Friday, December 31, 2010

Creative Serving

(Previously published in Jill Briscoe's Just Between Us magazine - Spring 2010)

Terms like equipping, missions, and spiritual gifts can be intimidating to a new believer. Why not, instead, encourage her to find her place in ministry by asking this fun question: "Which room in your home best represents your primary passions and talents?" Once she answers, suggest creative ways she can serve her family, church, community, and world. For example:

The Craft Room: Help a single mom redecorate a room in her home. Or grab a group of girlfriends, create a craft together, sell them, and then donate the proceeds to the needy.

The Dressing Room: Put on a fashion show for the girls in your church's youth group or organize a spa day for the women in a local shelter.

The Home Gym: Start an aerobics class at church and invite women in the neighborhood. Try raising funds for missionaries with a church-wide free-throw contest.

The Kitchen: Start a cooking co-op for the new brides in your church or cook for a downtown soup kitchen.

The Library: Read to the elderly in nursing homes or volunteer in your church library. Start a book club.

Other rooms can include The Front Porch (hospitality), and even The Garage, as one woman pointed out a a recent event where I was speaking. This ministry idea generates lots of laughter and excitement at retreats or mom's meetings.

Monday, December 27, 2010

All Together Now - Lift!

In Matthew 9:1-8 (and also Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-25), there's a story of four men who bring their lame friend to Jesus for healing. The place is crowded, so they haul him to the roof, remove some tiles and lower him down to Jesus. First, Jesus forgives the man's sins, then he heals his legs.

I love this story. Not because it shows who Jesus is, though it does. And not because it shows who the Pharisees are, though it does. And not even because a lame man is given a new heart and new legs, though he is.

I love it because four strong men work together to carry one weak friend to the Healer. And when Jesus sees their faith, He responds. "It wasn't the paralyzed man's faith that impressed Jesus, but the faith of his friends"

--> (Personal reflection) So who do you know that is weak? And what is your response? Do you carry him (or her) to Jesus, or criticize?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Every Little Thing

"What makes God so dear to us is not so much His big blessings to us, but the tiny things, because they show His amazing intimacy with us. He knows every detail of each of our individual lives." ~ Oswald Chambers.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Creating room to love God and love people

(Acts 4:32-35 tells about the believers sharing their possessions with those in need. It is in this spirit I post a reprint of an article originally published in Crown Financial Ministries June 2010 newsletter. All glory goes to God who richly provides so that we can share with others.)

"For there was not a needy person among them" (Acts 4:34 NIV)

Last October a friend's husband was diagnosed with cancer. When her family lost their sole source of income, we were in a position to help them financially. For this, I don't take credit.

Fifteen years ago when I remarried, my husband introduced me to the word "budget." At first, I balked. I thought that meant I'd have no money to spend. Budgeting would cramp my creative style and limit my ability to make a nice home for our family.

Learning to live within a budget required me to make an intentional home management plan. And making that plan led to a result I never imagined: I had more time to spend with Jesus and more resources, like time, money, and developed talents to go out and love my neighbor.

My husband and I share most spending decisions, but there are a few categories where I have primary responsibility, like food.

When I was a single mom, my three young daughters and I ate macaroni and cheese, canned soup, and bake-at-home pizza for dinner. As a new farmer's wife with a blended family of nine, I had to learn how to cook.

I bought fancy gadgets, cookbooks, and subscribed to gourmet cooking magazines. I constantly experimented with new recipes instead of providing simple, nutritious meals for my family. Food preparation became an expensive hobby.

Finally I realized I was not created to be Betty Crocker. I streamlined my kitchen cupboards and planned simple menus for dinner, company, and holidays. Now I only shop for what we need.

Some women are gifted to cook. For them, time and money spent in the kitchen is part of their service to God. For the rest of us, when we make food preparation a hobby, we consume resources we could use for others.

I'm also in charge of clothing (well, mine). Exodus 28 describes the priestly garments commissioned by God for Aaron and his sons as adorned with precious stones and made of "gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen" (verse 5). Apparently, God has a passion for fashion.

I like clothes, too. I like costume jewelry and trendy scarves. For years, I spent over budget in the clothing category because I bought too much. Then I started planning my wardrobe.

Each season I coordinate three dressy outfits for speaking engagements and church; four casual outfits for errands, meetings, and school ballgames; and two comfortable outfits to work in at home. I hang them assembled in my closet, and call it good. Planning my wardrobe also lightens my laundry load.

And I finally, as a homemaker, I oversee our category called "household." In man's economy, more is better. In God's economy, we are to be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). Yet most of us cram our homes with stuff anyway. We accumulate because we can.

As a military wife, I lived without our household goods several times—and survived. When I settled down in a farmhouse, I filled it up with stuff, wasting money and consuming time with the upkeep.

Finally I considered what our family spends time doing at home. Before making a purchase, now I imagine where it will go or what we will do with it. I ask myself, Do we really need this? Often, I put the item back.

Joseph managed his households well, whether as a slave or a prisoner. Then, when God was ready to use him during Egypt's famine, his skills were put to a greater use. His faithful administration blessed an entire nation. Genesis 41:49 tells us that the quantity of grain Joseph stored "was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure."

Recently, I pointed my friend's daughter to the above passage when she said, "Mom, tell them to stop sending us money. They'll run out."

Like Joseph, the Christian homemaker will be prepared for God to use her if she "watches over the affairs of her household" (Proverbs 31:27).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

People Will Talk

Over the years, people have said some pretty hurtful things to me like "He's marrying you???" That came from an older lady at my church when she heard that my husband, Jeff, Mr. My-Favorite-Pastime-Is-Balancing-The-Budget, Mr. Farmed-in-Lincoln-County-All-His-Life-Except-For-4-Years-Of-College-And-Two-Years-Of-City-Work was marrying me, Ms. Occasionally-Had-To-Sell-Clothes-To-Pay-Back-Gambling-Debt, Ms. Lived-At-30-Different-Addresses-Before-Moving-To-The-Farm. Yep, he was marrying me. And we're still married, 15 years later.

And this. "I don't like you because you always want to be up front to get attention." Yeah. Uh-huh. Right. I guess she didn't talk to the guy in the front row at church who could see me shaking head to toe every time I played piano. I guess she didn't see the Scriptures written all over my music, every page, because it was the only way I could survive being up front. I guess she didn't know that I only directed the VBS children's program at the end of the week - up front - because I was too lazy to bake cookies or play games with the kids.

And I could go on (and how I'd like to go on), but the point is not to tell sob stories about myself. All of us have had hurtful things said to us and, if we're honest, we know we've hurt others with our careless words too.

The point is to say that we must - we MUST - receive words of truth, positive words, affirming words, fresh words - from the Word Himself, Jesus. He tells us that, in Him, we are good enough. He tells us that, in Him, we were created to do good works, given gifts, personalities, and experiences to share with others. But how will we hear His words to us unless we take time to read them? Unless we shut out all the other competing voices?

Today in my walk through the Gospels, in Matthew 5, I stopped on the word "blessed." The Greek word for blessed is Makarios. It means that we, as children of God, have serene, untouchable, godlike joy that's independent of all the chances and changes of life.

And so today, if someone just happens to say something hurtful to me (I'm not anticipating it :) or you, we are still blessed. Jesus tells us that. In His Word.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Have I Got a Story for You

Sometimes God does something so amazing, so incredible, so astounding it leaves us completely in awe of Him even though we say we know He is capable. We know He loves us. We know He is at work in our lives. We know He orchestrates all things. But sometimes He does something that leaves us shaking our heads in astonishment.

Yesterday my daughter and her fiance were married at the county courthouse. It wasn't the setting she'd always dreamed of and definitely a new experience for our entire family. She looked beautiful, of course - like herself - with a bridal "do," French manicured nails, and a long brown and black floral dress. Tyler wore a new striped button-down shirt - and blue jeans, I think. (I guess I was focused on my bride.) The experience could've been sterile. Somber. Cold. Except that the judge who performed the ceremony was anything but.

Honorable Price opened our time together with relaxing humor, then warmly read their vows, and finished with carefully thought-out words of advice: don't try to change your spouse. He said that he had performed more divorces in the area than any other attorney (something he wasn't necessarily bragging about) and he wants to see marriages work. Elizabeth and I were so thankful for how he led their wedding. Both of us commented on how warm he was and that we each wanted to send him a thank you note. Honorable Price seemed very familiar to me, but I didn't know why - until this morning.

He was the attorney who handled my divorce in 1993. It was simple - no property - but he was so helpful and kind, I sent him a thank you note (snail mail). In response, he called my home and left a message saying no one had ever sent him a thank you note before and it meant a lot to him.

Amazing how God would use this man to once again be kind and sweet in what could've been a strange situation. I can't imagine the day having gone any better. Never, ever underestimate what God can do. I knew it was going to be a beautiful day - and God made it a stellar event!

(PS: Elizabeth and Tyler had a choice between two judges. They chose the higher priced one. In fact, he charged twice as much as a female judge. But they had "a feeling" he would be worth it. And he was.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buy Less, Give More

Recently I contacted a fellow writer and told her I'd just read one of her articles in an old issue of Discipleship Journal. She replied, "Which one?" I laughed and said, "Really, if someone told me they'd read my article, I wouldn't have to ask that question. I'd know all my publications!"

Well today I received an email from someone who read my devotional in today's Upper Room. And guess what? I totally forgot that it was being published today, probably because I have something far more important on my mind - like the fact that my daughter is getting married at 5pm! (More about that next time.)

But I thought I'd share it with you who don't read Upper Room since "someone" just asked me to write more often. :)

Honestly, I don't think the writing is that great, but hey! They published it and the message is good. So read on! http://www.upperroom.com/devotional/

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And can it be?

In 1998 when I asked God to take my life and do whatever He needed to do to make me useful for His Kingdom, He said, "Get your Bible open and start studying. You're going to need it." I had been in church all my life but never read the Bible for myself. It seemed boring. Confusing. Irrelevant to my life in the real world. I was wrong.

I've been reading the Bible for myself for about 12 years now. I started in the Old Testament - Proverbs, Psalms, and then a series of chapters that took me through the history and stories. Believe it or not, those readings took over seven years. Occasionally I moved to some books in the New Testament. Mark, Luke, Acts and James come to mind. But today I started reading the book of John. With my study guide, I'm estimating a 7-month journey.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

As usual, my initial thought was, "Darn. Just one verse to read today." But oh, what a verse! Accompanied by my "professor" William Barclay, and others waiting to chime in - Chambers, Cowan, Wiersbe - it feels like a door has been opened - just a tiny crack - and a bright, no blinding light of realization is shining through. What understanding is in store for me!

I've always thought I understood: Jesus is God. But Barclay explains it like this, "Jesus is so perfectly God - in mind, in heart - that we perfectly see what God is like. Jesus alone has perfectly revealed to men all that God always was and always will be, and all that God feels and desires for me." When I look at Jesus, I look right at God. And then a song filled my heart.

"Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature's night; Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray. I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee. Amazing Love, how can it be? That Thou my God shouldst die for me?" ~ Charles Wesley

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Situation Room

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand. Psalm 149:6

Currently we are facing a difficult situation. One of our daughters is being bullied by an ex-friend. The only thing we can do right now is have her block his number from her phone. Hopefully, time will take care of things. Actually, God will definitely take care of things.

If you are facing a battle today - a difficult situation, taxing circumstances, weariness, sickness, an attack from someone in authority - over which you have no control, God asks you to lay down your fear, anger, despair and effort. Consider Him, your Warrior. Consider the weapons He has provided for you. Arm yourself in the morning with God's Word and pour out His praise from your lips.

This is an honor for all His godly ones. Praise the Lord. Psalm 149:9

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday morning

In the early morning hours,
'Twixt the night and day,
While from earth the darkness passes
silently away.
Then it's sweet to talk with Jesus
In your bedroom still --
For the coming day and duties
Ask to know His will.
Then He'll lead the way before you,
laying mountains low;
Making desert places blossom,
sweet'ning sorrow's flow.
Do you want a life of triumph,
victory all the way?
Then put God at the beginning
of each coming day.
~ from Streams in the Desert, 11/28

"You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy." Psalm 65:8

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When someone gets on your last nerve...

This morning I received an email, a devotional, with a quote worth passing on. Since we just returned from Europe, I'll post it and leave it at that. But it was too good to keep to myself:

Discernment is heart–kindness that sees beneath the surface of the off-hand remark; it hears the deeper cry of the soul. It asks, “Can you tell me more?” and follows up with compassion and concern. ~ David Roper


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So who wants joy? Raise your hand.

I've been making my way through the Psalms, one chapter a day, and eagerly anticipating Psalm 40 because it contains my testimony passage (verses 1-3). But a new verse captured my attention today. Verse 8 says, "I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for Your instructions are written on my heart."

So who wants joy? Raise your hand. (Okay, I can't see you, but I bet you did!) Well, I know we all do. But the question is, what are we doing to try and get it? Think about it. Fill in the blank: __________________. Each of us has a unique answer, but David is pretty clear here that there is only one way: We get it by doing God's will. And we know what His will is by receiving His instruction.

That's what Jesus did. He spent time with His Father in the morning. In the evening. In fact, all the time. He abided with Him. And then He knew what His Father wanted Him to do. And Jesus had joy.

If I was going to paraphrase Psalm 40:8, I'd write this: "Because I spend time receiving, meditating, and acting on the things I read in the Bible, I understand and know God better. I can hear Him more clearly and my life is characterized by joy because I am following in His perfect plan for me." That sounds like I have it down perfect. I don't. But it's my goal - daily.

So how is your Bible time? Hit and miss? Non-existent? Do you crack it open the night before Bible Study and quickly scribble in your answers? That was me for about 35 years. And it didn't do me much good. But now that daily Bible reading is a habit, my life is characterized by joy. Whatever happens - and believe me, stuff happens! - God's Word pops up and gives me His perspective. I can understand that whatever it is - it must be part of God's will and my reaction or response based on God's Word allows me to follow in His will.

God made the equation is pretty simple. Bible time = God's will = joy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

His plan, His way, in His time

Have you ever thought you were sure of the way God was leading? You made plans and began to daydream and then -- Wham! -- the door slammed, and your dreams were dashed?

Back in 1995 I had that experience. I was sure God had led Jeff and I together. I had prayed (and prayed and prayed) and not manipulated the situation (for once). And I watched Him bring us together. And then, one day, it was over.

I was devastated! I was happy in one way; he and his wife were trying to reconcile. I knew this was the very best thing for his family, but for me, it was a great loss. But the bigger issue was, how can I be sure I even hear God? I had been so sure - and so wrong. It was the first time I really doubted my faith.

Well, five months later, the circumstances changed. We got back together and were married five months after that. God had been clear in His direction to me. I had heard Him. It's just that the timing wasn't what I had planned.

Right now, I'm feeling the same way. I was so sure He whispered something in my ear last fall. Now it seems like completely off the radar. But having gone through this before, my hopes aren't completely shattered...

Psalm 1:6 says: "The Lord knows the way of the righteous." He knows! He knows! What about you? Have you experienced something like this before? You were so sure and then - nothing. But then something(!!!) ~ in His time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I only wanna be with You

Last week I went to Seattle. Thursday I taught Redesign Your HomeMaking at Evergreen Community Church in Bothell. What a welcoming bunch of ladies. Thanks to Amy and Jen for inviting me!! Then my friend Dawn and I went to Bellevue Square. Wow! Loved it! Loved Crate and Barrel (didn't buy anything), The Container Store (bought a tea holder), Fireworks (bought a travel bag), and the tea shop. (Funny ~ I'm not that big of a tea drinker, but it was good!) AND I loved the giant Chihuly glass sculpture hanging from the ceiling!!

Friday and Saturday I went the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. It was my fourth year attending and my first year teaching. I met some wonderful people, hugged old friends, and learned a bit more about writing ~ and Jesus. And then I came home.

I came home... and faced the same old struggle: Do I try to "go for it" ~ pursue greater heights of writing and speaking ~ or do I simply worship Jesus and just follow Him, day by day, and pursue Him? This time, finally, the answer came much faster than ever before. In just a few hours, not a few days -- or weeks.

Here's the thing: I love pursuing Jesus more than I love pursuing ministry. Don't get me wrong. Ministry is the second commandment. I want to carry it out. I want to develop and use the gifts God has given me to love and serve my family, my church, my community, and my world. But I don't want it to get in the way of the first commandment: loving God with all...

My love relationship with Jesus is all that matters. And He tells me what to do -- when to "go for it" and when to wait on Him. I'm still tired -- so tired -- so maybe this post isn't profound or even for anyone but me. But I wanted to share it with you today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Freedom of Simplicity

Ten or eleven years ago I read Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline in which two chapters (or disciplines) profoundly affected my life. One was on solitude, the other simplicity.

Last week I came across another Foster book, one where he expounds on the topic of simplicity. As I read, I realized I had forgotten how much this discipline has shaped what I teach, especially in the area of time management. It's also why I recently deactivated my Facebook account. I desire

Simple home.
Simple clothes.
Simple speech.
Simple schedule.
Simple dedication to God.

It's not about being rigid, inflexible, or legalistic. And there is no one perfect standard for all. I definitely still have my areas where I'm not simple!! It's a process. But pursuing simplicity has resulted in greater peace and productivity. I'm looking forward to incorporating the concept more intentionally into my writings and speaking.

Richard Foster has been a great influence in my life through his books. I thank God that he took the time to write what he has learned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Morning by morning

For several years I've subscribed to Leadership Journal. When my new issue arrives, I eagerly turn to the article written by Gordon MacDonald. MacDonald is, and has been, a key spiritual guide for me.

In the latest issue, his article, "Your Most Important Conversation," talks about the importance of taking time to debrief with ourselves and God. In it, he shares a quote by William Wilberforce that I thought I'd share with you:

"In the calmness of the morning before the mind is heated and weary by the turmoil of the day, you have a season of unusual importance for communing with God and with yourself."

This is true. About 12 years I started spending time with Jesus from 6-7:30am. It is my sweetest time of the day and anchors me before my "mind is heated and weary." Toward evening, I begin to look forward for morning to come.

I wasn't always a morning person. But now, that precious time has made me a morning by morning (by morning) person.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

God even speaks through 80s music

Every morning I wake up with a song in my heart. Sometimes it's a hymn, other times it's a song from Christian radio, and still other times it may be an old worship chorus from the 70s :) It's always the start of my devotional time.

This morning's song -- are you ready for this -- was "Words" by Missing Persons. In case you aren't familiar with this song, it was a hit in 1982. It wasn't one of my favorites, and it definitely wasn't recorded in the Christian market. I looked up the lyrics, wondering just how in the world this song could fit into my time with Jesus, and to my amazement, this is what I read:

Do you hear me? Do you care? Do you hear me? Do you care?
My lips are moving and the sound's coming out.
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said.

What are words for, when no one listens anymore?
What are words for, when no one listens what are words for?
When no one listens, there's no use talking at all.

Currently I'm reading through Jeremiah - yes, the prophet who gives Israel the bad news: God is fed up and He is going to judge them. But no matter how hard Jeremiah pleads with them to repent, they still won't listen to him.

Amazing. God will even use a secular song with words I didn't know. How creative He is. Next time, I'll tell you about the time I lifted my hands in praise to a Guns 'n Roses song...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Happy Thursday (just Thursday) to you!

Today I'm struggling to keep "just today" in mind. I have a lot of things on my plate - tomorrow, and Sunday, and next week - but God hasn't asked me to think about all of those things today. He says, "Do not worry about tomorrow. Today has enough worries of its own. (Matthew 6:34)"

God teaches us to live one day at a time. Think about creation. He could've created everything in the world in an instant (snap!), but He didn't. Instead He created something and then called it a day. Think about the manna. He provided only what was needed for the day. When the Israelites tried to gather extra for tomorrow, it rotted.

19th Century author and preacher, Andrew Murray, writes: "If time had been given to man in the form of one long unbroken day, it would have exhausted and overwhelmed him. Broken small and divided into fragments, he can bear them; only the care and the work of each day have to be undertaken -- the day's portion in it's day. We are so easily led to look at life as a great whole, and to neglect the little today."

And so here's to today. All 16 (or so) waking hours. From the rising of the sun to its setting. What has God asked you to do -- just today?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Meal Planning for the Hampered Chef

Last weekend at the ministry conference, I didn't have time to share my meal planning plan during one of my workshops, "Redesign Your HomeMaking." I mentioned that the key to our success in the kitchen is deciding whether we're a Pampered Chef (we love to cook and bake) or a Hampered Chef(we cook because we have to).

If you're a Pampered Chef - get creative, but make sure you're using this God-given passion to benefit others. But if you're a Hampered Chef, I encourage you to do as I've done: simplify your kitchen and meal planning so that you have time to develop your passions and skills in other areas. Don't get too creative. Don't make cooking an expensive [both time and money] hobby. Just get it done.

So here's my plan. Based on meat categories (for the most part), I have three favorite recipes for each, and it looks like this:

On Mondays, I cook with chicken: pot pie, slow cooker BBQ, and chicken 'n dumplings.
On Tuesdays, I cook with ground beef: meatloaf, tacos, upside down pizza
On Wednesdays: Papa Murphy's Herb Mediteranean Delite pizza
On Thursdays, I use pork or fish: salmon, shrimp 'n grits, pork chops
On Fridays, we have pasta: pesto tortellini, Mizithra cheese spaghetti, ravioli
On Saturdays, we have BBQ/salad (summer) or soup/salad (winter)
And on Sundays we usually eat leftovers.

The menu rotates every three weeks and, so far, no one has complained. So, are you a Pampered Chef or a Hampered Chef (like me)? And what's for dinner tonight?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mothers of preschoolers need a break

When my children were young, I looked forward to Sunday mornings. The kiddos were lovingly cared for in the church nursery while I was fed spiritual food and got to have a break. Sometimes I had to work in the nursery because they were shorthanded, or the church had a policy that all parents should serve. On those Sundays, I felt like I might as well have stayed home.

Now that my kids are grown, I serve (along with my husband and daughter) two mornings a month in the Walker's room (12-24 months). I love those little ones, but mostly I love that their moms and dads get to have a break. But each Sunday, we seriously lack volunteers.

Our Pastor has asked for more help many times, but to no avail. I've been thinking about the power of testimony. Our church puts together awesome videos. So this morning I'm going to propose my idea to our Children's Pastor: a video with personal testimony and maybe a clip from the movie "The Pacifier" because last Sunday we had to work with the 2-year-olds instead and, seriously, I think they need to have Navy seals for that age! Whew! I was exhausted, but I got to go home to peaceful and quiet house, uninterrupted sleep, and a house that stays clean.

This post has two points: (1) If you are a parent of older kids, consider serving in your church nursery. Give the parents the break you valued when your kids were young. And (2) If God has put an idea into your mind - even if it means the possibility of filmng a video interview that will be shown to 4000 people - just do it!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Welcome to my new website!

Welcome - and thanks for stopping by my new website!

Take a look around and find out a little more about me, my family, and my ministry. You'll see why I do what I do, where I do what I do, and when I do what I do. And, you'll see what women are saying about it.

I hope that as you tour the site, it will be obvious that my greatest passion is for God's people to live in a passionate relationship with Him and then take that relationship and go out and impact their family, church, community, and world for Him!

"We are the trustees of our glorious individuality. No two of us are alike in this universe, and we have each been given unique kinds of gifts. There is something given us to do that no one else can do quite like we can. This glorious and God-imparted uniqueness should put zeal into our stewardship of life." (Calvin Miller/Into the Depths)

Hope to hear from you soon! ~ Rebecca
(509) 796-3575