Not That Way!

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After last week’s article Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You, I thought I would tell you of a time I didn’t do what God asked. I hope it will speak to you if you are struggling to say yes.


No, that doesn’t make sense. I can’t be hearing you right.

I stood in the cold near a homeless girl who sat under her makeshift shelter, arguing with God.

Take your coat off and give it to her.

I hesitated. I ran through all the reasons, justifying my reluctance and His faulty thinking in the situation. I walked away, coat still on my back.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

Tears started to flow but I kept walking, her face etched in my mind. But this story is not about the young woman or her poverty, but me and my choices. That night, I rejected God’s words and chose mine instead. I didn’t trust Him or His wisdom in the situation. I chose not to do the good I ought to do. I chose to sin.

What comes to mind when you think of sin?
Transgression, ungodliness, evil?

Sin means any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, or lapse; especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. This definition doesn’t sound so devilish, but he is in the details. He is all about tempting us into sin knowing full well it is what separates from God. It is his mission in our lives.

When I look at all the actions that come with the definition of sin, lapse is the one at times that is the hardest to come to grips with. Jesus says, “If you love me, you obey my commandments.” (John14:15) We get the thou shall nots, the things to avoid when we are living our lives according to God’s ways. But it is those thou shall dos that sometimes trip us up.

The original translation of the word sin—hamartia— means loss or forfeiture because not hitting the target. It is the brand of sin that emphasizes its self-empowered nature. Willfulness comes to mind here. Sort of like when I said no to God’s prompting and walked away. I didn’t just miss the target. I aimed for something in the opposite direction. I chose what I wanted above God.

I have often thought of the time I said no. It has shaped how I now respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I want yes to be on my lips and in my actions even when things don’t make sense. I want God to know that I love Him by doing what He tells me to do.

Being a grandparent has some pretty great perks. One comes from my four-year-old granddaughter, Brielle. All through the day, she runs to where I am, wraps her arms around me, and says, “Grandma, I love you.” Then off she goes again to continue playing. It melts my heart. I can’t help but think God is the same way. I picture our yeses to acts of kindness, service, and compassion—those love your neighbor moments—as a great big hug and an I love you to God. His response may sound a bit like this—

‘Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Matthew 25:23 NIV

I love you, too.


Have you ever found yourself reasoning with God on whether you should follow His command? How did that go for you? What did it reveal in your life?

Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You

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I can do that.

My husband and I both had the same reaction at the same moment in church. A guest speaker was sharing of a need he had, and the Holy Spirit whispered, “He’s talking to you.”

I love when this happens. Holy Spirit talks. We listen. The we listen part is key. So many opportunities are lost because we didn’t act on the words we hear from Him. Hearing and listening are not the same things.

Years ago, we made a move that was very unpopular with our then twelve-year-old. She cried and complained for weeks. One of the times when she was being quite vocal about her discomfort over the whole thing, she asked her dad why we had to move. He simply told her, “Because God said so and we do what He says.”

It was a little bit like the story of the Calling of Abram found in Genesis 12. One day God said, “Leave what you know—your country, your friends, family, and all that feels safe and secure—and go to the place I will show you.” Right there in the midst of God’s challenge to Abram is a gift. Do you see it? Abram was not striking out on his own. God was going to lead the way. He would be with him. And Scripture says, “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” Smart man.

I think of how God did just that for us when we relocated and every other time he has called to us to do something outside our comfort zone. He led the way every time, and oh, the adventures we have experienced following Him just from being willing to do what we’re told.

Our daughter listened to her dad that day. His statement has impacted her life since when faced with hard or challenging decisions. It has become a family legacy of sorts, so when God told us to say yes, we did.

The mission we decided to accept doesn’t appear to be hard or challenging or even out of our comfort zone. (At least I don’t think so, but God might have other ideas.) It is actually in our wheelhouse. We will be traveling to New Jersey to help with the remodel of the Liebenzell USA Retreat Center. We have no idea what to expect or what we will be asked to do but our hearts and hands are willing. Many of you know we work with a ministry called Hands of Mercy that constructs small homes for the people of Mexico. The skills we have learned there along with the recent renovation of our own home are sure to be put to use in this new project we’ve been called to. We are excited to see what God is up to in that part of the world, and we will keep you posted.

If you would like to pray for us while we are following where God is leading, please do. We want to make as many people as possible part of what God is doing. For every one person heading out to work, many are needed to support them in prayer. Like the root system of a forest, we intertwine creating a strong foundation that will keep us connected, allowing us to work together in strength. Please sign up to receive new posts in your email.

This portion of Scripture written for the Israelites as they were crossing into the Promised Land speaks to me when thinking of listening to God’s voice. Perhaps it will speak to you as well.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

Deuteronomy 30:11-16 NIV

Choose Life. Follow God’s Lead into the Land of Promise.

 


As with anything, there will be a certain amount of expenses to going on a mission. If you are reading this and the Holy Spirit is saying to you, “This is for you,” and you would like to help out with providing money for our transportation costs, go here to make a donation. Thank you so much for coming along on the journey with us.

 

Building Hope Together

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The sound of women’s laughter sang in harmony with the whirl of their sewing machines. At the end of the day, they would go home with a beautiful quilt top they had created with their own hands. But as wonderful as the new creations were, something much more had taken place. You see, these women pooled their resources to build a small house for a family in Mexico. While they spent time sewing together, they were also building hope in a community far from their own.

There is just something about finding a way to bring people together for a common cause. In our case, my friend, Jan, and I took what we had—expertise and an abundance of fabric stashed away in our closets—and traded it for the money needed for building materials for the house by teaching a class on beginning quilt making. More fabric came from someone who could not join us but wanted to help. And yet another woman came bearing ingredients for a delicious lunch. It was almost like the story of Stone Soup as we brought what we had to stir up something wonderful and satisfying. When they returned home, each woman had a finished quilt top and our little house had $1600 towards making it into a reality.

The next step in the process will be a Prebuild Party where families will come together and partially construct the house. Walls, roof, and floors will be prefabricated in the church parking lot and loaded onto a trailer. All the components will then be transported to a site in Mexico near Ensenada where yet another group of people from both the US and Mexico will build it. By the end of the project, more than a hundred sets of hearts and hands will have been part of creating change.

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For more information about the loft house project. Please check out Hands of Mercy’s website here. Perhaps it’s your turn to build some hope. You can also read more about my experience with the project in these posts:

For Goodness Sake
Hope Under Construction


Here’s something exciting!

Since writing this post yet another group of friends, this time from the Oklahoma City area, have decided to come together to repeat the fun of raising funds. I am so excited to be part of the world coming together for good.


 

Our project was a super simple quilt top method called Jelly Roll Race. I think our tops turned out great. Here are just a few.

 

 

Command [those who are rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19

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Paddling Through Knee-Deep Waters

Elk River

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

 Isaiah 43:2

We discovered the Elk River in southern Missouri on our last adventure. Beautiful, clear, and lazy, it is a popular place to take a float trip. How could we resist? The morning leading up to our trip was spent reassuring our seven-year-old granddaughter, Hero, that she would be perfectly safe. The water was only knee-deep in most places after all. She wanted to know whose knees—a kid’s or a grown-up’s. (Important to know when it comes to measuring.) We reminded her of the lesson she had learned in children’s church that week about “God does not give us a spirit of fear. . . but of power, love, and self-control. (Talk about a teachable moment.) She thought rivers were something you should have a good fear about. (Smart girl.) We told her if anything should happen and the canoe flipped over, Grandpa would be right there to save her. Not convinced she reluctantly strapped on her orange life vest and got in the boat.

It was a beautiful ride. The water was so clear you could see the bottom. There were fish everywhere. The surroundings were peaceful. There was a learning curve for us being beginning paddlers, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. Mostly the stream did the work and we just steered. It was fun, and we felt a bit like Pocahontas as we discovered places just around the river bend.

And then it happened.

That thing that wasn’t likely to go wrong did. Our canoe got caught in a current and pushed us up under a tree that was hanging over the bank. As we got closer to the tree, we all leaned away from it to avoid getting poked and scratched. As we leaned, the boat did too. We started taking on water and over we went. My husband grabbed Hero by the handle on the back of her life jacket and held her head out of the water. Arms and legs flailing and kicking, she was in a blind panic thinking she was surely going to drown. We told her to put her feet down on the bottom of the riverbed and stand up. Eventually, she calmed down enough to do what we asked. You should have seen the look on her face when she realized the water was not over her head as she feared. It barely came up to her thighs. She was wet and mad, but no worse for wear. By the end of the day, Hero was telling us how good it was to fall out of the canoe. It had cooled us off. Lol!

Life can have an uncanny resemblance to our little trip downstream. You start off on an adventure not knowing exactly what it will look like or where you’re going. You might step in the canoe with caution like Hero did. You have your life vest on, yet you’re not sure if it will be enough for all the ‘what ifs’ you’d imagined. After a while, you get the hang of it. The current isn’t so bad after all and you gain a little confidence in your navigation skills. You’ve got this! And then it happens. Something unexpected shows up and flips your life completely upside-down. The next thing you know, your gasping for air and struggling to keep from going under. But in your panic, you hear it.  “I’m right here. Put your feet down and stand up.”

A few years ago, I was floating along through a great life. I was doing good things, having some successes, and enjoying a wonderful season with people I loved. Suddenly, it all came crashing down. Selfishness and Greed rocked the boat, dumped me out, ruining everything. The grief of losing what had been threatened to suck me under. I lost my footing, and since the pain came from something that happened at church involving church people, I wanted to quit. Forever.

God was having none of it.

He held the handle of my life vest, telling me to just put my feet down and stand up. I couldn’t. I didn’t know where to stand. I thrashed about, sinking deeper, but He didn’t let go. He sent in the troops, trusted friends who gently spoke truth into my life. He guided me back to His word and sat with me as I sobbed through its promises. Slowly, my flailing about stopped, and my feet touched solid ground. I realized the water had not been so deep after all, especially if I used God’s knees as a measure.

I’m happy to say that I am enjoying a relatively calm season in life. The lessons I learned from my experience overboard have proven to be valuable and my relationship with God is deeper and stronger. How will I respond next time I get tossed out of the boat? It’s hard to say until I find myself struggling again, but I do hope it won’t take so long to remember God has got His hold on me, put my feet down, and stand up.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Road Trip: Delivering the News

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If you follow me on social media, you know that with summer and its longer days, the wandering has commenced. My husband and I made our way east via the road less traveled . . . literally. This year, we chose to take The Loneliest Highway across the country to see what we could see. U.S. Route 50 comes by its name honestly. Much of the way, we and the locals were the only ones using it. Cars were few and far between.

That was okay with us. We liked the slower pace it provided. We saw beautiful country. There was also a bit of history to be found. U.S. 50 was built along the Pony Express route. It was fun to imagine the riders as they charged through the wilderness carrying the mail to people who longed for news. Given the short existence of the Pony Express, it had a lasting impact. Today, small towns dot the landscape where there once was only a stop on the trail.

This legacy of the Pony Express made me think of another story I heard from a friend from India. He told me he is only the third generation Christian in his family. It all started when his grandfather, the community’s witch doctor, met Jesus. With news too good to keep to himself, he wanted everyone to know so he took the message on the road, traveling from town to town, delivering the story of Jesus. Today, in each place he stopped there is an active church among its people.

In this busy life with our lives consumed with tasks for today, I wonder how often we think about what will have a lasting impression on our world. Will our actions today bring benefit to others in the future?

There is a story in the Bible about a time when Jesus told his disciples to set sail for a region called Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. There He had an encounter with a demon-possessed man from the town who had lived rough for many years due to his condition. The long and short of the story is that Jesus healed the guy and restored him back into the community. You can read it for yourself in Luke 8:26-39. When Jesus was ready to depart, the man begged to go with him, but Jesus had something better in mind. He urged the man to return home and tell how much God had done. (Luke 8:39)

That is exactly what the man did.

He “went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I may have chosen to go with Jesus and get a new start for myself, but he was obedient and did as Jesus told him. We do not know if he could have anticipated or even knew later what kind of impact his life had on his community, but we have the full story. This particular miracle of healing was the first in Gentile territory, a region called the Decapolis. Sometime later, Jesus did return and a crowd of 4000 came out to see Him. (The story is found in Matthew 15:29-31 and Mark 8:1-10.) Jesus repeated the miracle of healing, again and again, restoring “the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others.” (Matthew 15:30) Did these people come because of the story they had heard about the guy whose life was changed by Jesus? I like to think it was.

So, what impact are we having in the world around us?

Are we like the transformed witch doctor who carried the news of Jesus to other communities, resulting in churches being established? Or maybe like the man from Gerasenes who just shared his story with the neighbors. At the time, I’m sure neither of these men had any idea that their words would bring thousands to the feet of Jesus. The legacy that belongs to them is great, but ours can be too. We must take what we know about Jesus and make it known to the world around us. These men were not great theologians with exemplary training and a huge following. They were just common individuals who took what they had been given—a relationship with Jesus—and told others. It made an impact and continues to do so, especially if we now take their example to heart. How much of the world will be changed simply because we carried the Good News and delivered it? Only time will tell.

Share Jesus.
Change the world.

 


Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
Anne Frank

 

Hey there! Did Ya Miss Me?

Whew! It’s been a while since I have had time to get over here and post. Have you missed me? I have been traveling (That’s what girls on adventure do. Lol!), making a home in Oklahoma, and even doing a little writing. Over the past few weeks, I have been reformatting the Legacy: Living NOW for Future Generations devotional study journal that I co-wrote with some other wonderful teachers. I am extremely proud of the work we have done with the hope it will help many make the most of their personal Bible study time or even use in their small groups. I am excited for you to see its new form. It will be available by the end of June on Amazon. You’ll hear more very soon.

But in the meantime, I hope you will take look at another Bible study I had the joy and privilege to be involved with. Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, Lighthouse Bible Studies, will be available for purchase on Amazon June 21st. You can also find it on the Lighthouse Bible Studies site for pre-order right now.

This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage it. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us the wisdom to handle such real-life issues as unwanted change, grief, loneliness, financial debt, and difficult people. It shares God’s blueprints for a renovated heart by looking at Jesus’ character, godly people in the Bible, the Fruit of the Spirit, and the Beatitudes. It also discusses how to help our children grow in godly character. And if you want to use it in a small group setting there is a leader guide included. You’ll find me in the section about Hidden Problems.

Heart Reno Cover

So, you see things are happening. Just stay tuned, I have some posts coming up. You can also check out my food blog, The Party’s in the Kitchen. Or you can find me at the usual places—Life Letter Café, SoCal Christian Voice, or Broken but Priceless Magazine.  I am also starting work on a cookbook that will be out in October and another devotional study journal for the spring.

Thank you for hanging in there with me. Your presence and support here make it all worthwhile.

 

 

Heart Language

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This weekend more than ever I wish I had the language skills to understand Spanish. We were working in a community in Mexico and many times throughout the day I was asked questions that I could not answer. And even when I kind of got what they were saying to me, I lacked the vocabulary to respond in their language. We made it through though. They, with their patience and me, with pantomime and baby-talk. This was not the best-case scenario for building a relationship.

My own relationship with the Bible has had the same moments. The words, even though written in my language, were foreign to my ear. I read and listened, but much of it did not make sense. But over time, I began to catch on to some words and phrases along with the ideas behind them. This didn’t happen overnight. Much like language learning, I had to spend time reading and listening to grasp hold to their meaning.

I have a friend who moved to Germany to become part of the community there and share the story of Jesus with her neighbors. The first thing she had to do was learn the language. She had to immerse herself in the culture and listen to get the grasp of what her neighbors were saying. Little-by-little she became fluent. When I saw her recently, I could tell that English had actually become her secondary language. She now thinks in German, and when speaking to me she had to translate her thoughts back into English. Occasionally, she even started her sentence in German, and then realized it was English I needed. It was quite comical to see her face when she realized her mistake. But what can you expect after being living the language for ten years?

My point, I guess, is even the words of the Bible are a different language to worldly ears. They sound foreign and the ideas seem strange at first, but the more time spent ‘hearing’ them through study, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more they become part of us until we begin to talk and think with them. When God whispers them back to us throughout the day, we don’t have to guess what He is talking about because it has become the language we think in, as well.

Some people call the language they first learned their ‘heart’ language. In the case of my friend in Germany, her ‘heart’ language has changed. She now understands, speaks, and thinks in German. Even though I would love to speak Spanish fluently, I hope my ‘heart’ language will be the one found in the words of the Bible. Those are the words God inspired that will give me everything I need to live this life the way He would like me to. It will take time and diligence, but in the end, it will be worth it.

The good man brings good things out of the good treasury of his heart . . .
Luke 6:45


Hiding God’s word in my heart has developed time. One of the most effective ways I have found is using the SOAK method of study. It helps me to slow down and, you got it, SOAK in the word. Check it out in my post No Connection.

Also, I have co-written a devotional journal that uses the method and can help you get started. To find out how you can get a copy of Legacy: Living NOW for Future Generations, A study in Second Timothy leave your request in the comments.