Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Surrender to the Sweetness

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ — the Message — have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives — words, actions, whatever — be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

(Colossians 3:15-17 The Message)

“This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee; more love to Thee, more love to Thee!”        -Elizabeth P. Prentiss (1818-1878)

Although we have not rung in the New Year, my mind is running ahead to make plans and goals for the next year. I have had a cold this week, and so I have had more time to sit and reflect. I often get frustrated when a cold breaks in upon my grand plans of thorough “house cleaning”. After Christmas, I want to get things in order in my home and my heart…get a fresh start.

But alas, this cold is holding me back, and all I do is meander around the house from my bed to the couch, and occasionally to the computer to check e-mail and Facebook. Today after some fruitless time trying to upload pictures, I finally made myself a cup of coffee, and I noticed on my Splenda packet these words: “Surrender to the Sweetness.” I smiled, as I knew instantly that it wasn’t just an ad on the packet, but a little reminder from my sweet Saviour to slow down…surrender and let His sweetness minister to me.

Maybe this crisis of a cold seems trivial, especially to some of my friends who are in the midst of some heartbreaking situations and trying times, but His invitation is the same, no matter how difficult of time we are having: “Cease striving, be still, my dear one, and surrender to the sweetness of my love. Remember, I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)

Yes, More love to Thee, O Christ, this is my new year’s plea!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas is Over, Now What?

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3 NIV)

The days between the opening of the gifts to the beginning of a new year seem awkward to me. What am I supposed to do with myself now? No more waiting and preparing. Just piles of cookies tempting me to eat them. Presents to put away. Time to regroup. I have no plan right now. I miss sitting and contemplating the beauty of Immanuel.

The last couple days I have been fighting a cold, so instead of reading and reflecting, I have been sleeping or watching television. I need a jumpstart to return to the discipline of solitude and prayer. The subtle invasion of apathy and neglect are luring me away from “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

Why is it so easy to wander away after such a wonderful month of faithfully seeking His face? What has crept into my mind to make me think I will be okay without acknowledging my total dependence on God? Plain old laziness.

Create in me a pure heart, O God. And renew within me a steadfast spirit. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

“Christ arrives. God enters creation as every human ever has—but though the way is common, it is God who takes that way tonight, so the birth is uncommon indeed, a crack in the universe, and the baby blazes with divinity.” -Walter Wangerin, Jr.

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 NKJV

It has been tradition in our family to read the story of Christ’s birth on the eve of His arrival. With the lights of the Christmas tree setting the quiet scene, as we read through the account in Luke 2, pausing at certain places to sing a carol that echoes the narrative.

Our first Christmas Eve, we snuggled as a newlywed couple with wide-eyed wonder as we read and sang together. Maybe even imagining the day when we’d have a little one to swaddle and hold. Over time two little boys arrived into our home. The readings became less hushed, and more of a lesson in patience as parents who longed to pass along a tradition and our faith.

This year those little boys are young men, and we will read the story maybe together this morning as they come in for breakfast. Or maybe we will read it together tomorrow. Either way the joy of birth will invade our hearts once again. Amazing love, how can it be…?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joy Comes in the Morning

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalm 16:11 NIV)

Why do I keep looking for lasting joy in experiences? While I do enjoy life, sometimes I think life owes me sunshine filled days and rosy relationships and everyone I love should live next door. I am missing my sisters who are scattered here and there. I miss my Dad whose birthday would be tomorrow, but he has passed on from this life about four years ago now.

Weeping may last for a night, and joy comes in the morning. I was reminded today that deep satisfying joy comes from God’s presence, and the presence He gives us through others. Yesterday I started out a little down, and by the end of the day I had been cheered by the simply delicious breakfast and some coffee brewed with a bit of cinnamon and topped off with eggnog (which I would never drink plain, but was good as a creamer in my coffee) and the company of two dear, sweet friends. We love just being together. Then I went and sat with a friend while she cleaned. Just being in the same house together encouraged both of us. She was motivated to tackle her house, and I got to read and relax, since I didn’t have to see the unfinished projects at my house.

Why not give some Presence this Christmas, along with the presents!

Monday, December 21, 2009


“Patience is inspired by mercy, devoid of condemnation, and evidence of the presence and power of our Holy God.” -Beth Moore

Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11 NKJV)

Did you ever notice that patience is related to hope? And hope inspires endurance. I hadn’t really thought of hope in these relationships before, until I opened my Bible Study this evening.

At the beginning of the semester, I wanted to stay engaged with God through His Word, so I picked up Beth Moore’s study called Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. I had left off on the chapter on patience. I had already filled up on love, joy and peace. Patience seems a timely fruit to munch on during this season of waiting.

 We have been on this journey towards the arrival of Jesus into our world, but since He has already come and returned to heaven, most of the journey has been a stroll down memory lane.

Once Christmas arrives, we begin our journey toward remembering the Cross. Jesus was our greatest example of endurance, hope and patience combined.

As we look with expectation to the unfolding of His return, we can be encouraged by the race he finished.

“… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2 NKJV)

This hope is certain: One day we will see God face to face, if we believe in Jesus, the Savior of the World!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Soon and Very Soon

"I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have…" -Jesus 
(Revelation 3:11 NIV)

As the time for celebrating Christ’s first arrival approaches in less than five days, some weariness has settled over me. I feel a bit panicked, even though I have very little left to do to get ready. Have I done enough to get ready? I guess time will tell.

I have approached this year with less fanfare than usual, and everyone seems pretty content. My oldest son noted that I haven’t been as frantic, and he likes the pace we’ve had this year. So why am I second guessing this slowed down pace? Is something missing? Peace. Quiet. Assurance.

I think I loosened my grip on the central focus, not because I’m too busy, but out of neglect. I have let my week fill up with good things, but need to keep a hold on those holy, hushed moments in the presence of God. Listening for my own sake, and because God Almighty enjoys my presence as much as I enjoy His.

So let’s encourage each other as the Day approaches…to keep our eyes on Jesus!

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

(Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

What promise are you clinging to today? Have you lost hope? Come to the spring of Living Water and be refreshed. Jesus is waiting for you and for me...

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Better Country

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
-Alan Jackson

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:13-17 NIV)

A longing that often surfaces in my heart during Advent is the ache for eternity—a longing for the place that Jesus has gone to prepare and promises to return one day and take us with Him forever.

Am I living in light of that promise, or have I started buying into the false hope of making a life for myself here on this earth. How do I live here as stranger, especially when everything here is so enticing and tangible and appears to offer a sense security?

I do not have any solid answers, except to kindle the longing by exposing myself to eternal venues like the Word of God, yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit, taking time to listen and converse with the Eternal One and worship in spirit and truth through song and service. And most of all to encourage others to do the same by reminding us to turn our eyes upon JESUS!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Speedy Delivery

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and your Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen.

-from The Book of Common Prayer

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.
(Psalm 40:12 NIV)

I woke up early this morning with a mission to complete some gifts I was working on and send out the boxes before the post office closed today. This was finals week at school, and I hadn't much time to work on presents and such, so I needed to make this a speed delivery to bring joy to my sisters scattered here and there by Christmas.

Before I started, I took some time to read a devotion called Christmastide, a collection of prayers to be read certain hours of the day. It was compiled by Phyllis Tickle, an author who has put together several books like this in a series called Divine Hours. I have this hidden desire to be a monk cloistered away praying all day, so I find ways to incorporate their lifestyle into my hectic suburban existence, and this book helps me follow some of their form.

As I read the above prayer this morning, I was revving up my spiritual engines, pleading, “Yes, God stir up your power!” And then I had to take my foot off the accelerator, as I crumpled with my head on the steering wheel of my life, confessing “Oh how my sin does hinder.” But his grace and mercy lifted my head. Speedily, Jesus helped me recover my composure, then I went rejoicing along with thanksgiving for all that he has and will deliver me from.

The advent of the Savior what a blessed event!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


...behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

Matt 1:20-23   NKJV

What does behold mean? It seems to be from the language of angels and prophets. You don't find this phrasing in the newer translations of the Bible, but if you were brought up on Charlie Brown's Christmas you may remember hearing it in the famous lines of Linus, when he reads the Christmas story: "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11  KJV)

In the Bible this word is used as an imperative, an order to pay attention. When a prophet or angel says, "Behold!" our ears should perk up because an important message is being delivered. Stop in your tracks, look up from your hurrying and scurrying to get ready for Christmas. Listen! Hark, the Herald Angels Sing! A Proclamation has been made. I for one feel compelled to Fall on my Knees. Christ has come, so come let us adore Him. Put down that wrapping paper and listen, He is calling to you and to me, Sinner, come home!

Behold! See! Worship the Newborn King!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rejoicing with Mary

To you this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.

‘Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Hard heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your Salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.

-Martin Luther, From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
(Luke 1:46-47 KJV)

In what ways will your soul magnify the Lord this season? Are you rejoicing? Or are you grieving? Maybe you are experiencing both. I often find myself one moment excited and giddy about the season of giving and enjoying each other’s presence. Other times I am sad that not everyone I love will be together, or that others are suffering and I cannot relieve them all. I can only offer a few coins in a Salvation Army bucket or a hug to a friend who is grieving. These seem so small, yet each gesture is a heartfelt desire to give more, to be there for others.

Mary did not have much to offer, except her womb. What an offering that was, and what joy we reap because she was willing. As we sing carols this season, let’s remember all those who prepared the way for the Savior to come into the world. Let’s rejoice that we can continue to spread the Good News to those who haven’t heard yet!

Monday, December 14, 2009

More Than "Only In Your Dreams"

I'm dreamin' tonight of a place I love
Even more then I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me…

-Gannon and Kent

There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to,
because the LORD your God has blessed you.
(Deuteronomy 12:7 NIV)

Every year when the familiar tune and refrain of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” plays on the radio I start crooning along, and before I know it the tears are streaming down my face. So many memories and feelings flood my heart. I miss my sisters who live scattered around. My heart longs for the Christmases I had with my Dad (Christmas Eve was his birthday). I reminisce about the early years when the boys still believed in and hoped for the magic of the season.

This year since I am busy with school, Christmas celebrations may come and go without much fanfare, and for the most part I am okay with less stress, but I miss some of the buzz that comes with preparing.

Mostly though I think the longing for home heightens my desire for Christ’s final return and the ushering in of things the way they were meant to be. A world without the tinge of brokenness that colors everything.

Sort of melancholy, but underneath is the hope that constantly pulses like a hidden stream. We can rejoice in the longing for His return. The presence of the Lord can be experienced now through the sweet lyrical voice of His Holy Spirit whispering in our ear, “I’ll be your home…abide in Me, and I will abide in you…I love you, my dear one…live well…I am coming soon to establish my eternal home.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Name Above All Names

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

-Joseph Mohr

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:9-11  NIV)

The refrain of the third verse of Silent Night caught my attention this morning, Jesus was Lord at his birth. Even as a newborn baby he was fulfilling God's destiny for his life. He came as promised. He would grow up into all that God planned for him to be.

At church, the past few Sundays, we have been focusing on the names that describe Jesus the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Such powerful and comforting names. The very character of God wrapped in swaddling cloths and delivered to earth to be our redeeming grace. What wondrous love is this!

If you love to know the deeper meaning of things I encourage you to listen to the sermons in the series called Hope has a Name at this link www.efree.org/resources/sermons/

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Good News

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matt 1:21 NKJV)

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
(Luke 1:31-33 NKJV)

What causes your heart to race with joy?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Importance of Watching

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

William Cowper

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
(Luke 21:34-36 NIV)

In Luke 21, Jesus gives a discourse on the end of the age, a prophetic word about his second coming. The verses above are his exhortation to us to be ready for his return. The Message’s translation of the warnings of what our hearts can get weighed down with seemed appropriate, especially in light of the conversation about presents yesterday.

It says, “Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping.”

I am not saying to skip any of these holiday traditions, but let’s be aware of how too much of a good thing can dull our senses. I for one want to be fully present when Jesus returns, and I desire to worship Him in wholeness until He does return.

May His blessings spill upon your heads, and fill you very being with His warm embrace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Give Presence

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
(Psalm 89:15 NLT)

“…worship without an awareness of Christ is impossible…For to behold Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to worship Him.”   -Judson Cornwall

At this time of year I love to think about presents. Not my wish list, but what presents I want to give. To me a tangible gift is an expression of love. Nowadays as the kids in my family are growing up I could make one stop at Walgreen’s and buy a bunch of gift cards. But that is so dissatisfying to me. I enjoy thinking about and finding that one thing that will give the receiver a lift, or say she thought about me.

Another gift that people often overlook is the gift of presence. Since I have been fairly occupied with school this semester, I have missed spending time with my family and friends, so my gifts this year may not come from a store, so much as just some time to be together. Taking a walk, grabbing a cup of coffee, sitting on the couch together watching a Christmas movie…these are the things I long to give this year.

Jesus modeled this gift the best. After all, He is Immanuel! I found a different translation, other than the familiar “God with Us”; it also means “With us is God”. Somehow that phrasing warms my heart.

I wanted to leave you with a website to check out, a pastor friend of ours recommended it, and I think you will enjoy its message and the ideas that lead us to a deeper advent experience. Check out http://www.adventconspiracy.com/

I hope you have many opportunities to give presence this Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Anticipation is Making Me Wait

The Hebrew word for expectation means “to lean forward, i.e. to peer into the distance; by implication, to observe, await” (Strong’s Concordance)

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation. (Psalm 5:3 NIV)

This time of year fills us with so many expectations. Some good and some stressful. I was reading a friend’s Facebook status tonight and she was lamenting how stressed she was, and asked the rhetorical question, “Why does this time of the year have to be so STRESSED?”

Earlier this year a friend of mine was discussing a strong sense of dread in her life. It occurred to us that this is a strategy of our soul’s enemy, that great deceiver, to rob us of joy. So instead of dread, we encouraged each other to ask God to replace our dread with expectation.

So if you are dreading the holiday season, take a moment to breathe, cease striving and remember that God is God, and he cares more about our presence than all the presents that we could ever buy or give.

Here is some advice from His word about the best gift we can offer Him:

“My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.”

Psalm 15:17 AMP

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Come to the Garden

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

-C. Austin Miles

Come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
and the sheep of His hand.

Psalm 95: 6-7 NASB

Did you know that in Latin there is a verb that means both to till and to worship? When I first came across this verb I was perplexed as how one word could mean both things. I know words can have multiple meanings, but I was intrigued by this particular verb.

As a full time student this semester, I have had less time to just sit and reflect. Over the years I have developed this habit of being, but it did not come naturally. I had to cultivate a taste for solitude. So in one of my desperate moments this autumn, I cried out for some connection with God as I trekked to the secular world each day.

On a certain day, the answer to my curiosity about the verb was delivered to me by my professor. My question was unknown to her, but God had heard my musings, and right there in the middle of class he arrived. We were translating a sentence with the word “colo” in it, and she said, “Do you know why this verb means to till and to worship?” I wanted to shout, “No, but please do tell us!”

To worship someone is to cultivate a relationship. In Roman times they worshipped to curry favor from the gods in order to have a great harvest. Well, my mind went directly to the LORD my Maker, and I rejoiced in this seeming trivia about a word that is now impacting my experience and understanding of worship.

When I worship the Savior, I am cultivating our relationship, not so much to gain favor, but to grow closer to Him, and his purposes for everything. So now when I sing a song at church, I am not just repeating the words or enjoying the melody, I am thinking about Him. This song is for you, LORD! I love you, Jesus! Worship is more than singing, I can also worship Him by daily giving my heart over to him anew and acknowledging our relationship.

I know it doesn’t seem like good weather for gardening, but why not do some cultivating along with your worship of the Savior this season, and see what kind of harvest He produces.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Watch and Pray

For Thee, since first the world was made,
So many hearts have watched and prayed;
The patriarchs’ and prophets’ throng
For Thee have hoped and waited long.

(A verse from We Sing, Emmanuel, Thy Praise written by Paul Gerhardt)

“Stay alert; be in prayer so you don't wander into temptation without even knowing you're in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."  (Matthew 26:41 The Message)

Have you ever had to stay up all night to guard something? When I was just out of high school, I had joined the Air Force and one of my duties during my enlistment was to take my turn as the “night guard” of the barracks. I remember that it was very difficult to keep alert all night long. I don’t know if I was so willing to do it, rather I was motivated by the fear that I would be disciplined if caught sleeping. The body is indeed weak, and I’m sure I nodded off a couple times during the night watches.

It is just as difficult to remain alert spiritually. We live constantly in a world infused with dark forces, and the best way to stay awake is to draw near to the Light. Prayer opens up our spiritual windows and lets the sunshine in. Being in prayer is being in His presence.

Also, singing His praise keeps me spiritually attentive. As I sings carols during Advent, I desire to let the words of each song carry me into His presence, and affirm Jesus’ great love for me, and in return express my adoration of Him.

O come, Let us adore Him!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV)

As I sang The First Noel at church today, I was remembering that Noel in everyday English translates to birth. In my mind as I sang the refrain I was thinking: “Birth, Birth, Birth, Birth.”

I was having a bit of a hard morning emotionally, and somehow that word of birth filled my heart with hope. When something is birthed newness arrives; of course, we know that a newborn baby becomes a new member of a family. But ideas can be birthed as well. And I needed some fresh thoughts to help me cope with my current struggle.

Later that morning, we read from Revelation 21 about the new order of things that God has planned when Christ returns. In that passage Jesus makes this remarkable promise: “I am making everything new!” Then Jesus told John to "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:5)

When life’s struggle seems to be getting old really fast, I need to remember this promise, and trust that the present work of Jesus is leading to the ultimate newness of life in eternity. No more death, no more tears, no more mourning, no more pain. Hallelujah!

I think I will go write that promise down on a sticky note, and post it on my dashboard to remind me of His faithfulness this week.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"
 And let him who hears say, "Come!"
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:17 NKJV

“…maranatha had become a familiar expression of Christian hope-a watchword of the imminent SECOND COMING of the Lord.” (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

During Advent it doesn’t take long before reminiscing about the first coming of Jesus leads to rejoicing in the truth that He has promised a second arrival. Four times in the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus proclaims, “I am coming soon!” This is the final statement of Jesus, and John’s response is a hearty: “Yes, Come, Lord Jesus!”

Does this promise of Jesus’ return cause dread or joy in my heart? Sometimes I do feel dread because I’m not sure I am ready. I am too invested in this life. I look forward to seeing my sons have families of their own. I want to dream about future adventures with my husband. I enjoy shopping and getting read for the holidays. I guess this is all natural.

So how can I cultivate joyful expectation in waiting for His promised return? Immerse myself is His presence. Cease striving. Pray without ceasing. Agree with the Holy Spirit. Abide in His Word.

Let's proclaim together the hopeful words: "Maranatha!" "Come, Lord Jesus, come!" Amen! Let it be so!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Answered Prayer?

“…God does not forget our prayers. It is in the fullness of time that he answers them. He answers in that rich kairos, when to answer at all does the most good for the most people!”

-Walter Wangerin, Jr.

But the angel said to him: "
Do not be afraid, Zechariah;
your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you are to give him the name John.
Luke 1:13-14 NIV

“Your prayer has been heard,” this proclamation to Zechariah must have been so comforting. Not really, it seemed to confuse him at first, and then provoke uncertainty. Really, he says, how can this be? He can see his circumstances. It was as if he was thinking, "This prayer should have been answered years ago. Are you kidding me?"

I am in a situation right now, where I am pretty sure God has answered my prayer, but the circumstances leave me wondering how this answer is going to end up for good. I wanted provision, and he has provided wilderness. I asked for protection, and the person I prayed for is precariously safe. I have asked for healing, and more pain pours down.

The true answer that God gave Zechariah and Elizabeth was not just a child, but grace, for that is what the name John means “the grace of the Lord.”

Is grace enough? It should be, but often I act like a spoiled child pouting until I get more. Will I trust in the gift of Advent- Immanuel- or will I keep selfishly demanding what I want instead of trusting God’s goodness? Am I patient enough to wait for an answer that “does the most good for the most people”?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holy, Holy, Holy

“Isn’t is a wonder…that the mere presence of the divine destroys our sinful selves and all we thought defined us, but that the Word of the divine consoles us, relieves us, forgives us, and raises us up again?"    -Walter Wangerin, Jr

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14 NKJV)

This morning I was ushered into the trembling glory of the Lord through Zechariah’s encounter with the LORD when he was offering the evening incense. I marvel at how another person’s story can move me, especially when told by a seasoned storyteller like Walter Wangerin, Jr. He sets the backdrop of all the time leading up to this moment in Zechariah’s life, carrying us along with expectation to the unexpected encounter with the glory of God. This scene is even more poignant when you think that God had been silent for 400 years up to this point in Israel’s history.

The first words spoken through God’s messenger were “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.” (Luke 1:13 NIV) Words of comfort, calling him by name and answering a long sought after desire.

Just at the right moment, God reveals himself to us. And as we revisit the Christmas story this year, let us not miss the fact that divinity intersects humanity in a way only God could imagine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kairos: Opportune or Seasonable Time

“Every present moment is well-rooted in the past…. God, you see, is God of history: weaving its past and its future together; designing the times by overseeing the intricate patterns of human events; granting meaning to the whole of humankind, and thereby making any single moment, also, incandescent with meaning.” -excerpt from Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin, Jr

For Jesus doesn't change —
yesterday, today, tomorrow,
he's always totally himself.

Hebrews 13:8 The Message

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate a holiday year after year? What is it in the remembering that comforts us or brings us joy? As we approach Christmas, we pull out our traditions and our favorite cookie recipes. We gather those around us that we love, those we desire to share moments of awe and peace.

From a spiritual perspective, I enjoy revisiting the story of Christ’s birth because it reminds me that He doesn’t change. As The Message puts is “he’s always totally himself.” I love that phrasing, and as my family grows up,the boys are 19 and 21 now, traditions are changing and some decorations remain in the attic, but the truth of God with us never changes.

Let’s cling to His unfailing, unchanging love this season.

Earlier this year Finlay Fields, a band that our son drums with, wrote a song about the never changingness of Christ. Click on the band name to check out the song titled: All You’ve Done

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What We Know

The word advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means "the approach" or " the arrival." The verb is advenio: "I arrive. I come. I am coming." -Walter Wangerin, Jr.

"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Psalm 46:10 NASB

As we enter the Advent season, I want to take time every day to reflect on the amazing fact that God Almighty has arrived among us, and makes Himself known.

Sometimes I get bogged down with doubts and fears. When I feel that way, the best place to go is God’s word. The recorded Scriptures lead me back to truths that I can depend upon. A couple weeks ago, I came across the repeated phrase “we know” in I John 4. Those two words boosted my faith. I do know some things, and I can count on what we know.

The first assertion that caught my attention was this: “…we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16 NIV) Not only can we know God’s love for us, we can rely on it! If you go back and read the whole chapter, this statement summarizes John’s assertions about God’s love. The other thing we can know is this: “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13 NIV)

We know that God loves us. We know that we are partakers of His Spirit through Jesus Christ. We know that we can come to Him boldly with our requests. Let’s walk in that knowledge today.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


“…how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:13a NIV

Studying Latin opens up new perspectives on words. Now I am seeing parts of words, and wondering what they mean. “–ility” is actually a form of the suffix “–ity”, which does have roots in Latin. This suffix is added to stems to indicate its state or condition. A cursory Google search brings up articles about the “ilities of software” and systems engineering. I cannot speak to those “ilities”, as they are using technical jargon, and I am concerned more with the state and condition of my heart.

One day, I was deeply questioning my ability to remain a full-time student. I wrote ability on a blank page of my journal, and other -ility words popped onto the page: dependability, reliability, flexibility and capability. I went on one of my famous definition hunts. It was a rich time. First, the definition for ability turned out to be “the power to do something”. Just reading that definition identified my struggle, I was definitely feeling drained of power. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with everything, the energy it takes to read, write and think leaves my brain numb and aching sometimes. Kind of like when you start exercising again, and unused muscles let you know they are not too happy about this activity by screaming, ouch, when you try to move the next day.

My search also provided lots of juicy synonyms for ability, such as capacity, talent, know-how, skill, cleverness, potential, knack, expertise and aptitude. My head was spinning with the possibilities. Capacity stood out. It was a nice passive word. It just sits there waiting to be filled. I thought it might be interesting to list all the capabilities my abilities afford me on a daily basis. Instead of actions, qualities surfaced. I realized I have the capacity for love, joy, peace, creativity, expression, empathy and suffering.

As I marveled over the rich quality of life my capacity could provide, I was humbled by the fact that many of the attributes on my list were only authenticated by an outside source. I cannot produce these capacities on my own. I needed supernatural ability. Capacity made me think of a container or vessel that was capable of holding something. I needed to be filled.

In humility, I can go to my sweet heavenly Father, and ask him to fill me with his Spirit. And fortunately that is something he loves to do. And he is more than able. When I look at my ability with humility, I have to admit there are no possibilities without God.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Valley of Humiliation

"I've never been here before." That was what I realized tonight. I have never really quit anything in my life. I have always pushed through. My husband said that my refusal to quit in the past was a sign of character. That is a nice sentiment, but what is going to keep me from quitting this time. Maybe I could keep trying and fail, but that sounds too much like humiliation. I don't like being humiliated. I thought I would be good at being a full-time student. I thought I would enjoy it, but so far it has been a lot more like work. I like to play and create and have fun, and I have found out I am wimp when it comes to really hard work. I probably won't quit, but it sure is humiliating to admit that I want to, and then I don't even have the courage to follow through with that desire.

Oswald Chambers gives perspective to this dilemna:

'We see his glory on the mount, but we never live for his glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Sealed off in a thought place
Sealed inside this huge vaccuum
Sealed off from social intimacy
Sealed inside the all-encompassing grace of living
In isolation

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


To move over or along with or as if with long measured steps; a stage of progress, advance; the most effective natural pace; maximum competence or capability.

At the beginning of the summer, I was drawn to the immutability of Christ, in that he is the same “yesterday and today and forever”. This is a great comfort as I take strides in a new venture this fall. I am continuing my education, and pursuing my bachelor’s degree in English. I have often marveled that my most effective natural pace is to be in sync with the school calendar, going to school from late August to mid May or late June, then enjoying a summer of leisure. Each year the expectation of learning more looms on the horizon. This year I hope to move along with long measured steps in all aspects of my life: intellectually, spiritually and relationally. I am in a stage of progressing toward greater illumination, deeper devotion and further understanding of how to live and love well. I will only advance under the tutelage of the One who already knows the end from the beginning, the great narrator of our stories. I look forward to discovering more about his life and how he desires to be involved intimately with each one of us. I want to be a “part of the greater story and to add to the beauty” of his Creation.

May I keep in stride with his Spirit, and welcome the breezes of his creativity in the midst of life on a university campus where there is so much diversity and potential and energy.

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”
Galatians 5:25-26 The Message

Monday, July 20, 2009


For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Jesus replied, What is impossible with men is possible with God. Luke 18:27

from Through the Looking Glass:

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying, “she said: “one ca’n’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as

six impossible things before breakfast.”

-Lewis Carroll
How much practice have I had believing the impossible? But actually as I think about it, it is not the impossible I would be believing. A better question is who am I believing? Do I believe God truly is capable of the impossible? Or do I just believe in possibilities? That which I can see could happen or even know that I can manipulate so that it does happen.
Living by faith is much more risky and adventuresome. I can't see around the corner or into the future, but I can trust in an all-knowing, compassionate and loving God.
Let's ponder some impossibilities for at least thirty minutes today. Maybe even more than six. With God all things are possible...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where I Have Been

O LORD, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my every thought when far away.
You chart the path ahead of me and
tell me where to stop and rest.
Every moment you know where I am.
Psalm 139:1-3 NLT
Ever since Spring arrived, I have been drawn to the outdoors, and my pen and journal, rather than sitting in the "green" room typing my ramblings to the unseen audience of this blog. I usually muse here and in my journal mostly for myself, but let's be honest in our heart of hearts writers want to be read. So let me know if you're reading :)
My favorite spot to sit once the winter weather breaks is our front porch. I can't boast a majestic view, I live in the suburbs. My view includes the two or three houses across the street, and since we are on a corner lot, I also can look over at my dear friend and neighbor's home. We have lived next door to each other for nearly seventeen years now. Have we really lived in this one place for so long already? Will our oldest son be twenty-one in a couple weeks? And the youngest off to new ventures at the local community college?
So where have I been since April 30th? I have been avoiding the reality that my kids are grown up. That the world is going through hard economic times, including family and close friends. Hiding in the city and getting lost in the country, wandering the shore of the gulf of Mexico in Florida. Immersing myself in the creativity of a summer drama program at our church. Sipping coffee on quiet Mondays on my front porch, and entertaining angels who come for some respite. Enjoying the different pace, not necessarily slower, but good and fulfilling.
I love my life, and it is a great comfort to know that God has known where I have been every moment this summer. He has sought me out in the late night laughter of girlfriends, as well as the tear stained confessions of our heart aches and concerns. Through unexpected new friends in both of our sons' lives and our own. Rekindling and keeping up with the tried and true friends. Being in my first parade on a rainy day on the 4th of July, and asking God to hold back the rain for the parade, so we could represent moms who pray and hold out the hope of connecting with God. He answered with a resounding yes! Hallelujah!
Where will I be headed? God knows! And for that I am ever grateful.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Staging Old Masters

On the Saturday before Easter, my son and I had the time to go see a couple unique plays in St. Louis. One has already finished its run, but “Staging Old Masters” is still playing this weekend. The shows are free on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, which is down the street from Sheldon Hall. On their website they describe how the play came to be: “the Pulitizer [Foundation for the Arts]…in collaboration with Prison Performing Arts, Washington University in St. Louis, and Employment Connection—becomes home to an innovative theatre program in which former prisoners & formerly homeless veterans use the exploration of art and theatre to help develop skills for their future lives and employment.” For more specifics about times and location go to the following link:

During the evening the audience walks from painting to painting, and at the same time gets a glimpse into the perspective of each of the actors, as they creatively perform their response to the art. Many of the paintings depict biblical themes. It was an evening of being confronted with the transforming grace of God through art, as well as the various responses that we as humans have to the artists’ depiction of such lofty and lowly themes, such as heaven and hell. The struggle we as humans have with the “seven deadly sins” is the climax of the evening in the closing scene of the performance. In reality three perspectives are intermingled- the original artist, the performers and yours as a member of the audience.

I was struck by timeless theme of human need for divine intervention, as it was communicated through the Old Masters to the performers and then ultimately to me. The poignancy of the program lies in the fact that the performers themselves admit their personal struggle with temptation, and are living documentaries of how grace moves us away from ourselves into the redemptive love of God.

My son enjoyed it so much that he took a couple friends back last weekend. I hope you have time to check it out this weekend.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
(Psalm 40:2 NIV)

This is a reflection I wrote the other day in response to the question:

“How am I choosing to be stuck?”

I am focusing on my weaknesses- trying to overcome them, instead of capitalizing on my strengths. I choose to believe lies. I choose to procrastinate. I give into fears and insecurities. I want instant change instead of accepting that life is one choice after another. It is very freeing in a way to realize that my “stuckness” is a choice. I feel stuck in my investments of time. I feel stuck as a parent. I am stuck in my ways- I chafe for change and then complain when change occurs. I am stuck in discontent.

I once again am stuck in the future- wanting what comes next more than embracing now. Being stuck in the future is hazardous to my mental and emotional health. I long for future joys to escape present pain. But joy comes through mourning. I have been sealing myself off from truly mourning the changes in my life. I am tossed about by emotions related to the natural process of children growing up and moving on in their own lives.

Another hard part of my life right now is standing by watching others who are stuck, too. I can’t make them choose to move forward, I have to trust God to intervene. I can ask God to capitalize on each of our strengths and to buttress our weaknesses. I need God to direct my investments, and to help me focus on a couple of my strengths. I get bogged down because I’m not sure which direction to take. I spend a lot of mental time “trying” to decide, which bogs me deeper into the muck and mire of my indecision.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crossroads: A Crucial Point Especially Where a Decision Must be Made

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life…
Deuteronomy 30:19-20a NIV

I find myself and others in my family at a crossroads. We have crucial choices ahead. We each want specific guidance on how to move forward. I was praying this week about each of our decisions, and hoping for some word from God to pop out of the pages of my Bible to tell me whether I should go to the state college or the private college. Instead, the search in the Scriptures led me to an even more crucial choice- life and death, good and evil, blessings and curses.

My guidance was not specific, but the sense I had was whatever I chose make sure it led to life and blessings. Beware of the trappings of those other things that entice me away from devotion to God. We know what leads to life and death, but sometimes we ignore the life path, because we hope just this once self-centeredness will lead to life, but it doesn’t. Instead it leads to disappointment, and destruction at its worst.

In Proverbs, we are told to “Guard our hearts above all else”. This principle can guide us in our decision making as well. It is another way of saying, does my choice please God or myself. God has some pretty wide parameters when it comes to specific choices, but the general choices tend to be narrower. And that is good, because Jesus said the narrow way leads to life, but the wide way leads to destruction. It is a mystery how we can have so much latitude in what we choose to do in our vocations, yet in our pursuit of being, that is, who we are and how we live in relation to God and others is simpler: Love one another.

As I was contemplating the choices before me I came across a journal prompt, which encouraged me to draw an X on the page, and write the choices at the end of each line of the X. I was going to write go to this college or that college. Instead I decided to write life, death, blessing and curse. As I thought about those choices, I began to draw a cross over the whole thing. That was when I realized Jesus actually chose all four of those, so that I might live.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross .
Colossians 1:19-20NIV

Monday, March 23, 2009


“…the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NLT)

So what defines a responsibility? The dictionary states that it is “a duty resulting from a job or position.” So first, I must figure out what my job or position is to further understand what is expected of me. In the secular sense, I am jobless. I do not work outside the home. But I do work and study and pursue activities for which I am liable. I partner. I parent. I pursue learning and practice writing.

Responsibility is a huge word, and sometimes my responsibilities overwhelm me to the point where I feel stuck. I don’t want to move in any direction. I am paralyzed by the potential for failure. I lack the motivation to actively move toward the expected outcome of what I believe is required of me to fulfill my duties.

My position has various manifestations based on whether one looks at it from a marital, social, or spiritual status. From a spiritual perspective, I am a child of God. And with this relationship there comes certain responsibilities as well.

Today I was reading about Jonah and the big job that God brought to his attention. It was interesting to note that Jonah’s decision to go the opposite direction and hop a boat to get away from Nineveh was an indication that he was actually moving “away from the presence of the Lord.”

As I was reading about Jonah, I started to ask myself this question: Is there any place that God has asked me to go that I am resisting? Not really. Well, maybe a couple places, which were actually related to my responsibilities. But when I thought further, I realized the question could be asked a different way: Do I resist God’s presence? And I had to admit that I do resist him at times. This admission led to the thought how the presence of God might be related to my various realms of responsibility. He does not ask me to care for or to be obligated to someone or something without his trustworthy presence strengthening me and giving me the grace to pursue his plans and to extend the same grace to others.

Where there is responsibility, there is the presence of God.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


“…clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
Colossians 3:12-14 NLT

I wish I could say that the following thoughts were my own, but actually the idea was shared in a devotion I read this morning. The author was relating a time when she had a role to portray and how when she put on her costume, she was better able to take on the character she was portraying. With my recent experiences in theatre, I could relate to what she was expressing. Many times, as I’ve shared before, people will comment on how hard it must be to memorize all those lines. But there is so much more to developing a character than the lines they must say on stage. The actor must learn where they are to move on stage, analyze the background and personality of their character based on clues in the script, as well as work with personal props and their costume. These are just some of the things the actor must consider to create a well-rounded, believable character that interacts with the other characters to bring the story to life.

All these activities bring to mind the spiritual disciplines of memorizing and meditating on God’s word. Lately, I have been thinking of the Bible as my script, and studying it to find out how as a child of God I am supposed to act. It is a common practice to memorize sections of Scripture and then to mull it over and think about how it might change our perspective or our actions. In acting, a person rehearses their lines and their blocking over and over until it becomes a part of the character they are representing. I think this relates to memorizing and meditating. After weeks of rehearsal, one of the most exciting times is when the costumes are given out. The actors don their costumes, which seem to complete their character. Now all they need are few dress rehearsals to feel out how everything works together, and then they need an audience.

In a spiritual sense, we put on the attitudes and actions that are implied in Scripture and our character expands. It is not enough just to rehearse and meditate on the meaning, we need to clothe ourselves in the attributes of the new life outlined for us in Scripture, and modeled by Christ.

Let’s go to the costume closet and find something that will enhance our character, which each of us have inside, and give the performance of our lives for our personal audiences, those we live with and work with in order to offer more love and more peace and more acceptance and more forgiveness.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Give It Up

I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit;
for apart from Me you can do nothing
John 15:5 NASB

Give it up. Those were the words I read on a sign that I regularly pass on my drive to walk at the mall. Lately I had not been walking much because of a very full schedule. In my quest for education and experience in the theatre, I had agreed this semester to be stage manager for the spring play at the college. Most people know that I am fairly organized, and I can think on my feet. I went in with great confidence in my skills, and humble dependence upon God, mostly. This week the show opens and my humble dependence upon God has been greatly challenged. Meaning my eyes were more widely opened to my need to depend.

The past few years I have been more in tune with the church calendar, and I like to observe Advent and Lent. Last week I was so busy, I didn’t really think to much about Ash Wednesday, but I was musing about what people give up for Lent. In my inner dialogue, I was thinking I wouldn’t give up chocolate because stressed people need chocolate. Maybe I could give up watching TV, but it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice, because I hardly have time to watch anything. Then the a radical idea crossed my mind, what about giving up certain negative attitudes, like complaining or worrying. Those thoughts meandered for awhile, and then I got back to the task at hand, mentally keeping track of all the details for the play. (And also learning Algebra formulas at the same time, yikes!)

In a gentle and firm way, God began to show me what he wanted me to “give up” for lent, while I was in the middle of my stage manager training. I had graduated from giving lines to the actors, the prop tables were ready and it was time for me to enter the BOOTH. The booth is where the stage manager gets to run the show. Supposedly a control freak’s haven, but this frightened me greatly. I had never done this before. The cues are like a foreign language, and if something doesn’t happen most likely it falls back on me. Great potential for failure and looking foolish. Two of my lifelong fears. Fortunately, I have experienced people training me, and to make sure I was under the right amount of pressure they both sat over my shoulders prodding me to call my cues correctly. I was definitely humbled. I came home, and thought of all kinds of ways to avoid having to go into the booth again.

The next morning, I got up to drive to the mall for my walk and there was the sign: “Give It Up”. I immediately knew God was “talking” to me. He wanted me to give IT up. “IT” being everything that I foolishly think I can control, my reputation as an organized, sharp person, my inability to control others, etc. So I laughed and cried and praised God for being so kind and thoughtful to remind me that He alone is the one who can manage my life or anyone’s life for that matter.

So as they say, “Let’s give it up for God!”. (Loud applause)

Have a great Lent! Love-Kel

Friday, February 6, 2009

To Do List (Alphabetized)

Basic tasks
In Jesus’ name
Living Spaces
My Room
Not the boys’ rooms
Outside activities
Questioning “Does this
Upon myself a myriad of
Wanting to be done with
Xtra chores
Yet another day ends with

(written by Kel Rohlf, all rights reserved 2009)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cluster: A Number of Similar Things that Occur Together

I recently was sitting in my “thinking spot” bemoaning the fact that my winter break was coming to a close. It was time to get back to school and finish out this semester. And while I was excited about the new adventure of being stage manager for the school’s next play, I was reluctant to get back to the routine. I had enjoyed quite a bit of solitude over Christmas and the month break. I had more time to read, to journal, to plan for the next thing, to pray and to just sit.

On the couch next to me was a magazine I picked up at the checkout line because the main article heading was “Feel calmer now: 20 essential lists to organize your life”; it was going to help me with my new year plan to get organized. I read a few articles, and it has been sitting there now for a few weeks, since I started the hectic pace with the play and classes. I happened to glance over at it and read the quote on the spine; just the words to describe how I was feeling, and how to navigate through this season: “Life comes in clusters, clusters of solitude, then a cluster when there is hardly time to breathe.” (May Sarton)

One of my “goals” for writing this year was to blog Monday through Friday each week. As you can see I have already fallen short. So I will adjust my intention; I will write in clusters. I will write as often as my hectic schedule will allow. I will squeeze in some time to express myself in words, even if I am in a cluster of time where I barely have time to catch a breath.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6 NASB

Over lunch on Monday, some friends and I were talking about fasting. Have you ever fasted? Isn’t hard? Why do Christians fast? Good Questions. I have tried fasting at times and it is hard. I felt hungry and irritable, and it caused me to have to talk to God more than usual, except that I was talking to him about keeping me from feeling hungry, which then led to tirades about is this really necessary.

It is interesting that the topic of fasting came up while we were having a meal. And then later that day a book that I had forgot that I requested from the library came in. It is called Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. I “heard” about the book in my devotional reading. One book leads to another. Anyways, I found out by thumbing through the pages of Mudhouse that Lauren and I had the same struggle with fasting. She wrote a whole chapter about it. I like the conclusions that she, and a mentor of hers came to. Here are some quotes from her chapter; she says “Fasting is not meant to drag us down, but to still us. It is not meant to distract us from the really real, but rather to silence us so that we can hear things as they most truly are.” Her mentor said this: “When you are fasting and you feel hungry, you are to remember that you are really hungry for God.” So now when she fasts, she prays this simple phrase: “I am hungriest for God, my truest hunger is for God.”

So fasting is a means to remind me of my hunger for God. Hunger will always be part of my human experience, and God in his wisdom links it with the spiritual dimension of us to whet our appetite for him. No wonder Jesus talked so much about bread, and even provided miraculous bread two times that is recorded in the gospels, and had to make the spiritual connection for his stomach bound disciples. (See Matthew 16:5-12)

Eating is a great metaphor for our relationship with God. When we eat we are satisfied, when we are consumed with God we are truly satisfied.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I have adopted this new idea for journaling this year that I learned at a journaling workshop last November. It is called “Topic du Jour”. I wrote 31 topics that related to my life on little pieces of paper, then randomly picked one at a time and list them on a paper numbered 1 to 31. (Yet another indication of my affection for lists.) Then I pasted the list into the front of my journal for easy access. The idea is to journal about the topic that coincides with the date of the month. Today’s topic was "songs". I don’t even remember now why I chose that as one of my topics, but today I enjoyed just journaling about why I like songs and how they affect me, and I also listed 4 new CDs that I bought for the new year. It seems like the New Year has been a great excuse for a lot of my recent purchases.

Here’s an excerpt from my journal: “Songs are lifelines for me-they express my heart and touch my heart in ways no other media does.” Then I go on to describe what influenced my choice of the CDs, like the titles and the cover art, more than the music artist(s). My favorite of the four is called “The Bright Sadness” and had a very unique cover that drew me in. A silhouette of a girl’s profile and then bluish green water colors superimposed with purple black cutouts of a bouquet of wildflowers.

I did not really know what kind of songs would be on it, but it actually had one song titled, “New Year”. It is an upbeat tune, and became kind of an anthem for me as I listened to it in my Green Room.

Here is the refrain: “This is a new year, this is a new day to rise
Shine, lift up your eyes
This is a new year, this is a new day to rise
Shine and point the way to God’s great life

If you want to learn more about Charlie Hall’s music and spiritual journey check out http://www.charliehall.com/

He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be astounded.
They will put their trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3 NLT

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


‘Tis the season to make lists. We are not talking about Santa, as we all know, that season is over. I am talking about the lists that we pen to start the New Year fresh. Goals, resolutions, wish list; whatever you want to call them. And even if we haven’t written them down yet, we are mentally listing what we will do next or what we need to pick up at the grocery store. I sort of like and enjoy lists, so you won’t be surprised that while I was at the grocery store this past weekend I picked up the January edition of Real Simple, which headlined with “Feel calmer now: 20 essential lists to organize your life”. Lists tend to calm me down because I am afraid I will forget something. I do not totally know why I like lists so much, sure I get satisfaction after crossing an activity off that has been completed. They also can be a measuring tool to see how far I’ve progressed on my desired goals. I guess it is just fun to put a list together. I even bought a book once called “List Yourself”. It has categories and you just start listing until your mind is exhausted of ideas. I liked a couple lists that the magazine suggested: “The Not-To-Do List” and “The To-Do List You Can Actually Do”. On the second list, they had suggestions like “Forget to put laundry in the dryer. Clothes can be permanently pressed (whatever that means) tomorrow.” I love it.

A list can be a sort of an aphorism, which is a concise, memorable statement. A proverb comes to mind. Those witty sayings of Benjamin Franklin, such as “A penny saved, is a penny earned,” or from the Bible we get many of these memorable statements like “Pride comes before a fall.” Both sayings are potential items for our goals for 2009. You might be surprised how many lists are in the Bible. Genealogies, commandments, proverbs, a time table (see Ecclesiastes 3) and a list of benefits that we are not to forget, are all there in order to glean wisdom.

I will leave you with the benefits and a link to the Real Simple list page.

Praise the LORD, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits —
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
Psalm 103:2-5 NIV


Thursday, January 8, 2009


I read a church sign today that stated something to this effect: “Let God be the solution of your resolutions.” I had to drive a couple more miles before I realized that the word resolution has the word solution in it. Aha! Let God be the solution. Let God help me resolve or solve again the tendency toward waywardness and that lack of discipline I try overcome especially as a new year begins. Another church sign encouraged a similar sentiment: “Your resolutions will go better if you rely on God.” Truly a credo to live by and relying on God makes life so much easier in all ways. So since I haven’t made any particular resolutions yet for 2009, I feel better informed by these signs from God that I read today.

I resolve to "trust God with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will acknowledge him in all my ways, and He will make my paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5,6) He always directs me back to this central principle of our relationship: He is trustworthy, and it is worth my while to trust Him completely.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Familiar: Frequently Seen or Experienced

“God uses the booboos, the blatant mess-ups and those old familiar moments to point the way to his grace and mercy.”
- Chonda Pierce

The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

My friend sent me a New Year’s devotion written by Chonda Pierce, a comedian that keeps our relationship with God and ourselves in perspective. She talked about how familiar tended to be a negative word for her, conjuring up boredom and routine. Yet this year she began to realize how comforting the familiar can be. If you look at the definition of familiar as “an everyday occurrence”, it follows that my attitude about life could become indifferent. The old “been there done that”…yawn. But if you turn the word over and see another one of its definitions, it has the sense of intimacy.

This struggle with the value of familiar pervades all aspects of my life. One moment I can be longing for the familiar and the next I am bemoaning the fact that life is so unchanging and even boring. I get excited about the beginning of a new semester or a new season, then after awhile I get bogged down. I want a new outfit, but then I find myself wearing my worn jeans and a favorite sweater. I want routine, but I also want adventure.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Putting Christmas Back in the Boxes

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

I did not have an epiphany this year as I repacked the Christmas decorations and ornaments for the tree. But I did experience a bit of euphoria, as I realized how freeing it was to let go of some our Christmas trimmings. I finally did it; I put the decorations that have not seen the light of Christmas for many years into the donation pile. I feel more ready for next Christmas than any other year. I know what is in the boxes and it will be the stuff that I want to decorate with next year. Fewer boxes to haul back to the attic and new place to store the tree will make it a more pleasant experience for each of us. Usually I get all sad when it is time to put everything away, but I guess over the years I have finally learned the lesson there is a time for everything.

It was nice this year to turn on the Christmas music one more time, as I sorted through what I really wanted to keep, and then gently wrapped the ornaments placing them into two containers, instead of four. After I was done, I pulled out our photo album that contains pictures from past holiday seasons. It is amazing to see how far we have come. It was a relief to know that we have arrived in a new season. A time to let go. A time to seek new adventures. A time to be grateful for the rich family times we’ve celebrated in the past. A time to move forward. A time to wait upon the Lord and his purposeful plans for the new year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Breaking Bread Together

“Give us this day our daily bread.”
Matthew 6:11 NKJV

Eating a meal together, celebrating a holiday with food these are familiar patterns of our lives. And they also were common experiences during the time of the early church. This idea of eating together most likely dates back to the first family. Once they were banished from the Garden of Eden, man and woman had to begin toiling for their food. But over the years and through God’s provision meals had special meaning. Passover was one the main meals from the Old Testament, which was particularly planned by God to remind the Israelites of their deliverance from death and slavery. And in God’s wonderful way of washing everything with eternity, it also foreshadowed how Jesus would come to save the world from its sin. Jesus would even celebrate Passover with his disciples just before his death, and teach them the deeper meaning of the meal.

Today we take communion in remembrance of the deliverance from death and slavery that Jesus accomplished for each one of us. Sometimes at a meal or holiday we try to recreate past celebrations of the same event with the same emotion and authenticity of previous years. And I think somehow we have lost the feeling of what was happening in the early church when they celebrated communion. Sometimes I wish I could have been around when the disciples broke bread together after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.We can get a glimpse of how they celebrated in Acts 2:42-47.

Today as I read that familiar snippet of Scripture, I was marveling at the main result of their devotion to the teaching, fellowship, worship and breaking of bread together in remembrance of Jesus. The author summarizes with this revealing statement: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” God was saving people on a daily basis, as a result of their living out their lives for Christ. Eating bread together and recounting what the bread and the wine signified was enough evidence for many to put their faith in the Savior. Oh, that we would break more bread together this year, and speak of the sustenance that the Lord Jesus provided through his body and blood. Praying “Give us this day our daily bread” can take on a richer, deeper meaning.

Dear Heavenly Father- Add to our number daily those who are being saved.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Unfinished Business

2009 has arrived with little fanfare here. We went to bed at 10:30pm last night after sipping a glass of bubbly apple cider. Our kids were at their own party. After dinner I did go out to get a great draught of Spirit filled worship at a Lincoln Webster concert with my good friend at her church. Hallelujahs rose from our lips and many of the lyrics echoed the cry of my heart to trust God more.

This past week I was perusing some journal entries from 2008. In one I was talking in drama lingo with God, asking him what was the super objective of my life, and how could I fulfill that by following the simple objectives each day. I noticed that the Scripture in the margin was about trusting God. That was the answer for the super objective or the theme for my life: TRUST GOD!

Now on to the simple objective of doing those things which lend to the super objective, the activities and attitudes that demonstrate my faith and trust in God and God alone. This is the unfinished business of life.

I also found today that instead of my usual listing of what I hope to accomplish this year in different arenas of my life, I just got up and starting doing my mental "to-do" list. I gathered Christmas decorations to be sorted and put away. I went through some dishes and other knick knacks to get rid of. I sorted through some boxes in the basement. Tackled the laundry, even matched our socks. We usually just maintain a sock basket that we each dig through to find our daily socks. Crazy and lazy, but true!

So now here I am pursuing one of my other ambitions for 2009, to write something on this blog every day, except maybe not the weekends. So I hope someone out there is reading this, and if not I am happy to just express my thoughts in print.

As I ramble I also think I will throw out a question from this book I found- to encourage thinking in your own life, or just for grins. I will answer it here and would love to hear from you, too.

Question: Would you rather spend the day at the beach or on a snow-capped mountain?

I would rather spend the day at the beach. The sun, the surf, even the sand are welcome. The power of the waves overwhelm me, and I definitely think of God when I am at the beach.

The seas have lifted up, O LORD,the seas have lifted up their voice;the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,mightier than the breakers of the sea — the LORD on high is mighty.

Psalm 93:3-4 NIV