Can I Have a Word with You?

That question coming from someone in authority can be a little daunting. From a boss it can invoke fear and trepidation. What does he/she want? Did I do something wrong?

From a family member, it might strike a fear of another kind…bad news?

But from God….well, THAT’s a different story!

Below is an excerpt entitled “Can I Have a Word with You?” from my husband’s monthly newsletter. It came up in a recent conversation between us and sheepishly I admitted I hadn’t read it. When I did, it had such an impact not only am I sharing a snippet with you below, but it sparked an idea I’ll explain at the end.  But first, Hubby’s article:

Can I Have a Word With You? ~ January, 2018

 I’ll forgo the usual January talk of New Year’s resolutions and get right to the point… The God of Creation – the Lord of the Universe – the Savior of the world wants to talk with you this year like never before. It’s as if He is saying to both You and me, “Can I have a Word with you?”

 I wonder what He’ll say if you and I give Him our attention this year…

 Actually, I already know some of what He wants to tell you. It’s this: You are loved. And God’s love for you does not in any way depend upon your “performance” in life. In any way. At all. 

 He loves you the same whether you meet with Him for some time together in His Word every day, or only rarely. The difference is that you will not realize this as deeply if you only meet with Him occasionally.

 Another thing He will say to you is that you are forgiven. Fully. Freely. For all of your sins. Yes, even that one that you think is too bad for God ever to forgive you of. That one, too. That’s what Jesus came for. And again – your complete forgiveness of all your sins does not depend on how “good” you are, or have been, or promise you will be. If you have reached out your hand in faith to God and believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was for you – in your place, then all of your sins have been washed away by the shed blood of Christ. Because of your Baptism into Christ, and His death and resurrection (Romans 6), you are now clothed in the pure, white robe of His righteousness. You loved. You are forgiven. And you are free.

 That is the Message – the “Word” God wants to have with you.  May He have many, many Words with you this year through His Word in the holy Bible.

                                                                                                                   ~ Pastor Bernie Huesmann

Amen! The fact that the Creator of the Universe WANTS to speak to little ‘ole me and you is amazing! Humbling. Overwhelming! And NOT to be missed! When God, through His Word and the Holy Spirit, speaks into our hearts and into our lives we are strengthened, encouraged and inspired!

And THAT, my friends is why I started to blog. It fills me with joy to share life lessons and Biblical insights!

You too? Good! Because I have created a Facebook Page called “Digging Into The Bible” as a place for us ALL to share what God’s Word is speaking to us.

A post may look like this. “Today I opened up my Bible and perused Genesis 1. Over and over I read, ‘And God said…’    Wow. The power of God’s spoken word blows me away, creating something out of nothing each time. Then I realized, if God’s word has the power to do all that, why wouldn’t I want to dig deeply into it on a regular basis!

 

Want to join me? Go to the Digging Into The Bible page on Facebook. There we can share  the insights and “ah ha!” moments we receive from God’s Word.

https://www.facebook.com/DiggingIntotheBible/

God wants to have a word with you.  What is it today? Share it in the comments section below or on Facebook!

A Psalm 136 Christmas Letter

Last week I started a Christmas letter. Determined to NOT skip another year, I hastily (because I’m busy) and concisely (because I dislike long epistles) shared the “highlights” of the year. Why? Good question. It stems from the days prior to Facebook and Instagram to keep everyone up to date on our lives. In the “old” days, Christmas letters let far-away relatives know what we’d been doing – vacations, moves, etc. We’d share glowing reports of our kids’ activities – soccer, band, lessons, scouts, dance, you name it. In keeping with tradition, I replayed that old record.

Then I hit delete.

Something didn’t set well. Something wasn’t right. Oh, everything I wrote was true. Nothing was exaggerated or embarrassing. My nice neat letter told the story.

Free-Photos / Pixabay

But not the whole story. Never the whole story. I remember once a relative commented in a note, “Thanks for your Christmas card/letter! You sound like a Norman Rockwell Family.”

Oh shoot.

That was not my intent.

Of course we don’t share all the yuck of the year. Of course I’m not going to vomit all the trials and pain we’ve seen in the past 12 months.

But neither do I want to give a false impression of the “perfect family.” Oh, Lord, please no!

Our lives are NOT perfect. Not one.

Though we go through tough times, we do have something to brag about. Not our activities, not our endurance, but God’s love and faithfulness to see us through.

This morning I came across Psalm 136. It’s a liturgy of praise when the Psalmist lists his blessings, giving thanks to the Lord, followed by the repeated refrain, “His love endures forever.”

My mind began to replay where I saw His faithfulness throughout the year, followed by the refrain.

It inspired a NEW Christmas letter:

 

On and on my personal psalm continued in my heart, beyond the original 26 verses found in Scriptures.

Read  Psalm 136 yourself. Then try it. Search your past for those God-filled moments.

Your heart, like mine, will be filled with joy!

geralt / Pixabay

 

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire!

Nobody likes to be lied to. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live or how old you might be. We all have a universal need –  an expectation really – to hear the truth.

Think about it. When we are facing any given situation – before we can take any steps to deal with it – we ask for the facts, right? We want to know exactly what we’re facing.

“Give it to me straight, Doc!”

When a problem arises we “Google it,” read a book or ask friends for more info.

We. Desire. Truth.

In Ephesians 6, the Bible describes truth as a belt. According to this verse it helps us stand firm.

Huh? How in the world does the “belt of truth” help us stand firm?

Well, let’s consider the alternative…

One day my husband came out the bedroom dressed and ready for the day. I noticed his pant waist was…well… a little wonky.  (Sorry, Honey!) So, like any good wife, I pointed it out to him.

“What’s up with your pants?” I asked.

“I’m missing an inside button,” he said showing me. “See, it has a hook but it’s not enough to keep it straight.”

“So,” I replied, “your belt is pretty much holding you together.”

Yup.

andreasfuchs8732 / Pixabay

His belt was not only keeping his pants up but gave him enough confidence to walk out that door and face the day – even with less-than-perfect pants.

That’s what truth does! It gives us confidence to stand, assurance to move, even if we don’t know what the future holds.

Without it, we’re left feeling vulnerable, weak, and immobilized.

So, it makes sense then, that this area can, and will be, a strategic place of attack by those who want to hurt us.

Our worst enemy, the devil, knows this too. Right from the very beginning, lying was Satan’s tool of choice.

In Genesis, it was a lie that led Eve to eat the fruit and share it with Adam thus plunging them, and the entire human race, into sin. (Genesis 3)

In John 8, Jesus calls the devil “a murderer, not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks his own native language for his is a liar and the father of lies.”

How do you recognize them – those lies of the devil?

They look like this…

It’s the little “voice” in your head that attack your character…

            “You’re not worthy…”

StockSnap / Pixabay

            “You’re a failure…”

            “You’re hopeless…”

…or they are lies that go after the truth about who God is:

“God’s not worth your time.”

            “He can’t – or He won’t come through.”

            “God doesn’t exist.”

They undermine our relationships:

            “She’ll never change.”

            “I guess she/he doesn’t like me.”

Like fiery little darts these lies are specifically targeted at our core to “set our pants on fire.”  They ignite doubt and weaken our resolve not only to rattle our confidence but ultimately to destroy us!

This was me a few times this past year. A turbulent year it has been.  A time when circumstances keep you awake at night.

With discouragement and fatigue came those old enemies of mine: Should’a, Would’a, Could’a – otherwise known as “I-Wish-I-Would-Have Syndrome.”

Hearing lies in my head like, “Failure!” “Not good enough!” or “I could have/should have done more” attempted to knock me off my feet!

And when lies such as these are allowed to fester, our steps falter, inhibiting our productivity and damaging our confidence.

Like wearing button-less pants without a belt, we are left insecure and immobile.

So, what’s our defense? How can we combat those thoughts that threaten?

There is only ONE way to identify lies ¾ and that is to know TRUTH, which can be pretty tricky these days. For some, truth is relative. Others believe we all have “our own” truth.  There are plenty of places people search for it: Google, Wikipedia, the media, Facebook.

Hmmm…I’m not seeing it.

The Truth is, “No one speaks the truth.” (Jeremiah 9:5)

There is only one source I know of that I can count on 100% – God’s Word.

God’s word acts like a fire extinguisher, dousing those fiery darts in a flash.

How? Because when we get to know God’s Word, we get to know God. And the more we know Him, the more we can recognize His voice and thereby also identify His enemy, the devil.

When some little lie pops into our head that doesn’t jive with what we know about God, we can extinguish the lie.  An effective method is described in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

When you hear, “You’re a failure.” You capture that idea, meaning, you stop it before it runs away in your mind. Look at it squarely and say “No! I am not a failure! I may blow it sometimes, and I sin. But I am a beloved child of God.  I am fully forgiven by Jesus and I am treasured by the God who created me!” (1 John 1:9)

When you hear, “She’ll/He’ll never change!” Grab that lie and make it kneel before the God who can create man from dust and part the Red Sea! With God ALL THINGS are possible! (Matthew 19:26)

I’m reminded of an exercise I learned in a Bible Study entitled “Believing God.” In it the author, Beth Moore, had us often repeat 5 statements as a pledge of faith:

  1. God is who He says He is.
  2. God can do what He says He can do.
  3. I am who God says I am.
  4. I can do all things through Him.
  5. God’s Word is alive and active in me.

By repeating these statements, all based on Scripture, we not only wrap the Belt of Truth around our middle, but we raise the Shield of Faith to protect against the fiery darts that threaten us.

Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies! Don’t let him set your pants on fire!

Couleur / Pixabay

Know God. Know His TRUTH, and wear it like a belt.

It is HIS Truth and ONLY His Truth that can give us the confidence to stand firm, stand tall, and walk out the door to face the day.

 

Dear Young Friend Whose Parent Has Cancer

Dear Young Friend Whose Parent has Cancer,

You’ve been in my mind and on my heart for so long now, I had to write out my thoughts or I would burst.

You see, I once was you.  I felt your fear, cried your tears. I was that kid whose parent had cancer. And though I cannot begin to understand ALL you’re going through, there are a few things I want you to know.

ambroochizafer / Pixabay

First, it’s not your fault. For some reason as kids, we often think when bad things happen, we are in some way responsible. I know I did. I thought I did something wrong or at least wondered if I could have prevented it. Of course, I didn’t admit that to anyone.  So, I needlessly suffered in silence with guilt.  I remember one time when my dad was sick he asked me for some canned juice we kept in our cupboard (yeah, that was a thing). On the way to the kitchen I heard him say, “Be sure to wipe off the top of the can before you open it…you just never know.” I stopped in my tracks. Did he think the dust caused the cancer? Did I not wipe the last one down? Hey, it was the 70’s!  We just didn’t know!

It also was Lent, a season of the church when we focus our hearts and minds on the sufferings of Christ and ultimate death for our sins. That year my birthday landed on Good Friday.  Somehow in my young mind I decided, I must have sinned in some way that caused the cancer. Of course, I never admitted my confusion and guilt. But it was there. And now I know it was all a boldface LIE of the enemy. And I want you to know that truth as well. You are in no way responsible for your parent’s cancer. You didn’t do anything to cause it and you could not have prevented it.

And here’s another truth: it’s not God’s fault either.  If you know anything about God, you know He is all-knowing and all-powerful! And you’ve also probably heard the verse “All things are possible with God.” (Matthew 19:26) You might be wondering, why is your parent still sick?  If God can take it away, why hasn’t He? First, please know the ‘why’ question is super common. EVERYONE wants to know why. Also, know this: God IS all powerful and CAN heal. But He didn’t cause the cancer. Illness and death are a result of sin that entered our world way back when Adam and Eve fell for another LIE and ate the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3).

“Great,” you might be thinking, “So God didn’t cause cancer, but why hasn’t he stopped it? After all, Jesus healed TONS of people! Why not my parent?” Yeah, I know. I’ve been there. In our quest for a reason why this bad thing has happened to your family, it’s tempting to point fingers at the One who could stop it.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t have an answer for you. I wish I did. That’s my personal life-long question I plan to ask God as soon as I see Him face to face. But I do know this: “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  In other words, God can and does take the yuck in this life – including sickness – and use it for good. That’s not much comfort to you right now, perhaps, and that’s okay.

And if you’re mad at God, that’s okay too. He knows. And He can take it. It really doesn’t change how He feels about you. Just keep talking to Him. Which reminds me of another point.

YOU ARE LOVED.  Even though lots of money and time may be spent trying to save your parent,  you are not forgotten. As kids, we kind of think the world should revolve around us and our needs. Our parents take such good care of us, we learn to expect it. And when that kind of attention is interrupted, we can feel abandoned, unloved, lost. Long after my dad died, I still wondered about my family’s love. Later of course I realized this was another LIE. The devil took advantage of my insecurities and my pain, and led me to believe I was alone.

Dear friend, you are precious and you are not alone! You are loved by your parents, your family, and especially by the God who made you.

Not only that, but He has amazing plans for you, no matter what the outcome of your parent’s illness. I hope and pray your parent is a part of your future, but if not, you’re going to be okay.  God has been with you since before you were born, He is with you as you face this rough road and He promises to be with you in the future as well.

I am living proof of that. This past March my siblings and I realized that it had been 40 years since we said good-bye to our dad.  As I write this it feels like yesterday. But I know that each day that has passed is one-day closer to our reunion in Heaven, one-day closer to when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4).

So live on, dear friend. Pray hard, dear friend. And be aware of the enemy’s lies. Know that God is still God and you are deeply loved.

The Day of Uncertainty

What was it like on the day “in between?”

When I read the crucifixion and resurrection events of the Bible I like to imagine what they were they thinking, feeling, experiencing – at that time – in that place. By “they” I mean Jesus’ friends, disciples, family members and loved ones.

This morning I woke up wondering, did what they witnessed on that fateful Friday keep them up all night?

 

As the horrors of yesterday replayed in their minds, did they wonder, “Did that REALLY happen?” Or “What could we have done differently?” Certainly, some were tormented by such thoughts.

Others may have wondered, “Should I have done something? Could I have stopped it?”

And now what?

Indeed, NOW WHAT?

He, in whom they had put their greatest HOPE and TRUST, was GONE! He was DEAD!

Fear replaced hope.  And trust was shaken to the core.

How did they face this Great Day of Uncertainty?

How do we?

ambroochizafer / Pixabay

When tragedy strikes, how do we face the day?

Yesterday a long-time and very dear friend heard these words from a medical specialist, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you are very, very sick.”

BOOM!

Someone else heard these words, “Your son was killed in action.”

Boom, Boom!!

Over the course of my own life, I have heard similar words:

“There is nothing more they can do, we’re bringing him home.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, there is no heartbeat.”

“Mom, I need help.”

You have your own stories of shock, heartache, and horror.

And the Great Day of Uncertainty begins.

Thankfully, for the associates of Jesus, their Day of Uncertainly was truly only A DAY! They did not know (although Jesus tried to tell them) the HOPE of tomorrow!!!

They did not realize how quickly their deepest pain would abruptly turn to their greatest JOY!

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “But my Day of Uncertainty lasts MUCH longer! It’s not a day, but weeks, or months or even years!”

Yep, I hear you. Our trials and struggles can feel like forever, and often, just as one seems to subside, another can develop or a whole lot of heartache can and does happen all at the same time!

So how do we face the day?

By remembering tomorrow! We now live in perpetual post-Easter hope!

We’ve HEARD the rest of the story.

Our Hope is ALIVE!

So the reality is THERE IS NO DAY OF UNCERTAINTY for us!

No! Not even one day!

Whatever words of uncertainty you have heard, whatever heartache you are experiencing, whatever struggle you are facing, it is not too big for Jesus.

You’ve heard the words “lay your burdens at the foot of the cross.” Pretty “Christianese” language if you ask me, so let’s get practical.

Here’s what that means: Make a list, yes, a real paper list. Write down everything – EVERYTHING – that you’re worried about and dealing with. List them one by one.

Then – one by one – give them to Jesus. Really. Just give them to Him. How? Pray. Ask him to work out each issue in the way He determines is best.

That’s what it means when the Bible says, “Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

I did this recently in my journal. My list was pretty lengthy actually. And since then, I’ve gone back to that list and marveled at how God is taking care of each item, in His own way, in His own timing. And when I see that, my trust in Him is strengthened especially regarding those things He’s yet to work out!

We can face the day when we put our HOPE in Him.

Jesus tried to explain these things to his friends prior to his death when he said,

 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Did Jesus’ friends recall His words on the day “in between” – their Great Day of Uncertainty?

We don’t know, but we can remember and we should!

Though we don’t know what our tomorrows will bring and we don’t have a clue how it will all turn out, we do not fear. For our HOPE is not in our earthly circumstances but in our Risen Savior!

He – who bore the sins of the world, conquered death, and victoriously rose from the grave – can turn your Day of Uncertainty into a life of Easter Joy!

Come and See

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Mariamichelle / Pixabay

Can’t you just hear the sweet voice of Linus as he lisps these tender words, clutching his blanket, alone on stage?

He is so sincere – as he often strives to be – and so convincing that I think, “He means it. He must mean it. Linus knew His Savior” …or perhaps his creator, Charles Schultz did.

As of this writing, we haven’t watched it yet, but viewing “The Charlie Brown Christmas” is a must in our house each year.

Another custom is the reading Luke 2.  Traditionally I devour the familiar words, enjoying each detail surrounding the birth of Jesus, from Zachariah’s angel encounter to the shepherd’s hillside flash mob.

geralt / Pixabay

A Savior has been born!!

They were told! It was proclaimed! Though humble and quiet, the birth of the Holy Babe of Bethlehem was announced and He was declared the Savior, the long-expected Messiah!

In today’s world, such a proclamation would instigate a flurry of media attention. Much like Great Britain’s royals, he’d be closely watched, analyzed and scrutinized.

Yet, according to the Bible, the tiny King is whisked into hiding, is mentioned again only briefly as a boy, and then essentially disappears for a time. His youth is not recorded and His royalty temporarily forgotten. By the time this boy-King has shed his swaddling clothes, He is unknown and obscure.

Breaking with my usual December tradition, I’ve been reading the gospel of John. Unlike the Luke, John skips Jesus’ childhood details and dives right into His Divine nature and the work of John the baptizer who declares, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29).

Once again, the proclamation is made – “The Messiah is HERE!” – only this time the messenger is not robed in white, but in camel skin.  And angelic witnesses are replaced by ordinary men –  such as fishermen and tax-collectors.

And the news, well, it was not new news. It was old news that had been forgotten and is retold and just the right time as Jesus begins His public ministry.

At first, those around Him didn’t know what to think.

Jesus? I know that guy! Isn’t he Joseph’s son?!  

Jesus? Of Nazareth? Can anything good come from there? (John 1)

“Come and see,” was the simple reply.

And without the aid of Twitter, Snap chat or Facebook, the news spread: “We have found the Messiah!”

John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to Andrew, who told Simon. Philip got in on the action and told Nathaniel (our earlier ‘Nazarene’ nay-sayer who later declared, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!”

Come and see.

Did you notice that the news was spread with little preaching, little convincing, and without an “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude?

Rather, a simple invitation was extended.

Come and see.

Come and see for yourself.

I think we can take a lesson from these early witnesses.

Our job is not to defend or debate the message of Jesus. Only to share it. Sincerely.

A witness does not need flowery words to convince a jury. A witness tells it like it is – a testimony of what was seen and heard, like this woman…

Her listeners did not take her word for it. No one should ever take our word for it. Let God prove Himself as He has done over the centuries. Testify, share what God has done in your life, then invite those who still need the message of our Savior to “see for yourself.”

Simple. Sincere. Like sweet little Linus, who confidently shares, “I know what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!” we, too, can spread the news.

We – you and I –  are today’s messengers. As 2017 approaches, how will you testify? Does being a witness for Christ make it into your top ten resolutions? Did it even make the list? Remember, you don’t have to convince anyone. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Just share the message.

A Savior has been born!  Come and see!

 

 

 

Voting on November 8th – It’s as Simple and 1,2,3!

 

amberzen / Pixabay
amberzen / Pixabay

Guess what?! It’s almost over!! What an election year!

I don’t need to remind you of the highs, and more often, the deep, deep lows of the last months. Like many, I have agonized over the “choices.” I have witnessed the mud-slinging shift from the debate stage to Facebook, pitting friend against friend as each of us has wrestled with the possibilities and feared for our country’s future.

But after Tuesday, the decision will have been made. At least there’s some relief in that.

Isn’t it interesting, though, that much of the controversy surrounding the two primary political candidates has revolved around the accusations of immoral and unethical behavior? Over the last twenty years, the American public and media have claimed that character doesn’t matter and what a politician does in private should not be up for public debate. Yet in this election, the issue of character dominates over policy platforms without question. Having embraced relative morality, our citizens are now astonished to find ourselves with a pair of political candidates who have professionally thrived under their subjective understanding of right and wrong.

In a country where prayer is no longer allowed in our schools and Christian values are no longer taught, why, oh tell me WHY are we surprised to find our two main presidential candidates lacking in their own moral judgment?  Two supposed leaders, who refuse to acknowledge their own sin, point to one another, crying “SINNER!”

As our country has moved away from the faith of our forefathers, why are we surprised that our leaders no longer hold fast the Biblical truths and absolute right and wrong?

Perhaps young Hillary learned the 10 commandments at her mother’s knee. Perhaps little Donald learned to pray a blessing over his meal. But, if so, something obviously shifted as they grew and “learned” in our society that faith is folly and truth is relative.

I’m reminded of this verse:

 “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us have turned to his own way…” Isaiah 53:6.

Did you see that? “We all” it says. ALL of us.

You. Me. Hilary. Donald. Even presidents and kings of old – including my personal favorite king – King David, fell and fell hard.  (2 Samuel 11-12) Yes, David, a “man after God’s own heart”! (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22)

Yes, we all have fallen, but we also all have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven through the saving blood of Jesus.

But America has forgotten this reality.

As America morphs more and more into a post-Christian society, we should not be shocked (saddened, yes – but not shocked,) at the lack of morals and the state into which our governing system has devolved.

How did this happen?

Certainly, there are many factors, too many to probe into today.

Yet, as tempted as I am to point fingers and cast blame, I’m quick to remember my own – our own – contribution.  That is, complacency and unwillingness to be remain informed and engaged.

Think about it. The presidential election is BIG NEWS right now and has been for months! But more frequently our states, cities and counties have held vital elections that have directly influenced appointees and changed important laws.

I must ask myself, did I vote in my last state election? Hmmm, I think so. But how about that last local election? Am I familiar with my local justices? Yikes, there I’m not so sure… and that kind of complacency can allow the subtle shifts to occur – one election at a time.

In the smaller, less media-frenzied elections, we often choose, for whatever reason, to be less concerned, less involved. Even to the point of neglecting to vote.  And many will choose to do so now.

Some feel their vote, especially this year, will be wasted. Some feel to vote at all would compromise their values.

But hear me on this. YOUR VOTE COUNTS.

“I DON’T LIKE ANY OF THE CANDIDATES!” you may say.

Yet,  is that a valid reason to NOT vote? To voluntarily ignore the responsibility you have as a citizen of the United States that hundreds of thousands have fought to protect?

Life is full of less-than-perfect choices. Yet choose we must. It is our right and our duty.

Maialisa / Pixabay
Maialisa / Pixabay

So, who DOES one vote for in such election? Who does one choose at a time when you feel

that “X” would awful but “Y” would be even worse?

Here’s my suggested formula: 1. Pray for wisdom. 2. Focus on the issues (not  character) the candidates represent and 3. Leave the rest to God.

Don’t allow fear to motivate your vote, after all, God is still in control and will remain in control. Yet we have the privilege to participate in a process which can re-position our country to glorify Him with our actions.

So please vote on Tuesday – and vote in the next election and the next.

To God be the Glory, today, on November 8th and forever!

Why I Stopped Playing Church

When I was a little girl, our family lived in a parsonage (a home owned by the church in which the pastor’s family resided.) Ours was an old 5-bedroom house, built in the early 1900’s. An enclosed porch graced the front our home and was big enough for a small table and chairs, a couch, and a podium. I don’t know why or how this wooden stand came to rest in the veranda, but there it was inviting this playful girl to turn the porch into a church and hold services.

jill111 / Pixabay

Being blissfully unaware of my denominations’ feelings about women pastors, I held marriage ceremonies for my stuffed animals and preached sermons for whichever neighborhood

Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay
Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

children desired to play church with me. (I even baptized “Scottie” the pet mouse of my friend, Carol. Sadly, I also had the privilege of performing his burial service – however those took place in Carol’s house and yard. I guess you could say I was a traveling preacher.)

Now I’m married to one – not the traveling kind, but the “regular” kind who serves God’s church faithfully to the best of his God-given abilities.

Thank God he is the preacher and I am not.

This past June marked his 25th year in ministry. It’s been both a blessing and curse at times. And, I don’t think he’d mind my saying so, often the struggles have outweighed the blessings, and occasionally, I believe he wanted to throw in the towel.

And I wouldn’t have minded. And at times, well, I’ll admit – I even prayed he would.

If you’ve been a Pastor or are married to one, you may be able to relate. Pastoring a church has many joys but it can also be wearisome.  Trying to meet everyone’s needs. Keeping up the enthusiasm for the few who really work hard in the church. Keeping Bible studies fresh, seeking the latest program for this or that. (I’m sure my husband could add so much more if he was writing this blog.) We struggled with the church-hopping that happens among the members, trying to make everyone content, knowing we never really could.  We’ve heard all the complaints, “The organ is too loud.” “The church is too cold.”  “The sermons are long.”

Frankly, it sometimes has made me want to quit.

But then I’d think, “Then the devil wins.” And I hate it when the devil wins. So with a half-hearted “only if YOU want it God,” I prayed my husband would find his way out of church-work.

Until the night we had a talk. Not just any talk, but the kind that makes you take notice of what the other is saying because it feels so huge.

And basically I said, “I’m tired of playing church.” And he basically said, “Me too.”

You see, we got into this gig to share Jesus with those who didn’t know him. But found ourselves going through the motions – important motions, mind you – of leading worship, holding Bible studies, visiting the sick, and the like. But I kept wondering, what about the lost? Have we reached ANY? And if not, why not?

skeeze / Pixabay
skeeze / Pixabay

Mind you, I LIKE the disciples we serve a lot. (In fact, I love them!) They are really cool people, and I’m not just saying that because some of them read my blog. It’s not that we didn’t like our church!  We did!

We were just tired of “going through the motions” – trying to grow the church, yet still, somehow not really  growing God’s kingdom.

One more disclaimer: Yes, discipleship IS very important! And of course, baptisms and burials are vital – okay, maybe not for a mouse – but they are a vital part of the Christian’s life. Someone’s got to do those things.

But God calls pastors to do so much more. He calls pastors’ wives…. in fact, let’s just drop the labels right here…. He calls ALL disciples to go and make disciples.  

 So what did we do?  Nothing, really, except pray.  We didn’t know what to do. We knew we wanted to stop playing church, (at least we were on the same page), but we didn’t know what that meant, exactly. We didn’t know what God had in store for us.

Thank God, He was behind our restlessness, because at the just the right time, my husband attended a Missional Leadership training conference through PLI (Pastoral Leadership Institute).  I was busy at the time, so I didn’t want to go. These conferences usually revive my husband’s spirit, so I said, “Sure, go. But go without me.”

It didn’t take but a few weeks to realize this learning community held the key to what we had been looking for, longing for, and praying for.

It wasn’t anything “new” per say, no new teaching, no new “program” (thank God!) But a redirection back to the Word of God, back to Jesus’ example for reaching the lost. Our focus became less on trying to be a “successful” church (‘cause where is THAT in the Bible?) but growing God’s Kingdom (Hello! ALL OVER the Bible) and teaching our people to do that as well.

Since then we –  my husband, myself, and our congregation –  have been on a journey of discovery to find out – first and foremost, how can WE, each of us – reach the lost. Who are they? Where are they? How can I build a relationship with them and earn their trust? So that maybe someday, the joy of the gospel can be shared.

This journey has been the trip of a lifetime –  a daily mission trip to our neighborhoods, at work, on the soccer field – with no passports needed, no foreign language required, (although we attempt to drop the Christian-ese and talk -mostly- like every-day folk.)

I smile with delight as I recall pouring water over the white fur of little Scottie, but eventually my family moved away from the parsonage and I stopped playing church.

Four years ago, we, too, stopped playing church. No, my husband didn’t resign or quit. He still preaches, teaches, baptizes, marries and performs burials.

However, through God’s grace and guidance we went from playing church and transformed into BEING the church. To God be the Glory!

If you’d like more information on Pastoral Leadership Institute and being a Missional Leader, go to www.plileadership.org  Pastors Leadership Institute logo

For the One

 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV)

I love sheep. If you’ve known me a long time, you might know that already. I’ve been collecting sheep of all shapes and sizes for many years. When I was a new teacher, I chose a “sheep theme” for my first preschool classroom, and the same for my own babies’ rooms at home. We even sang the old hymn “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” at each of those babies’ baptisms.

Why? I adore the imagery and symbolism surrounding this name for Jesus, The Good Shepherd and our role as His precious lambs.

All through the Bible we witness the amazing care He gives us. But in spite of that, we, as His sheep, are often found wandering, lost, and unable to pull ourselves out of this rut or that pit. Yet as the parable shared above displays, our beloved Shepherd sets out on a search and rescue mission just for us.

You’ve been there, I bet – that little lost lamb – crying out to be comforted, consoled, saved. I know I have – and will be again.

But what about the other 99?

jlaswilson / Pixabay

I wonder, when the shepherd goes in search of the lost one, what’s their reaction? Do they attempt to follow?  Do they feel abandoned? Do they question the wisdom of their Shepherd?

You may have experienced some of these feelings when one in your fold has wandered and consumes a significant amount of time from your pastor or leader.

Or here’s one – do the other 99 criticize the one who wandered? “They deserve to be lost!” Do they resent the little vagrant who is “making” the Shepherd go out and search?

How often do we feel slighted because it seems God or even our earthly shepherd cares more for one sheep over another? Ouch.

Remember, “He is happier about that one sheep.” In the NASB translation it says “He rejoices over that one sheep.” If He rejoices, we also can rejoice. If He loves that little wanderer, we should too.

Think about it. Today it may be “that” sheep. Tomorrow it could be you. We are not perfect, and are often found off course. He loves YOU in the same way and will go to great lengths to find you as He has done for others.

One last viewpoint I just have to share, that of the perspective of the Shepherd in our parable who leaves 99 behind. What goes through His mind regarding those who are left behind? Does He worry? Does He think the risk is too great? Does He consider the un-equal sacrifice of 99 to 1?

No. I think He trusts the 99. I know He loves the 99. And I bet He misses the 99. Yet, He knows the 99 are safely in their pasture and he leaves. Why? Because His life’s work was to SAVE. To seek and save the lost. Redeem the lost. Even one. The one is worth it.

We’ve all been that one.

Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, our Beloved Good Shepherd, for risking all, giving all, to save me, your little lamb.

Parallel Parking and God – A Lesson in Listening

My last child, #4, takes her driving test very soon. She is just about ready, but has needed to work on her parking skills before the big behind-the-wheel exam. I have attempted to show her various maneuvers in a parking lot, but knew I had to pass her off to her dad to cover the intricacies of parallel parking. You see, her dad, who is a car-loving “gear-head” if there ever was one, can park a car inside our garage within inches of the walls and corners!

teetasse / Pixabay
teetasse / Pixabay

A few days ago they set out to practice on the road, but before they did, my husband attempted to show our daughter on paper how to parallel park. What followed was a series of “I know dad!” and then “Just be quiet and listen!” verbal volleys. I heard “That doesn’t make sense!” and “You have to believe me!” It was basically your typical parent vs. teen argument.

When my husband left the house to wait for our daughter in the car, I calmly reminded her, “You are the student. He is the parent. And when it comes to parking, your dad is an expert. NO ONE can park as well has he can. Listen to him.”

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from John 10 :27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

We hear his voice?  We can “hear” the voice of the Shepherd? Oh yes! I want to hear the voice of my Shepherd, but how often do I tune Him out with an “I already know that” attitude or “That doesn’t make sense” response. I wrestle within my spirit and sometimes even ignore Him entirely with, “Well, maybe that wasn’t even God.” I’ll admit, I struggle with this one. I struggle to discern when ideas are my own or when they are Spirit-led or could they be some trick of the devil to trip me up.

The only answer I have found is to become more familiar with the “sound of His voice.” Just as real sheep learn the sound of their shepherd’s unique call, we too can learn to recognize our Shepherd’s voice.

Sheperd

How? To get to know His “voice” is to get to know Him – we do that by reading and studying His Word, the Bible. That’s where we learn about His nature, His character, His great love. Through the study of God’s Word, we can learn to recognize the difference between our own fleshly desires and God’s perfect plan for our life. We learn the difference between our enemy, the devil, who disguises himself as “god” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and the True, Holy, Living God.

The second part of John 10:27 is equally important, “…and I know them.

He KNOWS us. Let that sink in. God knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our past, present, and future. He made us (Psalm 139) and has watched us succeed and fail, and loves us through it all.

He also wants to guide us and to show us the way.  

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

In fact, He, too, drew it out on paper (the Bible) so we could have it in writing before we have to put it into practice!

But how often, like a rebellious teen, do we shrug it off with an “I already know that” or “It makes no sense” or even “This is really boring” attitude?!

Hey! Guess what? He is our expert! He created this life! He has the BEST in mind for you! He knows what He’s doing!  LISTEN to him.

It takes some trust doesn’t it? After my little lecture, my daughter was able to get into the car, knowing her dad would not steer her wrong. (Sorry, that pun was totally intended) And once she surrendered her will and was willing to hear him out, she got it! She listened his instructions and learned parallel park.

“…and they follow me.” That’s the result when we listen to Him. We become true followers of Christ, able to discern what His good and perfect will is.

He really IS the expert! Will you listen?