Friday, September 16, 2016

Reformation Day Musings

While most Americans' minds during October are typically filled with thoughts of cooler weather, bonfires, football, and Halloween, my thoughts always navigate towards the Reformation and the persecuted Church worldwide. I am still amazed at the courage and tenacity of Martin Luther as he took a stand against all of Christendom for what is one the basic tenants of our Christian faith. Martin Luther never desired a split in the Church that would result in so many denominations and factions. He did not want to leave the Catholic Church, but the teachings of doctrines such as penance and the supremacy of the pope were not and are not found in Scripture. Because Luther would not waiver from his belief in the Sola Scriptura, he was excommunicated and spent a good deal of his life in hiding while translating that same Scripture into German.  Martin Luther believed so strongly in the supremacy and infallibility of the Word of God that he was willing to die for it.  I often think about how I would respond if I were I asked to recant my beliefs in the five Solas. My desire and prayer is to stand graciously firm in my beliefs; I do not want to only run the race set before me, but to finish it as well.

We are living in times where we can hide our heads no longer as the real threat of persecution encroaches on our borders.  As you can see from the map below from Open Doors (, Mexico is now on the high risk watch list. Our concern, however, should not only be about our safety, but also the eternal safety of those who would desire to kill us for our faith in God. It is often hard to remember in the heat of the moment but ...there but for the grace of God, go I (John Bradford .)

We, too, were at one time enemies of Christ.  I am so grateful that God chose to love us in spite of our disregard for Him. The next time someone pokes fun at our faith or even someday threatens our lives because we are Christians, my hope is that we not only confidently and gratefully stand firm in our faith, but that we also see the other person's desperate need for God and that we were once that person.

"..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.." ~ Phil. 3:10 ESV

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Drive-Thru Prayer

This used to be a joke, until I actually saw it in my neighborhood this week...people holding signs that said, "Drive-Thru Prayer."  Are you kidding me?!  I am sure that this church has good intentions (no pun intended) and they're seeking to minister to a needy and harried world, but have we really slipped this far that we're putting our prayer life on the same shelf as a Big Mac?  I confess that none of us pray the way we should or as often as we should, and I am not opposed to a ministry that takes time to pray for strangers.  I have seen a woman on the street corner with her own sign that reads, "I will pray with you," and I think that is wonderful. People often feel more at ease sharing their woes when they have some degree of anonymity. What bothers me most about the other sign is labeling the ministry "drive-thru." I need to think through this a lot more, but I am grateful that God can use us even when we have bad theology...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Music to My Ears

This morning I woke up cranky, unmotivated, and stuck in the downward spiral.  I was reminded that, like it or not, today I HAD to step down my steroid dose to a measly 2.5mg and worse still, that I must press on and not give in to pain and stiffness or it would overcome me.  Providentially in my email inbox was an article about surprising things that relieve pain and stiffness.  The one that caught my eye was listening to music.  Studies show that listening to music that you enjoy for one hour, whatever genre you like, lessens the sensation of pain. (Go ahead, google it.)  So, I put on my newly purchased headphones, turned on Pandora to Perry Como Radio (hey, don't judge), and headed out the door for a walk....begrudgingly.  Honestly, it worked!  Now, I was still mildly aware of my knees seizing up and my toes pulsating, but my step was quickened and there a was actually a smile on my face.  What?!  I don't smile on my walks any more; I huff and puff and groan, but smile?  Yes, I smiled.  I have always mentally judged people who walked or ran with headphones because of not being in the moment and experiencing the sounds of nature.  I do enjoy hearing the birds singing and the giggles and squeals of children playing, but today was different.  That music was what enabled me to not give up and press on.  It brought back happy memories, which in turn, brought happy feelings.  Give it a try!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Far Above the Noise of Life....

Those closest to me know that for quite some time I have desired to fully embrace I Thessalonians 4:11-12 by leading a quiet life and minding my own affairs.  Lately, the Lord has been reminding me of this in overt ways. On Saturday morning, I heard a talk on the silence of the mind and heart and freeing ourselves from distractions both external and internal in order to hear that still, small voice of God.  On Sunday morning,  the offertory song was "Gentle Voice" by Lee & Susan Dengler (lyrics below).  I think God is not just speaking to me; He's tapping my shoulder because I'm not doing much about it.

Distractions can come in so many different forms. We constantly have a surplus of information coming at us from all different sources and most of this information is superfluous to our walk in Christ.  Most of the news we watch does not genuinely affect or apply to our lives (not that we need to have our heads buried in the sand), is generally one-sided, and is largely sensationalized.  Even our Facebook newsfeed is only the bits and pieces that others want us to see and doesn't really help us to truly know a person.  And then there's the part of Facebook where suddenly everyone seems to think themselves (self included here) an authority, spouting out opinions & straw man arguments, and misquoting or misapplying verses of Scripture and changing the opinion of not one single other person.  Is this how we really get to know one another and build one another up in the Lord?

Distractions can come in the form of friends or family members over whom we worry, even when we seek to go to the foot of the cross.  Yes, we need to bring our loved ones to God in prayer, but most of us do so wringing our hands and worrying over them, desiring for God to answer our prayers for them in the way in which we want those requests answered.  Sometimes, those difficult patches in the lives of the people we are praying for (or ourselves) are part of the answer to our prayers because God uses all things to conform us to His image, not just the pleasant parts.  That worry or desire for God to answer our petitions the way in which we want them answered betrays a lack of yieldedness to God's sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. It is also distracting us from working out our own salvation with fear and trembling as in Philippians 2:12 by keeping our minds and hearts focused on someone else's business.

The list of things that distract us can go on and on and will vary with each individual but the solution will always be the same.  We need to root out those distractions in our lives and open our eyes, minds, and hearts to what God has placed immediately before us.  It's not going to be just about letting go of things that distract us; it's going to be cutting the ropes of those things that are binding us.  It will take work and more work, time and again because we are so weighed down with the cares of this world.

Personally, I am gradually saying goodbye to Facebook.  I say gradually only because I have a myriad of photos that I need to save first because that is the only place they currently exist and it will take some time to upload them all.  I have tried in the past to keep Facebook to just a few select family members, but friends kept finding me and before I knew it I was fully drawn in again.  This may not seem like a difficult thing to some, but for me, it's a HUGE distraction in my life.  I don't want that.  This past Sunday, one of our pastors asked us to close our eyes and think of a place that we consider the "good life."  I did so with no preconceived ideas and much to my surprise, my heart's desire was an Abbey, not because I desire to be Catholic but because I desire a life free from distractions in order to rightly worship and obey God.  I can lay aside some of these weights; I can place them at the foot of the cross.  Please watch and pray with me.

Gentle Voice

Far above the noise of life,
There’s a voice that is gently calling.
“Leave behind your cares and strife.
Come to me, I will give you rest.
Bring your fear, and bring your pain.
Bring your anger, and bring your worry.”
Do you hear the voice of Jesus
gently calling, “Come unto me.”
Gentle voice, so meek and mild,
Gentle words of understanding.
“You are my beloved child.
Come to me, I will give you rest.
Bring your grief, and bring your cares.
Bring you heartaches, and bring your sorrow.”
Do you hear the voice of Jesus
Gently calling, “Come unto me”?
Gentle voice so full of love,
Gentle words so rich in mercy.
“You are my beloved child.
Come to me. I will give you rest.”
~Lee & Susan Dengler

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Slow to Anger

Have you noticed how angry the world has become?  Even yourself; do you find yourself loosing your cool more than you would like? Is our anger justified?  I find that my impatience and quick tempered tendency is rarely justified. I have become increasingly aware of this and have begun to focus on striving more towards humility and forbearance and living my life more deliberately and proactively.

Last weekend I worked at a garden show as a vendor. The show was a lot of fun and we had great sales all weekend.  At the end of the event I was overtired, not just from working, but also from arthritis and carrying around the weight of my all too heavy body; still, there was an afterglow of a successful show.  As I exited the grounds. I stopped my car at a crosswalk to let two young mothers pass.  After they had passed and I proceeded, another car (two car lengths behind me) honked in agitation at the car in front of him.  One of the young mothers immediately assumed that it was me that had honked at her and yelled expletives my way.  Unfortunately, I immediately yelled back that it wasn't me (after having quickly thought of a few choices things that I could have yelled but decided to use a little prudence.)

I wish my initial reaction would have been one of compassion for a stressed out mom and prayer for her.  I cannot imagine Jesus seeking to justify or defend Himself.  Yes, but He was God made flesh, you say.  Well, I cannot see Mother (Saint) Teresa or Marva Dawn or Elisabeth Elliott responding the way I did.  You see, I know that for the non-Christian, this world is good as it gets for them; this is their "heaven."  Can you imagine? This world with all its horrors,injustices, and sufferings is the best some will ever have, not to mention being forever separated from God.  Can you not feel their pain and hopelessness behind their angry faces?  If we cannot offer them compassion and hope of a better path, who can?

So how am I working on this lifelong process?  First, I recognize my own past and present failures in the area and understand that I am no better than anyone else, leaning on and looking to God and His Word for guidance.  If I am able to show any mercy, it is because of the grace of God.

     There but for the grace of God, go I....John Bradford

Second, I am working on unplugging.  For me, this is very difficult.  Checking Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. has been an anxiety reliever (actually, it only wears the mask of stress soother, but that's another blog post waiting).  I have made it more difficult for me to access these social media sites by hiding their icons on my smartphone and iPad and by turning off their notifications.  I also have turned my phone to vibrate or off when in the company of others.

Third, I am trying not to multitask so that I am more cognizant of what I am doing.  Multitasking is seen as a desirable skill in this fast paced world, but I'm not so sure this is true any more.  To simultaneously perform tasks or projects is to live in a constant state of interruption, which often translates to a state of agitation for many of us.  This doesn't mean you should never do two things at once, but we should be more aware of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and whom are we serving through its accomplishment.  This singleness of mind is a skill that is fading quickly in our fast paced and sound byte saturated culture.

To take that one step further, I have been working on the discipline of reading a book slightly above ('s a LOT above) my level of comprehension.  My mind has been conditioned by the frequency of commercials and the brevity of Twitter tweets and Facebook statuses. I have, in a sense, been dumbed down by my own insatiable desire to be entertained (yet, another blog).

These are just a few steps I am praying through and working on to have a quieter heart and show more compassion.  For the sake of His sorrowful passion, I seek to show mercy.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Despair and Worry

Everyone who knows me intimately knows that I can be stubborn and whiny.  I would make a wonderful Israelite wandering in the wilderness.  I realize that doesn't make me a shining example of what a Christian should be, but before you brush me off, sit and have tea with me for a bit because you may find yourself in similar circumstances.  We may also come to realize that our position is more precarious than we think.

I have two sides; the sane side that trusts and hopes in God implicitly and the stubborn & whiny side that wallows in the mire of my circumstances.  Lately, I have been fighting to not drown in that mire, whining and crying all the while. This morning I chose to meet my husband at Panera to work on my Bible study while he worked on his on studies.  I dreaded this because for me to be in public at 7am and be both cognizant AND pleasant is a challenge and because last week's lesson just didn't seem very applicable for me (but then, I hadn't applied myself either).

As it turned out, the lesson so far has been just what I needed.  Our study this week is in the first few chapters of Numbers and points to what sparked the years of wandering in the wilderness and the denial of access into the promised land of rest.  It was their lack of faith in God to deliver what He had promised.  I remember as a child thinking that the Israelites must have been stupid to have seen the hand of God deliver them from the hands of Egyptians with huge miracles and then cower at the thought of taking Canaan, but aren't we just like them?  As an adult, I am struck by how serious God takes our trust in Him and our worship of Him as evidenced by the consequences of those infractions.

Sometimes, I find myself dwelling on my present circumstances and worrying, even to the point of despair. While this is not uncommon  in the life of the Christian at times, it is a dangerous place to unpack our bags and live.  The Israelites' lack of faith led to the hardening of their hearts and kept them from entering into the promised land of God's rest.  Hebrews 3 warns of this in direct reference to the faithless hearts and subsequent wandering of the Israelites:

  "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:12-13

This is not to say that the Christian will never fall and despair or find it difficult to trust God.  Even David, a man after God's own heart, had to talk back to himself as he struggled with faith.

  "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are in turmoil within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.  My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon from Mount Mizar." Psalm 42:5-6

David, when distraught, not only told himself to trust in God, but also began to recount God's past faithfulness.  As Christians today, it easy to get beat down by the world and become afraid.  It is during those times that we need to talk back to ourselves and not only remind ourselves of God's promises for our future but also His past faithfulness to us and our believing ancestors to keep our hearts from being hardened against Him.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Awful Truth

This morning I learned something about's not the hot tea that I adore; it's the sugar I dump in it. It's not the bubbles of soda that I crave; it's the sugar.  *face palm*  I am a sugar addict. This is no surprise to me or anyone that knows me. The problem is the withdrawals I experience and inflict on others when I attempt to break free. Now, before you message me about how to give up sugar without withdrawals, don't, please don't. In 1988, I went sugar free for a year and a half and it was glorious! I felt better than I had in.....well, ever....and my health was illness free during that time. Why did I go back to my sweet but evil ways? A hospital staff that insisted I eat ALL the food brought to me during my week long stay (I had just given birth and hemorraged due to DIC syndrome and developed Strep B). I protested at first, but in my weakness, I caved in to that hospital chocolate pudding which was sooooo much better than the limp meat that was on the same tray. I have tried numerous times to free myself from my addiction, but the withdrawal gets me every time. Do I want to never eat sugar again? Of course not. I just want to loosen the death grip it has on me, largely because my health needs to improve. I am 70+ lbs overweight, I have peripheral artery disease, I have bone spurs in my knees and feet, I have arthritis, I have fibromyalgia, I have asthma, and acid reflux that is out of control. I know what to do and how to do it, but pulling the trigger is hard. So, in baby step fashion, I am going to not drink tea that has sugar or any sweeteners of any kind in it. I will also not drink soda. Aaaccckkk! This will cut down on my caffeine consumption. During this time, I am not responsible, but do apologize for, any and all snarkiness. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Baby Stepping

I realize that I did not post much in 2015.  Honestly, 2015 was the darkest year of my entire life and I felt as though I had nothing to offer anyone in the way of blogs.  It was a difficult year, but it was also a time that saw me cling hard and fast to God and I survived. Last year is gone and this year is looking much, much brighter. Currently, I am trying to regain my house, my health, and my life.  I am reorganizing and cleaning out every square inch of our home, trying desperately to going back to taking good care of my body (not succeeding too well yet), and looking to become much more involved in Church.  It has nothing to do with New Years Resolutions or the date on the calendar, but rather there has been resolution in my life and this is when I have time and space to breathe and grow again.  I do hope to post again, but for now, I'm baby stepping my life back on track. I look forward to living, growing, and sharing!