4 Ways to Feed Your Faith

Carnivore. Vegetarian. Vegan. Gluten free. Dairy free. Organic. Eating for our blood type. So many “eating” options are before us, at least in the land where I live. We give great attention to our food intake, knowing it affects our physical health. 

I’ve often asked myself: What would my physical health be like if I ate physical food in same way I ate spiritual food?

Would I be healthy and energetic? Malnourished? Would I have so little nourishment that my appetite would be gone? Would I be getting by, but with needed changes? Or, would I be dead?

These are important questions to ponder—because spiritually, like physically, we are what we eat.

It’s easy to eat food on the fly, while running out the door. Or, to just grab something someone hands to us in a drive-through. However, these aren’t the meals that do us the most good, or the ones which we remember.

Do you feed your faith “on the fly,” or mostly when someone hands something to you in a “spiritual drive-through?” Do you pay careful attention to your intake, or lack thereof? It’s crucial to take time to eat at the spiritual dinner table.

How healthy is your faith? Is it well fed and growing, or is it waning? Thankfully, we can build ourselves up in faith. While we can become physically healthier through our eating habits, surely eternal life is of greater importance than physical life.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
(Jude 1:20-21)

Maybe you have been disappointed, or have been struggling to see God at work in your life—wanting to see victories that don’t seem to happen. Perhaps you feel as if life is going in the opposite direction from your desires. As a result, faith can suffer– tempting us to lose our appetite for the spiritual nourishment we need. Consequently, we are more apt to consume “junk food” that’s neither satisfying, nor good for us. It can come in the form of mind consuming social media and entertainment, or people or things that confuse our spiritual focus.

So how do we feed our faith?  Here are some simple reminders.

  1. We’ve got to eat the meat—or at least protein. There’s no substitute for opening the Bible and taking in the words of God. When we read, we can remember the power of God, his kindness, his love, and his truths…for faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

And, let the word digest. Take time to really listen. Take time to see God. See him at creation. See him with Moses, David, and Mary. See him raise the dead and see Jesus raised from death. Be amazed at the magnitude and minutia of his creation. Take time to read the word. Take time to hear the word spoken. Sometimes, hearing the word of God spoken out loud speaks to me even more keenly, while at other times silent meditation moves my heart and mind.

  1. Invite others to “eat with you.” We need each other. Sometimes I need to “do my own cooking” spiritually, while at other times my faith is fed through others. When friends are hurting, or going through trials or life changes we often encourage them by sending physical meals. Often, food prepared for others is arranged through an internet tool called “the meal train.” Perhaps we could also encourage each other with “spiritual meal trains,” as together we encourage one another’s faith.  When I feel weak or hurting, nothing encourages me more than receiving a meaningful Scripture that speaks to my particular needs.

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know…Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  
(1 Thess. 3:2-4,10)

 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  (Romans 1:1-12)

It’s a special treat to “go out to eat.” Likewise, it’s a privilege and special time to “go out to eat spiritual food” as we meet together as a church, worship together, and  hear the word preached.  Neglecting this privilege and responsibility will weaken our faith.

  1. Sharing our personal faith feeds our faith. Yes, inviting people to church can be helpful…as friends may come and open their hearts to seeking God. But there is so much more involved in sharing our faith. Sharing our faith reminds us of what God has done in our lives. As you read the book of Acts, the disciples went everywhere sharing what God had done in their lives. It’s crucial, as the Scriptures state, to be active in sharing our faith. This feeds our faith.

  I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
(Philemon 1:4-6)

As we hear encouraging news of how God is working in others’ lives, it strengthens our faith. We can’t hear these workings of God if we aren’t actively sharing them. Sometimes, without this focus, we can forget the mighty ways God has and is continuing to work on our behalf.
 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:8)

  1. Take supplements to strengthen your faith.

Often, in addition to reading the Bible, gaining encouragement from others and being encouraged, and sharing my faith I’m strengthened by spiritual books and spiritual songs. I try to always be reading spiritual books, and I’ve gained so much from them. At times, music strengthens my faith like nothing else can do at the time. 

 
  When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.
(2 Timothy 4:14 NLT)


Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
(Colossians 3:16 MSG)

You may feel you have little faith, but it can grow if you feed it. Fortunately, our faith does not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Even a little faith, with God’s huge power, can move mountains.
 I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it— and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,
  which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 MSG, emphasis added)

 

 

 

A Powerful Lesson from the Walmart Clerk

A few months ago I spoke on a panel for caregivers in downtown Boston. Invited by a wonderful woman who is involved in community affairs, I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I didn’t quite know how I got the invitation. I don’t think I had grasped that I had become, in fact, a caregiver. The sponsoring group was looking for “clergy” for the panel, and I was asked to speak on the role of faith in the life of a caregiver. I was thrilled for the opportunity to share with this audience the importance of my faith.

I did not know the keynote speaker, however she contacted me a few days before the event in order to go through the details of the morning program. As we tried to find a time to talk that would work for both of us, she mentioned that she could not talk at a particular time because that was during her shift at Walmart. I was confused. She would be speaking to many influential men and women—so I must confess that her occupation surprised me. I felt a bit guilty for that thought, as I know a job does not define a person’s contribution to society—or to other’s lives. She offered no explanation, but sought to find a mutually agreeable time to talk.

This woman’s message at the event was quite impressive. Her speech was informative and inspiring. It was evident that the challenges facing caregivers were on her heart as she sought ways to encourage them, advocate for them, and educate them on available services. Her passion was contagious.

In a follow up conversation I asked her more about her job, as I was quite curious. I learned that she is an astute businesswoman who owns her own company. However, as a spokesperson for the care-giving community, she felt she was not fully in touch with their needs–though she powerfully spoke about them. Thus, she decided to take a shift at Walmart in order to have conversations with caregivers who come through her checkout line. She can spot them by their purchases—unique to caregivers. Her goal is to chat with them, learn from them, and to offer words of gratitude and encouragement. Wow. I left the conversation challenged and inspired. 20170121_135916

Years ago I watched a movie I will never forget entitled “The Doctor.” In this movie a seemingly “entitled” doctor becomes the patient—and his life’s perspective is forever changed. Likewise, a book, “Nickle and Dimed,” by Barbara Ehrenreich moved my heart in similar ways. In this book, the author becomes an undercover journalist who chronicles her attempts to support her family on a waitress’ salary in order better understand and communicate the plight of many women. Though I have often tried to listen to and understand people’s life circumstances and difficulties different from my own… I am free to go back to live in my own skin and surroundings. This recent conversation with the Walmart clerk caused me to rethink needed ways to take my empathy and understanding deeper.

It’s hard, actually impossible, to comprehend the love that caused Jesus to willingly leave heaven for earth to be the human—to feel what we feel, to be tempted the ways we are tempted, to cry the same tears we cry, to feel pain and sorrow, to feel human love and friendship, and to experience death. Yet it’s real. He did it and left us an example.
  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)
  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:3-11)

While the Walmart clerk, the movie, and the book inspire me to be more aware and considerate, only Jesus can truly change and empower me to live a life of “love with skin on it” that begins inside the attitudes of my heart. I am dependent on his grace and mercy, and long to to learn more keenly to reflect his grace and mercy each day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of Eggs: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Menopause

As I opened the refrigerator it hit me. My epiphany came as the waft of cold air came spilling from the stainless steel rectangular box. I was out of eggs. This eggless dilemma was deceiving, as the cardboard egg container still looked the same from the outside.20160805_131350

However, upon opening the carton I saw it was true. The last egg had been used. I was not prepared for the drama that was now thrust upon me. You see, my pumpkin muffins were waiting. The oil and water had already been added to the mix (that’s right—they weren’t homemade). All that was needed to complete this delectable snack was one stinkin’ egg. I didn’t need a jumbo egg, a large egg, or a brown egg. I didn’t even care at that point if it was organic and cage free. Any egg would do. My muffins would not turn out well without an egg. The egg was needed to hold it all together and to bring moisture.  But I was in a hurry. No time to find a neighbor with an egg, or make a quick trip to the store. I’d have to do this thing eggless. The pumpkin muffins went into the oven. Thirty minutes later, voilà. I was left with muffins that were falling apart, dry and crumbly. Muffin tops rolled over the edge of the crinkled paper muffin holders.

And this, my friends, is what happens in menopause. When that last egg leaves, women often feel they are thrust into an oven, and then things start to fall apart. All moisture leaves the body. The whole body. And the muffin tops hang over the edge.

For me, during menopause I lived with my own personal summer—like a summer at the equator while wearing a fur coat. I often couldn’t sleep until it was time to wake up, and that greatly increased my fatigue level. Dryness of all kinds was a problem, as were heart palpitations (which turned out to be tachycardia resulting in a heart ablation, rather than menopausal palpitations—surprise). My doctor assured me that palpitations causing one to pass out were not normal menopausal symptoms. So, don’t attribute everything to menopause. Now, years later, the night sweats are gone, with the exception of one that arrives each and every morning at 6:00 a.m.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Fortunately, I didn’t feel much change emotionally, except a bit of sadness about the end of an era. Adding to the fun symptoms, menopause often hits when children are leaving home and parents are aging and passing from this life. I experienced all of that and felt it keenly. During that time, emotions could run high. And aging is part of God’s grace?

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.   Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:18–22)

I share this verse for encouragement, even though we are probably not looking to have a child at this stage of life (though this was the situation with Abraham and Sarah). This scripture tells me that even when our wombs are dead God can still work powerfully through us. God’s power in our life can become more evident than ever if we hold to his promises and are strengthened in our faith. Menopause, like everything else, is more than just a physical issue. It brings with it an opportunity to grow in our faith.

Some women go through menopause without much effect. However, as that last egg prepares to leave, a woman’s hormones go through great transitions as the estrogen leaves the premises. Like my pumpkin muffins, we can tend to feel like things are “falling apart.” We may feel like we live in a hot oven. We wonder why our skin changes and why sexual intimacy can be painful. We may ask, “Where did my libido go?”  We may find it more difficult to stay svelte…or get svelte. That’s a kind way to say we feel fat and have difficulty losing weight. The subtitle “Opportunities to Grow” is not about our changing metabolism.  As you read this you may be viewing menopause as an event that will happen years from now, or perhaps it is current. Maybe you went through it years ago and you barely remember how it affected you. Or if you are a guy, you may be wondering what is happening to your wife during this time. Whatever your stage, use this information to prepare you, confirm that you are not crazy, or encourage someone else who is in this stage of life.

Most women go through menopause in their early fifties. Again—do you see God’s grace at work? Imagine enrolling your child in kindergarten as you enroll yourself in Medicare. God understands that when we are in the menopausal stage of life it would be difficult to manage a toddler.  Menopause is simply when a woman stops ovulating. This results in the cessation of menstruation (another little gift from God). Hormonal changes can result in a lovely variety of symptoms:

  • Hot flashes (A hot feeling—the kind where you want to bury yourself naked in the snow.)
  • Night sweats (Did I go swimming in my sleep without realizing it?)
  • Insomnia (The inability to sleep…Where was this when my kids were little?)
  • Decreased libido (Decreased sex drive, or as the phrase goes, “My get up and go, got up and went.”)
  • Mood swings (Feelings that shift, causing you to weep at commercials or become angry at houseflies.)
  • Forgetfulness (Why did I walk into this room? Why is my mail in the refrigerator? What is my youngest child’s name?)
  • Dry skin (Yes, this especially includes vaginal dryness.)
  • Recurrent yeast or bladder infections
  • Recurrent colds or flus
  • Loss of hair (But don’t worry…it will likely reappear on your chin.)
  • Weight gain (Oh, the joy.)
  • Fatigue (I’m tired just reading all of this.)

Some women have minimal symptoms of menopause, while others hit the jackpot and get all of them. Some women may experience heart palpitations, panic attacks, or headaches. For others who have had headaches previously, they may lessen. We all experience this special time in our own special way. Be sure to consult your physician about your specific medical conditions, especially if you are having irregular bleeding or pelvic pain.   Many women have perimenopausal symptoms for years before they reach menopause. During this time they may skip cycles or have shorter or longer periods. Do remember, until the last egg is gone you can still get pregnant.

What can you do about these symptoms? First and foremost, pray a lot. Seriously. Menopausal symptoms can take our focus away from Jesus and weaken our ability to fight sin. Menopause does not give us a ‘’free pass” to become angry or indulge in self-pity. With God’s grace, allow these things to cause you to depend more on God. When you struggle, let it draw you closer to God’s power and love.

Keep helpful scriptures close at hand and read them often. Talk to trusted friends about your struggles, and ask for prayers. Catch the temptations before they give way to sin. Many symptoms can be treated, or at least their severity decreased. For example, insomnia can be helped through regular exercise, natural remedies, relaxation techniques, or even medications. Try to avoid technology before you sleep. It can prevent your mind from relaxing. Vitamin E suppositories or very small doses of natural estrogen suppositories, along with good lubrication, can help vaginal dryness. Healthy eating (with minimal carbs and sugars), along with vitamin and mineral supplements, can help reduce fatigue. Vitamins B-12 and D-3 are often low in women. When low in vitamin D, women can tend toward brittle bones and osteoporosis.Drinking plenty of water helps prevent bladder infections and also helps the skin stay moister.

Married Men: Oh Please Pause…May I offer you suggestions from a woman who has been there, done that? Thankfully, my husband was very encouraging and supportive through this time, though we navigated through a few storms.Your wife is not possessed. She is going through a difficult transition emotionally and physically. She would rather not feel the symptoms she does. She will do better with your love and support than with your solutions for “dealing with menopause.” Gifts of gym memberships, tweezers, wrinkle cream or strait jackets will likely not be well-received. Hugs, expressions of love, and assurances that you believe she is beautiful will be most helpful. She needs to know she is still valued and the object of your affection—not your “old lady.” Together, make a plan ahead of time for how you will handle new difficulties that arise. When the difficulties come, you will better know how to help each other. When the covers fly off at night and she throws off her nightgown, this is not an invitation. She does not want a hug. She does not even want to be touched. An ice pack would be the most romantic gift you could offer at this time. Ask her what would help her as she navigates this stage of life, what she most needs from you. Thank you for your understanding.

Women: We’re in This Together Friends, remember that every woman who lives long enough goes through this change and comes out on the other side, and so can you. With God, you can do this gracefully. It’s really an okay experience. I’m fully enjoying this stage of life, as are most of my friends. Make sure you stay close to God and laugh at the days to come. A sense of humor goes a long way. The wisdom of Proverbs tells us:

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Remember that this time in your life involves your husband as well, so wives, be sensitive to your spouse. It’s really not all about you or him. It’s about us as a couple, with God at the center. God still calls us all, male and female, to consider each other’s needs above our own. That’s a constant upward call for me. I hope I’m getting better with years of practice and learning from God, empowered by his Spirit—but I always need the reminder.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18)

This post is an excerpt from my new book, “An Aging Grace: Collected Wisdom on Aging Gracefully,” available at ipibooks.net

 

The Power of a Sneeze

It’s that time of year.  My entire family has spread the coughing, sneezing, hacking stuff.  I’m in the midst of it, and with a workshop tomorrow I’m trying hard to get over it in order to keep from sounding like a hoarse horse when I speak. IMG_5390Thankfully, I’m better today.

Sneezes and coughs can travel further than you might think.  Weather.com shared the results of a recent study done at MIT, which has been considered a potentially groundbreaking discovery in helping identify the spread of germs.

“[The study] changes our current ideas of how far germs can spread in aerosols such as coughs or sneezes,” Mary B. Farone, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Middle Tennessee State University, told weather.com. “We used to think if we could see the spray, that was the limit of the dissemination, but this study shows that tiny particles, such as bacteria and viruses, can be spread much further on gas clouds.”

These gas clouds allow germs to spread beyond the air right in front of our faces.

“This changes our perception of what needs to be cleaned, especially if these clouds of microbes reach ventilation systems which can then spread the germs even further,” said Dr. Farone. “Because the germs can be carried through ventilation systems, make certain that filters in air vents are changed regularly and use filters that trap small particles like bacteria and viruses.”  www.weather.com/health/news/how-far-does-your-sneeze-travel-20140410

So, now that you are fully grossed out and wondering if your sneeze could end up affecting someone on another continent…I want to flip this to a positive, spiritual thought.  God’s spirit is always at work, and we have no idea how God can use potentially insignificant acts of compassion–or words of kindness and boldness to impact people close by….and far, far away.  There are spiritual forces at work far beyond what we can see with our eyes, or really even imagine.  I have heard amazing stories of one person’s words, invitation to study the Bible, or an act of kindness having impact far beyond the initial action.  The Bible tells us to expect this.

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.  Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 (NLT)

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   Isaiah 55:10-11 (NLT)

This morning I watched a video that moved my heart, and reminded me of the far reaching power of compassion.  It will be worth your while to take a look:

http://www.lifebuzz.com/old-scrapbook/

And this was a heroic effort to save physical lives.  Eternal life is of much greater significance.  God has given us eternal life—and words we say, or actions we do can have eternal impact if we keep on sharing and doing good.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.   Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

So, if you sneeze—please cover your mouth.

And if you do good—let it go and let God work.

 

 

Clarence’s Shoebox

Today, during our staff meeting, we had an opportunity to share our appreciation for a dear sister, Laura Webster.  It was Laura’s birthday….and a big one.  An elder’s wife, she is a beautiful woman, inside and out.  As her strong and burly husband, Clarence, shared about her with tears he recounted a story about a shoe box.

As a young man, Clarence assumed he would try to make his life work by entering the military.  His mother became disabled, and called him into her room one day.  Under her bed was an old shoe box, which she pulled out to show her son.  Upon opening the box, and seeing a sea of green, he was dumbfounded to discover that the box was full of hundred dollar bills.  His mom had saved this money throughout her life, and presented it to Clarence.  She implored him to use this to go to school.  He did just that.

It was at university that Clarence met his wife, who impacted him greatly, especially when she became a Christian after they were married.  This led to his own decision to become a Christian.  Clarence recently buried his mother, and even more recently his brother, both of whom had followed suit as they learned the Scriptures.  His sons and daughters- in- law are wonderful Christian men and women as well, and his grandchildren are being raised by faithful, confident parents.  So many lives in many places have been touched by this couple.  For Clarence, it began with the shoe box.

We may never know how an opportunity we afford someone can impact them and countless individuals for generations to come.  Clarence’s mom did not have much money, but decided she would scrimp and save to give her son a chance to succeed.  Similarly, I’m reminded of a woman in the Bible whom Jesus said would be told about everywhere the Gospel was preached.

Mark 14:3-9

    While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

    [4] Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? [5] It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

    [6] “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. [8] She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. [9] I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Her sacrificial giving “what she could”, (though it was not a lot by human standards) had a tremendous impact on Jesus and on those who heard of her actions.  Even today, years later, this woman inspires me to give what I can.  And Clarence’s shoebox reminds me that what you and I may be able to give can have a ripple effect of good that may make an eternal  difference in many lives – in ways that we may never  even see.

Eccles. 11:6

    Sow your seed in the morning,

        and at evening let not your hands be idle,

    for you do not know which will succeed,

        whether this or that,

        or whether both will do equally well.

 

 

 

 

Telling Brady About Denver

After our women’s workshop Sunday I joined my husband, Wyndham, at our son’s house to watch the end of the Pittsburgh-Denver playoff game.  I’m not gonna’ lie…as a University of Florida alumni,  I’m a Tim Tebow fan.  However, I’m still loyal to my New England Patriots.

Sam (our son) and his wife, Leigh Ann, have a dog named Brady (yes, after Tom Brady of the New England Patriots).  Brady was born outside of Denver, and Wyndham and I brought him back with us, as we returned from a conference in Denver.  So, Brady and I have a special connection.  Wyndham takes him (and his brother Luke who belongs to my daughter and son in law) pheasant hunting.  Brady does not understand that he is too big to be a lap dog, as you can see.   Suffice it to say, we are attached to both Brady and Luke as granddogs.

As Brady ventured into my lap, I told him about his little “half” brother (yes, they both have the same dad) coming to our home next weekend. We are getting a golden retriever puppy from the same breeders that we used before.  How ironic that we have named him “Denver”, and that he will be arriving – along with the Denver Bronco football Tim (I mean team) – this weekend.  I explained to him that he will certainly continue to be the “alpha dog” with Denver, but that he has to make room in his heart for his little brother.  (He wasn’t impressed.)

While I don’t think this little tidbit has any affect on the outcome of the playoff game this weekend, and very little spiritual application – I did think about how good it is to see a man of strong character and convictions becoming a household name .  Tim Tebow is getting people’s attention…that prayerfully may then cause some to explore this Jesus whom he proclaims. While we may likely not agree doctrinally on some important things in the scriptures,  I’m so happy to hear of a popular sports icon that has the reputation for being the “only virgin in the NFL”.  While many may “pay homage” to God, have Jesus’ picture tattooed on their bodies, crosses hanging around their necks…or often point to the sky….so very few have the convictions and courage to live a life that represents the Jesus I know and read about.   Our world is so upside down in practicing what is true and Godly – and in knowing the difference in right from wrong.  As the prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 5:20-22

    Woe to those who call evil good

        and good evil,

    who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

    who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

  [21] Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

  [22] Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,

 

We certainly live in a time where powerless forms of religion reign as described in 2 Tim. 3:1-5

    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. [2] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, [4] treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– [5] having a form of godliness but denying its power.  (emphasis added)

I pray that more and more people can come to understand the amazing direction and power to turn lives around… that Jesus really gives.

And…well, I told Brady about Denver’s arrival this weekend.  We will wait and see what happens.

 

The Power of Music

Have you ever thought about how different a movie would be without a soundtrack?  Watching the scenes, without musical accompaniment, would be sort of like eating  food without  flavor.   I truly enjoy  great soundtracks, however I’ve had to train my ear to hear them well.  So often, I have just taken them for granted, unaware of the mood that they are helping to produce.  We can usually know when something scary is going to happen by the music that’s playing, or when someone is falling in love by the score in the background.   I’ve come to realize the contributing role that music plays in my emotions.

If I may ‘wax philosophically’ for a moment I’ll share a quote:  “Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.” (quote attributed to Plato). (Wordsworth Dictionary of Musical Quotations, 1991, p. 45).

God’s creation exudes harmony.  To me, the wind, the waves, the streams, the birds, the thunder and the the crackling of a fire are all parts of this orchestra.

Isaiah 55:12

    You will go out in joy  and be led forth in peace;

    the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

    and all the trees of the field  will clap their hands.

Somehow, God’s presence within us has the ability to soothe, to comfort and express love- much as a mother does when singing to her child.

Psalm 42:8

    By day the Lord directs his love,

        at night his song is with me–

        a prayer to the God of my life.

 As I read scriptures about songs I found that they were used in so many ways:

To awaken – Judges 5:12 ; to celebrate victory – Psalm 18:1; to express joy and praise – Psalm 28:7; to express love to someone – Isaiah 5:1; to alleviate fear – Isaiah 12:2; to find comfort – Isaiah 49:13; to mourn and bring down – Micah 2:4, etc.

I realize that my personal playlists of songs reflects so many of these areas.  I have greatly increased my use of music over the past year.  I find it helpful it setting my mind.  There are songs I like to wake up to…such as “What a Wonderful World”, “You Raise Me Up”, “Light Your World” (to name a few).  Some songs help me feel close to God (they are on my quiet time play list), some inspire me and help me exercise,  and then there are some (my dancing music playlist)  that help me dance through the kitchen  and laundry room.  I have some that comfort (think ”Be Still My Soul” and “Abide with Me”)…I try to stay away from dirges that bring me down (although I do have quite a long “country” playlist I enjoy).  My favorites are playing now…some nice background music (with a “fair shake” of Kenny G and Il Volo).  I like to keep these songs in the background when I’m at home.  (I rarely use earphones, as I don’t want to shut people out, which can happen when I can’t hear them)

A philosopher (some have attributed to Plato) has been quoted as saying,
“Let me handle the music for one generation and I will control Rome.”

In other words, the things we listen to, and pour into our minds affect our thoughts and actions.  It makes sense to me, in order to help “set my mind on things above”, to have playlists that agree with this desire.

Give it a try.  You may be surprised at the lift that songs bring to your heart, and the pep they put in your step!

Erasing “Not Possible”

Often, during times when I visited Eastern Europe on business, I brought with me a plethora of tasks that needed to be accomplished.  I met with many different people to begin the process of various undertakings such as the summer HOPE Youth Corps, the home for orphans, and even our own adoption experience.  Two words were often repeated – “not possible”.   I would hear the phrase, “not possible” over and over again in response to numerous requests and situations.  Though I realized much of the reason for this stemmed from a culture that had been under a dictatorship for many years… I still despised that phrase.  To me, that phrase sort of “puts its toe over the line” – as if to dare me to try to go forward.  These types of situations get my spiritual adrenaline juices going,… because I know that God specializes in the impossible.  When I hear “it’s not possible” –  it excites me to see what God might do.

I grew up with a dad who displayed a sign on his desk that read, “Now tell me all the reasons why it can be done.”  This exemplified  to me his character and faith.   I also remember a  time listening to my oldest sister recount a conversation with a police officer concerning a ticket she had gotten for going down a one-way street the wrong way.   Instead of paying a fine, she persuaded the court to change the road to become a two way street.  I have been inspired by the faith of so many I have seen around me and read so many accounts of real men and women in the Bible who stepped out on faith to witness God do the impossible.   So, I am well acquainted with examples of those who saw obstacles and challenges as mere “hiccups”.

More importantly, my spiritual Father created the universe out of darkness and void, closed the mouths of lions, and drenched a parched land from a tiny cloud – just to mention a very few feats.  He brought a nation of people from a closed womb, sent his son to be born of a virgin and then raised him from the dead.   His finest work comes from the most unlikely and impossible situations.

Sometimes, it takes tenaciousness and sometimes it requires our stepping out of our comfort zone to be used to change a situation.  I remember one particular (albeit  insignificant) situation like this.  I was pregnant with our first child and decided I wanted to stay (or get) in shape and take an exercise class.  So, I went to a neighborhood gym and inquired about joining a class for pregnant women.  The manager gave me an inquisitive look and told me there was no such thing.  I proceeded to convince him that this was a big mistake for their business and they needed to offer such a class.  In fact, they should pay me to teach it.  Granted, I had no background in this and didn’t know what I was doing.  I probably looked ridiculous.  I wore an old purple sweat suit that I wore when exercising (we had little money so it had to suffice as my exercise wardrobe.)   I looked much like an Easter egg.

Next thing I knew I was the new instructor for the “maternity aerobics” class.  I felt very out of my element…so purchased a “Jane Fonda”  video tape for pregnant women and did exactly what she did (well at least attempted to).  I thrill seeing possibilities unfold from “not possible” responses.

When you are faced with a situation that seems to have reached a dead end it is certainly possible that God is simply saying “no”.  However, it is also possible that He may want to use you or circumstances around you to change a seemingly impossible situation.  In order to find out, it takes our stepping out on faith…most often out of our comfort zones.   What situations do you face that seem impossible to change… even when you know they need to change and it is within God’s plan for them to change?  What are some things that stretch your imagination to envision being different?  Maybe it’s seeing an obstacle be overcome, changing something in your character, or healing a relationship.  You may have numerous “not possibles” in your mind.  As you think of them,  consider the following scriptures:

Romans 4:17-21

  As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.   Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” [19] Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. [20] Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, [21] being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Ephes. 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What “not possibles” might you erase by trusting that God is able to do more than you dare ask or imagine?

 

 

 

 

Conquering the Black Jeans

I have a job to complete.  I’m sitting at my kitchen counter with my “Hello Kitty” sewing machine… hemming some black jeans.   (Yes, I use a “Hello Kitty” sewing machine.  It is simple enough for me to use, and I figured that I could teach my grandkids to sew with it.)   I purchased these jeans for my husband about 3 years ago because they were his size…sort of.  I found them on sale for one dollar.  Yes, …one dollar.  The size was not marked,  but they looked about right for him.  They fit him well, except for the length.  I think that is why these jeans were on sale.  They would have fit well if he were about 8½ feet tall.  He is tall, but not that tall.  Well, I am happy to report that I just completed the job.

For some reason, I have procrastinated hemming these jeans for those 3 years.  I’m ashamed to say that they have been folded in the corner of our room for that entire time.  It actually took me three minutes to get the sewing machine set up with the needed black thread.  It took about another five minutes to hem both pants legs and another minute to put the machine back in the closet.  That’s it. Three years to actually make the decision to act …which took nine minutes to complete.

This new year, I wanted to begin by conquering this silly, crazy thing that had been hanging over my head  for much too long.  It’s eleven o’clock in the evening and I was not going to let another day pass without facing this.  The other thing I put off for way too long was getting rid of a cobweb in the corner of my shower.  It required my getting a footstool and wiping the corner of the shower stall.  Not a big deal, but every day for months  I would look up at that corner and say to myself, “I really should do something about this.”  Well, I’m happy to say the cobweb is gone.   I am quite sure I have spent much more time thinking about “getting around to it” than it actually took to do it.  I had to come to a point where I decided it was time to act on my good intentions saying….If I don’t do it today, then when will I…really?

While these two things are not really important in the big scheme of things they had gotten the best of me.  I just didn’t want to do them….yet.  However, I was always planning to “get around to it”.

Putting off until tomorrow can be a dangerous habit, especially if it effects life issues that are of utmost importance.  Perhaps you have been thinking of pursuing or strengthening your relationship with God….or changing something that keeps you from following him wholeheartedly.  Or maybe it’s just a small task like I mention above.  Sometimes, like Felix in the scripture below…we put something off because of fear of change.

Acts 24:24-25

    Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. [25] As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”

Other times, it is easy to just get complacent thinking that nothing is really that urgent.  The scriptures soberly speak to this as well.

Luke 12:18-21

    “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

    [20] “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

At any rate, I feel so much better after hemming those “dollar jeans” and wiping away the cobwebs.  What are you procrastinating?  Go for it today.  It could make the difference for the day, the year, or even eternity.

Why I Don’t Like Fishing

As I write this my husband is preparing sixty pounds of cod and haddock filets.  Tomorrow night we will have a fish fry with our family group. The remainder will go to friends, family and the freezer.  Two days after Christmas Wyndham went deep sea fishing and caught so many fish that his hands were cramping from the strain of pulling them all in.  (It might have also had something to do with being out on the ocean during winter in New England during high winds and 4-7 foot waves as well).  He had a blast! I was so happy for him, and I have to say – the fish tastes pretty fantastic!

I wish I could enjoy this sport with him.  However, if someone wanted to torture me they could wake me up in the wee hours of the morning, load me on a boat and take me fishing.  No need to chum for fish…  I’d automatically provide the chum.  I can get sick just looking at a wave.   It hasn’t always been this way.  When I was a young girl, I loved to fish for brim and bass in the pond in my back yard.  I caught fish on bread wads, bacon – and once while using bubble gum for bait.  I never could do the worms, however.  They were just too slimy for me.  I fished day after day and loved it.  However, something happened between now and then.

Today,  I could enjoy about 10 minutes of fishing if I was standing on the ground by a beautiful lake with the air temperature about 72 degrees Fahrenheit… and a gentle breeze was blowing to keep away the bugs. Someone else would bait my hook…I’d catch a fish instantly and then they would also take it off the hook for me (and throw it back).  It would be nice if a tasty picnic lunch was there to enjoy as well.  I could munch on this while I stared at beautiful mountains in the background overlooking the lake.   That would be okay.

I know what happened…..  Shortly after we were married I went deep sea fishing with Wyndham and his uncle (who loved fishing as much as he did).  It was raining and the waves had deep swells.  I turned green and went down to the cabin in order to stay dry while I threw up.  That proved to be a bad idea.  My sea-sickness got worse and worse, so I ventured outside to sit in the rain and hurl over the side of the boat.  As I sat down in the rain …. his uncle began chumming ( putting whole fish..guts and all in a meat grinder to dump in the ocean to attract fish.  That helped…(not so much.)  His uncle then gently put a tarp over me and assured me that we would turn back when the tide changed.  (He was the boat captain so made the decisions.) When I learned that the tide would change in six hours I seriously contemplated the decision to throw myself overboard.  Ever since that day, I have stayed far away from fishing.  It was a fast and firm decision.  I’m not even tempted to try it again.  I don’t want to get close to deep sea fishing…it made me completely miserable.

I thought about two scriptures I read today.

2 Tim. 2:22-23

    Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. [23] Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

1 John 2:15-17

    Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. [17] The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Every day…from the mall to the television the world tries to lure us with money, things, pleasures and all sorts of distractions from what really matters.  Satan is chumming for our attention and wants us on his boat.  That boat ride ends very badly.  May I (and we) always remember how empty and deceitful the world really is and stay as far away as possible…not setting foot on that boat.  Rather,… pursue faith, love and peace…with a pure heart.  These will not disappoint.