Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our blog is MOVING!

I am merging my 2 blogs into one little spot on the web.  The new blog is titled "Our Home for His Harvest," and it combines our orphan ministry with our every day life (ministry!) within our home and family.  We hope to see you over there!   :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest Party with a Purpose

Last year I was brainstorming about how to make a little family harvest party that had a deeper meaning to it than just candy and costumes.  And this idea came to me.  It is our 2nd year to do this, and it's definitely going to be a tradition that we continue.

In Matthew 9:38, Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields.  It is these fields that pull at my soul.  The lost.  The ones who have never ever heard the name of Jesus. So, we built our little harvest party around this theme.

It all centers around a treasure hunt of sorts.  I create riddles to hide to throughout the house.  I give our children the first riddle.  If they solve that riddle, it will lead them to the place where the next riddle is hidden.  This year, we hid riddles in the deli drawer of the refrigerator, on a guitar, on a puzzle of China, etc.

The final riddle is WITH the hidden treasure...

Their treasures are individual baggies filled with candy...

And each bag has a "treasure of the nations" inside of it.  This is the fun part.  Last year I went to the International Mission Board's site to choose some completely unreached people groups, and I gave each child a people group to pray for for one year.  (Go to THIS LINK to discover some amazing facts about people groups that have yet to have a single Gospel witness!).  This year, we had some bookmarks of other people groups, so I used those to give each child a "treasure of the nations" for them to pray for over the next year.  They are always excited to see which country they will receive, as they are the chosen prayer warrior for that one country or people group.  It's a special job!

I hid all the riddles and the candy, and then we invited the crew downstairs to begin our evening of activities.  They were dressed in some fun costumes of inspirational characters from Christian books or movies (our oldest daughter made most of the costumes).  This year we had 2 characters from Narnia and one police officer from Courageous...and one princess that insisted that she needed to be a butterfly (one of God's creations, so we rolled with it!).  :)

The different parts of the meal were named after each character, and we enjoyed some family time together with our grandmother who was in town for the special celebration.

And of course, there was case the candy wasn't enough sugar...  ;)

Then began the treasure hunt, with all the riddles to be solved.  This really was so much fun!

The night drew to a close with everyone digging into their bags of goodies and reading about their "treasure of the nations" to pray for over the next year.

Because there really IS a harvest, and it's more than pumpkins and apples and candy.  It's a harvest of souls.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the fields.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Saturation--Their Thirst

Rain came in torrents.  24 hours of non-stop water poured on our property in Georgia.  Streams flowed down the steep driveway...

And into the grass...  More and more and more water, until the ground was gagging and gurgling with the excess.  Saturation past the point of comfort...

With nowhere to go, it simply puddled and grew murky, muddy.  The ground had had enough.

With camera in hand, fascinated at the immense amount of rain that just wouldn't stop, I squat low to grab some shots.  My mind drifts to our family who lives in the deserts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  I try to envision some way to tilt the globe toward them and let all this water bless their drought.

And in the quiet of the woods, in the quiet of my heart, a realization stings: This is the picture of most Christians.  We are flooded, absolutely saturated with Bible studies, Christian music, seminars, excellent sermons, moving testimonies, inspiring camps, amazing concerts, guest speakers with influence and title, a plenitude of Bibles lying around our homes, Christian bookstores, fish bumper stickers, Christian youth pizza nights.....

All these things are good, but WE. ARE. SATURATED.

We are to the point of excess.  The water is puddling and turning muddy, murky.

All the while, there are dry places on earth...dry multitudes on the other side of the planet.  They are thirsty, absolutely unreached with the living waters of salvation.

I've heard many people say we need to stay and reach our own nation.  And yet, how do we explain that of all the unreached peoples in the world, 97% of them live in the 10/40 Window?  97%.  Think about that.

Only a tiny fraction of unreached people live in North American, and yet we concentrate most of our focus and money towards reaching that tiny percent.  We choose to stay in our comfort zones, far from the area of need.  We absolutely FLOOD ourselves with the excess, and we leave the other side of the globe desolate...dry...hungry and thirsty.

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us?'  Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me'."  --Isaiah 6:8
We may not ALL go, but we all need to make ourselves available to go.  Isn't that what Jesus said, "GO"?  Why do we make every excuse not to obey Him in this?  It may be that we step forward to go, and He closes the door and gives us another way of furthering His Kingdom (as He has done for our family each time we have stepped forward to go).  But we must let HIM choose what doors we walk through.  We can all certainly shift our thinking and our focus towards the 10/40 Window.  Instead of focusing on collecting money and possessions for our own comfort and retirement, what would happen if we actually obeyed Him when He said, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." --Matthew 6:33

Do we actually BELIEVE His words?

Shouldn't we try to find a way to tip the globe and send our excess toward the 97% who have never heard...the dry and thirsty?  

Or will we drown in our gurgling, muddy waters of excessive saturation?

*****A huge thanks to my brother-in-law, who allowed me to post some of his amazing photography from the desert lands of Arizona*****

Monday, October 1, 2012

Heart Set on Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:5-6
"Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings."

1. A journey to a sacred place
2. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

This is not our home.  We are on a pilgrimage...passing through this life, this earth only momentarily.  Sometimes we get to collecting things like houses, cars, books, computers, things...and our steps get harder to make with the weight on our backs of all the things we are toting with us.  Sometimes we sit down and forget the pilgrimage altogether.  We dig into the soil, lay a foundation and just stay put, soaking in the here-and-now.  But the truth is that our hearts are to be set on pilgrimage.  My Bible note says that the phrase "whose hearts are set on pilgrimage" is literally "the highways are on their  hearts."

Think about that one for a minute: is the highway on my heart?  Or is my heart wrapped snugly in the comfort of this house, this life, this plan?

We're at a crossroads, saying YES to whatever road God chooses to point us toward.  We don't know exactly what He is going to do, but we do know that the highway is stretching out before us...our hearts have been set on it for quite awhile, and soon our feet will begin walking it.

The shift has already begun.  The seams have begun to pop, one thread at a time.  Relationships have begun to shift, doors have begun to close here, and a gentle undercurrent has begun...ever pushing our feet forward.  And we have found ourselves ever-present in the Valley of Baca.  Baca means, "To weep."  Pilgrims have tears.  The missionary Isobel Kuhn wrote in her book In the Arena about a season in her life when "human props" were removed.  Everything was removed for a season...her closest friends, her children, her husband, her unborn baby, her plans.  She talked of how those are all human props that we simply cannot rely upon.  When all is removed, we find that all we have is God.  And God is all we really need.  Sometimes He has to move us to that point where it's just us and Him, because He's preparing us for the highway.

Human props have begun to be removed out from under us.  This person, that thing, this friendship, that security, this hope, this plan...all removed.  And we walk through the valley of weeping.  And yet there He is, turning our weeping into a source of spring water, blessings.  

Our eyes look to Him, and our feet are ever determined to go in whichever way He bends the road.  Happy are the people whose strength is in God, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Like Air and Water

Every morning, I carve out the first part of my day to spend alone with God.  I've actually had people tell me how good I am to do if I'm doing some good deed.  It would be like someone inheriting $1 billion and another person saying, "That is nice of you to accept that money."  And this alone time with my Father is worth far, far more than any amount of money.  It is a deliciously sweet time of conversation.  And here is what most people miss: it is a time when God reveals His secrets, His plans, His very specific Will for that day or season.  The only one who can find a diamond is the one who is searching in the mine. 

These pages have wisdom, comfort, instruction.  But, deeper still, they have very specific direction for ME.  If I'm facing a crisis or if I simply need to know something specific for my life, I can ask God and then open His Word in expectation.  It's by far one of the most mysterious and wonderful things I've ever experienced.  HE DOES STILL SPEAK if we have ears to listen.  I can ask Him if I'm supposed to have a chiropractor appointment today or tomorrow.  Do you think He cares about those details?  His Word says He cares about all the details of our lives, and it says if we come to Him for wisdom (and EXPECT Him to answer), He will give it to us.  So, why would I want His answer about a ridiculous appointment?  He may have someone at the chiropractor's office that He wants me to talk to today, so He will lead me in that direction specifically.  He may want me home to receive a certain phone call from someone who desperately needs encouragement, so He will lead me in that direction.

This book is powerful, and it absolutely baffles me why anyone would begin their day without digging into it.

So, you won't find a Scripture that says, "You shall go to the chiropractor on September 20."  So, how do I know His direction?  It comes from an ongoing conversation with God.  I speak to Him all the time, and I have learned to be quiet enough to hear Him.  When I need to know His direction for a decision or my day, I simply ask Him to give it to me...and then I wait in expectation.  Sometimes it will be in a Scripture passage I will read, and His Spirit opens my spiritual eyes to see His answer in the text, even if it's a chapter I've read 100 times before.  Do you really believe that the Bible is a LIVING BOOK?  It is.

His answers also come from my being aware of things all around me.  At times, He has given me an amazing truth when I watched a spider building a web or when a yellow jacket was intimidating me.  In those moments, it's as if He opens my spiritual eyes, and I see something deeper than what I'd see with my physical eyes.  It's a quiet, "Look at this" that I hear deep in my spirit that makes me stop to see something He wants me to see.  Once, when my soul was wrestling so fiercely about something (almost threatening to derail my entire day), I watched a large bird flying very high above.  His wings weren't flapping, but he was gliding on the wind.  We had studied this in zoology, but that day, He opened my eyes to see it through spiritual eyes instead of physical eyes.  As I looked at that bird, and the quiet stillness surrounded me, I heard in my spirit, "Be still and know that I am God.  Those that wait upon Me will soar with wings like eagles."  His Words from the Bible that I had hidden in my heart by constant reading and digging in His Word was brought to the surface in my spirit.  HE WAS SPEAKING.  All the restlessness settled, and peace bathed me.  I could walk into my day without letting my wrestling spirit ruin my day.

These are the things that you cannot touch with your fingers...the invisible things that come only to a heart fixed on their God.  The rush of this world, the schedules, the classes, the workplace, the ongoing churning of daily routine can make the still quiet voice muffled if we aren't stopping purposely (and often) to hear Him.

I cannot imagine starting any day without dipping into this never-ending river of wisdom...not just general wisdom but also very specific direction meant just for me that day.  Walking into any day and into any decision without this guide would be unthinkable.

You don't have to make me drink water when I'm thirsty, and you don't have to remind me to take a breath of air into my's simply necessary for life.  His Word is more necessary that air and water to me.  And to you too.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Investment of a Life

Two weeks ago, we found ourselves in a funeral home in Texas.  My father-in-law had battled pancreatic cancer for one year and had gone on to His Heavenly home.  And no matter how long you've been prepared, it is always breath-stopping to walk into the room and see the casket.

No matter how many times you've gone through it ahead-of-time in your mind, the funeral procession is a surreal please-not-so-soon drive.

And the men...the friends...the sons in whom he said he was well pleased...arms bearing the weight of the body, hearts coming to terms with the loss of someone they would never see this side of Heaven... 

The flowers and the neatly lined neighboring headstones...

The casket topped with the flowers solemnly pulled out of each pallbearers' suit pockets...the goodbye...  

It's all. so. very. final.  

No matter how expected death is, we all wish for just one more minute, one more Christmas morning all together, one more meal together of smoked brisket and sweet tea and grandchildren giving kisses laced with sugary dessert,  one more fishing trip.  And I wanted just one more sound of "hi sweetheart" echoing on the other end of the line late at night, the signal that our father-in-law relationship had been mended and blessed and showered with affection to become father-in-love.

For death is not where we focus. But on life.  Yes, the memories...but far far more than that... 

Jim's life, as attested to in his funeral service, was filled with messes and guilt.  He had rocky relationships with many people, and he had pride that he couldn't seem to lose.  He had professed Jesus as Savior early in his life, but the evidence was not visible...the fruit was not there.  But something came along that was the catalyst for change.  Pancreatic cancer.  It's one of the ugliest and most painful cancers, and yet in the hands of a loving Savior, it became a long-awaited come-back-home for a prodigal son.  We are all just one decision away from that relationship with our Father. 

Jim's life took on a new focus.  As his pastor said at his funeral, all the things he had focused so much on for his entire life...his passions of music, coffee, weather and longer consumed his mind.  His interest in them faded to nothing, and his focus became Jesus.  He wanted to share his hope in Jesus as the only means to eternal life, and he shared it with everyone he could.  Guilt had kept him away from his Savior, but he had discovered that his guilt was washed away in the forgiveness of Jesus.  And he wanted to share that hope with everyone he knew.  

He realized what we all should know every day of our lives: all that matters is what will last for eternity.  This is our life in God.

After the funeral, a nice Texas BBQ meal was served at the house (Texans are always Texans!). Quiet conversation was stitched together with giggles of grandchildren eating rainbow cake and discovering that they could pour water into open-ended fence posts in an experiment with evaporation.  Sadness laced with happiness...the beginning of the heart's healing process.

And that night, the sons in whom Jim was well pleased played their guitars in praise music, remembering that God really does never let go...sun and rain, joy and pain...He never lets go.

Our memories will always be filled with Jim, and especially the love and hope he shared during his last months on this earth.

And in the days after we returned home from Texas, as things were unpacked and life slowly began to fall into a rhythm again...we determined to fight that comfortable rhythm...the everyday familiarity that lulls one's soul to sleep.  We had been ever-so-close to the veil between this life and our Heavenly forever home.  Death has a way of pulling you to that doorway, a way of focusing the lens of the heart to pull into view the things that matter.  A casket has its own language that seems to echo over and over: "What are you doing that will last for eternity?  What will remain after you are in a casket?"

And we wanted to shift our focus entirely, to somehow invest our lives into His Kingdom work on an every day basis.  

I recently read that Mother Teresa's mom taught her the principle that "any moment not somehow dedicated to Christ to be wasted" (From the Time magazine edition of Mother Teresa).  That has me thinking seriously.  What would my life look like with that level of dedication?

Because one day it will be me in that casket.  One day my life's work will be tested with fire, and only the things done for His Kingdom will last for eternity.  Why in the world would I waste my time focusing on the things the world says are important?  Money, cars, houses, retirement plans, collections of tea cups or trophies, titles and corporate ladders, styles and mainstream American ideals...none of it will go with me.  All I will have is the eternal investments (those I led to Christ, those I stopped to help, those I took into my home, those I fed and clothed and loved like Jesus).

How can I live today as an investment in eternity?  How can I make every moment somehow dedicated to Jesus?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wrestling of This Soul

"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4

I was lying on my bed this afternoon trying to grab some moments of rest, but my spirit was struggling too severely to find rest today.  I hate those days of wrestling, crying, battling the unseen.  Today I was feeing much like a boxer lying bloodied and bruised on the mat, with the referee's count at 6...7...8...  I reached a weak hand up to grab a devotion book that I keep in my room.  The referee's counting paused.

I read:
"To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out into the vast, whence comes no returning voice, and where seems no hearing; to see the machinery of the world pauselessly grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hairbreadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand; to wait patiently, ready to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail---such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed."  --George MacDonald  (excerpt from Streams in the Desert)

The words hung in the air all around me: to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand...

The truth is that today is one of the few times in my life that I am actually scared of the thing I believe He wants to give me.  From my limited human perspective, I see the weight of this thing in His Hands, and it *appears* that if He drops it into my life, everything precious to me will break and crumble into a million fragments.

Here's a word picture:
Let's say that I have a delicate crystal table that I has some broken pieces and has been mended here and is fragile and in need of some TLC.  And He seems to be asking me if I'm willing to trust Him to drop a 1,000-pound wrecking ball onto my crystal table.  The wrestling is agony because I love my crystal table dearly. The wrecking ball swinging above it is nerve-severing, as I want to pick up my table and run the opposite direction.  
Remember that I'm human and have very limited perspective.  What I feel is what is SEEMS from my point of view.  He is asking me to trust Him with something far bigger than I've ever had to trust Him for in my life.

And I'm scared.  I feel sick.  I'm running the opposite direction.  And there is no peace when you run away from Him.

Am I willing to truly, really desire nothing but what comes meant for me from his hand?

The tossing and turning in my spirit continued on this afternoon, wearing into the evening.  And I read on in my devotion book, skipping ahead to tomorrow's devotional thought.  It was about Abraham not withholding his son Isaac from God when God asked.

"Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son...I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven...because thou has obeyed my voice."  Genesis 22:16-18

"And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God's voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that something is returned to them by Him a thousand times over."
"That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His.  We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth.  We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of.  We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self;  He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy."  --C. G. Trumbull
And another quote on the same page:

"We sometimes seem to forget that what God takes He takes in fire; and that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.  
"Think not, O soul of man, that Abraham's was a unique and solitary experience.  It is simply a specimen and pattern of God's dealings with all souls who are prepared to obey Him at whatever cost.  After thou has patiently endured, thou shalt receive the promise.  The moment of supreme sacrifice shall be the moment of supreme and rapturous blessing.  God's river, which is full of water, shall burst its banks, and out upon thee a tide of wealth and grace.  There is nothing, indeed, which God will not do for a man who dares to step out upon what seems to be the mist; though as he puts down his food he finds a rock beneath him." --F.B Meyer
Soul, please quit wrestling...please surrender...

Friday, July 13, 2012

When You're Up at 3 a.m...


It's 3am, and I may very well be the only person awake in town.  I cannot sleep.  I WANT to sleep.  I NEED to sleep.  But I simply cannot.

So, I sit to let thoughts tumble...

Five years ago, God took my unborn son Elijah home to Heaven.  Soon afterward, He led me into orphan ministry, showing me that the hole in my being matched the hole in an orphan's being when they lose their parents.  Point taken.  I accepted the challenge with determination and passion.  I released my Elijah and walked into God's plan for my life in orphan ministry.

But today, I stepped into the garage to get a breather from our summer's orphan ministry experience.  It had been a rough couple of weeks, and I needed some quiet and space for a few solitary moments.  The door of the garage was open, and outside, rain was coming down gently.  The water was running down the driveway in little currents.  And all at once, as if the walls of a dam were suddenly broken, a hundred little thoughts of my little Elijah came flooding to my mind...the silent heart monitor, the quiet birth, the gaping loss.  

These thoughts had come to me earlier in the day too, and they had caught me entirely off-guard.  See, I had determined from day one that I would NOT be defined by the loss of my child.  I would not wallow in self-pity or pain.  I would never be one of those people who just cannot ever seem to get over a hurt. I would heal and move on.  And I have.  I truly have.  And yet, it's part of my fiber...part of me, as he was part of me.  But why now were the thoughts coming, entirely surprising me?

The exhaustion of the past couple of weeks must have ripped the sleeping emotions by the roots.  And I cried.  I gritted my teeth and prayed, "WHY??"  Here's some gut-hitting truth:  Today I wanted to erase everything...go back somehow...plead with God to not take my son...explain to Him that I'm simply not the right one to serve orphans...ask Him to please give me Elijah and give the orphan ministry calling to someone else, someone who would be better at it.  Today, for reasons I don't even understand myself, I just wanted my baby back...and everything else that I seemed to have lost when I lost him (things I cannot share with anyone else).

Because the reality is this: serving orphans requires suffering.  And today I was weak and tired and entirely sick of suffering.  And there, in that weak point, my mind somehow made connections back to my loss of Elijah.  And I no longer wanted to accept it.  I wanted to undo it, erase it, beg for a different path.  

Then the enemy's words planted:  Maybe I heard wrong.  Maybe I'm not supposed to be in orphan ministry.  Maybe I misunderstood.  Maybe this was some big mistake.  The battle in the mind is the hardest battle sometimes.  We fight not against flesh and blood but against the unseen.  My MIND recognized that this was a spiritual battle, but I was entirely too exhausted to stand tall today.

I wallowed.  I clenched my jaw.  I let tears come.  And I asked, "WHY??"  I just wanted to crawl into bed and come out a few days later when the winds shifted directions.  

Mostly, I just wanted my son.

But, like so many times before, I came back to the reality that I had to release him again.  I had to accept the fact that my life took an unexpected turn that only God understands.  And I had to wipe my tears and walk back into the house and into the next minute of service to Him.

We could have chosen an easy summer.  In fact, we gave up a very anticipated vacation because everyone in our family agreed that, instead of pouring into ourselves, we would pour into one of God's precious children.  We CHOSE to follow Him into service to "the least of these."  And sometimes that can sound glorious and impressive, but the truth is that it's sacrifice, raw and painful at times.  

He suffered for us.  We choose to suffer for His Kingdom work.

Here I am, Lord...even at 3am 4am.

Monday, June 25, 2012


In Revelation, John writes letters to the different churches, with God's message to them.  To the church of Sardis, His message is: "I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent.  But if you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come against you." (Revelation 3:1b-3)

We recently heard Francis Chan give an example that hit home.  I will pass that along to you.  Take a few minutes to think about this:

If I were to interview your friends and the people you hang around, what would they say about you?  If I were to ask them to list everything they thought about you and your character, what would their list look like?

Now, let's pretend that I could go to God and ask Him everything He knows about you...inside and out, all the public and private stuff...what would that list look like?

Think on that for a bit.  In your mind, place the 2 lists on a balance scale, with one side being the list your friends would say about you and the other being the list of what God knows about you.  What does the scale look like?  Is it balanced or lopsided?

Really think on this because it matters...  What does your balance scale say about you?

This struck me.  I mean...this just cuts through all the airs and masks and pretense, doesn't it?

What is it that God sees when He looks through the outer shell and into the inner self?

Who's opinion really matters here?  Are my works complete before the Lord?  He will come like a thief at some unknown hour when I'm busy with life. What then?  Will the balance scale be the way it should be?  Will He be pleased?

Right now, is He pleased when He looks at the bare naked truth of my life?

"For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God?  Or am I striving to please people?  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ."  Galatians 1:10

Who are you really?  Reputation has absolutely nothing to do with it.  It's a false weight.  It is hay and stubble.  All that matters is what you are when you stand before a holy God.  Are we really serious about obeying Him, following Him and serving Him?

Or are we focusing instead on perfecting these masks that people see when they glance our way?

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


As a homeschooling mom, summer is my "free" time to get things deep-cleaned and in order before the next school year.  Everything gets a thorough scrubbing.  Drawers and hidden cabinets are laid bare and reorganized.

A couple of weeks ago, we scrubbed our kitchen floors...the kind of scrubbing that requires hands and knees and lots of elbow grease.  The brush we use is stiff and unyielding, forcing dirt out of unseen indentations in the floor.

The murky water doesn't lie.  Filth was unearthed that day.

Outside, a similar story unfolded over the weekend...  Six years of dust and mold and outdoor filth had collected on our house and porches.  It happened so slowly over time...the piling over and over of small dirty particles...that we didn't even notice how different our house had become over the years.
Our back deck, covered in filth
No amount of scrubbing on our hands and knees would have remedied this built-up.  So, last weekend, my husband rented a pressure washer.  This thing sprays water so intensely that it took quite a bit of the old paint off the front porch banister!  It's the no-holds-barred sprayer.  I'm pretty sure that if you got in front of that stream of water, your skin might rip right off (don't try it!)!  :)  This thing means serious business, seeming to erase dirt and muck the moment the high-powered water makes contact.   

We watched our wooden decks reappear right before our eyes...stripped down to the bare wood.  The difference between the clean and dirty was amazingly obvious.  There's something very simple and beautiful about bare wood.

And bare souls...

Sometimes I need a wipe-down to remove a layer of filth.  Sometimes I need the scrubbing brush with its unyieldingly firm bristles.  And sometimes the pressure washer has to be the stubborn dirt, the filth of the ages that has the slimy mask that smothers the bare soul.

"Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates."   --Revelation 22:12-14

What do my "robes" look like this day, right now?

There's beauty in that bare wood.  There's beauty and life in the purified soul.

"Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within.  Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." --Psalm 51:7

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This Cross

"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it."
Luke 9: 23-24

Excerpt from Crazy Love, by Francis Chan:
When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is doing much more than calling us to endure the daily, circumstantial troubles of life.  The people in Jesus' day were very familiar with the cross.  Having witnessed crucifixion, they understood the commitment and sacrifice of taking up a cross.
It is a call to radical faith.
Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel.  His call is to love those who have cheated us in business; those who have spread nasty rumors about us; those who would kill us if they could; those who disagree with us politically, practically, and fundamentally.  His call is to consider everything a loss for His sake.  His call is for total surrender.  He calls us to give up all that we have, to give even to the point of offering up our lives as a living sacrifice.  His call means realizing that His power is made perfect in our weakness, that when we are weak we are also strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Many times, I want a different cross.

Sometimes, I fall under the weight of my own cross and have a pity party.  "Lord, if You ask me to give up all my earthly possessions and move to the mission field, I believe I'd go...with a spring in my step, even!  But this cross I have been given to carry is too heavy, too binding, too unfair."

When rejected, I must pick up this cross and offer loving acceptance.
When neglected, I must pick up this cross and offer loving attention.
When misunderstood, I must pick up this cross and offer unconditional love.

Oh, but my flesh fights it with fury.  Temper flares, and stubborn heels dig into the ground. Every cell in my being cries, "This is truly not fair or right!  This cross is all too confining!"

Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel. 

This part has confused me.  Perhaps THAT is why I'm willing to sell everything and move to the mission field.  Because I can see how that sacrifice is indeed for the sake of the gospel.  Hence, no matter how very difficult it is, the exchange is worth it because it is for the sake of the gospel.  But what if that isn't the cross I'm allowed to carry?  What if my cross this week, this year looks different?  And the question that absolutely stops me in my tracks: What if my cross doesn't seem to me to be for the sake of the gospel?

For example, what if my cross is to be mistreated by an old friend...or to offer forgiveness to someone who has deeply hurt someone dear to me...or to be pushed aside by someone I love?  I've struggled with this:  How are these things "for the sake of the gospel?"

Oh how I have begged for a different cross!  I scream, "I'm made for more!  Send me!!  Let me go to the ends of the world to further Your gospel!"  And I believe it's RIGHT to offer ourselves like be volunteer to be sent.  So many people stay in their safe little boxes their whole lives, never risking anything, never experiencing anything beyond their own safe world, their own country.  I have a different take on life, mainly because of my wide experiences: living in 10 different states, traveling through many more states in the U.S., traveling to 7 different countries.  Every place, every person encountered, every food, every language barrier, every different experience has molded me into someone who is willing to live on the edge for His Kingdom work.  I crave it.

Many times, I want my cross to look similar to Mary Slessor's or Gladys Alyward's or Hudson Taylor's...KNOWING that they carried very very difficult crosses...but that they lived on the edge for His Kingdom work.  They did what few have the courage to do.  It is easy to see how their crosses were indeed for the sake of the gospel.  The sacrifice is worth it when it's for the sake of the gospel.

The struggle inside me intensified...   And after all the crying, complaining and wishing, I came full circle:
"Then He said to them all, 'If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it."

I have to deny myself.  DENY MYSELF.  I have to take up my cross.  MY CROSS.  So, albeit unattractive, I must take up my cross.  Today that may mean offering forgiveness for being accused wrongfully or loving someone who has not loved me.

And how is taking up my particular cross "for the sake of the gospel"?  I believe it's because it reflects Him.  He forgave those who mistreated Him.  He washed the feet of those who would betray Him.  He suffered rejection at the hands of men, and He loved in return.  That was Him...His ministry, His life message.  Can I not pick up this undesirable cross and follow Him in those very things He Himself experienced?

Sometimes I can get too focused on wanting to know His Will for my life and wanting to do necessary work to further His Kingdom that I neglect and altogether forget the moment-by-moment following of Him.  I'd rather pack a bag to move to a primitive hut to spread His gospel than to look an offender in the eye and forgive sincerely.  I believe He wants us to be willing to follow Him to that hut...I really do.  But THIS moment, right here, right now...He wants me to follow Him in the very next step on this road.  If that means forgiving or loving or suffering, then THAT is His Will for that step.  And it reflects Him and furthers His gospel to those in my path if I am doing as He does, loving as He loves.  Step by step.   And whether that path meanders beside a primitive hut somewhere, that is for Him to decide...and for me to simply follow.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What am I living for?

"As Tim Kizziar said, 'Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter'." --as quoted by Francis Chan in Crazy Love

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


"...Contentment is the equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come.  Contentment serves as a guard against desires gone wild.  It is the key to unlock you from the bondage of unrestrained longing that wells up within your heart and inevitably begins to control your life, making you a slave to what you don't have instead of a fully engaged participant with what you do."  ---Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women

A question was posed to me the other day...a prompting in my spirit...  "Are you present for these moments?"  When I'm there, am I really there? The truth is that often in my life, I have been pressing forward to whatever lay just over the horizon...the next meal, the next event, the next phase in my life, the next challenge, the next project.  Sometimes it's excited anticipation of what lies ahead.  Sometimes it's dreadful anticipation of the next event.  Sometimes it's just survival mode to make it through the rough day or the exhausting evening.  If I can just make it to bed time...  So, while I'm physically there, I'm not truly present in the moment.

It made me stop.  right.  there.  

Forgive me, God, for not being content in this moment.  Forgive me for wishing for situations I don't have...for plowing through a season of life just to get to the next season...for not believing (realllllly believing) that You are in control of all things and that You make all things work together for my good.  If I believe You, I will be content, peaceful, very present in this moment that You have given me.

This moment.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fasting -vs- Surrender

Yesterday we watched an Ellerslie sermon by Eric Ludy.  If you haven't heard of Ellerslie or Eric Ludy, you will want to check it out.  We watched a message entitled "Contempt for the Cool."  It was loaded with so many nuggets that are impossible to squeeze onto this post.  But one small thing that he said kept playing over and over again in my mind.

He spoke about the difference between fasting and surrendering.  Fasting is giving up something for a season, but you get it back later.  Surrendering is giving something up without ever getting it back.

Have I fully surrendered my life?  Absolutely everything?

Or am I simply pretending to be dead to my old self?

If I am really dead to my old self, then there will be proof in my life.  Want another gut check?  Ask yourself truthfully if you are craving comfort over God?  Do you have what Eric Ludy called a "hybrid relationship," where you are living comfortably and yet trying to serve Him?

That is not surrender.

We cannot serve two masters.  We have to CHOOSE today whom we will serve.  We have to be painfully branded by our Master.

Who owns my life?


Friday, June 1, 2012

Gut Check, Part Two

My husband and I recently watched a 6-segment documentary about the Navy SEALS training.  Every word I think of to define it is simply lacking the punch.  It was INTENSE, INSANE, OVER-THE-EDGE, GRUELING.  These guys enter into the SEALS training voluntarily.  They put themselves under intense training to become Navy SEALS, specializing in "unconventional warfare."  It consists of 6 months of grueling activities.  Their bodies are put to tortuous testing.  Their minds are assaulted from every angle.  Some who sign up for training drop before they ever get out of the indoctrination class...before they ever get to the first day of physical training.  Out of those who do make it past indoc, most drop out before graduating.  I've read different statistics, but most agree that drop-out rate for SEALS training is approximately 80%. 

While we were watching the documentary, I noted that nearly every single guy who dropped out said he simply didn't want it badly enough to go through the torture.  And those who did make it to graduation said they wanted it more than anything else in their lives and were willing to give up anything to make it happen.  It boiled down to a choice of what was important to them and what they were willing to put up with in order to attain it. 

Training reveals that these guys can put up with 15 times the amount of pain and discomfort they previously thought they could handle.  The instructors set them up to learn to survive anything they might face and to be able to fight anything they need to. 

As I watched them in the midst of such intense training, I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if more Christians were this serious about following our Lord.  Would we be willing to endure anything for His glory?  Would we be willing to do whatever He said, go wherever He called, endure hardships for His Kingdom work?

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the recruiter." (2 Timothy 2:3-4)  Don't we get entangled in the concerns of civilian life?  Don't we falter when we know God is calling us to step out, but we are afraid to give up our civilian job or insurance or title or security or all things familiar?  Don't we have our list of things we are willing to do and another list of things that we would never consider for various reasons?

In our resolve, do we resemble a soldier?


Or do we relate more to the letter written to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3?  "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth."

The lukewarm soldier could never make it through SEALS training.  To be a Navy SEAL, it takes something that most simply do not possess.  They have to want it more than anything else in their lives.  They have to determine to resist every attack on the mind and push through every blow to the body.  Simply put, it takes something that most of us would never in a million years be willing to do.  And their reward at the end of training?  They are sent to the most dangerous combat zones to fight.

WHY???  Why would anyone be crazy enough to do that??  Simply put, they believe in the mission and are willing to do anything to further the cause.  

Why would we, soldiers of Jesus Christ, think that our lives should be comfortable and easy?  Why would we dare show up for training with a lukewarm spirit?

He said He will vomit the lukewarm out of His mouth.  Do we believe Him?  Are we so lukewarm sleepy that we simply don't have the energy to care?

Where are all of the soldiers?  The volunteers who will step forward to do the hard things?  

Gut Check, Part One

We have a large hydrangea plant in front of our house.  Last year it grew to probably 5 feet tall and looked very promising.  All spring and summer, we waited and waited for it to bloom.  Finally, it squeaked out one teeny tiny flower.  Spoken and unspoken words bubbled up in us: "That's it?!  All those gorgeous leaves and all that height and width, and you just put out ONE flower?!"  By the time fall rolled around, we had given up hope of ever having a fruitful hydrangea plant.

Many many times in my life, I find odd little things will be a direct reflection of my spiritual state.  Really...if you watch and listen carefully to the seemingly random things in your life, you have a front row seat to see God in action and to hear Him.  Put your ear close and press will hear Him.  Focus your eyes to see beyond what is in front of you, and you will see Him.  It's much like the wind...that unseen force that sways the trees and rattles the leaves.

I was looking at my dysfunctional hydrangea plant one day last summer, and in my spirit, I heard the whisper.  That plant was like me.  It looked healthy and right, but there was no bloom, no fruitfulness.  Another rebuke, another discipline in my life.  He disciplines those He loves.  Repentance gushed, and His faithful love and forgiveness flowed.

This summer, our hydrangea is bursting with blue goodness.

This morning, I was reading in Revelation 3.  As a note in my Bible said, "This letter is intended by the Lord as an urgent spiritual wake-up call."  He said to the church at Sardis: "I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God."

Again, the correction in my spirit.  

The hydrangea had bloomed.  It's easy to stop there.  It is quite natural to pick the flowers and put them in a vase.  Everyone who sees them sees beauty and life.  But the stems know the reality of severed vitality.    

You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  

God says over and over as He is speaking to the churches in Revelation that He sees their works.  He knows their hearts.  We all lay naked and exposed before Him.  There is no hiding, no pretending when it comes to Him.

He also repeats over and over: "Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."  He wants to get our attention here.  He wants us to press in and listen to what He's saying to the churches in Revelation.

Why don't we??

Here's a gut check:  Perhaps we simply do not care about this enough to really put forth the effort.  Perhaps we want to grab onto Him as a Savior (no hell for me, thank you!), but we don't want to make Him Lord of our lives (no thanks, I've got my own way of doing things).  Yes, we are saved by grace, with absolutely no effort of our own. But so many people stop there.  They pick the flower and put it in a vase...end of story.  

Very few seem to be really committed to following Him.  Am I??