Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mindful Occupation

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities (Sins),
Who heals all your diseases (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional);
Who redeems your life from the pit (graves of our own making),
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle....
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Psalm 103:2-5, 8

"How did I end up in this place again?" were my thoughts on December 29, 2012. My closets were full of clothes no longer suited to my taste, my cupboards were overflowing with dishware that I do not use, socks were piled with no mates on my laundry table, and kitchen drawers stocked with good intentions forgotten littered my cabinets. Once again my home was occupied with "stuff" draining my mental energies and controlling my time to move, clean, and work around. 

Every year I declare that I will not be taken over with unnecessary "stuff", but each year my mindless choices take over and occupy me like Germany did in Eastern Europe during World War 2. When I read today's Psalm (103), I am struck by how my spiritual, emotional, and mental life could be different in 2013 if I begin the practice of "mindful occupation." 

Mindful Occupation is to be occupied with God. To be intentional about allowing him to fill and control my thinking. If I am intentional about what occupies my mental, spiritual, and emotional "closets and drawers," then I will be free from the unnecessary clutter of fear, doubt, worry, and anxiety that clutters my soul. 

This Psalm is about being occupied with the the knowledge that in Christ my sins are forgiven, that I am healed from the diseases that my sin inflicts (fear, anxiety, worry, hopelessness, etc),  that He redeems and removes me from the "life graves" of my own making, that I am crowned with His love and compassion, and that the satisfaction of knowing I am pardoned will renew my heart and allow it to freely soar in His presence and grace. 

Yes, "mindful occupation" will allow us to choose what enters both the home of our hearts and our houses. I must be mindful, or like my house, I will be overtaken with unnecessary artifacts that clutter and clamor for both my time, space, and energy.

 Today, choose to "Bless the LORD" and then step back and be blessed. Let Him fill your heart and mind with truth. Occupy your thoughts with His promises of love and restoration. Be renewed knowing that He is "slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness." What better way for your soul to be filled and controlled. Yes, we have a choice. Today, mindfully choose Christ.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name (Psalm 103:1). Today, and each day forward, be filled with the "GOOD NEWS" that Jesus Saves. Amen. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Super-sized by Smallness

Choose for yourselves....

Joshua 24:15

Having been a nurse for nearly 30 years, I am a witness to the ravages of daily lifestyle choices that bring about disease and death. A vivid portrayal of the consequences to daily life choices can be seen in the 2004 documentary "Supersize Me" by Morgan Spurlock. In this film Spurlock explores the health outcomes of making daily, dietary choices that run counter to good health. He spends 30 days eating all three meals at one chosen fast food establishment, and readily agrees to "supersize" any menu item if asked. The results were rapid weight gain, high cholesterol levels, mood changes, liver changes, and other dangerous health outcomes. His rapid decline led some on his medical team to implore him to abort the experiment before irreversible body and organ damage occurred. Spurlock continued to the end. 

The results of Spurlock's poor outcomes did not rest in his agreeing to being "supersized," but in his day to day, moment to moment decisions of menu items he selected. Each day, and for each meal, he made small choices that ultimately led to his "super-sized" health decline. Like Spurlock, our day to day, moment to moment "small" choices lead us to experience "Super-sized" consequences.

It is in the smallness of life's daily decisions that we end up living with "supersized" outcomes. Divorce occurs because the unfaithfulness of the spouse began with one "small", intentional glance. Financial ruin resulted after one friendly game of poker. Death ended a vibrant life due to one "small" vodka shot. All decisions are "Super-sized by Smallness." 

Decide today, and each day, what you want your life to be "Super-sized" by, and then make the "small" choices that become the pathway to this end. Like Spurlock, life holds out a menu, and like Spurlock, you get to choose.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.... Deuteronomy 30:19-20   

Today, choose life-choose Christ.

Father, I choose you, I choose life. Every small decision leads somewhere. Help me to make the right decisions. Help me to have a vision that leads to life with you. In your power and in your strength, I rest. Thank you, LORD, for the power to choose small and live large. Amen. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Grace like Grout

The LORD's lovingkindness indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning. 

Lamentations 3:22-23

A few years back I led a team of teenagers to the Dominican Republic. Our job was to assist laying block that would become a perimeter wall that would surround a housing compound for orphans and children with special needs. My personal strengths lie in relationships and not labor, but as the leader I needed to lead by example. So, with trowel in hand and mescla (mortar/grout) in bucket, I set out to fill in the gaps between blocks. The grout acted like a bonding agent holding the wall together, in addition to preventing water from future rains penetrating and weakening the structure.The strength, durability, and safety of the wall was in proportion to me mixing and mounting the right amount of grout. Daily I would assess my work and patch holes that had been created by me not applying the proper amount or the right amount of pressure. I discovered that filling in mortar joints was more of a craft than I had first considered. Grout work was for skilled hands. 

Constructing my "life wall" is like the wall I assisted in constructing in the Dominican. I must be mindful to build in a manner that can withstand the pressure, heat, and the torrential rains that life's challenges assail at me. But what happens when my complaining, my sin, and my mindless words of ingratitude and childish attitudes put gaps in my "life wall?" That's when God's grace, like grout, steps in. 

God 's grace, His lovingkindness, His daily compassions reinforce and strengthen the "mortar joints" of my life. God's skillful hands takes grace and lovingly and willingly fills in the gaps created by my careless choices. He skillfully applies the right amount of discipline, so that I will remember what created the gap, and lovingly injects forgiveness. His lovingkindness and compassion reminds me that when I am weak He is strong.

Jesus, God's son, was a carpenter, so I am confident He knows how to reinforce a life that weakens from sin. Jesus daily inspects my "life wall" and offers to dip into His bucket of grace, and with cross in hand, fill in the gaps that threaten to crumble my life. Jesus, my strength and my safety.

Father, today, forgive me of my sins. Let Your grace like grout reinforce the weakness that my sin  creates.  I am weak, but Thou art strong. Today, and everyday, I accept your grace. Amen. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where is Mr. Dobrich?

Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 

1 Thessalonians 5:14

I love receiving personal mail. I am quite a mail "geek". Daily I look for envelopes with handwriting that has my name inscribed across the center. I relish the moment when I know I will open the envelope and savor each word, as I allow it to saturate my parched, longing soul.

When I was in fifth grade, I had a teacher who would become my daily "Hallmark" card. His name was Michael Dobrich. He was from Yugoslavia, so his accent was "thick". And although his "t's" sounded like "v's" and he was difficult to understand at times, I completely understood the language of his heart.

Mr. Dobrich offered me more than an education. He believed in me, a scrawny, shy, and lonely little girl. Daily he served my longing soul words of kindness, greeted me, and engaged me in conversation. He convinced me to uncover my head and come out of the coat closet I had stood the entire morning in fearing what other's might say about my new hair cut. Through his persistence, he convinced me I looked okay. He drew a full size portrait of me in front of the entire class, conveying to me that I was lovely enough to portray and display. Each day, this kind man loved me for who and what I was.

Mr. Dobrich was an artist, and what he "painted" on my heart would prove to be a masterpiece. He gave me hope. Each day this kind man loved me "as is". He saw my untapped and unformed potential and convinced me I was worthy of his time. I started to believe and act in accordance to his appraisals of me.

So, where is Mr. Dobrich? He is everywhere. He shows up each time I validate the worth of another by choosing to respond in kindness versus anger. He is there when I remind someone how lovely they are, both in spirit and in form. He is there each time I coach someone to step forward and leave fear behind. Mr. Dobrich is the embodiment of one word-Encouragement.

Today, will you be someone's Mr. Dobrich? I know this is my thank you back.

Father, thank you for Mr. Dobrich. Thank you for encouragement. 

To Mr. Michael Dobrich: I do not know if you are still alive, but if you are, thank you. You made a difference. I live different because of your kind, daily encouragement. You were a good teacher and a great mentor.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Where Are You Looking?

Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are.

Genesis 13:14b

I recall my years spent in graduate school. I was working part-time, homeschooling two children, hosting  a house guest, and running a household. The years spent earning a higher degree where both challenging and wearisome. My girls could not wait for me to finish school, but their reasons for me to be done where different than mine. 

My children had longed wished to experience Disney World. They had seen the commercials of Disney's magic, and had counted how many times their friends had been and they had not. They spent many moments envisioning themselves walking alongside of Disney characters, riding exhilarating roller coasters, and wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Each year they asked if they could travel to this "dreamland." So, I gave them a vision of a future and a hope to hold on to during those long days of graduate school. I promised them we would take a once in a life time trip to Disney World after I completed my degree. 

What this promise did for my girls was what God had done for Abraham. Abraham had been promised a great land, along with a great name filled with blessings and descendants to numerous to count. But when his nephew Lot took the best portion of the land, God reminded Abraham of His promise. God told Abraham to look up from where he was. In the midst of standing on an inferior portion of land compared to Lot, God told Abraham to look up. He was not to focus on where he was standing at the moment, but to look toward where he would be positioned when the promise would be made complete. Further, God instructed Abraham to arise and walk about the promised land. 

We too have been given a promise filled with the hope of a future filled with both blessings and prosperity, along with the presence of God himself. Regardless of where we are right now in our life, God wants us to look up and see the promise. He wants us to arise from our present circumstance and "walk". By "walking" we stake claim to the promise and shake off the "blinding chains" of the moment. When we arise we are refusing to allow our "inferior" circumstances to blind our vision of our future in and with Him. Unlike my promise to my children, which depended on my completing my degree, this promise is dependent upon God's words, which are "faithful and True." Revelation 21:4 reminds us that "all things" will be made new. 

So, why do we not "lift our eyes" to Him? Because we are reaching out for man to fill our hands with the promise of "grain and wine" (Hosea 7:14) that only God can give. Today, please, "lift up your eyes" and let God lift you up and take your heart where He has promised. Walk in His promises and His hope. Cling to God and not man. Look into His eyes, for there you will find rest and assurance in the midst of your barrenness. Better to have our bellies empty then to have our hearts barren of the hope we have in Christ.  Death by hunger is temporary. Death by hopelessness is eternal. Today, eat of Christ and live eternally. Today, "lift up your eyes" to one who can save your soul. 

Today, Lord, you have reminded me that when other's look to me for their hope, I am to redirect their gaze towards you. My promises are temporal, but Yours are eternal. Eternal God, lift the gaze  of  our hearts toward You, the God of Hope and Promise. Let us hunger for you and not the "grain and wine" of man.  Amen.    

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Listen, my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

Psalm 78:1

Words, words, words. I live in a world filled with words. Daily, I delete annoying emails filled with words that vie for my attention and pocketbook. I listen to newscasters filling the airways with predictions of financial doom, scholastic failure, evil acts, loss through natural disasters, war, famine, and ongoing political banter between political parities. Further, I work in an environment filled with words of those struggling to understand their physical decline, and the hopelessness they feel as a result. By the end of my day, I can be depleted of all hope if it were not for different words I intentionally seek out. 

Psalm 78 grabs my attention, because it instructs me to "incline my ear to the words" of God's mouth. This Psalm goes on to say that the words of God's mouth will sing of "His praises" and "His strength." I am also told to make sure that my children and future generations hear His words so that they will "put their confidence in [Him]." 

Why do I feel the words of this Psalm is worth meditating on? Because what I listen to becomes the place I rest my confidence upon. If I listen intently to the prediction of financial doom, then I fear loss. But if I listen to a God that tells me He can take care of a sparrow, then He can take care of me. If I listen to the perpetual reports of academic failure in this country, then I start to believe that only the educated and wise have purpose. But if I am listening intently to His words, I will here a God that states I was created with purpose, and that my life is meaningful in all moments and everyday. 

You see, we are to place our confidence in Him. We can only do this if we listen intently to what He is saying. Our confidence will rise up as we come to hear that He will avenge those who harm His children, that He is sovereign over poverty, hunger, and disasters. We can trust that regardless of who are political leaders are, that He uses them to accomplish His purposes. We will hear him as He reminds us that He is our healer, and that the healing He offers last beyond the grave. 

Today, incline you ear to different words, His Words, and know that you can rise up in His praise and His strength. Listen intently, because there is one more thing He wants you to be confident in. Listen carefully. Listen as He whispers-I LOVE YOU!

Today, Father , fill my ears with your Words. Fill my heart with Your Words. Fill my life with Your Words. Today, I rest confidently in You, because You, Oh Lord, Love me. Amen. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Born to Die and Live Well

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes confirm the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:17

I have worked in the medical field since 1986. I have been employed in a variety of settings. For most of my career I have enjoyed working with people. I have had many experiences dealing with a variety of personalities, beliefs, values, cultures, religious practices, and life choices. Although I have not always been in sync with these differences, I have appreciated the lens through which I have been blessed to experience humanity. In the presence of such variety, there has remained one common thread among every human being regardless of any difference they have; ten out of ten people die.

Yes, in spite of all the medicines and medical treatments I have rendered, and continue to provide, everyone still dies. What amazes me is not that medicine has yet to defeat death, because it cannot, but that people stop living their lives fighting death. We were placed here with intention and purpose. The psalmist asks God to "establish the work of [his] hands," making them effective and enduring. He understood his mortality; "As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away" (Psalm 90:10).

So, what provides a strong foundation for living well? Knowing we were born to die. Death is our school master. Once we have grasped the concept of dying, then living becomes easier. Accepting death frees us to live life with vision. This vision helps us to understand that relationships were not meant to last, that forgiveness opens the door to freedom and creativity, that each of us has a life work to accomplish in the presence of our inevitable mortality, and that love can be shared without fear, because "love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:8).  Being born to die reminds us that change begins and ends with ourselves, and that the opinions of others do not define our life's work.

Jesus too was born to die. He understood this and lived His life with intention and purpose. His life's work was effective and enduring. Because He died, I now have eternal life. 

Today, embrace death so that God "can confirm the work of your hands" and you can live well. 

Father, death does not have a hold on me. You do. It is you who provides effective and enduring work. As I embrace death, let me live well. Free me to love humanity without fear. Free me to forgive, and release my life's work through courage. "Confirm the work of my hands." Because of you, I can live in the presence of death. Amen. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Prickled People

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Years ago, a high-school friend handed me a jar with a squished face that read "pickled people." I never did quite understand the meaning of that gift, but, I do know that if it had read "prickled people", I would have better understood. Prickled people are a daily encounter for me. 

Once, while supervising a medical facility, I was pulled into a situation that required my intervention. This particular medical consumer was feared by all, due to the foul, vile manner is which this patron spoke, and the harsh demands placed upon the staff. This day was no different, except it was my turn to be the object of such vile and languishing humanity. As I stood listening to the violent screams and vulgar language being cast upon me, in addition to the threat of my license being future owned by this prickled person, I felt a spirit of compassion wash over me. I realized this thorny soul was really a hurting soul. The prickly language and threats being cast out were really a form of self-protection from a fear of being wounded yet again. In that moment I chose to hug this prickled person with words that reflected the gentleness of a Savior that died so that prickled people could have an opportunity to live eternally. What happened next was the evidence of God's love being poured out through obedience to His precept of how to turn away wrath-speak a gentle answer in return. 

In that circumstance, I was reminded that Christ died for all prickly people, including myself. God is intent on owning the hearts of those he died for. It is my job, as His ambassador, to accurately represent His intent. As an ambassador, it is important what I wear -- compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12-17). In that moment, it mattered how I responded, as it does in all of life's moments. 

God loves prickled people, and He will do whatever it takes to offer them eternal life with Him. This may include using you to represent His Kingdom and its principles. Remember, the next time you feel the sting of someone's prickle, it may be God's invitation to represent Him and His eternal Kingdom to a wounded soul in need of a Savior who promises rest and security. Today, embrace the next prickled person you encounter. 

Father, thank you for using prickled people to remind me of why you died. Thank you for loving and dying for me, when I too am prickled. Amen.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time to Dust

Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.

Matthew 10:14

Daily I am in contact with a person who lacks the capacity to receive encouragement. I am perplexed by this individual's resistance to smiles and words of hope. Lately I began to feel discouraged, as I found myself focused on trying to find creative ways to penetrate the doom and gloom of this person's perspective. So I did what any normal person would do when all attempts fail, I threw a pity party for myself and found I was the only invited guest present. As I sat entertaining the idea that perhaps not all was lost, and that maybe I had not tried hard enough, a "human dust cloth" entered my realm and dusted off my memory. For the next 45 minutes this downcast soul poured out the lament of a heart hurting, seeking, and broken. I sat listening and occasionally offering words of hope and encouragement. Thirsty, this soul drank in the offer and left voicing both an enlightened and lighter heart. 

This moment reminded me of the message that Jesus taught His disciples; "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words [God's word's]...shake off the dust and move on (emphasis mine)." I had been obsessed with offering encouragement to a soul tethered to misery and resistant to offers of a changed perspective, while another begged to be set free. God used this moment to remove the dust of self-validation I was seeking from someone who prefers their misery to hope.

Who are you allowing to lay dust over the message of hope and encouragement that another needs to hear? Shake off the dust of discouragement that rejection lays down and move toward the soul willing and ready to embrace change.The old adage that "one man's junk is another man's treasure" is about understanding that what you have to offer will be rejected by some but sought after as a diamond by others. The message of hope and encouragement should never be allowed to suffer under the dust of rejection. Pull out the dust cloth and move on.  

Today, Lord, I seek your perspective. Change my heart. Keep me pure. Remind me that all is not lost to those who reject your hope. Open my eyes to those who are ready to hear your words. Prepare me to shake off the dust of rejection and move toward the one thirsty and ready to embrace you. Thanks for reminding me to persevere and seek the willing. In you, oh Lord, is my hope. Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Infection Control

How can a [man] keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.

Psalm 119:9

Years ago, while in nursing school, I rotated through the surgery department. I was young and very ambitious to observe my first surgery. My thirst for knowlege and educational adrenaline would be satiated as I observed a hiatal hernia repair on an elderly woman. What I most remember was the prep that took place before the surgeon entered the operating room and the first cut made by the surgeon. The staff in the operating room went to great length to prep the patient's skin and secure sterile equipment, so as to prevent any debilitating infection that might infiltrate this woman's body. Additionally, the personnel in the room kept themselves donned in sterile attire and immediately corrected any break in sterile technique.

As a practicing nurse, who presently oversees infection surveillance, I now have a better understanding of why the staff took such extreme precautions. Infection can kill, maim, and permanently impair the functioning of a human being. Consumers and manufacturers are also aware of the importance of preventing infection as evidenced by the saturation and availability of "antibacterial"products.

There is another subtle form of infection that wounds, maims, kills, and permanently destroys humans. This infection is often excused as being part of the cultural norm, so infection control measures are no longer deemed critical. Marriages are broken as men and women live disconnected from their marriage vows, pornography claims the minds of men and women and leaves them unable to maintain purity of thought and action toward innocent children and adults, and minds are destroyed as movies, video games, books, and television normalize murder, crime, and hate. There exists no effort to correct or make adjustments when "sterile life techniques" are broken that could prevent these mortal consequences.

The infection I am referring to is sin. Sin kills. Sin destroys. It maims and claims the lives of families, individuals, and societies daily. There is, however, preventive "sterile life techniques" that can prevent this destructive force, and it is God's Word. His word, properly applied, protects, corrects, and directs the reader on proper "life infection" control techniques and measures. God's Word, in action, saves marriages, protects children, provides peace to anxious hearts and depairing minds, and restores and heals the loss sin demands. And unlike bacteria, which can out smart antibiotics and become "super-bugs," God's word cannot be rendered ineffective.

Today's challenge-practice infection control-read God's Word.

Lord, give me a pure heart as I read your Word. This is your promise. Amen.       

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Boredom's Song

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me; And lead me in the everlasting way. 

Psalm 139: 23-24

My children learned early on not to cast the phrase "I'm bored" in my presence. My answer was always, "Boredom is a lack of imagination on your part." My children never did incline their hearts to liking this response. What I really desired for them was to embrace boredom as an opportunity to turn inward and dream, contemplate, and struggle with life's grueling questions. 

People today flee boredom's song. Internet, entertainment, prescriptive and non-prescriptive relief, the drowning sounds of non-stop conversations and music, and the ongoing, 24/7 Facebook entries keeps one from feeling what boredom requires-answers. 

Boredom unveils our heart's cry. It is the soul's song for a more expansive view of God. Quenching boredom stifles our understanding of God and ultimately cast a blanket over the answers we desperately need. Who am I? What is this pain I feel? Will I ever feel whole again? Am I loved or even lovable? Is there a God, and if there is, what is He like? It is easier to flee these questions that boredom asks than to feel the pain of being searched by boredom's interrogative process. 

The song of boredom is instructive. It teaches us how to filter life's events. It provides a foundation to build meaningful purpose upon. Boredom cries out like the psalmist to search our hearts and know our anxious thoughts. It purges our responses that inflict pain upon those we love. Boredom demands an audience, but unfortunately we have demanded it to take a permanent leave of absence. 

The next time boredom strikes its note, lend it an ear. Turn your heart to it and relent to it as the schoolmaster that it is. You will not regret the momentum and joy it rewards and provides to its audience. Today, listen and learn the prose of boredom's song. 

Today, Lord, I submit to boredom's song. "Search me and know my heart." Teach me how to live with meaning and purpose as I learn to surrender to the pain boredom unveils. Lead me in the everlasting way as I submit to the lessons that boredom has to teach. In Jesus' name, amen.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dropping the F-Bomb

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

1 John 1:9

Our society has become desensitized to coarse language and crude speech. Although we find such language distasteful at times, we no longer shudder when it is spoken. In recent weeks, the one I hear most often is the f-bomb. I even hear children dropping the f-bomb as if it were part of their grammar lesson taught in school. 

There is, however, another F-bomb that I would like to drop. It is forgiveness. Like the other f-bomb, this one is both given and received. Society's f-bomb is meant to harm and destroy the recipient, but the F-bomb of forgiveness releases a captive soul and frees both the sender and recipient from bitterness, anger, and distress. Forgiveness allows each person the freedom to become who God created them to be, while unforgiveness keeps us stuck. 

There is a saying that unforgiveness is a pill we swallow while we wait for the other person to die. The problem with this is that we were the ones who swallowed the pill, and it will be us who die and not the one we are embittered towards. Offering and receiving the F-bomb is our only cure for our imprisoned and dying soul that anger and bitterness locked in. 

Today, drop the F-bomb at the feet of someone who needs to hear "I forgive you." Additionally, receive the F-bomb from a Savior who is faithful to forgive us. When we receive this F-bomb we are no longer defined by our past or by our mistakes, but by a perfect God who gives us new life in Christ and promises a new destination-Heaven. That is one F-bomb I do not mind hearing.

Father, today, I receive the forgiveness that only a perfect God can grant. Also, I forgive those who have harmed me. Remind me that others are like myself, forgetful, thoughtless, needy, insensitive,  and emotionally imperfect. When I receive or extend forgiveness, I am free to live the life you have designed. Today, I receive and give forgiveness, amen. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


...let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. 

Hebrews 12:1

Recently I hosted a garage sale for my daughter, who had asked me to help her raise money for a one year assignment she received in China. Haltingly, I agreed. I had previously declared that I would "never again" host a rummage sale, but here I was sorting through clothes, household items, and various other "absolutes" that no longer held sway over my fickle emotions. When the sale was over, I was relieved to have the needed space. Once again, I felt free from the encumbrance of material possessions that require both time and mental energy to maintain.

As I reflect on this experience, I realize there is another sale I need to hold. I need to declare "soul sale." I need to sort through the responsibilities I have, the obligations I have committed to, and the unnecessary entanglements of complicated relationships. I have noticed that when I do not clear the attic of my soul, then I lack the ability to maintain the focus of what is both necessary and divinely ordained. 

God has uniquely created us to live with meaning and purpose. We have been given a direction, but the clutter in our lives clouds our vision and understanding of His intentional direction. We must post a "soul sale" up that would require sorting and pitching the "entanglements" that prevent us from living full and meaningful lives. What is it you need to sort through and pitch? Today, host a "soul sale" and enjoy the freedom of living unencumbered for the Lord. 

Today, Lord, show me what responsibilities and obligations I need to release. Free my soul from the chain of expectation, and let me live as you intended; with meaning and purpose. Today, I declare a "soul sale." Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Speaking Light

Then God Said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

As I sit reflecting on the power of words, I am reminded of a story my husband recounts on occasion. He had always desired to become an architect. In high-school he had taken a drafting class as preparation for his dream job, however, an ill-spoken comment by his drafting teacher shattered his belief that he could pursue this career. His teacher had made a critical comment on one of his designs without teaching or providing guidance as to how he could improve upon what he was creating. This harsh spoken comment convinced my husband that he was not equipped or talented enough to become an architect. 

Having taught both college and high-school students cumulatively for over 22 years, I wonder how many times my words have seared the direction of a student. Proverbs 18:21 states, "The tongue has the power of life and death" (NIV). Words are so powerful that even God himself used them to speak light into existence. Light illuminates and provides insight to a path once darkened.    

Whose path can you illuminate today by thoughtfully choosing words that bring light? Whose soul can find nourishment through the delivery of carefully chosen words (Proverbs 10:21)? Today, be mindful of your ability to "speak light" into a fellow sojourner. You may never know the final destination your words may have. Speak light not darkness. 

Today, Lord, remind me to choose carefully my words. A "wise tongue brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18). I pray that today I can be a healing force, amen. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sight Unseen

Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he had done. 

Revelation 22:12

While traveling to one of my speaking engagements, I met an extremely delightful, engaging, and well-educated woman. Our conversation was lively and made the two and one half hour flight "fly" by. We enjoyed mutual exchanges in our conversation and anecdotes. One particular piece of biographical data she conveyed was about one of the things she would be doing upon arrival to the city we were flying into. Fifteen years prior she had met and befriended a woman via the internet. For 15 years these two women have written back and forth using technology, but have never once met in person or conversed on the phone. Today both women would meet face-to-face. In addition to being held captive by her story, I was extremely excited that after 15 years these two women would get to meet.

Our relationship with Christ is similar. We read His Word and express ourselves via prayer, but we never get a face-to-face or verbal conversation with Him. And just like my new friend, we believe in the relationship in spite of the tangible evidence of His existence. We believe, because by faith we place our hope in "Him who is unseen (Hebrews 11:27). We believe because we "consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). We believe because "no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV).

I believe in Christ "sight-unseen" because, like my flight partner, I too will one day behold His glory. One day my faith will become my sight and I will receive the reward due to me. My faith will be my reward. What about you? Where is your hope? Where do you place your faith? Ready or not, Christ will return and He will "render to every man according to what he [has] done."

Father, today I reminded that my faith will one day become my sight. Help me to endure for "Him who is unseen." Help me to hold on in the midst of trials and tribulations. "Hope does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5), and my hope is in you. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eat Grit

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. 

Genesis 50:20

My husband and I have raised chickens for over 12 years. One thing we have learned is that they need to eat grit for supplying extra calcium and in aiding their digestion of food. Basically, they need to eat grit to be healthy. Recently I learned I do to.

I had a day filled with frustration from the moment I took my first step onto my bedroom floor. After encountering long waits, rude people, professional errors, and parenting conflicts, I was finally going to end my  day with my oldest daughter who had arranged for me to have my first pedicure as her mother's day gift to me. She met me bearing a beautifully decorated carrot cupcake and chocolate covered strawberries. I saw her culinary gifts and decided that perhaps my day would not be a "wash-out" after-all. We waited for over an hour when the business owner flagged a family of three, who had just arrived without an appointment, to begin their treatment before us. After deciding that I had had enough of this arduous day, I kissed my daughter goodbye and left for home with my small remnant of hope that my day would have some pleasure-my carrot cupcake. I pulled up into my driveway and began to walk toward my front door when my hand slipped and my eye-pleasing delicacy fell out of my hands, slipped out of its protective cover, and landed face down onto my driveway full of grit and dirt. Exacerbated, I picked up my soiled "ray of hope" and burst into my home spilling my grief onto my husband. What I decided to do next made the difference between painful defeat and soul nourishing pleasure. I pulled out a fork and began to eat the cupcake grit and all. I had never tasted anything so good.

Life can be full of hardship and pain. In those moments when pain appears to win out for the day, we must choose whether we will "eat" its grit and enjoy the blessing pain has to offer, or fall exacerbated at its feet and cry out in defeat. The story of Joseph, as recounted in Genesis, reminds us that God used the "grit" of life to build a nation that restored hope and life to countless tribes and people groups. The blessings of pain teaches us to extend compassion and mercy, to be thankful for small pleasures, to love more and judge less, and to realize that choosing our response to pain will make the difference between languishing or retaining the meaning of life to the very end. Eating life's grit opens our eyes to what is available instead of what is missing. It teaches us to live responsible with every choice we make. Pain teaches us that the opportunity for a good life rests in the manner in which we bear its burden. Eating grit reminds us that we have a choice; a choice to see how our responses dictates our experience.

Today, "eat grit" and and be restored to health.

Father, thank You for pain. Thank You for creating hope and restoring good in the midst of life's grit. I thank You that I have a choice. Today, I choose to "eat grit" and be spiritually well, amen. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let Go of the Rope

I glorified You on earth, having accomplished [only] the work which You have given to Me to do 
John 17:4

My husband and I took off for our first fishing adventure for the year. We rushed to gather all our fishing paraphernalia, because we wanted to be on the lake before dusk. Arriving at the dock, my husband impatiently backed our boat into the water next to a boat that had arrived at the dock first. Since I am the one who always navigates the the pull of the boat when it has been launched , I attempted to question my husbands decision to release the boat away from the dock. As I was conveying my concern, and the fact that I would be thrust into the lake with the boat, my husband stated, "You will not get wet." I began to plead my case using another strategy, when he curtly interrupted me as said. "Would you like to back the boat into the water?"
I knew his statement was spoken in frustration, so I shrugged and said, "Okay" to his belief that everything would work out as he had planned. Within one minute, my concern became reality. Without any sure footing or a dock cleat to use, the boat was pulling me into the water with a force I simply could not overcome. So I did what any good-natured wife would do, I let go of the rope the boat was connected to. Suddenly the reality of my choice hit my husbands visual field. His brain and body went into "Rambo" mode. He shot out of the truck, threw his shoes off and high into the air, and lunged into the water chest high to save his floating boat. All the while, I simply smiled and gently stated, "Um, that is what I was trying to ask." Needless to say, this did not make our top ten most romantic moments, as his wallet and cell phone were still in his pant pockets. I guess he felt it necessary to spare his orthopedic inserts more than his wallet and phone. This should have been my first indication that talking to me afterwards would not be a high priority.  In the end, the boat was saved, the wallet and all its holdings were dried out, and the phone gained a whimsical bubbling sound ( I consider this a "new app" for his phone). 

What were the lessons learned? First, my husband understood the virtue of waiting and listening. He has declared his impatience was foolish and now has a new fishing story to share with his buddies and co-workers (although he tells this story different than I would). Second, I learned that letting go is often necessary and worth the risk. Often I have determined to hold on to a responsibility or expectation that "drowned" my soul and killed my spirit. I have refused to let go of a grievance that left me exhausted in mind and spirit. I have held on to friendships that have rendered me listless and lifeless. I have held onto beliefs that would later turn into anger and erupt onto my unsuspecting family. Letting go of the rope in that moment freed me. I was not meant or built to take on this force. What are you holding on to that is pulling you in to a quicksand of anger, frustration, fatigue, or helplessness. Do what I did and let go. 

Father, today, I let go of responsibilities and expectations that you 
have not ordained. I release attitudes and beliefs that are drowning my spirit and 
killing my soul. Like Jesus, I can only glorify You when I let go and only
do what you have created me to do, amen

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drill Practice

And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it.

 Philemon 6 The Message

Recently I was asked to assist with the girls softball team at the school I teach at. I was reluctant at first, but felt it would be fun and another way I could connect with some of the students. A few days later I was dressed and ready to attend my first practice session with the team. The coach had formulated a new drill that neither myself nor the girls were familiar with. As she verbally explained the multitude of concepts involved in this particular drill, I began to have the "deer in the headlight" feeling. I knew I was not the only one, because several girls, at various times, asked the coach to clarify her instructions. Whew, I knew I could maintain my newly appointed status as "assistant coach" by not having to admit my lack of understanding of this important drill. One student chimed, "Ugh, I feel like I am in biology class." This comment sunk in, as I am the biology teacher for this student. "So this is how my biology students feel," I mused. Another wave of relief came over me when one of the players asked the coach to demonstrate her instructions. Celebratory sounds were exchanged as the coach agreed. The team spent the next ten minutes doing a "mock drill." After two of these drills, the team declared their understanding of this vital "skill-drill." I smiled with confidence knowing my newly appointed position would continue for at least one more day. 

What this moment taught me was the important difference between knowing about something and actually doing it. In James 3:22 he writes: "You see that faith was working with his works, and as as a result of the works, faith was perfected." Practicing my faith in Christ brings completion to my understanding of His instructions. It is not enough to know that "love covers a multitude of sins," but I must put into practice "fervent love" (1 Peter 4:8). If  "His compassions never fail" (Lamentations 3:22), then I must act in compassion each time I am aware of a need that is within my sphere of influence to meet. If knowing the "truth makes you free" (John 8:32), than I must practice living in truth. You see, practicing that softball drill cemented my understanding of its value. What "life drill" do you need to put into practice? Christ can only be recognized when we go from knowing who He is to practicing what He commanded us to do. Then, and only then, will the world recognize that He came to " bind the brokenhearted," to turn the "ashes" of our life into "gladness," and to "set the captive free" (Isaiah 61).      

Today, Father, grant me the strength to do what I know is right: to speak gentle, to love unconditionally, and to forgive as many times as requested. Let the works of my life demonstrate to the world that my faith in you is worth the investment. You, Oh God, redeem people. I pray, in Jesus name, amen. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bare and Blessed

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24:2-3

Years ago, while working and attending graduate school, my oldest daughter, twelve at the time, asked me to watch a movie with her. As was my habit, I turned this into an opportunity to multitask. I carefully planned what I would accomplish for school, as I fulfilled my role as an "attentive" mother. I was not prepared for my daughter's next request. In her soft, quiet nature, and tender voice, she said, "Mommy, would you please watch the movie with me with your hands empty?" I instantly knew what she meant. She wanted my undivided attention. She understood that multitasking equated to a half-hearted attempt at building a relationship.

I have never forgotten that moment, or the lesson her request taught me that day. There is a blessing to barrenness. I laid down my books and gave my daughter my "empty hands", but full heart. That day, we sat side by side, mother and daughter, reaping the blessings of barrenness. 

Overload is a modern-day plague that robs relationships of connectedness and joy. We bring a divided heart to the relationships we verbally indicate are most important, However, our "full-hands" truthfully reveal our life priorities. We need to disconnect with our belief that a full life equates with a full heart. Jesus left behind an empty grave that imparted fullness of life and eternity. His empty grave became our greatest gift. Today, empty your life, so that others can enjoy the fullness of fellowship and joy. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Door Number?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

While visiting the Windy City, we stayed at our friends lake shore condo. My husband and I meant to get off on the fifth floor, however, when the elevator door open we stepped out. We were not paying attention to the fact that we had stepped out on to the second floor. We simply saw the door open and assumed it was our opportunity to exit. What we discovered, however, was that we were on the wrong floor. Our guest key was useless on this floor. 

Sometimes I feel like I am playing "Let's Make a Deal" with my life. I am presented many "life doors" to choose from, and all I have to do is simply pick one. If a door opens, I often step forward without questioning whether or not it is the correct door. The problem is that an open door of opportunity does not equate being the correct door. On that day in Chicago, I was not paying attention. I had lost my focus and my way. I stepped through an open door and it was the wrong door leading to the wrong destination. 

Today, consider whether an opportunity in your life is the right choice to make. Perhaps it is available, but it does not mean it is the correct decision. God promises that if we trust Him, He will direct us through the "right door" of life. We do not have to randomly choose a door of our liking or gamble with our guesses. God states He will make the path straight, so we can know. So, rather than guessing at your "door number", know your number. Stay focused and attentive. Be alert. Know your God. Know your number. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for...written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God and  they shall be My people. Hebrews 8:10

I recently had my eyebrows waxed. Yep, vanity woman is thy name. I have very unusual brows. Part of my brow exists, but the other part is sparsely distributed with hair. The friendly woman, who was practicing her eyebrow sculpting technique, suggested I consider having my eyebrows tattooed. She conveyed, with conviction, that by having my eyebrows tattooed I would never again have to worry about misshapen or barely existing eyebrows. She modeled her tattooed eyebrows as my inspiration. I have to admit, I was impressed. I began to imagine my red carpet moment when I would step out of my house, eyebrows permanently in place.  

I have many friends and family members that don body tattoos. I even know a woman who had a tattoo strategically placed on a back tooth. Tattoos as body art is prevalent in society. What intrigues me about this art is its purpose and message. I am keenly aware that the man or woman wearing a skull belies the reality of their kind and gentle spirit. I have also witnessed the contradiction in a person's life that is tattooed for "Jesus", but living a life that, sadly, exonerates Satan and his intent. So what is the message tattoos convey?  The message I have learned is that external, body tattoos really do not represent the heart or soul of the individual. If I decide to have my eyebrows tattooed on, it really does not change the fact that I have uneven hair distribution on my brow. A tattooed brow will only present a false reality. 

I do, however, have a tattoo. You cannot see my tattoo, but I pray you realize its presence. My tattoo artist did not use ink, nor did he use a needle. He used His blood as the permanent dye and nails as His marking instrument. It did not hurt, nor was I at risk for acquiring a life threatening disease, rather, I was given eternal life. He knew His work would be on display, so He chose my heart as His canvas. He assured me of its permanency. I would recommend my tattoo artist to anyone, because He offers His services for free. His name is Jesus, and what He tattooed on my heart was "covered in blood". Jesus removed my sin, and the death it brings in life and relationships, and replaced it with life giving love. His tattoo on my heart causes me to want to live at peace with all men. I am driven to offer joy in place of discontent. I seek to offer lasting hope to the hopeless. I desire the greater good for all mankind. I am forever changed because of His tattoo. What about you? Would you like your heart tattooed today? Go ahead and step in His presence and ask Him  to change you from the inside out. It is one tattoo you will never regret, and the world will stand in awe of its beauty. 

Jesus, today, change my heart. Write the words "covered in blood" across my heart. Forgive me of my sins and transform my heart and mind. I accept the blood and nails you use to give me eternal life. Today, I am made new. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To an Audience of One

...know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

I have a very demanding job. Daily, I diligently prepare science lessons. Each year I read and reread material I have already mastered, but each year I am certain that I will pick up some new information that will add value. Each day, as I prepare to deliver my well-read, well-planned out lesson, I stand in front of disengaged teenagers who are more interested in how their friends perceive their hair and make-up, what is in the lunch box, or whether or not they are "liked" by the opposite gender. What matters to these students is what happens before and after the classroom. Honestly, I wonder why I even expend the energy and time trying to understand and explain cellular respiration to freshman biology students, or any other biological concept. I get frustrated and wonder why I am the only one reading the material, when in reality they are the ones who need to read the text. I have my diploma. They do not. It is in these trying moments that I reminded that when I feel this frustration I am living with misplaced expectations. 

The question I need to ask each day is, "When it's all over, what is really going to matter?" Will it really matter whether or not my biology students were impressed that I came prepared each day? Will it matter if students, administration, colleagues, or parents approved or disapproved of me?  Will being able to explain plant anatomy and physiology really matter? The simple answer is no. All that will matter is whether or not I have lived in a manner that pleases my Lord. He alone is the audience I must live to capture. My favorite author and Bible teacher Kay Author writes, "When our expectations are in anything or in anyone other than in pleasing Him, we will know only distress, defeat, disappointment....and failure...."

So what does this revelation have to teach me? I am to live for the audience of one. I am to capture His heart, attention, and approval. When I do this, I will care about the things and people He cares about and loves. I will spend less time rereading science facts I have mastered, and spend time learning about the lives of my students. I will not notice students' lack of interest in biology, but will notice what captures their hearts and minds and join them at their daily entry point. Perhaps when I can convey that they are loved, because the King of the universe loves them, then maybe they will want to understand the creation He has designed. When I live for the audience of one, then I am free of living in the bondage of expectation. When living for Christ is my only focus, then I will live worthy in a manner of His calling. Today, making living to an audience of one your only goal. 

Father, I admit I have lost my focus. I have been serving the expectations of myself and others. Today, help me to live for you and you alone. Redirect my attention to Your Word and Your love. In You alone I find my rest. Blessings and honor belong to You. In Christ I pray. Amen  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Progressive Vision

"What do you want Me to do for you?" And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!" Luke 18:41

Recently, I accepted a position that offers vision insurance. I was quick to accept, because three people in my family rely upon corrective lenses to have clear vision. Having just recently replaced my old lenses, I decided it would be a great opportunity to order prescriptive sunglasses. My plan has limits, so I chose to order my tri-focal lenses with lines and skip the extra $70 it would cost to have progressive, no line, lenses. Little did I understand what  looking through lenses with lines would create. Distraction. I am greatly distracted by these lines of demarcation. Instead of looking out, I am constantly looking down trying to figure out my focal point. I am careful, as I am fearful that I will misstep and lose my balance. This slows me down considerably, as I navigate from place to place.

I am reminded of the blind man crying out as Jesus was passing by. Jesus stops and commands the man to be brought to him. What happens next is more than a miracle. Jesus asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Funny question to a blind man, from my perspective, however, his answer reflects his present state. He responds, " Lord, I want to regain my sight!". Regain? This man must have once had vision, but something happened that cost him to lose sight. The Bible does not tell us what happened, but we do know that Jesus restored his sight. After his sight was restored, the once blinded man began following and glorifying God (Luke 18:43).

With my new glasses, I feel I have lost something I once possessed-my ability to look out and move effortlessly forward. I have lines distracting my view and my attention. I decided having a progressive lens was too costly. What about you? Have you lost your life vision? What have you allowed to distract you from moving out and forward? What are you not willing to give up, because you feel it would cost too much? What is slowing you down?

Today, cry out to God to restore your life vision and give you a progressive lens. Remove the obstacles that create distraction, and move forward. Living with progressive vision will cost you something. Perhaps time you do not think you have. Maybe a relationship that is obscuring your view, or fear creating "false evidence appearing real". Whatever it is, be willing to make the sacrifice. I wish I had.

Father, today, restore my vision. Give me a progressive lens, so that I can live without distractions. Show me what I have allowed to obscure my vision of you and the plans you have ordained for my life. Reveal to me what I need to let go of, so that I can live confident. Today, I cry out for life sight. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Speaking Art

Then God Said....Genesis 1:26

I work, and happen to be friends, with an extremely talented artist. I watch how she effortlessly takes blank paper, or other mediums, and casts her "magic" to create thought provoking, colorful images of shapes and designs. I simply cannot grasp having this kind of skill and creativity. She literally creates works of life out of nothing. Her tools are colors, brushes, chisels, hammers, saws, clay, foil, fabric, twine, and quiet honestly, anything she can place in her hands. These tools obey and submit to her skillful mind and determined hands and fingers. When I watch her, I think back to my days in high school art. I wonder how my art teacher ever endured my clumsy nature and inept ability to go beyond drawing people with straight lines. I wonder if she ever tried to pay off the guidance counselor and have me transferred out of her class. Perhaps her pay was that of most teachers-miniscule. Today, nothing has changed. I can recite the basic eight colors, but beyond that, know nothing about art. I have never considered myself an artist until today.

Today, I read in Gensis that "God said". And what follows was more magnaminous than Van Gogh, Michelangelo, or my dear, talented friend could ever produce. God spoke, and the beauty of all creation came into being. Words. These were God's tool. Words. The first and greatest artist spoke, and living art, in 3-D, appeared. Proverbs 18:21 states that "Death and life are in the power of the tongue". Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp in their book "Relationships: A Mess Worth Making" write;"Because our words have power and direction, they always produce some kind of harvest." My words have the power to produce a harvest of life giving and life sustaining fruit. Just like my dear friend produces a harvest of artifacts from her labor, I too can create a harvest that can be displayed and viewed by onlookers. "Let know unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).       

Yes, I am an artist. I use words. I have the ability to "speak art" every day. I can choose what words I will use, and can decide how I will use them and to whom I will bestow them upon. I can speak creatively and bring living colors of hope and encouragement. I can remind the faint hearted that all journeys have an end point. I can convey to those who deem themselves unworthy that God himself handcrafted every aspect of their form. I can choose to extend words of forgiveness to the offender and comfort to the offended. I can say "I love you" and "You are special" by mindfully choosing the right combination of words that declare the message. God spoke and so can I. Today, choose your words carefully, for you too are a speaking artist.

Today, Father, help me to mindful of every word I speak and think. Let no unwholesome speech proceed out of my mouth. Help me to guard what I place in my heart, for what I allow in my heart will be ushered out of my mouth. Thank you for reminding me that I speak art everyday. Amen.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Living upside Down

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.... 1 Corinthians 3:19

I visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago this week. It is truly an amazing adventure into bio-diversity. I highly anticipated my visit, and was most notably excited about the jellyfish exhibit on tour. My expectations of this exhibit were met. I soaked in every educational tidbit posted on walls, stood mesmerized at the variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of the various species, and was in awe over the artistic enhancements that punctuated the walls in the exhibit. Watching the jellies, as they appeared effortlessly suspended in their watery environment, washed away any stress from the week. I was captivated by the variety being displayed, however, one species captured my attention the most--the upside-down jelly fish. This species lives in a symbiotic relationship with a single celled algae called zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae provides partial nutrition to the jellyfish, but need to be housed. The jellyfish turns upside, so that the zooxanthellae can reside inside its bell shaped body and absorb the energy from the sun. Both benefit, however, the jellyfish must give up its freedom to float in the water currents and rest upside down. 

As I pondered the life of this jellyfish, I thought about my relationship to Christ. How often I refuse to give up my independence and live in a receiving position. After all, the culture I live in vehemently applauds and encourages independent, self-sufficient living and constant movement. I believe it could cross over into a social mores if one would choose living "upside down" by deciding to live interdependent, and perhaps dependent, with people and life in general. But then I have to question what life giving gift am I missing by refusing to lay down and let others "rest" in me. What soul nourishing, emotionally satisfying food do I pass up when I refuse to rest, so that another soul can gain nourishing energy from my "idol" position. What is it the God wants to place in my life, so that I can be soulfully fed?  

What about you? Have you believed the wisdom of this world that advertises the belief that to be spiritually, emotionally, and mentally well-fed that you must live freely and disengaged. It was the apostle Paul who declared that God himself has made "foolish the wisdom of the world" ( 1 Cor. 1:20). I believe Christ is calling us to live upside down. To live in a manner that places us in a receiving position. This means we have to decide that giving up our freedom to choose how we live better enables us to receive "soul nourishment" from Christ himself. To rest in Christ is to believe that we do not need to conquer life on our own, because He has already done this for us. Today, let go and receive His good gifts. 

Father, today I let go of needing to live life on my own. I freely surrender my independent stance, and receive life your way. I trust that what you have to give me is much more than I can acquire on my own. Today, I trust you, as I live life "upside down". 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dressing-Up to Cover-Up

Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk,  for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them." And David took them off. 1 Samuel 17:38-39

The story of David, the little shepherd boy, and Saul, the giant of a King, reminds me of playing dress-up. As a little girl, I enjoyed trying on my mother's clothes and clopping in her over-sized heels. I felt so "grown-up". The problem, however, is I could not get around without tripping over hemlines and twisting ankles as I attempted to stride in her ill-fitting shoes, and I remained a little girl in spite of my adult apparel. David was much wiser than I was, and perhaps his example continues to illuminate my feeble attempts as an adult to play dress-up. He recognized that in order to slay the giant that was taunting God's people, he would have to go dressed as himself. He exuded confidence in who God had made him and trusted God for the outcome (I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted-1 Samuel 17:45). The problem with playing dress-up, is that we are attempting to cover up what we label as inadequacies and deficiencies in our person-hood, character, or abilities. Even King Saul felt that donning the armor of a King would veil David's small stature, but David did not focus on his small stature. Instead, he was able to focus on his big God and accept the way God had designed him. 

We spend, or rather waste, our lives when we dress-up, or cover-up, what we believe to be inferior or broken. We justify our choices, while we trip over our over-sized protective armor we have donned. Perhaps our over-sized homes, with their over-sized mortgages, covers up our feelings of being inadequate in providing shelter for our families. Maybe the constant search for information and higher education is a veil to cover our fear of not being prepared or understanding what is meant by living a good life? The clothes of constant busyness and chronic "Busy Bee " syndrome is perhaps to hide our insecure selves from a world that determines our importance based on our calendars. Cars, titles, recreation choices, media, technology, work, and relationships, although each have inherent utility, can be a version of "grown-up dress-up" that allows us to cover-up our fear of inadequacy. 

Today, be like David. Accept how God made you. Know that He made you exactly the way He intended, and His intentions unveil purpose and meaning. Tiny David slayed the Giant, and he did it in shepherd's clothing and faith in God's design. What God has made is not broken, nor inferior, but useful as is. David slayed the giant "as is", and the giant succumbed to God's original design.

Father, today, help me to accept the way you created me. I do not need to dress-up or cover-up any self-imposed deficiency or inadequacy. What you have created is useful "as is". Help me, like David, to move out into the world and slay the giants you have  placed before me. Today, I come to you "as is".

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's All Found In a Name

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and (are) safe. Proverbs 18:10

I remember, as a little girl, loud noises periodically going off and coming from what appeared to be no where. These screeching sounds, which I now know where sirens, would set my little 4 year-old feet flying toward my mother. I would impale my body into hers by burying my head into her abdomen, and tightly wrap my frail arms around her waist. She would stand strong embracing me with her reassuring arms and soothing voice. I recall feeling that there was nothing that could harm me in that moment. My mother was my strong tower. Today, there are different arms I have learned to run to. Yes, I am much older and perhaps should be more capable of discerning the reason behind the noises that threaten my security, but often fear presents itself before logic. And in that moment of fear and insecurity, I continue to need assuring arms and words that comfort. The writer of Proverbs 18:10 directs me to run into the name of the Lord. His name, the name above any earthly or heavenly name, reminds me that when others criticize my existence, the Lord Elohim created me. Elohim reminds me that I am precious in His sight (Isaiah 43 emphasis mine). His name El-Elyon declares His sovereignty above any foe or circumstance that threatens my purpose, because He declares that He will accomplish His good pleasure and that as He has planned it, so He will do it. Nothing or no one thwarts His plan for my life (Isaiah 46:9-11 emphasis mine). The name El Roi declares his perfect vision of my life. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:3 ) My father, my Lord, sees when I have been harmed. Nothing escapes His vision or His sovereignty. His other names: Jehovah Shalom, the Lord of peace, the Lord my shepherd who declares I shall not want (Psalm 23:1), Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides, and Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals mind, body, and soul. He has many more, but these are just a few I have learned to run to and find security. Where or who do you run to in times of distress? Many boast in friends, family, jobs, money, and possessions, but I boast in the name of the Lord (Psalm 20:7 emphasis mine). For me, security and peace are  found in a name, and this name is most noted as Jesus.

Father, remind me that there is no other name that can calm my fears but yours. When I am beaten and battered emotionally, I can run to you and be safe. Safe from worries and concern, and safe from being rejected. Today, I run to you, keeper of my soul. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hearing Voices

...and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them....he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice....I am the good shepherd....John 10:3-4,11

Years ago, our family traveled the 12 hours it took to make the yearly visit to grandparents and extended family members living in the Appalachian portion of Virginia (home to pit vipers and bobcats). Each year my mother would remind us to watch for snakes, as my sister and I explored the creek and woods surrounding her mother's home. My grandmother did not have indoor plumbing, so daily visits to the outhouse where part of the experience. On one particular afternoon, I was returning from this daily, rustic way of relieving myself, when I heard my grandmother, two cousins, and mother standing outside on the back porch screaming at me to jump. Being an inquisitive child, I decided to stop and look around at what they were so passionately imploring me to jump from. Not understanding what all the fuss was about, I remember hearing my mother's voice above the symphony of the other callers. So, I had decided that if she was telling me to jump, then I had perhaps better listen. With a shrug of my shoulders, I offered a synchronized lob over what I thought was an imaginary danger. Nonchalantly, I strolled back to the house, while my grandmother went into action and chopped to pieces the snake that had been coiled at my feet. Yep, I had not seen the snake.

All these years later, I remember the lesson of that saving moment. The reason my mother's voice reigned supremely on that day, was because I was accustomed to her voice. I had learned to trust her goodness, and knew that if she were telling me to jump then I should jump. In that moment, with many voices crying out, it was my mother's voice I had tuned into, while the pleas of the others lay drowned in my childlike trust in her. I continue to apply this lesson in my life. The voice you spend the most time with is the voice you learn to trust. Jesus says He is the good Shepherd that leads us out of danger. When we learn His voice we will not follow another (emphasis mine). There are many voices that daily scream for our attention, but not every voice will lead us safely. Discouragement, drugs and alcohol, apathy, disappointment, grief and loss, sex and violence, anxiety, anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, hopelessness, and a vast array of other life killing physical and emotional voices that vie for our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, but Christ calls out and offers life with hope and joy. Today, what voice or voices are you listening to? Remember, the voice you spend the most time with is the one you learn to trust. Trust the one that offers life and life in abundance (John 10:10).

Today, Father, I trust in you. I will stop and spend time with you reading your Word and Hearing your voice. Dampen out the other voices that vie for my heart, mind, body and soul, and give me hearing for only you. You are the good shepherd. No other voices have laid down their life for me but you. Keep me from danger, as I jump toward your life-saving and life-sustaining voice. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Christ, Our Friend

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

As an author, I was recently asked to join other authors and take part in a book signing during a ladies one day speaking conference. With great delight and joy I accepted and attended. I was not the speaker that day, but the woman who was had traveled with her book and long-time friend. The event was attended by over 500 women eager to hear how they could live their lives as a blessing to others in their sphere of influence. There was great laughter and joy, and books were being sold by all. However, it was not the pulse of retreat gaiety and books being signed and sold that caught my attention. What caught my attention on this day was the quite strength and loyalty of the speaker's friend and travel companion. Faithfully the speaker's friend removed herself from the spotlight to promote and encourage the success of her friend, the author and speaker. I could only imagine how many times this friend had heard the same speech and jokes. I am sure this friend could have anticipated and quoted her friend's next statement, yet she sat laughing and smiling as if it were her first time encountering the message delivered on that day. She manned the book table, answered questions about her friend, and listened as others doted on how wonderful her friend, the speaker was. In all of this, she served faithful and fresh. No spotlight necessary for this companion. Her joy came in serving and supporting. I thought; "Sign me up, I want one of those." It was then that I realized that I too have a friend, a loyal supporting companion, like the speaker. My friend continually listens to my same complaints, my daily, often repetitive pleas, and answers my plethora of challenging and often daunting questions. My friend wipes away my tears and gives me daily encouragement through life-giving and life-sustaining words of joy and comfort. He even sticks closer than a family member or sibling. My friend is so loyal that he has even engraved my name into the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). My friend has promised me an eternal home where He Himself has gone and constructed my eternal abode. I have never been disappointed by placing my hope in Him (Isaiah 49:23 emphasis mine). His name? Jesus. Jesus, the name above all other names. A friend who sticks closer than a brother and is available 24/7. A friend who took death so that I could live eternally. Today, my friend is asking to be your friend. Will you receive Him? 

Dear, Jesus, I want a friend like you. I invite you into my life. Forgive me of my sins and create in me a new heart. I accept your friendship. Jesus, I pray in your name, Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Walking In Hope

The Spirit of on me because God has anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, Announce freedom to all comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn...(to) give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness" planted by God to display his glory. Isaiah 61

A few years back I took a large team of high school teenagers to serve the underprivileged in Washington D.C.. We were assigned to serve a small church who was actively involved in outreach to their community. One of the assignments we were given was to sweep and clean their parking lot. I had not envisioned holding a broom on this project, but rather the hearts of those I had traveled to serve. I , being the leader, however, knew the importance of setting a good example. So, with a broom and a song in heart, I began supervising and sweeping. The parking lot was littered with dirt, trash, and odd items that would make anyone scratch their heads. We wore gloves, because we knew the danger of coming across a used needle. After a couple of hours of this tedious chore, I glanced over and noticed an empty beer bottle we had overlooked. It was then that I understood the essence of what God wanted me to comprehend. Hopelessness. I began to wonder what broken dreams, shattered hopes, and sightless soul had dampened their painful existence through the blur of alcohol. What little child, full of hopes and dreams, had grown up to lose sight of how "fearfully and wonderfully" they had been made? One lonely beer bottle reminded me why I must wear the fragrance of those languishing lest I forget the meaning of Isaiah 61. Christ came to set the captive soul free. He came to restore broken hearts and shattered dreams and replace them with "bouquets of roses". Christ, the King, who reminds us that in Him there is joy and a heart that is set free to offer praise in place of singing a dirge. Today, we have hope, and "hope does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5). We are a people of promise. A promise that our sins have been pardoned and our lives will stand strong like an oak. Yes, everyday we can walk in hope even if the "cloud" in our life threatens to send an "emotional storm". If Christ calmed the raging storm for His beloved follower Peter, than He can do that for us. The challenge, today, is to walk in Hope. To believe that there is "nothing or no one that can thwart the plans God has for you" (emphasis mine). To know that when the king of the universe sets you free, that you are free indeed. Now, today, walk in hope. 

Today, Lord, infuse me with the power of Hope. Remind me that I am never without the freeing power of Hope. I know that you came to set my imprisoned soul free and to replace my sorrow and pain with joy and roses. I accept this promise, and Walk In Hope. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Own It!

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Luke 12:48

While teaching a class to high school juniors and seniors recently, we began a discussion on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When asked what allowed Dietrich to passionately continue in his commitment to eliminating the injustices that plagued his generation, one astute student quickly stated, "He owned his life calling".  Yes, this Pastor and Theologian understood the concept of ownership. Dietrich had been given many talents and skills, and he did not allow the pressure and threat of Adolf Hitler to excuse his responsibility in seeking justice for those who faced discrimination and extermination. Dietrich was connected to his life purpose and understood that no circumstance, event, or person could hinder or remove what God alone had given. I am left to wonder what Dietrich had to relinquish in order to pursue what he alone was commissioned in life to accomplish. What about you? What are your gifts and talents? What responsibility has God assigned to you? What will you have to relinquish to  "Own It"? To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). What do you possess? Everyone has a life calling, a gift or unique design that serves the purpose of bringing justice or relief to humanity. Even a simple smile can release a captive soul. Today, own your life. Do not allow any circumstance, event, or person to cloud your destiny of purpose. It is yours and yours alone, so Own It! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Enter Into His Courts

Shout joyfully to the Lord....Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting  And His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100

As I read this Psalm this morning, I wonder what takes place in my life that keeps me from entering into the divine throne room of a God who declares His eternal love for me and extends lovingkindness that is everlasting. What prevents me from entering into His courts and having an audience with a God who has created the heavens and earth, and everything in it, and declares it "Very Good" (Genesis 1:31)? What clouds my vision of His goodness and faithfulness to all generations? It is not having an accurate vision of who He is. Years ago I recall insisting that something was wrong with my front windshield. I was convinced that the manufacturer had installed a faulty windshield and that it needed to be replaced. I pursued my husband to follow up on this and get the company to install a replacement shield. Until my shield was replaced, I decided  I would have to continue my constant cleaning. What I learned was that the distortion did not come from the manufacturer, but from faulty vision on my end. I ended up with corrective lenses, bifocals, and the problem was solved. I was living life with distorted vision. This distortion kept me from understanding the true nature of the problem. Perhaps this is why today's reading of Psalm 100 strikes a chord within my heart. This is a Psalm of praise and worship, but to shout joyfully, serve Him with gladness, and to come before Him with joyful singing, I must hold out before me an accurate vision of who He is. He is Elohim, God my creator. He is El-Elyon, the God who is sovereign over all He created, and declares that His purposes will be established. All that He has planned He will surely accomplish (Isaiah 46: 9-11). He is El Roi, the God who sees everything and does not forsake those who seek Him (Psalm 9:10). He is El Shaddai, the all sufficient One. In Him I am assured that there is no other power on earth that can render me complete but Him. With this vision of God, then I can easily enter into His courts and render praise. Today, consider what it is that clouds your vision from seeing a God who promises to be faithful and good to the end. 

Today, Lord, correct the lens of my heart so that I can see, with clarity, the reality of who you are. You are a good God. May my mouth praise you and my heart sing with joy, that you, Oh God, are worthy of my praise.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The art of Christian Zumba

...applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence...knowledge...self-control... perseverance...godliness... brotherly as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble...2 Peter 1:5-10

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman ready to take up the Latin style of dance and exercise program called Zumba. I was not very encouraging in my response to her enthusiasm. This past summer I accepted a free pass to take part in a Zumba class. Now when free is part of the vocabulary, it does not take much for me to reach out and accept. I went with my daughter and her friend, our next door neighbor. I am relatively fit and agile, so I thought Zumba would simply be a fun night out with the "girls". I was not prepared for the fast moving, hip-hop, hip-swerving, arm-slinging, salsa tapping style of exercise. In one instant I became like an infant--uncoordinated. I simply could not master the moves, no matter how hard this once state winning track and field star tried. So I did what any self respecting mother would do; I embarrassed my daughter. I began to create my own moves. I twisted and twirled, and gyrated to my own beat. I threw my hands up and my head back and let nature take over. Simply put, I gave up. I finished the hour long reminder of how old I really was, and decided my body was not meant for such Latin elements like Zumba. However, my conversation yesterday made me wonder why I had not went back and diligently commit to practicing this healthy form of exercise. Practice makes perfect, as the old adage goes. So, why had I simply not decided to employ this age old principle? Why do any of us give up on something we know brings the benefit of relationship, peace and harmony, restoration and healing, and life-long spiritual and emotional benefits. Because like me, we think after one or two failed attempts we are not created to enjoy such God-given gifts. We link our "failure" in with our self-identity. God is more understanding and gracious than our opinions and conclusions. He understands the principle of putting moral character, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love into practice. He knows that with practice, we will enjoy the benefits of being in healthy relationships and productive work. This is what I call practicing "The Art of Christian Zumba". What is it you need to revisit and commit to putting into practice?

Lord, today, I commit to receiving forgiveness for my failures, and will seek to practice the virtues of moral excellence. You promise that as long as I put into practice your principles for godly living, I will never stumble. Lord, here I am, spiritually uncoordinated, but ready to put into practice the art of Christian Love and Living.