Friday, March 30, 2007


Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints...Psalm 116:15

He died quietly at home yesterday as his wife held him in her arms and sang gospel songs to him, occasionally raising his feeble hands and whispering praise.

I first met Orval four years ago when my became pastor of his church. He was a cheerful, faithful elderly man of 91 at the time, always in church. He and his wife always sat in the middle section toward the front - always with a testimony for the Lord and a smile on his face.

Occasionally God brings those special people across our paths who impact our life in their own quiet way. Sometimes we don't even realize they've left a mark on our lives until they go on ahead.

My life is richer for having known him - even though it was only for a short time.

Lord, may my attitudes and actions touch others for You!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Coincidentally Yours...

Coincidences- Those minor miracles of God incognito! (author unknown)

A friend shared how he parked his car last night, then moved it. He wasn't even sure why he moved the car, he just did. At midnight a driver hit another car parked in that exact spot. Coincidence? According to this definition, yes! A minor miracle where God protected my friend's car by nudging him to move it.

I absolutely love this definition. When we use the word coincidence, it makes things seem haphazard, like no one is in control. Yet for us as Christians, God is in control of our lives - from beginning to end, from morning till the next morning, in the dark places as well as in the light.

Psalm 139 is one of my favorites because it lets me know there is nowhere I can hide from God. He's always bee with me and is always watching out for me. It makes His love special, intimate.

When you love someone, you delight in the little things - doing things together, just BEING with them. I know what my husband's favorite foods are and enjoy fixing them to please him.

The thought that God loves me so much, He delights in doing little things to please me makes me feel cherished and valuable. It makes me want to look for little things I can do each day to please Him in return.

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and to ENJOY Him forever." (Westminster Catechism)

Coincidences? NOT! They're just God's little love notes to us - miraculous little things He does to let us know how much He thinks about us all the time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Doing what you can

When we moved to our new community here in Maryland, I began looking for a job, partly to supplement our income and partly to get me out of the house since my husband and I were first time empty nesters.

God opened a wonderful door at a local garden center to be a full time florist. I had little floral training, but they were willing to train me, so I took the job. Though I had a college degree and could have gotten a much higher paying job, the Lord knew what I needed. I absolutely loved it. Even on busy days, I felt more like I was "playing" than working.

My boss was a top-notch businesswoman, though rough around the edges. Though she was in her 70's, she was capable and great to work for. I learned a lot and soon could hold my own in competition with other florists. There was a "family" feeling among the employees as well, from the garden equipment mechanic, to the landscapers, florists nursery, greenhouse and shop personnel.

Then the unthinkable happened. Ann died from lung cancer. All of us felt the sense of loss and disorientation that comes with the death of a dear friend. But preparing her funeral flower arrangements helped because it gave me something to "do." I didn't feel so helpless in the face of death because I could bring comfort with the work of my hands even when the words failed me.

There are many situations in life out of my control, but by focusing on what I can do rather than on what I can't control, God has helped me through those times. Even when I can do nothing else, I can always pray. Thank God, He never leaves us alone and helpless.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Choosing to Change...

This week's quote is:

"Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before... either into a creature that is in harmony with God, ...or into one that is in a state of war with God. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other."
~ C.S. Lewis ~Mere Christianity

As I considered today’s quote, I realized the theme of making choices for change is a major part of my writing ministry. For today, I opted to share the first of a series of articles I wrote for a monthly column at

It's A Caterpillar's Life

Bonnie Winters

Overcoming Our Reluctance To Change

Why is change such a difficult thing for us as human beings? From the time we’re born, our lives are in a state of flux. Our bodies grow and change. Mentally, we’re bombarded by facts and sensations that affect how we interpret the events of our lives. You’d think we would be used to the idea of change. NOT!

Face it – changes are HARD (Heaven Appointed, Rarely Desired). Did you know most major life changes occur because of crisis events, not by conscious decisions on our part? Think about it a minute. Why does it take a heart attack to move a couch caterpillar to the gymnasium? Death, divorce or emotional upheavals are powerful motivators.

Consider your spiritual life. How did you make the decision to allow Jesus to be Lord of your life? Though some people were raised in Christian families and naturally grew into the Christian life, 99% of us were motivated to turn our lives over to His control because of a crisis. As long as we could handle things on our own, we didn’t need to ask the God of the universe for help. When we found ourselves at the bottom of the apple barrel looking up, that’s when we cried, “HELP!”

Have you heard the story of the man dangling from the knotted end of a rope? He fell off a cliff and hung there, hollering for help with all his might, but no one seemed to hear him.

Suddenly God answered him. “Let go of the rope. I’ll catch you.”

“Is there anyone else out there?” the man said.

It’s scary to “let go of control” and let Jesus take over. There’s no more leaf to cling to, no more branch under our feet, only the wind supporting our wings. And the truth is, until the fear of remaining on our leaf is greater than the fear of leaping into the wind, we won’t let Him take charge. We won’t change even though God prods us to shed our skin and try our new wings.

“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by your deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4: 23-24 NIV).

So how do we overcome our reluctance to change? By learning to trust the Creator of the wind. Simplistic answer? Not on your life! It requires work – spending time with Him, talking to Him, listening to His words. Thankfully the process is two-sided. God is there each step of the way, prodding, encouraging and loving us. He is not the author of the crises we face – but each time we go through one, He goes with us, steadying, upholding and comforting us, drawing us closer to His heart, until we know that we know He holds us in the wind.

© 2006 by Bonnie Winters

(new quotes will be posted here every Friday)

If you would like to join us on: Tuesday, March 27th
Visit "Fruit in Season" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Stayed upon Jehovah

In the midst of turmoil and judgment against the nations surrounding Israel, Isaiah penned these powerful words:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]. (Isaiah 26:3-4 Amplified Bible)

It never ceases to amaze me that when I need to hear a specific message from the Lord, there it is. Enough said!

Thank You Lord for Your comfort, insight and love today!

Friday, March 23, 2007

How to offer constructive criticism

Part of being a mentor involves learning how to give creative and constructive criticism.

That was difficult for me - I remember as a child bursting into tears when someone tried to correct me or offer criticism, no matter how lovingly it was given. Somehow in my mind the criticism meant I was inadequate, wanting, not good enough - even though in reality it was intended to help me be better at the things I was attempting to do.

God has to have a sense of humor - one of the things I had the most trouble with while growing up became the core of my college degree program (adult learning and mentoring). He helped me mature and realize that criticism, when offered in the right way and in the right spirit, may hurt, but it helps me to grow.

My hypersensitive childhood helps me to be more aware of how others may feel about criticism or critiquing as well. Here are some helpful things I've learned about giving criticism.

1. Always begin by commenting on something good about the person or their work. This will break down the protective, defensive walls they may have and help the constructive comments to be received rather than rejected.

As a matter of fact, try to balance criticism with praise - that way, you're building them up at the same time as you offer suggestions for change, rather than just bombarding them with negatives which can be overwhelming. A spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down better.

2. Don't tell a person what they "should or ought to" do. Tell or show them how to do it with examples. Telling them to change just creates more feelings of inadequacy if they don't really know how to accomplish the suggestions.

Whenever possible, offer resources and use scripture or real life examples. Depending on the situation (especially in counseling), you may want to avoid using too many personal examples which could lead a person to measure themselves against you, their mentor.

3. Always couch suggestions in "I" terms - such as: "I'm having difficulty understanding what you mean here..." It helps keep lines of communication open and doesn't sound as accusing as "What are you trying to say?"

4. Always smile when offering suggestions or criticism - it seems less adversarial. Exercise good listening skills - keep an open posture (don't cross your arms or legs), lean slightly forward slightly and look directly at the person to let them know you are hearing what they say.

5. Lastly, but most importantly, Pray! Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit about giving criticism. Be sure it is invited. Be sure it is constructive and given in the right attitude (not just because the other person's behaviors provoke discomfort in you!)

The same iron that sharpens another piece of iron can also be used as a weapon to beat up another person, so be sure any criticism you give is "laced with grace" and the Love of the Father.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Plan B

Isaiah 22:8-11 (The Message)
You assessed your defenses that Day, inspected your arsenal of weapons in the Forest Armory. You found the weak places in the city walls that needed repair. You secured the water supply at the Lower Pool. You took an inventory of the houses in Jerusalem and tore down some to get bricks to fortify the city wall. You built a large cistern to ensure plenty of water.

You looked and looked and looked, but you never looked to him who gave you this city, never once consulted the One who has long had plans for this city.

Okay - I'll admit it! I'm guilty of trying repeatedly to do it on my own rather than trusting God for the answers. It's called the Superwoman Syndrome.

Just like Hezekiah, who took inventory of his weapons for warfare and built an aqua duct under Jerusalem to provide water from the local springs in case of a siege, I usually have to have a plan B.

It's not that I believe God is incapable of answering my prayers or providing for my needs. He has answered prayer many times in awesome ways for me. It really boils down to a need to be in control because I have difficulty trusting the One who is really in control.

I used to see myself as a warrior, standing on the hillside facing into the winds of adversity - hair and cape billowing behind me. In my right hand I held a spear with the end planted firmly in the ground. I felt fearless and strong.

When I finally realized I was standing there alone, I panicked! Though I was a Christian, God was nowhere in sight - I finally understood I wasn't super woman and couldn't face things on my own. I needed Him.

That's when He showed me how I really appeared to Him - as a child with cerebral palsy - arms and legs tightly clamped to my body, unable to reach out in faith because of my atrophied trust muscles.

It's been quite an adventure since then - growing up in Him and learning to exercise trust in every situation. I admit - it's easy to lapse back into those old ways of coping by trying to fortify and fend for myself. But thankfully, He's there to remind me where I've been and where He wants me to be.

Help me, Lord, to always look to you for guidance and provision

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I know I've been watching too much Bob the Builder with my two year old grandson when I find myself wondering how to reduce the number of leftovers in my fridge and recycle them into new meal ideas.

As a newly married pastor's wife, our income was limited. I learned to make great nutritious meals on a shoestring budget. But that was 30 years ago.

As the children came along one at a time, I gradually learned to increase amounts to feed our growing family. I developed a great collection of recipes to cook from scratch to stretch our budget and became a fairly good cook.

But eventually, they all grew up and left home. I readjusted the amounts in my recipes to feed two of us again. I also went to work full time and began to use more prepared foods rather than spending my spare time in the kitchen.

Suddenly, the fledgelings began coming back to roost with their families and we're up to 11 hungry mouths to feed. I have to relearn how to cook! Consequently we have a lot more leftovers, with very little room in the fridge.

Time to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Can we cook it? Yes we can!

A container of leftover garlic mashed potatoes became the stuffing for twice baked potatoes, broiled with a little added cheese (They were a big hit.)

Leftover rice became rice pudding with some added raisins and 2 boxes of vanilla instant pudding mix.

The other night we made way too many spaghetti noodles, but the leftovers made a great spaghetti salad mixed with some chopped tomato, onion, celery, peppers,Italian dressing and some herbs to season it - well at least I liked it.

Well, you know what they say - when life throws lemons at you, you make lemonade - but not until you've grated the skins for the zest...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Being His Church In Your World

This week's quote is:
"It is insufficient to proclaim that the Church of God has a mission in the world. Rather, the God of mission has a Church in the world."~ Tim Dearborn ~

Fifteen years ago, my world fell apart. I was a wife and mother; a Christian who was heavily involved in ministry with my husband at a small church in upstate New York.

Up until that point, I looked at myself as a “superwoman” of sorts – standing on the hillside, facing into the winds of adversity with hair and cape streaming. My armor protected and prevented me from acknowledging my inner pain and struggles.

I was the pastor’s wife – I wasn’t supposed to have needs or hurts, yet I desperately needed assurance of His love. So I handled it the only way I understood – to make Him love me more by crucifying the neediness inside me and giving my life for others.

Thank God, He looked beyond my willful resistance to the heart of the matter, my need to relinquish control of my life and trust Him. He began a healing work in my heart through a godly Christian counselor.

After several months of individual therapy, the counselor suggested I was ready to join a group of women who were also going through a similar time of recovery from childhood abuse issues. As I prepared to become a part of the group, he asked me what I could contribute to the group.

These types of groups work in a Christian setting because each member opens up and shares herself with the others, learning to embrace the love offered and to honestly mirror back to the others what she sees. Where I once sought to help others by ignoring my pain, I now learned to help by sharing it.

By sharing the deepest hurting parts of ourselves as a group, we learned we were not alone – each of us struggled with similar feelings. Secrets hidden in the darkest places of our hearts were illuminated and treated with compassion rather than criticism.

I learned to give that Christ-like compassion as well as to receive it. For the first time in my life, I understood the unconditional love and acceptance of Christ, through the love and acceptance of the women in the group.

Today’s quote reminded me of that time in my life – when I learned to give and receive Christ. The God who has a purpose and a plan for my life invested His healing love, time and energy into me so I could go out and be Him to the hurting people around me.

“The God of mission has a church in the world.” Thank You God for allowing me to be a representative of Yours in the world – honestly sharing Your message of unconditional love!

(new quotes will be posted here every Friday)

If you would like to join us on: Tuesday, March 20th

Visit "Laurel Wreath" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Spiritual Sandpaper

I know some pretty gritty Christians - as a matter of fact, they are probably the coarsest grade of sandpaper there is in God's toolbox. and boy does it sting when they rub against my grain!

Just about the time I begin to feel good about myself - like I may really have answers for those who ask me about my faith inside; just when I begin to feel like I can make a difference - that's when the abrasion starts.

The constant sanding action causes me to begin reacting and I'm ashamed to admit, sometimes it isn't pretty. I want to shout at that person and say, "Will you stop it already? " Then I turn on God and shout, "Enough already!!!!"

That's when I need to take a step back - to a place where Jesus can take a soft cloth and some soothing oil and rub the raw spots. He helps me work through my issues - the things like low self esteem, forgiveness and love.

The neat thing is that Jesus allows these gritty people to sand off my rough edges, then He shines and polishes me. I need to take consolation in the fact that He will only allow them to sand away as much as necessary for me to become a perfectly shaped vessel for His use.

You know, maybe He is using me after all. The more sandpaper rubs against an object, the more grit rubs off the paper! Over time, the coarseness is gone, leaving a rumpled piece of heavy weight paper.

Those gritty Christians will eventually see themselves "naked" before God (no more protective grit!) and allow Him to redefine their purpose and use in His Kingdom once all the grit is gone.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Letting go...

"Martha, Martha, you're overwhelmed and worried about many things..."

Once again I heard the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart as I rushed around trying to prepare for my daughter's move home.

"But Lord," I sputtered and fumed. "How will they manage on the long trip here if Josh has to drive the moving truck and she has to drive the van alone with the four children...There won't be anyone to help them."

"I've got it all under control." He gently, but firmly said. "Just ask her. You don't need to go and rescue her. Just open your heart and home - I'll take care of the rest."

"Mom, it's okay - Josh's family is coming down to help us move. His dad's going to drive the truck, his mom will drive their car, Josh can drive our car and I'll drive the van. His sister will ride with me to help with the kids. We'll have a real caravan, just like the old fashioned wagon trains." She even laughed when she said it.

Okay, that's one finger pried loose from my motherly death grip on the worry rope. "But Lord, how will they manage when they get here - they don't have jobs and they have bills to pay..."

"I've got it all under control." His voice was a little firmer this time. "Remember, they're in this situation because they were true to Me and the calling I placed on their lives. I will provide - just like I always did for you."

"Yes, Lord - You always were faithful to us , even through difficult times in the ministry." but inside I still protested and sputtered, "But I'm her mom..."

"Oh, Mom, Josh found several wonderful ministry opportunities and we're looking into them. They're perfect for him and only a two hour drive from where you live. We'll still need to be with you for a little while, but maybe not as long as we anticipated."

I was miffed and somewhat disappointed - as difficult as it would be to have 11 of us under one roof, I was looking forward to having her with me for a while. We could go yard-sailing; I could hug my grand kids on a daily basis; and here was God, taking over the parental chore of nurturing and providing.

Okay - another finger pried loose. "Uh, Lord, I'm losing my grip here..."

He smiled and said. "Good."

"You really do have everything under control, don't You?"

"Yes, child. Even the smallest details of your lives."

Relief washed over my heart as I finally let go of the rope and felt His hands under my feet.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Experiencing Him Fully

I know it's spring because our local ice cream stand opened this week! No matter what the weather, it's a sure sign of spring when I see people standing in line at the outdoor window ordering their favorite soft ice cream!

But all sweet treats aside, I really love it that God allows us to experience spring fully with all our senses:

I love the honking sound of the geese in the morning and early evening.

I love the feel of the change in air temperature. It was warm enough to open the doors yesterday, even though there was still snow melting on the ground.

I love the sights of spring - the crocus and daffodil, the spring green color of grass.

I love the taste of spring. One gal in our church asked us if we liked "ramps." I never heard of ramps, but apparently they are a kind of spring onion that grows wild in wooded areas. People around here love to gather and cook a mess of them as soon as they begin to come up in the spring...

But I think my favorite part of Spring is the smell of rain. I read a story recently about a child who had been born seriously prematurely. She wasn't expected to live, but her parents gave her to God and trusted Him to take care of her. Not only did she live, she thrived!

At age five, she and her parents were sitting outside in the spring. She asked her mother if she could smell the scent of rain in the air. Then she made the comment that the smell of rain reminded her of Him when He used to hold her close as a tiny baby.

Wow! Thank God for Spring and for all of our senses - to be able to see Him all around us; to taste, touch feel and even smell Him!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Miracle of Chocolate Easter Eggs

Chocolate covered Easter eggs -I like the peanut butter kind the best, but coconut aren't far behind. I like eating them, but I really like making them.

Why? I guess it's because each year, our young people (now turned young adults) sell them as a fund raiser. In my mind, they do the hard part, though the eggs are so good they practically sell themselves. Then several of us "older" members of their church family get together to make the eggs. The amazing thing about these egg-making sessions is the sense of closeness that develops between those who are working.

Usually as we start working, the conversation is light and fun, sprinkled liberally teasing and laughter. But invariably, as the evening progresses, those working begin to feel comfortable with each other and start to share - opening up about the deeper things that are going on inside our hearts.

Each of us carries things - hurts, burdens or inner struggles which we are timid about revealing. Understandably so - church isn't always the safest place to reveal our needy inner selves.

As a pastor's wife, I've seen that happen time and time again - a person opens up in the congregation, only to be criticized for lack of faith or even condemned for their doubts and fears. Rather than supporting the wounded members, the church isolated them as though their fear was some sort of contagious disease.

It's hard to go through suffering, but to have to go it alone... Enough said!

But back to the chocolate covered eggs. The miracle happens every time, as the small group of us begins to open up, we share each others burdens; we support each other with listening ears and encouraging words. Rather than condemning the doubts and fears of the others. we become free to express our own and then lift each other up in prayer and with emotional support.

Though the eggs are sweet, the fellowship is sweeter. While some of the members look on it as work - "since the young people sell them, they should make them" - I see it as a miracle of "community" - drawing us together as Christ intended to be a support and burden bearer.

God, open their eyes to the wonder of community You have created!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rearranging Furniture

Okay ladies, be honest - how many of you like to rearrange the furniture?

My husband occasionally goes off to work at the church office in the morning and when he comes home at night , he almost sits on the floor because I've rearranged the living room furniture. We've all done that right?

I'm not sure why, but at times this irresistible urge just strikes out of nowhere - a sudden dissatisfaction with the way things are - a need for change in my life. So I just up and rearrange things. I guess it shouldn't surprise me then when God decides to rearrange things in my life - just because HE CAN!

And He HAS rearranged things over the last few weeks in my life! I'm in the middle of cleaning house now so we can accommodate my daughter, her husband and four children upstairs. My son, his wife and lttle Avery already occupy the finished basement of our house. In two short weeks, my empty nest will be fuller than ever - A major adjustments for my DH and I after we've lived ALONE for many years.

Because of a friend's comment on a recent blog of mine (thanks CeCe!) I discovered a way to keep things in perspective. I drew a living room floor plan and created paper furniture shapes which I've hung near my writing desk. I wrote a scripture verse on the bottom of the picture.
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own."( Proverbs 3:5 The Message)

It reminds me that God CAN rearrange the pieces of my life in any way He chooses, any time He chooses, just because He is God and knows best!

At least He gave me a warning this time so I don't accidentally find myself sitting on the floor...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Earning My PHT

This week's quote is:

"One of the secrets to a happy marriage is remembering the source of our joy, which is not one another. The source of our joy is the Lord. Yes, we share tons of joyous moments, but we don't expect, let alone demand, endless joy-filled moments from each other. "~ Liz Curtis Higgs ~from the devotional: Rise and Shine

As a young wife, I attended Spiritual Life University, earning my PHT degree. To me, “Putting Hubby Through” meant laying aside my own dreams and calling, being the good Christian wife and doing whatever was needed to help Dan achieve his life ambitions to enter full time ministry.

For awhile it was enough – I reveled in his successes, secretly pleased to think he wouldn’t have achieved his dreams without me. When he received his license to preach and accepted the call to his first church, I was elated!

Then the children began to arrive. I drew my contentment from caring for the family. When my husband’s salary as the pastor of a small church wasn’t enough to provide for the needs of our growing family, I gladly took on the role of working mom, dusting off the coveted PHT diploma on the wall of my heart.

Early in life, I learned it was my job to make others happy at all costs. My own needs didn’t matter. That philosophy had earned me the PHT diploma with honors. I was good at looking out for everyone’s needs but my own.

Martha giving takes its toll on a person’s joy over a lifetime. I needed to go back to SLU for some continuing education credits – this time to enroll in some Mary courses.

During my Mary studies, I learned I had to nurture the vertical relationship between myself and the Lord above all other things - to take time to nourish my own spiritual life, not just others– quite a difficult study for one who was taught to please everyone else first.

My old PHT diploma now sits in a box of trash by the curb. I don’t have to take care of everyone else’s needs to be happy – my joy comes from a deep intimate relationship with Jesus first. When I’m happy in Him, that joy spreads to everyone around me. Now I’m Praising Him Thoroughly – PHT!

(new quotes will be posted here every Friday)

If you would like to join us on: Tuesday, March 13th
Visit "Darlene Schacht dot com" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Mucky Monday

Help! It's Monday and I can't concentrate!

My brain is fried this morning - all I hear are the strains of "Bob the Builder, Can we fix it? Bob the Builder, Yes we can!" Oh yes, then there's Thomas, the Tank Engine's Calliope sounding theme as well - courtesy of my two year old grandson.

There's no hope, once you get these theme songs stuck in your head. Like the DVD player replays the stories over and over again, the theme songs get stuck in the functioning track of my mind and keep replaying.

I made the mistake of holding him on my lap last evening to keep him from screaming when his parents walked out the door to go house hunting. Just to distract his attention, Avery and I visited Bob and Thomas on the Internet.

BIG MISTAKE! I must admit it worked well at the time to keep him from missing his parents and even evoked a number of giggles as I played and replayed the activities for him. It was also a great bonding time for us. BUT, now every time I sit down at my computer, He comes over asking for "Bob?"

Sigh! How can a grandma resist those puppy dog eyes? It looks like I've created a "Muck" monster. (For those unfortunate, uninformed souls out there - Muck is Bob's bright red dump truck who loves adventures.)

I know, I know. He's got his little fingers firmly entwined around Grandma's heart! Letting go of him again when they move out will be a painful thing - so, I guess I'll just take today off and enjoy my Mucky Monday with Avery while his mommy goes job hunting.

Happy Mucky Monday!

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Case of Mistaken Identity

O Lord, You have looked through me and have known me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You understand my thoughts from far away. You look over my path and my lying down. You know all my ways very well. Even before I speak a word, O Lord, You know it all. You have closed me in from behind and in front. And You have laid Your hand upon me. All You know is too great for me. It is too much for me to understand. (Psalm 139:1-6 New Life Translation)

I received an e-mail the other day from a friend whose name is also Bonnie. I chuckled over it especially since I'm not acquainted with too many people with my same first name.

However, when we moved into our current church and community about 4 years ago, I was very surprised to learn there were not one, but two other women who shared my first name,and my last!

One of the Bonnies is married to Don (very similar to Dan). Her husband complained to mine one day that they were getting a lot of phone calls intended for us and the church. He wasn't too happy either, even though there was nothing we could do about it!

Another time, I applied for a job at the local Library. Though I was qualified, I didn't get the job - I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact they already had one Bonnie Winters working there? Might have been pretty confusing for the patrons!

I've learned one of my counterparts is involved with the SPCA. One attends a church of the same denomination as my pastor hubby and I . One of them used to deliver mail and both of them are about the same age as I am.

Though it's confusing to live in such a small community with two other women with the same name, I know one thing for sure - God knows me. He knows my name and all the details of my life. With Him, there's never any chance of confusion or mistaken identity.

Thank You Lord for knowing me!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Refeathering the empty nest

The last of our fledglings was pushed abruptly from the nest four years ago. Our youngest daughter had just married, She had a good job and was looking for a house of her own when we made the decision to accept a new out-of-state pastorate.

Our oldest son had celebrated his 7th anniversary and was living out his idea of the American Dream in upstate NY. Our middle daughter was well on the way to raising her own baseball team and preparing for ministry with her hubby in NC when we moved.

Ahhh, the bliss of a quiet morning with a nice hot cuppa Joe on the deck of our rambling 5 bedroom, 3 bath parsonage. We were definitely enjoying our quiet lifestyle and each other's company as the years passed.

Uh-oh! Do you hear that sound of breaking glass? It's the sound of my idyllic lifestyle shattering into a million tiny shards as the fledglings return.

Several months ago, my son and his wife decided to sell their home in NY because the cost of living and property taxes were edging them closer and closer to bankruptcy. They moved their furniture into the unfinished half of our full basement and are living in the finished half (roughly the size of a large studio apartment) as they look for a new house.

It's rather nice having them here - I get to see my grandson every day and do the grandma babysitting thing, though my writing time has dwindled.

Uh-oh! Did you hear that loud bang? It's the sound of an atomic bomb being dropped on my semi-idyllic life. My daughter and her hubby from NC are between church assignments and have no place to call home (that's one of the problems with parsonage life...).

There goes my quiet cup of morning java on the deck. They'll be moving here early next month for a time of regrouping emotionally and financially until their next ministry assignment. Let's see, that makes 11 occupants in our house. Oh well, there goes my writing time.

I'll be long as my youngest daughter in PA doesn't decide to get a divorce and move home with her 3 doggies...

Maybe tomorrow I'll blog on female pattern baldness...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Do you have the mentality of a 4th grader?

A group of business executives were asked to answer the following questions as part of a study to test their problem solving/question answering skills. Try your hand at them to see how you fare.

(Don’t cheat! See if you can answer the questions before scrolling down farther.)

Q. How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?
Q. How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator?
Q. The Lion King hosted a gala party. All the animals came but one. Which animal wasn’t there?
Q. You have also been invited to the Lion King’s party. But in order to get there you have to cross an alligator infested river. How will you get across?

Yes, these were actual questions in the study.

To prove their point, the creators of the study asked the same four questions to a group of fourth graders.

Okay – now you can check out the answers and see how well you did:

Q. How do you put an elephant in the refrigerator?
A. Open up the door and put it in.

Q. How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator?
A. Open the door, take the elephant out and put the giraffe in.

Q. The Lion King hosted a gala party. All the animals came but one. Which animal wasn’t there?
A. The giraffe because it was still in the refrigerator.

Q. You have also been invited to the Lion King’s party. But in order to get there you have to cross an alligator infested river. How will you get across?
A. You can swim across the river – all the alligators are at the party.

Do I hear a collective groan out there?

The 4th grade students actually scored higher, getting the correct answers 80% of the time because the business executives spent their time trying to analyze the situations, missing the simple, obvious answers.

This is the spiritual application of the study: We must become as little children to accept the simplicity of the gospel by faith, otherwise we will over analyze it every time and miss the wonderful truth of God. No wonder we adults have so much trouble trusting!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Living, Breathing Prayer

This week's quote is:
"To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing"~ Martin Luther ~

"Okay, breathe," I told myself as another contraction tensed my abdominal muscles. Oh how I regretted not being able to take Lamaze classes! But at least I knew the basics - short shallow breaths during the worst of the pain, then deep breathing once the contraction subsided.

In the mid 1970's, proponents of natural childbirth and nursing were adamant they were the only ways to start a child's life. Being a first time mom, I wanted to do things "right." So even without formal Lamaze training, I concentrated on breathing to get through the birthing experience.

It really did work - by concentrating on the breathing process, my attention was diverted away from the pain. I had a tendency to hold my breath, enduring the pain until it passed, But as I practiced breathing through it, I was able to "do" something to take control of the pain, relax my body and occupy my mind until it passed.

Proper breathing became a lifeline, a necessity to managing the painful experiences of life - first childbirth, then later gall bladder attacks and even panic attacks during a time of emotional upheaval in my life.

In the same way, prayer has become a lifeline to help me through the painful or difficult times of life. Rather than just holding my breath and hanging on with a white-knuckled grip until God takes care of the situation, prayer helps me relax and relinquish control.

Prayer becomes an exercise in trust. As my relationship with Him grows deeper through prayer, I am able to trust Him more fully. I know He will take care of things - not just in my head, but at the core of my being. Even though I still have to walk through difficult places, He is my focus, not the situation. I can rest in His peace, knowing He will hold me until the crisis passes.

If you would like to join us on: Tuesday, March 6th
Visit "Sting My Heart" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Nobody's Perfect...

Let me just go on record to say that pastor’s wives aren't perfect. Rushing around to get everything ready to go out the door can be overwhelming when your routine gets upset. Take yesterday morning for instance…

A missionary visited the church for the morning service so my husband planned a soup and sandwich luncheon afterward. Being the good pastor’s wife means being sure there is enough to eat. Normally, it's not a problem, but because of an overnight snowfall, I suspected some people wouldn't show up with their food. So I fretted about it, wondering what else I could make.

Though I fixed up the ham salad for sandwiches on Saturday, I still had to make them on Sunday morning to be sure they didn't get soggy. I grumbled under my breath about how much I dislike luncheons as I fixed breakfast for my hubby and my visiting son’s family.

Because of the snow, my helper called to say she wasn't able to make it for Children’s Church so I had to make a snack and gather up some extra lesson supplies that she would normally bring.

Then I remembered - it was my turn to sing a special. Because of the weather we didn't have Wednesday evening worship practice so I forgot to check the schedule. I made a mad dash to sort through the cassettes and CD tracks.

There were several which I had been practicing, but wasn't sure which one to sing. One song had been circulating in my head since I woke up so I decided that was the one I’d do. After a quick practice, I was ready to go to church feeling agitated and unsettled.

Thank God the weather and other situations don’t catch Him by surprise. He’s always there and ready, even if we aren't. In spite of my morning upset, the song went well. I survived Children’s Church and there was plenty of food.

The song God put in my head as I rushed around the house feeling harried was His choice to meet the unspoken needs of our missionary guest. Though I was distracted, God was still in control. His timing and love are perfect, even though I'm not!

Friday, March 2, 2007

You Want Me To What - Mentoring Part 2

At age 32, I was elected to become a sectional leader in our denomination's girl's program. When I say "elected", I really mean all the candidates stood in a line and I was the only one without sense enough to take a step back!

Being a sectional Missionettes rep meant planning activities and training ops for the girls and leaders in the program across our state and in my local area which included about 20 churches.

Twice a year the reps met together for planning sessions. All of us were pastor's wives and for the first time, masks began coming off as we gabbed late into the night. As I saw their hurts, I began to pray that God would allow me to help. But I didn't know how.

When the opportunity arose to take lay counseling training, I jumped at the chance. Here was a tool I could use to minister to the hurting pastor's wives around me. God must have smiled, eve snickered a little because the deeper I went into the course, the more I began to see my own insecurities and hurts - those things I struggled to keep buried since "pastor's wives shouldn't have difficulties - we need to be strong as an example to those in our congregation."

I wanted to help, but I was the one who needed it! God began a deep healing in my life, forcing me to examine deep-seated hurts which I had covered in order to survive. He began by uncovering them, then cleaning the wounds, repairing elements of trust and finally giving strength to grow up in Him.

During that time I learned the first 3 principles of mentoring.:

1. A mentor is someone who has walked a similar path before you, who's familiar with the rough terrain of that road and understands how to get past those rough places victoriously.

In order to be an effective mentor or help to my fellow pastor's wives, I had to face my own hurts and begin the process of overcoming them. I also learned that I didn't have to be completely "healed" emotionally to help. I only had to be willing to share openly what God was doing inside me to that point.

2. A mentor doesn't have to be through the experience or totally finished with her journey to help.

The most help I received on my healing journey came from the other gals I sat with week by week in my therapy group. We were all at different points in our healing journey. Some weeks I helped them as I shared my victories. Others helped me to get past difficult places as they shared with me.shared their stories with me.

3. A mentor helps by giving of herself. It is the honest sharing of experiences that brings healing and the most help on the journey. Our wise Heavenly Father designed it that way! None of us walk in a vacuum. We need each other, not only to survive, but to conquer for Him.

Not everyone is willing or ready to accept the mentor's hand, but that's another blog!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

You Want Me To What?

When I was a young pastor's wife, I felt people expected me to be a leader, but I didn't have a clue how to teach them or "mentor" (guide) them on life's path. Now that I fit into Paul's definition of an "older" woman in Titus 2:3-5 (the KJV uses the term aged, but I refuse to go there!), I feel more comfortable in that role.

About 14 years ago, I returned to college as an adult learner. My Heavenly Father who knew just what I needed, led me to Empire State College - a college level program designed specifically for adult learners who may not be able to sit in a classroom situation due to work schedules or family responsibilities - kind of like College level home schooling!

For each class, I had a different mentor, an expert in that field of study. It wasn't the mentor's job to teach me the things I needed to know. Rather, each one helped me define what I wanted/needed to learn, how I would learn it and how I would evaluate that learning. They suggested textbooks to read and assigned topics for written assignments to evaluate what I gleaned from what I'd read.

I was so interested in the mentoring process itself, my college major became adult learning and mentoring. I learned the hows and whys of mentoring - becoming more of a coach and guide rather than a "teacher." I learned that I don't have all the answers, but I don't need to - rather, I need to be an encourager so others can seek the answers they need and learn for themselves.

Now I have a better understanding of what Paul was instructing the older women to do - not to preach to the younger women on how to live, but to mentor, guide, coach them, helping them to discover for themselves the hows and whys of their lives in Christ. What a neat opportunity!

Tomorrow I'll share some of the principles I learned about mentoring. Come back and visit me here!