Monday, December 26, 2011

A Village Tale

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to a small mideastern villiage with some friends and the experience moved me to write about my experience in "A Villiage Tale" which I want to share with you today. I hope you enjoy taking the trip with me.


The small Middle Eastern town was strange and cramped but the townspeople were warm and friendly. A sea of humanity populated the marketplace – children running around without shoes on their feet, merchants earning their meager wages in the tiny stalls that they called shops, and armed soldiers stomping around shoving people out of their way. As rodents scurried through holes in the cardboard-thin common walls of the shops, the eager merchants, fueled by the crowd of patrons, were busy making and selling their wares.
Each shop owner greeted me with lively conversation as I wandered through the marketplace.
“Hello, Miss, would you like me to show you how I weave these wonderful baskets?” called the basketweaver.
“Ladies, where have you traveled from today? I see you noticing this fine stool I have in my shop. It’s made of the highest quality wood,” said the carpenter.
“Now those young girls are fingerweaving. In a few years they’ll be weaving cloth on the loom just like the older girl here behind me,” explained the clothweaver.
I lingered for a while at the potter’s booth as I watched his skilled hands mold a lump of wet clay into the shape of a bowl. Then a spirited young girl who was stomping grapes in a wine vat around the corner caught my eye. She hummed the tune that a small band of musicians played just a little way down the lane from her father’s wine shop.

I stopped to rest for a moment at the town well and was drawn into a conversation with two local women who were drawing the day’s water.
“Did you hear the latest? One of the outsiders – no offense – practically had her baby right in the street – just down the lane there,” the older woman said. It was the same question almost every person I talked with had asked.
“Have you heard – is it a boy or a girl?” the younger of the two women asked me.
“The basketweaver told me that she heard it was a boy,” I replied.
The young woman now in full gossip mode said, “I hear that the infant is supposed to be some kind of important person.”
The older woman shook her head and said in a matronly tone, “I doubt it. His parents are as poor as can be. He’ll never have the chance to amount to anything. Why, he’ll be lucky to make it through his first year without starving to death.”
I would have stayed to hear more of the village news, but a beggar had begun to hover around me. I grew uneasy as he relentlessly extended his empty, dirty hand pleading for the coins that might be in my pocket so I excused myself from the ongoing conversation and went on my way leaving the women and the beggar behind.
The stream of people making its way through the marketplace seemed to grab hold and pull me along. This small village was never built to hold so many people, but the foreign government in charge had announced that everyone in the country whose ancestors had ever been born there was required to be registered and pay an unfair tax that would only end up lining some politician’s pocket. People from all over the country had been pouring into this little hamlet for weeks. That’s why the military was there. Leave it to the government to cause all of this commotion.

While I was at the bakery sampling a pastry and listening to more of the town gossip, a young soldier barged in and handed something to the shop owner. Apparently, before I arrived, someone had burglarized the shop. I don’t know what had been stolen, but after looking at the soldier, I believed it was best that I not know anything about it at all.
As I came to the end of the market district, I noticed a small crowd of people heading into a dark cave-like structure. My curiosity got the better of me when I was told that the baby – the focus of all of the excitement and town gossip – was there. I just had to stop in to see him.
“He’s such a beautiful baby,” a voice in the crowd was saying.
I watched the baby intently as he reached out to grab his toes, discovering them as if for the first time, repeatedly. The young mother had dark circles under her eyes and looked very tired as she sat next to him.
A man in the crowd asked, “Does he cry much?”
The new father rolled his eyes and said in an exasperated tone, “All night.”
“What’s his name?” a woman asked.
Mary and Joseph answered almost in unison, “His name is Jesus.”

I wish to thank the members of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland in the North Hills of Pittsburgh who so vividly brought the Christmas story to life for me in their own specially-built town of Bethlehem that fills their entire fellowship hall. The number of volunteers was astounding and each person was dedicated to welcoming us to Bethlehem and into the Christmas story. They continue this wonderful ministry and outreach every even-numbered year. If you have the opportunity to “travel to Bethlehem” via St. John’s, I highly recommend it.

About the pictures:
The Holy Land - Taken by Dr. Larry Ruby (2005)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Love

Last week I was sure I'd have plenty to say about love. This week, I'm not so sure. It's just...what do I say about love that I haven't said already in my blog through the years. As I was thinking about what I've been writing over the years, this poem wrote itself:

What Can I Say about Love?
Love is a choice,
a way of life,
a sacrifice.
It's a connection that can't be broken,
a purpose,
a light.
It's not about me and all about you.
It's your strength in my weakness.
It's a treasure

and truth.
Love knows and accepts me
for who I am
and inspires me to be better,
to be more,
it's why I wake
and what my heart beats for.
It's our greatest desire,
a need to give and receive.
It's a sharing,
a gift,
between you and me.
It's not just a feeling that warms our hearts
though warming it does
Love is going without that I may give
Love gives its own life that its beloved may live
Whatever you think love is
It's so much more
when our love is His
our lives redeemed,
our minds renewed,
and our hearts restored.


The truth is that songwriters, poets, theologians and relationship gurus have been writing about love since the beginning and all of that writing together can’t really explain or define God’s love. Maybe God’s love isn’t something a human being can comprehend, explain, or describe. Maybe it’s just something we recognize and accept with open arms and thankful hearts. God’s grace is the greatest love story of all time and I am so blessed and humbled that He chose me to be a part of it. I pray you find yourself a part of this great love story as we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, the fulfillment of a promise made in God's love and possible by God's grace, this Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Joy

At the beginning of the week, I had this whole blog planned out. I researched the traditions of the advent season – why three purple and one pink candle? Why some churches use all blue instead? When did the observance of Advent start and why? Why the weekly themes of peace, hope, joy, and love and which order do they really belong in because it seems to change year to year. Traditionally, this week’s theme is joy as you can see from the title. But to be honest, I don’t feel joyful. I feel completely opposite of joyful in fact.

I’ve been missing my son. My heart feels like someone has rubbed it raw with sandpaper and all I really want to do is hug Bryan. Tell him I love him and I miss him. I can’t seem to stop crying which really gets in the way of doing all the things I normally do. It’s too bad this week’s theme isn’t love….then I’d have something to write about. But how can I possibly write about joy when my heart is breaking.

Mercy Me sings a song called "Homesick" – the chorus has been running through my head a lot:  I close my eyes and I see your face. If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place. Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow. I've never been more homesick than now. That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now – homesick for Bryan. I look around at all the Christmas decorations everywhere and I turn on the radio and hear all those familiar Christmas songs and instead of feeling joyful, I want to cry.

Why do I tell you this? It’s not to entice your sympathy.  It’s because I’m not the only one missing someone this Christmas and if you’re missing someone too, I want you to know you’re not alone. And because I really felt it was necessary to share where I am right now so that you understand that I really mean what I am about to say. It’s not a greeting card sentiment, but a truth to be taken to heart.

Today I asked God what I could possible write about joy in the middle of my grief. He surprised me with a simple but wonderful statement that renewed my mind, filled the pieces of my broken heart with hope and brought me comfort. He said that joy isn’t a feeling. Joy is an attitude and it is the way he has created me to approach each moment of this life. Even through my tears, I can still joyfully praise and serve and love the Lord. I can choose to joyfully anticipate the day of his coming when He will wipe every tear from [my] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain… (Revelation 21:4) His joy is in me because the Lord Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve. He came to bestow on [me] a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. [I] will rejoice in [my] inheritance and everlasting joy will be [mine]. (Isaiah 61:1-3, 7 selected)

So this coming week, no matter how busy or sad or frustrated or whatever else I become, I choose to rejoice in the Lord as I eagerly await his arrival – both the Christmas celebration of his birth and the great and wonderful day of his glorious return.


About the pictures:
Bryan (age 10)
North Park (September 2011)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peace

Yesterday we lit the second candle of Advent, the candle of Peace. As I contemplated the word peace, I found I had a hard time defining it. At first I could only say what peace isn’t. For instance, peace is a lack of conflict in a person’s life, or a lack of war and aggression between nations. That didn’t seem right to me – that the whole definition of peace should be a lack of non-peaceful circumstances. While my dictionary offered little better, I did find a few words tucked away in a list of things peace isn’t that seemed to adequately define it for me – a state of security or order or mutual concord. It’s a subtle difference, but important because when I say out loud that peace is a lack of war and conflict, I don’t feel peaceful. But when I say that peace is a state of security, order, and mutual accord, a feeling of peace seems to surface.

So then I turned to my Bible to see what I could find on peace and I found many references, mostly talking about peace-offerings and the lack of peace or the return of peace in the Old Testament and lots of people greeting each other with peace in the New Testament. However, several lines of Scripture in the New Testament grabbed my attention and as I put them all together on one document to meditate on, I found this seamless message which I just had to share with you as I read it:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mt 10:34) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Lk 12:51) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14:27) “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:32-33) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Col 1:19-20) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Rom 5:1-2a) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phi 4:6-7)

On the night of our Savior’s birth, the angels announced this from the heavens: “On earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Glory to God, who in his infinite love and grace, made peace possible between his own holiness and his rebellious creation. And praise the Lord for creating those he has called to bring his peace to a violent, sinful, suffering world.

At first you may think that Mt 10:34 and Lk 12:51 don’t belong, but they do.  Jesus tells us in Jn 14:27 that there are two different kinds of peace – the peace of man and the peace of God. Just as there is a difference in defining what peace isn’t as opposed to defining what peace is, there is a difference in the peace of man and the peace of God. Jesus did not come to bring man’s peace. No, Jesus brought disruption to man’s temporary security, order and mutual accord to make way for God’s everlasting, unfailing, miraculous peace.

In Jn 16:32-33, Jesus is talking to the disciples on the night of his arrest, but don’t we all have moments when we desert Jesus. Moments when we deny we know him and run away from his presence in our lives. So how wonderful is it to know that Jesus does not withhold his peace from us even when we reject him. Again, he speaks of trouble in this world – disruption, aggression, disorder, but in the same breath has assured us that he has overcome sin and the world and offers his peace to every person who will take hold of it.
Jesus was not and is not a messenger of God. Jesus is God incarnate, and as humans we will never be able to truly comprehend or explain it. But we can accept it with a childlike faith and find peace with him and in him through his selfless sacrifice on the cross and receive everlasting life with him in his resurrection. The peace we have with and in God through Jesus beckons us to cry out to him, to bring to him all our anxieties, our needs, and desires and his peace in us will stand in and against and overcome and outlast all chaos and disorder we find ourselves facing.

So this week as I look for God’s peace, I will be looking for the security that comes from knowing that Jesus is my Savior and God’s grace has redeemed me and brings me into the presence of the Lord with thanksgiving and praise, not in fear and under condemnation. I will be looking for God’s order in the chaos that is my life and the mutual accord that is between him and me and between me and his children throughout the world. No matter what I face this week, God’s peace is what I will seek and what I know I will find even amid the craziness of the Advent/Christmas season.

About the pictures:
North Park (Sept. 2011)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hope

This holiday weekend was a very good weekend filled with family, friends, food, and tradition. In my family, the women all gather the day after Thanksgiving to shop ‘til we drop together. This year, as we went from place to place, we made a conscious effort to thank and compliment every employee who helped or waited on us. Amid the frenzy of Black Friday consumerism, we wanted to be the calm of the storm, the light peaking through the dark clouds letting each person know that they mattered and someone noticed their frustrations, their tiredness, their needs. It was great! It’s amazing the joy a small word of encouragement and a good portion of patience and understanding can bring to a weary individual.

Despite the fact that we spent all day Friday and half of Saturday Christmas shopping, I was completely unprepared to walk into church Sunday morning and see the Advent wreath. As we lit the first candle, I felt a whiplash of confusion. How could it be the first Sunday of Advent already? I should have known it was coming. I had plenty of clues. As a church secretary, I spent the first half of the week preparing a worship guide with a cover that prominently displays a single lit candle. Thanksgiving had come and gone. Christmas music was playing everywhere. Christmas is coming fast and I’m not ready. Then I realized that Advent is the time of preparation – four whole weeks to prepare for the coming of the King. Advent is a time of preparation – a time to ready myself for the coming of the Christ child. Yes Christmas is coming, but Advent gives me the time and focus I need to prepare for the celebration.

Traditionally, the lighting of the first candle symbolized hope, the hope that is ours in Christ, the hope that is Christ. Hope, not in the water-downed sense of the word where it mean nothing more than a wish, but hope in the sense of knowing that the God of the Universe came to earth as a human child for the purpose of expressing his indescribable love for me to me. I heard a missionary in church today say that a man he once encountered from an unreached tribe in Africa told him that “his god speaks his language” and that’s exactly what Jesus did – he came to us as a man to communicate with us and show his love for us in our humanness. My hope in Jesus is assured by his love, his power, and his desire to be in relationship with me.

This week will be about hope for me. Where do you think I’ll find it? And where will I find myself being the bearer of hope? Christ is coming! Happy first week of Advent everyone!

About the pictures:
Racoon State Park (October 2010)

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Job Song

I've been feeling ill for the last couple of days so when it came time to write this week's blog, I really didn't have much energy or enthusiam. I couldn't not post something though, so I've decided to share this poem written in response to Psalm 119:65-72 I penned just this week in my continuing study of Psalm 119. I hope you are blessed as much in the reading as I was in the writing. May God bless you with much thankfulness and great joy this week.

My Job Song
So much I have suffered.
Even more I have lost.
Yet I rejoice and
praise Your name
for You are my comfort.
You have renewed
and restored what was taken.
This world has used
and abused me,
stolen my identity,
taken my future,
my very reason for living.
Yet I will rejoice
for You Lord have healed me.
My scars are your triumph
and I will display them
for Your purpose
and glory.
There is never enough
enough time,
enough means to sustain me
Yet I rejoice, Lord Jesus
for your generosity is amazing
My once empty heart
abides ripe in Your hope
Your love and Your grace uphold me.
Your unrelenting patience
conquers my arrogance,
my brokenness,
my greed.
Drawn to Your gentleness,
I hear my Shepherd’s
soothing tone,
and my heart soars
and sings
Your Word settles in my ear
and I will heed Your call.
Through the valley, I follow
knowing You will lead the way,
the way of truth and love and grace,
the way home to You,
my Savior, my God, and my King.


About the picture: Deer Lake Park (October 2009)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to do a rather large favor for someone. I admit, I didn’t want to break my routine, shuffle around my plans, or give up my “me” time. However, I did have the time and ability to be of some help and it was a reasonable request – one I felt heart-bound to respond to and something I know the Lord would want me to do. What else could I do? I said yes.

As I was on my way to do this thing, I remember praying, “Lord, help me to not be stingy with my time. Part of me would rather just go home, eat dinner, watch a little TV, and maybe clean up a little. Help me to wholeheartedly and joyfully offer my time, my attention, my abilities, and my….. That’s when it hit me exactly how self-centered I could be. Even in my prayers…”my” time, “my” attention, “my” abilities…. None of that is really “mine.” God gave and gives the time, attention, ability and everything else I have to offer. I don’t own it and it is not mine to give or keep. I began to pray again. This time I asked the Lord to guide me in the giving of the time, abilities and love he allowed and enabled me to share with those in need in this situation.


If we are being honest, we’d have to admit that we’re all a little self-centered. It’s how we learn, how we keep safe, it’s how we perceive the world around us – in relationship to ourselves. But, when we start thinking that we are giving of our own storehouse, our own commodities of time, talent, and empathy – that’s when we let God’s work, God’s love, and God’s power be reduced to the limited confines of human ability and understanding.

What if it’s not about me? What if my life, my whole existence, is about Someone else? What if it’s all about God and I’m just a part of God’s existence, God’s story? The Bible tells me that everything I have, everything I am, everything I will ever possess is his and he’s just allowing me to be a part of his story by inviting me into it, allowing me to access all he possesses to reach out to those around me, not for my sake or my glory, but for his. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for he is worthy of all praise and glory. May the life he has breathed into me bring glory and honor to his name.

About the pictures:
Deer Lake Park (October 2010)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beautiful and Loved



There is a scene in the movie Good Will Hunting where Robin William’s character, psychologist Sean Maguire is talking with Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), an uneducated, troubled young man whose abusive childhood has left him untrusting of others and unmotivated to rise above his unhappy, lonely life or to live up to his full potential as the math genius he was born to be. Sean points to a file folder filled with the accounts of Will’s many abuses at the hands of his father and then in the foster homes he grew up in.

Sean says to him, “Will, what’s in here is not your fault.”

Will says “I know, Sean.”

Then Sean says it again and again and again, “Will, it’s not your fault.”

Will continues to reply, “I know” until he eventually breaks down and cries in Sean’s arms. Sean’s constant barrage of the truth burrowed through the wall Will had built up in childhood to keep the world and it’s hurtfulness at a distance. And in reaching that part of Will’s heart that was broken and hurting, Sean helped Will to begin to heal.

It’s a very powerful scene for me especially because I don’t have a good self image and my self esteem leaves a lot to be desired especially when I find myself facing challenging times. You can tell me that God still loves me and that in him I have worth and value and I’ll say I know, but not really. Not in my heart where the hurt and confusion is.

I tell you all of that because this past week, God has been doing a Sean Maguire on me with two songs that I have been hearing over and over again: Beautiful by Mercy Me and You Cannot Lose My Love by Sara Groves. Since I know I can’t be the only insecure person on the planet, I wanted to share the message of these songs which God has brought to me this week.

Remember – you are beautiful because God sees you that way and you cannot lose his love ever.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Battle Within Won from Above


THE BATTLE WITHIN WON FROM ABOVE
How I wish my heart was ever faithful.
Yes, perfectly determined to follow You.
Yet the fancies of this world
entice me, often causing me to stray.
Forgive my wavering devotion tainted
by this world’s distractions
which all too often steal the worship which
rightfully belongs to You.
Diverted from Your Holy Word,
from seeking Your will, Your righteousness,
Your love and grace -
I find myself empty and craving Your embrace.
You’ve spoken me into existence
and ordained my each and every day.
Your Word nourishes and sustains me.
Your will – my very life upon its journey.
I humbly confess Lord that
my mind, my heart, my soul’s desire
to follow You in all my ways
waxes and wanes as an ocean wave.
Only Your Spirit can turn my heart
from this world’s worthless riches
to receive the timeless treasures of Your Truth.
And still my hope is not ill-placed
as you have promised to restore my soul.
Your grace will grow a holy love in me for You
beyond this world’s momentary temptations.
And so I resolve to listen and learn
as Your Spirit fills my heart and head
with a deep-rooted awareness
of Your Way and Your Word.


Poem in response to Psalm 119:33-40
About the pictures:
Pittsburgh PA Dec. 2009
Deer Lake Park Nov. 2010

Monday, October 24, 2011

The One Person I Can't Forgive

In my forty-some years on this earth, I have encountered a lot of people for whom I’ve had to forgive much. People who have mentally, physically, sexually, and emotionally abused me. Bullies from my childhood and those whom I know and call family and friends. From being called names to being degraded and physically harmed by a man who vowed to love and cherish me all the days of my life. From the best friend in high school who slept with my boyfriend (and let’s not forget the boyfriend who slept with my best friend) to the neighbor who stalked me for six months until the day he attacked me in my own home. From the husband who left me for a 17-year old girl to the God who let my son die in a horrible car accident. Yet all of these people, with God’s grace, I have been able to wholeheartedly forgive and pray for. I pray they have the peace and hope God has given me. As for God himself – I have come to love him deeply and rely on his will no matter what.

However this week I realized that there is one person I have never been able to fully forgive. There are still moments in my life when I hold this person accountable for every misspoken word, every neglect, and every failure, everything wrong she's ever done. Who is this poor woman? It's me.

Why is it so easy to find it within myself to forgive all those who have wronged me, who have hurt me and yet, I can’t seem to finally and wholeheartedly forgive myself? Am I so wretched a person that it is easier to forgive the whole world, yet not me?

In my intellect, I know that the answer is no. The Bible tells us we are all sinners, equally sinful in the sight of God’s holiness. So why is it so much easier to forgive everyone else's unholiness than to forgive my own? Jesus died on the cross for my sins – for my sinfulness in its entirety which means that there is nothing in me or my past that has not been forgiven and forgotten by God. To hold myself accountable for my sins after they have been forgiven is like saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough. I can’t possibly make the argument that Jesus’ death, Jesus the perfect holy Son of God who gave his life for mine, is somehow insufficient to pay the price for my sin. If the God who loves and created me, redeemed me and is making me a new creation in him has forgiven me, who am I to withhold forgiveness? And yet, I still want to hold myself accountable, to pay for it somehow, someway to make up for my wrongs.

I see no way out of this endless circle of guilt I’ve wrapped myself up in except to give it to God. To forgive myself again and to hand over again to Jesus the unforgiveness, the pride, the self-righteous judgementalism I hold against myself. I hope this time, my heart learns beyond doubt what my head already knows – I am now and always will be a forgiven beloved child of the living God.
About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Church (May 2011)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Grace 's Inextinguishable Light

For the last two and a half years, I’ve been taking a few hours each week to reflect on what God has done in my life and then write about it in 500-750 words or so to share with you. Often, I begin thinking about it on Thursday and by Sunday afternoon – I have a good idea of what I’m going to share. This week, I had in mind what I was going to write and then I went to church Sunday morning and I was so touched by what I saw there, I had to put aside the original idea. I hope and pray that you will bear with me if this is not like my other blogs.

This morning at church, we watched on as a young couple brought their beautiful baby girl forward to be baptized. The Elder presenting them to the church family was the baby’s grandmother. Their extended family was sitting up front to share in that wonderful moment when this precious child became a member of the body of Christ and of our church family. It was a joyous occasion. And yet, it was also bittersweet because after church, I knew the family would be heading to the funeral home where the baby’s great-grandmother was laid out for visitation.


Grace, who was 93 years old when passed away on Friday, was the epitome of her name. While I’m sorry to say that I didn’t know Grace well, I’d spoken with her a few times over the years as she was also our church’s secretary for the longest time. She was a humble, grace-filled, lovely woman who, among other things, was our church baseball team’s biggest fan. She’d been a long-time member and had raised her many children in the church. And in turn, they also have raised their children in the church. Today we watched on as the fourth generation began her journey as a child of God through baptism. I know that Grace, who has now completed her baptism and is with the Lord, would have been so happy to see her great-granddaughter start the very journey she herself cherished in her own life.

Today our pastor talked about being the salt of the earth and a light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Grace was surely that and her light will continue on well into the future as this little girl and generations to come are brought up to know and love the Lord as Grace did. Two hundred years from now, the world may not remember or know that Grace was here, but her light, the light of hope found only in Jesus, will still be shining in the generations of children nurtured in the faith by the family of faith that Grace loved and cared for. What a wonderful legacy this woman has left us.


That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave. Though I don’t have any children to whom I can pass on my faith, I can pass on my faith in some way to everyone I meet like Grace did. I hope that when the Lord calls me home, there will be someone who knew very little of me, but from our few encounters could tell the world that I loved Jesus passionately and shared that love with him or her in some way, be it big or small.

May God bless you with love, peace, hope, and grace.

About the pictures:
Fichter Fairy Garden (May/June 2011)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tell Me a Story

This past weekend, I attended the Women of Faith conference in Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful time of worship and focusing on God with 8,000 sisters in the faith of all denominations. The speakers gave incredible testimonies of God’s grace in their lives and made it clear that every one of us in that stadium has a story – a story of God’s grace, love, and healing. We each have a story to tell of God working in and through our lives that we were given to share with those around us.

I remember looking around at the thousands of women there at one point during the conference and thinking, “every one of us is messed up somehow. Not one of us has had a perfect life or lives that fictitious better-than-me life we all assume everyone else has. We all know hurt, disappointment, confusion, indecision, hard circumstances. Each of us was broken and in need of God’s saving grace. Whether we’d been a Christian for a day or a lifetime, we all need Jesus just as much right now as we did the first moment we gave our hearts to him.”

There was a moment in the conference when we all were singing praises to God and the blend of thousands of voices rising as a single chord of worship to our Savior was a most beautiful sound that took my breath away. My voice blending with all the others until it couldn’t be picked out even by me was a phenomenal reminder to me that I am not alone. Not only is God with me always, but my family, my Christian brothers and sisters, are always near to support and comfort me, to encourage and help me through difficult times, and pick me up when I fall – as I am there for them.

We each have a story and when those stories combine to glorify God, it is a beautiful thing! That’s why I write this blog. That’s why I offer my time and my heart to grieving families and that’s why I serve in leadership at my church. Because I want my life to be a beautiful offering to the Love of my life – Jesus. I want my life to say that He loves me and I love Him. And when my small voice is added to the many other seemingly small voices, we will be heard as one beautiful chord of worship and praise to the God who created and redeemed us.

About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian (July 2009)

Monday, October 3, 2011

All in the Family

Yesterday we celebrated World Communion Sunday at my church. The tradition of WCS began in 1933, at a Shadyside church right here in Pittsburgh, to promote Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation. It was adopted in 1940 by the National Council of Churches encouraging Christian churches worldwide to celebrate our Christian unity even if our nations are at odds with each other. 1933 was the darkest year of the Great Depression. The Nazis and their fascist reign of terror swept over Europe and threatened the entire world. The prevailing mood was anxiety—fear about economics, fear about politics and fear about the future. Seventy-eight years later, we still face terrorism and anxiety over economics, politics and the future. However, instead of a single church, countless Christian churches around the globe met around the Lord’s Table yesterday in unity, claiming their heritage as children of God and their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior as their bond.

I wish I could say that we made a difference in the world, made a statement the world could not ignore, changed the hearts of world leaders who last week were set on power, wealth, and property above all else at any cost, and now have their hearts set on Jesus and seek only God’s will in their lives and in their lands. I wish I could say that my own country’s leaders have had a change of heart and are wearing sackcloth and ashes in repentance seeking God’s guidance in the oversight of this land. I can’t even say that.

I don’t know if it will ever contribute to the world becoming a better place, but I do know that for one day – I was very aware that my little 700 member congregation is just a very small part of “The Church” – Christ’s bride. And in the "Church" which I am a part of, there are brothers and sisters who had to meet in secret to celebrate our unity yesterday. There were some, beaten and dying in prison because they will not renounce their faith in Jesus, who celebrated our unity in Christ yesterday. Please pray for them. There are missionaries all over the world who have answered God’s call to go to, sometimes hostile, foreign lands who celebrated our unity. There were brothers and sisters who had no bread or wine, who joined us at the Lord’s Table to claim their unity with us in whatever ways the Lord provided for them. At the Lord’s Table, we are united, all equally sharing in his love and grace, all equally blessed in his Spirit and equally called to share the good news of his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. For one day, we made a strong statement to God that we are His people and that He is our God, and if the rest of the world saw it – good! For me, it was an affirmation of God’s sovereignty in my life and that I am one among many in God’s family – no matter where I am, there is family nearby for me to lean on and I am there for them to lean on me.

If you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior – you are my family. Please know that I pray for you – that you will live and grow in God’s will and that he will strengthen you in your faith. May the Spirit guide and protect you and the peace of Christ fill you. Amen.

About the pictures:
North Park (September 2011)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Resting in the Lord

The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy and somewhat exhausting for me. Between work and personal commitments, I’ve been working 10-12 hour days almost every day for the last two weeks and today after four wonderful hours of worship and service at the church, I collapsed and took that really long nap I’d been looking forward to. My plan was to gather my thoughts after my nap and write this week’s blog but found myself facing an overwhelming case of writer’s block. At first, I was upset with myself because I’ve made a commitment to you and myself to reflect on God in my life and share the hope and wisdom he freely gives me with all of you but then it occurred to me what this week’s lesson really was – Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10)

Sometimes, we all need to take a break, stop our insane rushing around and remember whose we are and why we are here. And after two weeks of dedicated service, God was telling me today, “Rest. Rest in me and let me renew you.” He is my strength and he is the one who brings the hope I try to share each week. Who better to turn to when we are dry and thirst, when we are exhausted and have nothing left to give. So with that said, I would like to share with you God’s own Word to all of us as a source of hope and reflection this week. May God add his blessing to your reading of His Word.

But now, God's Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.
I've called your name. You're mine.
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.
When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you're between a rock and a hard place,
it won't be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That's how much you mean to me!
That's how much I love you!
I'd sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you. (Isaiah 43:1-4, The Message)

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. (Ephesians 1:3-6, The Message)

About the pictures:
North Park (September 2011)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lord Is My Portion

This past week, I was enjoying lunch with three friends, all of whom have children who are grown and either away at college or out in the world living their lives. M’s youngest just left for college two weeks ago and she is having a hard time adjusting to daily life without the kids. Though they phone each other regularly, M is still missing her girls a lot. J, whose boys are a little older, comforted M by telling her that soon, she will learn to appreciate the new freedom she has now that the girls are away at school. L, whose four children are grown and out on their own for some time now chimed in expressing his longing for his kids who are scattered all over the world. They stay connected with texts, emails, and skype but it’s not the same as being together. It was at this point that I had to excuse myself.

I admit that, for a moment, a jealous part of me wanted to remind them all of how blessed they are that their children were only a phone call or email away.  It’s been 13-1/2 years since I’ve seen my Bryan or heard his voice. He never made it to college or met the girl of his dreams and I sometimes wonder what kind of man he would have been. Yet just because my son is dead and I will never see or hear or talk to him again in my lifetime, that doesn’t make their longing for their children any less valid or real. So I excused myself from the conversation and buried my sadness for the rest of the afternoon.
That night I was still feeling empty. My arms ached to hold my child and I was helpless in the knowledge that nothing else would satisfy my need, my loneliness. Confused and hurting, I cried out to God. How could God leave me with this hole in my life and my heart? He let me rant and carry on until I was exhausted and then tenderly but firmly reminded me of His Word, “You are my portion, O Lord… …I shall not want. (Psalm 119:57a; Psalm 23:1b) In those few words, God spoke a mountain of understanding and wisdom to me. I was feeling hurt, empty, abandoned and lacking because my maternal instinct and human logic insisted that only Bryan could satisfy my need, fill my emptiness and make me whole. As reasonable as that sounds, it’s not true. Only God can fill all the empty spaces of my life. Only God can satisfy my need and make me whole. My sadness and momentary jealousy came because I was looking for something else, someone else, to satisfy my need.
That’s not to dismiss the love I have for my son. There will come a day when I will hold my son in my arms again. Out of all the loved ones waiting for me in heaven, Bryan will be the first one in line, after Jesus of course, to welcome me home. But here and now, on this earth, only the Lord can fill the empty spaces of my life, satisfy my every need and make me whole. When I began to look to Jesus to fill the hole and relieve my empty, aching arms, his peace and a joy that defies all human understanding overflowed within me. My tears of pain and loneliness turned into songs of joy and a sense of fulfillment. The Lord has always been, is now, and always will be ALL I need. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

About the pictures:
North Park (September 2011)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Promises, Promises

This Sunday, September 11th is a day for my family to remember, not the pain of loss and devastation that most of the nation is focused on, but to remember a promise – a vow, made forty-nine years ago on September 11, 1962 between two young people in the presence of God and family. That is the day my mom and dad promised to love and be faithful to each other through the good and the bad forsaking all others until death. And believe me there was a lot of good and a lot of bad. My dad’s Italian temper found its match in my mom’s Irish stubbornness. Add poverty and an infant to the mix and it’s a wonder they made it past the first 18 months. But it was my mom’s Irish tenacity and my dad’s Italian passion, often the cause of their conflicts, which also saw them through the tough times and made them the loving single unit of man and wife that they have been for most of their lives.

In Scripture, our relationship with God is often compared with a marriage. For example in the Old Testament, the prophet Hosea’s love for and continual forgiveness of his unfaithful wife Gomer was a picture – a living, breathing reflection of Israel’s unfaithfulness in her covenant relationship with God and God’s grace and love as he continued to pursue and forgive them, bringing them back into relationship with him. Isaiah 62:5 says: As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the bridegroom and himself as the friend who attends the bridegroom. In Matthew 9:15, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom and again in the Parable of the Ten Virgins as he warns his bride, the church, to be ready and waiting for his return. And in the book Revelation, Jesus the bridegroom comes back to claim his bride – you and me.

But on a day like this when we remember the evil that has been done to us and as we mourn the pain and devastation of that day ten years ago, we may find ourselves doubting God’s love. How could a loving God have allowed this to happen? Why do pain, hatred, and war exist at all in this world if God is really in control and protecting us? I don’t have a satisfactory answer for you, except to say that God’s promise, his love for us, is still just as true and real this moment as it was in the beginning when he created us, when through baptism we first entered into a covenant relationship with him as his people, and when he redeemed us through his Son Jesus Christ. God’s love and grace are still ours and his Spirit continues to be with us. His promise to be with us and care for us is still intact as Revelation 21:3 attests to: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” One day this promise will be evident and we will rejoice over the memory of years of hardship that deepen and strengthen our relationship with him. He is our God and we are his people and no power on earth can separate us from his grace. But don’t take my word for it – embrace his Word, his promise of life to you.

GOD’S LOVE SONG
Because I love you, I created you.
I chose you to be my heart's desire and
opened your ears to hear me call your name.
You are my own, my joy and I have redeemed you.
I've broken through your heart of stone, and
created in you a heart of flesh –
yes, a heart of love after my very own.
Always I will listen for your cry,
to lift you out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire
because I love you.
I will set your feet upon solid rock -
firm ground on which to stand, hand in hand,
because I love you.
I've given you a new song to sing –
a redemption song of love and grace.
I have forgiven all your sinfulness
and will not treat you as your sin deserves.
Rather I will comfort you in my arms
until your last tear has been cried and
I will heal your brokenness.
I give all of me to you
and have sacrificed my life for the you
you were yesterday,
are today,
and will be tomorrow.
The record of your sins is no more, gone and forgotten
I want only to embrace you
with a love greater than you can measure.
I love you - all of you right now
just as you are because I AM.
When you turn and go your own way,
I search until I find you and bind your wounds.
I love you and no one can take you from me –
I've made your heart my throne, my home.
You are my precious child to love and protect.
Where you wander, there I am loving you,
a new creation, Lover and loved.
Nothing, no nothing, on earth nor under
nor above can ever separate you from my love.
In love, I have crowned you with salvation,
dressed you in my own robe of righteousness
and surrounded you in the Truth of my love.
In me you find the peace your heart aches for.
In me your faith is proven by my love,
and my Word, my very Spirit, lives in you.
Together you and I are victorious,
for my power defeated our enemy long ago.
And even now I defend you, plead on your behalf -
I am your sacrifice because I love you.
I am love and you are my desire
every moment for all eternity
because I AM and I have made you mine.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Believing Outside the Box

Ever wonder how anyone can really have a “relationship” with an invisible God? Or when people say, “God told me…” or "God was there with me...," do you ever silently disregard their statement because that doesn't "really" happen? Or perhaps you try to rationalize it away with some "reasonable" explanation. Or an even more unimaginable thought – what if someone said that God miraculously healed them – yes, healed – like they had cancer and now they don't or were paralyzed and now they aren't. How hard it can be to accept that God heals, and yet, isn't that what we all hope our God does – have the power and generosity to heal our pain, our sickness?

I too have struggled and do struggle with this very issue. I have a younger cousin who at one time in his life was near death stricken with the severest case of acid reflux disease. For many years he was in great pain and malnourished because his body refused to digest his food. Though he’d taken all the medications available and had several surgeries, still his own body was fighting against him, rejecting every morsel he tried to eat. He was so weak that sometimes he’d pass out from the exertion of rolling over in bed. They eventually inserted a feeding tube to try to keep him alive.

He went to a healing service about halfway through his health battle, but to no avail. His health ever declining, he endured the severe pain inflicted by this disease, and yet, he never lost faith. One day he told his mother it was time to go to another healing service. This time, my cousin went in near death and came out completely healed which was confirmed by his physician the next day. For the first time in years, my cousin ate food and his body did not reject it. Today, he is healthy and happily pursuing a life in service to God. I saw him a few weeks ago – he is a tall, healthy, handsome young man. To look at him, you’d never know how emaciated and near death he had been for so much of his young life. As I hugged him and talked with him, I couldn’t deny that only by God’s grace and healing this young man is alive and well today. But then there is that small voice in me that says that it just doesn’t make sense.

Why would it have been so much easier, and not a struggle at all, for me to accept wholeheartedly his healing if it had occurred through the hand of a human doctor? And yet I struggle with the idea that the Creator, who knows us best and made each of us uniquely in His image, could and would heal us. It’s far outside my sophisticated, worldly American way of life and yet my cousin is proof my eyes cannot ignore. I have friends who for years had been in healing ministry and they’ve witnessed with their own eyes God’s miraculous intervention time without number and have shared these stories with me. Also, I’ve read enough miracle accounts to know that everyday God’s miraculous love and power is being seen in great and impossible ways in places all over the world. Even with all this proof, I find it difficult to break out of my little box of human understanding.

Does that stop me from believing that God is alive and personally interacting in a supernatural way in my life? Absolutely not! I decided long ago that even if God’s presence in my life and his benevolent intervention in the world doesn’t make any sense – doesn’t fit into my little box of human understanding – I still will believe. Because really, my ability or inability to understand doesn’t have any bearing on what God is able to do and does. If God could fit into my limited human ability to see and hear and feel and understand, then he wouldn’t be God and I wouldn’t have any cause for hope. Thank the Lord, he is greater than our ability to understand, explain, and prove. That doesn’t mean that I don’t question. It just means that I don’t need to find or understand the answer to believe and to know and be in relationship with Jesus.

About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Prayer Garden (July 2011)

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Am a Sinner

As a fellow human being, I too was born a sin addict. Though the Lord Jesus has redeemed me and dressed me in his own righteousness so that I may approach our Heavenly Father without fear of condemnation, my humanness still craves sin. And that craving does sometimes overcome me and I give in. In defiance, because I want what I want no matter what God says, I sin. This past week, I gave in big time and binged in my sin addiction. The guilt and shame I experienced due to my deliberate sinful actions were overwhelming. I knew in my intellect that as I repented and begged God’s forgiveness, he was there forgiving and embracing me. Yet my heart had built up a wall between us and I hid from him much like Adam and Eve did in the garden. The conflict this caused in me set me up to make one of two decisions – I could either run farther from God into sin to numb the shame and guilt that ate at me or come out of hiding and face God. With the aid and encouragement of some very good friends, I came out of hiding and found not the condemnation I deserved, but the loving embrace of God waiting for me.
Bear with me as I seem to change the subject, but not really. Also this week, my mother got a 12-week old Shih Tzu. She is the cutest thing I ever saw and my heart is enamored with her. Her every puppy action is so adorable, I can’t take my eyes off of her because I don’t want to miss a thing. She is a timid little thing and being a toy breed, she is small and fragile. She is a tiny creature and to her, I am a giant, so when I approach her, I get down on the ground to make myself accessible to her and so I don’t scare her. When she flops out of her cage and comes running to me, joy fills every part of me. I spent an hour the other day just lying on the kitchen floor playing with her and every time she licked my face, happiness burst out of me as laughter. Being a puppy, she has lots to learn – like where to do her business, what she can and cannot eat, where she is allowed to go and not…. And being a puppy, she makes lots of mistakes (sometimes deliberately, even though she really does know she’s not supposed to). I correct her, but my heart is wrapped around her little paw and I could never not love her fully.

God loved me before the world existed. From the very beginning, I was in his heart and he carefully created me to be the person I am. In joy, his heart is drawn to watch over me – kind of like how my heart enjoys seeing Molly be the puppy she is. He is a giant to my small and fragile nature and, like me with Molly, he came down to my level in the person of Jesus Christ to interact with me and share his heart with me. His Spirit within me gently corrects me when I sin – not to hurt or punish, but to guide me in the right way. Even when I stubbornly follow my will and not his, he doesn’t hate me or want to condemn me. Rather he aches to welcome me back into his arms with joy. If I, as a flawed human being, can love Molly with such forgiving whole-hearted love, imagine how much God loves us – not as pets, but as his very own children whom he gave the life of his Son to save. I love Molly, but in the end she is a dog and if she runs in front of a Mac truck, I’m not going to run out in front of it to save her. (Sorry Mom!) But God’s love for me is so deep and true and perfect that as my sin brings me to the cross, Jesus runs out in front, pushing me out of the way to safety, to take my place on the cross.

Yes I am a sinner and God loves me. I just need to run into his arms, sinner that I am, to know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that I may be filled to the measure of all fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)



About the pictures:
Molly (12-week old Shih Tzu) August 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

What Jack Sees Are My Priorities

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about my priorities as I try to make time for my relationship with God, especially in light of the call on my life that I talked about in last week’s blog. Like anyone else, I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things I want and need to do. And now I’m going to add more stuff to the list! I must be nuts! As I started listing all the things I want to do and never seem to have enough time to do, I knew some sacrifices were going to have to be made. But how do you choose what stays and what goes when it all seems important? 

As I pondered this, an old favorite TV series came to mind. I used to watch a show called “Without a Trace.” Each week, a team of FBI agents specializing in missing persons led by Agent Jack Malone would exhaust themselves to find a missing person. They would find out everything they could about the missing person and try to retrace his movements up until the moment he disappeared in the hopes of locating him alive and unharmed. The agents would visit the missing person’s home and look through his belongings to discover clues that might lead to his whereabouts. They would search his computers files, phone records, and read his emails to learn about the missing person’s character in order to make educated guesses that often led them to the next clue. They followed paper and electronic trails tracking the person’s movements on the day he disappeared in the hopes of discovering what had happened to him. And by the end of the show, they followed the clues right to the missing person who was often alive and usually needing the FBI’s help to return home.

It got me to thinking – What would Jack Malone discover about me if he were to follow the clues of my life on any given day? As he routed through my home, my computer, my texts – what conclusions would he draw about who I am and what is important to me? I can tell you that if he were to show up at my home, he would see that housecleaning is not really high on my list of priorities. What do my possession and my activities say to Jack Malone – to anyone – about who I am and what’s important to me? What do I want my possessions and daily activities to say about me? And does my life say about me what I want it to say about me?

I would hope that my possessions and daily activities show the world that 1) I love Jesus and 2) I love the world of people that Jesus loves and died to save. When I look at my life through this lens, it’s so much easier to decide what will be high on my list of priorities and what will not. That means that there are a lot of things I would like to do that won’t make it onto that list. However, in the eternal scheme of things, I’m okay with that. When I look at it in this way, it doesn’t seem as difficult anymore to carve out the time to spend in prayer and to read and learn God’s Word. I may miss watching a football game now and then or I may have to give up a golf game once in a while. Perhaps I will have to log onto Facebook a little less often and limit the time I spend browsing the internet. I will definitely have to give up my lazy Saturday afternoons curled up on the couch for hours watching mindless TV and I absolutely must organize my time better so that I can spend more time with Jesus. As I mentioned last week, this is going to be a real struggle for me, but if my life is to say to the world that I love Jesus and I love the world of people he died to save, then bring on the challenge because the prize – a deeper more intimate relationship with my Savior – is well worth it and so much more.

What does your life say to the Jack Malones of the world?

About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Church (July 2011)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Missionaries and Me at NWMC

I recently attended the New Wilmington Mission Conference. I wish you had been there, heard what I heard, and saw what I saw, because I’m having a hard time putting the experience into words. Yet I feel I must try because what I learned there is changing my life. I’m not missionary material by any means and given my health issues, I will most likely never go on even a short-term mission trip – so why did I go to a “mission” conference? The short answer is that God was calling me to visit with Him there. This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever “been away from home.” I’ve never gone on scouting trips or away to camp or on church youth trips. So this was a really big deal for me just from the aspect of stretching my shy, introverted personality beyond my comfort zone every minute for a week amongst hundreds of strangers. I admit that I had some trouble the first couple of days figuring out how to be me in that frenzy of activity with all those people around everywhere. But the Lord provided a few friends who prayed for me and helped me acclimate quickly.

For one week, I worshipped God morning and night and heard His Word proclaimed and expounded in light of His work in the mission fields of the world. I had the opportunity to hear and talk with past and present missionaries from all over the world and I participated in a Bible study on the book of Jonah (an Old Testament, rather-reluctant, missionary). It’s amazing how small the world becomes when you sit across the breakfast table from a person who was born and raised in another part of the country or the world and you pray together for God’s blessing on the meal and share stories of what Jesus has done in and through each other’s lives.

Being an introvert, I made sure to find time each day to walk by myself and be alone with God or sit with my writing, as I often do, to hear what He might have to say to me. It seemed that no matter where I went on campus, God’s Spirit was so present, He was almost tangible and His peace, at times, was intoxicating.

Now comes the hard part – God let me know in no uncertain terms how shallow my prayer life had become and then gave me a glimpse of how full and rich He intends it to be. He allowed me the privilege of praying one-on-one with a few special people at conference and God moved in me and I believe in them to bring them healing from old wounds and courage to face their future. There is nothing as exhilarating as when the Spirit leads me to share my heart with another, to lift up a brother or sister in prayer – to help them bring their burden to our Father in heaven. When the words that He gives me to speak releases their pain, their concerns, and their needs, and then I see His peace filling them – there are no words to express that kind of joy. I know now that God is calling me into prayer ministry – whatever that means – I don’t know yet.

I won’t be idle while I wait for the Lord to make it clear. Already, I’ve joined a Sunday morning prayer group at church, and along with many others I’ve made a commitment to 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim world during this month of Ramadan. I’m reading and learning about spiritual warfare and intercessory and healing prayer and memorizing scripture. Most importantly, I am turning off the TV and radio more often, putting away worldly distractions, and I’m praying and I’m listening. These are my intentions and I pray the Lord blesses me with success as I face the uphill battle against my old “lazy” habits which are impossible for me to break by my own will and power.

Will I go back to the conference next year? YES! It’s already on the calendar. Maybe I’ll never put a foot on the mission field, but God’s Word tells me that my prayers are not useless and they do not go unheard. God is moving and working on the mission fields of the world and He has called me to support His missionaries in prayer. Last year I adopted a mission family to pray for (the children and grandchildren of very dear friends of mine) and I admit I’ve been doing a lousy job of it, but now God has engrained them in my heart as if they were my own family and I will be more diligent about bringing them to the Lord in prayer on a daily basis. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ. (Colossians 4:2-3)

Now if you’ll excuse me – It’s time for God and me to have a conversation.

About the pictures:

Brittain Lake, Westminster College Campus (Site of New Wilmington Mission Conference) July 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Reckoning

Over the last month, God has begun in me an amazing journey through Psalm 119. God has drawn me to this Psalm not just for reflection, but as a conversation between him and I. I am taking it a stanza at a time and as I meditate on His Word, the Spirit is inspiring me to respond in verse. Though I am a writer – I have no words to express how God has touched my spirit in this process so far, however I can share some of the experience with you by sharing a few of the poetic responses that has come from my study time.


THE RECKONING
So wrong and sinful am I
that I could not hide
my shame from the light
of Your glory.
I had no excuses,
no defense to submit,
no hope of acquittal
from the long list of sins
I’d chosen to commit.
Whatever Your judgment
I deserved it full well
and hopeless I waited
for a pronouncement of hell –
away from Your glory,
Your presence,
Your light.
Then arose from the depths
of my spirit-dead soul
a desolate cry,
“Mercy, my God”
and tears of repentance
streamed from my eyes.
You heard my confession,
saw the regret of my heart,
then took me up in Your arms
and tenderly spoke,
“My dear little child
for your sake I died
and rose from the grave
so that on this day
I could joyfully declare
Your debt has been paid.
Now receive My forgiveness
My love and My grace
and be with Me always.
Stand firm in My ways.
I’ll teach you to love
and to lay down your life,
to know the difference
between what is wrong
and what’s right.
Follow My voice.
My Spirit will lead
as you travel the path
marked out by Me.
There’s no need to fear
nor hide your face
from My gaze
for My love and My grace
has brought us together.
From this day forward
I proclaim us to be
Heavenly Father –
beloved child,
now and forever
together in Me.”

Response to Psalm 119:25-32

About the picture:
Parkwood Presbyterian Church (July 2011)