Monday, December 30, 2013


I did it!!!

I finished reading through the Bible in a year!

Actually I finished it a couple of weeks ago.  Then I got sick.  Now I am finally ALL BETTER! 


And I couldn't wait to get back into the Word.  So a couple of days ago I opened up my Bible... and just stared at.  

I wasn't sure where I was supposed to turn.  What should I read? Do I start over?  Do I try the flip and point method?  What am I supposed to read next?  Well for whatever reason I settled on James.  My youngest child is named James (although we call him JT) and it seemed like as good a place as any to start.  

Instead of reading the 5-7 chapters a day I had been reading I wanted to just focus on a few verses at a time so I read chapter 1:1-4.  That's it.  And I have been thinking of those 4 verses ever since.  

Scholars estimate the book of James was written around AD 50 for the purpose of  encouraging Jewish Christians in their faith.  Many Christians during this time were being persecuted and as a result fled Jerusalem, scattering throughout the surrounding lands.  

James attempts to encourage these Christians by telling them to "consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials."  These trials will help develop perseverance (one of my least favorite words).  This perseverance will help you become mature and complete in your faith.  Ugh, perseverance, the mere mention of the word causes me to shutter.  The thing about perseverance is you KNOW it's going to be hard.  Nothing that is easy has ever required perseverance.  By it's very definition to "persevere" means to be steadfast despite difficulty.  There is no doubt about it, perseverance is tough!  James isn't the only who uses that exact word to encourage Christians.  Paul uses it often too (Romans 5:3-4, 2 Cor. 12:12, 2 Thess 1:4).  So I am left wondering, why?  Why is perseverance so important and what does James know about it?

To begin with, I am guessing James know quite a bit about trials and perseverance   Scholars believe that this James is not Jesus disciple named James, rather, THIS James was Jesus 1/2 brother.  The oldest son of Mary and Joseph.  This James grew up with Jesus, he knew him his whole life.  

Perhaps it is because of the Christmas season, but I have found myself wondering this week what that would have been like for James, to grow up with Jesus.  Of course Mary and Joseph knew from conception how very very special Jesus was, but do you think they told their other children?  Or did they simply raise Jesus just like they did their other kids, with the same chores and responsibilities?  Did they tell the other kids about his birth?  How it came about and  who all was there?  Mary pondered these things in her heart, yes, but did she ever share the story with her other children?  Did they ever tell the other kids who Jesus REAL father was?  We know Jesus had several other brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55), and we know that initially in his ministry his brothers did not believe in him, they didn't understand who he was or what he was doing (John 7:2-5).  So my guess is Mary and Joseph never told them.  I don't know definitively, it's just my guess.  But I think all James saw, initially, was his big brother.  Not God himself.

And I imagine that it made it really, really difficult... trying even... when Jesus first began his ministry.  I imagine that James, even more than the disciples, faced ridicule and persecution.  Let's admit it, we have all had times when our family has embarrassed us.  But claiming to be God's son?  That has to take the cake!  The people from Jesus home town were not accepting of him, we know this from Matthew 13 and Luke 4.  Jesus was able to shake off the ridicule, he WAS the Son of God and he knew it!  He KNEW he would be rejected and it never bothered him, but how do you think it was for his family?  For his brothers?  For James, the younger brother who looked up to him, who wanted to be just like his older brother?  Don't you think it took some perseverance to get through those time?  

I have never been truly persecuted for my faith.  I have never been in any danger or had my life threatened.  But I have been left out.  I have been teased.  I know people who have judged me as less because I put God before the rest of the world.  I have been embarrassed of and by my faith before, especially in my younger days.  And it has taken perseverance (I still REALLY don't like that word) to get where I am today.  To be mature and confident in my faith.  To know the people who judge me as less are wrong, and to love them anyway. 

Do I like the idea of perseverance?  No, not at all.  But I think both James and Paul were right.  Growth is hard.  Maturity is difficult.  And they both require perseverance.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Am Not a Fake

Have you ever felt like a fake?  

Have you ever felt like perhaps you have every one fooled now, but sooner or later they are going to figure out that you aren't who or what you claim to be?

I have felt that way a few times in my life.

I felt that way the first time I held my newborn daughter in my hands.  The doctor smiled down at me and said "She's all your's mommy!"  And I felt like a fake.  I was no mommy.  Yes I had just pushed out a 7 pound baby but that did NOT make me a mother!  I had NO IDEA what I was doing and I was pretty sure someone was going to figure that out pretty darn quick!  Honestly I had to sign more papers to adopt our dog than I did to take home a baby.  But slowly, with LOTS of mistakes and a couple more kids (while still managing to keep the first one alive), I started to feel like a parent, not just a fake.

And then a couple years ago a friend of mine with younger kids came to me with a question, she said something along the lines of me having this parenting thing all figure out, and I felt once again like a big huge fake!  Is that really what she thinks?  That I have this figured out?  Do I act like I have this all figured out?  Because let me tell you, I don't!

My kids fight with each other.  They fight with me.  They have horrible table manners.  They don't clean up after themselves.  And when I am fed up with it all, I yell.  I make idle threats, I stomp my feet.  I too often am a complete failure at this parenting thing.  We took them to an indoor pool yesterday for "family time" and I sat in a chair at the side of the pool reading while my husband and kids had family time!  I don't have this parenting thing all figured out!  And if I have ever led you to believe that I do then I am a fake.

The next time I felt like a fake I was sitting in a small church basement in the inner city.  That morning at church my pastor had asked me if I thought I had teaching gifts.  Let me preface this with the fact that I was on my way to teach his children!  I felt like the only appropriate answer, seeing how I was TEACHING HIS CHILDREN would be to say, yes, of course!  So he told me to come to the church that evening.  What I didn't realize is that he was asking if I had adult teaching gifts, like preaching.  Did I want to preach?  Oh, well, that's different.  I felt like a fake just being there.

But I am nothing if not stubborn so I stuck it out.  There were 5 of us our Pastor had recruited to be part of a teaching team, to take the pressure of constant preaching off of him, none of us had any type of seminary or preaching experience, and we often joked that the disciples were not seminary trained either, but they seemed to do okay.  Still, the first time I got up to speak in front of a congregation I felt like a fake.  I was pretty sure most of the  people in the congregation knew more about the Bible than me.  Who was I to teach them anything?  I was nothing but a fake.

That was years ago.  These days I actually do have some seminary training, but I still believe it isn't absolutely necessary in order to be a Bible Teacher.  I still look at the disciples and all they did just from following Jesus and living as he did.  I truly believe anyone can do amazing things when they obey the words of Jesus and live like he did.

This year I had an extra special Christmas present in my inbox.  An opportunity to write on a regular basis for another blog.  I am overjoyed.  This is what I have wanted, what I have prayed for since I started writing years ago!  I couldn't have been more excited!  And then they asked for my background.  And once again, I felt like a great big fake.  

I don't have a background, at least not a writing one.  My background is this blog.  My background is journals upon journals of pouring my heart out to God.  My background is one children's book no one ever published and a magazine article that was accepted but never printed due to the magazine shutting down.  I felt like a fake.

The good news is God will use anyone, even a fake like me, to further his kingdom, to spread his love.  He doesn't discriminate based on age, sex, or educational level.  He loves us all the same, and uses each one of us in the way HE has gifted us.  This may or may not have to do with our training, education, or skill that happens to bring home a paycheck.  God will give us all the skills we need to do what he has set out for us to do.  And when you are doing what it is God wants you to do, you are not being fake.  You are being more real, more truly you, more truly the person God put on this Earth for you to be, than at any other time!

You my friend, are not a fake.  And it turns out, neither am I.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Merry Christmas!!!

It is 8:42 on Christmas morning.  In my house the presents have all been opened (we were up REALLY early).  The kids are off playing with all their new treasures, Erik is making the frosting for Jesus birthday cake.  A silly tradition but one small way we try to remember exactly what we are celebrating today.  

Life is good.

It was my intention this past week to write more consistently, to spend the week prior to the birth of our savior reflecting on the real reason for the season.  It was not my intention to spend the last 6 days sick.  But alas, our plans are not always God's plan.  Instead of writing I spent this past week juggling exhaustion, aches, pains, coughs and fevers with Christmas cookie baking, games, and family time.  I have 3 dozen cookies that never got frosted.  A wonderful brother who took my kids sledding when I desperately needed a nap. And a mom who took care of all the cooking!

This Christmas, more than any other, when I just couldn't do all the extra's, was a wonderful reminder of just what Christmas is all about.  As I carved out time and energy for only what truly mattered.  Family.  Christ.

It wasn't about Christmas cookies, pottery, the perfect present.  It was about time spent together.  It was about love, hope, peace.

It is with all that in mind that I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Stop Counting

I have a really really bad habit of counting.

I count the number of people who read my blog.  I count the number of people in an audience when I speak.  I count compliments.  I count criticism.  I count just about everything.  

The truly ironic thing is I don't like counting.  An accountant I will NEVER be (I know you're not supposed to say never but really, I will NEVER BE AN ACCOUNTANT!)  

And yet I count.

Every day.

Silly things. 

Things that I know really don't matter.

Is my worth as a Christian, as a child of God, reflected in the number of people I reach?  Of course NOT!!!  I KNOW THIS!  I do.  But still I count.

It struck me this week, how little God cares about numbers.  I sat on the floor in my living room during quite time one day and just stared at the beautiful nativity my mom hand painted for me (I know she is very skilled!).   And then  it hit me.  Numbers really don't matter.  

We don't know exactly how many people were there by the manger the night Christ was born.  There was Mary, and Joseph of course, an unknown number of shepherds (my nativity has four) and angels (only one in my set).  And some wise men, although Bible never really says how many Christmas hymns have somehow assigned the number three.  But really, the wise men didn't come until years later.  So the night of his birth, the night our savior came to Earth, the one night that you think God would have called a huge audience, he didn't.  Why not?

Because God has never been concerned with numbers.  Just with our heart.

A few years ago I had the great privilege of hearing Pasty Claimont Speak at a Women of Faith conference (incidentally, she was speaking to thousands- but that's not my point!).  She is a  woman of God who for years battled debilitating depression and suffered from agoraphobia, not leaving her house for years.  Once she found Christ and started the process of healing she was so excited to do big things.  I have this quote from her written in my journal, " I told God I would do anything for him and he told me to make the bed!  I wanted to do something big and he wanted me to make the bed!"  

Some days I feel like that.  I want to do so much, impact so many, shout from the roof tops, but God doesn't care about that.  He cares about my heart.  About whether I am managing what he has already given my well.  And too often I don't.  My bed, right now is not made (good thing he was telling Patsy that and not me!) My kids are watching TV rather than having me play with them.  There are still gifts  to be wrapped, cookies to be baked and clothes to be packed, and a house that desperately needs to be cleaned and we leave in 5 hours!  Clearly something is not going to get done.  

I think somewhere along the way I may have missed or changed my point, but I think this is what I am trying to say.  God doesn't care what the numbers are.  He has never once, NOT ONCE, compared you to anyone else.  He doesn't need you to stand in front of an audience, write a best seller, or change the state of the world.  But he does want a transformed heart in you.  He wants you to do well the tasks he has given you to do, even the teeny tiny ones.  

So if you are like me, stop.  

Stop counting.

And just do.

Do it not for the audience, but out of love for the one who sent his Son as a little baby, that HE, not you, HE might change the state of the world.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lesson From God #2145

There are so many things that we as parents are supposed to teach our children.

Yes their teachers take the brunt of the academic teaching, PRAISE THE LORD!  But we all know how many hours we spend teaching our kindergarteners how to read, our fourth graders their multiplication facts and state capitals, and our fifth graders long division and how to write an essay. 

On top of the academic skills, we must teach our children how to ride a bike, tie their shoes, play fair and what proper hygiene looks like (on a side note my kids have not yet mastered this one!).  We are to teach them life skills like cleaning up their own messes (something my kids are doing RIGHT NOW as a matter of fact!) and helping others.  

If you are a Christian we have the added responsibility of teaching them about Christ, how to talk to Him, how to read the Bible, to memorize scripture and be humble.   We are to teach them what the big God story is and what their part in it might be.  Deuteronomy 6:7 says we are to impress God's law upon our children to talk about Him when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we get up and when we lie down.

Frankly, it is all a bit overwhelming.  

It seems like every moment of every day could/should/would be filled with intentional teaching of all the MANY things we are charged with passing on to those in our care.  So yesterday I sat down with my children and intentionally taught them…nothing.

Nothing.  Not one thing.  

We all snuggled together on the sofa and watched TV, mindless TV no less.  Nothing was learned, no significant memory was made, no deep conversation was had.  We simply enjoyed each other's company.  It wasn't a silly time, a serious time, or even a necessarily fun time.  It was just time, spent together.  And at the end of the day one of my little munchkins said to me, "Thanks mom, it was fun just hanging out."

Huh, who knew?

Once a week I really try to spend some time with God in silence.  This is something that  does not come naturally or easily for me.  The idea is in these moments, I am not talking TO Him, not asking for anything, just sitting with him, waiting for him to speak.  And I am quiet.  So I can hear Him.  Because let me be frank, I am a loud person, some times it is hard to hear others speak when I am moving my mouth.  So once a weak I sit and I listen so I can hear what it is God has to teach me.  Ironically today he taught me…nothing.

No profound inspiration was revealed.  There was no light bulb or big AHA! moment.  We just hung out, God and I.  And you know what?  It was fun, just hanging out with God. 
I think I expected him to teach me something each and every time I was ready to listen, but I realize know that isn't what it is about.  It's just about time, with Him.  Being there in case there is something He wants to teach me, but also understanding that won't always be the case.  Sometimes God just wants to hang out.

Huh, who knew? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Perfect Gift

'Tis the season.

We are all making our lists and checking them twice.

The stores are crowded with people searching for the perfect gift.

My list seems to be never ending.  Every time I think I am making progress I remember someone else who deserves some kind of gift or token of my of appreciation.

Yesterday, my church held their annual Walk to the Manger Service.  It is a beautiful, awe-inspiring rendition of the nativity story.  One that brings tears to my eyes each and every time I see it (even when I see it twice in one day)!  At the end of the service each person in the congregation is invited to come up and lay a gift at the feet of Jesus.  You get to walk right up to the manger, complete with a real live infant, and present a gift - from you to Jesus.  The gifts that are collected are given to a ministry that makes sure children whose parents are in prison, still get gifts on Christmas morning.  

This year I couldn't help but wonder as I looked at the precious baby portraying Jesus, what I would give if this really was Jesus?  If he was here today, what would I give him?  Would I go with something practical, perhaps a new podium for his speaking engagements?  Would I choose something sentimental, something just Jesus and I would understand?  Or would I go for a prank gift?  Come on, you know God has a sense of humor!

The thing is, Christ is here today.  And there is something he wants, and each one of us, already has the perfect gift to give him.  You see the Bible tells us that all of us, everyone, has been given a spiritual gift, and this gift is the kind that is meant to be re-gifted!  Think of it as a "must return" policy.  To fully enjoy this gift you have already been given, you must use it to serve others.  You receive it, and then you have to give it away.  Give it right back to God.  

Perhaps you are thinking the "spiritual gift fairy" (by the way that fairy's name is actually The Holy Spirit) passed you by.  But alas, he has not.  Scripture tells us a lot about spiritual gifts

1.  EVERY Christian has at least one spiritual gift.  (I Cor. 12:7)  It might not always feel like it but you are a loved and fully gifted child of God.  He has bestowed upon you all his love and the gift or gifts that he has specifically picked out just for you.  You have one, I promise.  YOu just have to find it!

2.  NO Christian has EVERY spiritual gift.  (I Cor. 12:28-30)  That woman you think can do it all, she can't.  Most likely there are gifts you have that she does not!  Perhaps it is the case that she has more than her fair share, but I promise you she does not have them all!

3.  We do not get to choose our spiritual gifts, God chooses them.  (1Cor. 12:7-11)  I would LOVE to be a singer.  I adore music, am continually moved by music, and feel incredibly close to God through music. But alas, I can not sing a note!  I am NOT gifted musically, AT ALL!!!  Had it been up to me I would be, but God chose something different for me.  So when you cringe at that lady in the back of the church belting out the music horribly off key, smile, it's probably me!

4.  There is no one gift that every Christian has.  (1 Cor. 12: 29-30)  We are all gifted differently, there is no gift more important than any other gift and no gift that runs  through all of us.  We are unique.  We are all different.  Same is boring.  God adores diversity.

5.  Believers will have to account to God for how they used their spiritual gifts. (1 Peter 4:10)  There is no way around this one.  You do have a gift, you really do.  And some day you will have to answer to God for the way you used that gift.

6.  Spiritual gifts used without love never accomplish God's purpose.  (1 Cor. 13:1-3)  These gifts must ALWAYS be used with love.  Without love even the kindest gesture, the sweetest song, or wisest words are worth nothing.  All that you are, and all that you have has come from love.  The love God has for you.  Everything that you do therefore, must come out of this love and reflect this love.

The perfect gift is something you already possess.

All Christ wants this Christmas is YOU…using the gifts He has given you…to further his kingdom.  That is the perfect gift!

Friday, December 6, 2013



JT is anxiously waiting for his brother and sister to get home from school.

Erik is waiting for the landscape people to call him back.

I am waiting for my parents to arrive.

It seems like we are all waiting, for one thing or another.

Kids all over the city are waiting for it to snow, for Christmas break to arrive and Santa to come.

Parents are waiting for packages to arrive, checks to clear the bank and schedules to lesson.

Friends I dearly love are waiting to say their final good byes to a loved one.  

Soon to be mommy's are waiting to meet their babies.

Everyone is waiting.

At this time of the year, more than any other, I can feel the tension in the air.  I feel the anticipation, and I love it!  

It is in the waiting that I find joy, perhaps not always happiness, but always joy.  There is a difference.

You may not find happiness in waiting in lines, waiting for traffic, or waiting for things to go on sale.  You may not find happiness in waiting for the kids to go to bed so you can do all the things that need to be done that their little eyes shouldn't see.  But you just might find joy.

There is joy in knowing you are doing something special for someone you love.  There is joy  when you find the perfect gift.  There is joy when you stay up late to make a special memory for your child.  There is joy when you give grace to a stranger in a store who certainly didn't deserve it and may not even recognize.  There is joy.  

There is joy in the eyes of your heavenly father each and every time he sees you do one of these seemingly endless things we do during the Holidays.  

So many people argue that Christmas today is too commercialized, to secular, and I don't disagree.  But remember, God does calls his people to celebrate.  He called the Israelites to hold festivals that often lasted for days if not weeks, to celebrate, to all congregate at one place and have a big old party!  And I bet it was crowded, and traffic was horrible (SO glad the car I was stuck behind today wasn't a donkey with bad gas!).  I bet there were times during those festivals that tempers were quick, schedules were busy and people just wanted quiet.  But God wanted them to celebrate!  He commanded them to celebrate, not just for a day, but for days on end.  And there was joy.

Imagine, just imagine how much those young little children of Israel must have anticipated those festivals, counting down the days till they would leave.  Just waiting.  How the moms and dads must have had SO MUCH to do to prepare to travel (BY FOOT) to  where the festival was being held.  Think about how the families they were traveling to see, distant relatives, they only saw during the festivals, must have waited so anxiously for them to come.  Just waiting.

The Israelites spent centuries just waiting.  Waiting for a messiah, a savior, someone who would rescue them and set them free.  And come he did, though not in the way they thought he would.  

We are promised in the scriptures that this messiah, this savior will come again, and so we find ourselves once again waiting.  

Just waiting.

Sometimes I am struck by how little has changed in the last 2000 years.  

Monday, December 2, 2013


This just might be the longest I have gone without a new post since I started blogging over a year ago.  

I would love to tell you that I have returned full of wisdom and inspiration, but alas, I have not.

The past couple weeks have been more about survival then deep reflection.  We have had a truckload of unexpected things come up and each day has been a challenge to accomplish only what must be done for that particular day.

Some the these unexpected events I probably should have foreseen, anticipated and planned for.  Perhaps they would not have left me reeling if I had only been more organized and more intentional with my time and our money (oh that 20/20 hindsight). But some of these unexpected things were just that, unexpected.  Sometimes there is just no way of knowing where God is taking you.

In the past 2 weeks Erik and I have had over $1000 in unexpected car repairs (praise God for savings).  We have both had friends separately come to us with heartaches that required us to drop everything and just sit with them and listen, rework our schedule to make time for follow up visits.  We have been called on to make a last minute trip to Minnesota instead of my hometown for Thanksgiving to sit by Erik's 93 year old grandma while her health continued to decline.  We had the unexpected expense of 16 hour car rides, 3 nights in a hotel and 4 days of a family of 5 eating out (praise God for end of the year bonuses).  We had an unexpected "accident" of an iPod touch (my son's most treasured possession) falling 13 floors in an elevator shaft.  And the unexpected expense of a new iPod touch being added to the Christmas list! There have been unexpected sick days, unexpected programs I forgot to put on the calendar, and unexpected fun that made all the rest of this bearable.

I know I shouldn't complain, life is full of the unexpected.  

Over 2000 years ago, something else very unexpected happened.  Salvation came.  In the form of a baby, born in an unexpected place at an unexpected time.  It wasn't convenient.  Not for Mary when she found out she was expecting a baby no one would believe was conceived by God himself.  Not for Joseph when Mary came to tell him about the baby.  And it wasn't convenient for either of them to travel in final weeks of her pregnancy to a town that wasn't expecting them.  They were unexpected visitors and  no one was prepared to receive them.  

But that didn't stop Christ from coming. 

 God's plan is often unexpected.  It was unexpected 2000 years ago, and that is still often unexpected today.  I imagine when Christ comes again it will be equally unexpected.  Will you be ready to receive him?  Because honestly, whether you are ready or not, it won't stop him from coming.  He won't wait for you to be ready.  We are assured that he will come and win he does, he will come unexpectedly.  

There is much in life that is unexpected, that we simply can't be ready for.  But not Christ, we can be ready for him.  The question is are you?