Monday, December 28, 2009

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it...
~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Eternal God, by the birth of Jesus Christ You gave Yourself to the world. Grant that, by being born in our hearts, He may save us from all our sins, and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator, to whom be everlasting praise and glory, world without end. Amen." - Laurence Hull Stookey

This lovely prayer is nestled between some traditional Christmas carols in the UM Hymnal. I love finding these things and being blessed by them. We read this one at our Christmas Eve Service this year. I found it to be very moving. May it bless your heart and soul this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coming Home

As I thumbed through some old Advent devotionals, I stumbled across this one from a former student. She is now teaching school with "Teach for America." She is one of those students who has always challenged and inspired me, two things that are rare. She is headstrong, but she is really all heart. I love her because she is...real. She cannot help but be completely honest (sometimes me!) and I dig that about her. It is because of these things that she walks so closely with the Lord. She simply lays it all out there for God and others in a way that is disarming and inspiring. You'll see all of that in this excerpt from the devotional she wrote on Zephaniah 3:14-20.

"Zephaniah's message of hope screams of all that I am to be thankful for: a God FULL of mercy, a God worthy of praise and honor, an God who removes our sorrows and frees us from oppressors. The most beautiful part comes at the end of this passage in verse 20. Our God is a god who gathers us and brings us home. We are never left to walk alone in this world.

Christmas to me has always meant coming home. When I was younger it was because aunts, uncles and cousings would come home. Now it is because I go home for the holidays. Zephaniah has given a new image to associate with the advent Season, one of coming "home" to Christ. This passage gives me an image of coming home to a right relationship with the Lord and of being rightly related to my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is an image of being part of the family of God.

Advent prepares us for the coming of the Christ child and for the cmoing of a new year, or new birth. As we go home for Christmas, may we forever be reminded to make sure that we are also "home" in Christ. What is more hopeful than knowing there is always room for us to come "home" to Him?"*

Isn't that beautiful imagery? Advent as homecoming. It is just good theology, really. Jesus birth was indeed like coming home. And because of that first Christmas we are able to be a part of God's family forevermore.

Even if you are far from home this Christmas (Holli!), know that Christ himself is nearer to you than ever before. Christmas is nothing if not a homecoming. For "The Word became flesh and came home among us..." and He is with us still (John 1:14).

*The devotional was written by Miss Olivia. You can learn more about her delightful life at her blog, Honestly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Little Town of Bethlehem

Read Micah 5:2-5

Bethlehem was an insignificant village of Judah, very undistinguished. Eugene Peterson calls it "the runt of the litter" (Micah 5:2, The Message). There was nothing remarkable about this little village.

And yet God chose this, the most ordinary of places, for one of the most extraordinary events: the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. God delights in using the commonplace to accomplish His uncommon purposes. And announcing little Bethlehem as the birthplace of the King was just the beginning.

Micah's prophecy tells us that the coming King will enter in the most common of ways. He will be a "shepherd," the most ordinary of men. He won't come with any fanfare and he won't even be here for himself. He will reign with strength and majesty in the name of the Lord. The marks of his reign will be security, safety, and peace. He will come to fight for God's people and save them.

We know this Savior to be Jesus Christ and we walk in the confidence that all of this is true. We know he was born in Bethlehem only to die for our sins and be raised again. We also know that he is coming again.

May we experience the same anticipation Micah's readers had upon receiving this prophecy so long ago. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us keep our eyes, ears and hearts open in expectation of seeing him in the most unlikely places. And may we look forward in holy expectation for His return!

"Remember who you are. We are not commoners, but heirs waiting for our King's coming - preparing for His coming!" - Unknown

{Side Note: Bethlehem = "house of bread" in Hebrew. How's that for holy imagery?!}

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Beautiful Task of Advent

"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.

It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I ♥ Advent

Advent is the best. It is like coming home for me. It is at this time of year that I am reminded in the most tangible of ways that God's love for us is absolutley limitless. Every year I learn in a new way just how far-reaching his love is. It amazes me that it can all feel fresh and new with each passing year. Somehow this great God of ours finds a way to show me again and in surprising ways what a miracle that first Christmas truly was and still is for us.

Here are some of the ways he's shown that to me over the past several years.

- The lyrics of that wonderful song "Welcome to Our World" by Chris Rice always bless my heart and soul. I recommend his version if you can find it. It is one of the most heartfelt and beautiful Christmas songs I have ever heard. Incomparable in its theology and its melody. Listen to it and tell me you aren't moved.

- The beautiful words of the first chapter of John's gospel always speak to me. It is so poetic and drenched with meaning that I find a little something new each time I read it. It is a rich representation of the heart of Christmas and Advent. It is one to commit to memory during this season so that your heart can recall it throughout the new year.

- My dear friend Lisa has been the earthly representation of that first Advent candle to me this year, "Christ, our hope." She is holding unswervingly to that part of Him as she fights breast cancer this year. She is shining His light more than she could ever know.

- Visit here for some of my previous thoughts on this glorious season.

- These words of wisdom from Mother Teresa, whose life was the embodiment love, really inspired me today:

"Don’t think that love, to be true, has to be extraordinary. What is necessary is to continue to love. How does a lamp burn, if it is not by the continuous feeding of little drops of oil? When there is no oil, there is no light and the bridegroom will say: “I do not know you”. Dear friends, what are our drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things from every day life: the joy, the generosity, the little good things, the humility and the patience. A simple thought for someone else. Our way to be silent, to listen, to forgive, to speak and to act. That are the real drops of oil that make our lamps burn vividly our whole life. Don’t look for Jesus far away, He is not there. He is in you, take care of your lamp and you will see Him.”

- There are countless other pockets of realization I've had along the way. I'll admit that I've also had memory lapses where I have failed to fully participate in this season I love so much. But God always brings me back with His nudges of grace and love in the most subtle of ways.

May He come anew into your heart this Advent season. Make room for Him this day and each day of this beautiful time of year. Look for Him in the little things and in the most unlikely of places...that's where He'll be. Look for Him

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jenny!

Happy 32nd Birthday, Jenny Robertson Shelby! I hope you know how very loved you are this day. You AMAZE and INSPIRE me in more ways than you'll ever know. You might be my little sister, but your influence on my life has been huge. Thanks for being a wonderful sister and friend. I love you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Little Graces

Did you know that the Greek word for "grace" in the New Testament also means "thanks"? I love that. I learned it a long time ago and, unfortunately, I am quick to forget it. Isn't that just the most fascinating and convicting thing ever? Something to think about this Thanksgiving and Christmas season...

What are some of the little graces you are thankful for this holiday season?

Me? I am thankful for my husband, my family, my friends, and a whole lot of lesser things like spiced tea, a good book, and a nice, long walk. I am thankful for my heritage. Growing up in a strong, Christian home is a gift that is not lost on me. I am thankful for the many people who have shaped my life thus-far and the countless others who will, no doubt, shape it in the years to come. I am thankful for all of the experiences and opportunities that have shaped me over these first few decades of my life. I am thankful for hazelnut coffee at Panera Bread and any of a number of diet drinks (with the exception of Diet Pepsi...ew). I am thankful for inspiring movies like Julie &Julia and even Surf's Up (which I saw the other day...cute and encouraging). I am thankful for moments of silliness with my husband. I am thankful for friends who will come together in prayer at a moment's notice. I consider myself blessed to live in an age where there are not one, but TWO dance shows on TV. :) I am thankful for a lot of little, unimportant things that bring a little slice of joy to my life. I am also thankful for the communion of saints, a good quote, and a heartfelt prayer.

Most of all, I am thankful to be a child of the King. I may not always show my gratitude to Him for all He has done, but I am constantly aware of my need for Him. He is the Author of all hope, the Giver of all good things, and a Constant in this ever-changing world. My cup overflows in thanks for all that He has done and is doing in my life. I pray for the grace to be more and more thankful with each new day, regardless of my circumstances.

"And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." - John 1:16

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wonderful Article(s) Link

A lot of what I've been thinking/feeling lately can be found in the two articles found here. The articles are Inconvenient Thanks and The Real Joy Secret (just in case you read this after they've changed the front page articles). I love the website {in}courage and would encourage you to add it as a link on your blog. There is always something worth reading on this site. These two posts were especially inspiring to me. I hope they do the same for you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Listening to Life

I think I was a little spoiled in Kentucky this time of year. The colors during the Fall are indescribably beautiful. While I love it here in Alabama with the decidedly warmer weather and extra sunshine, I do so miss the Fall season in Kentucky. I love the colors, the breezes, and the overall way God speaks to you in the changing seasons. His voice, His creation speaks so clearly and audibly to me in those times.

Here in Alabama, the seasons change almost abruptly. There is no real progression of things, you just wake up one morning and it is cold. The same is true with most seasons here. I miss the in-between-ness that is Fall in Kentucky. It stretched out a little and, certainly, the leaves were majestic. {The only place I've been where it was even more exceptional was Asheville, NC. The Billy Graham Retreat Center offered some of the most beautiful trees and leaves I have ever seen. Largely because they built the retreat center amidst the trees instead of clearing them all.}

I am thinking of all of this today because I took a quick walk through Chewacla, a State Park that is just minutes from our home, this afternoon. I love it there. It is peaceful and wonderful and filled with creatures and creation that never fails to make me smile. Just today a chipmunk quickly crossed my path on my journey. Those little guys make me laugh! But one thing was missing on my journey: the bright colors of a Kentucky Fall. I saw one - just one - tree with leaves that had changed colors to a bright yellow. It was gorgeous, radiant. And yet it made me kind of sad and nostalgic, too. I'll say it again - I miss those Kentucky trees!

But then a thought occurred to me. So, the colors and trees and the obvious signs of the season aren't as bold and bright as they are in Kentucky. What if that is part of God's message to me in this season of my life? I believe His word to me today was that sometimes we must look for the blessing, for signs of God's love, for the radiance of His light. God so often speaks to us subtly in that "still small voice" rather than the loud voice we long for. I needed that message today and God gave it to me in my longing. I love that He works so creatively...

{The first two pictures were taken by my outstanding husband and the last by the incomparable photographer Rob Baird. All are pretty exquisite, don't you think?}

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Love

I just wanted to share this beautiful piece that was read at the wedding of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law a couple of months ago. I always feeling like I'm talking with a friend when I hear/read the words of those of the communion of saints. Thomas à Kempis has always spoken straight to my heart. I especially love this reading because it connects earthly love with the divine love of God. For none of the attributes of love described here are possible apart from a relationship with God alone. It is only through Him that we are able to even attempt to love our spouses, families, friends, and foes at all.

On Love
Thomas à Kempis

Love is a mighty power,
a great and complete good.
Love alone lightens every burden, and makes rough places smooth.
It bears every hardship as though it were nothing, and renders
all bitterness sweet and acceptable.

Nothing is sweeter than love,
Nothing stronger,
Nothing higher,
Nothing wider,
Nothing more pleasant,
Nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth;
for love is born of God.

Love flies, runs and leaps for joy.
It is free and unrestrained.
Love knows no limits, but ardently transcends all bounds.
Love feels no burden, takes no account of toil,
attempts things beyond its strength.

Love sees nothing as impossible,
for it feels able to achieve all things.
It is strange and effective,
while those who lack love faint and fail.

Love is not fickle and sentimental,
nor is it intent on vanities.
Like a living flame and a burning torch,
it surges upward and surely surmounts every obstacle.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love without getting tired...

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is love without getting tired…be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” - Mother Teresa

I borrowed this quote from my friend's blog. It is the "theme" of her blog/life. For her, to love without getting tired means giving of herself to her four children each day. She has energy that is unmatched in that department. She doesn't simply do what must be done to get by. She constantly goes above and beyond, finding creative ways to help them grow and learn. It must be exhausting sometimes, but she does it with joy in her heart and a smile on her face. She loves without getting tired...

I love this quote because this is really the stuff of life. The people I am most drawn to in this life are ones who embody this quote. They are only human, so I know that they do grow tired of it sometimes. But love means pressing on and loving through the weariness. God gives us strength for that and will not let us grow weary if we will give ourselves to Him first. This is who we are called to be: A people who love without getting tired - nothing more, nothing less. This was Mother Teresa's legacy and it can be ours, too. She did extraordinary things because she began with the ordinary and her faithfulness grew from there.

The same can be said of us.

If we can be faithful in the everyday things we'll find our strength for everything else. Love really is in the small stuff that we encounter daily. We gain a little strength and confidence with every faithful step we take. And it is that quiet strength that will sustain us when life is hard.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I am...

Loving me some Sophie Kinsella these days. Everything I've read by her is so delightful and fun!
Trusting God for His provision and guidance.
Enjoying the Fall weather on The Plains. Living moments away from Chewacla State Park helps, too!
Missing my sisters and family in AR and WI...
Thankful for my incredible husband everyday.
Wishing I worked for Hallmark Cards. They need some fresh, new designs! :)
Hoping for a fantastic job to come my way...
Excited about the holidays that are just around the corner.
Praying for my dear friend Lisa...
Believing God...

Monday, November 02, 2009

"Life works better when we know how to glance at things, but gaze at God. Seeing Him clearly will enable us to see all other things clearly." - Selwyn Hughes

Friday, October 30, 2009

Surprised by...Hope

It is one of the great mysteries to me that God can continue to surprise us with His mercy and grace. You would think that we would anticipate it given His history of generosity and perfect timing. I find myself wishing I wasn't so daft as to always only recognize His mercy after-the-fact. It seems a lack of faith somehow.

Crazy, I know.

Then I start thinking. Perhaps the surprise is part of the grace. Maybe God allows us to be surprised at the depths of his mercy because it makes the experience of it sweeter. The surprise of it all is a grace in itself. God is just that creative.

I had one of these moments at church one recent Sunday. I was sitting in our usual church service just listening to the choir sing when it happened. They began a beautiful song that seemed vaguely familiar to me. I checked the bulletin and saw it was a song by Chris Tomlin. The arrangement was so different that I almost didn't recognize it at all. As they sang it seemed I was really hearing the song for the very first time.

The song was Jesus Messiah. A beautiful song no matter how you arrange it. But this morning was different. I heard something new, something I needed to hear. One little phrase, "All our hope is in you..." really resonated with me as I sat there. Immediately I thought to myself, "No it isn't. My hope is not in You right now, God." My hope has been...well, absent and most certainly not in God lately. As a result, I have found myself discouraged, defeated, and frustrated.

This little surprise encounter with the Almighty (I know, we should always expect to encounter Him...especially in church!) did wonders for my heart, mind, and soul. God spoke to me through a song I've heard a thousand times and surprised me with a personal message. My hope had been misplaced...maybe almost non-existent. I knew it then, but really admitted it to myself that morning in the pew.

I really believe that the great sin is not any of the countless issues we hear Christians talk about in the public forum. No, the real sin is unbelief. Abandoning hope. Refusing to trust God. Forgetting our history and who God is. That is the real sin.

And it is just like our amazing God to convict us of it in such a tender way as through a song or a passage of Scripture. "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him" that is really all He asks of us. All He wants is for us to remember that He has proved steadfast and sure and to place our trust, our hope in Him.

So, my surprise wasn't really a surprise really. But, then, holy surprises never really are. They are more like moments of truth, of remembrance, that somehow refresh our perspective. They remind us Who God is and how much He loves us. God is good like that.

{Jesus Messiah is on Chris Tomlin's album Hello Love. You real should buy it or download it or whatever it is you do. Or maybe ask for it for Christmas? :)}

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Breakfast Panini Plug

I must share that I believe the new Lean Cuisine Breakfast Panini is a REVELATION! Scrambled egg whites, sausage, cheddar, and reduced fat mozzarella cheeses and sweet maple sauce on cinnamon-flavored multigrain bread. Can you say, YUM!"? I just had one for lunch and it was delish! Plus it has 5 grams of fiber and some iron in it, two things we women often need. And if you're a Weight Watcher, it is only 5 points! And as a bonus, it has made my whole kitchen smell like French Toast! They've got a Denver Style one I am going to buy and try next. I'll let you know if it is just as tasty!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Small Town America

A cocktail napkin I found at my in-law's house that says it all. I've learned this through recent experiences (in wee-little-Wilmore and other places along the way). I dare you to disagree!

{The pic is from Mary Phillips Designs, LLC. Lots of fun and sassy products!}

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Recommendations

Lest any of you think I am a complete nerd and only read educational books and autobiographies (two things I freely admit that I love), I have a couple of random book recommendations for you. These are just your average, everyday juicy books. I have some issues with the language in one of them, but they are both delicious fun. Let this post also serve as my shameless plug to support your local library. They have just about everything you'd ever want to read - in print (which I'd recommend) or on CD.

Sophie Kinsella is delightful. She writes such a fun story with this one. I have yet to read any of the "Shopaholic" series, but I imagine I will eventually. This particular one is pure fun for any woman. Emma shares the insecurities and secrets of us all...and maybe a few (ok, several) I do not share at all. While my reality and my "secrets" are nothing like Emma's, I found the entire story relatable and fun. It is a fantastic book, the kind that you miss when you're finished with it. I hear it might become a movie starring Kate Hudson, who I also find delightful. This is just rumor, but I hope it is true! Next on my list by Sophie Kinsella is Remember Me?.

The other book I literally just finished is The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer. What a wonderful book! Nola is an endearing main character from the start. She, too, has raging insecurities that she shares with the reader and a couple of her closest friends. From start to finish this was one of the best fun-fiction books I have read in a while. I also found it to be encouraging and inspiring. You'll just have to read it to find out why. Sarah Strohmeyer brilliantly unfolds a story that most women can truly relate to, even if they do not share Nola's same insecurities and frustrations.

{Can I just say...three posts in three days?! I'm a bloggin' fool!}

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Content Today

Because my life often has a general theme to it, I ran across these words the other day. It is funny how something is always right there for us to look at and we always seem to find it just when we need it most. These words were in a book my husband keeps at his bedside always. I randomly flipped to this selection and, because my life is just like that, it was on the subject of contentment.

The selection is from The Savior's Touch by Charles Stanley, a great man of faith. These words flow out of his understanding of the following verse, "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought onthing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:6-8). I'll confess that, while I have always been drawn to these verses, I have long struggled with contentment. For Stanley, the foundation for contentment is simply making Jesus Christ our "chief delight." As we do this we are able to put the peripheral into perspective. All this time I think contentment is something I must try to be when really it is an overflow of simply knowing Jesus. I already know Him, now I just need to get to relying on

"We must learn to live on a daily basis. Jesus told us to pray for our 'daily bread' - the sufficient provision for today's necessities. Contentment most often is lost when we worry about the future. God is in control of that, and we must leave tomorrow's problems with Him. Today I can bring my needs to Christ. Today His grace is sufficient. Jesus 'daily bears our burdens'(Ps. 68:19).

Above all, the key to contentment is learning that I can do everything God wants me to do through His enablement...We can be content knowing that he empowers us to deal with all the ups and downs of life as we wholeheartedly depend on Him.

Contentment is a daily battle. It is something we learn by sticking to the basics - nurturing a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, living one day at a time, and knowing that Christ in us strengthens us for every challenge. This is great gain and gives great peace." (p. 114)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cultivating Contentment

So, I am currently reading this book with a couple of friends here in Auburn. My little sister has been trying to get me to read it ever since she did in her own small group. I think life and ministry kept me so busy that I just never did. Also, there's that whole "God's perfect timing" thing going on here, too. See, the book is about finding contentment and purpose wherever life finds you. Suffice it to say that there are more than a few things lingering out there for me right now that pull me more to discontentment than contentment. This book is forcing me to take a long heard look at my heart. This is both good and bad. Well, it is only really bad because I am realizing how prone to wander I really am.

The book is also teaching me that contentment, just like faith and all things related to God, is a choice. When the things of life seem overwhelming and discouraging, I can choose not to dwell on them. These are things I already knew, really...this book is just reminding me of it at a time when I really need reminding.

If you're a woman of faith, you really ought to read this book. It will force you to be honest with yourself. It will challenge you in a thousand ways. It will change your relationship with God and those you love in your life...for the better. The great thing about this book is that it carefully recalls The Book and offers biblical principles for fighting worry in your life. I think I like it because the author shares real stories and offers practical insight into why we worry and how to release it. It doesn't paint some idealistic picture of how knowing God makes us into instant saints. It acknowledges the struggle that we fight on the journey, specifically as women. It is a great book for Christian women in a genre that is otherwise (in my opinion) saturated with the idealistic and unrealistic.

Also, any book that quotes the likes of Elisabeth Elliot (a picture of authenticity herself), A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers and others gets my vote. I have often found that checking the endnotes in a book is telling of the depth of any given book. This one is no exception.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Article Link

I thought I'd share what I would consider an excellent "Top Ten List: Top Devotional Books" from a great professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Kinghorn is a professor at Asbury and, most importantly, a man after God's own heart. He is an honest, earnest man with a love for God that is evident in his teaching and his life.

I have used and will certainly return to some of the resources on his list. The others are on my mental list of ones to use in the future. Off the top of my head, my own personal list would also include:
Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning
Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen
A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly
This Day with the Master by Dennis Kinlaw

Enjoy Dr. Kinghorn's list. I hope it helps in your own search for a meaningful, encouraging, and challenging devotional. Feel free to share your own favorites through my blog comments!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience...

I am the Quote Queen, so I thought I'd share a couple of nuggets from a book I've read a couple of times. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking meaning and purpose and wrestling with the things of God and life in general. It is called An Incomplete Guide to the Rest of Your Life by Stan Gaede. I am pretty sure I've mentioned it before on my blog. Enjoy these nuggets on patience and trusting God.

"God is God...and we are not. And there is absolutely nothing in Scripture - from beginning to end - to suggest that God intends to operate on our timetable. Quite the reverse. God does almost nothing according to our calendar, and he tells us nothing - not a thing- about how he has numbered our days. What he gives us in abundance are evidences of his faithfulness to those who love him. That we know for sure. But he rarely tells us what's in store for us just around the corner." (p.43)

"...God does not do what we expect him to do precisely because is infinitely more gracious and merciful than we would ever be in a million years. God is inscrutable precisely because he is unbelievably longsuffering and infinitely loving.

Unbelievably. That's why patience is a fruit of the spirit, by the way. Because it doesn't come naturally to us. But it does come naturally to God. Which is why we don't always understand him. And why others will not always understand us when we are patient and longsuffering because of the Spirit's work in our lives." (p.45-46)

And so we trust, hope, believe, and hold on, remembering that God has a history of steadfast love and redemption. His plans have not changed simply because our circumstances are not ideal at the moment. In his infinitely love he will make all things new and bring it all together for good. Always has, always will...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Naked Truth

"Jesus, it seems to me, would teach...that it is always a privilege to help anybody, because all men are of the same caste, the very highest caste. They are all sons of God. They are men in which God dwells. And, indeed, I think it is not poetic fancy merely, but the naked truth. That by coming to men with nothing but a loving desire to help them you do actually come near to God Himself; perhaps nearer than when you kneel before the altar."

This is yet another quote from the remarkable book I've been talking about in the last few posts, Leslie Weatherhead's The Transforming Friendship. I love this one because it speaks to the deepest part of me. It just sums it all up for me. It warms me to read something like this. It also convicts me to the core.

How many sermons have we heard on "The Naked Truth" that dealt more with what we should or should not do as Christians than on living a life of love? We are so busy trying to fix everyone and make them more like us when the image of God Himself resides in them somewhere already. We need to find a way to see that and call that forth in each other rather than trying to fix or change people because they make us uncomfortable.

I read once , "To love another person is to see the image of God in them. That unique spark entrusted only to them..." (I read this in the fanstastic book Becoming Friends: Worship, Justice, and the Practice of Christian Friendship by Paul J. Waddell). I am always so grateful when others see past my obvious imperfections and look instead for Jesus in me. I want to do this more often with others I encounter, in friends and in those that frustrate me. I know that doing so would make me a much more patient, gracious person. It would soften my spirit and make me more like Jesus. Most importantly of all, it would bring me closer to God Himself. And nothing but good can come of that connection!

Weatherhead has really done nothing more in this book than remind us of what Jesus instructed us to do throughout His earthly ministry: love God and love people. So simple and yet so complex. Really it is only complex because we make it that way. If we would stop and seek to see God in each person we encounter (and I would argue most especially ourselves first, as this enables us to see it in others) we would find ourselves more content and more at peace...with ourselves and others.

I know some people who are already seasoned veterans at this and I envy them a little. I long to be more like that myself. I'm done talking about it. I think I'm going to go for it! Want to join me?

Monday, August 31, 2009

"Them" or Him?

The real glorious thing about The Transforming Friendship is that Weatherhead's idea that Christianity is essentially the acceptance of the friendship of Jesus is anything but fluffy. So often we hear it said or read somewhere that Jesus is our "Friend." But what follows is a soft description of friendship that doesn't at all add up to the Jesus of the gospels and what He asks of us.

Weatherhead warns against this kind of interpretation over and over again. He even strongly suggests, "Religion has become a soft and flabby and aesthetic thing...We are all attracted by Christ, but we are held back by a thousand things." For some, this might simply be the appearance of things. We know that communion with God would afford us the freedom and peace we so desire. But we find ourselves so consumed with worry about what other people think "until in the end we care more for what they all think than what the eternal Christ thinks.

And who are "they"? I ask myself this question all the time. When someone tells me, "They say" this-or-that or I find myself worried about what people will think if I do this-or-that, I am faced with this question. Who are "they" and why do I care about what "they" think. I know who Jesus is...and what He thinks counts more than the opinions of "them," whoever "they" are.

I think deep down inside of us we know why we listen to "them" instead of Him. We have this fear that God might ask of us and do more than we could ever imagine. So, we listen to "them," limit ourselves, and settle for far less than our potential. All in the name of fitting in to the status quo.

But friendship with Jesus - the real, transformative kind - offers us so much more. It demands all...and gives all. Accepting the friendship of Jesus will make you more yourself than you will ever be listening to "them" instead of Him.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"A Friend Alive Forevermore..."

I am still soaking everything in that I read in The Transforming Friendship by Leslie D. Weatherhead. I have been thinking a lot about the points he raised in this incredible book. Mostly, the concept of God in Jesus as Friend. This is a huge concept. It is one we speak of often, but scarcely understand. We call Jesus our friend, but we have no real idea what that entails. For many, the concept of friend in general is all but antiseptic. To call Jesus a friend is to really call him an "acquaintance" or someone we sometimes spend time with or speak to from time-to-time. This is not the kind of friendship God offers to us in Jesus. It is so much more...

Weatherhead talks a lot in the beginning of the book about the friendship between Jesus and his disciples, most especially between the Resurrection and the Ascension. He speaks of the "strange appearings" of Jesus after the resurrection.

"What do these strange appearings and disappearings mean? They are His perfect way of making [the Disciples] feel that He is never far away. He does not seem to be there. Then He breaks in upon them, always knows what has happened, always takes charge of the situation, until they never know when they may become aware of Him...The experience becomes richer. They feel that He is never absent. Communion now will mean as much as it did when they could Hear His voice, see His face, and touch Him."

What did this do for them? Everything. These indescribable experiences of true community with Christ gave them the strength, power and confidence to spread hope to the world. These moments were life-changing enough to those who experienced them that they were willing to die for the chance just to tell others about it. That is the kind of friendship Jesus offered while He was on earth and, perhaps all the more between his Resurrection and Ascension.

To truly walk through life with the Friendship of Jesus is to be transformed like the Disciples in those final days between the Resurrection and Ascension. For, "Christianity is meaningless unless this friendship can do as much for us. What Jesus once was, He is eternally." What a beautiful, blessed thought! Isn't this what we all long for in this life? And it is available to

I know this post is heavy in quotes, but Weatherhead says it all so well! Let me leave you with one more for the road. Let this one sink in...

"I want to say to all who are worshiping a picture of Jesus in a frame called History - to people who are beaten in their lonely toilsome effort to be like the Hero of that picture - that there is a richer experience than they have yet known. If they will sit down quietly He will come out of the picture into their life. A little faith - that kind of effortless prayer which is the leaving of the heart's door upon the latch - and the Guest will come as often as you want Him, and you will be carried further than a whole year of fussy striving would take you; for He is not a ghost of the dead past, but a friend alive forevermore."

Monday, August 17, 2009

A "Transforming" Book

"[W]e may try to alter our lives by good resolutions and intentions, but imitations and effort, but how fruitless it all is until we open our lives to His friendship and are transformed...not from without, but from within...

God may not want to make us poets or painters or pianists, but He does want to make us saints. So He offers to all this gift - the gift of a new life. You can use your willpower, and that will take you part of the way. You can use your brains, and they will take you a little way. You can imitate, and that may take you a little way. But all these things together in music and art and poetry, and in life, will never take you as far as a gift will take you." - Leslie D. Weatherhead

Of late I have been reading a real gem of a book called The Transforming Friendship by Leslie D. Weatherhead. The above quote is from that remarkable book. The subtitle itself is inviting: "A Book About Jesus and Ourselves." Such a simple description from a book that is beautifully simple itself. This was one of those books I have had on my shelf for ages and just never took the time to read. I picked it up to thumb through it a few weeks ago and feel in love with it. It was an incredible, insightful read(just 120 pages!). One of those books you are a slightly sad to finish because you just want more.

The book gets to the heart of what it means to enter into a friendship with God. Not the fluffy, life-is-perfect-and-so-am-I kind of friendship, but the real kind. The kind where we bring our real selves to Jesus and just receive the gift of His friendship. No ceaseless striving, no dancing for men's eyes (or God's, for that matter...), no false-selves. Just us and Jesus.

I cannot begin to do this book justice in a blog. However, I would like to share/reflect on some of the great things Weatherhead had to say in the next couple of blogs. It is all just too good not to share. If you can find a copy of it somewhere, grab it. I think it may be out-of-print, but there are copies out there being sold and given away and this book is invaluable! I am pretty sure I obtained mine because my mom grabbed it when the library at my home church was closing. I am so glad she did. I feel sure it is a book I will return to again and again.

I promise to share more excerpts and thoughts in the next few blogs...

Friday, August 07, 2009

A Few More Thoughts on Prayer

Here are a few more prayers that I love...

"Lord, send me anywhere, Only go with me;
Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me.
Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart—
Lord Jesus, my King, I consecrate my life, Lord, to Thee." - David Livingstone

"Lord, Thou knowest what I want if it be Thy will that I should have it. If it be not Thy will, do not be displeased. For I want nothing which Thou doest not want for me." - Julian of Norwich

"Take my lips and speak through them, take my mind and think through it..." - Francis Havergal (He is also the man who wrote "Take My Life and Let It Be"...also a good prayer in and of itself!)

And some thoughts on prayer that have informed my own...

“Everybody prays whether [you think] of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The 'Ah-h-h-h!' that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else's pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else's joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to yourself but to God.” - Buechner

"Prayer is first of all listening to God. It's openness. God is always speaking; he's always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity. ... Convert your thoughts into prayer. As we are involved in unceasing thinking, so we are called to unceasing prayer. The difference is not that prayer is thinking about other things, but that prayer is thinking in dialogue... a conversation with God." - Henri Nouwen

"To pray is to let Jesus into our lives." - O Hallesby

I long for constant conversation with God on the things of life. I long to learn the "unforced rhythms of grace" (Matthew 11:28-30, "The Message"). This is the stuff of life, where true transformation and beauty begins. I am sure of it. Days when I and my thoughts are in connection with God, all goes better. I feel free...beautiful...content. These days are not without their glitches and problems, they are just checkered with grace and mercies ever new. I want a life where everyday is like that. And on those that aren't, I want to release it to God and move on. Want to join me?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Real Prayer Experiment

A few posts ago I made the comment that we often avoid or put off prayer because we think we do not have time for it. I believe that this is due in large part to a complete misunderstanding of what prayer truly is.

Let me just say at the outset that I believe that we must come apart for times of concentrated, on-your-knees, fervent prayer times. It is vital to the Christian life to find time to do this. I have been blessed beyond measure by finding a solitary place - be it a porch in the wilderness, a chair in my bedroom, or a chapel in a church somewhere - to pray, to breathe, and to listen.


I believe these rare moments of solitary prayer are fortified by the day-to-day, moment-by-moment prayers we offer to God as we draw each breath. Much of my prayer time is like this. I think of a person or situation that concerns me or brings me joy and offer a quick (or sometimes not-so-quick!) prayer to God. I am convinced this is what it really means to "pray continually." Doing so purifies our thoughts, halts our worries, and can even bring us joy.

So, why do we not do more of this? I can say with confidence that I am a much more joyful, peaceful person when I approach each day this way. The opposite is true when I fail to do so. Without constant prayer, I find myself much more worried, stressed, depressed, and frustrated.

I propose an experiment. Say a simple prayer at the start of each day (or as you are reading this, even!) for the next week. Ask God to guide your heart and thoughts to Him, to "take captive every thought" to Him (2 Cor. 10:5), and "fix your eyes" on Him (Hebrews 12:2). Write your own brief prayer and memorize it. Use it to bookend your day for the next week and see if you don't find yourself praying constantly throughout the day because you've given it to God. I personally need to enter into this experiment. I don't know why I ever get out of the habit of doing this. I can always tell when I have broken the habit. Unfortunately, so can everyone else!

Godspeed to you as you seek to "pray without ceasing" this week!

Here are a couple of brief prayers I find myself praying all the time. I'll post more from my extensive collection (I love the saints!) in the next few days. Enjoy these...and post any of your own!

"God of your goodness, give me of Yourself, for you are sufficient for me." - Julian of Norwich

"Eternal God, my Sovereign Lord, I acknowledge all that I am, all that I have is Yours. Give me such a sense of Your infinite goodness that I may return to you all possible love and obedience." - John Wesley

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It seems I have gone almost a month without a new blog post! For this I am terribly sorry. I am especially sorry since I promised some more thoughts on prayer. I promise those are forth-coming. I started the post just a few days after the first one, actually. Then life happened and I have just been unable to complete it. I'll work on posting it soon.

For now I am enjoying some time at the beach. It is a lovely thing to fall asleep to the sound of the waves. I am hoping this will clear my head and help me finish my thoughts on prayer. I have certainly been learning a lot about it lately...

I'll leave you with the following fantastic quotes until I am able to finish the other post:

"Prayer is a rare gift, not a popular, ready gift. Prayer is not the fruit of natural talent; it is the product of faith, of holiness, of deeply spiritual character." - E.M. Bounds

"We learn to pray as we learn to love..." - E.M. Bounds

Friday, June 19, 2009

Real Prayer

"Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer." --François Fénelon

I find it ironic that there are so many books out there on prayer these days. It is ironic because many Christians will tell you that they don't pray enough or that they don't know how to pray. I think this is due in large part to a misunderstanding of what it means to pray.

Let me offer a brief disclaimer or two before I expound on that last thought.

Disclaimer #1: Many of the books on prayer that are out there are exceptional. A favorite of mine is Richard Foster's Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. As with many of his books, Foster is quick to quote the saints and other great giants of the faith through the ages. I also enjoy just about anything by E.M. Bounds as he has much to say on the matter. Another favorite of mine is The Meaning of Prayer by great preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. I picked up a tattered copy of this book (for $1!) simply because I liked the title. It has become a treasure to me. Fosdick offers insights about prayer and prayers of the saints throughout. There are countless others that I have been exposed to through my love of the saints and spiritual formation. Suffice it to say that many of the resources on prayer that are out there are worth your time.

Disclaimer #2: No book out there will teach you how to pray. In fact, I'd be leery of any book that say that it could. There are a fair share of formulas out there, some more useful than others. But no formula will teach you how to pray. Prayer is deeply personal and different for everyone. Let that last thought soak in and you will be liberated!

Well, since it seems my disclaimers took up much of the blog, I think I'll save my further thoughts on prayer for the next post. What's already written is enough to think about for the weekend, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spicing it Up!

I decided the other day to try and find a recipe for all of the spices on my spice rack. It seems so unfair for some to be used and some to just hold a place on the rack and collect dust. So, I'm on a mission. If you have great recipes for random spices (um...marjoram?!), send them my way!

The first spice is chili powder. This is one of the often-used spices on my rack. I have plenty of recipes that call for it, but this one is a favorite. It is so yummy! I think Jason would eat it at least once a week if I'd let him. Enjoy!

Tostada Pizza
1 lb. lean ground beef
¾ cup water
1 4½-ounce can diced green chili peppers, drained
½ of a 1½-ounce envelope taco seasoning mix (about 2 T)
1 tsp. chili powder
2 T cornmeal
2 cups packaged biscuit mix
½ cup cold water
1 15-ounce can refried beans
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I use 2% Mexican Blend)
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 medium tomato, chopped
½ cup thinly sliced green onions (optional)

In a large skillet, cook ground beef until brown. Drain well. Stir in the ¾ cup water, chili peppers, taco seasoning mix, and chili powder. Simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until thick.

Meanwhile, generously grease a 12- to 14-inch pizza pan. Sprinkle with the cornmeal. In a medium mixing bowl stir together the biscuit mix and the ½ cup cold water with a fork until dough follows fork around the bowl. With floured fingers, pat dough into bottom and up edge of prepared pan.. Spread refried beans over dough. Spoon meat mixture over refried beans.

Bake, uncovered in a 450o oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted. Top with lettuce, tomato, and green onions (if desired). If desired, serve with taco sauce (…it is perfectly yummy without! ).

This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens: 75 Years of All-Time Favorites. An excellent cookbook that I inherited from my grandma with lots of delicious recipes!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Listening and Loving

"The first duty of love is to listen." -- Paul Tillich

I shoplifted the above quote from another blog that I enjoy reading. The blog is of a friend I know only through his blogs. Somehow we have connected through the blogosphere and it has been an immense blessing to me. His words are raw and honest and deep. Plus, he has a rare love for the saints. Basically he speaks my language (maybe a little clearer and more intelligently than I do...). Often it seems God is teaching us similar things at the same time. Then there are times when I read a post and just find his thoughts fascinating and encouraging (see The Smell of Victory).If you are ever needing some encouragement or a challenge, venture on over to St. Cuthbert's Island. For starters, his post on the above quote is great.

I'll post my own thoughts on the quote from Tillich later. Suffice it to say this quote and my friend's thoughts on it convicted me in more than one area in my life. I am always working on being a better listener - to God, my husband, and my family. I am still learning...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wise Words

"Time has been given to us to cause love to grow, and the success of our lives will be measured by how delicately and sensitively we have loved." - Brennan Manning

"We can proclaim with theological certainty in the power of the Word: God loves you as you are and not as you should be! Do you believe this? That God loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, that he loves you in the mornings sun and the evening rain, that he loves you without caution, regret, boundary, limit, or breaking point?" - Brennan Manning

I just thought I'd share these two thoughts from my daily devotional with you today. These are from two completely different days, but I believe that the one (loving others) has much to do with other (allowing ourselves to be fully loved by God). Brennan Manning has a way with words. His words are at once convicting and encouraging. I dig that about him.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Off-Roading in the...Accord?

Jason and I were just minding our own business today, returning a movie to the store. We spot a turtle making its way across the parking lot. Not good. Yertle will soon be a pancake if we do not intervene. Jason takes action and goes out to pick him up and take him to the grassy area behind the little shopping center. It was plush and nice, but...not good enough for my sweet hubby. Just minutes from our house is a luxurious state park. Only the best for Yertle.

So, we dump our box of emergency supplies in the trunk and put Yertle in there for the ride. He is decidedly timid, this turtle. He has gone farther into his shell than I have ever seen a turtle go. As we ride along, he decides to poke his head out just enough to see (still under his shell, of course...well-protected). He has a piece of grass stuck to the side of one eye. This concerns me. It concerns Jason more that it concerns me. Like I am going to stick my finger in there and retrieve it. I am not stupid! That turtle had some hard-core finger nails (ok...claws) and was in serious need of a manicure. I am not going to risk my own fingers for a piece of grass that Jason assures me, "The turtle will take care of that later." He is funny, my husband. I think I was making him nervous, petting the turtle and looking so closely at him and all. Honestly? The little guy looked strangely like "The Grinch" in the face. He had the same nose! Very Dr. Seuss. Hence the name "Yertle." I talked to him the whole way to the park, assuring him we were taking him to the spa of state parks. I am a dork.

The real fun began once we left Yertle in his plush new surroundings. I say "his," but I did not confirm the sex of the turtle. Not even sure how to do that. Nor do I really want to know...? Anyhow, I digress. Jason left Yertle on a path to the water. He watched to make sure he was ok and came back to the car. He got in the car, satisfied with his good deed, and proceeded to back out. We were just off the road, really no farther than you would be if you pulled over to the shoulder on the highway. But, did I mention we've been experiencing a bit of a tropical depression? Flash floods, storms, and the like for the past several days. Yep. There may have been a little mud. So....the wheels started spinning' and the mud started flying. I was mildly concerned that we might get stuck, but pretended not to be. Jason was highly frustrated, but somehow managed to maneuver the car side to side whilst spinning the wheels. A lot of mud and tire spinning later we skidded onto the road. It was crazy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On the Road Again

I've been noticing personalized license plates a lot more lately. I am not sure why this is. Jason and I have been spending a good bit of time on the road as-of-late, but most of the ones that catch my eye are in-town. I saw one the other day on a BMW that said: FSHRHNT. One has to wonder just how much fishin' and huntin' is getting done in a Beamer! A random one on the road to Arkansas recently: ONJFAN. I am not sure I would've known what that was, except she had a license plate frame that said, "I'd rather be at an Olivia Newton John Concert." And she was maybe 25ish? It was funny. Just today I saw one that read: "CURRENT." Jason and I speculated that the dude driving the truck didn't have current tags for so time and chose the plate because he was irritated.

I see a few that make me smile/think, too. Religious ones, thoughtful ones, weird ones that don't seem to match the car and/or owner. I saw one just yesterday that caused an epiphany of sorts. It simply read: DONATE. I liked it because it was thought-provoking and a reminder to love generously. As I sat at the red light something else occurred to me, too. It shows what a complete nerd I am, but I think it is worth sharing nonetheless. The word "Nathan" in Hebrew means "giver, to give". The root word means "entrust, consecrate, yield" and other similiar ideas. I have always loved this word/name. So, as I was sitting there staring at the license plate, it dawned on me that donate = do give. I thought that this was pretty fascinating It would definitely preach/teach. This is especially true if you take it further with the root word meaning. Kinda cool, eh? :)

As a side note, I am "on the road" as I type. I think it is pretty cool that I can sit over here in the passenger seat and write a blog while my husband drives. Oh, the advances in technology! :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Word of the Week: RELEASE

While spending a little quality time with my mom on one of our trips to Arkansas, she said something that really resonated with me. We were talking over a Snow Joe (My mom's favorite addiction at Books-A-Million) one day about life and things. More specifically, we were talking about communication in marriage. She has always been an advocate for sharing exactly what you are thinking and feeling with your husband/wife. We should always feel safe expressing our joys and concerns with our mates.

This is advice worth taking. However, doing this well requires great discernment. This is especially true on the "concerns" side of things. We should tell our spouses everything, but not without some sort of filter or waiting period on some things. We women fail at this a lot, I think. This is why men think we are nags. :) I am learning all about this. Jason does not think I am a nag (yet!) , but I do get the sense that I say to much at times and maybe step on his feelings on some things.

What my mom said to me that day came after I asked how and when I should talk to Jason about things that frustrate me. I started talking about one thing in particular and how I felt it hurt his feelings a little. She said, "You should definitely feel like you can say anything to your husband. But sometimes you get stuck on one thing or another, Julie. You have to learn to release some things. You can still talk to him about them when they happen,'ve got to let them go after that." This might have bothered me a few years ago, but I saw a lot of truth in what she said. RELEASE it. It is especially hard for me to RELEASE something I feel like I have no control over. The issue we were talking about is one of those. I do need to learn to RELEASE my frustrations, LET GO of worries, and LAY ASIDE my opinions. She spoke the truth in love to me and I am doing my best to take hold of what she said while RELEASING other things. It is definitely easier said than done, but I'm trying!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Word of the Week: EMBRACE

Yea, so I missed a week. Sorry about that. I totally left y'all (the two or three readers out there...!) hanging on the "word of the week" last week. I think I needed a little longer to contemplate the whole WITH thing. That pesky little preposition is more complicated than it seems. Sometimes it seems like a four-letter-word in the worst sense. Maybe it is because I pride myself on being fiercely independent when, in reality, I need people. I need God. And at the same time, I have this not-so-great-or-holy desire to go it alone. Me thinks I am more stubborn than independent most of the time.

I like to think that I am relatively independent and somewhat adventurous. A quick look back on my life will show you that I am not afraid to embark on something new. I am proud of that fact. It also takes me forever to take that first step. I fight back fear every step of the way. Ironically, another look back on my life will reveal that some of the best decisions I have ever made were made with a somewhat spontaneous leap-of-faith (what can I say...I will always be somewhat cautious).

All of this and a couple of conversations with people over the past week have led me to the new word of the week. The word this week is: EMBRACE. I am thinking of this word in the sense of acceptance, peace, and surrender. You can define it however you like in the week ahead, but I am thinking about it in this way. We need to make peace with ourselves, surrender to who we are instead of the idealized version of ourselves. This doesn't mean we use who we are as an excuse not to grow. It means accepting our weaknesses and considering that they might actually be strengths, too. It means taking a long look at ourselves and saying with God that what He made and what I am becoming is good. Like my mom always quotes, "God doesn't make screw-ups!"

I am a very quirky, sometimes clutzy, deeply loving, wonderfully awkward, randomly adventurous, slightly spacy, always analytical, exceptionally nerdy woman. I can be impatient at times, especially with myself. I am a mess, but God's grace is making me new everyday. I am learning to EMBRACE me...all of me. It is quite liberating. You should try it. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Waiting WITH first glance, the "Word of the Week" last week did not go well. In fact, this week found me possibly more impatient and unwilling to WAIT than usual. Perhaps this is because Tax Day came and went (along with some money, I might add...). Or maybe it is because I spent the better part of another week WAITING to see what the future holds for me both vocationally and personally. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that all I really did last week was WAIT: for the weekend, for Jason to come home, for e-mails, for phone calls. Needless to say, I did not WAIT well. It was a somewhat frustrating week. I was terribly aware of the WAITING and not-so-good-at-it. I am not entirely proud of this fact.

All excuses aside for my attitude toward the many ways I am WAITING lately, I do think I learned a little something this week. I learned that I cannot WAIT alone. I need to let myself WAIT with God, with Jason, with family and friends. I need to wait forwardly and expectantly, trusting in God to guide and provide. Herein lies the problem, really. I try too hard to WAIT alone and I lack the necessary trust in God most of the time. I have these pockets of realization that I cannot go it alone and they are hopeful and freeing moments. I need to give in to them much more. This will make the WAITING - no matter how long - much less frustrating and much more life-giving.

You see, we are called to live while we WAIT. We are not just to sit idly by and WAIT for whatever is next. The Scriptures point to an active WAITING for God and, more specifically, WAITING for His return. We are to be watchful, alert, and decidedly not alone. In that beloved passage in Isaiah that is quoted and printed everywhere, the prophet says, "THEY that WAIT upon the Lord will renew THEIR strength..." (40:31). The Psalms encourage us to "wait in expectation" (3:3). Psalm 33 even encourages singing and making music to the Lord as we "wait in hope" for the Lord who is worthy of our trust (20).

I am determined to be better at this WAITING thing. If it is a theme of my life right now I had better make my peace with it. This brings me to the new word of the week. WITH. I think this little preposition is a powerful one. It came to me while I was reflecting on WAITING. There is no better way to WAIT than WITH: the Lord, my full-of-faith-and-trust husband, and the countless others God has graciously given me. I am excited about reflection on our new word of the week and maybe learning to WAIT better because of it!

{The picture above is from the Victory Gardens at Callaway Garden's in Pine Mountain, Georgia...just minutes from our home! I included it because it reminds me that while we must WAIT, there is beauty on the otherside of the WAITING. It also reminds me that it takes a lot of time and care for such a result.}

Friday, April 17, 2009

Julie Andrews Quote

I thought this quote from Julie Andrews was lovely. It seems to go with the theme of my blog somewhat with its talk of freedom. Also, I just love Julie Andrews. :)

"Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly." - Julie Andrews

It might be worth blogging about later, as it is pretty deep and thought-provoking...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Word of the Week: WAIT

WAIT. The word of the week has been a theme in my life for the last few months. I seem to always be WAITING. I am well-versed in WAITING. Sometimes I have a fantastically optimistic view of it. Much more often than I'd like to admit, I have a less-than-stellar attitude about it. I know that God's timing is rarely ours and I can tell you with confidence that it is better. I can say that with ease on the other side of the WAITING. But when I am in it I often find myself discouraged, impatient, frustrated, and lonely. I am hoping that reflecting on the word ::WAIT:: will alter my perspective...and yours.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thoughts on Holy Love

"We have all but eliminated the truth of God's holiness. God is, indeed, love; but intimate love is terrifying. The love that was revealed at Calvary is not a casual thing to be toyed with or presumed upon. Casual love would have smiled benignly at the evil...Holy love was grieved to the heart." - Dr. J. Ellsworth Kalas

"The entire plan for the future has its key in the resurrection." - Billy Graham

"And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold He is here." - St. Augustine

Monday, April 06, 2009

Word of the Week: HOLY

Given that it is Holy Week, I thought it appropriate for the word of the week to be HOLY. There is a lot to be said about that little word. It often brings to mind more negative thoughts than positive. We hear the word HOLY and think holier-than-thou and want no part of it. Or we hear that we are called to be HOLY and cower, feeling anything but. The word HOLY often either makes us want to run or makes us feel inferior. This should not be.

HOLY is what God is. It is also what we are when we connect ourselves to Him. It is not something we can attain on our own. Our attempts to be HOLY apart from God are what has made it a four-letter-word in the worst sense to us.

Let's contemplate the holiness of God in this the holiest of weeks. I believe that doing so will only help to make of us more HOLY creatures. Consider it an experiment in holiness.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Word of the Week

My little sister inspired this blog post. I am not sure she meant to, but she did. I was reading her blog (see "Jenny and Matt" on the sidebar) and she had capitalized a couple of words in her blog for emphasis. I think it was because those were the words that she was replaying in her mind that particular day/week as she adjusts to her new marriage and life in Green Bay. Anyhow, it made me think that maybe having a "word of the week" might be a good idea for my own life. I've been contemplating this for several days. It may seem a little cheesy or hokey, but...I think it might be just what I need. God-inspired? Maybe. My sister is a pretty godly woman, so if she inspired me then God is in it.

My thought is that this weekly word might help to center my thoughts during an otherwise busy day. It might serve to stop me from doing or saying something I shouldn't. It might bring joy, inspire, encourage, challenge, and strengthen me and others I encounter. So, I'm going for it. I hope it helps you, too. I'll post a new word weekly (maybe more than one a week here and there?). Feel free to post your thoughts on that word or let me know how it might be helping you. Blogging at its best breeds community and we need to hear from each other.

The word of the week for this week is: HONOR. Truthfully, I've been trying to think of a more interesting word for the week. I could not escape this one. I guess this means that God has impressed this on my mind for some reason. The word comes from the passage I read in Asbury Theological Seminary's Spring Reader 2009. I just received my paper copy in the mail because it went to my old address. I am loving it so far and have even gone back to look at previous days/weeks. You can access the reader online each day here if you are needing something to walk you through Lent and Eastertide. It is pretty fantastic. It has a passage, spiritual exercises, and prayers and thoughts from the saints through the ages (speaking my language!!).

HONOR. Think about it. Commit it to memory. God and others. Share your thoughts with God and those around you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wise Words

The quote below is taken from, quite possibly, the best book written on the subject of Christian community (other than the Bible itself, of course). It is a short book, but there is so much packed into those pages. It is a lot like The Practice of the Presence of God (Lawrence) in that way. It may seem small, but the contents are so rich it seems huge. I think it is a must-read for Christians. I promise you'll return to it again and again and you'll find something new and insightful each time.

I am posting this because I am still in that stage of considering the power of words - mine, yours, God's, etc. If all my words came from a place like that which is described below...well, life would be bliss. I am learning, though, that sometimes I will: say the wrong thing, hear the wrong thing, read the wrong thing, and/or fail to speak when I should. This is not a startling reality, but a frustrating one nonetheless. Especially for a frustrated perfectionist like myself. It is...messy. Life always is. I know will not always choose right, as I am an imperfect and fallen human being. However, this is no excuse. I plan to do my best to remember Bonhoeffer's words and let them inform my own.

"He who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of himself. Let no man 'think of himself more highly than he ought to think' (Romans 12:3). 'To have no opinion of ourselves and think always well and highly of others is great wisdom and perfection,' said Thomas a Kempis.

Only he who lives by the forgiveness of his sin in Jesus Christ will rightly think little of himself. He will know that his own wisdom reached the end of its tether when Jesus forgave him."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Being a Wife and a Child (of God)

I am constantly amazed at how being a wife is teaching me so much about what it means to be a child of God. I knew that marriage was a metaphor for our relationship with God (Father, Son, Spirit), but I never imagined how it would inform my daily walk. My husband is constantly showing me what real faith looks like in who he is and how he carries himself. He is always telling me that "God has got us" and "I love you very much, but what's more important is that God loves you and has a plan for you, for us." He is always saying things like this either literally or through his actions. I find this both inspiring and frustrating. Inspiring for the obvious reasons. Frustrating because I seem to get stuck in the knowing. It takes a little longer for me to really believe and trust something. I am not sure why this is...

Marriage is just another way that God is teaching me the power of words and living by His Word. My husband does this so well and I am learning from him how to trust Him better everyday. It is an interesting journey, a blessing really. What joy to walk through life with someone like this beside me to remind me who and Whose I am!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Words that Hurt and...Heal

I once had a friend challenge me to fast from words. He thought it would be a good idea if I learned the art of silence. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, regularly engaging in such an exercise might be very beneficial to our spiritual, emotional, and social well-being (and that of others). However, this was not the case with this particular fast. I do not believe now that my friend's motives were pure when he suggested I do so. He had a bent for putting God's name on whatever he thought I (or someone else) should be working on at the time.

Because of his own words, I began to see my own as unimportant, unworthy, and unnecessary. If and when I did speak up and/or ask questions, I did so with a gnawing sense of inadequacy and unworthiness. All of this just prior to my first preaching class in seminary. Not good.

Fast forward to a new semester. I begin preaching class, horrified to find out that we must deliver each sermon without notes. I believe I told someone that it sounded a lot like a lamb being fit for slaughter. I entered with raging insecurities as to my ability to deliver a word at all, much less a word from the Lord! This is ironic, given my long history in speech, drama, and public speaking. I had delivered many a speech or drama scene in my life.

After much prayer (about said anxieties and concerns) and preparation (as every sermon demands), I delivered my first sermon with relative ease. I may have been a little tied to my words (as per Dr. Kalas) and a little speedy in my delivery (as noticed by myself), but it went mostly well. Dr. Kalas told me in so many words that I did have something to say and he was glad to hear it. Each new sermon delivered in that class brought with it constructive criticism and encouragement. The fear was still and will always be there. But, as Dr. K always said in class, "We should approach the delivering of a sermon with a measure of fear, as we are representing God Himself."

It was only on the other side of this first preaching class that I could pinpoint the reason for my initial anxiety about preaching class. I began to realize how I had allowed one person's criticism to shape me and tell me I was less than I was. All because he put God's name on something that might not have been from God.

I believe we can know when such a word is from God and not from man. God's word to us is always life-giving and good. Yes, the Lord disciplines those He loves, but it always comes from a place of deep love and mercy. God's thoughts toward me are good. To summarize Andrew Murray, "I am his delight and all His desire is in me." He thinks I have something worth saying and it is He who empowers me to say it (or encourages me not to!).

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the value of fasting, silence, and solitude. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you as much. I am very passionate about engaging in the spiritual disciplines, most notably fasting and silence. However, I am also now careful to discern whether God is calling for it or I am allowing someone else to speak it into my life.

I have many more thoughts swirling around in my head about the power of words. I'll share those as I get them organized in my mind. Suffice it to say that marriage and life-in-general are teaching me a lot - good and bad - about this these days!

Friday, February 20, 2009


God is lately (and again) teaching me the value of words. I am re-learning the power of words in general - spoken and unspoken. Words have the dynamic and sometimes dangerous power to create and to destroy. Words are sometimes best kept to ourselves and other times necessary (for encouragement, care, rebuke, etc.). I have many thoughts on this subject and want to write more. However, it is late and I am weary from pre-wedding festivities for my little sister right now. I promise to expound more on this in a few days. I imagine my two or three readers will be holding their breath waiting for the forthcoming blog! :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Are You Convinced?

"The basic premise of biblical trust is that the God and Father of Jesus Christ wants us to live, to grow, to unfold, and to experience fullness of life. Trust is an attitude acquired gradually through many crises and trials. Through the agonizing trial with his son isaac, Abraham learned that God wants us to live and not to die, to grow and not to wither. He discovered that the God who called him to hope against hope is reliable. Perhaps this is the essence of trust: to be convinced of the reliability of God."
- Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins

Friday, January 23, 2009

Finding Fulfillment

I am still without a job. While some might welcome this reality, I am done with it. I have a need to do. I willingly admit that I define myself by what I do. This is both good and bad. This is good, given that my vocation is in ministry. It is a fine thing to fully immerse yourself in work if that work is full-time ministry (which we're all called to, by the way...but that is another post). It is bad because it means that I am discouraged when not in my own, boxed up understanding of full-time ministry. In my heart-of-hearts, I know that ministry cannot be limited to any job and that I am in-ministry right now - in my marriage, in my family, and in my friendships. But I yearn for the challenge and fulfillment I get from a job in the field.

I honestly think I'd be ok with doing anything right now (like, working at Hallmark...which I am not far from considering), if I felt like I had enough avenues to explore God's call on my life (even on a volunteer basis or through writing) OR if I was raising kiddos (also on the horizon...but not just yet!). Right now, I just feel a bit limited and a lot discouraged. I am looking into some pretty exciting opportunities (more later) and planning to get started writing,'s just a frustrating time for me. I feel...useless. Jason wholeheartedly disagrees and thinks that God is just giving me a season of freedom. He also says that there's a lot going on right now (my little sis is getting married and moving to Green Bay) and that my being jobless affords me flexibility I wouldn't have otherwise. Still, as I said before, I am ready for new opportunities.

We shall see what happens next. Until then, I covet your prayers and welcome your comments! I will keep you posted on it all as it happens...

(DISCLAIMER: I feel very fulfilled in marriage and in my relationships right now. It has been a blessing to be able to simply be a wife, friend, sister, and daughter. Please don't get me wrong...I love those things. I just desire...more!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Walking without Worry

I have been reflecting a lot lately about what it means to walk with God through the details and difficulties of life. I mean with Him. Not just near Him, but beside Him. I find that each new journey in my life either threatens or strengthens this. That is not an earth-shattering find, I know.

It seems that as I look back on my life, I've just traded old struggles with new ones and anticipate others to come (as we have kids, etc.). Thinking about these things makes me...worry. This is something I am really good at. Not-so-good at trusting that God is with me and that we walk through it all together. I know it, but I don't know it. You know?

So...I was sifting through some old quotes and prayers that I've collected and stumbled across this one. My mom sent this my way (because she's inspirational like that) during a particularly trying time in my life. I need to be reminded of this truth even on my best days. I thought it might encourage you on your journey.

"We are told that God is love; that he takes note of every sparrow that falls and even the hairs of our head are numbered. This means that the least among us is very important to God.

God is described as a forgiving, loving Father. In building faith it is of first importance to integrate this truth into your mind. Every day say aloud,'I am a child of God. God is interested in the smallest detail of my life. God loves me.'
If any doubt arises, reaffirm and reiterate God's love and hold to that thought until it is a fact.

A man asked,'What is the greatest truth of the world?" I turned the question back to him and he said, 'It is that we are not alone.' In building your faith emphasize the greater truth that no matter how dark it gets, how lonely you feel, or how you may experience rejection, you are not alone. Repeat every night as you go to sleep and when difficulty comes: 'I am not alone, God is with me.'

Because God loves you and is always with you, you can have confidence that if you live His way to the best of your ability and put your trust in Him, you will develop a faith that will withstand every shock in this life. A method for meeting difficult responsibilities that can be of immeasurable help is to simply say: 'God please stay with me and help me and I will try to do the best I can.' And then add confidently the affirmation: 'Thank-you, God, for helping me now.'" - Peale