Monday, September 7, 2015

Do I Have Enough Courage?

Courage: facing fears, situations, difficulties, pain, and the unknown without being paralyzed by fear or thwarted from a plan of action

When I was in elementary school, my bedroom was on the second floor of our house. It was a small room with one window. My twin bed stretched from one side of the wall to the other. In later years this room became a closet.

It was in this room where I dreamed dreams. I wanted to be a writer and a teacher, and finally, a minister. But in those days I didn't know of any women ministers. I would read my Bible and pray; I would write poetry and plays. It was in this world that I devoured books like Little Women, The Three Musketeers, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. I could travel through time and back again in my own little world. I reveled in their exploits and my imagination was fueled by their passion.

I was also a student of history, even at a young age. I had a map of the United States and used my mother’s straight pins to plot out the movements and battles of the Civil War.  I then moved on to study other wars. In particular, I was greatly affected by the stories of WWII.  My life was changed forever by the bravery of the four chaplains. Anne Frank’s courage was imprinted on my heart. Later on, Corrie ten Boom, inspired me along with a generation whose lives were stirred by “profiles in courage.”

The question that I always asked myself was this: Do I have what it takes to be courageous? Am I strong enough to stand for something?

Raoul Wallenberg was. Oskar Schindler was. Irena Sendler was. The Danish and French Undergrounds were.

After all these years my heart has been stirred once again. In the past month I have been praying: Lord, show me when to speak, when to listen and when to act. Then I found this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

Our world is in turmoil. Am I courageous enough to stand in the face of opposition? Am I courageous enough to stand up to political correctness? Am I courageous to stand for what I believe?

And there is the issue: What do I believe? I know I believe in Jesus. He is my Savior. He willingly gave His life for mine. But am I willing to lay down my life for one human being? John 15:13 says: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Do I have that kind of love?

On March 25, 2015 the Lord asked me this question: What does love look like?
Thus began a quest. I can read I Corinthians 13, but I had to experience this for myself. I found out that love is not tolerance. Love is sacrificial. Love is unselfish. Love smiles. Love cries. Love acts.

After a very painful ministry experience with a person whose life had been torn apart through sin, the Lord spoke to my grieving heart. He said: When you hate sin like I hate sin, you will love like I love.

And now I am being challenged again: Do you love enough, completely enough, to stand? Will you stand in the gap? Will you stand and be counted? Will you get on your feet and take a stand?

I have to stop and think about this.

Love requires action.

In a world of few absolutes anymore, I have to know what I believe. I willingly admit: I believe in Jesus. But do I believe Jesus? And finally, do I believe like Jesus?
It is too easy to make excuses in our busy lives. It is too easy to ignore the bigger picture when our own problems distract us. But the Matthew 6:33 is clear: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Regardless of what we are going through individually, if we seek the Kingdom first…God will take care of the rest.

So in this season of my life, God is revealing that in seeking His Kingdom I need His love. I need His passion to have His compassion.  I need His wisdom.  I need to be willing to stand so that others might live. I am being called to action.

I don’t say any of this to bring attention to ourselves but to encourage people as to what they can do. Already, Mike and I have stood to peacefully pray and protest the abhorrent practices of Planned Parenthood. Deuteronomy 30: 19b-20a says:  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

And as if that holocaust alone is not enough, the situation in the Middle East continues to worsen in which Christians are being annihilated for their faith. Our own country is denying these precious lives asylum. We are praying and writing letters to authorities about the atrocities and asking for help. We are giving time and money to save lives…even when it is just a little.  

God is holding us accountable. Matthew 25: 40 says: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

My dreams started in a little bedroom a long time ago, but they can’t remain dreams any longer. Now it is time to act.

Live life generously. Live life sacrificially. Live life courageously. Love acts. Love.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 18, 2014
The Hardest Thing I Have Ever Done……….
     I have reached a milestone in my life. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have stayed married to the same man for 25 years.
     Yes, being married to the same man has been a hard thing. I had two failed marriages before marrying Mike. So staying married was hard for me.
      When I married my first husband, a pregnant 19 year old,  I believed it was forever even while walking down the aisle with my father, hoping that someone would stop the wedding and rescue me. We divorced within a matter of a few years. I had to divorce him. Enough said.
      I remarried--an officer and a gentleman. He was good to me. He adopted my daughter and loved her as his own. We had a son together. But I couldn’t shake the demons and insecurities of my past. I didn’t know how. He divorced me….with good reason. Enough said.
     But it was the dissolution of that marriage and the total devastation of my personal life that caused me to seek the reality of a living God. After a particularly hard day and after someone had prayed for me on the phone, I decided to pray for myself.
     I went into the bathroom, and on my knees in front of the toilet, I prayed: “Jesus, if you are real, help me. I can’t do it myself anymore.” At that moment, it was as if a bolt of lightning and electricity jolted through me, and I was changed. I know it sounds dramatic, and it is, but it is the truth. And then I stood up and I heard, “Go and sin no more.” I looked up and said, “That’s in the Bible, isn’t it?”
     Yes, it is. Enough said.
     My journey of healing while being discipled went hand in hand. Dramatic changes occurred in my life. I went from teaching college to being a waitress living on tips. I moved out of a large, beautiful shared home to an apartment where I had to sleep on a couch. My downfall continued as I gave up my Audi 5000 for a junked car with holes in it. I handed in my credit cards to upscale department stores to shop at Target. The superficial part of my life was being replaced by something substantial.
     And then I started attending a ministry class: Ministry 101. There was an Army medic in the class. I ignored him. I was intent on pursuing God and praying that my marriage would heal, regardless of a divorce. God does the impossible, right?
     God does what is best.
     The divorce went through.
     And in my life was this man who started off as a friend. Our mutual love of Christ was apparent. We talked and talked about God….and once in a while….Stravinsky. This medic loved music.
     There is more to the story because while God was healing and talking to me, He was talking to Mike, too. He was telling Mike that I was going to be his wife.
      Hold the horses....did anyone bother to ask me??????
      Finally, Mike did. I wasn’t convinced. I was a smart woman-- except when it came to men. A lifetime of failed relationships and watching other failed relationships had soured me. But God does the impossible, right?
      Then there was the showdown. Mike had had enough of me testing him. He had me literally up against the wall. Little did I know my young daughter was on the other side of that wall. She heard what I heard. With his military bearing, and my heels locked, he told me, “I don’t care what you say or do. I will never leave you. I am committed to this relationship.”
       I needed to hear that….and so did my little girl.
       Now there were a few hot-headed days in the beginning of the marriage when we had to spend a few hours or nights apart. We are both passionate people. And I had stored up a lot of pain just waiting for a man to take it out on, but he didn’t flinch.
       Those early years were tough. We both brought baggage into the marriage. Although Mike had never been married nor had any children, he didn’t know what marriage looked like since his father died when he was young.  As baby Christians we had a lot of expectations of marital bliss that just wasn’t for us. We were truly “iron against iron.”
      And then there were the financial troubles and the birth of four more children right in a row. But we were growing and maturing; and where we might have had problems in other areas, our love for Christ and devotion to Him was always strong. We never wavered in our faith. We never disagreed on spiritual matters, even when others thought we were crazy; we knew we were following Jesus.
      Love kept us together: love for Christ and His Word. Jesus not only died for our sins, He died so we could have a marriage that reflects Him.
     We minister to married couples. We don’t hold back about our lives and our marriage. We lay it all out for people to see. Maybe if people understood that marriage is the hardest thing they will ever do, they would enter it with a long-term mentality and not a fairy tale expectancy. It is that expectancy that sometimes leads people into disappointment and divorce. In the end though, the truth is that Mike and I will live happily ever after.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hope for the Hopeless

I always speak from my heart, and today is no exception. I only write a blog when I have something to say, and recent events have touched me in such a profound way that my heart is overflowing with gratefulness and thankfulness that I can't contain. We have lived on McIver Street for almost 19 years now. People don't understand that Mike and I feel called to this life, and don't realize what we gave up to live as we do. Many people might even think that we have wasted our potential. I know there are times when I look at friends and colleagues who are now deans and heads of departments and think: that could be me. And to be honest, sometimes it makes me a little sad. I think that my life could be more comfortable if we had made other choices. We often feel judged for the choices we have made, and sometimes I just want people to understand why we have made those decisions. I want people to agree with us, but that usually isn't the case. So there is a type of loneliness in doing what we do. But we aren't alone. Not really. We know we are doing what we feel called to do, regardless if people understand or agree. We know that we are walking out God's plan for our lives. And then something happens, and we are given a little glimmer of hope, a nugget to hold on to that keeps us going. In the past few weeks we have been given several of these golden nuggets that keep my heart full, and we know we are walking out God's perfect will for our lives.

A few weeks ago, I was finally able to talk to one of the women who walks our street after praying constantly for her for over 10 years. For ten years I have prayed for a woman that I could only describe to God as the Nubian princess. That is how I see her. She is tall and elegant, and always dressed with style. And yet, I wonder where do those clothes come from, and how does she put those outfits together. After all, this is McIver Street. One time the Lord spoke to my heart and asked me if I realized that I may be the only person in the whole, wide world who was praying for her. After that I started to pray for her with a new fervor and passion knowing that no one might care enough or love her enough to pray. Ten years. No name. And then a few weeks ago I was walking one of my dogs, and she was out walking the street, and she finally spoke to me. She asked me about my dog. One thing led to another, and I told her how I pray for her, and how I love the way she dresses. She asked me my name, and I asked her for hers. I have waited ten years to speak to her. We forget that sometimes these things take time. We lose hope in what we do....and then one day-- everything changes-- and now I know her name. Remembering names on this street is important. It is a test to see if people are important and really do matter.

Then a man came to our back door and asked the kids if that Christian man still lived here. The kids came to me, and said someone wanted their dad. I went to meet the man, and he told me some of the things Mike had done for him, things I didn't even know about. Once again, he needed Mike, and wanted to know if the Christian man could help. I couldn't do for him what Mike could do, but I could feed him, which I did. He left smiling and happy with a meal and some hope.

Then last night we saw a woman walking down a nearby street. I felt like we needed to stop and talk to her. It appeared to me that she was crying. We stopped and asked her if she was okay. She wasn't. I got out of the car to go to her, and she told me she was tired and hungry. I told her we could feed her, and we would put our heads together about finding her a place to stay. We ran into some people from church who, discerning the situation, secretly slipped me some money to help the woman. We were able to get her a good meal and find her a place to stay at a boardinghouse, but not before we spent a lovely evening driving around and sharing. She told us that she had been praying for help, and God sent us. She said she knew that He loved her, and we knew it, too. Before she left, we prayed for her, and she kissed my cheek. I can't tell you how much that touch meant to me.

There are other stories that I could tell, but this gives you an idea of what we have been doing. But here is the truth: these people didn't need me, I needed them. I needed hope. I was the one who needed a touch from God. I needed to be reassured that I was in His will. I needed to know that I had not been forgotten. I am no different than the people we try to help. I still need the same assurance of love from God that everyone else needs. I can sit here and say all the right things about redemption and what Jesus did for me on the cross. And without a doubt I know that God loves me.  But sometimes I am still a little girl who needs to know that God has not forgotten me, and that there is some value and worth in the life I am living. Sometimes I need to know that I have not wasted 19 years of my life helping others and living a lifestyle that no one can understand. God saw my heart, and heard my cries. He offered me hope, and I took it. My heart is full and thankful. I feel renewed and refreshed. I can keep going....

Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Are Expecting!

Five years ago on Christmas Eve, my mother passed away. And for five years I have asked the Lord why she had to pass away on my favorite day of the year. But then this year on the last day of work before the holidays, a co-worker and friend asked me to stop by her classroom on my way home. As we were sharing I told her how much I love Christmas Eve. I love the excitement and joyful expectation more than Christmas Day itself. Then I told her about my mom’s passing and the questioning I have had all these years. At that point, she looked kindly into my face and said, “You know the answer. You have answered your own question as to why God took her home on Christmas Eve.”

I understood immediately and my eyes filled with tears. The Lord took Mom home on Christmas Eve-- my favorite day of the year-- because her passing represents the excitement and the expectation of knowing that I will see her once again. Like a child expectantly waiting to open Christmas gifts, I can wait expectantly knowing I will see both of my parents some day.

And then that same week while watching an old black and white movie together, Allegra uncharacteristically and nonchalantly said, “I am going to be baptized on Christmas Day.” I had to pause the movie, sit up, and ask her to repeat herself. I don’t know many churches that baptized on Christmas morning this year, but ours did, and for that we are grateful. It puts the holidays in perspective. Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection we can have the hope and expectancy of living eternally with Him and with each other. First Peter 1:3 says that we are to live with great expectation because we have a priceless inheritance that is kept in heaven. The passage goes on to say that we should be glad. There is wonderful joy ahead even though we may have to endure many trials for a little while (NLT).

As a mother who has been “expectant” more than just a few times, I know the joy and dreams that go into waiting for a child to be born. The word “expectation” means to look forward to with anticipation. “Hope” and “trust” are synonyms. The problem with expectation is when we have an expectation of how we think God will answer our prayers. The problem with expectation is when we decide on what the result will be. And when the object of our expectation doesn’t happen the way we expected it to manifest, disappointment and despair often take the place of joy. Psalm 62:5 says “For my expectation is from Him” (ASV). If we can remain like little children trusting that God has the best for us, we can live life expectantly with hope and joy. Our expectancy is in Him and from Him.

The Lord once told me that no matter how good things are, no matter how bad things might get, the best is yet to come. That is expectation. My prayer for this new year is that all of us will live life expectantly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Have you ever been lost? Have you ever been on a trip thinking you knew where you were going only to find out you might not be going the right way? One of the things I speak to groups about is the faith journey. I tell people that sometimes I wish God would just hand me a map with a little pin on it saying: YOU ARE HERE!

In our family I am usually the one with the map. Mike drives; I navigate. That works for us. I plan the trip. I know the stops. I always know where I am and where I am going. I like it that way. But sometimes God doesn’t tell us where we are going. He simply says: Follow me. In the wilderness the Hebrews were told to follow the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. Moses led them into an existence where they had to depend on God daily for direction, provision, and protection. No map. No little markers.

This week was one of those weeks where I needed to know where I was. I wasn’t sure I was going the right way. I wasn’t sure I even knew the destination. I was lost. As the week progressed I knew I had to keep a cool head, maintain a still and quiet heart, and respond rather than react. Lives depended on it. And I had to hear from God for direction. My heart was heavy throughout the week as I dealt with my own emotions and circumstances. Some days I could only turn to God and feebly whisper, “ Help.”

But today He graciously told me where I was. He said I was in the winepress. It brought me peace to know where I was. According to (don’t laugh) Wikipedia, “A winepress is a device used to extract juice from crushed grapes during wine making….Pressure must be controlled, especially with grapes in order to avoid crushing the seeds and releasing a great deal of undesirable tannins into the wine.”

So that is what I am going through? That is what God is doing in my life right now? He is allowing me to be crushed to bring forth new wine? To know that He is in control of the pressure so that only the best of me will be released is a little comforting. But does it feel good right now? No. The truth is that being stomped on and squeezed out hurts. I am being separated from the seeds and skins—parts of me that are not necessary in the wine. Personally, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the grape that I was. And that in itself is part of the problem. Just when I was getting comfortable with being me, a little grape, the Lord decided it was time to make some wine. He knew those skins and seeds had to be extracted.

I could write a whole blog on what those skins and seeds represent in my life, but I can’t today. I am still in the winepress. When I researched ancient winepresses I learned that there were treading floors where the grapes were crushed by the feet of the workers. That is the kind of week I have had. I have been stomped on under the feet of others. That is not a visual I want to dwell on, but in context, at least I know where I am. And I wasn’t particularly happy to learn that there was an area for a SECOND crushing using a single fixed-screw press. Eventually the liquid flows into areas where jars and wineskins are used to collect the wine for fermentation. The wineskins have to be new because the process is so active that old wineskins will burst. New fluid just cannot be contained in an old wineskin. After 40 days the fermented grape juice becomes wine. So for me, the process has just begun. But at least I know where I am.

According to tradition once the grapes were put into the winepress, the people would sing and shout. It was a time to rejoice. I suppose if you are the one stomping on a grape you might be having a good time (a la Lucille Ball), but I get the message. The Lord wants me to praise Him and rejoice through this process. He is making some really, really good wine. And you know what? I trust Him. If He says I need to rejoice through this, I will. I know this process is necessary…and it is going to be good.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rest in Peace (R.I.P.)

This week I was reading a comment someone wrote about a loved one who had died. They wrote: “R.I.P.” Rest in peace. That phrase jumped out at me and caused me to ponder what it meant. It is a traditional expression conveying the hope for eternal rest and peace to someone who has passed away. But the phrase pierced my heart in a way that let me know that God wanted to reveal something deeper to me. I remember years ago, sitting on the rocks at Lover’s Point (so named by the Methodists for lovers of Jesus) in Pacific Grove, CA. I don’t recall what I was going through at the time, but I remember looking down at the swirling water and the Lord saying to me, “You will always have to fight for peace.” I thought at the time that fighting for peace was a paradox. During the World Wars that is exactly what happened: there were world-wide conflicts as men and women fought for all people to have peace. Those were physical wars, but in our hearts we have to fight to protect the peace that God has given us through His son—the Prince of Peace. It doesn’t come easy. It is truly a constant battle with the daily struggles and strife that attack us every day.

Two of the words for rest in Scripture are menuchah meaning “resting place, place of stillness, repose…the condition of restfulness” (Strong’s #4496) and anapauo “to make to cease” as in labor (#373). Two of the words for “peace” in the Bible are shalom and eirene. Shalom means “completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord” (Strong’s #7965). Eirene is a state of rest, quietness, and calmness, and absence of strife” (Strong’s #1515). According to the NSFL Bible eirene “includes harmonious relationships between God and men, men and men, nations, and families (p.1388). God is calling us to that complete state of well-being of rest and peace in Him and through Him.

I don’t know about you, but my life is busy and filled with stress—every day. Right now our family is in the middle of the two most active months of the year. Between cross country, football games, band competitions, work, the art show, school, and volunteer work, it never ends. Add to that the pressure of world-wide events, the daily heartaches of the people we minister to, and personal issues in our own lives—well, it is hard to rest, let alone have peace. But yet, that is exactly what God is calling us to do: rest in peace. We can have it by trusting Him and believing what He says in His Word: He will never leave us; He will provide; He has not given us a spirit of fear; His plans are not to harm us. As one of my colleagues wrote in a poem, we can trust “the Creator of rainbows and rain.” He is so much bigger than our problems, and we can find peace in resting in a personal relationship with Him.

 In no way is it a coincidence that the name of the recent hurricane, “Irene,” comes from the Greek word eirene (see above) and means “Messenger of Peace.” Again, a paradox. How can a storm that brought so much destruction and devastation be a messenger of peace? I don’t understand it, but I know that I know that the Lord is calling us to rest in Him with peace in our hearts regardless of what is happening, regardless of the storms, regardless of the conflict in our lives, regardless of the battles we fight every day.  He will see us through. We can trust Him. R.I.P., rest in peace, isn’t just for the dead; it is for the living, too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Effects of Regret

Someone I used to know very well passed away last week. His passing reminded me of something he once said to me; he liked that I never lived in regret. A few months ago I was in a ministry situation where I saw the effects of regret on someone's life and how debilitating it can be. That person is my husband, Mike. And now the passing of that old friend has brought his words back to me, and I have been thinking about the power of regret again.
     Mike was going through a rough time, and I asked him if I could pray with him. I felt that what Mike was going through was bigger than his circumstances: it was a spiritual battle. As we prayed Mike repented for not believing God for his future and his life. When he did that he said that he felt that he had been going through a lot of confusion. That was key and immediately I prayed that confusion would leave Mike in Jesus' Name, and when I did things became clearer. Confusion had been hiding the truth from something that was holding back Mike's life, and that was "Regret." When the confusion that was clouding Mike's mind was exposed and "evicted" we saw that he had been living in regret. I asked Mike about it and he said that only that week he had been thinking about the past and wondering what would have happened if he had stayed in the Army or gone to nursing school 20 years ago. He also thought about the fact that he has a hard time finishing things. REGRET! He then repented and renounced words he had thought and spoken about his life.
     Through more talking and prayer Mike came to understand that regret came into his life when his dad died when he was little boy. Mike regretted that he never got to say good-bye. He wasn't allowed to go to the hospital. And there it was....his companion became Regret. In regret, Mike was always looking backwards and couldn't "see" his future. Regret stole Mike's future and his destiny. Regret blocks and affects vision. The enemy blocked the future bringing discouragement and defeat. Attached to regret was "Depression." Mike said that he was feeling depressed, too. His Joy was stolen along with Hope. Regret blocks the future with the past. Every day is an effort, mundane and mechanical. There is no hope for change.
     We got excited with this revelation. Regret affects the lives of so many people we know. It is bondage. It alters our vision. As we continued to pray something else was revealed: Memory. After Mike's dad died, he didn't want to remember things. It was too painful. He has spent most of his life blocking out memories which has affected his memory. All of this pain led to Mike using drugs, alcohol, music, etc. to escape the pain of remembering. As we prayed Mike started to remember what he was like before his dad died. He was happy-go-lucky and a straight-A student. Things were easy for him. But after his dad died he changed. Mike's memory problems robbed him of his confidence. He has had to work doubly hard to accomplish anything. Mike repented again. This time for not wanting to remember. He told the Lord that he would trust Him with his memories. He said he would not be afraid to cry and be cleansed of the pain of the past. I then prayed for Mike's restoration. I prayed he would enjoy learning again and would look forward to each day. I prayed that hope and joy would be restored. I prayed for a clear vision of the future. I prayed that Jesus would be his companion.
     The Lord showed us that regret had led to disillusionment, depression, despair, doubt, and defeat--all to rob him of his destiny. Mike's two favorite movies are It's A Wonderful Life and the Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. Both have themes that parallel what Mike has gone through and what he has lived. But instead of being portrayed in black and white, his has been in living color. The effect of regret is real. My prayer today is that if your life has been held back by any type of regret, you will talk to the Lord about it and give it to Him. He wants to set you free from any and all bondage. He wants you to look forward and not backward. Let Jesus be your friend and lead you into your destiny. That is the good news!