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Monday, December 27, 2010

Lists, Lists, Lists

There is something so – so – organized – about a list. It gives the illusion of control of one’s life. Checking off item after item on the list extends the illusion of power and control. Following a list can be like following a recipe – all manner of interventions, substitutions, ad libs and upsets can happen when one follows a list. But that is a different blog.

The 'laissez faire' person lets life happen and makes a list later. The control person is bound and determined to create a life of lists and finds joy in marking off each item as it is accomplished. The person who can take or leave a list uses the lists in a need-to-list mode.

A list-maker after my own heart uses lists to ‘plan’ with the unspoken need to procrastinate. The Procrastinator needs a deadline in order to wrap the action around the list. Some have called this process a time waster, but this type of person has never fallen in love with the ‘fall smell’ of fresh paper and wooden pencil aromas that bring to retired teachers all manner of memories. They want to purchase reams of paper and dozens of pencils...just to remember…. In other words, just the settling in a chair with paper and pencil creates the need to make a list for the inveterate list maker.

Now there are endless electronic calendars, “Don’t forget the Milk”, Evernote - ways of list making. There are books of lists being sold – Wedding lists for the Bride, books of rhyming words for the poet, Planning Books for teachers, Court Decisions for the lawyer, Trouble Shooting lists for all things electronic. Diets become a list of ‘to eat or not to eat’.

My summer lists while teaching, I soon learned, were endless and I never reached the end of the list before I had to return to school. Now I wonder if I will be able to accomplish all the items of my ‘life-list’ in time to take my last breath. Because I still make lists.

When I learned that a project contains a list of goals to be accomplished, and then a list of procedures to complete the goals, plus a list of timelines in which the procedures must be accomplished in order to bring the goals to completion – I was ecstatic. Nested lists! Before it was just a black and white to-do list, now it became a to-live list. My interest soon waned as I noted 'the shades of grey' listings.

A grocery list is a common type of list used by many. A simple procedure, right? Not when you meticulously create a list, and leave it at home. I soon realized the folly of trying to remember the list with my finite mind. Besides the hazards of impulsive buying and the retailer’s ability to set up the market to entice buying.

Interesting how a list of anything intrigues us, especially if it is a list of “how-to’s”. Just today I found a list of 72 ways to be a better writer. I deal better with just 4 or five item list. I found that, too, but it didn't increase my writing ability. Maybe we need a 'thought' list.

There is a ‘box list’ for the inveterate clutterer. The box for give-aways, one for the can’t-bear-to-part-with-it and the box for throw away. Indecision causes me to want the fourth box – ‘think-about-for-awhile’. The Procrastinator part of me kicked in. No matter how you box it, it is a list.

The one problem with lists is that life doesn’t fit into an ordered list. Life comes and whomps us in the face. This is good. What, you are asking, how would this be an acceptable? It propels the re-ordered list - or Plan B, or C, or X, Y, Z. Z stands for zest for life.

I often wondered if Abraham made a list when God told him to go to an unknown place with Sarah. What about Moses, responsible for the children of Israel, did he make a list to prepare for 40 years of travel? Apostle Paul made three journeys. Did he make a list to get ready to go on a journey and all the events like a ship wreck? That brings me to thinking about how God created the universe and created the intricacy of man – and He has seen to each detail. He embedded the prophecies of the coming of Jesus from the beginning. He orchestrated the steps of Jesus from birth to His resurrection. Even now our God watches over us as we make our lists of what to do.

How did God accomplish this? Did He make a list? Did God even have to make lists? My joy of this season just grows when I think of the way He created the events, never forgetting the smallest detail, surrounding the birth of Jesus, His One and Only Son. No words can portray His omnipotence and glory.

Speaking of lists – I received a book for Christmas that lists names of Jesus that include….

Immanuel – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Christ the Lord – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

Faithful Witness - and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. - Revelation 1:5

Hope – They shall obtain joy and gladness. And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. - Isaiah 35:10

Holy - For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. - Luke 1:49

Shepherd - The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

Advocate – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. - I John 2:1

Prince of Peace – For to us a child is born, 
 to us a son is given, 
 and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called 
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

Gift of God – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - James 1:17

Firstborn over All Creation - The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. - Colossians 1:15-16

Jesus - When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25

Author of our Faith - fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Light of the World - When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Deliverer - and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; 
 he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them 
 when I take away their sins.” Romans 11:26-27


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angels We Have Heard On High!

The wonder and mystery of Christmas is encapsuled in these verses – from Luke 2:8-15 - And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This wlll be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

My imagination, as a child, painted a glorious night of a brilliant star shining in the East, and a myriad of angels descending from heaven after the announcement of the birth of Baby Jesus. The host of angels, more glorious than I could ever imagine, filled the sky. Although the scripture says they were ’saying’, to me, how could you just say this glorious message. I can imagine nothing less than a song of glory filling the skies with heavenly voices that rang joyfully with full harmony.

The story of the birth of Jesus had many striking figures. Did Mary know how the Baby would be announced? I can see the joy on her face as she held the Baby Jesus. I see the look that Mary and Joseph exchanged as they looked at the Baby Jesus, their son, yet more than their son.

I always ponder how Mary pondered all these things. If she had been a writer, she would have journaled; if she were a composer, she would have created a song; if she had been a painter, she would have created a masterpiece. Yet, she pondered.

She pondered when the shepherds came from the field to see the baby. Fresh from the field, smelling of fresh air and sheep. Did Mary remember the Angel Gabriel coming to her and his words - You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-34.

When Mother was a child, her mother hung a painting in her room of a Guardian Angel. With all the things that happened to Mother – from near drowning in the creek, various diseases and accidents, Mother needed a Guardian Angel, and not just a painting. Yet, that picture instilled in her heart the joy of being cared for and loved. She knew that the angel was a messenger from God, and not to be worshiped. When Mother became ill, my brother’s wife and I found this same picture and hung it in her room. It is a painting that pictures the care and love that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. For He created angels to do His bidding.

When our daughter, Anna, was traveling a long distance in her car, she told me that she often prayed that angels would surround her car and guide it safely to her destination. A child shall lead them, I had never before considered praying that angels would ride on the car to protect me.

Angels' first words to anyone begin with – “Do not be afraid!” What do angels look like? Were they fearful looking, or with wings, or like warriors? We don't know. Of course, we humans, so conscious of the outward appearance would want to know. We look beyond the appearance and to the purpose for being.... that Angels have. Would I be afraid if ‘suddenly’ an angel appeared to me? Yes! We have been inundated with references in literature and movies to angels here on earth. Yet, the scripture tells me all I need to know about angels now.

As angels are a part of the heavenly world and God’s creation, I want to go to The Source to learn more.

Guardian Angels - Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

Angels Share in God’s JoyI tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7

Stand in the Presence of God – “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10

Intermediaries between God and Man – In visions of God, he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. He tooke me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze, he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything. Ezekiel 40:3

They Bring God’s HelpNo harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:10-11

There is much more we can learn. We can’t begin to understand Angels and their work, just as we do not understand God and His ways. But one thing I know is that God and His creation is real!

One of the references that is my favorite is God speaking to Job, is found in Job 38:4-7: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? 
 Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

As we celebrate Christmas this season, listen for the Angels in your heart that shout for joy and point you to our Savior, I know I will.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

As Christmas approaches, the phrase ‘getting ready for Christmas’ evokes memories of Christmases past – not a Scrooge past – but a Wonder present. Each era of my life holds a different kind of celebration at Christmas with different emphases.

When I was a child, the preparation for Christmas included choosing a Christmas tree from a friend’s pasture in Oklahoma. I loved the ‘outdoor’ freshness of greenery that made its way through the house. I still have the blue bird that Dad and Mom gave me. It was a light bulb, long since burned out, but not the memory of the blue bird that lighted the tree, twinkling with joy. Dad and Mom told of their first Christmas together in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Dad brought in a tree from the field, but since there was no electricity, there were no lights. Dad surprised Mom by parking his car by the window. With wires strung from the car battery to the Christmas tree lights, Mom had her heart’s desire..

Preparations included cleaning the house, potato soup on Christmas Eve topped off with Peppernuts. Hearing The Christmas Story from Luke 2, while dressed in our ‘sleepers ready for bed’. We three children said our ‘pieces’ (poems about Christmas) for Church and on Christmas Eve. Christmas carols sung around the Christmas tree and prayer.

We learned early the delight of secrets when Dad bought Mom a clock for Christmas. He shared the secret with us and was so proud of such a fabulous gift to give his love. Dad checked it, and wound it up to set it and make sure it worked before he wrapped it and laid it beneath the tree. He cautioned us not to say a word. Mom told us later that she was sitting in the rocking chair by the tree in the quiet of the night…..and heard a ‘tick…tick…tick…” And she knew. Gifts were always a part of Christmas, but little did we know then, that the greatest gift was what we learned from our Dad and Mom - the joy of giving and being a family.

Then came the hustle and bustle of the teens with Christmas Bell songs and the Christmas Cantata at Church. Christmas became a melody of the business of learning new carols and singing my way through Christmas from O Holy Night to Gesu Bambini (Infant Jesus), Sweet Little Jesus Boy and The Hallelujah Chorus. My favorite part of the Christmas story were the angels saying Glory to God in the Highest!

After marriage in 1952, our celebration changed to include the wonder of Christmas made new in the eyes of our four children. One Christmas, as we sat around the Christmas Tree, my Dad began the Christmas story, and asked questions. I remember the awe I felt when our third son, Tim, could answer his questions about Jesus’ birth, when he was almost 4 years old.

As the years passed, Ed and I were alone to celebrate Christmas. The Christmas Eve Candlelight service took on new meaning. We celebrated Christmas two years ago by constructing a Christmas Cross for our front yard. No Christmas tree because of Ed’s allergies. But the Christmas Cross stays lit, as a testimony to our faith in Jesus, until after Easter. Last year I painted two scenes of Christmas as ‘decoration’ to put on display..

Christmas time is when music, food, decorations and lights, gifts and Christmas cards become uppermost in our minds. When there are more smiles on faces that we encounter on the streets.

As I thought about many who would call this a holiday and not Christmas, II realize that Christmas is not a holiday, a brief respite from the routine, but a forever celebration with a heavenly purpose.

God, in all his Might and Power, planned the first Christmas with care before the beginning of time. He provided the music of angels. He provided the decoration – the brilliant Star in the East. He provided the gifts from the Magi, who came from afar, of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

God sent the Message of all Time to the World. Why? God sent his only begotten and beloved Son to come, seek and save the lost. God sent the Light of the World – the Truth and the Way.

Our meagre earthly Christmas decorations cannot outshine the brilliance of the Light of the World. The verse that came to me, is that we look at the outer shell of man, but God looks on the heart.

May this Christmas we see the heart of God and His glory. May the wonder and mystery of God dwell deeply in our hearts. As we prepare for Christmas, may we also prepare our hearts to receive Jesus anew.

Luke 2:8-14 - And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I Peter 1:3-5 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In His Presence

How do I know that I am in Your Presence? How do I have confidence in your love? As I pondered this, I also wondered, who am I to even consider such a lofty thought. What in my experience would lead me to think I would know.

Is this like the quality of humility? That is, if we declare our humility, it is not in our grasp?

As a child, my Dad’s presence brought many thoughts in my heart….love, adoration and joy. I experienced fear and guilt when I disobeyed and I could always expect discipline . But I had confidence in his protection, daily needs such as food and clothing, and always a secure place to sleep.

When one of us children complained about what we did not have, Dad would take us for a ride. He would drive us past house after house, each one more dilapidated and worn than the last, and ask, “Would you like to live here….or here?”

We had a choice to make. We were born into this family, but did we want to stay? We three children looked at the houses and considered the alternatives. Then we looked at the back of Dad’s head as he drove…so strong, so caring, so secure. How could we leave Daddy who loved us?

“Dad, we decided, we want to stay with you. Let’s go home.”

We knew we would have unconditional love, and with it, discipline tempered with forgiveness.

As I ponder the words, In His Presence, I realize that being a part of the family of God holds the same promise of love and discipline that I knew in our earthly family. Discipline that teaches.

Being in His Presence is not all love and light – there is discipline, too. Learning to stay within God’s boundaries where we are safe. Dad taught us about living in his boundaries and we often crossed those boundaries.

Did Dad grow weary in parenting? Yes, I am sure he did, yet God gave him the strength to continue to teach us to be obedient and faithful. For this is how to learn faithfulness and trust in God.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30

When Dad died in 1979, I realized we no longer had his presence here on earth. I knew that Dad’s life had pointed me to God the Father. For me, God became my ‘Abba’ - Daddy.

In His Presence. Often the words of a song and the thoughts He gives me, quicken my heart. And I know His Presence. Learning day by day, I long for that presence when tears of joy fall on my face. That is when I know His presence and I know the freedom of His Love. There is an ebb and flow to knowing His presence, and I long for Him. His Presence is in my heart and mind more and more as I long for the ‘mansion with many rooms He has prepared for me’.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.

You are my strength, 
Strength like no other

Strength like no other - 
Reaches to me

You are my hope
 - Hope like no other

Hope like no other
 - Reaches to me

In the fullness of Your grace, 
In the power of Your Name

You lift me up - 
You lift me up.

Hillsong -

You make known to me the path of life: in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. Psalm 18:12

Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, Proverbs 8:30


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thank You!

My Great Grandmother, Justina Loewen, sent me knitted mittens for my 1937 Christmas present, The mittens were held together with a knitted string. Since she lived a day’s journey away, Mom taught me the wonders of a ‘Thank You’ letter. Laboriously I wrote the required ‘thank you’ letter in my 8 year old handwriting.

But it didn’t touch the wonder that fills me today of having a great grandmother who cared enough to knit mittens for me, her great granddaughter.

What must she have thought as she knitted? Did she remember when her daughter, Anna, my grandmother, was small and needed mittens? Did she interrupt her usual chores to make those mittens, knitting by firelight?

Did she make mittens for all her great grandchildren? How did she choose the color of the yarn? Did she pray for me as she formed each stitch? Did she pray for my children who were fourteen years in the future? Did she pray for her family she had not seen yet, ‘those who come after’ (nach kommen)?

As I looked at the brown mitten that still survives (I lost one mitten because I didn’t like the string holding them together through my coat sleeves), and I wondered why she chose brown. Was it more durable? Then I see the yarn embroidery on the mitten, created by my Grandma Anna, helping her mother. I wonder when she learned to knit. Great Grandmother Loewen was born 30 August 1857, in Einlage, Neider, Chortitza, Russian and came to this country, as a young mother. She endured many hardships in her life.

I tried to learn to knit once, and managed a sweater with backward stitches, and the intricacies of mitten-making was not in my realm. I knew that it took time and effort. Mom, knowing Plautt Dietch, gave me a ‘thank you phrase” that great Grandmother Loewen could read – “Danke du”

Seventy three years later, I want to thank my Great-Grandma Loewen for more than knitting the mittens for me. There was love hiding in the warmth of the mittens, thoughtfulness and prayer nestled in the stitches. The mitten is a reminder of family love.

My thank you to Great-Grandmother Loewen was not adequate then. For she meant much to me. My Grandma’s Mom. Why did it take 73 years for me realize what a precious gift she gave me? I want to thank her for her love and faith in God and understand her heart.

While looking for thoughts on being thankful, I found this quote: On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence – by William Jennings Bryan.

The more I thought about this quote, the more I understand giving thanks. Thankfulness is understanding that we do not live alone and to ourselves. Although independence is considered an American virtue, the soul of man has not surrendered its virtue of needing family and community. And even more, we need faith and trust in God.

We need each other – and thankfulness. In the depths of want and need, we learn that in dependence the need to say ‘thank you’. Not only to each other, but to our Heavenly Father.

How odd that there are so many verses in the Bible that say ‘Give Thanks to the Lord’. Does this dependence also go to the One and Only who gave us life, yes, and knitted us together? In our spiritual arrogance, can we,…will we give thanks to our Lord?

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High. Psalm 7:17

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
 Psalm 136:1-3

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! II Corinthians 9:15

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

This Thanksgiving Day is not just today, but every day to come – and I pray for nach kommen (those who come after), and for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Yes, Great Grandmother Loewen, I thank you.

How can I say thanks

For the things You have done for me,

Things so undeserved,

Yet You gave to prove Your love for me.

The voices of a million angels

Could not express my gratitude.

All that I am and ever hope to be,

I owe it all to Thee.

Andrea Crouch -


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Try Harder!"

It was 1937, on a fall day. I am sure that the leaves were a beautiful colors and the cool brisk wind wouldn’t have ruffled my spirits. But I did not notice. My mind was focused on the report card I held in my hand. It stated, “Emily would do better if she would TRY HARDER.”

The last two words became a neon flashing sign in my mind. As I trudged ever closer to home, I pondered those two words, dissecting them with my 8 year old mind….”Try?” I surely had tried to do my best. “Harder?” How hard is hard? I certainly wouldn’t want to overdo my ‘harder’. I scrunched up my eyes, gritted my teeth and flexed my muscles, was this ‘harder?” How do you know what harder is, and how hard it would be? Were there degrees of harder.

Finally my steps came to the end of my three block journey of contemplation, and I handed the report card to Mom. “She looked at it, and then turned it over. In a voice that held a question, she uttered those words, “Try Harder?” After a time she says, “We will show this to Dad.”

Both my parents were school teachers in a former life. So I knew I was in trouble. I lived in the age when a teacher’s word stood firm.

That wasn’t the only time that I felt the wrath of teachers. In the first grade, we were given a picture of an apple to color red. I smelled the paper, fresh from the mimeograph pan of hardened jelly and ink. I looked at my new box of crayons and chose one. The teacher walked my desk. “That is orange-red! You are to color the apple red.” I asked for another print of the apple, but was told I could only have one. I was crushed and felt the eyes of fellow first graders on me. I wanted to please my teacher. Years later I noted 4 different shades from green to red – apples.

Then in the second grade, I happily colored many pages of Dutch – centered pictures. A windmill, wooden shoes, a dike, tulips - it was great to color these for I knew that my heritage came from Holland. Then the ‘Brad Day’ came. We were told to hold up our hand and wait to be called on, to come to the teacher’s desk and receive the two-pronged brads to complete our notebook. At the end of the day, my arm was tired, and I propped it up with my other hand. Finally I decided to venture up to the desk, saying to my self….my teacher just forgot me, it is ok.

When I arrived at the desk, it seemed like a long journey, and asked for two brads, I was told to go back to my seat and hold up my hand again the next day. At the end of the second day, I knew that somehow I was not worthy of two brads, and I placed the pages in my satchel in the cloakroom, with a sigh.

What did I learn from those two incidents? (And there were more.) When I became a teacher, if children needed something they were welcomed at my desk. If we did an art project, I showed them an example, and encouraged their own thinking and creativity.

There are so many times….try harder….became a part of my thinking. And I remember. Imagine my surprise to find in “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, the words – Try Harder! – with the admonition, Don’t Try So Hard! What? I read further….

Actions driven by fear and guilt…..are not an antidote to lukewarm, selfish, comfortable living. The answer is love.’

Francis Chan goes on to say, “Grandmother Clara said, ‘I love love.’ Don’t we all? Don’t we crave it? And isn’t it that what God wants of us – to crave this relationship with Him as we crave all genuine love relationships? Isn’t that what brings Him glory – when believers desire Him and not merely slaves who serve Him out of obligation?”

What does that have to do with ‘try harder’? Simply that when we try harder to measure up to a standard that is imposed upon us, we feel fear and guilt. Where as, if our life is built on the love of God who forgives, He takes away fear and guilt and the horrible feeling of never being all we can be because we do all in our own strength.

What happens if we love God so much that we are motivated and compelled to serve Him? Is this trying harder in our own strength? No, it is being nestled in His love so deeply that His strength carries us through our day, over obstacles and the hard times that are sure to come in this life. This relationship with God means freedom from earthly ‘try harder’ and simply learning and serving our Lord. That is called freedom. That is called unconditional love. And we never grow weary, for we are lifted up on eagle wings and the ‘best is yet to come.’

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:9-11

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand;the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121


Tuesday, November 09, 2010


A memory from the 60’s weaves through my thoughts today. It is a warm Mother’s Day afternoon in Southern Illinois, and we drive to the local Dairy Queen for the annual family celebration. My dear husband asks what each one wants from Dairy Queen. I listen as Dan definitively chooses chocolate covered cone, Paul also makes his choice quickly. Tim listens intently to his brothers, and then makes his choice. Anna wants a plain cone. I watch Tim’s face, as concern etches across as their Dad opens the door to go fill the orders. Tim yells out the station wagon window, “Make it a plain cone….no make it chocolate covered…….” By then Dad is ordering. Choices at the Dairy Queen was a muddle for our Tim. He must remember those experiences because he tucks a $5 bill in every Mother’s Day card. And I remember how difficult choices can be.

Choices are difficult at every stage of life. The choices teach us discernment and are based on the underlying values we have chosen for our life. Without the foundation of what is right and what is wrong, we waver in our decision-making every day. Not making choices is not an option, for in not making a choice, we have made a choice.

When I was about 10 years old, Mother gave me a lesson in decision making. Potato harvest was at hand….and a huge hill of potatoes, dug from our garden, appeared in our back yard. Mother told me to sort the potatoes into piles of large, small and in-between sized potatoes. There were no patterns of a large or small or in-between potatoes, it was strictly my decision. I cringed as the hill of potatoes swiftly became a mountain range of potatoes to my eyes. I remember muttering, “How big is big, how little is little?” I began my task on that warm sunny day, knowing I would grow old here beside that pile of potatoes in the backyard.

When the larger decisions came about, I was still concerned with every decision. For I learned that my choices created changes in my life. At first the decisions had to do with learning obedience to my parents. Then they were life-altering decisions – where would I go to college, what would I do with my life, who would I marry? Some decisions were easy and some were difficult. Marrying my husband was easy, and yet after four children, I knew I needed to teach which meant more college to finish my degree and follow that path. And now I can see God’s leading in my life, despite my challenged-decision making ability that followed me. Retirement gave me pause, what would I choose to do now? Who am I? God gave me many things to do and to learn.

Mother, my first teacher, told me that each day she asked God – What would you have me do today. She chose to make God her spiritual compass for her every day activities. When God brought her to a way to serve others, she chose to do so. How easy it would have been for her to choose not to be aware of needs, to sink into a puddle of self-pity and inaction. Her insights and wisdom, so in alignment with God’s Word, continues to bless me thirteen years after her death.

I choose…. What interesting words. What I choose each day denotes action. Choosing means there is a purpose and a direction from which to choose. When visiting with my dear Aunt Irene, she shared with me her testimony. It included these words concerning my Grandfather…. prayed a blessing for his “Nach komen” – those who would come after him. I know now that every choice I make impacts the lives of those I love, even to my “nach komen” for many generations after me. I know I am dependent on God for every aspect of my life and so I choose my path. I choose Jesus.

Recently I read in Max Lucado’s book….When God Whispers Your Name…. – I choose….Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. The end of Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “Against such things there is no law.”

The fruit of the spirit is an excellent spiritual compass. Selah. (Pause and Reflect). (This word was used recently to describe my Uncle Eli – the Selah Man at his memorial.) In today’s world that spins around us so rapidly with demands and decisions, it is good to pause and reflect and realign my foundational compass on the truth and the way. God has numbered my days, and with each day, I know I have one more day to pray – to love – and to hunger and thirst for His righteousness.

Obedience, faith and trust are the stepping stones to joy everlasting. I remember the lesson in obedience my mother taught me when I was twelve years old (1941). I came home from school ready to relax only to find a sink of dirty dishes and a note, please wash these dishes.. Love, Mom.

I deliberately chose to disobey, and soon forgot the note, although I did wonder why she left the tea towel folded on the wooden counter. When Mother came home an hour later, she calmly said, “I see you did not wash the dishes.” I thought she would be angry, but she was very calm as she unfolded the tea towel and revealed a Hershey chocolate bar.

My eyes grew wide, I could taste that rarely offered chocolate bar. All because I chose not to obey, I lost that treasured chocolate delight.

Even so, that bravado of my teen years, doing as I pleased, has become submission to my husband and to our Lord. Praying for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and our ‘Nack komen’ is my joy as long as He gives me breath, gives me joy.

Each one of us must choose for himself his path. Each one of us must live our lives not in our own wisdom, but His. I just pray that no one misses the treasured delight of a life eternal. How glorious is His Name.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. Psalm 25:12

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, Proverbs 8:10

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16