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imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

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I saw a news post this morning called Five Things Couples Can Learn from Pairs Skaters. It featured several of our Olympic couples and listed the following as the glue that keeps them together:

  1. Share a Purpose
  2. Talk, Talk, Talk
  3. Forgiveness is Divine
  4. Learn to Trust
  5. Define Your Roles

Just having returned from a long day in the car with my spouse of 46 and one half years, I can accept that list. But I’m not sure it fully explores the key to success – at least for marriage.  So I came up with my own list.

5 Things Couples Can Learn From 46 years of Skating (sometimes on very thin ice):

 Share a purpose or have an ulterior motive.  Example: My purpose for a recent 4 hour drive was a half day workshop. That’s a lot of driving in one day and I didn’t want to spend the night. I thought about how fun it would be if my husband went along and did all the driving.  I realized he might not think it that much fun. So, I planted an ulterior motive seed. The town we were visiting has a huge Cabela’s a few miles from where my workshop was being held. Instead of asking him if he’d drive, I simply suggested he might like browsing one of his favorite stores while I was in my training. Bingo!  Applied to several hundred situations over the 46 years this method has resulted in lots of smooth skating and successful routines.

 Talk, Talk, Talk or Not, Not, Not.  Flashing back on a one day road trip a few weeks ago I took with my girlfriends I distinctly remember every single second being filled with conversation.  I can honestly say there was no down time. There never is, whether it be a Starbucks break, a trip, or a quick run-into them at the mall.

It’s different with my husband. For one thing, he is a man of few words and I mean few. He is not a chatterer. If words were money, the ones he saves – leaves unsaid – would put him ahead of Bill Gates in wealth. There are times when I spend several minutes asking a question, filling it with lots of flowery description, analytical thought and analogies lest he not get where I’m headed and, heaven forbid, answer in the wrong way.  All that effort most usually gets a yes or a no, period, end of conversation.  We have come to the point where I don’t expect more and he doesn’t expect less.

 Forgiveness is – well, you need a goodly supply.  A long marriage doesn’t usually have big problems like infidelity. But it isn’t without its small, incredibly irritating, grating on your nerves, drive you to insanity issues.  Like the fact that he never attempts to fasten his seatbelt until you are already flying down the road. Or the fact that he doesn’t think to turn on the windshield wipers until you are past the point of  being able to see  the centerline. Or the fact that he keeps messing with your radio station settings. And I haven’t even started on the toilet seat, the whiskers in the sink, his dog on the bed, ad infinitum!

Then again – he does carry out the garbage, fix my flat tires, lift heavy things, repair broken stuff, ad infinitum! So – a lot of forgiveness and a lot of praise and thankfulness have kept us in the gold medal running for a long time.

 Learn to Trust: Trust that he will someday start on the honey do list. Trust that he will learn to do laundry or cook or load the dishwasher. Trust that he will someday remember you don’t like cheese on your hamburgers and you can’t drink water without a straw.  The earlier you trust the fact that rocky spots won’t last forever, the days you can’t stand him will be overshadowed by the days you love him beyond measure, and he may not be perfect but compared to what’s out there you are pretty darn blessed – the longer you’ll be partners, and the more synchronized your marriage dance will be.

Define Your Roles: That’s easy in my house. My role is to make him think he is the boss.  My role is to make him think it was his idea. My role is to make sure he knows how great he is. And my role is to remember that I picked him out of a very big pond and since I’m pretty much always right I must have made the right choice.  Yes – sometimes I shake my head in wonder and yes, sometimes I ask “what was I thinking” but for the most part he and are the perfect triple Salchow (a skating term that I have no idea what it means but it sound cool). Our ice dance just gets better and better.

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:6-9

 

 

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imagesCAYQ3DZ0Any idea how Black Friday got it’s name?  Actually, it was first called Black Friday in 1966 by police because of the chaos, traffic jams and acts of violence associated with the day. It has become a very profitable day for retailers and certainly, a profitable day for bargain shoppers if you are willing to get up early, stand in line, fight the crowds and push and shove your way to the best buys of the day.

Are you a Black Friday shopper?  Then I’d like to bring to your mind a little scripture in Mark’s gospel (8:36) that goes like this, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  The message Bible puts it this way, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

In the me-version paraphrase, “Is that piece of electronic equipment or that great buy on name brand boots worth compromising your entire Christian list of principles?”

I heard on the news today that the Greater Sacramento Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is set to unveil 55 billboards touting atheism this Christmas season.  Frightening!

But even more frightening, the billboard Christian shoppers will be displaying on Black Friday if we fall into the trap of losing who we really are to the lure of being first, gaining a material advantage over displaying Christ, and worst of all – setting a poor, long lasting example for our children, friends and whoever else might be observing our actions.

Here are my Black Friday tips to assure that your billboard flashes a message of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal 5:22-23)

  1. Don’t leave the house on Black Friday if you think you won’t be able to display the Christ you want others to see.
  2. If you do go, at some point in the day, let someone go ahead of you in line and wish them a Merry Christmas (not a Happy Holiday or Seasons Greetings). This will shock some, bless some and make you feel great.
  3. Smile at everyone.  Smile at the young mother with few funds and a deep desire to make her children’s Christmas special. Smile at the elderly gentleman who can’t move as fast as everyone else. Smile at the husband who doesn’t have a clue and is just going where his wife points. Smile especially at the retail clerk who has answered the same question sixteen thousand times without gritting his teeth. Yes, even smile at the cranky woman who wants to argue and complain to everyone around her.
  4. Hold a door, give up a parking place, pick up a dropped package, do something nice at least once every half hour to remind yourself who you are and what you are trying to convey.
  5. Hum along with the Christmas music blaring throughout the mall.  You will be surprised how it will lift your spirit and take your mind off the inconvenience of the crowds.
  6. Look like Jesus to the weary, hungry crowd. People aren’t always looking for bargains. They are all too often looking for kindness, compassion, gentleness and hope. God’s gift is that with his empowerment you can be all of those things even on Black Friday!
  7. Arm yourself with the full armor. You will need it on this day more than you’ve ever needed it before.  Remember them?  Truth (when the harried clerk gives too much change back),  righteousness (the first shall be last kind of mentality in the midst of the shoving), the Gospel of peace (when everything around you is chaos),  faith (that God has a better plan when you miss out on the big deal of the day that you got up early and stood in line for), salvation (nothing is worth losing your salvation over) and the sword of the Spirit (the one you wield when you’ve been stabbed in the back, stomped into a corner, shoved out of the way and shoutedat).

And when you get home, pour yourself a hot cup of tea or chocolate. Sit down by the fire. Close our eyes and thank God that with His hand in yours you navigated Black Friday in a manner He would be proud of.

God bless you all this Thanksgiving week!

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’  Matthew 25:21

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Holding Hands with Elderly PatientYou can’t turn around today and not hear talk about the Affordable Care Act.  You will hear it referred as the hope of nations all the way to the worst idea in history.  Heated arguments from both sides abound.

As a Human Resource Director I am especially buried in the struggle to understand the new law and how it will impact my company and my employees.

We all know the complications that have risen to the surface as the government tries to implement the ACA. It’s the typical “someone thought it was a great idea but then everyone stopped thinking.”  All we really know is it’s supposed to cure the ills of the healthcare system, it is going to cost a fortune, nobody has figured out for sure how to make it work and someone has to pay for it and that someone is us.

Oh yes, and one more thing we know – the promises made over the last few years regarding the ACA are being broken right and left.

If only we could wake up and recognize that affordable care isn’t an original idea at all.  It’s not new. It’s not a breakthrough plan that has to be implemented at a high cost and mountain of frustration.

God came up with the idea of affordable care long, long ago.  Matthew 25:40 outlines that plan.  “…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the tools to make it work.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1 John 3:17-18 explains how to pay for it in a manner that won’t rob Peter to pay Paul. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

And Galatians 6:9 tells us what to do when it looks like God’s Affordable Care Act isn’t working.  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there is a problem with out health care system.  I know some aren’t getting the care they need and others are squandering the care they get. I just don’t believe any system will work without the principles of Christian love and compassion as the foundation.

We can’t force people to care. We can’t tax people and hope that makes them compassionate. We can’t talk pretty promises and expect people to buy into them blindly.

The only way to fix something that is broken is to first apply the healing ointment of Christ’s love.

We don’t need Obamacare.  We need O-God-help-us-care!

 

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r4-7a[1]You may have noticed I’ve been absent from my blog for several weeks. I wish I could say I broke both arms and was unable to type or give some other really credible excuse.  I can’t.  It’s just that life came at me with both claws bared and I have been fighting to regain a little control. My sister finally gave me a convicting call, encouraging me to get back on track. So – I’m back.

We’ve pretty much finished motorcycle season. Temperatures have dropped drastically and even though we’ve had some blindingly sunny days, don’t be deceived. It has been cold. The last few rides were glorious with the autumn colors in full splendor, a method of luring you into enjoying the view and ignoring the obvious warning that winter is well on its way.

I just returned from a wonderful, uplifting and highly enjoyable two days away with 20 other ladies at a Women of Faith Conference.  Along with being spiritually stimulated we laughed so much our sides ached.  There is not a topic that can’t be broached when you get a bunch of ladies in a car together. I have a stack of funny stories to tell but I will limit it to one today.

Three carloads of us caravanned over the mountains to make sure we all found our way to the hotel and the conference location.  I took the lead, driving my sister’s new car which is of course equipped with a highly technical GPS system. Staying connected on the freeway in bumper to bumper Seattle traffic is not easy.

We were doing great until the sweet-voiced GPS lady took us down a bad path. Once we realized she had mislead us and was “recalculating” we had to exit the freeway, circle around and get back on the freeway headed the opposite direction.  All three vehicles actually managed that with no problem.

Shortly after getting back on route however, my cell phone rang and my sister answered. She spoke for a few seconds, collapsed in hysterical laughter, and it took us about 10 miles to get out of her what the call was all about. The driver of the van behind us had called because she saw us taking a wrong exit.  She was trying to tell us to get back on the freeway before it was too late.  But, she went ahead and followed us onto the exit, as did the other car in the caravan. Turns out they were following the wrong white Hyundai!

It all worked out. Everyone ended up at the right destination and we laughed about the confusion.

So what do my bike story and my caravan story have in common?  Deception.

How many times in life have I gotten so involved in the beauty of the moment that I totally ignored the warnings of what lay ahead?  And how many times have I chosen to follow someone and found myself off track and needing redirection?  More times than I’d like to admit.

God’s word tells us  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1John 4:1

We should never listen blindly to anyone’s direction and we should always be sure of whom we choose to follow.  Today more than ever false prophets abound, telling us one behavior is right when it is clearly wrong, or another act is acceptable when it is definitely not. Our attention is caught by many things including bright colors and clever wording and before we know it we are separated from the only One who can give us good and wise direction.

A few wrong turns on a ladies weekend can be cause for laughter. A few wrong turns in our spiritual walk are not quite as funny. In fact, they are dangerous, damaging and devastating.

Let your everyday GPS be the Word of God and you will never have to worry about fighting your way back onto the freeway.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” Phil 1:9-10

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MP900049751[1]Ahhh – sunshine.  A commodity my home town is famous for but which has been in short supply these past few weeks. Instead, we’ve had rain.  Lots of rain.

But this morning I’m looking out the large window of my office at clear blue skies and sun so bright it is glistening off the still wet grass and kissing the trees until their leaves wiggle in delight.

I am looking forward to our Saturday ride – finally. So far this year it’s been cold, windy, overcast or rainy. Not every ride has been completely miserable but close. So I have a habit of praying at the start of each ride, “God, if I have to be cold or wet at least let me see something amazing along the way.” And He is always faithful to answer.

A couple of weeks ago as I was hunkered down shivering I spotted two large bald eagles, a male and a female, perched high in a tall pine tree. They just sat there like they owned the world, guarding their nest and watching us with haughty eyes as if laughing at our silly venture.

Last week as I was dodging raindrops I spotted a beautiful buck deer still in the velvet but already showing about 4 points on each side standing knee deep in a field. As if the sight of him wasn’t a breathtaking enough, next to him was a sleek and graceful doe and her young fawn. The whole family just standing there watching us roar by, reminding us there’s more to life than racing down a highway.

This weekend the weather is forecast to be in the mid eighties with clear skies and sunshine. I’m finally looking forward to the ride because I know the hills will dressed in green and flowers will be popping their colorful heads to bask in the beautiful day.

Pondering on this fact I realized the reason the scenery will be so beautiful on Saturday is because of the amount of rain we’ve had this spring.

And that led me to understand just how God answered my prayer these past weeks. I thought the amazing things he wanted me to see were the eagles and the family of deer grazing.  Actually, He was letting me see how He never focuses on a single moment in answering my prayers. He looks at the entire picture of my life and provides in such a way that I experience Him over and over and over.

I heard a comment in a training session I attended a few days ago and it has stayed with me. The comment came from a farmer’s prospective.  “Drip irrigation beats a flash flood any day.”

God is definitely a drip irrigation kind of guy, providing a steady stream of what we need rather than giving us everything in a flash flood. The rain drops I dodged two weeks ago will result in miles and miles of enjoyment in days to come.

I am reminded not to take everything I see at face value. When God answers prayer He doesn’t do it to gratify a momentary need. He does in such a way as to provide a better path moving forward and a greater impact on my future.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater  Isaiah 55:10

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 MM900254494[1]We got our miracle this past week when my granddaughter’s test results were negative for cancer. It wasn’t what the doctors expected and I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t what I expected.

I’m ashamed that I was prepared for the worst instead of claiming the best. A legion of prayer warriors was beseeching God on our behalf. I myself  spent hours and hours in fervent prayer.

And – we prayed specifically for a miracle. But when it came – my reaction was disappointing. I didn’t immediately jump for joy. Instead, I wondered how that could be. If four biopsies came back abnormal, how could a fifth test come back negative? What if they made a mistake? What if they missed something? Should we get another opinion? Should we trust the results?

It took a few hours for me to truly believe that God had answered our prayers exactly as we’d requested. What originally was bad news had been flipped around by the Hand of God. Why was that so hard for me to grasp?

Our pastor has been preaching a series on the Lord’s prayer and just this past week I noted and underlined a statement he made.  He said, “People who pray mighty God centered prayers live a mighty God centered life.”

I’m trying to live a mighty God centered life. I believe in the power of prayer. So why is it so hard for me to accept a miracle when it happens?

I think it has to do with a world that pelts us daily with horror and violence, immorality and disappointment, bad news heaped on bad news.  Seldom do you come across an uplifting, positive piece of reporting. Each day when we turn on the TV or open the newspaper we are programmed to prepare for the worst.

If we would only open the Bible first we’d see a different story. Bad things happened in Biblical times but they were never the headline.  The headlines are always the redemption, the promises of God, the restoration, the forgiveness, the love – always the love.

Imagin the difference if we all started our day expecting the best instead of preparing for the worst.

What if we read this:   By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:79

Before we read this:  Another School Shooting

Or this:  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. 2Samuel 22:3-4

Before we read this:  Another Terrorist Attack

Or this:  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Before we read this:  Suicides on the Rise

If we could just concentrate on the best God has for us we could put in better perspective the worst the world has for us. In order for our mighty God centered lives to be mighty and God centered, we’d best be delving into the good news that never changes. And when we pray those mighty God centered prayers, we’d best get ready for mighty God centered results.

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples Psalm 77:14

I believe in miracles. I believe my family just experienced one. And I believe it is a direct result of the powerful prayers sent up to a mighty God by family, friends, my Bible study ladies, my church, my pastor, and my own desperate heart. In all humility, greatfulness and overwhelming joy I shout, “Thank You, God!”

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