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...

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Best Gift Ever

Her request was simple.

"If you ever have an extra one of those, could I have it?"

She stopped rubbing her thin arms against the cold long enough to point toward the hand-held can opener on the faded wooden table in front of us.

Anna continued..."the church gave me a can of tuna fish and I had no way to open it. I took a big knife and stabbed the can over and over trying to punch a hole in it, but I couldn't."

I winced as I pictured her waging battle against the small metal can with a large, sharp knife and all the ways that could have gone oh so wrong.

"There's one in the box we just put in your room" I said with a smile.

I wasn't prepared for the force with which she flung her arms around my neck squealing "thank you! thank you so much!"

I gave her a hug and then she began jumping up and down clapping her hands together with glee.

"You made my day! It's the best gift ever!!"

While most of us would not get excited over a dollar store can opener, to a lonely and forgotten woman, it was an exceptional gift. 

But the best gift ever?


The best gift ever didn't arrive in a cardboard box in the parking lot of a welfare motel.

It came more than 2000 years ago in the lowly manger stall of a crowded inn.

Luke 2:4-7 "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available to them.

What a scene.

A woman who was an outcast - unmarried and pregnant. A place most didn't want to go - a smelly, animal-filled stall. 

While most of us would not get excited over a child born in such a place and under such circumstances, to lonely and forgotten men...shepherds...the announcement of His birth was an exceptional gift.

Luke 2:8-12 "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to the, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"

While Anna's gift of a can opener was essential for the need at hand, God's gift of His son, and through that son, eternal life, is an essential gift for every single one of us. It addresses all our needs - past, present and future.

It's the best gift ever.

Best of all, we don't have to hope it will come our way some day. It's been hand-delivered to us, free of charge. We need only to open and accept it. Today. Now. This very moment.

 Like Anna trying to puncture a can of tuna with a knife, have you been using all the wrong tools to experience all the fullness of life? Going to church won't do it. Helping others won't do it. Being a good person won't do it.

The only way to "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10), is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

My hope for you is that this year, this Christmas season, you will open the gift that is too large to fit under any tree. It costs nothing, but is priceless. The only requirement is that you open it!

"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

He's the best. gift. ever.

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.