Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living Every Day in a Holy Way

Now that the holidays are over, what are you going to do? What are you thinking about as New Year's approaches? Ah-ha! May I take a guess? New Year's resolutions? Those sometimes lofty or attainable goals we lay out for the upcoming year.

Do we lose weight? Spend less time on the computer? Spend more time with the kids? Take more walks? Be nicer to a difficult co-worker?

But the new year doesn't have to be about hope turning into perceived failure. We can make every day count as a holy day - by being intentional about living our lives in a holy way.

You can still use your resolution list for this. You can still try to lose weight, but do it for the right reason: to be full of the Living Water Jesus wishes to give, to be full of spiritual food, not the junk food we crave. We can still spend less time on the computer, but make it holy by spending more time in God's Word and in God's presence. We can still spend more time with the kids, take more walks, be nicer to that co-worker. All this can be done with holiness in mind. With Jesus in mind.

So don't think of resolutions as lofty goals that you make and break by the end of the month. Be intentional about living every day in a holy way. Be the hands and the feet of Jesus. Count blessings as you drive to work in the morning or as you wake up to start your day. There are so many opportunities to start over this year, no matter how bad the last year had been. God given us each a new day, makes us a new creation:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

I wish you a most blessed 2012 full of love, peace, and joy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It is Good

Have you ever had a guilty conscience? I know I have. Have you sinned? I know I have.

Imagine now being Adam or Eve. The first to sin, the first to betray, the first to break God's heart.
I invite you to watch the amazing song, "Good," performed by Matthew West and Leigh Nash from the CD, "The Story" - an amazing CD of songs inspired by Biblical characters. This is the song for Adam and Eve. The lyrics are below. But do watch the video; the animation is stunning.

If I could, I’d rewrite history
I’d choose differently; if I could, I would
I’d leave out the part where I broke Your heart
In the garden’s shade, fix the mess I made
If I could, I would

If I could, close my eyes and then

Dance around again; if I could, I would
Be who You adored, why did I need more?
When beauty was not trained to hide behind my shame
If I could, I would.

Can You hear us cry?

Wishing we could turn back time
To feel Your breath when branches move
Take one more sunset walk with You
Must each tomorrow hold
Such brokenness untold?
Can’t imagine how You could
See all of me and say it’s good

If I could hold one memory

It would surely be how You walked with us
I’d go back in time, untell my first lie
And let love’s injury heal in spite of me

Can You hear us cry?

Wishing we could turn back time
To feel Your breath when branches move
Take one more sunset walk with You
Must each tomorrow hold
Such brokenness untold?
Can’t imagine how You could
See all of me and say it’s good
Say it’s good

It is good. It is good.

You still love us more than we believed You could
Could there be something more?
Will it ever be the way it was before?

Can You hear us cry?

Wishing we could turn back time
To feel Your breath when branches move
Take one more sunset walk with You
Must each tomorrow hold
Such brokenness untold?
Can’t imagine how You could
See all of me and say it’s good

Ponder that refrain: "Can't imagine how You could / See all of me and say it's good."
He does see all of us and say we are good. He forgives.
Can't you just hear the longing and regret in the voices in this song?

In the beginning, it was all beautiful. Can you imagine it? Such an unfiltered relationship with the Lord? Can you imagine the sunset walks with Him, talking with Him, communing with Him?

But then, they who were adored "needed more."

We all want more when what we have is so wonderful to begin with. I suppose that is free will, isn't it.
Well, they wanted to be like God - as powerful, as mighty.
And they broke His heart.


He still loved them "more than we believed You could."

I am certain that God hears their cry. I am sure God hears our cry when we cry out to him in pain, in need, in confusion. We all wish we could turn back time, don't we. To undo the mess we made. But we can't. All we can do is live with the consequences and that is what humankind has done for eons since the Fall that broke us away from God.

What is redeeming is that we are redeemable. What is comforting is that He loves us anyway!
We break His heart every day and He is still there, loving us.

Have you every hurt someone? Have you broken their heart and now there is a severed relationship because of it? I am sorry; I know that pain.

But look - God can never be severed from you!

Look - if He can forgive His first children, Adam and Eve, His first human creations, if He can love them DESPITE, even love them BECAUSE...

just imagine how much He can love YOU.

I pray this entry and this song can be of some comfort to you.

Can we go around sinning and hurting others and get away with it? Of course not.

But there IS love for you. There IS forgiveness.

You ARE good.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Holy Stepparent

I know I posted about this last year, but I want to point to it again this year, for all you stepparents.

Did you know that Joseph, husband of Mary, was a stepfather? Think about it - he was!

But this stepfather did not have any petty birth parent to deal with, didn't have to worry about his stepchild resenting him, didn't have to worry about buying his stepchild's love.

No, his stepson was born for loving him. His stepson was born for loving the world. All of us.

His stepson was the Ultimate Son.

How proud Joseph must have been -

and how nerve-wracking! Can you imagine? Stepping in as "father" to this baby...

when this baby had the Heavenly Father as well.

I look up to Joseph, He did not run away from the task.

I don't need an angel to come down to me and tell me that I need to tend to this family of mine. I have had a holy encounter regarding that, however.

During a church service specific to healing, I asked God who He wanted me to serve.

He said to me, "serve the children."

And I thought, what children? In other countries? Do I become a missionary?

But no, He said: "serve your children."

So, in a way, I suppose I am like Joseph.

I was told to serve and love my stepchildren, just as Joseph was told to love and accept Mary as his wife and Jesus as his earthly son.

So the stepparent chain continues...

as old as the world itself...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spice Up Your Marriage - being the hands and feet of Christ!

I was eagerly looking forward to listening to Susie Larson's "Live the Promise" show today. Little did I know I would hear an idea that would spark a new adventurous spirit and idea!

Today's show was Faith Radio Net :: The Great Giveaway! Susie asked her listening audience, "what is the best thing you can do with ten dollars?" I was blown away by the answers she received. So many people being the hands and feet of Christ, being obedient, but gladly, not with burden or "I-have-to"s.

I'll give you an example that brought me to tears and touched my heart. Susie received an email from a man who said that he and his wife made a Christmas pinata and invited children of families they knew over to their house. Not just any children, however. These children all had special needs of one form or another and they provided pizza and fun for these kids as well as time for the busy and weary parents to do as they wish: go out on a long-needed date, take a nap, go Christmas shopping, pray.

Working with adults with disabilities, I see how taxing it is on caretakers who care for those with special needs. The blessings are enormous and definitely need to be acknowledged, but it is such a hard job. I don't consider my job hard...I consider the job of the person who lives with the person to be challenging...the family of the differently-abled person who loves him or her so much and supports him or her in everything they do...

That is a job full of rewards and frustrations all its own.

I listened to person after person call in to "Live the Promise" and tell what they did with their money. Whether it was $5 or $10 or $2,000 (yes, in one case it was that much), they were such a blessing to others. It is so obvious that when you give (and believe that you are not losing but gaining) that you will receive in return. Receive what? Well, sometimes that amount of money the person gave away will "mysteriously" and miraculously return in some form the next day or week. Or maybe the receiving is simply in feeling the Holy Spirit overcome you and wanting to burst from the sheer joy of it all.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
~ Luke 6:38

So what does this have to do with spicing up your marriage? Well, Susie revealed what she did with her $10. She and her husband were at a grocery store and felt called to pay for the groceries of the woman in front of them. Susie tapped the woman on the shoulder and asked if she could pay for her. The woman's eyes filled with tears and said something like, "you don't know what that would mean." As it turns out, Susie and her husband had "stumbled upon" a woman who was a single mother barely getting by. She was in desperate need and there Susie and her husband were, offering Jesus' love and grace.

Susie felt so inspired by this act that she and her husband decided they were going to go on a "missionary date" once a month. They'd pray to God to put people in their path who were in need and they would go out and bless someone with God's love.

Well, hearing that put my mind and heart's gears in motion. Husband and I are in need of some spicing up with all the responsibility we shoulder from being sudden-full-time parents to the three kids (whom we love and are so grateful for) - but face it - we sometimes need a break! We do try to go to the nearby town and go on a date once in a while, but you can only go out to a restaurant and movie so many times. We need some adventure.

What better adventure is there than to do God's work in this world? What better thrill is there than to show strangers (whether they know God or not) that God loves them and wishes to bless them with a random act of kindness?

"You have blessed us all so
We bless all"

~ "All Is Grace" by Shaun Groves

So I wish to extend that challenge to you as well. It is Susie Larson's challenge as well as mine as well as Jesus'!

What can you do with $5? Can you pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru?
What can you do with $10? Go to a gift catalog like ELCA or Samaritan's Purse and see how far that money can go!

Will you join me with your spouse and be a missionary dater, too? We can go on "missionary double dates!"

Tell me all about it when you do so!

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, 
you did for me.'"
Matthew 25:40

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dancing with Dreams

This isn't a directly-God related post, but it was an important experience for me. It touched my heart and I believe anything that touches your heart has God in it, so I am going to share.

Yesterday, I took my almost-8 year old stepdaughter, "G," to "The Nutcracker" downtown.

When I was around 7 or 8 my mom starting taking my cousin and I and it became a yearly Christmas tradition for about 4 years. How I remember dressing up in my velvet blue dress, my mom curling my hair, tasting my first ginger ale!!!

So I got "G" a beautiful new shirt that she oooohed and aaaahed over. I helped her put barrettes in her hair and a necklace on. And we met a co-worker of mine and her 8 year old daughter for lunch and then we all went to the ballet.

I was a bit worried if "G" could sit through the whole thing. I took her and her 13 yr old sister to "A Midsummer's Night Dream" ballet last year and neither liked it...

But to my delight, "G" loved it! She wasn't acting all excited and googly eyed over the experience, but she did say she loved it and was smiling. I asked her what her favorite part was and it was the same part as mine as a child.

During the ballet, tears slid down my face as I remembered my cousin and I reenacting "The Waltz of the Flowers" and doing our own dances. It made me miss my mom a lot.

It was so nice to share that with "G." When we got home I dug out an old picture of me and my cousin next to Santa while we were at the theatre for "The Nutcracker."

And sure enough, I was in my blue velvet dress.

Our advanced technology has changed the way people live their lives today verses how we lived as children.

But little girls still wear fru-fru dresses and go to the Nutcracker.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Yoke and the Burden

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I’ve been thinking about the concept of a yoke. In a literal sense, “the word ‘Yoke’ means a bar of wood, so constructed as to unite two animals (usually oxen), enabling them to work in the fields, drawing loads, pulling instruments used for farming” (  

Figuratively, it can mean slavery (1 Tim 6:1), Servanthood (Lev 26:13 and Jer 27:8-12), Submission, Forced Subjection, Burden, Load, Oppression (Isaiah 9:4), and Bondage to Sin (Lam 1:14).

So Jesus is offering his “yoke” to us in order to learn from him. Is he offering the burden he carries? The oppression and load that our sins put upon him created? That’s what I thought at first. But Jesus wouldn’t give us a burden to carry, much less the sins he’s had to take upon himself in order to save and redeem us. He took that on for us so we would be set free. So it’s not the burden of sin that is his “yoke.” Then what is it?

I think the key to finding out what the yoke is, is in the phrase, “for I am gentle and humble in heart.”  Jesus offers us something and that is himself: gentle and humble in heart. He asks us to take upon those traits. Perhaps his offering is this (paraphrased by me): if you become gentle and humble in heart, you, too, will find peace and rest.

Another verse that baffles me is, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Do you believe what Jesus offers is easy? In some ways, I have found it to be the easiest thing in the world – to follow him, to love each other, to be honorable and genuine, to serve others as Jesus did. I try to do that in my job every day and then come home and do my best to serve my husband and family with love and appreciation and acts of service (sometimes I can improve upon that last one).

Yet in other ways I find this yoke that Jesus says is easy to be extremely hard. It has been hard to let go of my New Agey ways. To get rid of the things that weren’t “of God” and those things which drew me away from his side and path. It has also been hard to love those who “persecute me.” In other words, to love my enemy, to love those who don’t necessarily like me or are good to me…to extend grace, peace and love to them. Boy, has that been a struggle!

And understanding that the Christian walk does not mean a struggle-free walk – that has quite possibly been the most difficult realization. In fact, in some areas, I have found that being a Christian makes situations more complicated and challenging.

But I think back to Jesus saying, with arms outstretched, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” and I want to run into those arms and embrace him, surely do I want to take up his yoke. I want to follow him. But then there’s that word: burden. Instinctively I cringe at that word.

We carry a lot of burdens around with us, don’t we? I know, for me, I feel a great weight on my shoulders from my responsibilities of being a good stepmother, a good wife, a good worker, a good daughter, a good friend, and above all that, a good Christ-follower. When days go nicely, those things don’t feel like a burden at all, but one bad phone call or one snarky comment can make all those things tumble down upon me like a rockslide. You bet I feel burdened.

And yet… I feel a whisper…that is the burden I pick up for myself. Jesus does not place those burdens on my shoulders. He asks me to follow him. The expectations I have for myself, the things I try to do by my own strength – that is not exactly listening to Jesus’ commands, is it.  He wishes for me (us) to place my trust and faith in him, to surrender the power I think I have over to him and to let go of control. That doesn’t mean I become a powerless puppets, on the contrary. I have found that when I release my self-made burdens to God, I feel unforgettably lighter and better.

So is his yoke easy and his burden light? I’ve decided that my heavy burden is self and circumstance-made, not placed upon me by the Lord. He asks for me to let go of all that “stuff.”

Faith is trust and belief in that which we cannot see, right?

An easy yoke and a light burden is a difficult yoke and a heavy burden lifted up to God.

Won’t you follow it, too?

It is especially important during this holiday season as we get bogged down with shopping for presents and trying to make every family member from all sides happy. As we try to give the perfect Christmas to our kids and of course we must give a little bit away for the needy, right? Oh, I’m not saying those things aren’t important, but let’s have perspective. Our to-do lists create mountains of paper on our kitchen counter until Christmas Eve, the night of the birth of the babe who came to save us all, where we suddenly want to scream at all the things we have left to do and all the things we don’t think we’ve done enough of. Suddenly we are failures and we deem this holiday a failure.

Please don’t let that be your Christmas. Follow the easy yoke and the light burden that Jesus offers. Release all those stresses to him and open the eyes of your heart – look around you at the smiling children who are just thrilled to receive a tight embrace and a loving word. Look at the beautiful light displays around your neighborhood and marvel at how it illuminates the block. Thank God that we (in southern Wisconsin) haven’t had a huge snowfall yet.

Yes, count your blessings! Go out and get Ann Voskamp’s, “One Thousand Gifts” and start your New Year being more aware of the splendor of God and take up that dare to be more fully awake and alive.

His yoke is easy and his burden is light – if you let it be. If you let go of the trappings of the World and our culture, the trappings of what our society has made Christmas into: focused on gifts, money, the most of this, the most of that.

Mercy to you this Christmas. Peace to you this Christmas.

I invite you to take a breath. Did you do that? Okay, now stand up straight and notice your shoulders. Are they tight and heavy? Go to a window and look upward. Imagine yourself releasing all the world and you-placed burdens until you can envision them as balloons floating up to the sky. Jesus can take them. He can handle it. He wants  to handle it.

A prayer from me:

Dear Father in Heaven,
I release all the rushing around I do this season, all the frantic buying of gifts when I know we don’t have enough money nor do our kids need that many gifts. Lord, I thank you for blessing my family with good health, financial provision, enough food and shelter and love. Please bless our family with your presence and infuse our home with love. Help these kids know they are safe and loved eternally – by you, Jesus, and by us as their parents. Lord, take away the “perfect Christmas” I carry around in my head. There is no perfection that we humans can create and counting on that is asking to be let down. I rely on you, Lord, to provide for us this Christmas and forever. I want to take upon your yoke and learn from you. Oh, I so want to learn from you! I know I need rest in my heart, Lord, and I ask that for everyone in this world as they hustle and bustle around this season. I ask you to bless them with deep breaths and the ability to see the beauty and blessings around them that aren’t bought or man-made. Dear Lord, help us to focus on the “reason for the season” – your son being born – what a delight! What a thing to behold! Let us celebrate that, Lord! Let us celebrate you by shaking our self-made burdens off of us like dander, like a dog shaking the wet out of his fur. Bless all who cry out to you, O Lord, and lift up their burdens and finally, Lord, give them rest.
In your precious name,

Enjoy this powerful song, "Rest," by Downhere at the following site:

an interesting blog I came across while searching for a "yoke" image:
She even references my favorite author, Ann Voskamp!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Waiting on Waiting: Thoughts on Advent

photo credit: © Adam Gryko -

I am now a little over a year old, in Christ-terms. Meaning I have been walking with the Lord - all-in - for a little over a year. I still consider myself a baby-Christian, but I have done a lot of growing in the past year. And besides, I know of a Christ who was a baby once.

If there is one thing I know I still have a lot to learn about and lean towards it's the idea of instant gratification. Waiting. Waiting for exciting events, waiting for doomed ones; waiting for answers, waiting for results, waiting for responses, waiting for what my ego tells me I need to know and have.

And do you know what I need to be waiting for? The only thing I need to wait for?

The will of God to be done.

And do you know when a perfect time to do that is?


And Advent it is. Now. I don't have to wait to wait. I can start my waiting now. But I'm not waiting for prayers to be answered, events, or responses. I am waiting for the celebration of Jesus' birth. I am waiting to celebrate. And in that waiting I celebrate.

I celebrate all the things that God has given me this past year that I either prayed for and received or prayed for and did not receive. For both are blessings of one sort or another. My ego cannot tell what is best for me, only the One born in the manger knows. Such a tiny creature knows how every twist and turn in my life will turn out. What a thing to behold!

God, thy will be done! I wait for Your working in my life. I wait for You. In this, my second season of Advent, where I am truly beginning to understand what waiting on You means, I wait for You to fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I may do Your will.

Psalm 130:5-6 calls to me at this moment:

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
   and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
   more than watchmen wait for the morning,
   more than watchmen wait for the morning.

More than watchmen wait for the morning, O Lord. I wait for Your Son's birth from here on out and hope for a renewed spirit within me.

And I recall the devotional song we so often sing in church with lyrics by Keith Green:

Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
And take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

Lord, I will wait. I will wait for the answers, promises, questions...
I will wait for when it is Your time and not my own.
I will wait in this waiting season of Advent
and rejoice
as if I have received everything I could ever want
for You give
so lovingly
so overwhelmingly
that I most certainly do receive
and more...

Blessings to you during this season of Advent. Experience the experience of waiting.
And perhaps...
right in the middle...
you will realize that He has been there
all along.

This blog entry was written in correlation with Charity Singleton over at Wide Open Spaces. See the Advent Writing Project here.