Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Turning Grumbling into Gratefulness

We just finished a small group study on the book of Exodus which has heightened my awareness about all we find to grumble about. Are we no different than the Israelites?

So I'm telling myself, "no more grumbling!" I'm listening to what's coming out of my mouth, and trying not to get snagged by negative conversations around me. Listen… there are many!

For example, I catch myself chiming in about the cold weather and shoveling snow. But really, I love living in Wisconsin and enjoying all four seasons! I might grumble about having too much to do. But I am so thankful for my full-time job, and for all those who ask for my time and attention. I might grumble about an ache or delay or a problem to solve. But truly I am thankful for my own problems, because there are always so many with much greater needs.

Challenge for the day: Listen to yourself and try to turn your grumbling into gratefulness.

Gracious God, forgive me for my grumbling. Open the eyes of my heart today to see all the reasons to praise You.

Share a comment on how you turned a grumble into a praise.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Inspiring Greater Devotion

Finally, I will break the long silence necessitated by a computer that eventually grinded to a halt. I'm back online now... for the moment... and I have missed you so much!

I have a quick thought to blog amidst the other demands of life right now.

I invite you to take a look at the November issue of Voice of the Martyrs online; if you watch the first video, you'll see four poignanat stories of people wholeheartedly devoted to God. I'm impressed to tears by their great love.

I'm also remembering the 200,000 new believers in Haiti still living in horrid conditions – tent cities and rubble, with cholera spreading and now drying out from another storm. When will it end? But they keep their eyes on the Lord. What devotion!

We need that kind of devotion.

Oh Lord, our own distractions are many in the American culture. While others read a Bible with great hunger and memorize whole chapters, mine may lay for long hours with only my good intentions. The busier our lives become, the MORE we need your great Word to shape us! Help me. Help us. Draw us to a deeper love for You.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Abiding is One Year Old!

I am amazed as I reflect on this last year's journey with the Lord. Since the 4th grade, I have loved writing, but I had never found that "chunk of time" to sit down and write a book. But as every important journey begins with a single step, God began showing me how to take that first step.

Last September after attending the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) World Conference with my husband, I was so inspired that I launched this blog the day after my return. Blogging would enable me to share as I write, and to publish immediately! 

As God amazes us, we pass it on to others. He has given each of us gifts to be developed and used for His glory and He says we shouldn't hide our light under a bowl (Matt. 5:15). It was fun to realize I don't have to feel guilty when I can't get everything else done – because using His gifts is a higher priority than many of those things I thought were so important!

When I launched Abiding, I made a goal to write a post a week – and though I fell a little behind, I see that I have made much more progress than sitting back and waiting for that "chunk of time." He has stretched me and encouraged me and I'm having so much fun!

Blogging also appeals to me because it is interactive. As I listen to the Lord and share what I learn, I also want to hear from you in the comments section. Can you relate? Are you, too, striving to abide in Him daily? What does that mean to you? Let's encourage one another and take that walk together! 

When you read what I write, I hope you'll feel free to jump in the conversation. Share your thoughts, questions, wisdom and insights. I've been following some experienced bloggers – two of my favorites are Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31 Women) and Jennie Allen (Untangling God and Ponytails); click on their names to check out their blogs and see how both have a wonderful way of seeing God's hand at work and engaging readers in conversation.

If you are reading this via e-mail (only a handful of you), I would encourage you to join in by taking the link directly to Abiding so you can comment and also read what others have written.

So... what is your next step to an important goal or dream?
Dear God, I pray your blessing over each one reading this blog. Thank you for the amazing way You lead us. Thank you for this wonderful way to connect with kindred souls all around.

Join in the conversation. How has God been amazing you and growing you this past year? How has He encouraged you?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Persistent in Prayer

The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in Spring
A long unanswered prayer gnaws at my heart again... "Why not now, Lord?" I wonder. But deep down, I know God wants me to press in and be persistent in prayer, knowing His timing is perfect.

All through the gospels, Jesus commends those who have faith. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Like the friends of the paralytic (Mark 2:1-5) who lowered their buddy through the roof to get him close to Jesus. Like the centurion (Mark 8:5-13) who knew Jesus could just give a command and his servant would be well. Like the hemorrhaging woman (Mark 5:25-34) who reached to touch the hem of His garment to be healed.

Oh, how I want to be like these people! I want to trust God wholeheartedly.

I feel like the man who brought Jesus his son, possessed and made mute by an evil spirit. The man admitted some doubt..."I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

After Jesus cast out the spirit the disciples were unable to dispel, they were again alone with Jesus and they asked Him why it did not work for them.

Jesus replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

What was Jesus was saying?
  • That there are different kinds of spirits and that this really tough one will only listen to Me? No, because He expected (v. 19) the disciples could have driven out the spirit.
  • That they should not only command the spirit to come out, but they should also pray? Yes, I believe Jesus meant the disciples should pray, which connects them to the Father -- upon whom they depend for answers. They should not for one minute forget Who was doing the work. It was not by their own power, but by the Lord's.
When Jesus said this can only happen by prayer, He was saying,  
"Stay connected, keep trusting, keep depending, keep looking to Me...persist in praying it through."
Many, many, many in the Bible had long unanswered prayers. We are not alone. If we did not have these great needs and prayer to draw us close, we'd start to think things happened by our own power.

But, by our simple act of obedience (prayer), we do draw closer to God, we become more connected, we increase our faith, our trust, our dependence. We see Him at work in us and around us, and we know that all will be well. Our prayer journey becomes sweet time with the Lord and the answer is worth the wait!

Dear Lord, You call us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12) I pray You would strengthen our faith and keep our eyes on You. You are the God of the universe and we trust in Your perfect plan.

Write a comment. Do you have a long unanswered prayer? Let's be persistent together in prayer!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Prayer of Surrender

Bowman Lake at Glacier National Park
Before my feet even hit the floor in the morning, I'm working on surrendering all to the Lord. Today my prayer went something like this:
Lord, I surrender to You...
  • All the details of projects engaging me, of challenges perplexing me, of opportunities awaiting me...because I want You to set my priorities for today. (Exodus 9:16 NIV)
  • All the words I speak too critically, all my words that flow too freely, all my words I guard too carefully...because I want you to guard my lips for today. (Ps. 141:3 NIV)
  • All the doubts that discourage me, the distractions that crowd me, the temptations that derail me...because I want to live in faith and follow You and You alone today. (Is. 7:9 NIV)
Lord, I empty myself of...
  • Needing to be strong, needing to be right, needing to be sharper, younger, thinner or better in some way... because You love me as I am and You are working in me and through me when I am submitted to you and abiding in You.
Lord, now fill me with Your Love, Your Hope, Your Grace, Your Peace, Your Power and may Your Will be done through me today. Amen.

Write a comment. Can you identify with any of these? What kinds of things are you working on surrendering these days?

Monday, August 23, 2010

All We Need For Today

We feel so blessed to have so many praying for us and helping us keep our focus. We can feel your support and it is wonderful! Ted's first round of cancer treatments were found to be very effective. His smile has returned and his energy will, too (as soon as he can grow some more red blood cells).

A journey like this helps us remember to rely on God for our every need...our daily bread. If we could, we would be tempted to do it on our own, but we can't. We need Him and He is there for us. We rely on Him for strength, wisdom and peace.

Sometimes on a significant journey, I find myself pondering the path of "what if." You know? It's the path that leads straight to worry, with anxiety around the bend. But that is the route of the evil one and it's not where God wants us to be! He tells us, "Do not be anxious about anything..."; we can have the peace of God that transcends all understanding. (Phil. 4:6-7) He longs to give us that peace when we let Him direct our paths. All we need to do is keep our eyes and hearts on Him.

Jesus taught His disciples to fully rely on God. He told them to pray: "Give us today our daily bread." (Matt. 6:11) That is, all we need for today. All we need... All we need... All we need for today! We needn't worry about tomorrow because God can do all kinds of things between now and then.

He will supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19) He knows our needs, even better than we know our own. Maybe we needed this bump in the road to help us rely on Him for our daily bread. He knows what necessary growth it will bring.

And when we feel overwhelmed, we can ask for wisdom, because God gives it generously to all, without finding fault. (James 1:5)

Can you think of anything that hasn't been covered? It sounds like we have all... we need... for today.

Thank you, God, for giving us our daily bread, for supplying all our needs. We surrender to You because You have everything under control. Give us the peace You so long to give.

Write a comment. What needs are we trusting Him to supply?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Journey Begins, Again

Three days ago, my husband began chemo treatments again. It came upon us quickly. I saw him wrestle three sleepless nights, trying to find comfort in any position -- bed, couch or recliner. He spent more time wandering than sleeping. And with no rest, he wasn't his jovial self. He barely had energy to talk or smile.

Thank God that the cancer (CLL) is a slow-growing type. Yet we were hoping not to be here again so soon, having just completed treatments in March of '09. This time, the doctor wants to approach it more aggressively to keep the cancer at bay a bit longer.

So our journey begins, again. We trust our doctor and his treatment plan, but more importantly, we trust God and all that He is doing in our lives. We press in to God, hold on tight and learn a new way of abiding in Him. He is all we need. We take things one day at a time and make the most of life every day. Isn't that the way we should always be living? Every day I have thanked God for this wonderful man, who is my best friend and the greatest blessing in my life. Now is my turn to be there for him.

Really, we're in no different place than many of you. We all have great needs to trust to Our Loving Father. We all have times we feel we are standing at the edge of a cliff, but lovingly invited to walk in faith. We don't know what's on the path ahead, but we can trust Him to walk it with us, direct us, guide our steps and provide what we need, in any situation. He must become greater, we must become less (John 3:30 NIV). We must trust more in His agenda than our own.

Whatever uncharted territory you are facing today, whether it be health-related, financial, relational or other...I pray that you would use this to allow God to become greater in your life.

Lord God, may Your strength be with each one calling out to You today. Thank you, Father, for You have blessed us with wonderful and supportive family and friends -- another sweet example of how You provide what we need. 

Give the doctors and health professionals wisdom and finesse tomorrow. May your peace and presence be with Ted. Give him a good tolerance for the surgical procedure and a brand new drug.

Thank you, dear ones, for your prayers. What can we pray about for you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Fresh Perspective

With vacations in peak season, we have a wonderful (and, for some, rare) opportunity to "get away from it all." How can we think "outside the box" when we are living in cubes and offices so many of our waking hours?

Last Monday, I returned to work after a week of thinking "outside the state" (traveled in four states) and even "outside the country" (traveled four Canadian provinces). And if the jagged and majestic mountains of Montana don't clear the cobwebs, what will?

It took a few days to stop thinking about the usual details, but when I did, my mind was free to see what's beyond my realm, and to dream of what could be.

Whenever I get away, I notice the creative juices start flowing again. (Does that happen to you, too?) I don't know where it all comes from sometimes. I make new goals and I become eager to put my ideas into action. I see colors more vividly and even my dreams are much more fun!

Getting away helps me gain a new perspective of what life is like beyond my normal scope. Seeing the beauty of God's creation reminds me of how He has every intricate detail under control -- always did, always will! And what a peace that gives me. I remind myself to just stay close, stay connected, to abide in Him and be part of His big plan.

So as our vacation came to a close, with a fresh perspective I began thinking of the responsibilities awaiting me "inside the boxes." I have new energy to approach the challenges, new ideas to implement.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9 NIV)

Photo: Jackson Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Through the Storm

As we drove through the vast, flat plains of Saskatchewan a couple weeks ago, we saw black storms raging all around us in the distance, yet our road remained clear and dry. We thanked God for lighting our path and keeping us out of the storm, for now. I thought of the storms some of my dear friends are now suffering in their lives. I ache for them as they are overwhelmed by the torrential rains and floods in their lives -- trying to make some sense of the loss of their child, find joy amidst a myriad of health problems, or remain hopeful in a painful relationship.

Then the next morning, the rain was upon us as we drove near Lethbridge, Alberta. By the looks of the weather forecast at breakfast, we thought we would be able to drive through the storm and back into sunshine by the time we got to Glacier National Park, Montana, our vacation destination.

It made me think of how a storm in our lives might make us slow down... or even stop, rather than pushing through. Isn't it our natural inclination to be extra cautious, to hesitate or to fear? But if we would slow down or stop and wait for better weather, we would actually be in our storms longer! Instead, by casting all our cares on Him, we can take God's hand and move through the storm to the clear skies that are awaiting beyond the storm. It was a perspective that gave me hope. Hope I want to pass on to my beloved friends.

A little while later, I opened my Bible. Funny how it was only minutes and the sky turned blue again. I guess we shouldn't be surprised how our Lord calms the storms when we turn to His Word!

Later we saw some of the most brilliant rainbows we'd ever seen. The picture above was taken in the foothills just outside of Glacier National Park. What a beautiful reminder it was of God's promises!

Whether you are in the midst of a storm or are helping others face their storms, take heart:

Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. (Psalm 105:4 NIV)

You came near when I called You, and You said, "Do not fear." (Lamentations 3:57 NIV)

For I am the LORD, your God,
       who takes hold of your right hand
       and says to you, Do not fear;
       I will help you.
(Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

Lord, I pray for all those in the midst of a storm. Would You take each one by the hand and lead them through it? Give them Your peace, Your direction and Your strength to move ahead.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Every Parched Thing

You may have noticed, I've been having a dry spell. Blogging is one of my favorite things to do, yet my flowing words have come to a slow drip.

I haven't published in a few weeks, though "the experts" advise regular posts to keep the conversation going with loyal readers. I have started with an idea many times, only to have it dry up on me. Will it sound too preachy? self-righteous? judgmental? I don't want any of those things.

Maybe I've been too eager, putting too much emphasis on getting something accomplished, putting too much weight on a self-imposed deadline. Maybe I'm trying to run ahead of God. Trying to do, do, do, instead of just "be." I need to listen, I need to wait, I need more practice with abiding in Him.

If I break the "bloggers' rules" then so be it, but nothing comes before God -- not even a blog talking about the wonderful things God has done!

It's not about my effort, or my timetable -- it's not about what I DO to please God... I realize, once again, total dependence on Him is what's essential. From my every breath to my every creative thought to my direction on what's next. They're His messages, His words. I'm just the scribe privileged to write them on the page.

I got a great picture of total dependence a year ago in May when my husband and I visited seven national parks in Utah. We traveled many hundred miles through deserts with gorgeous rock formations of every hue and texture. The signs posted often warned about flash floods, though there was not a drop of water in sight! But, that's just the way life is in the desert. Water comes eventually, but you have to wait.

When the rains finally come, the water pours down the mountains and gushes through those dry gullies and every parched thing comes alive again! Every dependent creature praises the Lord!

Lord, You will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground.
Isaiah 44:3 NIV) Let my roots reach to the water! (Job 29:19 NIV) Nothing matters more than unity and relationship with You. I look to You in total dependence. Thank you for teaching me more about abiding.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Human Doing

It had been a particularly productive day and I was pleased with all the work I had accomplished. I got to cross so many items off my list, and completed some things that weren’t even on it.

My dear husband told me to sit next to him and take a break. "You are a human being, Love, not a human doing," he said.

I thought of one item that got carried over each time I made a new list. It was a project begun with several others who didn't give it much urgency at all. I had tried every way I knew to motivate them to act, but no one else made it the priority that I wanted to make it.

Reluctantly, I continued with the work, as best I could, without the help of the others. I felt driven to complete what had been started... even if it meant doing it alone.

Eventually, I was able to sit back and reflect on what I had painstakingly accomplished. It felt good, but I missed the satisfaction teamwork would have brought.

I imagined God saying to me, "(Martha, Martha), you are worried and upset about many things (Luke 10:41) . It's good what you have accomplished... But the emphasis isn't really on doing. It's not about productivity...

How did you treat the people you viewed as obstacles?"

Oh, Lord, forgive the taskmaster in me! I am concerned about many things -- and I do not eat the bread of idleness (Prov. 31:27 NIV), but let me never forget how important the people are! Please help me to model your great love and patience throughout all my interactions with others. Help me to more often make the choice that Mary did.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Garden of My Mind

On my knees in the soft ground of my perennial garden, I pushed my trowel down deep to uproot each thriving weed, removing the entire unwanted growth. Looking back over the ground I had covered, I admired my work. It would be so rewarding to have a garden free of weeds (at least for a few days)!

But as gardeners know, early in the season it can be hard to tell which are weeds and which are new perennials just starting to show. The cunning weeds often sprout near similar-looking plants, camouflaging themselves and crowding out the more desirable plant species.

Rather than risk pulling out something that I want, I find it safer to let the young plant be until it has grown enough to know for sure what I am uprooting. (I once pulled out my lemon thyme ... until I smelled the fresh lemony fragrance on my hands and quickly replanted it!) I started to think that I should study weeds so that I could accurately identify what needs to stay and what needs to go.

I quickly decided against that, remembering what I had learned about how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police train "the Mounties" in anti-counterfeiting work. Instead of studying the counterfeit, they carefully study the "real deal" -- a genuine twenty-dollar bill -- so that if a counterfeit appears, they immediately recognize that it does not measure up.

So it is in the garden of life. I focus on what I want to grow, not on what I don't want to grow. In the same way, I prefer to study God, not the enemy. If what I see does not measure up to God and His Word, I know it is not of God. The weeds in my life (superficial things that "pose" as authentic and significant) can be just as cunning as the weeds in my garden. How they can grow and spread before I recognize they are not the quality I desire. And if I'm not careful, they will crowd out the more beautiful things I want to grow.

Rather than dwelling on the enemy or what he might be doing, I choose to focus on what God is doing. I focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and/or praiseworthy! (Phil 4:8 NIV)

These are the things I want growing in the garden of my mind.

Lord, You are all good and my eyes are on You. Lead me in Your truth. Let me not waste a moment in distraction.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Humble Beginnings

A young Minnesota man with a very noticeable speech handicap has now risen to success as a vocalist and musician. His voice is smooth and rich with a wide range -- and no sign of stuttering when he's doing what God designed him to do! According to Christianity Today, "he is one of Christian music's best kept secrets." As a stutterer, Jason Gray's music focuses on finding strength in weakness. He shares his stuttering story, reminding us that God can make beautiful music out of our brokenness. I recently fell in love with Jason's hit singles, "More Like Falling in Love" and "Blessed Be (All the Lonely Losers)." Jason is a vibrant picture of God's love in action. He's been recognized for his civic leadership and humanitarian work through World Vision with children orphaned by AIDS in Africa.

A North Carolina farm boy was expected to follow in his father's footsteps, taking over the farm someday. He was once rejected for youth group membership, then was almost expelled from a Christian college and told by his superiors, "About all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher out in the sticks." Ah, but God knew the potential in this humble man! Who was this farm boy? None other than the Reverend Billy Graham, who is one of the most admired people of the 20th century, who has preached in person to more people than any other preacher in history, and who has been spiritual advisor to 12 U.S. presidents! Now in his nineties, his life continues to be one of the most compassionate examples of humility, love and grace available in our time.

More stories like these abound in the Bible. As a young boy, David killed a giant with a simple stone in a slingshot when all the brave warriors' tactics failed. Moses killed an Egyptian in his early years, but later was used by God on a huge mission. A prostitute named Rahab offered shelter which saved lives at a critical time. Saul (Paul) persecuted Christians, but when the scales fell off his eyes, God used him to save souls all over the known world and to author half of the New Testament. John Mark deserted Paul on an early missionary journey, which caused a huge argument between Paul and Barnabus about trusting him on another trip. This is the same man who later wrote the Gospel of Mark.

We have many reminders of how God uses weakness, humility and brokenness. The Bible says, "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Cor. 1:27 NIV). He does this so no one can boast. "We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us!" (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV)

So what about you and me? Whose lives will be impacted by ours? Where will our feet carry the good news? Who will experience God's love administered through our hands, His grace through our kind words? Don't you wonder what treasure lies within, just waiting for God to call it out?

The common denominator here is that we need to be yielded, surrendered and willing to let God use us in whatever way He chooses... and to God be all the glory!

Oh Lord, I want to be fully available to you -- no hesitating, no "gatekeeping" of my talents. It's all from You. It's all about You. Let me be Your hands, feet, voice... wherever You lead me.

Monday, May 17, 2010


My husband is a Canadian hockey nut. We started hosting players for our local hockey team four years ago and it didn't take long for me to "catch the fever." Having the boys in our home is great fun and the games are that much more fun because we personally know several players on the team.

Well, our team just finished up a dream-come-true season! Best record in the regular season won them the Anderson Cup (right). Then after a very tough battle in the post-season tournament, they secured the coveted Clark Cup (left), the top honor for junior hockey.

I felt so happy for them that they persevered. They had been down two games in the "best of five" ... then in the third game, they were 49 seconds away from elimination when our top scorer tied it up, forcing overtime. The team gave it all they had until another of our boys finally sunk a goal in the third 20-minute overtime period. Exhausting, but exhilirating!

Game four was another struggle, and game five was the final fight. Our team came from behind twice in the deciding game, then sealed the deal as a crowd of more than 8,000 roared! What a thrill ride it has been for us to see them tenaciously hold on and fight for what they wanted! It felt so good to know they never gave up; they never let the goal out of their sight.

What a great example it was for me. It reminds me not to ever listen to the little voice that wants to tell me, "let it go... you'll never pull it off." But instead I will tell myself that "I will run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Cor. 9:24 NIV)

Whatever game you love, I'll bet you can identify. It takes a great team of everyone giving their best for the team to reach their potential. I'm so glad each was willing to give their strengths for the greater good.

We each have a role that way, too. In our families, in our jobs, in our churches, in our lives. Are you giving your "full strength" every day? Are you "in strict training" for the things that really matter? Can you persevere against the odds; hold on by a thread for the promise of victory?

Our boys can tell you that winning is oh-so-sweet, and worth every bit of sweat and grit they put into it! As the coach said, "Fifty years from now you will still have a bond with your teammates because of what you worked for."

So true. And as big as that game was, we're working hard for something so much bigger! Our reward is much greater, there is no comparison! We make our bodies our slaves; we do it for a prize that will last forever! (1 Cor. 9:25-27 NIV)

Heavenly Father, give me the courage and strength to run in such a way as to get the prize. Renew me, day by day. Help me fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16, 18 NIV)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beside Restful Waters

From the moment we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we meandered next to sparkling streams. Surrounded by seas of green budding trees and tiny forest flowers, it was immediately refreshing. The water's edge beckoned, so with cameras and a picnic lunch in hand, my husband and I found a flat rock to relax on. It was near another large rock in the stream that looked like a crouching cat (do you see him?).

I felt the sun on my back and the tickle of the breeze as I watched the water gently weave its way through everything in its path. I felt free as I listened to the whooshing of the current flowing over the rocks, and it seemed to wash my cares away.

I knew what David was describing in Psalm 23 when he said the Lord leads us beside restful waters and restores our souls. What a blessing to be able to take a vacation! We had our own little soul-restoration project going on in the mountains of Tennessee.

It reminded me of how important it is to take time to just be still. Our lives are busy and full and we are energized by so many things. But we can't be filling our calendars with 90 million things to do and then praying for peace! God gives us the wisdom to choose where to best spend our time, if we ask Him. And, I think the best way to hear His answers is to preserve a little quiet in each day ... when my mouth is closed and my ears and my heart are open.

We enjoyed a week of listening to the babbling brooks, the whispering trees and the melodious harmony of a myriad of songbirds we weren't accustomed to hearing. We were captivated by lush green pastures with abundant wildlife grazing contentedly. It was a little taste of heaven and my soul was at perfect peace.

On the last night of the trip, we reminisced about the beauty we had taken in, and all the peace and tranquility we had enjoyed. "God is so good," we agreed. It felt like I didn't have a care in the world and the whole universe was in order.

After all, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Be Not Dismayed

After attending her grandfather’s funeral in Wisconsin, a young woman drove seven hours to return to her home in Iowa. I’m sure the trip seemed even longer this time, as she was alone in her grief.

The next night, she was working the late shift (alone again) at her job in a fast food restaurant, attending to the drive-thru window. Toward the end of the shift, a friendly young person came through the drive-thru and handed her an envelope, saying, “I’m supposed to give you this.” The young woman accepted it and set it aside because she was busy in her duties.

When she finished the orders and completed the closing process, she finally looked in the envelope. To her surprise, she found $25 and no explanation…just a magnet that contained a website address. A little research online told her this was a project of a church youth group. They were making sacrifices, pooling their savings and giving it out in $25 increments to people who they thought needed it.

She said, “I was so surprised. They probably thought I needed it because I’m working in fast-food… Mom, I didn’t even spend it yet! There are so many people more needy!”

As a mother, it warmed me knowing that God was reaching my dear daughter with a little TLC at a rough time, especially when I couldn’t be with her. And in spite of her own concerns, I was so pleased she thought of others more needy than herself. It reminded me of one of her favorite scriptures as a young teen:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is. 41:10 NIV

{Note: dismayed is defined as a sudden loss of courage, resolution or initiative from anxiety or fear; to become unnerved or deterred by arousing fear or apprehension.}

Dear friends, remember God has every means of sustaining you, whatever you’re going through, wherever you are. Won’t you cast your cares on Him?

Father, we are thankful that Your Word tells us to cast our cares on You and that You will sustain us; You will never let the righteous fall (Ps. 55:22 NIV). You also told us to come to You, all who are weary and burdened and that You would give us rest. (Matt 11:28 NIV) Help us to trust those wonderful promises so that we may love one another as You have loved us. (John 13:34 NIV).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blessed Beyond Belief

When God calls us, He equips us. It is not of our own doing, so that we do not swell with pride. It is for His glory and our growth. If we are ready to surrender to Him, He can do amazing things with ordinary people. God walks lovingly ahead of us as He calls us to each next step in His great plan.

Sometimes these priorities seem far from what we would choose for ourselves, so it becomes clear that it is God's hand at work. Public speaker, me??? Yet, when His Spirit tapped me last year, I felt an unmistakable energy to do what He was asking me to do. (And I know I would do it again in an instant!)

Saturday, I had the privilege and pleasure of sharing my passion for journaling at the Women's Breakaway with two classrooms of thoughtful listeners. I was one woman being vulnerable -- because God asked me to -- and I have already been blessed beyond belief for sharing my gifts.

In 2 Timothy 1, we learn that gifts are not given fully developed, but that they need to be "fanned into flame." If we use what He's given us, He'll give us more. God wants us to generously and lavishly use our gifts in the service of others. For He did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Tim. 1:6-7 NIV)
  • The Greek word for power is "dunamis," from which we get the word "dynamite." It's the dynamite of the Holy Spirit. Look up the word and you'll find "abundance, mighty, wonderful work, miraculous." He personally empowers us to do His work!
  • Love is stressed all throughout Paul's letters to Timothy as the goal -- the real reason -- for any and all of the work they are doing.
  • And self-discipline (otherwise referred to as self control or having a "sound mind") is to be committed to making it happen.
When God has given us this kind of spirit, why do we listen to any other voice that tries to tell us we can't -- for whatever reason?!

What gifts do you have that need to be shared? What do you feel God is nudging you to do?

Don't be timid. Be encouraged! Take a step in faith and share your gifts. Fan them into flame. I know you will be blessed beyond belief.

Heavenly Father, I am amazed that you would use my gifts. I am so blessed to have the full backing of Your Holy Spirit in the path You have called me to. I am Yours. Show me the way.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We Don't Mourn those who have no hope. (1 Thes. 4:13)

This was a key line in an incredible book I've just read. It cracked open the door of my soul a bit wider than ever before, and stretched me in a new way.

In 2002, I was fascinated by a story on a radio program as I drove a short distance to a meeting. It was the voice of a missionary sharing her extraordinary experiences in a prison camp. Though her Bible had been taken away, she recalled scripture learned as a young girl and sang hymns to keep her sanity. In her heart she knew God was saying, "My grace is sufficient." Her faith was incredibly strong under horrible circumstances. God answered her prayers with such abundance.

The fragment of her story that I heard has truly inspired me these past eight years. To my delight, a few weeks ago I was finally able to identify the author and the book: Darlene Deibler Rose and Evidence Not Seen.

The rest of her story was equally gripping and I devoured it in less than a week. The book chronicles about eight years, from a young married woman excited about starting their mission work (the first white woman to enter the interior of New Guinea), to a young widow returning to the states in borrowed clothes, weathered by the experiences of the last four years in captivity in a WWII Japanese prison camp. Death was all around her, yet she didn't lose hope. She lost basically everything, yet she gained so much more. Her faith and courage shone more brightly than ever before -- a model and an inspiration for so many. What grace and love she showered into the lives around her.

I wept as I eagerly turned the pages. I thanked God for this dear young woman and all she endured. If she never would have written this book, her miraculous story would have died with her. For me, it is a glimpse of truly abiding in the goodness and grace of our Lord through any circumstance. No one would ever wish for that suffering, yet what a sweet walk with her Savior she found!

"Would you go anywhere with me, no matter what the cost?" was the call on her life she had answered as a young girl.

"I have no regrets," Darlene said. "It was a way to know God in a deeper way. He was always there."

See the Darlene Deibler Rose Web site (watch the short video), or see the 77-minute video on You Tube, recorded in her later years.

Loving Father, let us remember that You walk with us through every trial, giving us the strength we need, if we keep our eyes on You. We don't mourn or suffer like those who have no hope. You are our Hope in every situation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Abiding Fully

The Holy Spirit abides inside every believer. We have full access to Him. Yet not every one of us gives Him full access and control. Day by day, our journey is about turning more and more over to His control -- abiding also in Him -- so that He can work in us and through us to bring about His glory.

Life is made up of individual challenges and decisions and influences. It can be overwhelming at times. But increasingly, as we are able to surrender more of our lives to Him, He makes those pieces fall into place. He alone is the One who knows How to complete the puzzle!

I thought of many varied conversations, perplexities and disciplines that are shaping my life right now. And every once in awhile, I get just a "glimpse" of the big picture. It's as if I see the scenery on the front of the puzzle box -- for just a moment -- and I know what I need to do to work toward completion for that beautiful view.

God is fully alive in us, and He has every means of working in our lives. But sometimes I stifle Him by wanting to retain too much control. Sometimes I settle for "good" when I could have had "great" or "glorious."

I realize, once again, that I can't hurry God. I can't say, "Answer faster." His ways are high above our ways, His thoughts high above our thoughts. (Is. 55:8-9 NIV) It would be like force-fitting the pieces of the puzzle into place to complete it hastily instead of enduring the wait, being patient for the right fit.

Lord, I do not want a "quick" answer -- I want Your answer! Once more I surrender, as best I know how, to let You reign over every area of my life. God, I trust You to be the One who puts each piece into place for Your glory!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Growth

The snow is gone and the daffodils are pushing up through the monochromatic brown landscape. How exciting to think of green again!

My plants in the sunroom know it is spring, too. I found a surprise at the top of my schefflera (pictured).

Last week my husband and I were blessed to have some time away to hike and explore the brown landscape of last year's foliage. Our time was balanced with reading, writing and reflecting. A retreat, of sorts. A time for new growth.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking time to re-read my journals from a few years ago, refreshing my memory on the way God has answered prayers, cultivating and shaping new growth in me. It's amazing to look back and see His "footprints in the sand" as He guided me through all the challenges that later have become the sprouts of new life.

"No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the Vine." (John 15:4 NIV) So, once again, it's all about abiding. Sticking close to our nourishment.

My writing time on our "retreat" last week was for the purpose of distilling the best of my journaling stories into a presentation. It was last year at the Women's Breakaway in Chilton that I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. It was as if He said, "YOU can share your passion for journaling with these women!"

So I submitted my name as a speaker. (Is that a glimpse of new foliage?)

Over the past several months, the thrill inside me has grown as I've gathered ideas to share at the Women's Breakaway on April 17, 2010. I've named it, "A Diary of Our Love Story... Journal Your Prayers and Watch God at Work." I'll share several reasons and examples of why journaling is worth the effort. I am just so excited for others to experience the joy I feel in this process!

Can I ask you -- my dear blog-reading friends -- to pray for me? Please pray that I am able to deliver this in a way that inspires hope and the opportunity for growth in the women who attend this workshop. And to God be the Glory!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Raise Your Hands

Are you fighting battles you still haven't won?

Maybe you are fighting to keep the faith on a still-unanswered prayer? A lost loved one? A rejection? A fear? An addiction? What can we do when we feel so alone and nothing seems to be working?

A few years ago, I was in this kind of spot, crying out to God as a mother. As I prayed, I was reminded of a story in Exodus 17. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites at Rephidim, Joshua gathered some men to go and fight them. They were a tough enemy and it took a lot of determination and persistence. It required sticking to the strategy and trusting God.

Moses went up the hill and raised his hands to God. As long as his hands were raised, the Israelites were winning the battle. But as soon as he grew weary and let his arms down, the enemy advanced. So Aaron and Hur came to Moses, one on each side, and helped him hold his hands up until the enemy was defeated.

So, back to our own struggles. Let's raise our hands in prayer, surrendering our huge battles to the Lord. And when we are overwhelmed or too weary to do it alone, we need to reach out and ask our friends to help us keep our hands raised.

Praying for one another is powerful. Whose hands will you help hold up today?

Oh God, give us strength to hold tight to You. And one day we will say, "He has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes." (Ps. 54:7 NIV)

(Write your prayer request in the comment section and we can help you pray.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Magnificent Moment of Worship

Yesterday morning as I drove to work, I was again reflecting on how happy I am to have a job. (Yes, I am so thankful I survived the cut!!)

We had been studying how the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, but that godliness with contentment is great gain. We need to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Tim. 6:10, 6, 17)

I thought of how I shouldn't worry about money so much -- how God has always provided what I've needed. He even moved me from a good stable job to an even better job (see Where He Leads), when I would have never even looked for another job! It is so wonderful because I can still see the paper mill from the windows of my new workplace. Each day as I drive into work, I see the smokestack of the mill and remember all the good years I had there. I realized it is a visible "stone of remembrance" of what God has done for me.

Also, yesterday morning it was extremely foggy driving across the bridge, but when I got up the hill, the sun was radiantly shining. The moisture on every feathery twig and wisp of weed or blade of grass was covered in a frosty shining crystal lit up against a cerulean blue sky. It was a truly awesome sight to behold!

I felt a sense of great wonder at all God has done. It was a magnificent moment of worship and communion with God. This is what "abiding" is all about!

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me." (John 14:1)

Oh God, You are truly Awesome! We worship You!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Potato Soup for the Soul

On Saturday I made a big pot of savory potato soup. Mmmm. Warms you from the inside out. The recipe is enough for company and we still had some to carry us into the work week.

1 lb. Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage
12-13 medium size potatoes
1 large leek
1 large onion
salt to taste
dash of parsley
garnish with parmesan cheese

  • In a large kettle, brown the pork sausage while breaking into small chunks. Scoop the sausage out into a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving just a little drippings in the kettle.
  • Dice the onion and chop the leek (greens and all) into small pieces. Saute the onion and leek together in the drippings until tender. Scoop out into a bowl and set aside.
  • Scrub well the potatoes in their skins, put them in the kettle and add water to barely cover. Cook on medium heat until tender. Do not drain! Take out 3-4 potatoes and cut them into small chunks and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, blend the remaining potatoes (skins and all) with the water until smooth. You may be able to use your mixer in your kettle, or put the pureed potatoes back in the kettle.
  • Add the potato chunks back to the kettle, along with the browned pork sausage and sauteed leek and onion. Add salt to taste and a dash of parsley. Most of the seasoning is already in the pork sausage. Heat through and simmer to marry the flavors.

It's a thick, hearty soup, full of vegetables, without using a rich cream for a base. The water is full of nutrients from cooking the potatoes, and it's good fiber to leave the skins on. I garnished with a shake of parmesan cheese and served with breadsticks.

Just as a hearty meal doesn't hold us all week (we have to eat again), reading scripture on Sunday doesn't really hold us all week either. We need to sustain ourselves with study during the week. Just as a generous recipe is enough for company, if we generously read scripture, we'll have wisdom to share and to sustain us into the work week.

God, thank You for this meal, for our loved ones, for Your wisdom. We are grateful for all the good things You provide. Let Your Word and Your Wisdom soak into our souls and sustain us.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gulp... Giants!

Worry had sneaked up on me again and doubt became my companion. Whose voice was I listening to? Certainly not God's.

In Numbers 13, God told Moses to send 12 men into Canaan to see the promised land He would give them. One man from each tribe was chosen to join the expedition. They tromped along the river and up through the hill country, through fertile fields and vineyards, checking out all the land had to offer. At the end of 40 days, with a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it, they returned to report on all they had seen: "The land is full of giants; they are powerful and strong."

Ten of the 12 were overcome with doubt, saying: "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." And they spread among the Isrealites a bad report about the land. (Numbers 13:31-32 NIV)

But Joshua and Caleb insisted, "The land is flowing with milk and honey. Don't be afraid; God is with us."

Here is a decision point. Will I identify with the 10 who doubted or with the two who trusted? Whose voice do I choose to listen to? As I reflect on the "giants" in my own life, I will make my focus what God says He will do and not the size of the obstacle. Faith is living above the obstacles, not under them.

Abiding is staying connected to Him, trusting in Him, despite the odds. No matter how small I feel. He is big enough! I remember how, many times, God has answered my prayers, and shown Himself to be way bigger than I thought He was!

What "giants" are in your life? Are there things that seem too big -- even for God to resolve? Well... How BIG is our God, anyway?

Oh, Father God, You are above all and You know all. I choose to rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will fear no evil because You are with me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Beauty of Surrender

We know that God doesn't always answer prayer in the way we would anticipate, or as "quickly" as we would wish. But I can now see that for many of these times, He has given me an answer far better than I knew to ask for, in just the right timing.

As I reread my journals from a few years back, I gained a different perspective on how God was shaping me. He was orchestrating the details that needed to be put into place, while at the same time, preparing my heart to want the greater things He had in mind for me.

Upon reviewing these journals, I made a wonderful observation. Whenever something really "big" happened in my life -- an answer to a long-time prayer -- it came directly after a period when I was able to fully "surrender." By this I mean that I had given up control of the way I wanted the situation to go, realizing that He knows best. I could finally be open to His solution (the one that was perfect in the first place!)

But God is a gentleman and He didn't hurry, pressure or force me. I saw that many times He was incredibly patient with me. When I eventually stopped pleading with God about what needed to be done (how silly that sounds!) and resolved that I could trust Him -- whatever the outcome -- then the answer finally arrived. An answer that surpassed human understanding. An answer that gave me the greatest peace ever. An answer that came in a great big God way.

I now reflect on the character of God and His promises in the Bible:
  • Great is His faithfulness (Lam. 3:23)...
  • He can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28)...
  • Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39)...
  • He wouldn't give a snake when we ask for a fish (Matt 7:10)...
  • All things are possible with God (Mark 10:27)...
I remember that He really has my best interests at heart.

The beautiful 1855 hymn reminds us what a Friend we have: "Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear; all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."

Do you have a heavy burden you're carrying? Are you ready to lay it down?

Father, help me get my head, my heart and my feet on the "same page." Help me, more and more, to surrender to You. I really do want Your way. I know that from the fullness of Your grace we have all received one blessing after another (John 1:16). We have every reason to trust You.

Monday, February 1, 2010

We Do Not Lose Heart

Several of my work friends are losing their jobs of many years. Names are missing, cubes are cleared out, e-mails bounce back.

Others close to me are missing loved ones. The memory of their loss pierces their hearts each day. Will the pain ever go away?

Many in my church ask for prayers over serious health issues, overwhelming finances or complicated relationships. My prayer list is growing. There is suffering everywhere.

And then there is Haiti.

These poor souls have suffered their whole lives -- but we hear stories of these beautiful, victorious people who have not lost hope:
  • A man searched through wreckage and debris every day for his wife until he found her.
  • His wife, who survived a week under rubble, praised God and sang as she emerged into the light of day again.
  • A young man pinned under a fallen building for 14 days survived by rationing a jug of water and was rescued just hours after his supply ran out.
  • A doctor reported that hundreds of hungry, terrified, grieving, hurting people waited so patiently in long lines to be treated for life-threatening injuries -- without a single security incident.
  • A 66-year-old widow and a 12-year-old boy who had just lost their entire families decided to become a team -- a new family -- saying, "God will provide. In fact, He already has"...
I remember that suffering is not new; the Bible gives many examples. We can relate to what Paul wrote: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. 4:8-9, but read the chapter for the full encouragement...)

We must not forget that God is with us through it all. Just think, He is with all of His suffering children at once! He is sovereign. We do not understand, but we do know God is the One who can call light out of darkness.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV)

Thank you, Lord, for role models with strong faith -- strengthened, no doubt, by suffering and walking along, trusting in You no matter what. Oh, give them strength!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Our Hearts are in Haiti

We sponsor these dear children through Compassion International. (See earlier post (Christmas Child). They live in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, so our lives our quite different from theirs. But it didn't take long to form a bond. They send us the most heart-warming letters and drawings.

I had just written to each of our kids again on Monday night, then heard of the terrible 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday. Thankfully, they should all be safe, as they are in projects in the north, near Cap Haitien, and in the south central -- a safe distance from the great tragedy near Port au Prince.

But more than 6,000 Compassion children were at the center of that chaos. Our hearts are in Haiti, with those who have lost so much, when they have so little to begin with. I have cried every day with new news of their plight. My heart breaks watching every grieving parent, every frightened child, and all that they are now enduring.

Yet, I am inspired and encouraged to see video of the Haitien people singing hymns together to stay strong. This is so like the people we have come to know through our correspondence. They have a solid faith that rises out of darkness. And I am encouraged to see so many Americans now wanting to help the people of Haiti.

As sponsors, we received a video update on Haiti from Compassion's CEO Wess Stafford. He began his ministry in Haiti 40 years ago and married his wife there. Compassion International is a truly worthy organization for anyone looking for a way they can help.

Oh, Lord Jesus, please give the comfort that only You can give!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Needless Extra Miles

How did I do that?? I missed my exit because I was thinking about something else, then I needed to go a few miles out of my way to get back on track. What a waste!

I seem to be prone to doing that. Too many things on my mind some days and I often find myself taking the "long way" around. I wondered how many extra miles I have detoured throughout my life because I wasn't paying close enough attention to where I was headed.

Then I pictured God looking down from the heavens at the map of my life, seeing all the weaving and wandering I have done over the years. All those times I thought I knew the right way instead of trusting in His way. All those needless "extra miles" and "arriving late" was because I lost the real Focus.

Father God, my focus needs to be on You at all times. I don't want to be distracted. I yield every area of my life to you. Don't let me take any more detours than I have to!

"In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." (Prov. 3:6 NIV)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Do Not Be Anxious

There is a lot of anxiety at work now. Everyone knows there's an elephant in the room, and as we wait for more information on upcoming job cuts, it's impacting each of us a little differently.

I work with fun and intelligent people who inspire me. We love our jobs and it's evident as our best ideas blend and we achieve great results together. It is a melancholy feeling, as I know it soon won't be the same. At least one of us will be missing from that circle.

But I broke out my treasure chest this morning and a storehouse of riches poured out. Though it's certainly not the first time I've read it, Philippians 4 (NIV) was filled with "new" treasures to encourage me:

"Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God..." (v. 6)

I'm in Good Hands. He knows my needs. We've talked a lot about this lately.

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding...

It's more than we can wrap our heads around!

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (v. 7)

What a precious picture it is that the peace is "guarding" my heart... protecting it. Sometimes it's hard to get the same message in my head and my heart, but this peace is complete and encompasses all.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things," verse 8 continues.

I am not to be anxious, worried, focusing on the negative or the "what-ifs." I am to remember that God is a fortress around me and He is in control of all.
I can focus on the work I enjoy and the wonderful people I work with. I remain creative and productive and eager and inspired to give my best fruits.

"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (v.13) That's what I need to focus on!

So, that's my story. What's yours? Is there something threatening your peace lately? Let's make a pact to focus on the positives.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (v. 19)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the vast wealth of encouragement that is found in Your Word. Holy Spirit, You hold the key to unlocking these treasures for all who make the request. I pray today for all to know this great hope. Keep us focused on You and all You have planned for us.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Full Armor of God

When the alarm sounds, I greet the new day with a joyful heart. I'm fortunate to be a morning person, but even my husband (who is not a morning person), enjoys our routine. After some light stretching to help us wake up, we are off to the sunroom to read the Word together. We talk about highlights of what we've read and then join in a quick prayer to sink our roots deeper.

As soon as my dog Nikki hears "Amen," she is hopping with anticipation for her favorite part of the day -- our walk. My faithful friend Beth and her dog Toby come out to meet us whether in light drizzle or deep snow, because we so enjoy encouraging one another with our faith stories.

Then, I'm listening to Christian radio on the 10-minute drive to work. When I log on my computer, I have an e-devotional waiting to greet me. My passwords themselves are reminders of spiritual inspirations. I'm blessed to have great people and interesting work, but if by chance I get derailed by lunchtime, I have another close friend who is eager to take a walk and share praises of what God is doing...

It occurred to me this morning as Ted and I read Ephesians 6, that all these treasured parts of my routine are like putting on the full armor of God. They help me stand firm, ready my feet to walk in truth and take up the shield of faith to extinguish any flaming arrows of the day.

What are you wearing today? Do you have your helmet and sword? Have a few minutes to add another layer of protection for the day? It's worth it!

Lord, thank you so much for blessing me with other believers in my daily routine. Thank you for the freedom to read your Word and to share our faith. Your armor will protect me if I take the time to put it on.