Contact Me

If you enjoy my blog and would like to contact me, you may reach me at this email:

Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I am Like a Christmas Tree

Today is the day we take down the Christmas tree and all the beautiful decorations around the house.
I can cope with returning the decorations back to their storage boxes.
But the tree?
Bruce doesn't understand my grief.
To him, a Christmas tree is just a Christmas tree.
But for me, that lovely eight-foot Noble fir has become my friend.
We selected her among all the other trees in the lot.
We brought her into our home.
We clothed her with our Christmas finery.
Crowned her with a star.
Admired her.
Charged her with the guarding of our wrapped gifts, until the Special day.
She has presided over our Christmas parties, like a gloriously decked, honored Grand Dame of our affairs.
And today, we simply strip her of her finery, her crown, her lights. . . then drag her unceremoniously into the cold garage and cut her into manageable lengths  so that the waste management people will consent to haul her remains away.
I know it's silly, but I want to say, "I'm sorry, beautiful tree!"
I always need to remind myself that the tree is already dying.

I am like that tree.
My body is slowly dying, too.
One day, my own days of "Christmas glory" will come to an end.
The children and friends that I've cherished will have to say goodbye to me, too.
I hope on that day that I can know that I have been a glorious tree. I hope that my beauty and finery--laid on me by Supreme hands -- has brought joy and pleasure to those who've gazed on me. I hope that my little light--a reflection of His light -- has shed delight and comfort.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people. holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Col. 3:12 NIV Bible)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Forgiveness After Christmas

I know you don't want to hear about it:

It's a pretty sore subject right after Christmas.
The relational dynamics surrounding this wonderful holiday can sometimes cause hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
For example, the the past couple of years, someone very close to me (but far away geographically) has neglected to send me a Christmas card.
I always send her one, and I can't understand how this could happen three years in a row unless she's maybe, I hope not, but possibly. . .  angry with me. After all, she sends a Christmas card to all the other close people we're both associated with.
It's not the card, you see. It's the fact that she gets one from me--hello? -- and then doesn't reciprocate.
Sounds silly, doesn't it?
If I'm not careful, I can get kind of miffed about this silly Christmas card thing.

Now, I know some family misunderstandings are much more serious than this.
But most of the annoying things that happen between family members during the holidays approximate my Christmas card example.

I'm glad I have some really wonderful words in the Bible to help counsel me. The following words help smoothe my ruffled feathers.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Col. 3:13 NIV Bible)

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Eph. 4:32)

You may have had your feathers ruffled by a family member during the Holidays.
Today is the day to meditate on the truth of God's Word.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love,  just as  Christ loved us. . . " (Eph. 5:1-2)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!

I love it!
Everywhere I go people who wait on me at stores and restaurants are greeting and saying goodbye by calling out, "Merry Christmas!
People I hardly know are saying the same thing on the sidewalks outside shops.
Mostly they smile.
The spirit of Christmas has taken over, and it feels wonderful.
But I sense another emotion, just under the surface when people call out "Merry Christmas."
Subtle undertones of triumph, as well as gentle rebellion as I hear individuals proclaim:
"No one's going to take away my Christmas, by Golly."
"Jesus really is the reason for this wonderful season."
"It doesn't matter how many sappy Christmas movies Hollywood turns out about angels, or holiday romances, or restoring the "holiday spirit" -- whatever that is -- they keep churning out each year. We all know we're celebrating Jesus's birthday."

And so I say it too: You're not fooling us, Secularized Hollywood, Secularized Government, Secularized Shopping Centers, Secularized Schools.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of JESUS CHRIST.
He may not have been born on this exact date, but the truth is, He WAS born.
God entered physical time and space and took on human form.
The hope of humanity.

And so we celebrate His coming. We display lights, we decorate, we send Christmas cards, we assemble, we feast, we give gifts, we sing, we worship.
Because, on the day that Jesus was born, God fulfilled His promise to us to send a Savior who would:

  • end sin's power over us, 
  • exchange for us the punishment of hell for the glory of heaven
  • take away the sting of death,
  • provide the Light of God's never-ending presence
  • provide grace for each day
  • welcome us into an eternal inheritance.

And so, Secularists, if you think I'm going to exchange CHRISTmas for your puny version of "holiday spirit," you are absolutely crazy!

I'm going to keep saying over and over again, "Merry Christmas!"

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
and Heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing." (Isaac Watts/George Frederick Handel)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Art of Slow Enlightenment

I've probably taught thousands of music students during my 35 years of teaching.
And one of the biggest, most important points I try to instill in my students is the art of "milking" the music.
Most beginning musicians hurry through  the music --the mark of an amateur --like it's their duty to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.
"Do you see how this part of the music should be emphasized?" I'll ask my student. "Slow down. Make a statement here. Bring out this note in the harmony; It'll make the audience cry. Spend more time at this cadence. Make the audience wonder what's coming next.

Books are Like That, Too.I just read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. The book is masterfully written. The author sets up the three distinctive and fascinating main characters with just enough information to really make me want to find out more. Then she skillfully lets slip more details and facts as the story progresses. However, the tension of these questions:
  • What was the terrible thing Minny did to Miss Hilly?
  • Are the society ladies going to discover what Skeeter is doing?
  • Will Skeeter's book get published, and if so, will it affect any great societal change?
  • What if the secret interviews get outed?

These questions remain unanswered, making me, the reader, breathless to find out what will happen next. (I didn't find out till the very end.)

I think this art of "slow enlightenment" should imitate the ways of our heavenly Father. Of course He knows everything about us. But we are thrilled as He gradually reveals the wonders of His character, His love, His grace, His plan for our lives.
No book is more thrilling, no music can compare.
And you can see His wisdom at gradually giving us a greater picture of Who He is.
Because we couldn't take it all in at once.
Enlightenment. . . but at a mortal pace.
What a consummate artist God is!
Let us imitate His skill and artistry in our own art.

"If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed
but skill will bring success." (Ecc. 10:10 NIV Bible)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Worth the Risk

We read and hear a lot about all the male heroes of the Bible: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Peter and John.
Today I started mentally checking off the female heroes of the Bible.
They each have one big thing in common. . .


RAHAB risked her life to hide the Hebrew spies when they came to look over the land surrounding the city of Jericho. She said, "I know that the Lord has given this land to you." (Joshua 2:9)
She then goes on to relate to the spies how she and her countrymen had heard of the Hebrew God and how He had shown His power among other nations. Because of her faith, God spared her life and the lives of her family. She is mentioned in the book of Hebrews for her great faith.

ESTHER risked her life by speaking up for her fellow Hebrews when they had been scheduled for annihilation under the reign of King Xerxes.

RUTH left her home and family to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, a Hebrew. Her decision could have resulted in starvation. But God honored her loyalty to Naomi by providing her with a wealthy Hebrew husband. Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David.

MARY chose obedience to God even in the face of possible dishonor and stoning.  She might have been divorced and even stoned to death for becoming pregnant.

My Heroes

These women are my heroes, just as much as the great men of the Bible.
They each demonstrated faith not merely by their words, but by their deeds.

Am I willing to risk my life, my honor, my comfort, my property, my next meal
for the sake of God?
I want to be a risk-taker.
Oh, not the type who base-jump, or race cars, or bungy-jump off of 200 foot bridges.
I mean real risk.
Risk that saves a life,
or loves the unlovely,
or challenges evil,
or meets an impossible goal.
Risk that will count for all eternity.

Is God calling you to risk something? 

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (Heb. 11:1-2 NIV Bible)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why We're "Merry" on Christmas

I have a friend who's continually working to improve herself.
  • reads books to improve her mind
  • travels extensively
  • attends cultural and artistic events and performances
  • volunteers in the community
  • gives money to charity
  • practices her yoga faithfully
  • watches her diet
  • tries to be a good and considerate neighbor and co-worker
  • is a good wife and mother

She sure sounds like model citizen and an excellent friend. Right?
But she bristles when I dare to mention anything about my faith in Jesus Christ.
You see, she doesn't want to hear that all of her energetic attempts to perfect herself, and to make herself acceptable to God aren't enough.

She can't--no --she chooses not to believe that something so wonderful as the Gospel can be true.
Because then she can't take any credit for all this wonderful self-achieved perfection.
It's sad.

I guess she hasn't yet reached the "end of her rope."
When you get to that spot, you realize that only God is good enough.


But that's what's so wonderful about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The good news is that you don't have to drive yourself crazy trying to earn your way to heaven.
You can't.
And God, in His great compassion, sent His Son to do it for us. He did the work. He paid the price.
All you gotta do is believe.
When Jesus raised His friend, Lazarus, from the grave, He said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John11: 40 NIV)

 I'd love to say to my friend, "Give up. You're not fooling God. In spite of all your works of charity, He sees right down to the middle of your soul. Get squared away with Him first. Then, continue to do your works, recognizing that those good things don't make God love you any more than He does already.


During this Christmas season, I'd love to be able to say to my friend, "this is why we celebrate Christmas. Jesus was born to provide us rest from all our weary and ceaseless labors in search of God's forgiveness and acceptance. So stop trying so hard. Relax. Let God give you His perfection.

"God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day. . .
to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Please God

From the book of Luke we read the words of Elizabeth, spoken to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ:

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"(Luke 1:45)

That's a message for each one of us today. We are indeed blessed when we believe what God says.
Before Mary was visited by the angel, Gabriel, this same great messenger was sent to announce some good news to Zechariah (Elizabeth's husband.)

How to Displease God
Unlike Mary, this man of God, a priest, did not believe. He had obviously been praying for a son for a long time. His wife, Elizabeth was barren. Nevertheless, when Gabriel said, "Zechariah, your prayer
has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. . . "
Zechariah doubted. He wanted a sign, some sort of proof that the angel, and God, weren't  just messing with him.

As often as I've read this passage, I've said to myself, I'd probably be just like Zechariah. I'm skeptical of all good news.

On the contrary, Mary's response always amazes me. When the angel Gabriel announces that she will be the mother of God, she understandably asks, "How will this be. . . since I am a virgin?"

She does not challenge the angel. She does not ask for proof of his words. She simply responds with,
"I am the Lord's servant. . . May it be to me as you have said."

Humble trust
"Wow! What faith? What trust!

About fifteen hundred years earlier another man of God responded in a similar way:
"Abram believed the Lord, and He (God) credited it to him as righteousness." (Gen. 15:6)

How to please God
So, Believer of Unbeliever, the first step to pleasing God is to listen to His Word and believe it.
  • God doesn't lie.
  • God doesn't kid around.
  • He doesn't tell His prophets something and then mumble "not" with His hand over His mouth.
  • He always keeps His promises.
  • He is completely holy; He cannot sin.

If you put your trust in him, He will be eternally faithful to you.

And so, by believing Him, you are saying in essence:
  • I believe that You are God
  • I trust You
  • I recognize your holy character
  • I choose to go Your way, not mine.

That's the way to please God.
Like Mary, we should all say:

"I am Your servant; may it be to me as You say."

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Heb 11:6 NIV Bible)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Reasons to Ha-ha-ha-ho-ho-hee-hee

I love to laugh. Who doesn't?
But sometimes, when things get hectic and stressful, we forget to laugh.
Scientists have been studying laughter for a long time, trying to figure out why humans --only humans --laugh.
Think about laughter. Why does it feel so good?

I've read studies that claim that laughing is good for you. (I guess no one would argue with that)
  1. gets your heart rate up, like a good jog
  2. increases circulation to the muscles and organs in your torso
  3. gives your lungs a good work-out
  4. aids in digestion
  5. makes your face glow
  6. decreases stress hormones
  7. and some claim that laughter raises your immunity to infection and can even treat disease.

So, if work or school or shopping or commuting or relationships or preparations for Christmas are making you feel a bit on edge, take a break.
Go sledding with friends,
play a silly board game,
gather others and sing silly songs.
Grab friends or family, pop in a funny movie and prepare to ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
(I love old Laurel and Hardy movies, or America's Cutest Pets, or re-runs of Candid Camera.)

Remember Mary Poppins? Remember the scene where she and the children go to visit Uncle Albert?
Every time Uncle Albert laughs --which is often--his body begins to float upward toward the ceiling.
Uncle Albert:
"I love to laugh. . . ha-ha-ha ha
loud and long and clear.
I love to laugh. . . ha-ha-ha-ha
so ev'rybody can hear.
The more I laugh. . . ha-ha-ha-ha
the more I fill with glee
and the more the glee. . . ha-ha-ha
the more I'm a merrier me!"

And if that's not enough to convince you to take some time to laugh each day, God reminds us in Proverbs:
"A happy heart makes the face cheerful
but heartache crushes the spirit." (Prov. 15:13

"A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Prov.17:22 NIV Bible)

What do you do to make yourself laugh? I'd love some more ideas. HAVE A MERRY DAY!

Monday, December 5, 2011

I was blessed to have been born into a family where both my mother and father held a deep appreciation for the arts.
Hardbound classic literature stuffed our book shelves.
I routinely poured through art books filled with full-page colored photos of Giotto's paintings, Michelangelo's sculptures, Rembrandt's soulful portraits, on up through the romantics, realists, impressionists, and so on.
On Saturday mornings, my parents would make a big, scrumptious breakfast --usually pancakes, eggs and bacon -- and put classical music on the "hi-fi."
We listened to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, Scarlatti piano sonatas, Beethoven symphonies, Brahm's piano concertos, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.
By the time I was in high school I could identify the music of just about any classical composer.
But I always associated the beautiful music with the special breakfast shared with my entire family.
Saturday breakfasts became a kind of sacred time: food, togetherness, and classical music.
The weekly experience helped bond us together as the family Nicolaisen:
In no other family do they make pancakes in precisely the way we make them in the Nicolaisen family.
In no other family but ours do we hum a Haydn tune and then giggle at each other because we know what we were discussing the last time Haydn was playing.
In no other family do they associate Puccini with arguing about how much cinnamon to add to the egg batter for French toast.
Bruce and I carried on the musical breakfast tradition into our own young family.
The music is a little bit different because we are a family of deep Christian faith and so our musical mornings also include various styles of Christian music. But the laughter, the in-jokes, the appreciation for each other, and the shared memories are precious.

Now that the children have grown and gone on to create their own family meal traditions,
Bruce and I are starting to create some new traditions.
I like to make omelets. But Bruce is the master waffle-maker. He makes banana waffles, raspberry waffles, strawberries and powdered sugar waffles, or just plain waffles. If you want the best, lightest, most delicious waffles, here's the recipe:

1 1/4 cup flour
2 teasp baking powder
1 teasp baking soda
1/2 teasp salt
4 eggs separated
2 cups orange juice
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 teasp cream of tartar
In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Separate eggs: yolks in one bowl, whites in a mixing bowl.
Beat egg yolks until creamy. Blend in orange juice and butter. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in egg mixture. Stir until just blended.
Beat egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry)
Just before baking, fold in the whites.
Recipe makes about 5 waffles.

I hope your try the recipe and then let me know how they turned out. Have a great day!

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." (Col. 3:15-16 NIV Bible)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Creepy Little House by the River

When Bruce and I were first married, we rented a cottage by the Fox River in Illinois.
That place was creepy.
It was an old story and a half structure that --the locals say--had once been a speak-easy during prohibition days.
Legend has it that Al Capone used to boat his bootleg up the Fox River from Chicago and cache the stuff in various houses along the way.
This little cottage may well have been one of those places.
The lower level of the cottage still sported smoky windows. Now, only ancient bar stools and cobwebs populated the once thriving speak-easy. 
When I returned from work each evening, I had to park on one side of the house, then walk around the old saloon and go up some dark, creaky steps onto a deck that led to the "front" door.
I didn't like doing that at night. . . and alone.
Anyone could have been lurking, just waiting to pounce. Or so I imagined.
The upper floor, where we actually lived, had been updated with plush carpet, two bedrooms, a nice bath and a modern kitchen.
 But for me, just knowing about the place's history gave me the creeps.
On top of that, a deep, swift-moving canal skirted the front yard like a castle moat, and dark woods surrounded the remainder of the property.
On nights when Bruce was away on business and I was all alone in the cottage, my mind concocted all sorts of suspenseful scenarios involving escaped convicts, bad-intentioned aliens, or flesh-eating zombies clawing at the outside walls with rotting fingers.
Those were the nights when I cursed the fact that, as a child, I'd filled my mind with too much horror TV.
One particularly scary night I called an older, wiser Christian friend. (I was a baby believer then.) She encouraged me to replace my negative thoughts with  wonderful thoughts from scripture.
Here are a few that have helped me banish the old thoughts:

"Never will I leave you;
Never will I forsake you." (Heb. 13: 5)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy --think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)

"He will cover you with His feathers,and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day. . . " (Psalm 91: 4-5 NIV Bible)

The faithful presence of God is much, much more real than the stirrings of an over-active imagination!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Joys of Car Travel

Back when I was a kid, travel by car was a big deal:
Dads had to know lots about the inner workings of cars because they broke down a lot.
We used rope a lot to tie down all the stuff onto the roof of the car that wouldn't fit inside the car.
Luggage consisted of a 18 inch by 12 inch by 8 duffel, and anything that didn't fit into that got left behind.
For entertainment, we had books or coloring books. Or each other.
We didn't even worry about seat belts --they hadn't been invented -- because there were so many bodies stuffed into the back seat we'd probably stay put even in a roll-over. Not!
Parents showed overt favoritism for a specific child and he or she got to sit in the front seat. (Back then this favoritism wasn't grounds for a state investigation.)
The interstates didn't exist as yet; we took old highway 99 or route 66.
No air-conditioning, and the car heater rarely sent rays of warmth to the second row of bench seats.
No McDonalds or other fast food places.
We didn't dare eat or drink much because potty stops were few and far between, and anyway, Dad didn't believe in them.
Even if you wanted to eat, the offerings weren't too appetizing: stale cheese sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. (Sandwich baggies hadn't been invented.)
Motels? Nope. Dad simply drove until the last of us dropped off into a sweaty, restless sleep. When we woke, sometime in the middle of the night, it was to the motion of the car being rocked back and forth by the whoosh of air as an 18-wheeler roared past our car. (When Dad finally got tired, he simply pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road for a quick nap.)
Still, we kids had heard our parents' stories of travel --or lack of -- back during the depression. And our schools had impressed on us during history class the perils and hardships of our pioneer ancestors.
We knew we were lucky just to be going somewhere. . . anywhere.

Flash forward about 50 years. My husband and I just returned from a week-long trip to California to see family. Except for a snow-storm in Wyoming, the trip was pleasant and quick.
We drive a Highlander Hybrid with great gas mileage.
It tells us when our fuel is getting low. Gas stations on interstate 80 abound.
Food, too. We have our pick of truck stops, fast food, nicer restaurants.
We know the route so well that we plan our gas and food stops accordingly.
The air-conditioning works and so does the heat.
The car switches into four-wheel drive if it senses snow or ice.
I can plug in my lap-top or charge my iphone.
We stay at nice, well-appointed hotels that include a hot breakfast.
I love this country.
Not only do I have the freedom to travel any time I wish, anywhere. But our government collects taxes to improve and upkeep roads so we can safely travel.
And our country gives bright entrepreneurs the opportunity to create and offer more food choices, more hotel choices, more services, more improvements to our vehicles, and more entertainment and technological developments.
What a great place to live.
Some changes and improvements are good. But I hope we don't "change" too much.
God bless America!

Note: In case you missed it, check out my first song recording (from Thursday, Nov. 24th blog). I'm still working on perfecting the use of my recording equipment, but hope to have it fully operational by January 2012. My goal is to offer my readers brief scripture songs that are easy to memorize.
Have a great day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First song posting

Hey, Readers:
This is not the best recording, but I'm learning.
Click and listen to my rendition of Psalm 139.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To Whom are We Thankful?

Just about everyone I know celebrates Thanksgiving. Many have a ritual of sitting around a table with tons of delicious food, gorgeous decorations, and all sorts of beverages. One by one, the diners share what they're thankful for. But often, what I don't hear is to WHOM they're thankful.

How can you be thankful to. . . . nobody?

"Well, I'm just thankful that I didn't lose my job."
"I'm thankful that we still have a roof over our heads. "
"I'm thankful that I got over my pneumonia."

Are we thankful TO GOD that HE provided us with a job or touched our bodies with healing?
Or are we merely relieved that tragic fate (whatever that is) somehow bypassed our family this year?

Let's always remember that GOD is the giver of all good things.
On Thanksgiving. . . and every other day, let's raise our hearts and voices and give Him loud praise. Let's show the world that we know where our blessings comes from.
Our food, our shelter, our job, our children, our freedoms, etc. all come from a great and loving God.
And, as His children, even the tough times are in His large and capable hands, and HE can turn even those "bad" things into blessings.
What a great and wonderful God. So worthy of our continual praise!

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is He that made us, and we are His;
we are His people, and the sheep
of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations." (Psalm 100 New Revised Standard Version)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seize the Creative Spark!

For years I've enjoyed waking up while hearing an original tune in my head. Sometimes it's a single melodic line; other times I hear an entire orchestra. I repeat, the music is just in my head, lest you think I'm a bit crazy. (Although, that's a possibility. too)

The unconscious musical composing also happens during the day. Sometimes I ignore the compositions that my brain concocts. Other times, I simply enjoy listening to the inward music.
But lately I've wondered why I don't write down the music. After all, some of the compositions are really inventive and attractive. I've got the music skills to notate the music (unless it becomes too symphonic!), so why not wait for the next tune to pop into my head and then take pen to manuscript paper?
So, this morning, just as I was waking, a cute little tune arrived. I listened to the entire tune play itself through my head.
After listening, I decided that the tune would be perfect for my piano students. The music, as I envisioned it on the score, wasn't too easy to be boring, nor was it too hard for my intermediate students.
I jumped up and ran to the piano to play what I'd heard in my head. Then I wrote it down.
(In January, when I get this whole "record and play on my blog" thing perfected, I'll share with you some of my brain concoctions.)
I've since talked to a number of other writers and musicians and found that this unconscious creativity is common.

Sometimes, it's a whole story, rising unbidden into a writer's mind
Sometimes, it's a long-sought solution to a problem that finally pops up.
Sometimes, it's a picture just pleading to be painted.

One time, I dreamed that I saw my dining room table dressed up in  certain style and loaded with certain kinds of food dishes. (I'd been wrestling in my mind for a number of days with what to serve my guests at an up-coming party.)
Another time, I dreamed an entire scene for one of my novels. It was exactly what my manuscript needed to raise the suspense and the stakes for my main character. I sat down that very morning and typed out the scene.

And how's this for creativity?: The author of "The Phantom of the Opera", Gaston Leroux, reportedly woke from a sound sleep with the story of the phantom laid out in his mind. He immediately set about to write what his brain had come up with.

Handel wrote the entire oratorio, The Messiah, in twenty four days. TWENTY FOUR DAYS!?!
At the end of the composition, he wrote SDG: Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone the glory)
I'd say Handel was operating by inspiration!

Here's the important thing: when that spark -- call it divine inspiration or a sudden mental clarity --creates something in your mind, seize it and do something to flesh out the ghost. Don't wait. I can't tell you how many musical compositions (not that my pieces will achieve Handel-ian greatness) I've put on hold while I finished the laundry. By the time I was ready to notate my composition, the darn thing had fled, never to be recaptured.
So don't wait.
When inspiration takes wing, grab it by its legs and hold on.
It may take you where you've never gone before!

"I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt His name together." (Psalm 34: 1-3 NRSV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Glad I Don't Live in the Good Ol' Days

I like a good historic romance novel. . . occasionally. But some people I know read nothing but. I think they think, wouldn't it be great to have lived in such simple times?
Have they ever stopped to think what the good old times didn't have that we now take for granted?
Take refrigeration: How would you like to have to wait for the ice delivery man to bring you your hunk of ice?
And talk about food: how much could you actually fit into those ice boxes?
You couldn't run on down to the supermarket and stock up on 20  one-pound packages of ground round. Where would you store them?
There were no packaged convenience foods in those little general stores. No frozen juice, no processed chickens or turkeys (you had to kill your own!), no pre-packaged turkey stuffing, no plastic wrap, no baking foil, etc.
Your stove required great care and skill to operate. No convection ovens, no microwaves.
How about plumbing: Indoor toilets are a pretty new invention. How would you like to either traipse outside in the dark and cold to an outhouse, or use a small receptacle that you or the maid (if you were lucky enough to have one) would have to empty in the morning? Not!

How about transportation? Some of you horsey people know how much work it is to feed, groom, train, and shelter your mode of transportation. Not to mention mucking out the stall each day, or arranging for the farrier to shoe your horse.
Do you know how much time and effort it takes to attach the horse to the carriage? How would you like to wait an hour for all that to happen, then walk out into twenty-degree weather and sit in an unheated vehicle as the horse plods along at less than ten miles an hour?

Now let's mention medicine and painkillers. Anesthesia was in its infancy in the nineteenth century. Obstetric care was till in the dark ages. If my first child had been born during those times, we'd both be dead and my second and third child never would have happened.
Wash day took all day. All the women folk got in on the exercise. And it was exercise.
Now imagine doing all that housework in uncomfortable shoes, corsets, in scratchy wool clothing?
And no air conditioning or central heating.
Women grew old quickly, and most died before or slightly after menopause.
My grandmother grew up on a farm in Iowa. She used to put heated bricks under her bed covers to warm her bed before she climbed in on a frigid winter night. When she woke up, the water in her wash basin would be frozen.
No TV, no radio, no phones. Entertainment consisted of books (yay!) and the occasional community ball.
Why am I going on and on about the "good ol' days?"
Because I'm good and thankful to God that He placed me in these modern days. He's given me so much I can hardly believe it.
Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord!

Still, it's fun to read about those plucky women on their farms or small towns in the old days. I recline on my leather sofa and hold my Kindle. Even though it's night-time, I don't have to strain my eyes because my living room is well lit by recessed lighting.  Nearby, my gas fire lends added coziness. I sip my Starbuck's coffee that I brewed in my Cuisinart coffee maker. Music floats from my large-screen Samsung TV. Earlier, as my washing machine did a load of clothes and my dishwasher cleaned my breakfast dishes, I took a walk, which made my knee sore. So I took some ibuprofin. Now my knee feels just fine.

"We are so blessed by the gifts from Your hand, I just can't understand why You've loved us so much.
We are so blessed, we just can't find a way or the words that can say, Thank You Lord for Your touch.
When we're empty You fill us 'til we overflow,
When we're hungry You feed us and cause us to know;
We are so blessed,
Take what we have to bring;
Take it all, everything, Lord, we love You so much."
(W. Gaither, G. Gaither, G. Nelson, River Oaks Co./Gaither Music Co.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Evil the Flip-side of Good?

I watch tons of movies where the main character faces almost impossible odds. Near the end of the movie, it looks as if the tragic end is a forgone conclusion.

How to Train Your Dragon
The Karate Kid
Rocky (I,II, III, IV. . . )
Mean Girls
et al

Hollywood has taught us to see Evil as more powerful than Good. Evil holds sway throughout the movie. Then, by some serendipity, fluke, or lucky break, Good breaks free and wins.
I know that movie-goers pay good money to have their emotions whipped and tossed by the delicious tension and uncertainty concerning the hero's end.

Will Superman be able to fight the evil genius, Lex Luthor? Gee whiz, I sure hope so. But it doesn't look like that will happen. Oh, no, here comes the bad guy again. Look out! I can't look. Oh, please, somebody help Superman! That itty bitty rock from the planet Krypton that they wrapped in a chain around Superman's neck is stronger than he is.

Oh, joy of all joys, Miss Teschmacher, Lex Luthor's lusty but brainless girlfriend lifts the Krytonite chain off of Superman's massive shoulders. Freed, he blasts off to save the world and Lois Lane. Yay!
Whew! that was a close one.

Great story, but is the premise really true?
Is evil bigger than good?
It sure looks like that at times.

But, as Christians, we operate under a different set of expectations.
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

The world (and Hollywood)  would have you think that evil is merely the flip side of good. The two balance each other out. Neither is stronger. Evil is necessary to balance out the blandness of Good. Star Trek fans will remember that James T. Kirk needed his bad side to give him strength and assertion. Otherwise, his good side could not lead or make difficult decisions.
Yin and yang.
Moonlight and sunlight.
Warmth and cold.
Evil and Good.
Opposites and equals.
Is Evil really equal in power to Good?

What does the Bible have to say?

Jesus said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."( Rev. 1: 17,18)

"He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Col. 1: 15-17)

Evil is not the flip side of Good.
Not even close.
At the right time in history, God will seize Satan and cast Him into hell.
It's not even a contest.

I hope you believe what God says about Evil, that its days are numbered.
I hope you choose to put your trust in the all-powerful God.
There is no flip side to God and His goodness.

What do you think? How have you seen our culture twist good and evil?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Side-swiped by a Monster Elk!

My husband, Bruce, was coming up the canyon last night after choir practice.
You have to be careful at this time of the year, we always warn ourselves as we approach the straightaway that bisects two big grazing areas.
But even when you're careful, wild animals sometimes pop out of nowhere.
I don't what the elk was thinking, but she galloped onto the road just in time to meet up with our car's right rear-view window.
The elk seemed unhurt as she continued across the highway.
Bruce was unhurt too -- praise God! -- but quite startled.
The poor mirror hangs by a thread. We called our dealership and it'll be about 500 dollars to fix it.
Darn elk!

Call it side-wiped, broadsided, bushwacked, thumped across the side of the head, or ambushed, or. . .
Whatever the name, the effect is still the same. One minute you're operating under your routine. The next, your whole body and mind have been knocked down and dragged out to sea.
What can you do?

I love the old Boys Scouts motto: Be prepared!
And on the California driver's test, one of the correct answers is: Watch for potential accidents.
To protect yourself and your car:
Keep your car in good working order
Keep your cell phone handy
Keep a blanket in the trunk.
Stock extra water and snacks in case you're stranded
Store flares, a flashlight, etc. in your trunk.

Similarly, in life:
Keep your relationships in good working order
Keep the lines of communication open with family and friends
Be vigilant
Store up good memories for future hard times
Take care of problems before they become big problems
Always have a plan B
Keep your word
Pay your bills on time
See that your family has regular check-ups with the doc and the dentist
Serve others, especially the poor and the widow and the orphan
And, most important of all: stay close to the Master!
You may not be able to prevent all of life's "side-swipes," but if you take care of your business and stay aware, you can save your life, or your marriage, or your business.

"Be very careful, then, how you live --not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." (Eph. 5:15-17 NIV Bible)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Is it Bad to Finish Last?

Tommy Nelson, senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas shared an amusing anecdote. Tommy's a big, muscular guy who stays in shape by running, and working out at the gym. He's also got a quick, well-developed sense of humor. One morning as he worked out on some apparatus in the gym, a guy who was working out nearby sized him up. Then he said, "So, I hear you're a Christian."
"Yes," Tommy replied.
"Well, you know what they say about nice guys; they finish last."
Tommy grinned and said, "That may be true, but bad guys go to hell."
I think that may have been the end of the conversation.

It got me to thinking. Is it true that nice guys finish last?
Perhaps in the world.
Perhaps if you're honest and possess integrity you may not get ahead in a cut-throat business environment. Or maybe you'll struggle to survive in the world of politics.

But what did Jesus say about being last?
 Did Jesus ever cluck his tongue and say to His disciples, "Too bad you're such nice guys. You're just never going to advance in the Kingdom of Heaven if you keep giving everybody else a leg up."?
Gosh, I'm glad He didn't ever say that.
Instead, Jesus said, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant."

Recently on the news, I saw a touching story of a young athlete in a race who chose to stop to help an injured racer, thus forgoing the chance to win the competition.
So extraordinary was the kid's choice that he made the national news. Did this young hero finish last?

A decade ago, as a mountain climber laying dying on the slopes of Everest, no one stopped to help.
Do you admire the climbers who made it to the top?

My son returned from his own climbing expedition up the snowy sides of fourteen thousand foot, Mt. Shasta.
"Did you get to the top?" I asked him.
 He shrugged. "Not this time. I stopped to help a girl. She had altitude sickness, so I helped walk her back down the mountain."
I knew how much my son had wanted to get to the top with a better time than last year. He didn't make it, but to the girl he helped, he's a hero. (And to me, too!)
Fortunately, we don't always have to choose between being the nice guy or losing the race, or the contract, or the whatever.
But when it counts, wouldn't you want to be "last?"
Is that so bad?

"Jesus called them (the disciples) together and said, 'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10: 42-45 NIV Bible)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanks be to God!

There's an interesting story about St. Patrick. Called by God to preach the Gospel to the Irish people, Patrick encountered a rich, pagan landowner. Wanting to impress St. Patrick and those who had decided to convert to Christianity, he sent food and supplies. When Patrick received the supplies, his only response was, "Thanks be to God!"
A couple of days later, the wealthy landowner inquired of his servants. "Did you send the supplies to Patrick?
"Yes, Master."
"Well, what did the man say? Did he send a message of thanks to me?"
"No, Master. He only said, 'thanks be to God!'"
At that, the wealthy landowner was enraged. "What, he sent me no thanks for all the food and supplies? Go back and demand Patrick to give it all back. He does not appreciate my gift."
The servants did as they were told. When they presented themselves to St. Patrick and requested that he give back the food, St. Patrick merely said, "thanks be to God! Take it all back if you wish."
The servants returned with the gifts.
Their wealthy master then asked with a triumphant look in his eye, "What did St. Patrick say when you took my gifts back?"
"Master," the servant replied, "he looked up to heaven and said, 'thanks be to God.'"
Amazed, the master told his servant, "Take the gifts back to the man. He says 'thanks be to God' when he receives a gift, and 'thanks be to God' when his gift is taken away. So, he must have my gift."

Thankfulness is faith that God has His hand in all parts of our lives, even when times seem to indicate otherwise.  It is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in a believer's life. How else could one respond in both good and bad times, "thanks be to God."?

Here are the words of another great man of God who demonstrated thankfulness in the worst of times:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4 NIV Bible)

"I am not saying this because I am in need. For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:11-13 NIV Bible)

How have you demonstrated this kind of thankfulness in a bad time?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is a Daily Dose of God Enough?

I love nature. . . in small doses.
A couple of months ago, as I dragged my garden hose around to water the pines and blue spruce on the west side of my property, I surprised a baby bunny. He'd evidently hoped to find safety from predators under the sprawling branches of the big blue spruce that borders my rock garden on the southwest side of the yard. Bunny zipped out from under the spruce and sheltered himself against the rock wall nearby.
I re-directed the water from the hose and said, "I'm sorry, little bunny. I didn't mean to spray you. Next time I'll check to make sure you're not under the tree before I turn on the water."
He regarded me with a mixture of curiosity and wariness. He was a distinctive-looking bunny: no more than six inches long from twitching nose to fluffy tail. But he didn't look 100 percent cotton tail, almost as if one of his parents had been a run-away domestic bunny. He's got an unusually broad face with so many whiskers it looks like he had a run-in with a porcupine.
Since this incident, I've watched Bunny grow into an adult. As the weather has grown cooler, I've noted that his coat has thickened. Occasionally, he rests under our back deck. But mostly he hangs around the blue spruce. I know he's got a home somewhere in the area. Watching him go about his daily business gives me a small dose of happiness.

Then there's the chipmunk. Probably the same one who got into my house one morning during the summer. Since then, he seems to have adopted me. Each morning he skitters up the log banisters on the front porch, then comes to peer into my south-facing office. He taps on the window screen to get my attention, then flicks his tail and looks at me with bright and bold eyes. He's got a home somewhere in the crevices of the rock retaining wall that borders my driveway. The little creature scurries from there, to my porch, then into the gardens. Later, I spy him using the big ponderosa on the east side of my deck as a highway to my roof. Heaven knows what Chip is doing way up there. I hope he hasn't found access to the inside of my house.

On Chip's travel up my ponderosa tree, he encounters the outraged nuthatches. There's colony of them in this tree. Their territory extends from the ground up, encompasses the tree, and then all the way north to the bird feeder. They fly at Chip and cry "pip, pip, pip."
Chip seems unconcerned, but the birds notice me, as I watch from the comfort of a nearby deck chair. So they fly over to the banister, flick their wings at me and loudly complain. Perhaps they think I'm a big chipmunk. They make me laugh with delight.

I love these daily doses of nature. Seeing the animals each day helps bring me happiness.
But if a bear or cougar or coyote decided to adopt my yard and take up residence, it wouldn't be nearly so lovely. Then I'd be the one flapping my wings and crying "pip, pip, pip" in an outraged voice to the local animal control.
Nature is a great thing. . . in moderation. But I do not want to be overwhelmed by it.

Food is also good. . . in moderation. Warmth and sunlight. Decent clothes. Adequate housing. Work. Relaxation. All good, in conservative doses.

One Thing only is good in bigger than chipmunk-size, or even bear-size, or super-size or mansion-size:

the experience of God.

I want a gigantic dose of Him.
No little giggles of delight when I glimpse Him from afar.
No small "ah"s at His antics.
I want to be overwhelmed.
To be tossed by a giant wave, rolled over, pounded, thrown skyward, drenched, possessed, drawn out to the deep.
''All things in moderation," the ancient Greeks said. I'm sure that they were referring to the joys of physical experience, in all its forms.
Evidently, they did not know the God of the Bible.
No one, knowing God, can desire only a moderate amount of Him.

Nature is great. I like my daily dose.
But give me a daily tsunami of my loving, intimate, holy God.

"At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place.
Listen, listen to the roar of His voice,
to the rumbling that comes form his mouth.
He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven
and sends it to the ends of the earth.
After that comes the sound of His roar;
He thunders with His majestic voice.
When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back.
God's voice thunders in marveous ways;
He does great things beyond our understanding." (Job 37:1-5 NIV Bible)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Real Imitator

A number of years ago, I had a conversation with one of my children's friends. The young man stated that he'd placed his trust in the Lord Jesus. He was saved and that was all he needed.
I asked him if he intended to go to church or get involved in some sort of Christian fellowship.
"Nah," he said. "I don't need any of those things. Isn't that why we're saved by grace? So we don't have to do anything else to get salvation?"
I tried to explain to him that when we become Christians the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside. The Spirit develops in us a desire to fellowship with other Christians and to want to know our heavenly Father in a loving and intimate way.
The young man continued to argue with me that none of that was necessary since he had already obtained salvation.
Since our conversation was about to end, all I could say was, "If you have a relationship with someone, wouldn't you want to spend time with him or her?"
The sad thing is, this young man went on to a life of bad choices, bad relationships, troubles with the Law, and drug use.
I can't say whether or not the man had actually turned his life over to the Lord. It seems unlikely, given his life-choices. I could be wrong.
This isn't the first or (unfortunately) last conversation I'll have with a Christian who's chosen to do the Christian life in a non-Christian way.
They seem to think that going to church, or attending a Bible study, or reading the Bible, or spending time in prayer each day is too conventional. They'll do it (the Christian life) their way. . . or no way at all.
I have never seen anyone with this type of attitude bear fruit for Christ. Never.
You simply can't be a disciple of someone and simultaneously reject his teachings.

The ancient people of Antioch were the first to call Believers in Christ, Christians, or little Christs.
That pretty much sums up what we're about on this side of heaven: we aspire to resemble Christ in our actions and words. We have a relationship with Christ and we admire and love Him so much that we want to be just like Him. The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers us to desire and to act according to God's good purposes.  (Phil 2:13) And so, we practice imitating God.
But how can we imitate Somebody we do not know? How can you imitate a Person you've never heard or seen? You can't.
You must spend time with the person you're imitating:
  • You listen to His voice, 
  • you read about Him, 
  • you talk to Him, 
  • you observe His patterns of behavior, 
  • you also spend time with those who know Him,
  • you practice walking, talking, acting just like Him.

After some time, you become an expert on this Person. You come to instantly recognize his voice. Imposters do not fool you, because you've developed a practiced eye and ear to the Person. Everyone identifies you, because of your speech and actions, as the Person's "imitator."

Yes, we Christians are saved by Grace. But after that, the Spirit begins a transforming work, to make us conform more and more to the image of Christ. We need to get in alignment with the Spirit and give him free rein. . . and reign.

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Eph. 5:1 NIV Bible)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Never Too Late

"It's never too late, in fiction or in life, to revise, " said writer, Nancy Thayer.
What do you think?
Are you too far gone down your path to change?

In an earlier blog I mentioned how Bruce and I hiked up a steep path, thinking we'd eventually hit another path which would circle us back to our starting point. When we discovered our mistake, we turned back. That was kind of a no-brainer.

But what if you're stuck in a career you think might be a mistake?
Or what if your marriage isn't exactly what you'd originally envisioned?
Or suppose you're hanging out with people who seem to lead you in the wrong direction?

I like to play Spider on my computer. It's one of my ways of taking a break from writing and letting my brain get into another groove. The game involves moving cards from one pile into another pile until all the cards are stacked by suit and in order, from King down to Ace. The game tries to trap you (like getting caught in a spider web) by presenting an obvious move that actually is designed to lead you farther and farther from your goal. Sometimes, after I've made a move, I see where it's leading me and I have to quickly backtrack before all my cards are used up and I have nowhere else to move.

The game of life is similar. Some life moves seem like the right choice.
But be wary!
And just because you've made a move doesn't mean --when you discovered you've made a mistake -- that you can't turn around and choose another path.
Perhaps your career needs an overhaul. Or maybe you need to adjust your attitude. Make your revision. Go ahead. Do it.
Maybe your marriage needs a tune-up. Maybe the direction you take when you talk to your spouse leads to a dead-end. Can you back up and try another route?

Maybe the social life you've chosen feels fun at the time, but makes you feel miserable the next day. Do you have to continue down that same path? Sometimes we go down a path because it's the only one we know. But isn't that kind of like a cow or a sheep? You're a lot smarter than a herd animal. Can you put your mind to it, find another route and change direction? 

It's never to late to revise your life.
Just look at the thief who hung on a cross next to Jesus:

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him (Jesus) to be executed." (Luke 23: 32)
"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. 'Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!'
But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.'
Then he said, 'Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.'
Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'" (Luke 23:39-43 NIV Bible)

That criminal realized during his last few hours of life that he'd gone down the wrong life path. He revised his life attitude in the nick of time.

Take a look at your life, and revise.
It's never to late to make a heart or a life change.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Heed the Warning!

Yesterday, while walking to my weekly meeting with my writer friend, Nancy, I almost ran into a small herd of elk. They were lying down, just off the edge of the sidewalk in downtown Estes Park. They raised their heads and gave me "the eye," a familiar look of wariness that elk give as a prelude to fight or flight. I gave the herd a wide berth and continued on my way.
Two hours later the same herd had wandered onto the lawns and banks of the river next to the Visitor's Center where I'd parked.
 Again, I gave them lots of space as I passed.
But several tourists got very close for a good shot of an elk. Just outside the Visitor Center, a little girl of perhaps seven or eight had approached a cow elk within inches of its face. Before I could shout a warning to her, the cow jumped toward her and stamped its front hooves. Deer and elk do this to warn and intimidate a predator. If the warning doesn't work, they attack.

The little girl's grandmother, who had missed this entire incident because she was looking at the river, came up from the river bank and said in a casual tone, "C'mon, Susie. Leave the elk alone."
Susie now seemed to realize that she had annoyed a five hundred pound animal. She passed several other elk, while looking nervous. The grandmother said, "Just walk by them and ignore them. They won't hurt you."
The girl and her grandmother headed toward the ramp where I stood. A four foot metal fence separated them from the elk who stood just on the other side. "Okay," Grandmother instructed the girl, "now you can get close. They can't come over this fence."
The little girl again approached another five hundred pound elk, obviously feeling safe because of her wise grandmother's words.
At this point I couldn't hold back any more. I said, "Please be careful, little girl. An elk can come right over that fence if you scare it."
The grandmother didn't even look at me. She was getting her camera ready to take another picture. "Oh, they won't come over here," she said in a distracted tone as she focused her camera.
I had half a mind to run over, grab the little girl and pull her to safety. But at that minute, the girl moved away and joined her grandmother.
Oh, how I wanted to lecture that foolish grandmother!
Her lack of vigilance, and ignorance of the ways of big, wild animals  could have resulted in the granddaughter's injury.
Oblivious to danger.

The danger was so obvious to me.
But no matter how I warned this woman or her granddaughter, they ignored me. Obviously, Grandmother thought she knew better.
Grandmother didn't recognize her own desperate state of "lack."

There are so many analogies I could make from this frustrating experience.
How often have you tried to warn someone about danger and been ignored? It could be physical danger, psychological danger, spiritual danger.
You've been around, seen how things are. Maybe you've even been hurt yourself. How you wish you could make the foolish one hear you.
You do what you can do to warn about the dangers of "elk."
But after that, it's up to them to heed or ignore the warning.
One would hope that a tourist would read up on the many wonderful things to be encountered on the vacation. Best to know that elk, no matter how docile they look, can be dangerous. That grizzlies roam Glacier National Park. That the Mohave rattlesnake slithers just outside your Southwest motel so don't let the kiddos play in the pretty plants just outside your room.
One would also pray that people on a life journey would consult the ultimate travel guide, the Bible, for instructions.

"God's word is better than a diamond,
better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring,
better than red, ripe strawberries.
There's more: God's Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool?" (Psalm 19:10,11 The Message bible)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lost People Shouldn't Give Directions

Recently at church I heard from a lovely and godly mother whose nearly-grown son continues to make unwise life decisions. A group of us prayed for him, and for his mother, who will need supernatural wisdom in knowing how to deal with him.
As my husband and I drove home from church I shook my head sadly and said, "Wouldn't you think that after making such bad life decisions for several years, a person would eventually come to his or her senses and change direction?"
You know the old definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
I suppose that the need to "go your own way," keeps many people from listening to a voice of reason.
It reminds me of a story of two hunters:

Joe, the hunter had become lost in the woods. Wandering aimlessly, exhausted and nearly dead from the cold, he suddenly stumbled into the camp of another hunter. Tom, the other hunter, welcomed him and helped him sit by his fire. He fed Joe and gave him some hot coffee.
Finally, Tom asked, "So, how did you get lost?"
Joe replied, "I was heading north over Spiny Ridge so I could meet up with County Road 46. My truck is parked a hundred yards south of the intersection of the Cty. Rd and the old logging road."
"Oh, no wonder you got lost," Tom said. "County Road 46 is actually south of Spiny Ridge."
"Can't be," Joe said, shaking his head. "I think I should know where I left my truck."
"Hey," Tom said, "who's the one who's lost here?"

So, if you keep getting yourself into a mess, stop and take a look around. Maybe, for once, it's not just bad luck or some other guy's fault. Maybe it's the direction you're going.
And if you see someone who seems to know where he's going, ask him for directions!

"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction,
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck." (Prov.1:8 NIV)

"Your word is lamp to my feet
and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105 NIV)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Sun Stand Still" Prayers

I just finished reading an excellent book called Sun Stand Still, by Steven Furtick.
The message of the book is about daring to ask God for impossible things.
And I'm not talking about asking for a nicer house, or new car, or a trip to Vegas.

This is about realizing that God has given you a vision that He wants you to pursue, and asking Him to work through you with His supernatural power to accomplish that vision. Not long after coming to faith in the Lord Jesus, God gave Steven Furtick a vision to start a life-changing church in a major city. A few years later, after becoming a pastor, Mr. Furtick and his family and a few brave souls left their jobs and homes and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. The result of their "audacious" faith? Elevation Church. They've seen thousands of professions of faith and they've grown to over six thousand members.

In Sun Stand Still, Steven Furtick uses the example of Joshua and his battle against a band of people called the Amorites. (Joshua 10) Joshua had the audacity to pray that God would make the sun stand still so that he and his warriors would have the extra time to rout the enemy and completely defeat them. Talk about an audacious prayer!

Of course,  we're not Joshua or Steven Furtick. God has a different call for me and for you. But it begins with a passion, put inside you by the Holy Spirit. Do we dare ask God to do great things in us and through us for His Kingdom? Are we willing to push aside fear, doubt, lack of discipline, discouragement, and trust God by obeying the inner promtings of His Spirit?

My vision is for God to bless me supernaturally with power to write words that will reach, inspire, encourage, help, comfort, and point the way to Jesus. I believe that He has placed this vision inside me, and then prompted me to pray in alignment with 'His will.
Of course, I can't just sit in my office chair and plead with the Lord to make me a better writer. I've got to keep praying and staying in the Word. I've got to step out in faith. I've got to get down and write. And I've got to respond to the opportunities to use this gift for Him.

I've put a notecard next to my computer screen. It says: "My writing is an act of worship."
That card reminds me that the writing I'm about to do is all about Him:
  • It is born from Him
  • It is prompted by Him
  • It is given to Him
  • It is grown through Him
  • Its results are accomplished through Him
Let's dare to envision and pray for great things.
Then, let's be willing to more forward in obedience and faith.
 Let's be people:
"who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies." (Hebrews 11: 33, 34)

(If you're curious about Steven Furtick's book, Sun Stand Still, it is published by Multnomah Books.)


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Domino Effect

My back hurts. I don't know what I did to it, but it's been bothering me for several months now.

At first it was just a little ache in my lower back. I ignored it.
Then the pain intensified.
I've done all the usual and logical things to treat my pain. I:
  • make some amendments to my sitting posture 
  • get up and move around every fifteen minutes or so
  • exercise
  • take ibuprofin occasionally
  • change to a better office chair
  • see the doctor and have x-rays
  • do the exercises my doctor suggested
  • purchase a desk that moves up and down so I can stand and type
None of these improvements have helped.
Lately, the pain has been spreading downward to my hips. Every time I get up. . . ouch!
And, in the past couple of weeks I've noticed that the tendons around my knees are starting to hurt. I'm thinking that whatever is going on in my back has set in motion an unpleasant Domino effect. If I don't get some professional help soon, my ankles may be the next Domino to fall!

I thought, isn't this just like so many other life-situations?
  • a problem with one member in the family tends to spread and affect the other members
  • a conflict at work tends to work its way throughout the entire department, with employees takings sides for or against the issue
  • a small protest in Manhattan grows in intensity and numbers and spreads to other cities
  • and we've probably all seen what happens in a church when a disagreement foments greater and greater conflict within its membership
I guess the solution to my little back problem is to take care of the pain when it's small and manageable. Before it spreads like a wildfire and becomes uncontrollable and painful in other areas.
I think I've learned my lesson: Just because it's only a small part of my entire body that's hurting doesn't mean that I can dismiss its cries for attention.
Same thing goes for the community, the school, the company, the government, the church.

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Cor. 12: 24-26 NIV Bible)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve and Danny

I didn't know Steve well at all. Mostly, I kind of knew about him.
But I knew Danny from childhood. He was one of my twin brother's best buddies, and a really fine guy.
Growing up, Danny was like a big, clumsy puppy, full of joy, enthusisam and boundless energy. He had a hard time focusing on schoolwork even though he was quite bright. But in his twenties, he found his passion and went into medicine, eventually becoming a fine doctor.
Both Steve and Danny were only in their fifties when death took them.
At least Steve knew it was coming. He had time to prepare his family, his employees, the public.
But Danny was simply doing his second greatest passion: riding his bike.
The elderly driver who hit Danny said he never even saw him. Danny died almost instantly.
No time to say goodbye to his wife and four children, or his many loyal friends.

It's a funny thing about life. You're really only one breath away from eternity. The uncertain-ness of how much time we have on this earth reminds me of the old magician's phrase: "Now you see it, now you don't."

I don't know about Steve or Danny. Did they have a faith-filled relationship with the Lord?
Both men, Steve Jobs and Danny Dickenson were very successful in their professions.
But now, everything they've worked for with such passion and energy is gone. Other people, riding on the coat-tails of their hard work and innovation, have inherited the finances, the name, the results.
In eternity, Danny and Steve cannot bring their resume to present to the Great I AM.
They are simply Danny and Steve.
You've probably asked yourself this question each time some big important person dies: what will I bring before the Lord when it's my time to go?
I'm so thankful that my place in eternity does not depend on my earthly accomplishments, but on the faithful promise of the Lord Jesus to declare me innocent and worthy of heaven.
When it's my time to leave this earth --even if it surprises me --I'll be ready!

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6 NIV Bible)

Monday, October 3, 2011

He's Even in the Little Things

This morning I met with  my women's ministry team to discuss our plans for two up-coming women's get-togethers. One of the many materials we would be needing for our meetings are pocket folders. Lots of them. 200, to be precise.
I volunteered to search for the folders. We have a women's ministry fund that would pay for them, but I thought, wouldn't it be nice if I could find a good deal and pay for the folders myself? Then the fund could be used for other valuable materials.
It was a beautiful day, and rather than make phone calls, I decided to enjoy the weather by driving to the various office type stores to compare prices.

 Maybe the large number of folders I needed might induce a manager to offer me a discount.

I parked in front of OfficeXXX and confidently marched into the store. There, I found a disappointing selection and an even more disappointing price. In addition, the manager said that since the rush to buy school supplies was long over, there would be no discount. I politely and cheerfully said thanks and no thanks.
I headed on over to the big W-XXXX store. Their prices for folders were even less attractive and no, they wouldn't offer me a discount either.
At that point, it dawned on me that I could pray about this little endeavor. Yes, indeedy, if all else fails, pray!
So, just as I entered the next well-known store, I uttered my prayer for a reasonable folder deal. In this store, the guy who helped me was so nice, and actually seemed to comprehend my shocked reaction when he unveiled the price for 200 plain pocket folders. Hint: the actual retail value was going to be over two hundred dollars.
As I trudged toward the exit, I prayed silently, "Lord, this cannot be the deal I just prayed for."
A dismal image popped into my mind: me, folding and decorating 200 large rectangular pieces of construction paper and stapling little contrasting sheets inside for the pockets.
I shook my head to dispel the gloomy picture.
"Wait a minute, Lord. there's the B-XXX Store just down the way."
I headed in that direction. Just inside the entrance to B-XXX, a nice store worker approached me. "May I help you find something?"
"W-well, I just need a large number of pocket folders." My eyebrows slanted upward into the classic pleading position.
"There you go, Ma'am. Right over there." He pointed to a display unit close by the check-out center.
Remember the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Remember the music they played every time the knights got close to finding the grail? Well, that's the music I heard in my head.
There had to have been at least three hundred of the sweetest pocket folders: reds, oranges, blues, yellows, greens. And each one, 18 cents.
18 Cents! Hmm, let's see, that's 18 times 200. . . It's only 36 dollars plus tax. Wow, what a deal!
Thanks, Lord.

You know, God is interested in even our smallest quests.
He knew my heart. He knew I sincerely wanted to help ease the burden on the women's ministry funds. He knew I was willing to pay for the folders. But he also answered my prayer for a decent price, too. How sweet is the Lord. How generous. How intimate His care.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter. 5:7 NIV Bible)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What I Think He Thinks

Queen Victoria once said:
"The important thing is not what they think of me,
but what I think of them."

At first glance this statement seems kind of arrogant, don't you think?
But, hold on a minute.
Maybe Queen Victoria was actually a woman of great emotional security.

I once heard a  Christian psychologist say, What you think people think about you, is usually what makes you behave the way you do."

This statement seems to be born out in politics, at least.
Look at anyone who's trying to get elected (or re-elected) to office. These people hire experts to gauge what voters are thinking of the candidates, and how they'll vote.

We humans invest a lot of time and energy in trying to get others to like us. Sometimes the energy spent is because we are insecure.
Wouldn't it be great if we could all just operate according to our convictions instead of how others will react?
(Yes, I know it's important to get along; I'm not talking about being a stubborn, pain-in-the-neck!)
But, seriously, wouldn't it be great if we said what we really feel or think?
But I'm afraid.
I'm afraid of judgment, censure, scorn.

However, it seems as if the most admired people in a community are usually the ones who have the courage to "march to their own drumbeat."
Think about the people in your life who you truly admire. They're almost always individuals with some unique style, good thinkers, secure, principled, disciplined, achievers in their own arenas. They stand out in a crowd not because they're flamboyant, but because of some inner strength.
They may possess their own insecurities, but somehow, they're able to rise above their fears and assert themselves within a group.

Many of the people I've most admired in my life have been quiet and humble, yet have possessed great inner gifts: compassion, single-minded focus on the thing that God has called them to do, wisdom, maturity, selflessness.
These are people who've struggled and grown strong because they've allowed God to do a transforming work within. Therefore, they no longer operate under the compulsions put upon them by what others think. They simply do what the Holy Spirit has imprinted on their hearts.

 Years ago, as a teen, I heard a speaker say this: "The truest thing about you is what God says about you."
Wow! So obvious, yet so hard to wrap our minds around. Wouldn't it be great if we could operate every day on that truth?

What does God say about me?
That I'm loved, that I've been forgiven, that I have a place waiting for me in heaven, that God does not condemn me.
I could go on and on. Any one of the above truths takes a life-time to internalize and apply.

"The truest thing about you is what God says about you."
Do you believe that?
How does that transform the way you live each day?

"Your word is truth." (John 17:17, NIV Bible)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Leave Your Mark

Did you know:

  • Shirley Temple starred in her first movie (The Red-haired Alibi) in 1932 at the age of four,
  • Marvin Hamlisch was accepted into the Julliard School of Music at the age of seven,
  • Mozart composed his first of 41 symphonies at the age of eight,
  • Felix Mendelssohn debuted as a concert pianist at the age of nine,
  • Louis Braille began divising his alphabet for the blind at the age of fifteen,
  • Jay Luo graduated from Boise State University with a B.S. in math at the age of twelve,
  • Samantha Druce was twelve when she swam the English channel?

But. . . did you also know:
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote Faust at 81,
  • Carl Sandburg published a new volume of poetry (Honey and Salt) at age 85,
  • Bob Hope, at age 87, traveled to Saudi Arabia to entertain American troops,
  • At age 89, Albert Schweitzer was hard at work every day in his hospital at Gabon, West Africa,
  • Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York at the age of ninety?
So, whatever your age, do you really have an excuse for not going after a dream?

As Canadian hockey player, Wayne Gretzsky said: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take."

And an added thoughts for us Christians:
 If God has placed a dream in your mind that He wants you to accomplish, will He not also strengthen you as you rely upon Him?

""As for God, His way is perfect;
the word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
He enables me to stand on the heights." (Psalm 18:30-33, NIV Bible)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Outrunning the Moon

When I was a child, growing up in northern California, I loved to travel. Of course, with two parents and five kids, travel was always by car.
That was fine for me. I loved to sit back and get lost in viewing the changing landscape as the car sped by coastal hills, merged onto larger highways and eventually reached the miles of central valley agriculture.
One of the things that fascinated me when I was six or seven years old was the way the rows and rows of artichokes, or onions, or what-not seemed to stretch into the distance like rows of long, skinny legs. As the car zipped along parallel to the crops, the rows seemed to run along with us as if to race us to our destination.
If we drove at night, the crops blurred into oblivion. The moon would take the next watch.
He'd rise slowly in the night sky. When he got high enough, I'd see his big grin. And if I was in the right mood, I'd silently dare the moon to a race.
We always seemed to be neck and neck. I'd tell my father, "faster, Daddy. The moon's getting ahead."
My dad would chuckle and press his foot to the accelerator for just a second.
When I became a teenager, the moon ceased to be a racing competitor. He became a beautiful confidant, to tell my longings to.
The moon has always been there, thank God.
God was always there, too, in my thoughts as our family made our little journeys. At first, I did not know Him well; he was more of an idea, a kind of imaginary playmate.
But in my teens, I came to know Him in a personal way.
Time and troubles came and I ran to my big Friend more and more.
Like the moon, He was always there, even when clouds obscured His face.
Sometimes, I tried to outrace God, just so I could go my own way.
But no matter how hard I ran, there was never a place I could hide.
No matter what I do, what I say, where I go, He's there.
He's even in my head. Even there I can't escape His presence.
Most of the time, that's a comfort. But it's a little disconcerting that He and I share space brain space even when I'm thinking less than good thoughts.
I'm glad I've made friends with God, through Jesus.
It must be terrible to be on bad terms with God and not be able to get away from Him, don't you think?

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:7-10, NIV Bible)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who Gave the Mountain its Power?

A while back, as my husband and I wound through the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, we drove over McKenzie Pass (In Deschutes National Forest) and encountered a devastating scene of destruction. There had been a volcanic eruption; I never found out when it happened.
Spread out before us were miles upon miles of black, viciously sharp lava rock. Nothing grew among the piles of dark stuff.
 We pulled over and I grabbed my camera and carefully scaled a mound of rock to get a better look.
Miles away, I glimpsed several cone-shaped mountains that look liked photos of Mount St Helens before its 1980 eruption.
Farther on down the road the Parks system had erected a kind of monument to the eruption. (That's me walking up a path for a better look at the devastation.)
I thought about the power of nature and a mountain that could literally blow its top and change the look of the entire mountain range.
Not only that, but the eruption might have decimated an entire local population of indigenous people, plus killing thousands of animals and leveling miles of forest.
Now that's power.
Some people worship mountains and the power and majesty that they represent.
But a mountain has no feelings, no compassion, no plan for the inhabitants who rest in its shadow.
A mountain might alter the weather or force a river to change its direction. But the mountain does not listen to the bleating of sheep which feed on its slopes. It cares not a whit that trees shelter on the lee side or that elk and mountain lions drink the snow melt that cascades from its lofty summits.
But God, who made the mountain, does care.
Here's what scripture says about God's power and His loving concern for His creation:

"Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:41)

Does the eagle take flight by your wisdom
and spread his wings toward the south? (Job 39:27)

Do you give the horse his strength
or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? (Job 39:19)

Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind? (Job 38: 36)

Look at the behemoth
which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. (Job 40:15)

The mystery and majesty of God's creation should cause our minds to recognize His power and our mouths to shout His praises!

(All scripture verses are from the NIV Bible)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why We "Shout for Joy"

Last night, at choir practice I shared a story to highlight the Christian's reason for why we "shout for joy.":

Imagine that you are in an old Hollywoood western. But, instead of being a good guy, you're one of the bad guys.
You tried to rob a bank. The bank teller made you nervous. Your hand jerked and the gun went off. You've been apprehended, tried, and condemned to death.
As you sit in jail, awaiting your execution, you go through all the usual rationalizations. You really didn't intend to shoot the bank teller. It's just that you needed the money badly. You've lost your job. You have to feed your wife and kids. What else could you do?
But now it's the morning of your execution.
The sheriff arrives. You hear the turn of the iron key in the lock. The jail door swings open. You are escorted out of the jail and into the cruel,white morning.
Crowds of spectators jeer and insult you.
You look up and see the gallows, the hangman, the noose.
You put your foot on the first step of the scaffold. As you mount the steps, your legs turn to jello. Your mouth is dry and your heart pounds. Your gut sickens at the horror of your impending violent death.
When you reach the top, the judge turns to you and says, "Do you have any last words before we execute justice?"
You can't speak. Terror wraps around your throat. You shake your head.
The hangman ties your hands behind your back. The noose is slipped around your neck.
Your life flashes before your eyes and you are filled with regret. Too late.
You wonder for the last time what death will be like. Will it be oblivion? Or will it be the terrible everlasting punishment your Sunday school teacher told you about when you were just a kid?
The hangman fits a black cloth over your head. Your breath puffs the fabric in and out. You take your last big breath.
And then. . .
And then. . .
"Wait!" Someone shouts. You hear footsteps. "Don't pull that lever. The governor has just signed a reprieve. This man is free!"
The cloth is whipped from your face. Bright sunshine greets you.
Free! I'm free! I don't have to die!
Where seconds before dread and despair filled your mind, now joy makes your limbs strong. Your shackles are removed and you rush toward freedom, down the gallows steps, across the town square, into the arms of your weeping wife. You shout with triumph.

Wouldn't you shout, too?
Sometimes I think we Christians only half realize that we all have been granted a reprieve. The gallows was our fate, just like that murderer.
Let's shout for joy! We don't have to die. We're free. Free!

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."(Col.2:14)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Those Who've Gone Before Us

Last week Bruce and I hiked up to Gem Lake in Rocky Mountain Nation Park.
The sign at the trailhead said the hike was only 1.7 miles. "That's a snap," I said. "We can be up and down in an hour."
The trail began horizontally, winding through ponderosas, weird rock formations and aspen whose leaves held just the merest trace of gold. But I swear the trees tittered and giggled in the slight breeze as we hiked underneath their foliage. "Hee-hee-hee! They don't know what's around the bend. Tee-hee."
Sure enough, once around a sharp bend, the trail, which had baited us with its deceptively innocuous beginning, abruptly switched to long stretches of stair-climbing.
I hadn't brought my hiking poles because we'd planning on hiking an easy trail. As we climbed, I began to sorely regret that decision.
Bruce, of course, climbed blythely upward, hardly breathing. (I don't think his heart rate has ever exceeded 60 beats a minute.)
As I stopped every so often to catch my breath, I half imagined my husband breaking into a rousing rendition of "Valdaree, valdara, valdaree, valdara-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha."
We hadn't brought enough water for this type of hike, so we had to ration what little we had.
We took it slow. Even so, we passed several groups of hikers, young and old, who had to stop to let their own fleshly motors cool down.
Occasionally, breaks in the trees gave us breath-taking views of Estes Park, way down below, and the surrounding Rockies.
About half a miles from the top I asked a group coming down the trail how much farther we still had to go. The man gave us a thumbs up and said, "It's not far now. Just beyond the outhouse, you'll have one more push and then you get to the lake."
"Thanks," I wheezed.
More groups passed us, coming down, and gave us encouraging reports: "You're almost there." It's just around the corner."
Their encouragement gave me the strength to keep on going inspite of the heat, almost no water, and my aching joints. I'm not sure if I could have continued without the hope that I'd soon reach my destination.

When we finally reached the top, and Gem Lake, we encountered many groups of hikers sitting and enjoying the view. It felt so good to sit and cool off under the shade of trees.

I thought about the groups of people who made it to the lake well before Bruce and I. How grateful I was that they noticed our tired expressions and had the compassion to offer us encouragement.
Isn't that what our older and wiser friends in the Christian faith do, as well? They've walked many of the same paths, encountered some of the same trials, perplexities, and discouragements. But they've made it to the "lake." They can confidently say, "It's not much farther. You're almost there; don't give up."

I've been blessed to have had mature friends who've encouraged me and given me guidance when I felt like giving up.
How about you?

"There, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Heb. 12:1)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Fight- Part 3

In the times of the book of Judges, the Israelites were doing pretty much what we do: in times of hardship and oppression, they cried out to the Lord, their God. (Remember 911?)
But when things smoothed out and enemies ceased to oppress,  they became complacent and forgot to worship God. They also allowed idol worship to flourish. Oh well, keeping an idol around isn't all that serious, is it? (The presence of an idol demonstrates that the Israelites didn't fully trust God.)

In Gideon's time things had gotten so bad that he was forced to thresh wheat in the winepress so the Midianites wouldn't steal or destroy his crop.

God came to Gideon and told him  "I am sending you to save Israel. I will be with you when you fight and destroy the Midianites." (paraphrase mine)

 Before Gideon went out to do battle, God first asked him to destroy his father's Baal idol and to prepare a proper altar in which to worship God. (God must be worshiped sincerely, and He must come first if we hope to win a battle that He has called us to fight.)

Perhaps you know the rest of the story. Before Gideon and his men went out to battle the Midianites, God told him that he still had too many men. Out of ten thousand men he still had, God allowed Gideon to have only three hundred men. (Talk about a classic David and Goliath scenario!)

God said, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand.
(Note: God says, "I will save you." Who saves? Gideon. No. God. God saves. Remember, the Bible is about God, and only secondarily about men.)

God prepared the battle by spreading fear and confusion among the Midianites. By the time Gideon arrived, the Midianites were ready to flee in terror. As they did so, more Israelites were called into the battle to pursue their enemy. Eventually surrounded and trapped, the Midianites were defeated.

Everything about Gideon and his battle is amazing. The victory was so clearly engineered by God, again.

Things to note:
  1. Gideon first had to clean up his own family's ties to idol worship.
  2. His own family at first misunderstood and wanted to kill him. (When you first try to clean up shop, expect to get flack from those close to you)
  3. Although God called Gideon, the young man had to respond in obedience and action.
  4. And, most important, God was the orchestrator of this entire battle. Gideon simply responded in obedience. Then God filled Him with His spirit and Gideon was able to accomplish the impossible.

There are so many lessons to learn from this wonderful account. Today, one lesson that really strikes me is:
the complete sovereignty of God.
In other places of scripture, God says, (and I paraphrase): I am the Lord, there is no one who can stand before Me. I make nations rise and fall. I laugh at puny people who think they are more clever and more powerful than I Am. (examples: Job, chapters 38, 39; Psalm 2; Psalm 14; Revelation, chapter 4, etc.)

Yes, God is mighty. We have seen that in these three posts about His involvement in warfare.
But, isn't it also wonderful that His purposes are always holy and just?
And isn't it thrilling that, whatever He accomplishes, it is for the love of us, His children?

"Holy,holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." (Rev. 4:8)