Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I am strong--or at least I think I am. Sometimes in my decorating, I function more like a mover than a decorator. (I could give Two Men and a Truck a run for their money and become One Decorator on a Mission.) I so want the results now that I have figured out how to move grand pianos, wall units, and bookcases--sometimes by myself--if no one is there to help! Sofas, chairs and tables are cake. It actually gets funny if men happen to be around and I walk by carrying a big upholstered chair or a four foot mirror. They always say, "Here, let me help you", or "I'll get that"--which I appreciate but am so used to doing it myself, I don't think twice about asking for help even when it is right there. I load the van/car with things until there is not one ounce of room for as little as a Hershey's kiss! Then unload it and do it again. People actually stop and ask questions as they go by--"Tell me you're a decorator!" "How do you carry all that stuff?" I have gotten quite good at packing a vehicle to capacity. I lack an "Anthony" to do all the carrying in my "designing women" moments.

I am not as strong in the gym as I would like to be, nor do I go often enough to make progress. Those once/twice a month workouts do not seem to do a thing! Nonetheless, I am surprisingly strong.

So why and how can I be so weak to carry certain things? Things as simple as nick-knacks or as simple as a stack of sheets and a bedspread set? What about something as tiny as a box of old necklaces? This week, I have been moving my mom out of her 3-room apartment. She has been happily living in what I call a college dorm for retired women. They are so funny. However, unloading it and closing it up has not been easy or fun.

I remember carrying all those things in with enthusiasm and excitement, unloading bags from my shopping trips (even if it was at flea markets and garage sales) to bring her goodies to make her place prettier. It was so fun to bring them in, put it all together and see her enjoy it. I never noticed those bags being nearly as heavy coming in, but I really notice their weight going out! The same bedding going out is so heavy that it makes me cry. The same shoes on the journey up the elevators were not nearly as heavy as putting them two steps out into the hall. Necklaces carrying years of memories put into boxes for someone to construct new necklaces from seem heavier than grand pianos. Strange isn't it?

I have felt so weak these last few days. I have hated it! I’m almost too weak to even begin. I have questioned myself, "Am I getting sick? Do you suppose I am just getting old? Wonder what the early symptoms of cancer are, I am so tired; hope I do not have the beginnings of some disease. I think I will sleep a little longer. 6:45 sounds a lot better than 4:30". Between meetings, decorating, and grandbabies I found every reason not to get started, but finally the time had come that I had no choice...

Clearing out her apartment was upon me. You have never heard such moaning! My mom? No, me! It was like looking at a cow grazing and knowing you had to make it into steak. Where do I begin? Where do I put it? How do I get started? I think it was more like a pet cow--I felt way too attached. So miserable. I didn't let mom come to see it--I could not have dealt with two of us--I had my hands full with just me! Why? What was such a big deal? I don't know exactly, I am still processing it. I didn't do this moaning so much aloud as I did inside. I think that was half the battle--to do what you do not want to do-- and still be nice about it. Such effort! I was on the very edge or precipice of falling off into an ocean of tears and it was as if only a thin rope held me, and it was a rope of anger. It was digging in and squeezing too tight. I kept trying to adjust it, loosen it, undo it, or take it off. I did not want it. I don't know exactly what it was, but I was trying my best to be nice about it and know that God is only good and that somehow this will make sense in time to come. I needed faith for what could not be seen, but in Whom I have seen time and again in the past.

My heart found strength just in time when I read Isaiah 46:1 "...the things that you carry are burdensome". I had to blink my eyes and reread it "...the things you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast." God had my full attention; it was as if He had seen where I had been! He had been watching. Yes, this is too heavy! How could it weigh so much and be so small? How does it exhaust me when I can literally work for hours and hours until someone has to stop me because I could go all day and still keep going? How can 9 hours seem like 90 days and three rooms feel like three floors?

"...The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast... listen to me... you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same, and even in your graying years I will bear you! I have done it and I will carry you." Isaiah 46: 1, 3-4

Whew! What a game changer, brain changer! He has been carrying me and will continue to carry me--but the things that I carry were never meant for me to carry! They are too heavy and He knows it! He is there! He is watching me carry this upholstered chair and is saying, "Hey, do you want some help?" I walk on by with tears in my eyes wishing someone else were there to carry it. I am unaware of His offer, of His mighty arms of rescue, and of Who is carrying whom. As I carry the little knick-knacks and realize this is the end of life--knick-knacks out in the hall for someone else to take--I realize why it is so sad. Is this what it all comes down to? Do your kids have to go through your stuff and find someone who wants it or will haul it off? There are so many things now out dated, wrong colors, worn out, or a difference in style. That scenario would be sad. That is what it can be for some.

As I read further, I noticed this chapter is actually talking about carrying idols. Verse 1: "Bel has bowed down, Nebo stooped over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome - a load for the weary beast. They are stooped over, they have bowed down together; they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity. Listen to Me, ... you have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. To whom would you liken Me, and compare Me, that I would be alike?" These idols cannot do a thing! They can't carry you--they cannot even carry themselves! They are bent over and have to be carried.

We become like what we worship. (Psalms 115:4-8 Check it out!) If we are living for things - just pretty houses for pretty house sake, collecting things or jewelry - - kids, mates or jobs can all become idols--even church or school all can become idols. They will stoop and fall; they cannot rescue you when you need it, cannot hear you when you call, will not deliver you. Are you carrying things that God never meant for you to carry? Are you seeing the idols stoop and fail? Good! Then you are ready to be carried and know God for who He really is. I am feeling His strength today; His arms are strong. What a good place to be! I am much closer to His heart and I hear His voice much louder. Come on up--there is room for you too!

And Bonnie, thanks for the help!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can Blind Men Make Mirrors?

What would a mirror made by a blind man look like? How clear would it be? How accurate or distorted would it be? Oh, the framework could be gorgeous and the smoothness of the mirror glasslike, but would it reflect the right image? It would seem to me that a blind man could not make a perfect mirror, by nature of the fact that he is unable to see the reflection accurately. This is certainly not to diminish the abilities of the blind or to find the exception, but just as a general true thought. It doesn't seem like it warrants a lot of debate, but more of a shrug of the shoulders and a nod of the head with a half smile, "Yeah, I guess not".

So what's the point? I think we have been using mirrors made by blind men! We have used them and looked at them for so long that we cannot recognize how distorted they are, but our soul tells us differently. There is an ache inside that hears and knows a hint of something else--something different than what we see in the mirror.

All of us have seen these lies, have heard these lies, and have felt the sting of hurt caused by these lies, but rarely do we question just how reliable the mirror we are looking at. The question occasionally comes up when a child or young woman kills themselves because of what they have seen in the mirror. We realize then that these mirrors made by Hollywood, magazines, television and books are not true. But, within no time, we are back in front of them--primping and bemoaning the wrinkles and stretch marks that we see.

These mirrors continue to be used daily to dress ourselves, to gain an "accurate" picture of who we are, and then to draw conclusions about ourselves and those around us! The Bible calls them lost, blind, and those in darkness, but they are our mirror makers! They are our image builders! They are even our rulers of measurement! Does that make sense to you? Doesn't that seem as senseless as putting on make up in the dark? Who could convince you, that although they were blind, they were makeup artists? You’d have your doubts, I hope. No matter how good a designer was, could they design clothes, choose fabrics and fit people if they could not see? Or could they put together a lovely room that is beyond function --all the way to beautiful? Yet, I think I swallow the lies and fall for the standards put on me by “blind men”.

Long ago, you may have figured this out and wonder what planet I’m from that I’m just now getting this. I have long known the principle but have just discovered the ridiculousness that blind men are the mirror makers for all of us. This is not to be down on the blind, they often and oddly enough don't use the mirrors themselves. A while back I spoke to a young man that had lost his eyesight from an explosion in Iraq, just months before. I sat across the table as we ate and asked him what his biggest discovery was in the event of going blind. His answer was staggering..."I’ve discovered that I see people better now. I used to be attracted to or find myself drawn to only beautiful people, but now I hear their hearts and am attracted to them for what they say instead of how they look." Whoa, now that’s a lesson! Because of our desire to be politically correct, I think we can even wonder if it is okay to ask a question that would limit the abilities of the blind. But, I think it is legitimate to say a few things would be limiting. I am on a plane right now, and would be quite disturbed to find that the pilots were blind. Although I have been a passenger in cars with some I called into question their ability to see, I would not willingly get into a car with a blind driver at all-- let alone in rush hour, over steep mountain passes, etc. I am seeing the folly of my own placement of trust in where and how I perceive my value and image.

What do the distorted mirrors tell us about ourselves? We are ugly or beautiful, too fat or too thin, too short or too tall, too young or too old, our nose is too big or our ears stick out too much, our teeth are not perfectly straight nor are they white enough, our skin is too pale, or too dark, too wrinkled or too plain, our hair is the wrong color, it is not a cute haircut--try again next month and if by chance somehow you like it one month it never gets cut the same way twice. Oh, what a mess! Has anyone been there with me? (I know you that are approaching fifty have had to have at least a glimpse) Have you ever stood at the mirror pulling your skin up, sucking your tummy in--wishing that magazine face and body was your reality? Chances are it’s not even their reality--you know--you have been using the mirror of the blind man, too. The Bible calls itself a mirror. It is the mirror of divine accuracy. We are made in His image, uniquely designed. Our hairs are numbered, we are his workmanship--His master piece. We are His one of a kind design. We are His dwelling place and we are in His thoughts constantly. We have a future and a hope for we are His beloved, accepted in the beloved. We are complete in Him for we are His delight. We are precious to Him and loved by Him.

Have you been around little children lately? The age that doesn't know they are not measuring up to whatever mirror the world has made and they just enjoy looking at themselves and talking to themselves? They are so beautiful wrapping themselves in clothes too big and shoes clunking as they struggle to walk themselves to the mirror. When they see themselves, they tilt their little heads and smile and speak to their own loveliness to their self? They see beauty and pleasure that is breath taking. I wish we could all still see that in ourselves for that’s what I think God sees in us. His divine design, his pleasure and delight.

Which mirror do you want to believe? Which mirror are you believing? Are they the mirrors of blind men or the Creator himself?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Unforgettable Grace

Although I grew up in Wisconsin, I am not a farm girl. I grew up on a lake and lived in a resort setting. I realized this all the more as I traveled to the southern part of Chile a few years back. We were met at a small airport by a man in a Jeep. He was going to take us to meet with the indigenous people of that area that he had been working with for years.

In just a matter of minutes I went from the hi-tech world of flying to jeeping in the unmarked fields of the Chilean outback. We turned off a paved road and literally bounced along a tree lined field until the trees eventually led us to a river bank. Baffled by what we would do to cross a rather wide river in a Jeep, I was surprised to see us pull up on some logs that were strung tightly together. We got out and pulled on a rope that was attached to other side of the river to another tree. Some sort of pulley system pulled our logs with the Jeep on it to the other side. We got back in, as if that were an everyday occurrence, and continued our bouncing along a rutty path up the side of the Andes Mountains.

We came to an old gate, swung it around, and followed an even smaller path to a house-like sort of hovel. The wood and mud held itself together somehow in an non-engineered sort of way. There was a dirt floor, some crude furniture, a window and a fire inside. An open door allowed the animals to freely roam. We sat at the table - thrilled to be guests in their home, but also just a bit in a cultural twilight zone. It was like opening a National Geographic and stepping into a photo. The smell of dirt, fire, and animals made it pungently real. There was a pile of dirty dishes across the room that a cat was licking that bore every indication they would be used as our dishes next. Our hosts were not even five feet tall, and they wore clothes that were obviously their only ones and had been worn for a lengthy period of time. They were extremely kind and smiley. I hurt for them as their smiles revealed their desperate need for dentistry.

The woman was tending the fire and preparing unidentifiable food. There was a chicken under the table that was pecking at my red toenail polish. I about turned the table over in surprise at the first peck. I tried to resume my position graciously as they laughed over my awkwardness. Continuing my gaze around the room, I was amused to see Coke bottles and a small TV that was hooked by wires to a car battery. My eyes wanted to check every detail of the room, but my brain kept telling me to refrain, as the more I saw, the more I recoiled.

My dilemma to continue my investigation was interrupted as the woman who carried the hen out from under the table urged me to follow her. I stepped out of the “house” and rounded the corner just in time to see her take this chicken by the neck and whip it around and around up over head. What on earth was this? She then lowered the hen and cut off its head and turned it upside down before I could even process the scene in order to look away. The strong mountain wind whipped the blood all over her legs and skirt and down onto her socks and into shoes. Somehow my appetite left me and I followed her back into the house where she plucked it and put it in the pot with the other things I couldn’t quite make out. The cat jumped down and made a feast of the new pile of entrails she had just made on the floor next to her. It was my first experience with freshly prepared chicken. The greenish white frothiness that gathered on the top of the pot was ladled off and thrown into a dirty dishwater barrel in which just minutes later, she washed the dishes and set them before us on the table. It was an unforgettable meal.

Now, as I read through Leviticus, I can’t help but think how thankful I am that we no longer offer sacrifices for our atonement with God. It seems as though it would be a bit raw. It’s so ugly, bloody, smelly and offensive. The result---forgiveness, must have far outweighed the process.

There would be a lot of questions around such belief as well. Depending on who you were and what you had done, you had to figure out what kind of sacrifice you were to bring: goat, bull, lamb, turtle dove, pigeons, sheep or rams; male or female. The questions of what to cut, what to remove, what to burn, where to put the blood, where to sprinkle, or when to pour it, all had significance and meaning. Then there’s the question of what if you had no animal and you had to bring a measure of fine flour, how much flour, oil or no oil, to pour the oil on it, or mix the oil in it, with or without incense, fat or no fat? How about the lobe of the liver and kidneys, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, is it offered up in smoke on the altar as food or by fire for a soothing aroma? Does this sound a bit confusing? For sure, it sounds disgusting and gory.

And how often was this, daily for some things and yearly for others? And this just covered their sins but could not remove their sins. It had to be brought to just the right person who was dressed in just the right clothes, offered on just the right altar, built of just the right materials, at just the right place, at just the right time. How does that sit with your busy schedule? Sound convenient and welcoming? Every part of it sounds appalling.

And how about the aspect of it being in public? Everyone saw what you were bringing and knew what sin that covered, (oooh, did you see what so and so did today?). They saw how often you brought it, (No way. That sin again?). And everyone would see what you could or couldn’t afford, (I think they have more than what they admit). Talk about humiliating. Perhaps for some that would be good for us, but because of Jesus we have atonement without all of this cost, confusion, or carnage.

Just like we hate the thought of the blood, the death, the gore of a sacrifice and find it so offensive, so God also is appalled at our sin and finds it offensive. It is needful to remember that just because there is none of this cost, confusion, or carnage to us that there was all of that to Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, that is the beauty of it! He became sin for us who knew no sin. The cost was of the ultimate price as He laid down His life for us. The confusion as we read, as to who to bring it to, what to bring and how to bring it, or even where to bring it or when, is settled in and at the cross. He is our sacrifice. We bring our brokenness and sin to Him and exchange it for His healing and His righteousness. We bring it just as we are - no special clothes or place or time - just to the foot of the cross we come. The carnage was no longer the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood that He makes peace with God on our behalf. It’s not the daily slaughter of animals but His one time death requires our one time trust in Him to not only cover but to remove all our sins—past, present and future.
We have the privilege and convenience to go boldly to the throne of God. He says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I am so thankful we live in the times since the cross. We can come privately without anyone seeing how often we need to go to God, what our sin was, or the ghastly procedure of mutilating an animal. It’s quite amazing that He laid down His life for me so that I can receive eternal life. It was an unforgettable grace.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dialogue With The Devil Or Dialogue With Deity?

Some days, I talk to so many people, I could not begin to tell you or remember myself. I am sure you are the same way on any given day. Some conversations are just a few words; others are paragraphs, and others maybe hours long. It just depends on our time, the circumstances, and the choices we make; those dialogues whether short or long can impact us greatly. A few words “fitly spoken” (as the Bible puts it) can be like apples of gold; they can set us on track for a day that is terrific or tumultuous. Conversations can build and encourage or wreck and destroy.

Many times, I have shared the conversations of my childhood and how tormenting they have been in my head and heart. Those foul lies carved canyons of pain through the bedrock of my soul. It was not the people that meant to cause the hurt; it was the devil and his desire to permanently alter who God had intended me to be. Satan’s desire was for me to live in shadowed gullies of guilt and ravines of refuse. I had believed those lies far too long; I lived without inner joy.

As we were studying Genesis 3 in a recent Bible study, my friend, Donna, taught about Eve “dialoguing with Satan”. Eve’s doubts grew larger and larger until what she believed caused her to act out the lie she was caught up in. From that study, the Holy Spirit took those thoughts and expounded upon them until I was overflowing with truth. I had only known in word, but not in the “love that surpasses knowledge” part that grips your innermost being and rocks your world permanently. It happens when Buddy teaches or at times when I’m listening to my iPod—the Holy Spirit catapults me beyond what is said to what God wants me to know.

I am sure it is the way I was created—I have to tell the wonderful things I find, see, or am blessed with. I can’t help it! So here it goes, I must share it with you…it’s been brewing in my heart for weeks. I pray this is the time to share it, and that the Holy Spirit would have it resonate deeply within your core, that it will ring forth with truth, and that it will shake your world and clang the truth so loudly from the tower of influence you have been placed that everyone you know will know it too. It has been hidden far too long; we have been deceived for too many decades.

In the story of Genesis 3, Satan comes to Eve and speaks in such a way that causes Eve to doubt God’s goodness. Satan “acts” like he cares more for her than God did. Eve hears Satan say that she can be like God, which is a great desire, but how she goes about it shows what she really believes: she has to get it on her own—she has to figure out how to get what she wants—God won’t give it to her; she has to solve her own problems. That was a lie. The truth is, God had already made her in His image; she just wasn’t living in the truth of her own identity. So she jumped ahead to her own solutions—never even asking God what He said or what He wanted her to know! She ate the fruit. She thought she had successfully dealt with her problem, but the real problem wasn’t eating the fruit, it was doubting God and not talking it over with Him but “solving” it on her own. The mess was catastrophic. Sound like anything you do? Yeah, me too.

Sometimes, when I see or feel a problem, I then listen to Satan whisper doubts about God’s caring, providing, protecting, or loving me. I subconsciously talk it over with Satan – unaware that it’s his voice of fake care that I hear. Then I, like Eve, jump to my own solutions and make a bigger mess of it. It affects me, those around me, and for that matter all those who will come after me. It’s much easier to see the lies in Eve’s situation than in my own. I hear her wrong dialogue, yet sometimes I don’t hear my own. I get caught up in it all never realizing I shouldn’t even talk to him in the first place! He is a master at this—Jesus referred to him as the Father of lies. So what do you do?

What did Jesus do? Lets look to where He deals with Satan himself. Matthew 3 ends with this: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” (The Message) This is what God spoke it was His true identity. Next chapter is Matthew 4, the next thing that happens, Jesus is taken to the wilderness to face the temptation of Satan. Does Jesus doubt God or dialogue with Satan?
No, look what He does. Satan says three times “if you are the son of God, then…” His first attempt is to get Jesus to doubt His own identity. If he gets Him snagged there, then there’s no need for any further discussion. He would win. But Jesus is not snookered, He does not dialogue with the devil— instead Jesus chooses to dialogue with Deity and said what God said—He quoted God. Satan continues trying to get Jesus to doubt; he questions God’s provision—then offers his own solution, “Turn these rocks into bread.” He tries to get Jesus to question God’s protection; he tries to make Jesus doubt if God really will protect Him, Satan’s solution— “Jump off here and the angels will protect you.” Satan twists the truth casting shadows on the character of God. Jesus still doesn’t waver. So, once more Satan comes at Him to question God’s position “fall down and worship me and I will give you…” These lies are woven together so tightly they blend to fabricate lies so close to truth it is hard to separate. Jesus has no trouble, unlike Eve, He always and only did the will of the Father—He never jumped to any solutions of His own or came to the wrong conclusions of His Father’s character.

We, on the other hand, can be clueless and wonder why we are in such a mess. We dialogue away with the devil, digging ourselves deeper and deeper into the pit where Satan has lured us. He gets us on his turf of slime, and we are stuck in the quagmire. We have such problems with our identity that we usually are sidelined and out of the game right there.

If we somehow pull ourselves together enough to remember there is a game again, the devil causes us to doubt God’s provision. So we run ahead and try to provide for ourselves, which only results in trouble and plenty of it. Weaving along in with provision there is another thread of doubt: it’s the doubt of believing God’s protection and all that goes with that—fear, worry, stress, anxiety the whole range of emotions —we try to solve it with all sorts of distorted ways out.

The next thread he tried there in the wilderness was position. Whom do we bow before, whom or what are we worshipping? We bow ourselves to what others think of us and not see it is only God to Whom we answer; it only His opinion that ultimately matters. It is why the Lord said not to have any gods before Him –He knew it would only ruin us. When we please Him, and do His will, He gives us grace and strength to face giants, or He makes even our enemies to be at peace with us. We do not have to exalt ourselves or worry if we are heard or noticed, if we are recognized or valued and all the lies stuck to that way of thinking.

What if of all the conversations we had with people we became most aware of the conversations that were really with the culprit of lies, our dialogue with the devil. And what if we became committed to not talking with him? That every time his breath came our way we could smell the pollution, and our solution was what God meant for us to do—not talk to the devil but dialogue with Deity! When doubts of provision, protection, or position drifted our way, we would ask, “God what do You want us to know?” Imagine the difference it would have made for Eve. Imagine the difference it would make with us. Chatter matters—what you believe affects how you behave.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


As I saw the children giving Sunday, I could not help but remember a little girl I once knew...

There once was a little girl that had long brown pony tailed hair and bangs so short it was humiliating to even a four year olds self image. Her freckles smattered across her nose, and filled her face like stars do in the night. She wore hand-me-down dresses and old shoes passed down from older friends. This little girl had a birthday coming, and she knew what she wanted weeks in advance. She wanted her very own new doll. Not the plastic face, plastic molded hair dolls like the other dolls in her room; this was a special doll. She had a name-- Chatty Cathy. She had long brown hair that you could pull into a
ponytail, and she had freckles on her face and a beautiful dress with matching shoes but that wasn’t all-- she talked. She said things such as,”Please be my friend", and "Let's have a party", and “I love you", and "Please take me with you".
This little doll was the sort of doll she wanted to look like and have for a friend. The little girl was lonely; her brother and sister were much older and did not want to play with her.

It was soon to be the little girl’s birthday, but her mother and father were poor. Her father had an injury at work so he had to have surgery leaving them with no money. It was not the sort of thing that four year old little girls understand fully. She hoped and prayed for the doll to be hers for her birthday. But as the birthday neared, the mother feared that she would not have the resources for the doll. In addition, the little girl’s birthday was at the beginning of December - just twenty days before Christmas. The mother gently tried to help her understand the disappointment that may lie ahead.
"The very special doll is very expensive, and she may be your only present for both occasions. It would be only one present. Are you sure you want her?"
"Oh, that's okay, I know she will be very special and worth it", said the little girl, reassuring her mother eagerly.
The days came closer, and the anticipation rose higher each day.

On the Sunday before her birthday, she went with her mother to church as usual. She loved to sit with her mother; she felt comfort snuggled by her mother as if she had wings that nestled her close. She listened to the pastor. This week he was talking about needing money for the new pews. He said if everyone would give $20.00 for each person in their family, they could get new pews. The others were worn, torn, and falling down. The room bustled as fathers took out their wallets and mothers pulled out their check books from their big purses. But the little girl’s mother sat still.
"Mama," whispered the little girl, "aren't we going to give?"
"No," said the mother disappointingly, we don't have any money to give”.
"Oh," said the girl and settled back down.
Her heart was not settled though; she churned the problem over in her head as the pastor spoke.
After a long while she whispered excitedly, "Mama, we could give my money for Chatty Cathy. She's exactly $20.00!"

She was so pleased to have come up with a solution to the dilemma that had swirled in her little head. Her mother’s eyes filled with tears as the little girl spoke to her in her quiet voice. The mother’s eyes and heart were filled as she remembered the little girl’s delight as she spoke of the doll and the burst of glee when the commercials would come on the television. "That’s Chatty Cathy! Look! That’s my doll. Oh, can I have her, Mama?”
“How could she give up that doll?" the mother wondered and wisely suggested that they talk after the service was over.
"That would be a big decision," she said to the eager child. “That
would mean no birthday present and no Christmas present--no doll”.
The little girl knew her mother would not understand her choice, but she was sure that she wanted to give to God whatever it was that He needed.

Soon the services ended and they talked as the mother had suggested. "Do you understand that if you give this, there will be no doll?" After much discussion and hugs the mother let the little girl give the pastor the twenty dollars. She understood it was not for him--it was for God. The day came for her birthday and sure enough, there was no present. The little girl was satisfied with her decision and did not lose any joy in her birthday. The days ticked closer to Christmas, the commercials increased in frequency of the sweet little doll that she had desired. But no regrets were ever spoken: the decision stood firm. Christmas came with no expectations.

But word must have traveled through the tiny church or community, because somehow there was a present under that tree for the little girl--not just any present - but the doll she had wanted. She hugged the doll over and over whispering, "I got you, and I got you! You are the very one I wanted”.

Now she saw beyond the long dark hair, the freckled face and the prettiest pink striped dress with matching shoes to the greater gift, a gift from God. She knew it was a gift given up but given back by Him. It was a lesson she never forgot. The satisfaction and joy of giving all you have and shear delight of a God that gives it all back.

God didn't forget either...

He has blessed my life abundantly over the years. It is fifty years later, and I remember it like it was just this past December 5th. The joy of giving has never left me in regrets. May we never rob the joy of giving and the precious lessons that come along with it and the memories that last fifty years later.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have been thinking about time lately–I suppose it’s because I always run short on it no matter what I do! Not only am I short on time, but what little I do have I want to spend three ways - at the same time! I want to be in more than one place at a time; I want to be with more than one person at a time – fully attentive to them, and at the same time, I want to be doing other things. I want to multi-layer time. And the more help I have - the more time I think I have to spend. Yet I still come up short by the end of the day, and I fail to get everything finished. About the time I think I have it all in and done–time is out and then I have to start all over again the next day!

As I think about the scope of this problem, the only solution seems to be heaven. There are so many things that make heaven sound so heavenly, but lately this time thing has me just aching to be there with the Lord. Then it dawns on me–perhaps we were not made for time but for eternity–thus the difficulty with it. Some have more difficulty than others. I’m severely challenged by time and find myself almost incapacitated by it on a regular basis. I don’t understand why–I just don’t function well within its confines. I know there are those that “get it’ and “do it” well, but I am remarkably disabled by it.

I wish there were self-help programs for time-challenged individuals who see their need for reform. We could have weekly meetings, synchronize our watches, and encourage each other with our motto of “Time is like money. Spend it wisely”! Seriously though, I believe we were made to operate on “Garden” time. Do you think God put clocks in the Garden of Eden? Nope, no mention of them! I think some sadistic person with legalistic tendencies must have invented time keeping pieces. What easier way to hold fellow humans to such an inhumane standard. So, I think maybe instead of feeling badly about this condition I have, I need to feel more in tune with heaven and maybe even allow myself and others to be on garden time–especially at times when it probably doesn’t matter quite so much. I think the devil himself pushes that clock hand around faster and faster everyday, leading us to fear that we are more and more behind and ineffective until we throw our hands up in despair being totally disabled and defeated.

However, if I look at the situation through my new “Garden time” glasses, I believe the important thing is to take time to walk with God, hear His voice, and enjoy what He has made. Perhaps that is where I find I am whole and discover the peace He gives that makes operating in a fallen world a little more doable; maybe that’s why we started in a Garden. Maybe along with the sinful Adam part, we have just enough of Adam left in us that aches for the Garden, and there is a hint of memory left in us that knows we need that walk and talk of Garden days. And perhaps instead of thinking that it’s Satan pushing the clock–it’s really God hurrying it along. The sooner we are with Him, the sooner things and people will be what they were meant to be! Maybe it’s His love and desire for us that is rushing this time along so swiftly. Maybe as we ache to be in the Garden–He is aching for us, as well. Do you feel it, too? Or is it this new “age of old” that is cranking the time by at breakneck speed and I have not adjusted yet? One day I will hear “…and time shall be no more” and I will have all the time I need–I will finally be in sync with what I was made to be and where I was made to live. In the mean time, I am working on it and looking for the book Time for Dummies - has anyone seen it? Let me know……

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Death and The Kingdom

Once again, we came face to face with death. It seems to stare at us all too often; sometimes it feels like death has won. We have all been here at one time or another, whether by personal experience or as in this week, through the devastating effects from the earthquake in Haiti. It is never pleasant nor is it ever pretty. It is a place God never intended us to be and an experience that He never equipped us for. Remember, He made us for eternity and put us in a Garden where we were meant to live–never to taste death. So here we are, centuries later, at the ugly doorstep of a Garden turned into a graveyard, and it reeks of death. No wonder we don’t like it. Our parents die, our spouses die, our neighbors die - it is awful. But it is something that pierces our heart a little deeper when a child dies.

Our heart is reminded and echoes of that longing for Garden days; the days before death - a place we do not know but where we need to go spend some time to put life back into perspective. Sit with me, if you will, and ponder this place. Walk in its beauty of complete perfection. Smell the fragrance of wholeness; taste of the abundance God provided all around us. Perhaps even see a tree with His initials and ours carved in a heart. It is here where we feel alive. A passion stirs as if we were meant to live here–it is exactly where we were meant to be! It is here, where we feel at home, loved, protected and surrounded by the very art of God hung, flung, and planted all around us. If you take the time, your heart will meet me there–it knows the way like geese find north and south; our soul can migrate there in just focusing without a flap of a wing. Home. Can you breathe deeper, feel closer, and know you are loved? Home. Hurts cease; pains flee; deaths–unknown? Home. But open your eyes, and it is all gone…except that hunger in your soul to be there again. That hunger is put there by God. God did not want us to think this is it, that this is where we were put by Him. This was our doing, our wrong choices, our believing a lie. Death is a billboard in life that we can’t miss, shouting out, “This is not where I put you!”, “This is not all there is!”

He takes us back to the tree where he carved our name and His, and reminds us of how things were meant to be. He beckons our hearts to remember. For that tree became the cross where Jesus died. Our initials were carved in His hands. It is through His death and His blood shed that our blood is no longer required, and our death certificate torn into pieces so that we no longer face an eternity without God. I understand that, and no doubt so do you.

But what do we tell our children? How do we help them understand this graveyard, this enemy of death? One, they understand more than we think. Two, give them a word picture according to their world of understanding. If they are in school, perhaps something like this… “Do you remember when I checked you out of school early?” (Their faces usually light up, even if they love school). “You know how all the other kids had to stay the rest of the day? Don’t you love being the one going rather than the one staying? I think that may be how it is with dying. Some people get an early checkout, while some of us have to stay all day”.

Or perhaps about dying… “Is the cereal box what we eat?” No, that would be silly. It’s the cereal that is the real thing we want. Well, our bodies are like the cereal box; it is the inside that is really us. The box may go, but what was inside is the part that mattered. The box may get buried, but the inside was the part that we wanted. Our bodies may get buried or burned, but our inside goes to heaven, and we get new bodies that never get messed up again.

Or perhaps if they are readers… “You know that favorite book? You know how worn and torn the cover has gotten? Is the story still there? Sure that the best part. A cover doesn’t make a book, it’s the story! Well, the body is merely the cover or jacket of the book; the book is the story that’s inside. Book covers get torn or ripped, damaged or removed, but the story lies in the pages inside. Our bodies may get diseased, broken or separated from our spirit but it’s our inside pages and story that tell who we really are”.

Or if they have experienced traveling a long distance, dropping someone off, and having to keep traveling… “Do you remember when we took Grandma home, and we had to get back in the car and come all the way home? Remember what it is like to want to get out of the car? Well, some people get to get out of the car earlier and others have to continue the trip”.
We experience many good-byes along the way, leaving our babies with a sitter the first time, sending them off to their first day of school, packing them into a camp bus and waving good bye through tears you hope they can’t see. Cheering at graduation when their name is called, but hurting inside that it means they are leaving home, or thrilling at the preparation for marriage until they walk down the aisle and you know that she/he is not coming home that night or any others to be in their room. All of these are temporary; all of these help us identify the hurt experienced by good-byes and the ultimate separation - death. We all hurt together as parents on these occasions. We all long for the Garden - and way things were meant to be…and will be again.

So give them hope. Give them the Good News. Hold up your hand and announce the Kingdom to them… “The war is over, and we have won!” Give that good news–we all get checked out of school! That good news–our box is gone, but we get the new and improved! The good news–this cover is a mess, but the Artist gives us a new cover and the story goes on and gets better… we DO live happily ever after! The good news– it is a long ride, but we will soon all be out of the car never to ride again! May we not only long for it, but also may we teach our children to long for it too. Then we will all say in our hearts of one accord “…Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done…”