Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why I Blog

I’ve kept journals about my walk with the Lord Jesus for over 25 years. I don’t write every day. Until 6 months ago, I didn’t even date my entries. I wasn’t consistent about length, style, or anything. I just wrote.

From 1983 when I became a born-again Christian to 1993 when my mother died, I wrote about what I discovered as I read and studied the Bible. Everything was new to me and I was basically just trying to take notes as if I was in a college class and there was a huge test next week.

As a botanist and former evolutionist, the creation account in Genesis holds a special place in my heart. A large portion of my early notes focus on Genesis and some of these take the form of actual essays that I have edited and polished over the years. Three or four of these even seem “blog worthy” and I hope to get them posted in the next few weeks or months.

In 1993, following my mother’s death, I began writing with more of myself in the storyline. My focus changed, almost over night, from “this is what the Bible teaches” to “this is what God is doing in my life”. I was catching a glimpse of the big picture – of God’s plan and purpose for me – and it was (and is) glorious! Not because of who I am, but I am amazed at what He is able to do with this lump of clay.

I was now writing for my children – the “story” of my life, of my walk with our Lord. It was intensely personal. I imagined an audience of maybe 15-20 people at most -- close friends, my children and grandchildren, and that was it. My journals became word-pictures of important events I wanted to capture, with as many details as possible. I included names, dates, and places. I wrote about meeting my husband, becoming a Christian, and the event that brought about this new writing style: my mother’s funeral.

Then in November of 2009, I felt God was leading me to make my writing public – very public – in other words, start this blog. But there was a problem – and I’ve been considering how to remedy this situation for the past 6 months. My earliest writing was “flat”. There are great truths, but there isn’t really anything there that makes it mine. By contrast, the later writing was too personal for exposure to the whole world-wide-web. I felt I needed to re-write every essay or abandon them and start fresh, blogging only new stuff.

After months of prayer and procrastination, I’ve decided to edit about a dozen of my old favorite stories to include here over the next several months. I’m feeling it is important to share with you who I was back then so you can make more sense of who I am now. And I’ve noticed that sometimes even my newest writing still refers back to some of these old essays. But the old flat essays will, hopefully, be infused with bits and pieces of my personal walk, thus making them more interesting to read. And those ultra-personal essays will have to become a little less revealing for my family and friends’ sake.

My advice for others who would like to start a spiritual journal is simple – do it! Even if no one else reads your words, it will bring you closer to God. Keep your papers in order by using a 3-ring binder or spiral notebooks. Date and/or number each page as you go. Be personal and include yourself in the storyline. At the same time, be considerate of others. If you’re writing something no one should ever read, then you should never write it. Truly, not everything is fit to be put on paper.

Finally, you’ll notice I’m including a couple “Journal Suggestions” at the end of most entries. My prayer is that these prompts are general enough that almost any reader could use them as a jumping-off point to start writing a story of their own. And of course, if you already have a blog, or are just starting one, I hope you will tell me about it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


How can anyone read the Prophet Jeremiah and not find themselves focusing on idolatry and doing a little soul-searching to see what idols might be lurking in their own lives? Well, as overdone as that may be, that’s what I’ve done here too. From Jeremiah 1:16, we learn that worshiping other gods is not to be taken lightly; God considers it to be wicked and says those who practice idolatry have forsaken Him.

That is a pretty serious indictment, sure hope I’m not guilty of that! But the sad fact is, I often am, and you probably are too. It is sometimes easy to forget about the sin of idolatry. After all, we don’t make little statues to worship or burn a lot of incense in our culture. But that doesn’t mean we Americans don’t have a major idolatry problem.

An idol is anything, any idea, any person, any hope or dream that has become more important to you than the Lord God. What are the excuses you’ve given for missing church? The big game on TV, sleeping in, time with my family, golfing with your buddies -- all these can become idols if left unchecked. Why did we fail to do our Bible study this week? The same excuses, plus the demands of a career, primping the house for company, too many “good” shows on TV this week, I’m on vacation! Whatever it is you’ve been telling yourself is a good excuse is probably not – it is just Satan’s ploy to keep you from growing closer to our Lord Jesus.

And the result? God considers it wicked idolatry and says you have forsaken him to worship other gods. Is that what we meant to say when we ignored God for these other activities and desires? I hope not! Next time you make an excuse, check your motives for wicked idolatry. Where your heart is, there will be your treasure also.

One way I’ve personally chosen to apply this verse is to ask myself what was the first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning? If my thoughts were racing to some pet project I’ve been looking forward to, then I can be pretty sure I’m off worshiping some other god, practicing idolatry. But when I wake and I’m praising the Lord and anxious to dig into his Word to start my day, then I can be assured that my heart is where it should be.

Jeremiah 1:16I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.”

Journal Suggestions:

What idols did you have to destroy when you first came to the Lord by faith?

Discuss one of the 10 Commandments as it applies to your life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This is a short little essay I wrote last Fall. It was the beginning of a wonderful time in my life. I was able to draw near to God and find a sort of fellowship that was so sweet it seemed almost unreal. But it was real, and it still is real. It began by realizing something about God’s character that I had overlooked. Yes, He has billions of people on this planet to care for and fellowship with. But He honestly WANTS to have fellowship with ME. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is. . . .

There are two kinds of jealousy – sinful and righteous. Wanting what is not yours is sinful – and I’m not even sure it is really jealousy at all – just covetousness – which is sin.

Righteous jealousy is wanting what is supposed to be yours but SIN has caused it to not be that way. A husband has righteous jealousy when he sees his wife with another man.

God is a jealous God. He burns with jealousy when we fail in our duty (sin!) to worship Him. When we’re off on our own path – seeking out worldly idolatrous and adulterous pleasures we’re grieving God. We’re being the lost, wayward, unfaithful Bride of Christ and God has righteous jealousy when we act that way.

And God always wants MORE of us. Two people in love are never satisfied when they are separated.

So God loves me – He has all these intense feelings, desiring fellowship ALWAYS. The question is – do I love God in any way like that? Is my heart aching when I don’t have fellowship? Am I ever satisfied?

Do I pat myself on the back after one hour of Bible study? Or do I thirst for more?

Is quiet time with God an item on my to-do list or an unquenchable passion in my life?

God is jealous for me. Am I jealous for God?

Does my heart ache when sin draws me away from fellowship? (Nov 1, 2009)

Exodus 20: 3, 5You shall have no other gods before me. . . . for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . .

Journal Suggestions:

Describe a time you felt particularly close to the Lord.

Tell about an attribute of God that has recently become more real for you.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

From Reading to Writing to Living

Over the years, my writing style has changed from being aloof and preachy to very personal. But lately I am finding myself judging an essay or blog post by one simple standard – is this Old Testament or New Testament stuff? Now I’m not talking about if the subject material comes from a date of BC or not. I’m evaluating my writing style compared to the Old Testament and New Testament writing styles.

I got the idea from a book I’ve been enjoying this summer, The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey. It has an odd title, so let me explain to those who aren’t familiar with Yancey’s work. The author tells why the Old Testament is relevant to New Testament believers and the answer, in large part, is because this is the Scripture Jesus learned as a child and taught from in His ministry. But that summary of the book is really too over-simplified. The author also explains how different the two testaments are based on their biographical content.

In the New Testament we learn mostly about the lives of Jesus and Paul; two people we as Christians should strive to follow. The life of Jesus tells the story of the Perfect Man, living a sinless life, loving everyone, sharing the gospel. Paul, while not perfect, exhorts us to be like Christ and gives us many lofty ideals to strive after in our personal lives. He is also presented as a guy who has it all together. He is obviously following after Jesus, picking up his cross daily, witnessing, loving, and being the guy we’d like to think we are on our “good” days.

But from what we know of his life in the New Testament, every day was a “good” day for Paul. I’m not talking about being beaten and imprisoned as good, but I mean that every day he was out there doing the Lord’s work – and THAT is definitely a “good” day. The problem is that we don’t have a “good” day every day; I think a lot of folks might think these “good” days are maybe once a week or even once a month. In other words, the distance between the example of Jesus or Paul and my life is huge! And at times it can be very discouraging . . .

So Yancey suggests that when this happens, it is time to turn to the Old Testament and be reminded of the more “real” characters from that part of Scriptures. Here you’ll find Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit, Noah getting drunk after getting off the Ark, Abraham lying about Sarah being his wife, Jonah trying to outrun God’s call to Nineveh, and the sad story of David – a man truly after God’s heart, being guilty of both adultery and murder. You’ll also find companionship in the Psalms, where you can read how real people dealt with fear, loneliness, anger, depression, abandonment, and disappointment.

So, it sounds like a great book, doesn’t it? But maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with my writing style. Well, the truth is that my writing can sometimes sound a lot like Paul, exhorting myself and my readers to follow Christ and live holy lives. And this is all well and good, and we should each strive for that. But wait -- that’s what the New Testament is for! No one needs ME to come along and tell them what God has already revealed in His Word.

However, I do think my writing can be an encouragement to someone who may be suffering from depression or disappointment, maybe they’re feeling angry with God over a nasty turn their life has taken. I get that, I understand, I’ve been thrown some nasty curve balls too! I think the purpose of my writing should be to be more “real” for you, my readers, whoever you are. I need to be willing to let down my guard and be honest with you about my own shortcomings. I think as Christians we run around with masks on, trying to look like Perfect Pauls on Sunday morning -- never letting anyone see the hurts and struggles we’re having.

Thanks to Yancey’s book, I’ve become more thankful for the imperfect “real” characters of the Old Testament. And I’d like to not just write more “real” but also live more “real”, letting the people around me know when I’m hurting or struggling. In other words, take off the Perfect Paul mask. . . So now for a little peek at the real me . . . I’m changing, The Lord is working in my life and I am so very thankful for this. And this means I’m not the same person I was this time last year; not by a long shot. I went through some intense biblical training last fall with Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. As a result, I’ve quit going to a church that was 20 miles from home and now I attend a church just 6 houses away. I made this change so I wouldn’t have any excuse to not be involved with mid-week programs, and it’s working like a charm! The problem is, I may be over-extending myself. I’m pretty much exhausted – very, very happy, but also very tired. As a result, I missed my Wednesday blog deadline this week. I failed to use my time wisely. I’m not perfect. But I still want to do more, including bringing The Truth Project to this new church. I'll be leading the 13-week course starting a week from Tuesday -- so please pray for me that I’ll get organized, focused and set proper priorities.

There’s also the problem of people; there are persons in my life who need my attention, and I’m failing at times to be there for them. I’m letting distant old friends be ignored while working to build new friendships in my new town and I’m struggling with knowing if that is even biblical or not. And lastly, there are those around me that are hurting, really hurting and I’m still recovering myself from a spring with 7 funerals to attend. At times, I don’t know if I have the strength to reach out and help them when I’m hurting too. I know my over-activity at church is partly denial, not wanting to stop long enough and think about what all those lives meant to me and how much they are missed. But I need to connect with these folks, the ones who are here, still hurting – and let them know I’m really here for them, with more than “just” my prayers and cliché platitudes. So again, I need your prayers – that I will make time to do that which is truly important and have the right words to say for those around me. Thank you . . . !

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Journal Suggestions:

Describe how a book or movie has changed your worldview.

Which parts of the Bible are your favorite / least favorite and why?

Want information on The Truth Project? visit

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Home Sweet Home

As you walk around my house you’ll probably notice a few odd things. One of them would be the stacks of books and papers haphazardly piled here and there, some of them even tumbling over having been stacked too tall and too hurriedly. Reading and writing are two very important things to me, and while most piles are associated in one way or another with my faith, there’s also the ‘bills to pay’ pile, the ‘junk mail to shred’ pile, the ‘recipes to try’ pile, and the list goes on and on. Another thing, in contrast to my apparent hording tendencies, is that I’ve uncluttered my living spaces. For the most part I don’t have a lot of nick-knacks sitting around my rooms. The one’s I’ve kept on display are all pretty important to me. They each tell a story, some obvious, others not so obvious.

One of the not-so-obvious things is a heart-shaped sign that reads, “Home Sweet Home”. It hangs from one of the pegs on a cup holder on my kitchen wall. The sign was a welcome gift from the ladies at my church when I became a member a few months ago. It isn’t very valuable, but I treasure it. It really is one of those things that no one would realize how important it is unless you explained it. But it hangs there so innocently, who would think to even ask for an explanation. So here it is . . . .

I’ve lived in too many places to really remember them all. But still, I’ve tried to do that for the sake of this essay, and I’ve come up with a list of 36 different residences. If you take out that one childhood place of 4 years and the other place as an adult of just over 6 years, then you come up with the average of one move per year. You can see why I’ve grown fond of traveling “light”; taking too much stuff with you each time is just too much of a hassle.

But mostly, all this moving has just been hard on my heart. I ache to finally feel settled and comfortable, to get connected into a church and a community without the fear and reality-check that in a few months I’ll likely be somewhere else. It has made me a very guarded person and I hate that about myself. Those first 20 or 30 moves seemed adventurous and I was a willing participant. I know that sounds absurd, but for the longest time I just thought it was sort of fun. However, the last few moves have been accompanied by tearful rants, a lot foot stomping, empty threats, broken promises, etc. The reasons for all the moves blur together in my head, but in the end, it always boiled down to finances. In hindsight, I’m not sure there was ever a move made for any other reason.

So you can imagine why my sign reading, “Home Sweet Home” might be so meaningful. And you’re partially right, having a place to finally call home and feel like the Lord is going to let me stay for a significant amount of time is wonderful, and overwhelming, even frightening. Am I up to the challenge? Building and keeping long-term friendships is something I haven’t had a lot of experience with. Eventually I move away and both our lives get too busy to keep in touch for long. But for me, there’s more to this sign than just this very obvious meaning.

When I see that sign hanging in my kitchen I’m reminded to make others feel welcome here too. The friend I’m sharing a cup of tea with may be feeling like she needs a place to come and escape, to feel safe and secure from whatever storms are raging in her life. Maybe her heart aches and she’s in the middle of some tearful rant and doing a lot of foot stomping too. She needs a place to hide from all these problems, even for just an hour, a place to feel comfortable and let down her guard. And so I’m reminded to practice hospitality, sharing my “Home Sweet Home” with whoever may come knocking on my door that day.

The sign also reminds me of my new church family and how wonderful it was for these ladies to reach out to me the way they did. It wasn’t much; it didn’t take a lot of time or money. But it did take some thoughtfulness, and I am so thankful for their efforts. The gift came with a card that welcomed me into the Church Family and it was at a time when I felt so lonesome, I just wept as I read it over. I truly believe that the Lord has given me this church home – a “Home Sweet Home” where I can get comfortable, become involved, and even make a difference. And so looking at this simple sign I’m reminded to try and be equally welcoming with whoever may visit our church each week, making them comfortable and feeling like they’ve found a home too.

But lastly, the same sign oddly reminds me that my home isn’t here at all. No matter how wonderful my church is, no matter how many fabulous friends I gather round me, no matter how grand the house I’m blessed to be living in, or many years I’m allowed to stay in one place, in the end I’m still just a pilgrim, wandering this earth until I can go to my true “Home Sweet Home” in heaven. For you see, most of all, this sign reminds me to not get too comfortable here; Jesus has promised me I have at least one more move to make!

John 14:2In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”

Journal Suggestions:

Describe a place you lived as a child.

What does “Home Sweet Home” mean to you?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Retreat

In 1993, my mother’s sudden death from cancer left me stunned and spiritually depressed. Eighteen years later, I’m still not comfortable talking about it, not the death, but the way in which I dealt with it – or failed to deal with it. Christians aren’t suppose to be depressed -- we have joy, peace, and the abundant life. I’m unsure if I should be sharing this story with the world wide web, my Church, or even my family. But I’ve learned that depression is pretty much universal and I’ve also found that talking about it can help us all heal.

During my mother’s brief illness I didn’t want to see her suffer and I was thankful the Lord took her home quickly. But I was still hurting. Eventually I realized I was harboring a deep feeling of disappointment towards God. What I had really wanted was for her to be healed. Or, better still, never ill in the first place. Following her death in May, I entered a time of spiritual waywardness that lasted throughout the summer months. The Fruits of the Spirit had been replaced with grumpiness and resentment. Ever so tenderly, the Lord showed me that my faltering spiritual walk was affecting those around me. Then in that September, I had the opportunity to go on a church-sponsored weekend retreat. Here is the essay I wrote while on that trip . . . .

On Friday morning, women of all ages gathered in the parking lot with their gear for the weekend. I was particularly anxious for the ladies’ retreat to get underway. I was hoping this weekend would enable me to get back on track, living my life as God intended. After four hours on the road, our van pulled into the mountain camp. Immediately I was drawn to a wide, long bridge on the other side of the chick-in building. I was eager to walk over there and gaze at the rushing water and listen to its soothing trickle of water. The width and height of the banks left no doubt there was once a ranging river. But this sorry sight left my soul feeling as empty as the riverbed.

The next afternoon, I left the craft activities of the group and found a quiet spot by the river’s edge to sit and think. As I looked around, I found myself still filled with so much sadness. The row boats were overturned on the river bank. Their blankets of pine needles testified of the long drought. The fishing dock no longer jutted out into the river. Instead, it sat awkwardly several yards away from any water. The river’s usefulness was gone: no fishing, so swimming, no boating.

My quiet contemplation soon led me to realize my own life was just this empty and sad. It seemed that lately my spiritual life had dwindled down to a tiny, immeasurable trickle. And like this once mighty river, my usefulness was gone without the flow of the Holy Spirit. Whatever good I am for the Lord is lost when I fail to walk by the Spirit. But, if I will drink from Christ, my river will never run dry. Revelation 22:17 says, “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” This is the mark of a Christian. That’s an odd thing to say: Christ gives us both peace beyond all understanding and an unquenchable desire to be still more righteous. Thirsty, yet satisfied; the wonder of this paradox can only be surpassed by ‘sinner, yet saved’.

As I continued to look around me, I saw the trees and shrubs that once flourished at the river’s edge. Now they showed signs of stress from their prolonged unmet need for water. Some of the plants were already dead. I reflected on how the people around me suffer when my spiritual river runs dry. My family and friends can begin to droop as well. Unlike these plants, however, they do not gain their life from me. But the example of my godly, Spirit-filled life can make them thirsty and then they can come to the Lord to drink on their own.

I know the force and power of a rain-swelled river kept it steady and on a straight course. Rocks and logs could pose no obstacle; the water would simply pick up the debris and carry it all downstream. This tiny trickle before me, however, was swayed by every twig in its path. Rocks and logs once submitted to the river’s mighty force, but now they were overwhelming, causing it to meander aimlessly. Likewise, I had gotten off course. I had allowed countless tiny obstacles to redirect me and I was wandering aimlessly.

I sat there remembering the spiritual power that once had been mine and I became keenly aware of God’s sadness over my situation. I thought how disappointed he must be at the tiny trickle of water that had replaced His power and the Holy Spirit in my life. Like rain for the river, I needed soul-drenching prayer to be flowing strong again. Revelation 22:17 promises that all I need to do is desire to drink and I may – “Whoever is thirsty”. I spent the remainder of the afternoon in prayer, confessing the sins that led to my waywardness and praising God for His wonderful promises and this beautiful lesson.

As we were leaving, I went to say good-bye to the little stream. The sadness I had felt was now replaced with hope and peace. And the spiritual river within me was running higher and stronger as we drove off towards home. The Lord is indeed faithful!

Psalm 34:17, 18The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Journal Suggestions:

Describe how you once overcame depression or disappointment.

How is your life like a river, mountain, or tree?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

True Worship

Church buildings represent a place set aside for God’s people to gather and enter into His presence, praise Him, and find strength for the week ahead. Our church services are not really intended for the lost and unbelieving, though, everyone is welcome. Yet I’ve learned first hand, that the practice of “true worship” provides a powerful witness of faith to anyone who visits. For you see, I was led to Christ by an entire congregation of over 3,000 believers, all worshiping their Lord.

In 1983, my husband was serving in the Navy and we had just been stationed near my husband’s home town. Before being deployed, he introduced me to several of his high school friends. A week or two passed and they invited me to church for a Sunday evening service. Right away I knew I was in for something different. The church I was raised in didn’t even have Sunday night services. They came by my apartment and drove me to a church in the downtown area of the city. We had to drive around for a while looking for a parking place. It was January and the night air was particularly cold. As we walked several blocks to the church building, I wondered what all the cars were doing downtown on a Sunday night.

Opening the first door of the church building a great sound swelled in my ears. Then the inner door was opened for us by the usher and the singing was almost deafening. I was completely overwhelmed. The church of my childhood had never sounded like this – not even on Christmas with the pews packed full. I was more used to hearing a few squeaky voices while most of the people simply stared off into space. But here tonight; young and old, men and women, were all singing and they sounded so glorious and joyful! We managed to find a place in the back row. We sat elbow to elbow – packed in like sardines. I couldn’t imagine what would make all these people leave their warm fireplaces on a cold winter night.

Eventually the singing stopped and it was time for prayer. The pastor prayed for things I had never thought to pray about – for school teachers, for the President and Congress, for flood victims in another state, for Christians imprisoned in foreign countries, for Bibles to be sent to China, on and on. It seemed he was praying for the whole world. The prayer was long, longer than I thought I could possibly sit still. But I was frozen in place and there was an awesome hush over the entire building. Now and then I could hear a quiet whisper from someone around me: “Yes, Lord”, “Praise You”, “Amen”. This prayer was completely foreign to the recited prayers of my childhood.

Next, the offering plates were sent around and another startling difference became painfully evident: the plates were full. We had to be careful to not spill the contents as we passed the plate down our row. But even stranger to me was that they were filled with little envelopes. My friend pulled hers out of the back of her Bible and placed it in the plate as it went by. I realized that she had thought this through ahead of time. She wasn’t just pulling coins out of her pocket at the last moment with some vain hope of not looking cheap. And each of those envelopes represented someone who had also prepared ahead of time to put something in the offering plate.

Finally the sermon started. The pastor invited everyone to open their Bibles and read along with him. The sound of the rustling Bible pages was even drowning out this man’s words. I had never seen anything like it. I didn’t have a Bible so my friend held hers so I could see it. But when I saw writing all over the margins I realized that she must actually use her Bible. At the time, I didn’t know of anyone who really did that, except preachers of course.

As the sermon went on, I was amazed to see my friends taking notes. They were eager to learn about what this man was saying. And as I looked around, I saw lots of other people taking notes too. Then I noticed a funny thing – a sad thing really – no one was snoring. In my home church that was the custom – to fall asleep during the sermon.

At the end of the service we sang a song. Everyone held hands and stretched across the isles so the chain would be unbroken. The words and music echoed loudly and the people were all smiling. When the song ended, the people were dismissed, but most of them stayed. It seemed no one was in a rush to get home and the isles were all blocked as they hugged and talked. Everyone was enjoying just being there with each other.

The marvelous corporate worship of this congregation overwhelmed me; I felt surely God was in that place on that cold winter night. So I kept going back to this church each week. I wanted to see if the wonderful faith I’d witnessed really lived on in these people. And week after week, I asked countless questions of my husband’s old friends and the many new friends I met at this church. They encouraged me as I began investigating the Bible and they shared books with me like More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. Through it all, my eyes were opened; not just to a new way of doing “church”, but a new way of relating to God and living my life. Then finally, on the first Sunday in February, I went forward at the service to receive Jesus Christ for myself. I had found salvation, forgiveness, peace, and much, much more. And now I was ready to become a true worshiper of the one true God.

Acts 2:42, 47They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . .And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Journal Suggestions:

Describe the details that first brought you to the Lord.

Compare and contrast two seemingly similar experiences that were actually quite different.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Rings

In my top dresser drawer there are several rings that were owned by my grandmother, mother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and husband. They’ve all passed away and I have this mis-matched assortment of rings to remind me of them. Well, sort of -- I know they are their rings and so they do remind me of them. But, for the most part, I don’t know what those rings meant to them, why they bought them or if they were a gift. All that part of my family’s history is gone, and it makes me sad. A couple rings are obvious. There’s a man’s wedding band, and one is a high school class ring. Then there is a ring that says “mom” on it that belonged to my mother-in-law, I can only assume that it was a Mother’s Day gift one year, but I can’t know for sure now. The other rings are more generic looking and I’m not at all sure how special they were to their owners.

The other day I happened to open this drawer and, of course, I let out the usual heavy sigh at the sight. But then it occurred to me that I wanted to avoid this emptiness for my family in the future. You see, I have a college class ring I wear on my right ring-finger. My children have a sense of what it means -- they were in the audience at my graduation. But they don’t know that I wear it every day as a constant reminder of who I am and where I came from and, most important, what I should strive for in my life. This particular ring represents a 20 year struggle to finally earn my bachelors degree. And I want my children (and their children) to know this story about me and my ring. . . .

It was while I was in college studying biology that I became a Christian. At the time I was an evolutionist, but it didn’t take long for that to change. I quickly realized that I couldn’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible I would believe. If I was willing to accept the New Testament story of Jesus, I had to also accept the Old Testament story of the creation. I think at first my reasoning was just that simple. After all, I thought to myself, they’re in the same book! You can’t say this part over here is SO true that you’ll change how you live your life but that part over there is just a phony fairy tale that should be dismissed without a second thought.

Armed with really no more information than just that simple logic, I went to my college professors and tried to show them the errors of their ways. Every time one of them would mention evolution I would raise my hand and remind everyone in the class that this was an un-provable theory and that the Bible held the real truth about our beginnings. Of course I was verbally beaten up every time I opened my mouth. By the end of the next semester I had had enough. I quit college and really thought I’d never go back.

Over the next fifteen years I had an unquenchable thirst for any knowledge related to Creationism. I read and studied anything I could get my hands on. And my faith grew stronger and more mature as I read the Bible through several times, listened to countless sermons and attended weekly Bible studies whenever I could. The Lord was working in my life.

When I finally decided it was time to get that bachelor’s degree I knew I would have a challenge ahead of me. It wouldn’t be easy to remain faithful to my beliefs and not anger or alienate my professors again. Part of the required curriculum for a bachelor’s degree in biology is a course devoted to just the study of Evolution. I protested to the dean of the college on the grounds of my faith, but my arguments fell on deaf ears.

After months of appeals, I finally took the class and surprisingly earned an “A” without ever compromising my Christian faith and the teaching of Divine Creation. I can only guess that my years of reading and study had given me tremendous insight, because I saw clearly how their “faith” in the theory of Evolution was shaping their thinking. It seems I was able to understand where they were coming from and it made me a better listener. All my private studies also gave me the ability to argue factually rather than emotionally. These are all very important lessons in my life and they have served me well in the years since.

However, an even more important lesson was learned while earning my college degree: I was able to remain faithful to my Lord and speak the truth with both boldness and compassion. Yes, I was bold before, but I just made everyone around me angry. Now I had learned how to speak that same message of truth but without causing all the hurt feelings and resentment. Today, when I look down at my right hand I see my class ring – the sides of it say “biology” and the top of the ring has a gold cross. It is a constant reminder of how easy it is to offend someone and still be “right”. And it reminds me how important it is to speak the truth in LOVE, with understanding and compassion.

James 3:17
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

Journal Suggestions:

Recall a time when you were in disagreement with someone in authority over you.

Describe a special possession of yours and tell why it means more to you than the object’s simple face value.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Herod, King of Judea -- Luke 1:5

As you begin to read Luke’s gospel, you can easily fail to notice the words that innocently begin the fifth verse: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea . . .” How many times have I heard the familiar Christmas story? The wise men are told by King Herod to report back to him so he can have this new Baby King killed. But somehow, over the years I never realized just who or what Herod was the king of! Here is another instance where crawling through the Bible, bit by bit, has its advantages.

Judea . . .? “Land of the Jews” – most of the exiles returning from Babylon captivity were from the tribe of Judah, therefore, their homeland became known as Judea. The area included both Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Herod . . .? Some references I have say Herod was a descendant of Esau, Jacob’s older twin brother. Since it is Jacob’s 12 sons who become the Nation of Israel, this means Herod is a non-Jew. And thus, an outsider is ruling over the Jews. Other sources say he is a “half-Jew”. Either way, his actions while ruler speak loudly that he gave little regard to God’s Law. He had 10 wives, he was directly involved in or ordered the murder of several individuals, and he demanded a loyalty oath from his subjects. His own political career was Herod’s primary concern. Even while rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem; he was really seeking political favors and power by placing an eagle over the entrance – the symbol of the Roman Empire.

Note -- there are at least 8 different Herod’s in the New Testament. This one, in Luke’s first chapter, is called “Herod the Great” and is the same one in Matthew 2:1-17 who had the baby boys in Bethlehem killed. Different Herod’s had John the Baptist be-headed, put Jesus and then Paul on trial, killed James, and imprisoned Peter. Maybe that’s not important here, but I didn’t realize they weren’t the same person. Anyway, the Herod who ordered the killing of the baby boys was gravely ill at the time and actually died just a short time later. This was his way of ensuring the throne would pass to one of his heirs and not the baby Jesus.

So why the history lesson, why does any of this matter today? Well, I think we should realize that this man was not king of some distant land that the wise men happened to be traveling through, but he was king of the Nation of Israel. Herod was not following the ways of Israel’s faith and he blatantly ruled over God’s people without any thoughts of God! Herod’s many murderous rampages were all political power plays. He would do anything to keep his throne and he refused to quietly step aside so some Jewish baby could take his throne.

Why didn’t the Jewish people object? According to Baker’s Bible Encyclopedia, some did object, particularly when it came to the loyalty oath. But for the most part, Herod’s rule was peaceful because he passed laws cutting taxes. Were the Jews really pacified by tax cuts? Could Herod disregard God’s Law because of tax cuts? I’ve always wondered why they let their baby boys be killed. Why wasn’t this the start of some massive political upheaval or an all out bloody war? I mean really, they were OK with this murderer being their king because of tax cuts . . . ?

In America today, there is a host of political and corporate office holders who have no regard for God or His Law. Most of the people running this nation, both politically and economically, are the very people warned about in Psalm 1. The wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers we are meant to avoid are, in fact, our overseers. We are a nation unequally yoked! As a result we are bound up with them and making sinful compromises on a daily basis. Many of our heads of state are in open rebellion against our God and His ways. And just like Herod, their singular objective is to stay in control, at all costs. But it seems, most of the time, we do little or nothing to interrupt their sinful plans.

However, we have more to fear than just political or corporate leaders. Today there is a dark ruler of this world who will also hold nothing back if it means staying in control. And just like Herod, Satan refuses to quietly step aside when Christians threaten his authority. Anyone walking strong in their faith, following the Lord Jesus, has a target on their forehead. We are ridiculed and maligned, called misinformed and hate-mongers. And our children are being taught to despise the “intolerance” of our Christian faith that boldly claims to be the ONLY way, the ONLY truth, and the ONLY path to eternal life. The people in Judea handed over their baby boys to Herod’s men, and in many ways we are doing the same with our young people today. We allow Satan to take control of their lives when we refuse to take a stand for biblical truths and our Christian values.

Yes, we have sunk low; we are living in dark, perilous times. But all is not lost, keep the faith. Pray for our nation, our leaders, and our youth. Pray that the Church's apathy will be turned into boldness. Jesus will soon return and the current “Herods” of this world will be forever unseated and eternally judged by the Righteous King. In the meantime, this darkness is necessary so we will learn to CRAVE the Light more.

John 15:19If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

Journal Suggestions:

What compromises have you made with your faith as a result of yoking yourself to an unbelieving friend or employer?

Recall a time when taking a stand brought you ridicule or worse.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Bus Stop

Last week my son graduated college and I met his girlfriend for the first time. As a parent, I was both excited and overjoyed. Strangely, I think I feel almost guilty for not being anxious and worried. But years ago I found a source of peace regarding my children’s future. The Lord has kept me safely under His wing and now I’m trusting that same Wing to guard over my children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some Super Saint that never worries, but this week I’ve had a calm over me that I can only attribute to the Lord’s peace. Here is an old essay of mine, written about 10 years ago, telling how I've learned to be so trusting. . . .

Sometimes the passage of many years are required to show us how God has been faithfully guiding our steps and keeping us under His wing. My children are both in their teens now and parenting is difficult. The possibility arises daily that one of my children will make a bad choice. And while I want them to learn from their mistakes, I also want to help them prevent costly mistakes. But then I am reminded of my own marriage and how difficult it can be to discern mistakes from blessings.

I met my husband while waiting at a bus stop in a city about 2,000 miles from my parents. He tried making small talk, but I didn’t want anything to do with him, I had other things on my mind. So, four hours later, God put us together again on another bus. At the time, I thought this was only a coincidence. Today, the miracle of that second encounter completely overwhelms my heart. I gave this stranger my telephone number and that evening we went out on our first date. As a parent now, I can’t help but think how foolish this all was. Nonetheless, God had me under His wing.

A year passed and he asked me to marry him. Just 10 days later, in a small ceremony, we tied the knot. The day after our wedding we boarded a Greyhound bus. Five more days and we were at the opposite end of the country. He was in the Navy and this is where his orders took us. We were totally alone; both our families were thousands of miles away. But God had me under His wing.

I think back on that “foolish” act and I know my parents would have loved to make it different. They surely didn’t want me talking to strangers at bus stops and giving them my phone number. And they definitely wouldn’t want me married after just a 10-day engagement or living so far away from home. This is the stuff that gives parents nightmares.

At the time of our marriage, neither of us knew the Lord. But just three years later, my husband would introduce me to a group of friends who then led me to the church where I found Christ. These were people who had been praying for and witnessing to my husband for years before I even met him. Having just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, I can see countless ways the Lord has used my husband to mold me into a godlier woman.

In spite of spending the past 17 years unequally yoked, I see my marriage as God’s will for my life. We have been through some really tough times. Together we have suffered through the deaths of his brother and my mother, a failed business, and financial ruin after years of unemployment. We’ve teetered on the edge of divorce and yet the Lord was able to soften our hearts and bring us safely back together. God was faithful through it all to keep me under His wing.

I look back now and I see how these shared experiences only serve to unite our hearts more completely. This man has earned the honored place of “best friend” in my life. And I know with all my heart that God worked a mighty miracle on my behalf when He placed me at the bus stop of His choosing, not once, but twice! And I believe there is a similar miracle to be cherished and remembered in the life of any person who has walked at length with God.

Yet here I am, a parent of teenagers, worrying about so many things. Who will they marry, what kind of adults will they become, what careers will they have . . . . But why do I worry? I have been faithful for years now to pray for my children that God would be Lord in their lives and that He would be preparing even now the persons they will marry. I seem to doubt these prayers will be answered. Where is my faith?

Like the Israelites, I am commanded to remember the Lord’s miracles, the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea, etc. And each time I remember my own bus stop miracle, some earthly worry fades, anxious thoughts disappear, and I find myself resting in the assurance that He will be faithful to answer this mother’s prayers.

Matthew 7:11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!"

Journal Suggestions:

What worries are you failing to completely trust God with?

Recount a time when God’s hand reached down from heaven and changed the course of your life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One is Enough, Luke 1:1-4

A couple weeks ago I had a visit from a dear friend I haven’t seen in over 15 years. The time passed way too quickly and I was sad to see her go. One of the many things we talked about while she was here was her church back home. Her pastor has gone through the Bible, teaching bit by bit, from Genesis to Revelation. It took 13 years to complete. I think I would have greatly enjoyed being a part of that. . . .

The wisdom of knowing the entire Bible isn’t a new idea for me, I’ve used tools like “Daily Walk” many times to help me get from Genesis to Revelation in one year. But some people have nicknamed this method the Daily Dash because of the quick pace. And I can understand their criticism. So my friend got me thinking about trying a slower pace – just to delight over each chapter, pondering over each teaching and becoming more Christ-like as I move along.

As a result of her visit, I started a personal study of the Bible with Luke’s Gospel. I hope to do Acts next. After that, I’ll just have to wait and see where the Lord leads.

I know I’ve read Luke’s Gospel several times as part of my Daily Walk’s; and yet I can’t really say I ever noticed any of the things I’m learning this time around. My methodical studying, rather than a dashing read, is really a blessing!

It is no coincidence that this study through Luke is also the beginning of my blog. I’ve been wrestling with this blog idea for so long now and Luke has helped encourage me to finally start down the path. As I read the opening verses of his gospel, I found that he wrote this as a personal letter to a friend named Theophilus (meaning “lover of God”).

But it wasn’t just some random compilation of memories. Tradition has it that Luke researched his topic for two years before writing the gospel letter we have today (Life Application Bible). Luke carefully wrote and organized his thoughts, being faithful to an audience of just one. Nearly two-thousand years later, his efforts are still being used by God to bless others. He had no idea, I’m sure, that we would be preaching and teaching from his letter all these generations later.

John Calvin has criticized those who thought Theophilus was a general greeting to all the “lovers of God” in the region at the time. It seems some scholars felt God wouldn’t send such an important message to just one person. Calvin points out that Paul’s letters to Timothy are to “just” one person and no one seems to have a problem there. Anyway, his argument got me to thinking about the parables of the Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep and that when it comes to God, there isn’t any distance too far to travel that one soul might be saved. So I find myself agreeing with Calvin, I think this gospel was indeed sent to just one person. And, praise the Lord, Luke’s “private letter” has forever changed the world.

This week as I checked on my blog space for comments or followers, I was tempted to be discouraged. But Luke’s Gospel stands as an example of “the power of one”. The size and scope of my readership is not what is important. My sprawling notes will become neatly typed, edited, and ordered. And in doing this work, I will remember these lessons all the more – they will become more a part of my soul – not just a passing thought with little or no influence on my daily living.

Like Luke, I have no idea who will ever read what I write. Maybe no one, but if the thought of that imagined reader keeps me faithful to study, learn, and write, then it is already being useful and a blessing to me – also a Theophilus – lover of God. And just like Luke, one is enough to make it all worthwhile.

I Peter 2:2a Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word.

Journal Suggestions:

Recall a time when “crawling” over a passage of Scripture has brought you new blessings.

Who or what has God used in your life to illustrate how important just one coin, one sheep, one soul is to Him?

Describe an unexpected change in your life as a result of an unassuming comment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breaking the Silence

I have been a writer nearly all my life. Yet that's news to most people, even those closest to me. I generally write just for me -- anyone with a journal-habit knows how therapeutic this is. But over 17 years ago I saw a reason and a need to share what I write with others. I painfully admit, since then, only a handful of my essays have been read by anyone. Today that changes, I'm breaking the silence. I've been considering publishing my essays on a blog for over 6 months now. Today is that "someday" I've been talking about. . . . Here is the essay I wrote back in 1993, when I first realized my writing had to be made public:

Relatives from around the country are gathered here in Iowa for my mother's funeral. Many of these people I haven't seen in several years. I was able to meet my uncle's "new" wife today. They've been married for more than 20 years. His first wife died very young from breast cancer. I didn't know her very well, but I remember she was the organist at our church. I like his new wife, she talks about her Lord and what He's been doing in her life. I wish we had more than a few hours together. Tomorrow we'll be scattered again -- me to California and they to Arkansas.

This meeting is painfully similar to another about ten years ago. It was then that I first met my grandfather's "new" wife. They too had been married for several years. His first wife had died from complications with diabetes. I didn't know her very well either, but I remember she was in church as often as her health would allow. And I liked his new wife too, she talked about her Lord and what He was doing in her life. And just like today, I wished then we had more than a few hours together.

Both of these men, my grandfather and my uncle, are strangers to me. The fact is, I only know their faces. Their lives are a mystery -- shrouded in years of silence. Their new wives are wonderfully open and joyful about their faith. I'd like to hope that within these men that same joy lives. But the truth is, I can't know for sure, they've never let me see that side of them. Silence runs deep in my family.

I suppose my uncle and my mother's dad are both Christian men. Why else would their new wives, such godly women, be drawn to marry them? But I just don't know. If church-going and being married to a godly woman will get you into heaven, then these men will be there. But surely there must be more. I pray their lives away from me are vibrantly faithful and filled with worship and service for our Lord. But I fear their silence.

I look over all the "things" my mother has left behind and I'm sick. What I ache for is a diary or anything that will let me know her heart. I don't really want these earthly baubles. Yet I know I will cling to them because this is all I have now. But what I desperately need is to know her heart, and this she didn't leave me.

The pastor of my mother's church is being very kind and saying how much he appreciated my mother's faithful attendance at his mid-week Bible study. But in the 15 years since my leaving home, she never mentioned to me that she did this. She never told me. Among her things we find a certificate awarded to her by the community. It says that after work she spent time helping underprivileged children learn to read. But again, I never knew, she never told me. One of her co-workers is handing me a crocheted book-marker in the form of a cross. She tells me Mom was her prayer partner and had made that for her. She thinks I would like to have it. But I never knew of her prayer life, she never told me. My heart breaks. . . .

Months have now passed since my mother's funeral. The silence is still deafening. And yet all I can do is think of my own children. Do they know me? Is my life an open book for them to read? Or have I failed to even write the pages for them? When my life is over, will they be left aching to have known my heart?

These generations of silence must be broken by me. I want them to know my heart and find me rejoicing in all my Lord Jesus has done for me. This will be the inheritance I leave for my family and friends.

Mark 5:19 "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you."

Journal Suggestions:

Are there silences that need breaking in any of your relationships?

Describe the spiritual inheritance you have from your family.

Please use this link if you haven’t yet read my story, “Shattered Silence” which was added to this blog in 2013.