What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Purpose: Chosen For a High Calling

I seem to be drawn to 1 Peter these days. There is a lot to be said about being chosen especially by God and for God in the first few chapters of it. Today I read 1Peter 2:9 – 10 in The Message and really liked the purpose it gives me for continuing to live.
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night and day difference He made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”
I need a sense of purpose in spite of the way I feel. Today is one of those days where I am not quite sure what to do. I’m not feeling well and cannot isolate any specific cause. Waiting to hear results from doctors’ tests make the days seem to go on without meaning. But the truth is there is meaning, a significant purpose in keeping about the activities of the day. I’ve been chosen by God for a high calling of work. What is this high calling?
To be holy, devout, God-fearing, spiritual for the purpose of having others notice God. To be an instrument that God can use to do His work (which is having others notice God). Another part of the high calling is to be a voice for Him, to speak out for Him, to tell others of Him. This should be easy because the message I have to share is a message that says I am night and day different than I used to be and it is all because of what He has done for me. God made me night and day different. I used to be confused, lost, lonely, misunderstood and misunderstanding of others, sad, uncertain of goals and purposes, and so many more things that could cause a lack of peace and calm in my life. Now only a couple of things matter: He’s made me something from nothing and has turned around rejection into acceptance.
That’s worth living for and it’s worth serving Him and speaking out for Him. No matter how I feel today, physically or emotionally, there’s a purpose for my existence. That’s worth celebrating this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. I wanted to write a cheery, holiday message to say all is well, but I can’t say that in the physical sense. But, there is so much more to life than the physical and eventually, with a God as big as mine, all is fundamentally well.
So, no matter how you feel this morning, be assured that God is at work in and around you, helping you, calling you, wanting you to be a part of His life. He wants this so badly that He provided His Son for us. Born in a manager, yes. Born to rule in the spiritual world, yes. Born to bring us into a right and good relationship with God the Father, yes! That’s the point of Christmas and every other day.
I’m wishing you a Christmas Day filled with the love of Christ and the glory of God.
Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 20, 2012

God's Work

Today I read Ephesians 2:10 in The Message. It says,
“[God] creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”
Lately, as I’ve been feeling ill with weird symptoms, too numerous to explain at this point, it seems like it is impossible to be about any work whether given to me by God or just the day to day tasks. But, the key is that God has given us work He has ready for us, work He has planned out uniquely for us to be doing. So I asked myself, what is the work He has planned for me today? What should I be doing regardless of how I am physically or mentally feeling? So I’ve been pondering those questions today.
I feel like yelling at God and telling Him that it’s too much to expect me to carry on when feeling sick with these vague symptoms that come and go without warning. The reality is there are important jobs for me to be doing even when feeling ill. Some of those are true everyday and can be done regardless of how I’m feeling and others need to be done especially when I’m feeling ill.
Job #1: PRAYER. I can pray no matter how I am feeling. I’ve been trying especially hard this week to pray for those who may also be suffering from some unexplained illness or heartache. There are lots of people in my life right now suffering from cancers, accident recovery, mental health issues, and so much more. Some of those people I know about, some just come to mind for no apparent reason. But, my job, my work is to pray for each one of them. Maybe due to my own physical symptoms right now I understand more acutely how much they need prayer. I pray God will find a way to encourage them in the midst of their struggles. That’s what I’m praying for myself, too.
Job #2: ENCOURAGE. I can try to write encouraging emails or notes or make a phone call to those who may need a kind word. I try to do that every morning by writing at least one email to my friend in Minnesota. I don’t always know what to write or what she needs to hear, but I write anyway. God knows what she needs and she seems to get something out of my notes. I have other friends I try to write on a somewhat regular basis and whether they live in Michigan, Minnesota, or Idaho I pray before I hit the send button that the note will encourage the recipient in a special way.
Job #3: WRITE. I write this blog. I view it as part of my job, the work God has for me on this earth. I don’t always know what to say or where the writing may take me, but nonetheless I write. I know that God has given me a talent to write and not using it would not be doing the work God has specifically prepared for me to do. And, as it says in Ephesians 2:10, it’s work I had better be doing.
I’m sure there are other jobs, other work, God has prepared for me to do and I will continue to contemplate what those jobs might look like. In the meantime, I know I have these three jobs to work on and I can do them no matter how I feel if I do them with God and for God.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Decision 2012

In December 2010 and January 2011, I wrote a couple of articles about thriving vs. surviving. (See 12-26-10 and 1-2-11 posts) When December 2011 came around I did not renew those decisions and the consequences have been a year of inner turmoil and anguish.
Today I announce that I’m going to remake the decision and see if the rest of my life will be better for me emotionally and mentally. There’s already a sense of relief knowing that I won’t have to deal with thoughts of self-harm on a regular basis. For now, and for once for all, such behaviors are not options for me. This includes suicidal ideation. That has been the hardest behavior to put aside because it has been the alternate plan, the ultimate back up plan, for many, many years.
In coming to this decision, I came across 1 Peter 1:3 – 5 in The Message. It says, “What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven – and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all – life healed and whole.”
I’m counting on the part that says we “have everything to live for . . . and the future starts now!” I’ve decided to memorize this passage from The Message to remind myself daily that there is life worth living and it starts today. I’ve decided that life is an adventure with both good and bad stressors coming at us daily, but the adventure is worth living if we have God at the center of it. I can trust Him. I just have to decide to do so. Daily. Minute by minute. Sometimes second by second. But ultimately we will have it all – life healed and whole, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I can wait for that to happen in God’s timing and not have an ultimate back up plan or escape plan. I may only be planning to escape before I see the miracle happen.
I choose to wait for the miracle.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Recalling What God Has Done, Part 2

As a teenager, I would find myself in dangerous situations. I usually put myself in these dangerous situations. But, God was there. Something prevented me from being severely hurt. I think that something was God. The situations could’ve left me physically hurt, even dead, emotionally hurt, mentally scarred, or spiritually broken. But they didn’t. God was there to protect me from situations I could not even guess. I made decisions to run from God, ignore Him, and deny Him. Yet God did not let me get too far away from Him. He kept bringing people into my life that knew Him and directed me back to Him. He brought people into my life that didn’t know Him, but they accepted me and cared about me. They tried to help me. I was helped in spite of myself by the people God put in my life.
As a young adult, God drew me to Him. He used the Christmas season as a time to bring me into a relationship with Him like I never knew was possible. He used the people on my college dorm floor. He placed each one there to make sure I knew them and would through them, come to know Him. God timed everything out so that I would be in the right places, the right college, the right dorm floor, and the right dorm room next to the people He wanted me to know. In two weeks, this will have happened 34 years ago.
God didn’t stop there. He put the right people in my life to help me learn more about Him and learn how to develop a relationship with Him. Some of those people are still friends today, still challenging me to walk with God. God brought me into contact with Christian groups on campus that helped me grow stronger in my relationship to God. After college, God allowed me to find churches and people in those churches to help me grow. As my relationship with God grew, so did my ability to make decisions based on the Bible and that led to various jobs and people at those jobs.
God was at work to bring me into a relationship with my husband. I did not always make the best decisions when it came to this area of my life, but ultimately God was there, picking up the pieces. I believe God led my husband to love me, in spite of my many flaws. My husband was diligent in his courtship and diligent now in his love for me. And, I’m not always easy to love. But, God knew what I needed and brought my husband to me and keeps him loving me.
I’ve seen the miraculous births of two precious children. My pregnancies were anything but normal as I had to deal with my insulin-dependent diabetes throughout both of those time periods. My children were born and live healthy lives today. My high-risk pregnancies have not left any lasting effects on my children. God was there throughout, providing for as normal pregnancies as possible. It is not unusual for diabetics to have multiple miscarriages. God spared me that experience.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve struggled in many ways that I never would have predicted. Yet in spite of my screwed up thinking at times and the multiple desires to end it all, I’m still here. God did that, too. I know He’s been protecting me from myself and from the attacks of evil in my life. There have been so many times when a thought would come to me that was not from within me, thoughts about the legacy I’d leave for my children or the legacy I’d leave for my friends and family. I did not want to leave this world a quitter.
This is only a sampling of the things God has done in my life. The recalling of God’s work in my life has renewed in me a desire to know Him better. As I get to know Him better, I will see His unconditional love for me and be better able to trust Him to fulfill His promises in my life. As this happens, I will learn to trust Him even in the midst of my struggles. I can choose to serve Him until the end of my days as a result. That’s what I want for my life.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recalling What God Has Done

As the book of Joshua ends, Joshua recalls for all of Israel to hear their history from the time of Abraham through their most recent history where they conquered the nations and took over the good land. Joshua emphasized what God did for them throughout history. Then Joshua challenges them to choose who they will serve. The Israelites respond by saying, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!” Another translation of this verse says, “We’d never forsake God! Never! We’d never leave God to worship other gods.” They responded this way because of the memory of their God working for them throughout history.
I can learn from this lesson. I need to choose who I will serve just as the Israelites had to. What will help me decide? By recalling my history with God. As I started thinking about this I realized that the Israelites remembered not only what God did for the present generation, but for several generations before, all the way back to Abraham. I need to start looking at my history from the same generational perspective.
I don’t know a whole lot about the spiritual condition of my ancestors. I don’t know what their relationship with God was like. But, I do know my ancestors accomplished some pretty amazing things. I come from a family of immigrants, so those first ancestors who chose to make the trip to the Americas set out on a dangerous path. They set aside everything they knew and headed out for something new. They may have left Europe due to the Irish potato famine or because of the constant struggles in Greece, but there is no doubt the unknown awaited them in the United States. God brought them through. He kept them alive on the long ship passage. He allowed them to find employment once they were here. They married and were able to have children of their own, who in turn lived to adulthood. God was there. This pattern could’ve broken down at any point but God was at work to see that it didn’t and that eventually I would be born from these adventurous ancestors.
God was there when my mother went into labor. She made it to the hospital even though it was the dead of winter and I lived. My parents believe in God. They raised me to believe in God. When I eventually had to choose for myself, denying God did not seem possible. God had been a part of my life and even though I did not agree with my parents on their views of God, I knew He existed.
When I was a child, I suffered a bit. I was not an easy child for my parents to raise. I did not know how to be any different than I was and they did not know how to raise me any differently than they did. But, it was not all a happy childhood. But, it was also not all a bad childhood. God was there, protecting me. Things could have been a lot worse and then where would I be today? I’ve seen children whose home lives are much messier than mine was. It could’ve been me. I don’t know why some people have to suffer more than others, but I know God only allowed what I could handle. He was there even when I did not recognize Him.
To be continued.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Inheritance on Earth

Today I was working on my Bible study in the book of Joshua, Chapter 23. Verses 12 – 13 says,
But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.
The good land was the promised inheritance for the Israelites, the culmination of all that the book of Joshua was about. It was their inheritance on earth. The study guide asked the questions, “Will you lose your inheritance on earth if you ally with the “nations” or serve their gods?” and “Will you lose your eternal inheritance if you do this?”
I had to ask myself the question, what is my inheritance on this earth? I know what my eternal inheritance is. It is salvation, eternal life, redemption, heaven, being with Jesus in heaven forever. And, no, I cannot lose this eternal inheritance under any circumstances. If I sin, I sin. Jesus paid the price for that sin the moment I believed in Him. He actually paid for my sin while I was still a sinner. It’s not dependent upon my condition. If I’ve been saved by Jesus, I’m saved.
But what is my earthly inheritance and can I lose that? I struggled with trying to figure out what my earthly inheritance was until a friend drew me back to the context of Joshua 23. The Israelites would lose the good land, the best God had for them, if they allied themselves with the ungodly nations around them. I think I also would lose the best God has for me here on this earth if I ally myself to ungodly people.
There are various views on what it means to be allied with the ungodly in our world today. I take my cue from the New Testament, from 2 Corinthians 6:14 and following:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and the Devil? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
To me, to be “yoked” means to have any relationship that could end in a commitment whether it’s marriage or business. So if I ally myself with unbelievers, now that I’m a believer, I’m in danger of losing my earthly inheritance. I would lose out on the best God has for me. This may mean I lose out on the peace, joy, serenity, and love that come from being in right relationship with God. My willful alliance with unbelievers would most likely prevent me from getting the best God wants for me while on earth.
But this would also happen if I chose to be out of right relationship with God whatever the issue. I will lose out on the best God has for me. I don’t want to be missing out on God’s best for me. So, I need to be evaluating where my relationships with God and others need to be changed, so I can enjoy my inheritance on earth.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holiday Thoughts

It’s time to write another blog article. I don’t really have a topic in mind and when that happens it makes writing very hard. I need a direction, a place to go. I don’t have one of those today. So, I thought I’d share a little about my thoughts on the upcoming holidays.
Today, my daughter asked what is on the menu for Thanksgiving Dinner. I do have the menu planned out, but not necessarily the details (like what vegetable we are having). Dorm food must really have her down if she’s thinking a week ahead to Thanksgiving Dinner. She also wanted to know if anyone was coming that would be spending the night. I don’t know, and can’t guess, what that’s about. I wonder if she thinks she’ll have homework or if she’d have to give up her bed (she has a loft here so it’s not like grandma is going to sleep there!)
Yesterday, my husband said something very shocking. He said maybe we should start thinking about doing the unthinkable: get an artificial tree. That’s something he once told me he’d never do. I grew up with an artificial tree. There are some definite benefits to having one, foremost in my mind is the lack of pine needles scattered, thanks to our cats, throughout the house. But, not having a live, pine-scented, tree also means the house won’t smell like Christmas. Do they make air fresheners in pine scent? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll have to look into that.
This last weekend, when it was in over 60 degrees outside, we hung up our outdoor Christmas lights. They won’t be turned on yet, but they are ready to go. We also put the birdbath warmer out. Today, the birdbath is frozen and we had to plug the heater in. What a change since Sunday. I’m glad we will not have to fumble in the cold with the lights. I’m glad we took the opportunity to hang them when we did. Now we will have to see if we will get them taken down before Easter.
Last week, I purchased my first Christmas present. It should be arriving in the mail soon. I’m excited to do some more shopping, but I don’t like spending money. I like giving presents but I don’t like spending the money. It makes holiday shopping a two-edged sword with fun on one side and pain on the other.
There. Does any of that help you get into the holiday spirit? I hope so. It’s motivated me to shop again. Now that I’m done with this blog article, I will go online to see what I can find.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Right and Privilege

By the time this is actually posted we will know who is the next president of the United States. But I’m writing this on Tuesday, Election Day, so I do not know how my vote counted. The key thing is that it does count. I am reminded of that in several ways today.
First, my daughter has voted for the first time in a Presidential Election. She used an absentee ballot because she is away at college, but it was very important to her to exercise her right to vote. I’m glad she feels that responsibility. It’s a sign she appreciates her country, even though she also has many complaints about the way some things are. She’s taking the responsibility to do what she can to make things go better in her view.
Second, a friend of mine is voting for the first time in a Presidential Election because she is a new citizen of the United States of America. She’s lived here for several years but has not been eligible to vote until this year. She values that opportunity and was probably as excited as my daughter, and, probably for the same reasons. She’s saying she loves the United States and she’s interested in what happens in our government.
Third, I have friends who have been overseas as missionaries for much of the last 20 years. They may have voted absentee ballots in the past, but today they get to vote in person as they are here in the United States. They, too, have a stake in what happens in this election and want to have their say. They, too, will exercise their right and privilege to vote.
Each vote does matter, and what matters the most is that we don’t take it lightly. I cannot imagine not voting today. I’ve voted in every Presidential Election since I was 18 and all but 2 non-presidential elections since then, too. I voted today. I will watch with great interest for the results tonight. But mostly, I hope people exercise their right and privilege as American citizens and will vote.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Promises of God

I’m continuing in my study of the Bible in the book of Joshua. God’s promises to the family of Israel are coming true. They have fought battles and God has given them the victory over many different people groups. Joshua is allotting land to each tribe and to each clan within each tribe, just as God instructed Moses who then instructed Joshua. They are coming into the inheritance, into the goodness God promised them.
One story in this section of Joshua has Caleb asking for his portion, the land God specifically said He’d give Caleb for being a faithful spy over 45 years earlier. The portion of the land Caleb wanted and had been promised was not yet conquered, so Caleb asked for permission to take his soldiers and drive out the Anakites who were there. Caleb would settle for nothing less than the land on which his feet had walked (Joshua 14:9). Caleb wanted everything God had promised him and would do what was necessary for him to get it.
Some of the other tribes either took what they were given and were happy with it, or they grumbled that what they had wasn’t enough or good enough. The “people of Joseph” actually went to Joshua to ask why they got what they got, complaining that they were too many people for the land, but they were only looking at the land already cultivated and ready to live in. Their portion also included large areas of wilderness. Joshua told them to expand the livable area:
“Yes, there are a lot of you, and you are very strong. One lot is not enough for you. You also get the hill country. It’s nothing but trees now, but you will clear the land and make it your own from one end to the other. The powerful Canaanites, even with their iron chariots, won’t stand a chance against you.” (Joshua 17:17 – 18 in The Message)
The people of Joseph had to be told what to do, and we know from Joshua 17:12 – 13 that Manasseh never did get rid of the Canaanites. It is the flip side to what Caleb did. So, what was the difference between the people of Joseph and Caleb? I think it comes down to taking God’s promises seriously. Caleb believed God when He’d said Caleb would have a certain portion of land and acted on that belief. The people of Joseph thought they were entitled to more (even though the two tribes that make up the people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, have very large portions of the land. See map above). But they did not lay hold of all they could have and eventually settled for what was available, settled for less than what God had promised. Caleb had faith and acted according to the promise God had made with him and received all that God had promised. He didn’t settle for good enough. He wanted the best.
So am I like Caleb or the people of Joseph? Am I settling for good enough or am I laying hold to the promises of God to receive the best? I think I settle way too often. So my application for this week is to come up with a list of God’s promises for me and pray about how to work towards those coming to pass in my life – to be more like Caleb.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Steep in God-reality

In reading part of the gospel of Luke each day, I’m learning a lot about what our lives should be filled with. In Luke 12 it deals with being filled with God and not self:
“Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods –  who gets it? That’s what happens when you fill your barn with self and not with God.’”
I asked myself, What would someone see when they opened the doors to my barn? What am I filling my barn with? If it’s God, then my life should look more like God and Jesus. What is there inside me when people look in? Godly faith? Distraught fear? Corrupt self? Probably people would see some of each. Thank God it’s a process and not an all or nothing situation. In Alcoholics Anonymous there’s a saying: “Progress not perfection.” That’s what I’m striving for, progress; maybe it is slow but steady change. I need to work toward being filled with more and more of God. Then what is inside of me will overflow the barn doors and others will also see more and more of God in my life.
Farther into Luke 12, it says, “Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.” How does someone steep in God-reality? As I thought about this I realized that it’s really pretty basic. We find God showing up in our lives when we are regularly involved with Him in our lives; regular and frequent involvement in our lives. There are several ways for me to do this. Where do I see and recognize God-reality the most? In the Scriptures, so I need to be reading my Bible regularly, dare I say, daily, or multiple times per day. Also, there’s meditation and prayer. If I can keep an attitude of conversation with God my conscious contact with God greatly improves. Listening and talking to God as I go throughout my day is a great way to experience God-reality.
So today, and for the next 24 hours, I’m going to try to remember to pray and listen to God once each hour I’m awake. I set my alarm on my phone for each hour and I will pause and listen and pray. That’s one way to steep myself in God-reality. It’s one way to try to keep putting the things of God in my barn.
[Quoted Scripture from The Message]

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lies and Truths

I really don’t like to talk politics in my blog, but I do try and talk truth. Some advertisements regarding Michigan’s Proposal #2 are downright lies. That bothers me. Really bothers me. It bothers me enough that I have to say something.
This proposal has nothing to do with child safety, yet these advertisements say things like voting yes on the proposal is the same thing as putting criminals to work in schools. That is ridiculous. Utterly and totally false. None of the precautions in the laws of Michigan that require background checks on school employees will be even touched by what Proposal #2 will do.
In many ways the assertions of the false advertisements are designed to evoke an emotional response in people. Not a logical, reasonable response, but an emotional response. People should not vote based solely on their emotions. People should not act in any way based solely on their emotions. That’s what I’ve been taught and that’s what I try to do.
Admittedly, I have trouble listening to my emotions. I often act only out of logical thinking. That’s not necessarily the best way to do things either. I’m not trying to say it is. But, I think some logic, serious thought, and some honest assessment of the facts needs to be a part of our decision-making processes.
To vote in this election, on this proposal, on every ballot item, please use some honest fact checking and base your votes on the truth and not on advertisements that are designed to get you to vote without thinking.
Again, let me say that Proposal #2 will not put children in danger in any way, shape, or form. It will protect children by allowing teachers to negotiate class size, police to get needed equipment, and firefighters to use the best possible techniques and technologies to provide safety for all involved.
Vote Yes on Proposal #2.
Thanks for indulging me my first, and probably last, politically motivated post.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I’ve been reading in book of Joshua and learning more than I thought I would about God’s character and about what my response to God should be. For instance, in Joshua 5 and 6, God gives the order to conquer Jericho. So Joshua goes out to look at Jericho and runs into a mighty warrior with a drawn sword. At first Joshua doesn’t know what to make of this warrior. He asks, “Are you with me or with my enemies?” The warrior answers, “Neither. I’m with God.”
Then the warrior tells Joshua how God wants Israel to proceed in conquering Jericho. The passage doesn’t tell us what Joshua’s initial response was but if it had been me, I’d probably have laughed and thought it was a joke! The soldiers of Israel were to walk around Jericho once a day for six days. Just march around the city (the city was about 700 yards around, so it would be possible to have the whole of Israel’s army walk around the city within a couple of hours). On the seventh day Israel would walk around the city seven times, play trumpets and shout. Seems silly, but that’s what the messenger/warrior from God told Joshua to do.
And it worked. The walls of Jericho fell down and the Israelites were able to go straight in and conquer the city.
Sometimes I feel like God sends me messengers with ridiculously silly “suggestions” for me to follow. God puts wise and godly people in my life to help me know the best ways to proceed. Sometimes the suggestions I get are simple, so simple they seem ridiculous. But they are also, usually, practical. And they work. For instance, one “message” given to me was to get enough (eight hours) sleep. Another was to get up at a working-person’s time (6:30 a.m.) to start my day off. Another was to get my sunlamp out and set up now that the days are getting shorter again. All are simple. All are things that would not seem to make much difference in my normal fall depression. But when I follow the suggestions, it works.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Lord's Prayer, Simplified

In my daily Bible reading I came to the passage (Luke 11:2 – 4) where the Lord’s Prayer is given to the disciples, who had just asked Jesus to show them how to pray. I was impacted by the simple way The Message put the key phrases. I say the Lord’s Prayer so often – at AA meetings, CR meetings, in church – that I’m not sure I really pay attention to what the words are saying. I need to pay more attention and one way of doing that is by reading the passage directly from Scripture – and using a variety of translations and paraphrases to give the familiar passage some freshness.

Below I’ve put side-by-side two versions of the way Jesus told us to pray.

TRADITIONAL                               MESSAGE

Our Father, who art in heaven          Father
Hallowed be Thy Name                   Reveal who You are
Thy kingdom come, Thy will          Set the world right
        be done on earth as it is
        in heaven
Give us this day                                Keep us alive with three 
        our daily bread                                 square meals
And forgive us our trespasses          Keep us forgiven with you
        as we forgive those                          and forgiving others
         who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation      Keep us safe from ourselves
            but deliver us from evil               and the Devil

You can decide how the simplified Message version brings new life to this very familiar passage for you. For me, it reinforces the basics of my prayer life: Praising who He is. Ask that His will be done on earth. Ask for our physical needs to be met. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for insight as to whom I need to forgive. Ask for His protection over our spiritual lives.

Are you taking time to remember who God is? What is God asking you to pray about? Who is God asking you to pray for?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I struggle with not wanting to disappoint anyone. And, when I do something, or fail to do something, I get afraid. I am afraid the people I disappoint will be mad at me. Part of me deals with that perceived anger by trying to hide. When I was a little kid, I would actually, physically hide. Part of me still wants to.
The longer I wait to deal with the possible disappointment, the stronger the desire to run away or hide becomes. Sometimes I don’t have a choice about waiting; the person I need to be honest with is physically not available. When that happens my adult self – the part of me that should deal with the possible conflict – begins to slip away. And, the little kid part of me begins to talk to me about hiding the truth, not dealing with the conflict, because there is only one answer to the situation: I am bad and deserve to be punished.
This is when the adult me needs to jump in and say, “doing bad is not the same as being bad.” I need to remind myself that I can make better choices, or even just different choices. I can choose my behavior and choose to do the things that will not disappoint someone else. And, only choose behavior that is good for me.
I disappoint people when I make choices that only lead to self-destruction and not to recovery. I have to remember that others may be disappointed with my choices because they only care about me. That’s hard for me to grasp sometimes because the little kid part is afraid of punishment. But, I need to remind myself that people who love me only want what’s best for me. They are not out to punish me. They need to know where I’m struggling, so they can help me. I need to be honest with where the struggles are so they can encourage me and pray for me.
With the help of others, I can make different choices on a daily basis and avoid disappointing the people who care about me.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of School

Tuesday, September 4th. The first day of the 2012 – 2013 school year. I did what I’ve done every year for the past 5 – 6 years. I volunteered in the Junior High School’s office. There are always the extra things to do that the secretaries do not have enough hands to do. It’s a good way for me to start the school year out. It establishes a pattern, a routine, for my days.
The first thing in that pattern is to get up. Yes. Get up. It is too easy to tell myself to stay out of my husband’s way as he gets ready to go to work, and then just fall back to sleep until whenever – usually 9 a.m. when I should already be up, dressed, have gone for a walk, eaten breakfast, and be sitting down to read my daily readings. When I get up, and stay up, I get so much more done in a day and feel so much better about myself. That feeling should be enough to get me up every morning, but sometimes it isn’t.
This year was a bonus year. I showed up to help the secretaries and ended up substitute teaching for the day. I never expected them to need a sub on the first day of school. But they did, and there I was, already at school and ready to go. So, that really started my school year off on a good note. It is good for me to jump in and sub as soon as I can. When I wade in, taking a job here or there, I don’t really get into the habit of getting up. I don’t get into the habit of starting my days with productive things. So, working all day prevented me from going home and getting stuck in front of the television, accomplishing little, if anything, the rest of the day.
However, working all day also means I didn’t get done some of the stuff I normally do on Tuesdays, like write my blog articles. But, in the end, I still got this one written so all is good.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Praise and Thanksgiving

When I was in college I was challenged to look at things from God’s perspective. My perspective is pessimistic and negative. I was sure that nothing would ever work out for my good. For anyone’s good, for that matter. But I had tunnel vision. I was unable or unwilling to see the big picture.
So I started to praise God each day for Who He is – not what He’s done – just for Who He is. But this was hard for me to do because I did not know Him very well. I needed help in getting to know my God. I found lots of descriptions of God in the Bible. I especially liked the Psalms, but found other descriptions of God in the Minor Prophets and the New Testament.
My favorite place to visit to refresh myself with the attributes of God is Psalm 136. Every verse includes the phrase, “For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. He is the God of gods, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. He is the Lord of lords, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. He does great wonders, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. He made the heavens and the earth . . . And on and on it goes listing characteristics of God and reminding us that everything exists because His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Just remembering that His love for me right now is totally without end is reason enough to praise Him. He’s never going to give up on me. He’s never going to say, “I’ve forgiven her too many times already.” He’s never going to forget I exist. His love for me is here right now and forever. I can’t really wrap my thinking around what forever looks like or feels like, but that’s the point. His lovingkindness is too big for me to understand. But I can count on it day in and day out, forever, however long that is.
This perspective allows me to trust Him and to have joy and hope where none existed before. Why did I ever stop having specific and faithful praise time? I don’t remember when I stopped doing it, but I know the benefits of doing it, so I’m doing it again. It doesn’t have to be some huge commitment. Five minutes everyday. That’s doable and it does so much for me. So I started doing it again a couple of weeks ago. My mood and my outlook are so much more positive – and getting better everyday.
I challenge you to spend one minute, each and everyday, praising God for all that He is. Start by looking through Psalm 136. See if you can see things from God’s perspective.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I’ve started working on converting my son’s bedroom into a study. You wouldn’t know it by looking into the room, but I’ve spent 6 – 8 hours working on sorting through some of the stuff he left here after his move to Muncie, IN to go to grad school at Ball State University.
I am most impressed with the number and types of books he’s accumulated since he was born. He’s got a little of everything. Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, mysteries, picture books, legends, Vikings, explorers, missionaries, kings, cowboys, and many more. It was kind of fun to note the books that are well worn, the books he’s read and reread many times. It was fun to remember him propped up in bed near bedtime reading a novel. He loved to read. He still does.
Sometimes, even as recently as last year, I’ll catch him reading through a Three Investigators book. It used to take him a few days to read through one of these children’s mysteries. Now it takes an hour or two. So I packed them up so we could move his bookshelf as I get ready to paint. But, those books, along with his Harry Potter series, Brian Jacques books, The Lord of the Rings series, Susan Cooper books, and his other favorites will be back on the bookshelf once the painting is done.
The thing is, I’ve read most of his books, too. They were good reads and remind me why I was able to recommend books to him that he would enjoy. Because I enjoyed them!
Time to stop writing and return to the sorting and cleaning. However the room looks like more of a mess than when I started cleaning it. I can’t do much more until I have some place to put the boxes of books and knick-knacks while I prepare the walls for new paint (like in my daughter’s room once she leaves for college!)
I’m getting excited to see how things turn out. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


My life is trouble and problem free. Or maybe not. If it was without struggle would I have anything to share with anyone? That’s one question I’ve been pondering as I’ve been studying the role of suffering in a Christian’s life.
Before I became a Christian, I may have been attracted to people whose lives looked perfect and peaceful, but I don’t think I would have believed they had any answers for me. They could not understand where I’d been or where I was. The woman that shared Christ with me did not try to tell me that her life was perfect and problem-free. If she had, I would not have believed her. A problem-free life was something I could not understand. The fact that she had issues to deal with made her seem real to me. It made her message of help from God through Jesus Christ credible to me. It was not a message that said, “Believe and all your problems will go away.” It was a message that said, “There’s help for dealing with your problems.”
This was a good thing. My problems did not all go away and no one criticized me for having problems. In fact, the people God placed in my life during the next few years were understanding and sought to get me help that blended Christian truths and psychology. My Christian friends over the years have actually found counselors for me to see. My problems would not go away instantly. Some still exist. But, there is an ever-present help that I did not know how to access before. And, some of my problems have become issues of the past through the miraculous working of God in my life. For instance, I no longer struggle with the urge to drink – get drunk from – alcohol on a daily basis.
My imperfect life, just like those who shared Christ with me, has a message, too. My sufferings say to others, “Look. Things could be worse and things have gotten better.” They say, “I understand your heartaches and hardships.” They say, “Let me comfort you with the same comfort I received from others and from God.” Suffering gives me basis for telling other people that their lives can be better – not perfect, but better. My suffering does not hinder the message of Christ. It may actually enhance the message. My hard times allow others to relate to me, give me credibility. My suffering has a purpose.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Suffering, Part 2

When I was in college I spent a summer with a Christian organization called The Navigators in Indianapolis. The point was to learn, with about 50 – 75 other young adults how to walk the Christian life in everyday life. We had training sessions on everything from how to have a “Quiet Time” with God to how to develop conversations with other people about what Christianity is all about.
One week we had a guest speaker lead several workshops. This speaker, whose name I am unable to remember, centered his messages on the basic topic of using every situation in our lives as a platform for sharing about Christ. What was remarkable about his message is that he specifically mentioned how he was trying to use his ongoing fight against cancer to share as much and as often as he was able. His prognosis was not good. He expected to die within 6 months, but he was focused on other people and their needs. He talked to other patients, doctors, nurses, visitors, and anyone else he came in contact with about the hope he had because he was confident of where life’s end would bring him: into heaven and into the presence of his Savior, Jesus Christ.
This week as I read in the Bible, I came across a passage written by Paul where he is telling us that suffering should be the platform for sharing about our hope. Colossians 1:24 says,
I myself have been made a minister of this same Gospel, and though it is true at this moment that I am suffering on behalf of you who have heard the Gospel, yet I am far from sorry about it. Indeed, I am glad, because it gives me a chance to complete in my own sufferings something of the untold pains for which Christ suffers on behalf of his body, the Church. For I am a minister of the Church by divine commission, a commission granted to me for your benefit and for a special purpose: that I might fully declare God’s word –
Suffering gives us a chance to talk about how Christ suffered on our behalf in order that we might fully understand the Good News and come into a right relationship with Christ. That’s pretty remarkable in my opinion. Suffering exists to bring us into a relationship with Christ. Without it, would we even see the need for Christ? Would we even understand just how much Christ suffered for us? Would we be able to minister to other people who are suffering if we have not suffered ourselves? Would we be able to tell others about how Christ suffered to give us eternal life?
I think not. It is the role of suffering in our lives to bring ourselves, and others into an understanding of Christ in such a way that we live out our lives in a way that serves God. Suffering is not a burden to bear, so much as it is an excuse, a good excuse, to proclaim the forgiveness offered us by Christ. And, as Paul said, we should be “far from sorry about it.” We should indeed be glad that God can use us to proclaim His Good News.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I was challenged to investigate the role of suffering in a Christian’s life. I thought it was something to be avoided at all costs. I thought it didn’t jive with a productive, faith-based lifestyle. I thought that suffering is something that went away once Christ was part of a person’s life.
I was wrong. Suffering is an expected and worthy occurrence in a Christian’s life. How can it not be? If we are truly trying to be like Christ, suffering is mandatory. Sounds pretty dismal, doesn’t it? I could easily get wrapped up in hopelessness when I think that my life will include suffering. But, that would be missing the point of Christ-like suffering. We were never promised that we wouldn’t suffer but our current suffering is just a moment in time, a breath, compared to the expected joyful glory to come.
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul tells us that we suffer as Christ suffered so we may also be glorified with Him. The passage goes on to describe suffering using the analogy of childbirth. Childbirth is painful. But it only lasts a short time in comparison to the amount of time we have with the children the pain brings forth. The pain actually helps us expect the joy that is coming. So a few hours of pain brings forth hundreds of thousands of hours of joy. (I calculated it out to over 700,000 hours; 24 hours in a day x 365 days x 80 years = 700,800 hours in a life.) That comes out to childbirth pains (assuming labor takes 10 hours) being only .014% of the time we are dealing with our children. And, in spite of the pain I know I experienced, I don’t really remember it after 18 years.
Another verse in Romans 8 said that our current suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to come. It’s not a 1 to 1 ration. We don’t just get 1 cup of glory for 1 cup of suffering. The ratio is incomparable. It’s like 1 cup of suffering to infinity cups of glory. Immeasurable. Incomparable. Incomprehensible.
So it’s not that suffering doesn’t exist. It’s just not as important as we make it out to be in the overall scheme of things. It lasts only a brief time. It hurts only a little bit. And, the glory that will come to us is well worth the suffering and the wait.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Making Commitments

I admit it. I’m a perfectionist. Often that means I will not try to do something if I don’t think I can do it perfectly. That sometimes means I miss out on things that could be fun or that could be helpful.
For instance, I don’t like to promise I will do something if there’s any chance that I will not be able to follow through. This has been a source of frustration to my kids at times as they like to think I promised to do something, when I know I have not promised anything. It is also a source of frustration for myself because I say no to things that I could say yes to with a reasonable amount of assurance that I can follow through.
What does this have to do with making commitments? Easy. I see each commitment as a promise, something I said I would do. But what if I can’t live up to the commitment? What if I fall short? What if I do not do it perfectly? What if I fail to complete one aspect of the promise?
Recently, it was pointed out to me that I can make a commitment and not have to be perfect in the way I carry out of the commitment. It's like deciding to play a musical instrument to the best of your ability. Deciding to play an instrument doesn't mean you won't make mistakes and need to practice through the rough spots many times over. It will take practice. Mistakes will be made. But the intent is still there to play the instrument as well as you can. And, even imperfect music can be enjoyable to listen to.
So as I think about commitments I need to make in my life, I can see why I’m afraid to make some of them. I feel I have to “play the notes” completely and totally right so the final sound is perfect. So, while I'm willing to concede that suicide is not really an option, and I should commit to maintaining that point of view, I am afraid I cannot do everything that means perfectly. When I think of all the things that means like always taking insulin correctly, exercising, eating right, food journaling, keeping a mental health journal, not engaging in self-harming activities, etc., I get overwhelmed at thinking I can’t do it all perfectly.
But if I'm going to be honest with myself, I don’t have to do all those things perfectly to still keep the essence of the commitment. I can be committed to life and still make a misstep from time to time. One sour note does not mean complete failure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


My son is off to graduate school this fall. He will be taking his bed and desk with him to his apartment. As a part of this transition, I am remodeling his bedroom into my office or study. I need a place to go and write. I used to go to the local coffee shop, but it closed and left me without a place to go. Since then it has been hard to schedule daily time to write because there are too many distractions around the various places in the house. Even now, as I write this, my daughter has the television on. She’s not watching anything I’d be interested in watching but it is a distraction from fully concentrating on what I’m writing. It will take me extra time to complete this article.
So I’ve begun dreaming about my study. What color will I paint it? What inspirational saying or Scripture verse can I put on the wall? What furniture do I need? What furniture do I want? What lighting do I want besides the overhead light fixture? When will I start the transformation? Will I keep my son’s bookshelf or move it downstairs? Will I ask for or accept offered help? Will I do it all by myself so it feels like my space?
It will be hard to paint over the decoration my son chose when he was about 8 (blue paint with a border of maps, topped by sponge painted blue walls that look like clouds). In a way it will be like erasing his childhood as I draw a new post-childhood picture for my life. His room will be transformed as my parenting role also changes.
The remodeling could also be symbolic of the changes I need to make inside of myself. The way I think and the things I believe about myself need some overhauling right now. It’s time for some fresh self-reflection and perspective. The despair and doubt I presently view myself with is dysfunctional. A fresh perspective with hope and confidence could give me a brighter view of my future; possibly a future where I accomplish the things I want to do and help people like I want.
Now to decide on a color scheme, a desk, and a chair; the remodeling can then begin inside and out.