To Have and To Hold, a Heart Surrendered: Write for 31 Days

Weddings are my favorite family celebration. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman prepared to wed the man who has captured her heart. And her man looks his most manly as he watches the woman of his dreams walk down the aisle.

photo (22)

Our lovely friend Ana exchanged vows with her man Seth in a garden wedding.

We were blessed to celebrate three weddings over the past several months and each of them was perfect in their own way. Those weddings come to mind as I consider these words from author and Bible teacher Beth Moore in her book “Children of the Day”:

“Who would you be if you loved Jesus with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength? That’s what you’re meant to look like.”

Jacqueline-Kennedy-Juliet-Cap-Veil-1953

Jacqueline Kennedy

Something to ponder — what would I look like if I loved my Lord in the same way I love my husband? If I gave God every part of me, surrendered and committed myself to Him with a devotion that says “take me, I’m yours; I’ll go where you lead”. How would that look on me?

I think I would be beautiful — as lovely and radiant as a bride on her wedding day.

If I made it my passion to get to know every part of Him.

If I gave Him not just a moment here and there, when I can fit Him in without inconvenience.

If I sought His counsel and considered His preferences.

If I chose Him over all others and adjusted my cadence so that I was  in step with Him.

If He was the first one I turned to upon waking and the last one I sought out before sleeping.

If I loved my God with abandon, I think I would be beautiful.

When I look in the mirror in the morning, in place of the furrowed brow and down-turned mouth, I’d see eyes that sparkle and a smile that speaks of love. I would step lightly into the world, all my burdens lifted and placed on the shoulders of my Beloved. People would be drawn to this beauty and want to know my secrets.

I would have a purpose in my life beyond seeking my own satisfaction and gain. My greatest desire would be to serve and please the One that I love.

As in marriage, I may find myself drifting from this place of perfect love. This love will be threatened by………just life. But I have the assurance that His perfect love will never fail. It will be constantly flowing, with no break in the current, even when my own systems have shut down. And that is when I will learn again to just surrender.

In her teaching, Beth Moore says this:

“You don’t have to figure out what to surrender to. Just surrender every ounce of your heart to Jesus. Ask Him to give you a supernatural love for Him that surpasses anything in your human experience.”

In the words of the disciple Mark:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

And you will be beautiful.

 

http://write31days.com/ I’m stepping back in to the commitment to write every day. I’ve missed the mark for blogging 31 days, but sometimes you’ve just got to “do life”. To visit other blogs on this journey, click on the button at left.

 

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A Little Bear Philosophy for the Weekend: Write for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/As promised on Day 17, here’s something a little more light-hearted for today’s “God-Spot”. Have a blessed weekend!

 

 

Pooh

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Prepare to Stand for What You Believe: Write for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/It’s taken me all day to work up the courage to write this Day 17 post for 31 Days. I’ll not call it a “God-Spot” because it’s so much more than a momentary sighting. It’s about God showing us how to stand when it really matters.

 

I didn’t plan on meeting a well-known apologist at dinner. Who would expect to be eating chicken and green beans on a Thursday night with an author and host of national radio and television programs?

If I’d known what was to come at the end of the evening, I’m not sure I’d have stuck around.

A local agency with a ministry to women in unplanned pregnancies held its annual fund-raising event in our community last night. I attended because I believe in and support their work and because this agency is often assisting the same clients as the domestic violence agency where I am a volunteer.

While the keynote speaker, Dr. Frank Turek, chatted with the pastor sitting next to him, I eaves-dropped. Their conversation was fascinating. I wanted to know more. Our program guide for the evening said Turek “impacts young and old alike at colleges, high schools and churches with hard-hitting yet entertaining evidence for Christianity.”

I personally have all the evidence I need, but I know that “3 out of 4 Christian youth leave the church while in college, many because they are intellectually skeptical.” I know because it’s hit our family.

I wanted to corner Dr. Turek and throw all my questions, fears and doubts at him. I wanted answers that would stand up to scrutiny. The sooner the better. Instead, I kindly asked him to pass the butter and inquired as to what channels carried his radio and television programs.

Dr. Turek’s presentation was powerful. He deftly addressed questions and statements used by unbelievers and skeptics to challenge Christianity with responses designed to set them on their heels. Included in his presentation was this thought-provoking quote:

Pascal

Dr. Turek left us feeling empowered and affirmed in our beliefs, and he gave me hope that I can speak with sense and conviction the next time I have the opportunity. His book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” is already loaded on my Kindle. While God has given me a peace about where our skeptic is headed, I needed this man’s words on this night.

Then Dr. Turek turned to the subject at hand — choices that await a woman who finds herself with a pregnancy she didn’t plan, maybe doesn’t want. It’s a reality that has also touched our family. Someone dear to me faced those decisions over 20 years ago. She chose life, but in her circumstance, she could have just as easily chosen to end the pregnancy.

The latest statistics available (2011) show abortions are on the decline — down from 1.21 million in 2008 to 1.06 million in 2011 (www.abort73.com).

Dr. Turek tied pregnancy decisions to morality and faith. In a world where everything is relative and anything is acceptable, where my truth doesn’t have to be your truth and where we’re told we can do whatever we want with our bodies, I fear the decline is temporary. I will not be surprised if at the end of the year, we find the abortion rate has begun to climb.

Then came the part I wish I had missed. Dr. Turek closed his presentation with a brief, painfully graphic video showing the aftermath of abortion.

Images of unborn children whose lives were ended in the womb played across the screen.

Children who did not get to choose, who carried all the DNA their tiny bodies would ever hold at the moment of their conception.

I could avert my eyes, but not my heart. These were images I didn’t expect to see, but they are the truth that all women facing this life-altering decision need to hold. The vivid truth we need to be prepared to share.

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3

 

 

 

CrossExamined.org

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When Family Trumps Blogging: Writing for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/The “God-Spot” for Day 15 just didn’t happen. Not that I didn’t see God in my day. He was all over it –at my coffee date with a dear friend, in the conversations with fellow ministry workers, in my Beth Moore Bible study. But the blog post I had started for Day 15 wasn’t at the top of my list by the end of the day. Family needs were. So, I shut down all electronic devices but my phone. I needed to focus on relationship without distraction. It turns out, the blog post I had planned and begun to write showed up in my real world. Now that’s a “God-Spot”.

Praying Circles Around My Children

There were those nights I slipped into my son’s room, knelt by his bed and prayed, my urgent whispers begging God to take up residence in his heart, in his mind. To turn him back to us.

And there have been mornings I rose early, turned on just the one light by my chair and pulled my Bible into my lap. Before the crazy rush of pancakes, chores, school books, piano lessons, basketball. Before the onslaught of laundry and errands. In those quiet early morning moments, in the thick of our child-rearing season, I sought wisdom from God and I prayed. It was the best thing I knew to do.photo (21)

The days of over-flowing bedrooms, Lego cities strewn across the carpet, drums and guitar rhythms pulsing from our basement — in the quiet of our empty nest, those days are sweet memories. And the four boys who were the target of all the prayers are leading lives in far-flung cities.

And still I pray.

Last night, for a dear one in turmoil, I prayed this…..

“May you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

And this morning, before my eyes even opened, this…..

“I claim your promises, Lord. My children are yours. I believe in YOUR BEST for them.”

We never stop being “Mom”, do we? They can be 30 with a wife and a career and we still see them as the babes we held in our arms. Wasn’t it just yesterday?

I’ve been praying circles around my boys for years and I don’t expect it to stop now. If you’ve read the legend of Honi the Circle Maker, you know what I’m talking about. Like Honi, I’ve drawn circles and knelt in them, determined not to stop until God answers. Even more so, the prayers I offer up for my children.

Prayers for protection, good health, character, success, relationships.

Though our sons are grown men, I find I’m still drawing the same circles.

“Drawing circles is a metaphor that simply means ‘to pray without ceasing.’ It’s praying until God answers. It’s praying with more intensity, more tenacity. It’s not just praying for, it’s praying through.” Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson

So, I can’t do their laundry any more (well, I could, but I won’t), I’m not making them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or shuttling them to play dates and piano lessons. I’m not doing all those “mom” things that defined me for so many years. But I’m still doing the most important Mom Thing. I’m praying. And I won’t get up until God answers.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

 

 

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Nature or Nurture? To God Be the Glory: Writing for 31 Days

The three dwarf apple trees we’ve cultivated on our farm for many years are nearly void of apples this fall. Last year at this time, the branches were so laden that many touched the ground. We were begging people to come and pick apples.

It’s possible that, had we sprayed, pruned and fed our trees, we could have had a greater harvest this year. But we just expected to see a repeat of last fall’s bounty, so we let nature take its course.

Our bare trees remind me that, to see fruit in our lives, we need to be fed. We need to nurture our faith and to accept God’s pruning as He removes things from our lives or allows trials that shape us. If left to human nature, I can go for days without applying God’s holy manure to my roots and allowing him to trim my branches.

Nature or nurture? Which will bring God glory?

apple scripture

http://write31days.com/Today is Day 14 of the 31-Day Writing Challenge. Join me and 1600 other bloggers as we attempt to write a post every day for the month of October by clicking on my button at left.

 

 

 

 

 

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Write the Vision Because Words Matter: Writing for 31 Days

fog

It’s raining in the valley today and I’m having a “connectivity problem” on the internet.

Our early morning fog has lingered, transforming the landscape into a misty canvas for the rain-soaked trees visible in the foreground. The view reflects the landscape of my heart:

“Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. I have sunk in deep mud and there is no footing. I have come into deep waters, and a flood sweeps over me…….” (Psalm 69 HCSB)

There’s a connectivity problem threatening my soul today. I feel mired in “deep mud” and the heart is humbled. Treading this inevitable path from my mountaintop weekend into the valley to do real life with real people, I have an urge to disconnect, to protect, to shield this sodden heart.

“I have come into deep waters, and a flood sweeps over me….”

My flesh desires only to connect with what is safe, with what I can see and know is trustworthy. I want to sit in my Father’s lap today and lick imaginary wounds, letting the past and the future fade into fog.

Sound is muffled by fog. Just as images on our landscape lose definition when the air is heavy with moisture, words, syllables casually thrown into the air, so crisp with portent in the moment, are heavy-laden in the remembering.

I am driven into self-reproach, self-protection, self-pity, selfishness….SELF….in my state of disconnection. As I follow David’s lament, I hear him utter this:

“Lord, do not let those who put their hope in You be disgraced because of me.” Psalm 69:6

On the mountaintop a day ago, I heard words that challenged and corrected my thinking about how God wants to use this gift of words:

“For the writer, the whole world can be reduced to The Word.”

“the most real thing in the world.”

“God will hold you accountable.”

“writing is a huge responsibility.”

“we must be careful to be precise with our words.”

And this…..

“Nobody should be better with words than Christians.”

What a challenge we have accepted if we are writing under the banner “Christian” as we toss words into the air. Even as a follower of Christ — broken, sinful, flawed as I am — how can I begin to believe that words from one such as me will reveal the healing power of His Word? Will instruct and encourage those who “put their hope” in God?

And how do I react when others mock my words, misunderstand my heart?

Withdraw? Disconnect?

Only through prayer and submission to God can I have any assurance that by my pen, God will be edified and people will know Him, and that I can fade into the fog.

The rain has stopped. My “connectivity problem” has been solved, and I reach for promises to restore connectivity to my soul.

“I will praise God’s name with song and exalt Him with thanksgiving. The humble will see it and rejoice. You who seek God, take heart! For the Lord listens to the needy and does not despise His own who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them.” Psalm 69: 30,32-34

photo 4

“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Habakkuk 2:2

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I am on Day 13 in Writing for 31 Days following a Sabbath break while processing the wealth of encouragement and information I received at The Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference.  Click on the button at left to read other blogs under the inspiration and faith tab.

 

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“Life Itself Is Grace”: Writing for 31 Days

When there have been so many words and because the whole world can be reduced to The Word, I share with you this:

 

 

Buechner quote on life

 

 

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Out of My Comfort Zone and Into God’s Plan: Writing for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/Whenever I leave the safety and comfort of my home and community, opportunities to spot God in the day-to-day are multiplied. My day at the Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan was filled with “God-spots”. Here are a few of them:

  • Willem from Holland who is a student at Moody Bible College and has written a children’s book in Dutch. My friend and I had a delightful conversation with him standing in line to register for our one-on-one meetings as he “translated” his story of the lamb who pretended to be a shepherd. We wished him luck as he sought out a publisher to print his book in English and invited him to visit our Indiana farms before returning to Holland.
  • The young representative from Baker Publishing House who loves Eugene Peterson as much as I do and who shared a dinner table with myself and other aspiring writers. When she had to miss dessert to get back to her book table, we surprised her with two pieces of cheesecake. Such a simple gesture met with such youthful gratitude.
  • The published author who prayed with me at the beginning of our one-on-one session and who gave great encouragement to me as a writer. He closed our 15-minute conference by asking for the name of a son I had mentioned because he plans to pray for him.
  • A walk across this beautiful campus surrounded by fall colors and crisp autumn air. Michigan is the place to be in the autumn.
  • Julie Cantrell, an award-winning author who challenged her audience to believe that we are worthy of the title “writer”. With two adult books and two children’s books under her name, she posed this question: “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” She ended her talk with these words from Isaiah:

“But now, this is what the Lord says—

    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.

….everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

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When God Just Knocks Your Socks Off: Writing for 31 Days

http://write31days.com/Today’s “God-Spot” was more of a “God-Smack”. If you knew my friend Jamelle, you would agree.

Jamelle runs a ministry in my community called The Reason4Hope. To say Jamelle is enthusiastic about her calling is an understatement. Like most of us, this woman has had her valleys, and over the past year she’s questioned God’s calling on her life. But she’s moving back up that mountain and she’s on fire.

I joined Jamelle and other volunteers today to serve lunch at The Hope Cafe, an outreach of her ministry. Home-cooked food is donated to the cafe every Thursday to be served to people in our community who need a good meal. They eat for free, but local business people and others stop in to buy lunch and support the ministry.

I’ve been at the cafe on Thursdays in the past, but it’s been awhile. Today, I was there because my friend put it to me straight recently when she asked me “Why aren’t churched people in our community willing to reach out to the unchurched?” My first reaction was to be defensive. I said perhaps they didn’t realize she needed more than food delivery and servers at her weekly mission.

Get that? “Her weekly mission”. What a dumb statement on my part. We’re all called to share the gospel, not just those who name their ministry and put a sign out on the sidewalk.

It’s great that people are willing to bake a pie or make a pot of goulash, or to stand behind the counter to dish up soup and wash dishes. I know. I’ve done both and felt pretty good about it. It’s a lot harder to sit down and talk with someone who doesn’t have a job or can’t see a doctor because they don’t have insurance and offer to pray with them. Harder still to open a Bible and show them that God has a plan for their lives — even when it looks like there’s nothing good coming their way.

Jamelle has a passion to share Jesus and it’s exciting to watch her in action, but she knows that to get to the place where hearts are open to her message, she has to meet them right where they are. So she gets to know the people who come to the cafe and the ones she helps out on the street when she’s handing out coats or school supplies. And she talks to them about the hard things — like depression and how it feels to live in a motel instead of a house or apartment.

Recently, she’s been visiting area high schools to help kids deal with depression. Here’s a portion of a recent blog post about what she learned. (Find the whole post and more about the ministry at http://www.thereason4hope.com):

“I have spent the last week talking in health classes in high schools throughout LaGrange County. The teenagers have been brutally honest. They do believe that depression is a SERIOUS issue among teenagers. Did you know that? They estimate that over 60% of teens think about suicide (although only 20% seriously consider it, but kids believe it’s WORSE!) So, in any given classroom, 5 kids are seriously thinking about it. More than half admit to bullying or making fun of someone, and about 30-40% admit to being a bully (some are the same kids.) When we talk about the signs of depression and then I tell personal stories, well, the truth is you can’t always tell and sometimes (a lot of times) it’s not the person you expect. It is the person you sit beside in history class. Now…. here to me is the heart breaking statistic: when asked if they feel they have someone they can talk to, the response is usually around 50%. ONLY 50% feel they have anyone to turn to. (In other words, they feel alone!) Hold on, it gets worse. About 70% feel they DO NOT have an adult at their school they can turn to. That is heartbreaking and horrible!!!! Are we aware of that? Does this break your heart as much as mine? These kids feel alone.”

Jamelle and others like her take The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) literally. They put feet to their faith. It’s time more of us got in step.

The Great Commission

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On Being an Original, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”: Writing for 31 Days

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Today’s “God-Spot” was captured just down the road from our home in rural Indiana. I hope that as I share this reflection, you will be inspired to look for the “originals” in your life.

One of the great blessings of certain friendships is that they enrich your life simply by the sharing of life. Such is the case with our dear neighbors, with whom we have had the privilege of sharing our valley and the rearing of our children these past 23 years.

The Mrs. and I share our love for handicrafts, cooking and Scripture — and so much more. She spins wool, weaves and knits and designs and creates original quilts. I greatly appreciate her creative gifts, and she supports me in mine.

Photo by Jim Sprandel

Photo by Jim Sprandel

When we get the chance, the Mr. and I quickly slip into sharing what we’ve read or seen that’s of interest in the world. The Mr. is a kind and gentle man, a devoted father and grandfather and a bit of an icon in our rural community. He maintains the county’s parks and in years past was a favorite visitor to local schools where he told stories and portrayed the type of Indian who once lived in this region. With his long, gray braid and ready smile, he is recognized by many.

My friends built their family home, nestled in a wooded hillside at the end of a long lane, entirely by hand with wood harvested from their own land. It’s a home that draws others in. During my late afternoon visit to their home for a cup of tea and conversation recently, the Mr. pulled out his phone and shared with me a couple of quotes from a favorite author and follower of Christ, C.S. Lewis. My friend intends to pass them on to two of his daughters who are away at school. One is a writer, the other an artist. I’ll share one of them here with you:

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original; whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

Thinking about that quote today, I realize it accurately depicts these friends of ours. They are “originals”. Without pretense and with only the desire to serve and honor God as their guide, this couple has created an original life. They are intentional in only one thing — that their lives would serve as a testimony to their faith. In just living truth day-to-day according to a moral code, and by drawing on the gifts God has placed in them, they have “become original without ever having noticed it.”

Wouldn’t we all like to be considered “original?” God created us with that capacity and I believe that is His desire for us. It grieves me to hear others say they aren’t creative or have no special gifts. We were all created in the image of God, the originator of everything original. In each of us, He has placed qualities, talents, propensities and characteristics that make us uniquely original. The best way to tap into them is to “simply tell the truth.”

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

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