As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Friendly Reminders

Today I had a wonderful phone conversation with my friend Debra. She is in a rather intense battle right now, and she called to share what the Lord had spoken to her. Despite my congestion due to my cold, I loved listening to her talk about the promises the Lord is speaking, the confirmations He is giving, the word-for-word promises and phrases He has been giving her. It did my soul good to listen to her excitement as she shared the ways God is pouring Himself out to her and how thrilled she is and how much peace she has. And truly, she is walking in an incredible peace.

Yesterday I spent an incredible amount of time emailing my friend Mary B. I shared with her the stuff going on in my life and what the Lord has spoken to me, the promises He has given, the verses, the declarations, the words. It also did me good. It reminded me of some things I had forgotten. It stirred up my faith and my resolve. It helped me refocus and get my mind oriented once again to the clear business of Heaven.

Today Debra and I talked about that. Paul says to think of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. He also says to speak to each other with psalms and other heavenly talk. We are told in Deuteronomy to talk about the many ways God has and does deliver us. We are to talk about them when we get up, when we walk, when we sit, when we lie down at night.

I'll tell the truth. I thought those verses were a bit unrealistic, a little "goody goody". I mean, there is reality, you know. The thing is, the only reality is God-what He has done, what He is doing, and what He has promised to do. When we focus on those things and talk about those things, we are speaking in agreement with Him, and that releases power into our lives. We begin to act in accordance with reality-not human logic, and we begin to see big things happening because the reality is God is a big God.

May our thoughts, conversations, and actions always be grounded in Reality....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Christmas Warm Fuzzies

On my high school alumni board, my friend Jessica mentioned that she loves Christmas, and she mentioned the warm fuzzy feelings she gets about Christmas. It took some time, but I picked a few warm fuzzies I have as well, and I thought I would share them with you.

Since Anna was little, it has become tradition at this time of year for Rob and I to have a handful of $1 bills in our wallets. When Anna was little, she got hooked on putting money into "the buckets". Yeah, the Salvation Army kettles. The red kettle is cool, but that isn't what hooked her.

Anna's very first experience with a Salvation Army kettle is exactly what it should have been.We were bustling into a store because it was COLD!, and outside the store was a man wrapped up in old coat, hat, and gloves. He was as warm as possible when the temperature is hovering just above freezing and the wind is gusting. Over the blowing wind and ringing bell you could hear it--the man was singing. His voice wasn't great. It was as old and worn as he was, but the heart was there, and it was perfect.

Here I am with a three year-old and nine month-old in tow, and Anna stops solid. She was mesmorized. He smiled at her as he sang. I let her listen for a minute, maybe two, before I bustled them into the building where it was warm.

As we did our shopping Anna asked all about the man and the bucket and why he did that, and I explained it to her. She was so amazed that someone would stand in the freezing weather and sing so people would give money for others who needed it.

Would we give money, too?

Before we walked out of the store, I rummaged through my purse to find out what kind of cash I had since I rarely carry any. Divinely, there was a wadded up dollar bill in there, so I gave it to Anna.When we walked out of the store, Anna went to the bucket to slip the dollar in. That was when I found out they put lids on the kettles now. Anna couldn't get it in, and I had Robert who couldn't stand by himself, so the man with the "perfect voice" showed Anna how to fold the dollar and slide it in.

He wished her a Merry Christmas. She beamed. His eyes twinkled. Our world changed.

The next year Anna started asking about the "people with the buckets and bells" before Thanksgiving. I started keeping some ones in my wallet so she could drop them in.

The next year Robert was big enough to drop money in as well. It has now reached the point where the children ask to frequent stores where the "bells and kettles" are, and if the person is singing, we stop and listen.

One time this year, they had four people out there in Santa hats singing away while the bell ringer rang the bell, and at another store, they had a band with different horns. We listened a long time to that one.

Yep, I think my favorite warm fuzzy has to do with the sound of a bell and $1 bills. Funny to me how something priceless can be so cheap.

Another favorite Christmas was when Anna was about 18 months old. She unwrapped all of her presents, pushed them all aside except for her tooth brush and a shirt box lid. She put the toothbrush in the box lid and slid it around, sort of like an ocean drum, "for hours". When she got done, she sat it safely back under the tree, and then she would go back and get it later to play some more. She did that off and on all day. And I sat and watched her. Who knew a box lid and a tooth brush could be so fascinating for an adult as well as a child?

Another favorite Christmas was a few years ago when Robert was two, maybe three. We had put the Christmas tree up in the TV room away from the main transit of a toddler, and after all the gifts were placed under the tree Christmas Eve, we put a gate up so no small children could help themselves to a gift opening frenzy.

When I woke up, I walked down the hall and peered in Robert's room. He wasn't there. I looked in Anna's room. Anna was sound asleep, but Robert wasn't with her. I walked quietly through the living room and peaked around the corner to see the door to the TV room. There stood Robert with his thumb in his mouth, staring over the gate at the pile of wrapped treasure under the tree. As he stood there, he never touched the gate, only tipped his head from side to side as he sucked his thumb and looked at the loot to be had. I watched him for several minutes, and by God's grace was able to sneak a picture before he noticed me. It is by far on of my favorite pictures from Christmas time, and one of my favorite memories.

May your Christmas afford you great memories, people to love and to love you, and the wisdom to recognize them as the wonderful gifts they are....

Monday, December 18, 2006

I believe it was Bach that said he sat down at the keyboard and waited to receive. This was his method for composing so many amazing musical pieces. Tonight, I am following Bach's example. I have sat down at my keyboard and am prepared to receive.

Christmas is a week away. How does it come so quickly? Two weeks ago I thought I was doing well and had the gift issue under control, and I was feeling pretty good about my efforts. Now we are a week away, and I feel it has snuck up on me and caught me unprepared. Gifts are mostly under control, but then I found out we are having Christmas dinner here, which I enjoy, but I am not prepared with food. Even with that, I thought it would be easy to take care of, but then, Rob and Anna started running fevers. We had extra ministry responsibilities. Robert had a doctor's appointment. A friend asked if we would watch her son for a few hours, and we are delighted to do so. Did I mention the women's party at church or the business meetings for Rob? It is amazing how quickly our calendar filled up. Three days ago we had one afternoon scheduled this week. As of this morning, we have one afternoon free. It is amazing to me how things can so quickly get out of control and how quickly things can get lost in the shuffle and busyness of life, and I don't just mean this time of year.

This time of year we hear how people are so busy working on celebrating Christmas that they forget to celebrate the Christ-mass. It's nothing new. 2000 years ago Jesus had the same conversation with the Pharisees and Sadducees. "You're so busy keeping the law and the rules that you've missed the One who gave them to you so you could have a relationship with Him." The rules precluded relationship, not enabled it. It could be argued that Christma has taken on the same character. We are so busy looking for the perfect gift that we end up not enjoying the one for whom we are buying it. Impression becomes more important than expression.

We want folks to be impressed that we knew just want to get them. Nothing wrong with giving the perfect gift as long as it isn't a token brought about by a Pharisee mindset. The Pharisees want to impress God by showing Him their righteousness done in His name on His behalf. What God wanted was an expression of love and gratitude in response to what He had done on their behalf.

Today we try to impress God by declaring that Christ is the reason for the season. From what I've read, Christ is the reason, period. We need to purge our thinking of ideas that we are impressive because we take a holiday and rally around it as a reason to do good things and to think beyond ourselves. If such giving is a seasonal thing, can it truly be that impressive? Doesn't God desire more out of us. Doesn't He desire for us to live a life that expresses love to those in need on any given Monday no matter what the date is?

Is it really so impressive to put a smile on and be nice to everyone in church on Sunday, or is it more expressive of our relationship with Christ to put a smile on and be nice to the rude driver that cut us off or the family member that once again left wet towels and dirty clothes on the floor in the bathroom?

I don't think there is anything wrong with being extra generous this time of year. I think we've failed to miss the point if it is ONLY this time of year. More than that, though, whenever we choose to be generous with our money, patience, or helping hands, we shouldn't do it out of compulsion with the idea that we are impressing God. Instead, our heart should be that of Christ who came for the purpose of EXPRESSING God.

On Christmas and every day, may we all have the heart to express rather than impress....

Monday, December 11, 2006

I do read better than that. Honest.

I have confused some people with my wording on the entry about feeling welcome. The way I worded some things makes it sound like I read at a 5th or 6th grade level. No. I read on very high levels actually. However, as can be seen in this instance, when I check the spelling/grammar of a piece I am writing or have finished,and my program gives me the word count, it also gives me the "readability level" status. That means that a 5th/6th grader could understand what I wrote. I simply do not use sentences that are complex enough or vocabulary that is "big" enough to get above that "readability level".

So, yes, I read fine, well enough to get my bachelor's degree anyway. Sorry about the confusion, but thank you to all you wonderful folk who had great ideas to improve my reading abilities. I'll keep those in my homeschool information because you never know when it will come in handy.

Wishing you the right words for you to enjoy the ability to be understood and to understand.....

Friday, December 8, 2006

Leah's Sisters

My precious and beloved friend Mary Dunham-Faulkner is an amazing lady. I can't even begin to tell you everything, but I will tell you how to find out about her and the incredible ministry the Lord has given her. Check out Her latest One Minute with Mary is so deep in truth it takes sitting and soaking to get the power of it...or the freedom in it. So drop by to check it out.

While you are there, read about the Jireh Center--a miracle of God, and the lives that are being healed through the ministry there. Find about the lives of women in Thailand that are being restored through God's work in that country. And there's more! Really, take time to read about it and let the power of what God is doing in the lives of these women amaze you. Truly, it is amazing. Take time to let it amaze you.

And while you are at it, venture onto this page. I won't tell you anything more than that.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Simply Feeling Welcome

I'm stuck.

Well, that sounds a bit dramatic, but I don't like the term "writer's block". It isn't so much a block. It's more like a bump. You know, like when you are driving with an open cup of something and you hit a bump and it spills. Well, I hit a bump, and the stuff I was going to write about spilled.

So I thought I would drop in and write about my "writer's bump", tell you what I remember, and maybe let things come to mind. In truth, I write better this way anyway. When I try to write "formal" stuff, it is hard. I don't think I am formal. If my friends are reading this, they are laughing as they mutter, "When did you ever think you are formal?"

Formal is something I look at and admire, but it isn't me. I have a lovely friend who does her whole house up every year at Christmas so Southern Living might show up and take pictures at any time. Truly, it is stunning, and I go, sip coffee, chat, and admire. Then I come home, move a magazine or book I've been reading with the children, pick my laptop up off the floor by the couch where I worked on it that morning or last night, pull the wadded throw over me, and snuggle down. My coffee cup sits on a coaster on the carpet so I can reach it easily, and when Rob comes in to watch TV, I move my legs and let him have part of the couch.

Formal is not something we can be accused of. In fact, one time we had a friend come over for a game night, and he rotated out of a game, so he sat down on our couch to watch TV until his turn. He fell asleep and stayed there until the next morning. We thought that was the best compliment we could get.

I've never wanted a home where people were afraid to come in and relax. I've never wanted people to feel they had to be a certain level to be loved on or find refuge with us. Really, I guess that has always been our goal. We have always wanted our house to be a refuge for anyone in need of a place to hide and hang out. Granted, we have our rules. Colored drinks stay in the kitchen or dining areas. Shoes don't go on the furniture. There are certain behaviors that are not acceptable, and guests have to treat each of our family memebers with respect. Yes, we have rules, but they are reasonable, and if folks follow them, they are welcome in our home.

I think God is like that. I think God wants to open His home to anyone who wants in as well. I believe He wants us to know Him as a place of refuge. I think He wants us to know He is a place of rest. Granted, He has rules too, but they are reasonable, and anyone willing to live by His rules is welcome with Him anytime.

Maybe the desire for everyone to feel comfortable spills over into my writing. If I am honest, and I do try to be, the reality is I've never been good at vocabulary. As much as I admire users of big words, I am not one of them. The "reading level" program on my computer usually ranks my writing somewhere on a 5th or 6th grade level. That doesn't sound too impressive for someone who was halfway finished with her classwork toward a master's in math. Yep, that's me. My brain can work at a high enough level to do Master's level math, but my writing level sits right around a 5th or 6th grade level.

And, I confess my writing ability bugged me for a long time.

I tried to console myself by saying I don't want anyone to feel lost when they read something I write because sometimes God uses my "bumps" to provide something profound, and when that happens, I want it as easy to understand as possible. And really, that is true, but it never struck me that my writing level was a gift until last week.

I have been in contact with a dear pastor in Valsad, India, and he invited me to lead a women's conference. The Lord has not opened the door for that yet, but He did use the situation to teach me that speaking in words that "anyone" can understand is a gift. I like to think anyone in America who reads my blog or website can read over a sixth grade level, but one of the wonderful things about the internet is the global connection. There are those who know English for communication purposes but could not understand it at "higher reading levels". Thankfully, the Lord is more concerned about communication than impressive vocabulary. He doesn't need big words to get His message across, which means everyone can feel comfortable listening, even those with the smallest of vocabularies.

Have you ever considered the first sentence God spoke concerning salvation in Christ? The first sentence was simple, "I love you." For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.... It doesn't get any easier than that, and it didn't even come in a formal note. Instead, He sent this simple message via a stable. A place anyone could go if they were humble enough offering a message anyone could understand if they listened.

Now, I am not trying to reduce God in any way. In truth, I don't know that any of us can comprehend the true glory of God. That is the very thing that amazes me even more. Such a glorious God communicating in such a simple way for anyone to understand. Strangely, it can be so hard to understand something so simple.

Wishing you the simple life and the ability to understand the depth of it......

Sunday, December 3, 2006

What do you expect when you worship?

Our pastor is doing a wonderful series on worship. I strongly suggest you drop by our church website and listen. The sermon for this weekend is excellent and can really alter your focus and expectations of worship. I also strongly suggest the other sermons as well. Check it out at

Friday, December 1, 2006

Why so Hard?

I cannot count the number of times I've heard myself ask the question, "Why do things have to be so hard?" I've heard it from my daughter's mouth when she was trying to master multiplication and division. I've heard it from my husband's mouth during home renovation projects. I've heard it from my son when he was working on getting his ankles together for diving. AND, I've heard it from numerous peopel outside my family, too. I've always sort of shrugged and said, "That's the way life works." However, today, I got the revelation of why things are really so hard.

On Monday I was going to do art with the children, and I was looking for my favorite art book. I couldn't find it. Tuesday found me pulling all the books off the shelves in the sunroom where we do school when weather permits. Wednesday I searched through my stash of books in the garage along with a pile of educaitonal posters I had dumped out there. Yesterday I cleaned the study, checked both children's rooms, and went through the book case in the living room book by book. I couldn't find it. In the meantime, I started looking for another book, and it, too, seems to have vanished into air.

Finally, today, I decided I would just buy another art book. It wasn't hugely expensive, and it was my favorite art book. A bookstore near me is having a sale tomorrow, and I would be there anyway. I'd just pick up another copy then. As for the other book, it wasn't a big deal, and I could probably find the information I needed elsewhere. It would have just been convenient.

As I took one last look around the sunroom and tried to remember the last place I saw the book, I remembered seeing the book was when we had painted as a family. We had used new paint techniques to make some very neat paintings of the ocean. Suddenly, I began to feel that small sense of "Oh no!". It occurred to me that in all my looking, I had not found those pictures either. These were not ordinary pictures. The children had done fantastic work, and I loved those pictures. They were irreplaceable.

At that moment, my motivation shifted from being a bit inconvenienced to an urgency of purpose. I had to find the pictures. Quickly, I reviewed all the places where I had already made a meticulous search. Then I shifted focus to the places where I had "looked" but not searched. We had recycled so much and given away so much in the last few weeks...."Dear God, please let me find those pictures," I said as I walked into the garage and flipped on the light. As I looked around, I saw the only place that had gotten merely a "once over"--the pile of posters. Immediately, I got on my knees and started to carefully pull posters off the top of the pile.

About halfway through, I found a bunch of smaller papers, and as I pulled out the small pile, the missing art book slid out and tumbled to the floor. "Thank you for the book. Please let me find those pictures." The book that had been the source of such frustration all week meant nothing now. My heart was on the pictures. As I moved a pile of sorted papers that had been turned sideways, I caught a glimpse of the ocean blue for which I was looking. After moving two more sorted piles, there were the irreplaceable pictures. A wave of relief and gratitude swept over me. "Oh, God," I said as I sat back on my legs, "Thank you."

As I walked into the kitchen, the children saw the book in my hand and were excited that we would be able to do some more art projects. "Mom, where did you find it?" my daughter asked.

I smiled, "With something I couldn't replace."

It was then that the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Jerri, sometimes I have to push you to the point where you cannot afford to lose because finding me isn't convenient. I have to push you to the point where you are desparate for you to find what you really need or even what you are looking for. I have to push you beyond you for you to search hard enough to find me."

May things be hard enough to push us beyond convenience to desperately searching for Him....

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanks Giving

How do two weeks go by without my writing?!

This week was Thanksgiving in America. We had a lovely day with my mom, stepdad, and brother. We ate, played games, talked, and laughed. Truly, it was something for which to be thankful.

The Bible gives a simple directive: give thanks in all things. Now, I believe if God says we should do that, then it is truly possible to do that, and indeed, we should do that. However, I think we have a hard time with that directive because of a warped idea of God's character. Often I have heard people give indication that they believe the sentence says, "Give thanks FOR all things," and that is not what we are being asked to do. Why the extreme difference in meaning? As I said, I believe it has to do with God's character and the misinformation we believe because we simply do not know Him as we should.

For instance, Jesus was known for giving thanks. He thanked the Father for bread, for the believers, for the believers to come, for the Father's protection over them, for the Father's gifts of good things to Him and others. He thanked the Father for His goodness and provision. He recognized the Father's character as being that of a loving, kind, and generous Father. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus said:

Our Father who art in Heaven, holy be your name.
Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,
For yours is the power and the glory and the honor forever. Amen.

Look at what Jesus tells us about the Father's character.
1. The Father is holy.
2. The kingdom of God is accessible, and the Father wants us to access Him. He wants to be active on earth just as He is in Heaven.
3. He provides our daily bread.
4. He forgives us and expects us to share the bounty.
5. He delivers us from evil rather than making it so we sin and fall.
6. He is powerful, and His power makes all of the good things in our lives possible.
7. All glory belongs to the Father.
8. He is to be honored.

This is what Jesus says about the Father. Jesus says something two other things about the Father at different places. Jesus says He can only do what He sees the Father do, and He can only say what He hears the Father say. Do you get that? Jesus' purpose on this earth is to emulate the Father, to represent Him perfectly, so we can assume that Jesus' character will be an exact replica of the Father's character. And everyone I know will profess that Jesus is good. He did good things. He helped people. He fed people. He loved people. He was kind. He was generous. He made time for people. He had close friends that He took into His confidence. He treated women with kindness, respect, and value. He met people's needs. Yes, I am aware that I am stating what appears to be the obvious, but if it is so obvious then why do we miss it when it comes to the Father? How, if Jesus is the replica of the Father on earth, can we call Jesus good and yet accuse the Father of questionable character, which leads us to believe we should be thankful for all things?

A concrete example: I knew a lady who loved God deeply. Truly, her heart was devoted to Him. One night a horrible thing happened, and she was raped. As we talked, she told me that she did not feel it appropriate to file charges against the man who raped her, although she knew him. She felt it was wrong to put someone in prison for doing God's will. Obviously God had determined that she needed to be raped in order to humble her for her pride in the fact that she had been a virgin when she was married and her husband was the only man she had known sexually.

I did not know whether to cry, faint, or vomit. My heart was crushed for this poor woman who believed that her Father, a Father who gave His Son for her, would decide she needed to be the victim of a violent crime for any reason. I can only imagine how much it hurt the Father to know that any of His children remotely imagined He could do anything so vindictive and cruel to them.

Yes, Jesus corrected people. Yes, He drove peopel from the Temple because they were making a farce of the Father's holy place. But when was Jesus cruel? When did Jesus torment people in order to reach their hearts? When did Jesus do harm as an act of love? If Jesus is the perfect example of the Father, why would we believe the Father was capable of such acts when we would never expect such thoughts to even enter Jesus' mind? How can someone suggest that the Father is pro-rape when Jesus honored the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears?

The Bible tells us the enemy goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is the father of lies. In contrast, we are told the Father so loved the world that He gave His only Son so whoever believes in Him would not die but have everlasting life. The enemy takes, destroys, and rejects. The Father loves, gives, and accepts. The distinction is clear, and yet, we get them confused. How can such obvious opposites be confusing?

I think it is so unfathomable that the Father could love us to greatly when we are so undeserving that it is easier for our minds to believe the enemy's lies about our being unforgivable and God being unforgiving. You know that is what defines unforgivable, right? A person is only unforgivable when someone else determines to be unforgiving. The Father's love and forgiveness defies our logic. It is unbelievable. In fact, for God to determine to love and forgive us no matter what might be the most miraculous act He has ever performed, and sometimes, it is hard to believe in miracles, especially when you know you don't deserve them.

I have good news, though. Jesus never asked anyone to give Him their credentials to prove they deserved anything. He simply said, "Come unto me all you weak and heavy laiden, and I will give." The requirements to receive are so simple:
1. Come
2. Be in need
3. Receive

If those are all the requirements Jesus set forth, those are all the Father sets forth as well. If you are in need, come, and the Father will love, give, and accept. And when you feel like you don't deserve it, you're right, but this isn't about what you deserve. It's about God's character, and despite what your humanity or the enemy tells you, God's heart is to give love and forgiveness always. It's just the kind of character He is.

When we accept that and embrace it as truth regardless of circumstance, we can give thanks in all things, and we also realize we don't have to give thanks FOR all things. When Jesus in the garden, we do not find Him praying, "Father, thank you for using me to save this world. Thank you for the suffering I am about to endure. Thank you for finding me mature enough to handle it. Thank you for entrusting such a burden to me because it is an honor, and I know it." Jesus never said any such thing. Jesus said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but if it isn't possible, I will still fulfill my purpose." Jesus wasn't thanking the Father for the rough stuff. The Father didn't put Jesus on the cross to build character or because Jesus had thought too highly of Himself. The Father put Jesus on the cross because sin was in the world and it had to be defeated. The Father used the nature of the enemy, which is to kill, to defeat the enemy through the death of Jesus. The Father used the enemy's nature to kill in order to bring life to mankind. The nature of the Father is to redeem, to use a situation for the purpose of giving life instead of death. The Father never purposed for my friend to be raped, but He can use the enemy's purpose to destroy to heal others who need hope that they can be restored.

We have friends who lost a baby only a few days after he was born. The enemy killed that baby, not the Father. However, the Father has used the murderous nature of the enemy to offer hope to other grieving parents when our friends tell them how the Lord has brought life back after such a tragic loss.

The reality is sin is in the world. The enemy's nature can be seen all around us. Unfortunately, it can be seen in us. That is not the will of the Father, and we are never told to thank the Father FOR the actions of the enemy. We are told to thank the Father even when the nature of the enemy is revealed and manifested. We thank the Father for HIS character. We thank Him for ways HIS character is manifested.

And when is that? When He prompts someone to send us a note telling us they are thinking about us. When He moves us to go to the store that has groceries on sale when money is short. When life hurts but we are able to find hope in the truth that He heals. When we are in need-emotional, spiritual, physical, or financial-and He provides the answer or even a reprieve.

The Bible tells us that all good things come from the Father. Sometimes He sends them through others. Sometimes He just drops them on us Himself. For all those things, we should be thankful.

We live in a world where the enemy of our soul wants to destroy us, and we can see the manifestation of his character all around. We are not to embrace it or be grateful for the actions it causes, but rather, we are called to wage war against it according to Ephesians 5. As we watch the war rage around us, it is imperative to thanks for the character of a King who empowers us with hope so that we can withstand all things as they may be.

May we always refuse the lies of the enemy by remembering the undeniable character of the Father, and in so doing, may we boldly give thanks in all things.

Copyright Jerri Phillips @ 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nuggets Along the Path

Periodically, I wander back through previous posts to see what was on my mind on a given day. Okay, that is only a partial truth. I do read through previous posts, but usually it is because I recall the Holy Spirit dispensing a nugget-or boulder-of wisdom, and I want to go back and check it. Sometimes I read my blog entries again to see what nuggets of wisdom I have forgotten and need to receive again. I do the same thing with my journal.

While I am rather hit-and-miss with my blog, although I desire to be consistent, my journal covers almost everything important in my life, even some things that seem rather frivolous, but one never knows where the nuggets lie. The Bible says that the Lord works ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose. ALL includes the "frivolous" parts of life, too, so we can assume there are nuggets to be found in those weird and unusual events and circumstances. Since I am not one who can afford to miss nuggets in any form, I write down even the weird and unusual, and you might be amazed what I find there. (You can find some of it at

You might be wondering how much I actually write down. Well, I don't waste time buying small journals because during "intense" times, I can honestly fill them up in a week. I bought one 100-page journal that only made it through 10 days, and the 10th day was continued to another journal. I can write. Ask people who get "real" emails from me.

Your next question might be why I spend the time and energy to keep a journal. This question came up when a friend of mine was in the midst of a very painful divorce. She was seeing a counselor, which I think can be very helpful, and I told her to journal. She asked why since she was seeing a counselor. I said, "Because it keeps things clear. It is a written history, and you need to write down the wisdom and insights you learn BECAUSE time makes our brains fuzzy, and emotions twist the facts. It shows you where you've come from, and sometimes that is what keeps you going. And, it records the steps you made in dealing with the mountain before you, and don't kid yourself. You'll see this mountain again. Next time around the healing will be deeper, the emotions will be just as raw, and the timing will catch you off guard. You may feel as overwhelmed then as you do now. Your journal will help you keep your bearings and your senses. Your journal is your map of what worked and what didn't. The Lord will further purify you of what didn't work, and He'll perfect what did, so the next time you see this mountain, and you will see it again and again, you will not waste your time figuring out how to get out of the valley. You'll immediately start thinking at higher levels, and your map will be there to move you faster and more smoothly. Your journal is a pioneers' map that reminds you of territorial hazards, means of sustenance, and places of rest. Trust me. Write a journal."

I know we all want to believe once we've climbed a mountain we are done, but the truth is, we are not dealing with a mountain standing in the midst of life all by itself. On the contrary, life is nothing less than a vast mountain range requiring skill and wisdom if we ever want to get out of the valley. Journals are the maps of where we've been that help us more easily get to where we are going. Sometimes they offer wisdom. Sometimes they offer warning. Sometimes they offer a good laugh when we desperately need one. They are the records of mountains climbed and mole hills tripped over. They are the directions for how to navigate what lies ahead by learning how we succeeded and floundered in the past.

Want to learn how to climb the next mountain easier and more gracefully? Journal about the one you are on right now. Write about the huge avalanches, the large boulders that offered a safe place to sit and rest, and the stones you stubbed your toe on. You never know where a good nugget of wisdom will show up, and a journal is a good place to keep them so you can find them again when you need them.

Friday, November 3, 2006

The PerLfect Day

Today was, in my opinion, a perfect day. Let me tell you about my day.

I woke up with my little boy snuggled up on his daddy's side of the bed because his daddy and sister had left at 3:30 (yes, 3:30) this morning to do a daddy/daughter thing. I lay there and watched him sleep a little while. Then I closed my eyes and slipped back to sleep for a bit myself.

When I woke up, I found an exciting email from a friend of mine telling me that she is one step further on the journey called "publishing a book". You will hear more about this later because you'll want a copy of her book when it is ready to for public consumption.

Not long after that, my cutey boy wandered into the study where I was and chatted with me some. I love those morning chats. They are precious time with both my children. This morning our chat centered around the plans for the day. Because of Rob taking Anna on their special event, I decided today would be Robert's special day to do as he wanted, and he wanted to do some fun things, starting with a trip to Starbuck's.

Starbuck's happens to be our favorite date. Rob and Anna don't care for coffee, but Robert and I are coffee fans, so every other weekend we head to Starbuck's on a mommy/son date while Rob and Anna do a daddy/daughter date at McDonald's. Again, precious time. It is one of my very favorite things in the world, and Robert's too, so today, that is where we went.

We each got our faovorite drinks and decided to try experiment with new patries for breakfast. As we chatted, we swapped pastry samples and agreed we had done well with our choices. So we talked and enjoyed each other, AND we even had the cushy chairs. I'm telling you. Dates don't get much better than that.

Once we were done with our food and all the whipped creme was gone from Robert's drink, we headed to the early voting place. I figured it would be a five minute jaunt since it was last time, but evidently several people thought it would be a five minute jaunt, which meant--it wasn't. We were there for over thirty minutes, and I chatted while Robert spun in circles, investigated palm trees, and just relaxed.

By the time we got home, Rob and Anna were there, too, and Rob was getting ready to head off to work. I honestly figured Anna would just go to sleep after being up so early, but no. Instead, she played with clay with us for over an hour, and when we were done with that, we painted. By the time craft time was done, it was well past 1:00, so I deemed it lunch time.

While I worked on lunch, my dear friend Iona called. We discussed paths the Lord has us on right now, what to do about Jerri's Munchies, and whether my "Munchies" would work as a book. It was a good chat. Talks with Iona always are. She is by far one of the most upbeat people I know, and she can take any conversation and make it about God and His goodness. She is absolutely in love with the Lord, and it shows, and listening to her talk about her Beloved always blesses my day.

After lunch, we curled up in The Big Bed to read, and in the middle of the chapter, Rob came home due to being too sleep to work. While he and Anna napped, Robert and I curled up in front of the TV and watched some of Robert's favorite shows.

For supper, we had gumbo, and since it is a bit chilly here now, I thought it would be nice to enjoy the fire pit outside, so while the gumbo heated up, I made a fire, and we all enjoyed dinner hanging out by the fire. Then we made s'mores and munched them while the fire started to die down.

While I did some pick up, Rob and the kids played soccer in the dark. There is no way to describe the chaos of soccer in the dark, but let me suggest if you try it, have the players wear white shirts so you can at least see each other before the thudding body contact occurs.

After that, we all found our way in. I took a shower to get rid of the smokey smell. Anna curled up to watch a cooking show. Robert played Legos, and Rob rinsed dishes.

When I am done with this, we'll play a card game and then get the kids ready for bed, which means camping out in the living room floor tonight--them, not us.

As the day slows down and I look back, I see a whole pile of good stuff. I had great time with people I love. I could rejoice with dear friends over good things going on in their lives. I took responsibility for what influences my family and our lives (such as electing civic leaders). We had food we enjoy. We got to be silly with some games. We got to exercise our freedom to vote and be creative. We could enjoy the cool weather by the fire and then come in to a warm house. We got to cuddle in a snuggly, soft bed, and we could all read. I enjoyed my husband and children, and they enjoyed me. Oh, and the hot shower that got rid of the smokey smell was a delight.

Yep, when I can look back over a day and come up with an inventory like that, there is only one way to summarize it. It is a perfect day. Thankfully, God has given me the wisdom to realize it.

Hoping you are blessed with perfect days and the wisdom to know them when they come......

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Ironing Out the Wrinkles Without Getting Steamed

I thought I would take a few minutes to post before I get to my ironing. I set the ironing board up in front of the television, and I get a big glass of ice tea to keep me cool while the steam pours from my iron. Then, I got to town, as we say in the South.

Personally, I like ironing. It has a spiritual aspect to it that makes me feel good about myself, or at least about the process of being myself.

The process of being myself has its wrinkles. Ask these wonderful folks who live in my house. They can confirm I have wrinkles, but they have wrinkles, too, and if you've ever had a wrinkle in your sock under your foot while you are wearing tennis shoes and having to walk a lot, you know how annoying wrinkles can be. You also know that while trying to get wrinkles out can be aggravating and hard, it is necessary for peace and comfort. You know what I mean? You try to just do a little adjustment, but if that doesn't work, you try something a bit more involved. Only in a final state of resolution do you actually take your shoe off and fix your sock. I guess some do that first thing, but most folks I know get by doing as little as they can to get enough comfort to keep going, and in truth, we ignore it as long as we can keep moving. If it doesn't impair us, we try to ignore it. It is only when we see taking the time to fix it as a greater good than ignoring it that we actually stop and address the problem.

What does a sock have to do with ironing? Well, wrinkles are wrinkles, and they have to be removed. With socks, there is the gratification of not walking on the uncomfortable wrinkle. With shirts or pants, the wrinkles are usually not uncomfortable, so sometimes the motivation to remove the wrinkles can be lacking. I motivate myself in other ways.

Ironing is my quiet time to catch a television show while the rest of the folks in our family do other chores. Typically, if I have a high laundry day, I finish watching a one-hour show just about the time I finish the ironing. The ironing doesn't seem so long or so boring that way.

How is that spiritual? We all have wrinkles whether they be within our character or our lives, and they must be worked through. Most of us would avoid working out the wrinkles if we could because it is hard work and sometimes flat out painful, and unfortunately, when they happen, they tend to become our focus. In fact, we become so absorbed by them that they can cause us to see nothing else, and when that happens, we start to lose hope and feel that that life has become nothing more than what we are working through. That is a dangerous place to be. Things and people we enjoy keep our minds from becoming overly engrossed by the problems or tasks of whatever size that beset us. Sometimes they can help us keep pace for when we will be past a circumstance such as an illness, a life change, or the final stretch to reach a goal.

The Bible says where there is no vision, the people perish. If I don't see an end to the pile of wrinkles, I can easily become so overwhelmed by them that I don't bother to address them at all. Television gives me a vision for being done with a necessary task that I really don't care to do. The wrinkles get addressed, and I don't get buried in them.

May you find a vision in the midst of ironing out your wrinkles......

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Is it funny that having fun is considered unusual?

Last night we received a wonderful compliment. As our family arrived for church, we split into our normal two-by-two mentality so we could safely lead the children through the busy parking lot. At some point, Robert decided it needed to be a game and yelled, "The team that reaches the church door first wins, or if a teammate from any team reaches the door first, then that whole team is the winner." Robert took off like a rocket. Rob feigned shock. Anna squealed. I watched for cars.

The race was on.

Robert, who had started from several feet behind, shot in front of Rob and Anna, who are much taller and made up ground quickly. I yelled, "Go, Robert! Go!" Rob was yelling, "Hey, not fair!" Anna was yelling, "I'm going to catch you!" And Robert was squealing with glee. I was laughing as I watched the mayhem safely arrive on the sidewalk. The greeter wisely stepped aside as Robert barely touched the door first.

The huffing and puffing and laughing continued as the three racers walked in the door in front of me. It was then that the greeter looked at me and said, "Wow. It looks like y'all are really having fun."

I smiled broadly, "Oh, yeah. This is great stuff."

Rob took the kids to their classes, and I headed across the foyer toward the sanctuary. The greeter's words stuck with me. "Wow. It looks like y'all are really having fun."

He seemed pleasantly surprised. He had said it in a way that made it clear that such fun was not the norm. As I pondered this, I had to confess, such joy is not our usual way of entering church. Typically, we have had the "are you ready yet?" exasperation at home. Then there is the ride to church, which is always "iffy". By the time we get to church, we are usually just glad to have gotten there on time and with everyone wearing matching shoes.

Then I thought of others that I see enter the church. They usually look like we usually look. We walk in looking a bit tired, a bit haggard, a bit weary. They aren't grumpy, but they aren't joyful. They are just where they are "supposed to be".

Isn't that sad? Isn't fun what comes out of a heart filled with joy? Isn't laughter the overflow of a heart filled with wonder? And should anything leave us more at wonder than the ones we love? Is there anything that should fill our heart with glee more than love poured out on us or that we enthusiastically pour out on others?

And should that be less so at the house of God, the One the Bible defines as love?

Now, I'm not saying we should fake laughter and fun so we can put on a good show. However, when Christians who laugh with and enjoy those they love are the anomally, it should make us take inventory of our hearts and attitudes. It should also make us realize how much we can influence those around us simply by having fun. People are used to the haggard, tired, and weary, but wholeness, good-hearted laughing and fun make them turn their heads...even at church.

Sometimes being an anomally has its perks.

Hoping you have fun loving God and those He puts in your life.....

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Getting to Know You

A friend of mine sent me a fun questionairre. If only I knew how to spell "questionairre" or how to run the spell check on this page...... Anyway, my friend sent me this list of questions and info on himself with the idea that I fill it out and forward it to friends of mine. I had fun with it and decided to post it. One friend said it made her cry. Another said he laughed out loud. Hope it does the same for you.

WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Good question. My name and my dad’s are the same, but the Lord told me about 12 years ago that I wasn’t named after my dad in HIS eyes. He had given the name to my great aunt as a prophetic word-a calling-over my life, so while my family might have thought I was being named after Dad in the natural, that wasn’t God’s intent.

WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? Last week or two weeks ago. I’m not sure. I watch Extreme Makeover Edition, and that always makes me cry.

DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? If I can use a Bic fine point pen, yes. If I have to use a fatter point, no.


KIDS? The two coolest ones in the world.

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Most days. Some days I would just stay away from me, but for the most part, yes, I think I am pretty cool. I think the strange way I look at life and my rather bizarre sense of humor are endearing qualities that add a fun twist to life. And if all else failed, I would have a pumpkin spice latte and pumpkin cream muffin with myself and discuss what I’ve read lately. Besides, could you imagine the fun two of me could have together?!

DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? LOL I only have two I write in regularly. Okay, 3 if you count my prayer journal. As for journals that are full…..I have shelves……

DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes, but at various times of the year, I would gladly give them to anyone who needed a pair or anyone who doesn’t.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? As I heard someone say, “There is just something inside me that makes me think jumping from a very tall structure with nothing to keep me from splattering on the surface below me except for a rubberband tied around my ankles isn’t wise.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Well, as with all things, it depends. Most of the time, I will go Frosted Flakes. Not much beats Frosted Flakes. However, peanut butter Captain Crunch has its appeal, too, and if you add three or four spoonfuls of sugar to Cheerios, life can be happy there, too.

DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? And disrupt those hugging bunny ears? You have to be kidding.

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Uh….no. Physically-I have given up the idea that I need to lift weights to be buff and impressive. I may not be buff, but I like to think I am impressive. Mentally, spiritually, and emotionally-I’m in training, and I’m getting stronger.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Like there is only one? I like chocolate ice cream with milk poured over it. I think the crunchy part is funny. I like mint chocolate chip and chocolate almond in a waffle cone. If I am feeling really decadent, Tin Roof.

RED OR PINK? Well that isn’t fair. Red for most “dressier” events, but a strong pink for everyday sass.


WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Pop Kohler. He was a prince among men, and he saw me as I wanted to be seen, and Robert would have adored him. He had a wonderful way of accepting and seeing good in people.

LAST THING YOU ATE? A dark chocolate bar. I drank a root beer from Taco Bell, too. It was a moment of tasteful delights!

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The A/C and hum of the computers


FAVORITE SMELL? Rob. The kids after their baths. Rain. Plum blossoms. Freshly cut hay.

THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? Their smile or laugh, I think. I try not to analyze that. Some folks just draw me in and some really don’t. I haven’t found a definite reason.

DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I adore him. He is kind and wonderful and strong and gentle and a safe place and….my very dear friend.

FAVORITE DRINK? Tea. Very sweet southern tea.

FAVORITE SPORT? You mean there is a sport besides basketball?! Seriously?!

HAT SIZE? LOL You mean hair size? I have so much hair that hats just pop off like an air rocket. Only air rockets are far more glorious to watch, and they go up much higher. My inglorious hat sort of slides up and then falls to the side in a rather sad and disappointing sort of way.

FAVORITE FOOD? Whatever I am craving at the moment. What kind of question is that to ask a woman?! Although, I was asked what my idea of ambrosia is once. The Grand Marnier truffles at the Marine Room are right up there. I also like my mom’s salmon patties. That is good eating.


SUMMER OR WINTER? Decisions. Decisions. Summer, I guess.. I like the beach. I like the pool. Winter is sort of like summer on qualudes when you live in Texas, so it’s like asking “hot” weather or “not quite as hot” weather.

HUGS OR KISSES? Well, I prefer the all chocolate kisses myself. I think when you start mixing in the different flavors, it gets weird. However, person to person, you can’t beat a good hug.

FAVORITE DESSERT? You truly expect me to pick one? I can’t pick one ice cream!!! I think Tiramisu, but simple chocolate cake with chocolate icing is divine, too. Oh, and there is Oreo Delight. Did I mention the Grand Marnier Truffles?

WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? The Forbidden Emotion (about anger), The Confidant Woman, My Utmost for His Highest, my Bible, Raising Responsible Kids, Is There Life after Housework…..I think that is it. OH!!! The Secret Garden-gotta love Big Bed Time with two delightfully warm and snuggly kids.

WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I don’t even know the last time I had a mouse pad….

WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? Rob had football on while I talked to Lisa. I did some of the Food Network Challenge where they were making structures from sugar confections. I decided to wait and watch it on the DVR with Anna. It is a bonding thing.

FAVORITE SOUNDS? Robert’s laugh. He has the most whole-hearted laugh. Anna’s singing. Rob. Rain. The ocean. Laughter, the good, belly laughs that don’t hurt anyone but make those around smile and want to be part of it. I also love to hear folks sing in off-the wall places. One time, I was standing in front of a book rack and started singing “Lolly Lolly Lolly get your adverbs here…” and beside me this man sang, “Father, Son, and Lolly get your adverbs here.” Stuff like that can stoke my happy pipe for days.

ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Well, rolling stones are usually indicative of some earth moving phenomenon, which can be a bit disconcerting. On the other hand, June Bugs, which are bealtes, are wonderful little critters that exist-in my opinion-for the sole purpose of flying into a woman’s hair (the bigger hair the better, which is why we see so many of them in Texas) and bouncing off the door closest to the night light thus causing a little thumping sound, when done with lots of June Bugs, can sound a bit like rain, which can be very relaxing. However, if they have just enjoyed a good intake of Mountain Dew, they sound more like small bits of hail, which is a bit creepy, but strangely entertaining in its own bizarre way. In any case, they are harmless and a delightfully fun way to introduce a young boy to the awe-filled reality of bugs. Therefore, I would go with the beetles.


WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? Worship sign, photography, writing, teaching, and loving on folks. At least I like to the think I am good at the last one.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Now, That's the Ticket!

For my husband's birthday last year, I asked the Lord for something creative to give him as a gift. The only thing that kept coming to mind was NASCAR. Rob grew up in NASCAR country and has always loved the sport. In fact, he had the honor of meeting The King himself once, and he recalls Richard Petty as being very kind to an awestruck boy. About 10 years ago, the Texas Motorspeedway opened within driving distance of here, and Rob has been drooling ever since. It seemed like the perfect gift except....

1. Have you seen the price of those tickets?!!!!!
2. Rob wouldn't want to go alone.

I kept praying. I continued to get "NASCAR tickets". Surely I had misheard. Surely God did not want me to spend money so frivolously. More prayer. More "NASCAR tickets". Finally, I relented. Fine. I would buy Rob a ticket. "Two tickets," I heard in my heart. TWO?!!!! "Yes, two." I took a deep breath and agreed.

I was curious, though. None of Rob's friends were into NASCAR, and I didn't want to go.

Who was Rob going to take?

"His dad."

Come again.

"His dad."

You want us to ask his dad to buy a plane ticket down here to go to a car race?

"No, I want you to buy the ticket."

I was convinced I had lost my mind, or at least, I wanted to be convinced, but the thing was, it was the perfect gift. One thing Rob has talked about for the last nearly-20 years is races with his dad. It's one of his favorite memories, and his dad would love it, too. It was the perfect gift. God knew His boys, and this was the perfect gift. I started making arrangements.

As I was working out how to work these rather large costs into our budget, God spoke again. "I want you to send Bob to Louisiana to see the other boys." What? "Bob needs to see the other boys, too. I want you to buy him a round trip ticket from DFW to New Orleans to see the other boys." Seriously? "Yes." Okay.

On Rob's birthday I gave him the tentative offer of tickets and the offer to fly his dad down to spend the weekend and go to the race, and I explained everything. I say "tentative" because I had not been able to reach Bob to see if he could come. However, the offer was there. Rob was flaggergasted. "Stunned" doesn't cover it. He was dumbstruck. While we were talking, the phone rang. It was his dad.

Rob explained the gift and explained the offer for plane tickets. Bob was flabbergasted. Yes, God knows His boys, and He knew more than I did about giving good gifts. I thought I had the plan. I had a part.

Six weeks later, Katrina hit, and Rob's family in Lousiana was picking up the pieces. Still, Bob was going south from here, but we would not be able to join him as we had planned.

Six weeks after that, we were preparing for Bob's trip when the phone call came that Rob's grandmother had taken a turn for the worse. On Tuesday before Bob was to fly in on Friday the phone call came that Dee Dee had passed on. On Friday, Rob and his two brothers flew north and met at an airport to drive to Dee Dee's to be with their family as they celebrated the life and mourned the loss of our precious Dee Dee. The day of the race, in fact, the exact time it started, so did Dee Dee's funeral.

As I prayed for our family's safety as they travelled and their comfort in their loss, I also prayed for answers. Had I missed it? God does not mess up, and we had been out hundreds of dollars on the race tickets alone. Did I make a mistake?

While I cannot explain everything that happened as a result of the planned trip, I can tell you that the Lord used it for healing. The Lord restored broken relationships, and I would trade hundreds of dollars for that.

Then there were the race tickets that were useless to us. Rob tried to sell them on eBay, but it didn't work, so I sent out an email saying we had these tickets, did anyone know anyone who might want them? If so, make an offer. Lo and behold, an offer was made. They couldn't cover the whole cost of a ticket, but would we sell one for a price they could afford? I was thrilled. The tickets wouldn't go to waste! I called Rob. "Give them both tickets and tell them to have fun." So I did. They said they could only afford that price for one ticket. Well, the other ticket would be useless to us anyway, so they might as well take it. They were blessed by God's provision. We were blessed to have someone take the tickets, and we moved on.

Rob's dad did visit this summer, and it was a good visit. The topic of the race tickets came up, and we told him that we had sold them. He said, "Well, I hope you got what they were worth." I laughed. Monetarily? No. In a dozen other way? The returns exceeded all expectations.

This year for Rob's birthday, I did not buy him NASCAR race tickets. We have talked about the race, and I've said, "Who knows? Maybe God will give you tickets to this year's race, and you never know. They might be better than the ones you had." (Whether that is prophetic or just knowing God's character, I don't know, but I love when God says, "You don't know the half of it, baby," and blows us away.)

This morning Rob sent me an IM. "Would you want to go to a race with me?"

I responded, "Do you have tickets?"

He replied, "Two front stretch tickets."

"Those are better tickets than the ones you had, aren't they?"

"These are the tickets I wanted." Then he told me what else he got: two pit passes, t-shirts, caps, a catered lunch, and a car to take us to the race and to pick us up after the race. I think there is more, but I don't remember.

To say the least, monetarily, what Rob received free today is worth far more than I spent last year. Relationally, what God gave us last year was priceless.

I won't tell you I understand any better right now than I did last year, but what I can tell you is I am forever in awe of God, and again, I am reminded that when I think I have the plan, I only have a part. God does not need us to work things out for Him. He only needs us to be obedient to Him so He can do what He needs to do in us and through us.

Praying God looks at our responses to His "absurd" directions and can say, "Yep, that's the ticket"......


Over a decade ago, I read a book about this man named Jabez and this prayer he prayed. Since then, other books have been written, classes have been held, and countless sermons have been taught. I don't remember much about the other books or the sermons, and I never went to a class. However, that first book imprinted something very simple on me that has stuck with me these ten plus years.

The author of that book, whose name and title escape me, boiled the prayer of Jabez down to three simple points. Throughout the years when I have not known what to pray or simply felt that I needed "something" but did not know what, I have reverted to those three simple aspects of that prayer. For reasons only the Lord knows, they come to me this morning, and I pass them on to you.

The three parts of Jabez' prayer are simply:

1. Bless me with Your presence.
2. Bless me with increase.
3. Make me a blessing to others.

Often we forget the first and third parts, but that, in my experience, is where the joy is. The wonder and joy is in the Lord's presence and in giving to others.

Praying you find great blessings today.....

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Today I went to my family doctor to determine the best course for treating an ongoing sinus infection. It has been determined that the infection is imbedded and will need an aggressive treatment including decongestants, antibiotics, and steroids. This is not new. I've actually battled this for years, and it has been frustrating to say the least. Some well-meaning folks called to ask me what the doctor had said and see how I was doing after having a dry-socket packed yesterday. I told them my teeth are painless and share the news about the choice in treatment for the sinuses, and their reaction (this was more than one person, btw) was, "And what is next if this doesn't work?" My doctor and I had discussed other, more invasive treatment options, so I had an idea, and I sort of studdered through the answers. And then all of those folks sighed deeply and saidk, "Well, maybe it won't get that bad.

When I sent out my blanket update, it suddenly hit me that the very suggestion of 'what next' is a curse. It is faithlessness being spoken into my life, and faithless babble is a curse, so I wrote from my heart, and I share it here because I believe it was anointed for the purpose of stirring up Christians and calling us all to higher expectations of prayer.

In my email I wrote:

I’ve been asked what happens if this intense attack doesn’t work. That question bothers me because that means people aren’t praying with faith for healing, and frankly, I’d just as soon they not pray. I don’t need some half-hearted, pansy faith, and if that offends some, well, I’ll pray for you. I need faith that believes that the God who opened a sea for a nation of people to walk through on dry ground still has power to move water, mountains, and congestion. I need folks praying for me that believe in a God whose power that raised Christ from the dead is at work within me to heal me by the stripes of Jesus. I need the prayers that come from people with faith that says endurance and professing victory will bring down a city like Jericho. If you don’t have that kind of faith, don’t live in condemnation. Tell me. I have oil, and I’ll anoint you and ask the Holy Spirit to impart it to you. Folks, I’m not trying to be hoity toity on this, and I’m not running down anyone for their faith, but the fact is we do not have the luxury as believers who are battling to bring the light into a dark world to sit on our half-baked beliefs and hope we can endure to the end and get happy when things don’t get worse. That is an Egypt mentality, and the people of God need a Promised Land mentality. We need to quit being the spies that whined about the size of the people in the land and be like Caleb, who at 80, took the land. Folks, the ones who were afraid of the people died in the desert. Joshua and Caleb rose to be great leaders. This world needs great leaders, and I need those with the great leader mentality praying for me, and I give you my word that when I pray for you, that is the exact mentality I intend to take before the King of Kings on your behalf.

There are no small battlefields in war (mine or yours because it is really OURS), and there are no “expendable” warriors. Get on your armor and get engaged. If you are engaged, hone up on your skills and teach those who aren’t at your level. Folks, the victory has been won. The land has been promised. We need to take it, not just in the issues in our family but yours, too. I’ve talked to so many folks who are getting blasted and holding on by their fingernails. It’s time to take the offensive and take back what is ours.

One final thought: When I was at the doctor’s office, I read an article about David Ortiz, a baseball player known as Big Papi. He said something so full of truth that I wish I had written it down. He said, “If you get up there and think you might now hit the ball, you are already out. I KNOW I’m going to hit the ball.” His stats tell you the rest. Folks, let’s all pray with that kind of confidence, and imagine the healings, the salvations, the power.

As I said, know when I am praying for you, the expectation of great things is what I am taking into my prayer closet. I hope you take the same mentality with you every time you enter God’s presence.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Praying your armor never knows dust and your faith never fails...........

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thinking on These Things

For over a week now, I have received daily emails or phone calls from people I love, and who obviously love me, asking how I am doing. It is so good to be loved, but I’ll tell you something. I’m tired of telling people how I feel. I’m tired of the focus, so I am choosing to focus on happier things.

The temperatures have finally broken here in Texas. The 100+ weather has finally given way to low 90s and high 80s. As I type this from my deck, I am quite comfortable with the late afternoon temperatures. Two weeks ago, I jokingly told our neighbor Chris, who allows us the luxury of being bio-filters for his pool, that we needed to use it as frequently as possible since the weather was cooling so quickly. It was 103+ that day. Since then, we haven’t seen 100. I don’t know anyone who is saddened by this.

With the cooler temperatures, rain has blessed us almost weekly. Last week we were blessed with over a solid day of soaking rain. The vegetation has responded gloriously. Our gerbera daisies are expressing their gratitude with lovely blooms. Our red “thing” near our daisy bed is also blooming with exuberance. The grass is alive again, and it is wonderful to see the green sprouts breaking up the mostly dead landscape that has become our yards.

Due to the drought we’ve been in, we’ve also been in a season of water conservation. We’ve taken this pretty seriously. We have been diligent to water the flowers in the flowerbeds and flower pots. Some have succumbed to the overbearing heat. Some have endured, but the look the worse for wear, and some have thrived. The ivy that I got when my dad passed on was looking pretty shabby in my study, but in the intense heat on the deck, it has not only perked up but grown a 3-foot runner! I chuckle knowing it will now not fit in the same place in my study.

Some plants have struggled, not due to the heat, but due to Fred. Two of my favorite tall plants were chosen as chew toys. While I have “saved” them from the jaws of the dog, they were broken and are having to recuperate. Thankfully, they seem to be sprouting wonderfully and may be better off than they were before. One is highly questionable, but it is simply not getting the thing back into dirt when I should have. I can’t blame that on Fred. It is my own lack of attention.

Speaking of Fred, it has been some time since I mentioned him. All 30 pounds of him are doing well. Yes, 30 pounds. Our “probably as big as 15-pound” dog is 30 pounds and may still grow a bit, but our vet feels sure that Fred is about peaked out for height and other than muscling-up, he is about as big as he will get. That was the word last week when Fred had to spend the night at the vet. As of last week, Fred was left unable to have puppies. While I understand the reasons for this, it saddens me a bit. Fred reminds me of a book Robert and I read called “The Unexpected Family”. It has a line that says, “He wasn’t what she expected, but she loved him anyway.” That is Fred. We never planned to have a 30-pound dog. He really isn’t what we would have chosen for a dog. He certainly is not what we expected, but we love him anyway.

The road with Fred has been a bumpy one. After we got through the distemper, we had another scare. Fred started chewing on his tail. It wasn’t just chewing the hair off. Fred mutilated his tail. When I called our vet, Larry assured me that allergies cause chewing and some cortisone would fix it right up. However, when Larry looked at Fred, Larry said, “Well, allergies are one thing, but sometimes we run into dogs with a neuropathy.” Simply explained: sometimes dogs just mutilate their tails and their tails have to be amputated. I was okay with that. It wasn’t my idea of fun, but it wasn’t the nightmare we had been through with the other puppies.

Then I had a question. “Larry, is this just because he’s a weird dog or because of the distemper? We were warned to watch for weird behavior. This is pretty weird. Is this an effect of distemper in his brain? Will amputating his tail stop him from mutilating any other part of him, or will he just move to something else?”

The answer was one that only 40-years of veterinary experience could give. Larry smiled at me, patted Fred on the back, and said, “Jerri, let’s give him a cortisone shot with some topical treatment and see what life is like in 48 hours.” I nodded.

When I left, Larry said if things weren’t better in 48 hours to call so we could schedule surgery for the next week. Again, I nodded.

Forty-eight hours later, Fred had quit biting his tail, and we were feeling optimistic. By the next week, we were seeing signs of healing. Now, the tail has hair on it as well. You’d never know anything was wrong.

Life is amazing, isn’t it?

So we have our healthy Fred, who, as Rob says, is the comical relief for the family. When I sweep, I have to put him outside so he doesn’t chase and attack the broom. Mopping is so funny because he slides around while chasing the mop. He thinks the vacuum will suck him up, but if I leave it on while I do something, he sits on it. I keep telling him that is not a good idea considering the tail trauma he has already endured. When we try to wash the deck, he attacks the water from the hose, and you should see the sticks I have to take back outside after he brings them in.

Fred and I start our day by wearing him down with a game of catch. First, we find all his tennis balls. Then I throw them until he trots by me with one in his mouth and carries it into the house where he drops it by his water bowl. Then he drops himself on the cold tile in the kitchen. Rob takes him for long walks, and one day Fred pulled Rob while Rob rode on a scooter belonging to one of the kids.

The funniest part is Fred’s unwillingness or inability to accept that he is not a lapdog. In the early morning after we’ve worn ourselves down playing ball, I will try to have quiet time either on the deck or in the study, and he comes in and sits his head on my lap. That is sweet. Then he puts his front legs and upper torso in my lap, which is nice. Then he places one huge back paw on one of my knees and slips up into my lap where he rolls over so he is lying like a baby in one of my arms and one of his sides is facing up for me to scratch. He then licks me sweetly or puts his muzzle against my neck and lies there.

No, Fred isn’t what we expected, but we definitely love him anyway.

And that is a pretty nice thing to think about on a glorious afternoon in Texas.

Praying you have such wonderful things to think about, too, and praying we all take more time to think about them……

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Hoping for Something Better

Funny how falling behind only compels me to fall further behind. Actually, it isn't funny at all, but rather annoying. Such is the situation with my blog. A series of things caused me to get behind, and then I felt bad for being so behind and overwhelmed at where to catch up, so I kept thinking, "I'll get to it when I can dedicate more time to it," but it only seemed more was there to sort through, so it never got done, and it has now been nearly 3 weeks since my last update.

However, today, I am the best of my ability and coherency.

Presently, I am submitting to the effects of rather strong pain medication and antibiotics as I battle a dental infection. For two days I felt pressure building in the area of my lower sinuses, and I went on the offensive to battle sinus congestion to no avail. Yesterday it became evident that my sinuses were not the problem. Between the visible swelling, the tenderness in my mouth, and the intense pain radiating from one tooth, it was obvious that I was dealing with dental problems, not sinuses. Thankfully, my doctor is proactive and accessible. I hated bothering him on the weekend, especially a long one, but I could not wait until Tuesday. True to his caring manner, he called me within 10 minutes, and 10 minutes later my prescription for antibiotics and pain medication had been called in and was being worked on by a 24-hour pharmacy. (Praise God for 24-hour pharmacies!) Within an hour, I was highly sedated and very relaxed as I curled up with a favorite blanket on our comfy sofa.

Today, the pain has lessened, and I am able to take a smaller dose of the pain medication, which is nice. However, it still makes me sleepy, and in truth, it does not kill the pain totally, but I am more funtional, which means I can read a book and remember it or even catch up on a blog that is 3 weeks behind. It is in this compromised state of coherency that this blog originates. Hopefully, it will still have some purpose other than simply jolting me back into the blogging world.

My teeth are actually a significant contributor to the lack of blog lately. This year has been a year of having dental corrections done. Not only have we done the filling of cavities, but major work has been required. For reasons that really make no difference, I have needed five teeth removed, and with this infection, another may have to go. One can only do so much to repair or save teeth before deciding that chronic problems and regular infections are not worth the pain or expense. All this work started in January and has been a planned effort to remove pain, correct dental problems that created larger biomechanical problems, and acquire a pleasing aesthetic outcome. The estimated date for being finished is February.

Sometimes it is mind-boggling to me to think that this process will have taken approximately 14 months and will still require the regular dental maintenance. And braces were not part of this deal either. No, it has been one procedure after another working toward clearly defined goals. Sometimes such things simply take time, lots of time.

I will tell you honestly that this can be a discouraging process. I have spent multiple days at the dentist's where the procedure for that day has required 2-3 hours of work. When the procedure is finished, I am tired, overcoming the effects of the numbing agent, and mentally fatigued. If it were not for the clear vision of the end result, it would be easy to quit, and sometimes I have come home, lay on my bed, and asked my husband to simply remind me of where we were, how much progress we've made, and how good it will be when this is over. Honestly, I need to be reminded.

I think all of us need that in some area of our lives. Maybe it is college or a course of study. Perhaps it is training for a carrier. Maybe it is inner healing of painful wounds. Maybe it is reconciliation in a relationship. Maybe is remodeling of a house. Perhaps it is physical rehabilitation. The possibilities are as numerous as people on this earth, but the process is the same, and it all starts with hope for something better.

I have found that the road to something better is much more easily walked with someone who believes in something better for you, too. I've also found folks like that understand the emails and phone calls when you ask, "So tell me again why we are doing this?" They can tell you. Those are the folks who see the end so well that they can describe it in detail. When you lose the vision, they don't.

Today my husband and two wonderful friends who called to check on me all reminded me that within 24 hours of starting the antibiotics, the pain and swelling would lessen considerably. They made it a point to count how many hours I had already made it and point out that I was getting closer to being out of pain and feeling normal again. They reminded me of where I had been and where I was going. They all envision my being fine again, and that vision compels them to encourage me as well as pray for me. They believe in better things, and they want to be sure I keep my eyes on the better things, too.

Their love and support doesn't mean I don't have to walk this road, but it sure makes the road easier to walk and the end easier to see. I'm glad they are with me. When it doesn't hurt to do so, I'll smile about it.

In the meantime, praying you have folks to see "hope for something better" in your life, and praying you see it in the lives of others.....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On the Street Where I Live

Having grown up in a rural area, living in the city has an almost unnerving anonymnity to it. Where I grew up, we waved at everyone we passed on the road. When our neighbor's pasture caught on fire, everyone abandoned the community BBQ to go help put out the fire. If you broke down on the side of the road, within three cars, you'd find someone to take you home or get your vehicle running again. People needed each other, and even during a fued, people were there for each other. It was a good place to grow up.

Sometimes I can get homesick for the kind of life again. Rob and I talk about moving to the country and bonding with the neighbors. I think part of it is craving the simpler life, and part of it is romanticizing the simpler life. In any case, sometimes I simply miss the love of neighbors who care for those they know and those they don't know. Periodically, I wonder if those are days gone by, and then there are days like last Wednesday that tell me such neighbors are alive and well and live right down the city street.

The following is the email written by our friend Chris who happens to live across the street from us. He had a horrible week last week, but in such darkness, love shines all the brighter.

For those of you who know him,

I buried my 7 year old dog Smokey last night.

I was walking him and my 15 year old Chow, Cher, last night, when he was hit by a car. On one particular corner there is a little dog that lives across the street that Smokey likes to see. Excited, he tried running over to see him. I stopped him with his leash but he was very excited and spun around and pulled out of his collar, and darted in front of a SUV.

Smokey went peacefully in my hands with me talking to him.

I experienced something I have felt was lost in today's society. Kindness from total strangers. All the cars stopped and blocked the road and got out to help me move him from the road. Many of those same people from the cars, stayed to help me out with comforting him. The neighbors in all the houses came out to help as well. One neighbor took Cher to my friends' Rob and Jerri's house for me. One brought me a board to lay Smokey on and helped me moved him out of the road. One neighbor is a friend of the animal control officer and called them to come assist me. The Police responded to the call too, and I had them cancel the call to animal control when Smokey passed. The police then offered to drive Smokey and me home. Instead a local neighbor brought me a wheelbarrow to push Smokey home in. The police then turned on their hazard lights and followed me home in what amounted to a slow precession home and then helped me get him into the back yard. Rob and Dan, neighborhood friends, were there waiting to help me bury him.

Its been a long time since I have seen that much compassion from total strangers. As sad as the night was, it restored a little faith that people do still care and will help.


Hoping your neighbors are the kind that love friends and strangers so openly........ hoping your neighbors say that of you........


Friday, August 11, 2006

It's so Easy to WIG OUT!!!! You Should Try It.

As some folks know, nearly two years ago, I donated my hair to Locks of Love to be made into a wig. When my children found out what I was doing and why, they decided they wanted to donate their ahir as well. My four year old son had hair almost to his shoulders, so we figured he had a good jump on things, and our daughter had a bob, but it would grow. Well, more than a year later, Robert's hair was barely past his shoulders and had not grown in months. Due to the ongoing teasing and the lack of end in sight, we cut his hair with the intention of selling it and donating the money to buy a synthetic wig for someone who needed it. That was in January. This week we got the bad news about Anna's hair. The swimming and summer activities have taken its toll. She needs at least two inches cut off, and while it can grow some more, we will face the same problems next summer. She, too, has opted for selling her hair and donating the money for a wig. So, I did some research, andI want to share the information I received from MD Anderson Hospital in Houston.
Our Volunteer Services Beauty Barber Shop would gladly accept any monetary donation that your children would like to make towards purchasing wigs for our patients. Several times a year, we purchase synthetic wigs directly from China in large quantities so we are able to get each wig for about $20. As you are aware, these wigs are available free of charge to our patients. Either one of our two licensed cosmetologists or one of our trained volunteers work with each patient to carefully select a wig for them.

When your children are ready to make their donation, please make the check payable to M. D. Anderson Volunteer Services and note in the memo section on the check that it's for the purchasing of wigs.

Their donation should be sent to:
The University of Texas
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Volunteer Services - Unit 115
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77030-4009

If you have any other questions, please do no hesitate to call me.
Maggi Suttles
Assistant Director, Volunteer Services
713-794-4282 Fax

I am sure no one would mind if you shared this information, so feel free to invite others to wig out and bless others.

Hoping your life is hairy and blessed......

Monday, August 7, 2006

It's Fine

We've just finished dinner, and I'm reclining in "my study". I'm going to confess. I've got George Strait playing on my CD player, and I'm feeling a bit gloomy. No, I'm not feeling gloomy because of George. Sometimes I get a little homesick, and the country music CDs come out. I have all of eight, I think. George happens to make up for two of those, but this isn't about George. This is about my gloomy homesickness.

As I mentioned yesterday, I grew up on a farm. It wasn't an active farm. We did sow and harvest crops, but we had a variety of animals throughout my life. Someday I'll tell you some of my middle of the night animal stories. Storms happen in the middle of the night. Goats give birth in the middle of the coldest night of the year, and sometimes you have to thaw the babies to get them to live. Rabbits get hot and pile up so you have to put bottles of ice in their pens to keep them from suffocating each other. I remember getting up at 4:00 am to make bottles for calves and pulling the bottles in a wagon over a quarter of a mile because the ice made it impossible to drive. We broke ice so the cows could drink, and I've milked a cow by hand. I've also had puncture wounds in my leg because I made a pig mad.

Farm life is no picnic, even when you aren't depending on crops that often just pay off the bills from the year before. Still, I have great memories. My grandma owned 40 acres, and my dad, aunts, and uncles owned some land, and put it altogether, there was over 50 acres of adventure for a kid if she was willing to step outside and enjoy it. Course, wire on the barbed-wire fences were close enough to keep a bull or cow in, and wide enough to let a kid come and go. My family owned around 50 acres, but our neighbors owned the rest of the world, and they were willing to share.

I asked my mom if I ever said I was bored as a child, and she looked at me incredulously. "Bored?! You ate breakfast and then walked out the door. You called a couple of dogs (did I mention my folks raised and bred dogs? Now, there's some stories to be told there), and y'all would take off across the pasture. You were home in time for supper. You just weren't home enough to be bored."

Of course, life has changed there. My grandma passed 3 years ago. The farm has been mostly sold off, and the neighbors have either passed on or sold off their places, too. The Land of Adventure had shrunk significantly, and I don't live there anymore. I have my own family. My husband is a computer guru, and there just aren't many jobs for computer gurus in farm country, so that isn't "home" anymore.

Still, it is where I grew up, and the memories are good, and something in me had hoped we would retire there, to sit on the steps of the house and look out over the creek bottom while I sipped my coffee and watched the sun come up like my dad and I had on so many mornings. I looked forward to dances at the fire station and 42 games at the community club. Last week, though, my idealic vision was marred, and I'm not sure how it will turn out.

My mom has asked me to agree to sign a lease so an oil company can drill on our land. She keeps seeing progress. I see capped wells and torn up countryside. She's moving forward. I am not as ready to let go as I thought I was. However, I have learned certain truths in life. Wheat won't grow until the seed dies and falls to the ground. It's hard to move forward when holding on to the past. I see this in so many lives of friends of ours.

Relationships, jobs, offenses, and other "past" things keep people from moving forward. Sometimes the past was too good to let go of. Sometimes it was too bad to risk again. In both cases people are imprisoned by what is over and gone because they can't see what the future could hold. They choose to cling to the dead seed rather than letting it go and seeing what wonders they can harvest.

I'm not going to lie. I miss farmlife sometimes. I miss my dad often. I thought about my grandma earlier today and wished I had the chance to talk to her and ask her questions again. This time I would write the answers down, or maybe I would record her voice so I could hear it again and again. Yep, there's a lot of things that were that tug at my heart, and some of them I would like to give to my kids, but in reality, I only see a part. I know my God sees the whole, and if letting go of the plans I had for the future is the seed that has to fall, I can find peace in knowing God's harvest is worth it. I never out give Him. I will never give up more than He gives me back.

And, who knows? Maybe the farm wil be fine, but if it isn't, I know I will be. That is the inheritance I have from my Daddy.

Hoping you are okay, even when things aren't you aren't.......

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Small Town

Today we visited one of our favorite stores, Half Price Books. In their clearance shelf, I found a wonderful book entitled Neighbors by Archie Leiberman. Its subtitle is "A Forty-Year Portrait of an American Farm Community". I flipped through it at the store, and being one who loves photographic essays, I found it worthy of the $1 price tag and brought it home.

When I had time today, I sat down and began browsing through the pictures. The truth is I bought it to study the style Mr. Leiberman used. I was hoping to learn something that I could incorporate into my own photography. What I found, though, was a comrade captured by the wonder of small town life, the powerful sense of family that comes from a farm community, and the joy and comfort that comes from belonging there. Mr. Leiberman found out about this earthly utopia due to a photo assignment. I found out by birth. He moved from the city to become part of it. I find myself praying to rejoin it.

The wonderful part of this photographic view of the lives in this farm community is the manuscript that ties them all together. The conversation transcripts, quotes, and stories bring life to the pictures. These written memories and oral pictures of life fill in the gaps and draw one into the lives of these people.

For me, the stories were familiar; the pictures have been lived by me in an earlier time of life. I have seen farms auctioned, churches packed to standing room only for funerals, people sitting at the local store talking about the need for rain or the need for it to stop, and socials where the whole community brought ice cream or cake and no one went away hungry.

As a child, I thought everyone lived that way. I think even then I knew it was a hard way to live, but I also knew it was a good way to live. When people love each other and help each other and take time to check on each other, isn't that a good way to live? I always thought so. I still do.

Hoping life is good where you are......

What Made You Think That?

Last night I had the strangest conversation. Actually, I feel like it was an attempt at a conversation that really was more like attempting to answer accusations before being bombarded by further questions that clearly demonstrated inaccurately applied preconceived ideas.

As some of you know, I take part in Project Dance ( events. Project Dance holds concerts in New York, LA, and Sydney, Australia. The concerts take place in large public forums (such as Times Square), and for most of the day (around 9 am to 7 pm in NY) we present the gospel of Christ on a stage for all to see. In April I had the joy of being part of the concert. There was one mime and myself plus a whole lot of dancers. I presented music in sign language. I love worship sign. I've taught it, interpreted for women's nights of worship, and ministered with it. It is one of my favorite things.

Last night I was asked what I used the signing for, and I was trying to explain, and in the course of explaining, I mentioned the concerts in NY and LA. The other lady asked me about the concerts for which I had been paid. I said honestly, "I wasn't paid for the concerts."

She then said, "You implied you were."

I replied, "No, I never implied I was paid. I never gave any indication of being paid for anything. You assumed I had been paid."

To which the lady said, "Well, you called it a concert."

As I tried to explain the concert, she bombarded me with more questions without actually listening to any answers. After I finally got the point that the concerts were done for ministry, and I had done it because I love it, not for money, she then said, "Well, who was deaf?" Huh? "Well, what was the purpose of your signing if no one was deaf?"

"It was worship," was all I could say. The Spirit ministers through worship.

"So, you don't really speak sign language that people can understand." That was not a question by the way. I really tried not to roll my eyes.

"Yes, I do. I use sign language to express music. If someone is deaf, they will understand, but they don't have to be deaf to understand worship any more than the audience members have to be dancers to understand the dance."

It was obvious that she felt that I had somehow misled her since my answers did not hold up to her preconceived ideas of concerts or ministry. In the end I felt like I had just been asked to justify my worship and my right to use it corporately or even consider it important. I did not respond with the frankness that floated through my mind. Rather, I tried to answer with grace, but as I lay in bed last night waiting to nod off to sleep, I wondered if that was part of the problem.

Preconceived ideas create so many problems in our lives. The whole altercation last night was due to preconceived ideas and accusations that arose when those preconceptions weren't met. Perhaps others have responded with their perceived ideas of "grace" and thus, perpetuated this woman's method of accosting people who do not meet her preconceived ideas.

I wonder what other preconceptions I have that cause problems or misunderstandings for me. For a long time I believed anyone who disagreed with me would quit speaking to me because my father was like that. If he had a disagreement with someone, he would get mad and not talk to them anymore. I wonder how many honest friendships that cost me. I wonder how much agony it caused me thinking people were mad and staying mad at me.

One of the biggest concerns I have are preconceived ideas of God. For a long time, I thought God was like my dad. I thought God was perpetually mad at me, and I kept thinking that at any time all those things I had ever done would come be thrown at me for some infraction that had never been addressed before, and the consequences would be extreme, usually including being ignored for some length of time before being told again how it was my fault. Others have ideas of God that are quite the opposite where they believe God is more like Santa Clause who just gives good things and gifts to anyone who is a pretty good person. Both of those ideas do nothing but drive a person from the truth of God.

The truth of God is that He is a loving God. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. He is also a just God. While the price has been paid, it is for those who choose His Son. It is not enough to believe there is a God out there. In the book of James it says the demons believe in Christ and have the sense to tremble. Satan knows the reality of Christ, but he isn't going to Heaven. What makes us think a human believing Christ is real will buy us anything else?

I think there are two significant problems here. First is simple rebellion and refusal to submit to Christ as Lord. The other is preconceived ideas based on human nature.

First we have to address the reality that Christ is called a King. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Son of God who sits at the right hand of God. If He is royalty, then our place as people ransomed by Him is that of servant. That means we must obey His Lordship. To believe Christ is the Son of the King and refuse to obey Him as Lord puts us on the level of demons who know He is the Son of God but refuse to obey Him.

Second, we project human-ness onto God and what He requires or offers. John 3:16 says simply, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall have everlasting life." All that is required is belief. However, this word is not so simple. If we believe something is true, then we are required to act in accordance with that truth. If we believe a fire will burn us, we don't stick our hand in it, do we? If we believe the God of the universe gave His Son for us, we are required to respond and to act accordingly, as people forgiven of sins not as those who are given a free ticket to sin. We are required to spend time seeking His purpose for us, learning His character, hearing His heart. We do this not out of legalistic demands by God but out of our gratitude and love because we know the truth--we were dead in our sins and we were headed to hell, but the Lord God saved us by the shedding of His Son's blood. How can we not respond with gratitude and love to someone who saves us from torture and death? My opinion is the only way we are not affected by the depth and immensity of God's love is that we either have such hard hearts that we prefer our selfish way to Him or our preconceived ideas blind us to the truth. In either case, we miss Him, and that has an eternal price tag.

May all preconceptions fall at the feet of the Truth as the Truth is shone in all His glory....

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ---Ephesians 3