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!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chariots of Fire

It has been a season of accomplishments for our family. Last week I won three silver medals in the SilverArts competition for two paintings and a poem. I then won three gold medals in the Senior Games for the 100m, 200m, and 400m races thereby qualifying for the state games in September. Max was named Most Valuable Long Distance Runner (MVR) for the track team. Earlier this year he won the same award for cross country, too. (Our family has now won it 8 times.) A few days ago we learned that Allegra was one of only two students to score a 4 for the standarized writing test for the entire 10th grade class. So what does all of this mean? In a sense....nothing. But what have we learned from the process? Medals and awards can't begin to tell the story. I wanted to run in order to understand what Paul says in scripture about "running the good race." What exactly does that mean? I now know. I understand the discipline, the training, the pain, the ups and downs of running a race. I can understand now why Paul compares our "walk" with the Lord as running a race. It isn't all smooth and easy, but it is exhilarating. Even when I started to collapse after finishing the 400, as my heart and head were pounding, I was thinking, "I did it!"

When I started training I told the Lord that I wanted to finish my life well. I want to be a good example to my children and grandchildren. I want to age gracefully and proudly. I want to embrace every day of my life. In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell, who won the Olympic gold and later became a missionary, says: God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast. And when I run I also feel His pleasure." Everyday I want to give God back the pleasure He has given me when I run, paint, write, love people, and enjoy the life He has provided. So when I look at the medals, it isn't about winning. It's about the story.

I'm Going Home

In one week I leave for home. Going home is always a special time for me. I love the place where I was born and raised in a little town called Royersford, near Valley Forge, Pa. My brothers are still in the area as are my cousins and friends. My parents are gone now, so going home is bittersweet without their presence, but the memories keep everyone and everything alive. God has given me His special love for the people and the place. I have a heart to see the people saved, especially the people I grew up with. I have spent my life with them, and I don't want to spend eternity without them.

This time I will be speaking to several churches and groups. God has opened doors for me to share His love. He has a word for the people. And as for me, as Chris Daughtry sings, "I'm going home, to a place where I belong."