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Good Things Are Happening

“I’ve got news and I know how you like news.” – Mr. Knightley, to Emma.

Good things are happening in and Out Of My Mind!  It gives me great pleasure to tickle your fancy with a taste of what is coming up on my website and blog.  Let me explain:

I am at my best teaching and training others for spiritual maturity, biblical leadership, and ministry. It brings me sublime joy to witness women taking hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of them. My goal for the next year, therefore, is to expand this area of influence by developing an online ministry emphasizing teaching and training the emerging Christian women’s leader.

As the Women’s Ministry Director at my local church, I serve under the headship of our pastor and elders, enjoying their support and accountability.  It is my responsibility to provide the means for women to spiritually thrive and equip them to minister to others. In addition to exemplifying Christ in my own life, I seek to evangelize, educate, equip, and encourage women as they mature in their faith and practice. And now I’d like offer this website as a valuable resource to those women God is calling to become biblically founded servant-leaders.

While remaining flexible to God’s leading – after all, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21) – my goal is to slowly transform my website into a practical resource for women seeking to grow spiritually and women in ministry who desire to develop their leadership skills.  Look forward to participating in:

  1. Bible Studies!
  2. Bible Study Skills Lessons
  3. Biblical Leadership Studies
  4. Ministry Skills Development
  5. Leadership Development
  6. Ministry Development
  7. Webinars, eBooks, printouts, videos, etc.
  8. And much more

I am very excited about being a part of what God will do through this wonderful ministry.  Oh, that many would come and be edified, built up, and unified in the essentials as God matures the beautiful body of Christ.  I hereby commit to the LORD whatever I do, that He will establish my plans (Proverbs 16:3).  Amen!

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God’s Girls Warrior Princess Party!

Princess Di

I don’t know about you, but I love parties – food, fun, & fellowship – I’m all about it.  The crazier the theme, the greater the fun!  Because I like to celebrate so much, I don’t wait for a reason to party to fall into my proverbial lap.  Instead, I put my genius to the test and create one.

That’s actually the easiest part.  Most of us can think of at least one reason to party:  Somebody is getting married.  Having a baby or a 50th Wedding Anniversary.  There are many, many reasons to whoop it up.  Some of you are well-versed in these.  First-times are great reasons to party-hearty. First birthday, first tooth, first haircut. Then there are traditional celebrations such as birthdays, dedications, graduations, and coming of age.  But surely there are more good reasons to celebrate.  And a seemingly infinite way to celebrate each one.

I’ve celebrated some crazy things in my life, like the twinkling of sunlight on the morning dew or a new haircut.  I’ve celebrated not getting my hair cut.  Ma and I make merry on grocery shopping day.  I’ve even celebrated when my kitty peed on the waterproof pad instead of the chair.

Sometimes I celebrate clearing off my desk or cleaning the house.  I always celebrate a new purse, clothes that fit, and a day away from home.  No matter what I’m celebrating, hands down, the best celebration is with family and friends.  Food, fun, and fellowship.

More than anything else, we have the greatest reason of all to party:  Jesus.  Remember that song?  “Celebrate Jesus! Celebrate!  He is risen.  He is risen.  And He lives forevermore.”

So here’s a reason to party:  The first day of a new Bible study.  Oh yeah!  What a great tradition of celebration!  Next week we are going to party, party, party.  We shall be studying the book of Ephesians in the New Testament.  God has so much to reveal to us!  It is going to be a great study.

And what’s a party without a playful theme?  We’re having a God’s Girls Warrior Princess Party.  Oh yeah.  You read it right.  I’m making the coolest Jesus princess hats (or should I say, helmets), swords, and shields.  Not too sure where to find a couple of mighty steeds (my budget is zero), but I do have several old broomsticks and a bit of yarn.  Then again, folks might think we’re playing witches and that won’t do.  Any ideas?

Groucho Mama

Swords and shields.  Hmmm.  Better buy some aluminum foil.  Need cardboard too.  No palm tree this time around.  Perhaps a jungle vine.

I’m torn between wearing a ball gown (with my waistline, that’s probably a very bad idea) or dressing in some kind of an all-black panther-like outfit. Maybe with a colorful toga over it. What does a princess wear under her warrior gear?  What do you think?

No, I do not make everybody else dress up!  Fortunately, I recognize that it is possible to party without all the accoutrements.  Dignity aside, dressing the part is like a visual portrait of the Bible message.  And it’s just plain fun.  After all, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Okay, that was slightly out of context.  How about this:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4, 5).  How’s that for a reason to celebrate?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in Adventures in Christ

 

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Out With Old, In With The New Year Goals

Just before the close of each year, I like to spend a little time reviewing it according to the vision, goals, and objectives set the previous January.  This year, I’m happy to report that I met most of my goals.  There are several reasons for my success.  First of all, I tossed out the whole idea of new year resolutions a long time ago.  Surely I understand by now that there is nothing worthwhile I can accomplish in my own power, no matter how sincerely I may resolve to do so, yet, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).  God empowers us to do His will, therefore the place at which to begin is with God himself.  With that in mind, I changed my entire approach:

  1. I spent time with God in prayer and petition, seeking His will;
  2. I formed goals based on the principles of His Word, not on a self-centered wish-list or worldly idea of perfection;
  3. I refrained from merely creating a depressing list of my faults, and
  4. I focused on goals and measurable objectives that were challenging, but not impossible.

The question to ask before committing your goals to paper is not, “What do I want?”, but, “What do You want?”  I found that by putting God first, the goals He set were not burdensome.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29:30, NIV).  This can also be summarized by Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Unsure how to recognize God’s voice?  Make your goal this coming year to know Him better.  The more intimately acquainted you are with God, the better you will discern between His voice and your own or that of the enemy.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).

Keep in mind that the spiritual maturing process won’t be over any time soon: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  Develop goals that you are actually able to meet in a single year.  Instead of saying you’ll lose 50 pounds and never eat cake again, why don’t you start with something a bit more realistic, like asking God to use this year to help you understand what is behind your overeating and under-exercising.

Finally, focus on the growth God wants to bring about.  Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This is because you are asking according to His will, not your own.  More than that, it is because in offering yourself fully to God as a living sacrifice your mind is renewed.  You – and your will – are transformed (Romans 12:1-2) into the image of Christ.  Remain watchful, therefore, for your answer will come … in God’s timing, according to His ways.  After all, whom do you really desire to be the lord of your life – yourself or God?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:19-21).

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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The Sure Thing

Ever wonder why our daily lives seem so, well, daily?  Same stuff, different day.  Same old tired argument, same old bickering, same old knee-jerk reaction.  You look ahead to the years before you and wonder if things will ever change, if you’ll ever change.  And a change of heart comes so ssssssssssssslowly.

Steady as she goes ...

Sometimes I feel trapped by circumstances.  I think I know where I want to go, but it’s taking forever to get there.

I have this great vision of how my life should be.  I should be an in-demand Christian women’s speaker and teacher, traveling to and fro, bringing the light of the Word to a motivated and hungry world.  Wherever I go, ministry happens.  Women are comforted, encouraged, and grow strong in the Lord. People everywhere turn to Christ.   I should have a book or two tucked under my belt and a lively, well-trodden blog through which I interact with scads of other Jesus freaks and true seekers.  I should have my perfect, pretty little house to come home to and wonderful clothes to wear on my slim, trim, healthy, & strong body.  I’d be properly plugged into my local church serving alongside women who love Christ and one of them would be my best friend.    I’d have plenty of time and energy for hiking and reading and just messing around.  All my bills would be paid on time and in-full, especially my credit card.  There would always be more than enough money to go around and I could give furiously and extravagantly.   My family and friends and, well, just everyone, would love me.  My whole being would honor and glorify God all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

My real life is nothing like that.  My real life is so daily: making uncomplicated meals for my mom who has Alzheimer’s, helping her dress appropriately at least a few times a day, and generally keeping her entertained so she doesn’t start in with “Where’s the baby?”, “I have to go to work,”or her latest, “It’s time to go home” scenario.  And all the while trying to time everything so she’ll go to bed without a fight that evening.  Arguing with my mom is fruitless.  I’m getting better and better at taming my tongue, but there’s still a lot of habit to break in that domain.  Taking care of my mom is mentally exhausting.  Sometimes I want to tune her out.  I spend a lot of time confessing, but only some of the time actually repenting.  Most of the time, I just want to sit in my recliner all day lazily sipping coffee, reading, writing, and playing on the computer.  There doesn’t seem to be much energy leftover for exercise, get-togethers, and the like.  Of course, this is actually the easy part of caring for my mom.  Things will only get worse as time goes by.  She’ll progressively require greater physical care as more and more of her brain’s ability is usurped by Alzheimer’s.  

That’s when I wonder if this is what my life is all about.  Am I going to spend these years caring for Ma and then just collapse and die afterward never having done the things I want to do?  Is this all the daily bread there is for me?

I cannot know the future, but this I know.  God has called me to this season for purposes of His own.  I have a pretty good idea that these years are essential to the work He is completing in me.  It’s my job to take my eyes off the circumstance and stop asking, “What’s in it for me?”

And that, my friends, is what this season is all about.  It’s an opportunity to obey His call to live for the sake of another.  It’s about humility, considering my mom better than myself.  Not for a crown or reward, but for love of Christ.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”      -Philippians 2:3-8

These are not wasted days.  This is prime time.  My dream is a nice one, albeit a bit magnified.  But given the choice – and we are, my friends, we are – I choose God’s plan, His dream for me.  What about you?  God’s plan is always so much bigger and better than our limited imagination.  And better yet, it’s a sure thing.

 
 

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God Is Good, Part 1

Diane, tell us a story …

 

Our Front Steps

 

During my seminary days, I was housed in some unusual accommodations.  The first semester I stayed for free with an elderly Christian lady who had a spare room.  It so happened that while I was on the phone with the seminary’s head of housing, this lovely lady called in on another line.  Within minutes, my need and her desire to help became God’s provision.  I was given the incredible blessing of free housing and she, a lonely little old lady, had company and a little extra security.  I spent each day on campus and every evening in her company, talking, praising God, and watching Seinfeld together.  To this day I’m amazed at how perfectly He brought us together.  God is so good.

But that’s not all.

At the close of that semester, during the Christmas break, she became very ill.  Her daughter called to let me know that I would probably need to find other arrangements for the following semester.  About two weeks later, she called again, this time with bittersweet news.  Her mother, my hostess, had died in the hospital.  Now here’s the sweet part: while lying on her deathbed, this incredible woman spared some of her last thoughts for me, a woman she’d known for only a few months.  While she lay dying, she took the time to instruct her daughter to allow me to stay in her home, for free, the following semester.  And her daughter, while wary of a complete stranger living alone in her mother’s house, was faithful to her promise.

What an incredible gift!  The housing itself was a huge blessing, but more than that, I was absolutely stunned that this loving woman had chosen to bless me in obedience to the Lord’s calling on her life, even from her deathbed.  What an example of faith in action!

 

 

Fall Colors

 

Now, fast forward through the spring and summer to fall of my second year in seminary.  New housing had to be found.  This time there was no little old lady with a spare room.  Campus housing was full and I had no money to stay elsewhere.  Driving from Seattle to Portland and back again, six hours round trip, four days a week was out of the question if I wanted time to study.  I considered sleeping in my car as a last resort.

Fortunately, the seminary’s head of housing came through again.  She offered me a place to lay my head each night for, you guessed it, free.  It would not be glamorous or even particularly nice.  But it was free.  I accepted on the spot.  Every Sunday afternoon I drove from Seattle to Portland, Oregon; every Thursday afternoon I drove back to be with my family.   And every night in between, I rolled out a self-inflating mattress and sleeping bag on the floor of a closet in the big, old-fashioned house that was the girls’ dorm.  Yes, you read it right – a closet.  It was perfect.  God is so good.

And then it happened.

Coming Soon:  God Is Good, Part 2

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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Making God Happy: Three Essential Steps … Not!

 

Dreamstime image used with permission

The righteous requirements of God were given to His people in Exodus 20:1-17 and are known today as the Ten Commandments.

  1. No idols
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking of the Lord’s name in vain
  4. Keep the Sabbath
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. No murder
  7. No adultery
  8. No stealing
  9. No false witnessing
  10. No coveting

Written in stone.  Unchanging.  God is holy and so also must His people be.  Selah and amen.

On the whole, it seems fairly simple.  Do and don’t do.  Easy enough. For most people, it’s a dream position, isn’t it?  “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

Making God Happy: Three Essential Steps To Holiness

  1. Learn the Ten Commandments,
  2. Do and don’t do accordingly;
  3. Reap the results.

Simple!  Nothing complicated here.  So easy a caveman can do it, right?  Let me ask you this: Have you ever lied?  Cheated?  Stole something?  Ever disrespected your parents?  Ever done something they told you not to do?

Sinner!  You’re in good company.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Every one of us is guilty before God.  And you’d better believe that we are reaping the results.  The Israelites had the whole sacrificial system in place to deal with their mistakes.  Whenever they messed up, they just sacrificed an animal or two … or two thousand.  Now, before you starting searching the yellow pages for Animal Sacrifice, think first about the sheer number of bulls, goats, and turtle-doves they actually sacrificed over the ages because of sin.   And yet, “Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11).  What?!

We have all sinned.  No one has completely kept God’s Perfect Ten.  So why bother sacrificing those poor animals if doing so does not take away sins?  As a Christian you are thinking, “Because the wages of sin is death!”  How right you are.  Blood is required for all sin.  “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).  The constant problem of sin is the reason so many animals were sacrificed.  

But, you say, if sacrificing animals didn’t completely take away sin, what good was it?  “But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Even in terrible situations, God can bring out good. Rest assured no Israelite could forget about sin for very long.  The daily blood and guts of an animal sacrificial system was undoubtedly in-your-face to remind them.  The sinful state of their hearts could not be avoided.  They were constantly aware of the discrepancy between their hearts and God’s standard of holiness.

The Law – all those commandments resulting in all those offerings – had a purpose.  The purpose of the Law is to lead us to Christ.  First, the Israelites had to perceive the holiness of God.  Second, they had to recognize their own sinfulness.  Third, they had to come to understand that sinfulness is not merely outward behavior, but a condition of the heart.  It is the same today.  We sin, not because we weren’t paying attention or because of a mistake, but because it is the very condition of our hearts.  We are rotten to the core.  No matter what good we may do or what love we may give, it is always, always infected with the disease of self.  “As it is written:  There is none righteous, no, not one; there is no one who understands; there is none who seeks after God …” (Romans 3:10-11, from Psalm 14:1-3 and Ecclesiastes 7:20).

The law was designed to show us that sin and death have penetrated to the very marrow of our being.  Because the commandments reveal sin, we realize we are sinful.  And no matter how hard we try to clean up our act, we cannot, and in any event it is too late.  Already we have sinned.  Already spiritual death has overcome us.  We have behaved, and continue to behave, according to the dictates of our heart.  Sin is not just a set of behaviors that we sometimes do.   No.  Sin is a heart issue. It is ever-present within us.  “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man” (Proverbs 27:19). We don’t just sin; we are sinners.  We cannot change this.  We need rescue.  We need salvation.   We need Christ.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As sinners, our very life is required of us.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.  We are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

But here’s the good news: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Only Jesus kept God’s commandments perfectly.  This is why, when Christ willingly gave his life and died on the cross, his death satisfied the righteous requirements of the Law.  The evidence that God’s justice was satisfied in Christ is seen in Christ’s words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  The result was the resurrection.

When we confess our sin to God, when we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, our sins are forgiven and we are saved from eternal death.  “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).  Do you believe this?  Do you?

Are you saved?  Have you availed yourself of the free gift of salvation and forgiveness in Christ?  If so, then ask God to continue to help you to seek His face that holiness would be your heart condition.  If not, please pray in sincerity something like this:

God, I believe you.  I have not kept Your commandments.  I confess that I am a sinner.  I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross fully paid the debt of my sins and that You raised him from the dead.  I place my trust in Jesus who died that I may live forever with You.  Amen.

If you prayed this, please tell someone!  Talk to a Christian friend or pastor.  And email me.  I’d love to pray for you.

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2010 in Adventures in Bible Study

 

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Faith Is Being Sure

Have you ever received a calling of God, yet nothing in your life seems to lead you in that direction?  Have you heard His voice, but what He said would happen hasn’t at all?  Have you found yourself worrying that what you labeled as being from God is really only from your own selfish desires?  Well, join the club.  Sometimes I think I could win the gold medal for second-guessing God and myself.

I have wondered for a long time now whether or not God has truly called me to a speaking ministry.  Some days I think He has; other days I’m not so sure.   Sometimes I wonder if I merely made it up in order to feel important.  Current circumstances certainly preclude a speaking ministry:  I care full-time for my mom who has Alzheimer’s and even with a few hours off a week, I accomplish little more than teaching a Bible study, which is, by the way, a great joy for me.

And then I worry that maybe this is pride trying to garner me some of the Christian world’s applause.  After all, what do I have to say that someone else cannot say better?  And why should anyone listen to me in the first place?  A kind stranger reminded me recently that it’s not me from whom people wish to hear; it’s God.  And He can use anyone in any way at any time in any place.  That’s a freeing statement.   After all, it is His Spirit who does the actual work in people’s hearts anyway.  We’re just the messengers.  🙂

Many years ago, God showed me a picture or vision if you will.  I saw myself standing on the cliff of a high mountain overlooking a large, green valley filled with people.  My hair was short, my figure slim, the opposite of what I looked like at the time, and yes, this gave me a great deal of pleasure!  I wore a kilt of red and blue plaid, signifying family.  In my hand was a golden trumpet, which I raised to my lips and blew.   As I looked at myself standing firmly on the edge of that cliff, I understood that I was announcing what God had done in me and my [spiritual] family.   In fact, I was sharing my testimony.  I knew that God was telling me I would someday share this testimony of God’s grace, mercy, and sufficiency before crowds of people.  I had no idea how this might come about; I only knew God was telling me it would be so.  That was about 16-17 years ago.  It hasn’t happened.  And yet, despite the occasional worries, I persist in believing it will be so someday.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  My hair is quite short nowadays, but I am far from slim and trim.  I suppose that means the time has not yet come.  LOL.

That’s probably not too far from the truth, weight excluded.  I’ve learned that God sometimes gives us an assignment well before the day it becomes due.  I believe it is because He wants us to study [His word] hard and practice, practice, practice.  And I don’t mean to merely practice my speaking ability.  I’m talking about character formation.  God takes time to build our character to match the assignment, as Henry Blackaby says.  We cannot do God’s will in the strength of the natural man.  God must cultivate within us a Christ-likeness and this takes time.  Had I tried to force a speaking career back then, it would have failed.  My character lacked maturity and Christ-centeredness.   I may have been eager, but enthusiasm is not a substitute for preparation.

I have spoken in front of groups of people in the past and looking back it’s easy to see that it was usually about me, not God.  Most of the time, I was just trying to be somebody special.  I’m glad those days ended fairly quickly.  I needed time to grow up.

Even now I cannot call myself a Christian speaker.  I do teach a Bible study and this is a cherished time to be led by the Spirit and talk about God.  My blog is certainly another opportunity.  It’s true that I’m not standing before crowds of people speaking about what God has done, but with these rich opportunities in my hand right now, I am more than willing to wait on God for the latter.   For the first time in my life, I truly understand what it means to be patient and wait on the Lord.  It is not about sitting around eating bonbons and watching soaps.  No, it is about participating with God as He forms our character into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ve stumbled around in the dark a bit, but I’m confident that “He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6) .

And so I choose to wait patiently on God for the fulfillment of that long ago vision.  And as God continues to prepare my heart and my mind, I am becoming more and more sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.  And even if I am wrong about becoming a Christian speaker, at least I will not have wasted these years of preparation for whatever it is the Lord will bring into my life.  And to God be the glory!  Amen.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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