Thursday, December 30, 2010


I always get a little sad each year when we take down the Christmas tree and pack up the ornaments and decorations. Christmas is my favorite time of the year and saying goodbye to the Holiday season is bittersweet. It’s nice to reclaim my living room and to see an end to the chaos of Christmas, but it’s usually with a bit of melancholy that we return the seasonal trimmings to the attic.

Here’s the cool thing, though…as Christians, Christmas is really not a once a year thing. It’s not something that we spend a month celebrating and then put away for another year. Even though the world may have turned it into something else, the whole point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Well, isn’t that something worth celebrating every day?

Christmas gifts are given to represent the gifts given to Jesus by the “wise men” and as a reminder that Christ is God’s gift to our dying world. But, shouldn’t we exchange gifts of our love and time all year long as a reflection of His love?

Then there are all of those festive Christmas carols, anthems rejoicing the coming of the newborn King. When you think about it, though, aren’t Christmas carols another version of praise and worship songs, not unlike those we sing along with at church and on the radio?

In December we appoint our homes with decorations, nativity scenes, lights and trees. But, our homes should be dedicated to the Lord and a beacon of his light throughout the year, shouldn’t they?

When the angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, he didn’t say. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be celebrated once a year on December 25.” No, the good news of his birth, life, death and resurrection should give us great joy all of the time.

These verses from Ephesians paint a pretty accurate picture of what celebrating Christmas every day looks like, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2-3).

If we will make an effort to live out these verses, treating each other with loving-kindness, we will carry the so-called “Spirit of the Season” with us all year long.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Keep It Simple Charlie Brown!

One of my favorite movies of all time is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I refuse to buy it on DVD, because being able to watch it just any time seems to take away from the “special-ness” of it. No, I wait patiently until it makes it’s once a year appearance on ABC. I sit there in my PJ’s sipping hot chocolate and munching popcorn, letting the warm feelings of Childhood take over for a precious half-an-hour.

The message in this movie is the best part!! Not just the message, but more importantly, the way it is delivered. I spoke with someone recently who said he grew up in the church, but it wasn’t until he saw “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that he really understood the Gospel. How can this be? How can a kid go to church week after week, listen to sermon after sermon and not understand the Gospel, but then watch a 30 minute cartoon and finally get it?

Here’s what I think. In the Gospel according to Linus, the “Good News” about Jesus is presented in it’s simplest and purest form. It is not clouded by church doctrine, denominational differences or a judgmental tone. Nope, Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” and Linus lays it out for him. No visual aids, no 20 minute musical number, just a humble recitation of Luke Chapter 2, the story of the night Jesus was born.

Here’s my prayer. The next time a friend cries out, wanting to know the meaning of life…please help me follow Linus’ humble example. Help me to get out of the way of your truth! Help me to desire to be the moon, reflecting your light, not trying to generate a light of my own in vain.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Good Gifts

Have you ever gotten a gift that you were really excited about until someone else’s unkind remarks about the item dampened your enthusiasm?

For example, one year my son reeeally wanted a skateboard for Christmas and his Granny and Papa were more than happy to grant his 4-wheeled wish. He was so thrilled on Christmas eve when he opened their gift. His excitement lasted a few days until he showed the board to a few of his more skate-board savvy friends, who were less than impressed with it. They said his board wasn’t one of the name brands and it’s wheels and trucks were second rate. Andrew’s bubble was burst and the gift he once thought was awesome was now less than average.

Satan tries to steal my joy in the same way sometimes. Recently, I had a number of really wonderful blessings all happening within days of each other. At first, I was overjoyed by the wonderful gifts my Father was showering down on me. But then, I started to worry…what if something really bad was getting to happen and God was trying to buffer it with all of the good stuff. Pretty soon, my joy about the good things was being overshadowed by my anxiety over the bad things I had imagined might be lurking in my future.

How foolish! I was letting Satan steal my joy and diminish my appreciation for God’s gifts. But the Bible clearly tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17). In Nehemia, we’re told not to fear, but to let the joy of the Lord be our strength (Neh 8:10). And, in Philippians, our instruction is to rejoice in the Lord always, be anxious about nothing, pray about everything and in turn we’ll experience peace.

So, it’s pretty clear that the blessings we are given from God should be embraced with unreserved joy and thankfulness, not with fear. Cling to His truths and Satan will not be able to steal your joy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Through the Flames

There was a story in the news this week that just broke my heart. A Thomasville man named Jason Powers was killed Sunday night trying to rescue his young son from their home which had caught fire. When the fire began late Sunday night, the family escaped safely. But, when they got outside they realized that their 2 year old was missing. So, Jason did what I guess most parents would do, he ran back into the burning building to look for his son. After he had gone back into the home, the boy’s mother found their son safely outside. Unfortunately, Jason had to be pulled out of the home by a neighbor and did not survive his injuries.

What motivates a man to run back into the blazing building that he had just escaped? Love. Pure, undefiled, unconditional love. It’s that same kind of love, on a much grander, supernatural scale, that propelled Jesus from the majesty and perfection of the Heavenly realms, down to our hurting world…to die in order to rescue us, his children, from the flames of hell.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)

It’s Christmas time, and there is no doubt that you and I will encounter several nativity scenes. This year as you are gazing at the precious, innocent newborn in the center of the scene, know that He represents the extreme, radical love that our Father God has for each one of us. That baby Jesus is God in flesh, running into the burning building to pull us out. How could we ever doubt his love?

On another note - you can be a part of spreading God’s radical love through the WBFJ Christmas Blessing! Head on-line to to find out how you can donate goods and services or make a financial contribution as WBFJ reaches out to 5 local families in need of a helping hand for the Holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christians or Gladiators

Giorgio, a devout Roman Catholic, was our guide when my mom and I visited the famed Vatican City. He did a great job leading the tour and his passion for the subject matter was evident. One of the areas we visited was St. Peters Square, a large public area (which is actually round in shape) situated directly outside of St. Peter’s Basillica. In the round square is an area where, every Wednesday, the Pope addresses an audience.

I got a chuckle when Giorgio described this event. He said, “On Wednesday, thousands of Christians will gather here to see the Pope.” Then he asked, “However, once the Pope appears and begins his journey around the square, can you guess how many Christians will still be here?” He then answered his own question, “None…the Christians will disappear and the square will be filled with gladiators, attacking each other in order to get closer to the Pope!”

His description, although humorous to a degree, unfortunately describes a lot of us who are Christians, yet quickly forget to be Christ-like when we put our wants and needs before those of others. Think of the way so many of us behave during the Christmas season. I’ve seen more than one fish-bearing automobile racing through a parking lot in order to cut off another vehicle attempting to pull into a good parking spot.

So, as we make our way through each hectic day, let’s not forget whose name we represent, remembering these words from Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

I Left My Heart in San Gimignano

Pretty much my whole life I have dreamed of going to Italy. Maybe it’s because I grew up in New York living next door to a wonderful Sicilian family. Maybe it’s because of my love for Italian food and culture. This adoration of all things Italy even led to my choosing L’Italiano as my foreign language choice in college even thought Spanish would have been a much more practical option.

Finally, after 36 years of dreaming about it, I was able to travel to the “Old Country” and experience Italy, thanks to a wonderful birthday gift from my mom. And, I was not disappointed one bit. Italy was everything I had imagined and then some. At one point during the trip, I found myself standing on the highest part of a tower on the edge of a village that was built 250 years before Christ, overlooking the breathtaking Tuscan landscape. A harpist softly played a melody in the olive grove below and I could literally feel my heart aching for that moment to last forever. There are still times that I look at pictures from the trip and feel that heart-ache all over again. It is a longing that just won’t go away.

I was having one of those moments the other day when I realized that it’s probably a good thing the Bible is very limited in it’s description of heaven. In the past I have been frustrated that God has not revealed more about what we can look forward to when we finally make it home. But, I think I may understand why He didn’t. If my heart can ache over another place on this planet, I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I ever got a real glimpse into heaven only to have to continue living here on earth. I’m not sure I’d be able to go on.

In Corinthians 2:9, Paul writes about how little we really know about Heaven, “Corinthians 2:9, “…but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’"

The scriptures tell us just enough about heaven to know that it is a place we can look forward to, a place deserving of our longings. However, there is so much here on earth that needs to be accomplished before we get there. I think if we really understood what heaven would be like, we might never get our heads out of the clouds to take care of the earthly business at hand.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Without Ceasing

I hate exercise. I always have. I have never understood people who say they just looove to spend time at the gym. I don’t like pain or sweat or pain mixed with sweat. Yet, I fully understand how important it is to get physical activity each day, so I look for ways to sneak in exercise to my daily routine. For example, every time I brush my teeth and every time I sit at a red light, I tighten my abs. When I’m in the kitchen waiting for something to cook in the microwave, I do push-ups leaning on the kitchen counter or I walk in place. There are lots of other ways to add activity to your day: park your car far away when you go shopping, take the steps instead of the elevator, march in place while folding laundry, dance with your kids!

Prayer is another thing that I have to “work in” to my daily comings and goings. I really value having an open line of communication with God and I find that when I don’t regularly use it, God feels further and further away. Don’t get me wrong, I know that quiet time with God at a set time each day is valuable, but I have to admit I’m pretty undisciplined about regularly having that time. So, I try to pray throughout the day. Here are some easy ways to do this. Before you put the kids on the bus or drop them off at school, pray about the day ahead. Do the same on your way to work, praying for strength to face whatever challenges that may come your way. When doing housework, praise God for the blessing of having a house to clean and pray for your household. At the grocery store or cooking dinner, praise him for your daily bread. When you are lying in bed at night, pray for your spouse. It’s not important how you do it or where you do it, the only thing that matters is that you keep that conversation with God flowing.

The concept of praying throughout the day is not a new one. Remember Paul’s words to the Thessalonians? “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

Hi, I’m Tami, and this is a Moment for Mom

I recently had a chance to meet Bob Berklow, the head chaplain for Alpha Acres, a drug and alcohol recovery program for men. The men in the program spend a year living at Alpha Acres which is situated on over 100 acres in Yadkinville. For the past two years, Alpha Acres has taken advantage of their sprawling property and hosted a giant corn maze as an outreach to the community and a fundraiser for the program. It’s been a huge success, with hundreds of people coming each year to enjoy a day of old-fashioned family fun.

This year, Bob says he wasn’t sure if the corn maze would happen. You see, one requirement for a corn maize is very tall corn. After all, finding your way through a corn maze when you can see over the stalks is not much of a challenge. Growing tall corn requires a fair amount of rain during the growing season. And, this past summer, Bob says they hardly got any rain at all. So, he did what a good chaplain should do, he prayed for rain. And he prayed, and prayed and then prayed some more. But, the rain never fell. Bob started to worry. Why wasn’t God answering his pleas for precipitation?

Bob says that what he saw was that, despite his prayers, no rain was falling. But what he didn’t see was that, despite the lack of rain, his corn was growing, and growing well. In fact by the end of the season, Alpha Acres corn grew over 9’ tall, while a neighboring farmer’s corn grew only about half that tall. Bob now laughs at his poor observational skills. He realizes that God WAS hearing and answering his prayers. Just not in the way he’d expected.

In fact, God often doesn’t answer our prayers the way we expect, does He? In Isaiah 55:8 God tells us that he doesn’t do things the way we do them and he doesn’t think the way we think. And, in Proverbs 3:5, we’re reminded to “Trust in the Lord with all our Hearts and lean not on our own understanding”.

So, the next time you feel like your prayers aren’t being heard, look around. God may be working, just not the in the way you expected.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breaking out of the Comfort Zone

Someone once suggested I become a stand up comedienne. My response was that the job sounded kind of hard, could I be a sit-down comedienne instead?

Yes, I’m somewhat obsessed with comfort…you could even say I’m a bit lazy, although I hate to admit it. But, when you think about it, we’re all kind of fixated on being comfortable, right? The number one selling chair in America is the Lazy-Boy recliner. How many of us have stayed at a Comfort-Inn before? When we’re at the end of a stressful day, what kind of dinner do we crave? Comfort food! At night we even slip into our comfy PJ’s and under the covers, also known as our comforters. The "American Dream" might be defined as making a comfortable living, living in a comfortable home located somewhere on Easy Street.

But, consider this…have you ever met anyone who did something great while pursuing comfort for him or herself? Think about all of the heroes of the Bible, they were faced with some pretty uncomfortable circumstances while living out God’s purpose for their lives. Abraham had to make uncomfortable choices, Moses had to face his fear of public speaking, Noah had to put up with years of ridicule from his neighbors for building a boat in the desert. Our friends in the New Testament didn’t have it any easier. Jesus faced the cross, Paul faced Prison, the early church faced severe persecution. If any of these folks had made comfort their priority, think of the much larger blessings they would have missed.

Russ Lee once told me that miracles happen in the places that lie just outside of our comfort zone. I have tested this theory and found it to be true. Therefore, the challenge for you and I is to figure out where that place is, and with God’s strength, to go there and be a part of the miracles He is working.

Do you have a great story about a miracle that God worked in your life that happened outside of your “comfort zone”? Please share it by commenting below.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flaws and All

Michelangelo’s statue of David is arguably one of the world’s most famous works of art. This stunning piece of work depicts in remarkably life-like detail a young, strong David, with stone in hand as he prepares to slay the Giant.

What’s interesting, though, is that the huge chunk of marble that Michelangelo used to create David had previously been rejected by at least two other Italian sculptors. They complained that the marble was full of veins and too porous. It could easily shatter with just one wrong move.
Yet, Michelangelo saw a masterpiece in that highly flawed chunk of rock, and 3 years later, his careful workmanship came to life.

I know lots of folks who believe deep in their hearts that God could not possibly use them for anything important, because they have too many flaws. Maybe you feel this way about yourself. However, this line of thinking sells God short.

The Bible is full of stories of very flawed folks who God used to great things. I think God prefers to use messed up people, because when they are victorious there’s no doubt that God is the one who deserves the glory.

Listen to this verse from 2 Corinthians "'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

So, do not be deceived. God can indeed use you for mighty and beautiful things. Allow him to be the artist, sculpting you day by day from that big chunk of flawed rock into the masterpiece that he sees within…just waiting to be created.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I’m pretty sure that, within the past few years, the town where I live has passed some sort of ordinance mandating that all new buildings constructed within town limits must include a sidewalk along the perimeter of their property. I’m assuming this because I’ve begun noticing spans of sidewalk in front of new homes and buildings even when those stretches don’t connect to any others. They look a little weird, really, these random bits of walkways that lead nowhere.

I’m guessing the sidewalk ordinance is part of a plan to help our town be more accessible by foot, more “walk-able”, and I applaud the effort. It must require some very forward thinking council members to put such a plan into motion. Think about it, the people who got the sidewalk ball rolling will, most likely, not live long enough to really appreciate it’s benefits. Decades will pass before, section by section, all of the pieces connect allowing pedestrians walk around town without ever running out of sidewalk.

It’s kind of like parenting, isn’t it? As moms and dads we are constantly, often tediously, paving the way for our children’s futures. We do so knowing that many years will pass before we see the outcome of our work. It’s often not until our children have children of their own before we can sit back and congratulate ourselves on a parenting job well done. And, some of us may never have the opportunity this side of heaven to see the work we began in our children completed. That’s tough to think about.

But we do have assurance that the work we are doing today will eventually come to fruition. Consider this nugget of parenting wisdom from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I love this verse because it reminds us that the often thankless task of laying the groundwork for our children that we do today, will eventually be rewarded. Those random stretches of sidewalk we lay each day will, someday, all connect.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Woman He Deserves

Ephesians 5:22 & 25
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
My husband and I recently celebrated 12 years of marriage. And, as cliché as it may sound, I am more in love with him now than I have ever been. It helps when you’re married to an incredible guy.

In fact, I was thinking the other day about what a great husband my Alton is, and how awful of a wife I can be sometimes…getting impatient over little things, nagging him when I’m not happy and pointing out his faults and mistakes. You know, any guy willing to clean house, do laundry, clean up after sick kids, and so on, certainly deserves better than that.

Then I got to thinking about what the wife my husband deserves would be like. She’d definitely be beautiful, with a fantastic body. Even first thing in the morning she’d be lovely and sweet. She’d always be patient, loving, quick to compliment and slow to criticize. She’d be an excellent homemaker. He’d come home to a spotless, orderly house and a delicious, hot meal every day. She’d also be a great mother, president of the PTA, an active volunteer in the community and a part-time aerobics instructor to boot.

Get the picture? But instead of the wife he deserves, my husband has me, the wife he got. But, do you want to know the most amazing part of the whole thing? He loves me like I was that other woman! How incredible is that? How Christ-like is that?

In Ephesians, our Husbands are told to love us just as Christ loved the church. We certainly are not the church Christ deserves, are we? We fall so short of that kind of righteousness. But he loves us anyway! So much so that he died for us! I’ll never be the perfect wife Alton deserves, I’m human. We’ll never be the perfect body that Christ is worthy of, we’re human. But in both cases a good dose of submission and endless amounts of grace will go a long way.

Gracefilled but not Graceful

My husband and I once won a gold medal. No, really, it’s true…we won the Gold medal in the couples synchronized swimming at the 2008 Camp Bethel Family Olympics.

I am sure that we did not win because of skill or grace or choreography. No, it was our total and complete goofiness that helped us take the gold. We performed our routine to the song, “Trading My Sorrows” by Darrel Evans, using movements we learned in Kid’s Church. We were over-the-top in our delivery. There are videos circulating and I’m sure they’ll eventually end up on You Tube…I won’t be able to hold off my black-mailers much longer!

Now, Alton and I don’t usually partake in such random silliness, in public anyway. But, we feel so much love from the close friends we have made at Family Camp, that we felt it was OK to step out of our comfort zone. We knew it was safe to just loosen up and have fun, knowing that we would still be accepted no matter how goofy we got. I firmly believe that we all need friends like that in our lives. People that we can show our true, unguarded selves to without fear of rejection. More importantly, we also need to find that level of trust in our relationship with God.

As a believer, can I really present my true, messed up, baggage carrying, soiled, sinful self to God and trust that he will still love me back? Thanks to Grace that answer is a firm YES. Check out the following verses from Ephesians 2: 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

If you have accepted Jesus, you can surely rest easy in the security of His love and Grace. You are His workmanship, His treasure in a Jar of Clay

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jesus, Bring the Rain

I’ve always had trouble singing along with Mercy Me’s song, “Bring the Rain.” And, no, it’s not because I’m such a bad singer. The problem is the lyrics, “And I know they’ll be days when my life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise you, Jesus bring the rain.”

It must take an incredible amount of spiritual maturity and faith in God to say to Him, “Lord, I trust you enough that if it is within your will to allow pain in my life for whatever greater purpose you may have, then go right ahead…bring the rain”. To be honest, I don’t think I’m there yet. I like my comfortable, happy life. Pain? Not so much!

However, I do know that Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me and co-author of the song, knows exactly the implications of these words. Bart has seen more of his share of rain, including the untimely deaths of his father and his brother-in-law. In addition, his son was recently diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. So, I would consider Bart to be an authority on the way that God uses our painful experiences as opportunities for growth.

We don’t have to take Bart’s word on it...God’s word verifies this in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And, Bart is not the only person who has gladly accepted difficulties with a greater purpose of growth in mind. In the first book of Peter, the disciple says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Nobody enjoys trials, but we are all bound to go through them. When we do, let’s turn our eyes to Jesus, asking him not only for comfort, but that he will reveal a greater purpose for our pain. He is Holy and almighty. So, tell me…what’s a little rain?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Let's Get Physical...and Spritual!

My family enjoys an occasional hike at one of North Carolina’s many beautiful state parks that are nearby. On one such trip recently, we either underestimated the incline of the trail we had decided to take or we over estimated our level physical fitness. Either way, the 4 and ½ mile trail (half of which was uphill by the way) was nearly the death of me. I did make it to the top and was rewarded with a beautiful view. However, there were many times on the way up that I found myself wishing that I would have been more committed to my daily exercise in the months leading up to that day. If I had been, surely this hike would not have been such a traumatic experience.

My struggle to climb that mountain is a good reminder of what happens when we haven’t been conditioning our spiritual muscles and we come up against a difficult situation in our lives. When molehills begin to feel like mountains it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I haven’t been spending enough time with God. And, even though He’ll help me get through what ever trial it is that I’m currently facing, it would have been a whole lot easier if I hadn’t waited until I was mid-mountain to pick up my Bible and start praying.

In the fourth chapter of 1st Timothy, Paul writes a lot about the importance of spiritual conditioning, here are a few of those verses…

(8) For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

(13) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

(15) Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (16) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Let’s pray today that God will help us find the time and motivation to spend time daily with Him so that our spiritual muscles will be in good enough shape to handle whatever challenges come our way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No Deal!

I have a new title for myself today…”Official Game Show Reject”. You see, I auditioned at this weekend’s open casting call for Deal or No Deal. And, you guessed it...I didn’t make the cut.

Before the audition, I really tried hard not to get my hopes up. I knew in my head that I probably would not be chosen for the show. But, there was a big part of me that was pretty confident that I had a good shot. In fact, I had already decided who I would bring on the show with me and how I’d spend my winnings.

At the audition, I had 20 seconds to “sell” myself to the show’s casting director. And, I gave it everything I had. I tried to be enthusiastic and personable. I even threw in the fact that, if I won big money on the show, I’d buy a bigger house so my poor, widowed mother could move in with us.

But, evidently, what I gave just wasn’t good enough. I knew I was finished when I got the whole, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” routine. And, as much as I hate to admit it, it hurt! The feeling reminded me of my single days when I was interested in a guy who didn’t feel the same way about me.

Thankfully, my dejected state didn’t last too long. I realized that there were thousands of people auditioning that day who wouldn’t make it either...many of whom had camped out overnight and waited for hours in a cold rain for their chance at instant wealth. So, at least I was in good company.

Still, nobody enjoys rejection. Think about the way you felt the last time it happened to you.
Unfortunately, we’ll all probably have plenty of experience with rejection over the course of our lives.

But, I can promise you this. There is One who will never reject you. Your heart is safe with God. Romans 8:38 & 39 confirms it: “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, be assured….God will never tell you that you are not good enough. His love and acceptance are 100% guaranteed by the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Monday, August 16, 2010

SHAPED for Minsitry

If you know me you know that I am passionate about adoption and caring for orphans. As an adopted child, it’s an issue that is deeply important to me. I realize how vastly different my life may have turned out had I grown up in an orphanage if not for the two loving parents who raised me and the loving birth mother who did everything she could to ensure that my forever family would be a good one. There by the grace of God go I. And, I figure the least I can do is tell everyone I know about the plight of the 140+ million orphans in our world.

No doubt, we have a biblical mandate to care for orphans. James 1:27 says “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

But, I also have to remember that there are a lot of other people God has called us to care for…widows, aliens, the homeless, the imprisoned. The “least of these” is a pretty broad category! God has taken my experience, history and gifts and turned them into a passion he and I share for orphans. However, maybe your passion lies somewhere else. That’s OK! God wants it that way. If we were all focused on orphans, who would speak out for and take care of everyone else?

1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.”

God has a unique ministry calling just for you. Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” is a great place to start if you are still trying to figure out where you fit into His plans. Rick says we all have a unique and God-given SHAPE for ministry…it’s made up of our Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience.

Take some time to look inside, praying that God will reveal to you your own shape for ministry how he plans to use you in his kingdom. And, pray that when he answers, you’ll have the discernment, courage, faith and resources to hear and act upon his call.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Foster Parenting

There is a couple at my church named John and Suzanne that have taken on a wonderful new endeavor. They serve as foster parents to newborn babies while the adoptive parents work out all the legal stuff required tobring their baby home.

John and Suzanne go way above and beyond the job requirements of foster parents. They realize that these children’s adoptive parents are missing the first days, weeks or months of their child’s life, and they do everything possible to fill in those blanks. They take tons of pictures every day and write down all of the baby’s firsts. When the babies they foster arrive at their permanent homes, they come with a scrapbook full of pictures and information chronicling their young lives.

This couple treats these little babies as if they were their own, even though they know that their time with them is limited. And, every late night feeding, each cuddle and kiss and even every diaper change makes it harder to say good bye. But, Suzanne says she knows that the babies have a loving mom and dad who long to bring them home, so she is able to let each little one go, knowing they are being sent into the arms of loving parents.

When I think about what John and Suzanne do, I realize that my job as a parent isn’t much different. Listen to these verses from John 1:12-13 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. So, while we tend to think of our children as belonging to us, that’s only partially true. More accurately, we are foster parents, temporarily assigned to care for God’s children. Our duty is to love them, care for them and fully prepare them for the day they will go to their “forever home”. And, when we look at it that way, we can realize what a great honor it is that God has chosen us for the job.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

With Friends Like Those...

Listen to these words from the Old Testament of the Bible…

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth; he sends water upon the countryside. The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

"Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers. He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”

“if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.”

As I mentioned earlier…these are verses found in the Bible and I think we can all agree that they speak the truth about the depth of God’s love for us, his children. These words could certainly be used to offer encouragement and hope to a friend going through a difficult time. However, the people who spoke these words did not speak them in love or with the intention of lifting up a hurting friend. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar said these words to their friend Job, their intention was to convince Job that it was the sin and error in his life that caused God to punish him.

Remember, Job had just lost his home, his children, his wealth and his health. Instead of empathy, these three friends only offered judgment and condemnation. God was not pleased with their advice to Job. In fact, He said to Eliphaz, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

I believe the lesson here is that there is a big difference between speaking the truth and speaking the truth in love. It can be tempting when someone comes to us with a problem to point out what got them there in the first place, but when is that helpful?

Will you join me in praying that God will lead us to people who are filled with wisdom and love. And, that we will remember to carefully search our own hearts before we offer advice to others.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Plank in My Eye

One of the stumbling blocks I really struggle with overcoming is my tendency to judge others. This became painfully apparent during a conversation with a close friend a few days ago. He told me that he felt very distant from God, like God had forgotten all about him. I should have been listening to my friend and offering empathy. Instead, I was too busy picking apart his faith in my mind. I wondered silently how often this person read the Bible and prayed and what he was doing to actively serve the Lord. All on my own, I had come to the conclusion that this person was obviously not serious about his faith, or he wouldn’t be having this problem.

Thank GOD I didn’t open my mouth. Because, in the midst of my self-righteous line of thinking, I was gently reminded of the times I had felt the same kind of distance from God that my friend had been experiencing. I also was reminded that I don’t spend nearly enough time in the word and in prayer, so I had no business judging someone else’s spiritual life. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit put me right back in my place before I said anything that would have hurt my friend. He was already feeling bad about his relationship with Jesus. He needed consolation, not condemnation.

There are many verses in the Bible that warn us about the dangers of judging others. Probably the most well known come from Matthew 7:1-5, where Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

So, If you are like me and struggle with judgmentalism, let’s pray that God will remind us of the planks in our eyes and that the sins we focus on correcting will be our own.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Firm Foundation

I had the unique experience of witnessing the demolition of a home being re-built for the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I’ve been a big fan of this show since its first season, so being on the set and watching the behind-the-scenes action was so much fun. The demolition phase was very cool. It’s amazing how quickly something that must have taken months to build can be smashed onto oblivion! This step is essential, because without a solid foundation, all of the work the builders are preparing to do to construct this home would be at risk of ruin.

The same thing goes for us when we become Christians. There is a process of ripping away the old attitudes, thoughts and behaviors and allowing the Holy Spirit to create us anew. We also need a new foundation to build our new lives upon, or these new walls could come tumbling down. That foundation is Jesus.

Listen to the way Jesus is described in 1 Peter 2: 4-6, “ You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

The Bible advises us that Jesus is to be the cornerstone for our lives. In the construction of a masonry foundation, a cornerstone is laid first and the rest of the bricks or stones are set in line with this first stone. If the cornerstone is set incorrectly, the lines and angles of the entire foundation of the building will be off. Likewise, when we allow Jesus to be the cornerstone of our lives, we can be sure that we’re on a straight path with a firm foundation.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time Management the iPod Way

Last weekend I spent some time adding new music to my mp3 player. My player is pretty small, it’s a 2 gig, which means it will hold about 500 songs. I know that, that sounds like a lot of music, but I have discovered that it doesn’t take long to fill up. So, when I saw yesterday that I was nearing capacity I knew it was time to make some tough choices…time to delete some files.

I have found that each song falls into one of three categories…The first category is songs that I know are keepers…these are my favorites, the ones that always put a smile on my face. The second category is comprised of songs I have no problems deleting, these are the ones that, for whatever reason, I’ve lost interest in. The third category (most of the songs fall into this one) are the songs in between…these are the ones that I like a lot, but not so much that their space in my player is eternally secure.

As I was organizing my tunes…I realized that if I applied the same system to managing my time, my life would probably be a lot more balanced. Think about it…like my mp3 player’s memory, our time is limited. We each get 24 hours a day, that’s it. And, like the thousands and thousands of really good songs that I could choose to add to my playlist, there are countless events, commitments and other worthwhile things vying for our time.

The bible encourages us to plan our time wisely…listen to this verse from Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We cannot do it all, my friend, and sometimes tough decisions have to be made so that we can at least get to the important things. Is your day filled to capacity…and then some? Start by making a list of everything that occupies your time. Then decide which things are so important they hold a permanent position on your calendar, which things are working in your life for the time being, but could be cut if needed. Finally, decide which things add nothing but dead weight to your day. Those are the things that are ready to be deleted from your life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Magic Moment

Our kids got new bikes for Easter this year and we spent much of Easter Weekend teaching them how to ride.

Our son Andrew had a really hard time learning. After the first day of trying to master it with no success, he had given up. That evening, with bitterness in his voice, he said, “you know how, in the movies, when a kid learns to ride his bike, there’s that Magic Moment where the Dad is running beside the bike, holding it steady and then, all of a sudden, the Dad lets go and the kid keeps peddling off into the sunset. We’ll I didn’t have that Magic Moment…I want my Magic Moment!”

Have you ever listened to other’s testimonies about how they came to know Christ and felt like you missed out on your Magic Moment? I’m talking about the kind of person who was living the worst kind of life imaginable until he had this Huge, Life Changing Encounter with Jesus that instantly turned his life around, never returning to his old, sinful ways.

These kinds of transformation are amazing, and Praise God for them. But, if you didn’t have that kind of drastic experience, you may question why your salvation story is less than spectacular. When others had an experience that left them immediately able to turn away from past vices completely: smoking, drinking, sex, drugs…why do you still trip up sometimes? And, what about the very emotional experience that others have? Why don’t your eyes fill with tears when you talk about the day you accepted Jesus? What if you can’t even remember the day clearly, you just know that when you were a kid you asked Jesus into your heart and you’ve been serving him ever since.

Here’s the deal…God knows us each personally well enough to know exactly what it takes to get inside our hearts. And, he approaches each of us differently. Some people are like the Apostle Paul…they need a drastic, physical, supernatural event to open their eyes to Jesus. But, many experience a more subtle, more gradual awakening to the Holy Spirit. When you think about your testimony, don’t worry that you’ve missed out on your “Magic Moment”. Because, In the end, it doesn’t matter how you found Christ…it only matters that you found him.

By the way, the next day Andrew gathered up all the determination left in his scraped up body, he and his dad gave it a try, and he finally got the hang of it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Let's Not Kick 'em While They're Down

So, how’s this for a bad day? A 62 year old man from Boise, Idaho was recently hit by a truck while crossing the street. Fortunately, Ebrahim Balah only suffered minor injuries from the accident and was treated and released from the hospital the same day. Boise police say he was hit by the passenger truck because he was trying to cross a busy one-way street in an area designated as a non crossing area. Which is why they felt it necessary to give him a ticket for jaywalking.

Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that getting hit by a truck may have been consequence enough to keep Ebrahim on crosswalks from that point forward. Did he really ALSO need to be slapped with a ticket?

I know as a parent that sometimes the best consequences for my kids are the ones that come naturally as a result of their actions. For example, I can remind my kids 12 times in one morning to remember to wear their coat to school. I can punish them by taking away privileges when they forget anyway. But, standing outside at the bus stop on a cold morning, or freezing on the playground that afternoon is probably all the punishment they need to remember their coat next time.

Most of us have to learn things the hard way, don’t we? And when we’ve messed up and are feeling bad enough already, why does it seem there are so many people who feel it is their duty to rub salt in the wounds of the consequences we created? And, why am I so tempted to finger point and say “told-you-so” to others when they mess up?

Listen to this verse:

1 John 4:20 – Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

The way we treat others is a reflection of the depth of our relationship with Jesus. We need to remember that God has given us infinite amounts of Grace and we need to mirror that grace in the way that we deal with others.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I’m a big-time bargain hunter. One of my favorite places to get a good deal is at a clearance sale. The words “75% off the already reduced price” get my shopping spree juices flowing. But, it’s got to be a good deal to catch my attention. I wouldn’t even look twice at a sign marked 10% off. That’s nothing! However, if you turn the tables, 10% feels like an awful lot when it’s coming out of my wallet. Do you know where I’m going with this?

God’s children are commanded to give 10% of our income back05is an ancient one. In the Old Testament we are told, “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow which comes out of the field each year.” (Deut 14:22) The word tithe literally means tenth.

Why does the same God who owns everything want my money? I’m a firm believer that it’s got little to do with money and lots to do with faith. When we tithe or give sacrificially, especially when money is tight, we are in essence saying, “God, I trust you with everything. I know that you will provide for me.”

God can be trusted! In fact, tithing is the only subject in the Bible that God invites us to test him on. God declares in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

So, this Sunday, when the collection plate is passed to you at church, I encourage you to take God up on His invitation to test Him with your tithe. Give God the opportunity to prove to you his faithfulness!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Perfect Portion

The other night I made pancakes for dinner. While I was cooking I noticed that one small drop of batter had fallen into the pan and had cooked up into what looked like a perfect little dime-sized pancake.

I was feeling a little mischievous so I decided to play a joke on one of my kids. Once dinner was ready I, as usual, called everyone to the table to eat. I stacked each person’s plate with 2 or 3 good sized pancakes until I got to my son Andrew. He got the itty bitty one.

I watched and waited for him to loudly protest this obviously unfair treatment. But, instead of getting upset, he simply popped the puny pancake in his mouth and proceeded to take 2 full-sized pancakes from the serving platter and put them on his plate. You see, he knew that his mom wouldn’t have slighted him that way. He was certain that I had no real intent to treat him poorly.

I sure wish I had that same amount of certainty when it appears to my human eyes that God has sent more blessings someone else’s way and I’m in the middle of a struggle. I hate to admit it, but there have been more than a few times that I’ve felt envious of a fellow believer with more money in their bank account, a bigger house or a newer, nicer car than mine. There have also been lots of occasions when I’ve questioned why God would allow one person to endure one crisis after another while others seem to skate through unscathed by life’s difficulties.

But, remember in Matthew when Jesus talks about God’s gifts to His his children? He said:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Once again, scripture confirms that God is good, all the time and that his ways are just. In the same way that I would not feed one of my kids a stack of piping hot pancakes and give the other just a crumb, God love for each of us is measured out the same. He pours down his blessings accordingly, giving each of us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pollen Power

The spring of 2010 will go down as a record-breaking year for pollen levels in the Triad.  Remember just a few moths ago the yellow powder that coated EVERYTHING and sent area allergy sufferers into a histamine-induced hysteria?  While pollen has an important role in plant reproduction, it’s also a major cause of seasonal allergies, as evidenced by the sneezing, coughing and itching eyes that everyone seems to suffer from a few times a year. The weird thing is that it’s not really the pollen that causes the problem directly, but the body’s overreaction to the pollen.

It’s hard to believe that such a teeny-tiny thing can cause so many people so much misery! But, when you think about it, it’s often the little things in life that cause us the most stress. Remember the book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff”? In it, the authors contend that most of the things that cause people to be stressed out are really pretty small problems that we blow out of proportion. Unfortunately, like the springtime air in the Triad,  life is full of these tiny irritants. If we aren’t careful, they can build up causing us major stress and unhappiness.

How do we avoid stressing out over life’s day-to-day problems? Richard Carlson, the author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” recommends that we focus on serving other people, avoid perfectionism and practice patience. I would also add that regular prayer is an important part of stress management. No problem is too small to take to God. Finally, remember this promise from Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God Bless You! ;)

Friday, July 9, 2010

What Lies Beneath

Is there anyone who actually enjoys shopping for a new swimsuit?

I usually try to avoid looking in the mirror unless I am fully clothed. However, there are a few times when it’s unavoidable. Like, when I make that much dreaded trip to the store to buy a new swimsuit. There is nothing quite so harmful to a gal’s self esteem than looking at her rear-end in a 3 way mirror. Even the skinny mirrors that department stores use to make you look slimmer can’t disguise the cellulite, stretch marks and other evidence of middle age.

However, I recently saw something in the mirror that I’ve never seen before. There, on my belly, I noticed the very faint outlines of abdominal muscles. I didn’t believe my eyes at first. I’ve never had defined abs…ever. I even made my husband look to confirm what I was seeing. And, while my stomach is still quite far from being the washboard so many of the women in my fitness magazines proudly display, for the first time ever I was able to see the firm and fit lady that hides beneath the several inches of fat that surround her. Seeing her inspires me to continue my efforts to uncover her completely.

I’ve experienced the same kind of thing in my walk with Jesus. As promised, once I became a believer, God gave me the gift of the Holy Spirit, He now dwells within me. 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us “We are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us.” Unfortunately, kind of like that super-fit lady living within me…He’s not always evident beneath the layers of flesh that surround him. However, as I continue along this journey of faith and as God reveals more of Himself to me, I’m beginning to see more evidence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

I hope you’re as encouraged by this as I am. Just like it takes time to transform a flabby body into a fit one, God’s work in us is also a gradual process. We all have a lot of growing in Christ to do…but it is good to know that the further along this path we go, people will see less of us and more of Him.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fix It!

All this week I will be in Guatemala serving on a Mission Team for Caroline's Promise, an adoption and orphan care organization. My friend, Lisa Holbrook, is the Director of Caroline's Promise and she recently told me that she often has a hard time recruiting men for these teams. Since many of these trips involve construction projects, there is a real need for guys…after all, they’re the ones with the upper body strength!

She asked one of her male friends why he has never gone on one of her trips. He said that he really struggled with the thought of going, because he could not “fix” the problems he was certain to encounter at these children’s homes. In other words, he might be able to go and help with construction or painting or other odd jobs, but when he left, these children would still be orphans living in poverty.

I get that. I think that we all, men in particular, feel the need to finish what we start. It is tough to visit orphans, look into their eyes and see Jesus, and then leave them knowing that their situation has not really changed, knowing that you haven’t fixed their problems. But, that’s our own logic, not God’s.

Think about the story of the Good Samaritan. Imagine if the Samaritan saw the guy who had been beaten up on the side of the road and thought to himself, “Yeeesh…he’s in really bad shape. There’s nothing I can do for that guy, so I’m just gonna keep on walking." Fortunately, that is not how the story ends. The Good Samaritan earned a place in God's Holy Bible because he saw someone who was hurting and he decided to do something, even though he could not provide a permanent solution to this man's problem.

God tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). In Deuteronomy 15:11, He tells us that there will always be poor people in the land. God tells us to serve them and give to them, but He never commands us to solve their problems…or, anyone’s for that matter. However, it is often in the midst of those situations that we cannot “fix” that our service is needed the most.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lavish Them With Love

My dad was pretty typical of the men of his generation. He was not very open about his feelings and emotions. That included the way he communicated with me. He didn’t seem to have much trouble telling me when he not pleased with something I did, but he rarely if ever told me that he was proud of something I had done. I knew he loved me, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always questioned if he liked me.

At my father’s funeral I was shocked as co-worker after co-worker shared with me that my Dad regularly talked about me at his workplace. They said he was so proud of me and loved to tell people about his daughter who worked on the radio. I really had no idea that he felt that way. But, shock turned to sadness as I contemplated the fact that he had never been and never would be able to say those things to me directly.

I’m not angry with my Dad. I understand why he was that way, his dad was even more distant from him. I believe that my father was doing the best he could with what he had. But, I still grieve the relationship that we could have had.

Dads, please don’t let this be your story. There is an ever-growing body of evidence that shows that a close relationship with ones father is a predictor of future success in life. And, I’ve spoken to many people, women in particular, who did not have a close relationship with their father and now struggle to understand their relationship with their heavenly father.

A great example of a father expressing love for his child is given in the bible when Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. When Jesus emerges from the water his Heavenly Father announces from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

It may sound cliché…but time is fleeting. Don’t assume that your kids know you love them and are proud of them. Take time to lavish love and praise on your children every day…starting today.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fatherly Wisdom

I recently asked some friends to tell me about the best advice their father had ever given them. Here are some nuggets of fatherly wisdom that were shared…

-When it comes to choosing a wife, you’ll know you’ve found the right one when you are better together than either of you could ever be apart.

-Never say anything you don't mean in a fight

-“There is only one way to do something…do it the RIGHT way.”

-Be true to yourself and deliver the package that you sell.

-Don't ever make fun of anyone! Instead build them up!!

-In the small decisions, consider all the factors and details. In the big decisions, follow your heart.

-Always tell the truth, even when it’s painful.

- If someone bigger than you tries to harm you pick up the closest thing you can and knock them in the head

True, a wealth of wisdom can be found in a father’s words. Our Heavenly Father is also an excellent source of advice. He delivers it to us through the scriptures. I know many people who think that the Bible is just an ancient text that is irrelevant to life today. But nothing could be further from the truth. Here are just a few timeless pieces of advice from the book of Proverbs.

-Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

- Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.

-Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.

-A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult

-All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

-Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

These verses all remind me of the kinds of things a parent says to their child. And, there’s a good reason for that! The Bible is an open letter from our Father, God, to us, his children. Within it we will find the answers we need to help us with whatever we are facing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Waiting Game

One of my family’s favorite things to do in the summertime is spend time at the pool. We all love those leisurely afternoons, playing and enjoying each other and the sunshine. There is one thing about pool days that we don’t enjoy, however. And, that is the frustrating task of covering 3 impatient kids and their equally impatient parents in sunscreen.

I usually try to get everyone slathered up before we ever leave the house, but sometimes I forget and have to do it when we get to the pool. This creates a major problem! First of all there’s the inevitable argument about who gets lotioned-up first. After all, the kids are excited and anxious to get in the pool and now they have to wait for me to cover each of them and then another 15 minutes to let the sunscreen sink in before they jump in. In those 15 minutes I hear the question, “Mom, is it time yet?” or “How Much Longer” at least 100 times. I know it feels like torture to them, and I wish as much as they do that they could just jump it right away. But, it’s for their own good. I don’t want them to have to endure the painful sunburn that they will undoubtedly suffer if we don’t give the sunscreen time to set. Someday, they’ll understand.

Have you been praying for something and get the feeling that God is putting you off? Are you frustrated that he keeps making you wait when you want it NOW? Remember that God loves you deeply and he wants what is best for you. He also sees the consequences of answering your prayer before the time is right. If he is making you wait, I can assure you that it is for your own good. When we wait on the Lord with faith and patience we are rewarded in many ways. Listen to this verse form Isaiah 40:31-But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

So, be encouraged today, knowing that your patience will be rewarded. Just like my kids, waiting for that reward is often necessary to prevent us from getting burned.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Putting the Thrill in "Thrill Ride"

/08One or twice a summer, my family heads to Carowinds in Charlotte for a stomach churning day filled with roller coasters, log flumes, wave pools and water slides. On one of these trips a few years ago, my son Andrew had grown tall enough to enjoy the parks most thrilling rides. As soon as we got to Carowinds, he and my husband headed straight for a coaster called Top Gun, the parks tallest and fastest ride.

It was about 2.5 seconds into the ride when my husband had the panic attack. It wasn’t because the ride scared him…but when he looked over at our young son (who was grinning ear to ear by the way), Alton began to wonder if Andrew was really big enough for the ride. Was he actually secured in his harness? Could he fall out? By the time the ride was over, my poor husband could barely breathe. He was so weak in the knees that he had to sit down for a few minutes just to compose himself. Not from excitement but from pure and utter fear.

Andrew, on the other hand was ready to do it again. And, once he realized that he and his son were safe and that he could trust the harness system on the ride, Alton was ready to take on Top Gun again as well. From that point on they have turned into roller coaster junkies…the bigger, higher and faster, the better.

When we put our trust in Jesus, we have to examine how much of our life we have actually entrusted Him with. If we approach our walk with Jesus with the same apprehension that Alton felt on that first ride with Andrew, our life will be consumed by fear and worry. However, we can learn to trust that Jesus is in control and that my family and I are completely safe in his care.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus offers this invitation, “Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves.”
Like a roller coaster, life can be crazy, filled with ups, downs and moments of anticipation, acceleration and exhilleration. Place His yoke, His “safety harness” over your shoulders so you can rest and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Heavenly Hilton

From heaven even the most miserable life will look like one bad night at an inconvenient hotel -- Teresa of Avila
Do you enjoy staying at a hotel? I do. But, ev en lodging at a really nice hotel for a lengthy stay can get old. Eventually, you need something you don’t have or you long for a home cooked meal and even the perk of daily maid service is no longer enough to keep you from wanting to go home.

Our lives are a bit like hotel rooms. Maybe, right now, you are living in the Ritz Carlton. Your room is luxurious and beautiful, all your needs are being met, and the 900 thread count sheets are fab-u-lous! On the other hand, our life today might feel a bit more like an El-Cheapo Motel. Like you’re stuck in a grungy, smelly room where nothing works right and the manager is no where to be found to deal with your complaints. And, what just crawled across the floor?

Either way, whether you feel like you are at the Ritz or in the Pits, it’s a good idea to remember that this life is not really your home. Listen to what Jesus said in John 14:2-3 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

So, if you’re struggling with life today, try to remember that this life is just temporary lodging. You have a permanent residence in waiting for you in heaven that is so marvelous your human mind cannot even begin to imagine it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Better Hands

I met someone last week who is the personification of the song “In Better Hands” by Natalie Grant and its powerful lyrics. His name is Harold and he serves breakfast at the restaurant in the Nashville Hilton.

Harold is from the southern part of Louisiana. A few days before Hurricane Katrina hit, he and his family decided to leave the area for safety’s sake. Harold, his wife and their 2 children packed up a few changes of clothes and other necessities. Concerned about possible flooding, Harold wrapped up pictures, valuables and other irreplaceable items and tucked them away in his attic between the rafters. They then traveled a few hundred miles away by car to get out of the path of the storm.

Thankfully he and his family escaped injury. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of their home. They returned to find their house destroyed. All their belongings, including the pictures and valuables tucked away in the attic were now buried somewhere under the 5 feet of putrid sludge that filled what was left of their home. The worst part of all, however, was losing his Mother and Mother-in-Law who both died as a result of the storm.

Harold said that his insurance company, you know, the one that says that you’re in good hands when you’re insured by them, found a technicality in the fine print of his policy allowing them to refuse to cover his losses.

I asked Harold how he held together through it all. He simply pointed heavenward. He said that he had to be strong for his kids and his wife during it all and that strength came from God. Several churches pulled together to help provide his family with the necessities until they could get back on their feet. And, now, three years later, thanks be to God, his life is finally starting to return to a new state of normal.

So, whose hands hold your life? There is only one set of hands prepared to carry you through the difficult times we are all eventually bound to face. Natalie’s song says it well, “I am strong all because of you. I stand in awe of every mountain that you move. I am changed, yesterday is gone. I am safe from this moment on. There’s no fear when the night comes round, I’m in better hands now”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Emptying the Bank

As anyone with multiple kids knows, children spawned from the same exact set of parents often live on completely opposite ends of the personality spectrum. This is true for my kids…especially when it comes to money. One of my kids has gotten his impulse spending under control and has managed to accumulate quite a savings account. Another child is just beginning to understand money management, but she knows that it’s a good thing to have!

And, then there’s our Middle Child, who, at the ripe old age of 9, seems to understand the joy of giving. At Christmas, she often empties out the “spending” portion of her bank, goes to the dollar store, and spends all of her hard earned money on gifts for family, friends and teachers.

Here’s what she doesn’t know. Whenever I find loose change while I’m picking up around the house or doing the laundry, I put it in Carley’s bank. I don’t do it because I love her more than our other children (although they’d accuse me of that if they knew what I was up to). I do it because I want to quietly reward her generosity. Besides, I know she will be a good steward of the money I give her.

It occurred to me recently that God blesses us financially in much the same way. When we have a generous heart, giving freely to others, He freely gives to us. When we’re good stewards of our resources, he knows He can trust us with more. And, when we tithe, even though doing so will “empty our bank”, He is always faithful in providing us with what we need.

Look at this verse from Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Take time today to thank God for His assurance that we can trust you with everything, including our money. Ask Him to give you the faith to be generous in giving, even when there is risk involved

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Gut Feeling

A friend recently told me about a problem she was having. There was one possible solution to her dilemma, but she said that she did not feel “at peace” with that option.

Like my friend, there are many who allow gut feelings to guide their decision making. For people who are usually clear minded and especially discerning, one’s gut may be a fairly reliable guide. However, the friend I was listening to struggles big time with anxiety issues. When she told me she didn’t feel at peace with this idea, I thought to myself, “she’s never at peace with anything.”
I have faced many decisions where none of the choices seemed perfect. However, a decision still had to be made. How do we handle these type of dilemmas?

The first and most important step is prayer. We have to ask God for direction and then listen to his answer. Secondly, we need to seek advice from other, trustworthy people. Also, it helps to make a list of our choices and the pros and cons for each option. We then need to carefully weigh possible solutions to see how they align with God’s word. Finally, we need to make actually make a decision and follow through with it…even when we are not initially at peace with it.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden at Gethsemane before his arrest he was clearly not “at peace” with the path he was preparing to follow. Mark tells us that Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled” He said to the disciples, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," (Mark 14 33-34) But, Jesus understood that his crucifixion was within God’s will and necessary to provide salvation to his children. So, Jesus allowed the events leading to his death to unfold.

Life is full of decisions and the big ones can be tough to make. Be careful to not allow your emotions to get in the way of making smart choices.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Counting the Cost

If you build it, they will come. But you have to finish building it first.

The city of Winston-Salem has found itself at the center of a controversy surrounding construction of a new baseball stadium for the city’s minor league baseball team. Apparently, the company building the stadium discovered about ¾ of the way into construction that they don’t have enough money to complete the project, which is going to cost $18 million dollars more than originally thought. They have asked city leaders for a loan to help them finish the stadium. However, some Winston-Salem residents aren’t too crazy about the idea of the city loaning this private enterprise money for a stadium, especially in these difficult economic times.

This situation reminds me of Jesus’ words in Luke 14: 28-30 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

When we read the whole chapter of Luke 14, we realize that Jesus is using this parable to teach potential disciples that we need to calculate the cost before we begin following Him. The cost of discipleship is everything! I’ve known more than a few people who started walking with Christ, but didn’t finish the journey because they just couldn’t put Him in first place. Jesus says each one of us has to carry our own cross in order to follow him, meaning we must choose to lay down our old lives and place Him first on our list of priorities, over everything else.

However, the irony and beauty of it all, is that once we have carefully counted the cost and chosen, still, to lay everything at His feet, we realize that the walk gets much easier. Sure, there will still be challenges along the way, but as followers of Jesus, we never have to face these difficulties alone. He’s right by our side, helping us finish the race.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Do Yo Expect?

Each year, one week before Easter, Christians observe Palm Sunday, also known as the Triumphal Entry. The Bible describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as an event filled with excitement, singing and praises from crowds of people who had finally recognized Jesus as their promised Messiah. In the Gospel of Mark the event is described this way: “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Mark 11:7-10)

So, what happened? Within just a few days the jubilant blessings of “Hosanna” had turned to blood-seeking cries of “Crucify Him”. We find this same Jesus… once celebrated and revered by large crowds, now hanging on a cross, with only his mother and a few close followers there on his behalf. Where did every body go?

I’m sure that most of his closest followers were in hiding, afraid to share Jesus’ cruel punishment. But, I suspect that others who were one time followers of Jesus had turned away because he did not meet their expectations. You see, the Jews knew the scriptures and prophesy well…and were anticipating a messiah who was an earthly king, like King David, who would come restore the temple and rescue them from Roman oppression. Jesus was indeed there to do those things, just not in the way they expected. The heavenly Kingdom Jesus came to deliver was far greater than they would ever have imagined. And, Since Jesus, did not match their narrow definition of the Messiah, they missed out on him entirely.

My friend, please do not let this happen to you. So many people become Christians with the expectation that once they do, their lives will be free from problems. They see Jesus as a sort of cosmic genie, granting wishes in the form of answered prayers. Then, when life gets hard they get frustrated and decide that Jesus must not be the real thing because he’s not jumping in to rescue them.

But, the truth is that our Heavenly Father sometimes allows us short term suffering to accomplish His long-term goals for our lives. He’s concerned with our spiritual needs far more than our physical ones. What is most important to him is our eternity and where we will choose to spend it.

Understand this and your expectations will be met, allowing you to see Jesus for the everlasting savior he longs to be in your life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ladybug Justice

The other day while visiting Pilot Mountain, my youngest daughter noticed a ladybug who had found himself ensnared in the sticky threads of a spider web. The poor thing was still alive, and I hated to think about it’s 8-legged fate that was certain to unfold later that evening. So, I carefully removed the bug from his sticky situation and watched him crawl away.

I was feeling pretty good about myself, the super hero who saved one innocent lady bug’s day. But when I told my husband about my good deed, he quickly took the wind out of my sails, saying, “But, what about the spider?”

He was right! As much as I hated to see the poor ladybug suffer, wasn’t I causing the spider to suffer, too, by taking away his dinner? Worse yet, maybe it was a mommy spider who needed the nutrients to feed her babies. So, instead of feeling good about the ladybug, now I had a whole family of arachnids tugging on my conscience.

This whole situation reminded me once again, that the things I see are only a small part of a much bigger plan. It’s easy to look at the suffering, injustice and evil around us and shake our fist at the sky, wondering why a loving God would allow such treachery in the world he created. We do this because we cannot possibly see or understand the complexity or magnitude of God’s sovereign plans for this world. When we experience things that we ourselves have deemed bad or evil we cannot comprehend how these things can fit into God’s good plans, or the plans of God who is good.

However, we cannot rely on the way we perceive things as our standard for God’s righteousness! Remember these words from Isaiah 55: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Since we cannot comprehend His thoughts and His ways, we have to trust Him. And He is certainly worthy of that trust.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shalom in My Home

Being a mother of three school-aged kids who also has a full-time job is not easy. Most days I feel like one of those plate spinners that you see at the circus, running around wildly from one twirling dish to another, trying to keep them all in motion. This stressful routine often leaves me on my knees praying for peace, asking God for some “Shalom in my home”!

I realized the other day that I may be praying for the wrong thing. That’s because, when I pray for peace, I am usually really asking God to change the things outside of me that are causing me stress. But, a stress-free life is really just a fantasy isn’t it? There will always be bills to pay, missing school work, sick kids, broken cars, aging parents, deadlines at work, world crises, and arguments with spouses to deal with. It’s these things that cause us to long for heaven.

Instead, when I pray for peace, I should be asking for peace within. In the Gospels, Jesus often used the Hebrew greeting, “shalom aleichem (shah-lohm a-LAY-khem)”, which translates to “Peace be unto you” or “Peace be with you”. Now, certainly Jesus knew that the folks he spoke to would face lots of tough times down the road. So, I must believe that the kind of peace he was talking about was the peace that resides in our hearts and is available to us no matter what’s happening in our world.

The verses that always come to mind when I think about that kind of serenity are these from Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

You’ll notice those verses do not say God will answer your requests by giving you whatever you ask for. However, we are promised a gift that will serve us much better in the long run, the gift of peace. The kind of peace that endures the weather and protects us from whatever comes our way.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lord, Help Me Love You the Way My Dog Loves Me

I think you can learn a lot about yourself and your relationship with God by observing your dog. I’m not the only one who feels this way. The Bellamy Brothers have a song called “Lord, help me be the man my dog thinks I am.” As any dog lover will tell you, in a dog’s eyes, you are perfect, just the way you are.

As I was enjoying some quality time with our dog, Coco, the other day, she inspired me in a different way. I realized that I need to strive to love and delight in the Lord with the depth and enthusiasm that she loves and delights in me.

For example, when I leave the house each day, she looks out our son’s bedroom window to watch me as I get in the car and drive away. She looks so sad! And, when I come home, she is already there at the door to greet me, panting, howling and wagging her tail, with excitement because I have returned and we’ve been reunited. Now, imagine if we all got that excited about our time with God?

My dog expects very little from me. I provide her with the basics… shelter, food, water and somewhat regular trips outside to use the bathroom. I have earned her complete adoration by simply rescuing her from the pound and taking care of her daily needs. And, when I do a little something extra…like give her a scrap of leftover steak, take her for a long walk or scratchher belly…no words are needed for her to express her appreciation…it’s written all over her face. It’s so easy to make her happy! I wish I was so easily and thoroughly satisfied by God’s provision of my daily bread, and so appreciative of all the extra blessings that come my way!

Yes, I could learn a lot from my pup…she models the kind of admiration described in Psalm 37:4-. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

So, if the Bellamy Brothers don’t mind, I think I’m going to write my own country song, and I’m gonna call it “Lord, Help Me Love You the Way My Dog Loves Me”.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, etc…

As you may have heard me mention before, I am adopted. Last year, I was thrilled when by biological brother, Denis, contacted me. Since then, we’ve emailed each other pretty regularly and I hope that someday soon, I’ll be able to travel to New York and meet him and his family for the first time.

It’s a bit ironic that Denis and my oldest son Andrew share the same April 5th Birthday. Since this is the first year I’ll be celebrating Denis’ birthday, I’ve decided to have a little fun. Instead of just one birthday card, I’m sending him 40. In one of the cards, I’ll write a note that I am making up for lost time and sending him a card for each year I’ve missed.

Now, obviously, all of the cards are a nice sentiment, but I realize that we can never really make up for those lost years. And, honestly, I’m OK with that. I believe that our lives unfolded exactly as they were supposed to, and that God brought us back into each other’s lives when he knew the time was just right.

Is there someone in your life that you, for whatever reason, have lost time with? My friend, please don’t let even more time go by regretting those lost years. It’s true, you’ll never get that time back, but wouldn’t it be wiser to spend your time and energy on what you can do instead of what you can’t?

You can reconnect with that person before another day is lost. You can forgive and seek forgiveness. You can celebrate the time you have now with that person and make the most of your relationship from this point forward.

If you need more encouragement, think about this. God thinks it’s important for us to seek reconciliation…listen to this verse from Matthew: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

So today, pray that God will give you the courage to take the first step to restore a broken relationship, the discernment to know when the time is right and, when needed, the grace to offer forgiveness

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There's No Such Thing as an "Easy Way Out"

When most people think about the day they were born, they imagine their mother and father at the hospital, dad anxiously pacing the floor, mom enduring the agony of labor until finally that glorious moment arrives and their precious baby is placed safely in its mothers arms. Proud grandparents, aunts and uncles, gathered around to welcome the newest member of the family.

However, when I think about the day I was born, I imagine my birthmother alone and scared as she gave birth to the baby she’d been carrying for nine months that would soon become someone else’s child. My heart breaks for her as I imagine the moment she held me and then handed me over to a social worker, believing she’d never see her child again. I can’t imagine how she must have felt when she left the hospital empty handed.

I know it was painful, but I am so thankful to my birthmother for making this choice. I learned recently that abortion was legalized in the state where I was born three years before my birth. I realize at that an abortion could have offered her a seemingly less complicated alternative…at least less complicated than carrying and delivering a baby, then trying to get back to life as usual. I know her choice was a difficult one. I know she took the narrow path, and I owe my very existence to her.

I once heard a preacher say that when we are faced with a really difficult decision, Satan often presents us with a seemingly easy alternative. The only catch is that this easy option always requires a moral compromise. Satan sees our indecision as an opportunity to get a foothold, to lead us away from God and down a path that leads to destruction. If you’re facing a tough choice today, pray that God will direct you down the right path, even if it’s the choice that is more difficult. Finally, remember and be encouraged by these words:

1 Peter 5:8-9 (The Message)
Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Are You in a Spiritual Recession?

Rising unemployment rates, a volatile stock market, low consumer spending and ridiculously high gas prices are just a few of the signs that have led many experts to believe that our nation’s economy is headed into a recession. Simply put, a recession is a period of slow economic growth that usually lasts anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The US Economy experiences pretty regular intervals of growth and then decline, so recessionary periods are nearly inevitable…it follows the whole “what goes up must come down” theory. Overall, our country has been blessed with long term prosperity unlike any other. That’s because, although we have experienced periods of decline, there have been many more times of growth.

I think that, in most cases, the same can be said for our spiritual growth as well. Once you become a Christian, your faith will most likely have times when it grows and times when it recedes. And, just as it is important for officials to keep a watch on the economy to see how it’s doing, we need to know the signs that our sprits are headed into a recession. Dr. David Jeremiah¹ suggests looking at it this way… if you were asked to give a testimony about the Lord’s work in your life and your ministry for Him, you should have some things to talk about that have happened within the past 2 weeks. If you don’t, your faith is probably not in a period of growth.

Fortunately, just like there are things the government can do to try to turn around a shrinking economy; you can take measures to revive a withering spirit. Start by praying that God will open your eyes to his presence. Ask him to point out any sin in your life that you may be currently unaware of. Commit to spend time regularly in his word. And, if you are not regularly attending church, now is the time to find a church home…fellowship and worship with other believers is so important for a healthy faith. Listen to the advice in 1 Timothy 4:15 “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Finally, don’t be discouraged when you find that your faith has been stagnant for a while. God hasn’t gone anywhere…he’s ready and waiting for you to recommit and refocus.


1. Dr. David Jeremiah, “Take the Road Test,” Turning Points Magazine and Devotional (August 2007): 24

Monday, March 8, 2010

Homework Hangups

My kids and I would agree that our least favorite thing about the school year is homework. It seems that we cannot get through a weekday afternoon without a homework meltdown. What frustrates me most is when one of the kids asks for help and then argues with me about the advice I give. It might go something like this…

(Kid) “Mom, why do I keep getting this subtraction problem wrong?”

(Me) “You need to write it out, don’t try to do it in your head.”

(Kid) “I don’t want to write it out!!! It will take too long. My hand is tired. I HATE HOMEWORK!!!!”


Sound familiar? I was thinking about how much it bothers me when my kids do this to me, and then I realized that I do the same thing to my dad. My heavenly Dad, that is! Oh, the times that I have found myself with a problem I couldn’t solve, asked God to help me with it and then argued with Him about what he told me to do. “But, God…that’s too hard, it will take too long, can’t you just fix it for me?” I can only imagine what God is thinking when I tell Him…the creator of heaven and earth, the author of my life…that His answer is just not going to work for me. I’m just thankful that He is far more patient and gracious with me than I am with my kids. I’m also thankful that, unlike my kids with their math homework, I have the answer key for my problems-the Bible. Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

So, please pray for me (and my kids) as we wrap up another school year. And let’s pray for each other as we remember not only to ask for God’s help with our problems, but that we will also be wise enough to accept his answers even when they aren’t exactly what we wanted to hear.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Guaranteed Admission

Have you ever been somewhere like an amusement park or a festival where you had to wear a special bracelet or get a stamp as proof of your admission? While a lot more convenient than having to keep up with a ticket stub, this practice presents a bit of a challenge for my family. My daughter, Carley, doesn’t like to be stamped or stickered or tagged in any way. In order to convince her to cooperate, I have to explain to her that she can’t go in and have fun until she consents to being marked.

As Christians, we bear a seal that permits our admission into the kingdom of heaven. Listen to these verses from Ephesians 1:13&14 “And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him”

When we become Christians we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who serves as our guide, our helper, a source of strength and a seal which identifies us as children of God. Since this seal is invisible to human eyes, how do we know whether or not we bear it? The Bible tells us that if we are living according to the spirit, the fruit we bear will serve as evidence. Galatians 5:22-25 tells us, specifically, what a spirit-filled life looks like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

We’re still human, so we can’t expect to bear this fruit every moment of every day. However, once we accept Jesus and inherit the Holy Spirit there ought to be evidence of this inheritance in our attitudes and behaviors. We won’t get it right all of the time, but there should be a longing in our hearts to please God…our father and our King who has marked us with his seal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brand Identity

I grew up in a family of smokers. Dad was a Camel man who eventually switched to Winston. Mom smokes whatever is cheapest now, but I remember her smoking the True brand for the longest time. Grandma smoked Carlton, Aunt Laurie Marlboro and Aunt Babs smoked Eve Lights. I wondered the other day, why on earth is this one fact, each person's preferred smoke, cemented so firmly in my head?

I think the answer to that question has something to do with consistency. Take my dad, for example. He and I shared 22 years worth of experiences with each other. The number of conversations we have shared is countless. In some of those talks, he advised me to never start smoking, because once you do, it's very hard to quit. Yet, what I can remember even more clearly is that pack of cigarettes that was always in his front shirt pocket, how he could work on a car or bait a fish hook using both hands while his cigarette dangled from the corner of his mouth. Eyes squinting because of the sting, he could even talk out of the other corner of his mouth at the same time.

So, it's probably no surprise that when I was a teenager I picked up the habit as well. Thankfully, I eventually quit. But, the message here is, despite the warnings about smoking that each one of these family members gave me, what they did made a much deeper impression on me than what they said.

With this in mind, I think it's very important that we ask ourselves what it is that we do that is so regular, so consistent that the impression we create in our children is deeper than the impact of our words. Obviously, we'll never be perfect, not even close. But it is helpful for our children to hear us admit our shortcomings and to see our attempts at improvement.

Let's pray that God will help us to see and eliminate behaviors that could be making an unhealthy impression. Also, ask Him to make clear the things we are doing that have a positive impact. Finally, let's ask God to help us lead our children by example, with words and actions that match.