Saturday, June 30, 2012

Wild Fire!

It has been months since we have had rain.  The lawns and fields have faded to a light grey, the dirt hard and cracked.  I didn’t realize how bad it appeared until I traveled last week even a few hours south.  The greenness surprised me, reminding my of how it SHOULD look this time of year.  We don’t need a flood, just a few minutes of water a day to let the vegetation thrive.

And out West right now, the news services are reporting the devastation of rampant wild fires, burning uncontrollably, consuming everything in its path.

When we ignore our spiritual lives, everything still appears to be under control.  But the greyness of drought creeps in on silent feet, a gradual parching of the land turns into a desperate thirst we don’t know how to quench.  And just as we stubbornly think we can do it on our own, one little crisis sets our life ablaze.  One careless match, one little spark, and we realize our need for God.  When my spiritual life dries up, it impacts everything.  

When I send sent down my roots in Him, it doesn’t matter what is going on around me.  My strength does not depend on circumstances, my joy is not based on if things are right, but He sustains.  That little bit of time in His Word, pouring out my heart in prayer, seeking to worship Him in whatever I do.  All those things water my soul.


…but his delight is in the law of the LORD.

and on His law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

        planted by streams of water,

that yields its fruit in its season,

        and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

                       Psalm 1. 2-3

Thursday, June 28, 2012

LORD, Make It Enough

When our daughters were younger, I would get in bed at night and assess the day – what could I have done differently, what could I have said in a more gentle manner, how could I have handled that squabble or difficult situation in a more gracious way?  And every evening I realized that in some way I had come up short and that God would have to make it enough.  And even though I tried hard to be a great mom, I often felt like I was an expert in messing up.  Despite the peer-Mom pressure around me, I knew in my heart that mothering is not based on performance but on grace.  If the core of my being was based on a random and demanding measure of performance, I would fall short every time.  If the core of who I am is based on the very grace of God, I could trust in His redeeming.  Being a Mom is not a competition but a daily expression of God’s grace.  As long as I abide in Him, saturate myself in His Word, and follow Him into my day, I can trust Him for the rest.  Only God can know what my children need.  And as author Ann Voskamp says, “Grace stands in the gaps.”

Now that our girls are grown, I reluctantly cannot DO for them as I have done in the past.  My role has changed.  I cannot tell them what to do, but I can BE and live in such a way that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt Who is my Strength, my Shield, my Salvation, and by the His grace in me, they cannot deny that there is a God.  Let the evidence of my life direct their hearts “that they would know that the LORD is God.”

Indeed, they are in God’s hands – where, in reality, they have been all along.

The easiest thing is to worry.  The most dynamic thing is to pray.  It is not a matter of telling God what to do in their lives, but thanking Him that He is already working with great transformational power in their hearts and lives, daily realizing for themselves His Presence and Power and Provision.


…but God gives the growth.

                    1 Corinthians 3.6

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dog Eared Pages


“Mystery… is not what is left over after we have done our best to reason things out on our own.

No, it is inherent in the very nature of who God is and how He works.”

                                        From the introduction to the book of Romans

                                        Renovare edition of the Bible

(Instead of being impatient with mystery,

extravagantly embrace it.

God works deeper than we can ever comprehend.

There is purpose in all He does.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Power of the Hidden Tune

I grew up in a house full of music.  My mother was a professional musician above all things, including all things domestic.  Every house we lived in looked exactly the same inside, every piece of furniture and even down to the thirty-year-old dusty-blue curtains that somehow never managed to ever get hemmed.   Furniture served nothing more than to populate the room.  What really filled the interior spaces in our home was music.  Most mornings I awoke to the squawking and screeching of violin lessons in the living room, resounding throughout the house like an unwelcome alarm clock.  Nothing is more annoying at dawn than the attempts of a beginning violin student.  All day the music continued.  I can vividly remember the fullness of the Hallelujah Chorus often embracing me as I came in the front door after school.  Late, late at night, even when my three teenage brothers and I were asleep, there was the haunting sound of a violin, so faint that it bordered on imagination.  Mom would get up in the middle of the night and often hid in the bathroom to practice and play her violin, thinking that the exhaust fan would block out the sound.  But we all heard it, and I am sure that her never-ending scales and sonatas were woven indelibly in our dreams.

And so, it is no surprise that when our granddaughter was an infant, I would sing her to sleep with a soothing repetition of hymns.  I would walk her up and down the hallway, hoping to lull her into a nap.  She would lay perfectly still, but when I changed songs, she would wiggle around in my arms until I would go back to her familiar hymns.  And I imagined that someday, when exposed to an obscure melody,  she will wonder how she knows that song, a familiar tune and those powerful words.  The truths and the melody entrenched in her mind and heart will not emerge as a bit of nostalgia, but as the power of a hidden tune.

Music engraves such deep impressions that I can still remember lyrics to songs I learned as a little child, Bible verses set to music, and pieces so majestic I would close my eyes and swim in the depths of worship.  Listening to an organ with all stops open always made me feel like standing in the midst of a mighty river, its currents plunging me into the very awe of God.

What is stowed away in the human heart works its way to the surface in times of need.  In the Evidence Not Seen, Darlene Deibler Rose narrates the story of her captivity in a Japanese concentration camp, where she was held in solitary confinement.  Day after day, surviving in horrific conditions, Scripture verses, the great hymns of the faith, and even Sunday School songs came back to her that she had learned decades before as a little girl.  “One by one, He pulled Scripture passages out of the storehouses of my memory, to remind me that they had been hidden there for just such a time as this,” she wrote.

We can never know what lies ahead, but we can be assured of what lies beneath, His steadfast love and everlasting arms supporting us.   And in those darkest of nights and bleakest of landscapes, may God’s Word – hidden in your heart, engraved in your mind – emerge into your thoughts like mountains singing and majestic trees clapping their hands.  And even in your wanderings, may a sacred melody or a praise song get stuck in your head, repeated over and over again, His Presence that cannot be denied or forgotten, unshakeable and secure, wrapped up in the mystery of music. 

And in such a time as that,

     may you see and hear nothing at all,

but His voice tucked away,

            strengthening and encouraging,

   resounding with comfort even when no one else

                       can realize your joy

             or hear those embedded tunes.


Make a joyful noise to the LORD,

           all the earth!

Serve the LORD with gladness.

Come into His Presence with singing.

                                   Psalm 100. 1-2

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Place of Abiding

Where do you choose to abide today?

No matter the situation,

do you remain in a place of grumbling,

                  murmuring and dismay?

Or a place of His abiding,

       strength for today,

    strength for each moment?

Not that which is shallow and artificial

          but deep in the reality

              of His abiding.

It is not the circumstances of the day,

     but how we approach what lies before.

That choice affects everything I see

                and reverberates to everyone around me.

        The healing power of His joy

                 radiates from within and without.

How can I see this day differently

      and respond to His leading?


A cheerful heart is a good medicine,

but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.

                           Proverbs 17.22

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Daily Chipmunk


We live next to an undeveloped field, a virtual playground for all creatures wild, both great and small.  And yet, despite the open spaces, the chipmunks in the entire region seem to want to congregate under the paving stones of our patio, burrowing deep underneath.  They are small and cute and create havoc.  The patio is once again beginning to cave in ever so slightly.

And so, about this time of year, we set out the trap, a small wire box that snares the wily characters in the midst of their antics without hurting them.  Last year, I stopped counting after 24, catching as many as three a day.  After the first half dozen, I didn’t even bait the trap anymore.  And still they came.

I know that within this anecdote is a lesson about temptation, but today as I took my first chipmunk of the day to a local forest preserve to let him go, I thought about yet a different perspective. 

When those little doors flipped down and entrapped the intruder, that chipmunk’s little knees were shaking.  He thought he was done for.  I am sure that the car ride to the park didn’t help his mindset.  And whether or not he had a repentant heart or just kicked himself for getting caught, he thought he was going to die at the hands of an angry homeowner.  I removed the cage from the back of the car, set it down on the pavement, opened the trap door, and released him.  I let him go, freeing him into a place so much better than under our patio, a new habitation, lush with trees and vegetation.  Despite his repeated trespasses and transgressions, despite the destruction that he had wrought or what he deserved, he was free to go.

That, my friend, is what the grace of God is all about.  It is not about our performance, but about who He is.


“O my God, I am ashamed

and blush to lift my face to You, my God,

for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads,

and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens…”

yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage,

but has extended to us

              His steadfast love…

                                    Ezra 9. 6,9

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No Darkness Too Deep

You have come to the narrow bridge
       frightfully high
   nothing to hold onto
                    and a long way down.
On this precipice of fear,
        there is only God to cling to
and “savior” becomes no longer
                 a decision made long ago
      but a reality that arrives
                                  several times a day.
It is the path that moves beyond
   that which is sight
               to that which is faith,
     beyond the standard liturgical response
                                to life itself.
It is knowing there is nothing
         we can do
                   nor the expertise of others,
          no instant cures or treatments
                                but God alone
                   that we may know Him.
And how can I call to you
    from where I stand on firmer ground
            “be tough”
                     “don’t be afraid”
     when I can’t see the other side either
      and have never felt the fear of falling.
The journey is uncertain
                one foot at a time
                                   sliding rocks
                                   shadows foreboding
          but He is there
                                 no darkness too deep.
Fear is too heavy to carry
and worry blocks out the light.

(I wrote this piece in July 1994 for a friend struggling with stage 4 breast cancer and the odds stacked against her.  She still survives.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father’s Day

Our Father in heaven,

     Holy be Your name…

                    (Matthew 6.9)

All that we need,

Our Protector,

Our Provider,

Our Refuge,

Our Strength,

Full of grace and truth,

Lover of our souls,

The LORD is merciful and gracious,

   slow to anger

   and abounding in steadfast love.

The LORD is good,

Faithful in all His Words

     and gracious in all His deeds,

     just in all His ways,

     and kind in all His doings,

Near to all who call upon Him,

Our Deliverer,

He who abides for ever,

He who walks with us,

Our wisdom,

Our guidance,

Our Hope

       on which we can stake our lives,

Creator of the universe,

Savior of the world,

Who lay down His life

     that we may know Him,

Whose Name is written on our foreheads

             inscribed on our hearts

     and on whose Hands is graven

                       our names,

King of Kings,

LORD of Lords,

Light of all the world,

Our Shepherd,

Our righteousness,


Praise Him

         for He is good.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thank you for being a decent person

I would rather scrub down the bathroom than look for a greeting card.  I approach the racks in the store with dread.  Before me a thousand options are displayed.  It is not that there are so many to choose from, but so few that express what I feel. 

And so this week as I was looking for a card for my beloved father-in-law, I scanned over the crowd of cards, many of which could be automatically eliminated.  New this year, I found an entire section of Fathers’ Day cards from pets to their owners – presumably dogs and cats sending greetings to their masters.  Really.  I am not making this up. There were the usual mushy cards dripping with such lavish generic sentiments as to not be real.  There were the insults in an attempt to be funny, which always makes me think of Shakespeare’s “Beware the jest, for therein lies much truth.”  And as always, there were the typically lame golfing, fishing, and lawn-mowing cards.

Somehow the same phrase was repeated on numerous cards this year:  “Thank you for being a decent person.”  Has Fathers’ Day come to that?  My dictionary defines “decent” as being “passable, good enough.”   That hardly even warrants the cost of the card.

Where are the cards for the fathers of character, the mighty men of valor, the strong and good, those to whom one looks for guidance and protection, those who provide sacrificially, love their families outrageously, who know that the inheritance they leave behind is marked by a listening ear, a voice of wisdom, and running beside while teaching their children to ride without training wheels?  Those who pursue being faithful to God and faithful to their families.  Those who reveal the evidence of God by how they live day by day in relationship to Him.  Those who love God Almighty and love like Him because they know the LORD as “Abba, Father.”  There is no need for an autopsy to reveal love, truth, goodness, kindness, wisdom, and the hope on which those fathers stand.

My favorite cards this year were those of the super heroes.  Because that is what God intended fathers to be, men of great courage and valiant deeds.  A cape to earn and proudly wear, not just a passing grade.

Dog Eared Pages

“I know that the experiences of our lives,

when we let God use them,

become the mysterious and perfect preparation

for the work He will give us to do.”


                                 -- Corrie Ten Boom

                                    The Hiding Place

                                    page 15

Friday, June 15, 2012

Scratched, Scuffed and Stained

Many years ago, the plates and bowls in our cabinet began showing little black markings from forks and spoons scratching the surface, inevitable from daily use by our large family.  It was just the way they were, we figured, the sign of being well-used and well-loved.  And then, just a few months ago, our oldest daughter tried using a product called Bar Keeper’s Friend on her own dinnerware.  The difference was astonishing.  Her dishes looked like new.  I tried the cleaning powder on our 32 year old plates.  They gleamed,  and the unsightly hieroglyphics were gone. 

Over the years, I have found that the right application of the right product can typically renew that which is scratched, scuffed and stained, even when other efforts have failed, the imperfections ranging from stained clothing (try soaking in OxyClean) to soap scum on shower doors and bathtubs (Mr. Clean Magic Erasers).

There are times we all feel scratched, scuffed and stained, burdened by experiences of life and poor choices we have made.  It appears that it is just the way we have become, and we must live with it.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  God offers forgiveness and grace and makes all things NEW.  The forgiveness is there – just like the OxyClean in my cupboard -- but sometimes those choices are deep-set and cling like a stubborn bathtub ring, not easily given up.  How often do we just dig our heels into our own selfishness --as if a long-lived behavior becomes our identity, who we really are?  “He’s just an angry person.”  “Compassion is just not one of my gifts.”  “Mr. Grumpy.”  “Well, she always speaks her mind.”  Do we think that the longer we excuse our misconduct, time makes it ok?  And over the decades, like my dishes, we justify it by claiming, “It’s just the way I am.”

Don’t fall for that deceit.  NO ONE stands beyond redemption.  God has granted us the grace we need to let go of those things which impede our relationship with Him and impact everyone around us for generations.  Sometimes it has been so long we no longer recognize what we are doing as sin, a word rarely used anymore.  We would rather say “tendency” or “weakness” or “personality trait.”  We would rather our weakness become a point of pride than come before God and admit that we are wrong.  We know we need to move on, but sometimes like a ratty pair of stained sweatpants, we just don’t want to let them go.  And we don’t realize how different things can be, so different it will be obvious to everyone.  Even yourself.  God redeems and restores.  And makes all things new.


For as the heavens are high above the earth,

     so great is His steadfast love

     toward those who fear Him;

so far as the east is from the west,

so far does He remove our transgressions from us.

                                            Psalm 103. 11-12


      I make all things new.”

                     Revelation 21.5

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Going Viral

It is early morning, before the day has properly clicked into place.  I soak in God’s Word, knowing full well that it may be the most important thing that I do all day, because through it, God changes me.  The Bible is not just another book, not even an important “spiritual book,” but the very words of God Himself.  I jot down a few verses to take along in my day to help me to know Him more and know my need for His grace. 

And then, as I do every morning, I send out a Bible verse on into the internet universe, “a daily bit of Scripture for busy people.”  I pray about what verse to send because I have no idea who reads these passages of Scripture each day.   I also don’t know what these readers around the world are facing at the moment, but I do know what profound impact God’s Word has.  For when we let God’s Word infect, infiltrate, penetrate and anoint our hearts, God does not just change us, He changes everyone around us.  God’s Word cannot help from “going viral.” 

A true virus – in medical terms – is an agent of infection, a tiny agent that is replicated in another organism.  And whether in the human body or computers, a virus refers to that which spreads rapidly and uncontrollably, and alters everything it touches.

His Word has the power to transform us, degree by degree, day by day, as we soak in, marinate, and absorb Scripture.  And so, just abiding for awhile on even a solitary verse or passage, thinking about it and bathing in it, God changes your heart, your mind, your strength, your soul, and your worldview – seeing your world through the heart of God.

Through His Word, God transforms us and nurtures our relationship with Him.  And then, that change in us– even that which may be immeasurably small or even invisible on a daily basis – impacts how we treat others, how we view what we do, how we respond, and how we love others.  EVERYONE who comes in contact with us is then, in turn, changed as well, even though they may not realize it.  And they, being changed, infect another.  God’s Word goes viral, rapidly and uncontrollably.  And God started it by a simple basking in His Word.

For those who say, “I’ve tried reading the Bible daily before;  it doesn’t matter,” 

think again.

Because there is someone out there trying his best

                  to keep you from knowing God

          and being transformed by Him.

His Word satisfies our hunger

    and increases our appetite

    for even more.

God’s Word is not silent.

Things happen

      when God’s Word is read.


More desired are Your Words than gold,

                  even much fine gold,

         sweeter also than honey

                     and the drippings of the honeycomb.

       Moreover by them is Your servant warned,

           in keeping them there is great reward.

                                      Psalm 19. 10-11

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dog Eared Pages

You can never give another person that which you have found,
but you can make him homesick for what you have.
                                        -- Oswald Chambers
                                           My Utmost for His Highest
                                           June 10

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dog Eared Pages

“How important it is to share with our children our own personal scrapbook of the faithfulnes of God – the different ways He has led us, provided for us, and sheltered us.  Our children need to hear again and again…  Then they, too, will come to depend upon Him personally, knowing He will also be ever faithful to them.”


                                              --Ruth Bell Graham

                                                Footprints of a Pilgrim

                                                page 136

Friday, June 8, 2012

“To Do” Agenda

Only three things are most important in what you do today:

Do it in His name.

Do it with excellence.

Do it,

     not AS IF it matters,

but do it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,

                      because it matters.

A new advertisement for Hewlett Packard states:

         “If you’re going to do something,

           make it matter.”

No half-hearted, grumbling, going through the motions.

You are serving the LORD

          in whatever you do,

          whatever He places in your path today,

          whomever He puts on your radar.

My grandmother was a piano teacher for almost four decades.

Each lesson, she gave her students a report of their progress

         to encourage them to strive.

At the top of that card was printed her motto:

        “It’s not what you play.  It’s how you play it.”

Her violinist daughter (my mom) could play

the most difficult sonata

                                  or the simplest hymn

               and bring tears to the eyes of those who heard it.


In His name.

Because it matters. 

That is your assignment for the day.


Whatever your task,

work heartily,

as serving the LORD and not men…

                 Colossians 3.23

…to serve Him

with all your heart

and with all your soul.

                   Joshua 22.5

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I went to see the Queen: A Radical Approach To Your Everyday Work

Right now, all of England is celebrating with great hoopla the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.   In 1957, when I was a little four year old girl and Queen Elizabeth was still a young woman and newly crowned queen, she visited the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago.  My grandmother and I traveled into the city by train to see the Queen.  I still have vivid memories of that day, the crowds, the beautiful blue day on the lakefront, and the long red carpet. 

And today, as a grown woman, I think about Her Majesty in light of living to our potential and finding purpose in what we do.  As Queen, certainly,  Elizabeth has an important job, a pinnacle of importance and influence in this world.  And what about me?  Have I fulfilled my purpose?  Or squandered my time, when I could have been doing something far more significant with my life?  Does what I do really matter?

One of my heroes is Brother Lawrence, a monk who spent his life scrubbing pots in a kitchen and, later, when he was old, repairing worn-out sandals.  Although these were the lowliest of jobs in the monastery where he served, Brother Lawrence realized through years of obscure ordinary work the countercultural impact of his relationship with God.  When he entered the monastery in Paris in 1638 at the age of 24, he felt called to do great things for God.  He despised ordinary work, and I suppose, he was dismayed when he was assigned the washing of dishes for the next 30 years.  But amidst the grunge of a kitchen in the 1600s, God worked on his heart and Brother Lawrence devoted himself to do everything there with excellence for the love of God – no matter what.  So it was not the WHAT he did that motivated him, but he saw his work as a form of worship and love for God.  Even that which seemed lowly, puny and obscure in the eyes of men became a vehicle for Brother Lawrence to live on a deeper level a life that saw from God’s perspective what in reality is truly significant and profound.

In Practicing the Presence of God, a book compiled of his writings after his death in 1691, Lawrence writes,   "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . .We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."

Brother Lawrence saw the tremendous value in what the world saw as mundane, and God changed him as a result. "I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world… The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen and while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”  Work was a means of worship.

When God is not the sole focus of our lives and the core of who we are, we HAVE to seek recognition and accomplishment in the world, because there is a huge gaping HOLE in our hearts, a hole that only God can fill, no matter how hard and how much we try to stuff to fill up the emptiness.  The world promises performance will fill that sense of purpose, but instead God reveals that it is grace.  It is only when He fills us that we will be fulfilled.  What we do is not significant in itself, but a profound outpouring of His love within.  There are no insignificant things in the eyes of God, no menial tasks done in His Name.

I often feel so little in the things that I do, in light of the important things that others do.  And then I realize that my fulltime job is faithfulness to God.  In God’s eyes, serving Him is the ultimate privilege of being a child of the King.  When done with excellence and in His name, there is as much significance in scrubbing pots and pans or cleaning bathrooms in God’s perspective as in being the Queen of England. 

It is not how we look at it.  But how God does.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Work With What You Have: Another Culinary Adventure

My mother grew up in a family that struggled financially.  When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, hard times became even harder.  They scraped along doing without, but more importantly, doing with what they had.  Nothing was wasted.  Something worn out and broken? – well, there was some use for it.  Mom’s life was further complicated when her father became disabled and died during the Depression, while she was a teenager.  And  so, very early in her life, my mother’s motto became “When you have a lemon, make a lemonade.”  When difficulties arose, when disaster struck, when life seemed to take a wrong turn onto a dead-end road, she learned to just look at the situation from a different perspective and let God redeem it.  Over and over again, I heard her say those words. 

I thought of my mom yesterday, while visiting my daughter Kat who lives in Nashville.  As a physician, she has learned to maximize the tightest pockets of time.  She was able to come home briefly yesterday midday between the clinic and hospital.  She quickly stirred up an angel food cake mix to be served for dessert at supper.  She popped the cake pan into her little countertop oven.  Before she left, the cake had risen and was burning, stuck to the burners on the top of the oven.  She rescued the pan, scraped off the charred shell on top, and opened the windows to let out the heavy sweet smoke that had now pervaded the kitchen.  We preheated the regular oven to finish baking what remained.  She left for work, and I was left to take the cake out of the oven when it appeared to be done.

The buzzer rang, I removed the pan.  So far, so good.  Then I made the big mistake of following the instructions.  The box said to invert the bundt pan on a glass bottle to let the angel food cake cool.  But as soon as I turned the pan over, the cake fell out in big hot steamy chunks.  I quickly scooped the cake onto a plate as best as I could.  And I watched the cake deflate into what appeared to be a rather pathetic version of funnel cake – a flat sugary confection served at carnivals.


This cake was refusing to be made.  I tried to think of something else we could serve.  But when Kat heard about the dilemma, she didn’t skip a beat.  She moved into catastrophe mode.  It was like seeing my mom “making do,” as she used to say.  Kat took what we had, tore the cake into little pieces, added some sliced strawberries and Cool Whip, and mixed it together.  The result looked (and tasted) incredible, and no one was the wiser.  Needless to say, there were no leftovers.  Disaster was averted with a little creativity sprinkled on top.

“You’ve got to work with what you have sometimes,” she remarked with a smile.

God blesses and makes it enough.  He redeems even the most impossible situations.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Dog-eared Pages

“One of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I don’t ever get up in the morning and wonder if what I do matters. I live every day to the fullest because I can live it through Christ and I know no matter what I do today, I’m going to do something to advance the Kingdom of God.”
                                                         — Charles Colson