Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Humboldt Crud and Bucket Lists

Well, where we live they call it the 'Humboldt Crud.'  We are taking turns with this sickness at our house, and evidently it's my turn.  Being under the weather affords a little 'think time.'  It would not be nice to attend church and pass around the bug today, so at home I sit, and help watch the little one and do this and that and think.

Watching the news the other night it was rather sobering to see all the celebrities and famous folk who passed away this year.  Added to this list were quite a few sweet people we knew personally who closed the final chapter in their earthly lives.  It makes one ponder as we start to turn to the page 2013 and begin to write upon it, knowing that life itself may take the pen and write what it wants to write, instead of what we had planned.

It's funny how many things on our bucket list are just that - things....experiences, maybe.  Wanting to do something exciting, go some place we have never been or achieving something is often at the top of these lists.  But when it is all said and done, and we turn that last page in our book, all we really want are close relationships.

So as 2013 comes into view, I'm thinking about relationships and realizing their development trumps any bucket list.  There are so many people in our lives to love and learn to understand a little better.  And as much as that means, there is a relationship that means even more - for we enter this life as an individual, and we leave it the same way.  And then we stand before the Creator of Life.  I would not want to stand before His presence as a stranger or acquaintance.  No, that is the relationship above all worth investing great time and effort.

So, 2013, here is to relationships, earthly and heavenly, human and divine.  May your year be rich with people whom you love, people whom you will forgive and may your year be especially made rich by the One who offers forgiveness to us all.  Happy New Year.     

Monday, December 24, 2012

Born into a Rocking and Reeling World

Hope was born on Christmas Eve into a world that was chaotic, rocking and reeling. "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light."  Isaiah 9:2a  To our minds, what a crazy way to save the world...sending a baby? "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;"  Isaiah 9:6a  Yet all these centuries later as we still see the amazing effects of this Christ-child upon humanity and how the concepts of compassion and mercy were exemplified through Him and made possible by Him. "And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6b  Even now we see great and powerful acts of love and heroism, inspired by His life, amid the turmoil, the chaos, the grief, the things we just shake our heads over... "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace."  Isaiah 9:7a  The world is still rocking and reeling, and the story is not over. But because of this babe in the manger, we have true hope. Christmas is giving, because God have us Jesus. Happy Birthday to the baby born in Bethlehem. Silent night, peace to your souls, and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feeling Alone at Christmas?

Do you feel alone?  This rugged individualism isn't as romantic as it's cracked up to be.  At this time of year feelings of aloneness can become overwhelming.  We do well in those moments to cling to what we know to be true and not be carried away by our emotions.  And this is truth:  Into this dark world more than two-thousand years ago was born a vulnerable baby, completely dependent on His young, inexperienced, financially poor parents.  The world and culture into which He was born was a scary and violent one.  This little family was, in a sense, 'homeless' at His birth, having to use an animal stable for a birth room.  Talk about feeling alone.  Yet, the HOPE of the world was born on that dark night! 

This child grew into the someone who would divide history - B.C. and A.D.  The world's whole concept of mercy and compassion would come about through this One born on the day we celebrate 'Christmas.'  This One would so radically change millions of lives that there would be multitudes of works of kindness done in His name.  Hospitals would be built, the dying would die in the arms of tenderhearted strangers, educational institutions would be founded, the undeserving forgiven, words about Him would give hope to those in despair and His light within the life of millions would change the world for the better.

Sadly, there would also be those who oppose Him and the forces of evil would bring devastation to many.  Some would even do inconceivable wrong in His name.  Christmas accelerated an all out war between good and evil, and evil often has great power.  But God's power is greater and stronger and  broke through our darkness and helplessness on that first Christmas night.  In times of feeling alone or if we are experiencing a time of depression we need to remember that.  God is stronger than whatever we are going through!

God in the flesh, God with us, Emmanuel.  No longer would God seem distant but closer than one's own breath, and as hard as it is to imagine, He wants to be an intimate friend to each of us.  He never wants us to be alone of feel alone, again.

Having a rough day or a difficult season?  Christ knows what it feels like.  He's been there before us and if we invite Him into our lives He promises to be with us, always.  We never have to be alone again. 

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."  Isaiah 41:10 

As we see the Christmas lights peering through the darkness let it be a reminder to us, hope broke into our world on Christmas night.  The light of the world has come!        

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Horrific Grief and the Hope of Heaven

Grief is a constant part of life, although a part we don't like to talk about much.  We grieve loss in many areas but certainly the most profound and deepest grief is to lose a loved one.  And when that loved one is a child the sorrow is unspeakable.  As people of faith we too grieve and mourn the insane violence and loss of life that has thrust many families, a whole community and an entire nation into a season of deepest and profound sadness.  And although our hearts and emotions suffer through this time, as believers in Christ, we grieve with hope.  Our faith is made more real as we cling to God not necessarily for answers but for a trust that believes that ultimately in heaven.  In heaven there will be justice, the wrongs will be made right and in a supernatural way we can't understand, our tears will be wiped a way.  A glimpse into this heaven is when Job in all his suffering had an encounter with God, and suddenly it was enough.  We won't have that answer here on earth but the hope of heaven is everything when our hearts are so broken. 

In that picture of hope we visualize all those children running into Jesus arms.

The parents of a child who was born with many birth defects and physical suffering shared with me that what helps them to cope and stay away from depression is to serve others and they do so beautifully in many circumstances.  Their faith is made real for they do more than intellectually say "we believe," they demonstrate hope by investing in the lives of others.

In this horrific season of grief, we do well to imitate this families example, and through our questions, struggle with grief and hurt, seek to touch another life, uplift someone else and serve someone in Jesus name who can't return the favor.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do Not Be Afraid

I love Streams in the Desert and have been reading it during my morning devotional for the past couple of years.  The book speaks do powerfully to me because the author really understood suffering.  It wasn't merely intellectual because she was living through difficult times as she wrote about keeping the faith when life is hard.  Mrs. Charles Cowman was caring for her dying husband during the years she penned this now devotional classic.  There is just something about someone who has "been there" to give us wise advice.  Suffering is a common denominator.  Suffering in one area of life gives us more compassion for those who suffer in a different way.  Suffering expands our perspective while enlarging our heart.  On December 13th, Cowman quotes J.R. Miller when she writes, "If you are in the shadows because of some strange, mysterious providence, do not be afraid.  Simply go on in faith and love, never doubting. God is watching, and He will bring good and beauty out of all your pain and tears." We can believe Mrs. Cowman because she writes from experience. 

How comforting to know pain and tears are not random or meaningless, but that tears touch the heart of God.  God does not simply weep for us, but intricately weaves purpose and meaning through our pain - carefully preparing us for what lies ahead.

Your suffering may be because of the loss of someone dear, the loss of a dream, declining health, the worry and concern over a loved one's well being, the anguish of watching someone self-destruct, a job loss with financial reversals,  a break in an important relationship, a myriad of troubles...or several seemingly disasters all at once.    

We can be sure that during the hours of our sufferings if we turn ourselves toward God, our hearts will begin to overflow with compassion for others.  He wastes not a tear, a broken heart, nor an anguished spirit.  Turned over to the hand of the Master, our suffering transforms into a beautiful tender sympathy that flows back to others in their time of need.  Do not be afraid. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Waiting is Not Our Default Mechanism

Waiting is so difficult for children at Christmas time!  The anticipation of opening those glittery gifts under the tree clicks some kids into overload mode.  Many a home echos with parental threats of Santa skipping their home because of such hyper behavior!  Child or adult, none of us like to wait, really.

When we have the medical test, we would like the diagnosis immediately, thank you.  How many drivers feel personally attacked when the light turns red on their road!  Having to make an extra round circle of the parking lot because there are so many shoppers is annoying.  Computers that take an extra few seconds to load are considered obsolete.  Waiting is not our default mechanism.  Food is fast, and we want it faster.  And waiting in lines?  Thank you for online shopping and small local shops.  We don't like to wait.

And then there is prayer.  We want the quick answer, the miraculous, the "sign" - a neon one if possible.  But instead, we wait.  Sometimes we seem to receive instant results for those incidental prayers (a close parking spot, Lord - it's raining...).  However, we wait for that unthinkable and mentally excruciating circumstance day by day, season by season and many a time for years.  When will that loved one come back to You, Lord?  When will I be able to get out of debt?  When will that job I wanted so badly come to fruition?  When will that teenager make a mature decision?  When will that person apologize for their actions?  When will my loved one's health improve?  And we start to think that perhaps God is not hearing.

Isaiah has some words for us about waiting:  "So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion.  For the Lord is a faithful God.  Blessed are those who wait for His help."  Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

Interesting that the Lord is also waiting for us.  Waiting for us is a time that either intensifies our faith or a time we choose to give up.  Waiting for the Lord is a time when He demonstrates His mercy, compassion and long suffering.  Isaiah goes on to say..."though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, He will still be with you to teach you."

Ah, so waiting is a time that we are learning.  What we learn pivots on our attitude as we wait.  The impatient driver may swerve around the slow moving car in front and into oncoming traffic.  The patient driver eventually sees the light turn green and moves forward. 

Mrs. Charles Cowman articulates in Streams in the Desert, "Our unbelief is always wanting some outward sign.  The religion of many is largely sensational, and they are not satisfied of its genuineness without manifestations, etc.;  but the greatest triumph of faith is to be still and know that He is God."

Our world doesn't place much value in stillness or quiet faith during times of adversity.  But a trusting patient heart gives our Heavenly Father delight and increases our ability to experience the fullness of joy at the time of His choosing.  May you have some quiet peace in your waiting today. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Helping A Friend with the Holiday Blues

We know for sure that the holidays aren't the happiest days for everyone.  For those with broken hearts and an "empty chair" in their lives, the holidays point to that which is missing.  The sights and sounds of the season intensify memories and that can be painful.

How to help?  Here are a few ways:
  • Initiate contact with your friend this holiday season, even if it is awkward.
  • Think of simple and practical ways to show you care...pick up something needed at the market, bring by a cup of coffee, send a card, send a daily "thinking of you" text, offer to fix sothing that is broken, bring them a Christmas ornament, a copy of an interesting article, a magazine or a baked good.
  • Help your friend fight against isolation...invite them into your lives...go shopping together, have a meal together, invite your friend to the Christmas service at your church.
  • Acknowledge their loss.  When we have lost a significant person in our lives through death, we want to know others still think of their loved one.
  • Donate to a meaningful charity in the name of your friends loved one and let your friend know.  Send your friend a card commemorating the gift.
  • Help connect your friend to someone stronger on their similar road.  Make an introduction and tactfully bring up what they have in common.
  • Give your friend uplifting reading material that shares Scripture.
  • Pray for your friend, and if they will allow it pray with them focusing on God's promises of hope in every situation.
  • Give cards with Scriptures that pertain to your friends circumstances.  The Psalms are wonderful sources of encouragement and strength.  For example, "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!"  Psalm 121:2
  • Help enlarge your friends perspective beyond today, beyond the holidays and help them remember they will not always feel the intensity of the pain they have today but that with Christ there is great hope for every tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Don't Give Up!

"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. I trust in you, my God!  Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.   No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced...Show me the path where I should walk...point out the right path for me to follow.  Lead my by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in You.  Remember, O Lord, your unfailing love and compassion...Forgive the rebellious sins of my outh;  look instead through the eyes of our unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.  Excerpts from Psalm 25

The Psalmist, David, brings out the character of God and David becomes an ‘open book’ about his own struggle with his personal character traits and shortcomings.  David pleads with God, and at the same time expresses trust and confidence in God based on who God is and the relationship God has with “those who fear Him.” 

What does mean to “fear God?”  The top word choice I would make would be “reverence.”

Therefore I can have trust and confidence in God because of the character traits this Psalm brings to light of the Lord Almighty.  He is:  powerful, trustworthy, just, a teacher, a leader, my salvation, compassionate, loving, kind, forgiving, good, righteous, truthful, a guide, the Savior, gracious, a guardian, a deliverer, a protector, and redeemer.

Since the Lord is all those things to me, why do I stress?  Why do I fret?  Why do I allow myself to become discouraged?  Lord forgive me for the times I focus on little things when You are so immense and able to perform all that you have promised!

Here is an amazing group of statements that describe David’s growth in character as he ‘day-by-day’ took steps of faith in responding to the situations in his life.  When David pleads his case before God he:  lifts up his soul, expresses trusts in God, is teachable, is willing to be led, waits upon the Lord, confesses his sins, asks forgiveness, receives instruction, is humble, never forgets the depths of his own sin, asks for God’s grace, admits his loneliness and affliction, asks for help, talks about the enormity of his troubles, asks for deliverance, asks God to guard him and waits in faith.

In times of doubt, confusion or discouragement, this list of David’s can give us a wise perspective and set us in a productive and positive frame of mind to face our challenges.  Don’t give up!  Wait in faith!  

Ways to Help in Troubled Times

It gives me great comfort to know that at times Jesus was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21).  The Scriptures indicate that Jesus had this distressing feeling right before He was to “speak the truth in love” to someone He truly cared for – Judas Iscariot.   

When I, as a growing Christian, feel “troubled in spirit” my next thoughts are usually ones of guilt.  “A good Christian shouldn’t be so uptight…we are told not to worry…not to be anxious about anything…yet here I am fretting.”   It helps me to know that Jesus understood feelings of dread and anticipatory grief.   

After Jesus spoke those words of loving confrontation to Judas… “that you do, do quickly” , He launched a conversation with His disciples that would change the world.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.  John 13:34-35. 

This “loving one another” shines most brightly in troubled times.  It seems that our hearts are most open to God during crisis.  God draws near to the brokenhearted. Dark times can be holy moments when believers seek to communicate God’s love and care when it is needed most.   

Author and speaker Lauren Littauer Briggs shares some insights from her own times of personal tragedy and from the wisdom of others who have traveled difficult roads.  Briggs and others who view this blog writes some “Do’s” and “Don’t” for helping someone when they are hurting:


  • Respond in a timely manner.
  • Offer caring statements that acknowledge they are going through a crisis.
  • Offer specific things to help.
  • Step out and help (example:  I’m going to the store, will you check your milk and see if you need any).
  • Help your brother or sister in Christ find a “new normal.”
  • Use the agreement principle (example: if I was facing that I’d feel the same way). 
  • Listen to how they are feeling.
  • Share Bible verses with a promise (I will be with you).
  • Encourage (gently push, if there is a strong  and trusting relationship already established) against the normal response of isolation.  Encourage involvement in support groups, Christ-centered counseling, hospice (if applicable), grief counseling and significant friendships.
  • Remember the children in the situation and that they have a need for interaction with their peers as well.  The children may need counseling in a tough situation or involvement in a helping group through the church or school.  Offer rides or an extra hand.
  • Tell them you will pray for them and then really pray for them.


·         Wait too long.  It gets more awkward.
·         Say things that minimize what the hurting person is going through.
·         Ask “when will you be your ‘old self’ again?”
·         Offer spiritual cliche's.
·          Say “HI!! How are you?!!!”
·         Say “I know just how you feel!”
·         Tell your hurting person, “don’t worry…have faith.”
·         Don’t put time tables on the other person or compare their situation with other things.
If you have been through something difficult, and from your own experience would like to add to this “Do” and “Don’t” list, I would welcome your dialogue.  You may contact me through the comments on this blog or through facebook.

Your experience can help your brothers and sisters in Christ as we seek to be better helpers and “bear one another’s burdens.”  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

The writer of the 139th  Psalm, King David, expressed centuries ago what science now proclaims – the magnificence and complexity of our human minds.  Not only are we the only species to inhabit planet earth that has a soul; within our marvelous framework we have the ability to reflect God’s image in using His gifts of creativity and intellect. Only people build bridges and hospitals, write novels and compose symphonies.  God, who loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11) revels in endless variety.  Just look at us!   

Recently I had the opportunity to take a course that challenged us to develop God given talents and strengths for ministry.  This course utilized findings from the Gallup International Research & Education Center.  The research included findings from two million interviews taken over the last thirty years.  We learned that not only is the human brain amazingly complex –  but that each of our unique talents are formed early on – in the womb!  “Your synapses create your talents.  So how are your synaptic connections made?  Forty-two days after you are conceived, your brain experiences a four-month growth spurt.  Actually, the word “spurt” doesn’t do justice to the sheer scale of what happens.  On your forty-second day you create your first neuron, and 120 days later you have a hundred billion of them.  That’s a staggering 9,500 new neurons every second...”  (from Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Ph. d   

The psalmist talked of God making all our delicate inner parts.  God must have been ecstatic the day He created the human brain – that amazing part of us that holds our talents, capabilities and dreams  – what a creation – what a gift!   How God must have smiled.  What obvious delight the Father takes in us, His beloved children.   

My mother’s passion is painting portraits.  She likes to paint pictures of famous people.  I remember portraits in the house of President John Kennedy and Ghandi.  But she also liked to paint pictures of someone else.  When I was growing up, she often painted pictures of me.  That made me feel incredibly loved! To think that she determinately spent hours and hours creating my image.  Think how that concept is magnified with God’s love for us!  He created each of us in His image and took the time and effort to put together each minute piece of our personalities, physical features, dominant thinking patterns and talents.  He considered every detail, and how we would all fit together for a specific purpose.     

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment, He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” [emphasis mine]  (Matthew 22:36,37) 

Loving God with all our heart and soul are natural responses when the grace of God is revealed to us.  We can’t work our way to heaven, but certainly acts of love and compassion are one way to show God we love Him.  What are some good ways to love God with all our minds?  Studying His Word is essential to growth in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Another step in loving God with all our minds is getting to know the mind God gave us, and using our intellect in service to others.   It’s worth further investigation.  Not only will we grow in usefulness to the body of Christ, but an increased understanding of the unique way God made each one of us makes one feel incredibly loved. 

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  Psalm 139:13-16  New Living Translation

Friday, November 16, 2012


“The word disturbed is often associated with mental illness and instability.  We say, “He’s disturbed,” when we describe someone who reacts in an overly emotional way or appears troubled emotionally.  I want to redefine this word, because I believe that God is looking for some disturbed people.  He is searching for men and women, students, and young adults who will allow Him to disturb them by making them truly see the world in which we live – so disturbed that they will be compelled to do something about what they see…But if we’re not disturbed by the world in which we live, we will be consumed with the trivial, the insignificant, and the temporary.  We will spend our days pursuing all the wrong goals, living by the wrong measurement of success, evaluating our legacy by the wrong standard.”                                -Kay Warren from Dangerous Surrender    

There are a lot of things in life that can be disturbing.  But when they don’t affect us directly, well, it’s easy to have a tinge of compassion, and then go on our merry way.  However, when God allows some suffering to invade our world in a personal way, we have a decision to make. Will we allow this trouble, tragedy or heart ache that has come into our life to be God’s tool to mold us and compel us to do something that will make some good out of a bad situation?   The most common human response is to be beat up by our problems.  Said another way, will we allow our minds to dwell on the misery, wallow in our troubles, retreat inside our shells and let the response to our troubling circumstances corrode our insides? 

Walking through the doors of a Celebrate Recovery can be a first step toward letting that which is disturbing in our lives out into the open in a safe confidential group that can understand what we are going through, care for us, listen to us, and pray for us.  By being in a group of support we are not only ministered to, we help others by listening with caring hearts, acknowledging the hurts of others and share how God has helped us through similar situations.  We hear personal testimonies of God’s care during difficult times.  As we draw strength and receive the comfort and emotional healing that the Lord provides, we are able to reach out to others and help them as they go through similar circumstances.  Pastor Rick Warren says, “God never wastes a hurt.”  Helping others as they go through a disturbing time turns hurt into a vehicle of healing for someone else.

So many of these life issues with which we struggle exist “under the radar”.  We don’t usually make small talk in everyday conversation about things like loved ones who are in rebellion, rejection of faith, stealing, struggles with substance abuse, pornography, homosexuality, heart aches in relationships, cutting,  eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies, dangerous behaviors, or types of mental illness.  Yet these disturbing things are all around us and happen with people we know, people we dearly love and perhaps ourselves.   

There is hope in God.  He cares deeply.  When we truly see the world in which we live and come to terms with the reality of the pain people have around us, God can use us and compel us to do something about what we see.  Meeting with people who are going through similar hurts and heartaches offer us the opportunity to minister to one another and to help make a difference by stepping out of the darkness of disturbance and into the healing light of Christ.   

We welcome you to Celebrate Recovery at Hydesville Church.  We meet on Friday nights at 6 PM for dinner and 6:30 for the program.  God is like the father in the parable of the prodigal son.  He waits on the porch with the light on, watching for the familiar gait of His wayward sons and daughters.   

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  Luke 15:20b  



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Three Reasons to be Creative

“Creativity is the engine that drives every form of innovation, whether a new vaccine, a river-spanning bridge, a symphony, a novel, or a work of visual art.  This wondrous capacity to make something out of nothing is unique to the human race – our birthright”.  Lewis Barrett Lehrman, author. 

As a Christian I would add that God alone truly forms something out of nothing.  However, as creative beings we are blessed with the ability to create things that are beautiful, wonderful, and or useful from basic ingredients.  Have you seen and tasted a cake made by some of our amazing bakers at church?  Flour, sugar, milk and eggs – but wow, what a delight for the eyes and palette.  Creativity! 

Creativity is included in almost every field of human endeavor.  It is not reserved for artists, musicians, writers and actors. 

Why do we create?  We are creative beings made in the image of God.  Why did God give us this wonderful gift called creativity?  First, because God loves to give his beloved children gifts.   Luke 1:13 says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?  God gives us creativity, in part, is just to enjoy.  It’s a good and gracious gift from a loving Heavenly Father that desires to lavish His sons and daughters with good things.  James 1:17 tells us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father or lights…” 

The second reason God gives us the gift of creativity is because being involved in creative endeavors increases our ability for appreciation the of others and their unique gifts.  When my husband was in the hospital I learned very quickly all the things he does to help keep our family afloat.  Groceries didn’t replenish themselves, the wash didn’t get up and get done on it’s own.  I appreciated in a new way his daily work to show love for our family.  Likewise, when we step out and learn something creative, like taking a music class, we learn to appreciate those who constantly give of their time and talents on the worship team.  Learning something about what others do heightens our level of appreciation.  It’s easier to celebrate the gifts of others when we understand the work and sacrifice involved to develop those gifts.  

The third reason we are given the gift of creativity is to give God glory.  Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power;  for You created all things, and because of your will they existed, and were created.”  Romans 1:20 tells us that “… since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made…”  God’s creative acts declare His power and glory.  When we create, and honor Him with the talents and abilities God has given us, we reflect His power and glory.  We have the opportunity to communicate to a hurting world the very real love of a Savior who loves them. 

My favorite living artist, Stephen Gjertson from Minnesota says this:   “Art is a powerful means of communication.  The greater the work of art, the greater potential it has for good or evil.  Art can reinforce a world-view.  It can give credibility and emotional expressive power.   Works of art can be a powerful avenue for propaganda and the dissemination of truth or error.” 

Our desire to serve God with our creativity and our ideas of success are different than the world around us.  Our talents were not given to us to draw attention to ourselves.  They are for the benefit of others and for the glory of God.  Rory Noland says this:  “First Peter 5:5 tells us to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another.  We are to abandon any thoughts of superiority that would cause us to think that we deserve special treatment above others. Arrogance has no place in the heart of the Christian artist.” 

There are opportunities to celebrate and develop the God given gift of creativity in our community and in our church.  If you are stirred by the thought of devoting a season of time to expanding your horizons in the area of creativity I really encourage you to do so.   

Worship Leader of Willow Creek Church in Chicago, Rory Noland, reminds us:  “We can’t be concerned about the arts in the church without being concerned about the lives of the artists in the church.  Our character as church artists, our walk with Christ, our spiritual growth are all a vital part of creating the kind of ministry experience in which God unleashes the power of His Holy Spirit.  We need artist in the church who are known not only for their talent but also for their walk with Christ.”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Prayers of the Saints

She hobbled around her room a bit.  The arthritis in her knees had been flaring up with painful intensity in recent months.  Another morning  for this 92 year-old.  She reaches down to a bookshelf to retrieve a treat for her pet fluffy mutt dog - her constant companion in these vintage years.  She notices a box of letters and smiles,  Taking the most recent one out of the envelope again she reads and rereads the quickly penned message.  The elderly little “elf” only standing 4 feet 10 inches closes her eyes in prayer as she does each day to pray for each of her children and their families.  Putting the letter box back on the shelf, she picks up the white worn leather “birthday book”.  It is a gold mine of family, friends, dates, remembrances.  Anyone’s birthday coming up soon, she wonders?  It is the Spring of 1990, and events will soon transpire that will usher this little lady into heaven.  The cancer, undetected, had started it’s toll on her frail little body, but it could not touch her Spirit.   

Six months later we stood in her room.  So many memories… My husband and I noticed each framed picture and trinket that meant so much to his Mom.  It was only a few weeks ago that our toddler was playing on her lap.  What delight a 2 ½ year old can bring.  But today, were getting dressed for Mom’s funeral.  I was blessed to have such a mother-in-law.    

My eyes glanced down to a shelf and to my surprise I noticed a box of letters.  Each letter had our return address with my handwriting up in the corner.  She had kept every one of my letters!  I picked up the box.  It was obvious that she had read them over and over again.  Those letters… Just quick, “hi, how are you, we are doing good” kind of letters.  A wave of sadness swept over me.  If I had realized how much those quickly scrawled words from us had meant to her, I would have taken more time with those letters.  I would have said deeper things, and expressed our love for her more, even more.  I just didn’t realize the preciousness of those letters to her. 

Do you know that God counts our prayers to Him as absolutely precious?  In Revelations 5:8 we read about a heavenly scene.  “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”   

How do you like the imagery of your prayers being preserved as something precious, carefully kept in a golden bowl in heaven, and being likened to incense – something sweet and fragrant before the God of the universe?  What a powerful statement about God’s feelings about our communications with Him.  He loves us so much and longs to hear from us so much that He keeps our prayers – even our quick  “hi God, how are you, I need your help” kind of prayers.   

If we truly understood the magnitude of what our prayers mean to Him, would it not change the way we pray?  Would we not be compelled to take more time, to be more real, and to express our love to God more fervently?  Our Heavenly Father is like the father portrayed in Luke 15 – the dad always watching the horizon for the return of his run-away child, who will rejoice when we turn to Him with a repentant heart.  He longs to hear from us.  The father in ‘The Prodigals Son’ was not concerned with fancy speeches from his wayward son, only the words and intent of his heart.  Likewise our Heavenly Father loves our real, unvarnished prayers.   

In Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” Matthew  6:9-13 is presented in down-to-earth language.  

‘Our Father in heaven,

Reveal who you are,

Set the world right;

Do what’s best –

                As above, so below.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.

You’re in charge!

You can do anything you want!

You’re ablaze in beauty!

                Yes. Yes. Yes.’

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Of Art and Mercy...A Free Concert

Friday night, October 19th at 6:30 PM there is a free local concert featuring Alex Walker.  The concert takes place in Hydesville, which may be perceived as an out of the way venue, yet this sanctuary draws hundreds on a weekly basis from Fortuna, a short six miles away.  Humboldt County’s cultural dimensions have been gifted another rich layer with the introduction of Alex Walker into the region’s art scene.   Alex’s appeal is drawn not only from his musical expertise, touring days with the band Five O’Clock People, obvious talent and multi-quilted history of varied vocal and instrumental experience.  Alex connects with the audience with a casual warmth and quick wit that it makes the concert goer feel like you are welcomed into a harmonious conversation in an overly large turn of the century living room.  He’s talented and he is real.
Of Alex’s approach, reviewer David Martin compared Walker’s former band, the Five O’Clock People’s style, to Caedmon’s Call and Jars of Clay.   Citing the use of “acoustic instruments and writing deep, soul searching lyrics” Martin expresses this regarding the song “Same Old Line.”  “The mandolin and accordion…give this song the feel of being in a medieval fantasy world, which I guess is quite fitting, given how we pretend we're living happily everafter because we're afraid people won't love the truly messed up, hurting person inside.”  Alex’s songs address “broken and troubled relationships with an almost brutal honesty, while (other) songs… tackle matters of faith and redemption in stark, confessional terms.  Alex feels there's room for both kinds of tracks on their album. "There's something legitimate about not every song being a composite of all you are, all that you hope for, all you dream of being. It's OK to write songs that precede as a series of snapshots and maybe by the end of an album or even a body of work, you're getting the whole picture of who this person is."
Alex’s appeal is multi-generational.  He is as much at home performing to his thirty-something generation as he is leading a group of energetic children or conducting a sing along for seniors at Hydesville Church where Alex is the worship director. 
The concert on October 19th is to raise awareness for something called Celebrate Recovery.  Appropriate since Alex’s songs speak of honesty, struggle and faith, Celebrate Recovery is about dealing with life’s hurts, habits and hang ups from a spiritual perspective.  Everyone struggles with something.  Celebrate Recovery is an honest place where confidentiality is highly valued and where one can be real about addressing the things in life that trip us up.  Hope is for real.”  This concert is an opportunity for the public to check out Celebrate Recovery.  The concert is at the Hydesville Community Church located at the corner of Highway 36 and Rohnerville Road in Hydesville.  For more information contact the church at 768-3767.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Coach, Mentor, Sponsor, Friend
In Celebrate Recovery there is something called a sponsor.  A sponsor could be otherwise described as a coach, mentor, and friend.  The most important aspect of the relationship is encouragement.  Truly we were not meant to walk this journey alone. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Are You Struggling with...Anger?

Welcome to the human race.  To struggle with anger is pretty common, but also pretty disturbing.  We don’t like who we are when we succumb to the emotion of anger and do and say things we regret afterward.  There is a lot of talk about ‘anger management’ and a lot of comedy written to poke fun at angry people.  The reason is we display our foolishness when we get angry.  There is such a thing as righteous anger, but as human beings our anger – even if it starts out as ‘righteous’ or ‘understandable’ doesn’t tend to stay righteous very long.  Our selfishness starts to show when we allow anger to get ahold of us.  But, what are we to do?  How do we turn the tide on that powerful emotion and curtail its destructive undercurrents? 

It’s good to ask ourselves some things in relation to our anger.  What is the root of our anger?  Said to be a secondary emotion, anger usually is seen when really underneath we are hurt, frustrated, fearful, or in pain.  Anger is the easy ‘go to’ emotion that is generally accepted by society – yet it can be so damaging destroying relationships and worse.

Anger is a good reason for us to start and ponder, what is it that I want so badly that when I didn’t get it I became angry?  What is it specifically that has ‘pushed our buttons?’  Sometimes in processing exactly what the issue is we can learn a lot about ourselves.  

My very wise mother once, when we were observing a child having a bit of a temper tantrum, said to me, “don’t you ever feel that way?”  “Well, yes, I said.”  She replied, “little children can’t hide what they feel.”  As adults we can smile at a two-year old having a temper tantrum and understand that a part of childhood is coming to grips with the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around us – no matter how we feel!  But as adults we tend to mask all those very raw self-absorbed feelings with other things.  Anger causes us to look at ourselves and see what may need some “soul work” in our own lives?

Even if we are absolutely wronged, we can turn the tide of resolving our anger by considering that if we take an opportunity to get the focus off of ourselves in the matter, we may be able to catch a glimpse of what might be going on in the inside workings of the other person.  If they sinned against us, we may do well to consider that things are evidently not good in their heart and their life.  While it doesn’t erase the harm done, it does allow us to have some compassion for their ‘lost state’ or ‘dark place’ or titanic struggle that may be going on with the other person.  When we can begin to have a little compassion, our hearts can start to change. 

In Paul's letter to the Ephesians (4:26NLT), he says, "don't sin by letting anger gain control over you."   Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry."    

The principle here is that if we allow our anger to smolder - keeping the recording going over and over in our minds  -it can gain control over us and the results can be devastating.  In taking steps to resolve our anger - by asking God to come and begin to change our hearts - then we can avert future disaster and grow in stature as a kinder more compassionate human being.