Friday, August 8, 2014

Every. Single. Day.

No matter how old I get, I will always want my parents. In the past I have joked about how I knew that I was a real adult and ready to be on my own. - - It was when I realized that I could handle being sick without needing my mother!

A couple of months ago, some childhood friends lost their dad to heart problems, so when my own parents were scheduled to come out to Michigan in July, my sister and I (who live about 3 hours from each other) figured out a way for each of us to get more time with them. We had both been feeling that loss so poignantly that we just wanted as much time as we could get. Usually Mom and Dad spend a few days at each of our houses, but this time she brought her kids up here for several days so that we could all be together for part of that time.

I am glad that we did.

My amazing parents
My Excellent Parents
Last Tuesday, my own wonderful father suffered a massive stroke. By the time my Mom was able to get ahold of me, he had been in treatment for about an hour and was responding well - the prognosis was good, yet I hung up the phone shaken by the near loss of this precious man.

Over the course of the next two days, bits and pieces of the miraculous story whirled around in my head. My mom had just spent a week at my sister's house, helping her recover with a newborn baby - the stroke did not happen while she was gone. He had returned from work later than usual that day - at the exact same moment my mom arrived from her volunteer work at a nearby children's camp. If he had come home earlier, he might have fallen asleep since he was not feeling well, and my mom would not have had the opportunity to observe the symptoms. Dozens of little tiny details that all led up to a happy outcome rather than a sad one.

I've had an especially busy week bussing the kids around and, though I keep the kitchen radio tuned to the local Christian radio station, let's face it - I'm not standing in the kitchen really listening to it all day. On Wednesday, the time in the car afforded me the unique privilege of actually listening. As I drove my son to work, a man was talking about how every person has a purpose EVERY. SINGLE. DAY of our lives. He said that people in their 60s, 70s and 80s come to him thinking that their time is past. That they are too old for God to use them. He mentioned how the scriptures say that when David had fulfilled all of God's purposes for him, he died.

A verse immediately popped into my head - probably written by David, himself:

 "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever."
Psalm 138:8

I knew that was a message to me about my Dad. God still has purposes to fulfill in his life.

My husband (who works in the medical profession) keeps reminding me that my dad is not simply "back to normal" and that life will not go on for him business as usual. "This is a life changing event," he says.

I know.

It will likely affect his ability to continue doing his job. But it has the potential of being life-changing in other ways, as well:

God may be freeing up his time to fulfill his purposes.

On Thursday, I went grocery shopping in the evening and caught In The Market with Janet Parshall. She had Babbie Mason on the program talking about how her life had been spared from a car accident when someone ran a red light while she and her husband were crossing the intersection. They had not felt the impact of the car, but had felt the impact of the "what if," and that had inspired her to write her new devotional (complete with music) This I Know For Sure. One song especially stood out to me.

There is a God in Heaven, and I am in His plan;
He will forsake me never, my life is in His hands.
His boundless love will lead me as long as time endures.
This I know for sure.
Babbie Mason

Click here to watch the first Bible study and listen to the song (beginning at minute 18:30).

 * * * * *

One more thought danced around the corners of my mind.

What if instead of death or a near-full recovery, God had chosen to allow my father's body to be permanently disabled, or brain damage had occurred, as often happens to victims of stroke? I could not escape the thought of this realistic possibility, and choked back tears as my mind's eye created pictures of that outcome.

Joni Earekson Tada answered that for me on her 5 minute radio program when she read these words from a listener:

“From Joni and friends devotional this morning, ‘Satan schemed that a seventeen-year-old girl named Joni would break her neck, hoping to ruin her life; God sent the broken neck in answer to her prayer for a closer walk with Him.’” And then Katherine wrote “Now here is my version: ‘Satan schemed that a 26-year-old girl named Katherine would have a massive, near-fatal stroke and subsequently become severely handicapped, hoping to ruin her life and steal her joy, but God sent the brain-stem stroke and the handicapped body in answer to her prayer for a closer walk with Him.’”
(To read or listen to the entire program, click here.)

Even if that had been the outcome, my Dad's life would STILL have a purpose for each and every day.

What about you?

Have you wrapped your mind around this concept?
God has a purpose for YOU!

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for ME;
Your love, O Lord, endures forever."

Photo Credit: B Inspired Photography


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Children Tie the Feet of the Mother"

"I just feel like I'm locked in the house with kids most of the time. I crave adult conversation!" I said in response to my husband's inquiry about why I enjoy staying late after the church service has ended to chat with people. During the summer months, especially, he prefers to get outside as soon as possible. Here in the great white north we get such a short summer season that he wants to soak up every available drop of sunshine.

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For the past couple of years, I have had enough daycare children to prevent me from being involved in MOPS and other things. For a while now, I have been able to see that my children are a valid ministry for me, not an inconvenient interruption to my ministry opportunities. - - And I've been learning to view my daycare children in the same way.

 The other day, I thought of some books that I've had for several years and read before, but now I want to read them to my younger children. They are a short series of excellent, character quality books; well researched and based on the lives of missionaries and evangelists who accomplished great things for/with God. I picked up the first volume of Hero Tales and began to read.

One of my little daycare girls latched on to Amy Carmichael when I told her how, as a child, Amy had wished and prayed that God would give her blue eyes instead of brown but it had never happened. Later, she was able to disguise herself as an Indian woman and rescue temple children.

I read a story of how Amy and her group of women had a ministry traveling the countryside, sharing the gospel, but one day when she returned from traveling, a temple child came to her, seeking safety. Soon other temple children came. She wondered how she could continue her ministry - then it became clear to her that she must stay and make a home for these children. That they would be her ministry. I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I read these words:

An ancient Indian proverb says, "Children tie the feet of the mother" - meaning a mother is not free to come and go as she pleases. Her duty is first of all to her children. Amy let her feet be "tied" because she had compassion on the temple children...She let her compassion for them change her life." Dave and Neta Jackson

I thought of the one little girl, especially, and how her heart is so tender toward God right now. She comes from a very mildly religious home and soaks up every little bit of Him that she can. She is always asking me questions, choosing religiously themed books from the children's book shelf and reminding me to read the Bible to my own children if I get overwhelmed in my day and forget (she likes to sit in on this).

Most of the children who come here are from single parent homes, some broken, some never having been an intact home at all - just shifting from one "family" to another. I have been entrusted with the sacred duty to be a mother for them in their own mother's absence. My home, in some cases, has been the only stable home they have known or experienced. And my faith might be the only faith that they have seen lived out in their short lives. Already, my compassion for these children has affected my life and tied my feet.

As my youngest child heads off to school this fall, I have considered a career change. A chance to be around grown ups again. But after further consideration, it is still clear that this is where I need to stay.

And have my feet tied for a little longer...

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Love Mom

When I got up this morning and turned on the living room lamp, a sale flyer that had slipped to the floor caught my eye. It was upside down from where I was standing, but I could still read the words LOVE MOM printed in large type at the top of the page.

Obviously, they want you to buy something from their store to show love for your mother, but the words of John 14:15 immediately popped into my head, “If you love me, keep my commands."

I thought of some frustrating moments over the past few days, trying to get my children to follow through on what had been asked of them.

"If you love me, keep my commands." Just seven simple words, yet they sum it all up.

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My children are old enough now to understand Mother's Day, and they always want to do something special for me on that day. They give a gift, they make dinner so I don't have to cook (usually with a great deal of help from Dad), and they are extra sweet...

On THAT day.

I realized this morning that what I really want for Mother's Day is the essence of those seven simple words.

"If you love me, keep my commands."

I don't want a gift - I want obedience.

I don't want a special dinner - I want help with dinner each day.

I don't want platitudes on a special day - I want peaceful attitudes every day.

It occurred to me that that is exactly what my Heavenly Father wants from me!

In 1 Samuel 15:22-23 God is speaking to King Saul through His prophet Samuel. Saul has willfully defied God, yet he believes that he can still just put on an aire of worship and everything will be fine. This is what God has to say about it:

But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the LORD:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
he has rejected you as king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

God does not want me to sing praise to Him on Sunday and ignore Him on Monday.

He does not want me to say I trust Him, but stay awake at night worrying.

He does not want me to obey when I think that someone is watching,
but compromise when I think I am alone.

He wants me to LOVE Him

 - - and PROVE it by the way that I live...

In the same way that I want my children to love me.

"If you love me, keep my commands."


Monday, April 21, 2014

King of Glory

"It's OK," my husband reassured the choir members.  "My wife knows this song."

We had been at church all evening for the regular choir practice but I had been with the children's choir and had not realized what was going on with everyone else. The song scheduled for that Sunday was a solo by a young woman whose daughter had come down with pneumonia and was in a children's hospital two hours away. My husband had spent the evening throwing together a last minute substitution - one in which the choir only had to learn a few lines at the very end of the song.

I took the sound track and headed home. As I listened to it in the car, the realization hit me that I did not know the song! As Minister of Music, my husband spent hours listening to music and selecting appropriate (and doctrinally sound!) music for each service. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has always been some of our favorite music for that very reason. It occurred to me that this song was on an album which we had recently purchased, so I was not familiar with it yet.

I spent the next two days with it, listening again and again until I could nearly sing it in my sleep. On Sunday morning we did the final run-through - - which was really the one-and-only run-through. My husband read the scripture and I began to sing. Apparently, the choir had not heard the song in it's entirety up to that point, and the tears began to fall.

It has become one of my all-time favorites. Sometimes I pop the CD into my car and listen to it, then repeat it and listen again. I had it on in the car again the other day. When my little boy heard the mournful minor chords early in the song he said, "This is when Jesus died on the cross." He had been learning  about it in Sunday school as Easter was approaching.  In the middle of the song, as he listened to the music crescendo, he announced, "This is when Jesus rose from the dead!"

Yes, it is, my precious boy! Yes it is.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

To See or Not to See the Noah Movie: That is the Question

This is an interesting year in the film industry. I have heard it referred to as "the year of religious-themed movies." 

I am not the kind of person who goes out to see movies every week for reasons that you could easily guess. One of those reasons is the fact that I am particular about my film choices. I usually listen to what other Christian people have to say - even checking the opinion of Focus on the Family on their media review site

As a believer, I agree with the idea of "voting at the box office" to encourage the making of more family-friendly films (though I rarely am able to actually do this). But I also believe in the very opposite - to vote at the box office by NOT attending those films which are in opposition to everything connected with Christ. I rarely have trouble differentiating between the two and making a decision.

But the movie Noah has me stumped.

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I am well aware of the controversy surrounding this film.

One day as I listened to the Christian radio station, I heard a group of people discussing this movie. One of them said that the movie's producer had visited a pastor's convention and had shared how he felt that the movie would be true to the Biblical story. This pastor was not opposed to seeing it, nor was he inclined to discourage his congregation from watching. A woman mentioned how she had seen Jesus Christ Superstar as a young, unsaved woman and that movie, strange depiction of the Saviour though it was, opened the way in her heart to find the real Saviour.

It reminded me that God really can use anything to bring people to Him.

IN THE SAME DAY, I heard Ray Comfort discussing the reasons why Christians should NOT be inclined to see the movie.

Normally, this would not affect me, since we rarely attend movies, but the Noah movie showed up on the list of possible things for our church youth to attend, so I began to wonder whether I should allow my children to see it.

Some of the points of contention over this movie have been the obvious omission of God from the entire story (!) and the fact that the purpose of the flood has been changed from the judgment of said righteous God on the wickedness and depravity of humanity, to a resulting consequence of mismanagement of the environment.

My typical reaction would be to steer clear, but there has been one nagging thought in the back of my mind.

One of the objections to this movie had to do with the fact that this is the way in which many people (especially Christians) get their theology so muddled!

We have become such a lazy society, so concerned with what people think of us, so enamored with ease and comfort, that we have allowed our theology to be shaped and formed by popular culture rather than truth. We do not put any effort into finding the truth, living in truth or defending the truth!

My husband and I are committed to teaching our children HOW to "be in the world, but not of it." I am more terrified of the alternative since I have seen so many families shelter their children from the world so entirely throughout their childhood, that when they do go out into this big, scary world, they are either completely unprepared, or they easily succumb to temptation and go full-tilt into a life of evil.

So this is what I have decided to do. We will "vote at the box-office" by NOT seeing the movie when it is out in theaters, but I WILL allow my children to see it later on television - with one caveat:

That they first seek out the truth.

My Mom always told me that when bankers teach their tellers about counterfeit currency, they do not show them all of the known versions of the counterfeit, they show them the real thing. They are expected to familiarize themselves completely with legitimate currency - - how it feels, how it looks, how it smells...  so that when something illegitimate passes through their hands, they can tell the difference.
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Think about how differently you view a movie made from a book you have read. If the producers stay very close to the original story and seem to depict it accurately, you are delighted (like the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice). But if they take too many creative liberties or veer off from the story line (like the Disney/Walden version of Prince Caspian), your stomach tightens and you find yourself correcting the movie. Out loud. To the dismay of everyone else in the room. (Am I the only one who does this?)

That is the reaction that I want my children to have. I want them to be so familiar with the truth that they can spot a lie a mile away.

How will I go about doing this?

By handing them The Book, then going back to middle school English class and asking the pertinent questions:


I want them to know who so that they will spot the fact that God (a KEY player) has been omitted.

I want them to know why so they will not think that all of this "global warming" is going to produce a similar event - they will know that the great flood was a judgment of God on the wickedness of mankind.

I want them to know how so that they will see that, in His mercy and grace, God made a way of salvation for anyone who would believe and enter into that ark - just as He did for you and me through Jesus Christ who said, "I am the door, if anyone enters by ME, he will be saved." John 10:9

Maybe you, your children, or someone else that you know is planning to see the movie. If so, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the true facts of the story so that you will be prepared. It could be an excellent teachable moment, an interesting Bible study, or it could simply equip you to have an informed conversation with a co-worker or friend.

For a printable "cheat sheet" of these questions and answers, click here.

...And if you like to see a movies in the theaters, "vote at the box-office" with movies like Son of God and  God is not Dead.


Thursday, March 27, 2014


No matter how old I get, I will NEVER be old enough to be the mother of teenagers.

It's not that I have a problem with my age. It's just that I never quite feel like my age has afforded me the wisdom needed in dealing with them.

Tuesday, my 5 year old decided to pull one over on me. We have allowed our small children what my husband refers to as "mental health days" - days in which they are not sick, but for whatever reason they need to stay home with mom. All of our children have required these days in their early school careers, but this one decided to abuse the privilege.

She used one of these days on Friday and went to school late on Monday after a doctor's appointment. On Tuesday morning I struggled to wake her. Wondering if she might be coming down with something, I allowed her to continue sleeping. As soon as the other children left, she got up and began to play.
"Get dressed so I can take you to school." I said.
"I have a headache." was her matter of fact reply.
"If you are too sick to go to school, you are too sick to play." I quickly informed her, and I sent her back to bed. She lay in her bed listening to Patch the Pirate CDs for a couple of hours until she could not sit there any longer and started begging to go to school.

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Her teacher laughed when I told her.
"Sometimes I ask God why he gave me this very strong willed child at the end of my family when I am old and tired." I added.
"You're not old!" She announced in surprise (she is about the same age I am).
"No. But I will be when she is a teenager!"

We attend a country church that is really more the size of a city church because the need is so great in this rural area. We have two young, energetic youth pastors who plan a plethora of activities that range from entertaining to thought provoking in order to cover the tastes and interests of the 100 - 200 youth that attend.

As you can probably guess, my teenagers want to do EVERYTHING.

In addition to the youth events at church, I am inundated with papers that come home from school encouraging them to be involved in sports, plays, music and many other activities.

 As you can probably guess, my kids want to do EVERYTHING.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to do everything!

Because we have so many children, we work very hard to be an "equal-opportunity" household - which means, for example,  that sometimes we have to reign in little miss wants-to-try-anything so that little miss happy-to-stay-at-home can do the one and only thing she has asked to do. My husband and I evaluate all of the possibilities, and narrow it down to what is practical for us because, not only are we committed to fairness, but we also are determined not to run ourselves and our children ragged trying to do everything.

Oh. And did I mention that most of these things cost money?

We are very blessed to have a good income in an area where the slogan is "half the pay for a look at the bay," but sometimes I think that my kids are so blessed that they begin to expect all of the blessings afforded to them, rather than to see each and every one as a blessing and be thankful for them.

This week we have a youth group event that happens to be one of the things that did not make its way onto the family calendar.

My husband has encouraged me to join the youth ministry since I enjoy being involved in ministry although half of the time I wonder if I am in the right place because I have no idea what to say - I was never a teenager myself.

Of course I was.

I just mean that my mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 13. Understanding the brevity of the situation, I took on some of the adult responsibilities in the home. Over the course of a year or two, she became well and tried to give me back my childhood but by then I was too "sophisticated," and had decided that teenage antics were beneath me.

At any rate, I was there this Wednesday when I was approached by my one of my children, followed by both of our youth pastors asking if they could help to make arrangements for this child to attend the event. I felt like a deer in the headlights, though there was nothing particularly intimidating about these smiling young men.

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I fumbled for my "opt-out pass," with which my husband has authorized me to use his authority to not make an immediate decision when I am feeling pressured to do so, and said, "I need to talk to my husband first." which was an acceptable answer to the men, but my teen took as an invitation to keep prodding.

Soon the program started and my teenager joined the group. I was still shaken, and went to the quiet room and called my husband. I recounted the situation as he tried to calm me down, offering to explain the decision to the youth pastors if I was too flustered to do so. (While I would not go so far as to say that I avoid confrontation at all costs, I certainly do try to avoid it, and, though this was far removed from a truly confrontational moment, I felt just as intimidated by it).

I went back into the sanctuary and sat alone where I could pray about how to handle it and calm myself down. One of my best friends is also involved in the ministry and, seeing me alone, came over to talk to me. "Why can't teenagers take NO for an answer!?!" I agonized as I explained the situation.

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I have had the kids corner me with their friends nearby, hoping that the pressure of looking like a bad guy to their friends would entice me to give them what they wanted, but this was pitching for the big leagues. I HATED looking like a mean old mom in front of those youth pastors, but after this little bit of manipulation, I HAD to stick with the NO, even though it would have been much easier to cave.

 ~ ~ ~
This morning I realized that a chore that should have been done yesterday had been overlooked and asked the responsible child to complete the task before leaving for school. The response was neither cheerful, nor immediate. A few minutes later, I asked again and received a lovely retort to the effect of, "So you wait until Dad leaves, and THEN tell me!"

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"I asked you BEFORE he left. But what does Dad have to do with it?" I answered, only to discover that they had planned to pitch an overly dramatic fit in the hopes that their father, who cannot stand to start the day off with chaos and drama, would intervene. Faced with the option to calmly and quietly finish the task or take on additional responsibilities, the task was promptly completed.

  ~ ~ ~

As I made the beds this morning, a blog post I read on Wednesday came to mind. The author talks about having to say no to her teenagers because she is looking forward into their lives and making decisions not only for their immediate self, but also for their ultimate self - the person they will become. I was thinking about it Wednesday night when I realized that it was crucial to reinforce the "No," rather than to allow my child to use intimidation to pressure me.

Suddenly it occurred to me that it is not really age that gives wisdom. It is experience acquired with age, and the ability to learn along the way. I have all of these other children to teach me how to handle difficult moments and learn how to strengthen my resolve so that when my delightful little miss strong-willed is a teenager, I will have the wisdom to know how to parent her.

Maybe God knew what he was doing after all...

P.S. It occurred to me that this story could be misunderstood as a complaint. It is not. My strong willed five-year-old is completely delightful, the chore was completed promptly, and my child was vying for more time at CHURCH! I just know the temptation that we bloggers often have to portray ourselves in a better light than what is true. Our children are not perfect. Our parenting skills are not better than those of everyone else. We are all in the fray together. I just wanted to show how true this really is.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Day I Stopped Writing

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Last Sunday I bumped into the wife of one of our pastors in the restroom at church. Even though we are in different stages of life, we had become close a couple of years ago while attending a small group for those interested in writing. We are definitely what Anne of Green Gables would call "kindred spirits."
She began sharing her current writing pursuits with me and asked about my writing - not surprising since she has been one of my most vocal encouragers in my attempt to use words to point those in the World Wide Web to Christ.

"You always have one friend who believes you are more than you are. Be listening for those people who resonate with the voice of the Spirit of God inside your soul."
Erwin McManus

I told her that I had stopped writing. "After 2 years, I only have 38 followers," I said. "I feel like no one is listening. I spend a great deal of time on each post and since my time is so limited anyway, I just stopped."

I tend to be that way. If I am telling my husband or my kids something and they are looking at something else, or just seem to be oblivious to the fact that I am speaking to them, I just stop talking. My husband usually has to give me a prompt to let me know that he was listening and wants me to finish the thought.

I have been feeling convicted lately that I should still be writing. The fact of the matter is, the only reason I started in the first place was that I felt God was calling me to it.

Not feeling heard is not a good enough reason to disobey.

I was feeling tired and lazy today so I just wanted to pick up a book and sit on the couch as soon as I put the kids down for their nap, but there were lunch dishes to be cleared. Midday Connection was on the Christian radio station, and though I usually make a point of listening, I did not think that the topic of reclaiming our creative essence was going to be particularly relevant to me.

I was wrong.

After finishing the dishes, I found some laundry to fold as I continued listening, and allowed my relaxing to wait a little longer. As the host interviewed the guest - a man who is both a fashion designer and a pastor - I found his words piercing my heart. He explained that sometimes we think that if God calls us to something, it should come easily. Even if we have a talent and a calling,  we give up on things because they are hard. I believe that I audibly gasped when he said:

"We are actually pursuing fame, not greatness...
We want to be known rather than to be worth knowing."
Erwin McManus

I had not thought of myself as pursuing fame, but I focused on the fact that I am known by so few and stopped writing, rather than simply being content to stay focused on excellence in my research and writing and be worth knowing.

"If you do anything well, eventually God will use it as a way to expand your influence so that you can begin to tell the story of Jesus."
Erwin McManus

I had my priorities all wrong and started listening to contrary "voices" - voices of discouragement, voices that say I am not up to the call of God, voices that say I have nothing to contribute...Voices that my Aunt says even published writers hear.

I have decided to get back to obedience - even though it is hard to stay focused with life whirling around me, even though I often question whether I have anything worth saying, even when it feels so unnerving on occasion to bare my soul and let the readers see a glimpse of the wickedness still lurking there as God continues to work on me...

It is not my job to count readers. It is MY job to obey. And that means continuing to carefully research and write about whatever God places on my heart.

And leave the counting to Him.

Midday Connection March 11 Erwin McManus


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