Thursday, September 27, 2007

Walking with a God Who Smiles

You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever. (Psalm 16:11 New Life Version)

One of my favorite pictures of Jesus is one that depicts Him with the children. He’s seated on a large rock, holding several children while the others stand nearby – and He’s smiling at them.

Each Sunday as I was dismissed to go down to my Sunday School class, I passed this life-sized painting in the stairwell. I remember imagining myself on His lap, thinking how safe and comforting it would be to have Him as my friend. Oh, how I wanted to please Him – to see Him smile at me just the way He smiled at those children.

Thank God for a teacher who told me about His love. It was His love and the image of His smiling face that kept me through all the pain of childhood abuse.He opened His arms to me and I ran to Him where I could be safe and loved, in spite of the pain and shame of my life.

As an adult, I began to realize that I had lost sight of His loving smile. I tried to present a strong face to the world - that of a confident and capable woman, writer, pastor's wife and mother among other things. Yet, deep inside I was still a hurting little child, longing for my heavenly Father's smile and approval.

Even now, there are times when the clouds obscure His smile. When I feel alone and depressed, I work at imagining myself clambering onto His lap where I can bury my face in His wool cloak and cry out my hurts. When the tears dry, I can look into His face and see that same tender smile, like the sunshine emerging from the clouds on a rainy day..My heart is once again healed of its hurt and confusion in the light of His love.

Have you ever worshiped in abandon, like a child? Imagine yourself in a field of wild flowers, twirling for joy at being alive and laughing aloud at the wonder of His creation. Picture yourself taking Him by the hand to point out some amazing flower or small butterfly perched on the edge of a leaf. Oh the wonder, the love, the peace and joy of such moments. No wonder He said we need to become as little children.

Father God - Daddy - Help me to always walk with a God who smiles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Extreme Makeover - CE Edition!

It's Extreme Makeover - Christian Education Edition!

Ever since the Associate Pastor's wife and I get back from the Pastor's Wives Retreat last week, we've been plotting how to revitalize a classroom in our building that we share. She is going to be teaching the Junior High Youth group in that class beginning next month and I just started teaching the Bible story for the Wednesday evening children's program in the same room.

What color do you paint a classroom - especially one with a weird green carpet?

I decided to look up information on the psychology of color and found out that children love bright primary colors. But red stimulates a faster heartbeat and intense emotions. Definitely a "NO" for the room. (The boys in our class gave us a thumbs down for pink so that's out too).

Yellow is out too since babies tend to cry more in a yellow room and people tend to lose their tempers more often, even though yellow is a sunny, cheerful color.

While I loved purple as a kid, not everyone does. Since we also share the room with two other teachers on Sunday mornings, purple may not work.

That pretty much left shades of blue (peaceful), green (calming) and brown(earthy). So armed with our new found knowledge, we went shopping and brought home some paint chips. We chose an aqua blue for the walls because it looked better with the carpet and a mocha color for the trim in the room.

So far we found a wonderful brown area rug to put in one corner. We plan to make throw pillows of coordinating blue and green to sit on along with a great wooden bench that's already in the room. We're planning on coordinating blue and green curtains. I found some fun posters with hidden Bible pictures in them - you almost have to be cross eyed to see the real picture...

What fun! We plan to start work this weekend and continue whenever we can until it gets done.

Though we know we don't have to go overboard to make the room look like a page from Better Homes and Gardens, we do want the children to feel welcome and happy to be there. Any place that generates more pleasure than negative feelings will be a place where children will want to be. So we'll paint the walls with eye pleasing colors and ask God to color our hearts with love for these precious saints under construction.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Think BIG!

In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"If we could understand everything God does, then He'd have to be a small god--small enough to fit in our little minds."

~ Randy Alcorn ~

My youngest daughter was fifteen when she came to me and said, “Mom, I want a dog.”

Because of her low self esteem and some of the emotional problems she had already gone through in her young life, I thought it would be a good thing for her. “Sure. We can get a dog.”

“I want either a Saint Bernard or a Great Dane.”

Whoa! BIG dog. I was a bit nervous at that – after all, we lived in a parsonage even though it was large with lots of ground around it. Any pets we acquired needed to be reasonable so I said, “Those are big dogs and very expensive.(Duh!) We’ll have to pray about it. (Real spiritual.) If God wants you to have one, He will have to provide one for free.”

Whew! I thought I was off the hook. Surely God wouldn’t send us a dog like that. I figured this idea would just blow over and things could get back to normal. We’d wait awhile and then go to the shelter and get a nice little dog. So why were my eyes drawn to the pet column in our weekly paper?

There she was, a purebred Great Dane, free to a good home. I dialed the number and heaved a sigh of relief when the voice on the other end told me she was already gone. But wait – would I leave my number anyway?

Cammie was disappointed, but I assured her, we would still get a nice little dog. Before we had a chance to go to the shelter, the owner of the Great Dane called back and said Sadie was available again. The family that took her lived in an apartment and didn’t realize how BIG she was. Uh-oh.

We met the owner at a local ice cream stand. She explained that Sadie would follow us anywhere for ice cream. After the dog wolfed down a large vanilla cone, she squeezed into the back seat of the car between my daughters, smiling her Great Dane smile and drooling. Allissa shrank as far over to the door as possible to avoid an unwanted bath, while Cammie hugged and loved on her new pet.

In my mind, I never understood how such a BIG dog could be so gentle. Though she looked intimidating, she was as loving as they came. Because she was well trained, she walked easily on a leash. I felt a sense of security having her around as well as comfort in the months that followed when our family went through some difficult times.

When Cammie married several years later, she received a Chihuahua for a wedding gift. Seeing the two dogs together often made me smile as little Egggo gazed up at Sadie. I often wondered what the little one was thinking until I saw a poster of a Chihuahua sitting next to a Great Dane. In the bubble above the little dog’s head were the words, “Think BIG!”

While I never can fully understand why or how God does the things He does, I always try to remind myself to “Think Big.” Like the little dog, I worry and fret over problems. I try to solve them in my own might and usually fall flat on my face.

But when I remember there are no unsolvable problems, no hopeless situations for the God of the Universe, I can let go of my finite vision and futile attempts at making things right. He is BIG, strong and yet gentle as He wraps His loving arms around me and tells me “I AM in control.”

If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote at your blog site, then visit "Joy in the Morning" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Going through a thorny situation?

In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?"
~ Martin Luther ~

Over my years in ministry, I have met many people who cry out to the Lord at the least bit of trouble in their lives.

“Deliver me from this pain and suffering, Lord,” they cry, tears streaming down their faces. But when the Lord doesn’t deliver them, they become angry or fearful, believing that God really never loved them in the first place or that there is something wrong with their faith. Some slip away from the Lord. Others become rebellious, acting out like children.

Our first inclination is to want to be free from the pain in our lives. We squirm and struggle under God’s hand, forgetting or ignoring that He might be doing something deeper and more lasting than a “surface” miracle.

Dr. Richard Dobbins of Emerge Ministries in Akron, Ohio put it this way: “Until the pain of change hurts less than the pain of staying the same, people prefer to stay the same.”

Did you catch that? Most people don’t make lifestyle changes until after they have been diagnosed with diabetes or after a heart attack. It takes the pain and fear of the future to make us take hold of the here and now and make it the best we can.

Think about it. The pain we are going through might be the very catalyst God needs to use to make eternal changes in our lives. Without that pain, we might never be at the place spiritually to make the necessary changes in our hearts. Instead of taking us out of the pain, He changes our hearts and causes us to grow THROUGH the pain.

Sure it is easier to walk a rose strewn pathway, but I’ve noticed in my own life that when I walk the rosy path, I soon get so accustomed to smelling the wonderful fragrance of the flowers along the way. It takes a wake up call from God to remind me to breathe and smell the wondrous scent of His presence with me again.

Perhaps the lesson in this week’s quote is this: the pain Jesus endured each day here on earth (through the actions of others against Him and because of the sin all around Him) helped to keep Him focused on God and the great love He has for His creation. We will always accomplish more while wearing the thorns than wearing the roses, even though they hurt less…

If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your blog site, then visit “Sting My Heart" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The case of the crumbling cake

It was a miserable failure!

Last week, my mother in law remarked about how hungry she felt for something sweet like cake. She is allergic to wheat and yeast and I have been baking yeast-less bread with all kinds of different flours which taste pretty good.

"That's easy," I told her. "I have an applesauce cake recipe which is very good. I'll just substitute oat and white rice flour instead of the wheat flour and it'll be great."


I bought the applesauce and raisins, then mixed up the batter. It tasted wonderful because apples and oats go well together. But when I baked it, it became a crumbly mess. It broke into five pieces when I took it out of the loaf pan. Then whenever I tried to slice it, each piece immediately crumbled. The crumbs were very tasty, but who wants to eat a plate of crumbs?

After doing some research, I realized that the oat and white rice flours need to be mixed with another sort of starch - like cornstarch, potato or tapioca starch to perform better. An extra egg white would have helped as well to serve as a binding agent.

"Well," I reasoned, "Why waste perfectly good and tasty cake crumbs?" So I bought a bag of apples and made an apple crisp, using the cake crumbs as topping. Yum!

I had to laugh at myself as God reminded me of the truth of the situation. When I try to take short cuts and to do things myself without God's help, it often results in a crumbly mess that falls apart (or I end up falling apart!)

I can only function when I add healthy doses of His Presence to my life. He holds me together and keeps me on track. And when I fail, He always brings good things out of my failures.

Thank You Lord, for being so patient with me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How much are you worth?

In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love."
~Henry Scougal ~

(The Life of God in the Soul of Man ), quoted by John Piper in The Pleasures of God

I was awed this week to find out I am worth over $45,000,000. Yup - me!

If our bodies were taken apart, the average human body would be worth a bundle based on cost estimates from insurance companies and hospitals. These prices were found in an August 2003 blurb by the Indiana University School of Medicine if you want to check it out.( )

Bone marrow: An average person has 1,000 grams which are valued at $23,000 per gram

DNA: worth about $9.7 million

Germ-fighting antibodies: worth $7.3 million

Body parts: A lung - $116,400
A Kidney - $91,000
A Heart - $57,000
A Fertile Woman's eggs (Based on the harvest of 4 per year for 8 years) - $224,000

If all this is true and our bodies are really that valuable, just take a moment to consider how valuable our souls must be to God that He would take one perfect body - that of His Son, Jesus - and sacrifice it to pay the price for one imperfect soul that has been tainted by sin. Then multiply it by the billions of souls who have ever lived on this earth. Astronomical!

"The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love."

How great is His Love!


If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Laurel Wreath" to read her take on the quote and leave your blog URL along with the other participants. Don't forget to check out the other blogs and leave a comment for them as well. You will be blessed!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why would anyone want to do that?

In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched. Why would you really want to do that?"

~ Henri Nouwen ~

God has blessed me with many friends.

There are the acquaintances I know well enough to smile and nod a greeting to on the street. They may know a little about me – what I look like, what I like to wear, maybe even my testimony if they’ve ever heard me speak. Most of what they know is surface stuff or things they see on the outward part of me. They are friends, but not people to whom I would reveal the innermost parts of my being, simply because we haven’t developed a relationship yet.

Then there are my friends, those with whom I share parts of myself in an open and honest way – a genuine smile, a heart felt word of encouragement, allowing them to see some of my vulnerabilities. Mostly these are the members of my “extended” circle – like church family members, relatives and those with whom I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee and some good conversation. We share many things, occasionally even on a level below the surface, especially as I get to know them better and begin to develop a trusting relationship with them.

However, we all have that inner circle of friends – those “best friends” as we called them in our childhood days – to whom we confide our hidden flaws and faults. These are the friends who have proven themselves trustworthy – the ones we have spent time with and worked hard to develop a depth of relationship to the point where we can talk about anything and everything without fear of rejection.

For many people like me, the wounds of childhood make it difficult at best, if not impossible to allow anyone past the second stage of friendship. I feared becoming vulnerable to others who might see my hurts and fears and exploit them, hurting me again. Even though it was painful to lock away my innermost being – that pot-bellied, love-starved child with the big sad eyes who hurt so bad – it was preferable to feeling hurt and betrayal all over again. I just couldn’t take that chance.

Even though I met and accepted Jesus as my friend at an early age, I couldn’t trust Him enough to let Him into the center of my person. I was adept at praying for others and for the things I needed, but I refused to let Him become my “Best” Friend - to see the hurting child inside of me. For a long time, I wouldn’t even look at her myself. She simply didn’t exist as I went about my daily routine of doing for my family and others.

Christ and I shared a good friendship as He worked slowly and patiently to build a relationship of trust and love all around that imprisoned part of myself. I loved Him as a friend, but wouldn’t let Him close enough to really know His love. I wouldn’t allow Him to touch that sensitive part of my heart.

But Jesus is never content to remain on the outside looking in. He could see past all my stone walls, past all the chains and locks on my inner doors. He saw the needy vulnerable parts of myself, that hurting inner child, and He smiled at her. In her weakened state, she began to wail. Faintly at first, but hungrily determined – she was starved and desperate for the love in His eyes.

Between Christ’s gentle outward pressure and the insistent wailing from within, I knew I would either have to turn and run away or allow the intimacy of relationship prayer demanded. My old nature died the day I allowed Him to bread down the walls imprisoning the sin-emaciated part of myself that wounded, hurting child inside.

It wasn’t something I wanted to do. Rather, I needed to make that choice to allow Him in to feed and heal that malnourished part of myself. Sin brings death and eternal suffering. His healing touch brings life and eternal peace. It was time to truly know His peace in every part of my being.

Making the choice to trust Him to break down my inner walls meant praying Henri Nouwen’s kind of prayer – the kind that lets Him into the very core of my being to touch the parts of myself I would rather leave untouched. It requires developing an intimate relationship, far beyond the surface friendship I share with most people.

Why would I want to do that? Because the suffering, starving part of me demands it, craves it weeps for it. That hurting child inside wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than His unconditional love and acceptance!


If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Fruit in Season" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day?

A Christian comedian described Labor Day as the one day out of the year that they had to make their whole home and property shine - hence the holiday's name - LABOR Day...

It took him years to realize their family was working hard while other boys his age were chowing down on hot dogs and baiting fishing hooks. That was the day he and his dad had a loooooong talk.

Well, I'm not planning on working hard today - I only have to do a little cooking before we head out to Dan's mom's house for an end of summer picnic. Most of the boxes are gone and the house is pretty much in order so I think a day of relaxing from my labors is in order.

Hope you all have a safe and happy day too!