A Wedding, a Baby Shower and a Funeral

Within a month I will have attended all three of these life events. These reality checks should be mandatory once a year for every human being. Why? Because they remind us of promises and futures. They give us perspective on our choices, and what we are sowing and reaping. And, if our hearts are beating at all, we will cry at all three.

Take weddings for example. The bride and groom’s ardent affection make me remember when love was new and the wounds not yet inflicted. I need to remember the helplessly giddy feelings—and cry. Am I still willing to give my heart to my husband with abandon?  But their beaming faces also make me smile because I know, with God’s grace over time, those fresh, gushing promises of forever love and good behavior will turn into more than they could imagine. The wish for “happily ever after” will become a deep reservoir of victories and defeats, little deaths and resurrections, a history of two lives being melded into one. Love is transformed from shallow rapids in a stream into deep still waters.

Baby showers are bittersweet too. Reading the fear and panic on the faces of new moms, or moms again, remind me of just how fast time flies and just how faithful God is. You only have to be a few miles down the road to realize that the sweet cuddles are gone in a moment. Did I stop long enough to enjoy them? Did I plant the seeds of loving God in my children? The messes, questions and hopes of those beginning years will soon be whispers in our memory. God really is big enough to be God to our children, not just to us.  And He will be their God even in our bad moments and failures.

Fortunately, this funeral celebrated a woman who loved God. So we did “not grieve as they who have no hope.” It was a refreshing change to celebrate a life well-walked with Jesus. It caused me to pause and reflect. Am I living in such a way that people know I love God? Not works. Just fruit. This woman had a beautiful display of fruit in the testimonies of others’ lives.

In contrast, the last several funerals I’ve attended have been for unbelievers or spiritual fence-sitters. It is amazing how we speak with gymnastic prowess around death when hell is very real.  None of us can bear the thought of eternal separation from God, yet those people chose separation from Him in this life.  Here is a hard question. If you don’t want to be with Jesus now, why would you want to go to heaven and be with Him forever?

When I die, I  don’t want the speakers to be hanging on some tightrope that I am with Jesus based on some long forgotten church experience. I told Chuck, “If I go first, you tell the people at my funeral that there is no question about whose I am and where I am. I am with my Lover and I had just talked to Him the day I died.”   Chuck laughed and shook his head. “I know honey, I know.”

Life well in Christ so you can die well Christ.

Don’t sleepwalk through your life. Examine, reflect, celebrate, change course. Plant God and harvest His life.

Yes and Amen Retreat

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
2 Corinthians 1:20

Friday, April 13 through Sunday, April 15, 2012

We are going to use this “get away from the world time” to talk about:

What are God’s dreams for us?

What does He see for our lives, and our futures?

What has He already said, “Yes and Amen” to that we just don’t know about yet?

How do women get Un-stuck?

False expectations and demands around food, sex, beauty, and love (and the Lord only knows what else…) What lifts women up?

Rest and release in the love of God.

Freedom to use our voice and heart.

Letting go of the need to control.

Join us for this unique retreat held at Smoky Mountain Christian Village.  A beautiful complex out of the traffic zone of Pigeon Forge, TN

Weekend Package Includes:  Cost is only $80!

  • Five sessions of Teaching and Materials with Jana Spicka
  • 2 Night’s Lodging in a large and spacious chalet.  Heated pool and nature trails on site.
  • Four Meals and Snacks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday morning. (Friday night dinner is on your own before first session.)

This is an intimate gathering limited to 18 women. So don’t wait to register.

Reserve Your Spot Today


Click here to hear a testimony from one of last years attendees.

Disturb Us, Lord

This is too rich not to pass on. Don’t just breeze past it. Read and read it again, out loud. Let it soak and you just might soar!

Disturb Us, Lord

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Sir Francis Drake

Life or Death

On my Facebook page  I posted a video link of Gianna Jensen. She has an amazing story of surviving an abortion. Literally. She is an aborted baby that survived.

What I love is her boldness. I love her willingness to pull back the curtain of denial and political ambiguity and let us see the real issue: the strong killing the weak. Of course I know this is a loaded gun. But I have myself walked through the abortion clinic doors. I, too, am a survivor, but my child is not. So I am not at all willing to look the other way about this life and death issue.

What about deformities?
What about rape?
What about the mother’s needs?

What about them? If you were the innocent, helpless baby in the womb, you would be praying that someone, somewhere would come up with another solution than your death.

There are always, always, always options.

Abortion is our issue. It’s not out there. Or “their decision.”  When unborn babies have no value, then what guarantees your value?  And a culture that embraces death only begets more death.

The death of Christ is the only death that ever brought forth new life. Every child sacrificed in clinics today is a kind of death in the parents, in their community and ultimately in our country.
Is the blood of Christ strong enough to wash away this sin?

Thank God, yes it is.

But we don’t sit idly or comfortably or neutrally by and do nothing. You have a voice. Use it for life.

Weddings, Funerals, Life, Oh My!

We spent last weekend remembering Chuck’s grandmother who died at 103. This weekend we are celebrating the marriage of Sarah and Todd.

In between, there was a broken computer (again!), various yammerings between my kids, several chewed up items by the dog, and good news about our website launching Monday. Now add to that, tense conversations between co-workers, problem solving with product delivery, and the tight rope walk of bills.

I love it when lives intersect. Even when it is awkward, messy and confusing.

In my head, I hear Master Ugwe from Kung Fu Panda say, “There are no accidents.”

In my spirit, though, is an even better answer.

I hear the Savior say
Thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness
Watch and pray
Find in Me, thine all in all.

See how there is no striving in that stanza from “Jesus Paid it All.” Only the humble realization that I don’t have what it takes, but He does. The only response required of me is: watch and pray. Not passive but expectant. Not distant but  actively looking, seeking, finding. And then comes the hope and the comfort. Ahhh, yes. You are my all in all. You are all I need in all circumstances.

Lord, thank You for the hard moments of grief, the moments of great joy, and even the sticky, sinful moments. There are no accidents. In all of these moments You are there and it is Your strength that guides me. Your life is all I need and all I want.  Amen.

Dead Among the Living

All winter long, we have been admiring the beauty of the trees in our yard. I have really come to favor winter as you can really “see” the tree, its shape, limbs, its tree-ness without all the pomp of leaves and flowers. But today as I was taking a break from weeding, I looked up and the same line of trees I had been admiring has a glaring discovery. It is one of those kindergartner exercises, “Circle what doesn’t fit in this picture.”  Amid all the lush green trees, leaves waving and dancing in the wind, is a grey bark trunk and bare jagged limbs sticking out of the green wall.

All winter long, we never knew. But now with new growth busting out all around it, spring having sprung, the dark naked branches and shape reveal its true condition. Dead. I watched as it did not sway in beautiful motion with the wind,  but rather it jolted and staggered, like any good gust would cause it to crack and splinter and fall.

You know, dead trees are a hazard to living ones. Because when they fall, they bring the living branches down with them; sometimes whole live trees are grounded by the falling timber.

This is a precarious spiritual question. But one that needs to be asked. Are you a living or dead tree? Are you continuing to grow through the seasons, to produce new growth in spring, the promise of fruit in summer?

Or are you a dead tree trying to blend in? Don’t miss this. It is not enough that you are standing right next to the others in church. That dead tree is still standing. It is not enough that you grew up in good company, family, tradition, or denomination. Do you have God’s life that is reproducing in you? Slowly but surely. Gradual but inevitable because you are a Living Vessel that God pours through.

Not checked boxes, but a living transformation, so much so that others can see and say, “Yes, this tree is definitely alive. No question.”

The dead tree in our yard will be cut down shortly for firewood. And just like Jesus said,  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6 NKJV

Do not let merely the fear of hell keep you from answering the question. But rather receive the invitation that Jesus offers right before in this passage: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Don’t just stand there. Bloom.

When Life and Death Collide

Within a week there have been two infant deaths in my world. One unsaved woman delivered a still born at eight months. Another woman, a strong believer, was carrying triplets, and one baby died. In the process, all three babies were delivered by C-section. The two surviving babies are in critical condition.

And often the first question is, “How could something like this happen?”  More piercing questions sound like, “How could GOD let something like this happen?”

Really gut-wrenching, honest questions sound like, “How can this be good in any way?”

If we are not careful, these are the horrible moments when we throw around spiritual band-aids because we don’t know what to say:

“At least you have another child.”
“At least you didn’t have to fill-in-the-blank…”
“God must be teaching you something…”
“God works all things together…”

If we are not careful, because we are so uncomfortable with pain, agony, and despair, we will make all manner of attempts to fix, tidy, gloss over, and cover the gaping hole in those broken hearts.

And if we are not careful, we will miss the aroma of Christ. I told my friend who is truly broken-hearted over our friend’s loss, “God is good, and He is here.” He is right here. In the middle of this mystery. And misery. He knows exactly how it feels to lose a child.

The Bible says to mourn with those who mourn. And to trust that God is doing the same.  I remember delivering Judah when we found out he had died at 16 weeks. He was so small, he fit in our hand. To some it seemed odd because he was so little. But he was our son, is our son.

Sure we got a gamut of responses — the gossip, the “glad it didn’t happen to me”, the “you can always have another baby”, even the God comments that cut like knives rather than soothe like a balm. But the sweetest gifts I received during that time were friends and family who would simply weep with us. That’s all. It hurt and that was okay.

The help and healing came from those who had nothing to offer but their tears. These precious few didn’t come to my bedside needing me to make them feel better, needing me to explain anything or defend God. They just came to journey with me and pray for me, when I was too weak to pray myself.  My friend Nan says, “When you grieve together the love goes deeper still.”

Oddly enough, yesterday, the same day we heard about the death of the triplet, my sweet friend Amanda gave birth to her baby boy. And so we live. Life and death side by side. And somehow we are comforted because we stake our whole existence on one belief: God is good and He is here.

Holy Parentheses

The book I am devouring now is “In a Pit with a Lion on Snow Day” by Mark Batterson. And he made a comment that the Lord has me running crazy with.

Batterson talked about how the Holy Spirit “hovers” over us. From Genesis until now, He is working, hovering, creating, leading. Read his book to hear his conversation. But I want to talk about how this notion and Psalm 139 connect.  He knows us. He sees us. He hems us in, before and behind…Batterson used the word parentheses. I heard the Lord say, “Like a holy parentheses.”

And I had this visual of God’s hands forming a “holy parentheses” around my life. And your life. But it didn’t stop there.

Look at the first letters of this word. What does it spell? Parent. When I looked up the definition for the word here what it says:

Etymology: Late Latin, from Greek, literally, act of inserting, from parentithenai to insert, from para- + en- en- + tithenai to place

Uhm Wow.  We are inserted in the Parent’s hands. Placed there by His design, held there by His love. What was David’s response to this Ahaa moment?  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Amen.

I just want to dwell on that today.  As I “move and have my being,” as I work and rest, succeed and fail, think and dream, I reside in the Holy Parentheses. My Heavenly Parent placed me there, and “nothing can pluck me out of His hand.” Hallelujah.

1 O LORD, you have searched me
      and you know me.

 2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
      you perceive my thoughts from afar.

 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
      you are familiar with all my ways.

 4 Before a word is on my tongue
      you know it completely, O LORD.

 5 You hem me in—behind and before;
      you have laid your hand upon me.

 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
      too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
      Where can I flee from your presence?   Psalm 139

You Know Better Than I…

Last night in the WGR class, the Lord brought back to mind a fantastic song of faith.  It is from the movie, Joseph, King of Dreams.  I tell you, every time I watch the movie or even hear the song, I cry.  It seems the song always finds me in a place of need, and the words invite me back into the arms of my loving God. I also cry because of the picture of Joseph’s journey— from the golden child favored by his father, full of promise and dreams, to sold as a slave and then prison.  What must it really have felt like?

His story strengthens me. Did Joseph think God had lied? Did he feel despair or abandoned?  Did his dreams strengthen him in the dungeon, or haunt him?  Joseph’s life is a parable of our own.  We have dreams and plans, but God has His own path for us. I am finding that sometimes, actually most times, we have to go through worse to get to better.  Joseph learned to see God in it all. Every step of the way.

I want that too.  I want faith and love even in the dungeon.  May God strengthen and persuade us that His ways are better and are altogether good, and He uses all things to accomplish His purposes, for us and for others. “What you meant for evil against me, God meant for good.”

Even Joseph’s dreams could not have predicted  or prepared him for the path that led from the dungeon to saving a nation.  What did God deposit in the dungeon that prepared Joseph’s heart for the days ahead? Perhaps only this: “You know better than I.”

And that was enough, for Joseph and for us.

Here is a link to watch the movie clip with the lyrics. I hope you are blessed as much as I am every time.