Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why ME?

We spend a lot of time asking this question when things are not going our way.

"Why ME?" we wonder as we lose our house to foreclosure, our car is totaled in an accident, or our children become lost in a world of drugs.

Sometimes we even ask, "Why ME?" when God calls us to serve Him in a less than comfortable way.

One day I heard someone on the radio say, "Why NOT me?" All of these things are opportunities for my personal growth, and all offer ways to strengthen my relationship with God.

This does not really make me WANT to be uncomfortable, yet it does put my puny struggles into perspective.

I mean, after all, what if MARY had said "Why me?" instead of "Let everything be done to me just as You have said."

What a difference a little bit of perspective can make!

Lord, even if I am not willing to say Why NOT me, I am willing to have my heart be made willing!



As I sit here sipping hot apple cider and eating homemade ginger snaps made from my grandmother's recipe, I'm enjoying the view from my back porch because it reminds me of an Autumn drive through the Appalachian Mountains many years ago with the fog hovering in the low-lying areas. It makes me feel nostalgic. I love fall! I love all of the seasons, really, and am so thankful to live in a place that displays each of them so beautifully. But there is just something about fall that makes me start to feel cozy. It's the idea of getting ready to nest in, and sit down with an afghan, a good book, and a cup of hot cocoa.

It's the time to be Thankful.

When my little ones start to ask how long until Christmas, I love to tell them, "First we are Thankful, then we get presents!"

In Ann Voscamp's book "One Thousand Gifts," she talks about how many times throughout the scripture that Christ gives thanks to God before He performs a miracle.

I wonder how many miracles and blessings that I have missed out on in my life because I have been ungrateful? 

Because I have not taken the time to purposely thank God for what I have already received from Him...

Or I have been too faithless to accept what has been promised to me...

This Thanksgiving I want to focus more on being truly thankful.

What about you?


Friday, November 4, 2016

The [Timely] End of John the Baptist

"It's almost as if Jesus doesn't care!" she said as we paused to reflect on verse 14 of Mark chapter one.

This year our Wednesday night Ladies Bible study is an inductive study through the book of Mark, and I have been hearing from God as we have examined and pondered each verse and passage of scripture.

On this day, a lady at my table stopped on Mark 1:14

"After John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God."

That's all.

John goes to prison, and Jesus just leaves!

She commented on how calloused it sounded. Our table talked for a while about how John even felt that way about it himself after he had been languishing in prison for a while, and he sent his followers to ask Jesus if He was really the Messiah, or if they should be expecting someone else (Matt. 11 and Luke 7).
Image result for john the baptist
photo credit

I thought about John the Baptist all week, and kept looking up other passages about him.
I was amazed how his life suddenly felt connected to mine. I started to see him as a real person with real struggles and a real destiny that he was compelled to fulfil.

One day I picked up a book written by my uncle Ken Spilger in which he describes the circumstances surrounding a plane crash of which he was the only survivor, and writes about the struggles he faced and the faithfulness of God. This is what I read:

I felt extreme guilt because the other pastors had died, and I had not. Why had God spared my life and not those of Pastor Spurgeon, Pastor Lombard, and Pastor Thompson?  ...I sat on the edge of the bed looking at a picture of the three men who had perished in the crash.
"Lord," I prayed, "help me to finish their ministries."
This was not the first time I had prayed this prayer: in fact, I prayed it every night before I went to bed.
That night,, however, was different. As I sat there, God spoke to my heart.
"Their work IS finished, Ken." came His still, small voice. "Concern yourself only with the work I have for you to do."
A peace which I had not experienced for a long time flooded over me in that moment. I was solely responsible for what God had called me to do. Awareness of that fact brought a new confidence which only could have come from God. My Heavenly Father's comfort to my hurting soul was overwhelming and gave me a sense of freedom, encouragement, and hope. I could receive God's purpose for my life, not theirs.
Several years later, I was talking with a nationally known speaker about the plane crash.
Well," he stated seriously, "now you have the ministry of three other pastors to finish."
"No," I told him confidently, "Their work is finished. God will hold me accountable for mine alone."
All of the guilt I had once felt was gone. (Excerpt from chapter 18)

Suddenly, I saw John the Baptist's situation a completely different way.

He had been sent to Prepare the Way of the LORD.

That was his purpose -
                                      his destiny -
                                                             and he had done it with excellence!

The verse that came to mind when my Dad had a stroke came into my mind again:

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

I thought about what John the Baptist had said about himself long before that day...

"He must increase, and I must decrease."

...and I looked up the passage:

John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”

John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

“He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit.

The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
John 3:26-36 NLT

I thought back to the verse that made us pause:

"After John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God."

Then I looked again at the very next verse:

""The time has come," [Jesus] said, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!"

John's ministry was complete.

Now it was all about Jesus. He did not callously leave John to rot in prison, He had simply been waiting for John's ministry to come to completion and for His own ministry to begin. - - A ministry which would also end in death, but would bring about the salvation of millions of souls. He knew the whole story from beginning to end.

I thought about me. I am always feeling (and saying) that I want more Jesus.

                 More of His presence in my life....

More of His Word in my heart...

                  More filling of the Holy Spirit...

...But in order for that to happen, something else must take place first - I must shrink.

You see, there is not room for both of us to be large and in charge. Only one of us can be in that place in my heart. The truth of the matter is that if I truly want more of Him, then I must have less of me!

Less of my own way...

                  Less of my own will...

Less of my pride - of my self righteousness....

                  ...And all of HIS righteousness, His will, and His way.

The wonderful thing is that this is a process that perpetuates itself!

The more time I spend in His Word, the more familiar I become with His will and His way.

As I spend time in the presence of God, the more I see the difference between his righteous and mine  (and what a remarkable distinction it is!)

This cycle flows over into more and more filling of the Holy Spirit.

More of Him, and less of me! 

How have you seen this happening in your life? I'd love to hear your stories...


Monday, September 12, 2016


If you were to ask me what my favorite Summer Olympic sport is, I would answer without hesitation, “Gymnastics!”

Yes, gymnastics has been my favorite sport since I was a little girl and Mary Lou Retton shot through my imagination like a shooting star as she won gold in the Olympics. I had always been a flexible little thing, but suddenly I wanted to do gymnastics. My parents have always tried to look for the things that lit that little fire in our hearts and encourage us in our pursuits, but, unfortunately, there were few opportunities for gymnastics in our little town. One Summer, during that gymnastics craze, a teacher from a nearby city set up a summer clinic in our small town and my mother signed me up.

Other than my own backyard tumbling, that was about the extent of my gymnastic “career.” One day in my adult years, my mom and I had a conversation about it and she told me that if I had shown a passion for the sport, they would have pursued it further.

Fast forward to about four years ago: The opportunity presented itself for our oldest daughter to ride with a neighbor whose children were in Gymnastics. She was very excited about it, so we signed her up. For most of a year, she went to the classes. She LOVED it. …and excelled at it. She did gymnastics EVERYWHERE, including all through the house. We even have a full page in our Florida photo album of her doing flips and cartwheels on the soft beach sand.

After that year, the neighbor giving her rides moved away and we could not manage it ourselves, so we had to let it go. I was sad. In a way, she and I had shared a dream. A love of the same sport.

This year she started pole vaulting. Yikes!

Recently it occurred to me that there was one significant difference between my daughter’s approach to gymnastics and mine (and the reason I would never think to catapult myself into the air with a long stick!)


There was no physical reason that I could not do all of the flips and hand springs that my daughter could do - except for the fact that I was holding back. My body was restrained by mental bands that made it impossible to complete the flips. I could do a cartwheel on a four inch beam placed on the ground at home, but raise that beam 3 feet off of the ground in the gym, and I was immobilized by a fear of falling. I could not make myself believe that if I threw my body into the movement, I would not get hurt, so I held back.  

Even as I am writing this, an old email has come to mind in which I wrote about my youngest daughter to another blogger when she was asking for suggestions for a piece of jewelry that she was designing about fear. (It took an hour of searching to track it down) but here it is:

Dear Angie,

When I read your message on Friday I did not have a suggestion and figured that both of your ideas were fine, or anything else that anyone might suggest, so I did not plan on commenting on it at all.

Until Yesterday.

I watched my beautiful three-year-old girl ride the tube with a huge grin on her face as her daddy whipped her and her siblings around the lake behind the speed boat. I smiled and thought to myself, "She's Fearless." Then I thought of you.

As I lay awake last night, tossing and turning just as much as the thoughts that rolled around in my brain, I knew that I had to write and tell you.

Olivia is my "Charlotte," my "mercy child," the baby that I carried in fear after our son Caleb was stillborn. She may have been carried in fear, but SHE is Fearless.

"Push me higher." she says in the swing. Her older siblings oblige and my heart jumps into my throat as the swing goes almost as high as the support beam at the top of the swing set, the rope slacks, then gravity tries to jerk her back to the ground.
"I'll walk." she says at the store, rejecting the safety and security of the belted cart seat, confident in her ability to remain close enough to mommy, and relishing the freedom.
She's Fearless!

"Fear not" and "be not afraid" are both good sentiments - and biblical ones - but when I hear those words I picture a whimpering child cradled in a parent's comforting arms as they are being consoled with platitudes. "There are no monsters in your closet," "It was only a dream," "Don't be afraid, Mommy is here...."

But when I hear the words "She's Fearless," I picture a woman ready to jump out of a plane into a sky-dive, a woman holding her head high as she walks out of her husband's funeral to face the insecurities of the future. A woman who sells all of her belongings to move across country or around the world, or risks everything to follow her dreams. Like my eighty-year-old grandma who still goes on mission trips to Africa. SHE is also Fearless.

The word "fearless" is a word that the world has adopted, but it still means the same thing. "Without fear." Since scripture says "Perfect Love (God) casts out fear" and "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER,  of love, and of a sound mind" we know that we have freedom from fear if we have God.

That is who I want to be. Not the "retiring wall-flower" that my mom said I used to be, but a woman who can speak, sing or teach scripture to a crowd. A woman who will not be afraid to do ANYTHING that God asks of me. THAT is who I want to be, who I know that you want to be (and are becoming!) - and I think that is the spirit of what you had in mind with the jewelry.
Enough of my rambling.
Love, Latisha

My little girl is eight years old now, and is barreling down my driveway in a pair of roller blades...

Looking back over my life, I feel that fear has played a major role. As a child and teenager, I held back so much that my mom saw the need to constantly push me out of my comfort zone in an attempt to build my confidence. I was entered into 4H speech contests year after year. Not only did I learn how to sew, but I needed to model the garments for a panel of judges. Cliff rappelling at Summer camp? Yep. I did it.

There have been many times in my adult years that I have been thankful for those terrifying pushes out of the safety of the nest. Facing my fears has been a good exercise to help me grow.

...But I still restrain myself with those invisible bands. Fear holds me back from chasing after dreams that God has wedged deeply into my heart. Dreams of books that I would like to write, ministries in which I would like to be involved...

I want to break free of those bands and live out my destiny...


Last night I saw the very end of a news show that my husband was watching. Two people were talking about the major life/career change that one of them had made, and the other said that that would be terrifying enough "to make grown men throw up."

This morning in my quiet time, I thought about that conversation and this blog post, and the words to a favorite song started playing in my head.

"Oh, what I would do to have the kind of faith step out of my comfort zone, into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is..."

I remembered when I was a teenager talking to my mom about what it looks like in a person's life when they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and she got out her Bible and showed me that the filling of the Holy Spirit is exemplified in BOLDNESS to proclaim Christ.

"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus...
'And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.'
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." Acts 4 (Read the whole chapter - you will not be sorry to spend the time!)

It occurred to me that the closer I am to God, the further I am from fear.


Friday, August 12, 2016

My IMpotent God

The theme song from the movie Prince of Egypt has been stuck in my head all week because I heard a beautiful rendition of the song by two famous artists.

These are the words:

"Many nights we've prayed with no proof anyone can hear;
In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood.
Now we are not afraid, although we know there's much to fear -
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could.

There can be miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill;
Who knows what miracles you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will -
You will when you believe!

In this time of fear, when prayer so often proves in vain,
Hope seemed like the summer birds too swiftly flown away.
Yet now I'm standing here - My heart's so full, I can't explain
Seeking faith, and speaking words I never thought I'd say.

There can be miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill;
Who knows what miracles you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will -
You will when you believe!

They don't always happen when you ask,
And it's easy to give in to your fear.
But when you're blinded by your pain,
Can't see your way, get through the rain -
A small but still, resilient voice
Says hope is very near!

There can be miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill;
Who knows what miracles you can achieve? When you believe, somehow you will -
You will when you believe!"

What bothers me about listening to this song over and over in my head is that the "theology" in it is all wrong!  In essence it says, "I've prayed and prayed and God has either not heard me, or has chosen to ignore me - to the point that now I've lost all hope. Now I must take matters into my own hands. I must be fearless in the face of fear. If I will believe long enough and hard enough, I will cause miracles to happen. This will be of my own doing - I can WILL them into existence."

Even if the song does not deny God, it does render Him, well...


When something is IM-potent, it is completely lacking in strength.

im-po-tent adj. 1. not potent; lacking power or ability. 2. utterly unable to do something. 3. without force or effectiveness. 4. lacking bodily strength, or physically helpless, as an aged person or a cripple... *

Potency is strength, power!
po-tent adj. 1. powerful; mighty 2. cogent (convincing; forcible), as reasons, motives, etc. 3. producing powerful physical or chemical effects, as a drug 4. possessed of great power or authority. 5.  exercising great moral influence... *

When you smell a potent odor, you are compelled to cover your nose. It is too strong to handle. It may even overwhelm you with its power, regardless of the fact that it is an invisible force.

Although it's not really a word that is used to describe God, it has been on my mind a lot lately as a characteristic that we subconsciously subscribe to Him.

Why do I think that this is a current "attribute" of God?

Because we are robbing God of His power in many ways -  like the way that we  portray Him in movies...

A couple of years ago, I wrote about watching the movie Soul Surfer with my children and how the Hollywood portrayal of Bethany's response to the shark attack was somewhat different from her real-life reaction to it:

"There was no hesitation.

No angst.

No doubt.

She was confident in God, and had no need to distrust His methods!

I thought back to the movie. The Hollywood Bethany struggles.

She falters.

She agonizes.

She doubts.

Hollywood portrayed it the only way they knew how. The way that they felt was relatable to the most people.
It occurred to me that people who do not have Christ (and even some of us who do!) do not understand how this could be! How could someone (even a little girl of 13) go through this trauma and, not only remain calm while she is enduring it, but proceed with confidence afterward?"

At Bible Study the other day, one of the ladies mentioned that there is a new Moses movie out. One that is not worth seeing. She described the parting of the Red Sea as taking all night while a light breeze blows on the water drying it up to a trickling stream.

I can see it in my mind's eye.

No climactic orchestration as the sea parts and the water towers over the Children of Israel on both sides, fish swimming alongside, and old shipwrecks exposed. Just a boring wade through a little stream. In fact, what's the point of even making a movie about it? I mean, who wants to watch something that dull?

One of the other ladies shared what a minister had told her about visiting a church in which there was a guest speaker telling the story of the Exodus that way. A woman stood up and started praising God in a very loud voice. It was so disruptive that the visiting minister paused and addressed her.

"I've always thought that God parted the Red Sea and the children of Israel walked through on dry ground, followed by all the chariots of Egypt." she said. "You are telling me that it was just a little stream they crossed. That's an even bigger miracle! All the armies of Egypt drowned in just six inches of water!!! PRAISE GOD! PRAISE GOD!"

... and we rob God of His power by the way that we see Him, think of Him, and by the way that we live.

I believe that that is the kind of robbing that is spoken of in Malachi 3: 6-12:

I the LORD do not change... Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings.
You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.

Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

God does not need my money - this is robbing Him of His power. When I do not tithe, it is equal to me saying "I do not trust You to provide for my needs." This kind of lack of trust stems from a perception of God that He is either unable, or He is unwilling to care for me.

In the song it talks about prayers being in vain and miracles not happening when we ask - to the point that we give up hope that there will ever be an answer.

If I have been praying for a very long time about an issue that burdens my heart, and it feels as though my prayers hit the ceiling and fall right-back to the floor, it is easy to begin to believe that God does not care for me - that He is either unable or unwilling to do something about it.

These are but two tiny examples of how I can rob God of His power in my perception of Him or in the way that I live, but there are dozens of other ways that we do this.

The best way to combat a lie is with the truth of the Word of God.

What is actually true of God is that He is OMNI- potent!

om-ni-po-tent adj. 1 almighty or infinite in power, as God or a deity. 2. having unlimited or very great authority. -n.3. an omnipotent being. 4. the Omnipotent, God *

Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” Luke 4:36

And the people all tried to touch [Jesus], because power was coming from him and healing them all. Luke 6:19

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. Luke 9:1

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Back to the song...

The Israelites had been in Egypt for 400 years!

When they first arrived, they had fled a famine and had been welcomed there in peace and plenty. But as time went on, things began to change:

In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.

Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country."

So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.

But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy.
They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. Exodus 1:6-14 NLT

I have no doubt that as these events began to unfold, the Children of Israel began to cry out to God.  I am sure that they did feel as though no One was listening - that their prayers were hitting the ceiling and falling to the floor. That God was either unable or unwilling to help them...

When our baby died, someone gave me a poem that talked about the tapestry that God is weaving. It said that, though we hate the dark threads that are often woven into our lives, God has a purpose for them. They are necessary to the beauty of the finished product. Not only that, but the tapestry is being woven from heaven, so we can only see the underneath side - and there is nothing very lovely about the back side of a tapestry. It looks like a jumble of colored strings and nothing makes sense. Yet, from His position, God can see the picture in all of its beauty.

This is what was happening with the Children of Israel. The threads of their tapestry started out bright, but became gradually darker over the course of those 400 years.

But the tapestry was not intended to stay one dimensional...
God was working out the pattern. And just at the right time - He made a change

The LORD said [to Moses], I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10 NIV

What does this have to do with the song?


If we truly believed that God loves us and has a plan for our lives - a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, a plan to give us a hope and a future..
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Then the song would look more like this:



Many nights we've prayed - but we know God has heard our prayer;
In our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood.
Now we are not afraid, we know with God we need not fear -
He was moving mountains long before we knew He could.

God can do miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill;
With faith so small it's hard to see? We must believe God always will -
All things He will acheive!

In the times we fear, when prayer so often seems in vain,
And Hope is like the summer birds too swiftly flown away;
I look up and stand right here - My heart's so full, I can't explain
Seeking faith, and speaking words I never thought I'd say.

God can do miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill;With faith so small it's hard to see? We must believe God always will -
All things He will acheive!

They don't always happen when you ask,
And it's easy to give in to your fear.
But when you're blinded by your pain,
Can't see your way, get through the rain -
A small but still, resilient voice
Says hope is very near!

God can do miracles when you believe. Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill;With faith so small it's hard to see? We must believe God always will -
All things He will acheive!

* quoted from The American College Dictionary 1947


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Is My Voice Meant to Praise the Lord, or Change the World?

This past week is an interesting week in history. If you have watched the news or listened to the radio at all, your ears would have been filled with reminders of the civil rights movement in our country years ago - a necessary and  positive change.

You would also have been reminded of the legalization of abortion for any and every reason - a crime against the lives of millions of American children over the last 44 years.

I had a bit of ironing to do, so this afternoon I drug everything out and put on one of my favorite movies to accompany the task.

Amazing Grace is a movie that should be in the viewing library of every Christian family. It is the true story of William Wilberforce, a British parliamentarian who made it his life's work to improve conditions in his country. Over the course of time, he made life better for poor people and animals, but his greatest accomplishment was the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain - which led the way for the eventual abolition in the United States as well.

"No Englishman has ever done more to evoke the conscience of the British people and to elevate and ennoble British life."
Plaque from Wilberforce's birthplace, Hull.

In light of the events of the news, the movie seemed more poignant to me than usual. Not long ago, I wrote about how it seems that we as Christians have gone soft, blended in to the culture, become powerless...

This has been on my mind a lot lately, and these verses came to mind:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV

Salt is an amazing thing! It is used for more than just a kitchen seasoning, it's uses begin with food preservation, such is in "cured" meats and range through medical uses like fluid IVs and catheter cleansing.

Even when it is "thrown out in the road," it is still potent. We live in the Great White North and use salt to melt ice on the roads.

Our bodies require salt - during my childhood, my father owned a business which supplied feed for farm animals. One of the products that we always had on hand were salt licks - it is that crucial the health and well-being of the body.

I googled salt to see when it loses it's flavor and discovered that it doesn't. It has an indefinite shelf life unless it exposed to a lot of moisture - but even then, it is still salty

I continued to puzzle over this verse as I tried different wording for my search.

What can make salt lose its "saltiness"?
One source suggested that the only possible way to ruin salt was to mix something else into it. Not like pepper or garlic, but to contaminate it with something undesirable.

Like dirt.

 It occurred to me that  this verse is saying that the one-and-only-thing that can make us ineffective as Christians is sin.

Just like salt is effective in a variety of  places: to season or preserve food, melt snow and ice,  clean and purify, etc. God places each of us in a particular situation - our time in history, the country and culture in which we live, our family and circle of friends -  so that we can season the environment with God's grace, melt hard hearts, and even bring purity into a situation.

But if our lives are contaminated by sin, we will be able to do none of those things.

Matthew Henry, a renowned theologian from Wilberforce's time says this on the subject:

"Mankind, lying in ignorance and wickedness, were a vast heap of unsavoury stuff, ready to putrefy; but Christ sent forth his disciples, by their lives and doctrines, to season it with knowledge and grace, and so to render it acceptable to God...If you, who should season others, are yourselves unsavoury, void of spiritual life, relish, and vigour; if a Christian be so, especially if a minister be so, his condition is very sad; for he is irrecoverable: Wherewith shall it be salted? Salt is a remedy for unsavoury meat, but there is no remedy for unsavoury salt. Christianity will give a man a relish; but if a man can take up and continue the profession of it, and yet remain flat and foolish, and graceless and insipid, no other doctrine, no other means, can be applied, to make him savoury. If Christianity do not do it, nothing will."

But our Purity is just one side of the coin.

"My walk is a public one. My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me."
From William Wilberforce's diary

Remember this verse?

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV

Just like Salt represents our purity, Light represents our influence.

God did not place us here to sit in our houses and not allow our lives to touch anybody else, or to keep our faith "private" and not share Hope with people at work, at the grocery store, at the gym, or any place other that we frequent. He put us here to SHINE!

"Do you intend to use your beautiful voice to praise the Lord, or change the world?
...Surely, the principals of Christianity lead to action as well as meditation."*

I think about the life of William Wilberforce. In the movie you can see the struggle he has in his desire to sit quietly with God or to answer the call on his life to action. I've gotten the same impression about Martin Luther King Jr. from documentaries I've seen about his life. He was content to pastor a small church - yet the call to action was simply too great to ignore.

"Mr. Wilberforce. We understand you're having problems choosing whether to do the work of God, or the work of a political activist."
"We humbly suggest, that you can do both."*

God is calling US.


And Me.

First to stay pure, then, to act. Both sides of the very same coin.

What does this look like in everyday life?

It will be different for each of us. For some it will mean making a purposeful time to study the Word of God with our children. Maybe for one it will be laying your hand on the shoulder of a friend at work who is hurting and offering up a prayer for them in that moment. For another it may be teaching a Sunday school class or taking on a civil injustice.

But God's Word is clear: as we offer ourselves to Him in a holy act of worship, His plan for our lives will be revealed.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2 NIV

"If you make the world better in one way, it becomes better in every way. Don't you think?" *

*Quotes from the movie Amazing Grace



Thursday, February 5, 2015

I think I'm in Like

I had appointments in town yesterday and, though I don't usually stop anywhere to eat when I am out and about, I was so hungry that I took the time to sit down in a cafĂ© and grab a salad.

The two women in the booth next to mine were discussing their husbands. Since I was alone, and had no one to converse with, I could not avoid overhearing their many complaints. One of them was especially disparaging.

Her husband did not plan his next business trip the way she would have done it. She has to rag on him to do the most menial tasks. After they had moved in together, she had to cajole him to finish his degree. He does not eat often enough, or at the right times. He does appreciate exercise the way she does....

After listening to this "lovely" conversation for a while, she bowled me over by announcing to her friend that she had informed him that he had better not say anything [about her role in the struggles of their marriage?] to her because she is so desirable that she could find someone to replace him in no time flat. She could have someone new in her bed by that very night, in fact!

photo credit
I had heard more than enough. I wanted to lean over the partition and tell her that she is no great catch, and that any new man that she could hook would soon learn to regret it.

Instead, I disposed of the rest of my salad and left.

"What happened?" I wondered to myself as I walked to my car. There must have been a time when she thought the world began and ended with this man, yet now she had nothing but vitriol for him.

I continued to mull over it as I drove home. It occurred to me that this may be a fleeting emotion - maybe they'd just had a big fight and she was venting her frustrations to her friend without thinking about how powerful words are, and that they have a lasting effect on others.

I thought back to a time in my own marriage when I had to learn this lesson the very hardest way. We had hit a rough patch in our marriage and I blamed him. I had a good friend at the time whom I called nearly every day.

Each day, the conversation would deteriorate into a one-sided husband bashing, and each day she would try to encourage me to do what was right... to obey scripture... to try something new to make a difference.

I was full of excuses for why I could not improve my marriage - I had tried this or that (probably only for a minute) and it had not worked. Besides, it was all his fault anyway!

After weeks of listening to me count and recount my husband's many faults (how did she endure it?), she said, "Why don't you just leave him?"

I was shocked! That is not what I wanted to hear!
I still wanted my marriage, this man - but I was unwilling to take responsibility for MY part in the problem and fix it. She had made many good suggestions as she tried to help me understand that I can only control ME.

I could not change what my husband said or did, but I COULD change what I said or did.

How I would respond.

How I would love.

How I would serve (and with what attitude).

I had ALL of the power concerning whether or not I even LIKED him.

It took me a while to catch on to all of this - but one change I made right away: I stopped complaining.

Yep. That was it. The very first change.
photo credit
It was like a mirror had been held up to my heart with her question, and I finally saw all of the ugliness that had been lurking there, and understood that I needed to stop up the flow of these caustic words.

Most women do not marry men that we don't LIKE to begin with - yet somehow, along the way, we loose sight of the very things we liked about the man in the first place!
I think that is just one of the reasons we are exhorted in scripture to control our thoughts:

  "...we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

 "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8(NLT)

So Ladies (and Gents, if you're prone to complaining), the next time you open your mouth to speak a word...
out loud...
that, once spoken, can never be retracted...
close your mouth quickly and think: 
"Is what I am about to say really true?"
"Is what I am about to say going to bring honor or dishonor to my spouse (or to me by saying it)?"
"Is what I am about to say the right word to edify the hearers in this moment?"

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29 NIV

"Is what I am about to say going to paint a lovely word picture, or an ugly one?"

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 25:11 KJV

"Is what I am about to say going to cause the hearer to admire my spouse more? Or less?"
"Is what I am about to say excellent and full of praise?"
Years have passed (we are celebrating 19 years next month!), and we have hit several more rough patches, but one of the things that I have been learning is to zip my lip. I have tried to talk to other Godly women when we have struggled, but I continue to feel as though the speaking of negative words - even toward someone who is plugged in to God - casts a shadow over their perception of him later on.

The best thing that I'm discovering is this: when I talk only to God about it, often the frustrations are resolved within a few days, but without the lasting effect of the word spoken to another in a moment of anger.

It is paying off.

I am DEFINITELY much more in LIKE with my husband!


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