I love the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I love the fresh start, clean slate, second chance, new season, do-over feeling that New Year expectations bring. The start of another year is definitely the time for New Beginnings.
I’ve been thinking about how to make a difference in 2011 . How about you? Are you looking for anything more or different in any area of your life in 2011? Do you want to be the same person you were in 2010 or do you want to learn and grow and change? Do you desire to have, to do, and to be something more – someone better? I know I do.
My husband is a goal setter and planner. There are three things I’ve learned from him…
Going with the flow will always take you downstream.
A pile of lumber in the yard never becomes a house.
Nothing will change in my life until I change.
In other words, 2011 will only be a great year if we decide today to make it so. All the potential in the world won’t make it so. Wanting it more than we’ve ever wanted anything won’t make it so.
The only way to make 2011 count is…
An intentional decision to possess, accomplish or become something more, something different, or something better.
Specific goals by which changes can and will be measured.
Clear and definitive written plans to reach the goals and
A commitment to immediate and continuing action to execute that plan starting today.
Here are five prerequisites that will keep us on track as we dream, set goals, and plan for 2011.
First… Ask God what he wants from you.
I urge you therefore, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. ~ Romans 12:1
Present yourself to God in prayer. Ask him what he wants from you this year. God speaks most clearly to those who are ready to listen. Usually, we must commit to obey before God will speak.
Second… Pay attention to who God created you to be.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place – when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:13-16
God knows everything about us; more than we know about ourselves. Ask him to help you discover the specific purposes for which he has hard-wired you. We all love and serve God best by loving and serving people. But each of us are created and called to do it differently. Pay attention to the blueprint of how God has uniquely shaped you for loving and serving people.
Third… Remove the obstacles before you begin.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. ~ Hebrews 12:1
You know your weak spots. Take steps to eliminate them. Get creative. Think outside the box. Don’t set impossible goals and don’t ignore the things that you already know will hinder and encumber you. Keep it real. Ask for help.
Fourth… Commit fully and engage immediately.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ~ Ecclesiastes 9:10
Say what you will do and do what you say. Make a commitment and get started. Conditions will never be perfect. A good plan aggressively executed today is better than a perfect plan executed sometime next week.
Fifth… Stand strong against the fear of failure.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9
The fear of failure keeps many people from starting. Fear is a powerful foe. Don’t let it stop you. The essence of courage is feeling the fear and moving forward in spite of it. Besides, failing is not failure. Not trying is the only true failure. I like my husband’s motto, “If you’re going to go down, go down in flames.”
2011 will not be a great year just because we want it to be great. Don’t let the clock strike midnight tonight without completing your plan to make a difference in 2011.
Happy New Year and may God Bless each of you.
I love the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I love the fresh start, clean slate, second chance, new season, do-over feeling that New Year expectations bring. The start of another year is definitely the time for New Beginnings.
The Christmas tree is perfect. Colorful lights hang from the eaves and sparkle merrily from the trees in our yard. There is a small choir of blow up snowmen caroling near the deck next to an animated reindeer. A row of super-sized candy canes lines the sidewalk and magically illumines the path for Santa to make his way to our house.
I love Christmas decorations – especially the kind that light up when you plug them in and this wonderfully creative homage to the traditions of Christmas makes me happy. But as I step back and survey our winter wonderland display, I notice that something is terribly wrong with this picture. Something’s missing.
Where is the nativity? How does baby Jesus fit into all of this? Is there still a place for the Christ child of Christmas who is after all, the reason for the season? Why is the hope of a hopeless world missing from his “holy day” celebration? If Immanuel means “God with us,” where is he? In the profound words of a seven year-old boy visiting Santa at the mall, “Where’s the line for Jesus?”
As I pondered these questions, I realized that none of us are immune from the powerful influence of the world in which we live. We are often unaware of our tendency to avoid “politically incorrect” references to God, Jesus, and all things religious – even at Christmas. And that’s what is wrong with this picture.
God sent his only son to earth to reconcile us to himself and provide salvation from the penalty of sin to those who had rejected him (you and me). Jesus Christ, the Son of God was born of a virgin and entered our world as a tiny babe with no place to lay his head but on a bed of straw in a manger.
He lived an exemplary life without sin and died a criminal’s death he didn’t deserve after being falsely accused and convicted. His cruel and painful crucifixion paid the death penalty for my sin (and yours) and his resurrection from the dead three days later provided us with new life – a second chance, clean slate, do-over.
The cost of this amazing gift – a simple yet heartfelt step of faith – a choice to believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sin and new life he offers.
As a society, we continue to marginalize God and remove his fingerprints from all aspects of public life. At the same time, a growing sense of hopelessness, helplessness, emptiness, isolation, futility, fear, death, and despair overwhelms us and strips meaning and purpose from our lives.
The “good news of great joy for people everywhere” is a much-needed message in 21st century America. For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. His name shall be Immanuel – God with us.
The Four Candles burned slowly. Their ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak.
The first candle said, "I am Peace but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit." Then the flame of Peace slowly diminished and went out completely.
The second candle said, "I am Faith but these days, I am no longer indispensable." Then the flame of Faith slowly diminished and went out completely.
Sadly the third candle spoke, "I am love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer. People put me aside and don't understand my importance. They even forget to love those nearest to them." And waiting no longer, love went out completely.
Suddenly, a child entered the room and saw the three candles no longer burning. The child began to cry. "Why are you not burning?" You are supposed to stay lit until the end.
Then the fourth candle spoke gently to the child. "Don't be afraid, for I am Hope and while I still burn, we can relight the other candles." With shining eyes, the child took the candle of Hope and lit the other three candles.
Never let the flame of Hope go out. With Hope in your life, no matter how bad things may be, Peace, Faith, and Love may shine brightly once again.
~ Author unknown
While I have used this particular piece in one of my earlier blogs I thought it was worth a repeat.
Merry Christmas everyone!
How can I be thankful when my life is so messed up and difficult?
Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my heart, I cringe when people ask what I am thankful for. The bitter truth is that there are times when I don’t feel thankful at all; times when I am too busy being down on my self, my life, my kids, my husband, and those same five pounds that I lose over and over again – the ones that never seem to disappear. Even when my “poor me” pity party comes to an end, it’s not like life’s problems magically disappear and I am suddenly happy and at peace because all is right in my little corner of the world.
The process of wrestling my spirit into submission and choosing an attitude of gratitude in the midst of real life circumstances often begins with that still small voice in my head (or is it my heart) whispering a gentle reminder of something for which I am thankful. I work really hard to reject the thought and put it out of my mind so I can hang on to the fear, worry, anger, frustration, and disappointment to which I desperately cling.
I feel myself slipping when the words from James 1:2 flash onto the big screen plasma display in my mind, “Consider it all joy, my brothers (and sisters), when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” I can’t believe they made me memorize Bible verses in Sunday School – I’m trying to feel sorry for myself here!
The list of things for which I am thankful begins to grow – two cell phones, two computers, two cars, and a home with a guest house (and great renters). Then I remember those five pounds and realize I’ve never gone to bed hungry (not even close).
The list starts to multiply exponentially to include things for which I am truly grateful – a loving husband and family and a circle of close friends who love and accept me as I am. The pace picks up and the list expands - nature, beauty, adventure, health, provision, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, discipline, purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Suddenly, in spite of my best efforts to the contrary, I am humbled and overcome with a deep sense of gratitude.
How can I not be thankful even when life is so messed up and difficult?
After years of repeating this ridiculous cycle of resisting God’s Spirit as he drags me kicking and screaming into a state of thankfulness, I have learned an important lesson. Here it is. I don’t have to wait until I feel thankful to be thankful. An attitude of gratitude is not something that happens to me. It’s a moment by moment choice.
Choosing a grateful heart sensitizes me to the needs of others and strengthens my faith. I can choose to be thankful, not just for the good stuff, but for everything God allows into my life – including the relational struggles and difficult circumstances he uses to shape and grow me. I can choose to be grateful for a loving heavenly father who walks with me through the dark and difficult seasons of life and promises to never leave or forsake me.
That being said, it’s hard to thank God when life seems to be spinning out of control – when I’m doubting God’s sovereignty (how could he allow this to happen), questioning his wisdom (doesn’t he know this is important), or wondering if he is paying attention (has he forgotten me completely). This point is the crux of the issue – the fulcrum upon which the entire existence of faith in God balances.
In spite of how I feel, I can choose to have faith in the fact that God is sovereign and wise and good. By faith, I can choose to trust his promises and believe that he loves me – then (and only then) I can choose to be thankful.
By God’s grace I am no longer waiting for an unexpected measure of gratitude. I am choosing day by day, moment by moment to proactively adopt an attitude of gratitude. I invite you to join me.
Here’s to a Happy (and gratitude-filled) Thanksgiving.
My daughter and her family went to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner last week.
The mid week crowd was sparse and there were only two or three other families in the restaurant. The feeling of “having the place to themselves” caused my daughter and her husband (mom and dad) to loosen the leash and allow our two grandsons ages 6½ and 1½, a bit more freedom than usual. Keeping one eye on them instead of two, the boys were running and playing with great abandon. In short, they were having a blast.
As our daughter tells it, she glanced at the boys playing together and when she looked again, the younger one had disappeared from her line of sight. She quickly scanned the room and then ran over to where she last saw him. There was no sign of him.
As the sense of fear and panic mounted, a plan to divide and conquer materialized with dad going one way and big brother another, while mom headed toward the front door. They were all moving quickly and calling his name when mom caught a glimpse of her oldest son from across the room. He was headed toward the bowling lanes with a big smile on his face.
As she quickly made her way across the restaurant to the bowling lanes, there was our youngest grandson racing up, down, and across the bowling lanes as fast as his short, little legs would carry him. He was tumbling, sliding, and giggling for all he was worth to the great amusement of the other patrons who, prior to the last few minutes had been bowling without distraction.
I don’t know if any other 19 month-old boy on the planet had as much fun as our grandson that evening. He had no clue that mom, dad, and big brother were frantically looking for him or that he could have been hit by a bowling ball or eaten by the pin sweeper. He was just enjoying life.
After hearing the blow by blow report firsthand from my daughter, I was thankful that our grandson hadn’t wandered too far away and that he was found so quickly. God is so good to protect our children (and grandchildren) and keep them safe.
As I thought about this minor misadventure with a happy (and funny) ending, I was reminded of the way God pays close attention to our whereabouts and comes looking for us when we wander off. Suddenly, the words to an old hymn came to mind, “His eye is on the sparrow and he watches over me.” What a comforting realization.
A young family of four (five including Maverick) live on our property. They rent our guesthouse and share the property with us. For the most part, they are a typical family – Dad, Mom, ten year-old daughter, and six year-old son. And then there’s Maverick, the 170-pound Great Dane who lives with them. Today’s post is dedicated exclusively to the entertaining antics of this colt-size canine with paw prints the size of pancakes. Welcome to the Misadventures of Maverick.
In spite of his gargantuan stature, he is an indoor dog that sleeps on the couch (the entire couch), begs for scraps at the dinner table (or helps himself from the saucepan on top of the stove if no one is looking), and stands by the door when he needs to “go” outside. In addition to a number of disappearing burgers and pizzas (right off the serving platter in the center of the table), he consumes nearly 100 pounds of dog food every month and when he “hugs” you (with his front paws on your shoulders), he is over seven feet tall.
The best thing about Maverick is that he truly believes he is part of the family, just one of the kids – and he certainly acts like one. He has an insatiable sweet tooth and finds creative ways to satisfy his desire. He taught himself how to open the kitchen cupboards and has been known to help himself to candy, cookies, cake mixes, and other treats. He can open a Costco-sized box of granola bars, unwrap each one without destroying the foil wrapper, and eat the entire box in less than an hour.
Like most kids, cleaning up after himself is not a high priority. In addition to the unbelievable mess he creates on one of his cupboard opening rampages, a trip to the store to replace next month’s dessert reserves is often preceded by a trip to the vet as eating chocolate and other human treats is not a good idea for a Great Dane.
After an extended discussion about whether to get Maverick-proof (i.e. child-proof) locks for the cupboards or a gate for the kitchen, Mom and Dad opted for the gate. Maverick is still part of the family – but he is no longer allowed free access to the kitchen.
In spite of these cute and charming “just one of the kids” stories, when I first met Maverick I was terrified of this massive dog. The way I saw it, any four-legged creature with big teeth and huge paws had to be ferocious, right?
Over time, we got to know each other. When Maverick came bounding toward me at full speed every time I stepped outside, my initial certainty that I was under attack and about to be devoured by a ravenous beast began to subside. I eventually realized that Maverick was genuinely happy to see me. What I initially interpreted as being knocked down and pushed out of the way was merely his idea of a 170-pound, affectionate nudge.
The ice broke recently when Maverick insisted on helping me “paint” my deck furniture. After spray painting a wicker patio table, I left it in the yard to dry. When I looked out the window and saw Maverick “christening” my new table, it reminded me of the time I let my firstborn son run through the yard as a toddler without a diaper (except for the 170-pounds and the leg in the air).
Maverick made me laugh and we’ve been friends ever since. Just like a child, it’s hard to stay mad at anyone who will climb up and sit in your lap (or should I say stand over your lap) and look up at you with those sad “puppy dog” eyes that are begging for attention and long to be close to you.
As much as I hate to admit it, I have grown attached to this huge, loveable, funny looking dog named Maverick. Recently, he became very ill with an obscure infection that was difficult to diagnose. His illness was quite serious and I was sad when it occurred to me that this extremely talented nuisance maker and havoc-maker might not be around much longer.
My sadness paled in comparison to that of his adopted family. In short, many prayers were uttered on Maverick’s behalf that week. God must have decided we needed that loveable, pain-in-the-butt around a while longer. I am happy to report that Maverick is now fully recovered and once again up to his playful antics, namely chasing after the “human” kids and watering my outdoor plants and bushes.
I believe God put Maverick in my life to help me remember not to take life too seriously and perhaps to remind me that fun and laughter are part of this wonderful gift God gave us – the gift of life.
My husband and I were recently introduced to a nutritional program for achieving and maintaining optimal health. Some difficult life transitions over the past few years had helped us “grow” in more ways than one. We had become prime candidates for losing weight and getting healthy so we decided to get with the program - literally.
Phase 1 of this lifetime health optimization program involves reaching a healthy weight –through safe, and nutritionally-balanced meals designed for weight loss. The idea of reaching a healthy weight in preparation for a lifetime of healthy living made sense to us and my husband’s strong aversion to “fad diets” was not an issue (since healthy weight loss is simply a byproduct of this nutritionally-based optimal health program).
So on my husband’s birthday (July 21), we decided to give each other a highly romantic gift – 100 pounds of fat (e.g. weight loss). We set two goals – 1) to look like we looked and weigh what we weighed when we first met and 2) to be able to play the same games and do the same things with our grandchildren that we did with our children. Our time frame was five to eight months (by New Year’s or Easter at the latest). We hope to make a New Year’s resolution to stop losing weight.
The results of our first seven weeks have been phenomenal and far beyond anything we expected. I am down 25 pounds and my husband is down 40 pounds – in just 49 days. That translates to an average of nearly four pounds a week for me and almost six pounds a week for my husband.
I am having the time of my life pulling old clothes from the back of the closet and fitting into clothes I haven’t worn for years. I don’t track things as closely as my husband but he has lost a grand total of 24.25 inches from his neck (1.50), chest (3.75), stomach (5.25), waist (3.00), butt (2.25), thighs (1.50x2), calves (1.00x2), arms (1.25x2), and forearms (0.50x2). I am now married to the disappearing man!
This weight loss journey to date has been nothing short of miraculous. And we can’t really take any credit. It’s not like we’ve done much. All we do is eat six times a day and drink a half gallon of water (8 glasses) – something anyone can do. We weren’t even exercising! My husband says he’s never hungry because we have to eat so often. I get hungry sometimes but there are lots of snack choices. In addition to the unbelievable speed of weight loss, this program is really easy.
I also must give credit to our new friends and health coaches Lawrence and Jeannie who already know the ins and outs of the program. Without their personal time and attention, all of this would have been quite overwhelming and we are grateful for their support. Access to experienced health coaches (at no cost) has been an indescribable blessing and was one of the more attractive aspects of the program for us.
The change in our appearance to date has been stunning and the increase in energy significant. We notice changes in the mirror each day and in one another. Others are noticing (and commenting) as well. We are walking advertisements for this new lifestyle and living examples of lives changed through a conscious decision to 1) make a change and 2) stay true to that decision. We can’t stop talking about the changes and others are being drawn to the program regularly due to the obvious changes they see in us.
This experience has made me think about my spiritual life. I wonder if the eternal change in my heart is as noticeable as the recent change in my appearance. When I look at myself and my life, do I see changes in my heart and attitude to which I have stayed true? Do my husband and those who know me see obvious results from the conscious decision I made to live for God and not for myself? Have I allowed daily nutrition from God’s word to bring lasting change to my life? Are others irresistibly drawn to God because of my life? I hope so.
May the before and after pictures of our lives provide a contrast that is significant and easily noticed by others.
Time marches on, doesn’t it? I know this because I celebrated a milestone birthday a few weeks ago. The phrase “milestone birthday” is a nice way of saying, “Wow, you are getting old!). To commemorate this auspicious occasion, my husband planned a huge “I Can’t Believe She’s Sixty” birthday celebration event for me. I must admit that I was surprised – perhaps even a bit overwhelmed at the number of people who cared enough about me to be a part of this celebration.
As is common when my husband turns his attention to a project, my birthday bash was spectacular - a gala event of epic proportion (or as he likes to say the pre-eminent pinnacle of party pizzazz). There were festive decorations in my favorite colors (pinks and purples), a never-ending supply of barbequed burgers and hotdogs, a large, beautiful, and delicious birthday cake, cases of soft drinks on ice, and more summer specialty salads, side dishes, appetizers, and desserts than I’ve ever seen assembled in one place at one time. There were inviting groupings of chairs and tables with umbrellas scattered across the lawn.
The main attractions for youth and adults were the swimming pool and the live music provided by the band my husband plays in (he’s a rock star bass player and I’m his favorite groupie). Highlights for the kids included a kiddie pool (complete with water slide), two slip-n-slides, various play structures, organized games, a fish pond (for prizes), water balloon fights, and a piñata. It was a kid’s version of heaven on earth for twenty-plus kids that day.
My husband asked me to organize the kid’s area and activities because he knows I love children and wanted to do this. Planning and coordinating the other aspects of the day were my husband’s gift to me – and what a fun day it was. I am a lucky woman.
As great as this was, the best part of the day was a gift from God. As dozens of family, friends, and neighbors parked their cars in the field across the street, our deck, patio, yard, and swimming area came to life with conversation and laughter, I realized that most of the purpose, meaning, fulfillment, joy, memories, and lasting value in my life was embodied in these precious relationships. From family members I see every day to those I haven’t seen for years; from my best friend since 5th grade to our newest friends who rent our guest house; from neighbors we have laughed with, cried with, and prayed for over the years to the new family that just moved in down the street; from people we ministered to and worshipped with in our last church plant that closed six months ago to those in our new church family that we are just getting to know, it’s the people in my life that count. People matter to us because they matter to God.
I was humbled when I realized how God had used us in the lives of so many families and blessed to recall how he had used so many of these people to enrich our lives. From the oldest to the youngest, I was grateful God allowed all of these precious people to become a part of each other’s lives – in large and small ways.
I felt so blessed and humbled as the awesomeness of God manifest itself through those relationships. Tears filled my eyes as the band led everyone in a rockin’ version of Happy Birthday. As everyone sang, my nephew who had been estranged from me for years, put his arm around me and whispered, “Happy birthday, Aunt Cassie. I love you.”
The pure joy and deep gratitude of that moment was overwhelming – a life-changing birthday moment experienced in the rich context of meaningful relationships with people was my favorite gift this year. Life is precious. God is good. He is so good to me.
My sister-in-law Renee is an artist who owns and operates a business out of her home called Classy Plaques (www.classyplaques.com). Her business is growing nicely and her artistic creativity has recently been catching the eye of influential people from all over the world.
Less than a week before Father’s Day, she received a request for a plaque from the CEO of a well-known Fortune 500 company. This powerful CEO was looking for a gift for her father and was running out of time – just like the rest of us (with the exception of the personal assistant who did the shopping research and ordering for her).
Having found the perfect gift of a custom-designed ceramic plaque for her father’s new house, this CEO daughter was faced with the challenge of getting the gift produced and shipped to California in time for her to forward it on to her father who lived in Oregon. She really wanted the plaque for her dad and told Renee that money was no object if she could make it work.
While researching all of the high-speed shipping options, my sister-in-law realized that the father of her customer lived less than thirty minutes from her home (and business) in Oregon – so she simply offered to personally hand-deliver the plaque to her customer’s father when it was finished. Needless to say the CEO daughter in California was grateful for my sister-in-law’s problem-solving offer to go the extra mile - literally.
Given the influential position of her customer, I’m sure it was a good business decision but one thing I know about Renee is that this wasn’t just a business decision designed to create another satisfied customer. It was really all about loving and serving God by loving and serving people. Renee believes in the power of God to change lives and she was simply living out her faith – like she does everyday.
Christians are called to care – to be shining lights in the darkness that illuminate the way for a dark and dying world to find Christ. It’s often as simple as going the extra mile.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:14-16
I recently traveled to Bend, Oregon with my husband to attend commencement exercises for two nieces who were graduating from high school and college, respectively. Our high school age niece graduated with honors and is very talented in the area of photography. The older one is an exceptionally talented artist who graduated from college with a 4.0 GPA and was selected as the outstanding student of the year for the entire fine arts department. Her professors spoke of full ride scholarships for graduate school and we even attended an art show where her work was prominently featured. We are very proud of both of them.
I started this post with the idea of writing about the girls, their graduation, and their obvious love for the Lord. But as I pondered our outstanding graduation experience in Bend recently, it occurred to me that the primary story is about the generational blessings of Christian parents who live out their faith day by day, year after year – blessings that are passed down from one generation to the next. We observed first-hand the frequently inevitable outcome of many years of faithful, diligent, obedient, Christ-centered family living and how it is now manifesting itself in the lives of the next generation.
Over the years, God has granted to my brother and sister-in-law all of the wisdom, patience, love, and discipline required to care for, parent, train, build up, lead, shape, influence, and mold their daughters into the gracious, loving, beautiful, and responsible young adults they are today – young women who truly know, love, serve, praise, and follow God with their whole hearts. They are now beginning to make their own unique and significant contributions to society. What a blessing!
I’m not saying there haven’t been obstacles and difficulties, problems and pains, bumps and bruises along the way. Like all of us, I know they had their share of high points and low points. God never promised us an easy life here on this earth - but he did promise to walk through it with us and to always be there for us.
My husband and I have both been married before so I have only been part of his family for eight years. That weekend I found myself stepping back and observing the many family members who make up this clan. God’s influence in each family member over the years is evident and the deep love and respect they share for and with each other is powerful.
I enjoyed the chance to get to know my sister-in-law better. What an amazing woman, wife, and mother she is. Her sunny personality and welcoming attitude made everyone feel right at home. Her husband is very much involved as a husband, father, and leader in their home and the love and respect his girls (wife and daughters) show toward him speaks volumes.
I also met my sister-in-law’s parents – another amazing Christian couple. They exude that quiet inner strength that comes from knowing God is in control and that Christ holds a central position in their lives. The same is true of my mother-in-law. She also raised her children in a Christian home where they learned God’s word and his ways. These parents instilled Christian values deep within their children’s hearts – values that remain to this day and have resulted in Christ-centered families that follow hard after God. And now the baton of faith is being passed to yet another generation. Family done God’s way is a blessing like no other.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. ~ Ephesians 6:1-4
My fourteen month-old Grandson spent the night with us this past weekend and Sunday morning was his first time in church. It didn’t go so well. The sign-in process went well but by the time I released him to the nursery attendant, he was crying. I overcame the twinge of guilt that popped up in my heart by reminding myself that he was in loving, capable, and well-trained hands. As I walked back to the sanctuary, I found myself looking forward to what was sure to be an inspiring sermon from our pastor.
During the third song of worship, I felt the spirit moving – a warm vibration emanating from deep within. But something was wrong. Was it an earthquake? Or perhaps a heart attack? I suddenly realized the violent vibration from my right side was the nursery pager. Now I knew why the young mothers jumped up so quickly when summoned to the nursery. “How do you turn this thing off?” I thought as I hurried back to the nursery wondering what could possibly be wrong.
From the far end of the long hallway, I heard his loud and tearful screaming. As I opened the door, a young nursery worker with a smile that thinly veiled her concern and frustration handed my grandson to me. With an apologetic tone she informed me that he had been crying nonstop from the moment I left. She kindly offered me the option of taking him to the squawkers room. The squawker’s room is the one year-old equivalent of toddler detention where you go when you get kicked out of the nursery – without the pink slip.
As I comforted my sobbing grandson and made my way to the squawker’s room, he quieted down and gave me a big smile – the one that always melts my heart. I reached to open the door and wondered if we would have the detention center to ourselves or if someone else might be there. Imagine my surprise when I found myself in a very large squawker’s room that was packed to capacity with noisy children and their mothers. Pink slip or not, there was no room for us.
I returned to the sanctuary and told my husband that our little angel had been kicked out of the nursery and sent to detention – but since there was no room at the inn, we were going to roam the halls for a while and then head to the car until church was over.
After a quick stroll around the children's area, I took our little charmer outside. As we walked to the car, he darted after a butterfly as fast as he little legs could carry him. With purse and diaper bag in hand, I worked hard to keep up with him.
I got him settled in his car seat and gave him a cookie and some juice and I wondered how I had done this with my own kids. (the answer is that I was younger – a lot younger). Soon he was finished and ready to get up out of the car seat and play. So we walked some more. He was fascinated by the flowers growing near the fence and excited about the bug by the rock we sat on. He loved splashing the water in the little fish pond. We walked and I told him about all the fun and beautiful things he was experiencing and how God made them for us to enjoy.
Something began to change in my heart. Suddenly I wasn’t missing church. I was no longer frustrated or resentful that I wasn’t able to listen to our pastor speak. God had a different worship experience planned for me that day. I felt his presence as I walked and talked with my little grandson. I marveled at the simple wonder of God’s creation. I saw the world through the eyes of a child and stood in awe as I felt the joy evoked by a flower, a bug, a rock, and a splash of water. I was overcome with a sense of gratitude. God is good.
I am blessed to spend four days a week with my two grandsons. The oldest, a six-year old Kindergartner, catches the bus in front of the house each morning. This morning I watched from the front porch as he waited at the end of the driveway. We both saw the bus coming but today was different. Instead of stopping, the bus just kept on going – driving right on by without even slowing down.
An unforgettable expression crossed my grandson’s face as he turned back to look at me – a perplexed look of complete bewilderment. At the same moment, I heard the kids on the bus yelling and screaming, “Stop! Wait! Go back!” to let the bus driver know she had missed a stop. As the bus came to a screeching halt just a few houses down the street, I wondered what was going through his young mind as I watched him climb onto his bus.
When he got home from school I asked him about the bus incident and how he felt about being forgotten. He told me it had happened once before and seemed to know that it wasn’t anything personal. He said that sometimes the bus driver just gets to talking and forgets to stop because she didn’t have her mind on him at the moment.
This gave me a great opportunity to remind my grandson how God loves us so much that he never stops thinking about us. We are valuable and precious to him and he always has his mind on us. I prayed with him and thanked God for never passing us by – for never forgetting about us.
When we finished, he aimed one of his precious smiles at me. As he ran to the door to play outside, he paused, turned around, and asked, “Does God think about me even when I’m sleeping?”
“Of course he does,” I answered. “God is always thinking about you because He never sleeps. He created you just the way you are and is very interested in each and every minute of your day. He wants you to grow up to become all that He created you to be.”
Thank God for teachable moments.
Psalm 139:13-18 (NLT)
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
It’s Saturday afternoon and I can hear the neighborhood kids jumping off our deck and onto the rope swings we put up for the grandkids. Our acre in the country offers a lot of room for kids to play and when you put eight or ten kids together with a Great Dane named Maverick (who also believes he is a kid), who knows what will happen? The young couple living in our guest house has two children, ages six and eight who are magnets for the neighborhood kids and our house is often the grand central of play areas for the neighborhood.
A bit later, the joyful shrieks and unending laughter draw me to the window where I have a front row seat for the squirt gun battle of the ages. As the kids tear across my deck and run around the yard, stepping out from behind trees to squirt their unsuspecting victims, I find myself laughing and wondering again where they get all their energy and wishing there was a way to bottle it. I would definitely be a regular customer.
At that moment a gentle sense of God’s joy, peace, and contentment overwhelms me and I recognize again how truly blessed I am. Right here, right now in the midst of the uncertain and difficult times in which we live, God’s unexpected blessings appear just when I need them most – and I am grateful.
God is so good. He’s so good to me.
My mother was an impressive woman and people who met her never forgot her. She was strikingly beautiful, vivacious, graceful, and energetic with a wonderfully wide smile that helped her meet people and make friends easily. She was the quintessential home maker – the prototypical female of the 1950’s (think Donna Reid meets June Cleaver). I was her first-born daughter and she worked hard to instill these feminine traits and value in me.
Then there was my other mother – the one with a drink in her hand. Alcohol would turn this otherwise refined and genteel woman into an obnoxious, impatient, overbearing, irresponsible, and boorish stranger. It was during these times that I became the mother to my three younger siblings.
I remember being so confused by her mood swings. I could not understand them until one day I overheard a neighbor in the grocery store making a remark about my mother’s drinking problem. At nine years old, I just hadn’t made the connection between the empty vodka bottles and her mood swings.
My mother’s bondage to alcohol continued throughout my childhood and on into adulthood until shortly before she became ill with brain cancer. On her death bed she apologized for all that she had put me through as a child. She told me she loved me and had always been proud of me – words I had longed to hear as a child.
God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in my life allowed me to forgive my mother long before her apology. And two days before she died, she came to faith in Jesus and found peace with God. But there’s more to the story. Just days before her death, my mother had a vision – an up close and personal glimpse of heaven.
Toward the end of her battle with brain cancer, when death was imminent, my aunt, my sister and I took turns sitting at my mother’s bedside. We wanted to be with her to the end. On one such night my aunt reported that Mom opened her eyes, looked all around the room, and asked my aunt if she was still alive. My aunt smiled and said, “Yes Charlene, you are still here with us.” With a look of wonder and amazement on her face, my mother turned to my aunt and said, “Oh Patty Ann, I have been to a beautiful place full of brilliant colors and indescribable beauty - things I can’t begin to understand.”
God gave my mother a glimpse of what was waiting for her if she would just surrender her life to Jesus, which she did later the next day.
Some think there is no God. Others believe he has forsaken us and scoffers say he isn’t returning. But the Bible says that God is holding back judgment because he doesn’t want anyone to be left behind. He waits with open arms for anyone, anywhere, anytime who will place their faith and trust in him - even an old, alcoholic woman, who came to faith on her death bed.
God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change. ~ 2 Peter 3:9 (MSG)
My six year-old grandson came over for a visit on Saturday. He invited the neighbor boy who lives next door to play at our house for the afternoon. After an hour of outdoor activities and adventures, they came inside to “build stuff” and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Here’s an excerpt from the best part:
Grandson (GS): I can’t wait for Christmas!
Neighbor Boy (NB): For sure… Christmas is awesome!
GS: What do you want Santa to bring you?
NB: There is no Santa.
GS: (shocked and a bit confused) Well, if there is no Santa where do all the presents come from?
NB: They come from your mom and dad and your grandma and grandpa.
My interest in their conversation escalated from casual overhearing to full on eavesdropping. I was paying attention – curious as to how my grandson would receive this earth-shattering news. A renewed confidence swept over his face and he continued the conversation with a somewhat indignant tone:
GS: That is so totally not true ‘cause I’ve seen the real Santa that comes from the North Pole. I saw him at the mall. I even talked to him.
NB: That was just a man in a costume. There is no North Pole and Santa Claus is not real.
At this point, my grandson decided to let things slide and there was a lull in the conversation. Then the neighbor boy piped up:
NB: Same thing with the Easter Bunny… not real. Who ever heard of a bunny that drops off candy to little kids? Ridiculous!
By this time my poor grandson was reeling. His core belief systems were under attack. I could see his little mind spinning and churning as important parts of his world were crumbling right before his eyes. No Santa? No Easter Bunny?
Suddenly, he jumped up and ran into my office. He asked when his mom would return and I said, “Pretty soon.”
“Good” he answered (with a very serious look on his face), “cause we’re gonna have to have a long talk when she gets here.”
I just smiled and said, “Well, that’s good.”
So there it is. One family lets their children know that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are myths while another keeps the illusion alive for yet a while longer.
Dress up, make-believe, and childhood fantasies are a fun part of growing up (and of parenting). There is certainly nothing wrong with imaginary fun and pretending. But I believe Christian parents must be careful about crossing the line between creative pretense and imaginary fun and encouraging our children to “believe in” things that aren’t real.
Let's make sure our children don't have to wonder if the things we teach them are true or worry that someday they will "find out" that Jesus was just a man in a costume.
Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Santa?
Four mornings a week I go to our local aquatic center to work out and swim. Because I am an early riser, I usually try to get there by 5:30 AM when they open.
I am a little nervous about driving in the dark anyway - so I am extra careful when I drive the three short miles to the pool. I have driven the road enough times that I am familiar with the possible hazards I could encounter. I always choose the well-lighted route and am extra careful when driving on darker streets that have rough patches and bumps in the road.
As I was heading to the pool this morning I thought about how God often lights our way and steers us through the dark places. And how he sometimes allows rough patches and bumps in our lives to help us learn what he wants us to know or to help us to grow in our faith.
Have you come to a dark place, a rough patch, or a bump in the road in your life? Remember that our light and our hope is in Christ. Trust him today to take you through it.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ~ Psalm 119:105
Have you ever had one of those days – a day when nothing seems to go right and you wonder why it’s all happening to you and if God will ever show up? I’ve had days like that and last Saturday was one of them. I spent a good portion of the day feeling sorry for myself and refusing to find anything to be thankful for or about.
The reason for my pity party was that I wanted to be outside working in the yard. The sun was shining and I had spring fever. But I was dealing with arthritic pain in my hips and lower back and it was a particularly bad pain day. Yard work was out of the question.
I decided to go outside anyway – to clean out my car. Wallowing in self-pity, I stepped out of the house into the warm spring air and grumbled my way down the sidewalk to the outbuilding where my car was parked.
As I was complaining my way to the car, I encountered one of the new neighbors living on our property (we recently rented our guesthouse to a young, Christian family who graciously offered to manage and care for our property). She was weeding one of the large flower beds in our yard and if the radiant smile that lit up her face was any indication, she was enjoying it immensely. We chatted for a few minutes before I proceeded to my car cleaning project.
By the time I was finished, our six year-old grandson had arrived to spend the night. Within fifteen minutes, he had rounded up half a dozen kids from the neighborhood who were running around the yard and bursting into our house for snacks and drinks. It reminded me of summer when our yard and pool reverberate with the playful shouts and joyful chatter of children.
Suddenly, while watching the kids play on the lawn and rope swings, I caught myself smiling. I heard God’s still small voice in the laughter of the children and felt his peace in my heart. My pain had not diminished but authentic joy and a sense of deep peace enveloped me as I stopped dwelling on “me” and my arthritic pain.
At that moment, I recognized that I am truly blessed. God has allowed pain and suffering into my life for a reason. There is no wasted pain or accidental suffering in God’s economy. Sometimes God reveals the purpose of pain and suffering. Other times he doesn’t.
Even when I don’t understand the purposes behind my pain and suffering, I am able to understand and fully experience every blessing he sends my way – even in the midst of my bad days. Bad day blessings are the best.
Easter always reminds me of my son. In April of 1987, weeks before his high school graduation, my eighteen year-old son Chris was killed in an auto accident. It was a devastating loss.
After the funeral, I would go to the cemetery and sit beneath a tree near his gravesite and weep, crying out to God for answers and reprieve from the unbearable pain. Day after day, hour after hour for weeks on end, I continued my daily ritual of mourning his death beneath the tree near his grave.
I was a young Christian at the time and I knew that Chris was a believer who was with the Lord, it brought me no peace. I missed him too much. The huge void of emptiness and loss was overwhelming and I was unable to come to terms with his death. So I continued to grieve beneath the tree near his grave.
I needed to engage in life again – to get unstuck. I still had a six year-old daughter who needed me. But again and again I found myself sitting for hours on end beneath the tree near his grave.
One afternoon, I was reflecting on the day Chris gave his heart and life to Jesus when I noticed a little flower. The tiny bloom was just beginning to blossom and would have been easy to miss. I looked around from my spot beneath the tree and noticed for the first time other shrubs and flowers starting to bloom. I saw beautiful colors - pinks, purples, yellows, and whites all around me. Colors were returning and things were coming to life again.
That was the moment my heart began to heal. If the flowers could begin a new season and come back to life again after the death of winter, I could do the same.
My precious son was gone and I missed him but he was alive in heaven thanks to the Easter story of life after death. I began to look forward to being reunited with my son again, to accept the reality of what had happened, and trust in God’s plan for my life.
As I stood up from my place beneath the tree near his grave that day, everything was different. It wouldn’t be easy and it didn’t happen overnight but God used that little flower to get me started – to help me step out into a new beginning.
Easter is a time to celebrate new life. Jesus’ death on the cross leads to the forgiveness of sin and his resurrection from the grave provides the power for new life. God is a God of second chances, clean slates, and do-overs. Is it time for a new beginning in your life? Today is a great day to step out into one. Happy Easter!
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. ~ Matthew 28:5-6a
In a busy, crowded hospital, I felt like the only person on the planet. I sat on the edge of my hospital bed overwhelmed with sadness and fear - feeling abandoned and completely alone. That afternoon I had been rushed to the ER in severe pain only to discover my gallbladder was about to burst.
“Why now, Lord?” I sighed. My mother had passed away just two weeks ago, I didn’t have health insurance, and my marriage of nearly thirty years was in shambles. My life was at such a low point. I didn’t know if I could face this surgery alone. Mom had always been there for me and now she was gone.
With tears streaming down my face, I cried out to God for help in getting through this surgery. I was desperate to know that I wasn’t alone; that someone cared about what I was facing.
As I finished my prayer of desperation, a young nurse quietly entered my room. She said her name was Serenity. When she asked about my unexpected surgery, I told her about the excruciating pain, the paralyzing fear, and the overwhelming loneliness. Serenity listened and nodded as I poured out my feelings of sadness and loss. Her gentle smile reminded me of her name.
She sat down next to me on the bed and took my hand. “Your mother is with God now she said, “and your surgery will go well.” Then she prayed with me and reminded me that God loves me more than I will ever know. A deep sense of peace came over me.
My surgery did go well and the next day another nurse was taking my blood pressure when I asked if Serenity was on duty. She gave me a curious look. “There’s no one here by that name,” she said. “And I’ve been here for nearly twenty years.”
After my discharge, I checked with the personnel department to confirm that no one named Serenity had ever worked or volunteered at the hospital. I smiled and realized that God had sent an angel to encourage me - a young, scared, lonely woman who needed to know that God was real and that He loved her.
For he will command his angels concerning you; to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11
How can two people have so much in common and lead such different lives? I have two friends with young families. Both of them are younger than me (about age 30) and married to caring, devoted, hard-working men who are attentive to their wives and work hard to ensure their happiness. My friends both live in nice houses and enjoy incomes that are well above average. They each have two children and are financially able to be full-time, stay-at-home moms. They are also blessed with husbands that are great fathers who love their children and are actively involved in their lives. But that is where the similarities end.
One of my friends knows of God but does not yet acknowledge his presence in her life. In spite of her idyllic circumstances, her life is filled with strife and unrest. She is easily and frequently upset, never satisfied, and rarely appears to be happy. Much of her frustration and anger is directed at her husband and two children, who work diligently to please her and appease her anger.
My other friend’s life is a complete contrast. She knows, loves, and serves God actively, with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength. Her life radiates a powerful sense of joy, peace, and contentment. I have never seen her visibly upset and she exudes a constant and unending attitude of gratitude for everything in her life – especially her husband and two children, who work diligently to please her and make her happy.
My second friend chooses to be a stay-at-home mom who works very part time from home (10-12 hours a week). She goes to great lengths to create a loving and peaceful atmosphere in her home and provide her family with a safe and welcoming place of refuge and retreat from the battles of life.
She demonstrates sincere respect for her husband and expresses her love for him in word and in deed. She is kind and loving to her children and enjoys spending time with them - playing games, reading to them, engaging them in conversation, and teaching them about life. They are a tremendous source of blessing that bring deep joy. The love and unity she creates in, for, with, and through her family is evident, constant, and growing.
A life full of meaning, purpose, fulfillment, love, gratitude, and contentment is something we all desire. Both of my friends want and need these things in their lives. My first friend is frantically searching – desperately looking for these things in all the wrong places. My second friend has them. The difference lies in their relationship with God, the creator of life and sole source of meaning, purpose, fulfillment, love, gratitude, and contentment.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
We all have them in some form or another, don't we? A new baby, a wedding, a new job, the first day of school… Each day is a new beginning, another chance, a clean slate. New beginnings are not always good but they can teach us something about life - who we are, where we are going, and who God is.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope."
In today’s world, especially in this economy, it is so easy to wonder where God is. Is he real? Does he care about my situation? Where do I go from here? The questions are endless but the truth is that God is right where he has always been, right here in the midst of our life with all of its joys and disappointments, happiness and sorrows, pleasure and pain, struggles and uncertainties. His loving arms are stretched out to all who will take his hand and trust him to love and guide us on the path he has set before us. He is there to walk with us every step of the way.
I am so blessed to spend four days each week with my two grandsons. The six-year old is in kindergarten until noon so I have alone time each morning with his little brother, who will celebrate his first birthday next month.
The other day my youngest grandson was playing near his toy box with some of his favorite toys spread out around him. His little rocking horse and a few other larger toys were next to the toy box.
Suddenly he saw it – his favorite ball. It had somehow been pushed out of the toy box and was stuck between the rocking horse, the toy box, and the wall. His initial attempts to get his ball were unsuccessful and he plopped down on his little bottom in frustration.
I was torn. I knew what he wanted and was tempted to get the ball for him. I also wanted him to think and learn and grow and succeed – so I watched and waited.
His desire was strong and soon he was back at it again. He pushed and pulled and twisted and turned. As he maneuvered his little body one way and then another, his favorite ball just seemed to wedge itself more tightly into its inaccessible position.
Soon it was time for another break. He sat down and simply stared at the ball. I sensed he was trying to figure out a way to reach his goal. Suddenly he stood up, moved to the far side of the rocking horse, and pulled that little horse away from the toy box and the wall.
A huge smile lit up his face as he realized he had figured out how to get to his favorite ball. I watched him pick up the ball and toddle away with the prized possession clutched tightly in his little hands. He was still beaming with the joy of success and his sense of accomplishment was the real prize.
I was so glad I had not intervened and stolen his joy. Perhaps God sometimes watches and waits as we think and learn and grow and succeed. He may allow us to figure out how to reach a goal without “doing it” for us every time. What if the God-given ability to think and to work are the answer to some of our prayers?
The Bible tells us to run the race with perseverance; to press on toward the goal, striving for the prize, and fighting the good fight as we keep our eyes on Jesus. We are to fight discouragement and battle against the desire to give up when things are difficult.
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3 :14 (NIV)
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~ Hebrews 12:1b-3 (NIV)
The church we attended for the past two years closed its doors last month. In January 2008, we received a flyer in the mail and were visitors at the very first service. We got involved quickly and became part of the leadership team. Two years and just over one hundred Sunday mornings later, we were there for the very last service. That was five weeks ago.
God did great things for us, with us, in us, and through us as a church – worship, ministry, biblical teaching, spiritual growth, and loving relationships happened. People came to faith in Christ and those of us who already had a relationship with God through faith in Christ became more like Jesus. Then it was time for something great to come to an end.
A week ago Saturday (five weeks after our last service), many who attended our church services regularly and considered themselves part of the church family got together for a potluck reunion and birthday party celebration at our house. With the exception of some brother-sister, parent-child relationships, none of us had known each other prior to our coming together as a church family. But what I noticed about Saturday was how much and how deeply we had come to love and care for one another.
Prior to our gathering, anticipation ran high. Everyone looked forward with great excitement to our five-week reunion. People arrived and were met with warm and affectionate greetings of love and acceptance – greetings expressed through hugs, smiles, handshakes, laughter, arm squeezes, and enthusiastic pats on the back.
The house was filled with fun and laughter. A spirit of great joy and celebration prevailed as the afternoon stretched into evening. We all belonged. It was like “coming home” and none of us wanted the day to end. And if anyone has ever wondered if Christians know how to have fun, wonder no more. I have not laughed so hard for so long since I can remember!
I believe Heaven will be like last Saturday – like coming home; home to more love than we can imagine; home to joy, peace, and laughter; home to the welcoming and accepting arms of Jesus.
We are not at home here on earth. Things don’t work or fit together as they should. As Christ followers, we don’t “belong” here anymore. We don’t fit in. We’re only visiting this planet. Our true citizenship is in heaven. But for now we live in this foreign land – a land filled with sin, death, hate, injustice, greed, violence, indifference, pain, sorrow, and disappointment. There is restlessness deep within our spirits – an inward sense of disconnection.
But someday we will be “coming home” again to the place we belong – to that eternal reunion and celebration. I for one am not planning to miss it. How about you?
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. ~ John 14:1-3
My niece has a four year-old son named Noah. He has a smile that lights up his entire face and big, brown eyes that sparkle with joy, wonder, and at times, mischief. Noah is constantly on the go. His quest to explore his world and make new discoveries in this adventure of life is contagious and sometimes gets him into trouble. He is all boy.
Being the great mom that she is, my niece is diligent in her efforts to mold and shape Noah’s character. She teaches him that right choices are rewarded and wrong choices have consequences. In a recent attempt to avoid punishment for such a wrong choice, four year-old Noah came up with an astounding defense strategy.
“But mommy, I didn’t do it!” he reported. “The bad Noah in me did it. The good Noah told me not to do it but the bad Noah won this time.” Not bad for a four year-old, is it? His mother wisely suppressed her laughter and punished Noah (along with his two new friends, Bad Noah and Good Noah).
This is the stuff of which family legends are made. The story spread like wildfire through the extended family network and we all laughed until we cried. I imagine that Noah’s words will weave themselves into the fabric of family culture and be repeated at family birthday parties and holiday gatherings for years to come.
Noah’s recognition of the battle between the bad Noah and the good Noah may not have been effective as a punishment avoidance strategy but its value as an impromptu theology lesson for believers is right on the mark. In Romans 7:15-20, God’s word speaks directly to the internal warfare waged in the hearts and minds of born again believers – the battle between our renewed spirit and our natural soul.
The apostle Paul seems to “get it” when it comes to this intense struggle within. He writes, “What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:15-25 MSG)
Valentines Day. You either love it or you hate it. My husband hates Valentine’s Day.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, he is creative, romantic, expressive, and believes in love and all that “the day of hearts and flowers” stands for. He just doesn’t understand why we pick one day out of the entire year to “show and tell” our love for each other. He thinks we should go out of our way to make loved ones feel special every day – and if we must do something annually, let’s limit our selfish ways and uncaring words to one day each year.
He is also a leader and not a follower. Whenever “everyone” is doing anything, the opposite course of action begins to appeal to my husband. He is a contrarian and a non-conformist who argues that a gift that is “expected” is no longer special or meaningful. Rather, the expectation reduces the “gift” to an obligation – a duty that must be performed.
Going the extra mile to express love for those you care about – saying or doing something extra special for the one you love needs to be a daily activity, not an annual event. Obviously, a huge part of me agrees with him. Another part of me says, “Hey buddy, where are my flowers?”
If his “unique perspective” was just a philosophy of empty words, I would be in trouble. But I must admit that I am fortunate to be married to a romantic and creative man who frequently goes out of his way to show, and tell me how much he loves me.
I’m so thankful that God doesn’t wait for a “special” day to love us. There is nothing that can compare with the love that the creator has for each of us all the time. He gave us His very best and expresses His love in countless ways everyday. Thankfully, we don’t need to wait for a year to receive His love either.
God’s love for us and our love for Him is an anytime, all the time relationship.
For God so love the world that He gave His only son that who ever believes in Him will never die but live forever. ~ John 3: 16
The sun is shining brightly from a cloudless blue sky and the summer grass smells sweet as I run barefoot through the meadow. My gaze is fixed on the overwhelming beauty of the colorful hillside rising before me. A vast expanse of purple, white, and greens hues emanate from the blanket of wild irises that covers the entire hillside.
The brilliant colors fill my young heart with joy and a smile crosses my face. I begin to wonder if heaven is on that hillside. I want it to be. I want so much to keep running up to the radiant splendor of heaven where all the cares of this world will melt away and I will find peace.
As I reach the hillside, I slow down. I begin to climb tentatively at first, almost reverently; not wanting to damage the flowers or taint the beauty of this purple blanket of peacefulness. But the flowers seem to go on forever and I can’t wait to get to the top. My pace increases to a brisk walk, then a gentle jog, and finally a full speed run that moves me faster and faster toward the pinnacle of that heavenly hillside.
Breathless with exertion and expectation, I finally crest the hill and drop to my knees in wonder and delight as the purple blanket of flowers enfolds and comforts me. I lie down and feel the sense of peace and rest that I have desperately longed for – the peace that has eluded me for ten years of life on this planet.
After a timeless rest, I stand up and, from the heights of that heavenly hill, gaze in awe and wonder at the palette of beauty before me. I have found a piece of heaven on earth. With my face and hands lifted to the sky I shout, “Thank You, God” and then proceed to twirl round and round, laughing with delight at the beauty and wonder of life.
This is a precious memory from my childhood. As a child, I believed that God created that heavenly hillside of purple flowers just for me – and maybe he did. I pray that I will never lose that childlike faith and the sense of awe and wonder, of love and beauty, of peace and adventure that is only found in a personal relationship with God. May we all find a heavenly hillside where God is as real to us as life itself.
On Sunday I heard a message that inspired me. The text was 1 Samuel 9 – the story of how Saul unexpectedly came to discover God’s ultimate purpose and perfect plan for his life. If you’re anything like me, this is something I want to discover in my life.
God had a perfect plan to place an imperfect person in a position of great influence and importance. Physically, Saul was tall, dark and handsome (literally) but in terms of leadership potential, that was about it. He lacked confidence, resolve, courage, and was a bit of a whiner (a lot like me except for the tall, dark, and handsome part). Not only that, Saul was from an ordinary family an insignificant clan from the tiny tribe of Benjamin. In Saul’s culture, birthright, lineage, and position were huge factors.
So here’s the reader’s digest version of the story and a few questions that I hope will make you think.
Saul’s father owned some donkeys that were missing. He asked Saul to take one of the servants and find the donkeys. So off they went. The first day they searched the mountains of Ephraim and the area surrounding the city of Shalisha to no avail. The next day they criss-crossed the district of Shaalim and hunted through the territory of Benjamin – still no donkeys. The third day found them lost and “donkey-less” in the land of Zuph. Saul was ready to return home to his father. He feared his father would stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about them.
When Saul told his servant that he wanted to go home, his servant (who should have just said, “Yes, sir”), told Saul about a man of God in this city who might be able to help them. Saul reminded the servant they had no food, money, or gift to give the man of God (it was customary to offer compensation to a prophet for his help). Saul’s servant was expecting the unexpected. He produced a quarter of a shekel of silver and gave it to Saul.
Question: When you feel that you have nothing left to offer, can you believe that God will still provide for you in unexpected ways?
On their way into town, they met some young women and asked if they knew where to find the man of God. They did - he was in town and just ahead of them. Saul and his servant hurried into town and encountered Samuel (the prophet) as they were entering the city.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. The day before, God told Samuel that he would send the man who was to be the king of Israel to Zuph from the land of Benjamin. When Samuel saw Saul, God let him know that Saul was the chosen one.
Picture this - as they greet each other, Samuel is most likely in a state of awe as he reverently beholds God’s providential choice for the first king of Israel. At the same time, Saul is hoping his servant’s quarter shekel of silver is enough to convince Samuel to help him find his donkeys.
Question: Are you expecting the unexpected from God and looking for his best in your life or are you obsessed with finding donkeys?
Much to Saul’s surprise, Samuel told Saul that the donkeys had been found and then invited Saul and his servant to be his guests for the evening. Saul was surprised by the invitation, the unexpected dinner, the seat of honor at the table of influential people, the prime cut of meat, the private audience with Samuel, and the royal treatment and accommodations he received. The next morning Samuel anointed Saul the future king of Israel.
Question: Are you aware that God wants to feed and fill you and provide you with a place of rest, refreshment, and restoration – and that He wants to pour the anointing oil of his love on you and reveal the place of purpose, meaning, fulfillment, influence, and leadership for which you were created?
This is really a story of how God orchestrates circumstances to put his perfect plan into motion. Saul was about to become the first king of Israel – and he thought he was looking for donkeys.
There’s nothing wrong with looking for donkeys. But never forget that with God, anything can happen. Something much bigger may be happening while you’re looking for those donkeys. An entirely new beginning may be just around the bend. Don’t miss what God is doing in your life. Expect the unexpected.
When I was sixteen, my parents sent me to Gold Beach, OR to spend the summer working in my aunt and uncle’s restaurants. They owned a dinner house and a drive-through restaurant that were both located near the beach.
I was painfully shy, didn’t make friends easily, and was terrified of talking to just about anyone. After failing the speech class my parents forced me to take my sophomore year (in the hopes it would help curb my shyness), banishing me to my Aunt and Uncle’s for the summer somehow made sense to them.
I remember thinking that my life was over and wondering how I was ever going to make it through the summer stuck in a God-forsaken place like Gold Beach. I told my mom there was no way I would allow her to force me into unpaid restaurant labor for the summer – then I got on the bus that would transport me to the best summer of my life.
My Aunt and Uncle treated me well and seemed to understand me. My cousin Kathy was my polar opposite, a cute, blonde, perky and popular straight ‘A’ student who made friends easily. But we were the same age and, for some strange reason, we hit it off and got along very well that summer. I had a new friend.
We did everything together - movies, beach, shopping, each others hair and nails. As the summer progressed, I began to see how much I was missing by letting my shyness control my life. I watched Kathy interact with customers at the restaurant. She showed me how to wait tables and take orders and in the process of being ‘forced’ to talk with people, I began to see my shyness for what it was - the wall I hid behind to hide my feelings of ugliness and inferiority. I wanted to be like other girls at school who had friends and boyfriends and went to football games and parties, but I just didn’t know how.
But learning to be a waitress and talking to people that summer changed all that. As I became comfortable talking to customers, I began to notice changes in other areas of my life. I was learning about me, and who I was, and who God made me to be. I began to stand up straight and look people in the eye. I began to smile more and was amazed that people smiled back.
As I began to accept myself for who I was I began to actually like the person I saw in the mirror – not an easy thing for many teenage girls. As my self-confidence grew, my entire world opened up. I expressed my new found personality in many ways. I began to dress differently and make new friends. I laughed, took risks, attended parties, and even started dating. In short, I began to live life fully.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief (fear, shyness, worry) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
I am still shy but since that summer, I refuse to be crippled by shyness. God gave me that summer to help me discover the part of me that He always knew was there – the part I was unable to see.
I knew you before I formed you in your mothers womb. Jeremiah 1:5
Imagine you are at the park watching your kids or grandkids play in the public fountain. The sun is shining brightly. Happy kids are screaming in delight as they race back and forth through streams of shooting water.
Just as you’re thinking, “Now I can relax for a few minutes and soak up the sun and laughter.” A strong and pungent dose of reality hits you right in the nose - The woman who just sat down next to you reeks of some disgusting combination of body odor and cigarette smoke. She looks worse that she smells – poor hygiene, dirty clothes, oily skin, missing teeth, unkempt hair.
Desperate to move ‘upwind’ and escape the foul stench, your eyes quickly search for an open bench only to discover there are none available. You instinctually turn away from her and shift, then scoot yourself to the far end of the bench. Your indignant disgust escalates to anger as you think, “How can people like that go out in public?”
As an unintentional prayer starts to form in your mind, “God, please don’t let her try to start up a conversation with me”, the sermon from James 2 about favoritism and discrimination that you heard at church Sunday flashes through your mind - the one about not judging outward appearances and treating everybody the same.
“No way, God! Please don’t make me talk to her. I can’t do it. I won’t.”
The sermon tape in your head keeps playing – “Doing everything in love is the key to living as God commanded us. Love God completely and love your neighbor as yourself.”
“But she isn’t even my neighbor - well maybe (technically) for this brief moment she is,” you think. “After all, she is sitting right next to me.”
So you say a short prayer asking God to forgive you for judging her by her appearance. You muster up your best smile and say, Nice day, isn’t it?” She seems startled – as if no one has ever spoken to her before. Then she smiles a smile that lights up her entire face and says, “Yes, it is.”
As you visit, you learn she is at the park with her three year-old grandson. It’s the first time he has ever been allowed to visit her. Her unmarried daughter, with whom she has not spoken for over two years ended up in the hospital with no one else to watch her son. As she continues to pour out her heart, you realize that this meeting is no accident. You know that God put her in your path today.
Sound familiar? Maybe the “bad smell” is something more subtle – something socially acceptable like that grumpy neighbor you’ve never cared for, the irritating coworker who is always brown-nosing the boss, or the couple who brags incessantly about their daughter’s athletic abilities at the soccer game. Perhaps it’s the grocery clerk or the customer service representative from whom you expect special treatment.
Favoritism (giving people what they may or may not deserve based on their status or appearance) and discrimination (withholding from people what they may or may not deserve based on their status or appearance) is a constant battle for me. It runs rampant in our society. Our culture encourages it.
Jesus loves us all the same - the down and out, the poor, the helpless, the mentally sick, the physically sick, and the spiritually sick. And he wants us to follow his example. I’m pretty good at loving the loveable but the unloveable are a different story – something I need to work on.
The bottom line is that people (all people) matter to God – and that is why they must matter to us. We love and serve God best by loving and serving people.
I recently blogged about the closing of our church in a post entitled, “Death of a Dream” (1/19/10). I realized that this sad event was the end of a really great chapter in my life - but it was not the end of the story.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about what to do when something really great comes to an end. Life is full of changing seasons - adolescence, first job, dating, graduation, marriage, children, career change, relocation, business opportunity, grandchildren, empty nest, health issues, loss of loved ones and the list goes on. Seasons change. Transition happens. We have a decision to make. Will we fight and resist change or will we welcome and embrace it? The choice is ours to make.
Gracefully transitioning from one season of life to another is an art form. I don’t know about you, but ‘gracefully’ is not a word that comes to mind when I think about my response to change. I tend to fight and resist change – to hang on to the old season ‘that was’ for much too long. The problem with my tendency is that I can’t embrace a new season without letting go of the old one.
My husband recently preached a message called “Out of the Nest – Time to Fly” from which I learned more about what to do when something really great comes to an end. His text was Mark 9:2-8, the story of the transfiguration – a really great experience that Peter wanted to hang on to.
Here’s what I learned…
1. When something really great happens, pay attention. Don’t miss the moment.
2. Don’t hang on when it’s time to let go (don’t try to build a house at every stop on the journey).
3. When clouds appear, remember that it may be God’s presence – his way of reminding (or forcing) you to listen for his voice.
4. Listen to what God is saying in the midst of the cloud.
5. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Choose to see no one except him.
It’s that simple. Maybe it isn’t so easy at times but it is that simple.
When a mother bird knows it's time for her babies to fly, she pushes them out of the nest. At first, the little birdies are terrified, angry, and confused as they feel the sensation of plummeting to the earth. Then something tells them to spread their wings and they experience the exhilaration of flying.
As the young birds begin to realize they were created to fly, the security and comfort of the nest from which they were launched seems unimportant by comparison. Though flying is so much better, the fond memories of life in the nest never cease to bring great joy.
No matter what change life’s next season holds for you, I challenge you to savor the moment, let go of what was, listen for God’s voice, keep your eyes on Jesus, and fall back off the cliff of the unknown into the loving arms of the Father. It may be the end of a chapter in your life – but it is not the end of the story.
Sunday was the last service for our church. It was hard to say goodbye - hard to let go of the dream called Mercy Hill Church.
Two years to the week, my husband and I received a flyer in the mail and attended the very first service. We were struck by the friendly acceptance and sincere love of the pastor and his wife - and their passionate vision to impact our community for Christ. We quickly knew we wanted to be part of this new kingdom venture.
At first, we met in a movie theater and eventually moved to the local community center. My husband’s leadership gifts led to an invitation to serve on the leadership team. After six months, he became part of the teaching team and shared preaching/teaching responsibilities with the lead pastor. It wasn’t long before I was using my gifts and coordinating the hospitality ministry.
We were a small but growing church. Visitors experienced the same spirit of genuine love and acceptance that had attracted us to Mercy Hill. Over the months, many visitors let us know they were positively impacted.
As the economy weakened, our little independent church began to struggle financially. It was a struggle that made us stronger and knit us together. We became a real church family. We loved, cared, and ministered to one another. God would use one person to heal and another to be healed, spiritually and physically.
On Christmas Sunday, just three weeks before our final service, one young woman in our church saw her mother, her sister, and her boyfriend come to Christ. A high school student who had been attending for two months and a middle-aged lady who attended sporadically from the beginning also came to believing faith that day.
When I first learned that our church was going to close its doors, I had such a sense of loss and wondered where we went wrong - where we failed. I wondered why God was allowing this to happen when it was clear that so many in the church needed what we had to offer – especially the new believers.
Then I began to realize that this isn’t the death of a dream at all. It is definitely a sad moment - a sad ending to a great chapter in a much bigger story. But it is not the end of the story. It is a new beginning.
Sunday was an interesting day to say the least. It started at church and ended at the hospital after an afternoon trip to the emergency room – so I’ve heard. The funny thing about Sunday is that I have only a vague recollection of a half dozen hazy moments from the entire day and no ability to associate them with that particular Sunday. The few fuzzy memories I can muster occur sporadically and appear along a time line of disconnected events that is out of whack.
The bottom line, according to my husband’s report, was that I instantly and completely lost all memory of events and experiences of the past two to three years without warning (I didn’t even remember I wrote a blog). Apparently, my ability to record and retain any memories of the present as it unfolded completely disappeared as well.
For most of the afternoon, I apparently asked the same question over and over every one to three minutes. After an hour or two, I moved on to repeat a new question over and over again (my poor husband). At first I was aware that I could not remember things and upset by it. After the first few hours, I seemed to be unaware of my inability to remember things.
Following are two of my husband’s favorite examples of what the entire day was like (chosen from dozens). The first one occurred in the car after church less than five minutes after a great conversation about the worship service that morning and the moving testimony I had given from the pulpit. (I have no memory of the service or the testimony). The second one occurred in the emergency room.
• Cassie: Where are we going?
• Curt: (tentatively) Unless you’ve changed your mind, we’re going grocery shopping at Whole Foods after church like you planned.
• Cassie: Church? We were at church? Where do we go to church?
• Curt: (not getting it) Funny. So what do we need when we get there?
• Cassie: I don’t know what we need. Where are we going?
Apparently, I asked where we were going two or three dozen times during the fifteen minute drive to the store.
• Doctor: Repeat these 3 words... rainbow, goulashes, yellow.
• Cassie: Rainbow... goulashes... yellow.
• Doctor: Good job! It sounds like you had to work pretty hard to remember them.
• Cassie: Remember what?
• Doctor: The three words.
• Cassie: What three words?
Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, isn’t it? Through it all, my self identity and self-awareness were intact (who I am, what I believe), my memory of people and relationships was unaffected (“Do you remember John/Mary/Bill/Susan?” and “What are your children's/parent's/sibling's names?”), and my cognitive abilities and knowledge base were unchanged (letters, colors, spelling, math, places, directions, etc.). And there were no physiological symptoms.
Thankfully, it was not a stroke or anything along those lines. The diagnosis was Transient Global Amnesia. A brief definition and overview of symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment can be found at http://mayoclinic.com/health/transient-global-amnesia/DS01022.
It is a very rare condition and the medical profession doesn’t really know what causes it or how to treat it. It usually lasts for six to twenty four hours and then memory gradually returns. My memory is pretty much back to normal with the exception of twelve to thirteen hours during and immediately preceding the episode.
I don’t mind forgetting the pain of the spinal tap (lumbar puncture) or the stress and anxiety of the visit to ER. I wish I remembered the church service and the moving testimony of what God is doing in my life. Apparently the service was a meaningful one filled with encouragement, laughter, tears, and friendship.
At the same time, I am choosing to trust God. His timing and purposes are never accidental - even for this bizarre experience. I am also rejoicing that this appears to be such an isolated event and not a long term condition. God is good.
As Christians, we walk by faith and don’t always know what lies ahead or up around the bend. On Sunday, I didn’t even know what was happening in the moment. Much like my twenty four hour bout with TGA, God ultimately will bring us safely through the dark places and out of the misty fog in our lives. One day we will see everything clearly.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13: 12
Not long ago, my husband registered for a purpose driven church planting seminar in Ocala, Florida. We live in Oregon and there are very few things that scare me more than flying.
If you have ever met my husband, you know he can be very persuasive. He can motivate people to do just about anything and his enthusiasm and passion are infectious. He has such a heart for unchurched people and as soon as I heard him talking about this seminar, I knew I was in big trouble.
He would expect me to come with him and to do that I would have to get on an airplane. So there was only one thing left to do – just tell him there was no way that he and God were going to make that happen. When he gently pointed out that I was acting like a faithless, fearful, negative, paranoid chicken, he was right. But I didn’t care. There was no way I was getting on that plane!
A few months later my husband was on the flight to Florida – with the paranoid chicken right beside him. (I told you he was persuasive.) It might have been the few days of vacationing in Florida or the trip to Disney World (a first for me). In truth, I think it was when he looked into my eyes and said, “Honey, we are a team and I can’t do this without you” that I caved.
So I said yes. Yes, to what I believed would be painful incineration followed by certain death in a fiery crash caused by the crazed terrorist suicide bomber sitting next to me. And why don’t they put parachutes in the seat cushions instead of flotation devices – especially on a flight from Oregon to Florida?
It was comforting to know that my husband would be sitting beside me holding my hand as we crashed and burned our way into eternity - comforting, but not much help. His question to me was” Honey, why would God call us into ministry just to take us home to be with him?” It was a good question for a rational person but it meant nothing to a faithless, fearful, negative, paranoid chicken.
I had tried to prepare him for my extreme terror of flying. But it wasn’t until we were on the plane that he discovered how all consuming my fear was. I started shaking as soon as we entered the tunnel of death that led from the terminal to the plane. An overwhelming sense of dread crept over me as we boarded. Visions of mid-air explosions and bodies burnt beyond recognition flooded my mind as I strapped myself securely into the death tube – my thoughts spiraling out of control.
As we began to taxi down the runway and the plane picked up speed, I heard the roar of the engines and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Then I started to hyperventilate and went into some sort of frozen trance-like state as my mind escaped from my soon-to-die body to another place. How did I voluntarily subject myself to such terror?
Suddenly, it hit me – a terrifying thought that shook my entire body, “I have no control over this situation. My fate is in the hands of a pilot I do not know.” So I sputtered out this short prayer, “Please help me God, for I am completely overwhelmed by this fear.”
In that moment Gods presence became so real to me. It was like falling back over a cliff and suddenly finding my self enfolded in the Father’s loving arms. The fear poured out as his perfect peace filled me completely. I could hear him speaking into my mind, “I am in control. Your life is in my hands and I have a purpose for you.”
As we landed in Florida, I was still holding my husband’s hand but it was no longer the death grip of a terror filled wife. I doubt if I will ever really “enjoy” flying but next time I will remember to place my trust in the pilot of my soul. Jesus is at the control panel in the cockpit of my heart everyday. He will always get us to our final destination and is the only source of peace at 30,000 feet.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:7
Has God ever led you to a place you weren’t ready to go?
It happened to me five years ago when my husband announced it was time to leave the comfort of the little country church we attended. He felt our work there was complete and believed God was calling us to plant a church. I was sensing the same thing. I always believed my husband was destined to pastor a church and now it was time to act on that belief.
I rejoiced at the opportunity to follow God’s call and obey his leading in our lives. I resolved to trust God fully and immediately sensed his perfect peace as I let go and totally surrendered myself and our future to him… OH WAIT!
(Scratch that last paragraph and save it for the fictionalized version.)
The truth of the matter was that I was stricken with an overwhelming sense of fear, panic, and terror. I began to question if I was really hearing from God and if it was him, I wondered if he had gotten it wrong.
The irony was that I often encouraged my husband to consider church planting. I knew his passion for ministry and his heart for the unchurched. I believed in him and his leadership abilities but now that it was time to pursue that dream, I choked and defaulted to panic-driven rebellion.
The source of my terror could be identified with one simple question. What qualifications did I have to be a pastor’s wife? Though I could easily picture my husband as a pastor, there was no way I could see myself as a pastor’s wife.
Everyone knows what a pastor’s wife is like, right? A pastor’s wife can sing like an angel and play the piano. She has an advanced degree in sewing, cooking, and homemaking and is a poised and polished speaker who can motivate others and speak authoritatively on just about any subject. She is a tireless volunteer with a calendar full of bible studies, blood drives, soup-kitchen serving days, trips to the senior center, and hospital visitations. A pastor’s wife has perfect kids who have no problems. Plus, everyone knows that all pastor’s wives have the gift of organization. In short, they are just about perfect – OK, they are perfect.
So why would God pick someone like me to be a pastors wife? I don’t have a great singing voice and the only instrument I play is the VCR. I would rather run my fingernails across a chalkboard all day than speak in front of a group of people. I prefer watching movies on Netflix in a quiet and peaceful home to the frantic pace and hectic schedule of an overfilled calendar. My kids are normal with normal problems and as for organization, let’s just say that it is not one of my gifts and leave it at that.
So with all of these thoughts swirling in my head, I was freaking out because I didn’t know how to tell my husband about the tremendous pressure and performance anxiety I was feeling. I was fully convinced that my husband was supposed to plant a church – to be a pastor but I had not a clue as to if, how, and where I would (or ever could) fit into the picture.
My husband laughed when I told him what I was thinking. He helped me let go of my idealized (and unrealistic) picture of what it meant to be a pastor’s wife. He said if my beliefs about pastor’s wives were true that all pastors would be single except for Wonder Woman’s husband (and he’s probably not a pastor). He reminded me that my role as his wife would be the same whether or not he was a pastor.
The good news is that God had a plan that was bigger than my unbelief and he answered all of my questions in wonderful and profound ways. He is still in control and wants to use me just as I am.
Occasionally, my human nature still wants to say, “But wait God, I’m not qualified to do what you ask of me.” But then I remember that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. God always uses imperfect people to fulfill his plans.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9