Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'It's Mysterious And Wonderful' - Sharing A Blog Post from 'Created For Blessing!"

As we enter into the beautiful season of Advent, once again, I've been led to share something that Curt Leininger, my friend and pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church up in Wyckoff, NJ, posted yesterday on his blog, Created For Blessing (

His post is entitled, 'It's Mysterious and Wonderful.'  Whether it's a long, deep and detailed post, or like this one, short, sweet and simplistic, Curt ALWAYS has something powerful and so good to say about the amazing love of our Lord.  And as he told me, good things are meant to be shared.  So I'm delighted to share this with all of you (thanks a million, Curt)!!

A video, called 'The Christmas Story' goes along with this post.  I hope the children's joyful and endearing innocence and enthusiasm as they act out the story of the birth of our Savior will make you smile and touch your heart, as it did to me.  Enjoy!
'It's Mysterious and Wonderful.'

It’s mysterious. It raises a lot of questions. It incites wonder. But, the gentle and loving approach of God stepping into our world as a human being is changing my life, and I hope it continues to change your own life. Smile, laugh, cry, and allow this Advent to be a time of anticipation and joy. This is good news for all people. And, so is the gift of your own life as you follow Jesus into the mystery, questions, and wonder.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- Hallelujah, by Heather Williams

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. ~ Acts 16:25-26, NASB

Hallelujah.  We hear the word a lot, especially at church or in Christmas carols.  On TV, televangelists use the word almost as often as the word  'and' is used in daily conversation.  We ourselves may even use the word a lot. I read that in our modern world's vernacular, 'Hallelujah' is most often used to express great happiness that something one has been hoping or waiting for has finally come to pass, and doesn't necessarily indicate the religious belief or faith of the person using the word. 

In the Bible, the word Hallelujah occurs often, mainly in Psalms and several times in Revelation, and is said to be a request for a congregation to join together in praise towards God. It can be translated as "Praise God" or "Praise Yahweh, you people," and is usually worded in English contexts as "Praise the Lord."

For most of us who are followers of Christ, Hallelujah is considered a joyful word of praise to God, rather than an injuction to praise Him.

And when are we to praise God?  All the time.  Not only in those times that we deem God as being 'good.' You know...when we have no problem chanting in church or to other people that "God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good."  When everything in our life seems to be going our way. 

But we're also called to 'praise the LORD' in those times when, if we're totally honest with ourselves, God doesn't seem so good.  In those harsh, dark, lonely and frightening times when God 'seems' to have forgotten about us and He 'seems' to be busy with other, more important things or people; those times we're left feeling like a scared puppy that someone has abandoned along the side of a road less traveled.

But that's just a lie of the enemy, a lie he delights in force feeding us until we're ready to choke, leaving us unable to utter a syllable of praise.   Because God IS good...all the time.  Our circumstances and situations may change, but God's character does not.  So no matter what, God is worthy of our praises. 

I'm sure you've heard it said, as I have, that God inhabits the praises of His people.  This is actually biblical, coming from Psalm 22:3 ~ But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.  We may not be Israelites, but we are still God's people, His dearly loved and chosen children. So to me, this verse means that when we praise Him, no matter what we're going through or dealing with, He is right there with us. In our good times and our bad times, God is as close as our breath -- the breath that joyfully shouts or the breath that tearfully whispers, 'Hallelujah!'

Today's song by Heather Williams is a beautiful testimony to that. I did a little research on Heather and her song.   She didn't grow up in a loving, Christian home.  She grew up in an environment of extreme poverty and physical, verbal and emotional abuse. She became involved in alcohol and drug use, and she was homeless for a time.  She gave her life to Jesus when she was about 18 years old after living such a harsh and wild life, a life in which she openly admits that she cursed God, boldly told Him she hated Him on a regular basis, and blamed Him for every awful thing that happened to her. But one day, at a church service she attended with her birth father, she heard God speak to her heart, inviting her to 'come as you are.'  And all she could say to Him right then was, 'Forgive me!'

Not long afterwards, she met the man that is now her husband.  They were married for seven years before they were finally able to have a baby, their son, Caedmen.  But Caedmen had a heart condition and died when he was only 6 months old . About a year after Caedmen's death, Heather tells the story of sitting down on the floor of her home one day, guitar in hand, and was moved to begin composing this song.  She asked Jesus to show up, right where she was.....and He did, in a powerful and awesome way. 

This song is so very special to Heather and she shares that the cry of this song, her Hallelujah, is that even in that place on the floor with her guitar, remembering her beloved son and crying out in a blubbering mess, she still chose to say Hallelujah; she still chose to say to the Lord, "I love You,"  and she still chose to glorify Him.

Paul and Silas, after having their robes torn from them in public, beaten with rods by an angry crowd and then thrown into prison with their feet fastened together in stocks, chose to do the same, singing praises to God and glorifying Him in song, despite their horrible and seemingly hopeless circumstances. And didn't God show up, right where they were, in a powerful and awesome way, setting free Paul, Silas and the other prisoners from their chains.

Today, what are those horrible and seemingly hopeless circumstances that have you imprisoned?  Are you afraid or anxious?  Are you discouraged or depressed?  Are you financially broke or spiritually broken?  Are you grieving the loss of someone or something?

Whatever it is, in spite of it all, it is my hope that as you listen to this song, you'll still choose to sing out "Hallelujah!!"  Still choose to tell God, "I love You!"  Still choose to glorify Him. 

Let your own Hallelujah invite God to show up right where you are and to set you free.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Far Would You Go For Jesus?

I wrote a poem after watching NBC's Today Show this morning, which featured a live, outdoor performance by teen singing sensation, Justin Bieber.

For years, I've been intrigued by folks who have turned following particular performers, bands or celebrities into an art form and seemingly life-long, personal quest.  For example, I used to work with a guy who took an entire week off from work whenever singer Jimmy Buffett was touring so he could attend not just one, but many of Buffet's concerts in our tri-state area.  Several years ago, when my daughter was head-over-heels for the Jonas Brothers band, we attended one of their concerts in Camden and met a group of girls who weren't from our area (NJ) but who'd spent a good portion of their summer following them from city to city. When we asked them how they could afford to do that, they laughingly informed us that one girl's dad had taken off from work FOR THE ENTIRE SUMMER just to drive them to each town where the Jonas Brothers would be performing.  I couldn't begin to hazard a guess at how much THAT was costing dear old Dad. 

And this summer when I took my daughter to see singer Taylor Swift when she came to Philadelphia, I was amazed by the elaborate costumes, makeup and signage her fans sported.

And then, of course, there are those Extreme Sports Fans -- a species in a class all their own, who have no problem smearing their bodies with paint to match their team's colors, shaving their heads or donning humongous, crazy-colored wigs and showing up in the sports arena's parking lot at dawn to begin the tailgating festivities.  Many have also been known to withstand totally frigid temps while COMPLETELY BARECHESTED as they cheer their teams on to victory! 

It's mind-boggling to me just how far a person would go to show their fan allegiance to someone else.  And it got me thinking -- how far would they go for Jesus?

How far would you go for Jesus?

Would you --

Be filled with excitement
and jump up and down
if you heard the Messiah
was coming to town?

Would you --

Keep your kids out of school?
Call out of work sick?
Invite some of your friends?
Which ones would you pick
to travel with you
to follow this Man?

Are you sure you're His follower
and not just a fan?

How far would you go for Jesus?

Would you --

Spend your time and your cash
working days to design
a glittery, neon-color
Poster board sign

To hold high in the air
in the hopes that He'd see
your message for Him:
"I © JC!"

Would you --

Pull out all of the stops
to follow this Man?
Are you sure you're His follower
And not just a fan?

How far would you go for Jesus?

Would you --

Brave nasty weather?
Camp out all night in line
for a glimpse of the One
fully Man and Divine?

Wear a bright, fuzzy wig?
Paint your face, arms and chest
and ignore those who call you
insane and obsessed
to go through such effort
to follow this Man?

Are you sure you're His follower
and not just a fan?

How far would you go for Jesus?

Would you --

Stand in the cold and the snow,
mud and rain?
Stand 'til your feet, legs and back
screamed in pain?

Then text Him or Tweet Him
or friend Him on facebook
just to tell Him you downloaded
His Word to your Nook?


Would you --

Follow this King
to the ends of the earth?
Forsake family and friends?
Leave the land of your birth
to respond to His call
and His will for your life
whether son or a daughter,
whether husband or wife?

Would you --

Help heal the broken,
the sick and the lame?
Give cups of cold water
in Jesus's Name?

Help feed the hungry
and comfort the fearful?
Hold the hands of the dying,
dry the eyes of the tearful?

Would you --

Go anywhere and
do anything?
Maybe die upside-down
on a cross for this King?

I rise before dawn
while my family's in bed
Humbly drop to my knees
and then bow my head
Asking "How far would I go
to follow this Man?"

Making sure I'm His follower
And not just a fan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Being Thankful

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever. ~ Psalm 118:1

Today, I was all set to whine and complain about something very minor, via a post on my facebook page (facebook can be SO good for this sometimes), when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but someone’s post in my news feed about all the things she is thankful to God for these days. This is yet another person who has taken on a month long challenge of being intentionally thankful. I checked out her online Thanksgiving Journal and much of what she listed had to do with those kinds of things we take for granted every day, those sweet and simple, everyday blessings.

The love she receives from her pets

A clean kitchen (with all credit going to her hubby for that one!)

The heat blowing through the air vents in her home, keeping her warm as she writes

The sun peeking through the clouds on a grey day

The creams and lotions and meds that give her body relief as she forges on with radiation therapy for the cancer she is battling

Her post and her journal entries made me stop and realize that I too have much to be thankful for and that I shouldn’t waste my time whining and writing about stupid, inconsequential things over which I have no control.

I could name so many things for which I’m thankful that my list would soon resemble Santa’s toy delivery list for boys and girls -- practically endless.

But today, I will name some of ‘my favorite things':

*I’m thankful that I know that Jesus loves me. ‘Nuff said.

*I’m thankful that God is able: able to hear my cries so long ago, able to see me lying amidst the rubble and the messiness of my broken life and like the true Hero He is, able to rescue and remove me from it all, because He loves me.

*Even though they can be difficult to get along with and drive me crazy, often pierce my heart to its core and bring tears to my eyes, I am thankful to God for the family in which He’s seen fit to place me, for the husband and children He’s given me to love. I realize that at any moment, they can be taken away, and I‘m thankful for the time God has given me with them thus far.

*I’m thankful to God for the loving, loyal and lasting friendships that He has blessed me with over the years. Friends who pray for and with me; friends who provide me with wise and godly counsel; friends who dropped everything and showed up to support and stay with me when I was rushed to the ER some years ago; friends who hung out with me at the RWJ Cancer Institute and turned my chemo infusion treatments into mini parties filled with laughter, joy and LOTS of chocolate (and who shared all of those things with the other patients and staff as well!); friends who ran errands, drove my kids places, and made my family dinners when I was too weak from chemo to do so; friends who actually read and persevere through my long winded emails and blog posts; friends who have been there physically, relationally, financially and spiritually for me and my family in rough times.

*I’m thankful for my church, my pastors and their wives, and my church family. They are not perfect -- but neither am I, and I’m grateful to have been welcomed with open arms by this Body of Christ.

*I’m thankful for a home that’s cool in the summer, warm in the winter and dry when it rains.

*I’m thankful for running water and appliances that work; food in our ‘fridge and our pantry and clothes/shoes in our closets.

*I’m thankful to God for the reliable vehicles He’s provided us with over the years.
*I’m thankful for those people at the grocery store with tons of stuff already on the conveyor belt, but who let me go ahead of them when they see I only have one or two items.

*I’m thankful for Dollar Tree reading glasses, especially since I’ve become WAY too good at breaking or losing the overly expensive prescription ones!

*I’m thankful to God for grey, cold and rainy days like today, because they help me to appreciate that much more those steaming bowls of homemade chili or chicken noodle soup, warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, piping hot cups of coffee or tea or mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.

*I’m thankful to God for the way He speaks to me through HIS Word, the written word -- fiction and non-fiction, Christian and non-Christian -- and through song.

I'd love to hear what you're thankful for!

You are my God, and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You. ~ Psalm 118:28

What if I looked at my life in a different way
Took a little more time to stop and pray
I know it would change all the moments in between
So here I go

Thank you for everything
Thank you for loving me
It don't even matter what tomorrow brings
Well, I will sing my

Thank you for sun and rain
For what you give and take away
For all your goodness I will always say
Thank you
Oh, I said thank you ~ Thank You, by 33 Miles

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- You Are My Hiding Place, by Selah

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word ~ Psalm 119:14 (ESV)

Troubled times, raging storms, harsh difficulties, fiery trials, dark valleys, twisting roads, steep mountains.  We all experience them at one time or another in life.  For some of us, it feels like we're bombarded daily by all of the above.  We feel distracted, drained, discouraged, depressed.  I know those feelings all too well. 

And I often find that they hinder my desire to worship God. I become too wrapped up in my problems, in either trying to fix them all myself (Supergirl complex) or in allowing them to knock me down, capture me in their undertow and drown me. I know there are many out there who can relate to this today.

In times like these, we want to run and hide. The Scripture verse that inspired the name of my blog says: "in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by."  And that's what we long to do -- to find a hiding place to settle into until our own personal storms of destruction pass us by.

Our hiding places can be anywhere -- a room in our home (mine is in the corner of a small room in our basement); our car; the bathroom (hey, for some of us, that's worked); a park; a pier by the lake; the quiet study room at the library.  When I was a young girl, and my parents' fighting would escalate, I'd run out of the house and down the street to our church to hide in the pews, where I found peace and solace.

But there is a much, much better hiding place than any of these.

In Psalm 32, David tells the LORD God that He is David's hiding place; that he knows He will be protected from trouble and surrounded with songs of deliverance.

This morning, I invite you to join me in putting aside all those things that are causing us to take our eyes off the Master and sink into the raging, stormy seas, interfering with our worship of Him. 

I invite you to join me and come to the Lord, and to step into His hiding place -- beneath the shadow of His wings -- and allow the words and the music of this song to help us to find peace, rest, security and solace in God.  Each time I've listened to this song, it has brought me an overwhelming feeling of peace, of rest, of comfort, a strengthening and a great nearness of God, allowing me to let go of everything and sing along in worship of Him.

Today, whatever you're going through, entangled in or running from, let Him be your hiding place, beneath His wings, as you worship Him.

May this be our song of deliverance today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Will Trust In You

A sweet friend of mine and precious daughter of the King was recently diagnosed with cancer. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we’ve been unable to speak in person. But we’ve been conversing through emails and cards, and yesterday, we were able to speak to each other over the phone.  As I’m writing this, my friend has most likely already been prepped for surgery.

I have walked this particular path through what author Emilie Barnes refers to as ‘Cancer Land.’ It is NOT an easy nor enjoyable path. It can often be dark and frightening and lonely. So many ‘what ifs.’ It certainly doesn’t help matters that when surgery is eminent, you are presented with information and paperwork to be signed in triplicate regarding Advanced Directives, Living Wills, Do Not Resuscitate Orders and the like.

It DOES help to know that others have walked that path before you and have made it through victoriously to the other side, and are waving you forward, cheering you onward. It helps to know that other people are taking time out of their busy schedules to sit before the LORD God and present your needs to Him. Not that He is unaware or needs reminding. We’re merely being obedient and bringing that person and their needs to the only One Who is Sovereign over them and their circumstances and can actually do something about them. God, as Twila Paris sings, IS in control.

I remember 9 years ago, right around this time, when I was preparing for my surgery. I, of course, had to be at the hospital ridiculously early, and God bless my pastor -- the man showed up to pray for me as my husband and I sat in the waiting room, filling out more of those wonderful forms. I’m sure he didn’t even have time to grab a cup of coffee on his way out the door.

At this time, it was also very early in my walk with the LORD God. I had come from a faith denomination that didn’t encourage their congregation to read the Bible -- apparently, it was only for those uber-holy and elite folk to read. So I didn’t have much of a repertoire of Bible verses stored away in my mind and my heart to encourage and sustain me. But after my pastor had finished praying, he shared a Bible verse with me that he said had helped him through a difficult and scary surgery:

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” ~ Psalm 56:3

I had never heard that verse before, but I grabbed onto it and clung to it like a drowning victim clings to a lifeline thrown out to them. I repeated it over and over, even as I lay on the operating table, waiting for the surgery to begin, and this verse has stayed close to my heart over the years.
It came to me as I’ve been praying for my friend, who shared that yes, she has found herself anxious and afraid as the surgery date drew closer. Even though we DO know that the LORD God is with us, we are also only frail and flawed humans, and it can be easy to forget that when we’re staring down into that dark Pit of the Great Unknown.

As I prayed this verse for my friend earlier this morning, another verse came to mind immediately afterwards:

“Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you, wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9

Later on, I prayed the verse again for my friend, and once again, a voice within my spirit came back with:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you; do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

It reminded me of something I learned in school when I was in choral music class. Our teacher (the incredibly hip and awesome Miss Borne) used a song by the band, Chicago (Oldster alert!), to show us something called ‘call and response.’ For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the song, but in it, one of the singers would call out in song a particular line, and the other singer would respond to it. Back and forth it went. Even though I don’t remember the song, the concept has obviously stayed with me, oh these many years.

Our life is like a song. Sometimes, it can be a beautiful tune, with our singing out in praise and thanks to the LORD, and He responds; Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that He rejoices over us with singing. But then there are times, as in certain opera arias, when our song turns to one of fear and desperation --

“I’m so afraid!!”

-- and once again, He responds:

“For I am the LORD, your God, Who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.” ~ Isaiah 41:13

And we can then say, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” 

We call out --

“I feel so anxious and worried!!”

-- and our Jesus responds:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” ~ John 14:1

And we can then say: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

We call out --

“I’m all alone!!”

-- and He responds:

“Remember I am with you always.” ~ Matthew 28:20

And we can then say, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

I have learned -- and continue learning -- that trust is KEY in my relationship with my Lord Jesus. I feel sometimes as if He is saying to me, “I JUST want you to TRUST Me!”

I don’t want to spend the remainder of my life paralyzed by fear and anxiety and loneliness and whatever else the enemy sees fit to throw my way.

I want to be:

I want to know I am:
Not alone
Cared for

There is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus called, ‘The Divine Mercy.’ The story goes that a young nun, Saint Maria Faustina of Poland, was commanded by the Lord Jesus Himself to have an image of Him painted, an image that He revealed to her. Underneath His image was to be placed this signature:

“Jesus, I trust in You.”
Whenever we are afraid, worried, confused, anxious --
Wherever or whatever kind of situation we may find ourselves in --

May we remember to trust in Him.

Open your eyes
But don’t let go of My hand
Let your tears give way to smiles
See the joy inside the trial
Don’t worry, you’re safe with Me around
Rest assured I’m on your side
I won’t let you hit the ground
But close as it seems...
Trust Me
Though you can’t see
You can trust Me
The way may be steep
You can trust Me
Let me Me ~ Trust Me, by Crystal Lewis

Thursday, November 17, 2011

In His Hands

It is an honor and a privilege for me to introduce you to Rob Joseph, an amazingly creative and talented young man. I’m friends with his mom, Pat, a wonderful woman who at one time, headed up our women’s ministry at church (they‘ve since moved away to the Carolinas).

Anyway, I’m also facebook friends with Pat, and today she posted a breathtaking illustration of Rob’s on her facebook page, along with a link to his blog. I learned that one of Rob’s sisters had requested that he paint a picture of God.  He said his first thought was “ who am I to attempt such an amazing feat?  How will I even know what to paint as nobody knows what God looks like?”  Rob goes on to say that the answer came to him later -- that he was a ‘gifted visionary’ who should actually be honoring God with the talent that He bestowed on him.

Below is ‘In His Hands,’ and Rob’s thought process in the creation of that piece.

Ok here is the finished painted version. Of course I let my imagination run away a little with this piece, but I received most of my reference for this piece and God's look from two passages in the Bible. Ezekiel 1: 25-28 and Revelation 4. I'm sure there are more in there, I'm just not sure where they are. Everything about this image says something about God's character though. from the subtlety of his wings, to the absolute power shown in the lower regions of the painting. The Crown symbolizing royalty, his face meaning the way he sees everything in pure light and with a burning love. His white sash that represents purity and that he can do no wrong. The angels praising Him in their own way symbolizing simply that he is worthy to be praised. His skin being a Solid Rock...and finally the way he holds the earth safely in his hands...symbolizing the protection he gives us. Put all of these together and you basically witness the two sides of God. Powerful and fearsome, but Loving and Gentle. Hope you enjoy.
 I just LOVE this beautiful piece of art. Powerful and fearsome. Loving and gentle. That’s our God!

For a larger, more detailed rendition of this illustration, please check out Rob Joseph’s blog at:

Also, here is a link to Rob’s online store, in case you or someone you know would like to purchase any of the sketches and illustrations of this gifted young artist.

Monday, November 14, 2011

God Is Love -- And He Loves Everyone

I normally don’t take on writing about any subject or person that is considered to be controversial. I try my best to be the peacekeeper in my world, and like Rex the Dinosaur says in ‘Toy Story,’ “I don’t like confrontations!”  However, I get the feeling that with this post, I may ruffle some feathers. Or perhaps not. We’ll see.

The other day, I came across a video posted by my friend, Curt Leininger, on his ‘Created For Blessing’ blog (please scoot over to My Blog List and you’ll find the link to his site). Curt was once my church’s youth pastor and is now the Pastor of Discipleship at a church up in Wyckoff, New Jersey.

To me, Curt has some very different and quite eclectic taste in music, so when I saw his post called ‘Sunday Afternoon Music Video,’ I figured it would be some way cool or deeply thought provoking tune by some indie artist or band I’d never heard of and my interest was piqued.

What I found was a very basic, simplistic, almost childlike musical offering by a band I actually DO know (thanks to my buddy, TJ), called Gungor. The song, which is several years old, is called, ‘White Man,’ and while the lyrics are again -- basic, simplistic and almost childlike -- they are at the same time, to me, profound and true.

And way cool. And deeply thought provoking. I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

The video was put together by a community of artists called ‘The Work of The People.’ It is also very basic with it’s childlike drawings and I must admit, kind of bizarre. I’m sure that for as many different people who view it, there will be that many different reactions/responses. Some may get a kick out of the video, yet totally get the gist of the chorus -- that God is Love and He loves everyone.

Others may not only find the visuals lame, overtly cutsie-pie and silly, ridiculous, somewhat irreverent and offensive, but the lyrics as well -- again, that God is Love and He loves everyone.


Everyone meaning, as the song states:

Atheists and
Charlatans and
Communists and
Lesbians and
Even old Pat Robertson

Catholic or
Protestant or
Terrorists or
Ok, hold on for a minute there. Really? I’m sure there are people reading this now that may not even stick around to view the video and listen to the lyrics after looking over the list of groups referenced. People who may see themselves in that list (or not) and possibly be:
Irritated or
(e) all of the above

I can’t say that I blame you. Atheists and Lesbians and Terrorists. Oh my.

But -- let’s keep a few things in mind. Mainly, what it says in God’s Word.

First, though, I’m going to back up a bit. Back in September, a young missionary couple from my church sent out their newsletter via email. In it, they mentioned being burdened for people in the Muslim world and then they made this statement:

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, Bill and I truly mourned. We know this was a man who wronged our country immensely, but he was also a man who was spiritually held captive by a religion that led him into darkness. On the day he died, it felt like Satan had won the victory in the fight for his soul.

Apparently, they received some pretty negative feedback from some recipients of their newsletter (whom I’m assuming are mostly Christian) because of that comment and, the very next day, had to send out another email to clarify just exactly what they meant by their stating that they ‘truly mourned’ when Bin Laden was killed. Personally, I kind of thought it was a shame this couple had to do this. Because their saying that Bin Laden was a man who’d been held captive spiritually and led into darkness by his religion, and that they felt that Satan had come out victorious in the fight for his soul seemed to be quite enough of a clarification right there.

And yet, isn’t that what’s going on here anyway? Meaning that Satan, the enemy, has been and continues to be at war for our souls. The souls of everyone. The souls of those who were/are

The souls of folks like

Adolph Hitler
Karl Marx
Rock Hudson
Charles Ponzi
Osama Bin Laden

Stephen Hawkings
Marilyn Manson
Ellen DeGeneres
Chaz Bono
Bernard Madoff
While not everyone in the world can be called ‘children of God,’ they are still His creations. Don’t you think God’s heart aches for those who choose to turn from Him and want nothing to do with Him, those who, for whatever reason, choose the wide path instead of the narrow one? And if we call ourselves followers of Christ, then our hearts should be heavy for those who have chosen the darkness instead of the Light, continually praying for their change of heart, recompense and a receiving of forgiveness, mercy and grace for them right up until the end, and mourning when they choose to remain held captive by the enemy.

So, back to what to keep in mind if you choose to view and listen to this video. And that is, what it says in the Bible, the very Word of God:

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Matthew 9:11-13 (NIV)

And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:6-8, (J.B. Phillips NT)

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know Him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent His only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God. ~ 1 John 4:7-12, (The Message)
The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9, (ESV)

Believe me when I say that I’m not looking to offend anyone or to tick anybody off with this post. I just want to share that, because of this simple song, I’ve been reminded yet again that we are called not to love the sin…but to love the sinner. We are called to point those hard to deal with, hard to understand, hard to accept, hard to forgive, hard to look at, hard to listen to and speak with, hard to LOVE people to the One Who gave His One and Only Son for them.

Because God is love. And He loves everyone.

(NOTE: I had to use another video of this song, which works just as well, because I couldn’t get the one Pastor Curt used on his blog site to download. Naturally, if you go to his blog, you can see it there. My apologies, as I’m often technically challenged.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- Great Is Thy Faithfulness, by Avalon

Thanksgiving is just a mere 11 days away.  I know many people here in the blogosphere and on facebook have been challenged to do daily posts of what they are thankful for in life. 

I myself haven't partaken in that daily challenge, but I have enjoyed reading and have been blessed by many of the things that others have written that they are thankful for.  

This past week, this song has been what a friend of mine refers to as an 'earworm;' in other words, it's in my head when I wake up in the morning, here and there throughout the day, and before I go to bed at night.  It refuses to leave my head. 

The day after I decided to use this song for today's post, a sweet sister who was totally unaware of my earworm problem, sent me an e-card referencing --can you guess? -- the Scripture verse the song is based upon:

Lamentations 3:22-23 ~

It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.

Today, I am thankful to worship a God whose mercies are fresh daily.  I'm thankful to be afforded a 'clean slate' with Him each morning.  I'm thankful He doesn't change like a chameleon or like the wind; that God's love for me is not a game of 'He loves me, He loves me not,' and that His compassions do not fail.

Let's worship our Father God with thankfulness today.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me  (
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm
Music: William M. RunyanWords & Music © 1923)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When There Are No Words

"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork." ~Psalm 19:1

There are days when words just won’t come.

I don’t know what it is -- call it writer’s block or the less creative and much cruder term of a ‘brain fart.’

Or sometimes, there just aren’t the proper words to describe what I see, what I’m feeling and experiencing, what’s on my mind and heart.

It’s like that right now for me.  I currently have no humorous stories to share here.  No challenges to issue. No sage advice or wisdom-filled lessons to dispense here on my blog.  It feels a little odd to me, kind of weird.

So because I’m still ‘newly retired’ ( a mere 5 months), rather than trying to work through this dry spell by spending entire days attending to things like vacuuming, laundry, cleaning out the ‘fridge, purging and rearranging cabinets, closets, kitchen junk drawers and alphabetizing my book shelves, I’ve taken to going out driving and/or walking to places of beauty, quietness and serenity in my area (and with the cold, winter months looming on the horizon, soon I may not want or be able to go anywhere). 

But I can do it now.

I have the time and the availability; I have the good health and the ability.

And -- I’ve got a darn fine Canon PowerShot A590 camera to visually capture, the best that I can, the beauty and the loveliness of the Lord God’s creation in these places I often find on my drives and my walks.

Some of these spots are well known to me and to people from this area. Others are not. Some are places I’ve just ‘happened’ upon, places to which the Lord God has guided me. Places I had no idea even existed so close to me. They have become my 'hiding places', if you will.

I find comfort there
I find peace there
I find contentment there
I find joy there
I find the beauty and holiness and the nearness of my Lord God there

And so I’ve taken to carrying my little camera with me everywhere I go. Because I’ve found that, more often than not, when I’m not looking and I least expect it is when my Abba allows me to stumble upon some breathtaking, indescribably glorious or sweetly simplistic Kodak -- um, Canon -- moment in the sky or along the landscape:

A brilliant, Technicolor (almost double) rainbow

A show-stopping sunset or sunrise

Thick, swirling fog resting gently upon a lake or a pond in the early morning light

An astounding, eye-catching cloud formation

The surprise of colorful flowers in a drab spot

A sudden burst of autumnal brilliance in a grove of trees

Various winged, two and four-legged creatures and beings at work or at play or at rest

When I have no thoughts to share or I'm at a loss to verbally describe what I see--

There are pictures…..

Snapshots of life, visuals to share and to convey

The Awesomeness

The Beauty

The Holiness

The Sacredness

The Love

And the Glory of our amazing Father and Creator God!

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God  ~ Indescribable, by Chris Tomlin (lyrics by Laura Story)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Worship Song Sunday -- The Solid Rock, by Avalon -- And a lesson....

"So then, everyone who hears My words and puts them into practice is like a wise man. He builds his house on the rock. The rain comes down. The water rises. The winds blow and beat against that house. But it does not fall. It is built on the rock. But everyone who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man. He builds his house on sand. The rain comes down. The water rises. The winds blow and beat against that house. And it falls with a loud crash."  ~ Matthew 7:24-25, NIRV

I'd like to share my lesson notes from a  church sermon a few weeks ago, when one of our pastors preached on Matthew 7:24-29 -- Jesus' story of the wise builder and the foolish builder -- because of how it correlates to today's hymn.

Pastor Jared pointed out how the two builders were similar -- both were trying to construct something...a house that would perhaps be a legacy for their children, and their children's children, etc.  And apparently, both builders were affected by the same storm. 

He went on to tell how they were different -- the wise man took his time building his house, while the foolish man built his in haste.  Both built on different foundations -- one on a strong, firm foundation of solid rock; and the other on a weak, shaky foundation of sand, and where they built revealed the quality of the building, especially when a horrific storm came along.  

The wise builder took into account that storms WOULD come down the road, and he prepared accordingly. Jesus said that when the rains came, the waters rose and the winds beat against his house, it did not fall.   

But the foolish builder did not take into consideration the possibility of storms coming his way and therefore did not prepare his house adequately. Jesus said that when the rains came, the waters rose and the winds beat against his house, it fell with a loud crash (v. 27).  

Pastor Jared said that Jesus was comparing the wise builder to those who knew Him, heard His words and acted on them.  He compared the foolish builder to those who live as if God does not exist (Psalm 14:1- 'The fool says in his heart, "there is no God."'), hearing His words, but not putting them into practice.

Lesson learned from this sermon and this Scripture:

**Our best time to lay foundations is BEFORE the storms come -- not during, when we're so scared, confused and unfocused we're totally paralyzed; and not after, when it's much too late and we're left standing amid the rubble of our lives.   We must be prepared and ready.

Jesus has a promise, found in verse 25, for those of us whose hearts belong to Him:

For a life built on the Solid Rock of Jesus, no matter what happens to shock us, rock us or knock us down we can stand firm, with our faith remaining strong and secure.

May we be mindful today, as we gather together to worship our Lord, and every day, of the kind of life we are constructing, and on what kind of foundation we've chosen to build.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' Name.

On Christ, the soid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Friday, November 4, 2011



like a fine piece of crystal shattered in the kitchen sink --the shards twinkle enticingly among the soapy water, like beautiful diamonds....but be careful! They'll cut you to the quick. 



like a porcelain mug crashing onto the floor, into pieces much too small to attempt to glue back together.  All that's really left is the handle....but what good is it? 



like an antique pocket watch finally wound way too tight -- its face smashed, with springs bouncing and dangling every which way....a treasured family heirloom once but now?



like a child's doll, shiny and new, loved and cared for once upon a time --but now, hairless, with arms and legs missing; naked, sentenced to the bottom of the toy chest. 



like an old car, junked and left to rust and rot in someone's back yard, with weeds growing all around and through it -- in such desperate need of restoration, but no one has time, and the cost and effort are too great. 


like I am now

like I don't want to be

like God needs me to be, so that He can gently, lovingly transform me, restore me, make me like new!!


All of us, through various seasons of our lives, have experienced brokenness in one way or another.

And different people react and respond in different ways to life in their broken state.

Some of us may become angry and refuse to allow our brokenness to humble us, so we react by striking out in hurtful, harmful, even deadly ways to others -- and to ourselves.

Some of us may feel like a complete mess, believing the lie that we have no purpose in life any longer and that we are useless.

Still others may feel worthless, discarded, unloved, unloveable and forgotten in our brokenness.

And finally, some may feel unfixable and really when you come down to it -- we're just NOT worth someone else's time, effort and energy.  We're stuck being who and what we are. We'll never change.

Over the years, I have felt and wrestled with all of these things.  And all of these feelings, reactions and beliefs are so dead wrong.  Because our loving, gracious, patient and compassionate Abba Father is more than able to help us. 

He invites us to come to Him, our Creator God, in our messy state, like children with tear-stained faces, to bring Him all the broken pieces of our lives.  He is indeed the Potter and we are the clay.  And He alone.... IF we remain still upon the Potter's wheel, not trying to jump off part way through the process....can piece us carefully and lovingly back together.

God alone can:

Remold us...

Refresh us...

Renew us...

Restore us...

....transforming us into something even better than we were before.  Something...and someone....beautiful.

For we are God's workmanship -- His poetic masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)

Did you hear what I said?
Did you read the words I wrote down in red?
I was broken once for you
And no one loves you like I do

And that's the beauty of this grace
It can put the pieces back in place
And shine reflections of forgiveness
In a million different ways

So lift them up to Me
All the broken pieces
All the broken pieces of your life

To Me
All the broken pieces
All the broken pieces of your life ~ All The Broken Pieces, by Matthew West

(Below is a YouTube video for Matthew West's song, 'All The Broken Pieces.'  Kudos to the person/people who put this video's beautiful)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Christ, the Master Carpenter -- A Prayer of the Iona Community

Over a week or so ago, my friend Dawn made a post on her blog  entitled 'My Top 20 Christian Books List' (her blog is Beneath The Surface: Breath of Faith -- when you're done here, please scroll over to My Blog List, find her link and check it out). After reading it, I made the comment on how much I adore books, thanks to my mom consistently instilling a love for literature in me as I was growing up. It is a true fact that I'd much rather spend my time wandering through a library, a Barnes and Noble or some used bookstore than trudging through WalMart or the mall.

This summer, like the past few summers, my family and I spent a week's vacation at Brigantine Beach in New Jersey. A few times during the week, and especially on rainy days, we'd make the short trek over to their public library to rent DVDs and because they're the only place on the island that has free Wi-Fi --heaven forbid someone should miss an email or a facebook post! Anyway, in the basement of this library lies a virtual treasure trove for me.....bargain books for sale!!!! You can find just about anything there, from cookbooks to comic books, children's classics to Christian fiction, it's all there and all for under five bucks.

This year, among other things, I came across a book (for 50 cents!!!) entitled, 'The Beginning of Wisdom,' edited by Thomas Becknell and Mary Ellen Ashcroft. On each page is a prayer or a poem by someone --teacher, poet, missionary, writer -- who spent much of their life in the pursuit of wisdom.

The editors of this book point out in its introduction that wisdom is something that really doesn't appeal to us in this day and age.  Wealth, beauty, a buff bod, the fastest car, a good credit score and the latest electronic gizmos and gadgets are the things that head up our culture's 'wish list.'  Yet wisdom is something we desperately need.  The Bible says in Proverbs 9:10 that 'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,' and the beginning of wisdom is recognizing our NEED for God. 

Beginning today and intermittantly thereafter, I'd like to share with you some of this book's various prayers and writings;  some are from very learned people and some come from those who received no formal education in life at all; some names you may recognize, some you may not. But it's my desire that these prayers and poems will bring you encouragement, comfort and hope for the day, as well as a sense of peace and the nearness of our Lord, as I myself have found in the reading of them.

And -- that you might be moved to pursue wisdom as if were a matter of life and death.  Because actually, it is:

            Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
            Though it cost all you have, get understanding ~ Proverbs 4:7, NIV

Today's prayer comes from the Iona Community, founded by George MacLeod in 1938 on an island off Scotland's coast.  Members of this large community practice living the common, simple life in the midst of violence in various urban centers,  working for peace and social justice, the rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship. 

Christ, The Master Carpenter

O Christ, the Master Carpenter
Who, at the last, through wood and nails,
Purchased our whole salvation.

Wield well Your tools in the workshop of Your world,
So that we, who come rough-hewn to Your bench
May here be fashioned to a truer beauty of Your hand.

We ask it for Your own Name's sake.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

Today is November 1st, All Saints’ Day, and on this day, I’m remembering, and missing, some of the saints who touched my life:

Dee Hunt
Leon Hunt
Alvin McNair
Dawn Hunter
Janette Rein
Carolyn Allen

These people were ordinary people -- dads, moms, some were grandparents; going to work, raising their children, serving at church, their children's schools and sports teams, and in their community in humble ways-- but you could tell simply by being in their presence, just how strongly God’s hand was upon them and how brightly the Person of the Holy Spirit shone from within.

They were spiritual mentors and role models. They lived well, loved well and served well.

Each one of them loved the Lord God, as it says in Scripture, with all their hearts, souls, strength and minds.

In their times of struggle, loss, pain and illness, they trusted the Lord with everything they had. When hit hard and knocked down by storms and fiery trials, they wouldn’t instantly whine “Why me??!”, but had learned instead to ask, “What lesson does God want me to learn here?” Being a whiner myself (and coming from a long line of whiners), I was blown away by their godly confidence, perseverance, and their total trust in the Lord God. And I’m learning, slowly, as I go through my own trying times, to ask the latter question, rather than the former, thanks to these beautiful saints.

No matter what they were going through or what heavy burdens they were carrying at the time, they took the time to reach out and encourage others, making them feel welcome, special, cared for and yes, loved: at church, in their homes or in their hospital rooms, as I recall Janette Rein and Dee Hunt doing for me.

These were people who didn’t just SAY they were going to pray for you -- they would grab your hand, pull you aside and pray with and for you right on the spot.

Or right over the phone.  I remember clearly one instance where I made a desperate call to Dee Hunt and realized too late that she was in Disney World on vacation with her husband, son and grandsons. In fact, she hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet, they were just pulling into a parking spot. I apologized profusely and was about to hang up, but Dee wouldn’t hear of it. I heard her tell her family to just go on for a bit, she’d catch up with them, there was a spiritual battle to be fought. I will never forget that she did that for me.

And one sweet sister in particular, Dawn Hunter, ALWAYS seemed to know whenever I was in the greatest need and at the end of my rope. She would call to pray for me and give me a timely word from God, to comfort me or convict me.

Each of these precious, staunch prayer warriors wore their full armor of God at all times, and would make sure that you had on yours.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see their sincere, loving and dazzling smiles, which, like their laughter, was contagious and comforting. The joy of the Lord was indeed their strength.

Each one had a desire to see everyone they met or had a relationship with come to know that they too were ordinary people who were loved by an extraordinary God, sinners saved by grace.
Those of us who knew them felt that each was taken home much too soon. I’m so grateful for how each one touched my life….some in small ways, some in big ways.

I miss them dearly.

I remember them often.

I remember them today.

I know I will see them all one day.

A cloud of witnesses
Lined up on a street of gold
As they run the final mile
That leads them to a throne.

And through the cloud of witnesses
They see God upon the throne.
And as they fall into His arms,
They know they're home in
A cloud of witnesses,
Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. ~ Cloud of Witnesses, by Mark Schultz
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