12/31/08

Before We Look Ahead

New Year’s resolutions can be freeing, but more often than not, they are frustrating. We set our plans and goals, only to see them knocked about, changed, ignored, or forgotten within months or even days.

Perhaps we would be better served by not making resolutions, but rather, determining to fix our eyes on Jesus. He who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), died to begin a transformation process within God’s elect, and the Spirit of God works to bring about that change.

Having just passed Christmas, we focused on Jesus as the “Christ child,” but facing the New Year, we need a fresh vision of Jesus that will inspire us to change. David Butts, Chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, wrote, “It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to see Jesus! To see Him as He really is, not as a mascot, but as our monarch.” Jesus, our monarch—our Lord and sovereign King—is in charge of everything. In Colossians 1:15-20, we get a glimpse of His majesty, and Revelation 1:13-17 reveals how people react when they see Jesus in His glorified body. Our vision of Jesus should fill us with awe and wonder that He would consider us to love us so. It should inspire us to serve Him forever.

I encourage you, either today or on the first day of the New Year, to read these two passages. Rather than a list of resolutions, choose to offer God two outstretched hands of surrender to His will. Ask God for fresh vision and a hunger for His presence and righteousness in the year to come.

12/24/08

Anticipation

It’s Christmas Eve—get-together time for my immediate family. We “have” Christmas Eve, and my grown sons go to their wives’ homes on Christmas day. As a girl, my family went to my dad’s home on Christmas Eve, and my mom’s home on Christmas—it appears I’ve chosen to continue that tradition.

Actually, I’ve always loved Christmas Eve. Maybe it was the anticipation, waiting for Christmas morning. My parents stayed up late to wrap gifts—more work for them than fun—while I lay in bed dreaming of ripping open those beautiful boxes. Though we’d usually open gifts in our pajamas, clothes were carefully laid out for Christmas dinner (and sometimes, church). Everything was ready and waiting.

I wonder whether the Jews truly anticipated the miracle of Christmas. The devout knew that a Messiah was prophesied. Young Mary and Joseph knew a special baby was due any minute. I wonder whether anticipation mingled with Mary’s labor pains; her baby would change the focus of all history.

Yet today, as I anticipate the celebration of Christmas, I look forward to another day, perhaps not too far in the future. I want to be ready and waiting for that day, too. Some day, Jesus—grown to holy manhood, crucified, buried, resurrected, and my living Lord—will call me to join Him in heaven. “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.” I’m getting goose bumps, just thinking about it.

12/17/08

"Hey You -- Fear Not!"

As the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem, they first had to deal with the shepherds’ sudden fear. “Fear not,” an angel said. “I bring you good tidings. Listen to this good news” (Luke 2:10-11). How we need that message today.

As I watch Israel and Iran flex their military muscles and escalate their threats, listen to dire financial predictions, and hear disturbing reports about crime in neighborhoods near mine, it is easy to give in to unreasonable fear. The world is not a safe place. The world is confused and running headlong into disaster. The world is in a constant panic. The world has many good reasons to panic! But the peace that Jesus gives is out of this world—“My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives,” Jesus said (John 14:27). His words to us are “Don’t be afraid.” Throughout the scriptures we are commanded to “fear not,” “have courage,” and trust in the Lord, our Mighty Fortress.

Fear has always been one of my besetting sins. Left to myself, rather than walking in the Spirit, I struggle with unreasonable fears that lead to anxiety and depression. Fear robs us of peace to the point that we cannot experience many of God’s blessings.

There is a better way, and God in His mercy and grace is teaching me how to deal with my fears. When tempted to fear, I have a clear choice. I can linger in and entertain my fears, or I can go straight to prayer. I can choose trust in God and take courage in His presence, power, protection, and provision. I’m learning to counsel my heart firmly with God’s Word, saying, “Hey you—fear not! God is with you!”

12/10/08

Adventure Zone!

Hannah Whitall Smith, a 19th century Quaker author, wrote, “Dear friend, I make the glad announcement to thee that the Lord is in thy heart. Since the day of thy conversion He has been dwelling there, but thou hast lived on in ignorance of it.” When I read these words, I reflected on their convicting truth. How different would my life be, I thought, if I could live in full awareness of God’s presence, love, direction, and power? What an adventure!

I read Smith’s words in a devotional, Asleep in the Land of Nod by David Butts. The devotional’s purpose is to awaken the Church and prepare it for the touch of God in revival. The author wrote, “We abstractly ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ but what changes would occur if we directly asked our indwelling Lord, ‘Jesus, what are you doing?’” Dr. David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, often challenges his congregation to find out what God is doing, and then to “get on board.” Dr. Jeremiah is passionate about believers pursuing God’s purposes and living out the adventures God has prepared for them. We should never be afraid of God’s “Adventure Zone”—after all, that’s where the true fun of our journey lies.

God’s Spirit indwells us and He desires to work in and through us every moment of the day. Satan wants to obscure that fact and distract us. The reality is that God’s presence is not only a promise; it is a powerful motivator. In Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is Christ in us, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) that animates our journey. As we choose to follow Him wholeheartedly, we experience His bountiful blessings.

12/3/08

Happy Holi-daze!

December already? Every year I say I’ll begin my Christmas shopping in the summer, buy holiday groceries throughout the year, and be so prepared that I can relax and enjoy the season. That’s the plan, but once again, I’m in a holi-daze. I stare into the air, wondering what I’ve forgotten, or where I’m going to find that “perfect” gift.

In this land of abundance, there are millions of things to buy. Matching those things to people isn’t easy, however, and sometimes our budget won’t cooperate with our desires. None of us want to “fail” the ones we love with an imperfect gift. There are Christmases that I’ve longed for the simpler days when children were thrilled to get fresh oranges in the toes of their Christmas stockings, and adults were content that family could finally be together—as my sweet Grandma said, “That’s all the gift I need.”

I still struggle with not wanting to “fail” loved ones, but a turning point came for me when I changed “holiday” to “holy-day.” Christmas is a sacred celebration for Christians as we remember the day Jesus broke through the barrier between heaven and earth to create a bridge for us to heaven. Remembering that doesn’t take away the stresses of the season, but it does restore some sanity. Christmas is all about Him, not us. We must make reasonable, wise choices in our giving, and spontaneous celebration must be tempered with planned pauses to reflect, or we will short-circuit the blessings of Christmas.

11/26/08

Giving Thanks - for Jury Duty

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a jury “quiet room.” As assortment of people are filing into an adjacent room to fulfill their civic duty. I’m always divided concerning jury duty. On the one hand, it is an intrusion into my schedule; on the other hand, it is a blessing of our system of government. Our rights and privileges far outweigh our duties. As Americans, we have privileges that other nations do not. Trial by a jury or our peers is a citizen’s right and blessing, and the system won’t work without our involvement. “We the people” is as powerful a force today as when those words were first drafted.

I am thankful for this blessing and many others in my country. My country—just the sound of those words stirs feelings of patriotism and appreciation. I am thankful for those who have died to keep America free and Democracy alive. I am thankful for farmers who grow our food on fertile fields. I am thankful for those who protect us—the military, policemen, and firemen. I am thankful for those who lead us—government officials and pastors—especially those who lead with integrity and base their wisdom in biblical truth. I am thankful for teachers who guide our children into righteousness and godly character. I am thankful for those who give and serve, to make America strong. I am thankful for a family that loves God.

My country—this “sweet land of liberty”—is what she is because of her people. But more than that, America is a beacon of freedom because she was rooted and grounded in God. He shed His favor on this land because it was founded on the principles of scripture. Modern liberals can and will deny this, of course, but the fingerprints of God are all over America’s creation.

As I sit her waiting for the jury selection process to begin, I’m glad I have time to thank God for my blessings as an American. In God we trust is on our money. May we choose to keep this truth in our hearts.

11/19/08

Choose Hope

Both candidates pushed their agenda for “Hope” before the election—and certainly America needs hope in these dark days—but I know that true hope is only found in Jesus Christ. My brother-in-law, Tom, reminded me of this recently. As he preached at his Aunt’s funeral, he shared the powerful and solid hope we have in Christ—saving, steadfast, sustaining, satisfying, and supernatural hope. When our hope is centered in God, we have a steady anchor for troubled times. We can hold onto Him when all else fails.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, survived the Holocaust. At one point in his remarkable life, his medical opinions rescued patients who were destined for death under the Nazi euthanasia program. Frankl wrote of the hope that welled up in some poor souls who struggled under Nazi tyranny:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread,” Frankl wrote. “They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Are you struggling with something today? Do you feel burdened by poor health, weighed down by circumstances, and lost in hopelessness? Hope is a choice. Counsel your heart: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6). Anchor your hope in the Lord.

11/12/08

Joseph-Style Thriftiness

An article in the Sunday paper’s Parade magazine (July 13, 2008) grabbed my attention. “Secrets of Thrifty Families” is just what my walking partner and I talk about on our early-morning jaunts. Sue Heinz, whose family was featured in the article, said, “It’s about informed decisions, not cheap choices.”

Jim Schenke, a man interviewed for the article, suggested that a story from the Bible (Genesis 41) was the driving force behind his family’s frugality. “I took the Joseph approach,” he said. “I knew the coming years were going to be lean, and we needed to fill the silos.” The biblical Joseph wisely sent an abundance of grain to the silos during seven years of plenty to prepare for the tough times ahead—seven years of famine. Maybe it’s time to fill our pantry “silos,” too!

I am determined not to get into “Y2K” mode again — I remember the panic in the last few years prior to 2000 AD — but I am just as determined to make wise choices for my family concerning material needs.

I’m buying and storing extra canned goods, and writing expiration dates on the lids with a dark marker so I can quickly rotate my groceries. (On the other hand, I’ve learned not to buy things I won’t use or use up, no matter the price!) I’m planting a small garden to help keep food costs down, unplugging things that aren’t being used to conserve on electricity as best I can, making “circuits” of errands all in one day to save gas, and making as many right turns as I can (ever since I heard how much gas UPS trucks save by doing that!). My husband and I are paying down our credit cards, too.

Those are good ideas for thrift whether in lean times or not. God does expect good stewardship. It certainly can’t hurt to make some thrifty “Joseph” choices now and every day.

11/5/08

Flip-Flopping

God has been teaching me a lot about “flip-flopping” lately. I’m not talking about politicians’ changed policies before elections, and I’m not talking about those summer “thong” sandals (called “flip-flops”)—although I could write pages about those! I’m talking about positively “flip-flopping” our thoughts and behaviors to the glory of God.

I’m learning to turn things around. When I start to think negatively, I do a “180” and replace the negativity with positive truth from God’s Word. When I’m emotionally strung out, I purposefully praise God or offer thanks. When I’m stressed and overworked, I take a 30-second time out to rest in the Lord and seek His will for the rest of my day, or I plan in some fun for my day, or find something to celebrate.

God is the great “Flip-flopper” of circumstances. One of my favorite examples of how God purposes “flip-flops” in our lives is found in the Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:20: “You meant it for me for evil, but God meant it for good.” Another example of flip-flopping is found in Colossians 1:8-11, Ephesians 4:22, Romans 13:14, and many other scriptures. There are certain things God wants us to “put off” from our lives, and then things that He wants us to “put on.” One of the most important ways we can “flip-flop” is to recognize sins in our lives and repent. To repent is to turn around; to do a spiritual 180.

Flip-flopping is fun to think of in terms of choices. What harmful things can I choose to eliminate from my life, and what can I add that will build my life?

P.S. - By the time this blog is published, we will likely know the name of our next president. I am hoping it is John McCain, but regardless, I know that God is sovereign, and He will not be shaken from His throne by any choice we make in an election. Psalm 47:8 is clear: God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us that the "king's heart" can be turned by the hand of the Lord. My responsibility (and choice) as a Christian is to pray for all who are in authority (I Tim. 2:1-3). Whether Obama or McCain, the challenges of the next four years will be complicated. Our only sure hope is in God.

10/29/08

No Fear of 'Fright Night'

I’ve never loved horror films. Whether it’s Fright Night, Amityville Horror, Night of the Living Dead, or any other classic horror flick, I don’t watch them. I figure, there’s enough terror and evil in this world without filling my mind with media versions. Unfortunately, our culture is deluged with a horror focus during this time of year. Halloween gives television and movie houses an excuse to indulge in horror and fear.

I am so thankful that, as a Christian, I don’t need to dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 gives me focal points for my mind: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Not much room for “horror” there.) Verse nine says that if I will focus on these things, the God of peace will surround me with a sense of His presence. I prefer that to thoughts of “horror” any day!

Halloween is a good time to discuss fear with children, whether you participate in holiday events or not. Christian children need to be firmly grounded in the love of God, and understand Jesus’ power over evil. (See Matthew 4:1-11 - a good story to share with children at this time). Children who do not know Him need to understand that the forces of evil are not going to win. Halloween is a powerful opportunity to share the truth about God and Satan. One of the best choices you can make at this season is to turn children’s eyes upon Jesus. Help them look “full in His wonderful face,” and away from the fears of “Fright Night.” Overcome evil with good (Luke 14:31).

10/22/08

How to Choose a President--It's Tough!

This is going to be longer than usual, but it’s a crucial topic for the days ahead. Please read prayerfully.

Are Christians ever supposed to choose “the lesser of two evils” (or as some would say, the “better of two evils”)? The simple answer is, “No.” Spurgeon said (though the quote has also been attributed to Luther and Chesterton): “When faced with the choice of two evils, choose neither!”

This gets sticky in light of the political season. A lady recently asked me that question in regard to candidates and elections. As you know, politics is difficult, and often a “dirty” business. We have to remember that in November we’re choosing the better of two candidates, not the better of two evils. (Why do we not phrase it, “choosing the greater good”?) Someone will indeed get elected, and God wants us to choose wisely.

Politicians often say what people want to hear, and their pronouncements sometimes don’t match up with who they are or what they believe. We have to study candidates’ words and actions. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I will say this: Before you make any political choice, pray! Ask God for wisdom. And while you’re praying, pray for candidates who will guard the landmarks of Christian heritage in America (Proverbs 22:28).

Also, consider these points:

(1) Be a realist. In regard to politics, understand that there are no perfect candidates. Even the best rulers have flaws and personal agendas. A vote is not a blank check—we won’t agree with every choice a candidate or president makes. King David (though not elected by man’s vote) was a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:13-14), but he was not a perfect ruler. We’re not to trust in men; we’re to trust God (Ps. 118:8). Ultimately, God is in control of the affairs of men, and the heart of the king is in His hands (Prov. 21:1). Note: God can even use the ungodly to accomplish His will, as happened with Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who God used to protect Daniel and his Jewish friends.

(2) Be biblical. Determine for yourself where the candidates stand. In your examination of candidates’ positions, ask whether biblical truth is being violated, or if there is simply a difference of opinion.

(3) Be practical. Determine whether you can “live with” a candidate’s personal or political platforms, in order that another candidate with worse priorities does not win office.

(4) Be determined. Please don’t stay home from the elections. Treasure your vote, and use it—even if you cannot in good conscience vote for every position on the ballot. Millions worldwide would die to vote like we can in America. Many in America have died to ensure your continuing privilege to vote.

(5) Be selective. As an American, select someone who will strictly uphold the Constitution—someone who won’t waffle on what America stands for or “sell” America down the river. Just because a person calls himself or herself “Christian,” that may not equate to competent leadership. Go beyond surface “labels” or media puffing and critiquing. Look for leadership, experience, and courage.

(6) Be discerning. As a Christian, vote for worthy candidates who will be standard-bearers in philosophy and practice—as much as is possible in the political realm—for biblical principles. Look for character, wisdom, and clear examples of godliness.

(7) Be persistent. Stay involved in the process. When the election is over, your voice still counts. Letters and phone calls to members of Congress or the Senate regarding various issues carry tremendous weight.

Some of these points may seem contradictory, but as I said, politics can get sticky. Ultimately, it’s a matter of your conscience, guided by the Word of God, trying to decide what is best for our country.

In post-modern America, we’re probably not going to get perfect biblical candidates—though we can pray for that!—but we must choose the best candidates we can. Pray before you choose, and then sandwich your choice with more prayer after the election! Regardless of who wins in November, we’re headed down some rocky paths and our trust must truly remain in God.

10/15/08

Reasons, Not Excuses

There really is no personal growth or progress until we stop making excuses for bad behavior, bad habits, and wrong choices.

As a young pastor’s wife, I remember counseling a woman and hearing her litany of excuses. Finally, when I could take no more, I lovingly but firmly said, “Those are all reasons—maybe even valid reasons—for you to feel the way you do, but they are not excuses for your behavior, because you have the living Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and He can empower you to do what is right.” The woman seemed stunned. She stopped talking, blinked at me a few times, and said, “You know, you’re absolutely right. They are reasons, not excuses.”

Now that kind of counsel is easy to give, but hard to follow. I’ve struggled in my own life with a list of excuses—and God’s Spirit kindly returns the counsel that I’ve given to others. When it comes to making wise, biblical choices, there is never a place for excuses after the fact. We simply chose not to do what we knew was right. We may have been motivated by lies. We may have had ulterior motives. We may have chosen to fear man rather than God. We may have lacked faith at that moment, or hope. We may have given in to our emotions rather than living by the truth of scripture. There can be hundreds of reasons for wrong choices.

God wants us to own up to our wrong choices. Some are sins that need to be confessed in true repentance (I John 1:8-9). Other choices are simply not wise—not necessarily sin, but not the best (Proverbs 1:7). We can’t move on to make better choices when we cling to excuses and try to justify our words or behavior. Listen to your conversations. Are you making excuses? (See Proverbs 16:2, 25; 21:2). God wants us to acknowledge wrong, sinful, or unwise choices, and not allow the Enemy to convince us that we have no other choice. God help us to counsel our hearts according to His unchanging Word (Proverbs 1:5).

10/8/08

Choose God

Dr. James MacDonald is a man after my own heart. Let me rephrase that. He is a man after God’s own heart, but I sure like what he says! In his new book, 10 Choices: A Proven Plan to Change Your Life Forever (Thomas Nelson, 2008), MacDonald deals with five areas of choice—our identity choices, authority choices, capacity choices, priority choices, and destiny choices. With the heart of a pastor and the skill of a wise counselor, he leads readers to examine their choices in the light of God’s Word, and challenges them to stand for truth.

My favorite part of the book is on page 5, where MacDonald says, “Let’s go for the summa cum laude of choices, the absolute, mind bending, life altering choice (drum roll, please): Choose God.” That’s where it all begins and ends. Life is all about Him. It originated in Him. It’s to be lived for Him.

No matter my dreams or goals—no matter my agenda—every aspiration must bow to His purposes. My passion is to make wise, biblical choices and to help others do so, too, but without God stirring in my heart, I’d have no desire to choose Him or choose to live for Him. That humbles me. It fills my heart with gratitude.

God chose me (John 15:16). And I choose Him.

10/1/08

Feminism vs. Biblical Femininity


I am thankful for and admire The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which stands for biblical truth concerning gender. It’s not easy to stand for biblical roles in a society where radical feminism and even “soft feminism” have dominated the culture for so long.

In a complementary vein, thousands of women from across the country will meet in Chicago, October 9-11, to seek God for two things: revival in our nation and a return to the biblical standard of womanhood. America has surely experienced fallout, to one degree or another, from the feminist agenda of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even recent years. The women at True Woman ‘08 will pray for a spiritual revolution among their Christian sisters that will affect their homes, churches, and ultimately, the heartbeat of America.

Nancy DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts Ministries has long called for a counter-cultural movement among women that would return them to biblical thinking regarding their God-given gender and roles. At True Woman ’08, she and others—Pastor John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Mary Kassian, Janet Parshall, Fern Nichols, and Karen Loritts—will explore what God is saying to this generation of women, and especially, Christian women.

I am thankful for the calling of God on my life as a woman. I am grateful that God gifted me uniquely and has a purpose for my life. I grieve for women I encounter every day who have not understood the uniqueness of their feminine identity—women who do not understand how—in their distinctive role and function—they are an image-bearer of the Creator. Rather than feminism, I am called to biblical femininity. It is a powerful choice to embrace God’s design.

Join me in praying for these women in Chicago as they consider the call of God on their lives, and how God might send them out as messengers of truth in the days ahead.

9/24/08

Return to Rest

One of my fondest memories of childhood is Highland Park in Kokomo, Indiana. The park—which features Old Ben, the biggest cow ever (4,700 lbs. and 6’4” tall at his death), and a huge old Sycamore stump (50’ in circumference)—is also the home to a covered bridge from Vermont. Built in 1875 and transferred to Highland Park in 1957, the bridge is a throwback to gentler days, when families took leisurely strolls down rocky roads or hitched a wagon of horses for a Sunday picnic.

To this day, I cannot look at a covered bridge without getting nostalgic and wistful for the relatively stress-free days of childhood. Some days I feel like I’m on a whirling merry-go-round-gone-mad, and I’m unable to get off. But, of course, I can. It’s a choice, isn’t it? Just as I can return in my mind to Highland Park and that beautiful covered bridge, I can return to a place of peace, rest, and joy, no matter my stressful circumstances—even when the world seems to fall apart around me.

Calm is especially important in this political season. When I watch people clamoring for our votes and willing to waffle and scheme to get them, I remember Psalm 37:7: "Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass" (Amplified). It almost seems too simple, but the answer for our stress-filled lives is found in this verse. As in a similar verse, Psalm 46:10, the Lord is our focus. When we know Him—His character and ways—and believe that He is in control, we can be still and return to rest.

9/17/08

A Lesson at Wal-Mart

Walking around the huge Wal-Mart parking lot—trying to get some much-needed exercise—I suddenly jumped. Rather, I jumped over. I jumped over a crack in the sidewalk. “Step on a crack; break your mother’s back.” Ever say that as a kid? I haven’t for years; yet there I was, jumping over the seam in the sidewalk.

I had to laugh. Did I really think that my dear mom in Florida would suddenly be carted off to the hospital or a chiropractor? What a silly superstition. But the habit of “jumping cracks” was so deeply ingrained that it rose to the surface when I least expected it.

As I continued walking, I thought about the habits in my life that are good. Others habits are bad and some just aren’t useful anymore. I won’t list my habits here (mostly because I’m embarrassed about the bad ones). We all have some habits that serve us well and glorify the Lord, and other habits that hinder us in our walk with God or testimony for Him. My habits arise from the thoughts I’ve fostered in my mind, and the seeds I’ve planted in my life (Proverbs 23:7; Galatians 6:7). So, to change those habits, I need to think new, biblical thoughts and plant new, godly seeds!

As I rounded the final curve of the Wal-Mart parking lot, I resolved to start a new habit. Whenever I’m out walking and become conscious of a crack in the sidewalk, I’m going to take a few moments to pray for my mom!

9/10/08

Standing Alone in the Fear of God

I’d just finished reading a book by Kathy Howard, Before His Throne: Discovering the Wonder of Intimacy with a Holy God, and I was all excited about learning to live in the fear of God rather than the fear of man. I knew I didn’t want to live like the world, which has no fear of God (Romans 3:18). But I didn’t expect to fall so quickly.

I was tempted to do something wrong, and instead of standing up for what I knew was right, I “went along” with my friend because I didn’t want to make my friend feel like I was being judgmental. My friend didn’t seem to have any qualms about the temptation, but God clearly was telling me to “flee,” and I didn’t. Worse yet, I actually thought, “I can ask God’s forgiveness later.” That was pride and presumption—a foolish, sinful choice (Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 19:13).

I couldn’t sleep that night, so wracked with conviction. When I told God that I wanted to respect and honor His holiness by pursuing holiness, I underestimated the struggle. I’m thankful for God’s incredible mercy and grace, always extended—even covering my presumptuous sin. But more than ever, I knew that I wanted to dig deeper into the Word and strengthen my walk with God (Proverbs 24:10).

Standing for holiness risks the reactions of others, but if we fail to resist the pressure of temptation among our friends and family members, how can we hope to stand if true persecution comes? God give us the courage to stand, fearing Him and none else.

9/3/08

Back to School

I always hated it when my boys returned to school. I home schooled for much of their education, but when I think about the year they finally went to “regular” school, I remember my pain as they charged up the steps to their first classes, rolling their eyes as I tried to take a photo “to make a memory.” God’s timing for that stage of their lives was perfect, though difficult.

Later, I returned to finish my college education (when I was 49). God’s timing was perfect for that, too. But I’ve discovered that I’m a “lifelong student.” Maybe a better way to say that is—God is my lifelong teacher! Just when I think that I’ve learned an important lesson, He opens a new chapter and says, “Let Me show you something.”

I remember a childhood song: “Teach me your ways, Oh Lord, my God, / That I may walk in Your truth. / Give me a totally, undivided heart /That I may fear Your name.” One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 25:4-5: “Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

David wanted to know “the instruction from God’s mouth” that is precious treasure (Psalm 119:72). God’s teaching is the most valuable education we’ll ever receive. Studying in His school is an adventure. I want to be like Mary who made the good choice to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to His wisdom (Luke 10:42). How wonderful to be taught by the Lord!

8/27/08

Tenacious Temptation

I had no idea how persistent Morning Glories are! We planted a couple of vines on our side fence a few years ago, and they now cover the entire length of the fence. I thought the plants were dying in cold weather last year, but no-o-o-o-o! It’s back full force and then some! When I rip out vines that dare to curl around our rose bushes and jasmine, they grow back with a vengeance.

Here in California’s early summer sun, our vines are quickly covered with funnel-shaped pinkish purple flowers. Other Morning Glory versions sport blue, white, red, and even yellow blooms. The lovely Blue Dawn Flower (Ipomoea indica) is a South American beauty that can produce 60,000 flowers at the rate of 300 per day. Yikes!


As I was clipping back the vines today, I thought about how tenacious Morning Glories are. They are beautiful, but sometimes they drive me crazy with their persistent growth. They invade other areas of the garden, and under the lovely surface of the vines, there is a tangle of dead leaves and debris.


How like temptation, I thought. It is unrelenting and tenacious, always trying to wrap itself around my heart, if I let it go unchecked. When I think that I’m safe from temptation, that’s the time to beware. The lusts of temptation may be beautiful, but underneath, there is “deadness” (James 1:15). I have to be aware and always guard my heart (Proverbs 4:23). If I’m wise, I will not give place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). If I don’t want sin to take over my life, I have to “tear down the vines of temptation.”

8/20/08

S t r e t c h Your Memory

Mnemonics help us recall information, and you’ve probably used some for most of your life. The most familiar is the rhyme to remember how many days are in each month. It begins: “30 days have September, April, June, and November.” Mnemonics might be rhymes, odd sentences, or bizarre images—all designed to jog our brain cells.

Want to remember the seven deadly sins? Remember WASPLEG: Wrath, Avarice, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony. The five American Great Lakes? Remember HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. There are mnemonics to remember biological classification, the planets, the ruling houses of England, even math tangents and sines!

Memorization is tough work; no doubt about it. Memorizing God’s Word is a choice, because almost no one wants to take the time and effort these days. This summer, I’ve encouraged the ladies in my Sunday school class to memorize scriptures that will help and encourage them. It’s just been a starter course, to help them see the importance of memorization and even the fun of doing it with partners. The ladies acted out the verses—sometimes with hilarious ways to remember phrases. I encouraged them to review with “code,” writing down the first letter of each word in the verse to see if they could remember the verse, and then eliminating some of the letters. I asked them to sketch out the verse on paper, and share their creations with the class. The point is, there are many ways to memorize, and I want “my ladies” to stretch their memory.

Even if they don’t memorize perfectly, I pray that they will never forget the truth they learned while studying and from the devotionals prior to our fun sessions. I’ve asked God to stretch the ladies’ hearts as they “store up” the treasure of God’s Word (Psalm 119:11, ESV).

8/13/08

Mindless Activity

Bailey, my high-octane Jack Russell Terrier, loves to give in to the urge to dig up a shovel (which we continually bury to keep him entertained). It’s an old farmer’s shovel with a long handle. Bailey loves it, licks the metal part, and sometimes carries it around the yard, whining the whole time, until we go to the side yard to bury the shovel head so he can “dig it up” again.


It makes no sense to me. Why do the same thing over and over again when there is no real reward? It seems like such mindless activity—a total waste of time. (Actually, to Bailey, digging it up is the reward. It is his “work” for the day, and he never tires of the shovel exercise. But don’t let me lose the analogy here.)

I used to have a mindless activity of my own. I’d do the same thing over and over again when there was no real reward. It was a total waste of time. I’m talking about television. It’s not that I don’t watch TV anymore, but I sure am a lot more discerning about what I watch, and I certainly don’t waste hour after hour.

What made the difference? Two things. First, the older I get, the more I tend to think in terms of eternity. What will count? What will last? What will make a difference? Second, the more I grab hold of the passion of my life—which is to reach women of all ages to help them make wiser, more godly choices—the less time I have for mindless activities.

If you will make the choice to pursue your calling from God with passion and discipline, it will automatically change your activities.

8/6/08

Kaleidoscope

One of my favorite toys as a five-year-old was a kaleidoscope. I loved to twist the end of the tube and watch the colored glass or stones “fall” into beautiful designs. Sir David Brewster patented the kaleidoscope in 1815, but it was actually a creation of the ancient Greeks. Originally intended to be a tool for scientific study, it was quickly turned into a toy.

In some ways, each one of our lives is an ever-changing kaleidoscope. We might have questioned God when the pieces of our lives “fell” into circumstances we didn’t anticipate, but in retrospect we can often see how God blended every unconnected piece into a beautiful pattern. God knows what He’s doing. It is our choice to trust the Designer and His purposes in choosing us.

I read some words by John MacArthur recently about a kaleidoscope. “One that I looked at recently had colored rocks in the end of it, and as I held it up toward the light and turned the end, all kinds of different forms and shapes appeared. But it was always the same rocks, just arranged, magnified, and displayed in different ways ... 1 Peter 2:4-10 speaks of Christ, the living Stone—rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious to Him. To those of us who believe on Christ, we also find that the ‘stone is precious.’ In the kaleidoscope of this truth, we also resemble ‘living stones.’ We are ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.’ The many colorful facets of our position in Christ are truly beautiful and awesome, and they are only seen when we are held up to the light of Christ. It is from the Living Stone, Jesus, that we receive every spiritual privilege.”

7/30/08

Perpetual Heritage

Grandma Dorothy made the best Scotch-Irish Potato Soup with Egg Rivels (stringy dumplings). When I saw this odd heart-shaped photo, it reminded me of how much I love this rich, creamy soup. I’m so thankful that Grandma shared the recipe with me, so I can pass it down to my sons and their wives. When my sons were married, I gave both of their wives the “Wilson Family Cookbook,” chocked full of recipes—many that my sons loved.

Passing on recipes is more than the recipes themselves; it’s all about preserving the traditions of a family. Grandma’s potato soup recipe isn’t about the humble spud. It’s about the memories we shared as I watched her make it, and the warmth I felt as we shared it around the table. I’m glad she didn’t hoard her recipes. It was such a wonderful, loving choice.

I was in a home recently where the woman knew something about treasuring her heritage. She had framed a handwritten family recipe and hung it on her kitchen wall. It was preserved for all of the family to enjoy for many years to come. I loved the idea!

Another good choice is to pass on the truth about your faith. Both of my grandmothers and grandfathers gave testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ. We knew they loved the Lord. I want my sons to know that I love Him, too. I’m praying that they will grow in their relationship with God and pass that heritage on to my granddaughters. My desire is that we create a perpetual godly heritage. I want to be sure that we all take occasional “time outs” to remind each other that there is more to life than here and now. Life passes so quickly. The heritage we leave is built upon our choices today.

7/23/08

The Best Tombstones

I wandered through a cemetery last summer, searching for the grave of an old friend. In the process, I passed by some old headstones, “nameless” from weathering. I remember thinking, “I hope their lives were about more than names on a chunk of rock!”

Charles H. Spurgeon once addressed this, saying, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” (Profound, isn’t it? Spurgeon always had a way of capsulizing great thoughts. Another favorite of mine is: “Of two evils, choose neither.”)

There is a time appointed for death—we are all terminal—and the Bible says every one of us will face a time of judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We can’t know a person’s destiny by looking at a gravestone—except, perhaps, in some cases where the date of a deceased person’s New Birth is inscribed—but everyone leaves behind something of who they were.

When I attend funerals, I find sweet comfort in Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Though there is pain when loved ones pass into eternity, when they are believers who have carved their love and character upon our hearts, sweet memories remain.

When you have time, linger in a cemetery and think about your own future. When you are gone, how will others remember you? What choices are you making today that are etching memories on the hearts of the people you love?

7/16/08

True Woman '08

Satan has really done a number on women today. “I wish I felt more fulfilled,” a woman told me, recently. “I really don’t know what God expects of me, as a woman.” My heart went out to her. I remember having those feelings years ago.

God graciously revealed not only His love and grace to me when I became a Christian in 1971; He also opened up a whole new way of thinking. Although I’d never been a typical feminist, I did have some feminist attitudes. I’d “picked them up” through the media, books, and in observing some of the women in my sphere of life. When God showed me His plan for women—not to be a doormat; not to be a manipulator—I remember how it felt to release some of those attitudes. I softened into biblical femininity, but I also toughened up with biblical resolve. God’s Word made a huge difference in forming my understanding of why God made me a woman.

Are you searching to find the “True Woman” in you? I am delighted that a unique conference for women will take place this fall—a gathering that will call women back to true biblical womanhood. It’s one of the best choices I’d recommend to any woman seeking direction from God.

True Woman ’08 will take place in Chicago, October 9-11. Speakers include author and radio teacher Nancy Leigh DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts Ministries; author and pastor John Piper; Joni Eareckson Tada of Joni and Friends; radio show host Janet Parshall; author and Women’s Studies professor Mary Kassian; Fern Nichols of Moms in Touch International; pastor’s wife and author Karen Loritts; a dozen powerful workshop leaders; and Irish composer-artist team Keith and Kristyn Getty, leading worship. For more information, visit www.truewoman.com.

7/9/08

Little Eyes, Ever Watching

A maxim well-applied to parenting is, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Children are all eyes. They observe parents and imitate what is modeled, even if the example is unintended. When parents least expect it, children take note and internalize what they see. This should be a powerful motivator. Little eyes are ever watching, and parents are the child’s first teachers.

A youth pastor once told his youth group members to point to their noses. The only problem was, he pointed to his own chin. The teens also pointed to their chins. What we do is indeed more powerful than what we say, and this is especially true with small children.

Children might hear what we say, but they will respond to what we do, mirroring our actions. We must be careful that our actions line up with God’s truth and our most treasured beliefs and values.

This isn’t just an option for the Christian parent. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 talks about the extent of our example in teaching about God and His Word—wherever we are, and at all times of the day. In The Message, these verses include a powerful admonition: “Get them [God’s laws] inside of you and then get them inside your children.” Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., the founder of Life Action Ministries, used to tell parents that their values were better “caught” than taught, because children are eager sponges, absorbing the truths that we most cherish as evidenced by our actions. Clearly, parents’ choices are not made in a vacuum.

7/2/08

Eagles or Turkeys, We Need Courage!

I saw my first eagle — outside of a zoo — while visiting friends in Washington State. A powerful eagle swooped down out of the pines across the street, right in front of our car. I remember how strong it looked. “What a fitting symbol for our country,” I said to my friend.

Although a number of birds were proposed for the Great Seal of the United States — a two-headed eagle, a rooster, a dove, and a “phoenix in flames” — the bald eagle was chosen as an emblem of the United States of America on June 20, 1782. The eagle represents freedom and strength.

Benjamin Franklin objected to the Bald Eagle as our national bird, claiming that it lacks courage—it often flees from mobs of smaller birds—and it exhibits bad moral character. Eagles, he said, were too lazy to fish for themselves; they rob from the catch of other birds. Franklin suggested Americans revere the turkey, instead. The turkey, he wrote, “is in comparison a much more respectable bird … a bird of courage.” (Hmmm… I might not react the next time someone calls me a “Turkey”!)

As we celebrate our country’s independence this week, I have many thoughts about America and courage. Certainly our military lacks no courage, but what about the citizenry. Have we become so accustomed to tolerating evil and immorality that we are afraid to stand for truth, decency, and the ethics and morality outlined so clearly in the Word of God? If we do not decide ahead of time that there are things worth standing for—even worth dying for—where will we get the courage when those things are threatened? We must make little daily choices for courage if we hope to be prepared for times of crisis.

6/25/08

IM Illiterate

I had no trouble learning about abbreviations in grade school, but I sure have struggled with IM (Instant Messaging) abbreviations! Used in IM chatting and text messaging, they are like a foreign language, and I confess, IM illiterate.

My friend Gail used OTOH in a recent chat. “Say what?” I broke in. She explained, “Oh, you didn’t know that? It means ‘On The Other Hand.’” The problem is, with people like me who have a limited IM vocabulary, it takes more time to explain the abbreviation than to simply type in the phrase it represents! So Gail sent me an IM Abbreviation List, which I am slowly memorizing. I don’t know when I’ll use ADIP (Another Day In Paradise) or HTNOTH (Hit The Nail On The Head), but I’ll be ready eventually.

As my husband travels in foreign countries, we’ve used simple abbreviations in texting—phrases like “b4” and “gr8”—things you might see on a vanity car license. We sprinkle our messages with LOL (Laughing Out Loud), BTW (By The Way), and TTYL (Talk To You Later). I’m dying to try out newly-memorized abbreviations on my husband, but OTOH, do I really want to explain them when he is off in Guatemala or Russia?

I am glad that God didn’t abbreviate anything. He carefully and clearly took the time to spell out who He is and what He expects. He knew that with all of the false teachers in these latter days, I would need plain answers that square with His character and standards. My husband has often said, “God doesn’t hide His will like Easter Eggs!” God makes most of my choices plain: good or evil, truth or error. If I trust and honor Him with all my heart and don’t try to figure out everything without Him, He will show me how to make wise choices and live right (Proverbs 3:5-6). The more I know His Word, the more I will speak His language.

Maybe IM illiterate, but I don’t want to be spiritually illiterate—and that’s MTCW (My Two Cents Worth) for today!

* translation: Way to go, girlfriend! Loved your blog today. By the way, I don't know if you read my mail, but can't do lunch today. On the other hand, I'm available Friday if that works for you. Let me know. Talk to you later.

6/18/08

My Treasured, ''Eaten'' Bible

My favorite Bible is not only dog-eared, it is dog-chewed. In 1967, my old dog, Muffy, decided its red leather cover was tastier than his chew-bone one day, and the poor Bible was never the same. Next to one corner of the damaged cover, on the inside flap, I later wrote, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them” (Jeremiah 15:16). I was a smart-aleck kid.

When my dad’s parents gave me this Bible on my birthday, it also contained my Grandmother’s words: “Grandpa and I don’t have much worldly goods to leave you, but we do have the Lord to give to you. May His Word be one of the guides of your life, and may you go forth determined to serve Him. (Psalm 27: 1, 4-5, 14).”

This was the book I studied at Bible College. Many years later, the binding is broken, and pages stick out unevenly, fraying with continued use. The front and back flyleafs are crammed with quotations and references, and its onion skin pages are full of underlinings that bleed through everywhere. Whole pages are scotch-taped in place. It’s not the easiest Bible to use anymore. I continually stuff in loose pages, and try not to tear the fragile ones. It is still my favorite Bible.

A couple of Christmases ago, my youngest son and his wife bought me a replacement as a gift. It is an exact duplicate but with thicker pages, and I’m slowly transferring my notes. Someday, I will give my older son the original Bible, and I will return the newer Bible with copied notes to my younger son. As far as I’m concerned, these will be my most valuable gifts to leave behind. The Word of God lasts forever, and I pray that it will guide their lives as it has mine.

The blessing of my “eaten” Bible is that God has used the study of His Word in my life—not only for personal edification, but for ministry to others. Today, I testify to the second part of Jeremiah 15:16, “... and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart... .”

6/11/08

My Other Dad

One of the best choices I ever made was to invite my husband’s Father into my life. It wasn’t simply a matter of a new Dad-by-marriage, but rather, a new Dad to love. Bob’s dad has befriended, accepted, and loved me, including me with his beautiful daughters and talented sons. He has listened to my struggles in life and advised me wisely. I deeply miss my own dad, but my other dad has been a rock in my life for nearly 34 years. He is always there, praying and caring. He’s a family man, a Navy man, and God’s man.

When I read or hear about someone having “in-law problems,” I grieve, knowing how much that person is missing. In-laws are added wealth, and I’m not talking about money. They are a treasure of knowledge and strength in an otherwise confusing and frustrating world. Dad Wilson is such a treasure.

I’ve learned through the years that the ''in-law'' situation is simply one choice after another, because there is so much room for misunderstanding when two families blend. Because Dad and Mom Wilson made room in their hearts for me, I’m learning how to open my heart wider to love and bless my own two daughters-in-law. I have a godly example of patience and creative love.

Leviticus 19:32 says we are to honor those with a gray head, and Job 12:12 explains why: ''Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.'' I treasure the wisdom in my in-laws, especially their choice to fear the Lord, which is the beginning of all wisdom.

If you are struggling with a choice to love an in-law, let me encourage you that passing on a legacy of love is a process, so listen and learn. Be patient. Honor them at every opportunity. A close relationship may not always be easy, but it’s so worthwhile.

As Mom Wilson first taught me, we are really ''in-loves,'' not in-laws. I’m so glad that they made the choice on a hot summer day in July to love me and call me ''daughter.''

6/4/08

Not Choosing Blindly

Choices with wonderful promises (or at least, positive results) are woven throughout the Bible. God often gives indications of what will happen as we choose. He doesn’t want us to choose blindly as if we are spinning a game spinner; He wants us to base our choices on His truth, and He often warns about consequences or offers a promise.

One example is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him (choices), and He shall direct your paths” (promise). Galatians 6:9 and Luke 9:23-24 are two other examples of choice and consequence. And Ephesians 6:2-3 clearly reminds us that Exodus 20:12, where children are instructed to honor their parents, is the first of the Ten Commandments with a promise attached.

This cause and effect, sowing and reaping, is woven throughout the Scriptures. It began in Genesis (2:16-17) when God gave Adam a clear choice that carried a deadly consequence for a wrong choice. Certainly, we can all choose to obey or disobey God’s directives—He gives us that free choice—but we cannot choose the consequences. Later, after Adam and Eve sinned, God offered the promise of redemption for fallen mankind (3:15).

We move into the adventure of following God when we discover the exciting promises and blessings that are ours in choosing what He desires for us. Now that I realize that the whole Bible is full of choices, I have marked some of the consequences and promises related to those choices. I obey God not because of His blessings, because He is the mighty Creator and I am His creation, but His blessings for choosing well are surely an added delight.

5/28/08

Worry Warts and Frogs

My dad was a worrier. His childhood nickname was “Wartie,” because he was such a “worry wart.” (Dell once had a comic book called “Out of Our Way with the Worry Wart.” I wonder whether my Grandma Webb named Dad after that character!) Long before I understood this term, I thought worry warts came from touching frogs! Like Dad, I tend to worry about things that will probably never happen. Worry can be mild or a serious disorder. There is even a Worry Club online to help obsessive worriers. On any level, the persevering, nagging thought that something will go wrong robs us of something our loving God wants us to enjoy—His peace.

Jesus offers His peace, not the world’s (John 14:27). True peace comes when we submit to God’s care and authority. We lean on His everlasting arms and are “safe and secure from all alarm.” Much has been written about the tragic story behind the great hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul, but few know that the familiar first line—“When peace like a river attendeth my way”—is drawn from Isaiah 48:18. “If only you had paid attention to my commands,” Isaiah wrote, speaking for God, “your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” There it is again. Peace comes from submission to God’s authority, commands and laws.

The scripture that God often brings to my mind when I’m tempted to worry is Isaiah 26:3. God guards my heart with His peace when my “mind is stayed” or focused on Him rather than my circumstances or any threat (real or imagined), and when I actively trust and obey. When I do, God’s river of peace floods over me, refreshes my soul, and helps me move forward with confidence.

On a funnier note, worry warts do not come from frogs, but I often remember frogs when worry-thoughts enter my mind. (F-R-O-G stands for ''Fully Rely on God.'')

5/21/08

A Navy Brat

I live in a Navy town, and I love Memorial Day. The traditions of this holiday are varied. Some Americans visit memorials or cemeteries, and most hang flags on the front of their homes. The celebration has become more, of course. Many Americans head for beach picnics, special family gatherings, or sporting events like the Indy 500.

I'm a "Navy Brat." My father and father-in-law were both Navy men, and I think of them both on Memorial Day. I love to hear about Dad Wilson’s annual ship reunions. It’s something I wish my own dad could do, but he passed away several years ago.

My dad— Chief Harry M. Webb, Jr.—loved the military and felt most comfortable, I believe, while aboard ship. He told me very little about his exploits in the service. I believe he sanitized his career for my sister and me, telling us only about the ever-present dolphins who accompanied the ships, the exciting seaports he visited around the world, and simple joys he experienced (like the ice cold milk he loved in the galley).

I can’t remember the names of my Dad’s ships—though I know he accompanied the U.S.S. Forestall—but I have many mental images. I remember him waving from the decks as he deployed; and as he returned after many months, I recognized his unique stride from far away as he walked down the pier toward us. I remember how angry he got about sailors who criticized their Commander in Chief, or took their military duties lightly. Dad bristled in the 60s when many Americans failed to appreciate fighting men and women in all branches of the service. I can just imagine his comments, had he lived to see the debates about our military in Iraq.

I could get intellectual and technical about the great significance of Memorial Day, but frankly, I’m a puddle of mush. I’ll always wonder whether Daddy knew how very proud I was of his military service. He is buried in Florida, but I choose to harbor his Navy pride in San Diego, deep in my heart.

5/14/08

No ''Off Button''

Bailey, my Parsons Jack Russell Terrier, has only one speed. He’s supersonic. Although he is a bit of a runt, his presence is huge in our home. A few times a day, as I type at the computer, he stands next to my chair and “bops” my right hand off the keyboard, eager for play. His favorite game is “shovel time.” I bury the head of a huge farmer’s shovel in a dirt pile on the side of our house, and he digs it up, whining the whole time. Then he grabs the shovel head in his teeth and drags it around the yard, whining and snorting, begging me to bury it again. I’m something of a Bailey myself. From morning to night I’m typically a whirlwind of activity. My mind never stops racing. Unlike “Bales,” I do have an off button (somewhere near my panic button), but I never seem to press it until I’m exhausted.

I know that God wants something better for me, so I’m learning to pull aside for short rests, retreating to His calming presence (Matthew 11:28). Knowing that Jesus did only what the Father asked Him to do has helped me, too. I make a wise choice when I follow Jesus’ example.

His words, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,” is a choice; and his words, “I will give you rest” is His promise. Rest comes through many channels: quiet time with the Lord and meditation in His Word, spontaneous and planned prayer, walks in His creation, and moments when I simply stop to praise Him and count my many blessings.

It’s strange, but often, when Bailey wants playtime, it coincides with my own need to take a break. I’ve been working for six straight hours now, and Bailey is once again bopping my hand. OK, Bales ... race you to the shovel!

5/7/08

Mother-like TLC

I love my mom, and I’ve grown to love my husband’s mother as my own. They are both valuable parts of my life, and I will grieve deeply when they are gone. Mothers touch us in our hearts as no one else can. Whether our mothers fail us miserably or help us reach our highest goals, we are connected to them by God, and He uses them to shape our lives.

I’ve talked to women whose mothers made hurtful, wrong choices. The effects of those choices linger in their grown children today. Powerful choices are necessary to compensate for the loss and damage they feel, and they pray for an understanding heart and forgiving spirit. On the other hand, I’ve observed women whose mothers built character into their lives, speaking vision and hope into their hearts with purpose and love. Her children can’t help but praise her (Proverbs 31:28). What a legacy!

We do not have to experience hurtful consequences in order to learn about life. While traveling with a revival ministry in my 20s, I stayed in homes each week and wrote down what I observed in the mothers’ lives. There were many behaviors that I knew I wanted to practice someday, and some behaviors that I definitely wanted to avoid. This journaling helped me immensely as I raised my two sons because I chose to take “mothering” seriously.

One of the most surprising truths I’ve ever discovered in the Bible is that my Heavenly Father is also mother-like. We see this mother imagery in Isaiah 66:13 in relation to God comforting Israel. While I want to be careful here—I do not espouse the “Mother God” of New Age or feminist teachings—the truth is, when I consider all the love, training, and protective care in the word “mother,” I realize that God is that to me, and much more. So, as I honor my two mothers this year, I am also going to take time to thank God for his TLC (tender loving care). He has touched my heart and shaped my life.

4/30/08

Of Paper Clips and Proactive Choices

Would you rather use a paper clip, clamp, or staple to hold papers together? Would you choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Would you choose to watch American Idol or read from the Bible? Would you lie about your income for a tax report, or tell the truth? Some decisions don’t make much difference in the scheme of life. Others aren’t wise or healthy, and some decisions can be devastating.

All choices count, even the paper clip/ clamp/ staple scenario, as I discovered when I dropped my notes before speaking. The paper-clipped stack came undone and scattered across the floor. I had to collate the unnumbered papers (another bad choice) while my audience watched with amusement!

My friend Pam Farrel is a kindred spirit in this whole issue of choices. In her book, The 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make (Harvest House, 1999), she opens chapter one with this title: “Decide to Decide: You Make Your Choices and Your Choices Make You.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, Pam! This chapter epitomizes my entire ministry. If I live my life haphazardly, I will have haphazard results. I must be proactive and decide exactly how I want to live my life. No choice is unimportant. For me, as a Christian, that means finding the heart and will of God, and making choices accordingly (Ephesians 5:15-17).

What are your choices today? In this hour? Right at this very minute? You will perhaps make choices today about what you will think, how you will respond, what you will do, where you will go, who you will believe, what you will dream, and so much more.

I have become passionate about choices because I see the consequences of choices (both devastating and dream-building) everywhere I turn. Many choices have the potential to bless people or put them in bondage, to build the kingdom of God or tear it down. I’ve determined that I will be proactive and choose wisely and well. I’m not perfect by any means, but the choices I make today will make a difference.

4/23/08

Stein's Magnificent Challenge

If you haven’t seen the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (which debuted in theaters on April 18), I strongly urge you to go. It will be one of your best choices this year. Take a liberal, and it will be an even better choice!

When I attended this powerful, pro-Intelligent Design flick, I was prepared for a bit of indoctrination from both sides of the evolution-Intelligent Design debate, but I was not prepared to hear such foolishness from the mouths of those who claim to be the intellectual elite in our country. (I won’t spoil the experience for those who have yet to go.) As Ben Stein worked both sides, revealing why a number of highly credentialed scientists and scholars were forced out of their jobs because they simply proposed Intellectual Design as a possible alternative to Darwin’s theories, the theater sounded like a church congregation one minute—people spouting, “That’s right”!—and a comedy club the next.

I was engaged in more than what transpired on screen. I watched a young, tattooed girl, sitting slightly to my left and one row ahead. A bit rowdy, she scoffed at scientists who addressed issues from a perspective she’d obviously never heard, or at least, never believed.

“Yeah, right!” she mocked. Half way through the documentary, however, she leaned forward in her seat, her mouth open as she watched Stein stroll painfully through a German extermination site. She had perhaps never made the connection between Darwin’s theory and Hitler’s politics. The girl turned to a male friend as a Planned Parenthood sign flashed across the screen and Stein explained how Margaret Sanger’s organization grew from Darwinian philosophy. She heard Richard Dawkins, the Oxford scientist who wrote The God Delusion, explain why his atheism grew out of his faith in evolution. Stein allowed the foolishness of man to speak for itself (I Corinthians 3:19). When the tattooed girl left, she appeared quiet and thoughtful. I wondered whether Stein opened her mind. I wondered whether he changed it.

As Stein challenged the audience to stand up for true academic freedom, my eyes filled with tears. The whoops, “right ons” and rolling applause in the theater was so intense, I almost expected a standing ovation. It’s hard to know what the long-term effects will be for this remarkable film, but I’m sure that America’s liberal elite must feel threatened and concerned that their belief system might just crash if theater-goers find their backbones. This is a crucial time to stand for truth. Stein gave us an opportunity, and if we are wise, we will take it.

4/16/08

Reaching Higher with Role Models

Mentors and role models help us reach higher in our journey with God. A good choice is the search for worthy role models. Nancy Leigh DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts ministries and Pam Farrel of Seasoned Sisters are high on my list. I also draw from Susan Henson of Princess Pure In Heart, and Kathy Howard, author of Before His Throne. As I review books, I glean from the character and wisdom of authors I’ve never met, including Donna Otto, Nancy Pearcey, Lysa TerKeurst, and Leslie Vernick. (You no doubt have learned from other authors, as I have, and this is not to discount male authors and speakers in any way!)

It’s not just the “famous” who’ve influenced my life. I’ve developed a more gracious spirit because of my husband’s mother, Adele, and my dreams have blossomed under my sister-in-love, Janice. I’ve learned much by rubbing shoulders with Donna, a true prayer warrior; chatting with supportive older women like Sue, Nancy, and Alline; and observing my young, inspiring niece, Jamie. I’ve discovered that many of the women I teach in Tapestry Bible Fellowship have actually taught me. I’ve learned the value of “servanthood with joy” from my friend, Gail. I’ve understood endurance and prayerful dependence on God as I’ve watched my mother, Patricia, deal with the hard blows of life. I've seen hope-in-action in my sister Pam's life.

When I prayed for wisdom as a child, I also prayed for a teachable spirit, saying, “God, show me how to live.” I believe that God is answering that prayer in two ways. He has given me many worthy examples of women who are following hard after God. He has also given me the ultimate role model in His Word (His son, Jesus). The apostle Paul understood the value of role modeling. He wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things…” (Philippians 4:9, ESV).

Choose your mentors and role models carefully. They will greatly influence your life.

4/9/08

Integrity “Lite”

As news channels surveyed the recent hypocrisy of the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal (with flashbacks to other public and religious figures that also “fell from grace”), many comedians poked fun at Spitzer. I laughed, too, until I heard Christian commentator Cal Thomas ask why no preachers were standing up to talk about the moral implications of Spitzer’s choices. God convicted me and I stopped laughing.

Integrity includes soundness and incorruptibility as we adhere to a code of moral values. In our culture of decadence and integrity “lite,” it’s far too easy to go along with the crowd and laugh at “character flaws” rather than calling sin “sin.” It’s hard to persuade people that a holy God has certain expectations of His creation when we keep laughing.

We can’t excuse sin, even though we might understand how those who do not know God might do so. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:1-23, makes a clear case, however, that those who have died with Christ and now live in Him (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4-6) are not to continue in sinful lifestyles. “Certainly not,” Paul said. We do not linger in sin, taking the grace of God for granted. We are new creatures in Christ, and we are expected to walk in righteousness and truth, with integrity, purity, and good character.

A popular poster about integrity says, “...The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become... .” We must make biblical choices and carefully guard what we say and do. Our freedom in Christ is not a license to sin.

Christ paid for our sins with His own blood on the cross, and we were raised to newness of life in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:1-11). Perhaps when we laugh too easily at sin, we forget what sin cost our Savior.

4/2/08

Letting God Choose

I stood at the kitchen counter recently with great longing, eyeing a big basket of Easter candy. I love chocolate. That and ice cream are the evil twins that destroy every weight loss plan, even the “you can have chocolate and ice cream on your diet” plan! I simply have no will power with those two “food groups”!

As I debated whether to take a Russell Stover truffle egg or a Hershey bunny, another voice entered the debate. “Will you let me choose for you?” Now my ministry is all about choices, so I had to listen to this intruder, but before I responded, I took another look at the basket. “Well, that won’t be any fun!” I replied, as I turned and walked to my desk. I tried to rationalize that the voice might mean that He’d choose the chocolate with the least number of calories, but I knew better. God’s Spirit was asking me to yield to His control, and I didn’t like it one bit. It’s easy to surrender some things. I can give God my music, my reading habits, my clothing, my family—all these things—because they are not my issues. I can give Him just about anything but chocolate and ice cream. They are my hold-out for fun and indulgence.

God’s Spirit nudged, “No, they are your hold-out for your own way. You are so self-willed.” Chocolate and ice cream aren’t the real issue. Some might debate the “goodness” of these two foods, but I believe that there are appropriate times for all foods like these—for celebrations, perhaps, but not for daily fare. I know that, but I continually choose against my better judgment. My waistline is clear evidence.

So when God asked that day, “Will you let me choose?” I knew that I had a decision to make. I said, “Yes, Lord.” Chocolate can be a stronghold as clearly as drugs, when it’s a point of surrender.