February 26, 2015

The Love Dare

Many months ago I printed out something called The Love Dare.  If you have seen the movie Fireproof, you know what I am talking about.  In the movie a marriage is falling apart and one spouse takes action to restore the relationship, part of the process is the Love Dare, 40 days of doing things for your spouse and your marriage.  (It has been a long time since I watched the movie, so sorry I'm not being more specific; I'm bad with details, but that is the general idea.)

So, like I said, many months ago, I printed out The Love Dare, a forty-day schedule of things to do each day to love one's spouse better.  Since Lent is 40 days and it is all about giving up sin, one of my main sins being thinking about myself too much and about my husband not enough, it seemed like the perfect time to smooth out those tri-folded pages I have been keeping in my Bible and take the dare!

In book club we just finished a book called Severe Mercy, a very moving and beautiful true story about a couple, their love, God's love for them, sickness, death, and newness of life.  Early in their relationship they determined that nothing would come between them and destroy their love.  Divorce was becoming more common and they tried hard to determine what the cause was.  They concluded that the killer of love was creeping separateness. ... Taking love for granted, especially after marriage.  (p. 29)

They were on to something!

Of course the initial "inloveness" fades with time, because of physiological reasons that I don't know how to explain.  Once married, the honeymoon period does finally end, and life falls into routines.  Then maybe some children are added to the scene.  Work might pick up and there may be some moves to new places.  Activities take up time, too.  The details of the story of each marriage are different.  What is the same, however, is that all of these changes and distractions, responsibilities and cares can either draw us together or lead to "creeping separateness."

The Love Dare is an opportunity to fight the "creeping separateness" and defend your marriage against all that would keep it from growing.  Marital intimacy, next to a relationship with God, is the most deep and profound relationship we can know on this earth.  The evil one will do all he can do to keep your marriage from being great.  Mediocre marriages are his cup of tea.  The kingdom of God doesn't advance much from those.  But God-loving, kingdom-focused, strong marriages?  Yeah, he hates those!

So, the Love Dare.  If you would like to give it a go, to set yourself aside for the sake of your mate and your Lord, you can find it here.

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:12-13

**Please let me know how I can pray for you and your marriage; I would count it a privilege.**

My friend, Sally, wrote this week about hedging in our marriages.  I encourage you to read her wise words by clicking here!

February 24, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 7}

As I expected, with the weeks marching by, I am thinking less about this year's theme word, OPEN.  I am thankful for the huge sign in the kitchen to remind me, and more thankful to the Spirit for His kindness in reminding me now and then.  Sometimes it is so frustrating, living in a finite body with a finite mind and a sinful nature so close at hand, isn't it?  I look forward to the timelessness of heaven and the beauty of a heart focused only on my Lord, no longer constantly at battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

But for now, here we dwell.  Here, we are in the crucible of transformation, learning to live by faith in joy and sorrow, ease and trial, in preparation for an eternity of bliss.

Sheep herding trials in Scotland, 2011

One great trial and challenge is the number of voices we hear every day in our heads, luring us in different directions, whispering to us about our worthlessness and how unlovable we are, chiding us with guilt and insecurity, leaving us hopeless, afraid, and defeated.

Do you hear this cacophony of voices day-in and day-out like I do?

For our book study this week, we read and discussed chapter three of Sally Clarkson's book, Own Your Life.  The chapter is titled, Listening to New Voices, Owning Your True Identity.  It was such a relief to sit in a room with a bunch of other ladies and hear how damaging, lying voices have and do effect the way we think about ourselves and how we make decisions.  We are not alone!  But, even better, it was balm for our souls to be reminded of the ONE VOICE we should be listening to and how gentle, loving, kind, and patient He is compared to the demanding, condemning, shaming voices that constantly ring in our ears.

Sally shared several verses in the reflection section at the end of the chapter: Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 8:1, and 2 Corinthians 5:17, which I've posted below.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

And she issued this challenge, which I am trying to be OPEN to: at the beginning of each day, spend at least a couple of minutes acknowledging the newness of life that [God] provides for you.  Every morning, regardless of what has happened the day before or way back in the past, in Christ you walk, (I walk, all God's people walk), in newness of life.  Every day!  The old has gone, the new has come.

That is true truth about your identity.  Doesn't it make you want to walk with your head held high, loving God and your neighbor with greater passion and devotion?

Man, I want to be OPEN to listening to the sweet voice of my loving Shepherd, and OPEN to boldly telling the other voices to be gone!  It is going to take a lot of practice....

Time to take action:  What voices are you listening to and letting define you or, worse, defeat you?  The worst voices are the ones with a little bit of truth in them, but that are still big fat lies!  Are you tossed and beaten down by the voices?  Listen, dear friend,

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1


If you belong to God, you are a new creation!  His voice does not condemn.  His Spirit may convict us of sin, but will not shame us.

Will you join me in meditating on Romans 8:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:17?  Stop right now and rejoice in the Lord, saying The old has gone, the new is here, right now!  I have been made new.  Thank you, Jesus!  Confess your sin of listening to the voices rather than to God's sweet, still voice.  Be assured He forgives you.  And walk today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, in newness of life.

I wonder how OPENNESS to true truth will transform us, our families, and our neighborhoods!  Oh, let's find out by listening to the Shepherd's voice, rather than the thieves and the robbers.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  John 10:1-5

February 17, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 6}

Every summer our church organizes and hosts Summer's Best Two Weeks  (SB2W), a two week camp for kids from Kindergarten to 8th grade.  Kindergarten through second graders attend a Junior Camp that is similar to a two week Vacation Bible School.  The older children go to Day Camp to be thoroughly worn out with more activity than I would ever be able to handle in one day!  The kids hear the Gospel, learn Bible, and do crafts, play games, and learn songs together.  For some children and young people, it is the time in their life when they remember becoming Christians.

Since last year was our first full summer at the church, it was our first year participating.  Elizabeth went to Day Camp, Brian attended Junior Camp, and Katherine was in the pre-school room for staff helpers, while I taught the Kindergarten class.  What a fun and exhausting two weeks!  This was my favorite moment:

I taught the kids the bridge diagram and the girls redrew it one morning!

So, you might wonder why I am giving you all of this introduction to SB2W.  Well, it has everything to do with being OPEN.  Everything.  I still don't believe the story myself, though I am a part of it and very confident God is at work in it.

Camp registration forms go out at the beginning of February.  Yep, you read that right, February, for a camp that starts at the end of June.  The kids were so excited to get their registrations and I quickly announced to Ashley, the current Jr. Camp Director, and Shari, the Children's Ministry Director, that I was "in" to teach the Kindergarten class again.  Everyone was excited!

Then I had this little voice in the back of my head, Heather, you know this is Ashley's last year to direct camp.  Maybe you should say you'd be willing to consider taking her position in 2016.


Was it the Spirit or was it me?  I was not sure, but I could not shake the thought.  I let it simmer.

It kept coming back.

I needed to say something.

One morning last week we were in a local coffee shop (Commonplace coffee!) and ran into one of the college ministers, Linda.  I love talking with Linda; she is often a great counselor and encourager for me.  I decided to mention this thought to her.  And she immediately said something, "Oh, Heather, you should tell Shari.  I think it would really encourage her."

I have to confess that I was a little nervous to say it out loud to anyone, because then I might actually have to do the job.  And friends, let me tell you, it is no small potatoes.  I was in awe of Ashley all last year!

But the time had come, I needed to.  I sent Shari this note:

Hey Shari,
So I have this out-there idea that came to mind when I started thinking about SB2W again.  Since this is Ashley's last year directing Jr. Camp, should I consider taking it on next year?  Not sure if this is my crazy brain or God's idea, but wanted to let you know that the idea is in my head.  What do you think about this?
Almost immediately I received a response that began like this:

Whoa that was a huge Holy Spirit at work moment.  Ashley and I have been discussing that exact scenario!!!

Okaaaay, so maybe it was the Spirit.  Maybe I needed to be OPEN to pursuing this because God prepared me for something out of nowhere that Shari and Ashley had been planning to ask me about.  I would not have been surprised, because God was already shaping the idea in my mind and heart.

But the story got even better last night when Ashley's mother said to me after a Youth Ministry meeting, "Heather, I have to tell you that Ashley and I have been praying for you specifically for the position, since last August!  I didn't really know you then, but as I've gotten to know you recently, I know you would be perfect for the job."

Okay, okay, now I'm really taking this seriously.  As I said to Shari in a text, I don't  know whether to be excited or terrified.  I'm feeling both in equal measure, full of awe and wonder at God's kindness and an awareness of my need for His help to ever do this job.  It is incredible to be right smack dab in the middle of God at work.  So much confirmation convinces me that this is good and right.

And so, being OPEN in 2015 has led to thinking about being OPEN in 2016.  Crazy!  God has a way of surprising us, doesn't He?

Time to Take Action:  Have you had any nagging feelings lately, ideas or thoughts you just can't shake, but that you think might be a little nuts to say out loud?  Maybe today is the day to step out in faith and see what the Lord does!

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

February 12, 2015

People, Get Ready, 'Cause "That Story" is Taking Us Somewhere!

Our son has latched on to the concept of eternal life.  He often thanks God for eternal life when he prays.  I credit his Sunday school teachers for talking about it, because I believe that is where he has heard the message the most.  As a mama, it brings me great joy and I pray for him that he will never lose his excitement about seeing Jesus and spending forever's forever with God.

You know who else was excited about eternal life?  Most hymn writers!  Yep. that's right.  Over the last several weeks, I have noticed that most old well-know hymns end with a verse about eternity.  The lyrics remind me, and whoever might sing them, that one day our struggle and toil will end and if we lay down to die in Christ, we will live with Him forever.

Here are few examples:

Amazing Grace
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

It Is Well with My Soul
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heav’n’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

"That Story" that I wrote about last week is the beginning of something eternal and so wonderful no words can properly describe it.  Christian, you are going somewhere that will be forever, that will be right, whose light is God Himself, and where YOU will be made new, whole, and glorified!!

You know were the hymn writers got all their crazy ideas?  The Bible!  Yep, that's right. I don't know how many times eternal life is mentioned specifically, but surely you know John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Frequently when the Scriptures talk about saving grace, the reward of eternal life is mentioned.  And oh, dear friend, the reward comes not from an earthy life perfectly lived, but from an earthy life dependent on faith in the saving work of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  How often I need to be reminded!  How hopeful is "that story"!!

We used to sing a song in youth group called, People Get Ready for the Train to Jordan.  People, get ready, the train is coming!  You might already be on board.  In that case, praise the Lord and keep your little self on that train!  If you have not embraced this faith and hope of eternal life, why not get on board today?  Please let me know if you want to talk and pray more about this.  I would love that very much.

February 10, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 5}

Earlier in the year, I mentioned that I was starting up a group to discuss Sally Clarkson's new book, Own Your Life.  We are a few weeks in and having a fabulous time of discussion and fellowship on Sunday evenings.

The only trouble with the whole situation is that I am being confronted with the need to be OPEN, not to others, not with my home and space or time, but rather to the content Sally shares with her readers.  At the end of chapter two she has several self-examination and goal-setting questions about these topics: life chaos, influencing voices, worldly values, and healthy but neglected areas of our lives.

A lot to ponder.  It can feel intimidating or, worse, defeating.

Yet, if we never stop to consider what we are doing and where we are trying to go and if what we are doing is taking us there, [pause for breath], then life will keep happening to us.  We will always feel like victims of the chaos, be swayed by whatever voice is loudest, embrace worldly values that are contrary to righteousness, and continue to neglect taking care of ourselves.

As I think about these things and endeavor to address behaviors I feel God calling me to confront, new opportunities to be OPEN emerge: OPEN to admit failure; OPEN to confess sin; OPEN to confront demons; OPEN to tackle behavior patterns that need changing.

Being honest with one's self can be very unsettling.  We see, by God's grace, that we are not as in great of shape as we thought.  He brings our need and depravity to light and we feel the weight of our inability and sin.

But, praise be to that same God, He does not leave us there!  The Bible says it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.  He does not draw us into the light to shame us, but to break our chains and set us free!

wisdom and folly*

As I was mulling over chapter two of Own Your Life, I was reminded of chapters eight and nine of Proverbs, where wisdom and folly are described.  Reading those words highlights the futility of folly in contrast to the beauty, strength, life, and blessing of wisdom.

Being OPEN to be uncomfortable and honest with ourselves before God also offers the opportunity to be OPEN to the blessings that come from that OPENness!

Listen to these words from Proverbs 9:10-12

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For through wisdom your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

If you and I are wise, friend, if you and I choose wisdom, she will reward us!  God's way - the way of repentance and faith and the pursuit of holiness - is a life of reward in this world and the next.

I remember years ago reading Psalm 19 in which the psalmist is praising the law and counsel of God, which the world tells us will hold us back and keep us from fun and good things.  As the eyes of my heart were OPENed to the message, I was amazed.  Wait, what?  God's way is the best way because He made us and knows how best to guide us in this life?!  He is not a kill-joy but rather a joy-giver?!  Obeying His law and walking in His way will 'revive my soul'?!

Looking into the law of God shows us our sin.  Examining our way now and then reveals that we are prone to wander.  But, dear Christian, the Spirit lives in you and these moments lead us to repentance.  Repentance leads to transformation.  Walking in the way of God is a way of great reward: freedom, peace, hope, joy, life, in this world and the next.

Time to take action:  I will leave you with Psalm 19.  Read it here or grab your Bible read it there.  Confess your sins.  Commit to walking in God's way anew today.  (I am going to, too!)  And, finally, praise, sing, rejoice, and give thanks to this mighty God whose glory the heavens declare and whose gentle kindness guides us back to His way again and again.

Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

* If you know who did this painting, can you let me know?  Thanks!

February 5, 2015

That Story, Again?

Good Thursday to you, friends!  Isn't it funny how Monday can seem so long and then suddenly your find yourself waking on the next to last day of the work week?  Time is an odd experience.  I wonder what it is like to be God, for whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day.  Imagine an existence not bound and determined by time!

Today I want to share one thing with you, and that is a quick word about what is most important to our God: 


I remember my youth pastor once saying that redemption is the summary word of the Biblical story from Genesis to Revelation.  In the beginning, God, and from the beginning, God, had a plan to redeem His people.

Do you ever feel like you hear the same story over and over again at church?

I hope you do, because according to the Scriptures, the most important thing we can grasp is that Christ died, Christ rose, and Christ will come again.  The Bible talks about the Messiah so much, because it is the most important message of the Word and the foundation upon which transformation is built.

What is your biggest problem today?

It might not be what you think.

The Bible tells us our biggest problem is that we are separated from God, His enemies, helplessly lost in sin.  The Bible also tells us that God addresses our biggest problem in Jesus Christ, redeeming our lives through his.  

Redemptionnoun - the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

If you are in Christ, if you have put your trust and faith in Him, your biggest earthly woe has been addressed.  You are saved.  God has regained possessed of you and your debt has been cleared because of Jesus' death and resurrection.  And He is coming again to take you into glory with Him!

In Galatians 2:20-21, which our pastor preached on Sunday to remind us of the Good News then call us to action, read:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Friends, never let go of this message of redemption. You died with Christ and you live with Him.  Your biggest problem is not the temporal thing that came to mind first when I asked the question above.  If you are a Christian, your biggest problem of your entire life ever has been addressed and fixed.  YOU BELONG TO GOD.

Christ did not die for nothing.  Your righteousness does not come from your good works.  No, sir.  Your righteousness comes direct from God Himself by the work of Jesus, so that you can be free to go forth and do good works for His glory and to the praise of His name.

If you feel like you hear the same story over and over at church, thank your pastor.  He or she is keeping you close to the only solid foundation upon which a faithful life can be built.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures ...  I Corinthians 15:3-4

The message of redemption, of all God's promises fulfilled, is of first importance!
  • Are you building  your life upon that solid rock or still trying to earn God's favor?
  • Are you clinging daily to grace and rejoicing at the freedom you have in Christ to pursue righteousness for His sake?
Let's ask ourselves these questions each day, so that we do not scoff at God's gift of redemption.  No one will ever give us a more precious gift!

February 3, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 4}

You know a week has been full when you get to your Tuesday morning writing time and think, Hm, what in the world am I going to say today!

I guess I'll talk about a powder room remodeling project we've had going on.  It started of so simply and was not going to be a big deal, until we encountered difficulty at every turn and found extra work that needed to be done.  And when I say we, I am referring to my husband and father-in-law, because when it came right down to it, I didn't do much beyond design ideas, painting the walls, and helping put in the new floor.  That's where being OPEN comes into play.

Before we got started, I was so excited about this project.  We've lived in our house for a year and a half and have done very little to it.  (God be praised for providing us a house that was livable from day one!)  I got in my head that we should redo the bathroom, paint it purple, make it pretty.  My kind husband went along with the idea and we had fun picking out a new vanity and toilet and so on.

We bought the vanity and it sat in our garage and then basement for months.  Yup, that's life.  There was no way we were going to be able to get to this project without help.  Help with the labor and help with the kids.


My stubborn spirit wanted us to be able to do the project together, just the two of us.  You know, working on the house together to create something new-ish.  I loved that idea.  But for skill and practical reasons - like not even having all the right tools! - it was not going to be an on-our-own project.

Enter, my generous in-laws.

They were so eager to help us finish (and start, hahaha) the powder room, even in the midst of a bunch of their own home projects, as they are preparing a house to sell and a house to move in to, right down our street!

Without their help we would probably have had to work on this little six by four room for four to six months, chipping away at the tasks as time allowed and sitting our children before many electronic babysitters.  Instead, even with all of the hiccups, it's only taken an handful of weekends, there have been extra adults to play with the kids, and we are down to only a couple of detail items.

OPEN to be helped when you feel like you're putting others out and you wanted to do it on your own.

I did get a little taste of working together with my husband when we put in the floor and I really loved that time.  We worked together, helped each other, and had something to show for it at the end!  My heart wanted to be able to do the rest of the bathroom that way, because that was how I had envisioned the whole thing going!  So when my in-laws offered to come wrap things up this past weekend, I was a little bummed because I knew the rest of the project would not be together.  It wasn't even practical; we know nothing about plumbing and the semester is back in session for my husband, so we don't have the time either!

OPEN to be helped when things can't go the way you've dreamed.

I tell this story to highlight that this particularly situation was an OPENNESS stretching exercise.  Circumstances forced me to be OPEN because refusing help would have been, well, stupid!  I'm a proud and idealistic soul, so I am thankful that I had to be OPEN to help with this powder room.  I wish I could say that I welcomed the help with a charitable initial reaction in my heart, rather than feeling disappointed it couldn't go my way.  But that would be a lie.

However, God did transform my pouts to gratitude, and I hope the rock of pride in my heart had a little bit chiseled away in the process, so I can be quick to be OPEN next time.

Time to take action:  Are you stubborn like me and unwilling to accept help, even though you need it, because you don't want to put someone out or don't want to let go of your own idealistic plan?  Can you think of a situation where you could ask for help this week to move ahead in a project or a relationship?

Learn from me, don't be proud and stubborn.  Take the assistance offered or ask for it!

Oh!  This reminds me of a devotional the kids and I were doing a few weeks ago from the Clarkson's 24 Family Ways.  The theme of the week was, We work with a cooperative spirit, freely giving and receiving help.  I guess I wasn't listening!  Sigh.

Here's the memory verse from the week for meditation:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

The return for OUR work!
A functional toilet and sing again!!

Thank you, Malcolm and Gladys.