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.’