears came quickly.  She was lost, so afraid and overwhelmed....Then she saw me watching her and I smiled.    I reached out my arms and said softly, "Hannah, come to me".

The Lord is my refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. 

There is a Redeemer who loves you and wants you to be His own.  The Creator who knitted you together in the beginning of your moments knows everything about you.  Your fears can be soothed by His love.  Your frustrations can be tenderly smoothed away while you rest in His presence.

"Come to me," He says softly. "I will give you rest.  I will comfort you; I will quiet you with My love.  I will rejoice over you with singing.  In My presence you will find joy and I will give you rest." 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wake up, Mr. Harris!

Elyce Feliz, photo
"I'm glad you stopped by," the man said, attempting a welcoming smile. "I didn't want to get out of bed this morning."

Shuffling over to the stove, he put the kettle on for some tea. I moved aside old mail and papers to place a vase of fresh lilacs on his table. His skin was pale, dry and translucent. The raggedy sweatshirt emphasized his worn, stooped shoulders. 

We sat on a bench under his mulberry tree and he told me his troubles with sleeping, depression and boredom with life. The fresh air was a treat after the stale odors of the house.

I had suggested on my last visit that he go to church and out to a restaurant during the weekend. 

"I decided to have a quiet weekend," he explained.  "It was a bad decision. I got pretty down and disappointed in myself. It doesn't take a whole weekend to rest up from doing nothing. I'll go out next weekend and find something interesting to do."

"Next weekend?" I objected. "Do something today."

He chuckled reluctantly. "Like what?"

Our neighborhood was waking up around us. We were entertained by children playing at the bus stop. Birdsong filled the air in the tree above us and squirrels were scampering up and down the trees. The sun was beginning to shine and the gray clouds were rolling away.

"Wake up, Mr. Harris," I urged as he followed me back into the kitchen. "God gave you today for a reason. Don't you want to find out what it is?"

I opened his windows to let fresh spring breezes waft in while he put on his walking shoes and combed his hair.

Walking through the neighborhood, he started a grocery list. He had once enjoyed cooking and would make a favorite recipe. "Oh, and I will pick up some of that newfangled almond milk I saw advertised. Craziest thing I ever heard. Must come from nutty cows," he laughed.

His dusty bread machine came off the shelf in his garage. A list of books he might enjoy from the library was jotted down on a note pad. He debated between Oreos and Fig Newtons, then decided he would bake his own cookies."

As I was leaving, he saluted me with his bottle of water and zipped up the front steps to "shower, shave and do a bit of spiffing". 

I know 'tis but a Dream, yet feel more anguish
Than if 'twere Truth. It has often been so:
Must I die under it?  Is no one near?
Will no one hear these stifled groans and wake me?
           ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Dandelion for Johnathan

"Oh, what a bright, cheery flower!" Johnathan thinks as he toddles across the yard. "I think I will pick it up and hold it."

His little legs squat and he reaches for a dandelion. The dandelion resists. Pudgy awkward fingers struggle again to grasp it, to pull harder. Still the dandelion remains firmly planted. He tries again and again with no success.

Our morning journey zigzags through dandelions and honeysuckle, over the hills and valleys of the yard.  He discovers rocks to carry, bugs to follow, sticks to swing and lilacs to smell. 

He follows a dried leaf blowing through the air. When the merry little breezes allow it to fall to the ground, Johnathan picks it up. It is a lesser prize, but at least it's something. 

Small arms lift the dried leaf toward the heavens. He babbles words up into the sky that I don't understand, but surely he is discussing his leaf with The Creator.

He drops the dried leaf and plops down among the golden dandelions. He slowly reaches toward a bright, golden dandelion and plucks it from the ground. 

Johnathan grins and lifts his treasure to the sky so God can see it. Then he stands up and looks at me. He smiles sweetly and gives away his treasure to me. 

There is a God who sees you and He is not silent.

Ask. And it will be given to you. Seek. And you will find. Knock. And the door will be opened for you. 

See also Following Nathanael, about Johnathan's big brother

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sarah's Freedom

Photo by Fernando Silvera
"Guilt is not a feeling. You are guilty or you are not guilty. Either way you can live a grace-filled life."

I scattered the word seeds onto the hard fallow ground of the women prisoners.

The Holy Spirit had these women in the palm of His hand and they were listening with a depth of hope I had seldom witnessed in my years of teaching.

Tears of hope began to soak wearied faces as I began to explain. "If you are guilty then you can be forgiven," I told them softly.  "If you are not guilty then you can stop beating yourself up."

Guilt shackles us whether we dwell in a cottage, an apartment or a prison. For years, even decades, many Christian women suffer under a burden of sin already forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. Their prison doors have been unlocked. Freedom from guilt has been bought by the redeeming blood of Christ's sacrifice.

Sarah is leaving prison this morning. She has been given her freedom because her debt has been paid. It is a freedom that has come after unimaginable sacrifice. She carries with her the scars of guilt for her wrong deeds as well as the scars of wrong deeds done to her.

Sarah could choose to remain shackled in chains even though she has been offered freedom. But, why would she do that?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Happy Kitchen

My preschooler left the house one morning with his backpack, ran around the yard, then knocked on the front door. When I opened it, he grinned and handed me a bouquet of our recently planted tulips. He had decided a bouquet would "cheer me up and make the kitchen happy".

I hadn't realized we needed cheering up that ordinary morning. Breakfast preparations were started and the laundry was sloshing in the washer. Several items were already checked off my to-do list. I thought we were doing fine.

We juggle a dozen sticks of fire, plug a hundred dike holes and find ourselves so easily pulled from project to project, moment to moment. But, a child does not notice productivity. A child noticed that when I wasn't sparkling on an ordinary day, neither was the kitchen.

Through practice one learns to maintain a clean sink, uncluttered floors and sparkling counter tops. Pretty flowers or interesting rocks can grace even the most humble of tables. A diligent, disciplined woman who keeps watch over her home learns good stewardship of her time, energy and resources.

But cleaning up messes is one of the trade-offs for loving your family and celebrating life. Throw in a side order of ministries, career and soccer, and a tidy kitchen can be cluttered repeatedly by nightfall.

A clean kitchen is not the goal. God calls us to continually have a gladsome heart, to be a woman filled with praises, walking in joy regardless of sleepless nights, broken hearts and work stresses.

That table with fresh flowers, fresh strawberries and fresh muffins?  That's just one of the surprises God tucks into the corners of ordinary days to keep a busy mom going.

Train yourself for the purpose of godliness. Pursue a peaceful home. Dance joyfully through chaos. Hug those precious children. Keep planting your tulips.

The heart of your home is not your kitchen, it's you.

See also Making of a Woman

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ethan's Training Wheels

My grandson, Ethan, pedaled his new bike around the sparkling lake. Training wheels slowed him down for the first round, but quickly my walking alongside him transitioned into running.

"You have to be a good runner to keep up with me, Meme!" he yelled.

Even during our break (my break) he kept his eyes moving around the park, scouting out our next adventure.

"Let's climb that mountain!" he suggested, eagerly pointing to the high rocky waterfall.

Strong muscles and loud laughter took us up his first mountain climb. It was a rocky slope fit for a six year old and his grandma. Joy bubbled over with every lung full of fresh air. It was an excellent workout and a highlight in our wonderful day at the park.

The next day I thought about going for another run. I thought about calling Mark, my running buddy who paces me so that I do my best. I thought about it most of the day. I intended to run, but never ran. My new habits sometimes are as wobbly as Ethan's new wheels.

"I went back to my old habits," Lindy confessed to me yesterday. "I don't know if I got lazy or what happened, but my new year resolution has fallen apart. I was doing so great. Now I'm just disappointed in myself."

Momentum builds as we work toward our goal day by day. Skipping a day or two knocks us out of our new routine and slowly we slide back into the old habits. It isn't possible to sustain excellence daily. It is possible to sustain the training if we don't give up.

It doesn't matter how many times around the lake you have to use training wheels before you find your balance. It doesn't matter how big the mountain or how far you are from the top. It matters very much that you don't quit.

"Keep pedaling, Ethan!" I called as he soared ahead of me. "You're doing it! You're doing it! Keep going and don't stop!"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Bird's Eye View

A garbage truck bangs through the neighborhood and some papers escape the bin, blowing into the yard. Children are yelling, running about as they wait for the school bus. A tired man coming home from work glares at them as he slows to wait for a bouncing ball. The roar of a lawn mower interrupts my conversation with a neighbor.

"Sometimes people can be so annoying!" my neighbor comments in frustration. "I feel like exploding and it's not even 8 o'clock in the morning!"

And, it's true, isn't it? We annoy one another with our smirks, our shrugs and our sighs. Our decisions, politics and opinions quite quickly escalate. Instead of being people who merely annoy others, when unchecked, we quickly become harsh, rude and unkind.

A choir of birds is singing sweetly from my redbud tree this morning. The noise and fray of government and community do not bother them. Unfortunate interruptions such as an early morning lawn mower are unnoticed. Birds awaken for the purpose of praising their Creator and drawing attention to Him.

People, however, awaken with the awareness of our burdens and disappointments. Even during the night, we may battle stress and problems.We may not number our losses or brood over them, but aches and wounds, physical as well as spiritual, fill life with annoying conflict. We can be primed for irritation and frustration before we are even out of the bed.

A red breasted robin has hopped over to rest on a branch beside me. He has been working for hours this morning. His wife was injured and their home, ready and waiting for their little ones, was mangled in a recent hail storm. Yet, he is calmly watching me write, resting from his work...singing to cheer me along my way.

I smile at my little friend as he finishes his song and bobs his head at me. My eyes are directed to the heavens as he flies away into the morning sunshine leaving me with a gladsome heart.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thunder on Ellie's Mountain

Mary Englebreit
Ellie lay on the floor with my large box of crayons spilling around her, brown crayon poised at her cheek.  With her head tilted to one side, she studied her drawing in my nature journal. When the frown lines in her forehead deepened with concentration, I set my coloring aside.

Even though my frown lines also deepened with concentration as I focused with her on the picture, I could not see a problem.

She looked up at me and smiled. Her little freckled nose wrinkled up and she sighed.

"It's a chocolate chip mountain," she explained.

"Oh!" I said, nodding my head. "Like a Hershey Kiss Mountain!"

"Yes!" she exclaimed, clearly pleased that I could understand the mind of an artist. "And it's storming. I'm drawing thunder."

"Hmm. Do you know what thunder is?" I asked.

"No," she admitted. "Arthur is afraid of thunder," she whispered, even though her giant lap dog was not within hearing distance and could not be offended.

I smiled. Ellie is always eager for a new scientific fact. "Thunder is the loud crashing sound we hear when it's storming. It's a loud noise, El."

"Oh," she said, brow creasing again thoughtfully. "Well, then I am drawing limenting."


"Yes," she nodded, picking up her dropped crayon. "Limenting lighting up the sky."

Her intense focus was redirected to her work. I sat memorizing the moment.

A little child shall lead us.

We long to live our lives on a chocolate chip mountain where everything is happy and sweet. Scary uncertainties leave us disoriented. We don't know what to do so we do nothing.

Ellie is not one to do nothing. She chose the path of wisdom.

We do what we can do and we leave what we cannot understand to the God with thunder in His footsteps and limenting in His fists. We pick up our crayon and we go right on working.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cheer Up Words

Mary Englebreit
I remember my mother teaching me to write my name.  Sitting with her at the kitchen table,  I carefully wrote my name with a magenta crayon. The tip of my new crayon rounded, disappearing like magic, as I practiced.

The first letter I ever sent through the mail was written on blue stationary. My father was a rural mail carrier who encouraged my letter writing. I left outgoing mail on the kitchen table and letters disappeared like magic when he left for work the next morning. 

Emails now travel back and forth to other countries almost daily. I hear not only from friends, but from readers I have never met. They live in places I have never visited. I love hearing from people, sharing in their lives, becoming a part of their stories as we exchange emails. Ding! Just like magic, you've got mail. 

One of my favorite letters is written on a large sheet of white paper. It says, very simply, "ISAIAH". It's written in crooked, shaky letters by a little boy who wanted to say much more, but wrote what he could manage. I smile big as I remember him running into my hug, handing his first letter to me. Such love and sparkle in his eyes! He had written volumes and discovered the magic of the written word.

"Your hands look funny," Katherynn told me. "I miss your jewels." I hugged her close, explaining that arthritis swelling was not permanent. I would soon be able to color and write again. I would soon wear my rings again. 

"I would not like it if I could not color a letter," Katherynn sighed, filled with compassion for my temporary loss. "Life would be empty without coloring a letter." 

The next day I received a colorful handmade card. She read it to me since spelling and penmanship are still a bit in progress. She pointed to her initials. "K.H. See? I signed it. My cheer up words always make people feel good."

Who needs your cheer up words today? Grab a card, sign your initials and send it on its way.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Little is Much

Love never fails.
"I couldn't believe he was just sitting there," the woman remarked to her husband as I was leaving the store. "He ought to be arrested."

Outside the store, the world was filled with loud booming music. The closer I got to my car, the louder it became. A large man sat on the trunk of the car next to mine in the parking lot. Worn and bedraggled, he sat slumped over a radio, scowling. His shoes banged against the old beat up car in time to the music. 

"Good morning," I greeted, putting my groceries in the trunk of my car. "Do you need help?"

"What?" he asked, sliding onto the pavement beside me. 

"I asked if you need help," I repeated. 

"Oh," he chuckled. "I thought you said you needed help. I'm glad to help."  

I handed him my laundry detergent to lift into my trunk, then handed him a bag. "Thanks," I said, grinning, "Always glad for help. I thought you might be locked out of your car or need a ride or something."

"I'm locked out, but my friend's coming. Thanks, though.  It was real nice of you."

"I'm a Christian. Glad to help if I can."

He nodded. "Me, too. Got saved in prison. I just got out."

I smiled. "That's great! Prison is rough. I go to a women's prison on Monday nights with my husband to have chapel service with the ladies. I'm glad you're out. Are you doing okay?"

He was gracious and turned off the music so I could hear him better. We introduced ourselves and I enjoyed visiting and munching granola bars with him while we waited for his friend. 

As I was leaving the parking lot, a rather new looking truck backed into my car as I turned into the lane. A well dressed elderly gentleman climbed out. He began yelling angrily, bitterly, at me. I'm not sure what all he said because I quickly stopped listening, exchanged information and assured him my husband would be glad to talk to him if he had anything else to say to me.

One man had scared me, belittled me, hurt me. The other man had helped me, encouraged me, taught me. So often our eyes search out the rich man with all his possessions, knowledge and honors. Our eyes look past those who appear to have nothing to offer. 

God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He has promised to those who love Him.

Little is much when God is in it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chili 101

1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped peppers, green, red, yellow, orange or combination (jalapenos work, too!)
1/4 cup chopped celery, optional
1/2 - 1 pound of hamburger, cook separately so it can be drained.

1-2 cans beans, kidney, black, red ~ any combination
1 can of beef or vegetable stock or 1 can of V-8 juice
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce, optional, to taste
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon of cumin, or to taste (the spice that makes chili taste like chili)
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon of chili powder, or to taste (the spice that gives a little kick to chili)

In a large saucepan, saute onions, celery and peppers in olive oil until tender.  Add drained beef. Add the broth, tomatoes, vegetables and seasonings*. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Yields about 4 servings.

Optional Additions: Experiment with adding carrots, potatoes, corn, hominy, mixed vegetables, or try some collard greens or kale. This makes a cross between vegetable soup and chili which will add some variety and fun to learning to cook.

Topping Ideas: Cheese, Chopped green onions, Chives, Cilantro (an excellent detoxifying herb)

*Make your chili thicker to serve in a tortilla, over cornbread or corn waffles, or in a salad of fresh greens. You may decide to eliminate or lessen the broth for a thicker chili. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Awake In Prison

photo by Steve Rotman
Loving women to Jesus inside prison walls is surreal, yet it's there that I am most awake.

My husband and I spend each Monday night in a women's prison. The room looks much the same as any chapel with a stage, instruments, a grand piano, a whiteboard and microphones. The women look much the same as any group of seekers, except they are dressed in khaki and gray.

Murder. Abuse. Rape. Greed. Prostitution. Neglect. Drugs. Behind each face is a story, a story that now includes me.

As years pass inside the prison walls, some of our regulars come week after week. We are their home, their family, their church, their soft place to heal.

In prison some women determine to stay alert, awake to their surroundings. Other women disappear behind a mask, walking in their sleep for years. Ordinary days sometimes find me walking in my sleep, too.

As a writer it is my job to notice things, but there are times when I seem to notice nothing at all. Times when every moment is concerned with daily routines and tasks, the business of survival.

Moments have a way of sliding past quickly whether they are noticed or not. Weariness keeps me from seeing a broken heart. Fear keeps me from loving a shattered soul. I sleepwalk through a world that is alive with opportunities to meet people, to celebrate nature, to experience history as it unfolds.

I step through the security gate of the prison, pick up my body alarm and walk into the air lock. The sound of the heavy metal doors slamming closed awakens me. Even the air seems charged with anticipation and excitement.

As I walk across the prison yard, greeting the guards and prisoners, my heart is wide awake. Every moment is an opportunity to be fully aware of the presence of God walking alongside me.

Every journey is an adventure. Every step is a step of faith. Not because I must carry a body alarm or because guards watch over my every move, but because the God of all creation said if I will go to the prison, He will go with me. He says if I follow where He leads, He will show me the way through the wilderness. If I die to self, I will be alive in Him.

The Bible is true. God is real. Jesus is alive. He is awake. Every day He is walking with me on my journey over uncharted paths. And I would choose to sleep through such an adventure?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Old Rose

My Valentine's Day flowers are perky with life. Fresh stems stand tall, blossoming flowers drink in moisture and gradually bloom. Buds are gently nestled, slowly awakening to purpose. The bright colors and aroma offer a colorful welcome to passers by.
Photo by Sandra

While arranging the flowers in a vase I discovered a small dying rose. It was wilted, broken, starting to decay. After the unexpected, unsettling find, I began to enjoy the old rose.

There is poignancy and power to beauty nearly spent. A remnant of what once was flourishing has a faded grandeur to it. The rose flowers with beauty and purpose, but it must go to seed and die to bloom again.

Life rises from death. Youth passes us by, but we are so often blind to what we are gaining. God offers beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a mantle of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

One of my childhood friends left earth this week to live with Jesus. I have wrestled with the pain and disappointment her loss brings to the world. She shined brightly like the stars of the universe. Her faith walk made a difference in the lives around her.

We see death as an enemy, and so it is, but there is beauty in her victory. She leaves a blessing of grace as her legacy. She flourished in life, planting seeds of gentle reminders and loving people to Jesus. So also in death, she leaves seeds of gentle reminders and continues to love people to Jesus.

There is regal purpose in her victory. Beauty rises from ashes. Pain stirs memories and causes us to seek hope. Loss awakens determined endurance. Grief gives opportunity for growth and wisdom. God's comfort spurs us on to compassion.

Life rises from death. Beauty rises from ashes. Youth passes us by, but we are so often blind to what we are gaining. Open my eyes. Let faith arise.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not Just a Number

"I don't remember what I like and what I don't like," Letisha whispered. "In prison," said the inmate, "I'm a number. Out in the world, I'm not sure I was even that."
Photo by Frej Leilund (

I had noticed a hummingbird tattoo on her arm and I smiled. "You like birds, Letisha, especially hummingbirds," I began. "You like writing things down. You like making your hair look pretty."

"Yeah," she agreed. "How did you know? You just met me!"

"You like being organized, neat and tidy. I noticed you like to sing. You especially like rock rhythms. You like bright colors and feminine clothes."

She laughed. "And jewelry. Oh, and lilacs. I had a teacher who kept some on her desk when I was a kid. Hadn't thought of that in ages!"

I smiled. Her face lit up with hope. Then I used the only few minutes I might ever have with her to say, "You're not just a number here in prison or out there, Letisha. You are created by God for big dreams and amazing adventures. God gave you unique gifts. You matter in the world. God made you unique for a reason."

"Is that in the Bible?" she asked, eyes widening, hugging her new Bible closer to her heart. "That God made me unique. Is that in the Bible?" I nodded yes, and through tears she asked, "Will you pray for me?"

I took her new Bible and placed a marker in it. Blue ink quickly circled Psalm 139. I wrote, "Letisha's Song" in the margin, then jotted several other scriptures in her note book.

I will probably never see Letisha again unless she comes back into the prison. I trust the God who is faithful to watch over His young ones. I trust God's people to draw Letisha into His Church, to walk alongside her as she takes the first wobbly steps in her newborn faith. God will know exactly how she's doing because He will grasp her hand through every step of her journey. No, she's not just a number to Him.

You're not just a number either. You are created by God for big dreams and amazing adventures. You have unique gifts. You matter in the world. God made you unique for a reason.

Friday, February 15, 2013

More Than Enough

Photo by Karen Cox (
"I've been working on my first budget," Lindsey tells me. "It's sort of fun deciding what to do with my paychecks. Maybe I should read Dave Ramsey's book about financial planning. I want to do this right!"

Lindsey wants to be a good steward of the money God provides because she and God have a big dream. God has called her to be an older woman teaching younger women who need a mentor, a servant-leader, a friend. A budget will keep her accountable in the finances God provides as they make their dream a reality.

Melissa and her husband wondered what had happened to their dream of loving people to Jesus in the neighborhood. They were exhausted and depressed because the house seemed too small. She and her husband were slaving over finances, fighting over issues that kept them from buying a bigger home. They began to pray over their finances, their marriage and their choices.

They gave five truck loads of possessions to the needy. Food was used rather than hoarded. For over a year they got rid of clutter and needless stress. Their home became welcoming and peaceful. Time, money and energy became much more readily available.

With a leap of faith, they began homeschooling the children, tutoring them in nursing home visitation as well as math. Friday night became a weekly celebration of hospitality for families from the local public school. Neighbor families were invited into their lives and into their home for a Bible study and prayer group.

"I have to keep getting rid of clutter this year!" Melissa confided recently. "My closet is full of clothes I never wear!" She was carrying a shopping bag from the mall while making this observation, and we had to smile at the sad coincidence.

She paused suddenly in the middle of the parking lot, grabbed my arm and said, "Come on. We're taking this scarf back to the store. If my closet is cleaned out there will be room for making cards.The nursing home residents would love that!"

Do you and God have a dream? Put Him first and there will be enough room, enough money, enough time and enough energy to make the dream a reality.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cultivate Friendships

Have a tea party with someone new.
Sow a word of praise today,
Plant a kindness-seed;
Listen to a troubled friend,
Help someone in need.

Compliment a weary soul
Too fatigued to try;
Shine forth rays of hope on all
Comfort those who cry.

Scatter deeds of love each day,
Plant each row with care;
Sprinkle joy along your way,
Soak each one in prayer.

Ask the Lord to bless each one,
And one day you'll reap
A harvestful of loving friends
To cherish and to keep.

Connie Hinnen

But this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly;
And he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. ~II Corinthians 9:6

Friday, February 8, 2013

Never Give Up

"I'm almost done," the young bride says. "I've worked so hard. I am ready for my grand finale, the day of all days! My wedding day!"

She has forgotten weddings are a beginning, not an ending.

"He lived a long life," the widow says. "Everybody loved him. He was truly a servant of God."

She has forgotten funerals are a beginning, not an ending.

Your resolution for change was not the goal. It is the beginning, not an ending. We begin the year excited and hopeful, bouncing with energy at the start of the race. But, a race is full of determined people at the starting line. It's only the beginning.

God needs you to use your gift, whatever it is, and if you focus on that, no excuse prevails. He wants to change you from the inside out as you discipline for the purpose of godliness.

Don't be disqualified from the 2013 race. Set your face like flint and run to win in spite of detours, loss of focus and uphill climbs.  Endure to the finish line and achieve your prize.

Are you losing motivation? Momentum? Catch your breath and renew your commitment.

I remind my piano students that the only person I can't teach is the one who quits. Are you giving up smoking? Stop smoking again today. Did you need to lose weight? Eat healthy today. Are you cleaning up your house? Keep at it.

"The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first." -Job 42:12

We serve the God who is able to do more than we ask or imagine He can do. He will bless your life with fruitful change if you keep your eyes on Him and don't quit.

What is your passion? Submit to your life call. Keep doing the work it takes to change your world. Have faith that it will happen every day as you persevere. Don't give up and come December, you'll be a better version of yourself.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Swinging with Claire

Does the grass seem greener on the other side of the fence?
Photo by Mike Lietz

The grass is greener where it is watered the most, where it is nourished, where it has room to grow.  Grass flourishes in the sunshine where it is not trampled.

"Nana, let's go swing," Claire suggests. "You push me and I'll push you."

She climbs onto the tire and I begin to push. Claire soars into the sunshine, laughing. When I need a break from pushing, she lays back in the swing.

"Let's sing, Nana," she says. And we sing and rest, munching on sweet red apples between songs.

I climb onto the swing and she gives me a push. She dances between pushes and we laugh hard.  We are alive, awake in a glorious day.

Basking in the warm sunshine, grazing on lush, green grass, the horses on the other side of the fence live an enviable life. Claire shouts to them and the horses ramble over to the fence. They watch the swinging and dancing, listen to the songs and laughter.

I glance down as I push Claire up into the summer breeze. On our side of the fence, there is dirt, not green grass like the horses enjoy. Beneath the swing the green grass has been trampled so often that it has died. .

"Catch me, Nana!" shouts Claire. The horses awaken from their sleepiness and jump. They gallop wild and free over the lush green meadow, kicking dirt into the air as they go.

I catch Claire up when she jumps. We are laughing wildly as we free roll across the yard, awake to the wonderful moment.

"You're a mess, Nana," Claire pants, still laughing. "You have grass and dirt all over you."

The grass is green on both sides of the fence.

The dirt gets trampled on both sides of the fence.

Life is short on both sides of the fence. Stay awake for it.

See also: Liam, God and Me

Friday, January 25, 2013

Princess of Quite A Lot

Each January, the ladies in my life group spend an evening discussing our personal goals for the coming year. We share one thing we have resolved to change, and we share our inspirational word.

By sharing our goal and inspirational word we receive accountability, prayers and encouragement. It's one of our favorite Girls' Nights of the year. The practice is teaching us humility, transparency and commitment to one another.

"My 2013 word is 'stewardship'," one friend has decided. "God is a God of order. I want to see stewardship in my finances, my housekeeping and my time."

Stewardship. An old word for a new goal.

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. Everything belongs to God. My marriage, my children, my body, my job, my pain, my disease, my suffering. When our hands are open to what God lays in them, it's all grace.  It's all gifts that we are given to manage. We are stewards, caretakers.

As Mary Englebreit so creatively puts it, I am a "princess of quite of lot".

How we care for whatever we are given matters to Him.  It should matter to us.

What hinders you from being a good steward of the gifts God has given?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wash Feet

Music by Bart Millard, Mercy Me 
Eyes set on earthly things are veiled from things above. Eyes that have not been washed clean by the mercy and compassion of the Father, are blinded to the Word of God.

We are called to one mission: to love people to Jesus.

Many have become militant and loud in their opinions, trying to prove they are right. Having forgotten all about being Christ like, they become self-righteous, judgmental, harsh.

Do we proclaim to be a Jesus-Follower, yet laugh, make jokes, and mock those who believe differently? Do we not realize how extremely unattractive and prideful our words sound to a dying world?

God's Word has washed our eyes clean so we can see the character and heart of God. Jesus, our example, tenderly, patiently, washed feet so that He might teach His disciples truth. He lived kindness, self-control, faithfulness. His love caused Him to go about doing good, speaking truth gently to draw people to Him.

Jesus, our servant-leader, washed eyes and hearts by first washing feet.

Word of God speak. Would You pour down like rain washing our eyes to see Your majesty?

Oh, Father. Teach us to use that rain water, full of grace and mercy, to wash feet, not to sling mud.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The God Who Takes Away


I really wanted it. Life would have been more pleasant. It wouldn't have hindered my ministries. I'm really disappointed that you said no. Why didn't you say yes?
Photo by Dean White (

I am the God who sees and knows your disappointment. I am the God who orchestrates the universe.

You have much to consider besides my desires. You have reasons that never occur to me.

Do you want to know Me? You submit to my decisions when you understand. Will you submit to My decisions when you do not understand? When you do not like My answer?

I will take what You place in my open hands. I will give up what You do not give. I will say yes when You take away that which I wanted to keep and cherish.

The very giving up of that which you so deeply, urgently desire proves your life is submitted to My will, My ways, My plans.

Keep my heart tender toward You, Father. Don't let my disappointment lead me to despair. Keep my heart tuned to Your compassion and grace.

There is a time for everything. Learn to discern the seasons. I hold eternity in My hands.

And me. You hold eternity and me in Your hands.

I hold your trust tenderly. Look around you. Listen to My voice. How vast is My love for you, dear child. Beyond all measure is My tender compassion. Come, let us away to a quiet place.

Friday, January 18, 2013

He's Here!

"Hurry, Mary! Jesus will be here soon!" Martha exclaims. Laying aside the pot holder too soon, she touches her finger to a pan of yeast rolls fresh from the oven and burns her finger. "Mary? Did you make the sweet tea? Mary?"

A silent house answers Martha. Mary has left the stack of plates on the table beside the pitcher. The door slams behind her as she hurries down the path to greet Jesus.

Martha sticks her sore finger into a bucket of water and swirls it, glancing around the kitchen. Her eyes scan the details of meal preparation. So great is her love for Jesus, she wants everything to be the very best.

Wouldn't it be fun to be Martha? You would clean the whole house, put fresh flowers on the table. Cinnamon rolls? Fig scones? Perfectly ripened fruit on the side table.

But, what if Jesus came unexpectedly?

Would you glance in horror at your messy house? Would you stumble out an apology while trying to swallow the bite of hot dog you just wolfed down standing over the sink?

Imagine Him coming to your table as you hurry to move stacks of old mail and clutter from the table. You hope He doesn't notice the angry, frustrated faces of your children. He couldn't have heard those last words you yelled, could He?

Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel! Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come!

Somebody wake us up! He's here! He is moving among us. He is the God who sees, the God who knows. He's in your house. Check your kitchen.

[I like the way Charles William Daugherty says it in If Jesus Came to Your House.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chimes of Time

An antique clock rests on my mantle. It doesn't work, but it still chimes.

"What are those lines on your clock?" Audrey asks.

"Those are called Roman Numerals", I explain, showing her how the old system of numbers works.

Audrey nods thoughtfully. "It takes longer to figure out, but it makes time easier to understand."

Moses learned that he must number his days right so that he would become wise. Easier to understand:  Plan your days. Live your days right. Become wise.

It's an old system long forgotten. Have you settled for being an old clock that doesn't work, but still chimes? We live in the noise and slapdash fray of a 2013 world. We chime as if we are wise, but we are merely clanging cymbals if we don't plan and work to live our days right.

Be ready in season and out of season, day in and day out, to live your life wide awake to the moments that are ticking past. Complacency develops a spirit of heaviness and regret. Slapdash living robs a fruitful life of joy and peace.

"I think I like the X for 10 best," Audrey says with a grin. "He looks like he knows what he's talking about."