Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Desires, Expectations, Demands?

The objects of most of our desires are not evil. The problem is the way they tend to grow, and the control they come to exercise over our hearts.
Desires are a part of human existence, but they must also be held with an open hand....
The problem with desire is that in sinners it very quickly morphs into demand ("I must"). Demand is the closing of my fists over a desire. Even though I may be unaware that I have done it, I have left my proper position of submission to God. I have decided that I must have what I have set my heart on and nothing can stand in the way. I am no longer comforted by God's desire for me; I am threatened by it, because God's will potentially stands in the way of my demand....
There is a direct relationship between expectation and disappointment, and much of our disappointment in relationships is not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations.

-Paul David Tripp,
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands,

quoted in:
Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?
Trusting God With a Hope Deferred
By Carolyn McCully

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And men loved darkness...

And this is condemnation,
that light is come into the world,
and men loved darkness...
John 3:10

Men loved their darkness - their hatred, strife, adultery,
envy, lying, pride, fear, selfishness, murder....

Wow. What lurks in my heart?
What darkness do I love that resides within?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Believing Beyond Our Pleasure and Convenience

Many of us are afraid to believe the Bible.
We might not admit it, but we are afraid of the implications
to our life if we really believe all of it, enough to obey it
beyond our reasoning, convenience, and mere pleasure.

-Doug Phillips (paraphrased)
How to Think Like A Christian

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Merciful kindness on a rainy day

It was impossible for me to celebrate my birthday yesterday without thinking frequently of my birthday last year. For those of you who have never heard the story, I've finally written it down...

The girls surprised me with a birthday party
about a month later, while I was recovering!
L-R: Leslie, Allison, Mary, Shannon
(Valarie not pictured)

It was Friday, October 27th, 2006 - My twenty-fourth birthday.

I spent the morning hurrying around, trying to finish up some laundry, housework, and packing. I had intended to leave by 11 am, to give myself plenty of time to make it to St Louis to spend the weekend with my friends up there. We had been trying to get together for a long time, and my birthday sounded like the perfect excuse for a weekend with the girls at Allison’s house. They had lots of fun excursions planned around the city for the following days.

My cell phone kept ringing and it seemed that I would never get out of the house. I was heading up a large project of launching a website with some developers the following Monday. The website project had kept me up most of every night for the past two weeks, and kept me busy all day long: writing content, editing, communicating with everyone involved. I was glad to just be leaving it all and go away for a couple of days. Sleep might not be more plentiful, but at least it would be a change of scenery from the computer at 3 am!

As I loaded my car, it was gray and drizzling, and I found myself soaking wet by the time I climbed inside and drove away. It was noon. A few miles from home as I pulled onto the four-lane highway, and headed towards St. Louis, I turned my wipers down. It was hardly raining anymore. Only an occasional spat hit the windows but the sky still looked dark and threatening. “Hmm…” I thought to myself. “I wonder if it will be raining tomorrow. Maybe we’ll have to do indoor stuff instead of see all the places we have planned on.”

As I passed the next small town, I noticed a van in the ditch. It looked like it has spun around and run into a cliff-like stand of rock along the roadside. Less than a mile ahead, a sports car was sitting in the median. “Oh, my!” I thought to myself. “The rain must have caused a lot of accidents.” I tapped my brake lightly to break my cruise, and continued heading east, allowing myself to slow just a bit below the speed limit. As I approached the next gradual hill, I could see through the gray fog, a state highway patrol car on my right. I noticed the lights flashing, and quickly obeyed the “Slow down, move over” slogan. I lightly tapped the brakes again, bringing my speed to about 60 mph and putting on my left turn signal to get in the other lane. I was now going up a hill and the car would naturally slow itself.

No sooner had I decided to move to the left lane when the back end of my car slid out to the right. I could feel myself sliding, zig-zagging across the road, then spinning at a dizzying speed. I remember gritting my teeth and crying out, “Help me, God!” I saw a pickup whiz by a few feet away. I wondered if the guy driving was steering around me spinning in the middle of the highway, or if he just happened to barely miss me. Everything seemed surreal, as I hung onto the wheel and felt myself sliding off the edge of the road into the median; then it seemed as though my head itself made impact with the pickup.

I slowly became aware that it was raining on my face. I opened my eyes in bewilderment, and looked around though what had been my windshield, now an empty hole. On my left was a pickup, the back end smashed in, and beyond that I could make out a gray mini-van pushed into the mound of earth that formed a natural barrier between the other two lanes of the highway. My face felt oddly warm and sticky, and as I touched my cheek, blood coated my hand. I looked down. Blood was on my arms, in my lap, and it was dripping off my face. Glass was everywhere. My head ached so badly it was hard to think, but I knew I must think. Where was I? Why was I here? Why was it raining? Was I in a car accident? Where had I been going anyway?

My partially eaten sandwich was laying on the floor; the pile of papers on the other seat were spattered with blood. I reached for my cell phone, and flipped it open and looked at the date and time. My birthday. Yes, this was my birthday. That’s right. But I couldn’t remember where I had been driving before I was here.

In my stupor, I could see that I couldn’t possibly get out of my car, so I decided that I should just call home and ask Dad to come get me. My little sister answered the phone. I told her I was in a car accident but I was fine and just needed her to tell Dad to come get me out of my car and figure out how to get it towed.

He was right there, eating lunch. Dad got on the phone. “Are you okay?!”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just feel kind of banged up. But if you can come get my car, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

"Okay, where are you?"

I couldn't remember. I didn't want to admit that I didn't know if I was a few minutes or hours from home. I had not idea where I was going when the accident happened. So, I told him about a business I could see from where I was sitting.

"Oh, sure. I know where that is. I'll be right there."

Just then, the highway patrolman walked up and asked if I was okay. I was alarmed that I was so confused, but I wasn’t worried about my pain. So, I told him I was fine except that I didn’t know what had happened. He had watched the whole accident occur from his car on the right side of the road, a few hundred feet back from where I ended up. He seemed pleased that I was conscious, and then told me that he had to run down the hill and try to slow traffic down. “Otherwise,” he panted, “We’ll have more people hitting you. This road's deadly today! But don’t move. Don’t do anything!” he barked. “Your neck might be broken! Don’t try to get out! The ambulance is coming!”

Suddenly I realized that maybe the blood and pain meant something. Maybe I was hurt more than I thought. “But I can still talk. And I just made a phone call.” I assured myself that I was okay and then I again drifted away again to the comfortable land of unconsciousness.

Some time later I became aware of hands pulling back my hair, someone’s perfume, and the rain – annoying rain in my face. The hands were putting a C-collar on me, something we had done to each other in EMT school a couple of years ago. Suddenly I remembered. You put C-collars on people when you think they might have a broken neck! Again I tried to remember what was happening. I heard my sister, Liz, asking, “Mare? Are you okay? You said you weren’t hurt when you called!”

It was too hard to remember things. Why did Liz think I had called? What was she doing here? Then I heard the medics figuring out how to put me on a backboard in the car, and then how to pull me out of the mangled wreck on the backboard. They tugged and pulled, and taped and squeezed, and finally I felt them wheeling me down the road in the rain, to the ambulance.

Then I overheard the first responders, the police officers, the medics, and all of the rest of the people at the scene talking about me and my car.

My car was rather infamous among some of my friends as the “Big white boat”… or the “Old lady car.” It was big and old, but it was dependable and that was all I needed. Sometimes I thought about getting a smaller car that wasn't quite so ancient, but finances never seemed to get me to that place. So I kept driving it. And thank God I did!

Though my mind was fuzzy as they wheeled me to the ambulance, I could clearly hear them saying, “It’s a miracle she was driving that car! If she’d been driving a newer car with more fiberglass and less steel to the body, it’s highly unlikely she would have survived the impact. Just look at how the steel crumpled in right where her head was! Imagine that impact with a modern car!”

As we made the long trip to the hospital, and I fought to remain awake, I kept remembering the impact of the pickup into my head and shoulder, now throbbing viciously… and wondering what would be wrong with me when I arrived at the Emergency Room.

A couple of hours and a few x-rays and stitches later, I was heading home, so painful I felt nauseous, but okay and with no “permanent damage” as the doctor put it. My clavicle (collar bone) was broken, my face was mildly cut up and had glass shards sticking out of it, and my acromio-clavicular (shoulder) joint was torn apart, but would heal with a few months of no lifting or stretching. My head ached like never before for days, and my thinking and memory took several weeks to return to almost normal.

But today I am fine. I am healthy and strong and have regained full range-of-motion in my shoulder. My mind works the same as it did before the wreck, and I haven’t pulled any glass out of my face since last winter.

I’m still thanking God that I drove that “old white boat” or the “steel tank” as we have lovingly called it since. And I’m thankful for His abundant mercy to me on that rainy day last October!

As I turned 25, I found myself with much to be grateful for, not the least of which was just to be alive and well!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Family Picture

We had our family picture taken at Family Camp this year...
I consider myself supremely blessed to have so many dear people to call mine.
It's amazing to think that next year the youngest person in the house will be a teenager.
Where has time gone?!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Real Disciples Won't Follow Me

Yesterday at church we heard a great message on John 1:35-37. The sermon touched on these points, and got me thinking and picturing this passage occurring in real life...

"Again the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."

Imagine John with his disciples who he has been investing so much time in to. They were rough fishermen, probably without a clue about living the Christian life. One of them was Simon Peter - the guy with a tendency to do and say things that got him into trouble.

Imagine him as a new convert, as you're discipling him. Peter must have been incredibly frustrating to work with at times - just when you think he's getting it, he goes and does something stupid again! In spite of his faults and impulsive ways, I think John could see his heart. Peter had a desire to know and follow God, even if his actions seemed to fumble that message at times.

In the story, John is standing here with his disciples, and he sees a distant figure walking down the road. John stands still and peers off into the distance, then exclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

He must have said it in such a way that the two disciples of his looked in wonderment at the far away figure of a very ordinary looking Man and realized that this was THE Lamb!

The next minute, the two disciples that John had invested so much into were heading away to follow the other guy - the Lamb of God.

And John was happy - he had nurtured the disciples towards this - leaving him and his ideas and advice and friendship to follow Jesus. There was no "Hey, I spent a lot of time with Peter helping him become more than a dirty fisherman, and now he totally abandons me and my ministry?!"

Discipleship is not about making people dependent on me and my "help" for them - my advice, my being available to talk when they have a problem throughout life.

The essence of discipleship not creating good people that will follow me, but creating men and women with a heart looking for Jesus and running to HIM with their problems and challenges!

"If you can get a man to Jesus, he'll be okay." - Unknown

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scrambled eggs and winter mornings

Last night I was at my friend, Tyana's bridal shower, and her mother-in-law-to-be did a little devotion, sharing collective wisdom from the mothers and grandmothers from both sides of the family.

She shared a story from her personal experience that was just so good that I have to repeat it here.

She said that her friend, Anita, (who's been married for something like 25 or 30 years) and has eight children, still, after all of these years, finds it her joy and privilege to serve her husband out of love. Not just to be a "wife and mommy", but to specifically find ways to serve and bless her husband daily.

One of the ways she does that is by getting up early every morning and making him a delicious breakfast before he leaves for work. That's during the summer. During the winter, not only does she get up and make him a delicious breakfast, but once she has it prepared and he is enjoying breakfast, she hurries out to his car and starts it warming up, scrapes the ice off the windows, and if needed, shovels the snow out of the way! Talk about one wife who finds it her joy to serve her husband, day in and day out after all these years.

Mrs. Shelly Burks who was telling the story said, "I always say, Anita, why do you do that? You're a busy mom! He's a man. You don't have to warm and scrape his car every morning!"

She said that Anita always replies, "Because I love him! I want to do it for him!"

What a refreshing attitude - love that keeps giving - in today's society...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Did You Think to Pray?

Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ, our Saviour,
Did you ask for loving favor?
As a shield today?

Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Pray'r will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don't forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation,
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

Some days when I'm singing this song, my head hangs low, remembering my neglect of prayer that day.
This past week, by God's grace, I've so enjoyed my mornings with time to pray - not in a rush, not with something that must be done in a few more minutes, but just time with the Saviour.
What a difference it does make!

I once heard a preacher say, "The devil gets up every morning and prepares to go to battle with you. Do you get up and get ready to face him, or do you go along with a skip and a song, blissfully unaware of the war camp just over the hill from your's?"

Monday, October 15, 2007

All This, And Heaven, Too?!

The last couple of days have been lovely... Cool breezes, leaves slowly turning hues of orange and yellow... the grass is still green, and the sun's been shining. Usually, autumn is not my favorite season as everything turns brown and I become yet another year older, but right now, I'm enjoying fall!

This morning I woke up to the gentle patter of rain on the windows, my little sisters curled cozily under their quilts and the cats purring in a warm huddle on the back porch, trying to stay warm. What a happy way to start Monday.

If only I took more time to stop and enjoy the things of beauty and joy that God puts in my path every day! How lovely... how extravagant God is!

On days when creation seems so full of joy and peace, I have to think of my friend, Abigail, who loves to say, "All this, and heaven, too?!" I have to exclaim the same with her.

Life is hard and ugly and disappointing at times (I know; more on that, coming soon), but when I stop to breathe in the scents around me, joy is everywhere, too! I can choose to dwell on the injustice and ugliness or I can choose joy - because God is good, even when the sun isn't shining, and even when my world is falling apart.

The unchanging, infallible Word of God assures me that
"The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works." (Ps. 145: 9)

Some days it doesn't feel like I was singled out as a recipient of His goodness, but in spite of craziness and sickness, heartache and tears, I KNOW I am a recipient of His goodness, a child who He delights to give good gifts to.

My heart can sing when I pause to remember,
A heartache here is but a stepping stone;
Along a trail that's winding always upwards,
This troubled world is not my final home,
But until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I'll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold a city,
Until the day God calls me home.
Stuart Hamblen

One-legged service

A one-legged schoolteacher from Scotland came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for service in China.
"Why do you, with one leg, think of going as a missionary?" asked Taylor.
"Because I do not see those with two legs going, so I must," replied George Scott.
He was accepted.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Christian people, are you figuring round and round how to get a little property, yet neglecting souls? Beware lest you ruin souls that never can live again! Do you say - I thought they knew it all?
They reply to you, I did not suppose you believed a word of it yourselves. You did not act as if you did. Are you going to heaven? Well, I am going down to hell! There is no hope for me now. You will sometimes think of me then, as you shall see the smoke of my woe rising up darkly athwart the glorious heavens. After I have been there a long, long time, you will sometimes think that I, who once lived by your side, am there. O remember, you cannot pray for me then; but you will remember that once you might have warned and might have saved me.
Charles G. Finney

Today Christians spend more money on dog food than on missions.
Leonard Ravenhill

Many do not recognize the fact as they ought, that Satan has got men fast asleep in sin and that it is his great device to keep them so. He does not care what we do if he can do that. We may sing songs about the sweet by and by, preach sermons and say prayers until doomsday, and he will never concern himself about us, if we don't wake anybody up. But if we awake the sleeping sinner he will gnash on us with his teeth. This is our work - to wake people up.
Catherine Booth

At the day of judgment we shall all meet again.
George Whitefield

Have you ever stopped to think when you ignored the still, small voice that told you to say something or give a tract and instead, quickly turned away and hurried back to your car, you will meet that person again on judgment day? Have you thought of watching their sentencing for eternity on that day?

Am I more afraid of offending someone than I am of them going to hell?

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the the great day of His wrath is come; and who is able to stand? Rev. 6:15-17

And I saw the dead, great and small stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Rev. 20:12

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Do I Bring Pleasure to God?

As a child of God,
Everything that I listen to, the Holy Spirit has to listen to with me.
Everything that I read, the Holy Spirit has to read with me.
Everything that I look at, the Holy Spirit has to look at with me.
Everything that I think, the Holy Spirit has to think with me.

How does He feel, living in my life today?

And Enoch walked with God...three hundred years. Gen. 5:22
Enoch...had this testimony, that he pleased God. Heb. 11:5

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Have a Goodly Heritage

Have you ever heard that song? "I have a goodly heritage...."

I was reminded of that again and again this past week, as we spent time with our relatives in North Dakota and Minnesota.
So many people complain about their family - how the grandparents are trying to undermine the parents' wishes for their children's lives, how the cousins are bad influences, how the aunts and uncles are bad examples.... And it is sad that so often their complaints are true.

Knowing the families that many of my friends have, I find myself supremely blessed to have such a huge, wonderful extended family... To have grown up with aunts and uncles who have ALL stuck out their marriages, some now nearing three decades - not because they married perfect people, but because they believe that marriage is a forever covenant for better and for worse. To have Christian grandparents that have encouraged me in ways of Godliness and right. To have aunts and uncles who have had a vision for their families, for their children, and who have imparted to them a legacy of love for the Lord Jesus Christ. To have cousins that inspire me and say, "What has the Lord been teaching you?" or "Did you hear about the three girls that got saved last week?!"

There are 35 cousins on my dad's side, who we spent our weekend with. Every time I looked around the room, crowded with happy young people and children, I had to think of what this side of our family might have been, if it had not been for the grace of God.

None of the seven siblings grew up knowing more about God that the Christmas story and going to a Lutheran Sunday school as little tykes. As they grew up in the 60's and 70's when drugs, alcohol, free love, and rebellion were what most young people were all about, my dad and his siblings started down that same ugly path of destruction.

Thank God, their only sister went away to college and shared a room with a sincere Christian girl, who wasn't too shy to talk about things of eternal importance. Aunt Laila came to know and love the Lord, and came home to her family with the wonderful news of her salvation. None of the guys back at home were exactly excited about their sister's new religious fanaticism and brushed her off, hoping she would get over it.

My dad, as the firstborn in his early twenties, was well set in his head-strong ways of rebellion, the hippie culture, drugs, and finally atheism, deciding the taste of religion he had had as a child was for "old fogies." When his younger sister pled with him to think of his eternity, to study the Bible, he loved the opportunity to argue until she had nothing more to say and would go away in tears, convinced that the Bible was true, but unsure of how to make him understand. His pride kept him there until the day she brought him a book entitled, "The Difference Between Christianity and All the Other Religions of the World."

That night, up in his bedroom, he finished the book and realized the truth - Christianity was different - it was the only "religion" that said that men being sinners were hopelessly lost, trying to get heaven on their own merits. Dad knew he was a sinner, and when he had tried Buddhism and other eastern religions, he had realized that he would never make it, because try as he might, he could never attain perfection. Christianity was the only religion that said, "You can't make yourself good enough." And it was the only religion that provided a way of atonement for sins that could not be earned, only freely accepted by those humble enough to ask.

That night my dad slipped to his knees and humbled himself before the God that he had so long dismissed and mocked. And from that day, my dad became a new man. He was at the local assembly of believers every time there was a meeting, a Bible study, anything he could attend to learn more.

And as my dad and Aunt Laila continued to share with the family what God had done in their lives, and to live in a radically new way, one by one, the other siblings too came to know and love the Lord. Of course, the great change in the North Dakota farmhouse influenced their parents. Dad's mother re-dedicated her life to the Lord. His father was not so quick to realize his need of a Saviour - he felt he had always lived a good, moral life. His children prayed for his salvation for several decades, and it was finally about three days before he died, that he placed his faith in the finished work of Christ, rather than his own good works.

Several years ago, at a family reunion, each of the siblings shared their testimonies, in the order that they had become Christians. As I listened to them each tell of how the Lord had worked in their own heart in individual ways until every one of them came to a saving faith in Jesus, tears came to my eyes as I thought of the goodness of God, that brings man to repentance. How unworthy I felt that God should save each member of my dad's family and bring them to where they are now.

And how grateful I am that they had several neighbors who prayed fervently over the years for the salvation of the family who lived in the white farmhouse near Prosper, North Dakota.

May I see a vision for my neighbors as big as dad's neighbors saw for their's. And may I have faith to believe that God can transform more families around me - not one or two members, not only families whose children are still young - but families like the one my dad came from. May I have faith to believe that my neighbors could be the next generation of faithful fathers and mothers, missionaries, preachers, and soul-winners.

The family from the white farmhouse has spread out across the country, and as we witnessed last week, the first descendant of these siblings to marry, married a Godly young man and they have set out to save souls, disciple Christians, and plant a church.

Congratulations, Olivia and Josh! May the Godly heritage continue in your children!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Second Look

Keith Daniel made a statement that I don't think I'll ever forget. He was talking about guarding our eyes against lust. But it could be applied to about any area of temptation.
He said:

"When David saw Bathsheba washing herself, the first look wasn't his fault.
But the second look was."

Think of all of the second looks, thoughts, etc. that we entertain when it comes to sin.

"I shouldn't say anything. But....."
And then we go ahead and say what our conscience just told us would be wisest not to say about someone.

"Oh, this isn't what I expected. I should stop reading it. But... I have to finish this page."
And then we go ahead and read to the end of the paragraph or page.

"That thought is not of good report. I shouldn't even think about it anymore. But... "
And we find ourselves fascinated by the thought of something new we have just learned about someone or something.

The second look happens when our heart has been drawn towards something.
And frequently, we find our hearts drawn to things that grieve our Heavenly Father. Perhaps it is plain evil, or perhaps it is sin just because it is not ours to have or covet right now.

Lot's wife in the Genesis account, turned back for one last look at Sodom as they fled the city - because her heart was there. She loved Sodom, a place that blasphemed God with every action and motive. Perhaps she didn't love all of the immorality. Maybe it grieved her heart, as it did Lot's. Perhaps what she loved was the ease and pleasure, the operas, and fine arts and fun that was to be had there. But she was willing to compromise and love an ungodly place for the comforts it afforded her.

The first thought of wrong - anything that displeases God - is not sin. The second thought - my voluntary choice to continue thinking, to take another look, another listen, IS.

But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
James 1: 14,15

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm back!

I've been at our church's annual Family Camp since Wednesday, where we had Keith and (his son) Roy Daniel from South Africa preach to us every morning and evening.
It was a wonderful time of re-focusing my mind and life on what is really important and giving me a good chance to do some deeper "housecleaning" in my soul. Even though I was busier than I've ever been at previous camps with practical details and organizing camp, I enjoyed this one more than ever before.
In the weeks preceding camp, I felt like the Lord was plowing up my heart and showing me many areas that I had ignored for too long or not even noticed. It was a joy to be at camp, focused on searching my heart, when the Lord has already started working on many areas of my life before camp.
I look forward to sharing with you a few things that I am in the process of learning.