Friday, December 08, 2006

Proving Our Love

Today's Verse: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

As I walk by the television, there is yet another commercial for outrageously expensive gifts. I don't watch much tv, but over the past few weeks I've seen ads for many presents that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. "Show her your love; buy diamonds." "Doesn't he deserve the best (a car ad)." And many more that show children with more toys than they could possibly play even makes a 'toy angel' with all of them.

Why is it that we give each other gifts on Jesus' birthday? Shouldn't we be giving HIM gifts?

Then it hit me...God gave us the gift of salvation because He loved us. He gave us the moon, the stars, and Heaven to show how much he adored us. And now we make feeble attempts to show others how much we love them by giving gifts.

Over the years the gifts have become more of an obligation than a demonstration of love. We want to give our kids the latest, biggest, and best. Each year is supposed to be a magical, memorable celebration. I wonder if my kids even remember what they received last year? Most of us don't even know why we do's just what you do at this time of year.

I'm thankful that I still have time to rethink this holiday season. We've purchased several gifts, and will continue to do so within the budget we've set, but I want to consciously think of ways to show people love, not just shower them with gifts.

I pray that we all may feel the love of God as we go through this holiday season, and that we can find tangible ways to show that love to others.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Poor Reflections

Verse of the Day - 1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (NIV)

If you were to talk on the phone with a police artist, could you describe yourself well enough that he or she could draw you? No fair looking in a mirror or at a picture of yourself. Quick, think about your face and try to describe it. It's easy to get the main features, eye color, hair color, skin tone, but it's actually pretty difficult to provide specific details beyond that. Most likely we would exaggerate some features (those we especially like or dislike) and ignore others.

Even if you could help the artist create a stunning likeness, it is only the external parts that would be shown, not who you really are. No drawing, not even a photograph, can portray the real you.

One of my favorite exercises in leadership development training is to have each participant introduce himself or herself to another person. The room buzzes with conversations about where people work, what their jobs are, personal hobbies and interests, and family descriptions. Then I ask the participants to describe themselves without talking about job, family, or hobbies. There is usually a dead silence - we don't really know who we are without the trappings of everyday life.

If we don't know ourselves well, how can we possibly understand God and His majesty? So many things happen on earth that we can't comprehend. That doesn't mean they are wrong, it just shows how little we are capable of grasping about the workings of the world. Yet God sees it all. He knows us perfectly, and His plan is brilliant if you know all the details.

When I don't understand why something is happening in my life, I try to remember that I don't even fully know myself (too bad I don't do that before I struggle for days with wonder and worry). It's not my job to understand, just to obey. I'm thankful that our God is all knowing and in control. With the added knowledge that He wins in the end it is easier to accept things that don't make sense to me. I'm really looking forward to seeing the details of His big picture when I get to Heaven!

Monday, November 06, 2006

God is Big Enough for Me

Key Verse: Isaiah 6:1 "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple." (NIV)

How big do you think God is? Yes, one of my favorite children's videos says that He is "bigger than the boogeyman," but I can't begin to comprehend how big He really is.

We have a fabulous new worship center in our church. As I was sitting in the service the other day I read Isaiah 6:1, above. His robe fills the temple. I've seen the pictures of the face of Jesus larger than the Earth, but I guess I never really thought about the size and majesty of Heaven. Think of a royal robe, all red and fuzzy with fur on the edges (well, the first robe that comes to my mind is that purple rug that the Cowardly Lion used in the Land of Oz; the U.S. doesn't have much exposure to regal clothing). It usually trails a few feet behind the royal figure, and he or she gently pushes it aside to sit on the throne.

God is big enough to manage a robe that fills any temple we can possibly build for Him, and then some. Yet he cares enough for me to take care of my daily needs. Thank you, Lord!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Putting the Awe in Autumn

Key Verse - You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

I love living in a place with four distinct seasons. In March I will be the first to tell you that Spring is my favorite season. I practically dance around the yard looking for the first green shoots of daffodils, my favorite 'happy' flower. As the season progresses, my family suffers through daily updates on the latest perennials to pop through the fertile dirt.

But as I age, I have to say that Autumn is becoming my favorite season. Of course, it doesn't look the same in all parts of the country. I am partial to the multiple colors of the Midwest. There are so many shades of green, gold, orange, and red that it is beyond my comprehension. Some gold trees practically glow in the sunshine as they try to outshine their peers. Then there are the sweet gums -- I never realized that orange, pink, and red looked so good together!

We drove down the highway for about 45 minutes the other day, and my nose was practically pressed to the window. Each time we rounded a bend, I had to catch my breath. Every new hill was more colorful than the last. At this time of year I fully understand the concept of being so awed that my heart swells. I can't get enough of the beauty.

While Spring reminds us that life goes on, Autumn seems to be a opportunity for God to show off. Each October the world sings and applauds His glory.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Genesis 22:14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said,"On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided." (NIV)

I finished posting the last message when I heard a car door outside. I looked out, and my very helpful, very strong neighbor was in his front yard. I asked for help, and he came right over. After putting his full weight on the lugwrench and jumping up and down several times, all lug nuts finally broke free (I'm secretly glad it wasn't really easy...I would have felt like a wimp!).

He is a Godly man, and during our conversation he mentioned that "God always sends a ram from the bushes." No matter what our needs are, God will provide. Thank you, Jim, for the reminder and for lending your strength to change the tire. And thank you, God, for providing yet again.

Accepting Weakness

Verse for the day: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV, taken from

Ugh, I hate when I can't handle everything that comes along. All the 'boys' in our house are on a camping trip, and I got a flat tire this morning. No problem; my Dad, in his wisdom, made me learn how to change a tire before I was allowed to drive the car. I was driving my husband's car, so I'd never changed a tire on it before. What could be so hard?

I unloaded the trunk and figured out how to get the spare tire and the jack out (not a very self-explanatory set up). The jack was wedged into place and it took a lot of tugging, but I finally got it. Taking the wheel cover off was another story. The car manual's picture didn't look anything like the actual wheel, and there wasn't a tool in the kit that fit -- it looked like I needed a large allen wrench. There wasn't one in the tire changing kit, and I couldn't find one in our house. I finally got it off using a large screwdriver.

Next I knew I needed to loosen the lug nuts before jacking up the car. Every single one of them must be glued on! I twisted, turned, jumped, kicked, and even hammered at the lug wrench. Not a single nut will budge!

This is so frustrating. I have the knowledge, and I have the basic strength to change a tire, but I am unable to do the job. Why do I hesitate to ask for help? I don't want anyone to think I'm not capable, but what difference does that make anyway?

If it is so hard for me to ask other people for help, I know I am not turning to God for the help He can offer, either. I want to handle everything, but like the lug nuts, my life won't budge without God's strength making the change. Lord, Help me to turn to you for strength. You know what my life needs, and you know how to make the changes. Help me not to be stubborn as you work to make me new. Oh, and send someone strong to help me change the tire!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I need to act my age...

Verse for the Day: Proverbs 16:22 Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools (NIV)

I knew before my feet left the ground that this was a mistake. When will I listen to that voice in my head? My daughter was working hard to improve her cartwheels and round-offs and I was observing and offering advice. I used to do gymnastics a lot -- I joke that I've spent 2 - 3 years of my life upside down. She went inside to wrap her wrist so it would be stronger, and I thought that I'd try a cartwheel and round-off so I could better explain what you do at different points in each stunt.

I walked around to the side of the house so no one would see me; that should have been my first clue that this stunt wouldn't go as planned! I stretched a little and tucked my shirt in (must be modest!), then I started. My hands went down well, and the cartwheel felt comfortable and familiar -- until I was upside down and my arm decided it didn't want to support my weight. Everything moved in slow motion, and my feet landed awkwardly as I crashed on my shoulder.

Of course, the first thing I did was look around to see if anyone saw me! Then I moved everything to be sure I wasn't broken. I got up quickly and went back to the stone wall where I'd been sitting while watching my daughter. She came out and was none the wiser. After several more attempts and definite improvement, we decided she'd had enough and started back into the house. Hmm. Things weren't moving as smoothly as usual. I'd slightly pulled a muscle in my leg and pinched a ligament in my back (as I found out later). So, for now I get to sleep sitting up and I can't stand or sit for more than five minutes without having to move.

When will I admit that I'm getting old? I know you are only as old as you feel, but somewhere common sense needs to kick in. I have given lots of people a good laugh, though, and disappointed many since there isn't a video tape of my folly. Guess I'm back to sitting on the sidelines!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Beating the Beetles

As published on Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today, Sep 29, 2006

Key Verse:Song of Solomon 2:15, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” (NIV)

Monday I stood in awe of God’s majesty. While we were on vacation, He took exquisite care of my little border garden. The roses were thick with fragrance; coneflowers, phlox, and tall spires of purple loosestrife bloomed in colorful profusion. The diversity of His imagination always amazes me. I smiled at the thought of Him designing each flower on the third day of creation. Instead of producing thousands of identical blooms, he created a plethora of color, shape, and fragrance for us to enjoy.
Tuesday, less than 24 hours later, I peeked at the garden for a mid-day smile. My joy turned to ashes. Japanese beetles had infested my loosestrife and roses destroying every bloom! I’m sure my neighbors laughed out loud as I stormed out the back door attacking now bare stems with a tennis racquet while a swarm of disturbed beetles buzzed my head. I called my husband and insisted that he stop at the hardware store on the way home for a trap with torture-like properties.
He of course came through with an effective trap (no torture…) and he put it up immediately. We watched together as confused beetles flew toward its bait while we mourned the loss of the garden’s glory.
This morning I looked out the window amazed. Not only were the beetles gone, gentle purple blossoms had returned to the loosestrife. I was reminded that God’s mercies are new each day. Yesterday’s crisis was visible only when I looked at the bag on the yellow beetle trap that swelled with its catch.
It occurred to me that this situation was a metaphor for our marriage. One day everything looks and feels wonderful. We go out of our way to do special things for each other for the sole purpose of seeing the other one smile. Then the beetles, or as Solomon says ‘the little foxes,’ take over our lives and eat away the joyful moments. The children whine, the dog throws up, the washer breaks, and supper burns. When he gets home, I ‘greet’ my hardworking husband with a scowl and jump right in to tell him how horrible everything is. All he can see is the shadow of the joyful wife he left in the morning.
I hate when I focus on the negatives and forget that I am here to support and provide tangible love to my spouse and family. Thankfully God provides a fresh start each morning. I can ask for forgiveness for yesterday’s failings (from both God and my husband), and I can focus on the blossoms of today’s joy. Yes, things will go wrong, but I can manage my attitude so the day isn’t ruined. I want to shoo away the negative attitudes so that my husband comes home to the peaceful place and loving wife that he deserves.
My Prayer for Today:
Lord, I thank You for Your amazing creation – yes, even the Japanese beetles. Continue to remind me that our troubles are only temporary, and that Your love is eternal. Help me to focus on Your blessings and to keep the world’s little hassles in proper priority. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application Steps:
Today when something goes wrong, look for a blessing. If it is something that you will laugh about in the future, be forward thinking and laugh today. If it’s too hard to smile, at least recognize your efforts to effectively deal with the situation.
Prepare to meet your spouse at the end of the day. Comb your hair; find a reason to smile, and think about the type of greeting you want to give. Don’t talk about anything that went wrong in your day for at least 15 minutes.
Do something special for your spouse today in secret.
Reflection Points:
Would you like to come home to yourself at the end of the day? What can you do to make this stressful time more peaceful for both you and your spouse?
What are the ‘little foxes’ in your marriage? How can you actively work to minimize their impact on your attitude?
What have you done lately to show your husband that you love him?
Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)
Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (NIV)
Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (NIV)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fight for the Promised Land

Bible reading -- Joshua 24 (I won't reprint it all is Joshua's final words to the Israelites that outlines their history from God's perspective. You can read it at )

The Israelites had prayed to God for their release from slavery for over 400 years before He brought Moses into the picture. Then, instead of just granting them freedom, they suffered through several plagues, were chased through the Red Sea by Pharaoh's army, and they wandered in the desert for 40 years (well, most of that time was due to their disobedience, but that's another story). Then, once the Promised Land was in sight, they still had to fight and kill those people who were already living there before they could move in!

I wish God's blessings were more instantaneous and required less effort on our part. However, God does things in His timing, and His ways are not our ways. He knows that treats are sweeter when you've had to work hard to receive them. And there are lots of lessons and growth along the way that allow us to accept the blessings and to appreciate them more.

Many senior citizens tell me that they are able to appreciate their grandchildren much more than they appreciated their children at the same age. My in-laws had a sign in their kitchen for a long time that said "Grandchildren are the reward for not killing your kids!" (They have taken that sign down...I hope they haven't had a change of heart). God has set up this world so we will learn through our trials and triumph with Him in the end. I have to remember that during the rough times (and I have to look forward to those grandkids on some days...)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Like a Kid in a Toy Store

Key Verse -- Psalm 37:3-4 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Yesterday I had the unique experience of taking our boys to ToysRUs to spend some money they had been saving for a while. They've been dying to spend their savings, but I held them off until after their birthday (so they didn't unwittingly buy items they would receive as gifts). It was a great day - the ToysRUs people helped them celebrate by giving them balloons and birthday crowns, and they announced their special day over the intercom. Several people came up and told the boys 'Happy Birthday', and the staff members frequently offered assistance and let the boys show off their selections. It was fun to follow them around the store while they attempted to spend their hard earned $20. They had a blast.

It was fascinating to see that, though they are twins, they have such different approaches to decision making.

Kevin is very decisive. He walked into the store and selected the toys he wanted off the first shelf we saw. As we meandered through the rest of the store, he never changed his mind about his treasures.

Chris, on the other hand, is very methodical in his decision making. He had to see every possible option for spending his money before he could narrow down his choices. Then he went back and forth trying to find the best toy for his money. After about an hour and a half, he made his selection.

Although both decision making techniques have their drawbacks, each boy was very happy with his selection, and they played with their new toys for the rest of the day. Both methods resulted in success.

God puts many options in front of us, and often He's prepared blessings for us regardless of the choice we make. I've agonized in the past over a variety of life changing decisions, and often, while seeking God's guidance, I get a strong answer that the choice is up to me! He is ready to support whichever option I want. Honestly, sometimes I'd prefer a letter in the mail that tells me clearly what to do, but in the long run I much prefer God's plan. He loves us so much that He gives us a whole toy store of great options to choose from!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's In A Name?

Verse for the day - John 1:42b, "Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter)." NIV

Simon's brother, Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. When John saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" Andrew left John's side and he spent the day with Him. One of the first things Andrew did was find his brother and tell him that they had found the Messiah. Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who immediately renamed him 'Peter', meaning the rock.

Simon was a rough and tumble fisherman (and he probably smelled like one, too). He frequently jumped right in and believed he knew the right answers, but he usually ended up with his foot in his mouth. He was impulsive and uneducated. I'm not sure what the name 'Simon' meant, but according to Strong's it is derived from a word that means 'omitted'. I imagine his brother and others who were around Jesus at that time got a good laugh from his new name. It seems like a joke - like calling a very tall man 'Tiny' or a bald man 'Curly.' Peter was as far from being a rock as he could get!

Yet Jesus ignored Simon's immediate character flaws and gave him a name that was consistent with his future. Although he was impetuous before the crucifixion, after the Pentecost he was a new man. On that day he stood and boldly proclaimed the gospel, convincing over 3000 people to turn their lives over to Christ. He went on to become a respected elder and leader of the early church.

Jesus looks at you and me the same way -- not the way we are today, but the way he knows we will be in the future. The plans he has for us may be significantly beyond our comfort zones today, but like Peter, he will prepare us for our new roles.

If Jesus met you face to face today, what new name would he give you?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kicked in the Teeth

Verse for the day:
2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

Our seven-year old twin boys, Kevin and Chris, believe that bedtime is merely a change of environment. They are delighted by this new, softer place where they can wrestle and continue their energetic conversations long into the night. We usually let them go for fifteen to twenty minutes before declaring an end to their fun.

Last night, Kevin charged into the living room about 10 minutes after he’d been put to bed, enthusiastically proclaiming that Chris had made him lose his tooth! As far as I knew, Kevin didn’t have any loose teeth at the moment, so I was a little concerned about how this had happened. It turned out that Chris had kicked Kevin in the mouth during a wrestling session, and both boys were laughing hysterically about it (as only boys can do). After yet another lecture about not hurting each other when they played, Kevin proudly put his tooth in a plastic bag and positioned it under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy. His eyes sparkled at the prospect of a new, shiny quarter in return.

Later I marveled at how Kevin totally ignored the pain of the situation in the excitement of the moment. I often feel like I’ve been kicked in the teeth by the world, and I’ll guarantee that I’m not paying any attention to possible benefits that might be derived from the experience. Car breakdowns, rapidly rising grocery and gas prices, escaping dogs, and activities my kids forgot to tell me about tend to keep me focused on how these things disrupt my life.

Yet God promises us that these troubles, which really are light and momentary, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all! While I may not see the small joys that occur in times of trouble (yes, there are some), I can know without a doubt that Heaven will be a time of eternal worship and joy. These little crises will pass and be forgotten quickly in the frenzy of my life, yet I can always focus on that little piece of Heaven that will be mine some day. I hope I do that with at least the same enthusiasm as Kevin held for the promise of a quarter from the Tooth Fairy.

Next time something happens that makes you feel like someone was out to ruin your day, look for hidden blessings. Could you be thankful that your budget could handle the expense, or that you met someone you would otherwise have never encountered?