Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This was originally posted on the Project:Re3 blog.  :)

This morning, Beth kicked off the new sermon series called “Better”. The idea that “normal” is what keeps us from being great really resonated with me. Beth made the point that normal is easy and takes no effort. We will even stay in painful situations because normal is comfortable.

This past week I did something I have never done before. I gave blood. Why have I never done this before? I am not sure. It is not like I don’t have a good example. My husband, Dave, has given regularly for years. And I understand the need. I have relatives who have needed blood due to accidents or cancer treatments. I would like to say I overcame my fear, but really, I am not afraid of needles. I’ve had multiple IVs and vials of blood taken.

I have given this a lot of thought this week and I am embarrassed to say I rationalized my decision to NOT give blood. I have low blood pressure, I’m borderline anemic, blah, blah, blah. The reasons all seem kind of silly after the fact. It was not painful. Uncomfortable, but not painful. I did not feel horrible. Maybe a little tired that evening, but not horrible. On the other hand, I felt like I had done something amazingly good and selfless when I walked out of the center. And just to keep it all in perspective (and keep me humble), I have a nephew who is donating his kidney to someone he doesn’t know.

The sermon this morning just confirmed what I had already concluded. Most of my life I have shied away from doing certain things, not because I was afraid, but just because they took me out of my comfort zone or were not “normal”.

Why do we do this? Why do we try to insulate ourselves from being in uncomfortable situations? What would life look like if we embraced that idea that somethings are just uncomfortable – yes, even painful. Because lets face it - to love is to open ourselves up to uncomfortable situations – even pain and loss.

Ask the new parent who is happy to get 3-4 hours of sleep at a time. Let’s not even talk about changing diapers. They love their child, but any parent will tell you that to be a parent is to be thrust into uncomfortable situations at the very least. And then there are those parents who have lost a child due to disease or an accident. I’ve never heard a parent say they wished they had never had the child they lost.

Here’s the thing. We should expect to be uncomfortable at times. We should not expect to live life without any pain. We should expect it because, well, not to sound trite, but this world is not our home! Especially as followers of Jesus, we should expect to be called beyond the normal or comfortable.

So, what if we really got this? What if we embraced being uncomfortable? And what if we also embraced the positives that could come out of our being uncomfortable?

  • What if, instead of being afraid of a needle or being uncomfortable, we embraced the idea of saving a life?
  • What if, instead of being afraid of rejection, we reached out to that lonely person?

  • What if, instead of worrying that we don’t know what to say, we just went and sat with someone who was grieving?

  • What if, instead of going on our yearly trip to the coast, we spent that money to go to Guatemala and love on some orphans?

  • What if we opened up our home and hosted a child from Belarus for six weeks?

  • What if we volunteered to make coffee at church one week a month?

  • What if we just quit thinking about ourselves so much and thought about the other person more?

There are so many things I have felt prompted to do in life, but I have allowed myself to be shackled by comfort instead of walking freely in obedience. I know – that just doesn’t sound normal. We don’t think about obedience being a way to freedom. But that is what I have found.

During 2017, I want to be better at walking in obedience to the Holy Spirit instead of being shackled by my own comfort or what the world considers normal. Some of these things may be big, like hosting a child from Belarus. Others may be small, like giving blood.

What about you? Beth ended the sermon with two questions:

  • What is your normal?
  • What can you do today to start to change that?

I will add one more to the mix:

  • Are there things you don’t do, not because you are afraid, but because you just like to be comfortable?


As always, you can listen to the entire sermon here:  Listen On Line

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Light of Christmas

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows-light! sunbursts of light!
Isaiah 9:2 (Msg)

Who can argue with this scripture when it refers to people walking in darkness?  Surely, in our day and age, we are a people who walk in darkness.

  • There are refugees who have lived in refugee camps longer than I have lived anywhere in my adult life.  
  • Slavery still exists all over the world, more that we would ever want to admit.  Statistics say that only 1-2% are ever rescued.
  • There are families raising their children in areas that are full of radiation all around Chernobyl.  Never mind GMO's and bottled water.  These people are eating and drinking radioactive water and food. 
  • Members of my family will have a different kind of Christmas as they remember the little boy who went to be with Jesus last Christmas Day.
  • There are soldiers away from home this holiday.
  • There are people fighting cancer with everything they've got.  
  • There are people struggling with abuse, depression, and addictions everywhere you look.
Need I go on?  

But this scripture also says these same people have seen a great light.  I love how The Message puts it - "sunbursts of light".   That light - the light of Christmas is HOPE.  Hope is what ignites us.  It allows us, no pushes us, to have joy in the midst of darkness.  Because it is the hope of our Salvation - Jesus - that in reality keeps us moving forward.  Today may be bad, but tomorrow can be better.   This world is not all there is.  It is rightly said that we are all fatal.  Not one of us gets out of here alive.  And yet, we can have hope, because we are told of a better place.  A place where
      • the lame will walk
      • the blind will see
      • Families will be reunited
      • Horrible diseases will be no more
      • No hurting souls
      • No jealousy
      • No greed
      • No prejudice.
      • No earthquakes
      • No wildfires
      • No drought
      • No floods

This.  THIS is the HOPE of Christmas.  Baby Jesus was born to die for MY sins - for YOUR sins, so that one day we could reign on the New Earth with HIM!  Think of the most beautiful place on earth, improved 100%.  We get to go there!!   Crazy, but true.  As my pastor says, "You can't make this stuff up!"

So take heart friends.  If you are hurting, know that Jesus came to comfort you and one day all things will be made right.  If life is good, know that one day, it may not be.  But Jesus came for that day too.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Last weekend I spent the weekend, or most of it at my local IF:Gathering.  This movement of women seeks to gather, equip & unleash a generation of women.  Women who are in relationship with Christ.  This year the focus was on "what if we lived like Jesus?"  And really, isn't that what we are called to do?

 Believe in Him - yes, but James tells us that even the demons do that.

  Believe Him and what he says.  Oh yes.

But to live LIKE HIM.  Well....  That's when it gets a little harder.  Because if we live like him, that calls us out of our comfort zones, I don't care who you are.

To be compassionate enough to love the unlovable, confident enough to speak truth even when it is not politically correct, to look everyone in the eye.  Jesus - he loved even when his closest friends abandoned him.  We get insulted if someone says the wrong thing to us.

But really, it's simple.  Jesus summed it up, not in 12 steps, but in 2:
Love God
Love Others

Simple, but incredibly hard.  Because the truth is, I love me.  My comfort, my rights, my opinions.

This weekend, almost all of the material came from the gospel of John.  So today, I am starting a treasure hunt - to find out what Jesus did so that I can follow his example.  Not just reading the words Jesus said, but really looking at what He DID.  I am not sure what I'll find as dig in to the Gospel of John, but I do know it will be worth the effort.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Heavenly Milkshakes

I think it is no mistake that I am reading a book called Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  It seems the idea of heaven and heavenly rewards keeps recurring in the bible studies our small group is doing.  It seems I am not alone in not understanding the concept of heaven.   So I am preparing for our next study.

The thing is, my family is mourning the death of my great-nephew, Miles.  Miles was a special young man who suffered from Sanfilippo syndrome.   When he died on Christmas morning, it was unexpected.  He had just spent Christmas Eve with his family.  And yet his parents and the rest of us knew it was coming.  There is no cure for what ailed him.

This morning, this paragraph jumped out at me:
"Meanwhile, we on this dying Earth can relax and rejoice for our loved ones who are in the presence of Christ.  As the apostle Paul tells us, through we naturally grieve at losing loved ones, we are not "to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope"  (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  Our parting is not the end of our relationship, only an interruption.  We have not "lost" them, because we know where they are.  They are experiencing the joy of Christ's presence in a place so wonderful that Christ called it Paradise.  And one day, we're told, in a magnificent reunion, they and we "will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)  [Heaven, Alcorn p73]
Because of Miles' many issues related to Sanfilippo he had trouble eating.  But he loved a good milkshake.  There have been many pictures posted on facebook of Miles enjoying a milkshake with his mom or dad.   Funny thing is, my brother in law, Joe, who is also in heaven, had a special love of milk shakes too.  Although their issues were different, they were both special young men.  I loved their grins and big soulful eyes and how they loved with no bounds.  I am a better person because of them.

Today, many of us who were touched by Miles' life will go enjoy a milkshake to honor his memory.  It is an awesome way to remember him.  But, I am going to take it one step farther today.  Based on what I am learning about heaven, I will imagine Miles in heaven today - unfettered from the chains of Sanfilippo - enjoying a milkshake with Joe.   And I will grieve with the hope of seeing them both again.  Maybe we'll even enjoy a heavenly milkshake together.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Faith Like Rahab

And in the same way, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:25-26
I love that one of the people James uses as an example for us is Rahab. Her story is told in Joshua chapter 2 and chapter 6.
Everyone in Jericho had heard the tales and “knew” about God's hand on the Israelites. That's why the spies coming into Jericho was such a big deal. They were afraid.
You've got to think that there was a price on the spies heads. It would seem logical that there would have been a reward for their capture. And then, there is this woman who makes her living selling herself. If anyone would have turned these guys in for some cash, you would think it would be Rahab right? And yet, she doesn't. You know the story - she hides the guys and then lets them escape through her window. In return, she is assured of safety for her and her family when the Israelites return. She knew the God of the Israelites was powerful, but she went one step further took action by protecting the spies and asking for mercy.
And don't fail to notice that scarlet rope by which she & her family will be saved. It's scarlet for a reason...
So – we have this woman of questionable background that acted on her beliefs. Her family was saved. She was saved. She was allowed to shelter outside the camp.
But wait – she is mentioned again in Matthew 1:1-6!
The historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers, Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Aram, Aram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered King David.
Did you catch that? Rahab is the mother of Boaz! Boaz the kinsman redeemer of Ruth? What kind of mother raises a son like Boaz? Not a woman who is still living a life of prostitution. Her action of hiding the spies seems to have changed more that just where she lived. Perhaps it changed HOW she lived.
And then we see her one more time in Hebrews 11, “the Hall of faith”.
By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed. (v11)
And as I look at the rest of Hebrews 11, I see it is full of action! Here are a few:
By faith, Noah built an ark
By faith, Abraham obeyed, went out, offered up Issac
By faith Moses was hidden, left Egypt,
By faith, the people crossed the Red Sea,
By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down
And then the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that there are many, many more. Maybe even today?
You see, if we believe there is a God, James tells us we do well. But then he says that even the demons believe and shudder (James 2:19). Just like the people in Jericho.
But there is a deeper belief – one that moves us into action, like those people reviewed in Hebrews 11,
That is why I love the community of believers I am a part of. We are a new community – barely 2 years old. And yet there is an energy that is hard to deny. Our focus is on rebuilding communities to make them livable again as outlined in Isaiah 58. It has been fascinating to watch things just take off – ministering in Mexico City. Rebuilding homes in Pine Ridge, SD. Over 100 people receiving gifts this Christmas in Pine Ridge. A Christmas bazaar to fund a mission trip to Uganda where girls will be given hygiene kits. Hundreds of girls! I could go on and on. But it is more than just community service projects. You see, we believe that by helping others to heal, we are also healed. By showing mercy and compassion, we better understand the mercy and compassion Christ has shown us. We are not perfect people with perfect pasts. We are the Rahabs of the world that know Jesus is Lord and act in obedience to HIS command to love our neighbor.
Imagination is a wonderful, God-given gift, isn’t it? I imagine that someday, we might see an actual hall of faith that stretches on and on with the names of the faithful and their acts of faith. Some we know as outlined in Hebrews 11. But even the writer of Hebrews tells us there are many more. Some we might know from biblical history - names like Paul, Peter and Stephen. But there also might be names like Hudson Taylor and Corrie ten Boom. And maybe, just maybe…
By faith,………… sponsored a child in Pine Ridge
By faith, …………… provided a hygiene kit
By faith, ………….. served at the Overflow Shelter
By faith, …...
By the way, if you would like to know more about the community I am involved in, you can check it out at http://www.projectre3.org/.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…

James 1: 23 – 25 tells us that anyone who hears the word but does not 'do' the word is like a man who looks in the mirror, walks away, and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the person who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it will be blessed.

Mirrors are interesting things – they have been around for years – as early as 3000 BC when they were made of obsidian.  Ancient mirrors were made of polished metal and at the very best reflected a distorted image.  Paul refers to this in 1 Cor 13:12 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
 Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, 
even as I have been fully known. (ESV)

It was not until the 14th century that the modern mirror was invented.  Instead of metal, it is a piece of glass with silvering on one side.  And these mirrors, for the most part give us a true image.  We use them to make sure we look acceptable on the outside.  At least most of us.  There are those who stare at themselves and practice their “look”.  Think Derek Zoolander and “BlueSteel”, his signature look.

And, it is interesting that James talks about a man looking into a mirror and immediately forgetting what he looks like.  We may scoff at this idea, but there is actually a psychological disorder called body dysmorphic disorder.  People cannot remember what they look like.  If they see a picture of themselves, they do not recognize the image to be there own.

For most of us, looking in the mirror is not something we relish.  I recently brought mirrors to my small group and asked the women to look at themselves for 1 minute.  It was a struggle after about 15 seconds.  We are more comfortable with just glancing at ourselves in the mirror to check our appearance. 

When James talks about hearing the word, that is more like glancing or observing– quickly looking to make sure we look ok.  But then James talks about the person who looks into the perfect law of liberty, this is at a deeper level.  The original word in Greek implies studying intently or peering within.

Our self reflections can be skewed just like those ancient mirrors by the lies you have been told and believed.  Instead look into a better mirror - God's word  - and see who you are in Christ.  You don't have to look far to find words like these:

loved accepted child of God

a temple redeemed forgiven a saint
Once you have THAT image is your mind's eye, you can then pray along with David:  

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV)

And as we really look into the law of liberty, we may find some things in our life that are not pleasing to God.

our desires resentment not listening anger

doing things to be seen self-pity

out of control tongue religious activity that is useless
And just as we use a mirror to check for spinach between our teeth, use God's word to correct things in your character.   And then step forward knowing that you are loved and accepted and with the hope that He will help you make any need corrections.  


Mirrors have three purposes.
To show you who you are,
To show you who you were.
And to show you who you want to be.
-Dan Pearce

Monday, October 26, 2015

Forged in the Trial

Testing comes at different times and in different ways - but we can all be assured of one thing. We will go through times of testing. The question is how we will respond to the testing.

James 1:12 says

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,

for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, 

which God has promised to those who love him. (ESV)



That phrase, “stood the test” is “hoti dokimos genomenes” in Greek. That word “dokimos” has its origins in coin making. In ancient banking, each coin was made individually by an artisan. The metal was melted and poured into forms. Once it was cooled, the burs and other imperfections were shaved off. Some money changers would shave off more than required. This became such a problem that at one point there were 80 laws on the books in Athens to regulate how much could be shaved off for a coin to be genuine. Some money changers were honest and gave each coin the full weight. Their coins were genuine and the coin changers were referred to as “dokimos”.

As I was thinking about this, I thought of the differences in casting and forging. I am no expert, but when a metal piece is cast, liquid metal is poured into a mold and cast into the desired shape. Some dross or imperfections have been removed, but no strength is added. Haven't you ever had something made of metal that just snapped in two? Chances are, this piece was cast.

In forging, the metal is heated, hammered and cooled – repeatedly. It actually changes the metal crystallization and grain refinement of the metal. The metal becomes more flexible and stronger.

James outlines two processes in chapter 1 of his letter. In verses14 – 15, he says our desires give birth to sin. These desires may not look bad, but they are not necessarily pleasing to God. We need wisdom to discern if what we desire lines up with what God wants. The best place to find that wisdom is in the scriptures. Once birth is given to sin, it becomes full grown. Instead of taking our thoughts captive, we feed them. We keep them warm and incubate them by thinking about “our rights”. We become self righteous. We tell ourselves the lie that our “little” sin won't hurt anyone. And then, full grown sins lead us to death.

The other process is found in verses 3-4. It starts with testing. Testing comes in many forms. There is the testing of cause and effect – you reap what you sow. There are spiritual trials – usually when our desires are in conflict with God's desires. And then there are mysterious trials. These are probably the hardest because there is no rational reason for them. All of these trials, if we let them, will grow us in steadfastness until we become perfect and complete.
 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

The culmination of this is the Crown of Life. The word for crown is “stephanos” and does not indicate a crown of royalty, but rather a victor's crown or laurel wreath.

It is this second process that leads to us becoming “dokimos”. The dross of our life is removed. We are hammered and cooled and reheated. The mettle of our life becomes stronger. We are proved to be “dokimos”. And receive the Crown of Life.

I, for one, fight this forging process. It is not easy to allow the Lord to shape and strengthen us. It would be so much easier to be melted once into the perfect shape, wouldn't it? Unfortunately there would be no strength in us. And truly we would not be genuine or give the full weight to our calling. And truly, doesn't He deserve followers who are genuine? He is a God who is above all Faithful and True. We are promised that He who began a good work in us will finish it. Should we not trust Him in this promise while we are in the process of being forged into the person He has called us to be?