Friday, December 24, 2010

What is a Cowboy Christmas?



Mike’s old team roping rope on the door with a big red bow.

Boots by the fire instead of stockings.

Barbed-wire stars and rusty lanterns.

Pine bough perfume …

and a stable for the babe.

That’s right - God’s boy was born in a barn! He slept in the hay, wrapped in the warmth and comfort of livestock.

No palace for this King. No mansion or rampart or tower, but a stable where even one as simple as I could enter.

Have you noticed? He left the door wide open.

How else would the rest of us find our way home?

“…I am the door …” - Jesus (John 10:9)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What are you scratching for?



We live in an area called “Hardscrabble.” The name arrived with gold seekers and ranchers scrabbling to make a living off this pebbly patch of Rocky Mountain soil. That scrabble even shows between the sparse blades of winter grass in my side yard, where sparrows peck and scratch for God-knows-what.

I noticed them a few days ago, scraping at the barren, wind-blown ground, and in answer to their tireless quest I hung a new cedar bird feeder filled to the brim with wild bird food and sunflower seeds.

They ignored it.

No birds alighted the next day either, but I assured myself that like the hummingbirds homing in on their favorite nectar, so would the sparrows. Give them a day, I told myself. They will find it.

On the third day, there were still no birds at the feeder. From my window I watched them scratch the bare earth, heads down, flushing away when the dog bounded round the corner and into their foraging grounds.

And this morning they were at it again, busily scraping with their frail little feet, heads bent, pecking at imaginary seeds. I could almost hear their frantic thoughts: “There has to be something to eat in here somewhere!”

While above them hangs my feeder, still full to the brim of the choicest of fowl fare.

Will they never notice my care for them? I’ve had feeders at every home, and always the birds have found them and filled their gullets on my gifts.

It isn’t hard to see that I am much like these Hardscrabble sparrows, bent on my own way of providing what I need, unwilling to look up to another who waits close by, provision in hand. How often do I flit past my Bible, too busy to stop and feed on its life-giving words? How often do I pursue God-knows-what in my quest for sustenance?

And that is just the point: God knows what. He knows what I need and has provided it.

Why do I seek my own way instead of His?


“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Over the phone and through the mail


This Christmas finds our family spread across the country from Colorado to California. How can we continue our tradition of exchanging names when few of us will be together for the holidays?

We just won’t, I decided. It wouldn’t be the same. Besides, it would be wise in this economy to save the expense of giving and mailing. We’ll just pass this year.

No! said our eldest from across two mountain ranges. It’s being part of a family, he said, knowing that you’ve put thought and effort and love into the gifts chosen for your designated member.

“You choose,” he said over the telephone. “You and Dad put all our names in a basket, then choose for each of us and let us know.”

I thought about his words, his insistence that we should pursue the tradition regardless of position. So I wrote our names on slips of paper, eight in all including parents and children and spouses. We tossed them in a cup, picked out one at a time and sent the chosen names to each.

“I got you!,” texted one spouse to our daughter. “What do you want?” The excitement had spread already, unhindered by miles and mountain ranges.

It grew in my own spirit as I considered the one I’d chosen and what specific gift would touch that loved one’s heart. And I realized that distance had not mattered to the first Giver. How far away mankind was from the perfection and love of God! Yet He gave. Across the miles and mountains and galaxies, He sent a specifically selected and perfect gift to His chosen recipients.

Jesus: His love, our life. His living, our hope.

Merry miles-away Christmas to you this year. May you know His perfect Gift.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heaven scent?

Roasting turkey, fresh pumpkin bread, and cinnamon-scented candles lace our home with a Thanksgiving Day perfume. It pleases me, soothes me, and fills me with a sense of well-being.

Ah - aromatherapy. Not a new concept. Asian cultures have used incense for millennia. And today we can choose fragrance in everything from coffee and candles to shampoo and detergent.

However, as a country wife I’ve had a few unpleasant aromas waft through my house, like organically generated fertilizer or the pungent perfume of a little black and white mammal - definitely the stronger of the two.

Skunks let you know when they’re in the vicinity. And they acquire a real attitude when startled or threatened - an attitude that lingers long after their departure.

Typically, I don’t think much about scent unless it pleases or displeases me; it’s the extremes that grab my attention.

Our lives have the same affect. Appreciation filters out and touches the people closest to us. It clings to those we encounter at home, at work or in rush hour traffic. So does discontent. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of those around us, and has a way of transferring from one person to the next. It sticks like skunk.

The ancient Hebrews worshipped God with aroma, giving burnt offerings as a show of thanksgiving. The Psalm writer said, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:2 NIV).

“Outdoor barbecue,” declared a friend of mine after moving her family to a southern state. Comparing those altars of old to her summertime pastime, “Heaven must smell like Texas,” she said.

It all makes me wonder what I smell like today: attitude or gratitude?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sometimes Life's a Rodeo!

Thanks for checking out my recently posted photobook (see previous post), "Sometimes Life's a Rodeo." To actually READ what it says, under options check full screen, single-page view and you will be able to see the text.

This is a preview of the new devotional book I'm working on.

Thanks for reading.

My Photo Book Oct 29 2010

Click here to view this photo book larger

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Today started out great.

The earth stilled just before dawn, holding its breath as if waiting to hear the sunrise – and then everything went downhill from there.

Honestly, it had nothing to do with the day and everything to do with me.

How can I blame “the day,” labeling it good or bad based upon whether I get what I want when I want it? Like the CD my computer ate (and is still chewing on) long after a beautiful sunrise.

Prior to the CD incident I was curled up on the couch with my Bible, “listening” to what the creator of that sunrise had to say. Life interrupted, I broke my own personal rule of not turning on the computer until after my morning quiet time, and I was instantly yanked from peace and stillness into technological, information-highway road rage.

Now the dilemma: do I return to the sofa from where I can see the eastern horizon, open my Bible to the words of Jesus and let them settle into my agitated soul? Or do I pick up where I left off yesterday on a seemingly self-perpetuating stack of paperwork that HAS TO BE DONE?

The quality of my day depends upon this decision. My attitude will be affected by this decision, which will in turn affect my family and the effectiveness of my work.

I’m heading for the couch.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I recently read an intriguing novel titled Retribution ...

... by one of my favorite authors, Randy Ingermanson. A thread running through it repeats this premise: “Great sacrifice releases great power.”

Interesting concept. Could it be true? Could it be a Life Truth?

I believe it’s worthy of the test.

Psalm 50:23 says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

Saying “thank you” can be a sacrifice if we’re having a hard time at the moment.

And wouldn’t the salvation – deliverance, help, intervention – of God be a pretty good representation of great power?

I didn’t know I could prepare the way for God to work in my life. I didn’t know that my sacrifices of “thank you” would open the door for His power.

Wow. There's more to gratitude than I thought - especially in the wake of defeat, discouragement, illness, tragedy.

I’m not waiting until Thanksgiving.

What about you?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Instead of the website I expected ...

... after clicking an online link, a white screen appeared with these words:

Server is too busy.

For a moment I considered what that phrase meant just a few years ago. It could have been the comment of a dinner partner explaining why the waiter hadn’t brought me another iced tea.

The phrase could also have referred to my tennis opponent preoccupied with tying her shoe, or the man delivering legal process notices who was distracted by a call on his cell phone.

But those weren’t the problem of the moment. My Internet server – the unseen something somewhere that brings me what I order from the information highway corner cafĂ© – was busy.

Doing what?

Was it disoriented by the workings of my squirrel-in-a-wheel computer? Had I asked for too many things at once and its wires crossed? Were there too many customers on the list ahead of me?

Whatever the case, I had to wait to be served. I couldn’t even get up and get it myself.

The word “server” comes from an old Anglo-French word that defined a person who brought food to the master of the house.

When I Googled “server” the first 100 listings had nothing to say about food and drink, but I did see quite a bit about being dedicated.

That seemed to fit; a dedicated server would be a good thing.

And now I wonder: to what or whom am I dedicated to serve?

Am I ever too busy?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Would Jesus have a Facebook page?

I believe he did.

In first-century Palestine, Jesus participated in the social medium of the day: itinerant teaching. From hillsides, roadsides, tables and wells. He met the people where they were, where they were looking, and where they needed him. Face to face.

Were there other traveling teachers doing the same thing, from perhaps less than the purest of motives? Of course. There have always been counterfeits, knock-offs and wannabes, but they have never kept the Real Deal from being the Real Deal.

From the Road to Emmaus to the Information Highway, Jesus is there. He still has truth to give to those who are hungry, thirsty and looking. He is that truth.

Log on. He’d love to meet you.

For more information on Jesus, who he is and who he could be to you, see a little book in the New Testament called John, chapter 7, verses 37 and 38.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning the Quran

Burning the Quran? Now there’s a way to win converts. Let’s show Muslims the love of Christ by burning their holy book. Won’t that make everyone of Islamic faith want to turn immediately to the God of the Christian Bible? Won’t that just warm their hearts with the love and compassion Jesus told His followers to exemplify?

Florida minister Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center certainly has the world’s attention with his planned Quran-burning set for Sept. 11. And that may be all he’s after: attention. It says “World Outreach” on the front of Jones’ center, but World Outrage is what he will reap if he goes through with the barbecue.

Government and military officials warn that if carried out, Jones’ pyromaniacal act could incite violence against Americans around the world. It’s the hit-back mentality we see among small children, and Jones is ramping up the fervor. In Afghanistan, a parliamentary candidate for their Sept. 18 election has been quoted as saying, “wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed” if the Qurans are burned.

Wow. Many dying for the sins of one. And that’s part of the tragedy. I’m an American, and I’m a Christian, but I don’t agree at all with what Jones is doing. Yet I – and countless American soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan and other Islamic countries – could taste retribution for his act.

There’s not much I can do about Jones’ misguided rampage – one that could happen only in a country as free as America – but, thanks to that same freedom, I can at least voice my opinion. And I can pray.

I can pray that God’s people will step back from such acts and turn instead to the teachings of the Jesus they profess who said to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us.

Does that mean that there is never a time to stand up and fight for what we believe? Not at all. But Jones’ threat is not a fight; it’s a childish insult.

Yes, the tragedy of 9-11 should be remembered. Yes, it was a despicable, murderous, terroristic act perpetrated by Islamic extremists. But does torching a stack of Qurans really show national or religious pride?

No. It simply shows one more example of unclear thinking, and in-your-face radicalism.

Maybe Jones should remove “Dove” from his center’s name and replace it not with "hawk," but "vulture." Better yet, in my disgust of his proposed actions, and as a statement of how much I despise what he intends to do, I think I’ll collect all the doves I can find, and burn them on a symbolic pyre. That’ll show him I mean business.

Take that, Jones, and that!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Watch your step ... or not?

The boxes blocked my view, stacked up in my arms three-high. They weren’t heavy, just awkward, but I didn’t want to carry them up from the basement one at a time. I should be able to do this, I thought.

Trouble is, I’ve never been very good at stairs when I can’t see them. I’ve always admired people in movies – or real life – who could go tripping up and down a staircase, light on their feet, a smile on their face. Oh, I could trip all right, just not lightly or with a smile. I simply had to keep my eyes on the next step so I wouldn’t lose my balance and fall on my face.

So, challenged with the old concrete basement stairs, I gripped the boxes tighter, tried to think perpendicularly, and planted my foot soundly on the first step. Next, the other foot, same method. Following this approach, I realized something I’d not visually noticed before: the steps were shallower than the length of my foot. My tendency was to over-step them and jam my foot against the next one. I had to slow down, shorten my step and concentrate on one at a time.

Since I couldn’t see where I was going, I had to do this by faith, so to speak. Sounded like a spiritual metaphor I’d read somewhere.

Walking by faith is definitely harder than dashing ahead, and not nearly as fun. I like dashing ahead, running along my life path, glancing over my shoulder from time to time and yelling confidently, “Come on, Jesus. This way!”

But I don’t like falling flat on my face and waiting for Him to stop and help me up – which He always does.

Hmm. Maybe I’d have more success if I slowed down and let Him lead me, just one, short foot step at a time.


“For we walk by faith, not by sight” II Corinthians 5:7

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ready or not!

Remember playing Hide and Seek - running away from the seeker who, with covered eyes, counted to 10 while you squeezed under any little bush or board you could find?

“Ready or not, here I come!”

Life is like that. Most of us think we are well hidden. Truth is, we’re not.

Those six little words of warning do not fade away with our childhood. They hang around in the shadows and pop out at the most unexpected moments:

College entrance exams.
Driver’s license test.
Childbirth.
Root canals.
Moving.

Some things find us whether we are ready for them or not.

I was reminded of this truth when we totaled our car on a rainy, midnight highway. All of my so-called preparation of blanket, jacket, umbrella and flashlight meant little. Crawling out of the wreck and groping in the backseat for glasses that were moments before resting comfortably on my face – and then groping some more for a new cell phone that had flown from my purse – I forgot all about the water, blanket and flashlight in the trunk.

My husband and I survived the crash, the airbags, the insurance delays and the purchase of another car, but since then my emergency kit has expanded to include first aid, a toothbrush, comb and deodorant – those niceties we take for granted until holed up overnight in a roadside motel without them. Fortunately, I get another go at “ready or not.”

But we don’t get a second go at eternity. It’s a one shot deal and there’s only one exit.

I am happy to say that we were spiritually ready that night, for we are both hidden and found in Jesus, because He came to find and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

My rescue is based on what He has done, not on what I’ve done. All my good deeds and donations to charities and the church are mere afterthoughts compared to His mercy. Those are wonderful things, and certainly I strive toward them, but when I look into forever, they will be only as good as water and blankets and flashlights.

How about you? Have you found your life in Jesus? Better yet, have you found Him?

He isn’t lost, and He’s not hiding. But He is waiting for you to say, “Ready or not, here I come.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I'd rather be dependent than independent

On this day of independence celebration, I celebrate my utter dependence upon a God who saves and delivers.

Friday morning I read Psalm 31 in which Israel’s shepherd-king David wrote, “My times are in your hands.” That night just before midnight as my husband and I drove into a sudden downpour on Monument Hill just north of Colorado Springs, those words came back to me again.

Forward movement on a watery roadway can result in hydroplaning which can lead to fish-tailing that can throw a moving vehicle into a vicious spin – much like the tea-cup ride at the carnival, but without the connecting support.

“My times are in Your hands.”

What else but the hands of God could have kept us secure as we spun across I-25, took out a sign post and shot through an opening that just happened to be right there in the guard rail? What else could have sent us into the median rather than off the embankment on the edge of the highway? What else could have kept us from colliding with other cars on the interstate, and helped us out of our own, shaken but safe when it was totaled?

“My times are in Your hands.”

There is peace in the true, unfailing Word of God.

But had we opened our eyes to look into the face of Jesus – a thought I carried with me as we spun – we would have known even more than we know now the truth of His unfailing love.

Thank God that I can depend upon a savior who saves. Thank God for His faithfulness and help and healing. Thank God that I am not alone on a highway in the middle of a rainy night, for He is with me.

My times are in His hands.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Moving Across Country Ever Easy?

Which is more painful: a writer separated from pen and paper or one separated from toothbrush and toothpaste?

I guess it depends on how close the writer is to other people.

During our recent move from California to Colorado, I spent two days in the cab of a U-Haul with my husband Mike and our Queensland heeler, Blue. I think Mike would choose the toothbrush. Thank the Lord for convenience stores.

With no paper – and as one of the few diehards who does not own a laptop – I spent the first several hundred miles trying to remember where I put my journal. Either I or dear family members and neighbors who came to my relocation rescue packed it in a feverish rush the afternoon prior to our departure. It must have gone into the same box as my toothbrush.

However, several names and sites along the way were unforgettable:

We crossed Holy Moses Wash in Kingman, Arizona, and in New Mexico passed road signs for Eagle’s Nest, Red River, and Angle Fire. On Colorado’s I-25 a flashing sign warned, “Watch for Wildlife on Roadway.” Not your typical notifications found in the San Joaquin Valley.

The first night I marveled that I could see the stars all the way down to the horizon. And the next morning leading Blue out for relief behind the motel, I watched a Native American couple walk with great dignity from a nearby vacant building, side by side, heads high, their sleeping pad rolled up over his shoulder, her hand in his.

How little I knew of the moving of others.

During the weeks and months of packing, I had thought, “This is hard.” It was hard, but not as hard as it is for some, and I often felt like one of my whinier sixth-graders who always complained of assignments, “This is too hard.”

Unloading and sorting and moving in to our new home were also hard, but I had recently read David’s declaration that God was his helper. “For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29).

Exhausted each night from heavy lifting, and unfamiliar shifting and shoving, I indeed felt like I had run against a troop and leapt over a wall – but all with God’s unfailing help and the friends He sent our way.

And so I settle into a routine again, gazing out my window across the Arkansas River Valley to the mighty Pike’s Peak and Cheyenne Mountain that brood over Colorado Springs.

Thank you, everyone who helped us and wished us well. We may have moved away, but you remain in our thoughts and in our hearts.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three rules and 10 things you can get rid of before you move

We are moving to Colorado in two weeks and I’ve come up with three rules for sorting stuff before packing:

1. Do I use it?
2. If not, will I use it in a year?
3. If not, is the sentimental value worth moving it?

This eliminates:
1. jeans that once fit
2. single socks with no mate
3. old phone books
4. makeup that is two shades too dark but cost so much you don’t want to waste money by throwing it away
5. the fourth casserole dish with serving basket
6. old towels kept for rags
(Wait – don’t throw those away. They’re great for wrapping glassware, and can be tossed after the move.)
7. old formals that your grownup daughter never wore and your granddaughter won’t either
8. the two-pint containers of turkey drippings saved from Thanksgiving for soup someday
9. padlocks that have no keys
10. dried up ink pens from Disneyland

Some of these items can be recycled through thrift stores or sold on Ebay, but probably not the turkey drippings.

I know I’m not the only American who has kept things that should have been tossed or given away long ago, so if you have anything to add to the list, I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mom-care

What is it about a mother that makes her do things for her kids all the time? Even when no one’s looking? Even when no one knows? Especially her children.

I believe it is the God-gene in her – not in a scientific, physiological sense, but in a spirit sense. God’s fingerprint is on his creation. He breathed the breath of life into Adam, from whom he created a woman, and Adam named her Eve because she was the mother of all living.

Of course it is a God thing.

Who else would go through pain for our deliverance?

Who else would give without thanks and then give again anyway?

Who else would say, “I’ll take care of you,” and then do it even when we’re not looking?

Psalm 121:7 says,

The Lord will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life.


Yesterday, when the Toyota service department technician called me out to my car to see the split rubber on the inside of the left front tire, I remembered that verse.

It was the tire closest to oncoming traffic. All the other tires were in good shape. There’s an imbalance somewhere, a misalignment. The fix is easy, but the damages could have been horrific.

This is not the first time the Lord has watched over my life, nor will it be the last. Psalm 121:8 makes that clear:

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.


There’s a little bit of Mom-care there, just like the little bit of God-care in the mother I remember.

Thank you, Lord.



Thanks, Mom.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spiritual Backbone

When I last visited the chiropractor, he demonstrated for me the reason many people suffer back pain and stiffness. It’s all about posture.

I thought I knew what he was going to say, because I’ve heard it since I was a kid: “Sit up straight.”

But the chiropractor surprised me with a more vivid application. Sitting on the edge of a chair, he curled into himself, drooped his arms and shoulders forward, hunched his back, and dropped his head.

“This is how people sit,” he said. “And this is how they should sit.”

With that, he raised his head, extended his back and lifted both arms as if opening himself up to the world. It was the perfect position of praise.

Even in the physical world, we see a picture of a healthier spiritual posture: open, looking upward, arms wide to receive the blessings of God.

This little display made me wonder how my spirit looks to the Mender of my soul. Am I turned in upon myself, or am I open, looking upward, and praising him for all he’s done?

Perhaps a little more praise and gratitude will improve my gaze and attitude, and give me the strong spiritual backbone that I need.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Tomb

Dead.

Dead and gone.

Gone where? Gone?

He is not here, but is risen!

Alive!

John and Peter saw the evidence – grave clothes without a body in them.

Mary saw him alive and thought he was someone else – until he spoke her name.

And later he spoke to all the disciples. They saw the wounds of nail and spear, felt his smile, breathed his peace, and realized he had conquered death.

They would not have risked their reputations for a hoax.

They would not have risked their lives for a fable.

They could not have risked the faith of their Jewish forefathers for anything less than the promised Messiah, the risen savior of all who believe.

Jesus lives and so can we. Death is not the final word. Death does not win!

If.

If we take Jesus at his word.

If we believe him.

Believe and live.

Live!


John 20:1-20, The Holy Bible

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday. Good-bye.

We call it Good Friday. Is that because we get off work early to pack for a weekend away at the lake or the beach or the mountains if it’s warm enough?

More than 2000 years ago, a handful of Jewish leaders in Roman-occupied Jerusalem considered this a good day because it meant they were getting rid of a troublemaker. “Good riddance,” they might have quipped in Hebrew to the man who had turned their world upside down.

However, Good Friday was intended to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth on a Roman cross. He hung there, the Bible tells us, in our place. He took our mistakes and failures and sins upon himself and paid for them with his very blood. He died there. His friends retrieved his body, wrapped it in linen strips and laid it in a stone tomb.

That day the Passover holiday was upon them and they had to get Jesus out of the way. It was their tradition – not an uncaring ritual, but one that dictated immediate burial of the dead.

So they did.

And that should make it good.

I know that without his death I would die, but I still find it hard to call this day Good Friday. Crucifixion is anything but good. I’d rather call it Black Friday – a day when the Light of Life went out and Satan sang in triumph. But “Black Friday” is taken. It’s the day after Thanksgiving when American retailers raise their profits out of the red pit of loss – another misguided moniker.

Maybe it’s easier for modern man to consider this a good day because we know the rest of the story. But Jesus’ family and followers did not. He was gone. Dead. Buried. They were alone. They didn’t know he was the ultimate Passover Lamb sacrificed in their place. Nor did they know he would live again.

Tonight and tomorrow imagine what it would have been like to have everything you believed in destroyed. Imagine finding the answer to life only to have it ripped from your fingers and nailed to a cross. Imagine turning your back on the stone-cold tomb and walking away wondering if you would be next.

Imagine.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A must-read book for moms

Few people would deny that we live in a shaky world. From earthquakes and tsunamis, to soul-rattling emotional tremors, our families face unsettling circumstances on every side. We need a strong foundation and author Judy Scharfenberg couldn’t agree more. In her new book, Secure Families in a Shaky World, she outlines six simple action steps for building and maintaining that foundation.

Scharfenberg encourages mothers of all ages through her delightful candor as she shares from a lifetime of experience. As a Christian speaker, wife, mother, grandmother and retired school librarian, she knows what it means to be busy, hurried, pressed and overwhelmed. But she also knows how important it is to hold the family together – especially today – and she doesn’t mind sharing what works and what won’t.

From personal success stories, recipes and meal planning tips, to a simple how-to for exercise or prayer, Scharfenberg weaves her tapestry of health and hope with timeless scriptures that speak to the need of the moment.

Do you need joy in the middle of your day? In Chapter 4, Scharfenberg shares her Checklist for Joy. Here are just a few items from that list, things that even the busiest mom can handle:
· Mend a quarrel; apologize; ask for forgiveness.
· Seek out a forgotten friend.
· Hug someone tightly and whisper, “I love you.”
· Make or bake something for someone anonymously.
· Listen. Smile.
· Speak kindly to a stranger.
· Turn off the TV and talk (my personal favorite!).
· Encourage an older person.

This book is a must-read for women seeking spiritual and physical health and balance in their homes from one who truly understands that you are “the heartbeat of your family.”

Secure Families in a Shaky World can be purchased through Amazon, Christianbooks.com, and Pleasantwordbooks.com.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Storing the Light

We installed a solar porch light last month. On sunny days, it stores enough light to cast a moon-like glow beneath the pergola at night, lighting a pathway to our front door.

However, if the day is overcast, rainy or foggy, the solar cell collects nothing and remains dark the following night.

It’s just like me.

If I’m not collecting the hope and wisdom and comfort of God from His word, darkness washes in around me during the night of my struggles. It’s Son Light I need – and the more I store up, the brighter my own light shines.

Darkness is the absence of light. But even the smallest glow flickers against the blackest void. It cannot be hidden – it shines. And no matter how feeble it may be, it offers life to those who are searching for a spark of hope.

How about you? Is your soul cell charged with the Son Light of God? Open His word today and fill up with His life-giving light.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house (Matt. 5:15 NIV).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Do You Hear It?

Oscar Hammerstein II said the hills were alive with the sound of music. Where I live, that music plays against verdant pastures and brilliantly green hillsides. Angus cow-calf pairs dot the scene like quarter notes on a musical score. Each cow has a calf at her side, and she paces her stride to match its own faltering steps.

The calves are so fresh and new that they shine like onyx in the morning sun, dark against the grass their mothers graze. There is a tenderness in it all, in the grass, in the animals – a moment set against the rush of time when nothing matters but the protection and nurturing of a young life.

I drive through this landscape every morning on my way to school. And in the late afternoon I return on the same road to see long shadows thrown across the pastures by the grazing cattle.

Yesterday it was warmer; the temperature had climbed into the high 60s, and the cows had turned their eyes away from the sun, their backs to the west. As I slowed to watch them, I wondered what there was of God out in that pasture. I knew there was something there, something He would say to me if I paused in my hurry home, and searched for His message.

The cow closest to the fence line along the road stood at an odd angle, sideways to the sunlight. Her shadow stretched wide across the grass, and several feet away lay her resting calf, tucked exactly within the edges of her cool shade, sheltered from the heat of the day.

She knew.

She knew exactly how to stand to shade her calf, and she stayed there until the glare of the sun had passed.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1 NIV).

Our God knows, too. He knows exactly what we need, and He is there to let us rest in the shadow of His comfort.

And if we still our hearts, we may even hear the music of His love around us.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Your Oxygen

On my return flight from Colorado this past holiday season, I listened to the familiar emergency survival instructions as the plane taxied out to the runway.

If the cabin lost pressure, the stewardess said, an oxygen mask would release from the overhead compartment directly above each passenger. Using a demonstration mask, she showed us how to slip the elastic band over the back of our heads, secure the mask over nose and mouth, and breathe normally.

Then she cautioned that in the event of such an emergency, we were to put on our own masks before we tried to help the person seated next to us – even if that person was a child.

At first, this seemed like a harsh statement, but it soon made sense. How could I help anyone else if I were about to lose consciousness myself?

This practical, life-saving advice applies to other areas of our lives, as well, yet too often we fail to consider its logic. Instead, we offer advice to our friends in difficult situations when we don’t have a solid grip on our own challenges. We try to give them answers, when we’re not even certain of the questions.

It all comes down to preparation. Are we prepared? Are we grounded in the Word of God? Do we know where our lifeline is – our emotional and spiritual oxygen mask – in case of depressurization?

Sadly, many of us don’t. We don’t spend time every day reading the promises and assurances of God. We don’t fill ourselves with the confidence of His faithfulness. Therefore, when the air gets thin, we start to panic. What good will we be to anyone else in that condition, much less to ourselves?

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19). Do you really love yourself in the way God wants you to, or do you ignore His grace and belittle yourself for not measuring up? Do you love yourself enough to get the spiritual nourishment you need?

Start today by opening God’s word and taking a deep breath of His life-giving wisdom. Be prepared so you’ll be able to help others near you who may be gasping for air.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Window Watching

Elvis Presley once described television as a box with a window in it – a one-way window with people looking in but no one looking out.

He was right.

I have one of those windows in my living room, and another very similar window on my desk. In fact, I have many windows on my desk via a computer system of the same name that allows me to see more than one place at one time.

However, I prefer the window above my desk through which I can see a portion of the living world where greening hills cradle a glassy pond, and still-gold cottonwoods flame up from the valley floor like torches.

Sometimes I sit for long uninterrupted moments taking in the view, exploring from a distance the sheer rocky brow of a neighboring hillside, or the rippling breath of dawn as it brushes across the pond lighting the water and waking geese and ducks and egrets. It’s the constancy of life that draws my gaze outside, and it calms me during otherwise tedious hours of chasing black words across the white window of my computer screen. And it calms me immeasurably more than whatever happens to be on the television in the other room.

But the window that gives something in return, even more than the pastoral setting of our surroundings, is God’s word. When I look into that window I find out who I am and where I’m going. I see the one who loves me like no other can; I see a pathway ahead that, should I choose it, will take me into God’s very presence. And I find deeper peace than even the most beautiful of earthly settings can offer.

Not everyone has a breath-taking view out a picture window. Many do, yet they rarely take the time to drink it in. But everyone can get a copy of the Bible today, whether in print or online. This year, regardless of your situation, make the choice to look through the window of God’s word to find your way. Unlike the people on television, He is there looking back at you, waiting for you to join Him.