Sunday, December 25, 2011

You Did It All For Us

You formed the world without lifting a finger. You created the sun then placed it exactly where it needed to be to suit our needs. Then you created the moon to light the night sky and keep the ocean waters in place. You provided fruits and vegetables, plants, grains and animals to provide for our every physical need. You created salty and sweet, bitter and sour, something to satisfy every desire, every taste.

You fitted the animals of the field for food, drink and clothes for our use. You painted the morning so vividly that whoever gazes in the easterly sky stops to admire your handiwork. Because you considered our every need, you created the sunset, which closes our days and signifies the time has come for rest. Everywhere we look, creation is varied and beautiful, proving again and again you are God.

You made us, male and female, to keep one another company, to love each other and to hold one another accountable. You gave us the ability to see, to hear, to taste, to feel and to smell. You thought of everything. You created blood and a heart that would pump it through our veins, carrying oxygen to every part of our bodies. You gave us minds so that we might look upon your creation and consider your handiwork. Every part of us was created that we might glorify you with our being.

Our days and our nights are filled with abundance. You are our provision, our help in times of need. When we call on your name, you are there, in the midst of trouble. You never leave us, nor forsake us. When we fail, when we fall, you are faithful to forgive us. No one can love us as you do.

Everything is possible because you allow it. Nothing is possible without your approval. You define the words love, mercy and grace. Your holiness is without fault. Your knowledge knows no end. You are truth and you are just. You are not to be questioned; yet you allow questions. You are the greatest gift this world has ever seen yet most deny your existence.

You left your heavenly home and came to a fallen world, simply because you love us. Everything you have done, you have done for us. You were born in manger, among the cows and sheep. You were wrapped in swaddling clothes. You left a world that is beyond our wildest imagination so that someday it might become our reality. Perfect love became our strongest defense.

You were born to die. That was your purpose. Your brought us truth and the light to make our paths straight. You took our every sin, our every pain and our every hurt and you held them on your shoulders when you were hanging on the cross. Your blood flowed, covering us, preparing us for eternity. Although we nailed you to that tree, still yet you loved us. You forgave us, showing us mercy when we deserved death. You died then rose again three days later to prove to the world you are indeed the Risen King.

You offer a free gift of salvation and yet most refuse to accept it. Nothing brings you more joy than when a child that was lost is found. You know no bounds yet your world revolves around us. You loved us so much that you gave up everything.

And you did it all for us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Deep is Your Sea?

Imagine, certain death before you, death behind you and death on both sides of you. What would be running through your head?

Now imagine being in those same circumstances yet also knowing that God has promised you He would lead you to safety.

Would you trust Him, even though the circumstances say “impossible?”

Or…would the circumstances distract you from the promise of God? Would you allow the circumstances in your life to dictate where you are going and exactly how far you can go?

I recently spoke on the Israelites, specifically when they came out of Egypt and were standing before the Red Sea. With the tumultuous sea before them, Pharaoh’s army not far behind them, mountains to the south and an Egyptian fortress to the north, they literally had no place to go that would offer them safety. Unless of course you consider in the fact that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, was on their side.

When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they crossed over on dry land. When they first approached the Red Sea, it was deep, wide and very frightening. God took all night to dry up the land. Do you think many people slept that night? Have you ever stopped and thought about what that must have been like? Picture this with me, they step out onto the dry seabed. On one side of them the water was 3000 feet deep, on the other it was 5000 feet deep. The opening, or the distance between the two walls of water, was ¼ to ½ mile wide. Approximately 3 million people needed to cross a distance of 10 miles. It took 14 to 18 hours to cross, and I’m pretty certain they were trying to get across as quickly as possible!

Have you ever been in a crowd? Have you been in a crowd that was fearful? Have you been jostled, pushed, or knocked down? Can you imagine being on the outskirts of that group of people crossing the sea and being able to reach out and touch the wall of water? Most likely there were those who were pushed into it as the crowd tried to cross as quickly as they could. Some may have brushed their shoulders up against it.

I cannot imagine the fear they must have felt. Not only were there two giant walls of water, but also the Egyptian army was close on their heels. Their sea was tremendous. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that because they saw the huge miracles that God performed, all the plagues etc., they would have had supernatural faith and never doubted for a minute that God was going to do exactly what He said he would do. I have to look no further than myself to understand that just isn’t true.

Me? Yeah, I’m not there yet. I’m doing better than I used to do. But, I still doubt. I see God’s miracles in my life on a daily basis. He provides for us, blesses us more than we can ever deserve, yet, when it gets tough, I still doubt He is going to do what He says he will. It’s not that I dwell in the land of doubt, but I still visit it on a regular basis. Often times I question myself, and remind myself of everything God has already done. Usually that does it. Usually that brings me out of the land of worry and trepidation. I’m looking forward to the day that I trust Him immediately. I’m hoping I get to that point some day, that I won’t look at everything in the natural and see impossibilities all around me.

How big is your sea today? Is it deep? Is it wide? Is God drying the seabed? Or is He asking you to step out into the water? How far will you go for Him? How much will you trust Him? Up to your knees? Waist high? Chest high? Neck high? Will you tread water for Him if He asks you too? How far will you swim?

I cannot look back in my life and see a point that He left me high and dry. I know that my God loves me and knows what’s best for me.

I’m going to choose to trust Him to have His way with my life. How about you? Will you trust Him to get you through your sea?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Amanda Stephan's Great New Novel, Lonely Hearts

Recently, I had the opportunity to read a great new novel by an awesome friend of mine, Amanda Stephan. Her novel, Lonely Hearts, will be launched on Tuesday, November 1, 2011. If you purchase a copy on Amazon on Tuesday, your name will be entered in a drawing to win a Nook, Kindle and an I-pod Shuffle. I highly recommend this book and am excited to be a part of something so awesome!

Here is a little note from Amanda:

Why I Write Christian Fiction ~

The young man did a double take at my banner and gave me a skeptical look. His dark brown hair swept across his forehead as he held a bag to his chest and a soft snort escaped his sneering mouth.
"Christian romance? Is there such a thing as that?"

This account is true. It is real. It is a conversation I have at every venue I go to. And my answer never changes.
Yes, there IS such a thing as Christian romance.

Having been married almost 18 years, I am a recipient of the best kind of romance. The lasting kind. The kind where the spouses accept and love one another even with the many faults and warts that come along with real people. If I became upset after every hardship or every time my husband *didn't* sweep me off my feet, we'd be divorced. True love happens everyday when we make a point to put someone else's needs in front of our own. True love is when you accept that apology, or better yet, offer an apology because of some hasty words that you let slip during your frustration. Or when you don't go to bed angry, because the argument wasn't that important to begin with. But better than this earthly love my husband and I share, is the agape love from my Heavenly Father who loves without condition and never forsakes.

I saw it in this young man. He was beyond skeptical. He was to the point of derision. And I had a chance to witness to him. I had the chance to tell him that yes, there is such a thing as Christian romance, and it's the best kind.

See, God didn't call me to be a missionary to an exotic land away from my home. He gave me a mission field right here. This is my purpose for writing. To help spread God's love and message to those who need it.

So many times, a book can go where a preacher or teacher cannot. A place where the heart is open but the ears closed. If my books can reach one person for God? I am honored!

Amanda, thank you for sharing! Go to on Tuesday, November 1 to order your copy and get some really great free gifts as well as to be entered into the drawing for the free Nook, Kindle and Ipod Shuffle.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Denomination Abomination

Recently, I have been wondering…why all the different denominations and why can’t we all just get along?

It reminds me of the school playground. Suzie hogs the jump rope. Joey is a bully. Mary Beth cheats at hopscotch and Janie is whispering about the new girl with the red hair.

Again I ask…why can’t we all just get along?

Let me say this. I have no problem with denominations. If we are working together, operating as one church, we are good. It’s when we are so self focused, when we cannot work together to accomplish a common goal, is when I think of the term “denomination, abomination!”

The thing is, we are not children on the school playground. Nope, instead, we are adults playing church!

Is there a reason we can’t pray together? Break bread together? Help one another? Are we not all the church? Do you really think speaking in tongues, or not, depending on which denomination abomination you are part of, will send you to hell?

Do you not know what we can accomplish if we work together?

The Catholics won’t acknowledge the Pentecostals and the Baptists turn their noses up at the Methodists. The Lutherans one up the Presbyterians and the non-denominationals have everyone just plain confused. I mean, exactly what do they stand for?

Nonsense! All of it!

I have an idea. What if we all put aside our petty differences and work together to further the Kingdom of God? What if we walked side by side and stood up for Jesus Christ? He is the core of our beliefs…correct? We all believe he was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross and three days later was resurrected so we might have eternal life, right?

Then…what is the problem?

So, you baptize in Jesus name and the other one baptizes in the name of the Father , Son and the Holy Spirit. So, we raise our hands and do a jig during worship and you serenely stand still in reverent awe of our Lord Jesus Christ. One sprinkles and one immerses. One service lasts 45 minutes and one service lasts 3 hours.

Who cares? I mean, really????

Is our focus on growing our own church…or growing the kingdom of God? Is our goal to further our selves? Or is it to plant, water and harvest for Jesus Christ?

We need to decide what it is we are doing here and why we are doing it. Let’s stop playing church and get serious!

Satan wants nothing more than to keep us occupied with fighting each other. I bet he sits back and laughs. We are kicking our selves in the butt!

You want to see results? Stop being more concerned with who goes to which church and which church is right and start being more concerned with who does and does not know Jesus. That should be our focus.

I can tell you this, there are things right with every church and there are things wrong with every church. We are human. We mess up. The important thing is we are where God has called us to be. Pray. Ask Him. He’ll let us know.

And other thing, start working with the church across the street. They need us as much as we need them. We are all one body and right now, we have arms and legs, fingers and toes…heads and torsos planted all over every city, dying. Imagine if we operated as one body…imagine the damage we could do if all those body parts were joined together to create one body. Imagine the holes we could put in the enemies plan!

Come on church! Let’s stop the denomination abomination and start being who Christ called us to be!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A One Sided Conversation!

I said something rather profound to my husband the other day, at least I thought it was profound. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is only profound to me. Well, regardless of its status as profound or not, I’m gonna share it. Cause I can. Cause it’s my blog and that is what I do, share.

Here it is:

Just because God knows the outcome, the end result, doesn’t mean we don’t have to go through all the junk to get us to the desired result/place.

Now, I know you are confused but, hear me out. Have you ever had this conversation with God?

Me: Lord, you know I am going to be faithful. You already know what is going to happen.

Lord: Yep

Me: Then why do I have to go through all this junk to get there? I mean, you already know what I am going to do, how I am going to act, what I am going to say…and you know that I am going to do your will. So, I still have to go through all this junk?

Lord: Yep


(That was a pitiful whine if you weren’t able to decipher all the drawn out consonants)

Lord: Because

Me: But Lord, it seems like such a waste of time. Can’t you wave your hand or speak or something and just change me?

Lord: I can, but I won’t.

Me: Ugh!

Am I really the only one who pleas, bargains and down right begs God to just pick me up and lift me over the hard stuff?

It was after one of these one sided conversations with God that reality dawned. I’ll say it again because we know this is profound! Just because God knows the outcome, doesn’t mean we don’t have to go through it.

I still have to go through the trials. I still have to cry the tears. I still have to wade through the mud that is trying to pull me down. I still have to climb that mountain. I still have to swim up river! It is what makes me into who I am supposed to be. God’s “knowing” doesn’t change me. It is the journey that makes way for the Holy Spirit to work on my heart.

Romans 2:2-5 tells us this: Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Yes, I would rather He pick me up out of my mess. According to the Word, that is not going to happen, at least not until the appointed time.

So, I am going to rejoice in my sufferings. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am obtaining endurance. I also know that my character is becoming more and more like Christ’s. Finally, I have hope. I have hope that eventually I am going to reach the other side. I am going to see the sun rise over a beautiful cloudless sky, lighting up my world and filling my soul with joy. And the promise of God’s love, poured into my heart, will be worth everything, every pain, every trial and every tear that I have endured for righteousness sake.

Lord, be my strength. In times of trouble, sustain me. When joy is naught but a hapless dream, be my joy. For in You I am fulfilled.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Common Sense or God Sense?

Let’s face it. Sometimes, God doesn’t make sense. Well, at least to our finite limited minds.

Last week I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Chaun Butler preach on obedience. She spoke on Joshua and the battle of Jericho. The people of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho, waiting for God to do what He said He would do, give them the land.

I loved her message. It got me to thinking. Then I took her teaching and expounded on it when preaching to my husband. Yes, I do preach to him at times, but he seems to enjoy it…at least that is what he tells me.

We were discussing the use of common sense. Or rather, when not to use common sense.

When God spoke to Joshua, I have to wonder if he didn’t for one split second think to himself “this makes no sense.” I mean think about. Jericho is fortified. There are walls, tall, wide walls standing between the city and the children of Israel. And God says to Joshua in chapter 6 verse 2 “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, it’s king, and the mighty men of valor.”

This is not your ordinary retaining wall!

This would have been me: Um, Lord, I’m not sure if you see this, but there seems to be a wall between us and Jericho, it’s king and the mighty men of valor.

The Lord goes on in verse 3: You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days.

About this time I would have been scratching my chin and looking perplexed. And what exactly does marching around the city do? This makes no sense! We are going to be the laughing stock of the entire known world. This is some new battle tactic!

And we all know the rest of the story, on the seventh day, the Israelites march around the city seven times, the trumpets blow, the people give a shout and the walls went down flat. I have heard that the earth literally opened up and the walls went straight down into the earth. Very odd. And, it makes no sense!

See what I mean? God makes no sense!

So, back to our conversation from this morning. My husband and I were discussing his job situation. And he said to me, explain this to me. If my job sucks, why wouldn’t I look for a better job? Doesn’t that just make sense? Isn’t that common sense?

My reply? Well, would you rather use common sense or God sense? In comparison to God’s sense, our common sense makes no sense! Confused yet?

It’s like this. No matter what God tells us to do, no matter how weird it may seem or how strange it may be it is a gazillion times better than what we could come up with. All we have to do is look at the out come. When we act in our own power, use our own common sense; we end up with human like results.

When we wait upon the Lord, and obey His voice, no matter how strange the orders, we get God’s results. Which would you rather have?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Really Matters

I awoke to a driving rain pelting my bedroom window. It was early for this writer; it was not yet 10:00 AM. My internal alarm clock goes off at 10:30…almost every day. So, something was interrupting my beauty sleep.

I jumped out of bed and peeked through the window. The young trees in our neighbor’s backyard were bent at a 90-degree angle. For a moment I thought I must have woken up on the east coast and was experiencing the hurricane that had just whipped through. No, I was still in Wisconsin. Still in my own bed in my own bedroom experiencing weather rarely seen in this neck of the woods.

I jumped out of bed and just as I did, the power went out. The wind was fierce, making me think a tree branch would enter my private abode, uninvited. I looked out our other window. The patio table was rooted firmly in place and the trampoline seemed steadfast.

I quickly dressed then awoke the sick sleeping child in the room next to mine. I had not yet heard the warning sirens, but expectation caused me to err on the side of caution.

We snuggled on the couch and looked out our living room picture window at the angry, menacing sky. It took all of an hour for the worst of the storm to pass.

Giving my son some medicine, we headed upstairs where I could get him to snuggle back in and hopefully ditch his cold. I stopped to glance out the front door. Our trampoline was overturned and stood on its side up against a tree. I smiled and followed my son up the stairs.

He fell asleep in the relative safety of his mother’s arms.

A short time later, the phone rang. My husband decided to come home early to assess the damage and, even though he didn’t say so, to reassure himself that his family was safe.

After righting the trampoline, which has extensive damage, we decided to go for lunch. With the power out, cooking was not an option. I was thankful I had not yet grocery shopped. Less food to worry about spoiling.

After eating lunch with our daughter and son-in-law, we ran a few errands. One of which was a stop at a bookstore where we were delighted to see copies of my novel on the bookshelves.

We spoiled ourselves with a cup of coffee and then headed home.

It was a quiet evening. My husband, son and I played Sorry, Battleship and Aggravation, all by candlelight. Our son won all three games (after quite a few tears on the part of my son, I do admit to stacking the deck when I drew a sorry card and his was the only piece I could put back. I had already put him back several times and I just didn’t have the heart to do it again. That was the only cheating…promise!).

For the first time in months, we were all in bed by 10:30 PM. My husband and son were in our bed…and I was in the twin bed in my son’s room. He is used to sleeping with a nightlight. I am used to sleeping with a fan. There was nothing to drown out the noises of the night. Nor was there anything to soften the snores coming from my husband’s side of the bed.

(Three lit candles made our bathroom not so "scary!")

I stayed up reading by a little flashlight. I was reminded of my youth when I would hide under the covers, reading until the wee hours of the night. Not much as changed there. I still love to read.

Not only was there no fan, there was no air conditioning. It was getting hot. I moved to the couch on the main level. It was cooler there. I started in on my second book.

At 2:00 AM, the servicemen finally arrived. Chain saws and intercom voices carried in the still night. My flashlight shone on.

At 3:15, my eyes no longer battling the fatigue of my body, I headed for the comfort of the twin bed. Three minutes later our power roared to life. I turned out the bathroom light, turned on my son’s fan and curled up and went to sleep.

For the relatively low cost of a trampoline, my family turned off all electronics and spent an entire evening being in one another’s company. What started off as complaining on the part of our son because the playstation was unusable, turned into one the “best nights ever.” This evening, he even asked if we could do it again.

Thank you Lord for reminding us of what is important. Thank you for keeping us safe. Lord, I ask that you comfort every family who felt the impact of the hurricane. Lord, those who have lost loved ones, homes, belongings…Lord…be their peace. Be their strength. Be their joy. In the precious name of Your Son, Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Full is Your Glass?

Is your glass half empty or half full?

Recently someone gave my husband and I a Word of encouragement. She felt the Word was to be given to our church, but she told us that she especially felt this Word was meant for us.

I asked her for a copy of it and read the printed out version a few times. My husband nudged me and smiled when he read the line “Some here are feeling like they may have misunderstood God’s voice.” We both chuckled. I do this.

A couple of lines later was this sentence “Now your finances have bottomed out.”

I contemplated this line. “Well, that’s not us” I told my husband. Every other part of the Word I get…but not that one.

I continued to pray on it through the afternoon. Listening to the voice of God, I hear His still small voice say to me “through the world’s eyes, your finances have bottomed out. You choose not to see it this way.”

Dawning…I get it. Ok, so robbing Paul to pay Peter in every conceivable way (and some not so conceivable), writing out a check for the water bill because it’s due with no grace period and there is still four days till payday…is finances bottomed out?

This is how I was looking at it. “Wow. Danny has had a few good weeks of sales. Things are really looking up. We’re doing great. We’ll have the money to get gas, buy groceries and pay some bills on Friday. Way cool!”

I tend to always see the glass as half full. Sometimes my glass is full and overflowing. I identify will with Pollyanna. Have you watched that movie lately?

This is an excerpt from the movie. The scene is between Pollyanna and the Reverend. His sermon topics centered on preaching hell and damnation…and always centered on the negative. Here is some dialogue from the movie:

Pollyanna: There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that? (He was studying the Word, preparing for his sermon on Sunday)
Reverend: No, I didn’t know that.
Pollyanna: Yes, well there are. And do you know, my father said that if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.

I love this movie. I own it. I watch it every now and again. It’s about a little girl who is orphaned when her missionary parents are killed. She goes and lives with her aunt who is rich, seems to have everything, and yet is soured toward life. She runs the town with an iron fist, everyone is afraid of her and everyone, including the Reverend does her bidding.

Along comes Pollyanna. She’s positive about everything, always finding the good where seemingly good cannot be found. A common phrase of hers in the movie is “I found something to be glad about.”

Being positive is a choice. As is being negative. It is learned behavior. We can choose to see possibility in things. We can choose to find the good versus the bad. We can choose to be joyful. We can choose to believe, and be optimistic.

Nothing gets me more than a person who counters something good, something I am excited about, with information to bring me back to reality. Like it’s their job to keep me grounded!

I came to the point when I stopped sharing exciting news with certain people. Almost always, they would counter with some negative comment.

Being optimistic not only makes you more fun to be around, but studies show that optimists tend to outperform pessimists in all respects.

According to one study pessimists are up to 8 times more likely to become depressed when bad events occur; they do worse at school, sports, and most jobs than their talents would suggest; they have worse physical health and shorter lives; they have rockier relationships.

Really? Why would someone choose to be negative? Not me!

I’ll keep on wearing my rose colored glasses…how about you?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Brain Test...It's Alive!

A week ago a friend of mine shared the results and the link to a brain test she took. Since it’s taking me forever to finish a couple of profound (at least to me) posts that I have been working on and since there is no completion day in sight, I decided to take the test myself. Let’s see how accurate this test is.

Darlene, you show a slight right-hemisphere dominance with a moderate preference for auditory processing, an unusual and somewhat paradoxical combination of characteristics.

(Huh? Thought I was visual…that’s weird)

You are drawn to a random and sometimes nonchalant synthesis of material.
(Can someone please tell me what this means?)
You learn as it seems important to a specific situation, and might even develop a resentment of others who attempt to direct your learning down a specific channel.

(Yeah, I can see that!)

Your right-hemispheric dominance provides a structure that is only loosely organized and one which processes entire swatches of reality, overlooking details.

(I am a big picture person)

You are emotional in your reactions and perceptual more than logical in your approach, although you can impose structure and a language base when necessary.

(This could be arguable since in the past I have been told “You have no emotions, you are as cold as a stone.”)

Your auditory preference, on the other hand, implies that you process information sequentially and unidimensionally.

(Does this mean I am a math person? Cause I am definitely a math person and a language person…those two are not often paired together.)
This combination of right-brain and auditory modes creates conflict, as you want to process data more rapidly than your natural processes allow.

(No comment)

Your tendency to be creative and free-flowing is accompanied by sufficient ability to organize and be logical, allowing you a reasonable degree of success in a number of different endeavors.

(I like where this is going)

You take in information methodically and systematically which can then be synthesized rapidly. In this manner, you manage to function consistently well, although certainly less efficiently than you desire.

(I do like order…love lists. I have many lists. Sometimes I re-do lists to make them more organized!)

You prefer the abstract and are a theoretician at heart while retaining the ability to be practical.

(Not abstract art…right? Cause I do not like abstract art!)

You find the symbolism in a great deal of what you encounter and are something of a "mystic."

(No, not mystic. Not at all. Jesus all the way!)

With regards to your lifestyle, you have the mentality which would be good as a philosopher, writer, journalist, or instructor, or possibly as a systems designer or social worker.

(Everything but systems designer sounds about right. Computers are aliens to me. My work with aliens is based on a limited understanding of their language!)

Perhaps most important is your ability to "listen to your inner voice" as a mode of skipping over unnecessary steps to achieve your goals.

(Great place to end. The Holy Spirit. Love the Holy Spirit!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So, you're religious. Good for you!

Last night after church we had a stop to make. I won’t mention where to protect the guilty. But, upon arriving at our destination, we casually mentioned we had just got out of Bible study and the person to whom we were commenting said, “I’m religious too.”

As we were driving, I asked my husband “I’m religious too? What does that mean?”

I shook my head and continued on to pick up a few groceries.

Fast forward to today. I am reading a comment left by someone reviewing my novel. In her review, she states, “I’m a religious person too.” Here it is again. I had planned on writing something entirely different for today’s post. Plans change. God was clearly leading me to write on a different topic altogether. Being religious.

Religious as a noun means:

1.a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

So, you call yourself religious. Good for you. Now, what exactly does that mean to you?
The definition above says being religious is centered around a set of beliefs, so, what do you believe? Do you worship the sun? The moon? Money? Football? The earth? Trees? Animals? Yourself? Well, what do you worship?

Religious can mean so many different things. It’s such a generic term. There is nothing personal about being religious. A religious person can be a muslim, a hindu, a buddhist, a scientologist, Jewish, or a host of other things. I don’t consider myself religious. I want to be more than just “religious.”

This is religious!

What did Jesus have to say about being religious? The Pharisees and the Sadducees were religious. Let’s take a look at what Jesus said about them. In Matthew 12:34, he called them a brood of vipers and evil. In Luke 11:39, He called them full of greed and wicked. In Matthew 12:39, He called them an evil and adulterous generation.

I don’t know about you, but being religious doesn’t sound too appealing.

To me, being religious is like being lukewarm. You don’t want people to think you aren’t a Christian, yet you aren’t enough of a Christian to want to shout it from the mountaintops. Revelation 3:15-16 states, I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

A little further down in verse 19, this is what is written, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

If not religious, then what? For starters, determine if you are a follower of Christ. If you have decided to live for Him, then start living like He is worth dying for. If you have called yourself a religious person, and you always thought that meant being a Christian, you now know it does not. Do as verse 19 tells you, and repent. Repent for being lukewarm. Repent for acknowledging God yet not making Him Lord of your life.

Sometimes, not even the term Christian is used properly. As followers of Christ, we are to have an intimate relationship with our Savior and Lord, the one who took every sin, sickness, hurt, pain and tear for us on a cross at Calvary. He gave His life so that we might live.

Stop being religious, stop pretending to be something you are not. Either jump in with both feet, or leave the pool. He wants our everything, he wants us fully devoted to Him.

I always think of the coolest things to say after I leave the conversation. Like “Oh, I’m not religious, I’m a Christian.” What is your reaction when someone tells you they are religious? Do you have something standard that you say back? I’d love to hear about your experiences with this subject.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grocery Store Blues

I try and grocery shop when I am alone. Sometimes, this is not possible. Like today. Today I ran into the grocery store to grab a few things and in tow were my 8-year-old son and a 43-year-old kid (the husband). These two have been know to race up and down aisles searching for me, making a game of finding me first.

Often times it’s the 8-year-old that finds me first and how do I know this? The same reason everyone else in the store knows this…he shrieks, “I found her” and takes off at a full run, trying to beat his dad.

Another reason I prefer to shop alone is, to an 8-year-old boy, everything, and I mean everything is shaped like a weapon. The Pringles can is a high-powered rifle, the tuna fish can is a grenade and the zucchini makes a great pistol. Every item I put into the cart makes it’s way into the rotation of being a weapon. I draw the line at the bread. I don’t like squished bread.

The above scenarios are really not all that unpleasant. There are times when I grin and enjoy having the “guys” with me. Other times, I like the relative quiet of shopping alone. It’s rare that I get time by myself.

The biggest argument for me not taking my son with me is what I find in the grocery lane checkouts. It doesn’t matter what store I go into, it’s all the same. The checkout lane is lined with women, scantily dressed, often times in bikinis, directly in the line of vision of my eight-year-old son. Gossip magazines, In Shape magazine, Glamour, you name it, it’s there. I have had words with managers over Cosmopolitan magazine. Having a young reader, I don’t particularly care for the naked women gracing their front covers telling my son “how to have great sex!”

Yesterday, as I was standing in line waiting for my turn to be waited on, my eyes roamed the racks in front of me. In the midst of the “soft porn” was a magazine called In Touch. On the cover was someone named Teresa posing with her daughter and her dog. I have no idea who she is or why she is famous. I do know this, the quote under her picture, made me very sad. It read “I am terrified of being poor.”

I admit, being broke is no fun. But, does it terrify me? No.

It is no wonder we read in 1 Tim 6:10 (NKJV) “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”

When we put our hope, faith, trust, self worth, identity, and value in money, it is no wonder the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. When we determine who is worth being associated with based on how much money they have, we have issues. When our bank account tells us “You don’t have to be afraid anymore”, we are under a huge illusion of where the source of our security lies. When we justify sinning, going directly against the Word of God because our security lies in money, we are telling God, “You are not big enough to handle my issues.”

I am not opposed to having money in the bank. As a matter of fact, I highly recommend that anyone and everyone take Financial Peace University. I believe in the principles taught by Dave Ramsey in this course. I am not opposed to wealth or having abundance. Someday my husband and I will build our dream home, indoor pool and all. Yes, we will enjoy it. But, will it be my source of security? I pray the answer to that question will always be a resounding no.

God is the giver of all good gifts. He is our provider. He sustains us. He clothes us. He feeds us. He has shed his own blood for us. My one source of security is Him. Nothing else can compare. Nothing else will do.

Teresa, whoever you are, I am praying for you. Your hope is in finding the One who can take you through every heartache, every hurt and give you peace that passes all understanding.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Excess Baggage

Perhaps one of the most expensive components of taking a vacation is getting to and from the place you are going.

It seems everything is a factor. Recently I have been checking on prices for rental cars. I tried looking up prices online and was astounded to see the current rate in the Fox Valley area was around $100 a day. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor and reattach it to my head! The price of fuel is through the roof.

Next, I looked at the airlines. It has been a while since I have flown. What amazed me was the fact that a traveler must pay extra to take baggage. It used to be a person could take two bags with and each had to be less than 50 lbs. Then, that changed to one bag at 50lbs. Now, American Airlines charges $25 for the first bag? Has it really been that long since I have flown? Yikes!

One thing led to the next and the next and as most of you who know me know, my brain can really jump from topic to topic. I ended up pondering the word baggage.

Baggage is defined as:

1. trunks, suitcases, etc., used in traveling; luggage.
2. the portable equipment of an army.
3. things that encumber one's freedom, progress, development, or adaptability; impediments: intellectual baggage that keeps one from thinking clearly; neurotic conflicts that arise from struggling with too much emotional baggage.

I started to wonder, what if God started charging us for all the extra baggage we insist on carrying with us all the time?

Why do we Christians insist on letting our past dictate who we are today? Yes, the events of the past should help us grow, become stronger and initiate change that is necessary for us to become the person/s God has ordained for us to be. Unfortunately, many Christians today choose to dwell in the past. We relive our painful pasts day after day. We let the baggage from our past keep us from the blessings God has for us.

Let’s say we take a walk and we pass 100 people on our journey. It’s guaranteed that each person we pass has a past that includes pain and trouble of some kind. The homeless man lost his wife in a fire while he was at work, now he faces each day with a bottle in a brown bag. The lady who is yelling at her kids doesn’t know any different, she was abused herself as a child. The women in the business suit had three miscarriages. The man driving the fancy sports car is lonely and has not a friend in the world he can trust. The Word says we WILL have trouble in this life. Trouble is not unique to you and I. It knocks on everyone’s door at some point in life.

The question is, what do we do with it once it knocks? How do we react? How do we let it affect us? How long do we let it affect us? Why should we Christians be different? The answer is as simple: Christ.

In John 16:33 Jesus himself says this: These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

We should be finding our peace solely in Him. Not in having the perfect childhood, money, plenty of food or lots of material possessions. All those things are immaterial. They have no bearing on eternity.

When we accepted Christ, we were supposed to hand all of our baggage over to him. He took it all upon Himself when he willingly put himself on the cross. Why do we insist on taking it back?

When our world is falling apart around us, we need to look to Him. I ask you this, is there something you have been holding on to? Something you should have given Christ when you stood before the cross? He is still willing to take that thing. Give it to Him and know peace.

If God was charging for all the excess baggage you are carrying…how much would you owe?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A High Class Bathroom!

I love all of God’s creation. I love to gaze upon the mountains. I love to listen to the ocean and watch the sunset over the horizon. I love forests and meadows, rivers and lakes, the wind and the sun. I love people (well, I’m trying!) and I love the creatures He made to roam the earth. Of all creation, one thing is my favorite. Flowers. I love them. I love flower gardens, wild flowers, bouquets and even the occasional dandelion that my son brings me.

I love their distinct smells. In the spring I can’t get enough of lilacs. I have to say I have clipped a few without permission in days past. The smell of roses nearly brings me to my knees. Hyacinths…what can I say? I have to have at least one potted plant in my home in the spring. Have to!

At the Farmer’s Market in Green Bay, a person can buy huge bouquets of wildflowers. They take my breath away. They are vibrant and bold. I have this wide mouthed vase that I love setting on a decorative table with these particular flowers in it. A mirror hangs about this table perfectly reflecting the flowers. Sometimes I will stand there, staring, thanking God for his beautiful creation.

Of all the types of flowers, none brings me quite as much joy as the ones my husband brings me. It’s usually a complete surprise, I open the door…he’s holding a beautiful bouquet of long red-stemmed roses adorned with baby’s breath and ferns. He runs his hand through his rakishly disheveled hair and smiles…whoa! Wake up Darlene. That has NEVER happened.

All right, this is the point in the post where I must say I love my husband. Very much. He perfectly completes me. He loves me. He is a wonderful father, a great husband, a wonderful provider. He is so many things! One thing he is not is a good “flower” giver.

When it comes to the “love languages”, he and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. He needs words of encouragement, affirmation and respect. I need gifts. LOL Yep, I like presents. They don’t have to be expensive presents. They don’t have to be fancy. For whatever reason, my psyche recognizes love through gifts.

What is a woman to do? I have asked for flowers. I have left subtle hints (okay, maybe not so subtle hints): You haven’t brought me flowers recently…or it’s been six months (who’s counting?) since you brought me flowers. On occasion my pleas go unnoticed. Other times, I will receive a little bouquet he picks up at the grocery store. (True, they have no scent, but at least they look pretty!) I am appeased for a while.

Fast forward to today. Imagine my surprise when I go into the bathroom to clean and see my favorite wide mouthed vase, not full of glorious flowers, like it is intended for, but housing the toilet brush! WHAT???? YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME?????? I’ll give you one guess who did that!

I can hear him now “This vase doesn’t get used very often. Might as well put it to good use!” I wonder why?!!! Talk about the dog house. That man is in deep doo doo!

Lord, thank you for my husband. Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Peace, Doubt and Forgiveness

A friend of mine, Jessica Patch, (you can click on her link to the right under the blogs I follow) wrote about peace last Wednesday on her blog. She talked of Gideon and the Midianites, about the Angel of the Lord sitting under the terebinth tree, without a care in the world and seemingly oblivious to all the turmoil going on around him.

I could go on and on about her post, but she did such a great job you should go and read it. When you are done, come back. I want to pick up where she left off.

Wasn’t it great? I agree. In fact, I had my hubby read it when he got home from work. It was perfectly relevant to what is going on in our lives.

Peace in the midst of troubles? Peace during a storm? Peace during a war, with bullets flying all around? Peace when all is lost? Peace when there is no food in the cupboard and nothing left in the piggy bank? Peace when a loved one suddenly dies? Peace in tribulations, trials and persecution?

Yes. Peace is possible in every one of those situations, and more. If Christ is our center, our eye of the storm, we can rely upon Him for perfect peace that passes all understanding.

As we were discussing Jessica’s post and God’s plans for Gideon I expressed doubts about what God’s plan are for my life. My husband asked me this, “Don’t you believe everything God has spoken over you? Do you doubt the prophecies? You know what is coming, don’t you?”

I pondered his question, “Yes, I know everything that has been said, but was it really God? What if it wasn’t God? How do I know it was God?” I continued “I mean, it was so easy for all the guys in the Old Testament. They had burning bushes, angels sitting under trees and ladders appearing out of nowhere. Their sacrifices were consumed by fire coming out of heaven and idols were toppled. Seas parted and manna rained from heaven. They knew it was God who was directing them. What do I have?”

A couple of days after reading Jessica’s post, I sat down with the book of Judges and began reading. I read the scriptures she quoted and I kept on reading. Then I read this:

Judges 6:17 “Then he (Gideon) said to Him, "If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me.”

What? This is Gideon talking. He questioned God too? This blew a whole clean through my theory of all the patriarchs in the Old Testament knowing for sure that they were hearing from God.

Wait, there is more. Gideon prepares an offering. Fire comes down from heaven and consumes it. He still questions God and puts before Him the fleece test. Twice!

Judges 6:36-38 (NKJV) So Gideon said to God, "If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said-- 37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said." 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water.

At this point, I can hear the excuses that Gideon made to himself. Because I am pretty sure that I would have come up with the same ones.

He looks at the water collected and looked around for the prankster. Someone took a bucket of water and poured it on the fleece after I went to bed. That must be it!

Ok, God, don’t get mad at me…but can you show me one more time? Please? I just want to be sure it’s you. And the second fleece test is put before God.

This information gave me pause. But Lord? Those miracles were obvious. Why didn’t Gideon believe?

The Lord spoke to my heart. “And what do you have that Gideon didn’t have?”

“What do you mean what do I have? I have something that Gideon didn’t have?”

“What does My Word say you have?”

More than a thousand years after Gideon, Jesus is born of a virgin. He does what he came to do…die on a cross and be resurrected. He sends the comforter.

Yes, the patriarchs had angels, and signs and wonders…but they didn’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

The Holy Spirit, God Himself, lives within me and still yet…I doubt?

Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NIV)

My heart heavy, I hang my head. “Lord, we are all the same. We have everything we need to believe in You and Your promises and yet we still find cause to doubt.”

“Father, forgive me.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Do We Do What We Do?

My husband has an aversion to mowing the lawn. I won’t say he hates it (only because he insists his aversion is not that strong). But, he barely tolerates it.

Now, imagine the neighborhood in which we live. We are surrounded by obsessive-compulsive lawn mowing people. Yes, at every side, whichever way we turn, someone is moving their lawn…for the second time that week.

As my husband and I were driving through our neighborhood he commented, “everyone’s lawn is so nice and well maintained.”

I rolled my eyes “except for one, dear, except for one.”

Watching our neighbors obsess over their lawns has become a sort of cheap entertainment for us. At least once a week, we get a good chuckle from them.

This morning topped it all. I had just finished up my alone time with the Lord, I was drinking my tea and pondering the words I had just read when to my delight, I see one of my neighbors on her riding lawn mower. I smiled. Their lawn was already shorter than ours (it’s been a week since our last mow). They have a large yard and their normal mode of operation is to take that riding lawn mower in a large square working their way from the outside in. Riding around and around until the job is complete. Makes sense to me.

Well, this morning something changed. Instead of riding around and around, this person was trying to mow their very large backyard at a diagonal…on a riding mower. Laughter erupted as the show began. It took me a few minutes to figure out what she was doing. She was backing up and then moving forward, then backing up and moving forward and then I saw the pattern. I saw the diagonal lines that somehow “up” the social status of those residing in such residences. We are still lowly “get it mowed as fast as you can” kind of people.

Obviously, my husband feels absolutely no pressure, whatsoever, to keep up with the obsessive people all around us. He cares not one whit that his lawn is longer than everyone else’s. Nor does he care what angle he cuts at. He keeps the yard tidy. It’s neat. He does not obsess over it.

I want to clarify something. I love a beautiful yard. I am not opposed to doing a good job on your lawn. But, I have to ask myself…why do we do the things we do? What drives us? Who are we trying to impress?

Do we obsess over our lawn because we truly love to be outside, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and want a Garden of Eden type setting? Do we measure our grass with a ruler to make sure it never exceeds the 2-inch limit because God added that as the 13th commandment? Or do we obsess over things because we are trying to impress or “out do” our next-door neighbor?

What is behind what we do? What is our motivation in doing these things? What should be our motive in doing all things?

Colossians 3:23 and 24 states this: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I may not obsess about my yard, but it would seem my heart needs a good mowing every day! Weeds need to be pulled; thorns and over growth cut down. The junkyard junk hauled away as God renews and restores me to what He has called me to be.

To answer the question, “Why do we do what we do?” All we have to do is look at the condition of our hearts.

I recently asked Him this: “Am I ever going to get there?”

His answer: “No, but I am going to use you anyway.”

Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy. Surely I would be lost without them.

What are you obsessive about? Is it a good obsessive? Or not? Why?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tag...You're It!

Well, it’s Monday, July 4th! Happy Fourth of July. Thank God that you live in a country that, while in desperate need of Godly restoration, is still free. Blessings to you and your family.

I have a rather fun blog post today. Apparently, I was playing tag with some fellow bloggers (no wonder I got caught…I didn’t know I was playing, no fair Brandi!) and now I am it. Beware; if you are a blogger and I follow you, you are now playing tag.

According to the rules, I must answer the following six questions:

1. Do you think you’re hot?

Do I think it? Hello! I know it! Every single night I wake up, sweating because my hair is long, hanging around my neck and bugging me. It makes me wake up and say…I am SOOOO HOT! So, Yeah…I’m hot!

2. Upload a picture of the wallpaper you are using.

Okay…I can do that.

3. When was the last time you ate chicken?

I ate this amazing chicken dish last the other night for supper. I layered a casserole dish with stuffing, sautéed onions and chicken breasts to which I added a gravy base, topped the whole thing off with some fresh parmesan cheese and baked it. Absolutely delish. Hubby loved it too…which of course made me even hotter! ;)

4. What song or songs have you listened to recently?

Lately I have been on a kick listening to Brian and Ramey Whalen and Let Our Praises Rise. An awesome call to battle. I am going to try and post it here. But, like Brandi, I am not altogether tech savvy. We’ll see!

5. Do you have any nicknames? If so, what are they?

Darn. Do I really have to answer this one? Well, my first nickname is lene. That isn’t so bad, just the last four letters of my name. But, I have another that my grandmother used to call me by, and an aunt or two that still call me by, which is wiener. I do not know how that happened, but they used that name for me from the time I was a little girl. Do not attempt to call me by that and expect me to answer. Ain’t happenin!

6. Tag five fellow bloggers:

No pressure or anything, but I think if I shared "wiener" with you, you should have to share as well! I will try and list their links. I'm technically challenged, so hopefully it works!

First, Amanda Stephan, author of the awesome novel, The Price of Trust and a great all round friend. I have enjoyed getting to know her and I'm proud to call her friend!

Second, I give you Shawn Boreta. This woman is full of the love and grace of God. Her words inspire me; spur me to a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with Christ. I have gotten to know Shawn through Facebook and am thankful that God's divine purpose included our paths crossing.

Third on my list is Faith Tydings, author of the delightful children's book, A Little Yellow Star. Faith is quirky and fun. You will delight in reading her tales of being a wife, mother and an author.

Fourth is Kristi Burchfiel, author of "Without Regrets: A Study of Ecclesiastes," "The Daily Devotional Series: Gospel of John," and "The Decay Within: A Study of Amos." Kristi's daily devotions are a great way to begin your day!

Fifth is Toni Nelson, author of Beggars Purse, a wonderful memoir of growing up with her grandparents and their compassion with the "hobos" as Toni calls them in her book. On her blog you will find wonderful reviews and author interviews. Enjoy!

Finally I would like to introduce you to Lisa Tortorello, author of My Hero, My Ding a memoir of a girl and her grandfather. I met Lisa at a author event in June of this year. What a blessing that was! Enjoy!

Obviously my links did not work, so I made sure each blogger's blog is listed under blogs I follow. Faith's is the blog about hats, Toni's is Press On and Shawn's is Giving Thanks Daily. I think the rest you can find by name.

Have a wonderful day!