Gerbil Devotions

In this blog section, Traci writes about her daily walk and lessons learned as together we work to change caged gerbils into dogs at the Master’s knee. Come back often to enjoy her latest article.

Hot Chocolate

Posted by on 3:58 pm in Blog | 0 comments

hot chocolate“I remember the first time we met,” Greg was saying. “There was a terrible snow storm and Mom was home from work. I must have been four ‘cause it was right after we moved here. Anyway, she bundled me up like an Eskimo and shoved me out the door for some fresh air. I think she was tired of all my horsing around,” he chuckled.

            The hot steam circled slowly above the ceramic mug he had wrapped his long, slender fingers around. He held the cup near his face breathing in the sweet aroma of chocolate and marshmallow. His eyes closed gently as a smile played at the corner of his mouth.

He exhaled and started again, “I met Sarah that day, too. All of the neighbor kids were out playing; I suppose all the moms on the street were ready for a break. Sarah offered to let me ride down the hill on her sled. She showed me how to steer by pushing on the front bar with my feet. We flew down the hill twenty times at least. Sarah was bigger, of course, so she pulled the sled up the hill. She always was a trooper.”

Greg rearranged his feet on the stool and wrapped the blanket a little more snugly around his legs. “Do you need more chocolate?” he asked the man in the overstuffed armchair.

“No, I’m fine, thanks; mine’s still full. I remember that day too. Your mom invited all of the kids in for hot chocolate.”

“Yes, she did,” Greg agreed thoughtfully. “It was the first time I had met any of the kids and I think she was trying to help me fit in. You were there, too, sitting across from Jim Harvey.”

A quiet knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Greg turned in the chair and saw Sarah peeking in, “I need to come in for a bit, sorry.”

“No, no, come on in,” Greg motioned for her to join them.

Sarah walked noiselessly into the dim room. “I smell chocolate,” she sniffed.

“Marshmallows, too,” Greg nodded. “They smell better than the flowers her office sent.”

“They’re pretty though,” Sarah said as she rearranged the long stems of pink carnations and baby’s breath. “They remind me of school dances,” she smiled.

“Hmm, my first school dance was a winter formal,” Greg reminisced. “It started snowing during the dance and really poked it down! Mom hadn’t taught me how to drive in snow yet, so when I went out to the car I was scared.” Greg sipped his cocoa and then licked marshmallow crème off his upper lip.

“I used the pay phone in the gym to call Mom so she could come get me, but she told me I had to learn sometime and no time like the present. Mrs. Harvey was driving Jim home, he wasn’t old enough yet to drive, so she told me to follow her and stay in her tracks.”

“And we had hot chocolate when you got home that time, too,” the man nodded.

“Yes, you’re right,” Greg agreed.

“Hmm?” Sarah raised her head to look at Greg.

“Hot chocolate,” he repeated. “I had hot chocolate when I got back home. Mom had it all laid out on the table. I guess she was nervous about me driving home, too.”

“You have no idea,” Sarah sighed. “She was always nervous about you driving, and then you took off for college in the mountains. She and I shared a lot of hot cocoa that first year.”

“Of college?” Greg asked.

“No,” Sarah shook her head, “the first year of this; the last year of college.”

“Right,” Greg said as he looked at the small woman wrapped in quilts lying on the metal bed by the windows. “It was good of you to watch over her while I was away. She always liked you. She’s always had a knack for knowing who the good people are.”

The room grew quiet again. Frost bit at the window panes trying to eat its way into the darkening house. The two men sipped their mugs of chocolate and watched the bony form of the woman shift under the weight of the quilts.

“I’ll stay as long as you like,” the older man said.

“I know,” Greg said looking away from the bed.

Sarah glanced at Greg and walked over to the hot pot on the sideboard. “I think I will join you for some after all,” she said as she poured a steaming mug and added three large marshmallows.

“You really load it on, huh?” Greg grinned as she sat down on the piano bench that had been pulled in for extra visitors.

“I love a good mug. Your mom taught me how to do it perfectly,” Sarah added as she inhaled the pleasant aroma. “It warms you from the heart, she always said. She was right, too,” Sarah smiled at Greg. “It’s nearly time, you know.”

“Yes, I know. I just need one more mug,” Greg whispered.

Sarah took his favorite cup and refreshed it from the pot. “Here,” she said, “One more.”

They slowly sipped the richness until every last drop was drained. The man was standing by her bedside now and he scooped her slender frame up in his arms. She barely stirred.

“I’ll join you for some more chocolate whenever you like,” the gentleman said tenderly as he turned to walk out the door.

“She’s gone,” Sarah’s voice cracked as she put the cup tenderly on the table.

“I know,” Greg said to both of them, as he began pouring another cup.

 Let my prayer be accepted as sweet-smelling incense in your presence. Let the lifting up of my hands in prayer be accepted as an evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2

God’s Glory on the New Jersey Turnpike

Posted by on 9:32 pm in Blog | 0 comments

So a few days ago I told you God was sending me to New Jersey, and I pulled a definite Moses on him. I found many reasons not to go, the best one being it SNOWS there! I was having a dream, but my astonishment at going to NJ of all places was very real.        New Jersey

Now we are in the season of Lent, a time that, for me, is focusing on my willingness to follow wherever God may send. The great thing about God, besides the whole GOD thing, is that he doesn’t ask of us anything he wouldn’t do himself.

What I do is nothing compared to what God does. I take care of my kids. I read to the elderly. I sponsor a child in Swaziland. I pass the homeless on the street and seldom even notice. I see the handicapped and perhaps stop to hold a door open. I see a broken-down car and heartlessly offer no help.

God helps everyone. He sends the sunshine and the rain on the just and the unjust. He cares for the widows and orphans. He heals the sick and lame. He offers salvation to the stinky, smelly, drug addict and the alcoholic and the wife beater and the child molester. . . and to blind me.

Jesus washed nasty toenails yellowed with fungus. He cleaned filth-encrusted feet that stank of the sewage in the streets. NASTY (much worse than New Jersey!), but Jesus did it. He drew no lines. He placed his hands on the leprous, sat with the town prostitute, and cried over the hurting masses that thronged him. Why? John 17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”

I have a friend who often goes through the drive-thru for breakfast at McDonald’s. It is a large, double-lane drive-thru and so there are several customers pulling through at once. My friend will pay for his meal and then also for the customer in line behind him. That is a very kind thing to do, certainly helping the person behind him to start off the day with a little beam of sunshine. One might even say that my buddy looks like Jesus at that moment.

My friend, however, is the first to admit that he stops looking like Jesus as soon as he pulls forward, because he looks in the rear-view mirror of his car. Why? To make sure that the people behind know who did this for them. Jesus gave everything he had and asked only that his Father be given the glory.

That is the second initiative of my Lent mission this year. I want to be ready to go wherever and whenever the Master should send, but I want to do it only because of who he is, for his glory. I don’t want to do it to help someone else. I don’t want to do it to be a blessing for someone. I don’t even want to do it because God asks me to do it. I want to do it only because God is GOD.

 

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

Cleaning Lent

Posted by on 8:59 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Great Britain Trip 5-14 289Lent season has sprung on me like Hobbes waiting for Calvin after school. Hunkered down under a sheet of ice, it is difficult to imagine that spring is around the corner. Oddly enough, I am wearing my Lent sweater from last year on this, the first day, of Lent. By Easter last year I was sure I would never wear it again!

I want to celebrate Lent again this year, so I have a new sacrifice: I plan to live as if this world is not my home. “Excuse me,” you ask. “how do you plan to do that?” Well here is my thought process:

I have lived in this house for ten years. Ten years is a very long time in the life of a student/preacher. So for the first fourteen years of our marriage we moved seven times. This is the longest I have ever lived anywhere, except for the house I grew up in, which lasted eleven years.

Being a rolling stone really does keep you free of moss: read that as you don’t keep much junk around. Staying put for ten years while your babies grow up, develop interests, and become hoarders, means you are not ready to pack up. In fact, you dread the very idea of such.

For those who suddenly gasped in fear or excitement, NO we are not moving!

But as I thought about Jesus and the Lenten season, I realized that it is not only about his forty-day temptation in the desert wilderness, but his lifelong temptation to make this world home, and the final sacrifice that allowed him to once again experience his eternal and rightful home. And that was what led me to the conclusion that I have enjoyed this home too long. I have become comfortable and complacent.

I had a dream recently that I was having a conversation with God. He asked me to go somewhere for him. I gladly agreed to go anywhere he would ask. I even made suggestions: Africa, Europe, Asia. . . Each was brushed aside until God interrupted and said, “I want you to go to New Jersey.”

“What?! New Jersey!?” I exclaimed. I came up with all sorts of reasons that I should NOT go to New Jersey – crime, traffic, snow, ugly industrialization – until finally I acquiesced and agreed to go to New Jersey. But when I awoke I began to look around and realize that I am not living like I am ready to go at the beck and call of my Master.

So that is why I am spending this Lent cleaning. I have made a list of forty places that need to be cleaned out. They run the gamut from big endeavors (the barn and workshop are going to take a while) to small items (the make-up and hair accessories drawer) and even to the technical (email and my computer programs as well as my phone pictures).

The lessons I learned last year are still knocking around my brain, which thankfully means the clothes drawers and closet shouldn’t be too difficult to clear out, and I am anxious to see what I learn this year. If you too are feeling like where you are is just right, then Goldilocks, you might want to grab a garbage bag and start cleaning with me! Let me know if you want to join in and compare notes.

This world is not my home. I’m just a’passing through . . .

So Many Books

Posted by on 12:44 am in Blog | 0 comments

nostalgic_books_and_picture_2_166374The moving charges were based on weight; the estimate approximated by the number of rooms in the  house. We had forgotten to add Matt’s work office where he kept most of his books. The actual charge was much higher than expected!

I guess that is a positive aspect of Kindles and Nooks; they make moving less expensive! But I really enjoy a paper and ink book. The smell of new pages, the crispness of breaking the binding (don’t tell my husband!), the weight of the book pressing against my thumb as I hold my breath in sweet anticipation are all part of the joy of reading.

The part I don’t like about reading is finding a good book. I don’t want to waste my time reading something that passes time but leaves it empty. I want reading to fill me up like a Thanksgiving feast saturating my soul with warmth and satisfaction, desiring to eat more but waiting because I still need to digest the first helping.

Last year I decided I would read a book every two weeks, even if no one had recommended the book to me. I would plunge into that new dish with only a cursory glance at the recipe and hope for the best. Here is what I read and what I decided, in case you prefer your books be served as “Chef’s Choice”.

Devotions of a Gerbil: Yes, I read my own book- to a group of elderly people at the nursing home. They didn’t know it was mine and they spent many mornings laughing and nodding. Try reading it with a group and discussing the questions. This one actually does come as a “Chef’s Choice”! ; )

The Good Earth: I read it every few years just to remind me that there is nothing new under the sun. A great book portraying Chinese culture in the early 1900s. Definitely recommend.

The Wizard of Oz: It’s not like the movie! Take it or leave it.

The Red Badge of Courage: Growing up doesn’t end when you become an “adult” and lessons in living and dying hide behind each tree. Have to be in the mood for this one.

The Giver: OK I have read this so many times I’ve lost count. Just go read it!!

Son: The sequel to The Giver; it isn’t as good, but still a worthy read. I mean, really, does anyone have two fabulous, all-time classics living inside of them? Lowry is a terrific author, though. Worth reading.

Jane Eyre: Hadn’t read this since high school but remembered I liked it. I still do. Age makes you read it with new eyes. An oldie but still a goodie, which means it has a lot of butter but that’s what makes it taste so good!

Frankenstein: I admit I had never read it and saw no reason to, but it was one of those “I’m teaching it so I guess I better read it” books. SO GLAD I DID! It’s deep, people.

Animal Farm: Another one that improves with age. I got it in high school; I felt it as an adult.

The Kite Runner: Shocking. Scary. Frustrating. Angry righteousness. I recommend it but I didn’t like it.

The Tempest: If you are into Shakespeare but don’t have much time, this is the one of choice. Imagine all of your mistakes meeting you on a seaside cliff and smacking you in the face. Good read.

Centering: Non-fiction book that examines life as clay on a potter’s wheel. It took me a while, because I was busy and because it needs time to digest, but it was worth it, though I didn’t care for the poetry portion.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay: I know I’m behind the times. They came out when I was busy raising children. If you didn’t get to read them earlier, there’s no time like the present. I mean it! Go NOW and get them. You will stay up all night reading. Guaranteed. Chef’s Choice!!

Loves God, Likes Girls: Autobiography. Easy read. Quick read. Made me think, but didn’t answer any questions. Good place to start if you are wondering about Christian homosexuals. It’s a salad so don’t expect too much.

When God Talks Back: Still working through this one; I’ll add my final response to next year’s list, but so far it is heavy and filling. It is non-fiction written by a social anthropologist looking at why evangelicals believe God hears and talks back. I’m reading it slowly because I have to think hard about it, but so far I feel impressed.

The Book Thief: One of my favorites this year! Definitely will read it again. It will make you sob from the vast beauty of the human plight to live and love no matter what. Chef’s Choice!!

The Wide Sargasso Sea: After reading Jane Eyre I decided to try this one about Mr. Rochester’s crazy wife, Bertha. It’s ok. Not a complete waste of time, but if you want sweet potatoes and peas are offered, you might be disappointed.

Anna Karenina: I’m not sure what all the hype is. Labelled a classic by those who know, but crossed off my menu.

Night: Autobiography. I liked it. If you are into the Holocaust genre you’ll enjoy it.

The New Testament NIV: Menu staple here. It won’t be cut; depend on it.

How To Win at College: Read it to get the boy ready for moving on. It had some good suggestions; I agreed with some of it, disagreed with other parts. The boy read it as part of an agreement to send him away to school and he seems to have taken away several bits.

Lent Guide: It was just that. Though it was helpful, I will look for a different one next time.

Home to Harmony: Second time reading this one. This time I read it to the old folks and we all enjoyed it. A light read for when you want a chef”s salad.

40 Days to the Joy-filled Life: The owner of our restaurant liked it better than the chef, but it was ok. If you are looking for a self-help book that still has some traces of Christianity, this is a good one.

God’s Great Blessings: A daily devotional book. Each week has a topic to explore. Good, not great.

A Year with Jesus: Another daily devotional. Anything by Peterson is thought provoking, but if you want something with substance, this is a little scarce. Good addition to other studies, not enough on it’s own. I guess it is a good appetizer, but order something else for the main course.

Around the World in 80 Days: Easy read, mind candy, weird ending. A cheeseburger and fries, nothing fancy.

Hope’s Boy: Autobiography of a man who grew up in a foster home and in the system of the 70s. Heart-wrenching and eye-opening. Good read.

The 21 Most Effective Prayers of the Bible: I enjoyed this book because it gave a biblical example of a prayer and then a modern example of the same prayer at work. Good read.

Marriage Matters: I read this to prepare for a class Matt and I were teaching. I’m not one for marriage self-help books, but this one actually had some meat to it. If you are looking for a little encouragement and insight, it’s a good one.

1000 Days in Siberia: Autobiography I found at a library sale. Worth the money and time! I have read many WW2 books over the years, but never one by a Japanese POW. It was interesting to see the war from a different perspective, and to learn the culture that got this man where he was. . . just amazing. I enjoyed the story and was surprised like a little twist of lime in the rice.

Infidel: Another autobiography, but very difficult to read because of the events. An African Muslim woman retraces her life and explains her commitment to dispelling any myths about the way women are treated. Brutal. I had a hard time reading it, though I feel more informed and think it is good I did read it in the way that an anemic person eats the liver because they know it will help.

Riding the Bus with My Sister: Autobiography that was actually quite interesting. If you know anyone with a mentally handicapped sibling, read this and see what types of issues your friend faces. Worth the time to read.

As you can see, I read more than a book every two weeks. It was like chocolate, once I got started I was hooked. At least I didn’t gain any weight from it! Enjoy a good read on me, and let me know if you have anything to suggest for me. I have already started my new list!

 

Posted by on 8:55 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreases by being shared.— Buddha

 053     I am working on a lecture that considers the idea of how many people you touch without ever knowing. While I was working this morning, my husband came in to tell me that Ted Waller had passed away earlier in the morning.

Ted, or Mr. Waller as I called him, was the father of my mother-in-law’s dear friend Carol. Ted was raised in Texas during the Great Depression by his single mother. He sold Bibles door to door where he met his angel Mary in the northern panhandle of Almost Heaven West Virginia. They married and raised a family, part of which was Carol.

Carol and her husband developed a life-long friendship with my in-laws that resulted in strong ties between their children. Carol’s husband, Larry, was a preacher. His influence on my husband spread through the years until my husband also became a preacher. Now here I am living in Greenville, NC as a preacher’s wife. It might all be due to Ted; who knows?

If I have impacted you in some small way, it might be because seventy years ago a young man, determined to spread the news of Jesus and his love of the Lord, listened to the call and knocked on that door with Bible in hand. Ted’s influence will continue to spread for many years to come. Who will be touched by you seventy years from now?

Posted by on 4:31 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Hair. It is the topic of musicals, the premise of jokes, and big business for many. Hair has to be cut, clipped, and curled. It is made into wigs, washed, and woven. Hair tells your age, says where you are from, and what your cultural ties are.

            But what hair doesn’t say is what you are on the inside.

I don’t like long hair on males. It is probably a cultural thing for me. Where I grew up men did not have long hair. So when I see men with long hair, I identify them as feminine. I know logically that it isn’t true, but my past still speaks loudly.

I like hair that doesn’t draw attention to itself. It should be clean and kempt, shining with good health, but it should not scream, “Look at me!” My sons do not hold the same beliefs.

The older son has beautiful, soft and bouncy brown hair. When he was about fifteen he played a character from the early 1800s. He was in a local theater troupe and so I allowed him to have longer hair for the part. The only problem was that he didn’t want to cut the hair afterward. It wasn’t until he discovered that local employers have similar ideas about hair as his mother that he agreed to cut it.

036

            The issue of length was solved, but the issue of color was just starting. He wanted blue hair, yes blue. And I, his mother who loved his beautiful, brown bouncy hair, agreed to color it blue – on more than one occasion. We never stripped the hair, so the blue came out sort of like a dark navy, and I tried to imagine he was Asian with really, really black hair. It was ok; I survived.

         023   The second son has luxurious, curly blond hair. When he was little he was what you call a tow-head.  Now it has turned a darker blond, almost brown. He wants it to be black. I guess it is better than blue, but I miss my sweet blond boy who looked like his mama. I agreed to color it black, but I made lots of comments about how ugly it is and I hurt his feelings.

            Then the older son came home from college for Thanksgiving and he had red hair; not an auburn or carrot-top red, but Solo-cup red! I told him he looked like Raggedy Andy. I don’t think he knew who that is.

            I asked what professors at his conservative Christian college said about his hair and the response was negative; no big surprise there. They have the same past as I do: hair should not draw attention to itself.

            But what I wonder is if the professors, the employers, even the family members are able to look at my walking Solo cup commercial and see a giant of a kid who wanted to help heart patients.

            You see, when he was working at a local restaurant there was a fund drive to raise money for kids who are heart patients. He bought brownie mix with his own money, baked the brownies, and then sold them at the restaurant to make money for the kids. Then he challenged the other workers to help with the bake sale. They offered to help IF he would color his hair whatever color they said. He agreed and last fall, while he was away at school, the other employees, after raising all the funds, called him on it.

J hair

            I still don’t like men with long hair, and I really wish my kids would keep the hair color God bestowed upon them, but what I really LOVE about my kids is that they are so much more than hair. I will try to remember that as I color that blond hair black again.

            But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the HEART.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Under Construction

Posted by on 1:57 am in Blog | 0 comments

There is a new apartment complex going in along a road I drive nearly every day. I watched intrigued this summer as dirt was pushed aside and a reservoir was dug. Large pipes were inserted into concrete foundations, walls began to rise, and men in hardhats wielded hammers big enough to see from the road. It was a very busy place.

Summer turned to autumn, and now winter’s cold winds blow across the flat coastal plains. The first of the apartments are completed. They look nice with colorful siding and brick false fronts. IMG_20150113_143528390_HDR

But some of the buildings are still in the process of being built. Insulation sheets disrupt the view, large mud flats mar the grassy scenery, and the reservoir is littered with construction materials.

As I drive by I imagine myself as the “still under construction building” facing the new building. I can see how beautiful and sturdy the new building is, and I can see all of the flaws of my own structure. How can I ever compare to the new building, I wonder. Look at my ugly insulation. Look at my covered windows. There’s no way I will ever match up to a building like that one. Who would ever want to live in me? 

IMG_20150113_143818446The new building  reassures me that it didn’t start out this way. “You weren’t around this past summer to see the ugly mud mounds, the hammering hardhats, the bare, rising walls of  my now finished building. Be patient: You, too, will one day be a finished building.”

“BUT,” the building goes on to say, “I am not yet perfect. You see that home there in front of us? It has been here for many, many years. People come and visit it, children play in its yard, and warm lights glow in it at night.”

Sometimes I am guilty of looking at more mature Christians and thinking, I will never be able to be like that. But I have to remember that I wasn’t there to see the days that they were just being built. Ground that they thought was sturdy was suddenly pushed aside and cleared. A foundation was laid and then bare wood and insulation showed. And even now, as they appear to be perfect to me, they look at another who has been in the subdivision longer than themselves, and they know they are not yet what they will one day be. We are all being built, and then renovated, by the Master Carpenter.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Light

Posted by on 8:54 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Gen 1:2-4

The shadows lengthen and Darkness falls quietly, quickly, almost imperceptibly. It is late in the year: the time when living room lamps are always lit, candles glow in the windows, and a warm fire flickers in the fireplace. Yet, the Darkness penetrates every room like a cold draft.

“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” Mk 7:20-23

Then a tiny babe brings Light and laughter into our lives. His impending arrival causes people to celebrate, rejoice, be generous, even dare to laugh at the Darkness. The babe is Light itself robed in newness that shines and sparkles and glitters dispelling the cold draft and warming each soul from its very center.

IMG_20141127_203556484

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just  a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” Jn 12:35-36

Every day following the light lasts longer, shines brighter. The nights get shorter; the darkness becomes less dreary. The Light reaches out from the child and enters the hearts of those who hold him close. Their faces glow with warmth, hope, possibilities, until the whole Earth bursts forth with his newness, his Light.

. . . shepherds who feed only themselves. . . clouds without rain. . . autumn trees without fruit. . . wild waves of the sea foaming up their shame. . . wandering stars

for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Jude

The Darkness screams in defiance. It will not be swallowed by this Light. But the child has grown stronger, no more a child, but a man, a God. Darkness attacks mercilessly, unfaintingly, completely.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has NOT overcome it. Jn 1:4-5

Yet it does not win. The Light has entered the world and Darkness must sound the retreat.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C. S. Lewis  

I believe in Jesus and I believe the Son has risen; not only because I see him, but because by him I see everything else.

Differences Do Not Define Us

Posted by on 4:21 pm in Blog | 0 comments

One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell is about the day he asked my older cousin if there would be any Nazarenes in Heaven. Kenny and my dad were fixing fence on the farm, chatting and joking like always. Dad has a love of arguing with people: politics, religion, nothing is safe. So, not being a Nazarene himself, Dad asked Kenny, “Do you think there will be any Nazarenes in Heaven?”

Dad expected, probably even hoped, for an argument. Not a heated exchange, but some banter to fill the morning’s work would be nice. Kenny paused for several minutes, perhaps trying to figure out a way to escape my father’s motives, when he offered, “I don’t know, but there’ll be a lot of Christians.”

There was nothing Dad could do with that. They finished up the morning’s task in simple, familial friendship.

Differences do not define us

Differences do not define us

After sharing a light lunch in the house, they headed out to do some more work. Kenny was on the tractor when he suffered a fatal heart attack. It was as if God had heard Kenny’s answer and agreed that he had gotten it right. A Christian went home that day.

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with one of my best friends at church. We disagreed on women’s roles in the church, on communion, about children’s roles in worship, and probably seventeen other religious issues. But we were and are great friends. If I need something, I know she is there for me, and vice versa. We teach Sunday School together, lead retreats together, and feed the hungry together. No one looking from the outside would ever know we have such gaping disparities in beliefs.

No one would ever know, because the truth is, those things aren’t important in the greater scheme of things. Christianity is not about whether we get doctrine right, or about being members of the “right” church. Christianity is not about whether we fight for justice, feed the hungry, or memorize Scripture. The only required mark of a Christian is “LOVE”.

Christ only gave one new command, that we love one another as he loved us: wholeheartedly, in spite of differences, mistakes, preferences, backgrounds, or anything else. Jesus showed us how to love, he commanded us to love, and he develops in us the ability to love. So, does the world know you are a Christian?

“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples- when they see the love you have for each other.”  John 13:35 The Message

“You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells – but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ.  By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.” 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13 The Message

A Prayer for Pastors

Posted by on 6:34 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Dearest Father,

It occurs to me that though I pray for my husband’s preaching ministry, I don’t regularly pray for others’ ministries. I know a lot of preachers, God, and I know they need your blessings.

I know ministers in my tribe of the Kingdom right here in my town. Please watch over Stuart, Tim, Winfred, Jim, Skipper, and DJ. But, Father, we aren’t your only children, please bless the preachers in the other tribes that make up your Kingdom. Please watch over Chuck, Blake, Branson, Jason, Lennie, Aaron, Tim, and Alan.

Father, some preachers have many helpers. For them the main responsibility is just that, to preach. But Lord, they are responsible for the way thousands understand you. Please guard the tongues and lives of Max, Mike, Mark, Jonathan, Scott, Rick and Rick, TD, Joel, Jeff, Billy, Patrick, Beth, Richard, Anne, and Joyce.

A preaching minister has many responsibilities that weigh heavy on his shoulders. I see many of your preachers stoop-shouldered and weary. I  know they spend countless nights awake, praying and wondering and begging for your intervention in the lives of their flock. They pray for the single mothers and fathers, for their wisdom, patience, finances, ability to discipline, their energy levels and their commitment to raising their children in your family. They pray for the sick ones, for surgeries, cancers, defects and diseases. They pray for wandering souls and ask for wisdom and insight to reach them and bring them back. They spend years trying to speak to the eight year old and the eighty year old while not offending all of the others in between.  And they ask you to forgive their weaknesses, to give them strength to carry on with your work. Many struggle with insecurities, lack of friendships, and leaders who disappoint them.

Many of those preachers, Father, work in small, unfamiliar locales. For them the work involves preparing sermons and lessons as well as treating for ants, scrubbing baptisteries, setting up chairs, tables, and equipment. They call plumbers, fix doorknobs, reset mailboxes, visit hospitals and prisons. They work second and even third jobs to make ends meet, and they are at every service, every event, every potluck and every meeting.

Please encourage and bless Matt and Matt, Don, Sam, Jason, Larry, Tim, Will, Terry, Karl, and Mark. Help them to know that what they are doing is Kingdom work, even when it looks like it’s just clearing brush or painting a sign.

Father all of these preachers have spouses who lay beside them at night hearing the fervent prayers and the creaking floorboards soon after. They know the secrets that plague the troubled mind. They feel helpless and inept. They hear the complaints about and criticisms of the ones they love the dearest. They need you. Guard and guide Arletta, Kelly, Karla, Kami, Kara, Christy, Stacy, Stephanie, Teff, Sandy, Cindy, Carol, Danielle, Denise, Lora, Laura, Julie, Jennie, and Judy.

So many children, Lord, never understand why their daddies are stressed, weary, and worried. So many secrets are kept in order to protect others and to ensure that these little ones only know your family as bonds of love. Other children fight you because they see the difficulties of shepherding the flock, and they scatter to the winds. Protect those precious souls so innocently injured. Allow them to see what their fathers see and to love you the way their fathers do.

Father, many of your preachers have moved on, but they still bear the scars and the successes of their ministry in your service. Bless them now where they find themselves and let them never give up on you. Watch over Mark, Jeff, Harold, Jake, Jack, Don, Doug, and Steven.

Lord, I know I am missing people here. Already I am thinking of Ben, Chris, Don, Richard, Jack, John, Linda, Father H., Bob, Tommy, and Yale. You, however, do not forget them, even knowing the names that I do not know. Bless them with your presence, your wisdom, your anointed guidance. Help them as they sculpt their hearts to look like your hands. Amen