Thursday, January 21, 2016

Amped Up Joy Moments

Driving home after work through the snow-touched Iowa countryside, I looked to the west and saw deep pink, broad brushstrokes in the sky. I praised God and told Him I didn't know why He  made the sky that way, but I was glad He did.

I was listening to Pastor Chip Ingram on my OnePlace app, as he shared about an encouraging mentor in his life. The man he spoke of, opened a conversation with a booming greeting, and asked if Chip was rejoicing in the Lord. Joyful, and direct. Very nice combination.

I'm still driving, of course, and Chip turned the question on his listeners. Am I rejoicing? What a coincidence. As a matter of fact, yes. (If you know me, you know I know better than coincidences.)

Well, yeah, I told Chip, right there in my '08 Rondo. "How could I not? Look at that sky." Yes, I pointed. Poor Chip couldn't see. A deep pink Iowa sunset over a farm field covered in snow - the contrast - indeed it prompts praise in the heart of a believer.

Then God shows me something else. Deer. They're common, but dotting the field, they're a special sign of life on a cold day. However, two deer stood on their hind legs facing each other, their soft, white undersides plain to see, a fight. Ah, fighting in the wild. Not an everyday sight, especially when I'm normally drilling my eyes down the highway on my commute home. It was a beautiful moment, that deepened into an amped up moment of wonder.

I saw the a pink, winter sunset, the ritual of deer vying for victory, and heard a great message about surrounding yourself with encouraging, honest, noteworthy people as mentors. It reminded me to set up a supper with my own wise and loving mentor. This all happened in the span of a 35-minute drive. Not bad, Lord.

God gave me these moments. He redeems the time it takes me to get to and from work, because I make a point to look for Him and welcome Him. Seeing the good side of nature, feeling His presence during the winter, now that's evidence of God's wonder.

The earth is the Lord's and everything in it. 1 Cor. 10:26

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Heritage from the Lord

I often hear people talk about the burdens of parenting, right in front of their children. Ouch.

Yes, parenting takes full engagement, physical, mental, emotional and, yes, spiritual. It's work. The depth of the demands surprise us. But so do the rewards. Somewhere along the way, did someone tell us parenting isn't a blessing?

Or did we go the other direction, and turn our children into little idols? Another fair question for our day, but another post.

Did we forget that the Lord takes the hard days, the 104 degree fevers, spinal taps, two-year-old temper tantrums, ADD, piano recitals, struggles with costume modesty for dance competitions, good grades, sweet teachers, and He uses all of it for our character, and our child’s?

I'm not saying, mind you, that God wants illness or sin. God is good. He set the standard, but we live in a world that doesn't function as He planned. I could talk about the enemy, his minions and our God-given authority, but that's another topic. I'm wondering about our thought patterns about parenting.

God’s so wise, so loving, so relevant, that He uses lots of different events - skinned knees, bike wrecks, humdrum hours, bubbles in the bathtub and athletic and academic triumphs, however that's defined for your child.

Yes, He uses that which the world intended for evil, too. Further, He uses the little events — sweeping the spilled Cheerios for the seventh time, shocking trials you thought you knew your child would never experience, boring waiting rooms and our own unreasonable expectations. My in-control, but free-will-giving Lord turns that all into a glorious story about His creation when we're open to His molding. 

His creations include the children He chose to make and entrust to us. He continues to work. Our children's lives and ours write a testimony of His rich provision, grace, mercy, love, and so much more. Did we forget?

Do we forget? Do I? Sometimes. 

Children are a heritage from the Lord, a gift, other versions say.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

All of God

The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.' Numbers 14:18 NIV

I need that God. I need that God who is "slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion."

I want that God, too. He's so approachable. Tender in my weakness. Patient in my stubborn selfishness.

But that second part, oh, that part after the semicolon. I resist thinking about the God who "punishes children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation." That's not how I would do it. Or would I?

When I question the ways of the one true God, that's rebellion, if my sometimes headstrong attitude accompanies those queries. I'm His child. His Spirit lives within me, teaching me, guiding me and protecting my heart and mind. I know better. But sometimes I fail. Still, God picks me back up again.

I'm thankful for Jesus Christ. His work fully God, fully man here on earth. The healings, and the teaching that came from that eternally fruitful time. I'm thankful God created me after the New Testament. But His truth was displayed in Old Testament times as well. 

He doesn't change. He's always been the one true God. Jesus is always; He's eternal. That means when God laid down this statement about punishing subsequent generations for their parents' sin, Jesus was there. He just hadn't come here yet. Of course, that changed how we can approach God if we have Jesus in our lives.

I'm thankful that I'm covered under the new covenant. I heard so much about the new covenant growing up in my little country church. I love the God of the new covenant.

But I trust in the very same God who made the Heavens and the Earth. I trust the very same God of the Pentateuch, which is the first five books of the Bible. Among the five is the book of Numbers. 

Beyond that, I trust the God of the books of history, poetry and wisdom, and prophets in the Old Testament. He's the same God, the very same God, displayed in the New Testament gospels, epistles, or letters, a New Testament history book, and in New Testament prophecy and apocalyptic books. 

God created the beauty we know as the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Like the depths of the ocean and the height of the sky, both of which humans don't understand to a great extent, God is mysterious. He's the One who teaches, and He reveals Himself to us, yet much we must leave in His perfect hands. 

The books are interwoven, because they're written by our eternal Lord. I can't have one without the other. I love the God of the new covenant. I love the Lord of my life today.

But I love the God of Adam and Eve; Moses, Miriam, and Aaron; Joseph, Nehemiah, Isaiah and David.

I love God. And I trust God.

We've been through hard times in our family. Shock. Grief. Disappointment. I wept to a pastor about one of these problems in particular. He told me, "Helene, this is when you go back to what you know for sure."

So I started making a list. Not surprisingly, what I put at the top of my list involves God. He loves me and my family. His Word is true. He's present where I am not, so His control and protection extend to places I cannot reach. My eternity is secure because of Him. I can trust Him, and I can trust Him with me, and with my family. 

So I extrapolate, if I can trust Him today, in my life, could the words of Numbers be trustworthy too? Could those hard words we dislike hearing be important for our protection, and for the protection of our predecessors? Important for our lives and for keeping me, and us, from the consequences of sin? 

If I trust God based on His Word and His work, which I truly do, I trust His Words and His ways. Today, and before the new covenant.

When He sounds gentle and encouraging to me, and when He sounds firm, even stern, and unbending. Yet, regardless of how He sounds to me, no matter how I feel or think about what He says or what He does, He's trustworthy, even when I doubt. My logic doesn't touch His.

He does everything at the right time, in the right way. Always. In contrast, as much as I try, I fall short.

But I decide to trust in His justice, over and over again. I know His punishment is called for when He delivers it. Discipline and tests, too. New Testament, Old Testament and today, I trust my God.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 ESV

I love and respect my God, who is tender enough to welcome small children and crabby adults into His family, and so strong as to hold vengeance as His territory. Generous and loving enough to send His Son and allow Him to die. So strong as to raise Him up again.

I love Him. I'm glad He is Who He is. Because as much as He values me, as much as He gifted me, as much as He granted me a rich faith life, my wisdom doesn't touch His foolishness. My creativity, my imagination and my motives aren't as great as His. Not even close.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Cor. 1:25 NIV

And to His glory, when I can't count on me, I can trust Him. 

Yesterday, today and forever.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

God and My Girl's Cornea

You know, God works circumstances out for the best. Yesterday, my ninth grade daughter was supposed to visit the eye doctor after school. 

But she also needed to attend speech practice, and then Parade of Bands at our high school. It was to be a busy evening. And I knew some projects at work needed my full focus, so leaving work early would not be the best plan that day.  

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
All things. Even scheduling conflicts, and appointment time turnarounds.  

So I called her eye doctor in the morning, and left a message to cancel. Still, I felt odd about delaying the appointment for what would probably be a couple of months. Then I talked back and forth with the star speech coach. And she said it would be possible to re-schedule practice for my daughter. So I called the eye doctor back. (Anyone besides me tired and confused yet?) Guess what they said when I called. They said they never cancelled her appointment. Their scheduling software was down, and no other patient called needing the time slot, so it never happened.

So, we go to our eye doctor, and, ahem, one-third of my daughter's cornea is inflamed. And he can't clearly see why. What???? Now, I know this isn't the glaucoma or the macular degeneration my mother has to face, but this was just a regular yearly contact and eyeglasses prescription update. 

Now, my daughter did get pummeled in the face with a ball in gym on Monday (She, by the way, still won that round.) But she doesn't complain about any pain, and didn't even think the ball hit her eye necessarily at all. So it is a little strange. Further, she's tougher than iron ore, but apparently the cornea can lose sensitivity, which, our fabulous eye doctor said will recover.

So, back we go to the eye doctor tomorrow morning after treating her eye with antibiotic drops, which should result in improvement by then. I'm sure Daphne is fine. Smile. But there's more.

This morning, a voicemail from yesterday just registered on my cell phone (typical). The eye doctor's office called, and they had, in fact, cancelled the appointment, the person said. 

This is interesting. I could write it all off as coincidence. But I won't. I certainly feel glad, grateful-to-God-glad, our eye doctor examined her. 

I wouldn't want to leave an ear infection, strep throat or some other illnesses to cause problems. I don't know what damage, if any, this would do if left untreated. But as I see it, there's no need to leave one-third of my daughter's right cornea inflamed. Because God stepped into the everyday of a routine eye doctor appointment, it won't be. Yes, He's like that, for my girl.

Because you are my help,I sing in the shadow of your wings.Psalm 63:7

Friday, March 1, 2013

John 11 & The Love of Jesus

In the ancient setting of John 11, we see a lifestyle as one of dusty roads, community wells — and burial tombs.

Of course, in our heads we know the joyful days, and the hard days, came pre-air conditioning, pre-Kleenex, pre-running water — pre-caskets and burial vaults. It was a time before funeral homes and morticians. It was an era when loved ones prepared the bodies of their dead.

We see sisters Mary and Martha broken over the death of their brother, Lazarus. If Jesus had been by their brother’s side, they simply knew, Lazarus would have lived. They understood the power of their Teacher, their Lord. They worshiped and loved Jesus.

Read John 11, looking closely at verse 33.

In verse 33, the Bible tells us, when Jesus saw Mary of Bethany weeping over the loss of her brother, and some other Jews also with her weeping, “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

Have you wept? Have you lost a Lazarus?

Jesus did. The Bible says so in v. 35. Some Jews with Mary and Martha, seeing how Jesus reacted, were moved enough by the evidence of his affection for Lazarus that they acknowledged it aloud. In verse 36 they said, “See how he loved him!”

Now, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

So if Jesus knew Martha’s and Mary’s pain, he knows ours, too. He’s just as all-seeing, just as all-knowing, just as compassionate today as ever.

Yet, doubters and scoffers pop up everywhere, don’t they?

The same was true for other Jews present to witness the mourning of Mary, Martha, Jesus and other Jews. Verse 37 says, “But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Who will I be? Who will you be?

Life in this world comes with trials; God tells us that plain and simple.

However, I can, and you can, choose the best perspective. One of trust. Of assurance.

So, I will rest in Him, knowing – at least trying to know - if I am grieving a person, blessing or gift, God, too, is deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

Of course, I will still weep and wail, feel pain deeply. A healthy perspective includes in the life equation, trust for a God who loves us, and sees what we cannot. I’ll try to include that factor in times of shock and disappointment. I  pray He helps me remember. God sees the whys. The hows. The eternal perspective.

See how He loves us!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Good Reads for '13

The New Year unfolds around me with a foot of snow on the ground, leftover from a Dec. 20 blizzard that affected a major portion of the Midwest. The snow proves beauty is possible for creation, even when the temperatures fall into the single digits.

The season dishes up a wonderful excuse to hibernate — and to my delight — read. At Christmas 2011, my husband gave me an e-reader. I must say he has always been an exceptional gift giver.

But I don’t want to be selfish. Considering all the time I spent in books in 2012, on and off my e-reader, I feel compelled that some of my reading time bear fruit. So I start my 2013 blogging with recommendations for reading for pleasure, information and inspiration.

Those close to me express no surprise whatsoever when I share my penchant for romance. My (short-lived) news reporter background gives me a special love for crime books, though I always loved a good mystery. Stories and non-fiction centering around children, mental health and missions dig into some of my deeper passions. A few books I read in 2012 for the second time, which is not a frequent practice of mine.

On the list, I include some of my favorite reference books, too, as digging into word meanings, specific ideas for living my faith every single day and cultural settings spark my learning as I study my favorite book, God’s Word.

On this list, I’ll include only books by Christian authors, though, of course, in 2012, I read and enjoyed other novelists and writers, as well. And I recognize that God gifted not just those who follow Him.

Sharing such a list, I find rather personal, because it reveals more deeply my bent. But I believe to share books with such openness is worth the risk, because they may help or bless others. And I pray many more people find time spent in hibernation with some of these books worthwhile.

Favored Books of 20121. I Want to Enjoy My Children, by Harry Brand, Ph.D., Kerry L. Skinner – Parenting – Full of personal stories, Biblical guidance, sound reasoning

2.  Kisses from Katie, by Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark — True story of an  American who moved to Uganda to care for children upon graduating from high school 
3. Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free, by Emily Colson — Wonderful look into the life of a single mom and her autistic son, includes details of the involvement of many special people in their lives 
4. The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom — After long desiring to read this, 2012 was the year for it. What a riveting recount of a family who made it their business to hide Jews and sympathizers while their country was occupied by Germany in WWII.

5. Tramp for the Lord, by Corrie ten Boom — This book shares how after WWII Corrie ten Boom continued to rely on God, traveling the world to share the love of Jesus, and God’s faithfulness through the trials of WWII, and all it meant for her and her family 
6. Pretense by Lori Wick — A read that lasts, following across two generations. A romance with a great deal of depth, with insight into two sisters’ individuality and the love of family through grief and remarriage. Includes realistic accounts of fleeing and fighting temptation. Wick is a longtime favorite author of mine. 
7. The Interpreter’s Bible — I added this resource to my inventory this year after buying the entire used set. It had been a resource of a recent Bible study leader of mine, and I’d hoped to run across a used set at some point. What a wonderful surprise and gift from God! Without adding or taking away from the Word, it delves into cultural insights, detailed definitions and cross-reference verses. 
8. Squeaky Clean Mysteries series by Christy Barritt — Series about a young woman, a crime scene cleaner, with some honest questions about God. (Possibly not for those with a weak stomach.) A new fiction author to me, I enjoyed Barritt’s ability to give her characters distinct personalities. 
9. When Joy Came to Stay, by Karen Kingsbury — A young couple appears to have it all together, but hidden mistakes, and a subsequent mental health issue, come to light. Shows the story of foster children, and includes a mentorship relationship. Also shows God’s care throughout the discovery of depression and help received for it. Kingsbury is another go-to author of mine.
10. Critical Condition (Undercover Cops series), by Sandra Orchard — A nurse and undercover officer dance around romance while the officer poses as a hospital IT guy, Another new fiction author to me in 2012, I appreciated Orchard’s inclusion of a controversial healthcare topic, and her ability to attach appropriate emotions, reactions and thought processes to the critically ill and their loved ones. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Investigating Words

Today, I thank God that He speaks so specifically to me, and that He’s the One Who wants to relate in a special way to everyone.

In worship this morning, we sang “Mighty to Save”  — to God. The song’s not at all new to our church, but it refreshed me. As we worshiped, I studied a bit. And I remembered a Bible study method.

I started picking up specific words in the song.

“Everyone needs compassion...”
Over the last several months the truth of my need for receiving compassion grew dauntingly real as someone dear and close to me needed it in a critical way.

“A love that’s never failing…”
In the throes of pain, shock and crisis, the concept of a never-failing love becomes a go-to comfort and promise. And when I’ve made a mistake, or someone I love is in grave danger, I have begged, “Let mercy fall on me,”(her/him). And the words of a song glorify God and His mercy.

Singing, “The hope of nations,” I consider my friend, Janelle, born on the Navajo Reservation, the Navajo Nation. She indeed brings hope to her nation by allowing her Lord to work through her.

And “My God is Mighty to Save.” Mighty.

To another woman worshiping with the same song, she perhaps emphasizes the word “everyone” in the phrase, “Everyone needs compassion.” This Christ-follower experiences cruelty at work from someone, and longs for compassion. Then she recognizes by the Holy Spirit that the manager acting cruelly, may need to experience compassionate help herself. Everyone needs it.

For a young man discerning a call from God, the word nations in the phrase, “The hope of nations,” leads him to a deep swallow, and a thanks to God for the Holy Spirit nudge, which comes in the form of a life direction shift toward international missions.

Do certain words especially resonate with you in music worship?

What about during Bible study? Have you experienced moments when you felt God brought specific words and phrases in Scripture to your attention because of a challenge or victory in your life? Do you enjoy wonderfully wasting time in the Word? Do you study the Bible much at all?

I’m thankful for those lazy times of discovery in the Word. And I urge seeking people to dig into the Word, and intentionally emphasize different words, and let the verses of God’s love letter to you become integral with your identity.

I love Ephesians 2:10.  God rewards me greatly when I pick apart specific words and appreciate them. I like comparing specific words of the excerpt from the letter to the church in Ephesus in different translations.

Ephesians 2:10
New International Version (NIV)
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10
New Living Translation (NLT)
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

(Both versions copied from

In the NIV version, we are called God’s handiwork. It sounds purposeful, as if His great skill and attention were fully on the task of making me. In the NLT, we are called God’s masterpiece. I like that even better. In fact, I love it. I gain the sense of “and he called it good.” I feel God’s deep pleasure in my mere existence when I read that I’m His masterpiece.

In the NIV version, how I read it, the phrase “created in Christ Jesus,” reminds me Christ Himself is my Creator, too.  It’s one of those tricky Trinity moments, a conscious reminder – in my personal mind and interpretation - that Jesus is God, God is one, and thus Jesus made me and is too, Creator. That may not be the contextual meaning, but it’s something I gain. And it’s good.

In the NLT version, I think more of my rebirth in Jesus Christ when I accepted Him as Savior. I see the moment of being cleansed by His sacrifice and defeat of death. Both views, Jesus as Creator and Jesus as Savior, hold true. Still, the nuances of words say slightly different things to me, even though the overall meaning I understand matches exactly for both translations.

Ah, I wonder so much why it is I find such adventure in the Bible. My curiosity and hunger will remain insatiable; they’re a gift from Him, not a habit or character quality of mine. And in the truth of that, why is it that I would ever fail to set aside time with God in His Word? I definitely miss out when I pass on it for a day.

Reading the passage aloud, I can emphasize different words. When I say “we” louder than the rest, I remember I’m part of the Body of Christ. All of us are God’s masterpieces, all of us with special works prepared for us.

When I say “advance” from the NIV version with more conviction, I am touched that God foreknew that I would accept Christ and desire a kingdom purpose. When I whisper the word “good,” I consider how much the world needs more good works, good things.

To a person feeling dubious about the Word of God, none of this may convince you. Still, I invite you to try it.