Thursday, April 29, 2010

Still Celebrating Marriage

It doesn't seem possible. Twenty years ago on April 28, Steve and I exchanged marriage vows and were declared husband and wife. It was a balmy day according to Michigan standards, with high, filmy clouds - the kind that allow the sunlight to filter through, but keep you from squinting. I remember being nervous as I waited in the church vestibule with my Dad. He whispered some reassuring words, letting me know that he was every bit as nervous as I was. The music started and the rest is a memory that we captured on tape. Yes, tape, after all, it was twenty years ago!

Rewind thousands of years ago to a beautiful, tranquil place. The garden of Eden. God was up to something. Take a closer look at His plan: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him...And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:18,21-24; KJV).

Marriage was instituted by our Creator, God. All those years ago, He knew that man and woman would complete each other in a way that would bring Him more honor and glory than they could individually. As I consider my marriage, I am so grateful for the wisdom of His plan. My husband, Steve, provides the security and balance that I need on a daily basis. I do my best to provide the encouragement and support that he needs. We've shared good times and trials, laughter and tears, over the twenty years.

In our 'me'-centered culture, vowing to stick with someone for a lifetime goes against our grain. Our feelings become more important than our promises. But God's word is clear, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6). Our marriage is to be a beautiful picture of Christ and His bride, the church. The husband represents Christ, and the wife represents the church. Each are given roles which point to Christ when properly fulfilled.

Look at the job descriptions Paul outlines for wives and husbands in the book of Ephesians: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephesians 5:21-25). Pretty challenging, right? Before throwing your hands up in despair and dismissing your 'job' as impossible, take a look at what is really being said.

As a couple, we're called to mutual submission. As wives, we're to willingly follow our husband's leadership as he follows Christ. The husband is to put aside his own interests in order to care for the needs of his wife. Christ's submission to the will of His Father is our ultimate example. As we submit one to another in the marriage relationship, our Heavenly Father is glorified, and others are pointed to Him.

I'm thankful for the godly man God has given me. His selfless love has pointed me time and again to my Savior. I look forward with eager anticipation to what God has for us in the years to come! I love you, Steve! Happy Anniversary!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rotting or Righteous?

I needed a few tomatoes to complete my salad. I opened the crisper drawer, in search of the container that held them. There it was beside the carrots, green onions and romaine lettuce. I opened the lid and reached in to pick out some tomatoes, when I noticed it. The skin of one of the red, fleshy, fruits was covered with white mold. As I gingerly picked it out of the carton, I realized that several of the surrounding tomatoes had also been affected. Ugh! After removing the rest of the moldy fruit, I was able to find enough good tomatoes to finish my salad.

As I ate my salad, I thought about the affect one thing has on another. When one of the tomatoes in the container got moldy, it didn't take long before all the surrounding tomatoes were growing their own cultures of the white, furry stuff. I was reminded of the old saying, "One bad apple spoils the bunch." Wow! If one piece of fruit can spoil the entire bunch, what kind of affect do we have on others?

Our attitudes and resulting actions have the potential to seriously affect others. Paul put it this way when he addressed the church in Corinth, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavenead" (1 Corinthians 5:6b-7a; KJV). Leaven refers to the yeast that makes bread dough rise. Once you put yeast into the bread dough, all of the dough is affected. You can't expect one portion of the dough to rise, while the other remains flat.

Throughout the Bible, leaven represents sin. When there was sin in the body of believers at Corinth, it affected the entire body. No one was exempt. The same is true today. Sin is not something that affects only one person. When I chose to speak words that are unkind, more often than not, I offend someone and cause a wall to be erected in our relationship. My bad attitude can trigger a ripple effect that can have far reaching consequences in the lives of others.

When sin is tolerated rather than confronted, the 'rotting' process continues. Pretty soon, everyone in our sphere of influence is sporting a wardrobe plagued with unfashionable 'leaven.'

The solution? Putting off some old things and putting on some new things. "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Each one of us has a daily decision to make. What attitudes and actions will we put on? Those related to our old man, the ones filled with sin and deceit, or those found in the new man, the ones filled with the righteousness of Christ. What affect will we have on others today? Will we tear them down or build them up? The choice is ours. We should determine to clothe ourselves with the wardrobe of the new man and begin edifying others today!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Clogged 'Pipes'

The project is daunting. Over the years, we've continued to make modifications to our creek and pond in an effort to prevent erosion. In the process, we're hoping to create something beautiful. With the generous rainfall we've had this past year, we've also had to deal with large deposits of sand in our pond that radically change the water flow.

It's not unusual for us to have to remove that irritating sand three times a year. This year we decided on a different strategy. Fix the problem. Sounds like something we should have done years ago, right? Just one small problem. When cost is factored in, I remember why we've preferred to just have the sand removed time after time. But with a graduation party just weeks away, we decided the time was right to make the sacrifice. A catch pond and some huge boulders are part of the solution!

The creek flows under our driveway via two large pipes. As the rains come and the run-off from the adjacent neighborhood fills our creek, sand is deposited in both the creek and the pond. The pipes also fill up with their fair share of the grainy material. I've stared in amazement at the things that pass through the pipes and into our pond: logs, toys, plastic bottles, to name just a few. Eventually, the sand and floating objects get lodged in the pipes, and the water boils madly and spills into another stream designed to relieve any overflow.

As the workers spent hours digging out both creek and pond, they weren't surprised to find that the pipes were completely filled with sand and debris. Little if any water was flowing into the pond, rather it had re-routed itself to the secondary stream. With a bit of trepidation, one of the workers accepted the challenge to crawl into the pipes and remove everything that had obstructed the water flow. Once clear, the water was again able to flow from the creek into the pond.

My heart is a lot like those pipes. It is what allows God's word and the Holy Spirit to move freely between me and my Savior. Little by little, if I'm not careful, over time my heart begins to get clogged with 'debris.' Not surprising when I consider the words of Jeremiah, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV).

It may begin with an attitude - "I can handle this problem, God." I ignore His wisdom. It may continue with a choice - "Too much to do today, I don't have time to read my Bible." The Holy Spirit can't speak to my heart. As the days turn into weeks, the poor decisions compound until I'm completely dry, no longer saturated with the Living Water. The 'debris' in my life has cut off the flow of the "fountain of the water of life" (Revelation 21:6b).

Time to get serious. Time to 'dig out' all that's clogged my heart. With each piece of 'debris' that's confessed and removed, the trickle of Living Water gets stronger. I no longer struggle to take control, I leave my problems in the hands of the One who is in control of it all. I realize my total dependence on His wisdom and make my quiet time a top priority. Not willing to miss anything He has for me. Pride is stifled, humility takes its place. The 'pipes' of my heart have been cleaned and the Living Water is free to flow and bubble over into every aspect of my life.

How are your 'pipes'? Is there a spring of Living Water rising up within you, or has the flow been cut down to a trickle? It's springtime, the perfect time to get busy removing the debris that stands between you and the living God who loves you and desires the best for you!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You that You desire to lead, guide and direct me. Forgive me for the 'debris' that I've allowed to clog my heart. Help me to have a restored relationship with You, that I can point others to the Fount of Living Waters. Amen.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I've heard it said that confession is good for the soul. Well, I have a confession to make. I struggle with being critical. There...the truth is out. Typically I'm critical of those I know and love the most. I see their weaknesses, zeroing in on them like a bird hunting its prey. I tend to gloss over all of the marvelous qualities that person possesses, and concentrate on the one or two areas where I'm convinced he or she is just totally missing the boat. Then it becomes my mission to subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, help the person to see how important it is to change his or her behavior in that area. Ugh!

Can anyone relate? I found myself on just such a 'mission' recently. I was beside myself. Over the past several days I've gently encouraged my daughter, Riley, to look for a summer job. I've explained the difficulty of finding a job in today's economic climate, recommended possible places of employment, and reminded her to make follow-up phone calls. As the days have turned into weeks, I have to admit that the gentle encouragement has become more of a hard shove.

My thought process. She says she wants a job, but she's not trying very hard to find one. If it were me, I would be filling out applications and making phone calls to tell the manager why they should hire me. I wouldn't be picky. Once I landed a job, if it wasn't ideal, I could work and continue looking. After all, it's always easier to find a job when you've got one. But wait a minute. My daughter isn't me.

Take a step back. Let me look at the big picture. Riley's a senior in high school with five weeks until graduation. She just returned from the national competition at Bob Jones University after placing first at the state level in Bible teaching for children. She's in the middle of completing academic testing, applying for college, and putting together her invitations for her graduation party. Not to mention keeping up with school, teaching piano lessons, and helping out with the primary children's program at our church.

Perspective is good! Although getting a summer job is important, it's unrealistic for me to expect my daughter to spend every waking moment searching for one. This weekend, I was reminded that there are other things that are equally important.

When it comes to photography, Riley is very talented. Not only can she take a great picture, but she also knows how to edit and enhance the photos in Photoshop. A few of her school friends had asked her to take their senior pictures, an opportunity that she jumped on. From Friday to late Saturday night, Riley not only took more than 700 pictures of one of her classmates, but she also edited and posted the top 75 pictures for her friend to view. Talk about sticking with a project! By Sunday, instead of relaxing after church, she made the decision to support another girlfriend by attending the funeral of her grandfather.

Character and compassion. Two very important qualities that I had foolishly glossed over in my 'mission' to refocus Riley's attention. While getting a job is important, in light of eternity, cultivating a heart of compassion is more important. After all, what is the greatest commandment? "And Jesus answered him, The first of the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31, KJV).

Do you struggle with a critical spirit? Take a step back from the situation and choose Christ's perspective, "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). It's up to you. You can become bitter with criticism, or better with compassion.

Prayer: Loving Heavenly Father, Please forgive me for having a critical spirit. Help me to have the proper perspective of my circumstances. Allow me to cultivate a spirit of compassion to love You and others as I ought. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recipe for Success

I've made the recipe dozens of times. It was to be our entree for the evening served with salad, broccoli and a heaping bowl of fresh fruit. As I added each ingredient to the recipe, I made a shocking discovery, the milk needed to moisten the crust, was sour. What to do? I could drive to the grocery store and get another gallon of milk - after all, we'd need it in the morning anyway. But that seemed like a bit of a hassle. I scoured my cupboards for powdered milk that I could use as a substitute. There it was on the top shelf behind the honey, and any number of rubs used for grilling.

With the clever substitute mixed into the crust, I popped the sloppy-joe casserole into the oven. Hopefully no one would notice! But I noticed. Although the crust was light and fluffy, it had that distinct powdered milk aftertaste, that didn't leave me begging for more. Sometimes creativity in a recipe can be good, this was definitely not one of those times! Next time, I'll skip the short cut and go to the store to get the ingredient I'm missing, so the recipe turns out right.

Many things in life require that I follow a 'recipe' of sorts in order to be successful. Writing is no exception. Planning, goal-setting, persevering, and praying are some of the 'key ingredients' necessary to produce a winning piece.

In the planning stage, it's important for me to be realistic in evaluating what it will take to complete my project, whether it's an article, a Bible study, or a devotional series. Do I have what it will take to see the project through to completion? The Bible refers to this 'planning stage' as counting the cost. Using the example of building, Luke instructs, "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14:28; KJV).

Part of planning includes setting goals. My goals for article writing are different than the goals I create when writing a devotional series. Goals should be realistic and measureable. Challenging, yet attainable. After consulting my calendar and crossing out the holidays, vacation days and special occasions, I have a basic idea of what my year will look like. With a bit of forethought, I can begin penciling-in my writing projects and set myself up for success. I may decide that I have time to post 2 devotional blogs per week, write eight articles this year, and complete three books of a nine book devotional series. For some, this would be a walk in the park, for others, this would be a stretch. Find what works for you and then stick with it!

When the third ingredient is mixed in with the proper measurements of the first two, there's a good possibility that your dream will be on its way to becoming a reality. Perseverance. The dictionary definition of 'persevere' is "To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement." When faced with an obstacle, we can either choose the easy way out and quit, or dig our heals in, and keep going.

Accountability partners go a long way toward keeping us on track. They are familiar with our weaknesses and are there to walk and talk us through the tough times. When we're discouraged, there's nothing quite like having a cheerleader who can help pick up the pieces and encourage us to continue moving forward. Years ago, the Apostle Paul shared the importance of this concept, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2)

The final ingredient is prayer. In reality, it needs to be the main ingredient liberally sprinkled throughout the entire process. Pray prior to planning, prior to goal-setting, and especially when you hit the proverbial 'bumps in the road.' I think of Paul's directive to the Philippians, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). The great God of the universe bids us to come before Him in prayer - to seek clear direction and wisdom for the task He's called us to.

Are you ready to blend these four ingredients: prayer, planning, goal-setting and perseverance? Mix equal parts planning, goal-setting and perseverance with a double portion of prayer and be prepared for successful results!

Do you have a 'recipe' for success? Whether you're a writer, or God has called you to a different task, I'd love to hear about the 'ingredients' you mix together for success!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Creating Memories

Hope everyone had a blessed Easter, rejoicing in our risen Savior, Jesus Christ! I'll be unplugged this week in order to enjoy spring break with my high school senior, Riley. Looking forward to creating some wonderful memories!

Have a fantastic week and I'll be back on Monday!

Verses to meditate on:

Isaiah 43:10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

God bless you as you follow Him!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Scenic Overlooks & 'God Stops'

Scenic overlooks. Signs are posted to alert drivers to the fact that there is something worth seeing up ahead. Whether it's a panoramic ridge of towering mountains with a breathtaking valley below, or a million dollar, sparkling ocean view, the signs beckon us to slow down and stop, in order to marvel at something amazing.

Of all the vacation destinations I've been privileged to enjoy, I don't recall a state with more scenic turn-outs than Hawaii. Not too surprising when you consider that it's a tropical, volcanic island surrounded by incredibly blue ocean waters. As we made our way around the island over the course of our stay, the numerous scenic turn-outs invited us to slow our pace and bask in the beauty of God's creation.

Sights and sounds tantalized our senses. Rugged beauty pointed unmistakably to a Master Artist. The glorious surf pounding the volcanic outcroppings threatened to soak us, but the Master Designer was in control. I was reminded of King Solomon's words, "When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth" (Proverbs 8:29, KJV). Even the ocean obeys His command! The disciples experienced this one.

Remember the time Jesus and his followers were crossing the sea and a sudden storm threatened to capsize them? Was Jesus alarmed? He was fast asleep. In a panic, the disciples woke Him up and begged Him to save them from their plight. "Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him" (Matthew 8:26b-27)! I believe the disciples and I came to the same conclusion, His power is unequaled!

Back at our scenic turnout, the roaring of the waves made it necessary for us to shout to one another in order to be heard. Yet even their noise is a whisper compared to our God. "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea" (Psalm 93:4).

Another overlook boasted one of God's incredible creatures, the whale. Just to see evidence that these magnificent animals were directly under the surface of the water was captivating. As they came close the surface of the water, their blow holes would send spray shooting several feet into the air. But nothing could compare to seeing them launch themselves out of the water, landing with an enormous splash! Talk about poetry in motion!

Just as scenic overlooks beckon us to come take a closer look, God orchestrates what Beth Moore refers to as 'God stops' in our lives. Opportunities designed especially for us to come aside, and see His majesty, to catch a fresh glimpse of His work. Recently, as I prayed specifically and expectantly over something in my life, I was rewarded with a 'God stop' moment. My part was simply to bring my need to Him, knowing He would answer according to His will and in His timing. Keeping my eyes open to see Him work. He indeed provided a 'God stop' - one that occurred in a way I wasn't expecting. Although I couldn't see it, God was already working in the situation that I was praying over. God's ways are definitely not our ways! The prophet Isaiah sums it up, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).

Along life's journey, are we too focused on our destination that we miss the 'God stops' He's intended for us along the way? Think about Moses. He'd been on the backside of the desert tending sheep for close to forty years. He was minding his own business when the Lord provided an amazing 'God stop.' A burning bush that wasn't consumed. In this incredible encounter, not only was Moses called to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, but Moses also came to know God in a deeper way. God revealed Himself as "I AM THAT I AM," a name He hadn't previously used (Exodus 3:14).

Think about it: Moses could have ignored the bush and gone about his business tending his father-in-law's sheep. Instead, he responded to God, "I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt" (Exodus 3:3). God saw Moses' desire and rewarded Him greatly!

The 'God stops' designed just for me, will help me to draw closer to Him and praise Him for His goodness. Will I be too busy about my business that I ignore the 'God stop'? Or will I choose to 'turn aside' as Moses did, to hear from God? I choose to keep my eyes and ears open to the voice of the Holy Spirit beckoning me to experience the 'God stops' He has for me today! What about you?

Have you experienced a 'God stop' recently? I'd love to hear about it!