Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Heart That's Full

Yesterday was a blessed day. I don't know that there's really any other way to describe it. Darin and I figured out that we won't owe quite as much in taxes as we'd feared; I played Hand and Foot with the kitchen crew at church: "the guys" (Ed Pohl, Ed Paris, Chuck Moore and me) beat "the girls" (Rose Pohl, Francine Paris, Linda Moore and Ruth Price); and I received notification that I've been accepted to write a few Bible Study lessons for BaptistWay Press for publication in Spring 2009!

Of course, saving money is always good news, and for those who may still be getting to know me, I love to play (and win!) at card games. But the true delight to my heart is the opportunity to try my hand at writing for publication. I considered trying to do this back in 1996 or so, but the demands of grad school, ministry, and work shoved the idea from off the back burner onto the top of the refrigerator! So, it was with great trepidation that I sent a sample lesson in August of last year. I'd only heard from them once by early October, and even tried to get some face time with the editor when we were at the BGCT, but he looked at me like I'd just fallen off the turnip truck. Needless to say, I shed a couple tears of joy and excitement when I received the email last night asking me to accept a writing assignment.

As Darin and I prayed together last night before going to sleep, I couldn't help but tell the Lord how full my heart felt with joy and gratitude. I still feel a little of that today. So, thanks, Lord.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Recommended Instructions

If you look to the left, you'll notice the red sweater I'm wearing has a white collar (and cuffs). It's one of my favorites, since I like the way it fits and I love the color red. Unfortunately, I've spent several hours over the last two days trying to make it look like it does here. The reason? I followed the washing instructions.

At the very top, the tag read, and I quote, "Hand wash cold. Do not bleach. Lay flat to dry." I did just as it said: cold water, no bleach and the top of the dryer to finish the job. Honestly, I was suspicious. It is red and white. But I thought the manufacturers knew their own product well enough for me to trust their instructions.

Clearly not. The collar and cuffs, following this meticulous effort at accuracy, were pink when the drying was done. So, I've been carefully dipping the discolored portions into (wouldn't you know it) hot water and bleach! I'm still waiting for the final results, but it's looking good so far.

I think what really gets me is that as I was working on it yesterday afternoon, I looked again at the label and read to the end of it, where it says, "Dry cleaning recommended." Now you tell me.

Why did they put the recommended care instructions at the end of the label? Shouldn't they have started with that? Good recipes don't start by telling you to bake the cake and then list the ingredients for it.

Unfortunately, we sometimes treat our loved ones and our relationship with God in the same way. We know what priority they should place in our lives, and we know what blesses them and makes them feel loved, but too often, we put them at the end. Yet, the best results always come when we follow Jesus' example for managing the time we have on this earth. He knew to first get alone with God before he tried anything else (Mark 1:35 ). And he knew that people, not things or even tasks for people, were what really mattered (Luke 10:38-42).

God, you've given me such simple, recommended instructions for living life. Help me to actually use them, focusing on who is important, rather than what I think is urgent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chocolate I.Q.

Today, when I was entering the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes, an ad caught my eye that I couldn't resist. The Fine Living Channel was offering a Chocolate I.Q. test. (Warning!!! If you love chocolate, don't start the quiz until you have a Snickers or cup of cocoa handy, or you'll wish you had!)

Last Spring, I led a small-group session for a women's retreat ("Chocolate Boutique") that afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot about chocolate as we compared the richness of God to the richness of cocoa treats. It was not only insightful and significant in delving deeper into the character and nature of God, but it was also a lot of fun. We got to taste chocolates of all kinds! (Needless to say, this was not a retreat for someone on a diet.)

So, I thought that with the vast knowledge I gleaned from my recent studies, I'd do fairly well on the Chocolate I.Q. quiz.

Or not.

50% isn't passing, is it? I got 5 out of the 10. Hope you do better.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

American Gladiators

Ok, so here's a confession you probably never wanted to know. I think the show American Gladiators is somewhat interesting. Now, don't get me wrong, I think Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali are the worst television hosts since Pee Wee Herman, but the actual competition kinda impresses me. (Minus the creepy women on testosterone.) And I love to watch Greco-Roman wrestling with its actual rules and limits . . . and clothing. On the other hand, I've never had a remote interest in "professional" wrestling, even when the Von Erich brothers came to town in 1986. Wasn't a fan then, either.

The reason this comes to mind is a quote I found today from Jay Leno:

"The show American Gladiators is a big hit on NBC. This show is for people who like professional wrestling but are unable to follow the plot."
I think I'm insulted.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Birthday Greetings of Prominence

I am very fortunate and so blessed to have one remaining grandparent who will be celebrating an important milestone this year. Grandpa (Ken) Brown (my dad's dad) will be turning 90 years old on April 28. I'm particularly excited about this for two reasons: (1) he's still here - we've nearly lost him a few times, and I'm so thankful that the Lord has seen fit to let him remain a little longer, and that as of last week, he's doing well, and (2) I'm sending him a very special birthday greeting this year. Actually, I'm having it sent . . . from the White House! Any U.S. citizen turning 80 or older can receive a special birthday greeting to commemorate the big day. So this afternoon, I sent off my request.

If you know a senior adult who might enjoy this kind of fun surprise, here's the White House Greeting website. (Look under Invitations and Greetings, click on Guidelines for information about greetings.) You can make your request for a greeting in three ways: online, fax or snail-mail, as long as you get it in six weeks in advance. In addition to birthdays, they also will send baby, wedding, and anniversary (50th or more) greetings. But just in case, you might want to make sure the folks involved like the guy in office. ;-)

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Tongue, My Responsibility

So, I know with Darin's remarks yesterday that some people are wondering, "What was that about?" (If you missed worship, he asked that people not slander me, especially if their real gripe is with him. And let me add at this point how much I genuinely love having a "brave defender" in my life.) Apparently, I've been the topic of conversation at a local establishment. Poor woman has nothing better to talk about, I guess! I consider my life and ministry to be pretty average, even dull at times, but she was either at such a dearth for conversation topics, or felt strongly enough about her negative opinion about me, to say something in front of strangers who don't know me and fellow church members who do.

Before I knew with certainty who the person was, I had a suspicion, and later found it to be correct. It is truly a word of wisdom to me about how I use my own tongue. Think about it: How sad that after living here less than 8 months, I was able to identify this type of behavior as hers because of what I've seen of her character. I pray that my lifelong character will reflect to others a Christ-like representation of truth spoken in love (Eph 4:15) and only as is edifying for the moment (Eph 4:29). I'd be so grieved to know that people could easily and rightly assume that cruel words were spoken by me because the words resembled my nature and character: "nice" on the surface and "venomous" within.

But in truth, the thing that upset(s) me most of all is that she's much more interested in her right to express her opinion than her responsibility to demonstrate Christlike love and keep peace in the fellowship of believers (Gal 6:10). James addresses this quite forcefully, "If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself and everything you do is useless" (1:26), and "All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature" (3:5).

I know I'm not alone in having had this happen to me. Probably every person in every family, workplace, church, community, etc., has known the pang of gossip and back-biting. And it's easy, even logical, to want to attack with more words. Lest I go on and become what I despise, I'll end my thoughts and pray instead. Perhaps you'll join me:

God, I know I've got a long way to go before I use my mouth exclusively in wisdom and healing (Prov. 12:18). Help me to guard my mouth and tongue (Prov 21:23). Empty my heart of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, and guide me to become useful and helpful, understanding and forgiving to others, just as you have forgiven me. Help me to imitate you and live a life of love (Eph 4:31-5:2), and do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Gal 6:10).

P.S. Thanks God, for the many who offered love and encouragement to me yesterday. You blessed my spirit and my soul through them!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In Hot Water

Not figuratively, but literally, this time! Darin and I spent about 3 hours today removing the old kitchen sink faucet and about 15 minutes replacing it with a shiny new one. We'd noticed since we moved in 7+ months ago the supply of hot water to the sink diminishing, but at the same time, water to the dishwasher, washing machine and bath on that end of the house was nearly scalding. Using our great powers of deduction, (ha!) we determined that the faucet must be the problem. And we were right!

The reason it took so long to remove the old one was because underneath the sink, the joints between the handle and the line to the hot water were completely corroded. So, although we were attempting to open the hot water valve each time we've turned the handle to wash our hands or the dishes, it wasn't actually opening. Couple that with dried out plumber's putty further blocking the movement, and we had a disgusting and nasty mess to remove. Getting a grip on the nut that was melded to the bolt with sediment and calcium was nearly impossible. Let's just say some tools that aren't usually involved in plumbing were put to use. We wouldn't have been poster children for HGTV with our methodology. But, I'm happy to announce that I burned my fingers as I was scrubbing the sink clean! That's the best hot water I've been in, in a long time! YEA!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Evolution is Still Just a Theory for Me

This may sound more like a joke than actual news, but a twisted sense of curiosity led me to click on this link today: Rat Race: Car-Sized Rodent Discovered.

Don't worry, if you click on the link you won't be subjected to a furry creature the size of a Hyundai. Somewhere in South America, scientists found a skull they believe to be the remains of a 2 million year old rodent, because they've compared it to a modern swamp rat. This raises two questions in my mind: 1) Why were you looking for dead rats? If you need to find something, help me find the remote we lost when we moved; and 2) If evolution is a plausible truth, not just theory, then why did this rodent evolve into something smaller and more helpless instead of growing larger and stronger? In fact, the article addresses the fact that with the demise of dinosaurs, "many animals groups were filling the void they left behind." So if they could grow bigger and stronger without dinosaurs, I don't really see how I'm a threat at 5'2". I mean, I already scream and run if I see a rat, so I'm clearly not a source of danger to their existence.

The article did mention that one giant species of rodent still exists today. A guinea pig called a capybara (pictured below). I confess, I've never thought of guinea pigs as rodents, but I'm glad I never had one as a pet. Plus, at 110 pounds, it's going to be tough to get it on the little running wheel in the cage.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Love a Good Mystery...

... Agatha Christie novels, especially. I've even got a fairly thorough collection going, focusing on finding hardback editions at used book stores. It's not worth much - no 1st editions and some are missing their dust jackets - but it's quite valuable to me, because I derive such joy from reading them. And every now and then (OK, rarely) I actually figure out "who done it."

I guess that's why I enjoyed and found this devotional by Michael Card in my email this morning particularly thought-provoking:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. - Is. 55:8

I used to think that mysteries existed only to be solved. When I heard someone refer to the mystery of Christ, I assumed that Christ was a mystery only to nonbelievers. I have since learned that the mystery of Christ is reserved for those who do believe. To "know" the mystery of Christ is to realize that it is indeed just that, a mystery.

To represent faith in Jesus merely as something we come to understand and accept is to rob it of the mystery of being in relationship with something infinitely bigger and wiser than we are. His ways are not our ways, the prophet Isaiah tells us.

Mystery is not a category only for the spiritually elite; secret knowledge reserved for the members of the deeper life club. The mysteries of faith in Christ are for everyone who claims to be in relationship with him. The basic truths of Christianity are mysteries, not understandable, not "our ways": the virgin birth of Jesus, the Trinity, grace, prayer, the union of the believer with Christ, the cross, and perhaps most mysterious, and key to them all, the incarnation.

What's funny about the timing of this devotional is that just yesterday, a child whom I'm discipling asked me to explain how Jesus and God can be the same person. I gave her my best answer, but ended by saying it's OK not to understand him completely; it's OK for God to be a mystery. Like Michael Card, I think most of us (young and old) want to have God explained and comprehended. But I have to ask myself, "Would a God small enough to understand really be big enough to worship?" I don't think so. So, I'll learn to be content with celebrating the mystery of Who he is as he continues to reveal those answers throughout eternity, and depend on Agatha Christie when I need an "answer-fix"!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef

I loved the quote in the December issue of HomeLife from Miss Piggy:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.
I remember watching the Muppets as a kid and (honestly) recognizing my alter ego in Miss Piggy. What girl doesn't want to feel glamorous from time to time? And I'll never forget giving Jimmy Walsh a black eye to prove it. (By the way, I was in 4th grade and he was in 5th. A triumph, by any standard. So what if it was at his sister's birthday party?)

But even more than Miss Piggy, I loved the Swedish Chef. I guess my fascination with European cultures began there.(?) Let's not explore that any further, though.

So, I went to the Muppet's website today and found a perfectly ridiculous game to waste time with. Maybe you'll enjoy it too. When you get to the home page, click on the compass thingy in the bottom left corner and go to the Swedish Chef's Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Words of a Genius

I've always thought that if you're going to take advice, at least take it from someone who's intelligent. Each day on my Google webpage I get a quote from Einstein. I thought I'd share a couple that have caught my attention in the last few days.
I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.
Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out this one. Any comments or thoughts?

This next one, though, is pretty easy to understand and very true!
If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.
Notice, however, I'm not taking wisdom from him for fashion or beauty.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Dream Home Surprise

No, I didn't win it. They're not even giving it away until mid-February. But imagine my surprise when this afternoon, Darin opened the Tyler newspaper to learn that the Tyler HGTV Dream Home is to be auctioned off this coming Saturday! The 2005 winners can't afford the $600,000 property taxes and utilities. (Neither could most of the known world.) I couldn't help but find it ironic that after waxing eloquently the other day on why God didn't allow me to win it three years ago, it should come available barely a week later!

Check out the story at

Friday, January 4, 2008

Voice of the Martyrs (Part 2)

While reading the VOM magazine, I was especially struck by an article about Christianity in Iraq. Here's a quote from a believer there, "A brother was going to another believer's house [to deliver Bibles] and some men...put a gun to his head. We avoid having big churches because we would be targeted...Our group was discussing that they had too many people coming to their service in one place...Our churches are growing despite all the persecution and the pressure that we have."

Wow. And I was piqued on Sunday because I was sitting where the sunshine was beaming down on me, making me hot. I wonder how different my faith would be, how determined I would be in my walk with Christ, if here in the good ol' U.S. of A. I experienced such things. Think about the excuses you hear or maybe even offer for not attending worship. I doubt, "I'm afraid I'll be arrested," is one of them.

I'm wondering, too, if that's the reason the church there is continuing to grow. Every person wants to live some adventure, but here in suburbia, being a part of the church is usually anything but an adventure. The early church recorded in Acts grew in the same way. Pockets of Christianity were safer than conglomerations. And the opposition generally wasn't those inside the fellowship, but outside it. I think we've allowed our American version of Christianity to be dull and unadventurous, and certainly we've found our greatest enemies within the body.

I'm definitely not opposed to large churches. Many of my greatest corporate worship experiences have been with hundreds or even thousands of believers. And I've never been one to allow myself to be lost in the crowd when it comes to being an active part of serving and ministering in a large church. Neither do I believe small churches are the ideal. All too often, those fellowships can become exclusive, unwelcoming and deadly complacent. But I think the reason these small groups in Iraq continue to multiply is because no one can get lost in the crowd, and the pressures of persecution keep them from substituting other things for their purpose of making reproductive disciples. They don't have the energy to focus on petty things. I suspect that when you're trying to forgive those who have beaten and tortured your loved one, you're not so worried about the fellow believer who's gossiping about you. (And she'll probably find something better to talk about when her loved one has been imprisoned.)

No wonder the church grows under persecution. We have less time to get in our own way!

God, help me to live my faith as though it is ever under attack. Because it is.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Dream Home Hope

Ok, so the chances are one in a googlezillion, but it doesn't hurt to try! Yes, I'm speaking of the HGTV Dream Home (pictured below). For about three years now, I've been trying to win the home offered by the station annually, but since you've never seen me on TV, you may have figured out by now that I've lost every time.

I still haven't figured out why I didn't win the one on Lake Tyler in 2005. I mean, the Lord knew we were going to move to Frankston. The church could have used our parsonage for another staff member, in addition to the youth minister parsonage. See, I'm totally thinking about the expansion of the Kingdom and God's work at FBC. (Ok, maybe not totally, but think how cool fellowships would have been out there.) Here's a pic on the left in case you've forgotten.

Honestly, though, when I watched the tour of the 2008 house, I wasn't so impressed. It only has a one-car garage and the bedrooms are fairly small for the most part. Plus, it may be right on a private beach, but the neighbors' homes that are not yet there will be about 50 feet from either side of the house as it stands now. What if they're obnoxious and noisy? And I'm still not sure about the color of the guest room walls. Uh. Umm.

If pigs did begin flying and we should happen to win, we'd sell it immediately, but keep as much of the furniture we could store.

Don't worry, though. I'm not holding my breath.

Voice of the Martyrs (Part 1)

Reading over my Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) magazine this afternoon, I am once again overwhelmed by the sacrifices being made across the world by my brothers and sisters in Christ. This month's cover photo reveals a group of believers secretly meeting for prayer in the wilderness of Uzbekistan. Story after story fills the pages, telling of men, women, teenagers and children each believing so passionately in the saving work of Jesus Christ, that they are enduring imprisonment, arson, beatings, invasions, kidnappings, tortures, slavery, isolation, threats and denial of water and electricity for their homes. Some have even lost their lives.

I love the ministry of VOM because it not only brings an awareness of modern-day martyrs, but it also gives me the opportunity to encourage those suffering, and not just with financial support. They offer websites and addresses for people like you and me to send a note of blessing to believers in prison. For example, Shuang Shuying is a 77 year old woman who has been arrested, beaten and imprisoned for almost a year now as a "dangerous threat" to the Chinese government. (Yeah, whatever.) Her son, a pastor, was also arrested and detained for six months, and now has police officers surrounding his home who have cut off the electricity and broken windows. By visiting the VOM website, you can actually generate a letter that is translated into Chinese, can be printed, and mailed to Shuang Shuying in prison. I'm working on mine simultaneous to typing this!

Want to know more? Visit www. or Maybe you can work on a letter, too! It's only about a dollar to bless someone you'll get to meet in eternity!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Enough to Carry

Sometimes we can't even imagine what's happening in the depths and secret places of a person's life: the secret griefs they carry, the challenging fears they face, the daunting hopelessness they feel surrounding certain situations. And when we carry these things ourselves, we often either (1) become completely self-absorbed by them or (2) notice with greater compassion the eyes of those around us.

For several months now, Darin and I have been dealing with a very personal and private issue that, until now, I honestly have been unable to discuss. We've learned that, barring a miracle, having biological children is a likely impossibility. When you've hoped for children for more than 5 years, it can be quite jarring to hear your doctor say this, no matter how compassionately it's conveyed. Surgery, he said, is an option, but there would still be no certainties even after that.

Over the last five years I've wrestled with believing the truths of the goodness, love, mercy, compassion and justice of God. There have honestly been times that I couldn't even speak to him for long intervals because I was so hurt and embittered with grief. I don't know why he's asking us to walk this very painful and disappointing road. The only things I can cling to are that he will work this all together for our good, since we love him and are called according to his purpose (Rms 8:28), and that he was before all of this, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17).

In some weird way, I feel a sense of relief, in just having some questions answered (previous physicians didn't offer conclusive help or information), but more than that, he's opening a new chapter of life for us as a couple. What our walk will look like, only he knows, but I don't want fear to stand in the way of whatever he has in store. That's Satan's most effective tool against me. Fear. As a young woman, I wasn't afraid of much of anything, but this journey of infertility has unfortunately created that in me anew (with fear of disappointment ever-looming), and manifests itself in many areas of my life, even completely unrelated areas. I realize that aging brings with it the reality of sometimes-unmet dreams, but I want to mature, not just age, and maturity, at least to me, means not allowing the experience of unfulfilled dreams result in fear that paralyzes desires toward new dreams.

Looking back over the "armor of God" in Ephesians 6, I see how vital each piece is in protecting me against fear.
  • I need the belt of truth, because Satan's lies tell me how untrustworthy God is, causing me to fear dependence on him.
  • I need the breastplate of righteousness, because I fear something I do might cause me to fall out of God's favor for a time. It is Christ's righteousness that covers and seals me, not my behavior.
  • I need the shoes of the gospel of peace, because fear leaves anything but peace in its wake.
  • I need the shield of faith, because fear says to me that life is incomplete and unvictorious without my "picture" of family.
  • I need the helmet of salvation, because fear attacks my mind first with doubts and questions.
  • I need the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, as my weapon, because fear isn't afraid and won't flee from logic, reasoning, feelings, or positive thinking, but will run to escape from Scripture.
  • And I need prayer in the Spirit who intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express (Rom 8:26), because when I don't know what to say, the Spirit does, and fear cannot stand to be in the presence of Almighty God.
In truth, I've let my own burden blind me to the pains of those around me to some degree, but I hope that by following Jesus in this storm of struggle and disappointment, my eyes will be opened with greater sensitivity and compassion. (I've never been accused of having the spiritual gift of mercy.) But even that frightens me, because I fear the actions and words of others. But Christ understands that full well, humbling himself to the point of death on a cross, while being mocked and jeered by those who simply didn't understand what it meant and looked like for him to be obedient and act in faith. And like him, I don't want sympathy from those nearby, just sensitivity to truth and what obedience to God looks like for me. Jesus didn't need advice from the disciples, though they offered it ("don't wash my feet, Lord" etc.), he needed their support ("my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow... pray with me"). I not only want to receive that kind of encouragement, but I want to be that kind of blessing, too.

Jesus said to take up my cross and follow him. That's enough to carry. I don't want to fear to load me down any more in 2008.