Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Day I Shoplifted...

So the story begins - yesterday. Yes, my indiscretion isn't a skeleton from the closet of my younger days, it happened just 24 hours ago.

Most of you can probably relate to the way this whole scenario started. I headed into Walmart to buy some cat food, and wound up with way more stuff in my cart.

One of those items was the wicker basket pictured, although originally, it was empty. I stood in the store and played with some flowers, a few leaves, two gourds and a pumpkin until, tada! I had the masterpiece above.

"Masterpiece" might be a bit overstated, but you have to understand that while I love watching HGTV and design shows, I don't feel I have an "eye". I'm so envious of those who can put together patterns and colors or see the potential in a blank canvas. So to me, my little basket creation was a big deal - I was really happy with how it turned out!

Now, I didn't really want to spend the $10 it all came to, and it crossed my mind that if I waited a few days until after Halloween, it all might go on sale. But I have absolutely no fall decor in the house and we've already established that I had created a masterpiece, so I treated myself, put it in my cart and finished my shopping.

At the checkout, everything went on the conveyor belt. The cashier was putting just one or two items in each bag and I encouraged her to feel free to fill them as much as possible.

A customer behind me said "you sound like me! The less bags to carry inside, the better".

As she and I continued the conversation, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the cashier pick up the basket.

"Could you ring that up without dismantling it?"

It was an innocent request. I just wanted her to use the register "gun" to scan each of the items within the basket without removing them.

I turned my attention back to the other shopper until I heard "your total is $85.20".

Yikes! How did I manage to spend that much?

I swiped my card and headed for the door where a gentleman in a Walmart apron asked to see my receipt. I handed it to him, he glanced at it and then in my cart. He handed it back, and out the door I went.

As I drove away, I had a nagging feeling that the cashier had not rung up all the items in the basket.

I started entertaining less than Christian thoughts...

"Well, if she messed up, I didn't really want to pay $10 anyway".

"The tags weren't hidden - it's not my fault if the cashier didn't catch it".

"I handed over the receipt, I'm in the clear".

When I got home, I checked the receipt. The basket was all that was on it. I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy my little centerpiece creation until I had rectified the oversight.

Okay...so calling it "shoplifting" may have been a bit dramatic. After all, there was no intent to deliberately walk out without paying. But the bottom line is merchandise left the store without being rung up.

I was disappointed in myself. I had a suspicion that it hadn't been rung up and I waited until I was home to check. My thoughts on excusing the oversight weren't very holy. And I knew the longer I waited to make it right, the easier it would be to dismiss the problem, so I never removed the basket from the bag after walking in the door.

Today, I went back into the store. I went to a cashier and said, "this is gonna sound weird, but...." and I explained what had happened. She looked at me a little surprised and said "God bless you. Most people would never come back to make this right."

She's probably right. Most people probably would have seen it as a $5 win. They would have made excuses on why it was silly to go back once the threshold of the store was crossed without detection.

But as Christians, we shouldn't be most people. We're held to a higher moral standard because we know Jesus. We know the one who is the Truth.

I'm not telling this story to say "hey look at how godly I was. I paid for something when no one would have been the wiser if I didn't".

I tell this story to say it's just that easy for the devil to try to trip you up. If he came up to us with horns and a pitchfork, we could easily spot him and get our guard up. But he doesn't do that. He's subtle. He tells you things are inconsequential. No one gets hurt. No one will ever know.

It's the oldest trick in the Book. He's been using rationalization since literally the beginning of mankind.

I have a friend and former co-worker named Joan. I consider her my "spiritual mother". She took me under her wing when I was in my mid-20s. She showed me the benefits of journaling, taught me through Bible study, and was just a wonderful example of being a godly woman. Joan had 7 children, several of whom were in the Navy. She wrote to them every day. When she made a decision to move across the country to California, she brought in a huge bundle of pens on her last day. When I asked what they were, she explained that often she grabbed a pen off her desk to write letters with during lunch. Sometimes she'd throw them in her purse. Now that she was leaving, she gathered them all to return to our employer. She reminded me that even though it seemed inconsequential, they weren't hers to keep and she was returning them to their rightful owner.

That was a lot of years ago, but that simple act of honesty made a huge impact on me.

So maybe I didn't really shoplift, but I wouldn't have been able to fully enjoy my little basket if I hadn't gone and made things right.

It's important to remember that when no one else sees, God does. And not fixing the problem would have hurt someone...me.

"Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it".  James 4:17

Sunday, October 23, 2016

High Places

"The high places however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there."

As I read through I and II Kings I see over and over again, "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord"...king, after king, after king.

Every once in a while, the broken record is punctuated by "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord"...but it's followed by "the high places, however..."

As I read it for what seemed like the bizillionth time yesterday, I almost said out loud - for Pete's sake - was no one paying attention??  Did no one get the message that those high places were bad news?

The answer was no, at least, not until Hezekiah.

It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. In this case, the same thing was NOT doing anything about those insidious high places.

For 800 years!!

Talk about insanity!

But haven't I...you...all of us...done the very same thing?

I haven't been ignoring things that are abhorant to God for 800 years, but I've been a Christian for more than 40 and sometimes, the same 'ol, same 'ol just won't go away. I can still worry about money. Can still say unkind words. Have jealous thoughts. Be prideful. Get angry.

Yeah, those high places, while I try not to worship there as often, they can still woo me to burn a little incense on the altar now and again. But they're bad news. They need to be removed.

Thankfully, we have a way to combat them.

When the smell of incense comes wafting down, ask God to remove that high place. Crush that altar. Tear down the thing that stands as an idol in our lives.

We may need to do that more than once.

We may have to ask Him to do that many times. But He is always faithful to meet us in our place of need when we earnestly seek Him and desire to do what's right.

2 Kings 18:5-7a says "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him, he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him, He was successful in whatever he undertook."

For all eternity Hezekiah will stand out as a king unlike any other. A person who saw that it wasn't enough to do what was right, but who actively sought to root out what was wrong.

I know I want to be like that. I want people to see that there's something different about me. And it all starts with tearing down those high places.

Maybe this is your prayer too...

Lord, you know everything about me. You see those idols in my life. The things that are harmful to me. The things that stand in the way of living life to the fullest in you. They may seem insignificant, but like a tiny grain of sand that can irritate the eye to the point where vision is blurred and the way forward is unclear, even the smallest of sins can trip me up. Remove them. Keep my focus on you. Help me never cease following you. Take away the temptations of the high places. Tear those altars down. Thank you that you hear my prayers and are faithful to your promises. Amen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Catch 'Em All

I was surprised to see so many people entering at once. Sure, it was a gorgeous summer evening. but since the park closes at dusk, they should've been heading for their cars to slowly drive past the grazing herds of deer on their way to the exit, not streaming down to the marina.

Then I realized they weren't there to soak up the sights and sounds before another day came to a close...they were glued to their phones for the latest craze. Pokemon Go.

Wikipedia describes Pokemon Go as a "free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game."

The official website encourages players to "Get Up, Get Out, and Explore!"

Get out and explore an augmented reality. Is that what people really think they're doing?

I guarantee, none of those scoring Charizards took the time to explore the horizon, catching a glimpse of the huge wingspan and oddly graceful long legs of a Great Blue Heron flying back to its nest.

Nor did Magikarp hunters catch the split second a Sunfish jumped out of the glass-like water to snag some gnats hovering over the surface, sending rippled rings outward.
Saddest of all was the masterpiece of light and color spread across the sky and reflected on the lake that went unnoticed as a Pikachu popped up in front of their eyes.

Reality wasn't augmented, it was narrowed. Their vision was diminished by a false reality.

Now before you think I'm slamming your favorite pastime, or before you nod your head at my examples and think "preach it girl!", let me challenge you with this thought about our everyday lives...

Which augmented reality are you pursuing?

Do you think you "gotta catch 'em all"? You know - that often elusive stuff you're convinced you need like a great job, nice car, good-looking spouse, perfect kids, fame, fortune, power, attention...only to find out the "base capture rate" on some or even all of it is zero?

We don't need to fire up our Pokemon Go apps to get lost in the false claims of an augmented reality. Many things in this physical world steal our attention from the Truth.

In God's economy, the "narrow view" in Matthew 6:33 that tells us to "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously," leads to the augmentation of "and He will give you everything you need."

Do you really want it all? John 10:10 says "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." That's how God does augmented reality. He gives blessings that are pressed down and overflowing.

Go ahead. Get up, get out, and explore true reality - in God's Word. In it you will find an amazing power source. Things to strengthen you, encourage you, and challenge you. You will discover a new reality that is filled with God's passion for you. It's a pretty cool place where you feel His love for you augmented with every promise you read.

Love, peace, grace, mercy, forgiveness, eternal life (the ultimate augmented reality) - go catch 'em all.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

This Post's For You

Her hand trembled a little as I grasped it to join the group in prayer over the meal. Frail and weak, she had used all her energies to make it a memorable day for me.

The trembling hand belonged to my wonderful mother who had been battling cancer for almost 8 years. I had sprung my wedding date on her 7 years prior and given her a scant 2 1/2 months to prepare. She regretted not being able to throw me a shower in that short time. Now that I was pregnant with her first grandchild, she had moved heaven and earth to get the basement finished in time to host the best party she could.

I had almost thrown a monkey wrench in the works. I was a Toastmaster and had won my club's speech giving contest, moving on to a county level against other clubs. The contest was the evening of the shower. Wanting to keep the party a surprise, she couldn't tell me the real reason she didn't want me to participate. I recall her saying things like "are you sure you should be stressing out about speeches this close to your due date?"

I laughed it off and assured her there was no stress. Not for me anyway - I'm pretty sure she had to move up the time of the shower to accommodate her stubborn and unsuspecting daughter.

Now, almost 30 years later, these thoughts come flooding back as I prepare next week's baby shower to honor my daughter who is bringing her own little girl into this world in a little more than a month.

It is all the more poignant this Mother's Day as I experience the expectant joy of the first grandchild.

My mom was kind, caring, loving, funny, beautiful and devoted to her Lord.

She had an awesome sense of humor. When she returned to work after her mastectomy she could tell a co-worker was staring at her chest during a conversation. She looked the woman dead in the eye, smiled sweetly, and said "Jean, it's the left one". "I had to put her out of her misery from wondering" she told me later.

She always said she swam like a stone...she sunk.

She could knit the most complicated things but could never get a handle on crocheting.

I was supposed to teach her how, but she passed away four months after that shower, at the much too young age of 45. We ran out of time far too soon.

As she carefully held my days-old daughter with those same trembling hands, mom said her biggest regret was that Jackie would grow up to love my mother-in-law as her only grandmother. I assured her that I would keep her memory very much alive.

This post is for you, mom. I love you.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Smile In Her Heart

She's struggled a lot...four kids, health issues, and no real income to speak of. She was on the wait list for a car, but after a year or so, she somehow scraped together a few dollars to buy a van that was better left in the junk yard. After months of trying to help her fix it each time it left her stranded on the side of the road, I told her no more good money after bad. She needed to junk it. We put her back on the wait list.

It was a long wait. Neighbors took advantage of Mary's need (I've changed her name) and charged her daughter outrageous amounts for rides to work. Often, promises of rides fell through and Mary would miss doctor appointments and trips to the food pantry.

Even after I matched her up with a vehicle, she had hurdles to overcome. Her purse had been stolen weeks before, and with it, her license and social security card. So in anticipation of getting the keys, she needed to get duplicates. She waited two weeks for a ride to the county court house to replace the social security card.

Last Friday, after having her picture taken and waiting in line for her finalized paperwork, the Division of Motor Vehicles' computer system for licenses went down - statewide. It looked like she would have to wait longer still to get behind the wheel.

Mary pleaded her case to the person behind the counter. Amazingly, they relented, handing over her ID and making her promise to return when the computers came back up to handle the final step.

She was the last person that day to get a license.

But the fight wasn't over. Back in my office all she had was a policy number for her insurance company. I told her I needed a temporary card faxed or emailed over. She got on the phone with the insurance company and they couldn't find any notes adding the new van. It was an annoyance, but we didn't think too much about it - she simply had to answer a few questions again.

They put her on hold.

Fifteen minutes...Thirty minutes...Forty-five minutes. The rep came back on, walked her through the questions, and as she was ready to hit "send", the computer went down and all the information was lost. Again!

Mary was told to call back in a few minutes. She was an hour and a half into this latest odyssey and felt utterly defeated. It seemed like the van sitting right outside my office, so close, was just out of reach.

She started to cry. 

As she dialed again and was put on hold once more, I looked at her and said "Mary, I'm done. This is ridiculous. Enough is enough - we need to pray!"

I asked God to bind all that was at work creating havoc with the process. I acknowledged His power over not only people but situations. I asked for peace for Mary as He worked out all the details.

In less than two minutes, a rep came on, walked her through the application, and emailed her a temporary card.

In I John 5:14 we are reminded: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

From there on out, it was smooth sailing. Mary went back to the DMV, got the title transferred to her name and received the new registration.

Twenty-seven months after being put on the wait list the first time, Mary got her van. Not only wasn't it held together with tape and a prayer like her last vehicle, it had the bonus of a DVD player for her two younger kids. She was over the moon.

But Mary's story doesn't end there.

The following day, she loaded up her family in that new van and came to the Easter Brunch we hold for our food pantry clients.

After a delicious lunch and a time of egg decorating, kids from our children's ministry drama team called Family Time Live, put on a show. The theme that day was "hope...believing that something good can come out of something bad."

After the show, as everyone was leaving, Mary took me aside.

"I know you keep telling me to trust God and believe Him, but today, those kids got to me. I finally understood. I had been smiling with my lips, but now, I'm smiling with my heart. I saw something good come out of something bad!"

There were tears in her eyes again, but this time, they were tears of joy.

My friend, when it seems like the wait is never-ending...when it feels like the answer to your need is just out of reach...do not despair. Something good can come out of something bad.

James 1:17 tells us this truth - "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

We are commanded in Psalm 27:14 to"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."

And in Psalm 5:3 it says "In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch."

Eagerly watch in anticipation of His answer.

Be strong and take courage that He is faithful to uphold His promises.

Pray in expectation of what God is doing and has already done even though you don't see it yet.

He will take your circumstances, no matter how hopeless and somehow, someway, make something good come out of them. He'll put a smile in your heart.

Just ask Mary.