Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Maybe We've Forgotten How to Be Nice

We're in Columbus, Georgia this week for Caleb's graduation from OCS at Ft. Benning. While here I wanted to visit Chick-fil-A as I've heard great stories of their amazing chicken sandwiches, and in Georgia there appears to be a Chick-fil-A on every other corner.

Problem is, many people are angry at Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's statement in which he said he supports, "the biblical definition of the family unit." I wanted to post a Facebook status about this fun venture into southern living. Like the fact that the store was crowded to overflowing because unbeknownst to us an "anti protest" was taking place at Chick-fil-A restaurants across America. But I hesitated to say anything for fear of offending someone with my chicken eating ways. I just wanted a sandwich and was uncomfortable that it seemed I was making a political statement.

Later in the day we visited the Infantry Museum, a moving tribute to our soldiers. As a kindly volunteer described the various exhibits to us, she inquired where we lived and asked why we were at the fort. We replied our son is graduating tomorrow from OCS. After congratulating us enthusiastically her parting words were, "Tell your son thank you for his service." Several people have said this to me since Caleb joined the Army, and it always brings tears to my eyes. I don't think of the enormity of this life my son has chosen until someone thanks me for his service. But it is a big deal.

So here's the thing. My son chooses to serve his country, to defend our freedom so all of us, you, me, Mr. Cathy, Ellen DeGeneres, etc., etc., can believe whatever we like. It's my responsibility to live each day respectful of your beliefs, whether I agree with them or not. I don't know if boycotting an establishment because of its CEO's personal beliefs is the answer to our disagreements about life, but I do know being unkind is not the answer.

By the way the spicy chicken deluxe sandwich was fantastic.  Maybe I'll head on over to JC Penny later and show my support for Ellen (don't get me started on the mean-spirited boycott of JC Penny by Christians), who ends each of her shows with these words, "Be kind to one another."

Friday, June 22, 2012

D-Day, Omaha Beach, and a Thankful Heart

"This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideals, the valor and the sacrifices of our fellow countrymen." American Cemetery, Omaha Beach.

Today I visited the D-Day beaches in Normandy with my family. I have been looking forward to this day and dreading it, knowing it would be difficult. I had prepared for the day by reading the book The Longest Day, which tells the story of June 6, 1944. That day when thousands gave their lives to bring freedom to millions. I knew what happened here. And I didn’t. Reading a book could never prepare me for standing amidst 9,387 white-marble crosses and Stars of David.

It’s difficult to look squarely into such pain and sacrifice, all the while knowing each man whose life is represented here was a son, brother, husband, father, or grandson. But we must. It's how we honor them.

We walked to the far corner of the cemetery, knowing it is likely the least visited. We wanted to see the names of those men who gave everything for us.

So I walked and walked past hundreds, thousands of crosses. Saying their names. Thanking them. It wasn’t easy and there were tears. As I sat on the sands of Omaha beach this afternoon, I prayed I would live a more purposeful life for having been here today. That I would live a more thankful life.

So I honor their sacrifice by sharing in this tiny way what they experienced. Remembering their lives. Their deaths. Saying their names, so they can live on in my memory. In my thankfulness. In my freedom.

Thank you William

Thank you Jerome

Thank you Michael

Thank you for my freedom.

Evening Taps

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What About Me

I was having a look at my blog this evening - and you should know that I am entirely captivated by the look of my blog. Silly because it's just a free blog template from Google's Blogger, but I am enthralled by its design and color. I think that may speak to my level of self-absorption but let's pretend otherwise please. My intent was to update the "About Me" portion of my blog. I say "update" but really what I mean is "write," because currently there is one entire line on the "About Me" page. I can only describe writing my own bio in this way - yuk!

So here's what I wrote instead.

I want to wake up every day giving my life to God, asking him to use me to make someone's life better that day. That's what I want. Honestly, though that doesn't always happen. Like everyone I have my issues or what I call "my stuff," because you know this is real life and it's messy. Much of the time I'm entirely too self-absorbed, critical, cranky, scared, worried and downcast. You may not think so (or maybe you do!) because I'm pretty darn funny (and humble) and funny can hide all manner of things, but it is so.

In all this imperfection, I find so much comfort in these words from Carl Medearis, "I know the one place I can't go wrong is the place where Jesus is.  I can be weak, sinful, foolish, and even rebellious.  I can fail others, ruin ministries, fumble my work, and still, I cannot go wrong when I stand with fear and trembling, knowing only Jesus."

"Oh, thank God - he's so good! His love never runs out." Psalm 107:1

"Come near to God and he will come near to you." James 4:8

I'll keep working on that "About Me" page.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Surprised in London

Today I had the amazing opportunity, along with Kevin and Rebecca, to attend the evening service at Westminster Abbey in London. I was looking forward to the rare opportunity of worshipping in such an historical location. I mean Westminster was built in 1065, long before the country I call home was a twinkle in the eye of any founding father. Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII who were never crowned. That's a lot of history!

The Abbey is beautiful and I sat in my pew taking it all in. It was incredible walking over the green marble memorial stone under which Winston Churchill is buried. And also the memorial stone of Charles Darwin, that trouble-maker!

What I didn't expect was to enjoy the service so immensely but I did. I loved the interactive service, the sit and stand, the readings and responses, the up and down of this traditional service.

I also didn't expect the fantastic message, which The Reverend Peter McGreary Priest Vicar delivered. Reverend McGreary shared a beautiful message about Jesus. He said so often we forget that Christianity is about Jesus. We make it about books and rules and doctrine. We make it a concept, but a concept doesn't have a mother. He asked us to live out the love of Jesus every day, to let Jesus be seen within us. He said, "Be an icon for Jesus." I love that.

I am thankful for the unexpected today, and for the blessing of worshipping my God in such a unique way. I hope that tomorrow as I put some more wear and tear on my poor feet, I will remember to live the love of Jesus in every step.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Their Mom, Every Day

Last week Kevin, Rebecca and I travelled to Ft. Leonard Wood to see our soldier graduate from basic training. We had not seen Caleb since February, and we were just a little happy to see him.

We are not from a military background, so this is all new to us. Rebecca commented, "The base isn't at all what I thought it would be." Apparently, she didn't think there would be Starbucks on base! Caleb was not much changed. He was still a comedian, although a tired comedian. After graduation we took a drive through the rolling hills of the Missouri Ozarks. Many treasured family moments have been car time. Just the four of us, no distractions, family banter, much goofiness. Car talk is the best talk. Caleb wanted to listen to country music, and we indulged him, although at one point Rebecca said, "I can feel my IQ dropping." Meanwhile, brother was able to sing all the words to the deeply meaningful song, "Red Solo Cup," something I believe his sister is still coming to terms with.

Those moments, coming fewer and farther between are treasure.

Sunday was Mother's Day and I've been thinking about motherhood and how it changes so drastically over the years. Those early years of sleeplessness and keeping my children alive in spite of their best efforts at breaking their necks and eating dirt have become something bigger. Now I wonder am I wise enough to mentor and mother these sweet children who have become adults, owning their relationships with God, making their lives meaningful in ways I never imagined at their age. I mean how do I mentor this man and this woman who are in many ways wiser and more thoughtful than me?

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." James 1:15  This. This is the only way I know.

Each morning I ask God, please make me the mom Caleb needs me to be. Please help me be the mom Rebecca needs me to be today. This has the additional benefit of pushing me into a deeper connection with God, seeking his wisdom, his love, his forgiveness. For "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23

Because this boy
Has become this man

And this girl

Has become this woman

And I want to keep being the mom they need me to be each day.

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Learning My Way Through Life - I Hope

Eugene Peterson’s book, The Pastor is a treasure. In a busy and often chaotic world, his memoirs offer peace and comfort.

My life - the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid stuff I do - all of my experiences have the potential to teach me something. Eugene said he was, “Hanging around this intersection between heaven and earth and seeing what there is to be done.” Well, he sure learned a lot hanging out, like this gem:
The cultural conditions in which I am immersed requires, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from these cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus. I wanted my life, both my personal and working life, to be shaped by God and the scriptures and prayer. The Pastor
Many times I have read a book or experienced something that is so exciting to me, so amazing that I share it with everyone I know, only to discover that they just don’t think it’s as fabulous as I do. Turns out Eugene experienced this too:
What I wasn't prepared for was the low level of interest that the men and women in my congregation had in God and the scriptures, prayer and their souls. Not that they didn't believe and value these things; they just weren't very interested. The Pastor 
I had assumed that the primary reason that Christians became part of a congregation had to do with God. They would come to church because they were interested in God and the scriptures, prayer and their souls. And I would be the person expected to give guidance and encouragement to matters of God and scripture, prayer and their souls.  It didn't happen. I couldn't have been farther off the mark. The Pastor
This was sad and startling to me until I realized for many years, that was me. It’s so easy to judge others, to point my finger like the Pharisee in the Bible praying, “Thank you that I’m not like that sinner.” I want so much to see each person as valuable, the way Jesus does – to recognize that Jesus didn’t die just for those people I’m comfortable with or approve of, but for everyone; but seeing others this ways requires that I stop judging them. Eugene knew that:
I was learning to not impose my expectations of what I hoped for them but rather let them reveal to me, as they were able, who they were. The Pastor
The people who made up my congregation had plenty of problems and more than enough inadequacies, but congregation is not defined by its collective problems. Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered. The Pastor
We wanted to honor that more, to understand and treat our congregations not as a gathering of problems to be fixed but as souls being formed for salvation in a community of worship. Not men and women defined by what we could do for them but by what God was already doing for and in them. The Pastor
I want to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God is doing and saying in their lives. I don't want to judge them in terms of what I think they should be doing. I want to be a witness to what God is doing in their lives, not a schoolmistress handing out grades for how well they are doing something for God. The Pastor
Eugene also reminded me that life with Jesus is not passive:
We don't grow and mature into our Christian life by sitting in a classroom and library, listening to lectures and reading books, or going to church and singing hymns and listening to sermons. We do it by taking the stuff of our ordinary lives, our parents and children, our spouses and friends, our workplaces and fellow workers, our dreams and fantasies, our attachments, our easily accessible gratifications, our depersonalizing of intimate relations, our commodification of living truths into idolatries, taking all this and placing it on the alter of refining fire – our God is a consuming fire – and finding it all stuff redeemed for a life of holiness. The Pastor
Jesus told stories and taught and prayed, not to entertain us or inspire us but to draw us into a participating, believing, listening, loving way of life that was above all, local and personal: prayerful. I wanted to do that too. The Pastor
So do I Eugene. So do I.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wait a Minute – I’m Supposed to be the Blessing

Yesterday Kevin, Rebecca and I joined The Vineyard Church in Feeding God’s Children. The Vineyard serves a meal to the homeless every Sunday in Julia Davis Park in downtown Boise. This was a first for us. We wanted to spend Easter, not focused on ourselves, but being a blessing. Our little family is incredibly blessed. We know this, and we spend pretty much every day of the year celebrating these blessings in our beautiful home, driving our comfortable car, while wearing new clothes, and eating plenty.

If you read my last post, Am I Really a Christian, you know I’ve been reading a lot of books recently that address what our role really is a followers of Christ. Well, with all that fresh in my mind, it just seemed more appropriate to be a blessing as we celebrated the resurrection of Christ.

Turns out we got it both ways.

We arrived at The Vineyard’s Barnabas Center and met Ben, the crew leader. We were a crew of newbies, as only three volunteers had helped before, but don’t worry everyone was fed eventually.

After loading the trailer, we drove to the park where a group of people was already waiting. Many of them came over to help unload the trailer and set up. Once the first table was put up, a line of about 80 men, women and children formed.

We were each assigned a task. Mine was to hand out the hamburger patties and hot dogs. Each person said thank you to me as they went through line. That was humbling. Most were happy to chat and nearly everyone said, “Happy Easter.”

My favorite part of the day was talking with our new friends like Ken and Lee. Ken was the first person over to help unload the trailer and was especially surprised that we would come help when we don’t attend The Vineyard Church. And Lee, well he was wearing an Army hat and I couldn’t resist telling him our son is in basic training. He then spent the rest our conversation asking about our son.

We really are all the same. We just want someone to listen to our story.

If you want to be really blessed, join the Vineyard on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe we’ll see you there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Am I Really a Christian?

In December I began reading the Bible and this morning I finished my journey. From Genesis to Revelation in 104 days. In my Bible that’s 1,259 pages, so I’ve been pretty immersed in God’s Word for the last three and half months, and it has been awesome, and life changing and a big wake up call. Here are a few treasures:
  • God is repeatedly saying, “I love you, I love, you, I love you. Please love me back!” This is the number one theme in the Bible.
  • God wants us to love each other. Over and over (and over and over) he tells us to care for the poor, widows and orphans.
  • Social justice is a big deal to God.
  • The mule has nothing on us when it comes to stubborn. We are stubborn, self-centered, and oh so cruel to each other.
While reading the Bible I was able to squeeze in a couple more (regular sized!) books (did I mention I started getting up at 5:00 a.m.? Yeah, that was God getting me out of bed each morning). I read Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker and also the book 7, an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker (Brandon’s wife). I warn you do not read these unless you want to change how you live. These are both “call to action” books, and you will not walk away from them unchanged.

Do you think it’s interesting that while reading the Bible and absorbing its overwhelming message to love God, love each other, take care of the poor and seek social justice, I would just happen to read two books that cover the exact same message but in a modern setting? I didn’t plan that. It “just happened.”

Warning #1 – Stop Reading Now if You Don’t Want to Squirm a Bit. Here are a few of the things God has to say about the poor.

  • He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
  • If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Deuteronomy 15:7-8
  • Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." Luke 14:12-14
  • Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
  • If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18
Warning #2 – Some Words From God About Social Justice

  • The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,  a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9
  • Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Psalm 82:3
  • Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
  • Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
  • He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. "Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the Lord. Jeremiah 22:16
  • He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17
In her book 7, an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen Hatmaker says,

  • While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the windows, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering. (Note from Shawna: Those rich people she's talking about - that's us. If you make $50,000 a year, you reside in the top one percent of wealth in the world).
  • If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society.
  • We made it acceptable for people to do nothing and still call themselves Christians.
  • The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice. It cost believers everything, and they still came. It was good news to the poor and stumped its enemies.
So here’s my question - If I’m not seeking justice and helping the poor, am I really a Christian?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Am I Living For?

Have you ever wondered what "sin" is? We all do things that are hurtful either to ourselves or to those around us, but do we ever consider exactly what sin looks like? I am forever asking why. Why does that person behave that way? Who hurt her? Why is it so difficult for politicians to be kind? Why don't we care more that 25,000 people die EVERY DAY of starvation. The state of our world today begs a a really big WHY?

The dictionary defines sin as "an offense against religious or moral law," and I know a lot of people would agree, just as I'm sure if you asked ten different denominations for a definition of sin, you would get ten different answers. We may all be Christians, but we sure do like to disagree.

Theologian George Knights says, "If we are going to understand how people are being saved, we need to understand what they are being saved from." An inadequate understanding of sin will, of course, lead us to an inadequate understanding of salvation.

So what is sin? Genesis Chapter 3 describes the first sin as disobedience on the part of Adam and Eve, when they ate from the one tree in the garden God had told them not to eat from. Genesis 3:7 describes what happens next, Adam and Eve felt guilty. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." So there you have it, the first case of salvation by works!

Then it all comes apart, Adam and Eve had broken their relationship with God. "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:8. This led to a broken relationship with each other, a pattern the world has seen endlessly perpetuated. Look around. You won't need to look far to see it.

Sin affects everything about how we relate to God:
Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.' Ah, sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Isaiah 1:2-4
Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me. Hosea 7:13
Sin is us saying God is not God. It is us saying to God, "You're not the boss of me."
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law. Romans 8:7
For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard describes it like this, "Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God . . . Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God." This sin description sounds like Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden. They wanted to hide who they had become.

In his book The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller writes, "Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to becomes oneself, to get an identity, apart from him."

This means when I find my identity in my marriage or in my children, or in anything that isn't God, I will always crash and burn. Ask me sometime how that worked out for me when my son left for college. I had found my identity in being Caleb and Rebecca's mom and when change came, life wasn't so great.

So what now? What fixes sin? Timothy Keller writes, "Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God. So the only solution is not simply to change our behavior, but to reorient and center the entire heart and life on God."
As Augustine said, if there is a God who created you, then the deepest chambers of your soul simply cannot be filled up by anything less. That is how great the human soul is. If Jesus is the Creator-Lord, then by definition nothing could satisfy you like he can even if you are successful. Even the most successful careers and families cannot give the significance, security, and affirmation that the author of glory and love can. Timothy Keller
Like salmon swimming upstream to their place of birth, we have a deep unchangeable desire to find God.
Everybody has to live for something. Whatever that something is becomes 'Lord of your life,' whether you think of it that way or not. Jesus is the only Lord who, if you receive him, will fulfill you completely, and, if you fail him, will forgive you eternally. Timothy Keller
In the fiction work The Shack by William P. Young, Jesus says:  “I don't want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything.  When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you.  Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life - your family, friends, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.”

Who is the center of your mobile?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sometimes Love Hurts

This morning I said goodbye to my son, my first born, and it was hard. We prayed, we hugged, we kissed goodbye. I said what I always say, "I love you. I love being your mom." And then we watched him drive away - to Basic Training to be followed by Officer Candidate School.

I am grateful for the blessing of my sweet family, children who love God and seek to serve, a husband who loves much, and a God who cares about all these things.

This week, as I walk a new path with my family, I am trusting God and remembering his promises, like these I memorized last year:
And my God will supply all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. 1 Timothy 1:7
Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they put their trust in me. Isaiah 26:3
The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid. Psalm 27:1
my blessings

Saying goodbye should not be easy when we love.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Heart Wide Open

To compliment my Bible reading, my 2012 scripture memorization has been focused on verses that highlight the importance of asking God to reveal what his Word means, what truth he wants me to see. My verse this week is longer than usual, something my delightful daughter pointed out. I think she was worried about the ability of my older brain committing so many words to memory. Here is this week's verse:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people. Ephesians 1:1-18
Something happens when I memorize while running. I focus on certain words in the text and they unfold in my mind. This morning I focused on the words "revelation" and "enlightened." I like the idea of God "revealing" his word to me.  It's like tearing wrapping paper from a gift. I also like the description of my heart having eyes, because I want to see the world through the eyes of a loving God.

Here is another verse I memorized in February, also from Ephesians:
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Ephesians 1:2-3
I know that on my own, I cannot fully understand what God is telling me in his word, so I run to him asking that the eyes of my heart be enlightened. I want to take part in the glorious inheritance which he has gifted to me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Do I Believe?

Warning! If you think I have it all together, stop reading now!

Over the last year I have been part of several Bible studies regarding taking victory over the lies we believe about ourselves. These lies are often called “strongholds,” and author Joyce Meyer describes a stronghold in this way:
Through careful strategy and cunning deceit, Satan attempts to set up “strongholds” in our mind.  A stronghold is an area in which we are held in bondage (in prison) due to a certain way of thinking.
This week I have been under a cloud of one of these strongholds, something I believe about myself that is not true. Satan is an expert at knowing our weaknesses. You know, those things that can most easily send you spiraling downward. Well, this week I fell into that downward spiral.

Now, I don’t know about you but I have an excellent imagination and this does not always serve me well! I allowed my imagination and dark thoughts to take over. I wanted to break free of them, but a part of me was allowing myself to wallow in a feeling of self-pity.

Because I have walked this path before, my husband knew what was happening and he encouraged (dragged) me outside for a walk, which is always helpful in clearing my mind. When we walked back into the house, I grabbed a book from the bench in our entryway. The book I grabbed was Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer. I sat down and read the first three pages, including this:
The devil is a liar. Jesus called him, “the father of lies and of all that is false.” (John 8:44.) He lies to you and me. He tells us things about ourselves, about other people and about circumstances that are just not true.
After asking my sweet husband to pray for me, I felt such a weight lifted. I have experienced all of this before, but coming out of the darkness has never been so swift or so vivid. Usually, I’m stuck there for several days and emerge gradually.

Please, if you struggle with any stronghold, any lie you believe about yourself, I encourage you to read these books:

Breaking Free by Beth More
Praying God’s Word by Beth More
Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer

The truth is Jesus loves me. He loves you. The truth is we are so valuable to him, we are so loved that he came here to show us that in person.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Looking For Some Grace

During a run last week, I did what I always do. I memorized a Bible text.  The verse I memorized was Colossians 2:2-3 which says, “My goal for them is that they be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding so that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” I don’t want to brag, but I wrote that from memory.

The Reward for Running Early
So I was repeating the verse over and over as I ran and suddenly it occurred to me that, of course, we can’t understand the mystery of God without love, because God is all about love.

A lot happened in the world last week, most of it sad. I didn’t see love represented much at all.  And it’s got me thinking about Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? If you haven’t read it, please do. The world could sure use some more grace filled people.

The Greek word for grace is charis, which means unmerited favor or undeserved favor. As an example, grace is something a wife might give her husband if he accidentally washes the new sweater he received for Christmas – shrinking it to newborn size – after wearing it only once. Just as a random example. . .

The Bible tells us that Jesus was full of grace, and came to give us what we do not deserve. “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

So if God gave us what we don’t deserve, why is it so hard for us to give someone else what they don’t deserved?

We know that we are all recipients of that undeserved favor. “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” John 1:16

Grace is something none of us deserve or can earn. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Philip Yancey says, “Grace is Christianity’s best gift to the world, a spiritual nova in our midst exerting a force stronger than vengeance, stronger than racism, stronger than hate.”

Could we just stop for a minute and think about that.  Grace is stronger than hate. God's grace is stronger than hate. Let it sink into our minds, make its way to our hearts until it comes out of us in an active way that benefits others.

Yancey also says, “If grace is so amazing, why don’t Christians show more of it?”

Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes so that I may see the wonderful truths in your law.” That’s another verse I memorized on a cold winter run.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Change is Good, Right?

Sometimes I think it would have been better to raise children I don’t like quite so much. With a twenty-two year old son and a seventeen-year-old daughter, I am not unaware that change is on the horizon for this mom.  Our son graduated from Boise State University in December and yesterday was sworn into the U.S. Army as an officer candidate.  He leaves for training in three short weeks. To say that we are proud of him does not come close to describing our feelings.  My feelings go something like this: proud, elated, sad, scared – repeat.  Good thing I’m a woman so I can multi-task.

In the fiction work The Shack by William P. Young (which you either loved or hated), Jesus says:  “I don't want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything.  When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you.  Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life - your family, friends, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.”

I just love God’s timing! I read this book a couple of years ago and just happened to come across this quote last week. I keep notes from books that I read, because that’s what you do when you love to read but don’t have a great memory!

Also last week I listened to a amazing talk by Beth Moore on anxiety.  I don’t think the timing could have been better for this family! Here are a few things Beth had to say about anxiety.
  • The act of humility is reflected in us in the casting of our cares on God.  When I don't cast my cares on Jesus, even subconsciously, it is an act of pride.  Humility takes an action.  And what this action is in 1 Peter 5 is that we are going to humble ourselves to God BY casting all our cares on him.  The Greek word for "care" in this verse means "anxious care".
  • Anything I will not cast upon the Lord, I am trying to maintain lordship over.  This is not conscious.  Our anxiety proves that we are in a wrestling match with whether or not we believe God can be trusted with it (this is our issue).
  • Anxiety is real.  It's not like we can just say stop it.  What God is saying to do is throw it to Him.  Transfer my anxiety to God.  Give it up to HIM.  With everything in me, cast my anxiety to God.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:6-8

Last summer I started praying in a new way.  I chose a Bible verse for each of my loved ones and prayed that verse each day for them.  Here is the verse I chose for my son:  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

I know that I can't handle all that happens in life on my own, but I know God can.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Don't Know

Our family has a small group Bible study in our home each Wednesday night.  We share a meal, catch up on what’s happening in our lives and dig into God’s word.  Last week I mentioned to our group that I had just read an article discussing how difficult it is for most of us to say three little words, “I don’t know.” I know this to be true and still I find it so amusing.

Why is it so hard to admit that I don’t know everything?

Sometimes I’m afraid my knowing everything will keep me from seeing God as he really is. We think we have all the answers, so we aren’t looking for any more.  But God is pretty clear on that, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

My spiritual goal for 2012 is to see the truths in God’s word.  To see him as he really is, and that may be different from the way I’ve seen him for the last 45 years. I want to let humility live in me so that my way becomes God’s way.

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful truths in your law.” Psalm 119:18

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

Of some things I am certain.  I am loved. I am valuable. I know this because God keeps saying it for over 1,000 pages in the Bible. I don’t have all the answers, and that’s just fine.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A New Walk Along an Old Way

Have I mentioned that shortly before Christmas I decided to read through the Bible?  My sweet daughter, who read through the entire Bible over the summer break, inspired me.  She read 15 pages a day and nothing kept her from her daily commitment.  I mean we could have traveled all day or played all day or whatever, and she would stay up late to finish her reading. Honestly, it shamed me a little considering I hadn't done anything requiring such commitment to my faith in a long time.  So, in December I buckled down and started reading.  My goal 10 pages each day (I cannot keep up with Rebecca!).  Now being me, and being extremely literal I couldn't just read through the Bible, but decided I would read through the books of the Bible in chronological order.

This morning I finished the book of Jeremiah, incidentally my favorite book so far; although the book of Ruth is a pretty sweet love story, especially since the not so uplifting book of Judges precedes it.  But back to the often abused Jeremiah! Chosen by God to take a message of warning to the people, he spent years repeating the same message (turn back to God; worship Him alone) to an unresponsive and angry people.  The poor guy was beaten, thrown into a muddy cistern and just not the most popular guy in town.

Having been a follower of Christ all my life, I’ve heard and often agreed with the description of a harsh Old Testament God versus a loving and peaceful New Testament God.  I think we get it wrong here.  Throughout the Old Testament is this constant theme of a God who is desperate to forgive people if they would just return to a faithful relationship with him.  I mean these are people who are sacrificing their own children to their false gods, and yet we have this God who over and over again wants to forgive them and continue in relationship with them.  I think I’m going to have to change the way I think about the God of the Old Testament.

Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Be blessed today friends ~ Shawna

Monday, January 23, 2012

Walking in Love

Well, Rebecca and I are home from Houston where we went to celebrate a year of memorizing scripture.  We joined Beth Moore and about 1,200 other women who memorized 24 verses during 2011.  We met at the First Baptist Church in Houston for two days of worship, music with Travis Cotrell, a fantastic message from Beth Moore and - we also recited all 24 of our memory verses to a partner!  We made new friends, managed to stay alive on the Houston freeways, ate the best Mexican food I've experienced, and came home ready to keep digging into the Word!  I cannot even begin to express how blessed I feel to have experienced this with my sweet daughter.

The following is just a bit of Beth's message from the weekend.  The message was taken from the book of  2nd John, and Beth began Friday evening by reciting the entire of book!  I nearly cried it was so moving (but then I am a crier!).  Beth used the word WALKING as the outline for the message.

We're all starved for some face to face.
All we've worked for can be lost.
Listen with the ears of a chosen lady.
Keep the pace of true abiding.
Invest your whole life into love.
Never forget the ploy to infiltrate.
Go out into the world walking in what you know.

I must invest my whole life into love. Never be unaware that God loves me! How aware am I that God loves me? Am I dwelling in that knowledge? In that awareness?  Truth without love is just a fact. Insist on keeping my feeling in my faith.

"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love. Ephesians 5:1. Let's get out there and walk like people who know they are loved!

I revel in the forced quiet time a plane ride provides!

Here we are writing our favorite verses on the Wall of Verses.
Did I say how great it was to experience this with Rebecca!

A bit of sustenance to keep us going!

Rebecca and I are continuing to memorize Bible verses in 2012.  Please join us.  We would love to share this experience with you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter Workout Land

We welcomed the snow this morning but not enough for me to run in it! Here's the view from this morning's "run."

Safe driving friends!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Scared Should I Be?

I just returned from a weekend in Seattle, where six of us women gathered to celebrate our dear friend Jody’s birthday.  I don’t often get away for a girls' only weekend, and can I just say it was fun.  It was noisy.  It was filled with laughter, but it was not restful!  Indeed, we had so much fun I needed a 90-minute nap once I got home and then still went to bed at 8:30. Yes, I am a wimp!

While in Seattle we got to talking about “fire and brimstone” street preaching.  I have a picture in my mind of a man who stood on a corner in downtown Seattle nearly every day, back when I lived and worked there, shouting to all of us about repenting and burning in hell.  He was not a happy looking guy, and I always hurried past him as fast a possible.  I just wonder does this kind of “ministry” ever work?  I mean who would be drawn to that?  I’m a Christian, and I couldn’t wait to get away from him.

Last summer I read the book Speaking of Jesus by Carl Medearis and my world was changed.  This book made me look at the world and myself differently!  Mr. Medearis writes, “If we don't truly know what the gospel is, we have to find an explanation for Christianity.”  This made me ask myself, do I know Jesus well enough to share him? Can I talk about the gospel while talking only of Jesus? Can I leave rules and doctrine out of a description of salvation?  I hope so.  Medearis goes on to say, “We don't trust Jesus with our salvation.  We think he needs our help.  We think He needs our doctrines, our church charters, our definitions, and our circle.  We're insecure about salvation.”

I then sat down and read again the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. I hadn’t read them in a while, and I was reminded at how beautiful they are.  The gospels are filled with story after story of Jesus loving people, even (actually especially!) unlovable people.  Why do we forget that? Why do we make it complicated? Why do we make it scary?

“Jesus gives us a new way of living and loving and being loved - this is the gospel message.  That's what Jesus does for us.  He gives us life.  Heals us and restores us.  Provides answers and truth, a way to live forever.  All good things.” Speaking of Jesus.

“Not feeling like we have the burden to convince the world that they're wrong and we're right allows us to talk about Jesus and how amazing He was and is with total freedom.” Speaking of Jesus

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thanks for Annoying Me

"Nothing undercuts cynicism more than a spirit of thankfulness.  You begin to realize that your whole life is a gift." Paul Miller, The Praying Life

Life is such a gift, and it's fragile.  I want to see life through a thankful lens.  Embrace each day eagerly with anticipation for what comes next, being thankful at every step.

"A thankful heart is constantly extending grace because it has received grace.  Love and grace are uneven.  God poured out on his own Son the criticism I deserve.  Now he invites me to pour out undeserving grace on someone who has hurt me.  Grace begets grace." Paul Miller, The Praying Life

"By thanking God daily for specific things about the person, you will begin to see them for who they are - a gift." Paul Miller, The Praying Life

I want to live with the awareness that each person is valuable.  We may look different, live differently, annoy each other completely, even have different political views! But if I am purposeful in looking for the good in those around me, I might just notice that we all have something to offer.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Year of Eating Words

“When your words came I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name Lord God Almighty.”  Jeremiah 15:16

Last year my daughter Rebecca and I joined thousands of other women across the country and committed to memory two Bible verses each month.  We all chose our own verses, those words most meaningful to us individually.  I noticed a few things as the weeks rolled by. First, my verses in January were considerably longer than they were in November!  But more importantly, these words changed me.  What began as rote memorization changed the way I view myself in the world and then changed the way I act and react in that world.  Here are a few of the verses I memorized:

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”  Ephesians 3:17-18.  Not surprisingly, this verse is from January 15, the first verse of 2011.  It’s longer and has problematic grammar, making it difficult to commit to memory.  Let’s just say I have issues with the Apostle Paul’s word usage.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.” 1 Timothy 1:7.  This one is great for repeating at night when sleep evades me and worries creep in, and can be followed up with this one, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” Psalm 143:8

So 2011 was a year of walking in the Word, a path I invite you to walk yourself.  Be bold! Be brave! Jesus walks with you.

“The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid.” Psalm 27:1

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, New Stuff

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine. But an endless pilgrimage of the heart, audacious longing, burning songs, daring thoughts, impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping toward these are all a drive to love the one who rings our heart like a bell.” Few words are more beautiful to me than these by Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel. His words to embrace the newness in life, to view change as a gift, and be excited for what lies ahead are timely as we walk into a new year. Am I ready for what comes this year? Am I prepared to walk with Jesus into whatever challenges and blessings greet me?

Another favorite author writes, "The life of a Christian is never about sameness. It's always about change. That's why we must learn to survive and once again thrive when change involves heartbreaking loss. We're being conformed to the image of Christ. When our hearts are hemorrhaging with grief and loss, never forget that Christ binds and compresses them with a nail-scarred hand. Life will never be the same again, but I have the invitation from Christ to rise to a new life - a more compassionate life, a wise life, a more productive life. Sound impossible? It is without Christ." Beth Moore in her book Breaking Free.

Oh that each change I face this year would produce a more compassionate, wiser and more productive me. 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. Numbers 6:24-25

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What Do You See?

Last year I read a terrific book by Beth Moore entitled, Breaking Free.  In the book Beth writes, "We fulfill who we are meant to be when God is recognizable in us."  This was profound to me and yet so simple.  I should be reflecting Christ every day, in every situation, in every word, but living this means taking responsibility for my daily walk.  It means being in prayer and in the Word daily. It means being purposeful.  Being thoughtful.

"Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31