name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pushing Past My Feelings

(I wrote this earlier today...)

I am sitting in the terminal at Love Field Airport in Dallas, TX waiting to catch a flight back to San Antonio. In the past 36 hours I have:

· Called on prayer warriors to bathe my latest house hunting trip in prayer
· Declared, in faith, that I was going to Dallas with the goal of coming home with a "new address"
· Left my kids "home alone" to navigate a few hours on their own (last night) and to get themselves up and out the door (this morning) without adult supervision
· Spent the better part of yesterday looking at 12 homes with my agent and ruling most of them out
· Met with Marty (my husband) to scrutinize the three "finalists" on the list
· Ruled out two of the three (on the spot), leaving us with house #3 that required a stretch (on all levels)
· Climbed into bed exhausted and wondering what to do about house #3
· Woke up, planning to talk our options through, only to discover that it wasn't "business as usual" at ATT this morning. Marty had to head to the office. House decisions would have to hold until the weekend.
· Cancelled my 1/2 day with the agent.
· Switched my return ticket to an earlier flight.
· While waiting to depart, my agent called. Because of additional information she just received, house #3 is no longer a viable option.
· We are back to square one - no house.

I feel like a failure. I am discouraged. The doubt (did we pick the right city?), the anxiety (we only have five weeks until the kids start school in Dallas), and the despair (our list of wants/needs isn't making our search easy) are creeping in. I do not feel like a strong Christian. I do not feel like a woman of deep faith. I am struggling to hold on to hope. I hate being in this place of uncertainty.

So this is my confession, Lord. I am overwhelmed. From experience, I know that the only way out of this is to push past my feelings and recount what I know about You. So here we go...these are the tangible ways I have seen Your hand at work confirming the city of Flower Mound as our new hometown:

• The two high schools we visited both had visible signs of Your presence...posters announcing Bible studies, Young Life activities, a counselor with a Scripture rock on his desk.
• Both high schools have strong band programs with great directors
• After contacting a former member of our church, who now resides in Flower Mound, I received a lengthy email detailing the city, a vibrant church, Bible studies and community. She also extended an invitation to dinner and a tour of the nearby church whenever we are ready.
• Surprise! I received three additional emails from friends of the former church member who also live in Flower Mound. They spoke high praises for the school system, community, and churches. (Methodist church)
• I contacted someone (daughter of one of our former pastor's) who is now a girls' senior high youth director at a local church (Lutheran church) in Flower Mound. She also spoke highly of the area and gave me great feedback on both of the high schools and churches nearby. She offered to meet my teenage daughter (over the Christmas break) so that she would know someone before she actually moved to Flower Mound.
• A law student in nearby Ft. Worth (former youth at UUMC) found out we were moving to Flower Mound and offered to take us to her church (Matt Chandler's) and get our kids connected in the youth program. She drives 45 minutes each Sunday in order to attend church in Flower Mound - loves the church!
• Found out our real estate agents are both strong Christian women. One of them also happens to have grown up in St. Louis (my home town), attended college at Missouri State University (Marty & my alma mater), pledged the same sorority as me, and has a brother-in-law who is youth pastor at nearby church (Lutheran). How small of a world is that?!
• Contacted a friend's cousin, who lives in Flower Mound, and just so happens to be the Assistant Superintendent of the Lewisville School District (school district for Flower Mound). We were able to talk to her and get more information about the schools (all good) and received a friendly offer to meet us anytime we were in town & and an invitation to attend their church (Chuck Swindoll's) with her and her husband.

I feel better. Once again, I see the evidence of Your fingerprints all over this move. You have gone before us to Flower Mound. You have prepared a place for us. We just haven't found it yet. Yet.

I am claiming the Scripture that was a part of my daily reading today. I have been speaking these words for weeks without realizing they were actually Your Word. Thank You for putting them in front of me, this day, when I needed them most. No wonder I have been clinging to them so tightly.

"I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word." --Psalm 130:5

I do believe. Help my unbelief. And please, Lord, show us the right home for our family. I am counting on You. In the mighty Name of Jesus. Amen

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Grieving Differently

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:4-5

Our upcoming move to Dallas, TX will be the second time, as an adult, that I have packed up my family and started over in a new city. The first time occurred 13+ years ago, when our family left my hometown of St. Louis, MO and headed to San Antonio, TX. It was a time of great difficulty for me: emotionally, physically, spiritually. But as I've pondered the differences between that first move and this one, I am aware of a radical difference in myself.

Move #1 - I had just begun taking baby steps in my faith journey. For the first time in my life, I understood the concept of a church "home." I was afraid to leave and concerned that I wouldn't find another body of Christ that would nurture me and show me how to grow.

I grieved for those things that never had a chance to take place.

I knew just enough about God and His word to cling to His promise that He had a plan for my family and me (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of a relationship with God to trust Him to keep His word. What I was lacking was faith.

I hoped He would keep His word.

Move #2 - I may have arrived in San Antonio, broken and scared, but I am not that person anymore. I have been blessed by a church that embraced my entire family. I have been nurtured in my faith, been given opportunities to explore my spiritual gifts, and encouraged to follow the Lord as He reveals my own unique calling. I have been loved well by others and have been given the opportunity to love in return.

Now I grieve for all that has taken place.

This time, I know enough about God and His word to believe that He has already gone ahead of us. I have faith in His plan.

I expect Him to keep His word.

So I grieve differently. This grief is sweet. It is mixed with joy, love, and a deep gratitude for the men and women of faith who have helped me become who I am today. Truly I am blessed.

Most people wait until they leave to say goodbye. Well, I am starting a month early! It is important to me to say thank you - to say it often - and to say it well. To my family of faith at UUMC: You have blessed me beyond measure. You have represented Christ faithfully. And, I will always give thanks to God for each of you. Thank you for all you have taught me. Grace and peace, Denise

In all my prayers for the people of University United Methodist Church, I pray with joy because of their partnership in the gospel from the first day I arrived in San Antonio until now, being confident of this, that You who began a good work in them will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. I believe You will do it and I thank You in advance. In the powerful saving name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Celebrating Someone Else's Faith

"For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" --1 Thessalonians 3:8-9

A few days ago, I met a friend at Starbucks. For the better part of 2 hours we took turns catching up on each other's lives. Our time was precious and bittersweet because my time in San Antonio is drawing to a close.

It is hard to believe that we have only known each other for one short year. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance who thought we would benefit from knowing each other. My friend prefaced the invitation by sharing that the person I was about to meet was grieving a great loss, facing an uncertain future, and doing their best to remain strong in their faith. Would I walk alongside this person for a while?

I agreed. Soon, my new friend and I settled into a routine of meeting once a month at Starbucks. In a way that only God could have orchestrated, our conversations skipped right past the trivial and dove right into matters of life and death, faith and hope, battles lost and battles won. I was humbled by this person's willingness to trust God and me with matters that were deeply painful and personal. In turn, I was free to share the struggles and victories that were a part of my own journey of faith.

Over the course of this past year, the Lord has continually comforted, delighted, and humbled us during our time together. He has always been faithful to provide clarity and revelation regarding the bigger picture of how He is at work in each of our lives.

So the other day, as I sat across from my friend and listened as she related her most recent adventures with the Lord, I couldn't help but celebrate. My friend has persevered in the midst of tragedy and stands firm with a faith that has grown deeper and stronger through trial. Her faith brings me great joy.

I will forever equate the smell of Starbucks with my time spent with this friend. She has inspired me and taught me much about the resiliency of the human spirit. In a similar way, the fragrance of someone standing firm in their faith must bring great pleasure to the Father. I can just imagine whenever He sees one of His children exercising their faith...He stops, breathes in deeply, and smiles with great contentment.

Thank You for the privilege of witnessing the growing faith of my friend. Thank You for the celebration that comes as a result. Give me eyes to see those around me who are standing firm in their faith. Help me to acknowledge and affirm their faith; reminding them that it is a reason for celebration on earth and in heaven! May we send up a continual fragrance offering of faith to Your heavenly throne. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Joy of Being Expected

"Praise the LORD!

I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the LORD! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails." -- Psalm 111: 1-3

I am sitting at the car dealership while my car is being serviced. It may sound strange, but I love coming to this place. They know how to treat a customer and they do it well. It is a fairly new facility. They have thoughtfully provided room for people to sit in comfort and wait in their choice of: a TV room, children's play area, or work center complete with cubbies & complimentary computers. For those of us with our own laptops, they provide free wireless access. There are always fresh donuts, coffee, tea and water bottles in the hospitality center. And best of all, each and every time I show up, they are expecting me.

It is a good feeling to be expected.

Yesterday, I had two very important appointments on my calendar. I looked forward to both with a mixture of hope, anticipation and the uncertainty of the unknown. Both meetings represented new adventures with the Lord; the kind where you are about to step off an old familiar path, and in faith, trust your feet will land on something solid.

In both meetings, I was expected. The individuals involved had prepared for my presence through prayer and reflection. I was blessed by the gift of their time. I was blessed by the fruit of our discussion. I was encouraged by their willingness to walk on this part of my journey with me. Each asked questions and provided me with further things to ponder until the next time we meet. And that was the icing on the cake...there is more to come.

It is a good feeling to be expected.
It is an even better feeling to be expected and welcomed in the name of Jesus.

O Father,
Thank You for the godly people You have placed in my life. Thank You for the joy of being welcomed in the name of Jesus Christ. Help me to remember to welcome others with the same hospitality. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Personal Mile Markers

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." --Hebrews 4:12-13

Over the years, certain Scriptures from the Bible have become my own personal mile markers. God has faithfully used His Word to drive home the lessons that have shaped me into the person I am today. I cannot think of the one (Scripture) without thinking of the other (lesson).

Some years ago, a friend was going through a difficult time. My concern for this person became all consuming until it turned into a full-time occupation.

"And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye." -- Matthew 7:3-5

As I struggled (obsessed, really) with my friend's speck, it never occurred to me that I might have vision issues of my own. Imagine my surprise when God revealed, to me, the log in my own eye.

My priorities shifted as I made the decision to leave my friend in God's very capable hands. My goal changed -- clear vision for myself. Nothing else mattered. The life lesson that followed has impacted every relationship I have: with God, with my family, with my friends, and with those I've just met.

Since that time, whenever I see the Scripture from Matthew 7:3-5, I am reminded of the powerful lesson God taught me. And now when I find myself "worrying" over a friend's speck, I am reminded to leave them in the Lord's hands and to ask God to check my own vision.

This is just one example. There are other Scriptures and other lessons; each powerful in its own way. Personal mile markers. Each a reminder of the road I have traveled with the Lord and how far I have yet to go...

Thank You for the gift of Your Word which is living and active in my life. Thank You for the way Your Word reminds me of Your faithfulness to all Your people, of how You have shaped my life, and continues to call me to obedience. Help me to be true to Your Word. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Judge Not

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven." --Luke 6:37

Last Thursday, I drove my thirteen year old son, Mitch, to guitar lessons. As I pulled into the south lot of the church campus, I noticed a white sports car. It was parked next to the newspaper/recycling dumpster. My attention was drawn to the driver's side door which was wide open. There was nobody inside the car and there didn't appear to be anyone around.

Just before I pulled alongside the car, my eyes dropped beneath the opened door and observed a pair of shoes in a straddle position, pants scrunched around the ankles. My first thought was that someone was getting sick on the other side of the door. As I turned left (away from the car) to park, I glanced at the individual.

Several things happened at once:
I realized the person, in question, was urinating onto the asphalt.
I assumed it was a child.
I told my son not to look.

By this time, I had pulled into a parking spot, no more than 36 feet away. From my side view mirror, I observed the posterior of the individual who was still "going." It did not belong to a child. It belonged to an adult. And the adult was most definitely a female.

To her left was the recycling dumpster and the church entrance. To her right was the parking lot. To her backside was a very busy street. The only part of this woman discreetly covered was her face which was shielded by the door of the car.

I was shocked. I was repulsed. I was indignant. But I was also amused in an embarrassed sort of way.

Mitch and I remained in the vehicle while the woman finished her business. As we waited, I said,

"It could be someone from our special needs group that couldn't wait or got confused."
"Some people don't have bathrooms....I wonder if she is homeless."
"Some people are mentally ill."
"Some people are really messed up..."
"Why didn't she go inside?"
"Why didn't she take cover behind the dumpster?"
"Why didn't she use the privacy of the bushes and trees in the prayer garden not 10 feet away?"

The reason I had time to cover all of these possibilities is because she had a very large bladder.

Finally. From my mirror, I watched as the woman nonchalantly pulled up her sweatpants. She acted like nothing unusual had just happened. I would guess her age as late 20's-early 30's. Her face had "hard life" written all over it.

As I continued watching, a young hulk of a man (late teens-early 20's?) climbed into the passenger seat. He must have come from inside the church. I was stunned as the woman climbed into the driver's seat. She pushed her hair away from her face, fastened her seatbelt, and drove away, leaving a large puddle in her wake.

The disturbing image has stayed with me. Even more disturbing has been the realization of the levels of judgment by which I measured this mystery woman.

When I thought it might be a sick individual - I was willing to extend grace.
When I thought it might be a child - I was still willing to extend grace.
When I realized it was an adult - not so much grace.
It could be one of our special needs' friends - okay a little more grace.
A mentally ill individual - surely they should know better - less grace.
Someone who just did it because she felt like it - I'm struggling.

Once again, I am face-to-face with the truth that I don't know how to love like Jesus. It is obvious to me that my grace is based on the merit system. Jesus' grace is based on his ability to love like the Father. I am incapable of that kind of love on my own. Oh, how I need my Savior to show me the way.

Had she remained in the lot, I would have been required, by God, to go over to her and speak. I am certain of it. What would I have said? How would she have responded? We will never know.

I am convinced that she has bigger problems than using a church parking lot as her own private bathroom. Truly, what kind of person would do such a thing?

There is only one answer that matters: The kind Jesus loves.

You love all of Your children. You have no favorites (Acts 10:34). Teach me how to love like you do. In the name of Jesus, who died for all mankind, Amen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
-- Isaiah 55:8-9

Assumptions. They can be our undoing.

Yesterday, I was in the middle of my quiet time when a random thought popped into my head. This, in and of itself, was not unusual. My quiet time tends to be filled with random thoughts..."I should probably start a load of laundry," or "I need to reschedule that dentist appointment when I'm finished," or "What the...How did those dirty fingerprints get on the ceiling?"

Most of the time, I ignore them but sometimes they sidetrack me. Honestly, there are times when I want to be sidetracked. Staying busy is a lot easier than sitting still at the Lord's feet.

But this particular thought was not the norm. I got up from the table, grabbed my cell phone and texted a friend the following message:

"In the middle of my quiet time. Question for you: Do you have words for me?"

I don't know how to explain why I followed this thought through to completion. Most likely because it didn't originate from my own brain. Plus, I was intrigued by the thought that my friend might actually have a message for me from God. I ended up copying the texted message into my journal followed by the following, "Lord?!?" with an arrow pointing to the words.

I didn't hear back from my friend.

Fast forward to late afternoon. I was in the church parking lot, sitting in my parked vehicle, finishing my fast food meal. The double doors to the building opened and there was my friend (the same one I texted earlier). He headed straight for my van with a big grin on his face.

Just by the look on his face, I could tell there was a message from God. Something for me. I couldn't wait to hear it. Oh, the anticipation.

And then he started to talk...

"I can't believe you sent me that text! I do have something for you. I have some words I would like you to look over and get your feedback on."


Disappointment. Embarrassment. Irony. Amusement. Understanding. Acceptance.
That pretty much sums it up.

I think God enjoyed watching my face as I processed through that one. I went back to my journal where I had earlier written down the texted words and added, "Ha Ha."

Truly Your ways are beyond my understanding. According to You, my obedience should not depend on my understanding. Thank You for reminding me of that in such an amusing way. I do love You and Your ways...even though they are beyond me! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Let Her Sing

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations." --Psalm 100:4-5

Last week, I sought refuge in the empty Sanctuary of our church. The lights were off. It was early evening and growing dark. A golden haze, from the setting sun, filtered through the stained glass windows.

I chose a pew about half-way down the aisle. It was the perfect place to allow my ever-present grief to surface. As tears filled my eyes, I whispered, "Lord, I will miss this place and its people."

I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and leaned into the pain of upcoming goodbyes. Minutes later, my solitude was interrupted by footsteps. It was my sixteen year old, daughter Claire.

"I want to play the piano," she declared. By "the piano" she meant the beautiful Steinway grand piano which sat in a place of prominence, near the altar. Its white keys were beckoning.

"No." I could think of a multitude of reasons why this was a bad idea.

"I've done it before." Her voice went up at the end of the sentence. It was, at once, a statement, a challenge, and a question. She added, "What's the worst thing that can happen? Someone tells me to stop."

I didn't reply.

She walked down the aisle, without a trace of anger. She stepped onto the marble floor and moved behind the altar. I watched in fascination as she spread her arms and proceeded to dance. She twirled and jumped in the twilight.

Finishing her impromptu solo, she bent over and looked at the floor. I knew she was studying the plaque that marked the location of a time capsule buried under the tile.

After a few minutes, she moved over to the piano. She played one, then two notes softly. Afterward, she walked around to the side of the piano and peered under the propped open lid. She studied the inner workings intently.

She made her way over to the baptismal font. In the fading light, she leaned down. I imagined her thought, "Is there water in there or not?" She put a few fingers into the bowl and just as quickly, pulled her hand back. I smiled in amusement, assuming the answer was yes.

Next, she headed towards a chair, next to the altar. In front of the chair was a music stand. Claire sat down, adjusting the music stand so it was at eye level. Over the top of the stand, our eyes made contact.

I realized that my sorrow had retreated. In its place was the indescribable joy of watching my daughter as she enjoyed herself in this holy place. She had just danced in the Father's presence. She was totally at ease in God's house because... it was her home, too.

"Let her sing."

It was a request from the Holy Spirit. I experienced an "a ha" moment as I processed those three words. While Claire may have asked to play, what she really wanted to do was sing. For her, the two go hand-in-hand. My multitude of reasons for originally vetoing the idea, no longer mattered.

I spoke across the room.

"You're right. The worst thing that can happen is they ask you to stop."

My words didn't quite reach her ears and she tilted her head in question. I repeated my statement. She still didn't hear. Rather than repeat myself, yet again, I pointed to the piano in silent blessing.

She pulled out the bench as I made a request.

"Play, Our God Is Love."

It is a song written by my friend, Chris, and one that is played often at our house. Claire tentatively began. Within a few chords, she was playing with confidence. As she sang, her voice grew stronger until it filled the entire Sanctuary with words of praise...

Can you see the Lord?
Or fathom His design?
Can you taste His grace?
Or feel His love divine?

Our God is love
Nailed unto a tree
Our God is hope...

As I watched and listened, I worshiped the One to whom the words were directed. Claire continued until halfway through the second verse. She stopped, unable to recall the rest of the words.

She got up from the bench and pushed it back into place. A look of contentment was on her face. She walked back in my direction and we exited the Sanctuary.

I offered a silent prayer on my way out, “Father, I almost missed this concert. Thank You for inviting me and for the blessing of hearing Claire sing for You.”

Is this how You feel about me, when I step into the fullness of who You’ve called me to be? Does Your heart swell with joy when I use my gifts for Your glory? I want to live my life in a way that keeps me in close relationship with You. This day, Lord, show me how to stay in step with You. In the strong and saving name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I See You!

"Ears to hear and eyes to see - both are gifts from the LORD." --Proverbs 20:12

I know someone who stops to pick up paper clips off the floor. Until I spent time in her presence, I didn't even notice the paper clips. But you tend to notice these things when the person next to you stops in mid-sentence. And, you find yourself paying special attention when that person picks up each piece of metal as if it were gold.

When I asked why she picked them up, she told me that she believed God was waiting for her to find them. He wanted her to know that He was thinking about her. They were her own love notes from God.

She saw God - I saw a twisted piece of wire. Same scenario - different perspectives.

Some time ago, I began to earnestly ask God for eyes to see and ears to hear. I wanted to know God better. I longed for a deeper awareness of His presence in my daily life.

Sometime after that prayer, I began to notice something strange on my nighttime drives. Street lights tended to go out right as I drove under them or right after I passed them.

Out of the corner of my eye, in the rear view mirror, or right in front of me, I would see random lights shut down. I don't know if they were burning out or just overheating. But it happened with such regularity that it became ridiculous.

At first, I talked to myself, "Oh my gosh, there goes another one!" Eventually, I turned to God.

"Did you just see that? Hey, there goes another one! Can you believe these lights keep going out when I am driving? It's almost as if someone is playing a joke on me!"

(dramatic pause)

God laughs, you know. Deep rolling laughs. From His belly. With abandon.

I couldn't actually hear Him but my spirit did. And it is impossible to be in His presence while He is laughing...without joining in. We laughed together for a long time that day. It was my first experience with God's playful side and I will treasure it always.

Now you could argue that street lights are constantly burning out and I just became aware of it for the first time. True. Same scenario - different perspective.

However, that would not explain why I continue to feel this deep pleasure, each and every time I catch a bright light suddenly going out. It would not explain why my spirit is keenly aware of God's presence, in those moments. And it would not explain why I greet each instance with a smile and feel compelled to whisper a delighted, “I see you, too.”

Who would have thought there could be so much joy in playing a game of “Peek-A-Boo” with the Lord?

Abba, Thank You for delighting in your children. Thank You for delighting in me. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear You, this day. In the name above all names, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Birthday Card

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." (NLT) --Philippians 2:13

Back when my children were in elementary school, a misunderstanding occurred between my child's teacher and me. Our relationship was badly damaged in the process. As a result, I was very concerned for my child and found it difficult to be civil towards this individual.

A few days later, I was walking down the school hall and overheard several teachers as they sang “Happy Birthday.” When I realized they were singing to that teacher, I stopped because I did not want to be seen walking past the open classroom. As I leaned against the wall, I sensed God telling me, quite clearly, to get in my car and go buy a birthday card for this teacher.

I told Him I didn't want to. God waited. I argued with Him. He remained silent. I pleaded with Him. Nothing. There was no doubt in my mind that God expected me to follow directions.

Ironically, the weekend before, I had been on a Walk to Emmaus (a 72 hour spiritual retreat). While there, I had made the conscious decision to allow God access to all of my life – not just the parts I had trusted Him with before. It was clear to me that this was a test of my newly declared trust.

So, I got in my car and drove to the nearest bookstore. There was no joy in my heart as I went through the motions of obedience. My feelings toward the individual had not changed. It was only my desire to honor God that propelled me inside to complete my appointed task. I finally found a card that didn’t make me gag with birthday ooze; it was blank inside.

I drove back to the school and pulled up next to the teacher's car in the school parking lot. The thought of extending kindness to someone who had caused so much turmoil and pain in our family filled me with frustration. I remember asking God what in the world I could possibly say to this person that wouldn’t be a flat out lie.

"Write this: 'The angels were dancing on the day you were born. May you know how much God loves you this day and always.'”

As my pen formed the words, I was humbled. It didn't matter how I felt, what mattered was how God felt. I signed my name to the card and placed it under the windshield wiper of the teacher’s car.

As I drove away, God's lesson was clear: I didn't have to love this person in order to share God's love with them. I was worn out from the battle that had been waged within my soul and relieved to have passed the test.

The next day, I received a phone call. It was the recipient of the birthday card calling to say, "Thank you for the beautiful card. And, oh, by the way, would you happen to know if there are any Bible studies at your church? I’ve been thinking I need to try that.”

We were able to make it through the remainder of the school year without anymore conflict. A simple birthday card. A message of God's love. The result -- nothing short of a miracle.

Thank you for teaching me how to trust You - experience by experience. Thank You for working within me; giving me the desire and power to do what pleases You. May I stop trying to do things in my own strength and rely only on You. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Persistent Invitations

“But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” – Jeremiah 7:24 (NIV)

In David Nasser’s book A Call To Die, he writes about the challenge that faces committed followers of Christ. As we draw closer to the Father’s heart, we become more aware of our own sinfulness.

It has been months since I read Nasser’s words, but they’ve stayed with me because I know them to be true. As I journey deeper into the Father’s presence, it becomes more difficult to cling to the illusions I have about myself. I cannot continue to grow in my faith if I refuse to grant Him access to the places in my heart that do not honor Him.

If I am listening to God; if I am paying attention to the Holy Spirit, then I inevitably hear His whisper,

“Let’s look at this together.”

God’s invitation sets off an internal struggle within me that ends in some type of response; sometimes a combination of two or more:

Denial - “I don’t know what You’re talking about.”
Refusal - “No.”
Procrastination – “Please God, not right now.”
Surrender – “Okay.”
Relief - “Finally! I am ready to get rid of this junk.”

When I do cooperate, God stands by my side, giving me the courage and strength to look at my sin through His eyes. While I may flinch at what Christ’s light reveals; God does not. He remains with me as I process through whatever needs to be removed or transformed.

These moments are always accompanied by a deep awareness that the blood of Jesus covers my sin. I am humbled by the grace and mercy extended towards me, even as I am face-to-face with the ugliness in my soul.

God never employs condemnation, guilt or shame to convince me to change my ways. If I am struggling with any of those three, I know that I am listening to the voice of the world, myself, or the enemy. God always convicts with love. Always.

A few years ago, I experienced this in a profound way. A friend and I had a very serious conversation, intense in nature, regarding a third party for whom we were deeply concerned. Even though the conversation was discreet and respectful, my spirit was greatly troubled afterwards. I knew that I had displeased the Lord.

Looking at the conversation, through God’s eyes, I realized that I had freely and thoughtlessly shared privileged insight given to me by the Lord. I had spoken on my own authority; with no fear of God. I assumed ownership of the knowledge given to me and had overstepped my boundaries; partly out of ignorance but mostly out of carelessness.

Upon conviction and horror at my sin, the Lord said something to the effect of,

“I know…you really screwed that up but we don’t have time to stay in this place of self-pity and guilt. Don’t - do it - again. Got it?”

Don’t misunderstand me. God did not minimize my sin. I was fully convicted of my wrongdoing and understood the importance of what He showed me. But I was also dumbfounded, because God was so matter-of-fact about it.

God had no intention of dwelling on my mess-up – so what made me think I could/should? His focus was not on my sin. It was on me. And, in return, my focus was to be on Him.

I learned something that day. He asks me to deal with my sin; not to make me suffer, but to set me free. When I deal with my sin it makes room for my relationship with God to grow and to thrive. And, I am better able to carry out the work that He has called me to do.

According to Jeremiah 7:24, I am either moving backward in my sin or forward in my faith. God’s will is always that I move forward. The choice is mine.

Even as I write, “I choose to move forward,” I readily admit that I am not looking forward to Your next invitation of, “Let’s look at this together.” It is so hard to go to those deep, dark places that exist inside me. And yet, Lord, I know that it is only in dealing with my stuff that I can grow closer to You. Thank You for Your persistent invitations. Thank You for the grace that You always shower on me when I go to those places with You. Thank You for Your patience when I do not accept Your invitation. Please, Father, give me the courage to say, “Yes” the next time You whisper to me. Help me to move forward in my faith. In the powerful, redeeming name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Turtle On Its Back

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." -- Matthew 7:7-8

"I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." -- Romans 15:30

Yesterday, my friend and I discussed the challenges of trusting God with our lives and asking Him and others for help along the way. Since then, I have been thinking a lot about my own reluctance to ask for help. The truth is, I enjoy being self-sufficient.

It has taken me years to to be able to admit I don't know how to do something without wanting to hide in shame. Asking for help used to mean that I was weak; that I was stupid; that I was incompetent. My pride constantly whispered that if I asked for help then people would know...know that I couldn't do it myself. My cover would be blown and everyone would know me for the fraud I was. It was a lie but I believed it.

My most embarrassing parent moment is a perfect illustration of this mindset. At the time, my kids were 5 yrs, 3 yrs and 10 months. The four of us were leaving the zoo and had stopped at the concession stand to buy some popcorn. My oldest two immediately began to fight over who got to hold the container. The concession lady kindly handed me an empty cup so they could each have their own.

Instead of showing some gratitude, they began to argue over which container had more. I squatted down to prove I was dividing the popcorn equally. This wouldn't have been a big deal except for two important details:
1. I was carrying my youngest in a baby backpack and
2. I didn't want to get my knee dirty so rather than place it on the ground, I let it hover about two inches above the concrete.

At this point, my brain registered the fact that my center of gravity was somewhere above my shoulder blades and behind my head.

I was in serious trouble.

Ever so slowly I began to tip backwards. There was nothing to grab on to and no way to stop the pull of gravity. My sole focus was to go down as slowly as possible so as not to crack my baby's head on the concrete. As my rear end made contact with the ground, my legs shot straight out from under me. I continued going down until I was on my back; with legs in the air, my head straining forward (to try to keep the weight off of my little one), and...this is the best part (or most ridiculous )...holding out two cups of popcorn with most of their contents, in tact.

A turtle on its back, in all its glory!

My little guy (in the backpack) began to scream bloody murder because my body was putting lots of pressure on his. My older two began to cry because some of the popcorn had spilled on the ground.

All around us were happy families eating and laughing. They were totally oblivious to the drama in their midst. I wavered somewhere between laughter and tears as I lay there in disbelief thinking, "This cannot be happening to me!"

I gave what was left of the popcorn to my kids and then made an attempt to get up. No go. I was strapped in, buckled up, and snapped down. There was no escape. All attempts to sit up or roll over were a failure. I was trapped.

I remember looking around at the surrounding families. I wanted someone to notice me so that I didn't have to ask for help. I finally swallowed my pride and offered a tentative, "Help?" No one heard me.

I continued to holler "Help," each time increasing my volume, until a kind gentleman turned around and saw me. He was horrified; assuming I had fallen from a standing position. After quite a bit of effort, he helped me up. By the time I was back on my feet, we had everyone's attention (naturally). I couldn't wait to leave and hide my bruised pride.

When I look back on that incident, I am amazed at the lengths I went to -- by myself -- to fix the situation. At no point did I ask for help. Not when I realized I was going down. Not as I was going down. Not even when I was down. It wasn't until I had exhausted every one of my own resources that I considered asking for help. Don't you know that God was up in heaven, with a front row seat, just shaking His head and muttering, "Child, Child, Child."

Since I began a relationship with Jesus, I have been trying to live my life differently. There are times when I catch myself resorting to old habits. But on most days, I can see progress. God's Word tells us to "Ask," and so I have been practicing the discipline of asking God for help. I ask for wisdom and discernment in parenting. I ask for blessings and unity for my marriage. I ask for health and favor for my children. I ask for God to reveal His path for my life and for the strength to be obedient. I ask for peace for the one who seeks God's will. I ask for healing for the one with a broken heart. I ask for direction for the one who has lost their way. I ask on behalf of my leaders, my country and our world.

I have also learned how to ask my friends in Christ for their help through prayer. It is amazing to see how Christ can take a moment of need and turn it into an experience of grace and blessing.

For anyone who may be struggling with the asking: it gets easier with practice. I promise.

Almighty Father,
You are a God who invites us to "ask." May we take full advantage of Your invitation and make our hearts and plans accessible to You. Thank You for always loving, always listening, and always providing exactly what we need to become more like Jesus. In His name, Amen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Family Album

"Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me." --Psalm 66:16

Six months ago, a friend asked me when I was going to start writing. I replied that I didn't have anything to write about. My friend then pulled out a Bible and read 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 aloud:

"So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."

Then my friend explained that I had been entrusted with (asked to steward) the mysteries of God in order to dispense them to others. And, it was time for me to share what the Lord had been teaching me. When I confessed that I didn't know where to begin, my wise friend suggested I start by writing a devotional.

I left that meeting filled with the excitement of someone who has been given the go-ahead after a long, long wait. I knew that my life was about to be changed forever.

For years, I had been waiting and hoping that God would allow me to write for Him. My journal entry from 8/14/05 reads:
"As it pertains to my gifting -- moments in my life when I have been absolutely, positively certain that I was doing something God created me to do:
1. Writing about God at work in my life and then sharing it with others.
2. Praying with or for others.
Something supernatural takes place when I make these gifts available to God."

When I acknowledged this desire to write for God, back in 2005, it seemed foolish. After all, my writing skills were above average, at best. I didn't have anything to say that hadn't already been said. And most importantly, the Lord hadn't given me an assignment.

So I wrote those words in my journal and kept them to myself. In the meantime, I worked my way through a One Year Bible. For three years, I read, underlined, and copied (word for word) the Scriptures that God highlighted for me each day. I filled notebook after notebook with Scripture.

"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."

Upon reflection, I can see that the Lord was doing more than shape me through the study of His Word. He gave me the opportunity to prove myself faithful through the daily discipline of reading and writing His Word back to Him. And, it was only after proving myself faithful, that He gave me the go ahead to write for others.

Since my friend's prompting, the Lord has blessed me with multiple opportunities to share the way I see Him at work. Each devotional is dependant upon inspiration from the Holy Spirit. It is as if the Lord hands me a snapshot, taken by His own camera, and asks me to write about it.

For the first several months, I never knew when or what I would be asked to write about. In between assignments, I read my Bible, journaled and waited for the next picture.

Just recently, the Lord added a a new twist to this scrapbooking theme. Instead of one snapshot, at a time, He has been handing them (writing ideas) to me in twos and threes. To keep from forgetting the images He showed me, I began a list of titles and corresponding Scriptures on the last page of my journal. In less than a month, the page is almost full.

Once again, I realize that God provided me with the opportunity to prove myself faithful. In His infinite wisdom, He handed me individual photos until I could be entrusted with an entire roll of developed pictures. With His blessing, I will continue to preserve Holy snapshots in the Family Album for as long as it pleases Him.

Father, I praise You for being the Creator. When I consider how many scrapbooks it would take to capture a small portion of your creation, I am overwhelmed. Forgive me for my impatience with Your plan. And thank You that You know exactly what I need and do not withhold it from me. Give me the peace to trust Your perfect timing for my life. Remind me that there is always great purpose and lessons to be learned in the waiting. Thank You Jesus for your gift of my salvation. Help me to live my life in a way that brings You glory and honor. In the saving name of Jesus Christ, my Savior, Amen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I met a friend at Starbucks the other day.

Although I love the smell of coffee, I don't drink the stuff. I asked for a big cup (I actually pointed to the display) of hot white tea. The person behind the counter politely translated my order into Starbuckese, "I need a Venti Tazo White."

I took my drink over to a nearby counter to add some sugar. Removing the lid, I stared into a cup of steaming hot black liquid. Definitely not white tea. I asked myself the question, "Do I waste precious time correcting my order or just drink it?" I put the lid back on the cup and joined my friend.

An hour and a half later, I headed home bringing the rest of my tea with me. As I sat at my computer answering emails, it became harder and harder to concentrate. The Starbucks cup mocked me as the truth dawned in my jittery brain...I had just consumed a serious amount of caffeine!

I immediately did an internet search and discovered that a Venti (24 oz) Black Tea has approximately 125 mg. of caffeine. (There weren't any numbers for the "Tazo Awake" brand I had been given. Even the name sounds lethal!) For comparison sake: a 12 oz. can of Dr. Pepper has 41 mg. Aside from an occasional piece of chocolate or a rare soda, my average daily intake of caffeine is close to zero. No wonder I was wired!

What started out as funny turned serious as I fought waves of nausea and the sensation that I was going to jump out of my skin. My irritability continued throughout the day. Relief came in the form of a long walk through the neighborhood with a friend. She was kind enough to listen as I wondered aloud what I was supposed to learn from this experience.

In Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth he says,

"'Everything is permissable' - but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissable' - but not everything is constructive." -- 1 Corinthians 10:23

There is a reason I stay away from caffeine - it is not "beneficial" to me. I will definitely remember that the next time I order a drink at Starbucks. End of the story? No.

The Starbucks adventure illustrates the way God is calling me to a more authentic faith. More often than not, when I quiet my mind and make my body still before Him...He whispers to me about the details of my life. He shows me how even the smallest choices I make have long lasting, far reaching consequences.

Everything is permissable -- but not always beneficial (wholesome) or constructive (edifying/promoting growth). There are times when I am frustrated by how much small decisions matter to God. If I am totally honest, I would rather He help me with the big stuff and just leave the little stuff to me. But the truth is that all of my choices matter to Him.

Even the ones involving caffeine.

You are the God of the Universe. And still, details matter to You. I want to honor You in all of the details of my life. Please show me how to make choices that are both beneficial and constructive. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Plate of Warm Cookies

"We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don't try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this." --2 Corinthians 4:2 (NLT)

Have you ever noticed that the Lord is not above using some of the smallest details from your life to teach you about His ways and His plans?

God busted me recently. Over a plate of warm cookies.

Recently, as part of our relocation process, we were required to have our home value determined by two separate appraisal firms. The first appraisal was scheduled. The house was clean and ready for viewing. I had prayed that the Lord would cause the contractor to look upon our house with favor. However, I felt the need to "do something" more.

Minutes before the appraiser arrived, I had preheated the oven and two dozen sugar cookies were turning a beautiful golden brown. The appraiser didn't stand a chance! As he made his way through the house, the cookies cooled on the counter. I was very pleased with my "not so subtle" aromatherapy.

A few days later, I came across 2 Corinthians 4:2 and felt the Lord's thoughtful gaze as He waited for me to make the connection between His Word and my recent baking episode. (Just for the record, He didn't have anything against the cookies.) He wanted to address my motive.

What I had done was simple. I had prayed for God to be in charge. And then, I took over. I attempted to manipulate the outcome using methods that were unpleasing to the Lord. Another lesson learned.

The following week, the second appraiser showed up to view the house. It was clean and everything was in order. But this time, there were no cookies.

Later on, our relocation company called with the results of the appraisals. Both appraisals were favorable and our house had appraised at a higher value than we had even hoped for. After the initial celebration, I was struck with remorse over the thought that our good fortune came at the hands of my "underhanded methods." Imagine my delight when I discovered that the highest bid came from the second appraisal...the one I had left in God's hands.

I don't think I'll ever look at a plate of cookies in the same way again.

Where would I be without You? Thank You for the loving ways You call me to obedience. On this day, give me "eyes to see and ears to hear" You. Help me to submit all of the details of my life to Your care and Your direction. Thank You for the blood of Jesus that covers my every transgression. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Past Revisited

Something unusual happened this week (in addition to participating in Sunday's Cardboard Testimony -- as if that wasn't enough!). I had just sat down to my daily time of studying God's word and had opened my Bible to the book of Job, chapter 40. By the time I reached verse eight, I had to stop reading because of my reaction to the words.

1 "Then the Lord said to Job,
2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

3 Then Job replied to the Lord,
4 “I am nothing—how could I find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. 5 I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”

6 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
7 “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
8 “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?" (NLT)

I was sobbing. I was grief stricken. I was broken...and all in the time it took me to read from verse one to verse eight. Why?

Because as I read the words, the Lord confronted me with something from my past. Using the dialogue between Job and the Lord as a backdrop, God took me back in time and gave me fresh eyes to see an old experience:

Five years ago, while serving as a team member on a Spiritual Retreat, I was in the chapel at Mt. Wesley in Kerrville, TX. I was on my knees at the altar rail, seeking the Lord's favor and blessing just before I was to deliver a talk to the retreat members. The prayer team was in the chapel with me and also praying on my behalf. It started out as a beautiful time of worship and praise. Never, in my life, have I been so "in love" with my God. Which is why what happened next came as such a shock.

As I worshiped on my knees, I experienced the sensation of a lead blanket (the kind the dentist puts on you before taking x-rays of your mouth) being placed on my upper body. This was not a new sensation for each time our group had gone to the chapel for prayer/worship services, the lead blanket feeling would accompany me. It was, as if, the very hand of God was with me.

So this time, I subconsciously acknowledged the lead blanket sensation and continued praying. But then everything changed. The weight of the hand upon me exerted a pressure that was not only uncomfortable but frightening (multiply the lead blanket x 10). I could no longer draw a full breath of air for there was no room for my lungs to expand. And I could no longer remain on my knees for the pressure insisted I get down on my face.

As I lay, flat on my face, my heart raced and my terrified mind darted in all directions. I was aware of others praying for me as I struggled to breathe and struggled to pray. I no longer remember if I prayed aloud or in the silence of my heart but these are just some of the words that exploded from within: "What is this? What is happening to me? Help me!! God, where are You? Is this You? Is this the enemy? I rebuke you, satan, in the name of Jesus Christ. You may have no part of me for I belong to Jesus. I have a talk to give...I am not going to fail You, God. You have called me. You have prepared me. I will be obedient. Please help me!"

After some passage of time, my heart rate returned to normal and the peace of God flooded my soul. Shortly thereafter, I left the chapel to give my talk; determined but shaken to my very core. My mind pushed back the questions that would haunt me for weeks to come, "What was that? Why did it happen? Was it of God or was it evil?" It was a long, slow process to sort through the answers to those questions and the subsequent lessons that I've learned (but that is another topic to write about). The entire thing left me a changed woman.

Reenter the present, where I am sitting at my kitchen table, sobbing over Job 40:1-8. Why am I grieving? Two things cut me to the marrow...

1. Job knew he was in the Lord's presence when God spoke to him from the whirlwind/storm. I know, now, that it was the Lord that visited me in the chapel that day but it took me a long time before I was certain it was Him. I was grieving the fact that I did not know my Lord when I was in His presence.
2. Job knew to cover his mouth. Job knew to be quiet in the presence of the Almighty. I was grieving at the realization that I never closed my mouth. The entire time I was on my face in the chapel, my mouth was moving (if not literally, at least figuratively)because to be still meant giving The Voice an opportunity to speak and that would have been more than I could have handled.

After an hour had passed, my grief subsided. It was as if the Lord said, "Ok. So now we have that cleared up." I ended up writing the following words in my journal,

"What did I miss that day because I did not submit my mind to You? I was so busy talking that I did not listen. I felt the heavy hand of discipline from the Lord and I never shut my mouth. Oh, my God, forgive me. I wish I could go back and show You the reverence and fear You deserve. I do not understand why You are showing me this right now but I accept that it is necessary."

So here I am, after revisiting the past, humbled to discover that I have not learned all there is to learn about that day in the chapel. I would not be surprised to discover that the lessons continue for the remainder of my life. Without a doubt, the Lord's timing and His ways are a mystery to me.

Once again, I am shaken to my core. Once again, I am back on my face. And even so, the irony is not lost on me, that as I admit I have "said too much already. I have nothing more to say," (Job 40:5) the Lord has given me permission to write about it.

I confess that I only thought I knew You. Who can really know You? Help me to be more like Job, to cover my mouth with my hand, and to listen. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cardboard Testimony

"Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" -- Luke 9:23

I held up a sign today.

As part of a visual sermon, I joined twenty others and stood on a stage, facing my brothers and sisters in Christ, and held up a cardboard testimony for everyone to see.

One side of my sign read: Seeking Approval of Many.
The other side: Following the Voice of ONE.

The first side represents my life before meeting Jesus. The second side proclaims the transformation that has taken place since my encounter with Him. On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward:

Before meeting Christ, I was a people pleaser.
After meeting Christ, I only followed Him.

But I have a confession to make.

When I said, "yes," to Christ, I did not stop my approval seeking ways. For me, following His voice, and no other, has been a long, slow transformation that has stretched out over the past 14 years and continues to this day. What I have learned is that it comes down to choice.

The way I live out my life reflects my decision to focus on Him or myself. Whether I consciously choose to or not, each day my actions bear witness to the invitation Jesus issued in Luke 9:23: Deny myself. Take up my cross daily. Follow him. Or not.

Truthfully, I have racked up an awful lot of "Or not" days in the past 14 years. It is a sobering reality and thus my need for confession. Today, I stood in solemn victory, mindful of all of the lessons He has had to teach me along the way. The beauty of walking with Jesus is that each of my failures has been covered by His blood. I am forgiven and stand without condemnation.

What a gift to be able to start over daily. And what a gift to claim His transforming grace that continues to teach me how to "Follow the Voice of ONE."

You know me well. I stand before You and confess my shortcomings and sins. For all of the times I have chosen "Or not" rather than follow Jesus, forgive me. I admit there are days when my feet hit the floor and I do not give You a thought until my day is well under way. The truth is, Lord, there is no joy in my day without You. Help me to choose You. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Journey Begins

With our family move looming in the horizon, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about journeys. The journey from childhood to adulthood. The journey of marriage. The journey of parenting. The journey of faith.

Aside from a few major events in my childhood: baptism, first communion, and confirmation, the majority of my faith journey has taken place since marriage and the arrival of my children. For the first thirty-three years of my life, I believed in God but I didn't know Him.

Fourteen years ago, in the fall of 1994, our family was living in St. Louis, MO. My husband, Marty and I signed up for a Disciple I Bible study through our church. For the first time, I opened my Bible with the intention of learning about the God I worshiped each Sunday. And so began my journey of studying God's Word.

During that Disciple I class, I was pregnant with my third child. At the end of each class session, our group members would circle up and close in prayer. Each week, without fail, my pastor would pray for me and my unborn child. I can remember my shock and delight the first time he did so. It was a blessing I had never experienced before but one which I received, humbly and eagerly, each and every time. And so began my journey of receiving the blessing of the Father.

And then my son, Mitchell, arrived on January 27, 1995. Our pastor stopped by the hospital to visit. He took Mitchell in his arms and sat down in the rocking chair. He asked Marty and me if he could pray for Mitchell. We said yes. But rather than pray over Mitchell, he prayed to God as if he were Mitchell. "Thank You, God for my mom and dad. Thank You, God for my big brother, Andy, and my big sister, Claire. Thank You, God, for my grandparents and aunts and uncles...For ice cream cones and puppy dogs. For all of the Sunday school teachers who will teach me about You. Thank You, for the plans You have for my life..." It was a sweet, sweet, holy moment. And so began my journey of prayer.

A few days later, members from our Disciple class began showing up on our doorstep with meals for our family and gifts for our new son. For weeks, we were showered in love, support and prayers. And so began my journey of fellowship.

Five weeks after Mitchell's birth, my husband was offered a job in San Antonio, TX. He accepted the position and soon began leaving town on Sunday afternoons and returning on Friday evenings. I set out to be Superwife/Supermom and did not ask for help as I parented an infant, a two year old, and a four year old and tried to keep a house clean for potential buyers. Because I did not know how to process the grief I was feeling, over leaving my new found family of faith, I did my best to ignore it. Physical exhaustion, loneliness, grief and anxiety soon took its toll. I went from needing no help to needing help for the smallest of decisions. The Body of Christ ministered to me in ways that I will never be able to repay. They drove me to doctor's appointments. They watched my young children. They invited me over for dinner. They prayed with me over the phone at 6 a.m. because I did not know how I was going to make it through another day. They loved me, encouraged me and believed for me when I had no hope for myself. And so began my journey to ministry.

During the fall of 1994 and the spring of 1995, the Lord poured out His blessings upon me and my family, again, and again, and again. What I have realized is that it wasn't only a year of blessings, it was also a year of introductions: to studying His Word, receiving His blessing, to prayer, to fellowship, and to ministry.

Thank you, Father, for reflections and a new understanding of how You were at work in my life during the beginning of my faith journey. I marvel at the strong foundation You provided for me through example after example of faithful men and women whose names and faces are now mostly a blur. But their acts of love, oh Lord, their selfless acts of love are forever imprinted on my heart. May You bless them richly for the legacy of faith they have imparted in my own life. And Father, may you help me to be the same for those who would cross my path. I love You, Amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, 'Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.'” --John 6:12 (NLT)

I am not fond of leftovers. Even though I dutifully place them in the refrigerator, I usually ignore them until they begin to sprout sickly, black spots and unusual looking fur. The majority of them end up in the trashcan. I always find it easier to toss out food once it has genetically mutated.

Recently, I came across the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (John 6:1-13). I have heard/read this story many times and always assumed that the gathering of the leftovers was to validate the extravagance of Jesus' miracle. He didn't just feed them; he provided more than they needed (twelve baskets full)!

But this time, as I read the story from John 6, Jesus' words in verse 12 caught my attention, "Gather the leftovers so that nothing is wasted."

So that nothing is wasted...

As I ponder this concept of spiritual leftovers, I realize that God has gone to great lengths, during the past three years, to teach me the importance of gathering leftovers. On most days, I read from a One Year Bible and journal the Scripture(s) that stand out to me. I also jot down events from my life that have God's handprints all over them. Rather than get bogged down with complete sentences and paragraphs, I tend to write bullet points.

My journal entry for John 6:12 reads, "Leftovers - the bits and pieces that are left over, as a result of a miracle (God at work), are just as important to Jesus as the main course."

Even though I may be full, according to Jesus, the bits and pieces that remain are not to be wasted. The discipline of journaling allows me to gather the leftovers of my God experiences. On a regular basis, I go back and reflect on past journal entries. There, on the written page, God's faithfulness is impossible to deny because, in my own hand, I have logged a record of His miracles and the overflowing baskets of leftovers! Without fail, I discover new truths, gain clearer understanding, and find significance in a small detail where before there was none. And best of all, unlike the contents of my refrigerator, these leftovers never spoil!

Your extravagance knows no boundaries! Not only do You feed me but You provide leftovers that are a feast, in and of themselves. Forgive me for carelessly tossing out what comes from Your hand. There isn't a single detail from my experiences with You that should end up in the trashcan. Since the pieces left over were important to Jesus, may they be important to me. Teach me to appreciate the miracle of everyday moments. And, just as importantly, teach me to savor the leftovers that are not to be wasted. I love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Learning to Eat Solid Food

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! --Hebrews 5:12

What follows are some thoughts that came forth after I was pondering our growth as people of faith. We don't start out with the heavy stuff (meat and potatoes). We start out with spiritual milk but it is always God's intention that our diet becomes more complex. God does not plan for any of us to keep drinking from a bottle...eventually we develop a set of teeth and the ability to feed ourselves. We learn how to hold a knife and fork and are expected to use them in order to put nutritious things to our lips.

When a child learns to eat solid food:

  • Stages or levels of food introduction -- milk, cereal, vegetables, fruit, meat -- definite order!
  • Pieces are cut into small bites
  • Attention is given to how difficult the food item is to chew and swallow
  • Small portions
  • Variety offered
  • Child encouraged to taste but not forced to partake or finish
  • Typically offered items of nutritional value vs. junk food
  • Understood that the child will prefer some things over others
  • Also understood that the child may be reluctant or flat out refuse to try something -- especially if it looks, feels, smells or tastes weird, unusual or different from normal menu
  • Will still turn back to familiar (milk) for comfort and satisfaction, especially early on
  • Food is adjusted as child gains more teeth - chewing ability
  • Child will eventually prefer solids to milk - greater satisfaction - hunger needs met more efficiently
  • More nutrition received when partaking from all the food groups vs. just milk
  • Growth internal and external is result
  • Beware of sweet tooth!

Father, You are the God who provides. You do not withhold milk or solids from me. And yet, I confess that I do not always turn to You when I am empty and hungry. Help me to be honest with You about my spiritual diet. Show me where I am in this process. Give me a fresh awareness of what I am feeding myself. Create in me the desire to feast on your Word and to dine in your presence. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Marching Orders

“The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people
and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.”
--Genesis 12:1

It is almost 4 a.m. For the last hour and a half, I have unsuccessfully tried to stem the flood of thoughts, concerns, and “to-do’s” that are running through my mind. My over-stimulated brain is trying to come to grips with the reality that our family of five is being transferred from San Antonio to Dallas, TX. It is a surreal moment.

In the 12 hours, since receiving the news of our move, I have been thinking a lot about Abram and Sarai. What went through Abram’s mind when the LORD called him to a new life? Did he struggle with guilt over uprooting his wife and all the people in his household for a destination unknown? And what about Sarai? Did she have a hard time sleeping as her to-do list grew and grew?

I’ve also been thinking of the wisdom of God’s timing in their family planning. It is a selfish thought, I know, but at least they were spared the heartache of moving their teenaged children soon to start their senior, junior and eighth grade years.

Were their hearts pierced over the thought of saying goodbye to family, friends, neighbors, pastors, church and community? Were they worried about where the LORD might take them? Scripture doesn’t provide us with details about their thoughts.

What we do know is how Abram went about the next part of his faith journey. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). By faith, Abram made a choice to believe God, to trust God and to follow God. I want the same to be said about me – “By faith, she left as the LORD had instructed…”

Father God,
Thank You for going ahead of my family to prepare the way for our move. Today, by faith, I choose to believe You, to trust You, and to follow You on a journey that is largely unknown. I confess my fears, grief and worries to You and ask that You would provide your peace that surpasses all understanding. Give me strength and courage for the days and weeks ahead. I love You and I need You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keeping God at Arm's Length

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
that each one may receive what is due him for the things
done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
-- 2 Corinthians 5:10

For the last several weeks, I have been in a place of desert dryness, brittle prayers, and a hard heart. This is not to be confused with the spiritual desert that God sometimes calls us to in order to bring about a deeper faith. No, I traveled to this barren place of my own free will. It is a place I know well; a place I go to hide, to escape, to ignore the call of God.

When I am in this spiritual state, it is as if I mentally stretch out my arm and say, “You may come this close but no farther.” Consider the absurdity of a 5’2” woman, puny arm straight out and palm facing forward, telling Almighty God to stay back! Of course, I do not possess the strength to control God. I can, however, choose to withhold myself from Him.

I’ve been pondering this choice of keeping God at arm’s length. Why do I willingly walk away from fellowship with the Lord to miserably wander alone in the desert? A couple of things come to mind: weariness of carrying my cross, pride when I think I’ve sacrificed enough, fear of what lies ahead, laziness. When I focus on myself and my circumstances, it becomes easier to justify a side trip. Before I know it, I am wasting time in old, familiar territory.

During my most recent trip to the desert, God used his word to speak to my wayward heart. According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, someday I will stand before Christ and receive what I’m due for the things I have done, in this life, whether good or bad. Well, what about the things that I refused to do? What about the time I spent avoiding God in the desert?

The truth is that I do not want to stand in front of my Savior, in my current faith condition, knowing that this is all I was willing to give him. He has called me to journey with him to experience a life of deep faith and service. How can I look him in the eye, aware of the limitations I have put on my growth because I refused to cooperate? In light of the truth of God’s Word, hiding is pointless. It is time to pack my bags and head home.

You are my Creator. You know the depths of my heart. You know what is best for me and, yet, You let me choose for myself, even when I choose badly. Forgive me for keeping You at arm’s length; for preferring my desert over your plans for my life. Thank You for always welcoming me back into relationship with You. Teach me how to trust You and stay true to the path You have planned for me. May I live my life in a way that shows gratitude for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and brings glory and honor to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Holy Moment at HEB

Our air conditioner went out on a recent Saturday morning. That evening, I headed to the grocery store in search of cold beverages, frozen treats, and anything else that might provide a break from the miserable heat.

After loading my groceries in the van, I pushed the empty cart to the rack. I made eye contact with an elderly gentleman standing next to a large SUV. He stood in the space created by the passenger door which was open wide. The vehicle was idling and there was no one in the driver's seat. His startled, anxious eyes compelled me to walk over to him.

"Hello. Can I do something for you?"

He answered my question in a voice so weak and muffled that I had to lean in to catch his words. I repeated what he said to make sure that I'd heard him correctly.

"Your daughter's name is Katherine. She's shopping in the store and you need her?"


In the split second it took to process his statement, my mind went in three different directions: 1. Oh no, all of the frozen food I just bought is going to melt in my van. 2. How am I ever going to find his daughter in this busy grocery store? 3. I wonder if he even knows her telephone number. I pushed the first thought aside and accepted the fact that, at least temporarily, I was now responsible for the welfare of a complete stranger.

As it turned out, he did know her number. I used my phone to call her, introduce myself and relay his message. She said that she was in the checkout line and would be outside, as soon as possible.

I relayed her words, assuming my role as "Good Samaritan" was over. It was the look in his eyes that made me pause and then ask, “Do you want me to wait with you until she gets back?"

"Would you?" he asked with gratitude and relief.

Assuming his daughter would be joining us momentarily, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and ask him for his name. It was John. He lived with his daughter in San Antonio .

Dividing my focus between John and the grocery store exits, I continued to ask questions. He had grown children living in Houston, New Braunfels & San Antonio. He was grandfather to six.

His daughter had yet to make her appearance. By this time, we were both scrutinizing every woman walking out of the store. I continued to ask John about himself. He was originally from Houston and 30 years earlier, had moved to San Antonio to sell eighteen-wheelers.

Ten minutes passed and still no sign of Katherine. John became increasingly agitated as the time went by. He shared with me that he had recently been in the hospital and had spent time in rehab. Then he looked at me and admitted that he had trouble with panic attacks.

I asked him if that was what was happening when I had walked over to him. He looked down at the ground, answered, “Yes,” and told me that they made it hard for him to breathe. Gently squeezing his arm, I shared that I had struggled with panic attacks, too, and they did make life difficult. After that exchange there didn't seem to be anything left to say. He slumped against the car’s seat for support as we stood there in companionable silence.

I began to struggle with my own judgmental thoughts. What kind of daughter would leave her father outside for such a long period of time? Why was she taking so long? What if he’d fallen? What if he’d tried to go into the store to find her? What if…

I started praying. I prayed that John was in a family situation where he was treated with respect and honor. I asked God, "What is going on here? What do you want me to do? Please show me." The Holy Spirit whispered, "Look at him."

In his mid-80’s, John’s tall, slender frame was frail and stooped with age. He had a full head of white hair, paper thin skin and clear blue eyes. He was wearing sensible brown shoes, khaki pants, a crisp, blue short sleeve button down shirt, and snappy red suspenders. By all outward appearances, he was well taken care of. My eyes slipped past him to the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. A set of dentures rested on a tissue. I smiled to myself as I realized the reason for John's muffled speech.

I continued to look and saw more. I saw a man who no longer had the physical strength to climb into a large vehicle by himself after he had climbed out. I saw a man who could no longer drive himself where he wanted to go and was at the mercy of his daughter’s errand schedule. I saw a man who somehow maintained his dignity, even as he welcomed the company of a stranger in a grocery store parking lot. And as I saw, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of how much Jesus Christ loved this man.

About this time, I noticed a cart heading straight towards us; pushed by a woman, who looked to be in her sixties. I searched her face for clues about her relationship with her father. She did not appear to be alarmed or rushed. She calmly brought her cart to a stop and looked at John.

“Dad, what do you need?”

“I couldn't breathe,” he confessed. Comprehension spread across her face as she murmured, “Oh, Dad.” Those two words conveyed a deep love and understanding that eliminated the need for further explanation and answered every one of my “What ifs.”

“Katherine, this is Denise Webb. She stayed with me while you were in the store.” I was startled, amazed and pleased as John introduced us. Katherine thanked me for taking care of her father. I assured her it was my pleasure. It was time for me to go.

Before I left, I turned to John and reached out to shake his hand. As he thanked me, I looked deep into his eyes and with a new awareness of Christ's love said, “God bless you, John.” I meant those words with everything in me.

As I drove home, I tried to wrap my mind around what had just happened. I wiped away tears as I acknowledged how deeply the encounter had moved me. What had happened? Even as I continue to seek understanding, I have discerned two things.

I stood in his presence. “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32) I believe my standing and waiting with John showed him respect and honor at a time when he needed it most. The Lord loved this man and wanted me to know it and to show it. Under the evening sky, I had the privilege of representing Jesus and bringing God glory by merely standing with another human being.

He spoke my name. “This is Denise Webb.” His remembering and speaking it aloud blessed me beyond words. The more I ponder this, the more I realize it is true. A wise woman once told me that there is great power in the spoken name. She explained that Jesus called those he loved by name, “Martha. Peter. Mary. Lazarus.” When we hear our name spoken, it re-centers us and calls us back to Christ. John spoke my name and blessed me as tenderly as if Christ, himself, had spoken.

The sacredness of my encounter with John has provided me with a brand new appreciation for the phrase, "Blessed to be a blessing."

Oh Father, what a blessing to be known and called by name. Forgive me for those times I do not hear You calling because I am too busy with my own plans. Give me the faith to entrust my schedule to Your safekeeping and the courage to cooperate with Your divine appointments. May I say "Yes" to what You have planned for my day. Help me to see with the eyes of Christ that I might love with the love of Christ. Abba, serving You in this way will always bring You glory and honor. I love You and praise You. I ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Being Tested

Some time later God tested Abraham.
He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied.
Genesis 22:1

Tests. They come in all shapes and sizes. Academic tests, physical tests, career tests, emotional tests, marital tests, parenting tests, spiritual tests. Is there ever a point in our life when we are no longer faced with testing moments? I don't think so.

Five years ago, I cried out to the Lord with a life changing request. My heart's deepest desire was to move beyond a personal relationship with the Lord and experience a previously unknown level of understanding, love and intimacy with Him, much like King David's. I gave Him permission to transform me from the inside out.

Looking back over the past five years, I can see how my faith has been tested in radical ways. The path that He has set before me doesn't look anything like the one I had envisioned for myself when I first said, "yes" to Jesus. There is no one to my right or left to show me if I'm doing it right. He is teaching me to keep my eyes on Him.

Nobody else takes my test nor do I take theirs.

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a conversation with a friend. I was sharing how the Lord had spelled out my priorities for the next two years. Part of the Lord's directions included sharing this two year plan with my pastors, as a means of accountability. Almost immediately after doing so, I was presented with a test.

I was approached by two different staff members at my child's school and asked if I would consider serving as their PTA President. A great honor? No doubt. A great responsibility? You bet. A great need? Absolutely.

I weighed and tested the possibility in my mind. Honor - I had no personal desire for the "honor" of the title and recognition that would come with the position. Responsibility - It would be a lot of work but I was fully capable of filling the position. Need - This was my trigger point. Great Need - This was my test. I paused and began to consider the possibility before sensing the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Did this position fit in with the, previously mentioned, Lord's priorities for my life? In the end, I said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Now while this test wasn't nearly as difficult as others I have faced, it made me aware that there is a pattern to the tests which come before me. It also highlighted my understanding of one of my own trigger points. When I look back over my life, I see how many of my tests deal with the same issue - just different scenarios. It is only when I allow the Lord to transform that particular part of my life that it ceases to be a test which shows up with annoying regularity.

Tests are not my favorite part of life. Yet, it is reassuring to know that the Lord's tests are always designed with my limitations, needs and ultimate good, in mind. Will I believe God or rely on my own understanding? Do I stay on this path which provides just enough light for the next step or do I walk toward the artificial light of the world? Do I stay true to the new thing He has called me to or do I revert back to old habits and familiar places? Do I trust Him enough to say, "Here I am"?

Oh Lord, You who know all things, see all things, and hold all things together. You see my heart. You see the places in my life where I try to hide my anger, fear, shame, hate, and pride. You see me, Lord, and You love me still. Forgive me for holding on to things that are no good for me. Help me to be open to your tests, your lessons, and your truth. Show me how to forgive myself when I fail a test and give me the courage to face the next one. Teach me how to be more like You. In the mighty, redeeming name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Blessing of Prayer

"I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that
you are my disciples." -- John 13:34-35

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
The question was put to me recently. It caught me off guard, pleased me in a deeply personal way, and brought me face-to-face with the living Christ.

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
When this powerful question is asked it releases a blessing. I was blessed by the invitation to share my prayer needs with another. I was blessed as I paused to consider my response. And I was blessed, further still, as I made my requests known.

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
So why did these words take me by surprise? They were spoken by someone who stands at a major crossroads in their own life; someone 20 years my junior; someone who I've only known for a few short months; but most importantly, someone who knows how to love just like Jesus.

"Is there anything I can pray for you?"
As believers in Christ, we are called to pray for one another. We are called to ask the question which blesses, as it says:
You are important.
You matter to me.
You matter to Christ.
How can I support your faith journey in prayer?

Thank you, Father, for the blessing of being loved by others in the Body of Christ through the ministry of prayer. Lord, give us eyes to see someone who needs to hear the question, "Is there anything I can pray for you?" Holy Spirit, give us the courage to ask this question with sincerity and love. Finally, give us the discipline to follow through by lifting these prayer requests to You. May we love each other well in prayer. We love You and thank Jesus for the reassurance that you hear each and every request placed before your throne. In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Who Am I Today?

An event from the past takes on new meaning...September 14, 2002

My daughter Claire (10 years old at that time) and I were shopping at the Quarry for a birthday gift for one of her classmates. She slowly made her way up and down each aisle of the toy store, determined to find the "perfect" present. Knowing there was no way to speed up the process; I chose a spot a few feet away and settled in for the duration.

It was a busy day and the store was filled with the sounds of excited children discovering new treasures. I smiled to myself as I overheard familiar parent/child discussions regarding price tags, negotiations, whining and threats.

The atmosphere shifted dramatically at the sound of a male voice raised in anger. A young man, in his early 20's, stood at the checkout counter waiting for his purchases to be gift wrapped. His frustration was directed at the young girl who stood by his side. She appeared to be around my daughter's age; heavyset, dressed in a t-shirt and short skirt. She spoke in a high immature voice that trembled in fear.

It quickly became apparent that she was in distress about something. It was just as apparent that the young man did not care. His voice increased in volume as he harshly dismissed her need and told her to be quiet.

By this time, everyone in the store had stopped what they were doing. Several people grabbed their children and left. Claire looked to me for reassurance but I had none to give. I remember standing there wishing to shield my daughter from the drama and failing miserably. I also remember wishing God would "do something."

The young girl spoke again. This time she was pleading. One bold mom stepped up to the young man and tried to intervene, only to be told to mind her own business. Without a trace of compassion, the man told the girl to go outside and wait by the car.

She slowly turned towards the front door; squeezing her legs together as she walked. I looked down at her feet as she took tiny, shuffling steps and saw the urine as it trickled down her legs. Her head was bowed in shame. She was crying. We all watched in horror as she left the store, by herself, and made her way to the car. The young man gathered up his purchases and stormed out the door, as the eyes of countless witnesses bore holes in his back.

I learned an invaluable lesson that day.

I thought that by doing nothing, I would protect my daughter. I was wrong. While I watched through the eyes of a parent, she experienced the same thing though the eyes of a child – one who could readily relate to the young girl being abused before her eyes. She did not escape the horror of the situation anymore than I had. Both of us were shaken to our very core.

I learned another invaluable lesson.

It wasn’t until I spent time with the Lord, that I understood that I had a role in the toy store drama. By doing nothing, I had failed my Lord and Savior, my daughter, and that young girl. I failed Him. I failed Claire. I failed her. His forgiveness was immediate. He showed me that I had failed because I was not prepared. The next time, He emphasized, I would be called to act.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” --1 Peter 1:13
Be ready to think. Be ready to ask what He would have you do. Be ready to act when He gives a directive.

“On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem you were like one of them.” -- Obadiah 1:11
Doing nothing does not keep you innocent. Observing without standing up for the persecuted brings guilt upon your own head.


So who am I today?

Am I the young man; short on time, short on love?
Am I the young girl; beaten down by circumstances, unable to speak up for myself?
Am I the clerk behind the counter; pretending not to see, wrapping as furiously as possible?
Am I the one who walks out the door; unable or unwilling to witness anymore?
Am I my daughter; unprotected by her parent, identifying all too well with the victim?
Am I the horrified bystander; paralyzed with fear, unprepared for action?
Am I the woman who stepped forward; no guarantee of outcome, standing up for the oppressed?

You who know and see all things, You know the condition of my heart. On this day, I confess my shortcomings to you. It is by Your will and Your plan that I am to become more like Christ. I ask You to continue Your work within me that I would be prepared the next time You call me to action. Thank You for the promise that the good work You have begun in my life will be carried on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6). Let it be so, in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen.