Thursday, December 22, 2011

Treasure and Ponder

It’s almost Christmas and naturally I find myself turning to Luke 2 for my bible reading this week. The story is familiar as I read it, but 2 words seem to jump from the pages and land on my heart. Treasured and pondering.

Luke 2:18-19 “…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Luke 2:51 “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mary was placed in a very unique one-of-a-kind situation. Literally. A visit from an angel. A virgin giving birth. The mother of the Savior. The Messiah born in a manger. Prophecy fulfilled. More Angels. Shepherds. Amazement. And then later, her 12 year old son goes missing and tells his parents “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  

Mary kept this information, this knowledge, this truth. She thought it through, reflected on it, and preserved it in her heart. She treasured it. She did not store it away like Christmas decorations placed in my basement and forgotten for 11 months at a time, she kept these things, carried them with her daily.

What does it look like to treasure something? Luke says that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The Coffman Commentaries on the New Testament puts it well: “…she pondered them in her heart. This indicates that Mary continually had these things in mind, meditating upon them, and wondering, perhaps, what the full import of such things could be.”

Strong’s Concordance gives these descriptions for ‘treasured’ and ‘pondered’: to keep, observe, preserve, conserve, to mentally remember, to reckon thoroughly, to deliberate by reflection or discussion, to meet with, confer, to keep together, to watch thoroughly.

I read a devotion this week on loving God. Not merely knowing God, but moving beyond that to truly loving Him. I have to be honest, wrestle with this. I say I love God, but do I really? And just how does one move from knowledge to love?

I think Mary knew. It starts with what we treasure. What we ponder. Something carried in our heart cannot help but change us whether it be for the good or bad, it inevitably will affect us. Which will directly affect the way we think and live. And become what we love.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary makes a great point: “Mary carefully observed and thought upon all these things, which were so suited to enliven her holy affections.”

To enliven our holy affections, we cannot just encounter the truth of the Bible and then go on about our merry way, living our lives. We’ve got to let it soak in, preserve the knowledge, meditate on it instead of letting mounds of laundry and a to-do list distract us. Reflect on the wonder of Christmas. Reckon thoroughly the concept of your Creator coming to earth. Living among humans. Giving up His position in Heaven to become a man. All so you could live. Medidate on it and be amazed. Treasure these things in your heart and ponder. Enliven your holy affections.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Going To Be A Grandma!

I received the most exciting news this week! Our son and daughter in law are expecting a baby! By early July, I will be cuddling my very first grandchild! This baby will be the 1st great grandchild for my husband’s parents and the 40th  great grandchild for my parents. I’m calling him/her “Baby 1-40” for now until we have a better name.

This grandma thing is going to be great! The excitement builds each day. The girls and I found instructions online to make chew toy necklaces, so mommy can be both stylish and provide teething fun at the same time. There are visions of cuddling, ice cream, slip n slides, games, puzzles and so much more dancing in my head. There are so many fun things I want to do with my grandchildren (I started an idea file years ago).

Though I have been borrowing young children for some time now so I would be all practiced up when the time came, I feel it’s just not the same really being a grandma. This granny thing is all new for me. Think of all the ways a grandma adds to a child’s life; these are big shoes to fill.  Being a grandma is not all fun and spoiling games. You’ve seen the t shirts, “If mom says no, go ask Grandma” or “What happens at Grandmas stays at Grandmas”  While humorous and cute, I know in my heart there is so much more to being a grandparent.

 Grandma Lois knew this. She taught her daughter Eunice who taught her son Timothy. 2 Timothy 1:5 says that the sincere faith that Timothy had first lived in Lois and then in Eunice.  That’s the real purpose of grandparenting. Mixed in with all the kisses and spoiling, I really want to pass on a sincere faith. I want to place a good deposit in my grandchildren’s hearts. A deposit of sincere faith, of a godly life, of correctly handling the word of truth to continue on in what they have learned. (see 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:12, 14)
All that has to live in me first. There is more preparation for me to do, and it involves more than shopping for adorable Onesies and a Bumbo. It’s so easy to let all the pink and blue in the stores distract me from the real goal. I think I will begin with prayer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

For Your Glory and Your Fame

Have you ever asked “Why is this happening to me?”  For most of us that question in one form or another has been on our lips at at least one point in our lives. Suffering comes in all colors and sizes and in varying degrees and it leaves us filled with questions.

To be able to see a purpose in suffering is like a light at the end of the tunnel. It is a gift. For if there is no purpose in it, we can be left empty and alone.  But to know that we are a part of a divine plan laid out in heaven brings a ray of hope.

Sometimes the purpose in our suffering is for our own growth. Psalm 119:67 “Before I was afflicted  I went astray, but now I obey your word.”  The purpose is all about me, my need for growth and the opportunity to respond to God’s call.

At other times, the purpose is not about me, but for others. Psalm 119:74 “May those who fear You rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.”  My obedience, faith and trust in my Father through suffering and trials can be an encouragement to other believers. It can inspire them to keep on keeping on in the faith. 

This song states it beautifully:

            It’s all about You, Jesus
            And all this is for You,
            For Your glory and Your fame.
            It’s not about me,
            As if You should do things my way,
            You alone are God,
            And I surrender to Your ways.

Suffering and trials are so much lighter when we keep our eyes on the goal. The goal of His glory and His fame, instead of my comfort level.  Realizing a deeper purpose allows me to surrender to His ways and that’s where I find comfort in the midst of pain.

I'd love to hear from you! What trials has God taken you through or is taking you through now and what helped you to see the purpose in it?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Newlyweds

Just wanted to share a pic of the newlyweds!

Such an awesome couple (even if I might be a little biased)!

And a testimony to God's view of marriage.

They had his wedding ring tattooed on.

Marriage is a permanent relationship.

Amazing how the husband-wife relationship

can be reframed in our mind

 when we take the "D" word out of our vocabulary.

Or better yet, don't ever let it in in the first place.

It may not always be "Happily Ever After"

but with God's grace, it can be "Ever After".

Purpose in Parenting

Our kids are almost all grown now and often my mind reflects back on my job as a mom. While there is laundry load of things I would do differently if given the opportunity, I am grateful to my Father for His grace in the task. 

A while back an ad on the Yahoo home page for the Chevy Traverse claimed to have the answer to one of the biggest parental headaches. It showed a brother and sister in a car.  He was irritating her and she had this attitude and of course got upset.  Over and over….You’ve probably experienced this scene as many moms have in their own cars.

Then the traverse shows up in shining armor and they can now sit separately.  The caption says “Finally You Can Separate Them.”  The idea is that more space will fix the problem.  Keeping them away from each other will result in sudden family harmony.

And it might. But what would it profit them?  What would they learn?  What character trait would it grow in them?  And more importantly, would this solution bring glory to God?

Separating them teaches that when someone gets on our nerves, we can simply avoid them.  It teaches that when I don’t like a situation, I can simply leave it.  It doesn’t teach loving each other.  It doesn’t teach overlooking an offense.  It doesn’t teach humility.  It doesn’t teach to be at peace with all men as far as it is up to you.

I don’t know when or how parenting became all about the parents.  Yes, as parents we want peace…quiet…harmony…we want to be able to finish a thought process in our minds without being interrupted by “MOM!!!!!!!”.  But this too shall pass. All too soon we will be ordering graduation invitations, sending care packages to college and then helping plan a wedding. And we want them to be able to live a life that pleases God in each of these stages in their lives. That starts with our parenting. Purposeful parenting, not parenting for peace and quiet or whatever is easiest.

Don’t run from the difficult situations; tackle them head on with the principles found in Scripture. That’s how to arm our kids with the heart character they will need to live a life that pleases God. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 speaks to preachers, but I think it holds a wealth of wisdom for parents too. We definitely do not want them to turn away from the truth, so we need to endure the hardships and purposely use opportunities (such as fighting in the car) to teach God’s ways to them.

I think we would all agree that our goal for our kids is more than just getting them to adulthood alive. We want them to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”(I Timothy 6:11) so that they “may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10).  And we don’t need a Traverse to accomplish the task.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Live to Praise

I have been praying and asking and waiting…and praying and asking and waiting...(with the occasional whining mixed in)…and yet still I sit. The For Sale sign outside my house sits as well.

A friend’s house that is for sale showed yesterday. Today our son and his wife’s house will show at 9:30. And ours sits. Its hard not to be envious. Its hard not to get bitter or desperate.  I am glad for our friends and kids, they need to sell their homes too, but I feel left behind.

As I sit here praying this morning, a verse I have scribbled at the top of my prayer list catches my eye. Psalm 119:164, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”

The praise I give too often tends to come from what God does for me. “Thank you for that great parking spot on a rainy day…Thanks for a safe trip…Praise God for that pay raise…”

Not bad things to give thanks for, but the Psalmist doesn’t look for what God does but at Who He is and His righteous laws. This totally takes the “me” out of the picture. The focus is on God. All eyes on Him. There is no other issue clouding the view, just crisp clean praise given to the Lord. 

This kind of boils it all down and leaves me with a “wow” epiphany type of moment. God is God. God is good. God’s ways are perfect.  And even if I sit here for years waiting for my house to sell, God is still good. God is still righteous.

So, the better thing in this life is to focus on God and His character and not worry about my situations.  As they say, its all in your perspective. So which will I allow to be larger in my focus: God or my problems?
I need something else to fill my mind as I wait on God. Verses 166-174 speak of waiting on God, obeying God, crying out to God, asking for understanding, lips overflowing with praise, singing of God’s word, and longing for His salvation. That list hardly leaves time for me to mope and whine.

And verse 165 reminds me of the why. “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”  Peace. Isn’t that what I’m after in the first place? I want my way, I want what I think is best because I think it will bring me peace and comfort.

Summed up in verse 175 is my reason for living very simply put, “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” Live to praise. And seven times a day keeps the desperation away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tanned and Ready

WARNING: Content is girly chick-stuff.

I see parallels in everyday life that serve as excellent examples of my spiritual walk with God. Many times I don’t post these because they seem a bit superficial and girly. But I was encouraged this morning while talking with my daughter about a parallel she saw in nail polish (more on that later). So, I decided to share my most recent insight with you.

The story begins with me and my girls in Walmart. We are chattering about white legs, summer and sunless tanning lotion. We decide on a product, make our purchase and happily apply it all week. It works and we are elated.

Fast forward 3 weeks… I have tired of the “chore” of applying the lotion evenly each day and find myself skipping days in a row. The conversation in my head goes something like this:

“You better put it on, as soon as a hot day comes, you will wish you had tan legs when you want to wear shorts or go to the lake…”

“It’s so much work, and it’s chilly today, I’m going to wear jeans so it won’t matter…”

 “Just put it on so you’ll be ready and won’t regret it in a few days…”

Ok, I know, I know…. It’s not like tan legs are an important part of life to begin with. And you can be sure there are way more important things on my mind, lest you write me off as an airhead who cannot think deeper than which color to paint her toe nails.

But sometimes it’s the little trivial things that paint a picture to bring a bigger issue into better focus. Being prepared. Being ready. With no regrets. Now this is an important part of life. Being ready is so much more than saying a prayer or making a decision. So much more.

Matthew 25 speaks of 10 virgins waiting for their bridegroom. All 10 were watching and waiting. All 10 had lamps with oil in them. But only 5 were wise and took extra oil in jars, very prepared in case the bridegroom was delayed. Verse 5 tells us the bridegroom was “a long time in coming” and all 10 virgins fell asleep.

The preparedness of the 5 wise can be seen in verses 6-7. When the bridegroom arrived at midnight, they arose, lit their lamps and went with him to the wedding banquet. The foolish virgins missed out. “And the door was shut.” The difference was in being prepared. The plans made for a possible long wait allowed the wise to be ready.

Jesus ends this parable with the words, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” There will be no time to prepare when He comes, we must be ready and remain so.

The Greek word gregoreuo is translated “watch”. It gives the meaning of watching, giving attention to, being cautious. So, tanned legs or not, gregoreuo, sisters! Let’s be prepared.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Percolating In My Soul

My girls and I traveled to Kara’s home. (Kara will soon be one of my girls too, yea!) Knowing we only had that night to visit and part of the next day, no one wanted to go to bed and end the fun. We stayed up way past bed time and into the morning discussing wedding plans and invitation design with the kids. I relished each minute, ignoring my body’s plea for sleep.

But it’s all fun and games until there’s no coffee. After readying my sleepy self the next morning, I headed to the kitchen looking forward to a nice cup (or three) of coffee. Coffee always fixes my morning sleepy head.

No coffee? What kind of people are they? What kind of people don’t drink coffee? What kind of people don’t have coffee in the house? Heathens? Must be. I know God likes coffee; He and I meet over a steaming cup each morning. What now? I need my starter fluid…I need coffee!

I tried to play it cool on the outside. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was addicted or anything…. (Oh, by the way, do not let my husband read this….He has an opinion about my love for coffee and we do not want to get into that right now.)

With hopes of a large pot filled with hot java, we walked to church for the morning service. Coffee? Gone. Ugh! The headache began around 11:30 that morning and with no time to make a run to get a cup, it lingered. My body begged for caffeine for energy after the late late night.

Eventually I did have my cup o’joe and I did survive. But I can’t help but notice how my longing for coffee sounds a lot like David’s longing for the Lord. These are passages I’ve read a hundred times, but in light of the day’s events, I can relate to them in a fresh way.

Ps 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Ps 84:1-2 How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Ps 143:6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.

Ps 119:20 My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

Ps 119:131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.

Desire, yearn, faint, cry out, thirst, consumed, longing…Could these words be used to describe my relationship with God? Is my desire for God this strong? So strong it consumes me? Is He all I desire? Is it Him I yearn for, thirst for?

In order to get my daily fix from java, it has to be available, which isn’t always possible. But God is always available, no percolator needed.

Lord, let joy in You percolate in my soul brewing a rich love roasted in Your salvation. Fill my longings and desires with your ways. May You be my mocha latte and caffeine-portion forever. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey (or a Carmel Macchiato) to my mouth!

(Now, just so you know, I have gotten over the judgmental attitude of a home without coffee. Kara’s family is filled with wonderful people and I love them, even if they don’t drink coffee. But next time I might just pack my French press!)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spiritual Earthquake

The recent excitement that was stirred up around May 21 has many people talking and I have to say that I am rather enjoying it. I know many believers are angry at Harold Camping, but at the same time I think we need to guard our own hearts from bitterness and slander or we too will give a negative impression of Christ to the world.

Is there a mar on the face of Christianity because of the wrong prediction? Yes, but I would like to point out that what Satan intends to harm Christianity; God can use to bring glory to Him and souls into His kingdom.

In response to his wrong timing, Mr. Camping claims he misunderstood the Word. He says it was not a physical earthquake, but a spiritual earthquake. On this point, I think I can agree with him.

He stirred up a spiritual earthquake. At Impact (youth center) I fielded many questions about the end of the world. Point blank questions like the kind straight out of an evangelistic training manual. In the span of 2 days, May 20 and 21, I was able to share the gospel countless times, calm hearts, and give the truth that there really will be an end and we need to be ready. I could see and feel the spiritual war going on in the building as I spoke to young souls hungry for truth. Now that’s an earthquake. And I’m ready to use the aftershocks for His glory as well.

What does all this mean for believers? It is easier to live in our comfy Christian lives, to focus on God’s blessings and rather than the end of the age. The sunny-day-birds-are-singing kind of Christianity is more pleasant than the doom-and-gloom reality of Revelation. To use the words of someone I spoke with recently, “It freaks me out…I don’t want to even think about it!” But it is reality, it is fast approaching, and the fields are white for harvest.

I think this all serves as a reminder to “Be ready always to give an answer for the hope that lies within you.” (I Peter 3:15) Harold Camping brought up the subject and as a result people are open to discussing it. They are curious. They are lost sheep… wandering… blind… and unprepared. As in the days of Noah, they are eating and drinking and unaware of what lies ahead. Someone needs to tell them to be ready and show them how. That someone is me. That someone is you.

You may be nodding your head as you read this, agreeing that countless souls need to be told. But mere talk or agreeing does nothing. Who around you doesn’t know the Savior? Pray for an opportunity to tell them the greatest news of all time. Don’t know anyone who needs to hear? Put yourself in situations where you will have opportunities. And then use them for His glory.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Meaning Behind the Title

Titling a blog is no easy task. To convey ones heart in a short, catchy grouping of words is difficult. But behind every blog title there is a story and so it is with mine. I enjoy reading about how others came up with their titles; and it is time I share my story.

The battle of fighting the flesh requires daily focus. Preparation. A battle plan. I don’t know about you (though I could make an educated guess) but my number one battle is fought in the area of selfishness. I want…. I need… I have to have… I like… I hate… I can… I can’t… I will…. I won’t… I must… Expectations I place on others… expectations I place on circumstances… and expectations I place on God. My flesh naturally is drawn to magnify me. To get the best for me. To make it easiest for me. To show my best side. To manipulate others to like me. Self-important, self-seeking, self-centered. A universe is created, dedicated to ME and it’s all too often where I reside until God pulls me away and into the truth.

The truth is found in Luke 9:23-24"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."

John 3:30 states it clearly, no matter what translation you read.
NAS “He must increase, but I must decrease”
NIV “He must become greater; I must become less.”
NLT “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
NCV “He must become greater, and I must become less important.”

Denying myself. Losing my life. Taking up my cross. Following Him. Increasing Him. Decreasing me. Daily. Day in and day out. Not when I feel like it. A way of living. A constant choice I make. And my flesh fights it. But I know it’s right.

This is not something that just happens. I’ve got to make it happen. I have to choose. Choose to give up trying to make me happy. Choose to do what will bring glory and praise to Him. Letting it happen occasionally is not enough, it won’t happen. I’ve got to pursue it. Seek it. I am on a mission.

A mission “In Hot Pursuit Of More And Less.”

Check out the story behind the blog title "Smelling Coffee". It's one I definitely relate to!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let Your Glow Show

I attended a bridal shower for Kara, my daughter-in-law-to-be. The decorations were beautiful, the refreshments were yummy and all the women enjoyed the chit-chat as usual. A nice shower with a good devotional.

After the gifts were opened and the clean-up began, a woman approached me. She was the worship pastor’s wife at the church and I had enjoyed some conversation with her young daughter. Her words took me by surprise, “I have not even met you but I see something in you, in your face….I see Jesus in you.”

My mind raced to make sense of it. “She definitely doesn’t know me, I’m nowhere near perfect….and how does she see something, I wasn’t doing anything special, wasn’t serving or ministering…” I was humbled. This wasn’t about me, it was about the One I have been with. Praise God, my glow was showing!

What she doesn’t know is that for the past 4 months I have been in an accelerated class on trusting and waiting on God. The only student in this class tailored just for my heart and taught by the Master Himself. The glow doesn’t come from anything I do, but from Who I’ve been spending my mornings with and who He has been shaping me to be.

This beautiful woman named Miriam has the light too. You can see it. She has been in the US for only one year. She asked God to help her learn English quickly so she could be fed through her new English speaking church… and He did! Praise God!

This woman who I had never met before made an impression on me. I was encouraged to keep pulling my sleepy self out of the warm bed each day to spend time with God recharging my light. Seeing how her one comment has affected me, I am also inspired to pass the encouragement on, to tell others when I see their light. Leave them encouraged too.

Whose light do you see? In Whose life do you see Jesus? Who radiates His love, shines His light, has the glow? Tell them. Now. Yes, right now. Don’t wait. Write it… phone it… text it… say it…or mail it. Let them know. Pass the encouragement on.

John 8:12
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, " I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

Gal 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Love Story

The day before Mother’s Day, the flower shop I was working in was abuzz with preparations. Among the constant stream of customers, I spotted a short elderly man making his way slowly toward me. “Can I help you with something?’ My heart instantly warmed to this gentleman, the pleasantnesss of his soul could be seen on his face. “I want to buy some flowers, but I haven’t got much money.”

I guided him to our display cooler and began to show him the options available. He decided on 1 red rose, no vase, to keep the cost down, and I carried the roses to the counter. “I’ve never bought flowers for anyone before,” He said with thoughtfulness. “But these are for my wife; we’ve been married for 86 years.” He paused and gazed at the rose I was wrapping in colorful paper. “You know, I’ll take 2 roses. I want it to be nice, she’s in the Alzheimer’s unit and I’m taking them to her now.”

I felt my heart in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes as I collected $7.42. I thanked him and watched him slowly walk out the door.

I was surprised how much he had affected me. I had trouble composing myself to attend to the other customers waiting for my assistance. I wanted to just run and hide and let the tears fall openly. 86 years is a long time. I thought of all the love and commitment necessary for a marriage to make it to that mark. I thought of his heart and the love he still had for his wife, love that probably was not returned any more, leaving him lonely and hurting, yet he still reached out to her in love and care. What a story of love!

Even after that long 12 hour day, after arriving home and showering that night, my mind was still on that man. I wished I had gotten his name. I wished I had paid for his flowers. Where did he live? Did he live alone? Eat his meals alone? Did he visit his wife daily? Did she even know him anymore?

I shared with my husband how this had affected me, but too emotional, I did not go on to voice my fears of this one day being our story. I wanted to tell him I loved him and to remember it just in case someday I forget who I am and who I love. I had trouble finding the right words so I did not try.

This man’s love is like a picture of God’s love. He sacrificed His son because of His love for us. He gives us the gift of salvation and yet many don’t acknowledge Him. And we who are His many times live as if we have forgotten Whose we are and Who loves us.

We see the roses of blessings, yet our hearts are cloudy and confused with worldly cares. But this does not stop the One who loves us, the One who reaches out to us in love and care. The ending to our story can be a happy one, unlike this gentleman’s. His wife will likely pass away without even remembering his name. Physical Alzheimer’s is uncurable, but Spiritual Alzheimer’s is treatable and completely curable.

Remembering who we are and Who we belong to allows us to smell the roses of His love and live our lives returning that love. We are loved. Loved with a divine love. Now that’s a love story.

I really love hearing from you!  Tell me....What keeps you from remembering Whose you are? What reminds you Whose you are?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How could Peter forget?

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Not because of the Bunny, because of the Cross. There is so much purpose in it. Christmas and the 4th of July have purpose, to be sure. But Easter begins with Good Friday, which was good for us, but I doubt Jesus would list it as one of His favorite memories. Yet, He allows us to call it Good Friday. Because this holiday is for us. His love for us. Divine love, stooped down from heaven to take the blame and shame for humanity.

As I read the Easter story, I can’t help but wonder about Peter. Peter was warned during dinner that satan had demanded him, to sift him like wheat. He didn’t believe it. Yet just hours later, he did just that. He denied that he even knew Christ. And again. And again. Three times. Scripture tells us that when he heard the rooster crow, he remembered.

Remembered? How could he have forgotten? And so quickly? Was this what Jesus’ words in the garden were about? “Keep watch.” Keep watch so he would be ready when satan would attack? Ready to defend his Friend? Ready to even die with Him? If Peter had been watching for the time he would be in a situation that called for such a decision, possibly, would the 26th chapter of Matthew end on a different note?

It’s easy to question Peter from where I stand, but if he was here, I have the feeling he would question my life too. We have to live in the here and now; there’s always laundry, work, obligations, and responsibilities. But while we live in the here and now, our mind set can be to keep watch…pray continually… focus on the things above. And be ready to admit with each action and word that, yes, we have been with the One from Nazareth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who Do I Think I Am?

When my daughter was 2 she was a demanding child. Her bark was bigger than her chubby little 25 pounds. Barney was her show of choice and her perspective of choice was that if she wanted to watch Barney, then she should get to watch it NOW.

One afternoon while at my parents house, my dad was watching a show. Little Laura entered the room, pointed to the TV and said, “Grandpa,…Barney…NOW!” She added a stomp of her foot for emphasis.

It was hard not to laugh, it caught us all by surprise. Who did she think she was? The center of the universe? The main attraction? Apparently, yes and yes. Proper discipline showed her otherwise and brought some submission and respect for authority to her heart.

As I look back on this memory, I can’t help but notice the parallel between that little heart years ago and mine. I enter the presence of my Heavenly Father, point to my life and lay out my demands. I even add a little foot stomp sometimes. Who do I think I am?

We live in a society that encourages freedom of speech, speaking your mind, being yourself. Ecclesiastes 5:1 however, calls me to approach Him differently. With respect, reverence and awe. God tells us in regard to approaching Him to guard our steps, go before Him to listen, which is quite the opposite of my game plan. He tells us don’t be quick with our mouth and to let our words be few. And stand in awe of Him.

Stand, as in not stomping our feet…as in stillness. Awe as in awe struck by His majesty, His glory, His holiness, His goodness and the fact that He allows the likes of me to even be in His presence. Wow. That brings a change of perspective. A respect. Gratitude. He is God and I am humbled as I look at Him.

It’s hard to get me to be quiet (Just ask my mom, she used to offer me a quarter if I would just stop talking for 5 minutes!) And as long as I insist on keeping the attitude of a 2 year old, I will feel God is unfair and felt the need to demand my own way.

But, when I quiet my mouth, let my words be few and stand in awe of the One who saves, my soul is satisfied as well and my demands lose their urgency and fade. It can feel scary to let my demands go. Somehow they feel like the answer to my needs but the Creator knows what I need and promises to provide. So I can let go and stand in awe and receive a new look on life, one focused on the Father. Awestruck.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life Interrupted

I attended a Priscilla Shirer Simulcast this weekend. I’m fairly certain that God told Miss Priscilla what to say just because I would be there. Even the words of the songs and the words Anthony Evans spoke I’m sure were divinely orchestrated all for me. How does He do that?!

The topic was “Life Interrupted”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like interruptions. If I have exactly 30 minutes to pick up a few items and then get home to have supper ready, I’m not too thrilled inside when an interruption happens. Someone calls out my name… and wants to chat. Or the car won’t start. Or there is a line at the store.

Sometimes the interruptions appear on a larger scale. Loss of employment. Chronic illness. Financial struggles. Strained relationships. Or when God overlooks your plans and sets His own in motion.

These interruptions can leave us feeling anything from annoyed to abandoned. Jonah 2:8 offers a warning to us in the middle of our whining. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” (NIV) When this verse was read this weekend, it caught my attention, as if she had said “Sharon, when you cling to worthless idols, you are turning away from God’s love for you.”

Worthless idols? What do they have to do with interruptions? I don’t have any worthless idols… do I? And you think I cling to them? Oh…. You mean the stuff I’ve been whining about… The things I want to change. The to-do’s on my list I’d rather not have to do.

I kick and scream and pout and whine and run away from the interruptions God places in my path but I forget one thing: His stuff is a whole lot better than my stuff, as Miss Priscilla put it. I think I have good ideas to solve all my dilemmas, but I forget His ways are higher. I forget that He has the big picture. I forget that His purposes are good, even when the circumstances don’t appear so. I forget that I must obey God’s word even when it is not convenient.

I cling to the expectations I have drawn out for my days. I try to ignore God’s direction and walk my own path, hoping He will change His mind and agree my way is best. I hang onto certain things that I feel I must have in order to be happy and secure. These things, while so precious to me are worthless in reality. And the truth is, when I cling to them, I forfeit the grace offered to me.

It’s like saying, “No thanks, God. I don’t need your help…unless you want to do it my way… I only want it this way…” (It’s actually a bit scary typing those words… I do hope God knows that was just an example…)

The biblical equation with which we can identify these instances, no matter their size, is: interruptions = divine interventions= invitation. Situations placed, without notice, in our paths divinely arranged for the purpose of inviting us to draw closer to God, and to be a part of His work.

Jonah responded to the interruption of assignment to Ninevah by purchasing a ticket for a cruise and was interrupted by a big ol’ fish. Seems to me he could have avoided one messy interruption if he had just obeyed on the first one.

So, what’s your interruption? What has God placed in your life that isn’t on your game plan? How are you going to respond?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Conquering Clutter

I felt God’s leading beginning about a year ago to begin the daunting task of de-cluttering our home. At first, I was the sole warrior in the war against useless stuff. I began in the basement. A little each week. This past fall, however, another soldier enlisted to fight the battle alongside me. My husband and I went through the house room by room, notebook and pen in hand. We wrote down what needed to be done in each room to de-junk, repair and spruce up our home.

One person can accomplish a lot, but get two side by side in a task and you can “get er done.” We went back through the house, room by room, tackling the junk and making repairs. The first was the upstairs bedrooms, now empty with our 2 sons grown. I found myself in the days following sneaking up to just sit and reflect in the quiet, clean (something those rooms had not been for years) and uncluttered surroundings.

It’s difficult to live in a home that is over stuffed. A few years ago, I caught an Oprah show on houses that were inconceivably crowded with stuff. The families couldn’t enjoy their homes, they couldn’t clean them, and were confined to only a few rooms to abide in like prisoners. All because “More is better”…. “I’ll take care of it later”…. “It was such a good clearance”…”I just had to have it”…You’ve been there.

This video shows a woman who for years has hoarded clothing and in two hours has to weed it out. (No comments from my husband, please) She has to face the fact that she can let go of the items she so badly had to have and thought would bring her comfort and happiness. It’s the same with our lives. Things that we think we need to provide security or contentment, don’t deliver.

Of course God had larger plans than just making my home easier to live in, He was leading me to de-clutter my life inside as well. To toss the rubble from my heart and mind. The stuff that keeps me from fully living for Him. With my mind too cluttered, I can’t hear the Holy Spirit guiding me. Long before the Fly Lady and Peter Walsh, Hebrews 12 gave us a de-clutter guide complete with motivation too.

Hebrews 12:1-3
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus…. so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Step 1: Identify everything that hinders your walk.

Step 2: Throw them off. Discard them. Get rid of them. Shred them.

Step 3: Run the race marked out for you. Not someone else’s race, your

             own race,this is a very important point or you will need to

             revert back to step 1.
Step 4: Persevere. Persevere. Persevere.

Step 5: Fix your eyes on Jesus. On your purpose. Focus. Focus. Focus.

Step 6: Go out for coffee with a friend at each triumphant milestone. (Ok, so I

             made that one up myself, but you have to admit, it’s a good one…)

Step 7: Make a You Tube video about your experience. Ok, so maybe not,

             but if you do, sent me a link!

Now it's your turn: Tell me about your de-junking tips - both around the home and in your soul!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wedding Bells...Again

The summer of 2010 holds an exciting day. A special day. One we will always remember. August 14. The day Jeff and Renae joined their lives together, declared their commitment to each other and to God. We feel so blessed to have children that choose to honor God with their lives and it is a blessing to watch their love for each other.

This summer will mark another exciting, memorable day for our family. On July 23, 2011 Steve and Kara will be united in marriage. Watching them grow and mature and their care for one another has been a delight; it is wonderful to watch a young couple not only plan their wedding but to plan their marriage.

As our kids were growing up, I prayed for their futures. For God's hand and wisdom to be upon them. For their hearts to be inclined to love Him. For the development of character that would make them godly loving husbands/wife. And for their future wives/husband , that God's hand would be upon them and that they too would be godly loving spouses. My prayers for my daughter remain the same as she finishes growing up.

Watching my kids mature and walk with God is so worth it all. It's the goal of raising them beginning even while they are in diapers...and learning to walk... or ride a bike...or read...God truly blesses parents through their children.

3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review: Soul Print by Mark Batterson

I'm so excited to share this with you! I've been waiting by the mailbox for my very first book to review and finally it has arrived. "Soul Print" by Mark Batterson. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. It’s a great read and I can’t wait to recommend it to my friends!

The first section was so good, I didn't want to put it down. Mark Batterson challenges, even inspires his readers to dig deep into themselves to see who they were created to be, to live at a level that surpasses the superficial and find their true identity in Christ.

“The best form of worship is becoming the best version of who God has created you to be.” (p. 146) You were made for a purpose. Good deeds were designed for you to do long before you were you. No one has ever existed or will exist who can worship God like you. This is what Batterson calls your soul print, and it’s as unique as your fingerprint. Using the life of King David, Batterson wisks the reader away from the daily grind and places before them the question “What is your God-given identity?”

Too often we trudge through life living day in and day out in response to our immediate needs and the demands placed on us, giving little thought to the fact that our circumstances are divinely orchestrated. Batterson points out that we are being set up. Set up by God. “The King of kings goes before His servants to prepare the road ahead. In other words, He strategically positions us in the right place at the right time. God is setting you up, and that ought to fill you with an unshakable sense of destiny.” (p.11)

This book left me feeling compelled to sit at the feet of the Father to find my own soul print. I highly recommend it; it will bring a clarity and direction to the life of anyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. George Eliot said “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” At whatever stage of life you find yourself, this is true. And that is the message of this book. Because life is about the who. Who you were made to be. The only way to become who you were created to be is by looking at the One who planned your days long before you took your first breath.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What I'm Reading Lately

I'm so excited to share this with you! I've been waiting by the mailbox (not literally- it's been sub zero temps the past few weeks!) for my very first book to review and finally it arrived. "Soul Print" by Mark Batterson.

The first section, scenes- not chapters in this book, was so good, I didn't want to put it down. Mark challenges, even inspires his readers to dig deep into themselves and see who they really are; to live at a level that surpasses the superficial, find their true identity in Christ and become who they were created to be so they can live the life that was prepared for them even before they were born.

If  you are looking for the courage to break free from all that holds you captive whether it is a dream you feel unable to make a reality or sinful habits that keep you from being who you were created to be, this book offers the encouragement you need.

I'm only part way through, so I will fill you in on the rest of the book soon! I'd love to hear what you are reading!

Monday, February 28, 2011

All By Myself

We reviewed basic safety tips. Don’t lay your purse down. Keep your suitcase and bag in front of you where you can see it at all times. Keep your phone on and with you. You know the drill. Finally we hugged her and kissed her and said teary goodbyes. Then she reluctantly left us, went through the security check point and on to her gate to wait for flight #6177. All by herself.

For months she has felt more grown up than her 16 years as she has planned this trip. She looked forward to being independent, traveling by herself, no mom and dad, similar to her “All By Myself” stage 13 years ago. The talk was big until the night before when the what-ifs set in.

What if I get sick? What if I have an emergency? Who will take care of me? What if terrorists take over my plane? What if I get kidnapped?.....

When reality hits, it is rather sobering. She would be out in the big world and her parents would not be with her to protect and look after her.

This was nothing new to me. As a mom, what-ifs had set in for me a month ago when I clicked submit to purchase her plane ticket. I’m sure I don’t even have to spell out all the scenarios my clever mind came up with. They ranged somewhere between horrific and ridiculous, causing panic and worry.

If I follow the what-ifs out..What if she does have an emergency?...What if she does get sick? What if the worst does happen?... I will find God at the end. I will find Him holding her in His arms, which, by the way are bigger, stronger and much more capable than my puny arms.

She isn’t really my child at all, I have just been given the privilege of keeping her for Him. She belongs to the Savior, the Creator, the King of kings and Lord of Lords, the Eternal Father. And He loves her infinitely more than I am even able. I don’t want her to trust in her parents, I want her to trust in her Heavenly Father.

Lord, still my heart and draw my daughter closer to You. Teach her to trust in You and You alone. And help me to stay out of the way.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 NIV
5 This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Ever feel down? Start seeing the negative in things and all of a sudden the negative is jumping out at you and you’re left sitting in a pit. I think today is a good day to praise. I’m needing a good shot of Psalm 145 right now.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.”

The dead of winter… make that the freezing cold dead of winter can get me down along with struggles and trials in my life. I need to be picked up out of that funk with a spring-fresh refocus on God’s greatness, compassion, provisions and grace.

I know that while I am enduring the sub-zero temps, spring is on its way. I also know that while I’m enduring trials through the growth process in my heart, God’s goodness is on its way as well.

At times He calls me to wait, something I am not inclined to do, and its all too easy to give up in the process. The song by John Waller “While I’m Waiting” encourages my heart so much. Psalm 147 reminds me of the importance of worship, especially while I’m waiting.

“How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!”

Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and listen to “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller here:

What encourages your heart to praise?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Taxes and Time with the Father

My apologies for not posting this past week. I am still playing the game of catch-up after being down with yet another sinus infection and am also paying for not keeping better records for taxes in 2010. Ugh! Every year I vow to do better at that, and somewhere around April or May, I forget all about tax records and then sprint in January to make up for it. It's finally done and I have vowed once again not to let it happen again! Ten minutes each month can save me a ton of time in January. (Ask me in May how I'm doing.)

This reminds me of how I am in my Christian walk at times. I vow to read my bible and pray more. And I do well for a while but somewhere along the way I settle back into my rut only to regret it later. It's just like my record keeping, daily commitment can save me heartache later.

I forget the headache from January when I’m enjoying the sunshine in June. Just like I forget the importance of being organized and keeping good records, I forget the benefits of God. I forget that the only way to fullness is through Him. I feel the heartaches and emptiness when I have neglected to spend time with the Father in previous months.

It’s good to be organized but really, in view of eternity, it doesn’t matter if I am prepared in January or not; what does matter is if I have been walking with God daily. I will “rise before dawn and cry for help”.

I’d love to hear about your time with God, the blessings and struggles of staying consistent in daily time with your Father.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.

Psalm 109:1-5
1Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits— 
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life
from the pit and crowns you
with love and compassion, 
who satisfies your desires
with good things so that your youth
is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 119:147
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Precious One

I enjoyed tucking my daughter in tonight, we talked and even giggled when I broke out spontaneously in a ridiculous rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

“Mom, rub my face like you used to” she requested. She shut her eyes as my fingers danced lightly around her face, something she used to like when she was a little girl.

She drifted off to sleep and my thoughts drifted to praying for her. “Father, keep her from evil and keep evil from her… "She is Yours, help her to know that and live it and find satisfaction in nothing and no one else…."

I was struck by the truth that her life and soul mean infinitely more to me than anything this life can offer.

As I prayed, God re-ordered some things in my life and refocused my heart. I have been anxious to repaint my living room a fresh new color. Yet compared to the vital task of raising this young woman, building a God-world view in her life, my living room and so many other desires took a back seat and seemed so unimportant.

“Oh, Lord, give me wisdom as a mom, give me Your love to love with and Your eyes to see with. Keep my priorities in line with Your will. Thank you for blessing me with this angel. May she always seek to live for You.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Little Car and Learning to Trust

The telephone woke us. It was 1:15 a.m. Our oldest son was on the other end. “We need you to come pick us up. We hit ice and wrecked your truck. It’s not drivable.”

My heart stopped. Relieved he and his wife were ok, I sent up a prayer of thanks. I jumped out of bed and gathered flashlights as my husband donned his coveralls, Carhart, hat and gloves.

It was 31 degrees, a warm night for January in South Dakota. I sent up another prayer of thanks. Then I settled into my routine of pacing and praying. It’s what I do when I’m concerned and can’t do anything to help a situation.

The phone rang again. It was my daughter-in-law. “I just need someone to talk to while Jeff is outside checking on the truck. I’ve never been in a wreck before. It is good we were on the bridge when we spun, otherwise we would have probably rolled.”

I was so glad to hear her voice. So glad she was ok. She told me about what happened, then went on to tell me about her day. It had been her special day. Her Christmas present from her husband. Money and a shopping day to buy things to decorate their home. She said the laundry detergent had broken open, but it appeared everything else was ok.

As I hung up the phone, my mind was racing. There was no sense in trying to sleep for sleep would not come until they were all safely at home. So I sat down to write. One issue in particular dominated my thoughts.

My Husband had bought an old little car in November. I had been unhappy (we’re talking close to a temper tantrum) when he had spent $600 on it. “We don’t need another vehicle… We shouldn’t spend the money…”

It was a 1990 Ford Escort station wagon and it had been used, I mean really used, but with only 87,000 miles it would last a long time as a hunting/fishing vehicle for him and would be easy on the wallet getting over 30mph. Especially compared to his Expedition which gets nothing even close to that gas mileage. And he liked it. It was like a new toy.

Now, with the Expedition wrecked (liability insurance only), I was feeling foolish to have opposed the purchase of that little car. I was actually thankful for it. It would be good to still have two cars. And truth be told, I liked how it drove.

Could it be that God allowed my husband the wisdom (and the money- we don’t typically have $600 sitting around) to purchase that car at the right time so we would have it now? Could it be that He really wants me to trust my husband?

I always thought I did trust my husband, but so many times I see my view point as the “right” one. So many times I want to put my two-cents in. So many times I forget to sit back, let him be in charge, and leave the little details I’m concerned with up to God.

I really do have a wise husband. He is incredibly smart and a very capable, strong man. When I list all his good qualities, I wonder why there are times I am worried about anything at all. I am married to one awesome guy!

Yes, God’s ways are best. And once again, I took the long route to learning that. I’m so glad God and my husband both have patience with me! Time for another prayer of thanks.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Busy But Bored

Bored. To my mom it is a four-letter word. In our home growing up, a chore was promptly assigned to whoever dared to use the "B" word. "There is never an excuse to be bored. There are so many ways to entertain yourself. If you're bored, you need something to do. Now go clean the toilets." This is just one of the many valuable lessons mom taught me. Thanks, mom.

Even though I have been trained to not use such language, the "B" word has come to mind quite often lately.  I'm bored. Bored physically. Bored mentally. Bored spiritually. (I seriously hope my mom isn't reading this or I might be cleaning until Ground Hog Day!)

My days are busy, busy, busy, filled with three part time jobs, being a wife, mom and pastor's wife; so having nothing to do is not the problem. Most weeks I need an extra day or two just to make it to the end of my to-do list. Busy but bored. I used to sense God's call on my life; dream of the things He would do through me with eager anticipation. It's not that I don't feel His call anymore - I know it's still there. I know He hasn't canceled the work He has for me to do.

But it seems this calling has gotten masked by the mundane. Usurped by the urgent. This is where the boredom comes in; I was created for more. Created to do more. More than the everyday necessities. I was made to last eternally, not just to the end of the day. So, shouldn't my goals be of eternal magnitude as well? Yet too often my daily goals don't amount to much more than remembering to get milk and make a dentist appointment.

When exactly did I allow this to happen? How did I allow this to happen? It wasn't in a moment, but in a lot of moments together. Choosing the here and now over the eternal.  It seems the right decision at the moment. We all need clean socks and the house needs to be stocked with toilet paper, right? But allowing these little tasks to overrun my moments turns into days and weeks and months.  Soon, I'm lost in the immediate and busy, busy but bored.

I want to run at a faster pace. I want to do serve, accomplish, progress and converse spiritually. More. I want more. I want deeper. To serve my Lord more and deeper. I want to grow more and deeper.

My life is in coast mode and it's time to press the accelerator. At least that's my plan. I have been revving my engine for some time now, inching forward, waiting for God's green light. In my impatience, all I see is red and at times yellow. "Stop...wait for My leading...Slow down...Listen..."  If I keep so busy etertaining mysself with temporary tasks I won't even hear the beckoning to sit at His feet while I wait and use the time He is giving me.
 The new year holds promising potential. An opportunity to stop and reflect, to live more purposefully than the year before.  But all the reflecting is nothing without the doing. So today I am going to enjoy the red light, grab a cup of coffee and sit at His feet.  My Bible is open to Psalm 119 and I will allow my soul to be fed and listen- even if there is laundry to do, beds to change, floors to sweep and toilets to clean. They can wait. I'm busy. Busy and not bored.