30 December 2013

The High Tech Blues

am typing on my phone. 

As marvelous as it is that I can do this, and as grateful as I am for my phone, give me a computer monitor and keyboard any day! The monitor at the jail, in the Chaplain's office where I volunteer with said Chaplain, aka the Saxophpne Player, is really (REALLY) bad. My eyes ache after an hour. Yet, I love having a real keyboard to tap-tap-tap. 

Even better, there is an actual IBM typewriter in the office, too. I adore using it. 

But, do you know what is even better than that? A good pen and a yellow, legal pad. 

Technology has it's place, but it is always disappointing me. The more advanced, the greater the pain when it fails. My husband delights in technology, but I want to break my dependency on it. He is forever searching for the perfect app to solve all his scheduling challenges. I just need my $0.99 calendar. He would have me record contributions online, but I prefer index cards. His address book is strictly digital, but I still have the address book from Hallmark which Hannah gave me on my 30th birthday. I trust paper. 

Speaking of paper, the recent issues with debit cards at Target had me wondering if we need to just stick with cash. And, we should have cash on hand, stashed under a floor board or up in the attic. Without electricity, the very basis of all technology, we be in trouble. I think we depend too much on debit cards. Was identity theft even an issue 30 years?

I know technology has its place, but it seems to me it doesn't know it's boundaries. We need to continually corral it, or it just grows out of control. We need to carefully gauge how much of it we will allow in our lives. To think that one dead battery is all it would take to shut down a business transaction or medical procedure or any number of other important events is sobering for me. 
And, it's just not right. Precious photos and videos, for example, that only exist digitally, are a heartache just waiting to happen. We should not put all our confidence in technology. I don't know how I am going to fix my own dependency, but I must try. 

Do you have a high tech dependency you want to fix?

27 December 2013

No One's Listening, But I'll Keep Talking

Just an update kinda post. Nothing special happening here.

I have decided to take a break from Facebook. It was a spontaneous decision made for two important reasons: to keep myself from posting something that could be misconstrued, and to keep myself from believing that people are actually paying attention.

Christmas Day was very unexpected. Events occurred which have left me asking more questions about my life than I thought I still had to ask. I've also had to face some hard realities that make me very sad. And, disappointed. And, concerned.

It also cemented in my heart some convictions. And, brought some things into the light. Not all bad stuff. Some very hard stuff, but not all bad.

In other news, the new year is just around the corner, and I am a wee bit terrified about all that is happening. Some important meetings await us, and I am not ready. My responsibilities within the ministry are much heavier than I feel capable of carrying. Physically, I am challenged, too. I am starting to pray for the Lord to give us an elliptical. I need something that moves my joints. I need exercise that demands exertion. I think the elliptical would do that. Since the end of my gardening season, it's like my body is just freezing up. Anyway, blah-blah-blah. But, it is a little scary to feel like a hard wind will send me crashing into a million pieces. My body is too high maintenance.

More than ever, I am recognizing the importance of women. Ladies, if you forsake the God-given influence you have in your family, you will be sorry for the rest of your lives. And, there may be dire circumstances for your choices. There is a wrong kind of submission, and too many women choose that path, because it is easier than standing against their husband's unrighteous leadership. I know that is a bold thing to say, but I feel very strongly that there is much truth in that statement. There is a way to stand righteously against our husbands, but we have to first believe this is even possible. And, then we have to have the courage to do it. The courage of Esther. Our children and our grandchildren are counting on us. We must heed the Holy Spirit at all cost.  

God bless you, and keep you. And, may He give you the courage and strength to stand for righteousness in your relationships and home.

26 November 2013

So Far, So Good

I only have FIVE minutes to write this post. That is kind of ridiculous, but I am very determined to stick to this curfew. It has been a week, I think, and it's transformed my life. It has transformed my family's life. I am not being dramatic. 

It is frustrating, though. I want to keep working. I want to search for recipes. I want to play Scrabble. I want to check the weather, watch the news, catch-up on "Lark Rise at Candleford."

I want to do several things that I cannot.

However, I am getting to do more other things. Like sleeping. Working. Talking. Reading. 

It's been good. I really cannot complain. My lists are not getting shorter, and I do not know if I am more productive (first guess would be that it hasn't made an impact there), however, I am not doing this to increase my productivity. I am doing this to improve the quality of my life and relationships.

So far, so good.

I do miss my friends on Facebook, though. And, my blogging friends. I figure I will get better at using my time online eventually.

I am worried about some projects that are computer-based, but, well, it's only been a week! 

So far, so good. 


19 November 2013

Making Time to Listen

A friend did a kind thing for us recently. He committed to making us get away to to his family's cabin. It wasn't until Thursday night that I actually believed it would happen, and because of car troubles we didn't actually get to leave until Saturday, but we did it. We got away. Three nights. 

Do you know that our daughter was still in diapers the last time we were away for more than two nights? And, the last time we were away at all for any kind of holiday? Well, let's just not go there. What matters is that it was a long time coming, and I am grateful for our friend's persistence. We needed this time in a serious way. We needed a chance to be quiet, to meditate. To listen. 

You see, we do not normally have a day off. Sometimes, we get hours off during the day, but it's more common for us to work from the time we wake-up until the we go to bed. There is almost always an email waiting for a reply, a document to create, a newsletter to write, text messages to send, studying or planning. Inevitably, there is a phone call. It's not good. And, it's gotten worse since I've been working more. Heading into our new year of ministry, we knew we needed to spend some time seeking the Lord, and searching our hearts. 

And, now, we are home. We still are seeking and searching, but we know some have some direction and some answers. We aren't sure how we will schedule a day off each week, but we know that needs to happen. We also are committing to putting away phone and computers by 10 p.m. We must make more time to listen. To each other, and to the Lord.  

We also know I need to be in the jail more, and Doug needs to be in the jail more. So, yeah. Figure that one out. Work more and work less, at the same time. That is one for the Lord to resolve!

One of my earliest memories as a child is sneaking out of bed and creeping into the hallway, so I could hear what I was missing. I don't know how we're going to make all the changes we need to make, but I know they are God's will. And, that's not something I'm willing to miss. 

18 November 2013

The Rest Is History

It was one of those moments you never forget. You don't know how it's going to change your life, you just know things will change.

We had been living in Haverhill for just over two months. Doug had been working as the chaplain's assistant for the Essex County Correctional Facility in Middleton, Massachusetts and the Lawrence Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts. I say working, but it was an unofficial, unpaid position. We were now existing on the fumes of his last unemployment check.

It was November 16, 2004. Doug had been laid-off from a well-paid position at Verizon Information Services. Well-paid, but rather soul-numbing. He had always served God in church, but he had a desire to serve more. So, I urged him to just make himself "available" to God, as he searched for his new position. He received a generous severance, and as he had always gone from one good position to a better one his entire working life, I was completely confidant that would be the case once again. Jobs were hard to find, though. The last thing he wanted to do was another I.T. gig, but no one wanted to hire him to do anything else. By the end of the upcoming 12 months, he would have submitted many rejected job applications.

Back to November 2003 first.

Doug and some much-loved, much-talented musician friends had been rehearsing for a couple of years, gigging locally at Christian events. It began, because Doug wanted to work through the songs the Lord had given him over the previous 12 years. He had been working on notating the music, working to make them freely available, and in the process they began taking gigs. It was all free, of course. Everyone had a paying job. This was ministry. Ministry we do for free, because it's not ours. God gives it freely to us. At least that was always our conviction, and the rest of the band was in agreement. 

So, one of Doug's goals after he was laid off was to find more gigs for the worship band. That was how he ended up meeting Chaplin Ray Perez. A friend suggested he call him, so they met for breakfast and Doug shared that he had a worship band he wanted to make available to go into the jail. There had always been a desire in Doug's heart to bring worship into jail, even though he had never served in prison ministry.

Chaplain Ray listened to Doug and invited him to go through orientation and visit a service. Doug says the first time he went into prison he fell in love, and I guess we could say the rest is history. 

Except, the rest is why I remember November 17, 2004 so well. The rest is why I am speaking into my phone and trying to write a blog post with my fingertip. :/ The rest is my story.

Doug began to lead worship services for Chaplain Ray, and soon offered to help with administrative tasks in the office. Over time, Chaplin Ray would ask Doug to share a testimony, teach a Bible study, and eventually cover services for him. In the summer of 2004, Doug covered for Chaplain Ray for an extended period of time, and this was when I began to see that this was more than just a way for him to pass time until his next job.

That August, we learned we would need to move and began looking for a new home. Through the prison ministry, an arts education program we developed for homeschoolers, and a compassion effort called The Keeper Project, we were already in the Haverhill community almost daily. Yet, Haverhill was the last place I wanted to live. I couldn't tell you why. I just know I looked everywhere else, until Haverhill was the only option left. So, over the Labor Day weekend of 2004, family and friends helped us move most of our belongings into storage and a few things into our new apartment. 

Apartment. Yes. This was challenging for me. Doug and I had built a very nice life. I didn't have a single complaint. Going from a small town in New Hampshire to the inner city was not a step-up for me. I remember really struggling, even suffering, in my very pampered-middle class way. Talk about First World problems. But, the Lord meets us where we are, even in our silliness and selfishness. He takes us by the hand and slowly shows us our sinful willfulness, and His divine, perfect will. For me, The Lord did this through the internet site eBay. 

I had 'discovered' eBay the year before, when I started selling Hannah's old homeschooling curriculum. When I began The Keeper Project, I used eBay to find cheap Tupperware Sandwich Keepers. And, that August the Lord used eBay to minister His will to my heart. Following a Mary Engelbreit rabbit trail one day, I found this: 

It is a green, Mary Engelbreit fabric, with "Bloom Where You're Planted" printed all over it. I love M.E., so I frequently went down eBay rabbit trails to find M.E. products. I may have seen this theme of hers before that day in August, but it was on that day that the Holy Spirit used it to begin speaking His peace and will to my heart. I sat at my desk (in my wonderful, spacious office), and cried my heart out. 

Bloom where you're planted, Caroline, He spoke to my heart. 

"I don't want to, Lord. I want to stay here!" 

Bloom where you're planted, Caroline.

"But, God, I don't want to!"

Bloom where you're planted, Caroline.

Resistance was futile, because I knew in that instant it was His hand that had closed every other door. I knew in that instant this was His will. I knew in that instant that this was His promise to me. He was planting me here, and if I was there I would grow.

So, I bought the fabric. No surprise that the seller was a Titus 2 Sister, with whom I was able to share my heart, and share that I would be using this fabric for the curtains in our new apartment. They would serve as a constant reminder to me that I was there by God's choosing, and meant to bloom. This was not a punishment or failure. This was His will, and His will was what I truly desired most.  

Yet, it was not as easy as making new curtains. By the time November arrived, I was becoming very stressed. Our lifestyle and living conditions dramatically changed. Friends didn't want to visit our ghetto apartment - yes, that's right. We were a block away from a porn den in one direction, the prime spot for prostitution in another direction, and the center for drug deals in another. The fourth direction took us to the post office, which was a blessing, because my little eBay business had now become our only source of income.

We knew this was God's will, though on Labor Day we were still not exactly sure what God had in mind, besides our continuing what He had given us to do: Keepers, LAM Arts Ed, and Doug serving as the Chaplain's unofficial assistant.

On November 6th we attended our first Volunteer Appreciation event, and it was just what we needed. We returned home very encouraged and inspired. The next morning we were awakened by neighbors at 5:00 a.m., alerting us that our car had been vandalized. We handled that crisis well, sitting together to pray for the offender, but our CD player (our primary source of spiritual food) was gone and the $250 we had gathered towards our late rent had to be used to repair the broken car window. A week later, when Doug came to me with this 'new ministry' idea Chaplain Ray had shared with him, through clenched teeth I told him: "The last thing I want to hear about is MINISTRY!" I was at the end if my rope.

That same day I took Hannah to her homeschool group. As we pulled into the parking lot, the Holy Spirit just opened my eyes. I just instantly knew this 'new ministry' was actually exactly what my heart desired. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the first time I attended a chapel service, and the question that had filled my heart as I watched my Brothers worship God: "What happens when they leave prison?" This ministry was the answer to that need. I called Doug immediately and cried into the phone, repenting for my wrong spirit. 

Friends, we've learned a lot over the past nine years on this mission field, and on November 16, 2004 I learned that when you are walking by faith, and you come to the end of your rope, you let go.

So, the next day, nine years ago yesterday, we met with Chaplain Ray and began a new life of full-time ministry as full-time missionaries. 

And, here is where I will say: the rest is history.

10 November 2013

Day Ten

I am doing a Graitude Challenge on Facebook. As I began writing today's, it started to get a little long. I decided I would move it over here. 

GRATITUDE CHALLENGE, Day 10 (11/10): My heart fills to bursting with gratitude, when I hear my husband preach. And, I am reminded of a time when his preaching was the last thing I wanted.

Once upon a time, when Hannah was just born, my Mother prayed for my husband and prophesied over him. She told him the Lord was going to use him to minister the Word of God. 

Now, you need to understand that I did not want to be in ministry. I grew-up a minister's kid. I knew what that life was like, and I wanted nothing to do with it. The ministry life is hard. I married Doug thinking I was marrying a normal guy who would make a decent living and provide a stable and secure life for me and our children. Financial security was what I wanted most.

So, when my Mother spoke that prophecy over my husband, I wasn't exactly excited. I wanted Doug to obey and serve God, and if that included ministering the Word, that was fine, but as a layman. On Sundays and Wednesdays. Not as a career. After all, he was a saxophone player. A musician; not a preacher. Let him play on the worship band; teach Sunday school. Wasn't that enough?

The Lord is funny, isn't He? He really does give us our heart's desire. Our head just doesn't clue-in sometimes. Silly us, we think we know what's best. I'm so glad the Lord overrules our plans, and protects us from our best intentions.

The Saxophone Player at the prison chapel recently, where he is the Protestant Chaplain. Doug is also the Director of New Brothers Fellowship, which is a ministry that serves and supports men post-release.
Financial security? Ha! Who needs it? 

06 November 2013

This Is The World

I read this story today:

It is a horrific story. It is an act of wild beasts, creatures without a conscience; without compassion. These were girls and boys—youth—who viciously attacked their classmate. They beat her, terrorized her, and violated her. She will likely suffer the trauma of this wicked cruelty for the rest of her life. 

And, they were her friends.

As the words is this report were assaulting my mind and soul, I heard these words in my spirit: 
"This is the world."
Immediately, the passage of scripture that says, "friendship with the world is enmity with God" came to mind. Here is the whole verse:
"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4, NKJV)
It's pretty clear what is being said here, but a scene began to fill my head as I considered this article and these words from James. Imagine it with me. Our heroine, let's call her Caroline, has just been enjoying a picnic of tuna fish sandwiches with her coworkers. Their Boss, who is really more like a Friend, invited them to lunch with Him. We shall call Him Jesus.

It's a beautiful day for a picnic, and Caroline has been having a very nice time with Jesus. She always does love His company. But for a moment, just a second, she takes her eyes off Him and looks around at others in the park. She's just curious. What's everyone doing?

Across the greenway from where they are sitting, Caroline spots an attractive, rather mysterious-looking gentleman. She tries not to stare, but there's something about him that's just so...appealing. Caroline looks back at Jesus, and He is saying something about His Father. That's interesting, she thinks. She nods, and tries to focus on His words. She wants to hear; she is interested. Yet, her mind keeps wandering. She is hearing Jesus, but thinking about him. He has captivated her attention. She can't get him out of her mind. 

Just one more peek, she tells herself, as she looks back in his direction, but he's not there. Her eyes dart across the park. Panic rises. Where is he? Did he leave? Then, she sees him. A sigh of relief passes her lips. He's walking across the greenway. He's walking towards her! Her heart beats faster. He's getting closer. She sits up taller, and tucks a stray hair back in place. Her fingers flit up to her ears. Did I remember to wear earrings? He has made his way to her side of the park. She somehow knows he won't come near her circle, but that's OK. He's in a better position now, where can see him without turning her head away. This is perfect. Everyone around her thinks she is looking at Jesus, when in reality her eyes are beholding him

She hasn't realized that Jesus can see her eyes, and He knows where she has cast her focus.

As she catches the eye of her mystery man, he smiles and makes a faint gesture. He beckons her to follow him. Where is he going? She cranes her neck. Now, her coworkers realize something is wrong. She doesn't care what they think. They don't understand. She's tired of being judged. Oh, no! He's getting away!

Caroline is desperate. Thinking quickly, she blurts out, "Lord, I think I'll go throw our trash away." She has interrupted what He was saying, but He isn't angry. He looks at her with concern, and then assures her:

"I can take care of that later, Caroline. Don't worry. Just stay here, and let's enjoy our time together."

"No, no. I need to do this now. Right now. It can't wait, Lord." She tries to control the panic in her voice. She is trying to keep one eye on the Lord, and one on her mystery man. It's not working. She sees him looking back at her, but he doesn't stop. He won't wait for her. I have to go now. He's leaving without me!

Jesus is saying something to her, but she can't hear Him anymore. Hastily grabbing the remains of their meal, Caroline hurries after him. Completely captivated now, she leaves a trail of rubbish behind her. Her paces quickens, and she starts to run. 

"You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God." (James 4:4, Amp.)

02 November 2013

Waiting For Pork Butt To Cool

Hello, Friends. It's Saturday night. I have a few minutes to wait, and thought I'd do a little journaling. 

We are now in November, and for me this is an increasingly challenging time emotionally. As the days so full of grief last year approach again, I am challenged to not hide away until next June. Of course, when sadness threatens to take me out, I imagine what my Mother would say. It sounds something like, "But, I'm in Heaven! I'm supping with the Lord!" 

Imagined conversations do not really heal our sad hearts, though. I think that is just a matter of time. Lots of time. And, then accepting the fact that we never stop missing. Since Mother left this earth, several have been kind enough to share their stories with me, and it doesn't matter how long their loved one has been gone. Their eyes till begin to glisten. Isn't true love worth a glisten two or thirty years down the road? I think so.

I am making this meat as a practice run for Wednesday night's Community Supper at the Ladder House. We have undertaken a big work there, but several are extending their hands to help, and I believe even more are praying. I will not share all that I see in my spirit, but I am grateful for vision. I am grateful for faith to believe for things my hands cannot do.

Pork is pretty tasty. I'm pretty pooped. I think it's time for some tea in my big, Boston mug.

26 October 2013

Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

When our life is in God's hands, He does not promise there will not be suffering. In fact, He tells us repeatedly that there will be suffering, why there will be suffering, and how we should handle it. He gives us many examples of His people suffering for us to learn from, and follow. When I was little, the church used to teach that once you became a Christian everything would be great. There are some churches that preach that message still, but I think most of us know better.

I started to feel sick in 2009. It took a little more than two years for them to figure out what was going on. By the time I had surgery, the tumor was the size of a basketball. The surgeon told me this rather casually. I wish he'd taken a picture. I wouldn't have wanted to see it then, but now I wish I could. 

The kind of cancer I had was a very rare type, a granulosa cell tumor ovarian cancer. I have a pretty good chance of never having that kind of cancer again, but it characteristically does not return until five to ten years later. So, today is two years. I have a few more to go. I won't dare say I have faith it will not return, because I don't. I had faith I'd never have cancer in the first place. My faith was misplaced. 

Instead, I have faith that if the Lord allows me to ever have cancer again - a granulosa cell tumor, or any other kind - that He will walk with me through that difficult time just as He walks with me through every other difficulty He allows. I am His. I can trust Him. I do not want to ever lay in a hospital bed again, but I will trust Him no matter what. In so many ways, He has proven to me He is trustworthy. My goal in life is not to protect myself from suffering, but to be sure I am in His will. 

When I could once again attend the Sunday night chapel services at The Farm, Doug asked me to share a testimony. He even gave me a few minutes warning, which he normally never does. So, I had the chance to jot down some notes. I am going to share those notes here, all rough and ugly. Maybe, what I learned can encourage someone else who may be in the midst of a time of suffering and challenge themselves. If you are, and can use a praying friend, you know where to find me.

Things I Learned When I Got Cancer

Lesson #1: God Gets To Do Whatever He Wants To Do 
I really did not think God would allow me to have cancer, because I had too much going on - the Fall is the busiest time for me in the ministry. Plus, there is no cancer history in my family. And, didn't I have enough to deal with all ready? 

I really did think these very dumb thoughts. 

Lesson #2: Just Keep Trusting
A few days after being released from the hospital, my incision opened and I was bleeding profusely. I was in the worst pain, and fear was rising. I remember laying there in that E.R., so scared, asking Doug to help me make sense of this. He simply told me, "You just have to keep trusting God." 

When things are so hard, but just keep getting harder, remember Dorie, from "Finding Nemo," and just keep swimming. That is, just keep trusting.

Lesson #3: Pain Happens
We cannot prevent pain, but there are things we can do to stop it, or at least ease it. So, do what you can, and hold on tight to a friend's hand whenever possible. And, remember Lesson #2. It will eventually pass. This applies to physical pain, and emotional pain.

Lesson #4: Do Your Best
You may not have another chance, so do your best right now. And, when it comes to other people, give them your best. It matters. Maybe not to you, but to someone. And, ultimately, to God, who put you here to do it.  

Lesson #5: Always Assume The Other Person Is Having A Worse Day
I could cry right now, remembering the way I was cared for at the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. But, it wasn't only them. My visiting nurses - Robyn and Karen and Wendy, especially - they blessed me in so many ways. I remember the look on the face of my anesthesiologist, the last thing I remember before waking up in recovery - the kindness and assurance in her eyes. Yeah, they all knew I was sick. They had an advantage. But, we don't have an excuse. We encounter people every day who are facing serious troubles. When I consider how much the kindness, warmth, and gentleness of strangers meant to me, I pray the Lord help me always extend these same gifts to others. People giving their best made all the difference for me. Refer to #4.

Lesson #6: God Doesn't Have To Give You Cancer To Kill You
Don't wait for a terminal diagnosis to take life seriously. We have all been appointed a day to die (unless we are raptured). Live every day with meaning. (See #4.) Besides, when you get that diagnosis, you may not have the time, or strength, to do those things you keep putting off. And, it feels really bad to think you might not get another chance. See #7.

Lesson #7: Do It Now
Why are you putting it off? We don't get credit for our To Do List.

Lesson #8: You Cannot Be Too Polite
See #5. 
See #4.

Lesson #9: The Little Things Matter
If you have been paying attention, you've all ready learned this lesson. Please, review #s 4, 5, 7, and 8.

Lesson #10:  Trials And Suffering Mature Our Love
For God, and for others. So, don't be afraid of them. Don't resist them. Don't buck against them. One word I learned well during this time in my life was y - i - e - l - d. Yield. Yield to God, even as He takes you down a dark and frightening road. You see, His will only works when He is in full control. We must be fully surrendered. Remember Lessons #1 and #2.

Lesson #11: The Worst Thing That Can Happen Isn't On This Earth
The worst thing that can happen is not getting to Heaven at all, or arriving in the presence of the Lord without a treasure to present your King. (See #10, #7, #4, and #2.)

Lesson #12: Don't Forget What You Learned The Last Time
When the Lord allows suffering, it is for a purpose. He has a reason. An objective. So, write down what you learn. Tell others. And, keep living those lessons out every day. Live it as long as you have breath. 

17 October 2013

More People Get To Eat

I cannot believe how long it has been since my last blog post. It has barely been four months since I vowed to myself that I would blog more and edit less, but I can't seem to do it. Not yet, at least. I will keep trying. That is my motto. I think my Mother's repeating that little idiom to me as a child really stuck: If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. 

Come to think of it, that may be why I edit things to death. 

In any case, I am still here, and have been writing plenty, just nothing you get read. It is hard for me to give time to blogging, because there are so many pressing needs right now. We have also launched the Haverhill women's group, and the Ladder House mission. And, it's the Fall, which is just busy. 

I hate that word.

I am challenged daily to seek the Lord for what He would have me do, and then to rest in all that is undone. There is no condemnation, when I do this, when I truly seek His leading for the day. I do not feel His displeasure in what is undone, when I am trusting Him with it all. That sounds strange to me, yet it is true. It seems He says, "It's OK to have several pots on the stove, plus dishes cooking in the oven, and even soup simmering in the slow cooker. They don't all have to be finished at once. And, you aren't a bad person for having so many things cooking. It just means more people get to eat."

That sounds pretty encouraging, doesn't it? And, it does please my heart to think of there being a continuous feast of giving and loving and caring and serving. I am blessed to have a busy kitchen. One day, I will not have the strength to "do," and it will be hard for me, just as it was hard for my dear Mother. I hope I will enjoy those restful days, and remember I was once a hard-worker.

And, maybe, there will be some well-fed souls to keep me company!

We are having a beautiful Autumn here. Doug took this photo in
our neighborhood several days ago. There is even more color now.

12 September 2013

Today's Eden

Today I brought in some flowers from my zinnia patch. I cannot quite describe the joy it brings me to cut flowers I grew myself, especially knowing that so many new flowers are ready to burst forth to take their place—weather permitting.

As small as it is, my little garden has brought me so much pleasure. I can't help wondering how Adam and Eve could be willing to risk the beauty and delight of Eden—the ultimate garden!—for a mere bite of fruit. How could they risk it all?

However, as soon as I start judging dear Adam and Eve, I hear the Holy Spirit remind me how much I risk—and for even less than a bite of fruit. I imagine the angels in Heaven looking at me in astonishment, as I fall for the Enemy's temptation, too. 

We often have a very poor perspective, don't we? We only consider how we feel, and what would make us feel better right nowWe're missing out on unspeakable joy and the riches of Heaven, for a temporary "fix." 

We will never have Eden again, but how much is our disobedience robbing from us today? 

04 September 2013

Preemptive Strike

I read an article yesterday by Todd Starnes entitled "Christian Bakery Closes After LGBT Threats, Protest." ARTICLE LINK  This article inspired more thoughts than could fit in my Facebook status, so I moved them to my blog.

To summarize for those who do not want to read the article, a Christian baker refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple's civil union. In retaliation, the lesbian couple rallied the LGBT community to boycott and protest this business, and any business that did business with them. They also made threats against the family. Consequently, and not surprisingly, the couple that own the business decided to close-up shop. 

There is a lot here that is very concerning. However, what I am most concerned about is how the Christian community is going to react. You see, too often Christians take these things and turn them into a rallying cry for defending our faith. 

Except, they aren't really defending our faith at all. 

I think we all remember the chicken sandwich brouhaha last year. Governor Mike Huckabee rallied Christians to show their support for a Christian business owner who was attacked by a handful of mayors for publicly speaking about his private beliefs. Christians said it was our duty to stand with our Brother in Christ by going to his restaurants. Nearly every Christian I know on Facebook had a status that day about chicken sandwiches. I watched it all and wondered how the cause of Christ was being advanced. How many souls were saved? How was God glorified? When was the love of Jesus shown to the unbeliever, the lost?

That's my first problem with this cake business. Once again, Christians are making a fuss about what has happened to a Christian business owner. Christians are shaking their fist at the injustice, and making a Christian cause out of what is really a Constitutional issue. Instead of supporting an American's right to do business with whomever they choose, Christians are sounding a rallying cry for Christian activism. How is this going to help anything? How is this going to advance the Kingdom of God, or broadcast the life-changing message of the gospel that sets the captives free?

Once again, we've got it all wrong.

Before everyone writes me off as a loon, or a heretic, I'd just like to ask:
If this Christian bakery is "taking a stand for Christ," as most Christians are all ready saying, by not baking a cake for a lesbian couple's civil union, then what are they doing when they make a wedding cake for the unsaved couple who have been living together? Or, the Christian couple who have been engaging in sexual intimacies, before their wedding? Or, how about the man who is leaving his wife to marry his mistress?
Do you see my problem?

If Christian business owners are going to refuse to serve homosexuals, as a stand for their beliefs, than I would hope they would also refuse to serve adulterers and fornicators—as a stand for their beliefs. I would hope they would believe the whole Bible, and not just the portions about poster sins (that's what the Saxophone Player calls them).

But, too often Christians just react. They don't stop and think about what's really going on. The media plays us like a ukulele. And, friends, some Christian organizations do the exact same thing. We've all gotten the emails, rousing us to action. How often have we heard or read, "If it had been a Muslim...." If a true injustice has been done, shouldn't we be just as outraged if it is done against a Muslim—or even an atheist?

When I was in college, every cause under the sun wanted my attention and activism. I participated in my share. They were mostly worthy and valid, and I loved it. Nothing's wrong with a little social activism. However, when I recommitted my life to the Lord I knew that just giving someone a place to live or food to eat was never going to be enough. Stopping nuclear armament wasn't going to bring true peace to anyone. If I was going to give myself to a cause, it had to be a Cause that would bring real change, lasting peace, and glory to God.

Still, I'm one of those people. I like to lend my support. If sharing a link can help, I'll do it. Read down my Facebook page, and you'll see. I care about a lot of stuff, which makes it easy to get sidetracked, easy to get caught-up in the flood of emotion that flows from roar of the crowd. My neighbor in incensed, and before I know it I've made signs and queued up in front of City Hall. 

If Jesus showed up in the middle of all of this, what do you think He'd be doing? Which cause would He be taking up? Which fight is truly in defense of our King?

Well, I really have wondered what the Lord's position is, because when I see the direction of the crowd, I don't see it heading towards love, peace, joy, or kindness. I don't see Christians turning the other cheek. The Bible really is full of verses that apply to situations like this, but there is one passage that comes first to mind: Luke 6:27-28.

This is pretty clear, but I like how it reads in the Amplified:

"But I say to you who are listening now to Me: [in order to heed, make it a practice to] love your enemies, treat well (do good to, act nobly toward) those who detest you and pursue you with hatred. Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you, implore God's blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you [who revile, reproach, disparage, and highhandedly misuse you]." Luke 6:27b, Amplified)
There can be no question here how Christ would have responded in this situation. Would He have baked the cake? I can't say. What really matters though, is not how He would respond, but how He expects me to respond. Knowing the animosity that exists right now between the homosexual community and the Christian community, it isn't hard to imagine that this couple intentionally chose a Christian baker, suspecting she would refuse to bake their cake. Doesn't this happen all the time? The world baits us. They want to draw us into a fight.

What would have happened if the baker had looked upon this couple with love, and chosen to do good to them, to bless them? Don't you wish we could have found out? I do, because I think it would have been fantastic! I think the power of Almighty God would have been life-changing, because it always is, when we allow Him into a situation.

I wonder if Christians have forgotten Christ's example. When He faced Pontious Pilot, He stood before His accuser silently. Passively. A Lamb to the slaughter. He did not defend Himself, yet Pilate became utterly convinced of His innocence. He did not fight the cross, yet He won the greatest victory of all time.  

It seems these days that Christians think they're too good for a cross. They shouldn't have to suffer. Or, be humbled. Or, stand falsely accused. This concerns me. I would be very happy to never suffer in any way ever again. I would like that very much. But, that is not what we have been promised. Instead, Christ assured us that we will face persecution. Christ said, "The world persecuted me, they will persecute you, too." (John 15:18-25)  He tells us that a time is coming when those who seek to kill us will believe they are doing God's will. (John 16:2)

He doesn't leave us with that, though. He doesn't say, "Tough luck, guys." No! He says, "In the world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world!" (John 16:33)

He has all ready taken up our cause. Let us now take up His, and His alone.

20 August 2013

Little Trophies

In the Spring, Hannah came home with a package of kitchen gloves. Inside, there was a packet of seeds. Zinnia seeds.

I had every intention of expanding my gardening "hobby" this year, but it was hard to get out there. Gardening is so closely tied to my Mom, and in April I just wasn't there. 

Then, these seeds showed up. 

I wasn't sure what a Zinnia was, and I didn't know the first thing about putting a seed in the ground, but one day I just knew I had to take this step of faith. That's what it was, you see? It was a step of faith.

Did I have the faith... be outside? put a seed in the ground? trust God with all the unknowns?

There was a lot riding on that little packet of seeds.

Well, it took until May for me to get outside. There were still serious questions about the ministry. Getting down on my hands and knees was still an unknown (certain health conditions make that challening), but Grief, Pain, and Fear were not going to be allowed to rule over me. Being stubborn can be a virtue.

There were a lot of things that had to happen in my little garden, before those seeds could be sown, but that is for another post. What matters is that I did it. I got them in the ground. I learned several things along the way, and I successfully planted my first seeds ever in the earth. 

Major life-changing event!

And, when I look at my Zinnias today, tall and strong and blooming in full color, I see little trophies. They are my trophies. I overcame Grief. I overcame Fear. I overcame Pain. And, they are my reward.

I love that the Zinnia that suffered the most is also the tallest.
I would love to show you my Zinnia album on Facebook. Click Here.

11 August 2013

I'm Ignoring You

ig•nore |ig•nor•ing
1:  to refuse to take notice of
2:  to reject

It's generally considered rude to ignore someone, but I have a hit list of enemies who are regular visitors, and they don't deserve my attention.

Be it heartache or body ache, Pain demands my attention every day. He relentlessly strives to incapacitate me, until I finally open the door to Courage

Fear is insatiable. And, sneaky. Usually, I don't even know she's here, until I suddenly realize my hands and feet and spirit are all bound-up in chains. Fear wants to control everything I say and do, and she doesn't take, "NO!" for an answer, no matter how emphatically I shout. Love conquers Fear, though, and Faith breaks me lose from those chains.

Without Courage, I am helpless against the forces of Insecurity. Once he has me in his grip, I am an easy prey for Pride.

He is the most insidious of them all. He seeps into every pore, and the only way to be free is by a thorough cleansing at the Cross. Humility will lead me there.

Faith can defeat Unbelief with a single blow, but when I have made room for Unbelief in my heart, I lock the door to Faith. This is when I count on Hope. She can unlock that door. 

Courage. Love. Faith. Humility. Hope. I cannot imagine life without them. And, they are all courtesy of Christ, who is my all in all. All I need, all the time.

09 August 2013

Why Israel?

I asked my friend Roaming Chile, aka CariƱo Casas, a Christian minister and photojournalist who reports via her blog on the Middle East, to write a guest post that answers the question: Why Israel? 

Why the church should stand with Israel

At the end of May, the Family Research Council held their annual Watchmen on the Wall gathering in Washington D.C. Watchmen on the Wall is a ministry to pastors, and the meeting was their annual briefing on issues important to believers. They had a load of speakers, and videos of most of the talks are online.

One of this year’s speakers was author and analyst Joel Rosenberg.

Rosenberg’s address to the pastors was spot on. The video of his talk is embedded below.

What encouraged me from the start was Rosenberg’s reminder that God loved the whole world, including the Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, etc. It is the same message the LORD has impressed upon me about remembering Ishmael.

Rosenberg’s reasons why Christians are supposed to stand with Israel…

Visit Roaming Chile's to view her photo gallery

Jesus is the Jewish messiah and 
soon we will be standing with him face to face
Jesus came to Israel the first time, to the house of Israel. He’s coming back to where? Israel, Jerusalem. He’s going to rule from Jerusalem.

While Israel rejected Jesus, Rosenberg reminds us that the rejection of Messiah was prophesied (Psalm 118,Daniel 9) and that it didn’t close doors to Gospel (as evidenced by the New Testament writers as well as today’s believing Jews. Rosenberg himself is a Jewish believer in Jesus).

Rosenberg addresses the believers who don’t believe modern Israel is fulfillment of prophesy. He points to the progression in Ezekiel 37, the valley of the dry bones. The LORD himself says the bones are the whole house of Israel. The bones are reassembled, bodies regenerated, but at first “there was no breath in them.”

The physical restoration of Israel precedes its spiritual restoration, Rosenberg says.

It’s been reported that when Israel was reborn in 1948, there were a dozen Jews in the Land who believed Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel. Today, it is estimated that there are 20,000. (Worldwide, estimates range from 350,000 to a million) We are to be making disciples of all nations (including Israel)

Rosenberg reminds we are to be preaching the Gospel (see Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 15) without fear and compromise, lovingly, kindly, clearly. To whom? Jesus says in Acts 1, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So to Israel and beyond.

Yes, Israel is a chosen nation. “We were chosen, but we have to chose Him back,” Rosenberg says as a Jew. “We have to choose Jesus as the Messiah, and you [believers] need to tell us [Jews] about Him.”

Christians have come up with excuses for not telling Jews about their Messiah. Rosenberg uses his experiences in Sunday school to address those excuses.
“She [Bible school teacher] didn’t say, ‘You’ve got a special ticket to heaven. You don’t need Jesus.’ She understood the gospel and she shared it with just like she’d share it with anybody else. She didn’t target me. She just loved me and told me the truth.

“She didn’t say, ‘Well, you’re too stupid to understand; your team never got it so we’re not even going to share it with you. You’ve got hardened heart. I can show you the text.’ She didn’t say those things.

“Or she didn’t say, ‘We really want to bless you. We bless Israel. We’re sending money to Israel. We’re taking tours to Israel. But don’t worry, little Joel Rosenberg. We’re are not going to tell you about Jesus. We will make you that commitment.’ She didn’t say that, and I thank God.”

Back in Ezekiel 37, God tells Ezekiel to order the four winds to breathe life into the regenerated bodies. Rosenberg says the four winds speak of the gentile world, of believers in Jesus from all over the world communicating the gospel to the Jews, showing — not just telling of — the love of Jesus.

We are heading toward a Romans 11:26 
world, where all Israel will be saved
The eyes of those on earth to see Jesus’ return will be opened to recognize Messiah and they will mourn the one that was pierced (Zechariah 12:10). All Israel will be saved, says Pharisee Paul in Romans 11.

The job of the church, Rosenberg says, is to be sowing seeds now, being faithful now, whether we see fruit or not. We must not fall into the trap of bitterness that reformer Martin Luther fell into. “Luther initially preached tolerance towards the Jewish people, convinced that the reason they had never converted to Christianity was that they were discriminated against, or had never heard the Gospel of Christ,” one website says. “However, after his overtures to Jews failed to convince Jewish people to adopt Christianity, he began preaching that the Jews were set in evil, anti-Christian ways, and needed to be expelled from German politics.” (Here’s one analysis of Luther’s writings concerning the Jews.)

The Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-2

We are to bless the nation of Israel because God wants us to bless them, Rosenberg reminds us. Those who bless will be blessed. Those who curse, abandon Israel will be cursed.

“There is a danger to our country if we abandon Israel, if we turn on Israel,” Rosenberg says. “We are in enough trouble fiscally, but more importantly morally and spiritually. This is not a good time to add the abandonment, rejection, betrayal of Israel to our national sins.”

The United States is already ripe for judgment, Rosenberg points out, using just abortion statistics to make the point.

The number of abortions performed since its legalization in 1973 are approaching 60 million. That’s 10 times the amount of people the Nazis murdered. Germany was judged. What kind of judgment awaits our nation? Rosenberg asks. Turning on Israel could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back.

“If we reject, abandon, betray Israel also, I think that’s curtains,” he says. “And not because Israel is righteous. Let me be clear about that.”

Rosenberg goes on to say that though Israel is unrepentant as a whole, its leaders do not know Jesus as Messiah, we love them because Jesus first loved us. Not because they’re doing everything right.

“These are important times,” Rosenberg said in closing. “The Church is splitting over the nation of Israel. It has for years, and it will get worse. The world is turning against the nation of Israel. And the question is ‘What will you and your congregation do?’ We have to get this Biblically right, because we’re going stand before Jesus very soon.”