Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Swallowing Pride

Ever notice how prideful you are? Yeah, me neither. At least, not until the Lord shows it to me. But now it’s time for me to swallow mine and reveal an area I’ve struggled lately (and still am, so don’t think I have it figured out).

I used to think I knew everything about forgiveness. My grandmother harbored unforgiveness and resentment her entire life. It became a stronghold built on a root of bitterness, and it consumed her and destroyed her relationships with everyone around her. As a child and young adult, I witnessed this devastation first-hand and suffered the abuse she dished out regularly as a result. Hers was a miserable life. So when I trained on an amazing prayer team some 15 years ago and learned in depth about this basic yet profound spiritual concept of forgiveness and the freedom it offers to those who embrace it, I knew I'd found one of those brilliant gems of Scripture.

I've come to realize that forgiveness is essential if I want to maintain relationships—not just with other people, but also with the Lord. After all, Jesus told us to forgive. In fact, He had some really tough things to say about not forgiving others. Here are some examples: Matthew 6:6-15, Matthew 18:21-35, and Mark 11. It's sobering, really, when you read those passages.

Anyway, this concept became a basic truth in my life. Forgiveness was freedom. Forgiveness was a long-forgone conclusion in my spiritual walk with Christ...or so I thought.

But the Lord decided recently to give me a glimpse of my deceitful heart. Maybe it was my own fault for praying Psalms 139:23-24 so many times, but suddenly I found out that I, the self-appointed forgiveness guru, could be hurt and offended and used and taken advantage of and verbally abused past my forgiveness point.

Did you catch that? Yeah, I know. I’m such a hypocrite. I talk about how great forgiveness is, how foolish it is to hold onto hurts, and yet here I am. And for months I couldn’t figure out why this was such a struggle for me. I’d forgiven before countless times. But this time was different. What was it about this hurt? Just now as I’m typing I realize it. I was attacked in an area I’d never been insulted before—my abilities as a wife and mother. This was new territory for me…sacred, if you will.

You see, if you walk in forgiveness a while, you start to get immune to some of the things that previously hurt you. That's when it's easy to let your guard down, if you will. Then when a new hurt comes, targeted at the thing that’s now most important to you (and if you’re foolish like me, you let other things become more important than God), and suddenly you’re not walking in forgiveness anymore. You open your eyes after the initial sting and realize you’re not even standing. You're wallowing in the mire, trying to get up and get your bearings while dealing with the arrow in your side…or the knife in your back.

I used to say forgiveness is hard. I got to the point where I said that flippantly, without meaning it anymore. I had lost sight of what forgiveness costs the person extending it. Now I can say, with tears in my eyes, that forgiveness is excruciating and there’s no way around it. Forgiving will always cost you something, but any intersection of the divine and the flesh will burn, and that’s really what forgiveness is—a place where we cross paths with what God did for us on the cross and for just a moment experience an inkling of what it cost Him.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Parson Brown

My husband and I made a snowman yesterday for our two little ones, complete with a carrot nose, a flower pot hat (I thought the "Endless Summer" logo on the side of the pot was delightfully ironic), and pink toddler gloves on his stick hands. The kids found great joy in poking extra rocks and sticks into his base. He's easily the biggest, most cheerful snowman we've ever made. We were quite pleased with him, and still are, even though just one day later, he's listing to the side and has lost all of the rocks for his mouth, buttons, and one eye.

On a side note, snow balls that big are extremely heavy. And your strength fades to nothing when your husband makes you laugh while trying to lift said snow ball. After 11 years, I still love spending time with my husband. There's nobody I'd rather live my life with.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good Versus Best

I was reading an interesting article today on the health care reform bill that's currently before the Senate. Here's a link to the article so you can read it for yourself: Obama resists as liberals attack health care bill.
But what precipitated my blog entry tonight wasn't the reform bill. It was actually a quote in the article from former President Bill Clinton. Clinton said it would be "a colossal blunder" to let the bill die. Then he said, "America can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
Wow. Let's read that one more time: "America can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
That is the polar opposite of God's perspective. From God's point of view, what we deem as "good" is often the fiercest enemy to His best for us, His perfect will.
Look at Abraham and Sarah, and their debacle with Hagar and Ishmael (Gen. 16). Desperate to force God's plan to happen in her timing, Sarah urged Abraham to take matters into his own hands and have a son with her maidservant, Hagar. That plan blew up in Sarah's face when a pregnant Hagar decided that she was better than her mistress. Hagar's pregnancy wasn't God's perfect plan for Abraham and Sarah. God's perfect plan and His everlasting covenant would be through Isaac, not Ishmael, and God refused to budge on that point (Gen. 17:15-21).
Oh, how we screw things up when we rush things, desperate to realize some semblance of the promise of "better" or "more," rather than waiting for God's best. God doesn't want His children to settle for "good." He wants us to wait on Him, to trust Him to provide His best (Ps. 27:14; Ps. 147:11; Ps 37; Is. 40:31; Rom. 12:2). Anything else is settling for less.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Anti-Climax

My Christmas (actually, Hanukkah) present is a new sewing machine, a Baby Lock Sophia - ideal for a beginner, yet she also embroiders! I bought her last week, and I'm psyched to be able to use her...in January, when she finally arrives. When I pulled out my checkbook, I was informed that she's on backorder.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baby's Safest Sleep Spot

I breastfed both of my children past their first birthdays, and they both slept in our bed the entire time. I researched this decision, read tons of articles and medical reports, and made an educated decision when my firstborn was three weeks old that co-sleeping was not only safe, but was by far the healthiest thing for her and for me. That said, I received some flack for this choice, because most folks have heard that a crib or bassinet is the only safe place for a baby to sleep. Ironically, support for my decision came from an unusual and unsuspected source: our pediatrician. Perhaps this was because she was also a certified lactation consultant.

Here's a fantastic article on the subject. I'm not posting this for myself, because I no longer co-sleep or breastfeed (my children currently are ages five and three). This is also not intended as a brow-beating toward any mom who has chosen a different path -- bottle feeding or letting baby sleep in a crib. No, this post is for all those women who discover for themselves that you and your baby get more/better sleep if you co-sleep, yet worry that it might not be the safest thing for your baby. Click the link, read the article, and put your mind to rest.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Prescriptions for Perfection?

I stumbled across an MSN article today that was alarming, to say the least. Executives, college students, and moms are taking drugs to enhance their performance at work, school, even at home. And we're not just talking a B-12 vitamin. We're talking amphetamines usually prescribed for ADHD and other drugs usually given only for anxiety. The article dubs it "Cosmetic Neurology." Here's a link to the article: http://health.msn.com/medications/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100249977&gt1=31053

The article's conclusion is that "normal" is being re-defined, and that society is reconciling itself to widespread, accepted drug abuse and the need to better understand and utilize it. Am I the only person who finds this downright frightening?

It seems that our society finds it completely acceptable to eliminate the lows of life through the use (and abuse) of pharmaceuticals. This reminds me of Galatians 5:19-21, where Paul explains the works of the flesh. Sorcery or witchcraft (depending on your translation) is the second work listed in verse 20. A quick glance at the Greek (Strong's #5331) http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=greeklexicon&isindex=5331 reveals that this word is not simply a reference to the deeds of witches, but is actually the word "pharmakeia," which is also translated medication/pharmacy. Was Paul familiar with the abuse of drugs? No doubt, he was, and was aware enough of their effects to liken them with black magic.

Paul juxtaposed these "works of the flesh" with the fruit of the Spirit, mentioned in verses 22-23, and clearly stated that those who practice the former shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

I'm not talking about the person who has a chemical imbalance or illness and needs a prescription to help them function normally. I'm talking about the drug-induced redefinition of what society considers normal in light of that same society's instant-gratification-driven motivations.

I don't know about you, but getting ahead at work or even at home just isn't worth the trade-off for me. God created us with limitations, and attempting to alter our bodies and minds to handle more than they're able to do naturally just seems like a bunch of hocus pocus to me. And Scripture clearly states that the consequences are eternal.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Trust and the Peanut

My little guy, three years old, has a peanut allergy. This can make life rather challenging, and in the least expected ways. Sure there's the challenge at the grocery store, reading every ingredient on every label. And then there are restaurant visits. But the most surprising problems arise from friends, relatives and acquaintances. Grandparents assuming that pack of Cheese on Wheat crackers is safe, even though the last ingredient listed is "peanuts." Or the party where someone serves a dessert mom would think is safe, like s'mores. How do you mess up s'mores? I mean, they're graham crackers, hershey's chocolate bar, and a marshmallow. But you get another mom wanting to try a gourmet version of an old reliable, and suddenly there's peanut butter in the chocolate.

I'm not complaining about this, actually, although it may sound like I am. I've come to accept the fact that my little guy may eventually come in contact with a peanut, despite my best efforts to protect him from what is harmful, even deadly in life. All I can do is try my best to educate others about his allergy, keep our home safe for him, keep an Epi-Pen with him at all times, and trust God to do the rest.

Trust. That's the biggest, most intimidating word in my vocabulary, especially when it comes to my children. My knee-jerk reaction is to tuck my little chicks under my wings and growl like a grizzly at anyone and everything that threatens to harm them. But I'm not God, and I can only shelter them so much. My reach is limited.

Not so for my Father. His grasp is limitless. His arms span the heavens. He spoke the entire universe into existence, set the earth in motion, breathed life into man. He holds my little family in the palm of His hand. And He is in control of every moment, every breath. I just have to let go, rest in his grasp, and trust. Why is that so difficult?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Been a While

It's been a while since I posted on my blog, sadly. My grandmother passed away on July 12th, we found out my husband's uncle has pancreatic cancer a few days later, and things have been busy/crazy ever since.

My daughter Ahava started school Monday. We're homeschooling, and that was her first day at our homeschool co-op, a Classical Conversations group. What a blast! I feel so blessed to be a part of this community.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Here's a sample of dialogue from my house last night.
Doug: A, are you cleaning your room?
A: No, Daddy. My nose is bothering me. It makes me want to play.

Later, I (who turns three today) was playing in the living room while his sister "cleaned" their room.
Renee: Why isn't I helping A clean?
Doug: He never cleans. I don't pick battles that have no end.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Even More

When I wrote my last blog entry, I had no idea that my grandmother who has Alzheimer's was in the hospital. She's back at the nursing home, but the doctor says she is in the last stages of the disease and no longer knows how to eat. The doctor has advised my uncle to call in hospice.
No matter what happens today, just keep in mind that it didn't come as a surprise to God. He's still sovereign. He's still in control. That has kept me going lately.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Sick child.
Homeschool three-day practicum.
Early mornings made even earlier.
Critique group meeting.
Write? When?
Winston-Salem Writers elections and board meeting.
Laundry? Eek.
All-day errands for my mother-in-law.
Home group/weekly Bible study--oops, at our house! Hurry and clean up.
Frantic search for a new pediatrician after our old one sends out a "closing permanently in one week" letter.
Grocery shopping.
Mad search for missing stuffed animal.
Tired little boy,
Grumpy little girl.
Exhaustion. Five minutes to sit on the couch turns into a fifteen minute nap.
"I'm awake now, Mommy!"
We want your manuscript. (Praise the Lord! - Need to apply some edits first!)
Write? When?

My life is blessedly full.
This week, I think it's overload.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Choose Life

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 30:11-20 (NIV)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spirit and Heart: A Devotional Journey

My devotion "New Year's Day Tuning," based on an entry from this blog, was recently published in a 30-day devotional book, Spirit & Heart: A Devotional Journey. I'm excited about this publication, not just because it's my first publishing credit, but also because my work is featured with that of 28 other Christian writers. Folks like Ann Tatlock, Yvonne Lehman and Candy Arrington.
If you're interested in purchasing a copy of the book, or in reading other great devotions, visit the publisher at http://www.christiandevotions.us/.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Best Birthday Ever

Today is my birthday. My four-year-old daughter made it her mission to give Mommy the best birthday ever. She started a few days beforehand, when my best friend helped her make me a necklace and bracelet. Then she made hand-drawn wrapping paper for it. She picked out a card especially for me with Daddy's help. She told me all day how much she loved me and that she wanted me to have the best birthday ever. At one point while we were cuddling, she said, "Are you happy, Mommy?" "Yes, honey, I'm very happy." "Good, because you should always be happy, especially on your birthday."

So yes, my 35th birthday was the best birthday ever, thanks to a precious little girl who loves me way more than I deserve.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Word of Knowledge

Have you ever had someone "read your mail"? I mean, have you ever been talking about someone and they said something so profound that it struck a chord in you, and you knew they were talking to you on a totally different level, addressing something more spiritual than you expected. It's like God uses their words to minister to you.
That's a spiritual gift. Some call it a word of knowledge. I experienced it again tonight. I was sharing with my home group about the writers conference I attended a few weeks ago. I told them that it was a great experience, that it was discouraging in some ways, because the publishing world is so difficult to break into, especially when you're talking about fiction. But I couldn't really share any of the discouraging experiences from the conference. The divine appointments were so much more exciting and beautiful...His goodness is always more deserving of our attention than anything else. And when you can see His goodness in even the discouraging moments, that's when you realize He is there.
One of the men in my small group turned to me and said, "Wait a minute. You started off saying it was discouraging in some ways, but everything you've told us is great." I smiled. He said, "Trust. Trust Him." Trust Him to do it, to work it out, to bring about everything that He gave me. To use the things He has placed in my heart.
Wow. I needed to hear that. And the man who said it had no idea just how much. But then again, it wasn't really him saying it anyway...he was just the messenger.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God Speaks

How do children come up with the questions they ask? Do they have brainstorming sessions each morning before they come into my room? Does the cat put them up to it?

They ask all these crazy questions that I have no idea how to answer. And it's not necessarily because I don't know the answer. Most of the time I do know the answer, but I have no idea how simplify it for a four-year-old.

My daughter Ahava is the queen of questions. Everything from "what's a noodle made of?" to "What's a rib?" to "Why?" "Why?" I hate that question. She asks it every day, multiple times a day, usually after I say "No."

But the best question she's ever asked came just after I tucked her into bed a few weeks ago. "Mommy, can people hear God?"

I thought about her answer, about how so many people would respond. Then I thought about the simple truth. And I smiled.


"Have you heard God?"

Again, the truth was so easy this time. "Yes, I have. Many times."

She frowned. "I've never ever heard God. I'll never hear God, Mommy!"

"Sure you will. But first you have to learn what He sounds like."

"How do I do that?"

"Read the Bible a whole lot. God wrote the Bible. It's what He said. And pray all the time. Every time you think about it. And when you pray, spend time being really quiet and not talking too, and eventually you'll be able to hear Him."

Now some will think that statement is shocking, maybe a little controversial, but I don't. It's the truth. I've heard God many times. He's my Father. He still speaks to His children, if we'll listen. I recognize His voice because I know Him well enough to know what He would say as opposed to what He wouldn't. Most of the time. How? Because I've spent time in prayer with Him, not just with a laundry list of prayer requests. I've spent time talking to Him, listening to Him. I know His heart because He spilled it out on a thousand pages. When I submerse myself in His written word, it's easy to recognize His voice.

God speaks. Yes, I can hear Him. When I listen. When I get still before Him, when I know that He is God.

How about you? Are you listening?

Monday, June 1, 2009


Trust. That's the biggest, most intimidating word in my vocabulary, especially when it comes to my children. My knee-jerk reaction is to tuck my little chicks under my wings and growl like a grizzly at anyone and everything that threatens to harm them. But I'm not God, and I can only shelter them so much. My reach is limited.

Not so for my Father. His grasp is limitless. His arms span the heavens. He spoke the entire universe into existence, set the earth in motion, breathed life into man. He holds my little family in the palm of His hand. And He is in control of every moment, every breath. I just have to let go, rest in his grasp, and trust. Why is that so difficult?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Contentment in the Fire

One of my favorite passages in Scripture comes from the Apostle Paul:

The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5b-7 (NASB)

Did you notice that first sentence? Ahh. This is good stuff. But keep reading, and you come to verses 11-13, which is a tough cut of meat:

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

This passage has become personal for me over the last ten years. I now have a glimmer of understanding about what Paul meant when he wrote these words.

Have you ever noticed that God's provision usually looks nothing like we expect?

I worked as a copywriter for an in-house advertising agency for several years. The environment was a toxic combination of tight deadlines, micro-management, intra- and inter-departmental power struggles, brown-nosing, corporate ladder climbing, re-organizations, and a company relocation that offered no assistance to the plebes. Millions were spent on consulting companies, just to re-arrange our office for the umpteenth time. Several people told me that the stress had driven them to anti-depressants. One day, while faced with a crazy deadline and one of several managers with double standards and unrealistic expectations, I suddenly couldn't breathe and thought I might be having a heart attack. Turns out I had experienced my first ever panic attack while sitting at my desk.

I wanted out. And I wanted out right then.

I went home that evening and told my husband I wanted to quit my job. The thing was, I couldn't quit my job without another job in line. But there were no other jobs to be had. This is what you face when you live in a small town with only one large business and lots of factories. And as much as I hated to admit it, I knew that where I worked was better than the chicken factory.

I prayed about it, agonized over it, despised where I was and my helplessness to change it. I asked God repeatedly to let me leave. Each time He said "not yet." My joy was gone. My own attitude slowly grew toxic, and I felt like I had nothing positive left to give in my work, which just added to my misery.

I cried out to God. "Let me leave!"

He answered, "No."

"Why? Why do you keep me there? Why can't I leave?!?"

"You must learn to be content, no matter your circumstances."

I really hated that answer. I was angry, with myself for being so weak, with God for requiring me to stick it out. I hated it.

This was, spiritually, the driest point of my life so far.

Or so I thought.

After a few weeks, I realized He was serious about His requirement, that I really would have to be content there before He would let me leave. So I started praying, asking Him to help me be content.

Within a month or so, I found myself saying, "Okay, I'm content. You can let me leave now."

"Not yet."

Sigh. Another couple weeks would go by. "Okay, this time I really am content where I am. I'm going to start looking for another job."



This went on for about six months. Then I met someone at work — a Messianic Jew named Sid. I kinda sorta knew Sid's wife Patty from prayer counseling training years before. Yeah, at that point I wasn't exactly applying the things I'd learned. Oh, the lessons in that alone. But I digress.

Sid invited us to attend a Messianic congregation about 45 minutes away from our home. We did. And our lives were changed forever. Doug and I started attending this congregation regularly. We learned all kinds of amazing things about Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach). We fell in love with our Messiah all over again. We learned about the Torah (the books of Moses: Genesis - Deuteronomy), which is a Hebrew word that means "God's teaching and instruction," and how to see Christ in that Torah. We realized who we really are in Scripture and who we are in Christ. Identity is a priceless gift from Him. We learned some Scriptural truths that amazed us, shook us, stretched and challenged us. Grew us. Changed us.

And the next thing I knew, another six months had passed. And I realized that when I got my eyes off my circumstances and really submersed myself in Him, God was able to change my heart, my desires.

Don't get me wrong. Work was just as stressful as before. Same deadlines. Same ladder climbers scrambling over me and my other co-workers. Corporate life was still all that it's cracked up to be (pun very much intended). None of that had changed.

I had changed. He had changed me.

I looked around my cubicle, now a different cubicle from the one where I'd had the panic attack. And I realized that I no longer resented being there. I no longer dreaded coming to work. I could not say I loved my job. But I could say that I was content right where I was. Content.


I was there for a reason. God had kept me there, in that miserable work environment, because that was where I needed to be to meet Sid. To be invited to that little Messianic Jewish congregation. To meet my Messiah on a totally different level. To be refined. He had great blessings for me, but I needed to walk through the fire to experience and appreciate them.

Within a week of that epiphany, the Lord opened the door of a lifetime. He told me to apply for a job at Samaritan's Purse. I did. And I was hired. I had gone from the worst work environment I'd ever experienced to the one that was better than I had ever hoped for. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by other believers, many who had been through the refiner's fire in their own ways. My new employer started off each day with organization-wide devotions and prayer. Our motto, hung above the phone at each desk, was "pray first."

Was this a dream? Tears come to my eyes still today when I think about it. I worked for Samaritan's Purse for two and a half years, was promoted to a supervisory role, before I chose to leave the best job I'd ever had and stay at home with my newborn daughter. That was almost five years ago.

Every time I think about Samaritan's Purse, I remember the job before it. And I can honestly say I'm thankful for the experience.

I wish I could say that I'm a master of contentment now, but that would be a lie. I can, however, draw on the truth I've known when I face new situations of discontent. And while I do feel restless and dissatisfied from time to time, I have found that He is still faithful. And God's provision is always there, ready for the taking. I just have to recognize it for what it is.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Where is the Modesty in the Body of Christ?

I don't even know how to begin to write on this topic. There's so much of me that screams, "careful, Renee, you don't want to offend anybody." But there is another part of me that knows offense will come anytime you address an issue that folks don't want to deal with. And I think it's far beyond time the Body of Christ got past our sensitivity to being offended and got really serious about our desire to be less like this world and more like our Messiah. So let's just cut to the chase.

I am shocked at the immodesty within the body of Christ. On any given Sunday you can see strappy tops or plunging necklines that display excessive amounts of cleavage. If you sit in the back of the church, behind the youth group, you'll be surprised at the plethora of girls who actually appear to be topless because of their strapless and backless clothing. When sitting in the pews (and most pew backs are not particularly high -- they don't cover the shoulder blades on an average-built person) some girls appear to be completely nude.

I would like to think that these girls are unchurched, that perhaps this inappropriate dress is the result of living in an environment devoid of Christ. But I know that is not the case. Sadly, many girls who dress this way are long-term attendees or members. So the question begs to be asked, "Why?"

Perhaps the wearers of such garments suffer heat stroke if they wear sleeves or any form of cloth on their chests, backs and mid-riffs. Maybe unknown medical conditions require that large areas of their skin breathe at all times. Perhaps some sort of epidemic requires clothing to be painted on or poured into.

Okay, I think we all know those excuses are ridiculous, and I'm just being silly and more than a little sarcastic. So now that we've cut out all the absurdity, let's look at the real motivation for dressing in such attire. I think it has a whole lot more to do with a girl's desire to fit in with the latest fashions, with her desire to attact the attention of others (particularly boys), and maybe a touch of rebellion.

Taste bitter? Yeah, sin usually does.

Sound harsh? Okay. It's about time somebody just came right out and said it.

Now, moving on: what kind of attention do girls think they'll attract by wearing garments that leave disgustingly little to the imagination? It certainly does get the attention of the surrounding males (of all ages). Yeah. And for what reason? I can guarantee when a guy sees a girl dressed like that, he's not thinking, "Man, I just want to be closer to Christ." He's not telling himself, "Wow, I'd love to read my Bible right now," or "That girl makes me want to be a more godly man." I guarantee he's struggling to keep his thoughts from drifting in the opposite direction, if he's even fighting it at all.

Many girls would say, "It's not my problem guys can't keep their minds out of the gutter." But I have something different to say about that. I have a correction, an exhortation, and a challenge for every female who is part of the family of God. Ready for it? If you thought I could be tough earlier, buckle your seatbelts:

How you dress when you go to work or school is another issue, I suppose ... although I have a hard time reconciling provocative clothing with godly living in any situation. But let's get down to the truth. Who do you think you are, displaying your body, dressing provocatively in the house of God? If you don't respect your brothers in Christ enough to conceal the things that entice them and pull them away from God, then you should AT LEAST honor God enough to avoid distracting folks from Him -- from worshipping Him, hearing His word preached, and encouraging each other in a closer relationship with Him.

Provocative dress has NO PLACE in the church. Where is the church leadership in this matter? Why don't youth leaders aggressively address this issue? Years ago we attended a church with a different approach. If a female showed up there with inadequate clothing, female ministry team leaders approached her with a shawl and asked her to please wear it while she was in the presence of the congregation. Sound offensive? It's not. That church had a deeper understand for what it meant to protect the minds and thoughts of those who were present. They knew that they had to protect the hearing of the Word of God. What's offensive is showing up to a worship setting, parading your body like you're in a strip show, and then acting like there's something wrong with folks who are distracted by it.

I'm being pretty harsh, I know. But I'm angry, because a lot of the females I see doing this SHOULD and DO know better. And if they don't, they have either silenced their consciences (the Holy Spirit's voice, in that aspect) by ignoring the promptings of modesty and self-consciousness, or they have been taught that this sort of dress is okay.

Since when was self-consciousness a bad thing? Geez, ladies! Put your clothes on! Leaders, stop condoning it by remaining silent to it! Parents, take control of your households!

I am pretty sure when the Apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 2:9 that women should "... adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly ..." that he didn't have belly shirts or boustiers in mind. Likewise, when Peter said that women should demonstrate "chaste and respectful behavior" (1 Peter 3:2), I'm confident that he did not envision them wearing pants tighter than their skin, short mini skirts that barely cover the derriere, and clingy, cleavage-popping tops.

It's time we moved past the "all-inclusive" rhetoric and started striving to be that city on a hill, that salt of the earth, that peculiar people who are in this world but not OF it, whose minds are not on the things of this world, but are on the things of God. Sorry, but public nakedness doesn't fit into God's agenda. Those who think it does must be reading a different Bible than I am.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Dandelion Giver

I always notice dandelions. They make me feel homesick sometimes. Sounds strange, I know, to get nostalgic over a lawn-ruining weed. Bear with me.

Okay, so the flowers in this picture aren't really dandelions. But they look like them to me. These little guys were growing in a huge circle around a rose bush at Ridgecrest, the location for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I passed these cheerful yellow flowers at least three times a day for four days. And every time they reminded me of Doug. And then I'd get homesick for him and the kids. See, the first flower Doug ever gave me was a dandelion.

I snapped this picture to remind myself about home, not what or where, but who my home really is.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I returned home today from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Anybody who's been to a writers conference knows how overwhelming they can be. By the end of each day, your brain is at maximum capacity, unable to retain another crumb of information. Combine that with the emotional highs and lows of networking and fellowshipping with other writers, agents and editors, and by the time the conference is over, many of us are simply wiped out.

Functioning on three-and-a-half hours of sleep and a general numbness after four days of being overly-sensitized, my drive home was excruciating. But all that slipped away into nothingness when I pulled into my driveway. My four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son were playing in the front yard when I got home. I could read my daughter's lips as she said, "Mommy's home!" and then bounced up and down. She raced to the picket fence gate, her little brother close on her heels. I was barely out of the car when she threw her arms around my legs. "Mommy!" This time I got to hear her sweet voice. My son echoed her excitement. I grabbed them both and just held them tightly for a moment.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Respecters of Persons

Galatians 3 has spoken to me on several levels lately.

I'm at a writer's conference tonight. I'm tired. It's late, after eleven, actually. I'm in the lobby, near a fireplace, surrounded by other writers and a few agents. We're just hanging out tonight, chatting...setting aside for a while the mental hierarchy imposed by the world and our flesh. You know, that distinction the attendees make between the successful and the aspiring.

Though some would deny it, there's a sort of attendee caste system here that separates the first-timer from the seasoned conference vetter. The unpublished from the barely-published. The successful from the aspiring.

No wonder Father feels the need to remind us there's no difference between Jew and Greek, and that He's not a respecter of persons.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kingdom Currency

“16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:16-18

And again,

“22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:22-26

There is no room for selfish ambition, jealousy and arrogance in God’s Kingdom. The Lord considers those things to be unclean, the realm of death. But the self-centered western mindset is a familiar spirit that beckons us, and we easily, eagerly disregard that call to die to our own wants, to serve Him sacrificially by serving each other. And not just service for the sake of fulfilling a duty—it’s the heart attitude He seeks to change, from earthly wisdom to the wisdom of God, the change of motive from selfish ambition to self-control.

Service without that transformation of motive—without dying to our own agenda—profits us nothing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Romans 8 - a Sense of Belonging

Romans 8 is truly a treasure chest for the believer. He (the Lord) brought me back to it two nights ago. I'm not very good at remembering the references to verses that I love, so when He gives me a verse reference, I usually am surprised and blessed.

This happened to me two nights ago with Romans 8. The assignment that night was Psalm 119, Psalm 34, Romans 8, and John 8. John 8 is a whole other bag of goodies, as are the others. Right now I just want to talk about this one verse in Romans 8 that blessed my socks off. It's one He's given me before, one to hold onto and really embrace, and apparently He felt the need to bring me back to it. But I want to give the verses around it too, to really capture the context:

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
16 The spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heris with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

Verse 15 was the verse. Do you see the sense of belonging that He wants to give us?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Confession Trumps Sin

I belong to a wonderful women's Bible study at my church. There are probably 75 of us who meet every Tuesday morning, study the book of John, then break up into small groups and discuss how what we studied applies to our lives.

This week's discussion was on John 8:1-37 (or thereabouts).

Have you ever read John 8? Yeah, me too. But read it again with me. It's a powerful passage on many levels, and every time I read it, I get something new out of it.

The setting of John 8 is during the Feast of Tabernacles, an 8-day feast that is so doggone rich with meaning that I'll just sigh and move on because I could blog for days and barely scratch the surface. I'll just say for now that lighting the temple menorah, the seven-branched lampstand, plays a significant role in this feast (although there is MUCH more to the feast than that).

In John 8:12, Jesus said something fascinating: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Back to that temple menorah. I said before that there are seven branches on the lampstand. There are three lamps on each side, and one in the middle. The ones on the sides point to the middle lamp, the servant lamp. The servant lamp points directly to the Holy of Holies, the place where God's presence resides.

The menorah was known in Jesus' time as "the light of the world."

In John 8:2, it clearly says that Jesus was in the temple. So we know the setting, that the menorah was nearby, maybe even visible from where He was standing. He was letting them (the people and the pharisees) know who He was, and using an illustration with which they were all intimately familiar. That menorah had represented Him for thousands of years, a type and shadow of what He was doing for them right then, leading them straight into the Holy of Holies, the presence of God. After all, He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but through Him. (Jn. 14:6)

And, as our women's group discussed, Jesus is the light, illuminating the truth for us. I want to delve a little deeper into something here using what is commonly called the "law of first mention."

Psalm 119:142 says, "Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law (Torah) is truth." The truth is the Torah (Law) of God. The word Torah literally means "God's teaching and instruction." It comes from the root word orah, which means "light." So, when John, in John 1 said that, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." and when Jesus says that He is "the light of the world," they're both saying that He is the Torah incarnate.

1 John 3:4 says, "Everyone who practices sin also transgresses the law; and sin is transgression of the law."

And further in John 8 (vs 31-32), Jesus says "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

So, if He is the light of the world, and if He illuminates truth for us, and truth is the Torah/law, and the transgression of the Torah/law is sin...then, by default, He illuminates our sin for us and sets us free.

He shows us our sin.

And then He sets us free from it.

During our study yesterday, the leader discussed what she called "grace-aligning habits," such as reading our Bible, fellowship, daily confession, etc. And the focus of that was on confession, how powerful confessing our sins can be. We were challenged to find an accountability partner (preferably our husbands, for those of us who are married), someone with whom we can be honest on a regular basis and truly confess our sins. The benefits are eternal.

After all, as long as something is hidden, it holds power over us. But once it is brought to the light, we can be free from it.

And to illustrate that point scripturally, tonight the Lord told me to read Psalm 32:

1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me;
My own vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
5 I acknowledged my sin to Thee,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, "I will confess my transgression to the Lord";
And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. Selah.
6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him.
7 Thou art my hiding place;
Thou dost preserve me from trouble;
Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked;
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you his righteous ones,
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

Okay, I know that was long, but it was absolutely amazing! The power of sin is so great that when we hide it, our bodies actually waste away. We must confess our sins. If we don't they literally eat away at us, and not just spiritually but physically. It doesn't say our souls waste away. It says our bodies. But look at the power of confessing our sins! When we confess our sins to the Lord, He forgives our guilt! David, the psalmist, urges us to seek the Lord, not to waste any time, but to see him. David has experienced the Lord's forgiveness, and he wants everyone else to experience it too. When we confess our sins, God becomes our hiding place. He preserves us from trouble. He surrounds us with songs of deliverance.

And then God steps in, responds to the confession and repentance, and basically interrupts the psalmist, with a prophetic promise: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." Did you catch that? "I will instruct...and teach you." Torah is God's teaching and instruction.

Isn't that beautiful?

I don't know about you, but I want that. I want Him to instruct me, to teach me the way I should go, to reveal His Torah to me, because I know that Jesus is the Torah incarnate. I want Him to counsel me with His eye upon me. I want to continually be in His sight, because if He's looking on me, I know He hasn't forgotten me. He knows right where I am. I'm no longer lost. I'm not in darkness. His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path...showing me the way that I should go.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day Tuning

The years go by and the piano sits there, unplayed. Then one day you realize that the note you knew was C is now sharp. As you play that recital piece you still remember from the sixth grade, you realize that every note is sharp and dissonant, and playing it is no longer pleasurable.

As I'm writing this entry, my piano is being tuned. Yes, on New Year's Day. Do I have a great piano technician, or what?

Tuning a piano is a long, complicated affair. Lots of terrible, discordant pitches come out before the right note is isolated and locked into place. Then the tech moves on to the next key, and you hear the same cacophonous sounds, until that key's true note is found. Two hours this man has been tuning my piano, making up for my failure to keep its tune maintained over the last few years. Had it been regularly tuned, this would be over in an hour. But as things are, the technician has gone over each key, not once but thrice, in his attempts to get my poor pianoforte back to where it should have been, and he will have to return in a few months for another tuning to achieve concert pitch.

Neglect will do that to a piano.

The same thing happens to our souls. When we fail to stay in tune with our Creator, we eventually become unpleasant to hear. But when we are in harmony with Him, in His Word, walking in His Spirit, the words we speak are like spiritual music, bringing glory to Him.

It's so much better to stay in tune than to neglect our souls and then require a major tuning. And I can think of no better way to start the New Year than getting in tune with God...and then letting Him use us every day so He can keep us that way.

used by permission
Christian Devotions Press
Copyright 2009