Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Outgrowing my ZITS

There was a time when I wondered if it was going to happen, if there would really ever be a space of  time between the application of blemish-drying cream and anti-wrinkle lotion…a time in which I would enjoy the benefits of clear skin at long last. I simply had no choice but to wait my hormones out in anticipation of the day when I finally outgrew my zits.

Only last fall did I literally outgrow another ‘z-It in my life. My weight had ballooned to the point that I had no choice but to do something about it, and it was with real regret that I had to put the bright red box with Cheez-It written across the top aside.

It’s never been the sweet treats that have tempted me (my passion for frosted brownies a notable exception); I’ve always been one to favor the salty snacks. Add a taste of cheese to the mix and I’m done for. Such has been the case with my love for the little baked snack cracker. Normally a fan of cheaper alternatives and store brand substitutes, I’ve found that only the little orange squares made by Sunshine fit the bill. Their product has just the right combination of crispness, salt and cheese to overcome my self-control. I especially like the ones that are a little darker than usual, maybe just a bit burned around the edges. While people everywhere pray about a lot of things, I bet I’m the only shopper who asks the Almighty to direct her hand to the box on the shelf that is most likely to be filled with the same.

Lately I’ve had to ask Him to help keep my hand out of the box, a much more difficult task. You might ask why I didn’t just quit buying them altogether, and there are some things now that are indeed out of my life completely because of my lack of self-control where they were concerned. Instead I’ve learned a lot in the last six months about trade-offs, giving up something here to gain something else I want more down the road. The wisdom I’ve gained on the subject is worth more to me even than the weight I’ve lost.  I’ve learned that counting the cost, be it of calories or countless other temptations, is what keeps me on track for success in the long run. I also had to be accountable somehow, even if only to myself using the app I downloaded on the phone to keep my from cheating with Cheez-Its as well as in every other area of my life.

The appearance of a random blemish the other day reminded me that issues I need to deal with spiritually will likewise continue to pop up and demand corrective attention for as long as I live on this earth. God’s taught me that keeping my hand in His keeps it out of trouble altogether.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel…And being with you, I desire nothing on earth.”
(Psalm 73: 23-25 NIV)

Monday, April 29, 2013

YEARNING For His Return


I know. That’s a ‘B’ word and we‘re on ‘Y‘ today. But it's an Italian word that came to me in the middle of a cold winter in which it aptly described my mood. It means to yearn for the sun.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the “sun” in the definition that attracted me. It was the verb.

I know what yearning looks like. I’ve seen it in the life of my young friend, Heather, whose husband of just two years was recently deployed to Afghanistan. For ten long months she has looked for, longed for, anticipated and imagined his homecoming. She has yearned for his return.

Not that she hasn’t been busy in the interim. Surrounded by a group of extremely supportive friends, she’s occupied her time with the same things that fill most young adults’ days - working, shopping, watching movies, hanging out together in restaurants and various other recreational pursuits. But always somewhere in the back of her mind she’s been dreaming of the day her soldier walks back into her life and her arms. I’ve seen it on her face in slow moments at our grocery store jobs, an unguarded look that shows her mind and heart to be a million miles away…tears on her face over another holiday spent alone…and daydream-y posts on Facebook detailing things they’ll do once he’s back in the States. That moment is never far from her thoughts.

And now that day has arrived. He’s home and she’s happy, not that she’s hugged him yet. His first stop upon his arrival was a 10-day stay at an army base in Texas. But today he’s finally headed for Ohio to be reunited with his waiting wife. We’ve been counting down the days with her at work this last week or so, agonizing with her last night as her final shift before a week’s vacation dragged by every so slowly. Today she’s headed first to the salon to have her hair done, and then she’s off to pick him up. She’s been smiling for 24 hours straight, jumps when you talk to her, and laughs at everything that’s said. I couldn’t be happier for her.

But back to bramasole. I wrote the word and its definition in the Italian Words and Phrases to be Learned section of my journal, and suddenly laughed at the result. I had mistakenly written the word sun as son.

On second thought, I realized it wasn’t an error after all. It simply flowed out of a heart that is likewise looking for the return of a loved One who has been far away for a very long time. In the dark and dreary winter that our world has become, we’re yearning for the return of the Son who is coming for his Bride and will likewise carry her away.

Heather and her bridegroom are headed to the beach for a week. We get to spend eternity with ours. I’m simply counting the days.

“You also be patient, establish your hearts, for the coming of your Lord draws near.”
(James 5:8 MKJV)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Crossing X Off My List

Let me just say that the dictionary wasn’t much help in coming up with a word, a topic, anything to write about for the letter X. Last year I cheated and used a word with that difficult letter in the second spot. On second thought, cheat sounds a little harsh. Let’s say that I made an eXception in a difficult situation. Knowing already that I’m likely to do something similar with the letter Z a few days from now, I wanted to behave today.  That left me with xenophobia,  defined as “a fear or hatred of foreigners.”

With yet another terror attack just days behind us, the word grabbed my attention. I know it to be something to guard against in my own life. While I don‘t fear or hate anybody, there are people who stand out in a crowd to me now solely on the basis of their looks. It bothers me that I notice them. It’s not all foreigners that attract my attention, just those with physical attributes similar to those suspected in recent bombings and blow-ups of one kind or another. Life is surely becoming increasingly difficult for those innocent folk who are “profiled” by people like me.

My own parents were immigrants to a foreign land. Naturalized citizens later in life, they are no different on that account than the man who lies in a hospital bed at the moment, suspected of a role in the Boston Marathon bombings. It’s the actions of the latter that define him, not his looks. I constantly need to remind myself not to judge a human book by its cover, but to look at what his life story itself has to say.

The Bible reminds us that like the Gentiles of old, we believers were once “foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12, emphasis mine). And it was through the actions of one man, Jesus, that we have been welcomed into citizenship in Heaven.

It was also when Abraham welcomed strangers into his tent one day and provided a meal for them that he received the announcement of Sarah’s impending pregnancy - the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise - and in talking to them that he learned of God’s plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. We are reminded later in God’s Book to welcome the aliens among us, because we never know when one might be a messenger from Him.

Far from ignoring people‘s looks, that verse inspires me to take another look at those who come to my attention, and perhaps to listen a little more closely to what they have to say. I simply don’t want to miss any angels God cares to send my way! 

 “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
(Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV)

Friday, April 26, 2013


The Urban Dictionary describes the three-word grouping as “a sentence-enhancing phrase, used to illustrate the epicness of an object/situation/event. Recently popularized and revived by How I Met Your Mother character, Barney Stinson.” If you ever watched the show, you know that most of his ideas were sure to be legen…wait for it…dary.

It’s also a description of how most of us spend many of the moments of our days, seemingly waiting for the consummation of something that has been promised, whether it’s a friend’s arrival at a restaurant, a summons to a doctor’s examination room, …or spiritually speaking, perhaps the fulfillment of a prophecy of some sort. The popularity of the cell phone has eased the tedium of the first two examples somewhat. We willing while away our down time checking face book messages, following recent tweets or sending text messages to friends both near and far away. We read blog posts by authors we follow, check up on the news of the day, or simply see what the weather is going to be like for the rest of the week. Before we’re even ready to put our phones away we’re called back to attention by the arrival of that for which we were standing idly by.

Waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy is usually a  much different matter, requiring more faith and patience than some of the weaker-willed among us possess.  Hebrews Chapter 11 lists faithful believers considered heroes because of the long time they waited to see the things they were promised. The last verse of that chapter says that those listed died without seeing their promises fulfilled except from afar…because God made them wait for us. He wanted us to experience their glorious fulfillment together.

And yet the Amplified version of the Bible says that they received divine approval by the way they kept the faith. Surely there are some guides then in God’s Book on how we are to wait for the fulfillment of one of the greatest promises ever given, that of Christ’s return. We are told to look and long for that day, to expect it’s arrival, and to be eager to be found by Him at His coming without spot or blemish and at peace, living in confidence and free from fears, agitating passions and moral conflicts. It helps us to understand the delay when we consider that God is actually waiting on us…for those among us who have yet to resolve the issue of their salvation to believe on His Son while there is yet time to do so. Surely then we could hasten the day by doing all we can to hurry that process along.

Most of all we have to hold on to our hope for the arrival of that most epic of all events, the eventual and inevitable arrival of which, in Barney’s words and by all Biblical accounts, is sure to be  legen…(and worth the wait for it!)…dary.

“The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what he promises, according to some people’s concepts of slowness, but he is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.”
(2 Peter 3:9 AMP)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

VELCROED Thought Patterns

The invention of Velcro hook and loop fasteners in 1948 was surely the answer to some busy mom’s prayer. Overwhelmed with tasks too numerous to name, she was suddenly freed from the incessant demands of toddler shoe-tying by the eventual application of George de Mestral’s brainchild to children’s shoes. Even the youngest of tykes was suddenly able to keep their footwear tight upon their feet. While some people complained that its use delayed the teaching of an important skill until later in life than was common in previous generations, millions of grateful mothers simply said, “So be it.” and went on about their busy days.

The trouble with Velcro strips is that one side or the other often fastens itself to something it shouldn’t, and they have a tendency to collect stray strings, lint and bits of fluff that are floating previously unseen about our lives, eventually becoming an unsightly mess that loses its original effectiveness and purpose.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that our minds do the same. Out of the multitude of thoughts we process on a daily basis, the negative ones seem to be caught and held more easily than their  positive counterparts. I noticed this especially one evening when events occurred that angered me just before bedtime. Over and over again my mind replayed the incident and the reactions of those involved, keeping me from the rest I so desperately needed. Knowing that I had to prevent the constant rehashing of those events, I repeatedly pulled my concentration off of those negative thoughts like the upper half of a Velcro fastener on a shoe. The problem was that I only completed half of the process. Left open and hanging with nowhere else to go, my thought life simply reattached itself to where it had been before, and went back to dwelling on the disturbing details of the earlier event. It wasn’t until I deliberately refastened my mind to something good that had happened earlier in the day that I was finally able to get some shuteye.

Thankfully God doesn’t ever leave us hanging with nowhere positive to go. Rather He fills our lives with blessings untold, and then gives us the Holy Spirit to remind us of those things when times get tough. We are responsible for selecting which way we’re going to allow our thought life to go. Sometimes it’s necessary to repeat the ripping-loose-and-reattaching process a couple of times before we get it right, but the process is important and becomes easier with practice.

One of the benefits of developing an attitude of gratitude is that you have easy mental access to a list of life experiences that reflect the ever-present goodness of God. He tells us in His Word to think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Surely that is the pathway to peace…and a good night’s sleep!

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”
(Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Joy of an UNSCHEDULED Day

I woke to such a one today, a day that stretches ahead of me, open and available for whatever I choose to fill it with. For a too-brief 24-hour time span there is no clock to punch and nothing impending on the immediate horizon that I need to prepare for.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have more ways to spend it than hours to waste, of course. The never-ending to-do list looms before me, naming chores that need to be done…eventually. And there are certain options that are only available to me today from which I could choose - driving through the local state park to see the redbuds in bloom, lunching on a free pizza that comes to me with the ticket stub to a recent baseball game, and watching my son’s church-league softball team play in the evening hours.

The glorious freedom of choice on such a day is temporal, of course, filling only the first moments of the morning. Surely soon I must make plans or the hours will hurry by and be lost forever from the dwindling supply, the exciting possibilities wasted by my inactivity, unless that, too, is a deliberate choice.

In reality, of course, the day was scheduled long before I was born. God has plans for me, a destiny I’m to fulfill, a purpose I’m to be about. The Bible says He knows exactly how many I have and watches how I spend them, seeing every moment from when I rise through when I lay me down to rest, eternally as well as for a too-brief over-nighter or a quick nap. The wonder of it all is that He lets me choose what to do with them. I get to decide whether they’ll be devoted to Him and His purposes or simply lived to please myself. Either way, He loves me just the same.

And because He demands nothing of me, I choose to give Him the hours available to me as a gift, to live them according to His ways and to seek to fulfill His plans for my days. Perhaps to reflect that I’ve given my own chance to choose away, I’ve purposed to ask my husband at the start of such a day if there’s anything he needs for me to do for him. Sometimes his requests are small and easily accomplished; clean socks in his drawer, an envelope to be put in the mail. On other days he has errands he needs run that he can’t get to in his more scheduled workweek. His gratitude at having those tasks lifted from his shoulders more than makes up for any personal pleasure I pass up to accomplish them.

Don’t get me wrong; many are the days off that are devoted to nothing but pleasing myself, planned ahead of time and greatly anticipated in advance of their arrival . But I’ve learned that the greatest joy of an unscheduled day is sometimes found in simply giving the choice of how to fill it away.

“…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of the came to be.”
(Psalm 139:16 NIV)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

For Love of a Clumsy THUMB

For years it was simply enough for me that the thumb on my right hand assisted the other fingers in their many tasks. Because of its existence I have been able to grasp and maneuver objects in a way that would be all but impossible in it’s absence. Picking up a dropped penny, signing my name, even drawing my violin bow across the strings of the instrument are actions I take for granted without giving my first digit a second thought.

Along came the advent of cell phones, and soon text messaging on the devices became a part of everyday life. Although I came into the activity later than most, I quickly became addicted to the practice, and suddenly my right thumb had a whole new job description added to its resume as it became the digit of choice to communicate my thoughts.

Although eager to please, it has struggled in its new role to some degree. Required to display a dexterity that has never before been demanded of it, it sighs in frustration sometimes at the sight of my sons’ thumbs flying over the miniature keyboards on their phones with an ease and muscle control that it lacks. Instead it stumbles and bumbles along, occasionally overlapping onto the wrong key by accident or hitting the backspace button, the space bar, or the language indicator button, adding to its slow progress with the need to backtrack, correct its mistakes and try again. And yet it plods along, doing the best it can, and hoping that time and experience will give it the skill that it currently lacks.

Similarly, God sometimes asks the members of His Body to take on new roles or job assignments that require an ability they don’t think they possess. I’ve seen the situation illustrated in my own church recently in which our pastor has struggled through an 18-month battle with cancer, the treatment and recovery of which left him unable at times to fulfill his normal duties. As a result, numerous other church members have stepped up and filled in for him in various ways.  Some have preached the Sunday sermons while others have visited the sick in hospitals, counseled the troubled, mentored the new converts…even collected the information for the bulletin and seen to its printing, folding and distribution. Most of them were asked to fill shoes they were unaccustomed to walking in, and for some there was a painful breaking-in period of learning and adjusting and beginning again.

While I rarely express my gratitude to my thumb, I appreciate its willingness to take on this new assignment and its humble attempts to improve and excel despite the difficulties it faces. And when God looks at His Body and sees individual members working together to deliver His message despite the obstacles that stand in their way, His whispered reflection, “I’m all thumbs today!”… are surely words of highest praise.

 “The body is a unit, thought it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV)

Monday, April 22, 2013

SUSPECT in Custody!

Today’s post for the letter “S” was originally supposed to be about the wonders of SPRING SKIING at Lake Tahoe that I experienced nearly four decades ago while a student at the University of California, Davis campus. But recent events forced me to choose a subject that hits much closer to home.

In fact, for most of the day last Friday, most people in the Boston area were locked in their homes while police combed a 20-block area in the suburb of Watertown, looking for the teenage Boston Marathon bombing suspect who was still at large after a gun battle the night before with police that left more carnage behind; his older brother and police officer dead, another wounded.

I, too, was locked in my home that day, but for a much more pleasant reason; a friend was coming to make repairs to a crack in our living room wall. And so I kept the TV on and tuned in to CNN to watch for any developments in the case.

There weren’t many to share. Camera coverage of the search limited so as not to give away important tactical information, the reporters spent the day interviewing relatives and friends of the surviving terror suspect. Every time someone stepped up to a microphone, be it an uncle with an apology on his lips for the shame brought on his family and native country by his nephews’ actions or a police official with an update on the case, the speaker was pelted with questions shouted from the listening crowd, a reflection of what so much of the watching world was feeling. We simply wanted to know why the boys had done such a thing. A desperation for answers likewise triggered the determination of those searching for the boy to capture him alive if there was any possibility of doing so.

Eventually I had to turn off the TV to head to the Reds baseball game in downtown Cincinnati, the tickets a birthday gift from one of my sons to his dad. Caught in rush hour traffic made worse by accidents ahead of us on the freeway, I had ample time to check my phone for any news updates. There were none. It wasn’t until we had finally reached the stadium and were headed to our seats that we heard the news that gunfire had erupted once more near the search area. But although I checked my phone repeatedly through the opening innings of the ballgame, I could learn nothing more.

Suddenly the game was interrupted when the scoreboard went black, bearing a message in white letters that told us the second terror suspect had been captured alive and was in police custody. The crowd broke out in instant jubilation, cheering, clapping and chanting, “U-S-A!  U-S-A!” as an image of the American flag suddenly filled the screen.

There are long days yet ahead of us as prosecutors build a case against the boy and he is eventually brought to justice. But that is a ballgame for another day. While our local club lost that night, the regular Friday Fireworks after the game were yet in celebration of a home team victory for a battle-weary USA.

“The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”
- Boston Police Department

Saturday, April 20, 2013


When my friend Kamala asked me if I could give her and her teenage son, Noah, a ride to the before-church worship practice, I was happy to oblige. The first couple of times I did so I simply skipped my Sunday morning routine of driving through McDonald’s to grab breakfast on the go so that we would arrive at the church on time.

We rarely managed to do so. I would almost always show up at her place later than I anticipated, only to find Noah sitting by the living room window waiting for my arrival, mentally rehearsing the speech he was going to give me on the subject of punctuality. I also severely missed my weekly sausage biscuit and mocha treat; the morning just needed that jumpstart. I wanted it back as a part of my Sabbath experience, but I couldn’t justify an additional stop when I was already running so late. Amazingly, it was the lure of my restored breakfast routine that got me out of bed early enough from that point on to once more make it a part of my day.  And what joy there was when week after week I was able to deny Noah the pleasure of lecturing me!

Eventually Kamala joined an early morning prayer team and got a ride from a partner who was similarly headed that way, but I kept my alarm clock tuned in to the earlier setting, giving myself a few minutes to sit and enjoy my food in the car instead of simply gulping it down and rushing into the building. As I was doing so recently I happened to take a closer look at the bag I’d been handed through the drive-thru window. On the side I read the phrase “Refuel and refresh”, and I smiled to think how perfectly they described my Sunday mornings in general and the correlation between my breakfast habit and worship experience.

Only on that that one day of the week do I allow my taste buds the treat described above. Caloric expenditure aside, my weekly work schedule is also such that I usually eat breakfast at home before heading into town at a later hour of the day.  My weekly stop at McDonald’s is a way of setting Sundays apart from the other days that end in “y”, and the emotional uplift of my morning routine sets the tone for the hours that follow.

Attending the Sunday morning church service is another practice I’m devoted to. The encouragement and love found in fellowship with other believers as well as the guidelines for successful living that come in the pastor’s sermon are treats that don’t come on every day of the week, and I’ve learned to take advantage of this opportunity to refuel and refresh myself spiritually as well as physically.

And yet it’s not just something I do for myself alone, as my food stop is. I come in to receive that which I will later give away to those who live life alongside of me and might need a bite of spiritual sustenance along the way. I want to be able to hand them what they are hungry for as freely as I receive the goodness of God that makes every morning the start of a very special day.

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
(Isaiah 58:13-14 NKJV)


Friday, April 19, 2013


One of the joys of my job as a grocery store cashier is the chance to chat with my customers all day long. Encouraged by store management to engage our customers in conversation, the point is to make their shopping experience more enjoyable; to establish a personal connection with people that brings them back. A people person at heart, I absolutely love this aspect of my employment, and resist job opportunities that would take me away from that customer contact on the front end of the grocery store.

That being said, after a few hundred individual customer conversations throughout the course of the day, when my shift is over, I am done. My needs at that point can be summarized in one two-word sentence: Quiet, please.

It’s caused a few problems for me lately, because my people contact doesn’t end when I clock out of my shift and then walk out the grocery store doors. Most evenings I have church-related gatherings to attend, either a mid-week service, a home Bible-study group meeting, or a training class of one type or another. While I enjoy them all, my ability to sit and listen to people talk, even after a break for a quick meal and a cup of coffee, is very limited. I After about 90 minutes at the most I simply have to get up and leave the continuing conversation and head for home.

People would probably understand my preference for limited communication at library-level volume if I took the time to explain it to them, and to the ones who have asked, I have done so. But the majority just look at me with raised eyebrows and questioning glances when I rise and run, surely thinking that I have a limited supply of patience, passion, or hunger for more of God. It’s even become a joke between a couple of us; when my ninety-minute deadline approaches, one friend in particular looks at first his watch and then at me, laughter on his lips as he whispers to me that surely it is time for me to go! While  I struggle sometimes with arriving places on time, when it comes to the moment of departure, I’m rarely late!

Thankfully, God understands. I love the fact that He speaks to me in a still, small voice, often using visual clues that speak soundlessly to a connection we have about a topic. His ability to communicate in ways other than verbally is one of the attractions of our continued relationship; it excites me to see how He’s going to deliver a message to me each day and entices me to come back repeatedly for more. With all of creation at His beck and call to do His talking for Him, He uses it in ways that astound and amaze me.

It seems that my quest for quiet ends each day with the setting of the sun. I rise the next morning, ready and eager to relate to people again, especially God’s Son!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
(Psalm 19:1-2,4) NIV)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The process of electing a new pope has always fascinated me. Part of it is surely the rarity of papal elections; only seven popes have served in my lifetime, two of them before I was even old enough to be aware of their existence. A papal conclave is an event that attracts the attention and interest of people regardless of their religious beliefs. Raised a Catholic although I now attend a Pentecostal church, perhaps it was my personal spiritual history that kept me watching the coverage of the most recent gathering of cardinals; regardless, I kept up with the details broadcast on TV as best I could.

I love the ceremony of the event, the traditions that are honored, and the rules and guidelines that have to be followed in this process that has stretched back through the ages. As the time drew near for another in a string of ballot counts, one television reporter confessed that he could barely pull his eyes away from the smokestack to do his job, a perfect expression of the underlying excitement that many of us felt as we went about our daily activities while yet trying to stay connected with what was going on in Rome.

Perhaps I like the process because it’s a picture of how many of us live our lives; going about our daily duties while keeping an eye on the sky for smoke signals from God to give us the direction and guidance we seek. Sometimes our answers are not as quick in coming as we would like. I read in the coverage of the most recent conclave that a similar one in the past lasted as long as 33 months, until the residents of the town tore off the roof of the building in which the cardinals were meeting and restricted their meals to bread and water to hurry them along.

I’m reminded of four men who were so desperate to get an answer to their friend’s medical condition that they likewise broke through the roof of the home in which Jesus was teaching to lay him at the Master’s feet. And surely He Himself told us that some answers come only through prayer and fasting.

Similarly, after Jesus had ascended into Heaven, the disciples met to select one from their number to replace Judas, who had died. Two names came up for a vote, and his successor was eventually added to their number. Our local newspaper likewise printed the pictures and biographies of several likely papal candidates; the one that caught my eye was described as “relentlessly joyful”, a wonderful quality in any person, let alone a pope! But I think it’s the process of turning to God for our answers that brings joy to His heart and results that are certainly worthy of joyful celebration when the (white!) smoke has cleared and we move on down the road.

“And they prayed and said, You, Lord, Who know all hearts (their thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, and endeavors), indicate to us which one of these two You have chosen” 
(Acts 1:24 AMP)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I stood at the bakery counter and considered my options. Cupcakes, cookies, and éclairs stuffed with luscious crème filling all paraded their wares before me, but it was the fudge-covered brownies calling my name that I eventually responded to. Decorated with red and white frosting stripes and a baseball pick set in the middle of each, they were as cute to look at as surely delightful to eat. Into the carton they went, and I drove home thinking about the joy they would add to my husband’s celebration of the start of baseball season. 

In a conversation with a customer the next day I mentioned that Opening Day was my husband’s second favorite day of the year, naturally leading him to then ask which was his first. A passion for fireworks made the Fourth of July his obvious choice, I explained.

“Oh,” he said. “I would have thought it was the anniversary of the day he was married to you!”

His answer made me laugh and I promised to go home and have a talk with the guy who was now in serious trouble, having put both baseball and pyrotechnics ahead of the wife who was supposed to be the love of his life!

My husband’s joy over the start of this new season is contagious. Long months of waiting and anticipation precede it, but when Opening Day finally arrives he relishes every moment of it, usually taking the day off from work so he can watch everything from the first pitch in our local team’s game to the last out in the third or fourth game that’s broadcast on the tube. He simply has a party in his heart from morning til midnight on that all-important beginning of baseball season.

My customer’s comment above reminded me of Opening Day of my marriage, and I smiled to think of how similar it was to that of my husband’s beloved sport. There were long months of planning and preparation ahead of time, but when the time finally came we savored every detail of the day itself, from the first kiss through the celebratory dinner afterwards. And then we set off on our honeymoon with laughter on our lips and love in our hearts for one another.

Similarly there was an Opening Day in my relationship with God. I was simply caught up in my husband’s excitement over the joy he was experiencing in his spiritual life, and after months of listening and asking questions, my own spiritual experiences up to that point culminated in my opening my heart and officially asking Him to walk right in. What cause for celebration there was in that moment!  The joy and peace of the moment were paraded in the smile on my face as I likewise began a new season, the joy of which begins anew every morning, and which thankfully never comes to an end.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Need for a NAP

Friends tend to tease me about my passion for daytime dozing, but the benefits I’ve received from the practice are more than worth the risk of ridicule. To some it seems an age-related habit, and they laugh to think that I can’t make it through the day without a break in the middle of it for some snoozing. The truth is that with a couple of extra cups of coffee I can bypass the nap, but both my relationships with people around me and my afternoon productivity have a tendency to suffer if I do. Work schedule permitting, now a daily doze is simply a scheduled activity in my day.

The nap necessity struck once I went back to work part-time and took a late night shift at the local grocery store, hours after dinner was done and family members were all busy in their evening pursuits before bedtime. Allowing for the drive home and some time to unwind, I was rarely in bed until the wee hours of the morning. The next day began a mere four hours later, however, when my husband and kids rose early the next morning and we were all on the run once more. Taking a break in the middle of the day was the only way I could make it through.

Now that my work schedule is more normal, I find that I don’t need an extended period of sleep. A ten-minute power nap seems to satisfy the need as effectively as the longer versions of the same I allow myself when my schedule permits it, a fact which seems to indicate that my craving for shuteye is now as much psychological as well as physical. The days that are heavily scheduled from early morning til midnight are a mental burden beyond bearing as well as a physically exhausting one. Knowing I have a break to look forward to helps me handle the pressure without blowing my top.

Amazingly it’s on the traditional day of rest on which I get the least sleep. Grateful that my boss grants me the privilege of attending church with a later work schedule on Sundays, I owe it to her to bring a smiling face to my job instead of a grumpier version of the employee she hired. To that end I pack a pillow and blanket along with my purse as I leave the house in the morning, and spend some quality time with the back seat of my car in the parking lot before walking in the workplace door.

God understands our need for rest. Jesus repeatedly tried to remove His disciples from the ever-present pressure of the crowds surrounding them for moments of relief and recuperation. He’ll give us the same if we simply ask him. One of my favorite Bible verses promises that God gives sleep to those he loves, and every nap I’m allowed to take is simply evidence that I’m high on His list!

“It is useless to get up early and stay up late in order to earn a living. God takes care of his own, even while they sleep.”
(Psalm 127:2 CEV)

Monday, April 15, 2013


A late-night discussion with my husband about an earlier-in-the-evening church board meeting revealed that we both had walked away from the gathering with the same impression, that being that our pastor hadn’t seemed as patient as usual with the people around him. Still recovering from an 18-month battle with cancer, his personal near-death experience has made him keenly aware of his own mortality and convinced him that time is running out; for us as individuals, as well as for humanity as a whole. He seemed to be on a mission to get things done.

“I think he realizes he doesn’t have time to mollycoddle us anymore,” I said to my spouse.

What did you say?” he responded, and suddenly we both broke out in laughter over the strange word that had popped into my brain and come bursting out of my mouth. Maybe God knew there was a vacancy in my list of letters for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in the space for “M”, and so he provided a suggestion for filling it. We thus ended our serious bedtime chat with laughter on our lips, a simply wonderful way to fall asleep.

I awoke the next morning with a smile on my face and that strange word still mulling around in my mind, so I went to see what the dictionary had to say about it. I found that the verb form of the word comes from the original noun of the same spelling, which means a man or boy who is coddled or pampered; a milksop. Delighted to find another great “M” word, I looked that one up, too, and found it to be a weak, ineffectual person.

But while the words in combination form a great title for my Challenge post, they don’t reflect well on a group of believers who are trying to make a positive difference in the lives of the people among which they live. Surely they don’t describe the Leader they are trying to emulate. Jesus was considered weak and ineffectual by some who point to His humble nature, His willingness to serve, refusal to defend Himself when wrongly accused and attacked, and seeming inability to save Himself from His own death on the cross. Yet those who were closest to Him came to realize that those attributes reflected His true strength. He had such a powerful understanding of Who he was in God and His purpose in being here that He didn’t bother Himself with others' opinions of His character or how His actions might appear to a watching world. He was frustrated by followers who bickered amongst themselves about status and position while failing to look beyond the day-to-day necessities and grab hold of a greater vision.

My pastor likewise has a new awareness that our time on earth is short. He has the similar task of molding a group of ordinary people into a band of believers that will positively impact the people around them. While still loving, kind, and fun to be around, he yet knows that he has to be about his Father’s business, all the time, everywhere he goes.

He simply expects us to be the same.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
(1 Peter 2:9 AMP)

Saturday, April 13, 2013


The title above is strangely appropriate to the forum in which this post finds itself, stuck right in the middle of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in which we bloggers post daily on our pages on a subject beginning with successive letters of the alphabet; a letter a day, except for Sunday, the day of most-welcome rest. Equally surprising is the fact that it was this challenge which led me to another that has similarly intrigued me, that of writing a snail mail letter a day.

 Jenny is a fellow A-to-Z-er whose The Modest Peacock blog (www.themodestpeacock.blogspot.com) celebrates handwritten missives in a big way. Her site led me to the story of Randy Osborne (www.randyosborne.com), who has taken on the daunting task of writing a letter a day in the year 2013 to anybody who wants one. Should I survive this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’ve mentally signed on to undertaking the A Month of Letters challenge in February of next year, writing letters that stamps are affixed to instead of posted on a webpage.

I am a huge fan of snail mail. Long before I owned a computer I wrote personal letters in abundance, usually to family and friends, but occasionally to church members who needed encouragement, authors I admired, or anyone else who caught my interest for a brief moment of time and had an address I could write on an envelope. As life got busier and the electronic world made communication easier I largely gave up the practice, as it simply took up too much time.

Perhaps it was when my sons moved away from home that my interest in the subject returned. I simply missed chatting with them, and doing so by mail allowed me to satisfy that urge in greater volume than I can text with my thumbs, one-sided conversations they could read and respond to whenever they had the time.

I come by the letter-writing bug honestly, as both my parents took pen in hand on a regular basis. My mother largely communicated with people at Christmas, handwriting long letters in the cards she sent to distant friends. My dad, however, wrote weekly letters to his children who had moved away from home. Just the sight of his familiar handwriting in my mailbox was as comforting as the words I read inside that detailed his day-to-day life or his thoughts on some subject I’d mentioned to him recently. Upon his death years ago I gathered up those treasures of his that I still had on hand and put them into a notebook. How wonderful it was when my now-grown youngest son started asking questions about the grandfather he never knew that I could pull out that volume and share written insights with him into the mind and heart of this wonderful man. He told me later that the letters my dad had written me were evidence of  how much he loved me.

We each have such a volume of letters filled with wisdom and instruction from a Father who loves us, penned in the pages of our Bibles. If we would only realize it as such we would look at it differently, open its pages as eagerly in the mornings as we rip open an envelope we find addressed to us in our mailbox and read what’s inside…simply a letter a day.

“For the Father Himself [tenderly] loves you…”
(John 16:27 AMP)

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Delight of a KITE

Nothing says “springtime” like a kite-shaped frosted brownie with the first cup of coffee in the morning! At the end of a long winter, the sight of a kite, even in brownie form, invokes thoughts of warm and breezy days on newly greened grass, celebrating the end of winter captivity with a little fun in the sun!

Kite-flying in suburbia seems to be a lost art these days. Rarely do I spot one in the sky as I used to do when I was young, following the string down with my eyes till I found the owner on the ground, enjoying the fun. It could be the congested way in which we live that’s caused the change, with few open spaces in which to run, free from treetops and telephone wires that want to grab and tangle the string or tail. Perhaps that’s why people have taken to sandy beaches on ocean shorelines as the optimal place to launch their air-borne treasures, where rarely is there a shortage of wind to take them up nor onlookers to applaud their efforts.

The beach in Lincoln City along the Oregon Coast is one of our favorite family vacation destinations, and there is simply nothing like looking up and down the sandy shore and seeing the myriad of multi-colored kites sin all shapes and sizes staked in the ground on a windy day or held in the hands of a family at play. The sight is as necessary to my beach experience now as the waves, seagulls, and sand.

While not generally a big fan of wind. I appreciate that it cleans the air of lingering pollutants and am always grateful for a gentle breeze on a hot day. But a roaring gale that blows away hairstyles, flaps anything not tied down and snaps tree limbs is something I could simply do without. And yet it‘s the wind I grow weary of that carries the kites I so enjoy to new heights in the sky. In it’s absence they simply tumble to the ground, often broken or damaged by the force with which they hit.

Similarly it‘s the adversities I face in life, the troubles or problems that threaten to rip loose my grip on it or cause it to spin crazily out of control that work positive change in me. How I deal with difficulties determines if I’ll fall and have to face them all over again or stand in silent satisfaction as I learn to use them to hold my dreams aloft.

 “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint…”
(Romans 5:4-5 NIV)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jimbo and Kari JOBE

Birthday lists are life-savers for those of us who are not good at coming up with gift ideas on our own. I’m not a creative gift-giver, and my husband, Jim, is not the most gracious gift receiver of items he doesn’t really want. The combination has made for some disappointing celebratory occasions around the home place. The best successes I’ve had on those days have been when he’s given me a list of things he’d like me to choose from.

Online wish lists have made Christmas and birthday shopping for family members a breeze in recent years, whether created on ordering sites like Amazon or just composed and shared in a Facebook message with a select group of recipients. It was just such a message I was operating from when I saw that he wanted to go to the Chris Tomlin Burning Lights Tour concert in northern Kentucky tonight.

Excited beyond belief that he picked an event I wanted to attend as well, I eagerly bought the tickets. Chris Tomlin has long been at the top of my list of favorite Christian artists. But for Jim the highlight of the evening will be hearing singer and songwriter Kari Jobe, who will be appearing onstage along with the headliner of the event.

Her music has revolutionized our worship experiences ever since we first heard her name. There is a purity of heart that comes through in her voice that draws the listener in to an intimate expression of love for God of their own. On occasion I’ve gotten so lost in her singing while walking on the treadmill that I’ve very nearly fallen off the equipment as a result! Thankfully tonight I will be safely seated and can zone out to my heart’s content.

Making the evening even more special is the fact that the oldest of my three sons will be attending the concert with us. Any chance to visit with him now that he’s moved into a home of his own is a cause for celebration, and his presence tonight will add to the fun of the evening.

I should have known without checking a list that a night in the presence of God and His Son would be a gift guaranteed to surprise and delight.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
(James 1:17 NIV)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I simply love Inauguration Day.

All my gripes about the preceding months and even years of pre-election propaganda, from the endless debates on TV to the political arguments at the proverbial workplace water cooler, to the phone calls, mailbox ads and road signs, even the feuds on Facebook that promote one candidate over another are forgiven and forgotten, not on Election Day itself, but on the day the president is sworn into office. No matter whether I voted for the incoming Chief or not, I love every bit of the pomp and circumstance surrounding his swearing in.

A people-watcher of long standing, I am grateful for the television coverage and eagerly eat up the details of dress and style as the First Family emerges from their home and heads off to the morning prayer service at the church. A tea at the White House this year was simply a lovely touch. Then it was off to Capitol Hill to prepare for the Inauguration itself.

The excitement builds as the camera pans the thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder in the National Mall, simply to be a part of the event despite the cold of the mid-winter day. Television commentators point out past presidents and dignitaries of one type or another seated behind the podium, and in the closing minutes of the morning, the leaders of Congress, the First Lady and vice-President and his wife are announced and seated, leading up to entrance of the President himself.

My work schedule this year caused me to miss the details of the ceremony itself, nor was I able to listen in on the details of the lunch that followed or participate visually in the afternoon parade. But I was home again in time to catch the coverage of the First Couple’s entrance at the nighttime balls, the long-awaited glimpse of the First Lady’s dress, and the designer’s delight at his new-found fame.

Perhaps the list of events on Inauguration Day is us a guide on how we should schedule our own - to start our days in God’s Presence, and remember that each morning we are granted authority over our individual kingdoms and invested with power. The remaining hours should simply be a celebration of who we are in Him. When you live like that you can’t help but dance at the end of the day.

“For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”
(Romans 5:17 AMP, emphasis mine)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

He Ain't Nothin' But a HOUND Dog

He may be nothing but a hound dog, barking all the time. And if he’s never caught a rabbit, he’s surely caught plenty of mice, come close to a lot of squirrels, and has cornered more raccoons, possums and cats in our fenced back yard than I care to count.

Like so many boys have done before him, there came a day when my middle son, Mark, asked if he could bring a puppy home. A friend’s dog had given birth to beagle pups and she was looking to place them. Although we already had a household of dog and cat inhabitants, we told him that if he paid all the pet‘s expenses, he could take one. And so the friendship between Mark and Clayton began.

Quickly the two became the best of buddies. Whenever Mark was home they could be found cuddled on the living room couch watching SportsCenter together on TV. Apparently Mark had picked a puppy that loved sports of all kinds as much as he did…or perhaps Clayton quickly learned that the way to this boy’s heart was through the TV remote, and so he became a fan on the spot.

Through the years they have shared a lot more than just their spot on the sofa. Microwaved meals, romps around the living room, movie nights and video game marathons with visiting friends, as well as trips to the local state park to swim in the lake have filled their stomachs and their days…and also their hearts with love for one another.

But men of Mark’s age rarely stay home for long. His life in recent years has been filled with transitions to first college and then jobs in different states, interspersed with periods of living at home for varied lengths of time. Clayton has handled the separations with amazing grace, hanging with his canine buddy in his homosapien’s absence, and rarely leaving Mark’s side whenever he happens to walk through the door once more.

Because pictures are the best way to hold memories of loved ones near, I have tried to capture his dog in funny or heartwarming poses to include in my letters to my son, but Clayton is as uncooperative as they come. Apparently traumatized early on in life by a camera’s flash, he now runs for the door the minute so much as a cell phone is pointed in his direction. Even the recent singing of the Happy Birthday song at a celebration for a family member had him running for the basement, as he seemed to know that a photo session was sure to follow.

That’s why the picture above of these two guys I love makes me smile so, and why it graces the side of my fridge, to keep those smiles coming in Mark’s absence. He had just walked in the door on a recent visit, and while Clayton was distracted with the welcome-home love fest, Mark quickly pulled out his phone and aimed, the unvoiced “Gotcha!” expressed in the quick click of the camera.

The message from his heart was clear: You may be nothing but a hound dog…but you’re a very good friend of mine.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed.
- Carl Jung

Monday, April 8, 2013


The first time I saw him walking through the grocery store in which I work, I recognized him immediately from the pictures I saw posted next to his stories or weekly football picks in the sports section of our local newspaper. A sports journalist and eventual editor of a small town press, my only introduction to Pete Conrad came through the pages of the papers that published his work, so I never spoke to him, even though his profession intrigued me.

That changed the day he wrote a story about the death of a local sports figure that moved me to tears, not because of my devotion to the person who had passed but because he told the man’s story in a way that touched my heart. A big bear of a man physically, his real power was exhibited in the way he arranged words on a page, a craft that to that point I had simply admired from afar. But the next time he happened to come through my line to pay for his purchases I took courage in hand and told him how moved I was by that particular piece he wrote. He accepted my praise as unassumingly as he lived his life, simply thanking me for telling him so. And thus our friendship was born.

I talked to him often after that, especially when he became a father late in life and was seen pushing a shopping cart or stroller with his babies inside. His love for his daughters evident in the way he spoke of their most recent accomplishments, as they grew before my eyes I noticed that they had inherited the gentle spirit that emanated from their dad.

Surprisingly it was the sight of his picture in the paper once more, this time on the front page rather than hidden in the sports section somewhere, that notified me of his death. A victim of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder that affects the muscles and nervous system, causing paralysis and in this case, death, he died with his spirit apparently undaunted by his disease, ever planning to recover and resume the life he loved that his illness had interrupted. The people who spoke about him mentioned that while never angry himself, he had a special ability to turn the frustration of others into a surprisingly friendly accord.

It was not the name of the man who had passed that I remember from the story that initially caught my attention, nor the details of the life he lived, but rather the glimpse into the heart of the one who wrote about him so movingly. Perhaps Pete's greatest byline came not from well-crafted words so much as living his life in such a way that it left its mark on all those he left behind.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath…”
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Savor the FLAVOR

Calorie counting opened my eyes to a lot more than just the sheer volume of food I was consuming each day. It gave me a new appreciation for the little things in life that are so often overlooked in the rush of each day and the constant pressure to get things done.

A friend’s comment about a diet tracking app she was using stirred my interest at a time when my ever-increasing weight was becoming a concern.  Once downloaded on my phone it made the job of recording the calories in the food I ate easy and even somewhat fun, and by the time the novelty wore off, the weight loss I was experiencing convinced me to continue, so excited and encouraged was I with the initial success. Four months farther down the road I had reached my weight goal as well as the conclusion that I would be a calorie counter forever!

One thing I loved about this method of dieting was that I was still allowed to eat whatever I wanted, just not all on the same day! Based on personal data I entered initially, the program determined how many calories I should consume each day to lose weight at the pace I desired; the allotment of those calories was up to me. I loved the freedom of choice involved, and the feeling that I was the one in control.

The initial allotment was alarmingly small, however, and portion sizes were so greatly reduced from what I was used to that in order to make the mealtime last long enough to satisfy me emotionally, I ate what was before me in ridiculously small bites. And perhaps because I was eating so much less, I appreciated every morsel more; everything I ate seemed to be packed with flavor that I had never noticed before. Dining became more of a delight than ever before.

The process applies to the way we live life, as well. We are each given the same number of minutes per day, and how we spend them is up to us. We are in control. The problem is that we don’t know how many days we have; all we know is that we have less of them today than we did a day ago.  And so it’s good when something stops us from rushing through the moments that fill them and reminds us to slice them up into tiny bites of joy that we savor for as long as we can before swallowing and moving on to the next one. Like small bites of food, little moments of time and the tiniest indications of God’s presence all make a huge difference in the enjoyment I find in each day.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…”
(Psalms 34:8 NIV)

Friday, April 5, 2013

EMPTY on Easter

When the word “empty” is associated with Easter, we naturally think of the tomb. But the vacancy I struggled with this holiday just past was in my home. This spring marked the first year that all three of my sons were living out on their own, and it was pretty quiet around the place last Sunday as a result.

To be honest, there was a bit of relief to be free from the stress of years past. With little family around in town to cook for, we made plans to meet the son who lived closest at a nearby restaurant. Thus there was no humongous dinner to prepare, no fighting the crowds and long lines in the grocery store, no rising extra early to get the meal partially prepared before the church service. The leisure on early Sunday morning was something I had never experienced on previous Easters, and part of me had to admit it was nice.

But, oh, the fun of years past! Everything seemed to trigger a memory. A photo of multi-colored plastic eggshells waiting to be stuffed with treats and then hidden about the house or yard made me remember the years when that was an early morning task. The sight of a toddler at church tugging on the tie at his neckline made me smile at the thought of how I learned to take a photo first thing before my own three sons dismantled the Easter outfits I had so carefully dressed them in just minutes before.

The Easter baskets were the one tradition that seemed to follow my boys as they grew through adolescence into adulthood. As long as they lived at home, they always woke to one on Easter morning. But what to do about them now? Should I mail one to each of my kids, or would they think that was that just another apron string I needed to cut? Would their roommates laugh at them as a result? Initially I thought so, and resolutely ignored the hollow chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and marshmallow animals that peeped at me from every grocery shelf I seemed to walk by. But the farther we progressed through Holy Week , the more I agonized over the question until I finally put it to my husband as to whether he thought I should send Easter candy greetings in the mail. His quick response in the affirmative made me realize it wasn’t the boys’ basket status he was worried about, so much as his own. If theirs were history, his likely was, too!

And so I did find myself pushing my way through the Easter aisles of the grocery store after all, joyfully joining the crowds grabbing candy of all makes and kinds before the traditional favorites were all gone, then packing and mailing them away so that they’d arrive at least close to the desired day. I smiled when my husband came poking around the kitchen early Easter morning to see if the Easter bunny had come through as in years past. And after sneaking a basket hidden in grocery bags to the one son we joined for lunch that day, I sighed in relief when his roommate expressed disgust over the absence of any edible celebrations of the day from his own folks! Enthusiastic text messages from the boys who received post office packages later confirmed that the right choice was made; traditions were honored and this mother’s heart was satisfied.

The empty tomb is a reminder of the days of sorrow that were replaced with overwhelming joy farther on down the road.. An empty house on Easter simply reminds me to expect the same.

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…”
(Song of Songs 2:11-12 NIV)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dare to DREAM Again

When I think of dreams for the future, I picture them as clouds of white in a spacious sky, the possibilities before me as wide and open as the boundless blue in which they float. Just as clouds are continually forming, changing, and merging, so my hopes and aspirations for the future have as well as I’ve moved through my years.

When I was young, I used to fill the future with dreams as surely all kids do. By the time I got to college, my imaginations, hopes and plans had narrowed in scope until they could be pictured in a magazine photo that I kept taped above my dorm room desk to maintain my focus during those often distracting times. Meeting the man I was to eventually marry caused them to change in scope and direction again. And then came the kids!!! In the ensuing years of diapers and dishes, school and soccer, cars and jobs, any plans beyond making it through the next day, week or year gradually evaporated like the morning mist, unnoticed and unmissed once they were gone. I was simply happy in my life the way it was.

The lack became apparent to me during multiple church services in which I was encouraged to share my dreams with God. I suddenly realized I hadn’t any! Perhaps I had become so focused on the present that I had shut down my ability to ponder the future and fill it with ideas of what it might contain.

I had also changed radically in the years that had passed, a commitment to Christ gradually focusing my thoughts and desires on God and who He knew me to be. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that God has good plans for our lives, a future filled with hope and prosperity, a destiny and purpose decided before while we were yet in our mothers’ wombs. And yet my spiritual vision has still been limited in scope.

And so He has encouraged me to allow Him to fill the vacuum in that area with possibilities that are present within my relationship with Him. When I heard the phrase “dream journal” in twice in the last couple of days, the repetition caught my attention, and the journaling idea caught my interest. I’m a huge fan of detailing what God’s doing in my life in a prayer journal I use on a daily basis. Reminding me that He is as present in my future as He is in my day-to-day, He suggested that I let Him fill my thoughts and the pages of that book with what that future might contain.

I now scan the spiritual horizon for signs of rain, as did Elijah’s servant physically at his command on Mt. Carmel so long ago. For the longest time the servant saw nothing but empty blue skies. Encouraged to keep looking, he eventually saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand off in the distance. Soon the sky filled with the same and the promised rain came pouring down.

I’m simply believing the same can happen again to me.

“For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.”
(Luke 1:37 AMP)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


When two friends mentioned in a short span of time that they had begun taking communion before God by themselves each morning as part of their personal devotional times, I began to wonder what a difference the practice could make in my own spiritual life. I decided to devote a month to giving it a try.

It was easy enough to do. A single red grape in place of the wine and a tiny oyster cracker for the bread began to take their place beside whatever morning munchie I had placed on the napkin beside my coffee. I began by simply thanking God for the blessings of the day before. Then I’d review my actions of the previous twenty-four hours, examining myself before taking the bread or drinking the cup as the Bible instructs. Once the missteps were repented of and forgiveness received, I focused on the meaning of the emblems before me, the actions they symbolized, and the freedoms they purchased for me…as well as what they mean to my life today.

The difficult word in that sentence is focused. Too often I simply am not, and perhaps that was the point of this whole month-long exercise - to point out to me that my inattention to what I am doing deprives my actions of the power they might otherwise contain and keeps me from being as effective as I could be in whatever I undertake, whether that be the household chores on my ever-present to-do list, the demands of my job, or in developing the relationships with people around me.

One morning in particular I began my devotional time with a million other things on my mind. Sitting down at the table, I forgot to first check those thoughts at the kitchen door, and was soon munching down the communion emblems as causally as I normally do the Girl Scout Thin Mints they shared the napkin with!

Checked in my spirit, I got another set of emblems and began again. I remained attentive while eating the bread, but my mind was already wandering again by the time I got to the grape!

Stop! Backup! Refocus. Begin again. These are the words that are currently making a difference, not just in my devotional times, but in all that I do.

Twice recently I’ve heard people speak of the ability to “live in the moment”, being fully involved in whatever activity they are currently undertaking. Too easily do I pass through my life only vaguely aware at times of what is going on around me, so distracted am I by thoughts on what I need to do next or what activity is just around the corner, waiting for my input. The increasingly hectic lifestyles we live today feed into our distraction and actually rob our lives of the intensity each moment should contain. Yet we’re not here to live a purposeless existence. We each have a destiny to fulfill, a reason we’re here. If our communion is casual with Him, it’s likely to be that way with everybody else…and God knows there is simply too much at stake in the short time we have left to live any way except fully involved in however moments and interactions with His people we may have left.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 MKJV)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Elusive Easter BUNNY

I very nearly killed the Easter Bunny.

Following a detour off the main highway that took me along a dark and deserted road on my way home from work, we met when he hopped onto the roadway in front of me, his mind clearly preoccupied with the business of hiding Easter eggs in the rural neighborhood I was passing through. Thankfully he lifted his eyes in time to see the headlights rapidly approaching him and bounded away in the nick of time. The children scouring the yards in that area on the following Sunday morning would find their bunny bounty after all.

I smiled in relief that he had escaped the crush of my oncoming wheels when a friend and coworker told me the next morning that her little sister was determined to catch him in a trap in her backyard. Using an old cage from her sister’s days raising rabbits in 4-H, the little girl baited her trap nightly… with jelly beans, of course!…surely the Easter Bunny’s food item of choice. Every morning of the week before the holiday the little girl had gone out to check for success before catching the bus for school, only to go to bed with hope in her heart once more that night.

Her big sister couldn’t bear her daily disappointment and so, with her mother’s permission,  planned to visit a local farm market for a long-eared fuzzy version of the same to put in the trap early Easter morning. The thought of her surprise and excitement delighted us as we discussed the joy of her sister’s discovery days ahead of the fact.

I remember trying to catch an Easter feeling years ago that seemed to be as elusive as that holiday rabbit. For some, Easter is simply about bunnies and baskets, pretty dresses and big dinners with family and friends. But having been raised in church, I knew there was more to the day than that. For me the holiday was about an empty tomb, a risen Savior, and a heavenly hope restored. Each year during Holy Week I would focus on the events leading up to the Cross and hope that by Easter morning I would find the spiritual joy I was increasingly desperately looking for.

Thankfully there was an amazing moment of discovery during the intervening years in which I learned that the peace I was seeking was not a feeling I had to conjure up, but rather existed in the form of the Savior Himself. While I was right to seek Him, He came in response to the invitation in my heart, rather than the baited promises I put out in the hopes of luring Him in. Once inside He simply remained, changing everything about me and making every day a joyous celebration of His presence within me.

Perhaps that was why an elderly lady’s comment this past week caught my attention. She said that for her, Easter was just another day. She understood and loved the meaning behind it, but that the day itself meant nothing more than the one before or the one that would come after it.

That bothered me at the time; I thought it sad that she found nothing to celebrate in the day itself. But when Easter is a mindset, not single day of celebration, then every day can be filled with resurrection power, joy, and wonder that He lives within your heart.

“[May you know] his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
(Ephesians 1:19-20) 

Monday, April 1, 2013


Anniversaries have been on my mind a lot of late.

Today I’m celebrating the one-year anniversary of friendships I made during last year’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge. (Special thanks to Challenge founder ARLEE BIRD for all the fun of the annual April event!) A few days ago marked the 8-year anniversary of the day I started working at my current job. And just recently my in-laws celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

65 years. Can you imagine?

They celebrated the day in a big way, of course. My mother-in-law brought cakes to the coffee hour after the Sunday morning service at their church that week to share the moment with the many people who love them in their congregation and to acknowledge God’s presence in their pairing. A huge bouquet of roses, lilies, and other blooms graced the main table in the fellowship hall, a surprise delivery from their children. Those family members who live in the area joined them for the day, in service and in celebration. And all week long in rainy Oregon they were drenched with love in a card shower that brought greetings from people all over the nation who knew them and wanted a chance to wish them well.

But 65 years!

Their accomplishment takes the breath away from those of us who sometimes have a hard time being in a room with the same person for more than 10 minutes at a stretch! Surely there was a lot of give and take in those years, a lot of letting go of little things and holding on tightly to the things that gave their marriage its life and vitality - their faith, their family, and their many friends.

Surely theirs is a forever love.

About the same time they were celebrating their anniversary, I began using the latest in a long string of “love” stamps from the post office. This year’s version of the “forever” stamp (one whose use is valid after purchase no matter how postage rates may have risen in the intervening time) sported a drawing of the back of an envelope that was sealed in a glob of red wax pressed in the shape of a heart.

What a fitting picture of this couple’s relationship, one that retained its value despite the changing times in the decades through which it’s traveled, each day a love letter to the other under a covenant that remained unbroken before the God who has only forever love for us - a promise written in His Word, kept in His heart, and sealed by His Blood.

“Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” 
(Malachi 2:15)
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