Sunday, December 29, 2013

Look Up!

So… It's the end of another year and it's time to do a bit of thinking about what happened in 2013 and what needs to be accomplished in 2014.  A friend of mine wrote this and I think it sums up what I hope to do more of this next year.  Enjoy!

No, I haven't tried everything.  But I have spent many decades trying to acquire things, power, wealth, status, security, belonging, and still… "vanities of vanities."  It is as one finally comes to the foot of the cross, with empty hands, a broken heart and contrite spirit and looks up that the answer is clear.  Jesus.  Have you seen Him lately?  Not the sentimentalized Jesus that gives you warm feelings like comfort food, not the Jesus Who is there as a self-help motivator in becoming a better you in your personal quest for self-actualization, not the Jesus to petition for personal gain (name it and claim it) or personal growth.  But the Jesus Who looks down at you from the cross, sees deep into the core of your being and says, "My child… You are My focus.  I am paying the price… It is finished…"

And it is done.  No more empty searches.  No more counterfeit gods or idols.  For I have seen His eyes, hear His voice.  And I know He is enough.

Jesus, the gospel.  All external to ourselves, something we cannot do ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9).  Is He sufficient?  Absolutely!  And for all time!  But only if we stop augmenting the gospel with other things, even with our best intentions and our best actions, to have a "value added" product.  

Only Jesus - His sufficiency.  Nothing else - only Jesus.  Jesus.

The gospel has power (Romans 1:16).  His Spirit, Who can indwell us, has power (Acts 1:8).  We want control.  We try to box in the fullness of the Word - Jesus - and His Spirit into manageable and predictable adjuncts to our personal quest - done in our power, in our timing, and in our way, and hopefully within our own comfort zone.

But freedom is available.  The problem is that I am my own jailor holding the keys to my own cell (my life of searching but never finding.)  And I fear of letting go…

And yet He looks at me with longing, loving, satisfying, and knowing eyes and says:

"It is finished.  I've paid the price of all you owe.  Come, My beloved, unto Me.  Let Me give you wings to soar as eagles.  Let Me enlarge you.  You carry so many weights and burdens and hurts. Time to downsize!  Release your grasp on all things - even your very life - and reach out with empty hands to Me.  Let Me embrace you, renew your strength, give you My vision and My hearing for spiritual things and a new heart - whole and unbroken - part of My own heart.  With My heart of passion and compassion beating inside you, filled with the power of My Spirit and My Word, and your senses functioning supernaturally, you shall walk in My paths with confidence and clarity.  Your hands will be extensions of My hands, your voice will affirm and speak with My anointing.  And you shall know the intimacy with Me for which I created you.

Beloved, stand, emptied, at the foot of My cross.  Let our eyes meet.  Look up, My child.  Look up."

Like I said, I hope to spend more time in quiet communication with my heaven Father.  I hope to 'look up' and listen.  And be renewed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Too Many Tasks To Get Done

So… I know that Christmas is supposed to be the merriest time of year.  Right?  And we all know that it's the busiest.  Right?  But when the 'busy' outweighs the 'merry,' getting ready for Christmas loses some of its cheer and even the most jolliest amongst us can become a bit cranky.  Am I talking to anyone out there??

Early this morning, I just happened to read this entry in the book Dialogues With God by Francis J. Roberts.  I plan to read it the next few days to get my head on straight each morning.  It will help me so I decided to share it.  This first part of this writing is a prayer to God, the second is His answer.  Enjoy!

"My Father, I am not capable of doing all those things that are demanded of me in the course of a day.  For every task completed, numerous other needful duties are left undone.  This is not a complaint that life is over burdensome but rather a cry to You for understanding and for wisdom to improve the situation:  how to reach the end of the day with a feeling of some degree of satisfaction in a job well done.  It is not restful to sleep on loose ends - to be forever uncomfortably aware of the multitudinous tasks still waiting.

For as time passes, so much of what I have failed to accomplish can no longer be done at all.  Surely there must be enough time and enough strength provided to do the vitally essential things.  Dear Father, I not only fail to accomplish the task but lose my sensitivity to Your guidance, and in doing this, I soon have also lost the joy I would have had if I had pleased You."

"O My child, do not bring to Me the unfinished tasks.  There will always be work to do.  This also can be a snare of the enemy; for he would deceive you into feeling that all work is worthy in itself - that simply to be occupied is good.  This is not true.  To sit still, yes, even to have recreation, is sometimes just as important and ofttimes more so.  

Give Me a heart that has learned how to become quiet and to rest.  Anybody can work.  Few people know how to be quiet.  Being quiet is not being lazy.  Most lazy people are never truly quiet.  

You must be able to collect yourself - to take time and absorb the Spirit of God.  For to be freshly filled with the Spirit will bring the guidance and direction and wisdom and the will to do His bidding.  The purpose of spending time with God is more than simply enjoying His presence:  it is to fit you for the labors next at hand.

So come to Me, as I have so often invited you to do - heart open, hands uplifted and empty.  Don't bring Me your work.  Bring Me yourself.  It is you that I love, not your enterprises.  The more you draw near to Me in singleness of heart, the clearer will be your guidance on life's pathway and the less danger there will be of your substituting human activities for Spirit-directed ministries.

Keep your heart tender, lest your work become destructive."

I did a quick search to find out more about Francis J Roberts.  She passed away in 2009, but her writings live on.  I plan to read everything she has written…. just as soon as Christmas is over….

Saturday, December 7, 2013


So… We got home from our sunny, blissful Caribbean cruise a week ago and I'm still recuperating, especially since Iowa is in a freezer right now.  Did anything odd happen on our cruise?  Of course!  'Odd' follows me...

We sailed on the Celebrity Reflection, a spanking new city-sized ship with a modern hip feel.  It's the flagship for the Celebrity fleet and the staff and services were top-notch. The entertainment was crazy good and unique to this ship; standing ovations were given which is very unusual for lethargic Rolaids-munching over-fooded audiences.  And speaking of food, it had flavor galore and eye-candy appeal; I had Lobster Melange for Thanksgiving dinner.  It, too, was stuffed.

This ship had a Molecular Bar which mixed up outrageous libations with foam and liquid nitrogen.  The bartender was a real showman who flipped bottles in the air and 'spilled' smoking stuff onto the bar. I had to sample the "Coming Up Roses" concoction with muddled rose petals and limes.  Delicious!

One morning, I saw a rainbow which was for my eyes only.  It was directly out our balcony window and lasted just a couple of seconds.  John was in the shower and missed it.  If you've read my blog entitled "My Favorite Cruise Story No. 1," you know my affinity for rainbows and what a treat they are for me.

I Zumba-ed, of course.  John and I kicked up our heels on the dance floor.  In fact, I wore a pedometer and tracked 67,600 steps in 7 days.  Many many steps are my friends on a cruse ship and help counter-attack all the extra calories.

We ported in St. Martaan and jumped into a rickety van for a private tour of the island.  It's always interesting to see and hear what the locals think we should see and hear.  Stopped at Maho Beach which is famous for being right next to an airport.  Supposedly, people can touch the wheels of airplanes as they fly so closely overhead on landing.  I did not do this.  I watched from a distance; I need my fingers.

We tasted coconut milk straight out of a coconut.  This ain't Iowa!

Our guide dropped us off at Orient Beach which is where the locals like to tan sans lines.  It's a nude beach and we saw several parading about getting their jollies from me trying to avert my gaze.  Old nudes… everywhere….

Yes!  We heard an accordion and followed its sound to this little man playing for pennies.  He couldn't play very well, or hear very well… I thought about trying to play his accordion but thought he might not understand…  so we listened and gave him lots of pennies!  He's my kind of guy!

Even the towel creatures were top-notch on this ship!  I was impressed with this guy sitting on my side of the bed.  I would guess that our room steward won the towel-folding contest!

But the oddest thing happened during the night right in our stateroom.  John and I always pack our pillows as cruise boat pillows are normally foam.  We have very luxurious goose down pillows that squish into nothing and easily fit in the suitcase.  Well… I don't know what John did to his, but it exploded one night.  He said he got up that night to go to the bathroom and was horrified to see his face and hair covered in downy feathers.  I woke up to a fairyland of feathers floating in the air.  I'm not kidding, it looked like a snowstorm.  They were everywhere and stuck everywhere.  Oh... how we howled… It was the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.  I think I aspirated some!  As we opened our door, they flew out into the hallway!  We sent some flying out our balcony door! As we opened drawers, they flew in.  Days later, we still saw feathers on the carpet in the hallway a hundred doors away from us.  We picked them off of each other the rest of the week, monkey-style.

I'm sure our room stewart was not laughing.  It had to have taken him hours to clean it up.  Poor guy.  He was headed for home after this particular cruise and did he have a story to tell!  We decided to tip him extra.

I couldn't help but be reminded of how the Holy Spirit fills believers in order to explode out of us onto others.  Just as feathers fill a pillow, believers are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  As I walk through my daily life, I am to be Jesus to those around me and, in simple terms, it's the Holy Spirit that gives me the ability to do this.  The bible calls this 'bearing fruit.'  I should spill this fruit out to everyone I meet.  It doesn't have to be a big deal, though sometimes it is.  I should be encouraging others, lifting burdens, caring, offering hope, peace and love.  It's not my natural tendency but it needs to be.

There should be some residue of Holy Spirit, just like the feathers that showed up all over after the explosion.  Have I made a difference in that person's life?  Have I encouraged her? Cared?  Given of myself?  I believe that giving out this fruit of the Holy Spirit has a ripple effect and passes on and on.  It lasts and has effect far into the future.

As I unpacked my suitcase, yup… you know what I'm going to say…. I found feathers mixed in my underwear and makeup bag and feathers ended up in my dryer lint catcher.  I didn't just leave them on the ship, they followed me home and are still spilling out.

The feathers made me smile and reminded me that the Holy Spirit is always with me and longs to spill out fruit wherever I go… into any situation… anywhere… and onto anyone and everyone...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Feats of Strength

So... We've all read odd stories about odd people and I'm sure you have heard the saying, "It had to be real... nobody could make this stuff up!"  But this bizarro story from Scripture really caught my attention with its strange but true Samson character:

                              - he tears a lion apart with his bare hands and later eats honey out of the carcass when a hive of bees make it their home

                              - he single-handedly kills 30 men for their clothes because he lost a riddle

 - he catches 300 foxes and ties them together by their tails, fastens a torch to the tails, lights the torches and sets fields and vineyards on fire

 - he breaks ropes when he gets tied up

 - he kills 1000 men with a jawbone of a donkey (oh yes... that's my personal weapon of choice)

 - he takes the place of a team of oxen to grind grain

 - he pushes down an entire temple by rocking the pillars and kills most of mankind in the Philistine city of Gaza
(see pic and hear the screams.... more trauma....)

Do you remember the story of Samson from your old Sunday School days?  I can still see in my mind the Sunday School pamphlet with this horribly gruesome picture of Samson, bloodied and nude, chained to pillars with his eyes gouged out, rocking the temple pillars and people screaming and running for their lives.

 I was traumatized...

I think that explains a lot... At age 5, I was afraid of getting my eyes gouged out...

(And look at that picture!  There's a harp at his feet!  A perfectly good harp will be trampled and destroyed!)

If you'd like a refresher on this story, you can read the story, complete with thought provoking comments, here.  Or you can go to your Bible and read Judges 13 - 16.

A couple of points strike me with this insane story:

          1.  He's a major buffoon and yet God continues to use him.  This monster of a man has some faults but he had a job to do.  He was to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  He was 'set apart' to do this which brings me to the second point

          2.  He was to be a Nazirite all his life.  As a Nazirite, he could not:

                                          - Cut his hair (Judges 16:19 says he wore it in braids)

                                          - Touch a dead body (I would have no problem following this rule...)

                                          - Drink anything containing alcohol (poor guy... no Rumchata!)

To accomplish all his above-stated feats of strength, Scripture says that "the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power."  Samson, the Nazirite, was 'set-apart' for God and obviously looked different with his long hair. As long as he had this hair-do (which was the symbol of his closeness to God) the Spirit of the Lord was on him and he could do the powerful feats of strength.

Delilah, Samson's favorite prostitute, hounded him into telling her the source of his strength.  She shaved off his braids in the middle of the night and he was no longer strong.  He really blew it!

But his hair grew back as did his strength and he proceeded to kill the city by pushing down the temple with his muscles.

After reading this story:

            - I'm SO glad I didn't live then

            - I'm SO glad I'm not called to do stuff like this - my jobs for God are easy compared to this!

            - I'm SO glad I don't have to grow out my hair to show that I'm 'set-apart' for God.

We are all 'set-apart' for God.

We all have jobs to do, places to go, and people to meet for God.  As believers, our job is to show the world we are different because we have God in our lives. Our thoughts are different. Our goals are different. We have the Spirit of the Lord in our lives which gives us strength to do things we couldn't normally do.

We all get second chances.

When Samson's hair grew back, we was strong again and he got another chance to kill all the Philistines. (Again, I'm SO glad I didn't live back then!)  While his hair was growing back, he was stuck in a cellar turning the wheel like an ox to grind grain.  He had time to think about his mistakes and rededicate his life to God.

I'm SO glad I get second chances, and third... and fourth... and more...  I blow it.  I fail. I receive mercy and forgiveness.  I get going again on the right path with God.

God is merciful.

God is forgiving.

God has a plan.

God has a job for you to do.

God will provide the strength to do it.

What feats of strength have you been called to do for God?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Perfect Loaf

So... I made bread a couple of days ago.  A friend and I attended a bread making class 26 years ago and I still make the same easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy recipe called "The Perfect Loaf" that we learned to make that day.  It is fool proof.  It's important that you know this because I'm not really a bread maker except when I make this perfect recipe.

I can measure out the stuff and stir it together in a bowl...

I can dump out the mess and knead it fairly well...

I can let it rise in my oven...

And I can bake it up golden brown.

But my bread...

even though it is a perfect loaf and is tremendously good for you because it's packed with nutrition and nuts and raisins...

is not what the Bible would call the 

                                          Bread of Life.

Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life and invites us all to partake and be satisfied.

I love this picture.

This squirrel is feasting on our left-over communion bread.  I bet she couldn't believe her good fortune to have found all this bread hanging out on this feeder!  It was a good day for squirrels.

Today, communion was served all over the world as it was World Communion Day.

People heard the words of Jesus and were invited to "Take and eat.  This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."  

We all need this kind of Bread, the Bread of Life.

We all need Jesus; He is easily found and is just what I/we need.

He is the "Perfect Loaf"offered to all of us.

Take and eat.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Devil Made Me Do It

This piece was written by a friend of mine in the Monday Morning Bible Study Class.  We were discussing the idea that God created sin as the topic had come up in another conversation.  My friend wrote this and I agree.  What do you think?

"God is holy and worthy.  Who creates sin and separation?  We must give God His We have heard the comedic line: “The Devil made me do it.”  Acknowledging the humor in that line we smile.  We have also heard: “God created all things.”  And we give Him credit for that.  However, is God given credit for things where credit is not due?  I recently heard: “God created sin.  Isaiah 45:7 says so.”If that is the case, if God is the author of sin, may one therefore change the comedic saying to “God made me do it.”  After all, if God created sin and I participated in it, am I, in sinning, only just participating in part of God’s creation.
I John 1:5  God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” God is faithful, He cannot deny Himself.  He remains true to His character. II Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.”  Habakkuk 1:13 speaks of God “Who art of purer eyes than to behold evil and canst not look on wrong.”
God, in His purity and holiness and righteousness, has such an aversion to sin. Sin blocks fellowship and even caused Him to turn away from Jesus, His beloved Son, on the cross. The depth of Jesus’ agonizing death – the ultimate in sacrifice and payment made to atone for our sin shows at once the depth of God’s love for us and the depth He’s willing to go to solve the problem of sin. And it was said “God created sin.” James 1:13-17: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
And so, where is the source of sin? By whose hand is it created?  Where is just responsibility due?
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary describes sin – giving seven pages in discussion, over 6,200 words.  No support for God’s authorship of sin is given.  Regarding Isaiah 45:7, the reference given to validate the premise that God created sin, the following is written:  “In Isaiah 45:7 Yahweh (God) describes His actions by saying, ‘. . . I make peace, and create evil (ra). . . “; moral “evil” is not intended in this context, but rather the antithesis of salom (“peace; welfare; well-being”).  The whole verse affirms that as absolute Sovereign, the Lord creates a universe governed by a moral order.  Calamity and misfortune will surely ensue from the wickedness of ungodly men.” 
The footnote in the Scofield Reference Bible for Isaiah 45:7 reads: “God is not the author of sin (Hab. 1:13; 2 Tim 2:13; Ti. 1:2; Jas. 1:13; I Jn. 1:5).  One of the meanings of the Hebrew word ra carries the idea of adversity or calamity, and it is evidently so employed here.  God has made sorrow and wretchedness to be the sure fruits of sin.” 
Please consider.  Perhaps what we’ve lost sight of is the all-surpassing holiness of God.  Do we sanctify/set apart as sacred those things of God?  In reciting the Lord’s Prayer  saying “Hallowed be Thy Name” do we give Him the true reverance due?  Do we venerate Him and His sacredness?  How do you treat that cross that adorns your neck?  Have things “of God” become so commonplace in our society that His awesomeness is lost?  We flippantly use His Name that in days of old people didn’t dare utter out of reverence.  The Name . . . scribes of antiquity copying the Holy Scriptures would need to bathe and cleanse themselves each time before even writing His Name in Holy Scripture. In my casual talk and referring to the Bible, when did I last use the term “Holy Bible”?  Can one become so “familiar” and “comfortable” with something that it loses significance?  How far does it go?  Can “familiarity breed contempt?” In personal reflection I must ask myself, ”How am I handling the holy presence and glory of God? Am I guilty and content to put a familiar God in a box of my personal expectations and strap it to man-made programs and procedures and in carefulness to societal norms not become too religious?”  My perspective, my vision, my commitment, and indeed, my future residence for my “ultimate retirement” . . . perhaps all these need re-examination . . . 
I am sorry, Lord.  I don’t want You, in familiarity, to become common.  I repent and seek renewal.  As far as mortal flesh can withstand, let me be aware of your glory and presence and holiness in a new way that in reverential awe I may fall prostrate before you.  Your awe, your glory, your majesty – make these my panoramic view that consumes my vision. 
  1. W. Tozer writes:  “Do you quietly bow your head in reverence when you step into the average church?  I would be surprised if your answer is yes.”
But I, but we, can change. 
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying ,’To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” Revelation 5:11-13
And, Lord, do you hear my voice?

Let us give God what is due – in our thoughts and theology, and in our lives.  And our response. . . . . . . . "

What do you think?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Neighbor

So... There is a teeny tiny lake outside of my town.  And on this teeny tiny lake is our funky brown cabin.  And beside our funky brown cabin on this teeny tiny lake, lived our quiet odd neighbor in his old and odder trailer. And in this quiet odd neighbor, who lived in his old and odder trailer, beat a very generous heart; but I didn't know it.

We bought our funky brown cabin when the kids were six and two.  Our neighbor, I'll call him Tom, was quiet.  He did weird things.  He did not seem to have any friends or family. He washed his car a lot but did not seem to have anything else to do. He sat in a lawn chair on his deck in a skimpy pair of shorts and slept.  He had a great tan.  That is all I knew about him for about 8 years.

I would not let the kids play in the yard close to his trailer because I thought he might be... too odd...

One day, everything changed.

My husband John was struggling with an antenna on our roof.  Remember the old TV antennas that resembled those old erector sets? When we turned on the TV in the living room, we had this little box hooked up to a small erector motor that turned the antenna in the right direction to catch the signal for the desired channel. (By the way, ours is still up on the cabin and functions and works about 17% of the time.) Well, on this particular day when John was wrestling with the antenna on the roof, Tom walked over and wondered if he could help.

Tom was smiling and talking and friendly and most importantly, helpful.

I quickly offered him a beer and he accepted. I had been painting a sample red color on the cabin to see if I liked it. So I asked him if he liked red and was this a good color to paint our brown cabin? He thought it was fine, finished his beer and left in a friendly manner.

He seemed normal, even though he had a great tan.

The next weekend rolled around and John took the kids up to the cabin on Saturday to mow and do the parental thing.  I was field tripping with the choir in the little berg of Pisgah that evening.  We sang at a church revival there and were nestled in beside the pool at the Pisgah Super 8, slurping up sodas, munching chips and whooping.

Imagine my surprise when John broke the news to me on the phone that Tom painted the entire cabin red!

He did.

He got into the garage and found the gallon of red paint and used one his brushes to paint the ENTIRE CABIN RED!

John hoped I would like it.

Are you kidding!!!!  Of course I liked it!  He did all that work! Without asking!  Would I rather stand on a ladder in the sun and paint it myself?

I didn't think Tom was just normal anymore; I thought Tom was phenomenal!

From that time on, not only did he paint, but he would mow and get up on a ladder to clean our gutters.  He power-washed the deck and stained the three picnic tables. He would sweep the deck when one trillion choke cherries fell in Sept. He shoveled the walks and driveway.  We never asked him to do anything and it was always a surprise to see what he had accomplished while we were gone.

He would do all of this for a thank-you batch of cookies and my left-over cooking.  He liked us and he liked to help. We liked him, too and were so grateful for all the work he did.  He came over every time we were there.  We were good friends.

He died in his sleep one night about 5 years after the initial painting incident.  I think of him every time I drive past his odd old trailer. I hope I was a good friend to him. I'm sorry I didn't know him sooner. I'm embarrassed I thought poorly of him the first 8 years we lived beside him. I completely misjudged him.

I wonder... who else?  Who else have I misjudged?

Thanks, Tom, for teaching me that people aren't always what they appear to be.  Thanks for teaching me that sometimes an offer of a beer and some conversation means so much.  Thanks for teaching me that everyone has a story.  Thanks for teaching me to trust.

Lord, open my eyes to see those around me who need a bit of friendly.  Are there neighbors to whom I should reach out?  Odd folks who really aren't so odd if I got to know them?

Open my eyes.  Open my heart.  Guide me, oh Thou Great Jehovah...

Sunday, September 22, 2013


So... I had a bit of an episode playing harp for a wedding last week. It could have been a huge 'stop-the-wedding' episode had it progressed the way things were headed.

The wedding took place in a lovely quaint chapel in Kansas City called the Pilgrim Chapel.  Being as prepared as possible, I toted with me a music stand and bench, along with my largest harp, music, tuning key and harp-moving husband John. This is standard procedure, especially since I didn't know what I would find at this site.  I was glad to have my portable bench with me (and also my husband, of course) as the only chairs in this quaint chapel appeared to be pews and low seats designed for extremely short people; both of which do not work for this harpist.

John succeeded in adjusting my portable bench to its very highest and tippiest setting with barely a moment to spare before I had to start playing, and start I did.

Twenty minutes of successful playing went by and I thought I'd better check my phone to see if the bride had sent her text to tell me she was ready.  My phone was on the floor beside me and as I reached down to hit the button, my bench began tipping over... and since I was sitting on it, I began tipping over and was headed for the floor... harp and all.

I let out a little scream (John said I said the s__t word, but of course, I didn't...) and I had one of those moments when I saw how this episode was going to play out.  John said my head was headed for the stone wall and blood was in my future, as well as a bashed up harp. I was clearly out of balance.

At the last second, I pulled up straight and put an end to this episode. I'm certain an angel helped me; possibly a whole task force has been assigned to me to assist me through such blunders.  A little gasp escaped from the audience; I'm surprised they didn't applaud.  Audiences always love a harpist no matter what the performance.

Out of balance... It's not a good place to be.

We Christians all try to live a life that is balanced.  Balance is good, right?  I try to make sure I put some time into prayer each day.  I try to read the Bible and worship each day.  I try to think of something to do for someone else each day.  I'm not unique in this.  I know a lot of people that do all these things more consistently and way better than me.  When I accomplish these tasks, I'm satisfied because these actions balance out the rest of my day which is spent doing other regular unspiritual stuff that needs to be done.  Life is good and balanced.

In my mind I see one of those old scales.  On one side I see my 'regular' actions and on the other side I see my 'spiritual' actions.  Both sides should be balanced.  Even.  Right?


No where in the Bible do I get commended for being balanced.

I read verses like Matthew 22: 37 - 38:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment;  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself."

Mark 12:30 includes the word 'strength':

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

If I pour all of my heart, mind, soul and strength into loving God, I think this calls for something beyond my little morning routine.  All my day needs to center around God.  My thinking... My desires... My actions... My time... My entire life...

My balanced life is going to fly right out the window.

All my day will be spent with God on my mind, doing life for Him and centered on Him.  All that 'regular' stuff can be done in a God-loving and God-pleasing manner.

I quote Sarah Young in her devotional book, Jesus Today:
"Living for Me (God) is a wise investment - not only for rewards in heaven but also for daily pleasure on earth.  I (God) am meant to be the Center of your existence, the Sun around which you orbit.  When you live this way - enjoying Me, serving Me, desiring to please Me (God) - you stay in your proper orbit.  The challenge is to keep Me central in what you do, say and think.

This kind of life is completely unbalanced. That scale is completely tipped heavy on the spiritual side.  There's no balance at all.  Everything is about God... all. day. long.

I still see a need to be balanced on my portable harp bench.  That's appropriate and necessary in most situations...


My life-scale should be completely unbalanced as I love God, my all-powerful heavenly Father,  with all my heart, soul, mind and strength all day long... for all my days... forever and ever.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Annie" Amens

"Warbucks" and "Annie"
So... This past week, day by day, I've been clearing out "Annie" stuff and saying "Annie" amens. The stage set was torn down within 16 hours of the last curtain close. The props were all loaded into cars and the stinky costumes were washed and 'febreezed' and hauled to the costume barn. All the wacky hand-made pictures the orphans drew during their time off-stage were unpinned and neatly folded away into someone's scrapbook. The last of the stale cookies was tossed. Please... no more red frosting... Stray bobby pins and squished tubes of rouge were stored away for the next round of unsuspecting actors.  Will anyone ever wear that "Annie" wig again?

So many lovely cards lauding the production have made their way to my mailbox. What a delight!

The scripts and orchestra books were all sent back to NY.
Today, I took back a huge box full of undies, socks, tops and pants that were hung on clotheslines in the lobby and in the orphanage set. The Salvation Army Thrift Shop will get all that stuff back in the same condition I got it - kinda whitish and well used, but aired out! Second-hand underwear has now become third-hand underwear!

All the rented scripts and orchestra books were collected and returned to MTI in New York. All the pencil marks were erased.  There were hundreds of marks in my book alone!

What a bunch of fun!

And I know for a fact this production was fun for so many people in our community.  All 5 performances were full - we turned people away for 2 of them. Everyone likes the story line of "Annie!"

And my dear husband came up with an idea to give Marshalltown's "Annie" a lasting value.  At the end of each performance, the adorable orphans lined up at the doors, collecting pocket change for our local Child Abuse Prevention Services.  $3035 was collected!  Once again, I'm so impressed with the generosity of this great town of Marshalltown and the surrounding communities.  Thems big pockets!

Rick, President of Marshalltown Community Theater gave
the big money to Jana, Executive Director of Child Abuse Prevention Services

And boy, oh boy, do I know a bunch of new people!  Each person on stage, in the orchestra pit, back stage, ushering, selling tickets, printing programs, painting set, sewing costumes, digging through the costume barn, climbing up ladders to set lights, combing hair, dabbing mascara, teaching dance moves, moving set and arranging furniture... the list goes on and on. Each precious person, most of them I didn't know before, absolutely did their very best to make this "Annie" the best it could ever be.

Even Disney, the dog, did her best!  She knew that she should be the best "Sandy"in the history of the world - and she was!

"Annie" and "Sandy" - a perfect combo!

The cutest T-Shirt. Ever.

I am so thankful and will be forever thankful!

What a bunch of fun! This experience was right up there with being married and having babies!  Seriously!

Words are totally inadequate to express how I feel. I'm still overwhelmed with the out-pouring of favor from everyone involved and the community... and from my heavenly Father.


I have come to understand Revelation 1:8 a bit better.  It reads:

"I Am the Alpha and Omega," says the Lord God, "Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty."

I know that the Lord God IS.  

He is of the here and now. He so faithfully met my needs with this "Annie" project. 

           When I couldn't sleep for lack of confidence, He was there assuring me He was there. 

               When I wanted to holler and strangle someone, He was there clamping my mouth shut. 

                    When I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, He was there handing out the best ideas. 

                           When everything was loaded with problems, He was there with creative solutions. 

                                Even when people told me it couldn't be done, He was there doing the impossible.

He blesses. He encourages. He makes a way where there is no way. He stimulates creative ideas. He answers prayers. He shines His favor on His children.  

He did all of this for me and He will do it for you.

He IS, He WAS, and ALWAYS WILL BE the Lord God Almighty.

Our "FDR"was magnificent!
What a cast!

Directed by Janet Collison (with a ton of help)... Amen...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Letter

So.... I was invited by my pastor to lead a Bible study for a 6-week Lenten season in 1993 and the group has never quit. Yup! That was 20 years ago. I guess we never caught on to the material or just never got around to finishing.  Actually, the members of the group are very close and hold each other accountable.  In fact, we all jump in when someone has a problem as evidenced when one member lost her eye glasses and a search team from our study group went to her house to find them!  You can read about that venture here.

There is nothing like Christian fellowship and Bible study. We have studied shelves of Bible studies through the years, some better than others. We don't move quickly through the material. We take our time to soak in the Word and its personal meanings to our souls and daily living. We share our experiences. We question. We don't always agree.

And we laugh. I don't consider the class a success unless we have had a good loud laugh, a good old-fashioned belly laugh.

And, of course, we've had tears of compassion and prayers for deliverance. We have prayed for children, for parents, for our pastors and our community. We have thanked God for successes and strength through trials. We pray, we laugh and sometimes sing. We've been know to hug.

Frankly, I know these folks better than I do my extended family.

Recently, our newest member, who has been in the group for only one year, brought a touching letter to class.  He made copies of it and we all read it. Everyone was blessed. Everyone received something different from these simple words.  You see, it's a letter from God. The member wrote what he 'heard' God saying. I can hear scripture in each line.  I do believe God says this to all of us.

Read it slowly.

Be blessed.  See what God has to say to you:

My dear child,

Speak to Me like Job.  Get it out of your system.  Rant and rave, gripe, groan, grumble, criticize, complain, condemn.  Then when you are done sit quietly...

Be still and know that I am God and I will give you what you need, my child.  Come, enter the rest and comfort of My presence.  Release your barriers and pain.  Be renewed and refreshed by My hope, My love, My presence.  Look to Me, not to your problems.  I AM your God.  I can restore the years the locusts have eaten.  I can set your feet on a firm rock and make you more than a conqueror.

Your strength is gone - you are wasted.  Now take My strength.  It is when you are at the end of your resources that you can enter My resources.  It is when you possess nothing that you can possess all heavenly riches in Me.  You are My beloved and I AM your God.  Let your weary heart be silenced and renewed by the covering of My healing love.

Abba, Father

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Annie" Obsession - Night and Day

So... perhaps you know that I'm directing the musical "Annie" this summer for our local Marshalltown Community Theater.  The production dates are July 26, 27, 28, Aug. 2 and 3 and tickets will be available July 23rd. We have just finished our first week of official rehearsals and I'm telling you it's going great!  I'm super pleased and excited beyond words.... really!  It's going to be a fabulous show that you won't want to miss. (Yes, that's an advertisement... and yes, there will be more of them....)

Two other directors are joining me in this venture:  Tom LaVille is the Artistic Director and is in charge of figuring out the set and blocking the show (telling people where to stand.)  He's a pro and he knows what he's doing. The Children's Director is Karen Roessler and she gets the medal for coaching the girls on how to be orphans.  Frankly, at this point, the orphans know what they are doing better than the adults.

So...  if the blocking is done and the children are coached, what does that leave me to do?  I'm the "obsessor."  According to what I've been doing, it is my job to tie up all the loose ends and obsess over the music, publicity, cast, costumes, choreographers, ticket sales, and any other aspect of the show.  I've been obsessing about details night and day.  I'm excelling in this... I'm dreaming Annie... I'm singing Annie non-stop, I'm conversing in the Annie script by answering "Oh my goodness, Oh my goodness," inappropriately... (ask John!)

There is little else on my mind.... and I wish it would stop!

I don't think I'm actually worried about the production, I'm just thinking about stuff that needs to be done. I'm thinking about little funny things that could be added here and there. I'm thinking about the songs and how I should coach them to be sung. I'm rehearsing and re-rehearsing what I should say to people... and I can't seem to turn it off.

Will my hair slowly morph red as my brain obsesses?

Our main character, Annie, is doing a splendid job.  In fact, I think she could be Annie's sister - she 'gets' her part and needs very little help. She gives 100% and catches on so fast!  I'm totally impressed with her; she's one talented little girl!

And the music!  If I could just stop singing the songs over and over. I think my brain could use a 'hard knock!'

It is no surprise to my heavenly Father that I'm obsessing night and day about this production. Nothing that I do (or you do) surprises Him.

Using some theater lingo,  He really caught my attention with this scripture out of The Message Bible.  In Matthew 3, John the Baptist is speaking and says:

"I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life.  The real action comes next:  The main character in this drama - compared to Him I'm a mere stagehand - will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.  He's going to clean house - make a clean sweep of your lives.  He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false He'll put out with the trash to be burned."

So... this is what I should be obsessing about:  The main character (God) will change me from the inside out, fill me with the Holy Spirit and get rid of the trash in my life. The main character (God) wants to ignite Kingdom life in me!  

I'm not the director for this kind of action, I'm a stagehand. I'm so glad... This I can do.  This I can pray:

"Father, be the Director of my life. You write the script. You do the coaching. You ignite the fire."

May this be the obsession of my life... night and day...

Monday, May 27, 2013


So... About a month ago, John and I hauled a trailer full of furniture and stuff out to our son-in-law and daughter in Denver. Looking a bit like the Beverly Hillbillies, we limped into Denver sans tail lights on the trailer... but who's talking about that...  We made it to their lovely home - that's what counts!

As all good parents do, John and I thought we would help them out a bit by doing odd jobs and yard work for one day.  How much trouble could we get into in just one lousy day? We dashed to the store for garden plants (and a few more things) and leaped into action.

I decided I would tackle the narrow garden by the fence in the front yard.  The kids had dug out a row of crispy arborvitae and thought flowering vines growing on the fence would add that all important curb appeal. Well, I know a thing or two about planting vines so I dug in.

This planting spot was not like any I've ever planted. It bordered a public sidewalk which bordered a four-lane major parkway, namely, 6th Avenue Parkway. Not only was this a public sidewalk and a parkway, but also a bus stop.

So... I was planting in a VERY public place with lots of cars whizzing by and people standing waiting for the bus.

A city bus would pull up within a foot of my foot as I spaded holes and fertilized and planted vines and was on my hands and knees in the dirt all afternoon - in the hot sun. Actually, it was fun and I chatted with a lot of different people. I told everyone they should get to know the dear people who lived in this cute house!

It wasn't until the next day that I realized I was sunburned, that is, sunburned in a most peculiar spot. Evidently, my top didn't quite reach to the waist of my jeans... the jeans that are quite loose and fall down a bit... O yea... It's true... Judging by what was sunburned, I'm quite sure I exposed my butt crack to the city of Denver on that lovely sunny day.

(Sorry.... no pictures...)

And I suppose that person on the bus who took a picture wasn't actually admiring the lovely vines I was planting. I have the strangest feeling my BC is posted on someone's blog somewhere....  and it probably has some cute little comments about beached whales found in our fair city...

Not a good thing...

I was exposed and didn't even know it. I was busy doing my thing and chatting away and had no idea that people were seeing more of me than I really wanted them to see - right there at the bus stop.

I'm reminded that my heavenly Father sees all and knows all. There is no hiding from Him. Everything about me is totally exposed to Him. My heart is exposed, along with my attitudes and feelings and pride and shame.

This is a good thing...

My heavenly Father looks at the areas of my life that I try to hide and willingly applies grace, mercy, and healing. He forgives and loves. He binds up wounds. He teaches me how to be more like Him. He's always in the business of improving and strengthening my life through grace and love.

So here I stand, totally exposed to my heavenly Father and join the psalmist:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
           test me and know my anxious thoughts.
                     See if there is any offensive way in me,
                               and lead me in the way everlasting."
                                                                                  Psalm 139:23-24

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Aloe, Rum and Jesus!

So... One of the more unusual experiences I had on my vacation in March was a tour of an aloe factory in Aruba. My dear husband and I hopped off our cruise ship at the Aruba port and willingly hopped onto a tour bus which wove through the dry countryside to a rather small, nondescript metal building by the side of the road. If this factory is the largest in Aruba, this country is in trouble.

Outside the factory was a field of aloe vera plants – you know, the plants that most cooks have on their windowsill in the kitchen. Mine is quite spindly and almost dead, but the plants in Aruba were green and happy, standing three feet tall and full of the drippy, slurpy gel that is a balm for all problems. Our guide proceeded to slice a leaf open and peel the outer skin off with a flick of her wrist and behold, there was the answer to all my ailments.

You can eat it, drink it, and slather it to treat arthritis, high blood pressure, digestive disorder,s and ulcers. Slap it on a burn and the burn goes away. One gal said it can treat insomnia and hair loss.

The factory was a bust. No one was working. But we did see some very nice stainless steel vats and conveyor belts and of course, the gift shop was bustling.

Another stop our cruise ship made was to Jamaica, where we again hopped off and toured the countryside. The Jamaicans use another liquid as their balm – rum. Our Jamaican guide recanted all the medicinal uses of rum: it’s an antiseptic, it reduces the chance of cancer, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, macular degeneration, and kidney stones. It also acts as an aphrodisiac.  No kiddin’…

So now I have two items on my window sill: my spindly aloe vera plant and a big old jug of rum. One of these items is more fun to administer than the other…

Now all my ailments are cured…right?


We can treat all our physical ailments with all the aloe and rum in all the world, but one part of our human nature will still hurt and fail to thrive; our mind and emotions, our very soul. Deep down inside we all need a balm to soothe our hurts and calm our fears. We all need a Savior, a Comforter, a compassionate, loving, heavenly Father.

Psalm 103 says:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

We all need more than aloe and rum. Add faith in God…lots of it

“This original content, created by me, was originally published on on March 20, 2013. Thought Circus is a media & publishing brand that shares extraordinary information about our world.” 

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Experiment :)

So.... I'm taking a real step of faith in posting this. I'm hoping the guys from the loony farm, armed with straight jackets, don't hit my door soon. Today, I tried an experiment and I'd like to share what is happening. I think it will encourage you.

Yesterday, I woke up with the start of a cold. The variety I get involves pounding pain in my sinuses, lots of crud down the hatch which, of course, creates a sore throat. (Sorry to be so graphic but I want you to understand what I experienced.) After praying for healing, it went away quite a bit so I carried on with my plans for the day, which included hosting a book club meeting up at church.

Yesterday, by 1:30, I was so bone-tired and achy, I took some pills and went to bed for a couple of hours. I didn't do anything last night; even passed up a ladies' get-together which included a rich dessert and wine!  Watched TV, took more pills, and went to bed.

(By the way, I downloaded the PBS app and watched "The Bletchley Circle" and "The Midwife" shows. They are spellbinding! Finding these shows is not necessarily a good thing! I need to watch more TV like a hole in the head!)

Anyway, I got up this morning and could barely walk. My pills wore off and my head was exploding. No air. My body was a bag of inflammation. I just about reached for pills, but didn't...

I am a fan of Janice Seney, a modern-day prophet. She lays out how easy it is to have faith and always encourages her listeners to 'experiment' with God's gifts. Since I have the day mostly free, I thought I'd try an 'experiment.'

And this is where you are going to think I'm loony:  I put my hands on my face and seriously prayed for a whole minute! I kept saying the name of Jesus over and over. About 15 minutes later, I did it again. Not really anything happened... 15 minutes later, did it again. And again. About an hour down the road, I thought my face might actually stay in place, instead of exploding off; I was getting a bit better! Yay!

More prayer... More "Jesus, Jesus"...

I'm thrilled to report that now, about four hours later, my symptoms are 95% gone! I took a shower and set my hair on my nifty 30-year-old hot rollers (does anyone use these anymore?) and put on something besides sweats.

I definitely felt a nudge to share what I experienced.

I'm serious! This is happening! I feel much much better!

Will this healing last all day? I don't know, but I'll keep you posted.

You can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to stay in prayer and be extremely thankful all day long. Keep in mind that I still have a 5% nag of symptoms which would normally hang on days four, five and six if my cold would progress in a normal fashion. But I'm going to 'lean in' for 100% healing, no pills, just prayer.

To clarify, I don't believe pills and doctors are bad or wrong. I'm a fan of medicine and use it as needed.   We do all the routine physicals and everything. My dear husband is a dentist and we have so many friends that are in medicine - they truly do God's work each and every day. I believe that.

I just tried something different today.

I'll be interested to see how I feel at 5:00.

So there you go!

I'm not super religious or holy or a pastor or anything. I'm a regular person that experimented with prayer instead of reaching for the pill bottle today.

You can do this, too. Try it. Start small. I'm sure God wants to bless you, too. The bible is full of verses that talk about Jesus being our Healer. He loves you and wants you to know Him and experience His power.

I seek ways to experience Jesus. By placing my hands on my face and calling upon His Name, I wasn't conjuring up some nifty trick. I was asking the power of His Name to permeate my situation. I was calling upon His nature and love. I was seeking compassion and relief. Our God is good ALL THE Time. He's on our side. He delights in us.

This is one of my favorite songs right now. It talks about the great Name of Jesus. Enjoy!

                    Your Great Name by Krissy Nordhoff

5:00 pm:
So... How did I do today?  Quite well!  Raked deadness out of the gardens and repotted some plants. I took a couple of 30 minute breaks and continued to pray the entire day. Tonight, we're going out for a sandwich and a movie.

Since this was day two of a cold, and I didn't spend the day moaning on the couch, I'd say it was a very good day.

And believe me, if Jesus would allow me to experience Him, you can, too. I encourage you to experiment.

I learned something:  It's easier to rely on pills than to trust in the Lord, but that's a topic for another day.

Did I ever get to the 100% mark?  Nope. But I got pretty close and a good night's sleep will do me wonders. His mercies are new every morning!  Thank You, Jesus!

Saturday, April 20, 2013


So... John and I went to New York City last weekend and I am glad to report, we conquered it. We flew in, we survived the taxi ride to our hotel, we found sustenance, we shopped, we saw some sights, and most importantly, we took in the Broadway show "Annie" not once, but twice! Times Square was more brilliant than the last time we were there; we were in slack-jaw mode most of the time.

"Annie" was fabulous - as fabulous as we hoped it would be. Twenty five years ago, I directed "Annie" as a local community theater production and this coming summer, I'll be directing it again. I have surrounded myself with people who really know what they are doing, but I wanted to spy on how the new version of "Annie" was being done on Broadway - hence the trip.  I took copious notes on napkins during the show.  If I could have taken pictures, I would have.

The other Broadway musical we saw was "Spiderman."  That show was over-the-top in its creativity. Spiderman flew all over the theater, in fact, there were 8 Spidermen flying and swooping about.  At one point, the bad guy and Spiderman had an air-borne fist fight just left of the chandelier! Amazing!

Perhaps our Annie should swoop in on a zip line during the second act? What do you think?

You might find it hard to believe... but there are some significant differences between NYC and my home town of 27,000:

1.  Everyone in the city had on black, except one person - me. I wore my neon bright pink and orange raincoat, bright blue jeans and sassy turquoise tennies and felt totally out of place. The stores are full of color, but I think it will be a hard sell as the New Yorkers seem to prefer their black, head to toe.

2.  Hotdogs are expensive.  I've fed the entire youth group on what I spent on a couple of dogs John and I slammed down while standing in the loo line at the theater.

3.  In this huge city, there is no personal space.  In my town, I could walk all day long and not touch a single soul.  In NYC, we squeezed through people to cross the streets and the subway was so crowded, it was full-body contact the entire time. It was interesting; there was plenty of full-body contact but absolutely no eye contact.

Differences aside, people are about the same no matter where they are located. We all carry some degree of fear. I know I felt a twinge of fear being in the big city. It felt kinda dangerous though nothing remotely dangerous happened to us. But I couldn't help but think.... All these people... what if...

Our visit to the 9/11 Memorial was a reminder that horrendous stuff happens.  We were so touched by an elderly man silently crying as he found the name of a loved one on the rim of the waterfall... I can't even imagine the chaos and terror that swept through the city as the towers fell.

And the senseless bombing in Boston hangs on our minds and promotes fear in our hearts as we wonder... what is going on? Are we ever safe?

The list is long of horrible tragedies and mind-boggling violence happening all over the world.

Even in my quiet little town, are we safe? Stuff happens. Tornadoes. Blizzards. Floods. And yes, even violence. Even here in small town Iowa, there is fear.

In the gospels, we read of a time when the disciples were afraid. Jesus wanted to travel by boat to the other side of the lake.  As they set out, a wild storm came up nearly swamping the boat. Jesus was asleep, probably totally exhausted from feeding thousands of people, healing the sick and training the bungling disciples. They woke Him and asked if He cared if they drowned. Jesus got up and spoke to the wind and the waves and immediately, all went calm.  He then asked His disciples, "Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?" (Mark 4:40)

In John 14:27, Jesus has some pretty strong words to say about being afraid:  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

There is a place of peace with Jesus.  He offers a place of rest.  He relieves us from the burden of fear. His very loving Presence is like healing balm to a fear-filled heart.

He will do the comforting... our job is to trust.

He will calm the storm.... our job is to trust.

 He will release peace into our hearts.... our job is to trust.