Friday, September 28, 2012

What's the point?

Preaching about the cross sounds foolish to those who are dying in sin. But it is the power of God to those of us who are being saved from the punishment of sin. 1 Corinthians 1:18 NLV
Could you devote your life to serving and ministering to others even if you never saw any results from it?

Consider American missionary Adoniram Judson. He arrived in Burma (now Myanmar) in 1812, feeling like God had called him to preach the Gospel. During his 38 years there, he went through periods of imprisonment and torture. He suffered from depression so great when his wife, Anna, died that he wrote, “God to me is the Great Unknown. I believe in him, but I cannot find him.”

There were few conversions because of his work, yet he pressed on, translating the Bible into the Burmese language which he completed in 1834. At the time of his death, there was only a handful of professing Christians in the entire country and no organized churches. Some would see that as a waste of his life.

But not God!

On the 150th anniversary of the Bible translation, Paul Borthwick addressed a group of people who gathered in a church in Myanmar. He asked about the inscription in the front of the Bible: “Translated by Rev. A. Judson.”

His interpreter began to weep and said, “We know him. We know how he loved the Burmese people; how he suffered for the gospel because of us, out of love for us. He died a pauper, but left the Bible for us. When he died there were few believers, but today there are over 600,000 of us, and every single one of us traces our spiritual heritage to one man: the Rev. Adoniram Judson.”

Like Judson, we may never see the fruit of our labors. But the God of grace who oversees our work will ensure that our labor is not pointless.

Thank you Lord.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kraut in the crock - NOT!

“But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:33 GW

While talking with a friend the other day, I learned that his wife wanted to make sauerkraut this year - the wonderful, old- fashioned kind that ferments in a large earthenware crock.

I heard myself telling my friend, "I have one of those crocks. Does your wife want it?" No big deal - I didn't use it anymore because I had found other ways to make my kraut that were easier for me than dragging out that heavy old crock.

The inner battle to let go of "stuff" started as my inner critic began sputtering, "You can't give that away. You might need it. You used it this year to make relish. What will you use in its place?"

I ignored the inner critic and dragged the heavy thing out to clean it up for my friend. But just then, an overwhelming need to make sauerkraut one last time in the crock hit me. Since I planned to make some kraut this year anyway, I bought several pounds of cabbage.

But thankfully, reality also slapped me up beside the head and I figured I would do the kraut in small gallon-jar batches like usual because they were more manageable for me. The big crock was not!*

The whole incident did get me thinking. There's a lot of things I keep that I don't really use - maybe it's time to clear out the extra "stuff." Not only will my house be easier to care for, but others may be able to use the "stuff" I don't need any more.

In my spiritual life, I also need to clear out "stuff" that I've been holdoing on to like emotional baggage, fears, ineffective ways of coping, etc., that I don't really need that may be hindering me from walking closer to the Lord. By putting him first, he makes my life more manageable by providing just what I need instead of all the clutter that builds up to separate me from him.

Father, help me to keep my eyes on you for the things I really need. Amen.

* Click here for the recipe for making sauerkraut in jars

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lord, Keep me accountable

And so let us come near to God with a true heart full of faith. Our hearts must be made clean from guilty feelings and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 New Life Version (NLV)

A few days ago, I joined an accountability group to help keep me on track with my writing. It's not that I lack motivation - I do try to blog almost daily; I've reached chapter 13 in my latest novel-writing endeavor; I write countless extra things each week like a Teen Sunday School lesson, letters, e-mails, and a host of other stuff.

But it is easy to get side-tracked. Oh I'll just veg for a few minutes by playing a quick computer game (or 2 or 3...) or I'll look around me and see all the household things that need doing and leap up from the computer to do them NOW! It's amazing how many otherwise invisible dust bunnies and cobwebs I can see from my computer chair.

Sometimes without realizing it, I sabotage myself, making it difficult to succeed or achieve the things I know God wants me to do. I look at the whole project and feel overwhelmed not knowing where to start - so I procrastinate and don't start the project until I feel so guilty about it I have to do SOMETHING. Then it's either done half-way or not at all. I might switch into panic mode and work hard at it to the exclusion of everything else - even biting the heads off of my family members who interrupt me. LOL!

So I need a plan of action to help me change my ways and to meet my goals.

1. Admit I have some motivation problems when it comes to my writing (and several other areas of life too!)
2. Form a plan to change that behavior by setting weekly goals.
3. Commit to working on those goals and reporting on the progress (and not beating myself up when I can't meet those goals!).
4. Finding accountability partners - in this case a wonderful group of committed Christian writers to whom I have to report each week with goals for the week and results from the previous week. It also means that I must hold the other members accountable too which is a good motivator. It's not acceptable to encourage others to do what I'm not willing to do myself.

Keep me accountable, Lord. Help me to change one step at a time, so I can eventually reach my goal of being a productive/ prolific writer for you. Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Building trust through the little things in life

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

Several years ago, I was going through a dark place in my life. I felt emotionally drained and depressed, unsure if I would ever get out of such a deep pit of despair. My trust muscles were so atrophied at that point in my life, I had difficulty believing God could care about me, even though I had been a Christian for most of my life.

During that time, I had an appointment in a town about 40 miles from home. I arrived a little early, so I sat in my car, waiting and listening to a Christian radio station. They played a song I had never heard before, but the words brought a ray of hope into the darkness. I went into my appointment with a sense that I would make it through that current dark situation.

As I drove home that day, I tried to remember the words, the tune and the artist who sang the song. I thought maybe I could stop at the Christian bookstore on the way home and purchase the song. Nothing! I couldn't remember one word or even a bit of the tune. And I had no idea who sang it. The hope I had felt was snuffed out.

Because I was dealing with issues of trust during that time, it was important for me to see God's hand at work in my life. I needed to know that he cared for me in the darkness I faced. I prayed that he would somehow let me hear that song again, though I wasn't sure I'd know it if I heard it since I couldn't remember one thing about it.

But about 2 weeks later, parked in the same spot, waiting for another appointment, the station played the song again. Right away I knew it was the same song that had blessed me just 2 weeks before. So this time I grabbed some paper and wrote down the song title and artist - Never Alone by Damaris Carbaugh. It was such a little, but intensely personal, answer to prayer. It was one of many that the Lord used during that time of emotional healing to let me know he was there and he cared.

What a blessing that song has been to me in the years since that day. Its message still assures me I'm never alone, he's in my heart and will be my closest friend, no matter what kind of circumstances I find myself in - no matter how I feel - no matter how dark the way seems.

That answered prayer has helped to teach me to recognize God's care. He has been rebuilding my trust, brick by brick through the little answers to prayer - many of them seemingly insignificant to others, yet of vital importance to me to demonstrate his great love, patience and trustworthiness.

Thank you Father, for rebuilding my trust through the little things you do for me each day that show me how big your live really is! Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Butterfly dreams

God is calling us to grow and change– yes, each of us!

You may think you’re pretty good as you are, but the truth is that there are areas in each of our lives which need to change. He sees something special in you that He wants to refine to make you shine.

But why does He bother? Because He wants to use you to touch the lives of others. There will always be someone walking behind you on life’s journey, watching your life and in need of your particular, special wisdom.
So He works with us and trains us so we can lose the plump, caterpillar body we waddle around in to become butterfly models of overcoming to those around us.

God sends mentors to help you grow

Read Joshua 1: 1-9 from the translation of your choice.

Joshua spent most of his younger life in the shadow of Moses. He learned how t lead by watching the example of Israel’s greatest leader. He also learned about God at Moses feet. Yet he still lacked confidence when it came time for him to take the reins of leadership. God had to tell him 9 times in that first chapter to be strong and very courageous!

Think back to the Christians who helped you in your journey. God placed them in your path to teach and guide you.He even encouraged you Himself through the Scriptures. When you’re ready, He will place you in the path of others to teach and guide. It’s the way He works.

He disciplines us to bring out our best

Read Hebrews 12: 1-12

God continually works with us, training us and disciplining us so we can become strong. Usually strength comes from adversity. Look at the butterfly – it is through its struggle to get free of the cocoon that the fluid is forced out of its body and into its wings making them strong and sturdy enough for flight.

In the same way, He uses the struggles of our lives to strengthen us. No one likes to go through pain, but struggles are a part of life. Everyone has them. How we deal with them will make all the difference. When we lean into Him and work through them, we change like the caterpillar until we are no longer emotionally chained to the struggle. We learn to soar. Then others see what God has done in our lives and will desire it too. Without even realizing it, we are beginning to mentor them in their spiritual growth process.

He motivates us with His eternal love and life.

Read 1 Corinthians 9: 22-27

The truth is, if we are comfortable in our struggles, we will never change because change hurts! Growth hurts.And we will normally try to avoid hurt at all costs.. But when we hurt so bad we can’t stand it in our struggles, He shows us a better way, giving us hope and the will to change.

"How does one become a butterfly?" she asked. "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." Anonymous

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How many apples?

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from me you won’t be able to do anything." John 15:5 ERV

In one of the early churches we pastored, we had 3 apple trees in our yard. One was old, but still producing apples. They were smallish and not very pretty looking, but they made the best apple sauce. The second was a younger tree of the same kind which had recently started producing apples that were larger and beautiful for pies. The third tree, another young tree, produced tart green apples.

Not wanting to waste the apples, I spent many hours that fall, picking them up and canning them into the most wonderful pink sauce. I baked a lot of apple pies and dumplings that year too. My mother-in-law even took a large basket home with her But the job seemed never ending since the trees produced quite a bit of fruit! By the time the apple harvest was done, so was I. LOL!

Knowing that all those apples came from just three trees amazes me. Ane each of those trees came from just one seed. Over the lifetime of the trees, I can't begin to imagine how much fruit would be produced! But God knows and counted each apple.

Father, help me to stay joined to you so that my one life produces that much fruit. Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Living wisely...

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT
Did you know that a recent government study estimated that about 1 pound of edible food is thrown out for each man, woman and child in the US each day? In 2010, 33 million tons od food waste was generated in the US - second only to paper waste in the landfills.

Thant's a staggering amount, especially considering that 5% of that wasted food could feed an additional 4 million people each day!

Simple changes in the ways we buy, store and prepare food, can cut the amount of food waste generated each year.

Here's some ideas to get you started:

- When shopping, we buy economy packages of meat which I divide and freeze into meal-sized portions as soon as I get home. By cooking only what we need, we don't waste as much.

- If I have leftovers, we eat them for lunch the next day. If there are too many leftovers, I make TV dinners from the leftover portions. These are great for evenings when I don't have time to cook a hot meal or for Dear Hubby (DH) if I need to go to take care of the grandkids.

- Sometimes I will put the leftover meat and veggies into a freezer container When it's full, I have enough to make a nice batch of broth or cream based soup.

- There are only 2 of us at home now, but DH still likes an occassional piece of cake for dessert. So I bake a cake and cut it into individual portions, freezing what we won't eat. Later we can pull out one piece at a time which satisfies the sweet tooth and keeps us from throwing out half a stale cake.

- There's often tons of leftovers at church dinners, including coffee. The coffee can be frozen in ice cube trays and stored in gallon plastic freezer bags. Take out a few cubes and nuke them for a minute for a single cup of coffee without making a whole pot. It's as good as instant coffee.

Several years ago, my sister-in-law gave me over a bushel of pears - tiny pithy ones that were too hard to peel and can. So I made a yummy pear butter from them rather than throw them out.

Recently I came home from a picnic with several bags of sandwich buns. They had been frozen once and would get dried out too much if refrozen, so they were headed to the landfill. I broke them into pieces, added seasonings, onions and celery, then baked a large batch of stuffing which I cut into meal-sized portions to serve with some frozen chicken breasts I had. Yummy!

One of our local markets occasionally gives away over-ripe bananas. When I get the chance, I take several bunches and freeze them to make large batches of banana bread later.

While I wish I could say I never wasted anything, over the past few years I have tried to be wiser about using my resources. I love finding new and creative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle food items as well as other things.

Lord help me to apply these lessons to all areas of my life - to be wiser and less wasteful in the use of my time, money and talents as well as with our food! Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spinning around in circles

“May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 GNT

Eggo is a 10 year old Chihuahua who belongs to our daughter, but we offered to keep her when our daughter moved into a small apartment a few months ago.

Although she is a very vocal, yippy little dog, she does make us smile with some of her antics. Whenever I ask her if she needs to go outside, she scoots around the dining room table several times or dances around in circles until I can get the leash attached to take her out. If we've been gone for a period of time during the day, she will greet us in much the same way with happy little yips and circle spins as we pet and greet her.

Whenever I see her spinning around, I'm reminded of a definition of the word "rejoice" that I heard several years ago. According to the Ancient Hebrew Research Center, the Hebrew word most often translated as "rejoice" refers to spinning around in a circle.

There are times I get excited about the Lord here and now. I can only imagine an excitement so uncontainable that it causes me to spin around in circles when I see him face to face! How about you?

Lord, I rejoice at the thoughts of your coming. Amen!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reducing spiritual "eye strain"

“I look up to the hills, but where will my help really come from? My help will come from the LORD, the Creator of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2 ERV

As a writer, I spend several hours each day in front of a computer screen. But all this close up work can leave my eyes tired and cause head aches if I'm not careful to take time to rest my eyes every so often.

While working for an optometrist about 18 years ago, I learned a simple trick to relieve some of that eye strain. He suggested that each hour I take off my glasses for a few minutes and look away from the computer screen. It wasn't enough to merely look away, though. He wanted me to find a comfortable chair facing a window. Then he told me to concentrate on looking up at the top of the tallest building, tree or mountain I saw out the window for about 5 minutes!

By changing the focus of my eyes to a distant object out the window, it gave the muscles that control the eye movement a chance to return to their relaxed state instead of the tense, close-up state needed for reading the computer screen. It didn't matter if the object was blurred because it wasn't about seeing it clearly - it was about relaxing the muscles supporting the eyes. Also, by getting away from the computer to a comfortable chair, the whole body had the opportunity to relax after the tension of the typing posture.

Over time, I've noticed this eye muscle-relaxation exercise has other benefits. When I'm writing, it gives me a chance to stop focusing on the words God gives me to write for a few minutes and to focus instead on the God who gives the words. It gives me time to commune with him and to gain his perspective on the story's direction and purpose. If there are other distractions which prevent me from hearing his voice clearly, this mental pause helps me to refocus on him alone.

Like the Psalmist, I look at the far-away mountains, but I'm not necessarily seeing them clearly. They're just directing my eyes toward the God who created them. My help, my ideas and the words I write really come from him - and when I pause to reflect on that, it rests my heart as well as my eyes, giving me the motivation and help I need to keep writing.

Father, help me to pause as often as needed to focus my spiritual eyes on you - for you are the one who gives rest to my soul! Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2012


“I will still be the same when you are old and gray, and I will take care of you. I created you. I will carry you and always keep you safe.” Isaiah 46:4 CEV

My mother started having memory problems when she was in her early 60s. It wasn’t until she was about 66 years old that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a dreaded disease that slowly stole her memories and her health. Yet as I watched her decline physically and mentally over the next 10 years, I was amazed at God’s loving care for her.
We lived about 200 miles away and I worked full time, which prevented me from being there very often to help care for her. So when my father developed some difficulties that required hospitalization, I had the emotionally difficult job of placing her in a personal care home. God was there, in the process, watching over Mom. He gave us wisdom to place her in a newly built, affordable facility that was just a half block from their home of 50 years. In the home, she quickly won the hearts of the staff with her gentle nature and she received wonderful care.
When she became so ill she needed full time nursing care, I prayed, about where to move her. Once again God gave wisdom and we moved her to a skilled nursing facility where she and my dad had volunteered for years – singing, cheering and helping with the patients. Some of her nurses even remembered her and took exceptional care of her for the week she was there until she died. God was with her carrying her, even through her last days by bringing people who remembered her ministry and cared about her.

This fall, she will be gone for 5 years, but the lessons I learned about God’s loving care from watching her suffering remain fresh in my mind.

Thank you Lord, that we never grow so old, feeble or helpless that you toss us away. I can trust you to care for me and always keep me safe in your loving arms. Amen.

Friday, September 7, 2012


As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:10 NKJV

Originally, a steward was a servant responsible to bring food and drink to the master of the home.Later, it morphed into a larger occupation - that of managing the domestic affairs of the household including finances in some cases. When people began to travel more extensively in the last two centuries, a steward was the one responsible to see to their comfort, meals and other necessities during their trip by boat, train or plane.

But in 2012, the definition of a steward has expanded to refer to responsible planning and managing of our resources - everything from caring for our environment to our finances, health, property and even information as we communicate on a global level. We see the theme of personal responsibility all the time as we are urged to "go green" to protect our environment.

But for us as Christians, the term "stewardship" has an even deeper meaning - to take responsible care of all these resources because they really belong to God. To God, people have always been more important than material possessions so what is boils down to is that we need to live a life based on giving and serving, using the resources God has given us.

It means becoming attentive to the needs of others around us and serving them out of a willing heart - yes, even giving our very lives away if necessary to serve others in order to bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6:38 The Message

Matthew 16:25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

In the end, it's the job with the best satisfaction / compensation rate!

Father, help me to be a good steward of the resources you've given me. Amen!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sharing your faith with future generations

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NLT

Being a writer is important to me. It's a way to share my faith and my story with my family, friends and those I've never met. So when asked to share about my writing with a group of women at a luncheon, I wanted to encourage them to become writers too. No, they may never write a novel, but anyone can leave a legacy of their faith with a few words strategically placed for others to find. Who knows how your words will impact another person and teach them important lessons about Christ?

1. Photos. We all have them. I inherited a large boxful when my parents passed away. Many of them are meaningless to me: nameless faces in unknown places. I'm not sure what to do with them since I feel uncomfortable tossing them out.  

However, the ones I do know, I am in the process of labeling so my children will know who they are and how they fit into their family tree. If I know something about their faith, I'm including that as well - little stories, memories I have of them or quotes that I remember to inspire and encourage my grandchildren in their faith Sticky notes work well so I don't have to write directly on the photos or to create labor intensive scrapbooks.

Another thing I would recommend is to make a list of 50 "facts about me". Or to write out your testimony - when you first met the Lord, how knowing him has changed your life, some examples of answered prayer. Select a personal photo to go along with those writings. It's an ideal way to share your personal faith for your family and place them in a special box or folder.

2. Recipes. I inherited my mom's cookbooks and recipes. Many of those bring back childhood memories and become topics to write about to share about family traditions, about how we celebrated Jesus as a family, etc. Again, including photos with these particular foods or events will help to bring the writing alive and can be a memory maker or teaching tool. connecting one generation to the next or in sharing the gospel.

3. Diaries or letters. Do you keep a diary or journal? Keep one that details the important inspirational or faith-related happenings of your life. This is a great way to share your story of your relationship with Christ. As your children and grandchildren read these, they will learn what made you tick and why Christ was so important to you. If you are into technology, you might keep an online blog to preserve your faith stories for all to read. Include a photo in the front of the diary as well to put a face to the faith stories!

These are just a few ways anyone can become a writer/teacher to share their memories as well as their faith with family and future generations.

Father, help me to impact family, friends and future generations through my words and show me new ways to share those words each day! Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blue Ribbon Babe

“Follow the pattern of true teachings that you heard from me in faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus. Protect the truth that you were given; protect it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14 NCV

I'm so proud of my granddaughter - I
 hope you'll forgive me if I brag on her a little today.

At almost 13 years old, Eve is an accomplished seamstress. She enjoys sewing for herself, as well as for her sisters. Eve can even look at things and duplicate them without a pattern. She recently joined 4-H, just in time to enter some things in the local county fair. She won a first place ribbon for an outfit she made for her baby sister as well as a 3rd place ribbon for a skirt she made for herself. Way to go Eve!

I think one of the reasons I feel so proud of Eve and her sewing talents is that I helped to teach her, way back when she was 8 years old. We were visiting her family in Florida and I needed to borrow my daughter's sewing machine to fix an article of clothing. Eve was curious about the machine and wanted to learn how to use it so of course, Grandma had the privilege of introducing her to sewing. After I finished with the machine, I helped her to cut out and sew two aprons - one for herself and one for her sister, Abby. After that, she was hooked!

Once she learned to read, she was able to follow directions on the patterns by herself and now she can make almost anything. When I visited several months ago, we cut out 4 summer sundresses for Eve's new infant sister, Lily, and we spent several hours sewing together to finish them.

It's important to take time with our young people - to teach them skills they'll need to survive in the adult world, and to help them develop their individual talents and abilities. Equally important is to teach them the eternal truths of the Gospel. They need to know how to protect those truths in their hearts, especially today when Christian values and Biblical teachings are being attacked on all sides.

Father, with the help of the holy Spirit, help me to always be ready and willing to teach those around me - not only practical skills, but spiritual lessons as well. Amen!