Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Hope- I just love that word.  As soon as I hear it something deep inside me feels refreshed, like an ice cold drink of water after a hot day of gardening.  According to the Hought Mifflin dictionary the definition of hope as a verb is:
  1. To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
  2. Archaic To have confidence; trust.
Now I would bet that we all have hopes and dreams, for ourselves and for our children.  We hope for good health, we hope our children will be successful, hey we hope we will be successful!  We hope for everyday miracles:  I hope this dress will fit, I hope the check comes in the mail today, I hope so and so doesn’t stop by today…  Well you get the picture! 
It is funny the strength you can get from hope.  When I was younger and really struggling with life I had a huge hope.  I had a hope for rising above the circumstances I found myself in.  Travis Tritt had a song that I would sing with all my heart and at the top of my lungs, “I’m gonna be somebody.  One of these days I’m gonna break these chains.  Yeah, I’m gonna be somebody someday, you can bet your bottom dollar I will….”  Even now as I write out the words to that song I can feel my heart pounding with anticipation.  Isn’t that what hope does?  It gives us something to look forward to.  If you have ever felt like you were in a hopeless situation and then found something to hope for, you understand the power of hope. 
Awhile back I was in a situation that seemed hopeless, no matter which way I looked there seemed to be no solution, no sign of rescue or release.  I struggled for days, even weeks with this feeling of hopelessness.  Every area of my life was affected: my relationship with my husband and kids suffered, my desire to get out of bed in the morning was vacant, my joy was AWOL, and most of all my prayer life was empty.  It is hard to pray when your heart is so full of hurt and so empty of hope.  Then God brought a verse to mind that I had memorized as a youth.  It comes from Psalm 20 verse 7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord God.”  You see, when we are feeling hopeless, the truth is we have to put our hope in the wrong thing.  We have taken our focus off of God, who is our hope, and placed in on chariots and horses, or friends and family, or circumstances and events.  When we place our trust, our hope in Christ, we will NEVER be disappointed.  Things may not always go the way we would like but we will have assurance that God is in control and we are in His hands.  No matter what, if we have a relationship with Christ, we always have the hope of better things to come.  Though things on earth often leave us feeling hopeless, we know that it will all pass away and we can look forward to eternity in Heaven with our Creator!  So in the words on Third Days song My Hope is in You, “My hope is in You/ Show me Your ways/ Guide me in truth/ In all my days/ My hope is in You”

Monday, March 21, 2011

King Darius

Is it just me or have you ever spent the night lying awake, worrying about the mistakes you had made during the daylight hours? There are times, at night, when I lay there thinking, “I should have paid more attention when Jen was telling me that story”, or “I should have asked Jeremiah how his science fair is coming along.” Even, “Gosh I wish I hadn’t gotten so upset with Mikaylah for forgetting her homework” and “I shouldn’t have said that to Myrah, or “I should have spent more time playing with Skyler.” Sometimes I think that it will only be by the grace of God that these kids grow up to be capable adults!

Is anybody agreeing with me here? And that is just with my kids, what about the mistakes I make with Jerry, or at work, Shouldn’t I have called that friend to check on her… The list goes on and on! Please tell me I am not alone??

Actually, I already know I am not alone. From the pages of Daniel, I know that there was a King who spent a sleepless night regretting his choices. The story is a familiar one and comes from the 6th chapter.

King Darius is the guy who can identify with me. He made a decision, well actually since he was king he made a law. He decreed that for thirty days, anyone who prayed to any god or man except him would be thrown into the lion’s den.

I am sure you can see the problems with that from the get go but Darius was feeling pretty good about himself at the time he made the law. You see, he didn’t come up with this idea on his own. His advisers, the administrators and satraps gave it to him. I am guessing he was patting himself on the back thinking how amazing it was that these wise guys thought he was worthy of that kind of worship.

If you know the story, you know that these “wise guys” were really just out to get Daniel. The Bible says, “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” (vs 3)

Well you can imagine the jealousy the other “wise guys” were feeling. They were so jealous that they plotted and planned a way to get him out of the way. But the Bible goes on to say, “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” (vs. 4)

But let’s get back to our King Darius, the guy who can relate to me.

King Darius followed the advice, made the law and, to his great sadness, his #1 guy, Daniel is thrown into the den of lions. Let’s pick the story up in verse 16:

“So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’ A stone was brought and laced over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.”

The Bible goes on to record that Darius spent the night worrying about Daniel. He so regretted what had been done that he couldn’t even eat or sleep.

There was something else that Darius didn’t know. Verse 17 says, “So that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.” Well. Darius didn’t know that we serve a God that can change any situation, a hole with a rock rolled in front to seal the opening. (Hey that reminds me of another, even more awesome story, but I guess I will save it for another day! In case you can’t wait, you can read it in Mark 15-16). What Darius didn’t know is that “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) But he was about to find out.

When Darius sees the first hints of daylight he rushes to the den and in “an anguished voice” he calls for Daniel. Much to his relief Daniel answers and walks out unharmed. Hallelujah!

So what can you and I learn from this? Well, as I studied this story and took a fresh look at it, I was reminded that there is nothing I can mess up so badly that God cannot fix!

Friend, is there something that you are struggling with right now? Something that you think you have messed up so badly that it is unrepairable? Take a deep breath, and then hand it over to God…. Nothing is beyond God’s reach!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In a Fog

These last few Illinois winters have been fairly interesting. We have had everything from snow to ice, to fog, power outages, and even a mild earthquake. As always, I am so ready for the first hint of Spring to come my way!
Awhile back, I was driving to work. It was snowing but the roads were fairly clear and I was cruising along at a fair speed when all of a sudden I drove into this thick blanket of fog. I couldn’t even see the car in front of me. It was crazy and it really slowed me down. (For those of you who know me, you know that I probably needed slowing down!)
Well the fog got me to thinking about life and how sometimes it, too , can get a little foggy. Sometimes you are cruising along down life’s highway, going at a decent speed, heading for your destination when all of a sudden you are in the midst of a deep fog. 
Ever been there? Maybe one of your kids gets really sick. Maybe it is the death of a loved one, or terminal illness of a parent. Maybe you didn’t get that job promotion you were expecting. Maybe a sure thing turned out to be a not so sure thing. Whatever it is for you, I think it is safe to say we have all been there. So what do we do to navigate through this fog and why is it happening?
Well, just as when you are driving in a fog, when life gets foggy, there are some things you can do. First, slow down! Going too fast can cause you to crash into things you never even saw coming. In life this means to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) 
Next, turn the headlights on low beam…high beam are too strong and will cause the light to reflect back at you rather than shine on your path. In life this means trusting in God to give you just what you need for the next moment, don’t try to look too far ahead because it will only make things in front of you harder to see. (“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” Psalm 119:105)
The third thing you can do is concentrate on keeping between the lines. Just as highways have lines painted to help guide you on your path so too life has “lines” to guide you on where to go. As we were just reminded from Psalm 119, God’s word is one of those guidelines. In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham to leave his home land. He does not tell him where he is going but promises that he “will show you” (Gen. 12:1) Trust that the God of Abraham is the same God we serve and He will show you where He wants you to go also.
A fourth thing to keep in mind while navigating fog is, to focus on the car in front of you. The taillights of another car will help you to know what is coming up in the road ahead. In life, having a mentor, someone ahead of you on the journey, can help you to navigate those tricky twists and turns in the road. Ecclesiastes 2:1 reminds us that indeed, “Two are better than one.”
A final thing to help is to remember the path. When I was driving in the fog to work, I focused on what I already knew about the road. I knew there was a stop sign shortly after the railroad tracks, I knew that there was a sharp curve just before the tracks. Things like this help you mark out the path you cannot clearly see. So to, when struggling through a foggy path in life, you can remember back to the times that God was faithful to you. Times when you were unsure of what was going to happen, but you can look back now with great joy at how the situation played out. When you get in a spot where you can’t quite see your way out, instead try to remember the times when God showed you the path. Remember where your headed, (Heaven someday~Halleluia!) and then just start moving forward slowly!
Sometimes we hit a fog and we go into a panic. Hopefully the next time this happens you will slow down, dim the lights, concentrate on the lines, focus on those in front of you, and remember the path you are traveling.

Monday, March 14, 2011

When your "happy place" isn't making you happy...

I would definitely consider Starbucks my "happy place."   In fact, I like to think of it as my office, which makes my ministry world wide, right?  Anytime I am feeling even a little stressed, just the thought of sipping a delicious coffee treat, brings instant relief.

However, recently, my family and I have been walking through some really dark day.   In fact the words of Habakkuk echoed my heart's cry:

2 How long, LORD, must I call for help,
   but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
   but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
   Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
   there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
   and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
   so that justice is perverted.

Because I was having such a hard time over the weekend, some good friends met me at my "office" to just love on me and encourage my heart. Guess what?

It didn't work...though I loved being with my friends, my heart was just as sad when I left as when I first arrived.  Then today, I was reading through my devotion when I came across these words from Deuteronomy 8:
1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
It is Moses speaking to the Israelites just before they are going to enter the Promised Land.  He is taking a trip down memory lane to show them that God has done things differently than they expected (which neither you nor your ancestors had known).  He also wants to show them that God has been incredibly faithful to them but that he has "humbled" them to teach them that "man does not live by bread alone."

I guess that could be translated into Marlanese as, "A girl does not live by delicious coffee drinks alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."  So I guess that means that my "happy place" isn't guaranteed to make me happy but that I can always count on the faithfulness of God.  And I suppose, after reading my husband's facebook post that said, "Help fight heartache, it's the leading cause of most addictions" that I might agree I am addicted to that great coffee place and that MAYBE just MAYBE I have used it as a substitute for prayer and searching the Scriptures for comfort. 

How about you?  Have you counted on other people, places or things to bring you happiness instead of resting in Christ alone?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, March 7, 2011


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about grace, what it means and how it applies to our lives as Christians. defines it as, “mercy, clemency; pardon...favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.” It then goes on to have a separate definition under the heading of “Theology.” Here it defines grace as “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God...the influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.”
Isn’t it interesting that the world’s definition of grace and God’s definition of grace are not the same? How true is that! But I wonder which definition the church of today is living out? Or even more clearly, which definition of grace are the people of Christ living out today?
You see the world’s definition is “granting a delay” so there is still a payment due, but the world’s grace means a willingness to wait for that payment.
God’s definition? Well that’s a different story, “freely given, unmerited favor and love.” Payment canceled, end of story! Now that is the grace I hope is extended to me!
Our Sunday school class recently discussed this very thing. We are reading The Power of a Woman’s Words by Sharon Jaynes and a few months ago the lesson was on the lack of community within our Christian communities. In chapter 2 Jaynes tells about a man named Rob, a new believer who shares with his Bible study group that he misses the fellowship he use to have in the bars. Jaynes goes on to say, “Rob didn’t miss the alcohol. He missed the fellowship where no one would judge, condemn, nag, discourage, or tear him down.”
She then goes on to quote Charles Swindoll from his book, Encourage Me.
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it’s permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship…The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”
Now that is a lot to think about. Why is it that people aren’t finding that acceptance from those of us who follow Christ?
The SHINE team recently studied Jane Rubietta’s (last year’s speaker) book entitled, Come Closer. Chapter 4 of her book begs the question, “Whatever happen to come just as you are?” and then challenges us by adding, “What if...we didn’t expect people to come all cleaned up, spit shined and pressed, with mouthwash freshening their breath? What if someone weaves into the church with alcohol seeping through her pores? What if a wife shows up with a black eye? What if a drug addict plops down in the front row? Or someone who forgot their anti psychotics that morning? Can we really say, ‘Come as you are?’”
Can people spend time with you without feeling judged? Do they go home encouraged or discouraged after a day with you?
Or maybe you are the one who is feeling judged? When is the last time someone offered you grace~ unmerited favor? Maybe we struggle with giving grace because we have forgotten the grace that was given to us. Maybe the people of God have been less than gracious to us...I hope not friend, but even if this is the case, God has given us grace. Freely, grace has been given freely, not because we have earned it but because he LOVES us. Loves us enough to give up his only son to pay a debt we couldn’t pay. Maybe we have forgotten that part of the story. Maybe we are like that debtor Jesus talks about in Chapter 18 of Matthew.
You might remember the story. A man owed a debt that could not be repaid so he was ordered to be sold, along with his wife and children. Well this man fell to the ground and begged for something he did not deserve, grace. And the master had compassion and blessed the man with the grace he did not deserve.
However, the man went right out and found someone who owed him a debt, much smaller than the one he owed. It would make sense that he would return the same act of kindness that was just given to him, but sadly instead of grace, the man demanded justice. He had this man thrown into prison.
Oh sad day when we become like this man, forgetting so quickly the grace we have been given and demanding justice from others, when we want grace for ourselves.
This story had a sad ending, the man whose debt had been forgiven by the master and then went out to collect debts owed to him, well the master found out and what had once been a huge sigh of relief turned into a moan of justice coming full circle. The master handed him over to be tortured until he could repay all that he owed.
Jesus concludes the story by saying, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you , If each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Let us not be like this unforgiving servant, who quickly forgets the grace that has been poured out on us. Close your eyes, picture the cross, think about all that God has done for you and then pray and ask God to replace your unforgiveness with forgiveness, your anger with compassion, your judgments with grace.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I wish you and I were sitting at a little coffee shop (Starbucks comes to mind!) where we could talk face to face because I would love to discuss the word, “Holy” with you. I would love to hear what each of you had to say about what it meant. I have been studying 1 Peter lately and have really been challenged by that word.
Take a look with me at 1 Peter 1:13-16. It reads¸ “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” 
Before I began the study I would have told you that to be holy meant to be perfect, without blemish. And I suppose that is an accurate definition of the word. Certainly no one would argue that God, himself, was indeed perfect and His son was without blemish. But me, well not so much! I am a girl who makes more mistakes than she would like to and in the past when I have read this Scripture I have always felt like this was one of those commands that was out of reach¸ no way could I be perfect, at least not this side of heaven.
But in my study the author asked me to think of someone who I considered holy and to describe their life. I thought of people like Corrie ten Boom and Mother Theresa and then it struck me…they were this side of heaven and yet lived holy lives, not perfect but holy. That meant no more excuses for me. The truth is I can live a holy life now and so I began examining the Scripture and my life to see where I needed to change my thinking. Here’s what I learned:
1st and foremost, we cannot be holy without Christ and the truth is, He has already made us holy. Our sins have been forgiven just as Hebrews 10:10 says, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.”
So then as I looked back on the passage in first Peter I learned that I need to prepare my “mind for action.” In the King James it reads “Gird up the loins of your mind, “or in other words, “prepare for battle.” I am convinced that 90% of the battles we face are in our own minds. What I mean is that our wrong thinking, or worries about what might happen keep us from pressing toward what we are called to do and finding out what really would happen.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have this extremely irrational fear of lakes, rivers, and pretty much any body of water I can’t see the bottom of. So much so that when my children were younger I use to agonize over what I would do if, while driving, I went off a bridge into the water. I would worry about how I would save all of my kids. I finally came up with this plan to get life vests and carrying them around in the van with me. We even rehearsed what each person’s role would be in the event of a horrifying plummet from a bridge. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of time and energy I put into worrying and planning for an event that in reality was and is very unlikely to happen. In fact, years later I can see how ridiculous it really was but isn’t that how wrong thinking is?
Or how about when we assume someone is upset with us, or misread someone’s body language? We take an innocent statement and turn it into a deep wound. And then we move forward with our wrong thinking intact, and a relationship that is anything but intact. Anybody else been there? 
Ok so back to first Peter. The first thing Peter tells us is to “Prepare our mind for action” but he follows that with “be self-controlled.” So what does self-control have to do with being holy? Well as I thought through this question I realized that in preparing my mind I needed to spend more time reading Scripture and in prayer, but also I needed to use self-control in what I put into my mind. I need to stop wrong thinking, and be more mindful of the television shows I am watching, the computer sites I am visiting, and the music I am listening to. All of these things affect my holiness. As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
So in order to be holy I need to prepare my mind and use self-control, but isn’t that all my effort and what if I mess up? Then am I no longer holy? Well the next part of first Peter is my favorite because it reminds me that I cannot do it on my own. Verse 13 finishes out by saying, “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Our hope should not rest in our efforts, God knows we are not perfect and that we will make mistakes, but He reminds us through Peter’s words that our hope rests in the grace that is extended to us because of who HE is, not because of what we have or haven’t done.
The rest of the passage reads, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”
What I think this means is that once we are believers, we are called to be obedient and to no longer behave the way we did when we were without Christ. And it is that kind of living that leads to a holy life. Now that sounds like something I can do! How about you? Want to join me on the journey?