Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doubt? or Wonder?

Well, this is the blog that took a long time for me to write!  I thought it would be easy.  I know a lot about Mary- don't we talk about her every year at Christmas.  Yet, I couldn't formulate what I might 'write' about her this week.  Sometimes it feels like when Leisha died- so did everything I ever knew.  I'm a new learner at so many things that it seems should be old knowledge for me.  But in many ways, that's not all bad.  I'm enjoying digging in and learning  

Thursday, I read through Luke 1 several times, pondering what it must have been like to behold Gabriel, to hear his message and to try to wrap her head around all that Gabe was telling Mary.

Friday, the book I am using through advent presented me with the story of Joseph hearing the news himself and his response to Mary.  You know, it's one thing to deal with your own emotions about something like this- but to deal with the emotions of the man you are to marry- when you are carrying a child that is not his!  Wow!  I wonder if she thought what Joseph's response would be when she humbly said to Gabriel that night "may it be to me as you have said."

Saturday and Sunday, I was on the worship team at church.  It's amazing how clearly God speaks through a service when you hear it three times.  And I sat in the service all three times because they wanted the instruments to stay in position.  So I'm pretty much sitting in the music and Barb's message thoroughly engrossed in what God was saying to me in it.  And it was totally focused on Mary!

So ... I've been pondering a couple of thoughts since then.

When Gabriel said to Mary "Hail Favored One!" she was only 12-14 years old.  A true nobody in that culture. When I think being 12-14 year olds, I realized that I was just becoming aware of things beyond myself about then.  I watched my girls make some significant decisions about what what important to them about that time.  I'm sure Mary's parents had spoken to her about life issues that she would be experiencing in the next few years.  She was already engaged to Joseph, so I can imagine that Mary was beginning to 'grow up' in many ways about this time. But could she really have imagined something like Gabriel happening just now.  How does a parent prepare a child for that?  How does a child know how to respond in such a moment?

It's not like she didn't know how babies were born- she did.  She even says, "but I haven't been with a man."  It's a response similar to Zechariah's and yet...! Zechariah had years of being aware of God at work, that God is and does what He says He is and does. Yet in his moment in the Holy place, even then he asks for proof that God could do this.  "How can I be sure...?"

Mary's question was the honest, simple response of young woman just becoming aware of God's ability to work in her own life, and not just in her parent's. It wasn't 'doubt' as much as it was 'wonder'!  How will this happen?

The other thought that was spurred by Barb's message this weekend was that Mary could have said NO!  She could have become so afraid that she ran and hide from Gabriel and from what God was going to do.  She could have freaked out that something like this would make her 'look bad' and refused to have anything to do with it. She could have CLOSED herself to His work in her life.

If she had, would God have chosen another young girl for this important role?  Or did God chose her because her heart was already open to Him.  I know that I, sometimes, sense God putting a message in my life over and over, in one way and another.  And it seems He is preparing me for something that comes later.  Did He prepare her in other ways before this moment?  We don't know, scripture doesn't tell us about her before this moment.

At first she was afraid- wouldn't you be?  No matter how old you are- an angel appearing before you is bound to make your blood pressure rise. But her response was simple, child like.  "I am the Lord's servant (bondslave)."  Was this a culmination of messages that she had heard in her soul that resulted in her immediate, "may it be to me as you have said.?"

I guess any further speculation would be just that- speculation.  But like Mary, the questions are there for my life and yours.

What is God saying to you?
What is He preparing you for?
Are you open to hearing from Him?
Are you open to responding to Him, immediately, not doubt, but in wonder?
Are you willing to live life in the 'messy' if that's what God asks of you?

The music from the weekend worship gathering was powerful in my life this week.  But one song in particular really stood out as I asked myself those same questions. I include it here!

May He BE BORN IN ME today!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's in a Question?

So I've been pondering yesterday's blog, or rather the stories of Luke, chapter 1.  More specifically, I've been curious about Gabriel's different responses to Zechariah & Mary.  Why did Gabriel take the voice of Zech when he treated Mary with compassion and further details?  What made one of them 'punishable', and the other not?

So I pulled out my Study Bible and a commentary, pulled up and went to it.  Amazing what discoveries can be made.

One of the first things that I was struck by is the timing of Gabriel's appearance to Zechariah.  This was not just an ordinary thing that Zech was doing on this day.  As a priest, Zechariah served at the temple for two one-week periods a year.  He was a member of one of twenty-four divisions in the priesthood of the first century, one of approximately 18,000 priests.  A priest only got to assist in the daily offering by going into the holy place ONCE IN HIS LIFE!   And he got that honor by being chosen by lot- meaning, they 'drew straws' sort of.  So it is that kind of moment that you train for all your life, but it only lasts for a little while.  And as is often the case, you don't know actually when it will happen.

His job was to offer incense which is a picture of intercession rising to God.   At the moment he places the incense on the alter, Gabriel appears.  How appropriate to pick a moment of worship and a time when people recognized their need for cleansing  from sin to announce this child, who would grow up to be the 'announcer' of the ONE who would take sin away from the world.

Gabriel tells Zechariah quite a bit about his son. 
The first thing was his name- John. Can you imagine being named by God? That must mean something special.

He will be a source of joy and delight for Zechariahand Elizabeth.  He will be great before GodHe will live a very strict, disciplined life.  I suppose that meant that Zechariah would need to pay close attention to that in raising his son also.   More importantly, the child will be 'empowered by the Spirit even from birth'.  Hmmm!  Too many times today parents refer to their kids as 'little devils'. What would it be like to have a child empowered by the Spirit from the time they were born?

Gabriel says that the child will be a prophet.  That he will call people to repent.  
    "He will turn Israel back to the Lord" 
    "He will turn the hearts of parent to their children"
John will be part of redirecting those who listen to his message to walk with God. He's making people ready for the Lord.

That' when we come to the question.  After being told all of this, even though he was a priest experiencing the ONCE IN A LIFETIME event, he doesn't just accept that a miracle of having a child will occur.  In his humanness, he sees a very natural objection.  He's old!  His wife is old!  He knew how it worked and it wasn't working anymore.

But this was Gabriel talking- not his neighbor down the road.  God sent Gabriel here at this moment, at this place, to give this message.  Zech had to know that given where he was and what he was doing.  Wouldn't the fear that Zech had when he first saw Gabriel keep him of 'second guessing' Gab's words now.

It seems not!  How many times is that true of me too?  Or of you?  Something extraordinary takes place and we receive  a wonderful word that must be from God and what do we do?  We step back and say 'well wait a minute, I'm not sure we can really do that- it's not the way things work.' But it was working that way.  God was speaking through Gabriel directly to him.

Zech needed to learn a lesson I need to learn as well.  God does His things in His time in His way.  If he says He will do it- it's done.  Simple as that!  It may not look like we think it will, or it should but HE WILL DO IT.

So here are my questions for this Advent Season.
What is He saying to you during this Advent Season?  
Are you listening?  
Are you even aware that He is talking to you?  
It may not be through Gabriel, but He is there using something in your life to speak what He wants to do in you.

When Zechariah didn't believe the angels words, he was actually doubting God.  That was why Gabriel responded by taking away Zech's voice.
What's your response?  
Are you believing what God is saying, or are you making excuses for how it won't work.  
Remember, this is God at work!  

Hmmm!  Much to ponder.
So how does this compare to Mary's response?
Well, I think I'll leave that for tomorrow!
See you then!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The about to break!

Luke 1:78-79
Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace.

This verse struck me as I came across it this morning.  I have read Luke 1  before.  It's the story of  Zechariah. a priest in the time of Herod the king of Judea.  He and his wife, Elizabeth, are good people, in fact the Bible says they 'were righteous in God's eyes'. Who wouldn't want God to say that about them?  But they had no kids and now they are both very old.

Then one day, Zechariah is on duty at the Temple and he is chosen to be the one to enter the sanctuary and burn incense while the people prayed outside.

That's where it happened!
An angel of the Lord shows up!

Zechariah is overwhelmed, you can imagine!  But the angel says, "Don't be afraid Zech! God has heard you praying and you will have a son. Name him John! "

The angel tells Zech incredible things about  his son, that he will be a man of spirit and power and accomplish great things.

Zechariah's response is to ask a question, "How can I be sure this will happen?  I'm an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years."

The angel gets ticked!  At least I think he's ticked.  He says, "I am Gabriel!  I stand in the presence of God.  He sent me to tell you this good news.  But since you didn't believe  me- you won't be able to speak until your child is born."

And he didn't! Not a word!

Right after that story is when Gabriel shows up to talk to a young girl named Mary.  Again Gabriel says, "Don't be afraid! "  (I wonder how many times Gabriel has said that in his angel life.)

Gabriel tells Mary "you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son. Name him Jesus!"  Again he tells Mary that her son will be very great and that he will be given the throne and will reign forever.

Mary's response is to ask a question, " But how can this happen. I am a virgin."

But Gabriel doesn't seem to get upset with Mary.  He doesn't take her voice away like he did with Zechariah.  He seems more gentle, more patient.

And he tells her, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age.  People used to say she was barren, but she's now in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God."

It was like I reading this chapter for the first time.  Seeing similarities in the passages I had not seen before.  And yet the differences astound me.

Why did Gabriel react to Zechariah's question as he did and yet not treat Mary that same way when she questioned.  Was it in what they insinuated in the question?  Was it in their tone of voice- which of course we can't hear.  Hmm?  I may have to study that a bit more.

But the other thing I noticed is that, unlike Zechariah,  Mary was able to respond to Gabriel's message right away.  And in amazing faith, she says, "I am the Lord's servant.  May everything you have said about me come true."

I can't say for sure- but I wonder if I had just encountered an angel that's telling me not to be afraid and he tells me that I'm going to be an unmarried pregnant virgin that I would say, "Yeah, I hope it all comes true."

And a few days later, her response swells to an incredibly beautiful song recorded as the  Magnificat. 

Zechariah, in the meantime, is completely silent.  Silence that has been forced on him because he refused to accept the angel's word as coming from God.  Until the day his new baby turned 8 days old.  As these new parents take their son to be circumcised,  everyone is asking what the child's name will be.   Elizabeth states that it will be John. No one believes her because there's no one in the family named John.   So they start 'making gestures' to Zech (not sure why, he was mute, not deaf), anyway, they ask Zechariah what the baby's name should be.  Zechariah writes on a tablet.  HIS NAME IS JOHN.  Immediately he is able to speak again.

That's when Zechariah breaks out into a song of his own.   A song he could sing with great emotion, and deep gratitude for the gift of this child.  A hymn of praise to the Most High God. 

At the end of his song, he sings these words.
Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

Ah Lord God, let your light break upon us, give light to those who only see darkness this advent season.  To  all who sit in the shadow of death, guide us to peace!  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons Learned as a Beauty Queen

This morning  I woke with a vivid memory of a conversation I had years ago.  Actually it was two conversations, with two different sets of judges for two local beauty pageants.  My experience as a beauty queen was short lived, but never the less life changing!  And obviously these two conversations impacted me significantly enough to be brought to mind again today.

What made these two conversations stand out was how different they were!

The first time I appeared before judges was for the Miss Lipscomb County pageant held on the 4th of July.  I had often dreamed of being Miss America as a young girl, but never dreamed I would ever be in a real pageant.  I write more about that part of the story in my E-book called "What's Your Story Telling You?" (If you would like a free copy, go to my website, 

But now through a miraculous turn of events, I was preparing to walk into the judges chambers.   I was so excited just to be included in all the festivities. I had no expectation of winning so I had nothing to lose and everything to gain as I spoke with them.  I shook out any jitters I had before i walked in.  I engaged them fully, answering their questions with delight and even asking them questions about their families and careers.  We laughed together and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them.

The next time was not so enjoyable.  This time I was competing for Miss Wheatheart.  This time I knew what was at stake.  I knew what it meant to win and was afraid  to lose. I saw everyone as competition. I couldn't shake off the fear in the interview with the judges, so I responded nervously and was consumed with what they wanted  from me rather than who I was.

So what did I learn from this?
NOTE to self:
Shake out the jitters so you can
Be who you are!
Engage others-not to be consumed by them, but be authentically interested in them.
Laugh together
Live as if you have nothing to lose!
     Everything to gain!

So anyway, what does any of this have to do with Advent?  Well, I asked the Lord the same question.  What does an ordinary high school girl who had nothing to lose have to do with the Christ Child coming to us?

His answer was "Everything!"

First of all, at His coming He had everything to lose.

John 1 tells us
In the beginning the Word already existed.
     The Word was with God,
     and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
   and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Imagine! Being with God AND being God!  Existing at the beginning!  Creating all that was to be!
Having the ability to give life to everything that was created and in that life, bring light that can never be put out.

But then comes vs 10
He came in the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him.
11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

He who had it all- who WAS all- made His entrance before humans who became His judge!  And they deemed Him not good enough.  They rejected Him, and therefore rejected the Lift and Light that He brought with him.

Those who have lost- whether it's a job, or relationship, perhaps a loved one, (or a myriad of other losses) know what it is like to lose. We know the pain, the ache that cuts deep to the core of who we are.  We know that if we had a choice- we would not choose to lose something so central to who we are, especially if we knew that our sacrifice would not be received after we made it.  Yet even knowing that would happen, He came!  So that an ordinary little high school girl trying desperately to figure out how to live could find LIFE itself.

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
13 They are reborn- not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan,
     but from a birth that comes from God.
14 So the Word became a human and made his home among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son.

How grateful I am!  How about you?  What is God saying to you this Advent season?
I encourage you to take a moment to listen right now!  Open your eyes to SEE His Light!


Monday, November 28, 2011


This is the title theme for our church's Advent season!  (   It is followed by
... a word of hope that bursts like streaming light into the dark nights of the journey.
Behold is God's invitation to witness how love makes all things new, including us.
This Advent season, open your eyes and your heart and BEHOLD! 

I missed the first Sunday of Advent with them because I have been sick.   I plan to listen to the podcast, but it hasn't been posted yet.  But it's this concept of BEHOLD that the Lord has been replaying over and over in my thoughts in the past few days!  BEHOLD, SEE, RECOGNIZE, SHOW

I love the description they gave---
BEHOLD... a word of hope that bursts like streaming light into the dark nights of the journey.

Last Wednesday, I began hosting the HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS Telegroup.  On the call, was a woman who understands deeply the" dark nights of the journey" having lost a son 6 years ago and now her husband this summer.  My friend is living in the darkness even now as she seeks desperately to see God's light & life in all of this.  As we spoke, I was reminded how dark the images of past Christmas' have been for me.  I actually see black surrounding the memoires I have of certain times during the past 5 years. 

How do you SEE when it's dark? 
How do you find a glimmer of light when the source of light has been hidden from view? 
What do you do when you can't DO anything- you are in too much pain, too much hurt? 

Sometimes I think all we can do is close our eyes, and ask God to show us His light in our minds eye.

The more I reflect on these questions, the more aware I am that so often I try to make the Christmas season something sweet and sentimental.  It's as if I must now deny the reality in which I live and create this ambiance of light and joy, of glitter and sparkle. Somewhere in my decorating of my home and tree, my mood is supposed to capture that same beauty and all things messy now become festive in the soft glow of the Christmas lights.

But think about it!

The Christ Child wasn't born into a world of sparkle and glitter.  He didn't arrive at the palace of a King with all of it's trimmings.   He was born into a messy world, in a stable no less!  He, who was the King, was born a helpless babe, and became part of the mess with us.   He was born to human parents.  Yes, He was conceived of a virgin, but the two people God gave to raise Him were good, but not perfect.  The shepherds who came first to visit didn't take time to 'clean up' before they entered His world!  Can you imagine the smell of these people who had been out taking care of smelly sheep on a hillside for who knows how long?

That same Christ Child is the one who has come into my mess, my darkness, my world.  Not to make it perfect, but to make me new! To make you new!  To show us His Light!

Behold is God's invitation to witness how love makes all things new, including us.
This Advent season, open your eyes and your heart and BEHOLD! 

 Psalm 69:32 says "the poor will see and be glad- you who seek God, may your hearts live!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seeing Green Hope this Advent Season!

Today is the first  Sunday of Advent!  For years during this time of the year, our family has celebrated Advent  in some way. 

When the girls were little we used an Advent Calendar made out of strips of brown paper bag, very similar to what we had used in my home as a child.  The strips were filled with numbers from 1-25.  Each day we cut off another number to remind us of the number of days till Christmas.

Then as they got a little older we started using the Jesse Tree.  The name comes from Isaiah 11: 1, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." (NASB)   The Jesse tree represents the family tree, or the genealogy of Jesus.  It tells the story of God's salvation plan, beginning with creation continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah.

Our Jesse trees usually consisted of a small bare branch that we stood up in a Styrofoam  base. The girls would make ornaments out of felt or construction paper  that represented the various  prophecies foretelling Christ's coming or the ancestors in the line of Christ.  It is an excellent way to teach our children as they anticipate Christmas Day.  (You can find more about this online.)

Often we had an Advent Candle in the center of the table, each Sunday lighting the next candle as scriptures were read from the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Or  we would follow a Advent guide or devotional readings written for the season.  A couple of years ago, our church put out an ACTIVITY Advent guide where each day we were encouraged to do something significant, such as;
 listen to a favorite Christmas song and think about why you like it
Have some friends over for a potluck dinner
Think about someone you are having a hard time with and pray for them though-out the day…
You know...things that remind us of the real reason for Christmas.

But you know, my purpose in writing is not to present all the different means by which people observe Advent. 

I'm here to observe Advent!  I woke this morning with the realization that I want to BEHOLD this One who came the first Christmas.   I want to RECOGNIZE Him when He shows up in my world today.  I want to SHOW Him to others and help them SEE Him!

Remember when the shepherds heard the news of the baby, they said to each other "Come,...Let's go see…"

I'm saying that to you today.  Come!  Let's SEE this One we celebrate!  The ONE who gives the gifts of hope, and life,  and joy and purpose and victory.  Let's SEE Him!

Here's to you- and me- SEEing GREEN this Advent Season!

Friday, November 11, 2011


11 Days of Worship Complete

It has been an amazing 11 days. Not because I was so very faithful at my worship time.  I have to admit, this was hard!  It wasn't that I didn't want to spend time with the Lord- it was just tough to do.  The more I wanted to schedule time in, the more crazy my schedule became.  It was as if everything was against me doing this.  Hmmm!  I wonder!!!

The precious thing was that when I asked the Lord for help to even spend time with Him, he did help!  He wants to be close to me, so He will do His part to help me do that.  I just have to be aware of those moments He opens up for me! 

Yesterday, it was in my car driving to meet a friend for lunch.  As I drove, I acknowledged who He is , and He helped me to see how the GREAT I AM is intimately involved with so many areas of my life.  By the time I got to lunch, I still had some residue of concern for certain areas- but many of the emotions I was experiencing had found 'peace'.  

The day before it was after a telephone conversation with a friend.  Knowing that God had brought that precious woman into my life a just the right time to keep my own eyes focused  on what was most important.

Today, it was in a moment of panic!  Different than the day that Ren's mom was put in the hospital (she's home and doing great by the way).  Today it was feeling like all the variables in life took a shift at the same time and I was left desperately trying to find my footing again.  Once again, I fell to my knees and asked the Lord to help me see Him.  Life still felt uneven, but I found myself  standing on a firm foundation.

Why?  Because I found answers.  No, but I took my eyes off the circumstances and place them on the ONE who knows them all.  I used the alphabet to remember some of the attributes of God!  I challenge you to try this.

Start with A- Almighty, you are the Alpha, the All-Knowing, the Always present.
You are Bold, Beautiful, benevolent.
You are the Creator, Caring, …

You get the idea!  It's a powerful way to keep your focus on Him, not on you!

So how have you done the last few days?  I don't know about you , but I'm going to keep trying.  It's so much better than the alternative.   Will you join me?  How about we make it longer than 11 days.  How about 11 months?  That takes us to next October 2012. 

I'm in- how about you?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 6 of the 11 Day Worship Challenge

Ok- so I know I haven't written for 3 days- but this time, it does not mean that I haven't been in worship.  It does mean that my time in worship has been 'transformational', let's say! And that sometimes takes a while to process. I'll share about that part soon.

Today my worship was 'urgent'. This morn, Ren's mom was taken to the hospital for chest pains- we were told she would be life-flighted to an Amarillo hospital.  That's really all we knew for a while. Our imaginations were left to do what they tend to do.  I fell to my knees by my sofa and cried out to our God,
       the Great Physician, who alone knew what was really going on in her body.
       the Healer, who had the power to heal in an of Himself,
               but also to guide those caring for her to see and diagnose and provide healing options for her.
       the Provider, who knows not only what she needs, but also what Daddy Ray needs right now as he
               watches this one he loves struggle.
       the Comforter- who cares deeply for those emotional needs and comforts them in this journey.
       the Strength- for Barb,  & Ray, but also for Ren's brother, Devin and his wife Becki, who live close and
                are the ones who carry much of the concerns like this up close.  And also for Ren, who feels as if the miles have quadrupled between him and his parents in just a few minutes. And for the two grandsons and the two granddaughters who love this Grandy dearly.

I wish I could say that as I knelt there in worship the knot in my stomach went away.  It didn't!  I know FULL WELL that my prayers are not always answered as I would wish. But I also know FULL WELL that He is the Only One who knows all, sees all, heals all- and that's where I place my dear second mother!  This woman who drew me right in long before I was dating her son.  This woman who taught me in high school, and then in marriage and in life.   I trust her to HIM! The Great I AM!

Who are you concerned about today?  What do you learn of God in your worship that helps you to lift that person to Him?  I challenge you to kneel before Him today!

(note: due to storms, Barb was driven by ambulance (2 1/2 hour drive) to Amarillo.  Still no word on what is the cause.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hmmm! Nothing Much to Post!

It's not because I didn't have a lot going on today- I did!  It's not because I didn't enjoy my day- I did!  It's not because I didn't learn new things- I did!

I don't have much to post today because I didn't take time out of my day to just spend with the Lord.  I didn't take time to hear His voice, to sense His heart.  Now does that mean He wasn't part of my day- or didn't direct my steps- No!  I've known Him a long time!  I've heard His voice before! I sensed His Spirit directing conversations and opportunities all day long.

But...I missed the moment, sitting at His feet, gazing into His eyes, listening to thoughts for the day, recognizing WHO HE IS!

I'll not miss tomorrow!  How about you?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trade Offs & Cravings!

At church, our current theme is TRADE OFFS!
"Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we can't add the life he offers in God's Kingdom as another addendum to our already ecelctic, hectic and complex living. When he says, "Come, follow"... he also tells us that we will need to leave something else behind. In other words... "To be an authentic follower of Christ, we will need to be willing to trade off other parts of who we have been in order to live more authentically in Christ.

You know, I arrogantly excused myself from the message this weekend feeling like over the past 7 years, I had given up lots of things that were very important to me.  Though it occurred to me later, that most of them had to be pulled from my hands. I hadn't given them without a fight. So I cautiously said, "Lord, show me what I am still holding onto that has become a TRADE OFF for knowing you, for hearing your voice."  It was quite clear to me that to have time to spend with the Holy One, something else had to go.

Just just as I expected, the Lord took my willingness to seek His face- with all the conditions and fears- and answered me, over and over again.

I was prompted to pull out two books from my shelves this week.  One is by Linda Dillow called, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul: For I am Desperate for Your Presence.  The other is by Lysa Terkeurst entitled,  Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food.  The first is specifically about worship- a lifestyle of worship.  But so is the other!  I bought it to help me focus on my weight issue- but it is leading me to seek the Only One who can satisfy my cravings!

CRAVE is defined as something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly and beg for. Wow! What do we CRAVE really?  What is it that we are TRADING OFF to get it?

Remember the story of the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19?  He comes to Jesus and asks, "All these rules I have kept.  What do I still lack?" Jesus replies, "If you want to be whole, give up the one thing you crave more than me.  Then come follow me."

Ouch! The Lord is showing me I've made a considerable amount of trade offs in the past few years- but I haven't been trading for Him. I've been trading Him away.  How about you?

Is it possible that we love and rely on _______ (fill in your greater craving) more than we love and rely on God?  (Lisa Terkeurst, Made to Crave)

One of my favorite old songs from my past is an old hymn written by George Beverly Shea. This song was song often as he ministered with the Billy Graham Crusades for many years.  The words are:

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand...

Chorus: Than to be the king of a vast domain

And be held in sin's dread sway.
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause,
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I'd rather be true to His holy name . . .

I choose to crave Him. I'd rather have Him! Pray for me as I make those choices everyday.  I'd be happy to pray for you too!  Just send me a note letting me know how to pray!

What' the one thing you crave more than Him?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

11/1/11 Eleven Days of Worship Challenge

A week ago, I was asked the question, "Where do I struggle to be obedient to God's promptings?"

My reply was that I struggle to be certain that I am hearing God's voice- and not some internal whim, or the sometimes 'beautiful' voice of the deceiver. I've spent so much of my life learning to be discerning that even when God clearly speaks to me, I hesitate- as if to judge whether He said it right or if this is scriptural.  Now don't get me wrong, those things are SO very important to do- but not as an excuse of not being obedient to what He's calling me too.  It's usually a change of some sort; a behavior, an attitude, a direction.  Change isn't easy, so I use the excuse that I must be sure GOD IS SPEAKING TO ME!

Well, my challenge this week was to just spend time in worship- listening for His voice, learning to recognize it when He speaks to me. (Yes,friends- this is the 20 minute worship challenge again.)  I won't lie! It's been hard. I've sensed a freedom in my corporate worship in the last few months.  But my time spent in private worship has been the most difficult for me since Leisha ran off to heaven.  For a while, it was because I was angry that He allowed her death.  Then it was just hard because it was such an intimate time and I felt too vulnerable in His presence.  I've come to Him, but it's been with thick layers of protection surrounding me.  I'm sure it was as much so that He couldn't see me or my anger (as if that could happen), as my fear of Him.

You know what happens when you put up barriers between you and the one you love- whether that's your husband, or child, or friend, or even the Most High God?  Intimacy is blocked!  Isn't that the one thing we all really crave?  To be fully known and still be loved deeply.  To be heard, but also to be able to hear the voice of our Beloved.  Intimacy means into me see!

Are you seeing your Beloved?  Do you recognize his voice?

Isaiah saw the Lord (Isaiah 6). He was undone!  He was a man who "understood much about God...but he had never been introduced to the presence of the Holy One."

"Looking UPWARD, he encountered the holiness of the Almighty, and this trembling prophet fell to his knees.  Whenever we see the holiness of God, we are forced to look at our own lace of holiness.  Looking INWARD, Isaiah was over come by his own sinfulness.  Graciously, God cleansed Isaiah's heart, and then he was able to look OUTWARD and respond to God's call to 'go'!  (Linda Dillow, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul) 

Isaiah was changed.  I want to be changed!  I want to know my God and  to recognize his voice.

I think we are back to my original question last week.
Where are you struggling to be obedient to God's promptings?
Are you able to hear the voice of God, and recognize it as His voice?
Are you spending time in His presence every day, to develop intimacy in your relationship with Him?

Today is the 1st day of the 11th month of the 11th year of  this decade, or even century. (1/11/11)  What a great day to begin to spend time with Him if you aren't already.

So here's the challenge for you!  Spend the next 11 days in His presence.  I don't know what that looks like for you.  You might use Isaiah 6 or I Chronicles 29:10-14 as a guide.  If you are interested, I could send you an article written by Becky Harling for Discipleship Journal several years ago. (Just send me a note requesting it.) But the focus is to see God and know His voice!

I'm accepting the challenge!  Join me, won't you?  Take the Eleven Days of Worship Challenge.  Let me know that you too are seeking his face! I'd love to hear what He is saying to you when you are with Him! Let's worship Him together!

Psalm 63:1-3 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land.  I have seen you in your sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Because your love is better than live, my lips will glorify you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Leisha's HOPE Update

We are rejoicing!

It has been thrilling to see monies come in for the
Leisha's HOPE project-
and even more to see the interest that is growing for the
DEEP WOODS project.

Without knowing of our desire to build the HOPE cabin, another donor chose to take on the FAITH cabin which is actually being built this fall already.  It is the bigger of the 4 cabins, so it will soon be ready and available for families or larger groups to use.  Not sure yet of the furnishings, but I'm sure it will be very nice.

I wanted to update you- and encourage you to join in - not just for Leisha's HOPE, but for the place of healing & hope that the DEEP WOODS has been and will be to many.  

Last week, as I was praying for my family and the cares and concerns of those in my world, I had a vision of Leisha.  She greeted me gently with a twirl of her fingers,  then she slide to the ground with her legs crossed in front of her,  turned her head, much like the picture to the left and began to blow a dandelion.  I held in my hand a dandelion I had picked up earlier on my walk. I had tried to blow out the seedlings, but they refused to budge.  Now I lifted it again, and the fuzz began to blow out freely in front of me.

You know, I'm not prone to have 'visions' - but this was very clear to me.  I know that this was a reminder to keep on influencing others to find hope.   It is our family's heart's desire to offer that safe place of HOPE to many others who find themselves in desperate places! You have been part of loving Leisha and loving us in our journey toward healing. We wanted to give you an opportunity to join us as we seek to provide another avenue of HOPE for others.

Join us by being part of funding, constructing and furnishing the HOPE Cabin in DEEP WOODS as part of Leisha’s HOPE. The cost of constructing the HOPE Cabin, which is 12’ x 16’, will run about $8,000. Projected costs for furnishing that space with a small desk & chair, a rocker and lamp table, as well as, a small bed is $700.

 As funds are available, a chapel with restroom facilities and electricity will be added to the DEEP WOODS space, but currently we use lanterns and a very well cared for outhouse when the church facilities are closed.  More information of DEEP WOODS is available. Feel free to email or call if you have questions or for a brochure. (You might also check out the August 12 blog) 

Donations can be made directly to Crossroads Church, 775 S Thayer Road, Lima, Ohio 45806 earmarked as DEEP WOODS/ Leisha’s HOPE.  It is our desire to have all the funds raised by January 30, 2012 so that supplies can be purchased and building can begin early spring.

Pucker up your lips and blow- you have the opportunity to be the influence of hope in someone's life today! Just keep your eyes open so you can see the people that come into your life.

Seeing Green!
Kathy, for Rennie, Caitlin, Brielle and Leisha!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning to Walk---Again!

So...I recently made a $5 purchase which has given me a 10,000 step challenge. I'm having a difficult time 'stepping up'!

You see I bought this bright blue 'fits in the palm of my hand' tool that I strap on to my pocket every morning called a pedometer. It's purpose is to help me know how many steps I take in a day. The thin little piece of paper with the instructions on it claims that a person of good health should walk about 10,000 steps a day.  I know for many of you who walk - or run (God forbid!) that doesn't sound like a whole lot.  But that sounds like a lot to me.  For the last 5 years, I can't say I haven't cared about my health- but not enough to make the effort.
But now I think I'm up for it.  I strapped that little gadget on one morning last week when I felt particularly energetic and I thought to myself, "this is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm going to walk my way to health." 

I kept checking it every little bit and I was a bit surprised that I wasn't 'stepping' as quickly as I had thought I would.  I decided that I wouldn't look at it any more- I would just focus on walking.  So I put on my walking shoes and went to get the mail (our lane is about 1/4 of a mile).  I even walked a bit farther down the road so I could get a few more steps in. When I came back to get to the house to work, I would get up every now and then so I could get a few more steps.  I even walked the stairs all the way to the 3rd floor a couple of times to add steps.  Believe me, stairs should count for double points.

I was pretty confident that I had made a hefty dent in my 10,000 steps.  That night, I climbed the stairs to my third floor bedroom, kept the pedometer on until I just had to take it off to climb in bed.  I got ready to write down the big number of steps I made that day in my 'step log' and pushed the button.

2680 steps! 2680! That's it! And this was a good day for me!

So the next day I tried to top it. I did-  but I had to work at it.

Wednesday, I even danced all the way through our worship team practice so I could increase my steps alot over the day before.

5, 482!

Thursday I was whipped! I didn't feel good!  I couldn't get my meds to even out with my extra 'stress'! (That's a deal with Addison's disease.  You have to be aware of the stress- good or bad and be sure you have the right amount of cortisol in your system to deal with it. ) How am I ever going to get 10,000 steps?

I facebooked my fitness trainer/friend.  I only got 5,000 steps working really hard at it. How am I ever going to do 10.000?

"Wow, 2.2 miles...that is excellent! I like what you're doing, trying to accumulate steps throughout the day. You're right, 10,000 steps is a's about 5 miles. Just remember...every step is a good step! You're doing great!"

5 miles!  No wonder I can't get 10,000 steps, I can't walk 5 miles!
Every step is a GOOD step! Every step is a good step! Every step is a good step!

I must admit, for a few days (after less than a week of trying) I already wanted to quit. And I did for a couple of days.  But I've been thinking hard about what she said.  I tell my clients things like this all the time. I know our attitudes and actions don't change overnight.  It takes one right thought or action at a time.  Just like it takes the discipline to walk another day- one more step than the day before.

My high school class motto was "a thousand mile journey begins with a single step".  I guess a 10,000 step journey does too!

So ... I'm walking again.  How about you?  Will you join me!  I could sure use some walking buddies- even if it's just over the internet.  Tonight, I'm up to four thousand, nine hundred and sixty- six!  I figure by the time I let the dog out, shut off all the lights and make the trek upstairs- I'll hit 5,000!

Tomorrow, I'll aim for 5,001!
Are you with me?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where is the HOPE? Part 3

This morning I've been pondering how different this week began than last week.
Last week it was grey and rainy- this week is absolutely beautiful!
Last week I felt like I was trying hard to take a step forward, this week I'm walking with purpose & ease.
Last week I was still grappling with the question, "Where is the HOPE?"
This week, I not only see hope- I feel it!  What a difference that makes?

In pondering how I got to such a 'dark place' once again after seeing such light in my own story the past few months, several things came to mind.

One was that I used to LIVE in this dark place.  It used to feel like it took everything in me to see a glimmer of hope or breath of life.  I don't LIVE there anymore!  I only visited for a time- partly because it still really hurts that Leisha is gone, that life is different than I dreamed it would be.  To deny those aches and tears would be lying about how it is sometimes.  But not always!  It felt extra dark, I think, because I haven't been familiar with that place for a while.  I was seeing it now in stark contrast to the life I had recently become aware of again.  I found myself coming out of that place- that 'funk' with deep gratitude that I do see life, I do feel hope!

 Another thing that impacted my thoughts last week was a chapel message Ren had shared with me from a professor at Dallas Seminary.  The message was called "DEEPEST NEED, HIGHEST HOPE!" The irony of this message was that the text for it was from John 11.  The Lord has used this same story of Lazarus' death and resurrection to make me think about what it looks like to 'be dead' and then feel life again.  I felt as though I had been the one resurrected.  This passage reminded me that I feel LIFE again.  That was the first week of June. It was so powerful that I shared it in a the message at our church the last weekend of June.
(I thought I had written about it in my blog, but I looked back and realized that I had not.  If you'd like to listen to that message go to my website ( and look for it under the speaking tab.  Or you can go to
Anyway, back to "DEEPEST NEED, HIGHEST HOPE!" (by the way, if you want to listen to it, go to ).

Dr Jones reminds us that our deepest need and highest hope is all tied up in the words of John 11:35, "Jesus wept!"  I want to include some of my notes here- 1. so I'll remember.  2. so maybe they will encourage you!
There is so much more that he shared that is worth considering.  The key thing to notice is that our deepest need is directly connected with our highest hope!

 Take a moment to read from the beginning of the chapter. But in answer to my question, "where is the hope?", I want to pick it up in verse 33.
When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

 'deeply moved in spirit'.  this word is commonly used to refer to a horse snorting.
When applied to human being it usually denotes anger, outrage, emotional indignation

Jesus looks at this situation- and looks through this funeral, sees the funeral of everyone who has ever died. It is his response to the reality of death. "This is not how It's supposed to be- I didn't create people for this."  Seeing these people that he loves is indignant to the the way it was supposed to be.

Jesus wept! (vs 35)

This is the reason Dr Jones believe this story is true- because JOHN would not say it otherwise.  Weeping would be beneath a deity.  John's whole purpose for writing the book of John is to tell us about THE WORD- Jesus is God, who became flesh and dwelt among us- took on our full humanity. moved into the neighborhood.

Quote from NT WRIGHT says "The WORD, through whom the worlds were made, weeps like a baby at the grave of his friend.  Only when we stop and ponder this will we understand the full mystery of John's Gospel, only when we put away the high and dry pics of who God is and replace them with pictures in which the Word of God can cry what the world's crying will we discover what the word God really means.

The philosopher, Alvin Plantiv(?) says, the chief difference  between Christianity and every other theistic religion is that the God of Christianity does not stand idly by coolly observing  the  suffering of his creatures. The God of Christianity  has entered into their suffering,  taken upon himself a suffering far greater than they could possibly imagine in order to redeem them and give them a hope beyond it.

Our deepest need & highest hope is for a God 
          who sympathizes with us in our pain,
          who is capable of weeping 
          who has entered into our pain, our brokenness, our suffering

Our deepest need and highest hope is for a God
          who has tear ducts,
         who has taken on flesh and dwelt among us.

Our deepest need and highest hope is for a God
          who will take our sin, our brokenness and take it to the cross.

You know how the story plays out.  If you remember, when Jesus does what he does, there are some who go to the Jewish authorities and tell them about it.   They call together a meeting and from this point on they plot together to take his life.  I think Jesus knew that - he  knew that if he walked up to the tomb and called Lazarus out of his tomb, he was sealing the deal of walking into his own tomb; death is whispering in his ear- "you mess with me, I'll mess w you.  You bring him out- I'll take you in." 
Jesus becomes the champion of the cause of Lazaruas- of us all

LAZARUS come out

He starts the road to his own death. This is the spark that lights the fuse that takes us into holy week.

What does this mean for us? That our deepest need & highest hope is for a God
             who weeps
            who becomes our champion of our brokeness, our pain, our sin, our death

V 34 Where have you laid him?  he asked.
They don't know what he can do but they say to him, "Come and SEE, Lord"

The invitation for all of us who have pain, fear,  sin in our own lives, brokenness,  in our own lives,
 is to come before the ONE who champions our cause and just bring it before him.

Come and see- and be the champion of our cause.

Our deepest Need and Highest hope is for a God  and is the victor.

WOW! Our DEEPEST NEED and our HIGHEST HOPE is for a God who weeps!
Ah Lord, thank you that you enter into our pain, take on flesh and dwell among us, champion our cause and are victorious!

My only HOPE is YOU!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Learning from Moses

This morning, I picked back up on my study of the life of Moses.  I am struck by a very significant moment in Moses' life found in Exodus 3.  There he was tending sheep for his father-in law, Jethro. He was doing a necessary task on an ordinary day.

Then God showed up!  A bush began to burn, yet Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up.  

Verse 3 says, " So Moses thought,  I will go over and see this strange sight- why the bush does not burn up."  Honestly, I can't say that would be my first thought.  But maybe if it was just me and the sheep- who knows what I'd be willing to do for fun.

But notice verse 4.  It says "When the Lord saw that he (Moses) had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush.,  "Moses! Moses!"  

What if Moses had noticed, but not 'gone over to look'?  Would God have called his name then? Or would Moses have missed out on hearing from the Lord.  Would he have missed the opportunity to be know what God wanted him to do next? 

I've wondered often about this.  What about those time in our own life?  You know the ones- something happens in the middle of an ordinary day - and for an instant you know that it's something significant.  There is an awakening in you that this is a special moment.  The light seems different somehow.  The air seems fresher.  Your senses are heightened to keen observations.  

Have you wondered about those moments?  What if they are God moments- not a burning bush - and yet, may be it is.  Maybe is is an "angel of the Lord" appearing to you.  Sometimes we stop to notice.  Sometimes we try to listen to what that moment is saying.  But so often we're in a hurry to get on with life and so we rush off, appreciating that there was a moment- but missing the moments that 'could have been' had we only 'gone over to look!" 

And then do you notice when God did call Moses' name- what did Moses do?  He answers right away!  "Here I am."  Would you have answered that way?  I think I might have backed up and said, "Who said that? Jethro, is that you trying to scare me?"  But Moses doesn't say that. He acts as if this is an everyday occurrence.  Oh, listen, there's a voice coming from this burning bush- I bet it's God.  Yea Right! Was it more common for God to talk to those people than it is today?  Hmmm? I wonder!  

Over the past year, I've been watching for places that God might show up in my world.  You know what I discovered.  He shows up a lot and in amazing ways!  I'm pretty certain that the days I didn't see him wasn't because he wasn't there.  He promises he will never leave us.  In Joshua 1:5 after Moses died, God is establishing Joshua as the new leader of the people.  He says, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."  He says that to us too.

So if He's here, where is HE? What is he saying today to me? to you?  How do I make sure I don't miss what he's saying now? Here's what Moses shows me.

First of all, we have to be faithful.  Moses was faithfully carrying out the task that was before him.  He was tending sheep.  A necessary task on an ordinary day. What are the ordinary things that we struggle to do in our everyday life because we want to be about something more 'noble', more fun anyway?  Maybe its doing the laundry or helping our kid with her homework.  Maybe it's helping a sick friend, or paying a bill for a friend in need. What's right in front of you? Moses was being faithful to what was right in front of him put him in the right place to see God. 

Secondly, we have to notice. Moses could have just gone on about caring for the sheep and not notice the bush.  Though how you 'not' notice a burning bush in a desert I don't know.   But he not only noticed, but he went to get a closer look.  What if we prepared our heart to notice- took time out of the middle of the noise in our day to just ask, "What am I seeing?" What if we watched, listened and observed a little longer when those special moments occurred in the middle of the ordinary. It may mean we have to make time for silence; to create a place of sanctuary. Maybe it's a favorite chair in the corner of the room.  Maybe it's the car ride to work. Maybe it's a an evening walk.  Moses took time to go over and look.  

The third thing Moses teaches me is that when God speaks, be ready to respond.  Remember Moses' first words after God called Moses' name was 'Here am I". He didn't even hesitate.  OK, there are plenty of times even in Moses' story that he  debates with the Lord.  In fact, it's just a few sentences after he responds. God begins to tell Moses that He has seen the misery of His people and and has heard their cries.  So God is going to do something. 

He's going to send Moses to Pharaoh.  That's when Moses starts with the questions;
           Who am I, that I should go...? 
           What if I go and they don't listen?...
           Then what do I do?

           What if they don't believe me?
           Lord, you know I can't speak so good.
           Please send someone else!

Sound familiar! We've all done it.  We've been faithful, we've noticed God at work, we've heard him call our name and we said, "Here I am!", only to be scared to death at what He asks us to do.  Ah, we are so human!
But the thing is- even in Moses' questions, he is in dialog with God.  Moses is hearing God speak to each of the fears that Moses has.  He is given tools to work with- ok, so it was a staff to work with, and a teammate, his brother, Aaron to help him.  God would have liked for Moses to just say yes and do what God asked.  Can you imagine what might have happened then?  But the point is, God worked with Moses in all of his frailties. Moses was used by God to do a mighty work with His people. 

Is God calling your name today?  Maybe you need to look around to see if the bush in burning in your back yard.  I'm seeing something happening out my window.  I think "I will go over and see what it is!"  How about you?  

Here I am, Lord!