Monthly Archives: July 2013


LaJasmin's baptism

LaJasmin’s baptism

aa- baptism great

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'” (Gen. 21:6)

I write about some heavy stuff some times.  And it is important to be serious.  I was in a cross study yesterday, and I was struck once again about how much Jesus went through, and how great our response should be.  We should be devoted to giving giving our very best to God.

But today I would like to focus on something less heavy — laughter.  What a wonderful verse this is, when Sarah says she will laugh, and everyone will laugh with her!  She has traveled with her husband for years through all kinds of places, been through all kinds of things.  She has never had a child, and she is old and wrinkled.  And then God gives her the thing she dreamed about most — a child!  Her heart was filled with joy, joy so great that she laughed out loud.

I can remember a time in my life when I don’t think I really laughed for years.  I had kind of frozen emotionally.  I can remember a time in my life when I didn’t really have hope.  I am so grateful that God has brought me to a place where I can laugh, and laugh often.

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” Ps 126:1-2

We had our women’s small group in Columbus last night, and we talked about dreaming.  It was so wonderful to reflect on how God has fulfilled the dreams I had in my 20’s and has given me more than I could ask or imagine!  He gave me a purpose, and a great way to serve Him, especially here in Auburn.  He has given me a wonderful marriage, and shaped Ken into the spiritual leader I longed for.  He gave me amazing ways to use my talents in television and on the stage.  He gave me treasured close friendships.  He helped my kids grow up in so many amazing ways, and for our family to be close.

And I can think now of dreams that have recently been fulfilled, and how my mouth was filled with laughter.  I was overflowing with joy when Max graduated and did well in nursing school, and now as Devon graduates and she has done so well in college after disliking it her first two years.  I was ecstatic when LaJasmine was baptized.  I was grateful beyond words when Jake and Bethany started serving here.  I could go on and on.

What we talked about in our small group is how we all go through “goo periods” (from our sermon Sunday by Steve Staten) — tough times when we are like caterpillars in cocoons and our life seems amorphous.  But then God helps us come out on the other side into laughter.  It is important to dream and get unstuck out of the goo periods,  to work and move forward, so God can bring us to these times of laughter.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ….He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful.”  Luke 1:47-48, 54

I wrote a musical about the nativity story, “My Soul Is Dancing.” and I named it after this passage.  In the musical, Mary is so happy that she sings these words and dances before God.  And she isn’t just happy because she is pregnant.  She is happy because she knows that the child she bears will somehow be a savior to Israel.  Israel has underdone many unpleasant years of oppression — a long goo period!  But a better time is coming.

When I wrote “My Soul is Dancing,” it was at a point in my life when I felt that MY soul was dancing.  How incredible that God brought me from those years of being frozen emotionally to a time of unbridled joy and laughter!

It is good to remember all of this now, because my latest trial has been to have challenges of not feeling well emotionally.  As with any time of trial, I can feel discouraged, bogged down with a negative mindset.  BUT — “we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”  (Ps 66:12)  That is what God always does.  We read last night, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  (Isa 40:31)  When I remember my hope is in God, when my focus is on Him, I can get through the trials.  I expect that He will help me find a way to get through, and when I do get through, I will be surrounded by His abundant grace, and I will help others.

In closing, I want to mention another verse on laughter:   “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. ….She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness…. a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  (Selections from Proverbs 31)

I believe God has brought me to a place of laughter because I have sought to fear Him and live a lifestyle where He is Lord. (I am not trying to hold myself up here,  I know my flaws!) The woman in Proverbs 31 lived confidently, not in fear.  She was always busy doing good things, and didn’t shrink back from trying new ways of using her talents.  This is a great example of what brings laughter.

I pray that I can always walk forward confidently, laughing at the days to come, and laughing with thanksgiving for the abundant blessings He has brought by His grace.

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ADD Christianity

wonder woman

Today is the age of supermoms.  Women work, raise kids, take their kids to all kinds of activities, keep their house clean and decorated according to the latest trends, and so on.  The same is true of men.  Both men and women these days are expected to juggle a lot of things — jobs, family, fitness, recreation.  Heavy expectations are put on them — that their houses and yards look great, that they have a nice car, that their kids are high achievers, that they take care of the environment, that they pursue healthy eating, that they work out, that they have the latest electronic gadgets, etc.

We are always on the go.  We are over stimulated.  We have this kind of channel flipping mentality — just like we are constantly surfing the TV viewing choices, we are constantly dipping into this and that in life.

So it is no wonder some of us treat Christianity the same way.   We feel that we have to do everything — reach out to people, practice hospitality, help keep each other strong, give to the needy.  These are all good things.  But there can be a scatterbrained mentality that makes us dart here and there trying to do so much.

I will note that many Christians also struggle with laziness, so this may not apply to them.

It is comforting to me to know that as wonderful as Jesus was when he was on earth, he was constrained by the same physical limits I have — time and strength of body.  He could only do so many things in a day.  he couldn’t heal everyone, preach to everyone, save everyone.  And he didn’t expect himself to do so.

Instead, he took out time to pray.  He got away from people and the press of needs and gathered strength and wisdom from God, and put things in God’s hands.

Instead, he focused on 12 men, and even more closely on 3 men.  I would like to add that he focused on some women as well.  They may not have been a part of the inner circle of the 12 apostles, but it is obvious that Jesus had a relationship with Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus.

It is also comforting to me to realize that even with all of his efforts, Jesus wasn’t able to save even one of his disciples from spiritual struggles and weakness.

“Then everyone deserted him and fled.”  Mark 14:50

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

It is interesting here that many versions translate this as Satan asking to sift ALL the disciples as wheat.  When I am praying for others, what would it be like if I prayed expecting that they were going to be sifted?  “Father, I know that all of my sisters — Alicia, Danielle, Jessica, Markeya, Yesenia, Amy, Stephanie, Heather, LaJasmine, JasMin (and so on) — are going to go through some hard struggles that will test their faith.  Help them to find faith during these challenges.  I know they will be weak, but when they find faith and are even stronger than before, help them to strengthen one another as they go through similar trials.”

Jesus did say we should pray, “Lead US not into temptation.”  But he must have known some temptations are inevitable, and even necessary.  I just keep thinking that we are doing something wrong, I am doing something wrong, if people enter trials and have times of weakness.

So going back to the theme of ADD, Alicia and I actually got matching Wonder Women shirts to reflect the craziness of our life serving in this ministry.  But it doesn’t have to be crazy in a scatterbrained way, it can be a purposeful adventure.

I need to be like Jesus and take time to really focus in prayer, so I can hear the promptings of the Spirit on what is really important to do, and what relationships need my focus.  This helps me slow down and calm down.

And I need to understand the nature of God’s kingdom — that people will have times of trial and weakness.  Let me walk through that journey with them, and help them find faith.

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Hearing the Miraculous Song!

The Island City of Tyre

The Island City of Tyre

“In the pride of your heart  you say, ‘I am a god;’

Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god…You will be but a mortal, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you.”  (Ez 28:1, 6, 9)

Of course I wouldn’t say, “I am a God.”  But as I look at the struggles in my heart right now, I see that I am anxious.  I think it is up to me to fix everything.  I try to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.  It’s a pride problem.

I struggle with giving to “the least of these.”  I want to qualify my sacrifice for others — who I give to, when it’s convenient to give.  Another pride problem.

Lately I am having problems with a chemical imbalance of some sort at times.  Paul said, “to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh.”  (II Cor 12:7) Maybe God allows me to have this  challenges in the flesh as a pride solution!  I surely do need to remember to be humble!

Pride can be a very scary thing.  The verse I started the blog with is from Ezekiel 28.  It is about Tyre.  Here is what Jesus said about Tyre, after he had sent the 72 out to proclaim the good news and they were rejected by the Jewish cities:

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”  Luke 10:13

In Ezekiel 28, Tyre was the most prideful of prideful dogs!  The way she was described, it is hard to imagine that another city could be more prideful.  Yet even she was not as prideful as the Jewish cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida.  If she had seen the miracles they saw, she would have repented.  They could not see the miracles, or the significance of them.   They did not repent!  Their hearts were so hard.

We need to see the miracles that are happening all around us — the miracle of answered prayer.  the miracle of being in God’s grace, the miracle of changed hearts, the miracle of insight, and many others.

Instead, I want more, more, more!  I look at what I still want to change, at the prayers that still need to be answered.  I miss the “surpassing great revelations” God is giving me.  Is this hardening my heart?  Do I take the miracles for granted?

Is there a relationship between acknowledging the miraculous work of God and repentance?  Does having the heart of a child, that I am in wonder at each act of God, help me to serve him better?  For sure!  As Jesus goes on to say in the parallel version of this verse in Matt. 11:25, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”

And Jesus precedes his indictment in Matthew of the Jewish towns with this illustration:

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”  Matt 11:15-17

What song is God playing for me?  Let me have ears to hear.  Let me not be deafened by my frustrations, by my anxieties.  Let me dance with praise as I see God working throughout the day, and may this help me to be more of the person I need to be.


Filed under Ezekiel, Luke, Surrender, Topical

Love and Lordship

“Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tender mercy and compassion(Phil 2:1)

THIS is the way I should start every day, start every deed by being encouraged that Christ is in me.  I have, as it says in Colossians 1:27, “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you.”   I have Christ IN me.  I am not alone.  He loves me unconditionally.  He sticks to me like glue.  I can talk to him and he hears and cares. 

I can fellowship with the Spirit.  There is no time when I cannot pray and the Spirit is there with me, giving me wisdom and consolation.  There is no time when my heart cannot soar because the Spirit rejoices in the wonders of God.

I need this kind of encouragement right now.  It was great to come out of winter and watch nature wake up, with everything beginning to grow and bloom, and to feel myself come alive as well as I watched God work.  Now, in the middle of summer, I feel like God’s work is all around me, his garden has grown, but I am such an ineffectual gardener.  I want everything to flourish, but all I can do is go around and dribble a little water here and there.  There’s not enough of me to go around.

Deluge of rain, like God's grace

Deluge of rain, like God’s grace

Luckily, it is God’s garden, not my own.  And I need to trust that just as he has sent deluges of rain to make my yard grow exponentially, he is growing his church as well.  Left to myself, I can view it like the little seeds from Women’s Day I planted.  They came up with thin spindly stalks, and when I tried to transplant them into the ground, they withered up and crumpled.  I have such a great fear that this is going to happen with people I love, unless I do something about it.

I think God’s rain is falling on us, and we don’t even realize it.  Being grateful nourishes us.  It helps us to see and acknowledge all of the wonderful things God is doing in our lives.  When we were praying together yesterday in our leaders’ group, Jake spent some time thanking God for different things that had happened.   It really struck me that this is how Jake prays — he sees so many things that are going right, so many ways God is working, and he is so encouraged by all of that.  I want to become like this.

Jake talked yesterday about what helps people mature.  First he said that the interaction of people using their talents and strengths helps people mature.  Then he said we need to speak the truth in love.  I remember John Louie giving a talk to the leaders at the SEC about the same thing. He said that the health of a church is based on how well it resolves conflict and people are able to speak directly to one another.

So what can I do?  I can start speaking the truth in love more.  It is not doing anyone any favors if I am too circumspect, and it isn’t helping God either.  I need to remember that I am doing others a disfavor if I don’t tell them what will help them.

And as I was praying this morning, I realized that what God needs as my part in the equation is for me to communicate two things:  love and Lordship.   This needs to be communicated to Christians and non-Christians.  There are many misunderstandings about God and Christianity.  If I can make these things clear to others, God’s work can be done much more effectively.

Lordship means that people really live out the greatest commandment: loving  God with their heart, soul, strength and mind. Jesus came to usher in a kingdom.  He is the king, and we need to treat him as such.

Lordship also means getting serious about sin.  We are to, “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Eph 4:22-24)

This morning I was praying for my enemies, the terrorists who want to kill others.  Many of them are Muslims.  In a way, they understand Lordship.  They make everything about serving God.  But they need to understand the love that is defined by grace.  This is a completely foreign concept to them, but if they understood it, the whole world would change for the better.

Here in the US, everyone thinks they know about God’s love.  We’re all familiar with John 3:16.  But people will never really understand love if they don’t understand that the Bible says they are a sinner, and as such, an object of God’s wrath.   That they are saved, that Jesus gave every drop of blood for them at the point when they were most despicable, THAT is the most amazing love.  It isn’t just having a nice fuzzy feeling for people.  It is a divine thing of giving to those who seem unlovable.

How can I start my day without love?  Without it, as it says in I Cor 13, I am only a clanging cymbal.  Without it, anything I do will be useless, good for nothing.  It must be behind everything I do, and woven into every action.  And I can’t just manufacture it, it has to come from my constant realization of how much I am loved, and that I have love deep in my soul — Christ and the Spirit dwelling in me.

How can I live my day without Lordship?  His will is good, pleasing and perfect.  My will is like the scribblings of a child.

Father, may I please be able to communicate these things to others.

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Filed under Love, Topical -- Love, Uncategorized

Dreaming with God

(Sorry, lost the name of the artist)

(Sorry, lost the name of the artist)

I had this blog I was just about to post that I spent a lot of time on.  Somehow it didn’t get saved (I think I hadn’t hit “edit” for the revision) and I lost it.  Waah!

And so I move on.  The thing that stood out to me in the blog was how important unity is as a part of God’s overarching plan: “And this is the plan: when times reach their fulfillment, God will bring everything together under the authority of Christ–everything in heaven and on earth.”  (Eph 1:9-10)  God’s will, his plan for the cosmos, is that things come together and that there is no longer self centered chaos, but all is in harmony with Him.  The way this will be implemented is through Christ.  Everyone and everything must acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, and go forward in subjection to Him.

When I think of God’s will, I think in terms of people being saved.  This is definitely a part of it.  Or I think of this mysterious unknowable plan being carried out that I must surrender to daily.  That is true as well.  But the verse in Ephesians points to something much more mind blowing.

I love the idea of harmony, of being in sync with God.  I was talking to a sister yesterday, and she was sharing how she just wanted to know what God had planned for her life.  Ultimately, she wanted to live every day knowing that she was walking in step with God and His will.  We want each action we take to resonate with meaning, that it’s not just a random doing that floats off into obscurity, but that it contributes to something.  We want to feel that life is a dance and we participate in its beauty, not that we are just flailing around trying to find the beat.

Ken just read me parts an article by John Oaks on post modernism.  One thing that post modernism values is community.  People know and realize that life isn’t just about them as individuals, that they must learn to respect others.  I watched a documentary on happiness, and it showed that some of the happiest people in the world lived in family like communities in Denmark and Okinawa.  Unity is something wonderful and powerful.

But unity comes at a price of subjugating self. This is especially true of Christian unity, where we are all under the Lordship of Christ. How can we still celebrate our individuality?

If we are a community, it works because each of us makes a unique contribution.  Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12 make it clear that the church is a body and each of us has different functions.

But what I am thinking about is the ability to still have my own dreams, not selfish dreams, but for my heart to soar to an even greater extent because God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.  Tom Brown did a lesson on dreaming Thursday, and I have just started to think on what he said.  Thinking of it makes me emotional.  I long to be a dreamer, but I feel the pain of failure as well.

My dream is to join with the Master Craftsman in the beauty of creation, to use my talents to somehow communicate how amazing He is, to inspire hearts to soar, to explore the the limitlessness of artistic expression.  I want to I purposefully swirl beautiful colors, shapes and designs across the canvas of God’s will,  painting beauty through this dark, dead world.

God dreams of unity.  I don’t understand how it all works, but I want to have a passion for the dreams of God, for His will to be done.  God dreams of all being brought into harmony.  That is something that resonates in my heart as well.

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Falling in Love with Jesus


Sometimes, I need to get back to the basics.  I listened yesterday to a message by Francis Chan about the importance of loving Jesus.  He read from Philippians, “ I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  This message was convicting to me because I feel that I can get caught up in all kinds of wonderful religious ideas, but what is the focus of this?  It can be me, and all of my “wonderful” ideas.  I want so much just to be in love with Jesus, for him to fill my heart —  that life would be about nothing more than him.

I have been working my way back through Luke from time to time.  Here are some of the passages that struck me from Luke 9.

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,  and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  Luke 9:2-3

To fall in love with Jesus is to fall in love with his message: the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ passion, his reason for being, was establishing the kingdom of God, a new order in which God would reign supreme.  Jesus loved doing God’s will. “My food is to the will of him who sent me…”  (John 4:34)  For him, there was never a question of doing anything else.  He loved allowing God to be the absolute monarch of the universe, and live every aspect his life in reverent submission.  And with every fiber of his being, Jesus wanted others to come to honor God in the same way.

To fall in love with Jesus is to gain his heart of compassion.  Not only did Jesus send out the disciples to preach, but he sent them out to heal.  Yes, his message was that we must all put God first in our hearts and obey him.  But It was never just about obedience.  Obedience and compassion always went hand in hand.  What a God, who is not only to be held as high and holy, but would have our hearts be moved about the plight of each individual!

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here. He replied, “You give them something to eat.”  (Luke 9:12-13)

To fall in love with Jesus is to let his hope fill our hearts.  Jesus wasn’t intimidated by difficult situations.  He faced them with the calm assurance that there was a solution.  The storms didn’t bother him.  The raging crowds didn’t phase him, nor did people who tried to seize him before his time.  He didn’t feel depleted, and unwilling to deal with the needs of others.  He opened his heart and wanted to meet their needs.  He believed there was a way.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.  (Luke 9:20-21)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be so moved and attracted to this man who did not want glory for himself.  I struggle with wanting praise for myself.  For Jesus, it was never about him and the attention he could get from who he was or what he could do.  It wasn’t about being impressive because of accomplishments, or intellect.  “Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; . . . For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”  I love that Jesus could cut through all of the pride and artifice of people, all of the things that we aspire to, all of the things we admire in others, and see the greatness in a child, in the simple beautiful core of what each human is.

As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. (Luke 9:29)

A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child….I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”   “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied. . . But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.  (Luke 9:38-42)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be awed by his divinity and power.  Evil is not stronger than he is, and he is ready to vanquish it in our lives!

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:51)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be thankful that he was so determined to complete the work that would bring me close to him.  Nothing would deter him.  He did not procrastinate, or compromise what he needed to do.  He knew what was truly important, and that is what dictated his course of action.

I watched a couple of episodes of “My Fair Wedding” yesterday.  A wedding can generate an enormous amount of hoopla.  And it makes sense to people to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to create this elaborate, beautiful celebration, because it is an expression of something so immeasurably wonderful — love.

And if we can have weddings as a time to commemorate love; weddings filled with flowers and beautiful decorations and feasting and dancing; then we can have heart bursting devotional times with the God who is love, and Christ, the bridegroom who came to earth to seek his bride.  May I remember to keep it simple and just love Jesus.


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Filed under Love, Luke, Topical -- Love

Mirror Mirror

“Tyre has rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Ha! . . . therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.”   Ezek 26:2-3

It is never enough.  Tyre was a rich prosperous city, a port that was the hub of trade for the whole area.  Yet Tyre rejoiced when Jerusalem fell, because she would stand to benefit.  Tyre delighted in the misfortune of others. It was like she didn’t want anyone to be prosperous but herself.

It sort of reminds me of the evil queen in the story of Snow White.  She looked into the mirror, asking, “Who is the fairest of them all?”  And when someone — Snow White — was more beautiful than her, she hated it!  She could not be content with the abundant gift of beauty she had been given.

Mirror MIrror

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.  Am I content with who I am, with the talents God has given me, with the way my life has unfolded?  I confess that lately I have seen jealousy and envy in my heart.  To my shame, I sometimes don’t want to hear about the accomplishments of others.  To my shame, if I hear bad news about someone, something in me wants to say, “Aha!  I am not the only one to go through misfortune!”  To my shame, I can be a glory hog.

It’s all about greed.  It’s all about pride.  It’s all about a lack of faith, not trusting that God gave me the life I have for a reason.

What irony that Tyre, restless in greed, would have as a consequence other nations coming against her like restless waves.

I looked it up, and historically Tyre was attacked by kingdom after kingdom.  In the 500s BC, she was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar for 13 years until she paid a tribute.  A king of Cyprus took Tyre in the 370s BC.  In 332 BC the city was conquered by Alexander the Great.  In 316 BC it was taken again by Alexander’s former general, Antigonus.  Later in history it was taken by the Crusaders, and then by the Ottoman Empire.  More recently, it has been the site of fighting in conflicts between Israel and Lebanon.

God hates discontentment. It was the seed of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve could not be content with the bounty surrounding them, and their restlessness became their legacy,  “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”  (Genesis 4:12)

I am the happiest I have been.  But Satan keeps this restless kernel of wanting more chafing at my insides. I don’t even know it is there until jealousy rears its head.

It is time to work on this in my heart.  I need to remember that I am but the worst of sinners, so grateful to have been rescued from my slimy pit.

I need to take ownership of the decisions I made in life that led me to the place I am.

I need to remember what a gift each moment is, watching the play of the sacred beauty of God’s creation around me.

I need to delight in the overflowing abundance of the things I have physically, and especially, spiritually.

I need to trust the rhythm of God working in my life, that He is achieving for me an eternal glory, that He is showering His love on me.

I need to consider others more important than myself, and rejoice with them.

Sometimes I have been in a relationship with someone who has great needs.  No matter what I do for them, it is never enough.  I cannot fill them up.  But that is what God does for us.  He takes the bottomless pit of our neediness and keeps pouring Himself in.  He gave us Christ, His very best, and Christ gave us every bit of what He could give.  And Christ still gives, seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding.

I have Christ.  It is enough, and I am grateful.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Chris tand be found in him,”  (Phil 3:8-9)

And though I feel unequal to the task of meeting others’ needs, I can be a conduit for the beauty and bounty of God.

See what the end was for Tyre.  The description remind me of the United States.  May we all learn the pitfalls of greed and pride.

“When your merchandise went out on the seas,

you satisfied many nations;

with your great wealth and your wares

you enriched the kings of the earth.

Now you are shattered by the sea

in the depths of the waters;

your wares and all your company

have gone down with you.”  (Ez 27:33-34)

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Losing the Agenda

Tom Sawyer's Island

Tom Sawyer’s Island

God, what are you teaching me?

You are showing me that you don’t work according to an agenda like mine. My agenda is to fix things.  My agenda is to find solutions to every problem.

Your agenda is to allow the heart to be revealed so people can deal with impurities of character, those things that are holding them back and making them dysfunctional, keeping them from fulfilling their purpose.  Your agenda is carrying out a process.  My agenda is short term tangible results.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  (Eph 4:2)

You are teaching me the importance of unity, and the things that lead to it — humility, gentleness and patience.  I get frustrated by people sometimes.  Does my desire for control and order extend to others? Do I want for the ministry to be under control, with each person having all conflict, whether inner or interpersonal, resolved?

Yes, I want the ministry to be orderly.  But that is an unrealistic expectation.  I was talking to my son, Max, yesterday about a situation he was involved in, and I wanted to encourage him to have a good attitude about it.  (Not that he had a bad attitude.)  I told him, “Max, as long as you have people, it is going to be messy, that’s just the way it is.” I need to take my own advice!

Am I making every effort to be unified, or am I seeking my own agenda, trying to satisfy my own desire for order?  Making every effort to be unified means being more active in the lives of others — really listening and trying to understand where people are coming from.  It means working hard on being patient and gentle, because I care about their agenda, and not my own.

The goal is to be like minded: “having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Being unified means that I first get rid of self.   Then, I can focus on resonating with others and their pain, their wants and needs.

I can be more patient.  I read an excerpt from a book by Lisa TerKeust a couple of days ago.  She stressed that progress is imperfect, but it is still progress.  “It’s okay to have setbacks and do overs,” she wrote.  “Take baby steps, but at least steps that will keep you from being stuck.”

“Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace,”  TerKeust reminded us.

I want big actions.  I want solutions.  But God is interested in the process, in imperfect changes, in us taking slow steps of progress wrapped in grace.

Little things are important.  It doesn’t have to be so big and orderly.  Small steps matter.

Just a mustard seed of faith gets God’s attention.  When Jesus was moving through the crowd in Luke 8, a bleeding woman touches the hem of his garment and is healed.  Jesus is jostled by the many people around him, yet he notices that someone has reached out to him with the touch of faith.  He stops what he is doing and looks for that woman.  May I have more mustard-seed-of-faith moments where I reach out to God.

One small act of service can change a life.  Bobby Lee Bobbitt posted a great blog about this.  He talked about a couple of things that changed his life forever.  A woman had faith enough to give him a Bible.   Someone cared enough to ask him to church and to dinner afterwards.  Because of these things, he started seeking and following God.

When I am wrapped up in my agenda, I can forget the importance of the small things.  And I can also forget the beauty of not being ruled by my agenda. “Living a life fully engaged and full of whimsy and the things that love does is something that people plan to do, but along the way they just kind of forget.” 

This quote is from a book by Bob Goff called, “Love Does.”  In this book Goff talks about one of his favorite places at Disney World: Tom Sawyer Island.  He says the island is a place people always want to go, but never break out of their ride routine to get on the ferry.  So they miss out on the spontaneous experience that characterizes the island, which is a place to explore and use your imagination, not to see from a conveyor belt.

I get stuck on the conveyor belt of my agenda.  I have to get rid of my need for control.  I watched part of a documentary about people in Oregon who obtain a prescription for  medication to end their own lives.  The number one reason they name for wanting this medication is to have control over their own death.  They want it to happen at a time of their choosing, and not be subjected to unbearable pain and the other horrific things that accompany the process of dying a slow death.

I haven’t experienced what these people are experiencing, and it would seem so unkind to speak against what they were doing in the misery of their last days. But I did wonder about the difference between people who want control over their own death, and people who have the mindset that they are going to submit to God throughout the ordeal.  I hope I can be one of the latter.  I pray that I can walk with grace until the end.

It is so hard to shed the mantle of my expectations.  It is so hard for my happiness and self worth not to be tied to results.  May I trust the process.  May I embrace the difficulties of others and have peace with the imperfect timetable for their resolution.  You, oh God, are working.  It is a journey and there are many beautiful things to be discovered along the way.


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