Tag Archive | Life

Summer’s Song

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I absolutely delight in the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer!

Do you?!  Surely you do!

I am addicted to sunshine … to fresh cut grass … and to a slight breeze blowing through my windows at night.

I love the buzzin’ of the bees … the sound of the neighborhood children laughing on my street … and I love having a quiet time on my deck in the early morning hours with a steaming cup of coffee in cradled in my hands.

I love the hanging baskets that I see out my kitchen window … the flags flying proudly from nearly every porch in my neighborhood … and I even love the dandelions that audaciously poke their heads up through my well-manicured lawn.

Summertime … I wait for it all year long!

Summer is a time for enjoyment, for growth and for beauty.

Let me share with you how I incorporate all three – enjoyment, growth and beauty – into my summertime routine.

Enjoyment!

First of all, I am determined to enjoy every day of this fleeting season of summer and not to let one gorgeous day fly by without my acknowledgement of it.

I go for long walks outside in the summer warmth and I revel in the glory of God’s creation.

I listen every morning for the birds outside my open windows.

I watch the menagerie of animals that stroll across my backyard in the evening hours … bunny rabbits … very brave chipmunks … sweet mama deer and her twin fawns … and a critter that I have yet to identify!

I water my flowers diligently and find such simple pleasure in snipping off the dying blooms while waiting for the new ones to come alive.

We often eat dinner on the back deck and silently drink in the wonder of God’s brilliant creation known as “summer”.

I enjoy every single day of summer as if it were the last day of summer!

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Growth!

Due to the fact that my schedule generally eases up during the summertime, I am also diligent about creating a space for personal growth in my life.

In addition to my daily quiet time, I choose one book of the Bible and just swim in it!  This year – it is the Book of Hebrews.  How I love this epistle whose authorship is still contested to this day. Was it Paul?  Was it Priscilla?  I’m not sure but I know that whoever wrote it knew the God that I know today in the 21st. Century!

I love the strength of Hebrews … and the theology of Hebrews … and the Christ of the book of Hebrews.

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the world of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” – Hebrews 1:3

I can barely come up for air as I delve into the depths and richness found in this book that presents history and life from God’s perspective.

I also have a long list of books that I read during the summer. This year my list includes:

Hearts of Fire – The Voice of the Martyrs
The Grave Robber – Batterson
The Making of a Leader by Dr. J. Robert Clinton

Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas
Caroline by Sarah Miller

Now … I don’t just grow intellectually and spiritually during the summer but I also “up” my exercise routine.  Instead of walking a mere 3 miles a day, my goal is 3.5 – 5 miles per sweaty, sizzling day and I love it!!

I also try new recipes during the summer that use fruits and vegetables that are only available during June, July and August.  Here is one of my favorite new recipes that I just discovered on Memorial Day and I have made it 4 times since! Let me know how you like it –

Summer Squash Casserole

12 Cups of Summer Squash cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I use Vidalia)
2/3 cup of salted butter, divided
1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs beaten well
1 sleeve crushed round butter crackers (Ritz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch baking dish; set aside

Place squash in a 6-quart Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Boil over high heat until fork-tender; approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Return squash to Dutch oven but not to stovetop; set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook onion in 1/3 cup butter until onion is translucent. Pour over cooked squash.

Add sugar, salt, pepper, and eggs to squash. Stir gently to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with crushed crackers.

Melt remaining 1/3 cup better in the small skillet over low heat. Drizzle over crushed crackers. Bake until golden brown. Approximately 1 hour.

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Beauty!

I look around my home and my eyes linger around my yard during these delicious months and I wonder what I can do to make a more beautiful dwelling space around me.

Do I need more throw pillows on the couch?

Could the guest bathroom use a new hand towel or two?

Can I weed around the front tree to make the yard look neater?

Does the back deck need a fresh coat of paint?

Should I plant flowers around the mailbox?

I also look at me and wonder what I can do to improve what people see …

Do I need a new hairstyle? A pedicure?  To lose 10 pounds or more?

Do I need to smile more?  Listen more attentively?

I know that I need to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit to a greater degree … that will certainly make a more beautiful me!

Enjoyment … growth … and beauty! Those are my words of summer!

I hope that you will join me in jumping into summer and splashing in the joy of every hot day with childlike wonder!

Have a watermelon for dinner … buy some popsicles for the neighborhood kids … open your windows so you can hear the song that only summer sings.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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No Matter What

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I received an interesting Facebook message recently from a friend.  Her message wasn’t really a “message” but it was presented in the format of a question.

This question has been boiling in the crevices of my heart for nearly 3 weeks now and I am not sure that I have been able to answer it yet.

The friend who sent it is a deep thinker, a true disciple and is on a passionate journey to follow Jesus in all seasons of life. Although she is younger than I am, in many ways – I want to be like her.

This is the question that she posed to me –

What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?

To answer questions that seem to me to be humanly unanswerable – I always go to the Bible.  I always ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?”

When I go digging for gold in the mines of the Bible, I always find the wisdom and the heart of God. And this time was no different …

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

If my heart’s desire, this side of heaven, is to follow Jesus then there is a price that I must pay.

The price that I must pay is that I must deny myself and take up my cross daily in order to follow Him.

What in the world does that mean?! It doesn’t sound like much “fun” to me.

And – it sounds pretty expensive if you ask me.  I am not sure that I can afford the price that Jesus is asking me to pay.

If I choose willingly to deny myself does that mean that I will never go shopping again?  That I will never eat another piece of raspberry pie?  That I will never get to go to Hawaii?

And if I take up my cross daily does that imply that every day this side of heaven there is some sort of difficulty that I must carry?

What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?!

 

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I don’t believe that the cross that we are called to take up is exactly like the cross of Jesus Christ.  His cross was a literal one and ours is perhaps, more figurative … our cross is vividly symbolic of the cross of Christ.

Your cross may not look like my cross but we all have one … you can be sure of that.

I think that if I were to define – in general terms – what a modern day cross is … it might sound like this …

Our cross is that difficult thing that we choose to do simply because we belong to Him.

A cross is a choice and you can choose it or not.  It’s up to you.

Your cross may be seen in loving a difficult person … or it may be found in a place that you choose to go even though it is just so hard.

Your cross may be giving up a relationship that is not healthy or holy … or it may be seen in embracing a simpler lifestyle than you would prefer.

Your cross may be found in serving someone or a ministry for which you receive little or no recognition.

Your cross may be discovered in giving generously to Kingdom causes.

What does your cross look like?

Your cross may look like a nation … or a people group … or a lifestyle … or a person.

A cross may be a change in direction … a denial of creature comforts … or a determination to choose joy even in dark circumstances.

As you can imagine, ever since my friend sent me that simple yet profound question, it has been stirring around in the depths of my soul.

And as disturbing as that question has become to me – the follow-up question is even more unsettling …

Am I doing it?  Am I following Jesus no matter what?

For me personally, some of the ways that I have taken up my cross have been to live far away from my children and grandchildren.  They are pursuing God’s will for their lives and I am pursuing God’s will for my life.  We have, as yet, not landed in the same geographical location.

For me personally, it has meant changing my lifestyle in the wake of cancer so that I can live a long time and fulfill my destiny in Christ.  The lifestyle changes have been challenging but a joyful discipline, indeed.

For me personally, “taking up my cross” has meant embracing the socio-economic level that serving in full-time ministry requires.

For me, personally, “taking up my cross” has meant encouraging my husband to work full-time in missions and to spend long periods of time apart.

What does your cross look like?  Are you doing it?

 

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After my friend asked me that soul-piercing question, she went on to say –

“I was thinking about our mission trip and thought about how many of us had hesitations about going to the other side of the world to serve the people Jesus had called us to serve, and to spread his gospel.

Perhaps out of fear, or being out of our comfort zones, or missing our husbands or children, or taking time off work, or raising the funds to go etc. so many things can discourage the dreams God has given us to complete his purpose in our lives for the kingdom, if we give into the temptation to let discouragement settle upon us and cause us to doubt his plans for us.

However if we pursue him fervently, what blessing follows when we are obedient to his call on our lives. 

Will we be obedient to go wherever he calls us to?

Will be willing to leave our comforts, families, and friends for the sake of advancing the kingdom of heaven?

Will we listen to his still small voice as he calls us to get out of our comfort “boats” and watch as he parts the waters of the stormy seas before our eyes and reach out to the people in this broken and hurting world?

To truly follow Christ is a moment-by-moment decision requiring denial of self and of taking up one’s personal cross.

The blessing is found in the knowing that He is with us as we carry our cross … and He is helping us do it every step of the way.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Choose the Fruit

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During this month of April, I hope that you have enjoyed reading some of the principles from my new book, “Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue”, as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you!

I pray that as you read this final excerpt from my book that you will examine your speech habits and decide to begin again today!  Decide that you will change the words that come out of your mouth from frustrating to forgiving … from impatient to gracious … and from accusatory to encouraging!

Now listen to me … none of us is immune from mouth disease so this week’s blog is going to hold great challenge for you!  But I believe in you … You can do it!

It is time for you to stick out your tongue and say, “Ahh!”

Have you done that dreaded but extremely vital self-examination lately? Now—look in the mirror as you do it.

Do you have it?

Do you have “mouth disease”? Are you infected with an “oral bacteria” of the very worst kind? Have the germs of the culture attached themselves to your vocal chords? Is your tongue rife with verbal viruses?

What is it with women and their words? What is it with anyone and their words?

We are definitely defined by the stuff that proceeds out of our voice boxes.

The organ that lies between our pearly whites has the capacity to control our very lives.

The vile eruptions that come tumbling unbridled out of that lovely orifice called the mouth are often what color our relationships and the atmosphere of our homes.

Our words have the propensity to direct us, to define us—and to drive us.

It is as if we are compelled by a force of nature to continually talk, and we often refuse to stop talking until we have the very last word in every conversation and in every argument.

The anchor verse that will change the way we talk is found in Proverbs, the book of wisdom that is changing our thought processes, giving boundaries to our emotions, and now will impact the way we speak.

Perhaps you have previously read it and wondered what application it had for your life:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

 

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The stark reality is that, someday—in the not-too-distant future—you are going to be forced to eat the fruit of what you have chosen to say.

When dealing with the tongue, your options are twofold: you can speak life or you can speak death. There is no middle ground between those two choices.

There is no gray area when it comes to the words that you speak.

That’s it. Just life or death. Which will you choose?

When you understand that you have the power to speak life or death every moment of your existence, it will underscore the fact that controlling your own tongue will be one of the most vital endeavors of your life.

First, you must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ; next, you must guard your heart faithfully; finally, you must put a bridle on your tongue.

If you don’t first think something or feel something, then, in all probability, you will never say it.

Any idea or opinion begins in the mind, travels to the heart, and finally comes out of the mouth.

Perhaps there is no other life matter that we should take more seriously than the matter of the tongue.

The ability to discipline your tongue is more important than the number on your bathroom scale, more essential than your education, and more profitable to you than climbing the corporate ladder.

Consistent discipline in the attempt to manage your mouth will create more beauty than will a home that is attractively decorated, and provide more true wealth than will a full retirement fund.

According to the always-applicable truth of the Bible, your tongue has the power to control the type of life that you will enjoy in all of your tomorrows.

Will your life be a fruitful one?

If you can maintain godly government over your tongue, your life will be one of joy and peace; you will cultivate a home atmosphere that is warm and inviting, and you will maintain friendships that flourish.

 

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Conversely, if you refuse to regulate the discharge that comes out of the cavity that lies beneath your nose, your life will be dry and brittle. Nothing beautiful will grow in your life, and you will be known for “halitosis” of the very worst kind!

When Craig and I had our first child, Matthew, every time the pacifier came out of his mouth, we threw it away and plucked a new one out of the sterilized packaging. No dirt was going to touch the lips of our precious, darling boy!

When we had Christopher, just two years later, we could no longer afford the volume of new pacifiers that our previous behavior required, so we placed his discarded pacifiers into boiling water on the stove. Every evening, whether a pacifier had been thrown to the ground or not, it received the boiling treatment under my watchful eyes.

Then, when we had our third son, Jordan, I would merely run his dirty pacifiers under running water at the kitchen sink. I wasn’t picky about the temperature of the water; hot or cold water would do. I justified that it was clean enough after a dousing of fresh water from my kitchen spigot.

When our fourth child, Joy, would throw a beloved pacifier out of her mouth, I would simply put it in my own mouth to clean it off. Just a quick lick, and it was as good as new to go back into her little rosebud mouth.

And finally, with baby number five, Joni Rebecca, I didn’t even bother to replace, to boil, to rinse, or to lick. I would just pick the pacifier up off the ground and put it efficiently back into her mouth.

We can laugh at the way we have parented over the years and how diligently or how casually we have protected our children from germs, but the truth is that none of us would knowingly expose our children to a fatal disease.

There is not a compassionate or concerned person who would willingly bring bacteria or viruses into breathing distance of their loved ones.

Yet, if it is true that our tongues hold the capacity to pour serious and life-altering matter on those whom we love, it is vital that we examine the words that we speak and the tone of voice they are spoken in.

The Holy Spirit is speaking to you, and He is reminding you that words have power for good and power for evil.

Words can bring life, and words can destroy. Words can revive, and words can kill.

You choose… which will it be in your life?

Help!

160896754Does your heart ever feel overwhelmed?

Are you ever disheartened by your inability to meet everyone’s demands and expectations?

Some days my heart vacillates between being raw with paralyzing frustration and simultaneously stimulated by a thousand agitations.

In the midst of my obsessive mental processing and impaired human emotions, I starkly realize that in the insistent whirlwind of life, I still have so much for which to be grateful.

Yet continuously … the floods of demands, disciplines, people, habits, chores, vices and commitments create a massive quagmire in my life that can only be described by one desperate word, “overwhelming”!

The call of life is just so deafeningly loud sometimes …

David the worshipper … the man after God’s own heart … shares my incompetence at dealing well with all that life dishes out.

“Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer.

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.

Let me dwell in Your tent forever;

Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”

Psalm 61:1-4

Although I do not know what specifically overwhelms you, I can assure you that though the source of your staggering obstacles may look much different than mine, the answer for both of us is the same.

“Hear my cry, O God!  Give heed to my prayer.”

When you are overwhelmed, take it from David:  the first thing you need to do is cry out to God.  We need prayer more than we need our circumstances to change.  Just going to my infinitely gracious God, Who is lovingly attentive in all of His ways, reminds me that I am not in charge.  There is Someone mightier and more powerful than I am Who is well able to bring relief to my mountain of stress.

From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed!”

There is no sin in calling out to God when you are completely and utterly overwhelmed.

The sin would actually be in turning to other less satisfying options.  Have you ever mistakenly believed that spending, eating, being entertained, going to the spa or responding with your emotions is what you need to conquer the overwhelming circumstances and events of your life?  Those things are deceptive distractions and possess all the healing power of a miniscule band-aid following open heart surgery.

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I …”

178747790The second word of advice that is discernable in David’s prayer is that we all need God to lead us.  We need Him to take us by our human hands and then to guide us with His divine hands to a higher place.  He always wisely leads His children to a more secure vantage point than the circumstances of life are able to offer.  The benefit of standing on a rock that is taller than I am is that I am above my circumstances and therefore can see them from heaven’s perspective.

One of the most destructive mistakes that any of us can make during moments of overwhelming madness is to be led by our emotions.  Anger and impatience will do damage to relationships that may be difficult to repair.  I must humbly realize that my emotions often lie to me but God will lead me in triumph even in overwhelming times … especially in overwhelming times.

“For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy …”

When you are feeling overwhelmed, focus not on what is causing the irritation or annoyance but begin to declare Who God is.  Remove your eyes from your circumstances and set your mind, mouth and gaze on the only One Who is able to help you!  God is your safe place and will strongly protect you against the enemy forces of busyness, difficult relationships, a failing economy, health challenges and priorities.  He is more than able!

“Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”

There is no safer, more peaceful place to be than abiding in Him and with Him.  When I linger in His presence and enjoy the safety of His Word, the overwhelming things of this earth truly grow strangely dim.  When His nearness overshadows all that calls my name, I am at peace at last.  The life that He gives is the life that I have dreamed about and longed for.

His presence miraculously empowers me to face another day of the demanding details of life.  The Word of God powerfully protects me and shields me from the rapid fire of life’s demands.  Prayer helps me to wisely focus on that which is eternal and not on that which merely stirs up a raucous.

So … the next time that you or I find ourselves in similar and overwhelming circumstances … let’s not walk but run to Him and all that He is!  I resolve to take a break from this mad, mad, mad, mad world and to set my heart where it has always belonged … in Him.

While others are juggling the voices, the tirade and the insistence of this temporary world, I will be the one with my hands in air, gaze fixed on heaven and crying with gut-wrenching desperation, “HELP!”

Lead me to the Rock

The 7 Facebook Commandments

I will be the first to admit it … I probably spend way too much time on Facebook.  I somehow justify it by saying that it connects me to people or that it is part of my ministry.  But the truth of the matter is this:  most of the time, Facebook is a waste of my time!

In the midst of wasting time on Facebook, I have noticed an alarming trend of less than honorable behavior.  And so, in order to justify in some small way my Facebook compulsion, I have decided to write the 7 Commandments for Facebook Behavior!

Don’t run and hide … read on ….

Commandment #1 – Facebook is not a place to correct people.  If correction is necessary, it should always happen face to face and heart to heart.  Perhaps this should be the scripture that guides our responses on Facebook: “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God …” – I Peter 4:11.  Wow!  That scripture will take some hot air out of our sails.  Don’t talk unless God told you to say it.  You can only say it if you are 400% sure that God would say it.  Even then, God probably wouldn’t say it on Facebook.  Just sayin’.

Commandment #2 – Just because someone doesn’t write on your wall for 2 weeks or daily respond to every little comment that you make, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.  Don’t take it personal.  It’s not.  Facebook is not personal … it is public.

Commandment #3 – We all have opinions but is Facebook really the place that you want to share those opinions?  Some opinions are for the privacy of your own home not for the very public walls of some mindless social media space like Facebook.  Quit pontificating, reverberating, prognosticating and bellyaching and just be a blessing.  I find that if I am too quick to share an opinion on Facebook what happens is that I alienate people whom I really do love.

Commandment # 4 – Don’t be gross.  Use a little bit of reserve.  Do you really want people to know that your baby pooped … your dog vomited on your new rug … your underwear is too tight and your husband drools and snores while he sleeps?  Listen … you wouldn’t burp in public without being embarrassed.  Facebook is not your opportunity to burp without saying, “Excuse me!”

Commandment # 5 – Don’t respond to someone else’s posts by being argumentative or by being offended.  If you want to enter into a productive conversation concerning an issue, call the person on the phone and sincerely share your heart with them in a kind and reasonable fashion.  Or perhaps, having coffee together and meeting face-to-face might help you realize that this person is not your Facebook enemy but just another pilgrim on a journey. Or perhaps, you should keep your mouth (or in this case, your computer keyboard closed) and just pray.  You will not solve all of the world’s problems by barking back on Facebook.

Commandment # 6 – Never send a private message that is filled with anger, criticism and judgement.  I know women who have been the victim of cruel and vicious private messages through Facebook. Shame on all of us who falsely believe that just because it is private we can be savage and unprincipled.  Grow up and be sweet.  Just be sweet.

Commandment # 7 – Do not allow Facebook to replace the joy of relationships!  Put your computer away and call a friend for a long overdue conversation.  Send a tangible and lovely letter in the mail on beautiful stationery.  Better yet … have a lunch date and share some laughter.  Gather some grown-up girls together in your own home and spend time in prayer and in encouraging one another.  Suddenly … you will all be saying, “Facebook Who?!!”

God wants you to be a blessing … and that includes blessing all of your Facebook friends! If your heart’s desire is to change the world through a ministry on Facebook you might start by just being kind.

I have an idea … if you have read this blog and in some small way agree with me … let’s all post this scripture as our Facebook status for a day or two, “But encourage one another day after day, while it is still called today.” – Hebrews 3:13  It is a good reminder for all of us!

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