Friday, December 1, 2017

Me too!

I was 27, a small town girl living in the city. I had known nothing other than a simple life without drama. Married for 7 years and enjoying a career where I was excelling.

He sat down at my desk and told me I was very smart and would go far in my career. I blushed, smiled and said "thank you."

Weeks passed and he told me I was beautiful. I squirmed, blushed, smiled and said "thank you."

Weeks later he invited me to go out after work for drinks. I squirmed uncomfortably, blushed, smiled and said "no, thank you."

And so it continued. He spent more and more time at my desk. He eventually told me he loved me. He invited me to hotels.

I couldn't hide from him. I couldn't avoid him. The workplace became a stress-place. Compliments became a dreaded enemy.

I never told anyone. Why? I was embarrassed. I internalized it all. "It must be my fault. I must have encouraged him. I was too friendly." I should have put a stop to friendly conversation early on. But it was so gradual.

He was married to a wonderful woman and had 3 small children. I couldn't ruin his family by squealing. And who would believe me anyway?

He was my boss. It would be his word against mine. Who would take my word over his? His boss was a man. And his boss' superior was a man. And so the chain of command continued up a male ladder. They were all men.

I didn't even tell my husband, Keith, for years. For one, what if he asked me to walk away from my career and I had to start all over again. Or even worse, what if he struggled with the same question I was asking myself. "Did I encourage this man?" Would Keith continue to trust me? 

Of course, I underestimated Keith. When I finally told him, he could not have been more kind and compassionate. And he has continued to be a champion for women's rights of dignity.

I felt trapped and alone. I was just a little girl handling life as best as I knew how.

I join with thousands and thousands of women who whisper "me too."

The abuse of power is real. It preys on the vulnerable and naive. No one wins.

All of the publicity over the past year, where powerful men are accused of abusing their power for sexual gain, is difficult for the "me toos."  Men in power are getting a lot of attention but what about the women? My story is nothing compared to the stories we are hearing. But for many like me, we are reliving our old nightmares. We are asking ourselves the question again, "What should I have done differently?" We come up with answers but remind ourselves that it was a different time. We remember that we were young and felt helpless.

It's hard going back to those memories. Every time a story hit the headlines this year I would ache for the women involved. And then stuff my emotions. But it has only gotten worse. More and more nightmares are being revealed.

I don't have answers. I know it is part of mankind's sin nature. It's why we desperately need a Savior. It's why we need Jesus. 

I think one of the reasons why I fell so hard in love with Jesus is because of the dignity he brought to the women of His day. He elevated their status. He first revealed Himself as Messiah to a woman. He first revealed Himself as the Resurrection to a woman. He first revealed Himself as the One who conquered death to a woman. He values women.

I wish we lived in a world where people respect one another. I wish families and marriages were honored and placed before selfish desires. I wish people desired integrity.

I know nothing of the man who once held his power over me. I was able to keep him at arms length. And so I thought that was success. True success would have been bringing his wrong behavior into the light. I can only hope he never tried his antics on another woman.

He moved on and I got a promotion - his job. The first woman to break into the man's world in my company.

And then I moved on. A little broken. A little wiser. Stronger. And with a heart of compassion for women. My experience probably had a lot to do with why I became an advocate for women, why I spent 20 years dedicated to speaking truth into women's lives.

I didn't want to write this. I, like others, will tell you that it's hard to experience but it's also hard to disclose. I write my story in hopes that you can see a bit of the struggle that so many women are experiencing today. Maybe you might understand the outrage. Maybe you might see why women can be slow to trust any organization that is heavy in male leadership. Maybe you get a glimpse of their cries, "Enough!"

It is time. Time for the nightmares to be brought into the light so healing can begin. Individual healing. Corporate healing. We all need Jesus right now!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The story is beautiful but...

The Christmas story is beautiful!

As I decorated our Christmas tree with silver and gold crosses, I pondered the irony. 

I'm celebrating the birth of a baby who was born to die for me.

I'm celebrating the long awaited Savior who came as a helpless baby and lived a short life ending on a cross.

I'm celebrating God leaving eternity to step into His creation, reaching out to sinners who mock Him.

As a believer, I join with others who want to share the beauty of this story. I join with those who desire for Jesus to be known and loved. For some strange reason, I want to share my most precious gift.

Too many have tried to persuade people to follow Christ with promises of a comfortable, happy life filled with good health and abundance. 

Not true! Jesus said this world is filled with trouble. His promise is that He will be by our side, providing the grace we need to overcome the ugliness that confronts us.

We should be telling people that following Jesus is not for the faint of heart! 

It requires recognition of our brokenness and our utter helplessness to do anything about it.

It means we give our lives away. We can no longer live for ourselves. We can no longer live as our flesh desires. We must allow God to change us from the inside out.

It includes sacrifice but not dutiful sacrifice. Rather a joy filled sacrifice.

It recognizes that we cannot hold on to anything tightly. We have been given gifts to enjoy but are required to share.

It means we share in the sufferings of Christ. And He suffers over the poor and the broken-hearted, the oppressed and abused, the brokenness in the world, and mankind's desire to fill empty places in our souls with things instead of Him. 

It requires we give up the comfortable and go where He sends us.

It ask that we forgive those who hurt us and that we are kind to those who are downright mean.

Why would anyone want to follow Jesus? I understand that it seems foolish. Foolish to follow an unseen God. Foolish to claim a living relationship with Him. Foolish to believe that He made a way for us to stand in the presence of Holy God. Foolish!

Awww…There is so much mystery, but I believe! I believe the Christmas story is good news!

The reason I believe, the reason I follow the One born in a manger long ago:

Life. I've never been more alive. I recognize that the life I once thought was so rich was dead compared to the resurrected life I walk today.

Love. I've never known a love like this.

Peace. I have peace with God and peace with anything that should come my way. It's peace that transcends understanding.

Joy. I have unshakeable joy. It is not contingent on circumstances.

Hope. I have an assurance of what is to come.

Rest. I can rest in Him and His power to do what is impossible.

Confidence. Because of who He is, I now know who I was created to be. My life has value and purpose.

Faith. I am certain. Can't always explain it but I know that I know that I know.

Yes, I have been given much, but nothing compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him!

"In those days…" Luke 2:1-20

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Is anyone really listening?

     I had a psychology professor with an interesting reputation. The word was passed down from one class to the next. "Don't wear the color yellow. She hates that color." And "Every test is essay. If you want a passing grade on tests, you must find a way to add the phrase 'Every person needs to feel needed, necessary, important, accepted, loved and understood.' She loves it."
     I never wore yellow and evidently I used the phrase a lot because it is seared into my memory. I made an A in that course!
     Lately the phrase has popped into my thoughts a lot. As I observe what is taking place in our nation and what is constantly crossing social media, I'm burdened by all the anger I see. I ache when I witness people being hurt. I see people begging and sometimes demanding that others notice their worth and value. They are right. We should. And people are crying out that they want to be accepted and understood.
     I get that. I am no different. I want the same things.
     There seems to be one problem though. The art of listening appears to have fallen by the wayside. Lots of words are being spoken but no one is responding with questions so they can understand. No one is asking with sincerity, "Why do you believe this? What are personal life experiences that led you to feel this way?" No one is honestly saying, "Tell me more so I can learn more." 
     We can agree to disagree. But we need to do so with teachable spirits and kindness. And if the tables should turn, and someone should ask about our convictions, we need to be honest, raw and vulnerable. Not arrogant and self-righteous. 
     One more thought…we may have rights to our opinions. But if Jesus could lay down His rights as God and come to this earth to live with us, taking on the nature of a servant…if he could lay down His rights and humbly walk to the cross…(Philippians 2:5-8) then perhaps we can lay down our divisive comments. Perhaps we can lay down our opinions long enough to listen to others.
     One of the greatest joys we have in life is learning. But learning occurs through experiences and through listening. Conservatives need to listen to liberals. Liberals need to listen to conservatives. People of different races, ethnicities and genders need to listen to the struggles each face. 
     We can do better than we have been doing! Because behind every person's words and action lies a "little boy or girl" who just wants to know he is needed. She wants to know she is necessary and important. He wants to be accepted and loved. And she wants to be understood.

     Now…to practice what I have been preaching. I think mankind has another emotional need…and that is to feel safe. Maybe it is just a want but it feels like a need. I am confident that I am safe spiritually but I also want to feel physically safe and I want to feel emotionally safe with my loved ones. Perhaps this need is grounded in times when I found myself in dangerous circumstances or when I was hurt by people I thought were friends. Perhaps it resulted because of being ridiculed for expressing thoughts. 
     I can't imagine living in a perpetual state of fear. And even worse, fearing for the lives of my children. But I know that people do. When I rock my grandsons at bedtime, I think of the moms and dads around the world that are, at that very moment, frightened about the danger surrounding their little ones. They must crave safety. I don't know all the answers. Issues are far too complex and I have a limited amount of accessible facts but I do know the only true source of peace - even in the midst of danger - is Jesus. This is not a cheap platitude, it's truth. I know from experience. 
     I know that God doesn't promise there will not be danger in our lives but He does promise that He will walk with us in the midst of it. I believe that His grace is sufficient for every need we have. I believe it pours out in extra measure over those being persecuted for His name. I know that Jesus is the answer to our need for value, purpose, acceptance, love, understanding and safety.
      The mandate for those who follow Him and know His peace is to share this good news. Our world is desperate for peace!

Monday, December 5, 2016

One remarkable moment

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…(John 1, 14)

One remarkable moment when "The Word became flesh." It is


Powerfully impactful

Utterly beautiful

Our most precious gift

Absolutely astounding

Perfectly perfect


A display of amazing love and grace

The moment when God became touchable, coming to touch lives.

The moment when the unseen became visible.

I'm thinking of the angels. Can you imagine the wonder they experienced? God did not consult with them before putting His plan into place. They were not privy to what He was planning. 

They witnessed God take the form of an innocent, vulnerable baby. The Omnipotent became dependent on a teenage girl. A baby was born to die…that we might live. 

The angels must have been stunned into silence for a moment. Heaven must have gone quiet as the Holy One entered His own creation - a world that had chosen sin over Him.

And then... what delight must have been experienced by the angel chosen to share this wondrous event with the shepherds. "Good news of great joy that is for all people I bring you. The Savior is born - Christ the Lord."

Finally, when the multitude of angels could no longer maintain their silence, they joined in praise, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is well pleased."

Finally…peace! The Prince of Peace had arrived, making peace with God and peace with one another possible.

I pray that I will be struck with this kind of angelic wonder this Christmas season. The Word became flesh!!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Beautiful Picture

     This morning I observed the line of people waiting to approach the communion table at church. 

I saw elderly couples shuffling forward. 

I saw little children twirling and dancing. 
I saw interracial families.
I saw young couples holding hands. 
I saw singles. 
I saw people dressed in the finest of clothes. 
I saw people dressed in shorts and t-shirts.
I saw people dressed in their motorcycle garb complete with bandanas around their heads.
I saw people of multiple races.
All in one room at one time.

     All I could think was, "I love this church. I love your Church, Jesus." A place where there exists "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 4:28).

     For a moment, time seemed to stand still and I saw evidence of God's grace and love. I saw evidence of His power to take broken people and make them whole. I saw His ability to knock down social, economic, racial and gender walls and create one body. I saw unity. I saw hope. 
     Beautiful! Simply Beautiful!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A wee little man

              If you asked me describe him, I would have said, "He is sleazy and slimy." Occasionally I find myself at the same event as this man and I had done everything possible to avoid having to make small talk with him. I don’t want to be anywhere near him. 

      He cheats and he lies. He has made millions of dollars at the expense of others. He has used people for his gain and then discarded them. He's the man you would envision on the golf course with a big cigar hanging out of his mouth, rings on all fingers, snapping his fingers for service, throwing lots of money around trying to impress people. And often he does impress the impressionable. Other times, he repulses people. Some people are just confused.
      I rarely think about this man, however … A young man asked to meet with Keith and me. All we knew is that he was trying to make decisions about his career. He said he was struggling because the industry that employs him requires him to come into contact with people who live lifestyles that demean women and are filled with attitudes of entitlement. He did not mention any names but by using a few buzzwords, Keith and I glanced at one another. We knew that the same wealthy man was causing this young friend to question his walk as a man who wants to honor God while living in relationship with arrogant people who have created idols of worship. Our young friend asked, "How can I stay true to Christian values and beliefs when I am called to have a relationship with people who hold such different ideas of right and wrong?"  
     And it hit me like a ton of bricks. This wealthy man that I shunned is a modern day Zacchaeus. Jesus came that he might have a relationship with this man. Jesus is pursuing the souls of men who deny Him. And no person is outside God’s grace. Jesus did not run from these relationships. He ran to them. He invited Himself into lives.

     During Jesus' life, there were two major highways in Israel. One ran right through Jericho. It was Passover time, which meant tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims were traveling to Jerusalem. Jesus was one of them.  The only difference…time was running out for Jesus. He was heading towards the cross. 
     Many people would have either heard of Jesus' miracles or witnessed them. So a large crowd gathered, wanting to see this man who made such bold statements and held such authority.
     On His way into Jericho, Jesus paused to heal a blind beggar on the side of the road. The destitute man’s response was to follow Jesus and praise God. And the crowd praised God for what they witnessed.
     Then Jesus entered Jericho. He reached out to a man who was also poor - but poor in a way that eyes could not detect. Same mission - different men - different response from the crowd. Jesus would declare Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost". Jesus is on mission to save souls and He is also determined to transform followers into His image. But in this scenario, the crowd didn't praise God. They muttered, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."
     The Jews thought of Zacchaus as a traitor and a turncoat because he had become wealthy by gouging his fellow Jews. Tax collectors would take more than the tax required by the Roman government and then they would pocket the excess. 
     This "wee little man" went to extreme measures to catch a glimpse of Jesus. He certainly could not see over the crowd and I am sure none of them were going to let him in front of them. So he climbed a tree.
     While people in his community were repulsed by Zaccheus, Jesus was not. Jesus saw beyond wealth and sin. His eyes went beyond fancy clothes and saw a desperate soul, longing for His coming.  He saw a man living in poverty – spiritually bankrupt with an emptiness in his soul. Jesus responded with compassion and exhibited kindness.
     Here is where I get a stab in my spirit. I have felt absolutely no compassion for the wealthy man that I once labeled "sleazy", I have certainly not tried to see him with an eternal perspective.
     Send me to love orphaned children in Guatemala and I'm on my way in the blink of an eye. Ask me to help provide jobs for women in 3rd world countries and my checkbook is open. Ask me to love young women who have been deceived and abused and I'm in 100%. But where is my heart of compassion for those who are putting their hope in things that won't last? I've turned my back on too many people because of my assumptions and judgmental attitude.
     It’s easy to show compassion for the poor. And we should! Too many of have so much, while others struggle to put food on the table for their children. It's wrong. But where is our heart for those who are trying to find worth, value and meaning in trivial things that won't last.
     Zaccheus responded to Jesus’ call. He obeyed quickly. He repented. And you know why? That's what kindness does. God's kindness leads people toward repentance (Romans 2:4). And then Zacchaues gave away enormous amounts of his wealth.
Jesus made no apologies about hanging out with Zacchaeus. He didn't hand out a list of requirements before going to Zacchaeus home. But His kindness and love transformed Zacchaeus. 

My lesson: We are all in the same mess - regardless of our standing in society, regardless of our gender, regardless of our culture, regardless of anything. We are all struggling with sin in our lives. None of us deserve anything. But if we want to be like Jesus, we open our doors to all … regardless! And we are kind!
I look forward to the next opportunity God gives me to be in the same room as the wealthy man in our community. I choose to define him as "a man with great potential." May I become a woman who shares the kindness God has graciously extended to me.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Sacred Romance

     I assumed she was a Christian. After all, she was a respected friend and a very good woman. For years, we spent a lot of time together, discussing life and it's issues but somehow we never got around to discussing our faith. Then … one day, I made a random comment about eternity. She informed me that she was an atheist. I mean…really? My goodness, she had been a Sunday School teacher at one point in her life! But now, this brilliant woman was convinced that there was no God and that we would all die and turn to dust. Nothing more!
     Wow! I spouted off things I had learned through many years of sitting in church pews but honestly, I didn't have a clue as to where those truths were found in the Bible. My faith was challenged. Why did I believe what I believed? Was my faith real? I knew exactly when I first professed my faith in Christ but had I grown as a disciple of His? Not much. Why not?
     So I decided to attend a Bible study for one reason only…I wanted to know where I could find answers for my friend. Not that she was asking any questions! What I discovered led to radical transformation and a sacred romance. I was falling in love. I was obsessed with learning more about Jesus and His character. I could not get enough … sometimes enrolling in 3 Bible studies at one time. And as an avid reader, I read absolutely nothing secular for 5 years! I would read 2-3 books at one time. I talked non-stop about my discoveries. At one point, Keith said, "You have got to stop talking about this all the time!" Stab in my heart. So I stopped … for all of 30 minutes.
     And I made mistakes along the way. I quickly learned who my believing friends were and who were not. One friend briefly cut me off, telling me that her faith was "private." And I knew what she meant. I got it. I had been there. All I could do was cry out, "Lord, I pray that my passion is contagious, not offensive. Please stop me from turning people away from You. But God, please add even more fuel to the fire within."
     I began to identify with the woman at the well (John 4:4-42). I met Jesus while steeped in sin, realized that He knew me better than I knew myself and that regardless of my past, He still wanted to spend time with me. No condemnation! We had a spiritual discussion (through His Word)  and my world was rocked when He offered me "living water." My greatest desire became to be a "true worshiper who worships the Father in spirit and truth." I met the Messiah one-on-one, saw my sin and recognized how desperately I needed Him in my life. And then … I ran back to my world and began telling people of the Savior. Some would listen. Some would tolerate me. And some would turn their backs. It's ok. Same things happen to Jesus on a daily basis.
     I'm not the same woman I once was. And I am not the woman I want to be. But this I know... there is absolutely nothing that can or will every separate me from Jesus. I am His and He is mine! We have a great love story - one that will last for all of eternity. A sacred romance!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What makes you angry?

     He asked … "What makes you burn with righteous anger?"
     We were studying the third chapter of Mark. Jason, our pastor, paused at the fifth verse to point out that Jesus was angry and deeply distressed. Jesus was angry at the stubborn hearts of those who chose legalism over compassion. They were in the synagogue yet people were spending their time looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. They watched him closely. And despite the consequences, He did it anyway. He healed a man's shriveled hand on a Sabbath. Jesus declared that life was of supreme value. And because of His display of kindness, compassion and mercy, the plot began - the plot to kill Him. Crazy, isn't it?
     Righteous anger, honorable anger towards the same things that make God angry, can be used for ultimate good. This kind of anger reflects God's heart to a world consumed by selfishness.
     Could it be that God places within each of us a unique passion for different people groups or needs?
I look around my church and see some who are passionate for the oppressed. Others fight for the abandoned and rejected. Others react with holy anger towards those who abuse women and children. I have a friend with a tender heart for teenagers. Another friend loves to care for the elderly. Another is falling in love with incarcerated women. I ran into another lady I haven't seen in years who shared with me that she is being drawn - no, compelled to show Christ's love to the Muslims in our community.
     There is so much brokenness in this world. Big issues. Complex issues. We can become so overwhelmed that we bury our heads in the sand. We turn off the news and turn on the sitcoms. We cocoon ourselves by surrounding ourselves with people who think just like we do and who do not ask tough questions. But the problem is, if we succumb to feelings of  powerlessness, we don't propel the gospel forward. We just wind up as grumblers and complainers - ineffective and useless.
     Jason reminded the church that our righteous anger should draw us to God's mission for us. God has chosen to make His appeal to the world through His people. And we are to step into our mission with power and confidence, trusting that God will do the equipping.
     I've thought about the question a lot. And I've posed it to countless friends over the past two weeks. "What makes you burn with righteous anger?"
     For me, its lies.
     I am angry that a young man I know believes the lie that he isn't of value because his mom abandoned him.
     I am angry that a teenage girl I met believed that since she gave her heart to a guy and he left her when she got pregnant, she was not worthy of intimate, lasting love. She heard the lie that she did not deserve a second chance.
     I am angry that my friend who had an abortion as a teenager, does not think she is worthy of God's love and doesn't believe God could every forgive her.
     I am angry that silly magazines with air-brushed photos lie to both men and women about what makes a person beautiful.
     I am angry at the porn industry for the lies that are taking captives.
     I am angry about the lies that promise escape by self-medicating or that promise joy with drug use.
     I am angry that people are brainwashed with lies about who their enemies are.
     So what can I do with this righteous anger? How do I wage war on the father of lies, the devil (John 8:42-44)? He lied to Adam and Eve. And he is still at it.
     The lies are so rampant that I opt to speak truth to women. This is where I look for opportunities. Divine appointments. After all, I am a woman susceptible to the same falsehoods.
     How will I go to battle? Following the One who is Truth, Jesus. He leads. I follow. I choose to use His Word because I know "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the people of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16)
     Yet, when one pours their energy into one area, he or she risks criticism within the Church. Why, oh why, Church? Why must we bicker with one another about who's mission is of the most value? Aren't we called to go to the front lines for the passion that God placed in each of us, instead of fighting with one another? Can't we encourage one another? Can't we support one another?
     We need people fighting for the veterans. We need people fighting for refugees. We need people fighting for the orphans. We need people fighting for those locked in grief. We need people fighting for single moms trying to provide for their children. We need people providing for the homeless. We need people fighting for souls.
     We need to fight, church, fight! Not with one another, but with the enemy.
     Oh yeah, I recognize that I also get angry when the Church acts like spoiled babies instead of mature brothers and sisters. Let us be the Church on mission for our King. May His kingdom reign on earth as it is in heaven. Amen!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I care

Yes, I am pro-life. For me, that title means I believe that every life deserves dignity, respect and investment. Why? Because each man, woman and child was created in God's image by Him.

I care about the woman who is trying to raise 4 kids on her own because the fathers of her kids refuse to walk in their responsibility. I care that she can only find a job that pays minimum wage yet the cost of childcare would take every penny of her paycheck.

I care about the woman who escaped the poverty of her homeland and came to this country to try to provide for her 3 little ones. I care that she is so frightened of being sent back that she endures abuse without seeking help.

I care about the young college student from another country who went to her first party to make friends, woke up without any clothes on and is now pregnant. I care that she is scared to tell her parents. I care about the young man who has now fathered a child and will never know it.

I care about the 10th grade girl, active in her school, now pregnant, whose biggest worry is that she is going to disappoint her parents. Why? "Because they think I'm perfect."

I care about the girl whose mom is never around and doesn't seem to care. I care that she never knew her dad. I care that she is starved for attention - any attention.

I care for the woman who had an abortion and now thinks God will never love her and never forgive her.

I care about the woman who performed abortions and is now broken because of what she has done.

I care about the woman who wants to have nothing to do with Jesus because people called by His name have ridiculed her, looked down on her and hurt her. I care for the church who has failed her.

I've looked into the eyes of every one of these young women. I've listened to their stories of pain. Hurt. Confused. Some didn't know how they could possibly do life with a child. Some didn't know how they were going to live with themselves if they chose the "easier way out". They all had dreams and their dreams seemed to be shattered and unattainable.

I care about the woman in crisis. I care about the pain caused by sin. I care about the broken women living in a broken world. I care about women who have believed lies. And I also care about the babies who don't have a voice and will never get the chance to giggle, love and be loved on this earth. I wish I could have held them. I wish I could have shown them that there is another way - a better way. I wish …

This I know. I don't want to be defined for what I am against. I want to be defined as a woman who cares about life - all life. I want to be defined as a warrior on the front lines fighting for souls - all souls. I want to be defined as a woman who shows others the truth of God's love and grace.

I want to be defined as a woman who cares!

Note: Please take note of the phrase "I want to be." I have failed to listen to the cries of the oppressed many times. I have failed to show compassion. But I still strive to be what my heart desires and what Christ desires.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kicking the shoes off

I attended a three day women's event with 60 beautiful women of all ages.

We all arrived at our new "home away from home" with "our shoes shined and looking fine." Pleasantries were exchanged as we smiled at one another.

While unpacking suitcases, I am pretty sure that everyone was accessing one other. "They have it all together." "They would never understand." "They… they… they…" When we allow our minds to play these games, we personally come up short. We don't measure up. Why in the world do we put ourselves through this?

Within 24 hours, the layers began to peel back and real life entered the arena. Those shiny shoes were kicked off and brokenness was revealed. Addictions. Cancer. Children recently buried. Prodigal children. Hanging on to life with a thin thread. Bad choices with severe consequences. Broken relationships. Widows figuring out their "new normal." Fear. Disappointment. And the list went on. Everyone had a story.

We live in a messy world. We live in the midst of pain and suffering. We all have beautiful moments of joy, we all have terrible moments of sorrow. Every person experiences "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

What if we stopped trying to figure out how we measure up to one another? What if we looked at others in our everyday life with a recognition that underneath the facade lies someone who has been hurt or is presently hurting? Would we be kinder? Would we be more courteous? Would we let them go first in the check out line? Would we look them in the eye and smile? Would we say, "How are you today?" and mean it? Would we be open to praying for them - even if we did not know their names?

I dare say that we would be transformed into a people who thought a little less of ourselves and a whole lot more of others. And our little world would be a better place. A much better place!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reflecting on Guatemala 2014

     We arrived to our home-away-from-home at 11:30 in the night. After such a long day, all we could manage to do was make our beds and climb into them. Then, rising at the break of dawn, our team of 23 women, all different ages, began the serious task of organizing. We organized our bunk beds. We organized our kitchen. We organized our suitcases filled with "activities." And we began to get comfortable in our new surroundings. We arrived with prayers, plans, concerns, hopes and mostly, curiosity about what God had planned for our week at Casa Aleluya.
     I left the  security of the "gringo dorm" and ran an errand. Returning, I found myself locked out of my newly established comfort zone. Where was I? On a playground, surrounded by 60 giggling, sweaty little boys. Some were playing soccer. Some were playing on the swings and slides. Some were digging in the dirt. Some were chasing one another. Doing "stuff" that little boys find amusing. I knocked on the metal door that separated me from my Texas friends. And I knocked. And I knocked. I shouted the names of friends and I shouted again … and again, louder and louder. No response!
     After about 5 minutes of futile attempts, I felt a tug at my shirt and looked down. Beside me was a little boy I had never seen before. And I've been visiting Casa for over 11 years. This little one didn't look like the rest of the Guatemalan boys.  His skin was fairer and his eyes were lighter.
     I said, "Hi. What's your name?" (Part of my limited Spanish vocabulary) He rattled off a name as fast as he could and it sounded as if it had 10 syllables. I asked him to repeat his name. So, he said his name - even faster. Beside him was another little boy whom I recognized and whom obviously knew my gringo limitations. He said the little boy's name very s-l-o-w-l-y.
     I asked my new friend how long he had been living at Casa. He went silent and his little friend said, "He came last night."
     Ahhh, this is the little boy that I heard arrived just a few hours after we did. What had this precious little boy experienced that prompted the courts/police to rescue him from his situation and bring him to this home of 500 children? How can people abuse helpless children? How can they "throw away" their gift from God? How? Why? I did't expect the questions that I always struggle with at Casa to hit me so soon after my arrival.
     But some things I did know. I knew that God kept me from entering my physical, emotional and spiritual "comfort zone," so that I could meet this little boy. I knew that I was going to be required to open my eyes and heart if I wanted to see what God had planned. I knew that I needed to slow down and I knew that God was revealing bits of His nature to me. I was also witnessing the devastation that man imposes on man. Sin!
     This little boy was now safe - safe from the circumstances that brought him to Casa in the middle of the night. He had instant friends/family - many who understand what brought him into their midst. He has opportunities. He has dorm parents who truly care. He can receive an education - all the way through college. He has in front of him a future that is rich - not in things of this world - but things of eternal value. This little boy will get the opportunity to meet Jesus, His true Savior, and to fall in love with Him.
     I prayed. "God, please reveal Yourself as Father to these fatherless."
     I kept my eye on this little one throughout the week. He smiled a lot. He laughed. He got hugged each morning on his way to school. He ate a huge bowl of ice cream served by a team of women who couldn't stop grinning. Jesus was loving this child through the body of Christ. It was a beautiful site to behold.
     Jesus continues to amaze me. At Casa I saw tangible evidence that He binds up the brokenhearted. He proclaims freedom for the captives. He releases prisoners from darkness. He comforts those who mourn. He provides for those who grieve. He gives an inheritance. He gives joy. He rebuilds. He restores. He renews. He gives a double portion. And the Bible declares that he loves justice. (Isaiah 61)
     As for me, "I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It Will Be My Joy to Say ...

The screen flashed the words of a song and the crowd sang at the top of their lungs.

"It will be my joy to say 'Your will, Your way. Always.'"

I couldn't sing those words. I did not think they rang true for me. How could all these people around me declare that they would find joy in following God's will always? What if His way meant allowing you to walk through pain and suffering? Would the first Christians say they found joy while they were being fed to the lions in the Coliseum for sport? How does a devout Christian say they find joy while they valiantly fight a dreadful disease? I'm not saying these evil things are God's will. They were not part of His original creation and I know that He hates them. But we live in a broken world filled with sin and suffering. Jesus warned believers that in this world we will have troubles.

Then, Sunday I saw this song being lived by a dear friend. Her beloved husband suffered a severe heart attack Thursday, CPR administered four different times. Her response, "Please pray. I'm perfectly at peace with God's will. And I will not waste my suffering." And her beautiful, strong daughters were of the same mind, trusting the God they love.

Her husband, their father, spent two days in an induced coma, allowing his body to rest. When they began to bring him out of it Saturday, he responded in ways that astounded the medical community, of which he is a part. When I talked with his wife that evening, I heard joy. I heard happiness because of the hope that she has more time with her husband on this earth. But her joy was found in what she witnessed God doing in the lives of others. She knew joy because she knew God's presence. This strong woman who is usually on the quiet side, preferring to listen and learn, could not stop talking. She was bubbling over with story after story of where she saw God's presence and His loving kindness towards her and towards people that had never acknowledged Him in the past. I heard joy. And I know that when her husband is able to hear the God stories, he will grin from ear to ear.

Today, I read Romans 7. Paul wrote of himself (and every believer), "Yes, I'm full of myself - after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise…The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps…The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in my life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but I am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different." (The Message)

It's as if there are two Debs. One is shallow and one is deep. The shallow Deb gets caught up in the world and its ways. She desires things that have no true value and she gets ruffled over things that don't really matter. Actually, I think the world likes this Deb. On the other hand, the deep Deb truly wants God above all else. He is her greatest treasure. I don't think the world cares for this Deb. They think that when she hates what is evil, she condemns them. They think that her values are out-dated. Since the world is hostile toward God and His values, she doesn't fit in.

I thought about the song. The shallow Deb cannot sing the words, "It will be my joy to say Your will, Your way always." But the deep Deb can sing at the top of her lungs. The deep Deb knows that God is always good, always faithful, always kind and He calls her His daughter. He's trustworthy. And He promises to be there always-in the good times and in the tough times.

Let the real Deb sing!

And please pray for my friends. I'm asking for full, total healing and recovery for him. And strength and wisdom for her and her daughters. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Guatamala family

I've been asked, "Why do you return to Guatemala every year?"  The answer requires a story.

Eleven years ago I agreed, with much trepidation, to lead a band of about twenty five women to a children's home named Casa Aleluya, or affectionately known as Casa Para Ninos. As our bus pulled into the gates I saw an armed guard, barbed wire, tons of concrete and what seemed like a million children. The kiddos swarmed us. Some literally crawled up our bodies into our arms while others stood back observing our reactions. My thoughts: "What was I thinking when I agreed to this? Why did I think this was a good idea? I want to go home…now!"

It was a hard week - the most physical labor I have every done at Casa. Before embarking on this adventure, our team was asked to prepare to de-lice a dorm of little girls. Attempting to make this fun for all, our brave little team armed ourselves with what else - hair cutting and styling classes. We were determined to turn our assignment into a party!

For four days, every time the girls left for school, we attacked their rooms (and those bugs) with a vengeance. We stripped beds, washed linens, sprayed down the beloved stuffed animals and remade bunk beds as we prayed for these girls and the place they called home.

When our new friends returned from school, we would send them to the showers with "special" shampoo. They would return to us and allow us to comb through their thick hair for hours. Their reward - a new hair style. Reactions varied. Some girls returned for a second and third trim - mostly because they wanted the attention. There were a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" exclaimed over each girl. Others cried! It was evident that we were amateurs. But the joy we experienced was beyond belief. We could hug every little girl and tell her how beautiful she is. We could personally pray for each one of them. God's love grew and grew and grew til the bond was bigger than life.

Thursday night we attended worship service with the children. After, I sent everyone ahead to escort the girls back to their common living area. Once I accounted for our entire team, I followed with a full heart.

Upon arrival I found the entire room in tears. The girls were wailing. I questioned the first team member I found. "What happened?" She glared at me and said, "They found out that we leave tomorrow."

In shock, I immediately began questioning God. "How is this good for these babies? You asked us to come here and love them and we did. Now we turn around and leave them with broken hearts. How is this good?"

In the midst of my whining, I was interrupted. In my walk with the Lord, I've noticed that He interrupts my rantings - usually with Scripture. I was reminded that this was family. I recalled that children in my culture will often cry when a member of their extended family - an aunt or grandmother - leave after a sweet visit. But there is always the hope that they will return.

At that moment, I knew what God was asking - that I return to visit my Guatamala "family" the following year. I was to be the "aunt" that returned and showed my family how much they are valued. This is why I return year after year. I've seen many of these girls develop into the most beautiful women with huge, kind hearts. Some are now in college. Some are living on their own. And some are stepping into roles at Casa - teaching, administrative work, pastoring, etc.

One year I may not be able to return but I am trusting that the God who was big enough to give me this vision of family is big enough to tell me should that time come.

Today I am beginning to prayerfully prepare for my June trip to see my family. I'm praying for the team that God will put together.

I love my Guatemala family! I'm excited about seeing them and how much they've grown since last year. I am looking forward to hearing their stories and their dreams.

And somewhere along the way, I think I am seem as more of a grandmother than an aunt!

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Change in Plans

Earth's crammed with heaven
and every common bush afire with God,
only he who sees takes off his shoes;
the rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
                                                Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Surely this beautiful piece was written in the beauty of spring. But I am re-reading it on a cold, icy, winter day when my entire city has shut down because of the weather conditions. Texans don't know what to do with ice and so we stay home by our fireplaces. And it's Friday. I love Fridays. I play tournament bridge with a partner that makes me laugh while she challenges me to think. I get to spend time with people who I have grown to love. But today … It's the perfect day for reading.

I love this poem. Long ago, I wrote it in the front of my Bible. It reminds me of Romans 1:20. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." 

God has crammed earth full of evidence of Him. Nature reveals His amazing power, His creativity, His provision for our every need, His kindness toward mankind, His patience, His wisdom, etc. No one has an excuse for rejecting Him.

God is present in what we see as common. The problem is that too often I become caught up in the mundane and forget to "see" Him … and enjoy Him. Sad for me. Within my self-imposed, limited vision, I can reduce His presence to a quiet little companion, just waiting to be noticed and acknowledged. Crazy! Why would I do that? Why would I even want God to fit that mold? He is fire, He is glory, He is all powerful, all knowing. He is magnificent. He is beautiful. He is all mighty God!

Perhaps an "ice" day is just what I need to slow down, take off my shoes, settle in and take note of my attitude towards living the life I've been given. Perhaps I should ponder how often I enjoy the creation - the blackberries - and deny the Creator. When do I find my enjoyment in what is perishable and ignore the eternal? When do I settle for less?

Yes, it is a beautiful day - icicles and all!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

There's nothing like a baby!

There is nothing like a newborn baby that can create a glimpse of the way that God loves. I began pondering this when Leslie was born. And I am seeing it replay all over again with the birth of my grandson, Maverick.

Watching my baby loving her baby has brought back a surge of emotions and memories. Before her baby was even born, Leslie experienced the pains that accompany every woman's pregnancy. Babies kick and squirm in a small, enclosed environment of a mom's body. They seem to practice tap dancing when you are trying your best to sleep. He (or she) distorts your body and causes your body to respond in many unpleasant, not to be mentioned ways. I remember...though the memory has softened. Painful but you hold on to the  promise of a new family.

When Leslie thought that she couldn't take pregnancy for one more second, her sweet baby boy made his loud entry into the world. Watching her in the delivery room brought tears to my eyes. More pain.

Little Maverick is now two months old and his dad says that he never realized you could go that long without sleep. Little do they know that they will never sleep soundly again.

That precious little bundle of joy can be demanding and impatient. He cries to be fed immediately and it won't be long before he will wail for attention and demand his way be done. But, oh, the joy he brings! I watch Travis and Leslie stare at his every movement. They talk a new language, in a tone reserved only for their adored son. They can't wait for him to wake up from his nap so they can play with him again.

I see both Leslie and Travis overwhelmed with a sense of protectiveness. Hand sanitizer, baby monitors of every kind, pediatrician visits - anything and everything to assure that their baby is safe. I remember coming home from the hospital many years ago and the realization hitting me that my precious baby was exposed to all kinds of dangers. And it was entirely up to her dad and me to guard her. Thinking, "Really? That's the plan?"

For a very long time, babies give nothing in return for all of your sleepless nights and attentive nurturing. But Maverick gave the first glimmer of a responsive smile at about six weeks and everyone began to perform and beg for another. Just a glimmer of response, a hope of connection, a desire for him to be happy.

Yet in spite of all of the pain, sleepless nights, necessary feedings and diaper changes, constant need for attentiveness … you love your baby. He gives absolutely nothing to you but he's yours. And you love him with an immeasurable love.

Scripture declares that God loves us with a never ending, faithful, unconditional love. We fall short of that kind of perfect love. In fact, I think loving our babies is the closest we can come to grasping the way that He loves. God created us and loved us from the beginning. He made plans for us from the moment of conception (Psalm 139:13-16) - good plans, plans that are not meant to harm us but meant to give us a full life.

As the created, we demanded from our Creator. We treated God without regard. But...He gave. He gave more than we can even fathom. "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

God protects. He guides. He teaches. And yes, He disciplines when necessary. All because of His great love. We did that for Leslie. She and Travis will do the same for Maverick.

We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is His love that shows us how to love. Love is more than a feeling, even though it certainly can arouse emotions. It is an action. It is demonstrative. 1 John 3:16 says, "This is how we now what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." John 3:18 continues, "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions in truth." Saying "eat" to a baby, does not feed him. It would not be an example of love. Action is required.

Through a parent's eyes, there is nothing like a baby to show you that love is truly patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

And since Scripture declares that God is love (1 John 4:8), we can be assured that God is patient and kind. God does not envy or boast. He is not proud, rude or self-seeking. He is not easily angered and keeps no record of our wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. And always perseveres.

God will never fail!