Saturday, December 4, 2010

What is it to You?

My mom collects nativity sets. Because my parents have lived all over the globe she has quite an international array. The grandkids have counted over fifty throughout her house--with sets from every continent. 

I've always loved the idea of Jesus' birth being celebrated by all people the world over because He was sent for people all over the world.

Turn on the radio in this season and we are blessed with songs written from the heart of Mary or with words from the viewpoint of Joseph. The songs move us emotionally and put us right in the moment of Christ's birth. 

We feel the warmth of Jesus' infant body and catch the sweetness of the breath of His new life. We also smell the stable and hear the stamping of animal feet and the night sounds of animals. We take in the wonder of it all and ponder what it means to us--to the world. 

How did Mary feel when she first held Jesus and knew He was God's son, too? Joseph must have felt such pressure to think of raising the offspring of the Most High--the very Author of Wisdom. Jesus' arrival must have changed His earthly parents profoundly.

Just as certain as His coming over 2000 years ago, He is still the savior of the world. His coming still makes a difference for each of us. 

What is it to you?
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

He Knows their Names

How many stars are in our universe? With greater discoveries in astronomy come the new discovery of stars--lots of stars. 

A recent ABC News story reports that perhaps the number of stars is actually three times the number previously thought. 
  • A study suggests the universe could have triple the number of stars scientists previously calculated. For those of you counting at home, the new estimate is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That's 300 sextillion.
The number 300 sextillion is mind boggling. To think that God knows their names is also incredible - but true!

He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
His understanding has no limit.
Psalm 147:4,5 NIV


No Room in the Stable?

Kids often understand the truth of the Christmas story better than their parents. Read my latest post on Heart of the Matter {Online} - "No Room in the Stable?"  I share a lesson taught me by my five-year-old son while we put out our family Nativity set. 


Have a Blessed Christmas!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Heart of the Matter {Online}: Did You Order a Sub?


Are you feeling the weight of all those hats you wear:  mother, wife, caregiver to aging parents, teacher.....? You are a member of the sandwich generation. 


Take heart. Read my latest post on "Did You Order a Sub?" at Heart of the Matter {Online}


Sunday, November 21, 2010

What is in a Name?

I threw myself down on the cool grass behind the stone wall. Catching my breath I leaned my back against the smooth, unmoving surface.  

How many children had picked this same hiding place over the years? I looked up at the ancient tower overhead. Had other children played hide and seek or perhaps run from real enemies in this castle courtyard? 

I thought every child played in Medieval strongholds for grade school recess. I didn't realize what a rare experience this was until I grew up. only because my American family loved in Germany for a few years did I play in castle courtyards.  

The name of the LORD
is a strong tower
the righteous runs into it
and is safe. 
Proverbs 18:10 NAS

The verse intrigued me when I first heard it in high school as a new student of the Bible. I had seen ancient turrets and the massive doors that closed and protected at their base.

I did not understand how towers were the same as the name of the LORD. But then, I did not really know God, yet. 

I came to learn how God revealed Himself to those He lead through many different names. In the same way I have many names: mom, honey, daughter, sister, teacher, personal shopper, taxi driver..... God has many names associated with His roles in our life. 

When we are sick he is our healer. When we are weak he is our strength. If we are lonely, He is the one who is present. Below is a list of names God revealed as His own given to His followers and you:



OLD TESTAMENT NAMES FOR GOD

ELOHIM......Genesis 1:1, Psalm 19:1
meaning "God", a reference to God's power and might.
ADONAI......Malachi 1:6
meaning "Lord", a reference to the Lordship of God.
JEHOVAH--YAHWEH.....Genesis 2:4
a reference to God's divine salvation.
JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM.......Exodus 31:13
meaning "The Lord thy sanctifier"
JEHOVAH-ROHI......Psalm 23:1
meaning "The Lord my shepherd"
JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH.......Ezekiel 48:35
meaning "The Lord who is present"
JEHOVAH-RAPHA.........Exodus 15:26
meaning "The Lord our healer"
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU......Jeremiah 23:6
meaning "The Lord our righteousness"
JEHOVAH-JIREH.........Genesis 22:13-14
meaning "The Lord will provide"
JEHOVAH-NISSI.........Exodus 17:15
meaning "The Lord our banner"
JEHOVAH-SHALOM........Judges 6:24
meaning "The Lord is peace"
JEHOVAH-SABBAOTH......Isaiah 6:1-3
meaning "The Lord of Hosts"
JEHOVAH-GMOLAH........Jeremiah 51:6
meaning "The God of Recompense"
EL-ELYON..............Genesis 14:17-20,Isaiah 14:13-14
meaning "The most high God
EL-ROI................Genesis 16:13
meaning "The strong one who sees"
EL-SHADDAI............Genesis 17:1,Psalm 91:1
meaning "The God of the mountains or God Almighty"
EL-OLAM...............Isaiah 40:28-31
meaning "The everlasting God"
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Out on a Limb

To pray or not to pray....

We teach our children about a God who cares about their every need. We teach them that He is all powerful. We teach them that He hears their every prayer.

When the family dog ran away after a move to a new town, I was heartsick. I wanted the dog back. My pre-school daughter suggested we pray.

I looked down at her earnest face and my spirit faltered. What if God didn't or couldn't find our dog in this new place?
I couldn't believe I actually thought that, but I did.

When a child wants to pray, you pray. We bowed our heads, held hands and my daughter talked to her heavenly father and poured out a faith-filled prayer. I felt ashamed of my doubts.

I knew the names of only two people in the whole town. I called the first person that came to mind--no dog. I then rang the only other person whose name I could remember; she lived twenty blocks away.

"What does the dog look like? Would he be brown and black? I see a little one running across my backyard right now."  
I described my miniature collie. I thought with every new detail, my acquaintance would realize the stray dog was not my pet. After all, it was impossible for this to be my lost family member. Twenty blocks was a long way from our house.

My daughter and I drove twenty blocks to find.....our beloved pet....playing in my new friend's yard. Of all of the thousands of houses in the entire town, my dog went to the house that I called.

I think He delights in proving Himself especially when it involves our children.  God specializes in rescuing us when we go out on a limb like a little child. 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, 
and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:14

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lost?

Early in our marriage we had to make a move across the country, leaving friends and family. The moving van was loaded and it travelled ahead. We drove two cars and hauled two small children and a dog. 

I didn't want to make this move but my husband's graduate training required it. He said I left a trail of tears and huge heel marks in the road clear across the state our first day on the road.

It was slow going. We finally found a hotel that allowed pets that first night in a small town I'd never heard of. We fell into bed after getting our three-year-old and three-month-old to sleep.


Around 4 a.m. we woke to the dreaded sound of a croupy cough from our infant daughter. It scared us as we didn't know how serious it was and she seemed to labor in her breathing. 

We knew the drill for croup in the middle of the night. My husband said he'd get the shower steam going while I changed the baby's diaper. I stumbled toward the bathroom after him. 

I stood in the doorway stunned. I hadn't noticed when we arrived at the hotel but there was something in the bathroom that I'd never seen before in a hotel room. And I have never  seen it since. 

It was a glass enclosed shower stall with a bench inside. There would be no sitting on the toilet in a steamy bathroom for me. 

I felt lost when we started our trip. I didn't know where we were, where we were going or what it would be like when we got there. Loneliness filled my thoughts. 


As I sat on my shower bench and the steam enveloped my daughter and me, I knew God had known where we would be that night and what our need would be at 4 a.m. My daughter began to calm and sleep in my arms. I leaned back into God's presence. 


I was not alone. God knew exactly where I was that night and the encouragement I needed. He would be with me on the whole journey and ahead of me in our new home. 



Where can I go to escape your Spirit
   or from your sight?
Psalm 139:7
   
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh! Brother

Check out Heart of the Matter {Online} for my latest article: Oh! Brother about brothers and sisters getting along. 

I'm sure your kids never fight--but mine do. We're letting God teach us through these times. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pizza and the Prayer Lesson

When my oldest was twelve she started a game whenever we ate out. Who would be the first of our four kids to say, "Thank you"? 

The game stuck. Even though it is now thirteen years later, the habit remains. There are only two children still at home but they still remember to express appreciation when they get a drink or a meal from the drive through. 

On a recent trip to pick up pizza for my son's team, he once again said, "Thanks, Mom, for doing this." I suddenly realized a truth about prayer. 


When my children are so quick to thank me for my gifts, I am happy to provide the treat. I even like to surprise them when they aren't expecting it. 

I wonder if God feels like I do as a parent when He hears His children thank Him for all of His gifts. 



But you are a chosen people,
... a people belonging to God, 
that you may declare the praises of him
 who called you out of darkness
into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

Does He delight to hear my thanks the same way that I thrill to my children's words of appreciation? Is He eager to surprise me with blessings when I recognize they are a gift from Him?

How often I glimpse the heart of my Heavenly Father by being a parent. Sometimes it is in the blur of the parenting moments that I hear Him speak the loudest. 

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Chicken Soup for Mothers

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers: 101 Daily Devotions to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire Mothers
Moms, a real blessing awaits you in the latest Chicken Soup book, Devotional Stories for Mothers. I've received my copy and it is a treasure. 

I am happy to be part of this project with one of my stories, "Busted." I pray this devotional guide will bless many women.

If you want a copy, ask for it at your local bookstore or click this link: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers: 101 Daily Devotions to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire Mothers.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When God Crashed My Party

 For the first ten years of our marriage, my husband was a student. We had our first daughter during  medical school with six years of training still stretching ahead. My husband and I had little time together and even less money in the bank account. 

I found a nearby secondhand store. I used to rummage through the racks looking for bargains on trendy little girl clothes, without the stains. One morning I felt particularly blue. 

We attended a local church each week where the children were dressed really cute. I noticed. How long would we be counting pennies and doing without? 

I wished I could dress my daughter in the latest fashions. I wished I could buy some of those bows in every color to perch on her almost bald head. I really wished I could afford some of those white leather sneakers - the ones it seemed every toddler in the church nursery wore.

I was having a raging, roaring pity party. 

I shifted my daughter to my other hip and continued rifling through the racks. I stopped in mid turn. There on a top shelf was a shoebox with the familiar logo. 


The box held a brand new pair of white leather sneakers with Velcro straps - in my price range. And they were my daughter's size. 

I sat my daughter on the floor and slipped on the sneakers. She grinned and kicked her feet. I stood her up and she stamped her feet making tapping noises on the linoleum. 

"My child, ask and you shall receive." God's precious words in my heart humbled me and wrapped me in His love all at once. 

I threw the pity party but God showed up. I should have invited Him to begin with - into my day and into my longings. He even cares about white leather sneakers. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Travel Lesson

Car trips with crying babies do not bring out the best in marriages. Add pouring rain to the mix and you have a travel experience that everyone would rather forget. 

Early in our marriage, we were on just such a trip, headed home for the Christmas holidays. Our six month old wailed in the back seat and we had at least four more hours before we would arrive at the grandparents. 

My husband had just gotten off a long shift at the hospital and he was not in a patient mood with the baby, the rain or me--and his driving proved it. 

"Honey, you're driving a little fast for this rain and the traffic," I said, trying to sound helpful. My husband growled something that I couldn't understand and that was probably a good thing. 

Well, Lord, that didn't work and I'm really nervous. Could you please speak to my husband in a way he will understand? I am so thankful God hears silent urgent prayers from the heart--in the rain--with crying babies in the backseat. 

In just a few minutes, the familiar flashing red lights appeared in our rearview window. My husband got a speeding ticket. As we started our trip once more, I didn't say a word but I did thank God silently for intervening. 

I learned a huge lesson that afternoon. God is at work in my husband and He doesn't need me to nag or gripe at him. My man needs my respect. He doesn't need me to do double duty as his personal Holy Spirit.

I'm reading an excellent book on this subject if you want to read more. For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn is full of practical statistics about what men really think.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Francine Rivers - Book Review Her Daughter's Dream

 Francine Rivers, best-selling author, drops in today to discuss her latest book, Her Daughter's Dream. The emotional conclusion to Her Mother's Hope, spans from the 1950's to the present and explores both the beauty and trials of relationships between mothers and daughters.

It is an honor to host Francine. Her writing has influenced me as writer and a believer. She has the ability to weave a great story and cause me to plumb the depths of my own heart as I examine my relationship with God. 


Questions/Answers from Francine Rivers
How has exploring the relationship between your mother and grandmother helped you understand yourself?
This is a question I would love readers to ask themselves at the end of Her Mother’s Hope. I realized early in the story that I have many of my grandmother and mother’s character traits, both good and bad. They both had tempers. So do I. They both had low self-esteem. I’m always striving to “measure up”. They both chose spouses who respected them. So did I. Both women had strong faith and servants’ hearts, something they encouraged in me. My mother extended grace to others -- a trait I want to cultivate to the end of my days. By holding onto her anger, Grandma lacked the peace and joy she could have had in her last years. I tend to relive past hurts. Writing about Marta made me decide to let go, forgive and move on. For whatever reason, Grandma couldn’t and missed out on so much joy in her last years. Sometimes people deeply hurt as children take offense where none was intended. Holding a grudge causes suffering, especially for the one who won’t let go. Jesus said to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. Forgiveness frees us, even if the other person refuses to join in the process of reconciliation. As I examine my own life, I see how much I’ve been forgiven. How can I not extend God’s grace to others? The best way to experience the fullness of God’s presence in my life is to surrender it to Him. And in that surrender, we are made more complete and joy-filled.


Mother-daughter relationships are often complicated and fraught with emotional land mines. What was your approach to exploring the complexity of those relationships in a fictional setting?
Questions, lots of questions! Every time I told someone I was working on a book about mother-daughter relationships, people wanted to share their family stories. As I wrote Her Mother’s Hope, I wanted readers to see through each woman’s eyes, and understand how the past shaped each in the way she responded to her mother. Hildemara doesn’t believe her mother loves her, but it is out of Marta’s pain and loss that tough-love techniques were forged. Marta wants to strengthen her daughter for whatever lies ahead. Sometimes what we view as rejection can actually be an act of


sacrificial love. We seldom know the experiences that shaped our mothers, the deep hurts, traumatic events, broken relationships. I hope women who read this book will want to share those things with one another.



After readers finish this series what do you want them to remember? What questions and feelings do you want it to provoke on a spiritual and emotional level?
I hope and pray readers who have had difficult relationships with their mothers or daughters will let go of the pain and anger and allow God to work in their lives. God can work all things together for good for those who trust and love Him. Following Jesus’ example changes the way we see people. It changes the way we relate to one another. Even when the chasm is too deep to cross, we can decide to forgive. Some people wear grievances like a dirty coat. With God’s strength, we can strip it off and be free. When people finish reading Her Daughter’s Dream, I hope they will want to extend God’s grace and forgiveness. I hope they will tear down their walls and use their life experiences to begin building a bridge.

Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of HER DAUGHTER'S DREAM?
I would love for you to visit my web site at www.FrancinceRivers.com, browse through the various events and other resources available, as well as sign up for my mailing list. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here.



A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services at www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Oz God

I could barely watch the original Wizard of Oz movie as a child. I sat with eyes alternating between wide open or squeezed shut, hardly breathing. I totally understood the lion's lack of courage. 





When Dorothy and her new friends crept before the Wizard my heart pounded with theirs. The green phoenix seemed to hold all of the power but had no compassion for those he ruled. 

Many people today see God as some kind of cosmic wizard--somewhat like the one pulling the levers in the green world of Oz. 

He manipulated. He kept his subjects cowering in fear. He did not care about his subjects--only himself. 

Sadly, today, many recoil from any mention of God because they only see him as a cruel master dishing out random pain--for his own amusement. 

When I hear, "What kind of a god could allow that?" I have to agree. Not the one I know. 

It is difficult at times to reconcile pain and the goodness of God. A friend lost her husband leaving her with three children: 8, 2 and 8 months. As she sat at the hospital reeling from the news a friend, recently widowed, arrived. Her only words were: "If you can't trust God's hand, trust His heart."

There are no easy answers but we can put God to the test. When the pain he allows in our life makes no sense, look at His character and heart--not the events. Ask Him to show Himself to you and comfort you. 

David of the ancient Bible times cried out: "God when will you comfort me?" He often expressed doubts and dissatisfaction to his God. And he was known as a man after God's own heart. 

An old testament description of God is: the LORD your God who carried you, as a father carries his son. 

The new testament name for God is: Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.  


Is He the Oz God, randomly pulling levers behind a curtain? Or is He a loving heavenly father who cries with us, saves our tears in a bottle and carries us through our pain. Don't take my word for it. Ask Him. 

He will show Himself to you in amazing ways.


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Friday, September 10, 2010

Where Were You on 9/11?

Each year as 9/11 approaches we relive that day in 2001. "Where were you when you heard that America was under attack?" is the common question. 

A day in August a few weeks before September 11, 2001 is more vivid in my mind each year. My father celebrated his 68th birthday and I hosted the party. I decided to have all of the grandkids play a game called How Well Do You Know Grampa?  Even those across the country played by email.

We all had the opportunity to answer a quiz about Grampa's life. We did not get many things right but we learned a lot of fascinating Grampa trivia that day. 

He travelled the world in his engineering job and we learned that he had been to over 30 countries. Delivering papers earned him his first paycheck. He remembers horse drawn carts delivering ice blocks to his back porch icebox

Most telling was his memory of the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Only eight at the time, his memories were sweet and sad.  

That day two of his older sisters' celebrated a shared birthday. With four teenage girls in his home, he was the only boy. After cake, candles and singing the girls all left to go to the picture show downtown with friends. 


My father stayed home with his parents while they listened to the radio. They heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt make his famous radio announcement of the Japanese Imperial Army attack on Pearl Harbor.  

My father remembered his mother's tears - something he had never seen before. He didn't fully understand what it all meant because Hawaii was so far away. But, he knew it must be terrible. He wondered if he should be crying, too. 

His father walked to town to retrieve his sisters because everyone belonged together at home on this day. Then, his dad went to work at his newspaper circulation desk. There would be an extra edition out that night. 


As I sat watching the events of that tragic 9/11 almost sixty years later, I remembered my father's story. We had marveled and rejoiced  that America remained safe and peaceful for all of those long years--until now. 

My children aged 16, 14, 8 and 5 saw me cry as I could not pull myself away from the television all day. We watched in real time as plane after plane crashed into buildings killing so many innocent people. We did not know what would happen or where they might attack next. 

We lost more than lives that day. We lost our sense of peace and security and even some of our innocence about life. America lost its trust of other nations, religions and people groups and we still struggle to know who our friends are. 

Our children can no longer say that they live in a nation that has not been attacked on its own soil in their lifetime. They too lost some of their innocence about life. 

Whatever your memories of 9/11/01, you were changed. We lost much. I'm still evaluating what I learned and possibly gained. Perhaps, it is that I value time spent with those I love, more. I appreciate the sacrifices of firemen, policemen and servicemen more. 

Every year I pause and remember and re-process the events. Ground Zero is still empty as no one knows exactly what to build to properly memorialize it. Americans, too, are still mixed and undecided as they consider the whole experience. There are still lessons to learn--the story isn't finished.


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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Holy Moments

What makes a moment sacred? Is it a time of awesome worship? Or is it a season of deep prayer in which we totally commit ourselves to God?

Moms often feel that they can never "do" ministry. Once they finish wading through the stacks of dishes or the piles of laundry, there is little time left to be used by God. They may even find it difficult to stay awake long enough to talk with Him. 

When my first child was born, I went from business suit to spit-up-covered warm ups overnight. I worked until the day I went into labor.  

The adjustment was abrupt although I anticipated it with excitement. The first week after the baby was born, my husband returned to work and my mom went home. I was solo and honestly, the moments seemed to crawl by although I could never point to a completed to-do list. 

The tasks were often mundane. Feed the baby, change the baby, wash clothes, cook, feed the baby.... and the list went on and on. Unlike the board meetings I was used to where tasks were discussed, delegated and then later applauded, I was working in obscurity. Often, I could point to few real accomplishments at the end of each day. 

Did my tasks have value? Did they matter to God?


And whatever you do in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father 
through him.
Colossians 3:17

Moses' life plan included 40 years of watching sheep in a wilderness. David's early years included a solitary life of singing Psalms to God and the sheep in his care. 

I think of the last night of Jesus' life on Earth. He didn't find it too mundane to wash the feet of those He loved. 

If we consider our daily tasks of childcare and husbandcare, they are acts of service for those He has placed in our lives--as mundane as these jobs may seem, at times. 

They are also acts of worship to our Heavenly Father. They are indeed most holy moments. 


Friday, September 3, 2010

What is that Perfume You are Wearing?

Savannah closed her eyes, breathed in deeply and smiled. 

"What are you doing?" asked her mother. On an errand to Grandma's house the mother and daughter stood in the bedroom. 

"I'm smelling Grandma," replied the little girl.

"What does Grandma smell like?" Mother asked with a chuckle. 

"Like Jesus!" was Savannah's quick reply. 

When I first heard that story I thought Savannah would say pancakes, cookies or flowers. But she said, "Jesus." I am not a grandmother yet, but I already know that I want Savannah's grandmother to give me lessons. 

Children speak so honestly. Actually, "smelling like Jesus" is a worthy goal - a Biblical one. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that God is "manifesting through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”  Verse 15 describes believers as being “a fragrance of Christ … among those who are perishing.”


For those of us with school age children, fall marks the beginning of a new year with the start up of teams, clubs, lessons and numerous opportunities to meet people. Will it be just another busy schedule or an opportunity to bring a refreshing fragrance to those who have never had much use for Christ or His church?


Have you ever wondered what you smell like to the receptionist at your child's school? Would that be the fragrance of a sweet bouquet or the stench of a forgotten lunch pail left in the locker over the weekend? 


To your child's coach, are you aromatic Old Spice or reeking old gym socks? Do the PTA parents dodge you like stinking Limburger cheese rather than seek you like fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies?

I don’t think religious words or piety are the fan that sends the fragrant aroma.  I don’t think Savannah’s grandmother shared theological platitudes or flew off the anger grid with lectures of correction. It was her actions and the interest she showed in her granddaughter’s life that smelled so sweet.
    
No matter how we act, if we claim to be Christians and attend church, our behavior will be associated with His.  How does Jesus smell?  Hopefully like you and me. 


Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read
by just looking at you.
Christ himself wrote it--not with ink,
but with God's living Spirit..."
2 Corinthians 3:3