Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus,

Words are so inadequate.

I want to thank You for Your willingness to come to earth in human form, to feel hunger and weariness and pain, to experience rejection and betrayal.

I want to thank You for Your willingness to feel the lash of false accusations, to suffer the thorns, to endure the whip, to bear the nails.

I want to thank You for Your willingness to be the sacrifice to cover my sin.

Most of all, I want to thank You for Your willingness to be my living Savior, to walk alongside me through the valleys and atop the mountains of my journey.

I want to thank You for all of this, Lord Jesus.

But, again, words just seem unable to express what's in my heart this Christmas Day.

So one last thank You: Thank You for Your willingness to know what's in my heart and know what words just can't convey.

I love you, Lord Jesus. My Savior, my Redeemer, my gift at Christmas.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Silent Night

It's the time of year when I'm surrounded with music of the season. I love it! No matter where I go--the grocery store, the mall, my local Target--songs play that speak of Christ's birth. At no other time of the year do we hear such words in public places.

But this morning as Christmas music played in the background, I realized how often the music can become "white noise" and I fail to really think about the words.

My very favorite Christmas song of all is Silent Night. I love to sing it, love to listen to it.

Over the last several days, I've been blessed to sing this song at the end of some speaking engagements. I asked the ladies at the events to sing along, and the last time (mainly because I'm fighting a cold and my throat was pretty sore) I stopped singing and just listened to them sing in lovely harmony.

For the first time in a while, I just listened.

The final verse proclaims:

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus Lord at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord at Thy birth.

Jesus is the Son of God! He is love's pure light! He is our Redeemer!!

Next time you're listening to your favorite Christmas songs, stop. Really listen to the words that sometimes just become . . . well, just words.

Remember again why Jesus came: To give us peace and joy and, most importantly, redemption!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In God We Trust?

It's on our currency, and we read that motto from our forefathers regularly (those of us, at least, who still use cash!). But right now, the tangible piece of our economy seems to mock us.

I spoke at a lunch recently, and this lovely older lady came to me afterward. She's in a valley right now, and she's struggling. I asked her if she'd seen a counselor, and with tears in her eyes, she said she couldn't afford it. She'd retired last year, and--you guessed it--her retirement portfolio has taken a huge hit . . .

She's not sure how she's going to make it. And there was an underlying question . . . why? She followed Christ. She loved Him and believed that He loved her, too. But she questioned why this was happening.

My heart broke for her.

And frankly, I didn't have a good answer for her.

We live in perilous times, in many ways, unprecedented. My generation and those following have never lived through times such as these.

And beyond that, it seems like so many are suffering--health, marriages, family. Struggles everywhere.

It's hard. Really hard.

I find myself asking the same "why?" And the answer? Because somehow, some way, God is using even this time of uncertainty. Because the bottom line is, do I trust Him? Do I believe He loves me? Do I believe He's in control, even now?

I know this answer. He's proven Himself faithful to me time and time again. And I have to believe He'll always remain faithful.

Yes, even in times like these, maybe especially in times like these, in God we can trust.

Monday, October 27, 2008

God's Little Heartwarmers

If you're a true Christ-follower, you believe in answered prayer. I do. I've seen it. I've seen God answer big prayers--like miraculous healings--and small things--like the perfect parking place.

He often answers with a resounding "yes!" And we rejoice.

Sometimes, He answers with a clear "no." And we may at first grieve, but eventually we often see the purpose behind the "no."

Then of course, there's when He says "wait," which we usually don't like very much.

While I've seen answered prayer (all of the above), it sometimes seems like God is rather silent. It sometimes seems like a lot of time goes by between clearly answered prayers.

God is good, though, and He rewards our patience. Sometimes He, like the loving Father He is, just warms our hearts, through and through.

Over the last few days, I've experienced some of God's "little heartwarmers." He's clearly answered four prayers--two rather big and two rather small. This time, He chose to answer "yes" to each of them. And can I just say, I feel very blessed . . . and very humbled.

I still have many prayers to which He still seems to be saying "no" or "wait." That's okay, though, because He's reminded me again that He will answer.

Keep praying, my friend. Keep listening for His "yes" or His "no" . . . or just keep waiting. He will answer.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

God's Good Work in Me

I don't know about you, but I feel far from complete. There are days when I wonder how God can have any patience with me as I come to him (again) with the same prayer (again). I've really been struggling with my health, and I wake up every morning praying for strength for the day. And every day, He answers that prayer.

But some days, I can feel sorry for myself. On better days, I remember that everything I experience is part of God's good work in my life.

My favorite book in the Bible (I may have mentioned this before!) is Philippians. There is so much richness in this short epistle, so many truths. And some of my life verses are contained in it.

Paul starts this letter, as he does many of his others, with a greeting for grace and peace for his recipients. He thanks God for them. Then in verses 4-6, he writes, ". . . always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship of the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

We children of God are works in progress. He is perfecting us, completing us. I've written before about being refined, and I know that trials, pain, suffering, difficulties all are part of that process. And if I want to be complete in Christ, I have to be willing to experience whatever God wills.

So this morning, as I prayed for strength (again), I could do so with that same confidence that Paul had, knowing that God is doing His good work in me and that I will one day be completed, either when He chooses to take me home or when Christ returns.

Thank You, Lord God, for Your refining work. Thank You for Your perfecting work. I pray that You'll fill our hearts with confidence of Your good work. Help us to remember that, as long as we live in Your will, everything we experience will lead us closer to being completed in Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Refuge in the Storm

Psalm 62:1-9 is all about God's being our salvation and refuge.

Verses 7 and 8 say:

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.

I really see this world running down. We live in an unprecedented time. Banks are failing in a way not seen since the "Great Depression." Insurance companies are closing. Companies are declaring bankruptcy. The stock market is dipping and rising like a roller coaster. The housing market continues to fall.

More alarmingly, "celebrity preachers" are "tickling the hears" of hundreds of thousands rather than revealing full truth.

It's a messed up world . . .

Yet, those of us who know God, who have a personal relationship with Jesus, can find refuge from the storm. We can be assured that, no matter what happens, that God is our rock, our stronghold . . . our refuge.

Thank You, Lord God, that You provide refuge for Your children. You are the calm in the midst of the storm. You are the wing under which we can hide. It's easy to get caught up in today's chaos. Help us to live wisely, but always looking to You in faith. Let us not make rash decisions out of fear or worry. Rather, let us follow Your will, knowing that You are in loving control. Be glorified. Amen.

Friday, September 05, 2008

It Breaks My Heart . . .

I've been reading the book of Mark, and I'm in the middle of chapter 14. It's the chapter that includes Jesus's betrayal by Judas. It's very sobering to read how one of His own betrayed Him for pieces of silver.

But you know what?

That's not the saddest part to me. What really breaks my heart is verse 50. The New International Version says it this way. After Judas betrayed Jesus and He was arrested, "Then everyone deserted him and fled."


We assume it was just the other eleven disciples, but maybe it included some of the other followers. In any case, that "everyone" was, at the very least, those eleven who had been following Jesus for three years. They'd broken bread with Him. They'd probably camped out under the stars by His side. They'd seen Him heal the broken. They'd watched Him raise the dead. They knew He was the Christ. And just moments before, Peter said he'd die with Jesus.

And yet, everyone deserted Him. Everyone.

It just breaks my heart.

And I think it broke Jesus's heart too. It think it caused more pain than the beatings He'd receive and from the nails that would be pounded in His flesh.

When I read this verse, I'm convicted of something: I never want to cause Jesus that kind of pain again. I deserted Him once. I spent 20 years fleeing from Him. And I broke His heart, just as those eleven did.

And I never want to do that again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Lord Holds My Hand

Psalm 37:23 & 24 say,

The steps of man are established by the Lord;
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong;
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

I love these verses!

First, they say that God established the steps of man (and woman). I talk a lot about the confidence I have that God really has a plan for each of His children. Verse 23 tells me that God does have a plan, but also that He delights in the steps His children take.

Second, and even closer to my heart, God holds my hand. I often say, when I'm just not sure I can even get out of bed, "Jesus, please hold my hand a little more tightly today." I just came out of a really rough week. Physically, I wasn't doing well. The only way I got through each day was knowing that Jesus was holding my hand.

When I read these verses this morning, it was like God said to me, "My beloved daughter, you see? I hold your hand. You'll never fall too far or too hard. You can trust Me."

What a blessing it is to know that God delights in watching me walk according to His plan. And what a even greater blessing it is to know that He's holding my hand as I take each step.

Are you struggling? Are you unsure? Do you need the touch of your Lord? Just reach out your hand and say, "Jesus, please hold my hand just a little more tightly today." And feel the squeeze of His hand as it covers yours.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Lord . . . My Strength

I was reading Psalm 28 a couple of days ago, and verse 7 really touched my heart. I know I've read it before . . . probably several times. But this day, it just spoke to me.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart exults,
And with my song I shall thank Him."

I've been practicing a song with our church's choir called, "He Made a Difference." And the first lines say, "If it wasn't for the Lord, where would I be?"

Everytime I've sung those lines, I resonate with that truth. Where would I be? I'd be . . . well, I probably wouldn't be here. It's only because of the absolute trust I have in His love and faithfulness that I exist. Really.

I know He'll give me the daily strength I need.

I know He'll shield me from those things that would destroy me.

I know He'll help me.

So, as I sing songs of worship and praise, as I sing songs that draw others' hearts and minds to Him, my heart does exult. I can - and do - thank him with my song.

Do you know that God is your shield? Your strength? Let your heart exult in Him. Thank Him today with your song.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Gospel of Peace

In Ephesians 6:11, the apostle Paul urged the church at Ephesus to “put on the whole armor of God” in order to combat the enemy. He wrote of putting on truth and righteousness, faith and the word of God.

In the middle of these pieces of “armor,” Paul wrote that we are to “shod [our] feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (12)

Shod our feet.

The other pieces of “armor” provide protection: a breastplate, a shield, a sword. What do shoes have to do with protection? It’s what those shoes represent: the gospel of peace. The gospel is the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s the assurance that when we give our lives to Jesus, we are saved from our sins. We can look forward to eternity with Jesus.

When we walk in that knowledge, when our feet are shod with that gospel, then everywhere we go, we are grounded in that truth. It’s the very foundation upon which we walk.

A soldier wouldn’t get very far if his shoes weren’t sturdy and strong, able to keep out the elements, able to traverse rough ground. We too wouldn’t get very far if we weren’t standing on God’s promises of salvation and of peace.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beauty Everywhere

Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created heavens and earth. Then for another two chapters, the rest of creation is described.

Do you ever stop to think about how beautiful creation is? And what a gift it is? I mean, God could have stopped with a tree or two, maybe a flower. A handful of animals, perhaps that all looked alike.

But He didn't. He created this magnificent, diverse world. Certainly for His own pleasure, but also for our pleasure, for our delight.

My husband and I spent a week in the Carolinas, probably my favorite place on earth (and I've been privileged to travel to some pretty amazing places). Although they're experiencing a drought, it was so green and lush and, yes, beautiful. Then we returned to California, and one clear day last week, I viewed the majesty of our local mountains. How awe-inspiring they are!

Today, I looked out my kitchen window to see the flowers in our backyard, some gold, some pink, some red. A rainbow just for me.

I see character and wisdom in the face of my husband. I see purity and innocence in the faces of my great-nephews. I even look at the faces of my adorable Labs, and I see beauty there as well.

We have mountains and deserts and oceans. We have lakes and rivers and cliffs overlooking amazing canyons. We have people of all colors and sizes. Throughout our nation, throughout our world, there's beauty everywhere.

And to think that God created all of this . . . just for us.

Friday, June 27, 2008

What is Man?

Psalm 144:3 asks, "O Lord, what is man, that Thou dost take knowledge of Him? Or the son of man, that Thou dost think of him?"

I ask as well: Lord, who am I that You love me as You do? Who am that You choose to use me? You certainly don't need me to do your work, yet You invite me to participate. What an amazing blessing!

Do you ever stop and think that the Lord of the universe, the Creator of all things thinks of you? The Sovereign of heaven and earth chooses to use you to grow His kingdom. Doesn't that amaze you?

God would do just fine without us--in fact, He would do much better! Yet, He loves us enough to give us joy as we watch Him work through us.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Planting Seeds

Don't you love how God speaks through a verse you've read before?

I recently started a study in the book of Mark. I've read this book before, but I've never really studied it chapter by chapter, verse by verse.

And today, I saw something new.

In Mark 4:26-30, Jesus tells a parable of a man planting seeds. He plants them, and then goes to bed. While he sleeps, the plants have begun to grow, but "how, he himself does not know." (NASB)

As I've mentioned in other entries, my husband, Russ, doesn't share my faith, and there are times when I wonder if he'll ever come to know the Lord. God is faithful, though, and when I face these times, He'll often bring verses to my heart. Like these.

When I read these verses today, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. This is what I wrote in my journal:

"Jesus described the kingdom of God 'like a man who casts seeks upon the soil.' He leaves the seeds, and plants spring up, but he doesn't know how. This tells me that we are to plant the seeds. God alone knows how the seeds will grow. This also reminds me that I need to continue to plant the seeds with Russ and wait for God to grow them. I can't save Russ just as I can't grow the seeds."

For all of you who are in spiritually mismatched, spiritually single, or unequally yoked (whichever phrase works for you) marriages, I hope this encourages you as it did me.

Continue to live as the godly wife you've been created to be, and plant those seeds. God will grow the plants. In His time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Joy in Suffering

That doesn't sound like a very encouraging title, does it? But I'm learning it's very true.

If we want to experience joy, we must experience suffering. What? you ask.

It's true. I mean, how can I truly understand heat if I haven't experienced cold? How can I truly enjoy sweet if I haven't tasted sour? How can I exult in joy if I haven't felt the despair that comes with suffering?

The few days that I feel relatively well are better and brighter because of the days that I feel unwell. It's true.

But even more, the joy from suffering comes when I see how God uses my suffering to encourage others.

True joy comes from seeing how God provides encouragement and hope to others through me. And I wouldn't be able to encourage victims of abuse or a woman struggling with infertility or the spiritually single if I hadn't gone through the suffering.

So yes, there is joy in the suffering because I know what God can do through the suffering.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder that all suffering can bring joy as we see how You work through it. Thank You for letting me experience the valleys so I can revel in the mountaintops.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Consider What Great Things

I've been reading in 1 Samuel the last several days, and I came across a verse that I'm sure I've read before . . . but it really touched my heart this time.

1 Samuel 12: 24 says, "Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you."

These words are so true. I should desire to serve the Lord with all my heart because He has done great and amazing things for me.

When I wrote my book, The Best Laid Plans, I talked a lot about hindsight, looking back over what God's done in our lives. In fact, I call it the "gift" of hindsight. And it truly is a gift. God has protected me, strengthened me, blessed me beyond expectation. He's carried me through the hard times, and even when I wanted nothing to do with Him, He remained by my side.

So I really should desire to reverence Him (in case you don't know, that's what "fear" means in that verse) and serve Him.

And most importantly, I need to remember His goodness to me, to consider those "great things."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Time Flies . . .

My maternal grandmother used to talk about time flying on wings of eagles (or something like that), and I actually think it flies on the wings of hummingbirds. Have you ever seen how rapidly hummingbirds' wings move? So quickly, they're just a blur.

That's how time seems to be flying for me. I try to add to this blog at least every other week, and I realized that over a MONTH had flown by since my last entry.

So . . . since then, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary with a wonderful ten-day cruise. I've now fallen in love with Costa Rica and Jamaica . . .

Seeing amazing illustrations of God's creativity was such a blessing. From the desert island of Aruba to the lush rain forest of Costa Rica to the incredible power of Dun's River Falls in Jamaica . . . I wonder how anyone can look at the diverse beauty of this world and not believe in a Divine Designer.

And to think, He designed all of this just for our pleasure. What an amazing God we serve!!

Speaking of divine designs, I'm preparing to speak at a retreat this weekend, appropriately titled "Divine Design." We're ALL divine designs . . . and we're adored by our Designer. Think about that for a moment. You are divinely designed. You are a masterpiece. You. Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Rock. My Strength. My Refuge.

How often do you wake up and you just don't think you can do it? You just can't make it through another day?

I do. More often than I'd like to say.

I have many mornings when I really, truly want to pull the covers back over my head and hibernate. And it seems those mornings come more and more frequently these days. Sometimes it's because of pain. Sometimes it's because of fatigue. And sometimes, to be honest, it's just because . . .

I remember during my twenty-year rebellion from the Lord, when I had those days (which were a lot less frequent than they are now), I'd fall into a depression. Or sometimes I'd just get mad. Some days, I felt hopeless, without purpose. I look back at those days with a great deal of sadness because I was just lost . . .

Now, when I have those days, like I did last week. I do have hope. And I have even more hope when God includes passages like Psalm 62:5-8 in my daily quiet time.

Look at these words. Really look at them.

Psalm 62
5 My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;I shall not be moved.
7 In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength, And my refuge is in God.
8 Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us

Aren't they great? I know my God is with me. He truly is my rock, my strength, my refuge . . . .

And He's yours, too.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Love is Patient

Over the last several months, my church has been challenging us to memorize scripture. We've memorized the names of the books of the Bible. We've memorized the Beatitudes. This month, we're memorizing the Lord's Prayer.

Last month, it was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. You know, love is patient, love is kind . . . Even many non-believers know these verses. I've known them for a long time, but having to really memorize them word-for-word made me think about them more deeply.

I don't think it's an accident that the first definition of love is "patient." I think it's a characteristic of love that's hard for many of us, especially with those with whom we're closest.

Don't we tend to take the ones we love the most for granted? Somehow, it seems since they'll always be there, we don't have to have the patience with them that we do with others. I know I'm guilty of that.

It seems like Russ can push my buttons faster than anyone else in the world, and I can sometimes be short-tempered with him. Those little annoyances that I might just brush off with someone else can sometimes push me over the edge.

I don't want to be that way . . . but sometimes I am.

Do you find yourself doing the same thing? Being impatient with your greatest earthly loves?

Remember that the first on the list is "love is patient" . . . and I'll try to remember too!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Giving Up Control

Whoa . . . just typing the title of this entry kind of made my stomach clench. I like control. I like knowing that I'm in charge of my life . . .

OK. Now I have to laugh because I'm realizing more and more how little control I really have.

I've written previously that I suffer from some chronic health problems, and I've been feeling pretty miserable the last several weeks. I have no control there.

Despite my ongoing prayers and daily attempts to live a Christ-like life, my husband doesn't seem to be closer to a relationship with the Lord. I have no control there.

Even though I try to "promote" my ministry as much as possible, it's growing more slowly than I'd hoped. I have no control there.

Hmmmm. A pattern perhaps?

Guess what? I don't HAVE control. My future, my health, my calling . . . my life . . . everything is in God's control. Now, I can try to snatch control back and try to do things my own way. But you know something? He does things so much better than I can!

When I trust Him, when I wait for His timing, when I walk through doors He's opened, when I let go of my CONTROL (!), I can rest confidently that everything will work out for my ultimate good, just like Paul says in Romans 8:28.

And you know something else? There's a freedom that comes from giving up control. Wow . . . what a concept!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Our Faithful God

I've been thinking a lot about God's overwhelming faithfulness. Over the last several months, I've been studying some of the prophets in the Old Testament, and it's clear that God has had a plan all along, and He is faithful to that plan.

I look back over my own life, and I see that same faithfulness.

Today, I came across a verse that affirmed this truth yet again. Psalm 33:4 says, "For the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness."

As I read His word and meditate on His promises, I know that He has been and is and always will be faithful to His children. I can trust Him and His word.

If the trials of your day seem to be overpowering you, remember that the Omnipotent One, the All-powerful God, is faithfully leading and guiding you. Seek His hand. Seek His plan. And see His faithfulness.

Friday, January 25, 2008

God's Ways are Good

I love how God uses things we've read or seen dozens of times to affirm once again . . .

This morning, I was reading Genesis 50, and I came across a verse I've read many times. In fact, I've referred to it often when I speak or write. After Jacob died, Joseph's brothers were fearful that he'd finally take revenge on them. But he, with a sincere and loving heart--and with trust in his God--was able to say, ". . . you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good." (verse 20, NKJV)

Over the last week or so, I've heard so many stories of pain being experienced by people I know and love. Loved ones dying. Cancer invading. Finances strangling. Marriages crumbling. Health declining. Children rebelling.

These are happening to people who love and trust God.

Sometimes it gets overwhelming. Really overwhelming.

But then I read this familiar verse, and I'm reminded that God's plan is higher than my own, and even when man or the enemy of this world attempts to cause evil, God will use it for His good. He's certainly done so in my life.

I don't know where you are and what you're experiencing right now. But remember that our sovereign God is greater and more powerful than anything. And He loves you.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Coming Forth as Gold

A new year is, for many of us, a time to resolve to change or to grow. In my last posting, rather than resolving to do anything new or different, I reflected on how God blessed me in 2007.

Today, I spent some time reflecting on some of the things that, at the time, didn’t seem much like blessings. Job is one of those people in the Bible with whom I often resonate. While I haven’t experienced a fraction of the suffering he did, I do relate with his cries to God. But even when he didn’t “get” what God was doing or why, he was able to trust that God was totally and lovingly in control. And he knew that the end result would be worth the suffering. Job wrote, “But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (23:10, NASB)

You’re probably aware that the refining process of gold requires heat—and lots of it. If gold could feel, it would probably find the process quite painful.

If I desire to come forth as gold, I should expect pain. When I think of my daily physical pain this way and, more importantly, when I look at how God has used my pain this past year, I can sincerely thank Him for that pain.


My inability to handle my daily pain on my own has made me lean on Jesus. When I speak, I say that I frequently have to ask for God’s strength to get me through the day. I literally lift my hand and say, “Jesus, would You hold my hand just a little more tightly today.” I say those words, and I see heads nod. How God works through my pain encourages others.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m coming forth as gold. Still tarnished, but gold all the same.