Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Low-Tec Christmas Eve

Our little Bible Church has done a service of Christmas carols and Scripture for the past 5 or 6 years on Christmas Eve out in a shed on our farm. Low-tec, unrehearsed, everybody participates. If we have a recent baby born in the group, parents and child portray Joseph, Mary & Jesus. This year there was no suitable infant, so one of our teenage girls played the role (with plastic Jesus). Our neighbor brings one of his sheep to stand in the corner, and sometimes it doesn't stand very well, but the kids know it will be there and look forward to seeing it.
Folks from the community and friends from previous church families often come. This year there were about 70 in all, including a friend who brought his violin and volunteered to accompany the piano player as we sang the traditional carols.
One of our Elders led the service, but there were many (2nd graders, teens, grandparents) who read passages of Scripture from prophecy to fulfillment of Christ's birth. Together we marveled at God's Wonderful Gift.
And when it was over, a couple dozen of us who had no other obligations came into the house and fellowshipped together (with the usual cookies & goodies).
That was Christmas Eve. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Special Bible

Michael Spencer, over at InternetMonk, has a post up today about the special Bibles in our lives. As I thought about the way God has used His Word to shape me, three copies of the Bible really stand out to me.

The first time I read the New Testament through (even before I came to trust Christ), I used a paperback copy of "Good News for Modern Man." Although I wouldn't recommend that as any kind of personal study Bible today, God's spirit really spoke to me through it and showed me my need for Christ. When I found passages that I didn't understand, I just underlined them in red and read on. Later, I joined a Bible study group that used the same version. By then, I realized that many of my first questions had already been answered. Trust God, I learned, and He is faithful to teach you.

Not long afterward, I bought my first Thompson Chain Reference (KJV, of course) Bible and read through that. That was in 1970, and I still use it. I realize that the references/categories are not infallible, but the Holy Spirit is, and I treasure the things He's taught me through my dog-eared red leather copy. I use NSAB and appreciate it, and I've read the Living Bible through, too, but always go back to my Thompson.

Those copies formed the bedrock of my spiritual education

The third Bible is unique because I've never really read it. It's a KJV, published in London in 1866. My great-grandfather received it as a gift in 1867, and it is special to me because he owned that Bible for 57 years before he came to trust Jesus Christ as his own Savior. He wrote on the flyleaf, "The Lord came into my heart January 25, 1910."

Thomas Harrison died long before I was born, but that Bible and inscription tell me that he is with Christ today. Other relatives have told me that he truly became a new man in Christ, and I am reminded again that God is faithful.

What an encouragement!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Surrender All?

Some to Jesus I surrender,
Some to Him I freely give;
I will sometimes love and trust Him,
In His presence sometimes live.

I surrender some,
I surrender some.
Some to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender some.

How often have you sung those words....or did you sing, "I surrender all"?

The very word "surrender" means to give up entirely, without reserve, yet so often I fail to do that. I tell Jesus that I am surrendering all, but then I keep something in reserve.

As we sang those words last Sunday, I realized that I'd not really surrendered at all. I've fallen back on providing for myself and defending myself in many of the battles of the past couple of weeks. Instead of surrendering my position to Jesus so that He can be my defense, I've been planning my own strategies, being my own general. And I've walked into Satan's ambush again. The outcome has been misunderstandings and physical and emotional pain. When will I ever learn?

Why is surrender to the Savior so often hard, and surrender to the enemy so easy?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Parenthesis in Life

It's been awhile since I've posted anything, due to some other issues, but now something new has arisen. Last week, my father suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. He was released yesterday, but will need speech therapy 5 times a week and he and my mom will need additional assistance. I've been staying with Mom while he was hospitalized and will be doing some of the "taxi" work to get him to therapy.
We are hoping to be able to get them into an assisted living facility within a couple of weeks.
All in all, it's been a major curve in the road here, and so blogging will probably be on hold for while. I'd appreciate your prayers for my family during these next days and week.

To get to know my parents a bit better, go here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

John Deere or Dear John

Nearly every Sunday Josh brings my husband a drawing. Not so spectacular, perhaps, but Josh is 5 years old, and he executes the drawing during the worship service. And my husband is usually the preacher, and the artwork bears no relationship to the message from Scripture.

It does, however, open a window into what Josh thinks about.

Josh is a farmer at heart, even though he owns no land. Since Josh and his family have become a part of the Living Hope Bible Church body, he and my husband have shared many tractor experiences…plowing, picking corn, combining. Josh can tell you lots of things about farm implements, too. He relates the color green to John Deere, red to Massey Ferguson and blue to New Holland. He understands the planting and harvesting cycles. He can identify which implements are used and when. Josh thinks deeply about farming activities. Nearly all the time.

And that brings me back to Josh’s artwork.

He draws intricate pictures of tractors and plows, planters and combines, all to scale. The mechanics of farming are important to him. He also draws a picture of himself and a larger one of Mr. Elwood…but those are a bit different than the tractor pictures. The people have no faces and they stand apart from the moving tractors. It’s as though the people are included only to operate the equipment. They are just accessories to the action, just John Doe for the John Deere. The importance is in the “farming”…not in the farmer.

I’ve been thinking about whether we do the same thing in the church.

Has the church become only a hi-tech calendar of events and activity, a worship posture, a problem to be solved, a dispenser of social change and spiritual security, or does the church have faces?

Are the people just accessories to the agenda? Or are they the agenda?

How does Jesus see His Church…as a shed full of tractors and plows, or as a house of faces? Does He see "John Doe" or "dear John"?

How do you see it?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Morning View

I never know who will be calling when I wake up each morning. Sometimes it will be bluejays... sometimes crows or mourning doves... often there are sandhill cranes bugling along the creek.
Yesterday, when I looked out, there were sandhills scavenging the harvested wheat field just beyond our shed. Volunteer wheat has begun to grow in the stubble, and the cranes march along, pulling it out.
I marvel at those huge birds stalking majestically across the field. They stand as tall as I do and have a wingspan of 70". In comparison, the tiny hummingbirds at my feeder would fit with outspread wings between my fingers.
I am just amazed at the scope of God's mountains, cleft seabeds, sandy deserts and lush rainforest. And each supports uncountable forms of life, from protozoa to kangaroos to sperm whales. What awesome creative Power imagined all of this!
"And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them."
Take a look outside your window and stand in awe. Take a look in your mirror and worship the One who created you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Steve Sensenig has a really good post called "More Than Meets the Eye" on his blog today. It's on using God's name in vain.

Some of the discussion and subsequent comments dealt with the unwillingness of the OT Jews to even speak (or spell) His name, and the reasons behind that action. The people of the past weren't the only ones who felt that way. If you read the Israeli newspapers today, you will find that they avoid the use of His name or spell it "G-d".

As I thought about the many times in a day that I hear the name of God used, I was reminded that profanity and slang are not the only offenses. How often have you talked with other believers and they assured you that "God said....", or "God wants..."? How many times have you chuckled at a joke or cartoon that used His name irreverantly? How many times have you done it yourself? I have, and I need to be reminded often Whose Name I'm throwing around so casually.

What about our promiscuous use of the word "Christian" as an adjective showing God's endorsement of everything from weight plans to fantasy fictional romance to t-shirts. His name is showing up on things that must disgust Him. We have made the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the Universe into just another household commodity!

Why doesn't that disgust us?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Unfair Grace

"Grace is inherently unfair."

I read this quote by K. W. Leslie as he commented on an IMonk post yesterday entitled, ", and I've been chewing on it ever since.

Is grace fair? Chew on it, and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Seedless Watermelons and Christians

Yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carried an article by Jim Price about watermelons and choices. In an age when nearly every produce department carries an unbelievable range of exotic fruit and vegetables, it seems as though one old standard is no longer to be found. The seeded watermelon has gone the way of the dinosaur and has been “superseded” by the seedless variety.

That got me thinking. Where have they all gone? And why? When one questions, one Googles. I learned that:

True seedless watermelons can produce no fruit…they produce no seeds.

Mostly seedless melons can produce fruit only with extreme care…their seeds are indifferent germinators and may not grow under adverse conditions.

Seeded watermelons can produce abundant fruit. They produce multitudes of seeds which will often grow anywhere—in sidewalk cracks, on the compost bin, wherever they happen to fall.

That being the case, watermelon should be proliferating like kudzu, not becoming an endangered species. What has happened?

About 50 years ago, scientists developed a mostly seedless melon that required a seeded variety to pollinate it. Due to the magic of genetics, the resulting melons would be either seedless, seeded, or mostly seedless. The few seeds produced by the last group would be the ones used for the next planting. In spite of the difficulty and cost in producing seedless melons, they became the most desirable. Today, it is hard to find a standard seeded melon for sale anywhere.

So…what does all this have to do with Christians?

Seed is God’s plan for life to continue; as the seed dies, it introduces a new generation. Without seed, life becomes extinct, like the dinosaur.

Jesus told His followers, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” John 12:24-26

Too often, Christians today seem to be more concerned with the comfort of the plant than with the propagation of Jesus’ Gospel. We make sure to feed and water and care for ourselves. We desire fruit that will enhance the plant (us), but we are too often sterile like the seedless watermelon. Instead of seeing churches full of believers sprouting up on the compost heaps and in the sidewalk cracks like standard melons, we are happy to live in hothouses, unaffected by the world around us.

What do you think it will take to keep the church from going the way of the dinosaur or the dodo bird…or the watermelon?

What can you and I do to produce fruit that will reproduce?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

addendum to the tendon

because it's just too hard to navigate my keyboard with a cast on my left hand....
from now on, my posts will be lower case (just "peck"because this dog won't "hunt").
might be even more tyop's than usual, too. :)
btw---fargo, i'm still looking for you!

carpal-metacarpal joint resection with tendon transplant

The arrow marks the spot!
After a delay of a month. I've finally had needed hand surgery (see blog title). The cartilage in above joint was shot, and the fancy name means that my learned hand guy cleaned out said joint and nipped out a piece of tendon from above my wrist. Then he inserted it in the
open joint, held it in place with some fancy plastic, sewed it up, stuffed it in plaster and elastic and charged a lot of money for the experience.
Surgery began at 8:30, took 1 1/4 hours, and I was home by noon.
I have the greatest respect for my doctor, and I trust him to do the job right. In fact, I have matching scars on my right hand and arm from the same procedure 5 years ago. It worked then, and I expect it to work now. He's been doing his job for years. If he tells me to do something...I do it. I have confidence in him because he's proven himself. and yet...he could fail.
Why do we so easily trust men, yet find it so hard to trust God....Who has never failed?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hello Fargo!

This is the first time I've posted to speak to only one reader, but my curiosity has gotten the best of me, and I just have to know.... Who is reading me from Fargo, ND? It's fun to check the sitemeter to see where my readers are located. Sometimes I can figure out who has been on the site...sometimes I can see that they've come in through a specific search, but... Who is reading me from Fargo?
I don't know anybody from Fargo, but you know who you are, even though you have never commented. Please identify yourself and tell me a little about you. My fellow-blogger, Alan Knox, has done a recent post on his commentators, asking them to tell a bit about themselves. I've enjoyed reading that, and it has brought to mind the problem of Fargo.
So, Fargo, this is your life. Please tell me who you are. I'll sleep better.
BTW, I wouldn't mind reading the bio's of those who have commented on this blog in the past.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Heritage Day 2007

The Living Hope Bible Church popcorn stand did a booming business today at Oostburg's biennial Heritage Day. We served hundreds of cups of freshly popped corn--free! It was a great opportunity to interact with other people in our community, explain God's grace in freely providing salvation through the sacrificial death of His own Son, hand out Bibles and other literature and serve the Lord as we served others.

Face painting, Gospel nails and a beanbag game were fun for the kids, too.

Hope you enjoy the pics!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Free Popcorn!

Every two years, the nearby community of Oostburg celebrates their "Heritage Day." It's a pretty low-key event...the equivalent of a big family reunion. The community was founded by Dutch Calvinist immigrants in the mid-1800's, and a lot of their descendants have chosen to remain in the area.
The demograpics have changed a lot over the past 30 years, though, as many urban dwellers have moved into the area. Although the village still has a semi-rural, hometown appearance, the population has doubled, and the heritage of many of the residents is no longer Dutch.
That said, Heritage Day has become an over-sized block party with Center Avenue shut down, quartet singing in the Pizza Ranch parking lot, and plenty of food stands and old-fashioned bargains to be had. Tour the local fire trucks and rescue squad, buy some books at the Library book sale, take ride in a horse-drawn wagon, catch up on the local news over a piece of home-made pie.
Living Hope Bible Church is a bit of an anomaly among the established churches...a newcomer, just like the folks who've moved in from Milwaukee or Grafton or we try to use the opportunity to get to know people and let them get to know us.
That's where the popcorn comes in.
We always hand out free popcorn. No cost to anybody, except us. We also do free face painting for the kids. And we get to explain why we are doing this...Because Jesus Christ, at the greatest cost to Himself, has provided our salvation. We cannot earn it. We cannot pay anything for it. All we can do is accept it, just as our friends accept a cup of popcorn.
When we do the face painting, we use just 5 colors to explain who God is and what He is like. We tell the kids about heaven and God's desire to have us there with Him. We use the dark color to explain the darkness of our sin and the red to tell of Jesus' death on the cross to pay for that sin. The white shows us dressed in Christ's own purity and righteousness as we trust Him as our substitute/sacrifice, and green stands for growth as believers and God's conforming us to the image of His Son through the power of His Spirit.
Free face paint...illustrations of God's free gift to us through the blood of His Son.
I can't wait to use these simple tools to tell the old, old story once again.
What kinds of "tools" do you use to tell others about the "hope that lieth in you"? Please share some of the things you've found to be successful. Maybe we can use them next time!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rejoice in the Lord…Even on Sunday

It’s been a busy day of rest here Where We Live. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easy to rush though the first few hours of a Sunday without even recognizing God’s presence, especially when we are about His Business. The Lord’s Day can easily become the Church’s Day, or My Day.
We have the privilege of meeting each week (and throughout the week) with other believers to worship God and to hear His Spirit speak through His Word and through His people. In many places in the world, believers do not have that blessing…or that distraction. They have nothing but God, Himself. And perhaps they are the better for it. They need not organize or orchestrate or “perform.”
So, where does that leave me…wife of elder, Sunday School teacher, shaker of hands and maker of coffee?
Perhaps I need to take the day of rest more seriously. After all, God did His work in six days…and then He ceased from work and enjoyed His handiwork. He rested in order to fellowship with and enjoy his creation. Perhaps I need to be more conscious of planning the other six days of my week in such a way as to be a means of preparation for rest and enjoyment and fellowship on the seventh.
Perhaps that is why God’s Spirit has exercised His right to set aside my original blog thoughts and has convicted me of my failure to put God first on His Day.

Forgive me, Lord, for waiting to be told to worship You as we sang together. Forgive me for talking of myself, instead of talking of You. Forgive me for looking to others to meet the needs that You wish to meet. Thank you for loving me in spite of my failures. Thank you for showing me that, although I love your people, You must be my first love, and that I can love them best when I have loved You first.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Your Best Life Now... Or Something Like That

Usually I don't forward the kind of stuff that arrives in my email box with promises of blessing or threats of bad luck. This came from a friend today, though, and I enjoyed it so much that I thought others might, too. Here is what she sent:

"Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. (Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder) This is how it manifests itself: I decided to water my garden. As I turned on the hose in the driveway, I looked over at my car and decided my car needs washing. As I started toward the garage, I noticed that there is mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mailbox earlier. I decided to go through the mail before I wash the car. I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice the can is full. So I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first. But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first. I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find a Coke that I had been drinking. I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over. I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye --- they need to be watered. I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I have been searching for all morning. Then I decide I had better put them back on my desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers. I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won't remember it's on the table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers. I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill, the, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do. At the end of the day: --- the car isn't washed, --- the bills aren't paid, --- there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter --- the flowers don't have enough water, --- there is still only one check in my checkbook, --- I can't find the remote, --- I can't find my glasses, --- and I don't remember what in the world I did with my car keys! Then, when I try to figure out why I got nothing done today, I'm really baffled, because I know I was busy all day long and I'm really tired. I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it, but first, I'll check my e -mail. Do me a favor will you? Forward this message to everyone you know, because I don't remember to whom it has been sent. Don't laugh!!! If this isn't you yet, your day is coming!!! Growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional. Laughing at yourself is therapeutic. P.S. I just walked outside and ----- SOMEONE LEFT THE WATER RUNNING IN THE DRIVEWAY!!!!!!!!!"

Sound like anybody you know?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Christmas in June

Yesterday I finished up a project I've been thinking about for several weeks...setting up an "Everybody Directory" for the people who don't fit into my other directories. This one has everybody from missionaries to long-ago friends to people I may never want to contact, but...
In order to do that, I pulled out the stack of old Christmas cards, birthday greetings and unanswered letters that have been accumulating for a year or two while I knock off quick notes via email or post blogs.
It was a good time to get caught up again on other people's lives...
My friend Kay is a young widow, serving with Wycliffe. She made some really insightful observations in her Christmas letter that keep coming back to my mind. Maybe they will challenge you as they've challenged me.
She says:
  • "I've been learning about loneliness as opposed to alone-ness; how to distinguish between the two and how to work through one while growing in the midst of the other."
  • "When God is silent on a subject, He does have His reasons. My job is to keep on doing the last thing He gave me to do until He does speak."
  • "It's ok to yell for help when things get to be too much."
  • "Change is inevitable. How we react to it helps determine whether it is good or not."
  • "'Fine' isn't an acceptable answer when you really aren't."
  • "Procrastination isn't working for me and practicing it until I get really good at it probably won't, either."
  • "It pains God when I give Him my leftovers."

Are you feeling challenged, too? Let me know, so I can let Kay know how she's spoken to all of us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wildfires and Sow Thistles

This morning I worked in the sweltering sun, doing a job I’d had on a low-priority list for quite awhile. Pulling thistles is not exciting, even when the weather is cool and the mosquitoes are sleeping. It wasn’t, and they weren’t.

Every year, the border along my shed produces daffodils, hostas, wood violets, pansies, bleeding heart, hollyhock, delphinium and…sow thistles.

Where do those things come from? And how do I get rid of them? Seems the two choices are either pull or dig.

Weeding always gives me lots of time to think without interruption, so I reflected on sow thistles. I also thought about the wildfires raging right now in Alaska. So far, fire has destroyed about 90 square miles of the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.

You might think that sow thistles and wildfires don’t have much in common, but I think they do. Both have the power to destroy beauty. The thistles do it an inch at a time, while the fire consumes miles in a day. Both start from a random seed that is sown. Thistle seeds are carried by the wind or the birds. The seed that started the Alaska wildfire was a mere spark that fell from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel and ignited dry grass. The Seattle Times said that Alaska’s fire season is just getting started…so is the season for sow thistles.

And both are really difficult to stop once they get started. Just when we think they have been contained, a new outbreak flares up somewhere else. You can see a new fire from a distance, but sow thistles like to hide in the hollyhocks until they get established.

A bit like sin in my life.

Sometimes sin is pretty obvious, burning merrily away so everyone can see it. Sometimes it’s camouflaged in the hollyhocks of “spirituality”. But I think it’s on the Holy Spirit’s “high priority” list to extinguish and root out before it destroys the work He is doing in me and the work He has for me to do.

Are you a gardener? What has the Lord been teaching you as you dig in His dirt?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Commitment for Life

65 years ago today, Eugene Oppeneer and Verna Augustine said "I do!"
Little did they know where those words of commitment would lead them.

Shortly after they were married, Eugene joined the US Army and spent the next four years in the South Pacific, sending Verna letters from Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Japan.
Verna waited for him back in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, working at the Kohler Company.

When WWII ended, and Eugene came back home, they moved out to his parents' farm near Hingham, where they began to raise corn and oats and hay and ... children. I am the oldest of their family of five.

Over the years, they shared joys, experienced pain and hardships, some of their dreams crashed, but they stayed the course, for better or for worse.

Crippling arthritis and debilitating health problems (Dad) and Alzheimer's and leg ulcers (Mom) have been a constant companion in their home on the farm for the past ??? years...but they have stayed the course. Dad is Mom's caregiver now, and that care is evident in everything he does.
In my early years, I saw my mother submitting herself to my father--often in difficult circumstances. In these last years, I have seen him submitting himself to her and to her needs--in very sad and difficult circumstances. Much of what God has used to shape me has come from what I have seen and am seeing in them. And I thank Him for it.
Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Another Game of Tag

As if the blogosphere doesn't have enough to keep me from digging the garden...

Aussie John and Tony Sisk both tagged me today with the latest blog tag--5 Things I Dig About Jesus.

The plan is to identify five of the things that I appreciate, or dig, about the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, holy, righteous, pure, perfectly just, perfectly loving, creative, sovereign, invisible, incarnate, empowering, God of Everything. What can I say? "Dig" seems kind of puny next to all that, but here goes...

1. Jesus is both God and Sacrifice
2. Jesus is the Beginning and the End
3. Jesus isn’t afraid to get His hands dirty
4. Jesus loves me!!!!
5. Jesus IS (and how can I ever wrap my mind around that!)

Guess I'll have a lot more to think about as I go out to dig in the dirt.

My picks for bloggers to tag are:
Alice Carpenter
Steve Grose
Deb at Life: The Journey
Rose at Rose's Reasonings

Please leave me a comment with your "digs" and tag someone else!

Treasures & Trials

Lately I’ve been listening a lot to an album by Keith and Kristyn Getty, entitled “In Christ Alone”. Great contemporary hymns with lots of meat on their bones, and I’m sure that many people are familiar with the title song. One of my favorites, though, is “Jesus, Draw Me Nearer”. The lyrics are by Margaret Becker. One phrase in the chorus is: “Let the treasures of the trial form within me as I go…”

I’ve been thinking about that all week…the treasures of the trial…

How often do I think of those hard times and trials as containing treasure? Suffering and pain are not just pointless, and they are not just part of the curse of sin. Nor do they just produce treasure at the end…they are bound up in the treasure itself. Just as they were in Job’s life and trial, they are actual road signs that point us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and His love for me. Without them, I might miss some of His deepest blessings.

“Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne”

“…form within me as I go…” Those are pregnant words, aren’t they? God is actively involved in both my treasure and my trial, just as He was in Job’s trial. Just as He was in Mary’s trial when she allowed Him to inhabit her body for 9 months, forming a Body for Himself. She certainly endured trial, ongoing trial, for the sake of that treasure.

“…at the end of this long passage, let me leave them at Your throne.”

Mary left her son, God’s Son, at the throne of His Cross, but the things she “treasured in her heart” went with her all the way to Heaven. Was her trial worth it? Can you feel the treasure forming? Can you appreciate it, even now, during the trial? My family and I are living in the midst of a number of personal trials right now, but I can see the treasure forming. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day

During the early years of my growing up, I did not appreciate my father. He was often an angry, impatient and unpredictable person…not especially sensitive to his wife or children. The stresses of trying to make a 40-acre farm provide for a family of 7 did not help the situation, either, and although I desperately sought his approval, I never felt I measured up to his expectations.
My parents made sure that we children attended Sunday School, and we often attended our local church. There, I acquired a different view of fatherhood. I saw God as a Father…the father I was missing at home…and I desperately sought His approval, but I was pretty sure I didn’t have that, either.
Then, during the middle years of my growing up, that all changed. At the age of 24, married with a little daughter of my own, I finally met my Heavenly Father when I read that I was “accepted in the Beloved”…His own Son, who died for me! He forgave me and loved me in spite of all I had done to Him.
That changed my perspective on my own father…and the ways I had failed to respect and obey him. One of the hardest things I have ever done was to go to him and ask his forgiveness for my failure as a daughter.
Fast forward to the most recent years of my growing up…
Over the past 10? or 15? years, my Dad has been growing, too. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s…Dad has had hip replacements and major back surgery, his own health is precarious…and something wonderful has happened. He has met his Father, too, and I can see the resemblance more and more every day.
The impatient, unpredictable man I called “Dad” is now my mother’s chief caregiver. He cooks for her, helps her dress, monitors her medications, changes the dressings on the ulcers on her legs. He is patient, kind and gentle. He is committed to caring for her to the best of his ability. Tomorrow when our family celebrates Father’s Day, we will also celebrate my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary…and I will thank my Father in Heaven for giving me just the right father here on earth.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Flag Flown High

The largest flag flown on the tallest flagpole in the U.S. is visible just a mile down the road from my house, even though it is 10 miles away. Last week, that flag hung limply at half-mast as a tribute to the Virginia Tech students whose lives were snuffed out by a deranged shooter. It was not the only U.S. flag lowered in their honor.
I think it is right for us as a nation to stand back and recognize their deaths. In some way, the act that robbed them of a future robbed us, too. I'm not so sure, though, that lowering the American flag is the way to do it.
It is right to lower the flag to honor those we have elected or who have been chosen to serve as our governing officials. Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, and others have been chosen to represent us. They have offered to serve the public, and have been taken up on that offer. We lower our flags to honor them at their death.
Today there are thousands of men and women who have chosen to represent us in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan and other locations thoughout the world. We do not have a draft system, so they chose to represent us. And yet...when one or two or ten of them fall before a deranged shooter, our flags fly high. Why is that? Should we not honor them, at least in their home states, when their lives are shortened in the cause of freedom? Should we not lower our flags for them?
Whether or not we support the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan, should we not support those who represent us there?
On a related issue...
Our society has become so infatuated with numbers...more and more and more has come to mean more meaningful. If only 3 students had died instead of 33...Would we have lowered the flags for only 3? Does a single human life still count?
I wonder.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Pastor's Wife

Since returning from the RHMA conference for small-town pastors yesterday, I’ve been catching up with many of my favorite bloggers. A current meme that has been circulating among blogsites is “the …. formerly known as …” A particularly poignant posting by Lyn Hallewell at Beyond the 4 Walls is called: “The Women Who Have Been Known As The Pastor’s Wife.”
After spending the last three days in the company of pastors’ wives, it saddens me to realize that a significant number of them are suffering from the same wounds experienced by Lyn Hallewell. Some of those wives were young—still in their 20’s or early 30’s. Some were still full of ideals. Some had already been sliced in pieces and didn’t know who to turn to for help. Some of the older ladies had built walls for protection. And some, I’m sure had made peace with their “calling” or their martyrdom. And I never even got to know them.
Even though the theme of the conference was to measure our ministry by God’s standards rather than by man’s, I wonder how many of these women will allow isolation and criticism and unrealistic expectations to destroy them. I wonder if anyone ever gets to know them.
Then, as I read the news headlines tonight, “Tennessee Preacher’s Wife Convicted,” hit me between the eyes. Only God knows the back story here, but there are many pastor’s wives who can read between the lines. They feel deserted by both God and their churches and become vulnerable to Satan’s lies.
How can you and I reach out to the pastors’ wives in our communities? What positive things can you do today to build up them up?

Measuring Your Ministry

This past week, I’ve taken a 4-day blogfast as my husband and I spent our days at a conference for the pastors of small-town churches. We were an anomaly there in some ways.
First, neither of us are pastors.
It’s an unusual twist on the usual problem that pastors and their wives face in the congregation—social isolation. In this case, we were the “isolates”. Actually, we did have some peers in the group—the other two elders and their wives from our church. We are not a typical pastor-led church, so it’s always a bit dicey when we introduce ourselves and get rather blank stares from the clergy. Often, they seem to be a bit embarrassed to see us there, like finding a second-stringer elbowing his way into the starting line-up. We are on the same team, but not part of the inner circle. And I think most pastors (and especially their wives) deal with that “differentness” in their own lives, in their own churches.
On the other hand, our church is decidedly small, and we do have many of the same concerns for the ministry God has given us.
The conference theme was “Measuring Your Ministry”, and the speakers really did address the pitfalls of trying to measure God’s work against men’s standards. Kent & Barbara Hughes, authors of “Liberating Ministry From the Success Syndrome,” were pretty transparent about their own struggles in the numbers and expectations game and shared some practical ways to avoid falling into the same traps.
Phil Tuttle from Walk Thru The Bible spoke on thriving and surviving and did a super session on rediscovering the joys of ministry. He, too, was very real in telling about his own struggles with the success thing and how God led him to recognize real successes.
It was a refreshing time, and I’m glad we were able to go. RHMA will host another conference in Lancaster, PA, in May. I’d recommend it to any pastor of a small or small-town church—and perhaps even for the success-driven pastor of a large one.
What do you think is success in ministry?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

RHMA Conference

In just a few hours, my husband and I will be on our way to the RHMA Small Town Pastor's Conference in Morton, IL. Tax Season is history...Life resumes!
And blogging least for a few days.
Tony Sisk did a partial blog fast a couple of weeks ago, and now I'll see if I can take it cold turkey.
I'll report on the conference when I get back.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The New Crusaders

Christian bloggers in the US tend to think that the most important theological issues today revolve around the “Emergent” vs. “Modern/Evangelical” perceptions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its outworking in the Church today. Is the Church missional…attractional…or…is it…dangerous? As some theologians move to deconstruct entrenched hierarchies and creeds, another movement has arisen while we were looking elsewhere.

A front-page article by Andrew Higgins in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, entitled “As Religious Strife Grows, Europe’s Atheists Seize Pulpit”, explores the rise of militant atheism in Europe. Although Europe’s churches have been in decline for years, the influx of adherents to Islam has made religion a growing issue. A dying religious brand of Christianity was not a threat, but a growing and more committed Muslim population is. That combination of religious ideology and a growing demand for political voice has brought the atheists out into the playing field.

France, in particular, has experienced both civil unrest because of Muslim discontent and a rise in what Higgins calls “zealous disbelief in God.” In fact, Michel Onfray, the French “high priest” of atheism, has written a book entitled, “Atheist Manifesto”. It is a best seller in France, Italy and Spain. In it, he suggests that “change is at hand and the time has come for a new order.” Since the meaning of “atheos” is “godless”, Mr. Onfray is opposed to any representation of God or a god, such as Allah, Buddha, or any other worshipped being.

The French are not the only ones promoting the new atheism.

Last month there was a public debate in London in which British atheists contended with defenders of the Christian faith. Tickets cost nearly $40 each, and the event sold out…with the atheists declared the victors.

What does this mean for Christians here in the US? Will we demonstrate classic American myopia and spend our days debating each other over denominational politics, definitions, and methodology? Will we even support our European brothers and sisters? Atheist thinking has undermined much of our culture and even much of the church. Will we wait for a declaration of war by American atheists before we realize that while we’ve been fighting among ourselves, there is a battle to be fought right outside the Church door?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Uppers and Downers

Yesterday, many churches sang the wonderful words, "He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever with His saints to reign." Soul-stirring words, weren't they?...yesterday...

Easter is a soul-stirring day, an emotional "upper" for the Church of Jesus Christ--His Body here on earth. Many of us rose early to greet the sunrise (if there was one, and even if there wasn't), and we sang "Christ Arose." We believed it then.

And we filled up on sugar (Easter breakfasts and Easter candy)...and on spiritual sugar, too...eye and ear candy to seduce us into believing that what we were doing was "worship". The music was great, even if there were none of the old hymns, and the beat was a trifle loud and we stood looking at lyrics on the wall for 40 minutes. The pews were cushioned, even though we had to sit a lot farther back in the sanctuary than usual. The dramas were, well...dramatic. The message or reflection or meditation was short enough so that we could get home in time to change out of our church clothes and prepare a "Martha" meal for the extended family. Appetizers, salads, an interesting entree and plenty of yummy dessert. Insulin, adrenaline and somnolance. Now that was a great Easter...wasn't it?

Or was it?

It's Monday morning, and where is the resurrected Christ now? And where are His saints? Are they truly reigning? Is He reigning in them? Is He reigning in me? Are today and tomorrow and the tomorrow's after that downer's? Are we living in the reality of Christ's resurrection? Or are we all just a little sick from all that sugar? Too much sugar is bad for the heart...and maybe for the soul and spirit.

If we truly believe what we sang as the sun rose yesterday, we'd better let Christ reign in us today.

Monday, April 02, 2007

For Sale: Easter

For the industrialized church, Easter is the greatest marketing opportunity since Christmas. Re-enactments of Christ’s Passion, Seder for Gentiles, Tenebrae, Taize, Cantata’s…all are employed to fill the pews and to reinvigorate the faithful. Each year we have been conditioned to expect something just a little more spectacular or a little more “spiritual” to satisfy the vague discontent we have with the product offered each week at our local house of worship. Why?

Is it because we are so used to media hype in every other area of life that we have come to expect it in our spiritual lives, too?

It is a great temptation for church leaders to follow the world’s example and to use Easter (and Christmas, for that matter) as a sales pitch…a public relations opportunity to get their name out before the public at a time when it is politically acceptable to do so. We’ve all gotten the catalogs offering Easter press kits and door hangers and bulletin covers and posters and DVD’s and… We are a nation of consumers, so I guess we expect people to respond to advertising, but I don’t see that as a Biblical principle in evangelism. There is more to making disciples than persuading people to wear team t-shirts or lighting candles or walking a labyrinth once a year or packing a pew.

Perhaps a more pervasive problem to that vague spiritual discontent felt by so many believers is that we are also a nation of spectators. There are far more people in the stands at a football game than there are on the field. From a spiritual standpoint, there are far more spectators in the congregation than there are vibrant players in the field—and I don’t mean the worship team or the Sunday School teachers or the pastor. We all have the option of becoming spiritual spectators instead of participants in the Body of Christ. And spectators become bored and dissatisfied when the team isn’t winning.

So, every year it becomes a greater challenge to motivate people to appreciate the Ultimate Sacrifice. Where does the answer lie? Should we quit celebrating the Resurrection as a one-time event, and begin looking at it as a present reality?
What do you think?

Check out's The Dangers of Easter”
and Greg Laughery’s Living Spirituality at

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Is There an Atheist in Your Closet?

Geoff Baggett’s blog today referred to a news article about Congressman Pete Stark from California, who has just come out of the closet as the highest-ranking government official to admit that he is an atheist, or non-theist as they call themselves these days.
It’s true that Americans have a right and a responsibility to determine the values of the people they vote into office, so there is benefit in knowing the core beliefs of those who would be our leaders. At least, with Pete Stark, Californians know what they have endorsed as representing them.
On March 14, the San Francisco Chronicle ran the story about Congressman Stark and made some observations by a pollster about the importance of religious beliefs in the democratic process.
Pollster Ben Tulchin stated, “California…, is probably one of the most nonreligious states in the country -- maybe the most nonreligious state.'' He went on to say, that in polling in California "we rarely target voters by religion.''
That doesn't mean Californians "are not religious, don't believe in God, or don't go to services,'' he cautioned. For example, he said, "you have a fast-growing population in Latinos, and religion does matter to them, and religious issues matter to them. But on a day-to-day basis, religion doesn't play a significant role in most Californians' lives in a way that shapes their politics on a daily basis,'' he said.
In other words, people who have always voted for Stark will vote for him, anyway.
They may be “Christians” by profession…but atheists in practice.
It’s easy to criticize California voters, but I wonder how many Christians are doing the same thing. Every time we leave God out of the equation when we make choices in our own lives, we are practicing atheism…even while we profess Christ. Most of us really don’t let God play a significant role in our lives in a way that shapes our actions on a day to day basis. We live as though He does not exist.
Is there an atheist in your closet?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tax Season and Theology in Life

In just twenty-seven days, Tax Season 2007 will be over!

What is tax season? And what does it have to do with theology? Well, at our house, it has a lot to do with it. My husband is one of three elders in our local church…and he is also a Certified Public Accountant with both corporate and individual accounting clients. At our house, January 1 marks the first day of tax season, and that means work weeks of up to 90 hours until April 15.

For people in bi-vocational ministries, as we are, there are stresses and time crunches that threaten to erode both personal time with the Lord and planned times for study and ministry. And, when Sunday is one of the focal points of public ministry, it can be more draining than refreshing.

That’s when plurality of leadership within the church is such a blessing.

Although my husband has been responsible for most of the Sunday morning preaching, one of the other elders will taking over that ministry. The third elder has been teaching the adult class, as well as planning fellowship activities. He also meets with some of our men for a weekly Bible study, and my husband teaches a mid-week study at our home.

Bi-vocational ministry—working in the secular world (as our elders do)—and also ministering to a body of believers is far from the norm in our area. As churches grow, they are hiring more and more staff people to take the burden of leadership off the pastor. And that’s okay, but it does tend to build a protective barrier between the “clergy” and the “laity”, a bit like the barrier the secretary provides between the CPA and his demanding clients.

When the members of the body know that their leaders are facing the same kind of pressures on the job that they are, when they can sit down with them in their homes, when they see them cleaning the floors and changing light bulbs in the place where they meet…Then they are seeing their theology in action. They can see how Christ meets the leader’s needs when he faces tough situations or uses opportunities to share God’s grace in the secular world. They can experience hospitality and real servanthood.

There are twenty-seven more days til the end of Tax Season. Twenty-seven more opportunities to show people how to experience God’s grace through the high-pressure days of life. Twenty-seven more opportunities for God to show us how to live so that others can see Christ in us.

I wonder if twenty-seven days will be enough time for the lessons to be learned?

What are your thoughts on bi-vocational ministry? I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Re-Thinking the Lord's Supper

Alan Knox, over at his blog, The Assembling of the Church, recently published the following post: The Assembling of the Church: The Lord's Supper as a Meal? Since then, he has posted a series of reviews on some of Watchman Nee's teaching, including one on The Breaking of Bread. In the first, he posits the celebration of the Lord's Supper as an actual meal (instead of the appetizer-sized elements that most of us utilize). In the second, he brings out the command for the unity of believers as we come to the table. Some interesting and thought-provoking stuff.
At Living Hope Bible Church, we have varied the times and manner of our celebration (although it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of same-ness. Sometimes we include the Lord's Supper as part of a Sunday evening supper. The one that made the most impact on me was a "Bread and Water Supper", of which the menu consisted of....bread (any kind, as long as it was bread), butter & honey, and water. We did use matzoh and grape juice as the elements for the time of remembrance, but our focus was on Christ as our Bread of Life and Living Water.
I guess one of the things the Lord has been impressing on me is the need for His Supper to be central when we celebrate...the focus for the morning (or whenever we gather for that purpose) instead of it being the "closing act". Perhaps everything should point to that as the reason we are gathered instead of its being an accessory.
Read what Alan has to say, and stop back here to share your comments. I'd love to see what you think. How can we make the Lord's Supper meaningful for children? Any ideas?

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Bible as Textbook

Possibly as early as next Monday, the Georgia legislature will take a final vote on revisions on a bill to establish elective courses in the public schools in both the Old Testament and New Testament. The bill has already passed both houses of the legislature overwhelmingly. If the revision passes, it will make Georgia the first state in modern times to establish the Bible as part of its public school curriculum. The state's Department of Education will have a year to create these elective courses.

The Bible is already being used as a course study in as many as 1,000 American high schools, and has been allowed by the US Supreme Court, as long as it is presented objectively and not taught as fact. The option to use the Bible has been open to local school boards, but Georgia is the first state to implement Bible courses throughout the entire state, although individual school districts may opt out if they wish. Apparently Alabama and Missouri are also considering statewide Bible courses.

Sponsors of Georgia's bill say that students need an understanding of the Bible to better understand the foundations of Western culture. Much of Western literature and art, from Michelangelo, to Shakespeare, to contemporary writings draw from Biblical sources.

In the late 1700's Congress actually printed 40,000 copies of the Bible, and it was the most quoted source for the writngs of our Founding Fathers. Early textbooks relied on Scripture text to teach both reading and comprehension, as well as moral lessons.

As more states consider adding the Bible as literature and history courses to their curriculum, there will be a much wider debate about its scope and the intent of its Author.

What do you think about it? Should the Bible be taught in this fashion in public schools? Why or why not?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Show Towels

Recently, a guest in our home asked an innocent question after visiting the powder room. “Do you mind if I use your show towel?” she asked. I guess the towel in question had a holiday theme, but we do use it, not just look at it.
After she’d left, though, I started to wonder how we treat different areas of our lives. We decorate our houses…but some areas are off-limits to regular family use. They are the “show rooms”. They are what the world sees, the public places, not the places where we really live. Those places aren’t always color-coordinated, stylistically consistent. We tend to have a lot of unfinished business in those rooms. Stacks of papers (at least in mine) and projects that never made past the planning stages. They are the places, too, where real relationships are forged.
And that brings me to the show towel…
When people look at Christians, when they look at me, what do they see? Do they see an authentic life, or do they just see a show towel that cannot be touched? Our “working” towel gets used for all kinds of stuff. Spills on the floor. A grandchild with a nosebleed. The mud that didn’t quite get washed off. It gets stained by life as we live it. Because life IS messy, and when I invite someone to share mine, their messes affect me.
Jesus has invited me to share His life, and He has taken on my mess.
If I am to communicate that to others, I have to be willing to do Jesus as well as to tell Jesus. He was no unused show towel. I don’t have the right to be one either.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

If It Looks Like a Duck...

I read a pretty unsettling blog today regarding an evangelical church in Seattle, Washington, which is hosting "Beer & Bible" men's Bible studies and has just introduced men's poker nights...all in the name of Christ!
In their own words: "It's not about poker, its about relaxing, enjoying the company of some men, making grunting noises, and laughing at Junior High humor. If you're a man, and you have 10 bucks, here's your chance to prove your poker skills or lack there of. Depending on the number of men who show, we will have several $5 games in before the night is through. Bring your favorite soothing beverage (barley pop, soda, water, etc.) and bring something fattening to eat! For the same price as a movie, you can enjoy some laughs and, if you're lucky, go home with a little extra. Invite your buddies! "
I expect that if Jesus were invited to stop off at the corner bar after work, He just might go. After all, He came to save sinners and there are, no doubt, as many there as there are in church on Sunday morning. If He were invited to go to a poker party, He might go, too, although He'd have an unfair advantage (being omniscient and all), so I doubt if He'd play a hand. I think He just might go...but I can't imagine that He'd lay in a keg of beer and host a casino night just to get the chance to talk to sinners!
Why do Christians seem to think that they have to camouflage Jesus' offer to reconcile sinners to their Creator God with worldly activity? Jesus never had to shout over a back-up band. He didn't have fund-raisers to finance His ministry. He didn't seem to care whether the world liked Him, and He walked all over the toes of the prevalent culture. And, although He hung around with sinners for 33 years, He never began to look or smell or act like them. I guess that's why our sin was so offensive to Him when He hung on the cross to pay for never tainted Him until He literally became sin for us. Why are believers so unwilling to be different for Him?
An old comparison seems apt here. If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck....Why do we think it's anything other than a duck? If God has transformed you into a swan, why do you want to be a duck again?
p.s. Thanks to Rod Albert for posting the link to this information at

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Blessed by a Toothache

I never thought I'd thank the Lord for a toothache, but He has used one in my life today. After having a root canal procedure yesterday (which is only slightly more fun than a CT scan or maybe back labor), I woke up with a toothache today. Sore, achey jaw, headache, the works. Great day to stay home after I cancelled an appointment to have my hair cut at 10 a.m. And then...
Around 10 a.m. I had a phone call from a gal who needed prayer and encouragement for a meeting she was attending tonight. We talked for awhile, I shared some examples from God's Word with her, and then...
About 11 a.m. I had another phone call--this time from a man who's had multiple times of depression and discouragement. He called from Detroit to ask me about something else, to thank me for sharing Scripture with him when he needed to hear it and for being there to listen when he needed an ear.
How often don't I whine about pain and its inconvenience. How often don't I ask to have it removed! It's a good thing God doesn't always give me what I ask for. Today I can thank Him for the toothache that kept me home...where He wanted me...for the ministry He had for me today.
Thank you, Lord, for a toothache.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Looking Through His Eyes

Do you attend church on Sunday mornings? Does your church need a new roof? Have you taught your toddler to play "This is the church, this is the steeple....?

When you hear the word "church", what image comes to your mind? What do both Christians and unbelievers associate with the word "church"? An old children's chorus by Richard Avery and Donald Marsh said it well:

"The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place, the church is a people."

Nowhere are we told that the church is His bricks and morter. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus command us to build temples to Him. Instead, He says that we are His temple. We are not told to establish religious corporations. He says we are the corpse. The Bible says that the church is the Body of Christ...His hands and feet here on this earth. He is the Head, and we are the flesh and bones of His Body.

I wonder what He thinks when He sees corner offices in religious high-rises, mega-entertainment empires, and denominational power-plays. How comfortable would He be sitting behind an executive desk?

Recently I was appalled to see the following statement of purpose on a local church web page:

"_______ church exists to win the lost to Christ through equipping and training believers to present inspiring, dynamic worship services and events.”

Is this the way Jesus works though His body? Jesus did not die for an event or a building or a church franchise. He died for people. Did He not come as a servant/sacrifice/mediator to reconcile sinners to God? Maybe we should stop equating the church with events and empires. Maybe we should start looking at people--one at a time--the way He did. Bring Him to them one at a time, not through entertainment or self-help programs, but through personal sacrifice. If each believer made a point of being Jesus' hands and feet in someone else's life, people would really be able to see the church. And they could really see Christ.

I wonder what He thinks when He looks at me.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Case for Quiet

Today, Skye Jethani, on the blog Out of Ur, posted some insights on what he called “the quiet moments of inspiration.”

In our lives, there are often too few moments of quiet. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by noise and distraction. We are such slaves to cell phones and Blackberries that silence is often disquieting. Many of us avoid quiet because we cannot relate to it. And we don’t even know what we are missing. What great things could God prompt us to do if He could only get our attention.

Would Moses have even seen the bush burning or heard God call his name if he’d been concentrating on his DVD player in the wilderness?

Would David have written the Psalms if he’d spent his days listening to his IPod while tending sheep, instead of listening to God?

The writers of our greatest hymns wrote out of full hearts, not full ears. And some of their most beautiful songs speak of the quiet times when God spoke to them. They are intensely personal.

Good music certainly should have a place in our lives, but our deepest fellowship with God doesn’t need auditory or visual enhancement to make it happen.

We are too willing, I think, to depend on surrogates in place of genuine experience in corporate worship, too. Music, art and drama in a worship setting are just an imitation of the reality of God Himself. They are valid only when they are expressions of what has already taken place internally. Otherwise they are only noisy entertainment.

Many of us have become spiritual forgers, turning out counterfeit worship instead of giving God time to accomplish the real thing. We come together expecting to be sung at and entertained, not to listen quietly for God to speak—to actually have Him confront us. Few of us will hear Him speak from the burning bush when we are listening for nothing more than drums or tambourines or pipe organs to give us the cue to begin to worship.

If we are to present to our God authentic worship, personally or corporately, we need to make quiet a priority—not a novelty or a threat. David wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God…”

How ironic if God had to tell His people that again…after they’d just choreographed the perfect worship service.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Lemonade in the Desert

Lately I've been following a number of blogs (mostly on SBC affiliated sites) that have stressed the need to maintain a position of separation from groups who do not hold to orthodox Christian beliefs. And if not separation, then certainly at least a healthy suspician! The Bible certainly warns Christians to expose heresy and to avoid fellowship with it.

Sometimes in our zeal to stay untainted by heresy, however, we lose our balance--avoiding fellowship with any church that does not agree with our understanding of Scripture. Today I had the opportunity to step outside the box and to visit another local church.

It was not my idea.

God, in His Sovereignty, stopped up the water supply at the building where Living Hope Bible Church meets each week. How we depend on water! When it became apparent that the problem wouldn't be fixed before Monday, it was evident that our Sunday service would have to be canceled. It was also evident that my husband would not be required to preach a sermon, as he does nearly every week. So...When God hands you a lemon, make lemonade!

That was what brought us to the 1st Presbyterian Church in Oostburg this morning.

Although we have lived in this community for most of our lives, we'd never worshiped with the Presbyterians, although we have close ties with many folks in that church. And, although we don't agree on some doctrinal issues, God gave us a "lemonade" opportunity to enjoy warm fellowship on a cold day (-16° here this morning). We thoroughly enjoyed singing the old hymns of our mutual faith. We appreciated the strong missions emphasis (and we do financially support several of the same missionaries). We appreciated the welcoming handshakes and were made to feel right at home. And we were blessed by Pastor Jim DeCamp's message about God's strength in the midst of our weakness (timely, since I'm teaching a Bible study on that topic tomorrow!).

When the Israelites had no water in the wilderness, God told Moses to strike the rock...and He provided water. When we had no water...He provided lemonade.

Friday, January 05, 2007

God For Dessert

For several weeks, I’ve been following a couple of blogsites that have addressed some intriguing topics relating to the church today.

Out of Ur is a blog initiated by the editors of Leadership Journal, and has covered a range of issues such as the commercialization of the church and church growth. Today’s blog is titled, “Have We Become Crypto-Christians?” A crypto-Christian is one who has adapted his beliefs and hidden them so that they are not apparent to others. He looks just like the culture around him—a survival technique practiced by many conquered peoples who have been forced to “convert.”

Geoff Baggett, a Baptist pastor, has a blog called Along the Shore that is also worth reading. He has tackled questions dealing with everything from inconsistency in his denomination’s baptism policies to multi-site churches to the urgency for real involvement in missions.

Although I do a lot of e-reading, there is a certain satisfaction when my print edition of the Wall Street Journal comes each day. It’s hard to fold my keyboard and lie down to read it, or to circle articles for my husband when he gets home. I circled today’s “De Gustibus” column because it addressed some of the same issues of interest to Christian bloggers. The column by Naomi Schaefer Riley is titled, “Reviving Judaism: Consultant-Speak Goes Religious”. Apparently, synagogues are facing the same problems mainline churches have faced for years: declining attendance and a listless constituency.

Just as many churches have become an industry focused on growth, market expansion and product development, Conservative Judaism is now looking to see what Jews want. A new project called Synaplex, sponsored by the Star Foundation, is designed to “provide people with new reasons to make the synagogue the place to be on Shabbat.” Traditional services may give way to “Torah and Yoga”, according to Rabbi Hayim Herring, the foundation’s executive director. Other events might feature a musical service with “latte cart” or a Friday night wine and cheese reception. According to the article, some of the synagogues participating double or triple attendance when they offer a “Synaplex” Shabbat.

The author offers an insightful closing to her column. “Listening tours, marketing gambits and strategic plans may be an inescapable part of modern life, even in the realm of religion. But in the end, for a particular faith to thrive, God can’t just be for dessert.”

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Book Life

I just love to open a new book. A book is the mind of the author in black and white. And it can be a meeting point, a place of discovery, or it can be a battleground.
A good book prompts the reader to question issues and his own beliefs.
A great book raises questions about the author and what has driven him to write about the issues.
The greatest book exposes both the author and the reader and leads to some conclusions about both.
The book of Philippians holds some of the most challenging verses in the Bible. Chapter 2, verse 5 commands: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...” To have the same “mind”—the same goal, the same worldview, the same heart attitudes as Christ, Himself—seems to be outside my reach. There is so much of my mind that gets in the way of Christ’s mind. In order to have His mind, I have to look out through His eyes, to see others as He sees them. I have to look at myself as He sees me, too, nakedly and without pretense. There is nothing that His eyes cannot penetrate. And what is the purpose of all this? The challenge continues in chapter 3, verse 10. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death...” Without the mind of Christ, I can never truly be His “soul mate”, intimately becoming one with Him. Without the mind of Christ, I will never experience His resurrection power in my own life. Without His mind, I can never truly suffer on behalf of another, nor appreciate what He suffered for me. And the only way I can climb into His mind is to immerse myself in His Book.