Sunday, March 30, 2008

Open Doors, Closed Doors

This was not an easy week. It was not a week of ease and refreshment. But it was a turning point for us. For some reason I kept singing a line from that old hymn, '...Let all bondage go and let deliverance flow...". I sang that over and over, trying to absorb what the song was advising. "Let" it flow, or "let" it go means I had to be involved with the process. Some of us have a lot to let go of.

My husband,Bill, and I are praying about our specific career paths and financial issues and also for our son, Alex, in his college search. We are praying that we hear God clearly because we want to perceive the "new thing" God is doing. A lot changes when your first child goes off to college at the same time that you feel you too need to venture out into greater exploration, service, and commitment to your dreams.

Bill and Alex went to visit a college this week. There's three schools my son is interested in, and depending on scholarships, grants, and the strength of their academic programs, my son hopes to wind up where the most doors open for him. This week we got news of a closed financial door at one place, and decided to head towards an open door Alex had. So Bill and Alex headed down to Pennsylvania on Thursday. They got to stop by and visit my oldest brother and his family. They enjoyed 48 hours of traveling, visiting, surveying the land down there, and coming home - all the while concluding that maybe that college really wasn't the right place for Alex. It had some good factors in the equation but it did not all add up to a sense of "YES, this is it."

Just because you know where you don't want to be, or where you should not go, doesn't mean you know where your Answer is. But that's okay. Closed doors are all part of the path to progress. Lately I've been thanking God for the closed doors that previously I had been frustrated with. Now I'm adding up all these closed doors and instead of feeling like God has had a grudge against me, I am thinking that God has gone to a lot of trouble to keep me out of certain things, certain places, for a reason. What that reason is, I don't know. But that doesn't perturb me as much now.

When Jesus was at the wedding of Cana and His mother requested that He get involved in solving the problem of the wedding wine being all gone, Jesus told her it wasn't yet His ideal time for ministry. But still she knew He was willing to get involved, because she proceeded to tell the servants nearby, "Whatever He says to you, do it." (John 2:5) She knew He would do something.

Maybe He would make it so that the joy and festivity could continue without them having wine. Or maybe He'd get up and preach an eloquent sermon of love and hope that would make the wedding party weep as their hearts were touched with the power of His love. I really don't think she knew exactly how or what Jesus would do because it all depended on what HE thought was the real problem and what the best solution would be. In this story, we find out He did do a simple miraculous act of turning water into wine....really good wine. But whether that happened or another miracle happened, what mattered was that Jesus intervened in the situation.

So that's what I'm asking of Him in this season of life I'm in. "Whatever you want to do Jesus, do it. I'm standing by ready to cooperate with what you will do." That's what I'm telling Him. So who knows what miracle I get to be involved with next? The miracle may have already started with a closed door.

And I'm not going to tell Jesus it can't happen that way.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Still Counting

Still counting all the many blessings God has brought into my life. That, and I'm running around like a chicken without my head, trying to catch up on a lot of things and also get my husband and son off for a college visit to Pennsylvania.

More later!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Name them One by One

We had a quiet Easter celebration yesterday. After church, my Dad and my brother Mark came over for our afternoon dinner of Roast Chicken with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, squash, fruit salad, and then a homemade lemon cheesecake that my daughter and I quickly put together. It's amazing what cream cheese, sugar, lemons, eggs, and a pie crust can do when they all come together.

When evening came, my teenage son Alex was still working on an English project. He thought he'd be done by 11pm, he told me. We all went to sleep-except for him. At 1am I woke up and realized I never heard Alex come up.

"What are you doing still up?" I hissed down the stairs to him.

"I'm still working on the project. It's taking me longer than I thought."

At 2:30am, he was still not up- even though I was. I could not sleep. My son's management of his time has always concerned me. Alarmed me, really. I can't imagine how he will make it through even one week of college, next year. He'll probably pull three all-nighters in a row and then pass out cold. Then they'd have to call an ambulance, call me,.....but wait. I can't go there. I've already been admonished about this. Gently- but firmly-admonished.

It happened around 2:30am when I fitfully tossed and turned, waiting to hear my son finally get in bed. I started to think about how sick he gets (he has asthma) when he is not sleeping or eating well. Then I started to worry about other things I have to deal with. I quickly had a list of things that concerned me. The list kept growing as I tossed and turned and fidgeted. Then I heard the Lord whisper to my soul, "Count your blessings instead of your worries. Name them...right now."

It's very hard to shift from worrying to meditating on blessings. Especially with lack of sleep and a bit of maternal anxiety in your soul. But I thought rather smugly, Of course I can name my blessings. I couldn't. I named two, to start- our health, the roof over our heads, and then I faltered a bit. Not because there weren't more, but because I wasn't used to doing it. I realized rather quickly that it wasn't hard to worry and list off all my concerns. No, that was easy for me to do. But to start listing my blessings and my bonuses in life- that took me some time to think about. I hesitated. I fumbled. I named a few more...and I then I just stopped and admitted the truth to God- I am rusty at this, aren't I, Lord?

There's an old song, "Count your blessings, name them one by one..." and it seems rather Pollyanna-like and sugary sweet to sing this song in this day and age. You feel rather childlike when you sing a song about blessings- as if you're sitting on a swing in the sunshine,licking an ice cream cone, and naming all your favorite flavors. And that's just what God is talking to me about. He's daring me to be childlike and trusting. He's daring me to hope for the best, think the best, believe the best.

And if God can't get my attention in the daylight hours, He will talk to me in the wee hours of the night. It's a good message that He has for me. It's a message of hope and change and deliverance. It's a message that puts the spring back in your step. In fact, there's a lot of ways I can describe His liberating power, at work in us, that helps us overcome. Let me count the ways.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Lifeblood of our Soul

I slept well, last night, for the first night this week. Bill is not coughing as much anymore and therefore I am sleeping better. He is becoming stronger and more like his usual self: the humor is returning, the joking and the teasing are starting again. I used to really get irritated by all that, but then I realized I need to be provoked into laughter. I need to not take myself so seriously.

I've been reading Beth Moore's book, Get Out of that Pit. Here and there, as I read, I'll catch a glimpse of myself, my chronic battle, and the things I fight. "The close confinement of a pit exhausts us with the endless echo of self-absorption...We can't see out, so we turn our sights in. After a while, nearsightedness breeds hopelessness. We feel too buried in our present state to feel passionate about a promised future."

When we battle some inner demons- whether its depression, worry, anxiety- we often are battling from a point of looking inward, looking down, and looking even at our past. But when we realize that we are in a pit, and that a pit is not supposed to be our permanent abode- we get mad and that fires up our soul. We get provoked to a perspective that includes the possibility of blue sky, new horizons, potential victory. Even laughter itself is a type of weapon. When you laugh you are telling the enemy of your soul that you are not at all riled up about his assault. When you laugh, you are looking heavenward, and you can see the power of God. You can almost feel it and you anticipate it.

Today I want to walk in the knowledge that His power is available for me. More than available. It has my name on it. God has designed powerful strategies for overcoming, and He wants me to know them, use them.

He wants me to remind my mom of this today. She's battling depression. And on top of that, she physically is more encumbered than I am- her body is old, her bones are brittle. But that can't be the determining factor of what she gets to enjoy. I'm going to lie down on the bed next to my mom and tell her that I've been feeling old and weary too. I lost perspective about some things. And then I'm going to hold her hand and pray that we can both know His power in our lives- even if His power shows up in a different way for her than it will for me. What does God's power at work in our life accomplish? I don't know, exactly. It's always something new, bigger, bolder than I could have imagined. I don't think I'm supposed to know how far we can go with God's power at work in us.

It doesn't matter if it's a deep pit you're in, or a tomb (as in Jesus' case)- there will be a Resurrection. Power to get out of the pit. Resurrection power. That's the lifeblood of our soul. It isn't just getting out of the pit that we have to concern ourselves with- it's going beyond the pit to the mountain top vantage point that helps us see how we have eagle's wings. We have so much more than we realized. That same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in me, in you- and we don't know the half of it. We're just touching the hem of His garment and already we are emboldened, brightened, and ready to follow Him onward.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Onward Ho!

It's interesting how many people I know who are moving. Some are people I "know" through visiting their blogs, and others are people I know in my home town area. Moving invokes fear in some, and in others, there is a sense of excitement or anticipation...until everything hits the fan and you realize moving is just PLAIN HARD WORK. No one in their right mind loves to pack up and move. (Well, alright, there might be a few who really get a kick of that kind of thing).

I think the actual moving is not the hard part, really. For many, what is the real kicker is making the decision to move. Some deliberate over this for eons and others suddenly are told- you're moving. There's all sorts of reasons why people have to -or want to- uproot themselves and get to a new location, a new town, a new state.

For me, just getting to a new state of mind is a big challenge. I don't want to get caught living in the town of Small Ideas, living on Memory Lane where the best of what I have to offer is all in the past. I don't know how everyone else keeps their internal compass set for journeying onward with God, but I have a few things that I do in order to get me in the traveling mood.

1. I have to remember the way Jesus traveled is far, far, out of my comfort zone. Jesus literally traveled hot, dusty, and sometimes deserted roads. He didn't get coffee handed to Him at every mile or a cashmere covered pillow to lay his head on the moment he felt tired. He expects me to remember that traveling conditions don't have to be ideal, they just have to be do-able- and they are, if He is with me.

2. I have to remember that sustenance is always provided. Now it may not be what I think I need, or what I am proclaiming I have to have or I can not go another day. But it will be what my soul needs. He always satisfies the longing soul. He always gives strength to the weary. A bruised reed He will not break. Everyone who thirsts is invited to come to the waters (Is 55:1).

3. I have to remember that I'm glad to be journeying onward with Him. I don't always feel glad. In fact I usually feel anything but glad. But nothing is more satisfying than to be progressing and stretching- and you can't do that if you're stagnant and still. So I'm glad to move onward with Him. It doesn't have to be a physical move for me to make progress. Whether it's a new location or a new idea or a new way of loving someone, that "new" thing He is taking me to is where I want to be.

So, it's on to some new things. Take a deep breath. Get your sights set on what's ahead. And call it out with conviction...."Onward Ho!"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Even Now

My husband has been so sick with a bad upper respiratory infection, my son is fighting a cold, and we all are sleeping rather poorly at night. I wake up feeling older and exhausted lately. The only one who is spring-like and frisky is our dog, Harry. He seems to be sensing the newness of Spring and feeling his vitality renewed. But even as I cuddle with my blond mop of a dog, I feel two lumps on his back and I feel....concerned. The Vet checked him out a couple weeks ago and said she thought it was nothing serious, but that we should monitor him and bring him back in a couple months for a re-check.

I've been sensing the battle, not for our physical health so much, but a battle over our joy and our ability to rejoice. Winter can wear you out, but there's so much more that also weighs us down. The economic picture hasn't been good lately,and I don't think anybody listening to the nightly news is going to walk around laughing and smiling afterwards. Pressures and concerns are mounting for many people. If you yourself are not feeling a bit unsettled by things, you probably know someone who is.

Next weekend is the Easter celebration. For the Christian, this is the highlight of our year. This holiday is more than just religious or spiritual, though. It affects us physically and emotionally as well. After all, the Resurrection account was spiritual, literal, physical, and it affected the societal and spiritual landscape of that time, and it affects our time, our life, today.

I need some Resurrection power in my life right now. The thing that I've recently been made aware of is that I really can't tell when God is at work in my life. Not always. Sometimes I get circumstantially encouraged or I "see" myself making progress, or I "feel" faith arise in me. And then there are those times when I don't feel a thing happening in me or around me. I don't see progress and I don't feel any breakthroughs occurring. I might even feel like I am lapsing, regressing, or breaking down. But God's Resurrection Power works best in situations where all looks hopeless or bleak. His power is for those who are weary or for those who are "done"- as in, "having done all....stand." (Eph 6:13).

Whether I feel down or I feel depleted is not the critical thing. It's what I KNOW about my situation that matters. I have to know that there is a Savior, and that He saves...continually. Present tense. Present progressive. He will not stop saving me. He will not stop "redeeming the years the locusts have eaten".

I think about that and I get a second wind. I get a touch of what initially feels like Spring Fever, and then I realize it's much more than that. It's His Resurrection Power- and the power has first touched my mind, renewed my thinking, so that even though I feel weak, even though I see....nothing, yet I will powerfully rejoice in Him, as an act of my will, as an assertion of my belief. I will do this, because He is saving me...even now.

Fig trees may no longer bloom,

or vineyards produce grapes;

olive trees may be fruitless,

and harvest time a failure;

sheep pens may be empty,

and cattle stalls vacant--

but I will still celebrate

because the Lord God

saves me.

The Lord gives me strength.

He makes my feet as sure as those of a deer,

and he helps me stand on the mountains.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Remembering to Ask, 'What's Next?!'

I can tell it's the month of March. This is the month when winter is like a beloved but frustrating relative who has stayed way too long at your tiny house and you-can't-take-it-anymore. Yes, that's what the month of March feels like here in the Northeast. It's long. It's still cold. And it's hard to be zesty and creative and ready to burst into song in a month like March.

This is the month when we are not quite in the season of Spring, yet the mall has stores displaying bright colored shorts and halter tops and you think you're about to take a quick trip to the tropics or something. You think that, while you're at the mall, and then you step outside in the cold and remember otherwise.

But it isn't just the cold that gets to you up here in the great Northeast. It's the fact that everything is so gray and dingy and rather hopeless looking. I miss the bright colored green grass, the deep blue skies, the festive flowers poking out of people's front gardens. I know they'll come, but it feels like we're a long way away. It feels like winter lasts forever- and that's when it's hard to get all stirred up in your soul and zealous for living.

This is the time of year when you really need to be a cheerleader for your own soul. I can see why David spoke to himself and said "Self, put your trust in God," over and over (in the book of Psalms). You know how to cheer yourself on better than anybody. You know where you are lying low in hope. If I count how often I take deep breaths and sigh, I can tell how much I am struggling with the weight of winter on me. The winter of our soul is a time when we see little growth or no vibrancy of life. We know all is not dead- but perhaps its been delayed or we've become disillusioned.

If we're feeling a bit dreary, this is when we've got to remember how Spring bursts with such life and vigor that strong muscles are needed to contain its growth. Gardens that burst with life also burst forth with weeds as well, and someone has to dig them up and cart them away. (Not that I'm a gardener. But I've observed all this!) You often need actual physical strength to enjoy the good times and you need inner strength to get you through the slow times or the dry times.

So, to get through this month, I first have to remember this month will not last forever. (That's perspective). Then I have to remember what the next couple months are all about: spring rains, more sunshine, and growth of all kinds. (That's expectation of good).

If I remember that I will get a second wind, I won't get stuck in feeling stuck. I may feel tired of winter, but I'll remember it doesn't last forever. And on remembering that, I'll get ready to say good-bye to it. I'll prepare emotionally and spiritually to welcome what's next. Of course, that gets me thinking that I'm not sure exactly what comes next. I'm glad of that. As I contemplate what these "new things" might be, I realize the sky is the limit.

And I'm so glad God works that way.

"For lo, the winter is past...The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come." (Song of Solomon 2:11,12)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Look Says it All

Image Hosted by
This is Mr. Woodhouse, Emma's father in that famous Jane Austen book, EMMA. He cracks me up. This guy is hysterically neurotic but very much out there with all his neuroses and fears. At least we can tell where he is at. We don't have a picture of a strong jawline and mental sobriety and then find out the guy is a fearful wimp. No, we can tell straight off what he is like.

I think I look like him- on one of my bad days. This is what I look like when I've had a scare about something. The look of fear or alarm is not a pretty sight. Unfortunately, there are enough things to alarm us in this world that we could have plenty of opportunities to wear this face.

I would rather look like this woman; I mean, have this look on my face:
Image Hosted by
Now this is a quiet , pensive look, a relaxed, thoughtful look that shows Emma to be gently contemplating something. Gently, I say.

I have been doing a little gentle thinking, myself, lately- but I have a ways to go before I look like her. Still, if I sort through some issues in my life, look at the goals I've had and determine if I am anywhere close to reaching them, I might have a look on my face that is close to hers. I want to be vigorous in my questing after important, worthy goals, but I don't want to look panicked and fearful about where I am at. More than looks, I want to have the reality of inner confidence and conviction of truth inside me.

I want to be as bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1)- not timid or besieged by fear. But as far as Heaven is concerned, when God looks down, I hope He sees the smiling face of a relaxed, trusting lamb.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

All Kinds of Adventure

I've always been a bit of a paradox. I love quiet, old fashioned English tea times where I set a table, gather my mismatched cups and saucers and favorite tea pot of the day, and sit down with a loved one to a peaceful sipping and munching while the day winds to a temporary halt. Yet I also love watching professional bull riding competitions on T.V. and whooping it up when they manage to stay on for the eight seconds of guts and glory and screaming out warnings when I see some rider getting whipped off that bull like cotton candy splaying around just before its handed to some sweet-toothed kid at a fair.

I can hole up for days working on my writing and miscellaneous ideas, and yet I can suddenly be needy for contact with the outer world, feeling thirsty for laughter or walking or even just chatting with a grocery clerk in the check out line. Nobody can handle too much of one thing for any long period of time without feeling a little holed in. That's my thinking on the matter.

My son has a friend who is contemplating joining the Navy. I chatted with him the other day and managed to smile encouragingly at his enthusiasm for this new possible adventure in his life. But later I asked my husband (now, I'm not that bright about military branches and such so bear with me here), "Isn't the navy the branch of the military with the submarines? That little yellow underground place where you live in constant claustrophobia and panic?"

"That's how you'd feel living in a submarine, but many men do just fine there," my husband reassured me. I was not reassured. I can't think of how anyone could survive looking through little windows and seeing fish or sharks swim by. My husband informs me there are no little windows, that that's what they have on fancy cruise ships- not on submarines. Oh. Well, in any case, I want to see trees and sky when I look out a window. I want to be able to decide that I need to take a walk and then suddenly do so- opening up a door and walking out into fresh air. You can't do that on a submarine.

Going on a whim. Flying on a wing and a prayer. I think what I'm talking about is that sometimes we need to suddenly follow a hunch, or suddenly take a turn down a new street, or decide to go for a walk when we are not the "walking" type of people normally. For some of us, this is the beginning of adventure. Adventure starts when we take a crumb of incentive or desire and go with it. When we move, we can have an adventure. When we start a new business or when we decide to take a class- that could be the beginning of an adventure.

My good friend, Mu, and I went for breakfast the other day. At the end of our two hour power breakfast, we talked about an idea we had at one time that we had not acted on...yet. There was an adult education class that had interested us at one time. We had discussed signing up for it together. Discussed- mind you. But that's all we did.

But I'm happy to report now that we have moved beyond the discussion stage. After our breakfast, we suddenly saw the adult education booklet in the lobby, picked it up, leafed through it, and picked out two classes in particular that we wanted to take together.

"We're doing it," one of us said, but I don't remember which one of us said it. I think we both said it, but in different ways. And by the end of the day, I had signed up for not two but five classes on an assortment of things. Oh the world of adventure that is before us! Mu and I will be in two of those classes together, and then who knows what we will decide to do next.

"Cast your bread upon the waters..." Ecclesiastes 11:1 says. One commentary said that the word might not be "bread" but "ships"- meaning, send out your ships to trade. That makes sense. Send them out and see what they come back with. Out of ten ships sent out, five may actually return, three may have cargo, and one ship might just have such precious cargo that you'll be so glad you sent those ships out.

I've decided that since I don't actually own any ships that I'm going to have to be the one sent out. I'm going to have to go scout out the possibilities, visit new places, learn new things, and then most assuredly I will come home with something. Maybe I won't bring back actual treasure or accumulated funds, but I will certainly come back having had an adventure of a lifetime.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Satisfying Solutions

My dog has been to the Groomers and is now looking like a new born lamb, milky white and soft and relieved to be done with the experience. He actually handled it quite well. This was a new groomer I took him to. I felt he deserved a kinder, gentler place- and that's what he got.

At this grooming section of a large pet store franchise, they keep the howling and barking dogs who have been bathed, back in the room away from the clipping station. This way the dogs who are up on the tables, with a suicidal-looking noose around their neck to hold them place, are able to get sheared and clipped within a relatively non stressful environment. The last place I took Harry to was chaotic and loud. I would bring him home from that former grooming salon, and he would flop on the couch and not move for days at a time. He was devastated from the experience. A wreck.

So on Friday I took him to this new place and he came home with a jaunty little handkerchief around his neck, took a long afternoon nap, and rebounded quickly- enough so that he chowed down his evening meal and then looked for the customary popcorn we should have been having with the movie. But there was no popcorn last night. Still, he was happy. I think we'll keep going to this new grooming salon.

The Movie we watched last night- Bill, Abby, Harry and me- was delicious. I mean delightful. It's called No Reservations, and it's about two culinary geniuses in a New York City restaurant. There's romance, there's drama, there's delicious looking food (except for the plates of fish. Who can eat when something is staring at you?!). The movie ended and we went to bed happy and feeling like we had eaten a second round of dinner.

We're expecting a bad storm today. The sky is gray and moody. My kids are still sleeping, and I get a quiet house to work in. Bill is off trying to buy a valve or something like that for one of the toilets that broke. Thank God he can fix literally anything that breaks down in this house. I never fuss when the toilet overflows or the smoking oven sets off the fire alarm or the garage door opener goes wacky and the garage door keeps going up and down. I just call, "Bill!" and Mr. Fix-It comes to my rescue.

Not everything gets fixed that quickly in our lives, I know. But when we do get to experience a quick resolution to something that disturbs us, oh how good it is. Little miracles. Little solutions- such as switching to a new groomer or getting your toilet fixed by someone who knows what they're doing- are like butter on toast. I love to crunch into my peasant bread toasted to perfection, but when the butter drizzles down the side of my mouth, that's when I think, "Oh, this is sooo good."

"When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you." Ps.128:2

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Listening Friend to the End

I think it was last Sunday, or the Sunday before that we sang this song in church, "I am a friend of God...He calls me friend." I'm not sure what God gets out of my friendship but I do know what I'm learning about God in these years that He's been not only my Savior and Lord but the truest of friends. I've learned that God is an incredible listener. I don't know how he does it.

I'm not a very good listener. Ask my family, ask my good friend Mu, ask my dog, Harry. I mean, when I scratch Harry's ears and murmur, "You're such a good dog, aren't you. What a good boy. (Lots of crooning noises) You're Mommy's baby," I haven't let him get a word in all that time. Fortunately for Harry he doesn't communicate in words. He uses his paws in a form of sign language. He flips his water bowl when its empty and lets it clang loudly on the floor. He covers his eyes with his paws and lies there sighing like a model who has had a hard day with all the posing and preening for the camera. He comes up to me and places a paw on my lap while I'm writing, and then digs it in a bit if I fail to notice him- this is his way of saying he needs to go out.

You would think that after all these years of walking with God and Him listening to my prayers that I would have learned to be a better listener. But part of my problem is that I still struggle with this fear that God is not really listening to me but putting up with my ranting and droning on and on. How could He handle listening to the plethora of pleas that I bring before Him constantly?It would be enough to drive a person mad. But God is not troubled by all the listening He does. He is a listener. He designed the concept of listening.

One thing that gives me hope that He really does hear me is the promise that is articulated in 1 John, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us .And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him" (1 John 5:14,15). Knowing that God hears me when I'm asking for help, asking for His perspective on my problem, makes me breathe easier. Knowing for sure that what I released to Him with a big sigh, and maybe a tear once in a while, is safe with Him, heard by Him, kept by Him- that makes me want to talk to Him more. The thing is, after I share something with God, He wants to share with me. He's got something for me to hear, and not just hear with my ears, but with my heart so that I take it in, feast on it, and make that truth concrete in my life. So I have to learn to listen better.

I intend to. I try. Here's what my "listening" times with God look like. Usually they occur early in the morning. My hair tufts up in the back, my eyes are baggy, I feel saggy, and I'm wearing my favorite blue toile flannel pajama top with mismatched bottoms. My husband says I look like a piece of old drapery. The coffee is in my hand, and the problems I'm ready to share with God are on my lips. This is my meeting with God. He asked for it. He said He could handle it. And every time I think, No,Lord- you really don't mean that, you couldn't possibly mean that, because I'm feeling like a wreck and I'm about to pour it all out- He interrupts my ranting and raving thoughts with His prompt of, Just Try Me on this.

The more I believe Him, and the more I share with Him, the more quiet I get....after a while. I settle down. I become responsive to His spirit, but only after I take Him at His word that He cares enough to listen to me, that He wants me to Call Upon Him in the Day of Trouble, that He wants me to Ask, Seek, and Find what I need. It's never anything new that I come away with. It's always the amazing thought that the God of the universe sat down with me, unpaid, without me making a formal appointment years in advance, with millions and millions of other people calling out for Him at the same time- yes, He lavished His heart on me enough so that He listened when I laid it all out in words...and even with words that I did not speak out loud.

(For more thoughts about Listening, you might like reading Virelle Kidder's book, Donkeys Still Talk: Hearing God's Voice When You're Not Listening)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Image Hosted by
Katie D's icon at Jane Austen Today

I'm reading, and preparing for Thursday Night's LIFE Workshop, "Sweet Friendships in a Sour World". So I'll have to tell you more about the books I'm reading....later.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Silver and Gold, New Books and Old

These four books I got at the Library Used Book Sale aren't going to look sharp and snazzy for long. Soon they will look beat up, rather bedraggled. I'm a very messy and noisy reader. I'll be underlining sentences, highlighting certain words that stick out at me, and voicing my joy and my astonishment at how they speak to my heart. I love the titles of these books, the subtitles, and just taken together as a whole, they speak a message of understanding and progress, blessing,release, and bliss. That's like digging into a hot fudge sundae with joyous abandonment and then God telling you He won't make the calories count at all. Can it get much better than that? (Of course it can- life is more than food and drink).

So here they are: the four books I got last week. These books I have looked at with longing but have held off on reading them till I finished my library books that have to be returned. I'm about to pounce on them now. And this is why.

Book 1: Donkeys Still Talk by Virelle Kidder. This author is actually from my part of New York State. She also was one of the first speakers at a Woman's Retreat that I am going to be speaking at soon. Interesting that I found this book. The Sub Title: Hearing God's Voice When You're Not Listening. My immediate response is to tell God, But I am listening to You, Lord. I am. I'm asking You to direct me continually. God ignores my protests and basically puts this book in my hands as a reinforcement of the lesson that listening is not telling God that you are listening. Listening involves silence. It involves reflection. It involves faith that you will hear a response from God. "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us..."(1 John 5:14). God listens to us. We need to learn to listen to Him. It isn't a matter of wanting to listen. It's a case of being able to listen well and listen good. As one of my favorite preachers is always saying, "Listen! Now listen! ( Listen to Charles Stanley preach and you'll hear this.)

Book 2: Live Like you're Blessed by Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook. Just the title alone has already moved me, has prompted me to remember anew how blessed I am. The truth of the title is echoed throughout Scripture: we've been blessed with every imaginable blessing by a God who loves to meet our need, a God who secured our future, covered our past with His blood, and made our today a vibrant possibility. I can't wait to read this book.

Book 3: Get Out of that Pit by Beth Moore. I've only read two of her books yet I know so many that love her writing and her speaking. But this particular book is intended for me, I know, because of the strong desire she has to get the message of God's power out to those who need to hear it. I feel this same desire, this same mandate to proclaim God's liberating power even as I walk in it myself. "Having a firm place to stand doesn't mean life isn't hard and temptations don't come....It just means you've determined your position no matter what comes your way," Beth Moore writes.

Book 4: The Business of Bliss by the Editors of Victoria Magazine. This is an older book (1999), but it is so dear to me that I found this book among the heaps of books in the corner. This is the book that I had wanted to buy, years ago. I used to get Victoria Magazine, and I loved it- I lived in the pages of beauty and elegance and dreamy scenes of tea time and friendships and English gardens. My physical living environment at that time was not that way at all. It was cramped, it was limited and I struggled with despair over ever having a sanctuary of beauty and peace to come home to. When I read about this book, in the pages of the magazine, I saw these women living out their dreams by having quaint gift shops, or bed and breakfasts, or they were running a business where they crafted something that was so an extension of themselves that they lived with...bliss. The writer of Ecclesiastes writes over and over about eating the fruit of the labor of your hands, about working and seeing the results of your labor. I'm convinced God wants us to be fruitful, effective, and to use the gifts He gave us. But many of us get delayed or sidetracked or off the track completely. It's time to profit and do well even as we work hard and work effectively. This is a gift from God.

So there you have it: the bounty of books I came home with.
But it wasn't just the books I had in my arms,it was the message from God in my heart: Lauren, I see you and I know you. I know what makes your heart sing. And I know how you want to help others run in the path of My Commands because I have set their hearts free. I'm with you.

And if God is with us, for us, and helping us, we are blessed indeed. The books are just an added confirmation of how God will speak to us, equip us, get His message to us. He can use almost anything to meet us where we are at. Never underestimate the creative power of a God who designed the spectacular heavens yet desires to get involved with our life here on earth. He's got something in mind for you and me. It's beyond comprehension how good it can be.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Into the Treasure Chest

You should have been there. You have have thought they were giving away a thousand dollars to the first 100 people that arrived. But no, what they were giving away was simply the privilege of a 45 minute head start before the crowds of book buyers arrived. (Some of these book buyers are people who scoop up hundreds of books at once and will go home and sell them on e-bay or something like that. They are not readers but business people. Not that a business person can't be a reader but...I digress).

I stood in line waiting for the door to open, feeling like I was being allowed entrance into a large treasure chest. An older couple of retirement age stood behind me chatting.

"Oh, what a cute little boy," she murmured to her silver haired husband as a youngster went running by them.

"You don't like little boys," he retorted. "You never wanted one." They talked about their grown daughter and her pregnancy. "Maybe she'll have a boy," he added as a concession.

"Oh I hope not!" she said vehemently. "That would be terrible!" This was the same woman who just thought a little boy passing by was cute. I was confused. So I inched a little closer. I heard her add,"Little boys grow up and they leave you.But daughters stay close to you forever."

So that's what is happening with my son and me. He's "leaving me"- physically, emotionally. He's dis-attaching. But Abby is staying close to me, close to my heart, her hand literally always in mine. Yet Alex is not trying to hurt me by dis-attaching. He's just doing what he has to- he's a man on a mission, and mothers don't generally appear on the scene of great missions of exploration and discovery.

We finally got into the room and people went crazy. Many kept boxes at their feet, throwing books into the box and then pushing it along as they filled it. I headed toward the Christian/Inspirational section, then went to Decorating/Crafts, then went to the room with all the fiction- loads of paperbacks and hardcovers of big name fiction authors and then all the romance publishers.

I filled my bag with about twenty different books. But as I went through them, just before I checked out, I discarded many. I had prayed earlier, as I drove to the Library Book Sale, "Lord, please show me the books that will speak to my heart, the books that will send a message from your heart to mine." I knew God could speak through fiction, through an intriguing or romantic story line. I also knew He speaks through the direct messages of non fiction, Bible Studies, deep theological expositions of the workings of God.

Here's what I wound up with at the end of it all: just four books. Four books that I am delighted to dig into. Four books that I know are somehow related to each other in the message God is sending me- even if they seem to talking about different things.

And these four books are....going to be shared with you next post!!