Category Archives: Sharing our Stories

One of the four over-arching purposes of this site.

Knowing God. Discipleship – Building Lives. Transforming Tough Times into Treasures. Sharing our Stories.

Lessons From A Large Love

Have you been entrusted with a ‘large love’ in your life?  A love that is equal parts gift, privilege, responsibility and vulnerability?  I believe those loves are to give us a glimpse of the love God has for each and every person.  Learning to steward such a love takes a lifetime!  It requires embracing the love and then living the legacy it creates.

This piece is a stewarding of a love our family enjoyed–and it is offered to help you steward the loves God has given you.  It is offered to turn your eyes to the love of God that is the greatest love of all.  Love transforms when we allow it.  Let’s love well.

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The large love that captivated our whole family entered our home just six years ago.  Scout arrived as a 16th birthday gift for our daughter.  He loved his ways into everyone of our hearts.

He was 10272773_10207170337528839_2400701400572314300_onever a demanding dog–he never needed to be.  His gentle presence lulled you into giving him most anything he wanted.  Even at 90 pounds, he lived as a lap dog.

He simply loved and taught us how to do the same.

The Bible is the place to go for the best definition of love.  1 Corinthians 13 is the ‘love chapter’ and I know it well…but head-to-heart learning has to be lived.  This precious dog reminded me of truths about love too beautiful not to share.

Love it patient and kind…It does not demand its own way.

It’s wonderful to be around love, but it’s an even greater joy TO LOVE.  The nature of this 46897238_10215414416865670_8701322365503537152_n (1)gentle giant wooed everyone.  His size made it common for him to 46514110_2120609104669020_1511515110198214656_nget his way–but he never demanded it.  He was a quiet giant who loved cats, bunnies and doves…and his nature was such that they loved him too!    The love of Scout was felt by the tiny animals he adored–and they quietly loved him back.

 

Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of wrongs.

Like most dogs, Scout lived in the moment.  Any wrongs were forgotten and love always his offering.  Miraculously, the nature of this precious boy led us to emulate the same beautiful characteristics.  90 pounds of dogs takes up a lot of space, creates a lot of mess and eats a lot of food.  It never mattered–until he wasn’t here and then the absence of those things just proclaimed his love more intensely.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,

and endures through every circumstance.

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The same soulful eyes that talked to us daily, pleaded with us as the pain set in and his heart grew weaker.  The love he taught still pleads with us to not give up on love.  It is worth the grief to have loved well–and to have been loved.

But all of this is truly for a deeper purpose than the love of a great pet. For you see, love is from God.  We thought Scout was a birthday gift, but really he was a gift from God to us as a family.  The gift of Scout was to remind us what real love looks and feels like.  It was to remind us each what love accomplishes–and how to love better.  Scout was to remind us how God loves us and what that love will do if we will really live in the ‘large love’ of God.  Real love transforms!  Have you let Him transform you?

 

 

Family Mission Statement

Have you ever considered writing a family mission statement?  It is a great endeavor.  Years ago as we completed a Crown Financial Ministries Money Map, we were asked to do just that.  As I went over paperwork for tax season, that ‘Money Map’ was in my folder.  It blended so perfectly with my morning devotion time, I want to share the concept with others.  As Christians, we are on a mission for the King of Kings!

This life is all about opportunities for eternity.  It is so easy to become distracted with the earthly that we miss the eternal seedings always possible.  The concept of the Mission Statement is simple.  Take a few moments and consider God’s desire for your life as a family (or as an individual) and build all of your earthly decisions upon that.  Our earthly lives matter…and so does every life we encounter.  Sowing is done in the relationships of life.

Let’s purpose to use the opportunities of today for the good of all we encounter–and the glory of the only One who is Good!  The text in purple is the outline for your Mission Statement.  The text of ours is just a sample.  I’d love to see what God lays upon your heart.  Post back, won’t you?

Describe your purpose as related to:

Relationship with God:  That we will draw closer to God; learn more about who He is and what His plans, purposes & desires for each of us are.

Relationship with family and friends:  That we will be a reflection of God’s love & grace in the lives of others; that we will encourage & exhort others; that we will grow & stay strong in Christ for others; that we will see our weaknesses & failings in light of relationship to others; that we will share the hope Goad has given us; that we will guide & direct our children onto paths of God’s saving grace; that we will live as an example & source of sustenance as we go about our lives.

Summary of our family purpose:  To seek God often and more fully that we might better know Him & reflect Him in our daily lives.  To share God’s love, grace & hope with others.

Family verse:  2 Peter 3:18  But grow in grace & knowledge of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now & forever.

Building a Home

Understanding God’s design for the home is critical because it is what gives our home a solid foundation.  No matter how long we have been married, we need to keep a scriptural view of marriage in the forefront of our mind.

Marriage/Family is:

• A declaration of ‘choosing to love.’ An imitation of God’s creation choice.

• A choice to create a new life—at the expense of self.

• A union created by God; a new life given by Him & sustained by Him

• A mission field, a university of instruction on unity; forum for learning to love unselfishly-unconditionally; forum to learn to build a relationship

• Treasure to be valued, honored and protected

• Intended to produce life—fruit of Godly children (perhaps natural, certainly spiritual children—and produce growth in partners as children of God.)

• Intended to produce the image of Christ’s relationship with the church; two becoming one as we are to be one with Christ as the church is to be united with Christ.

Not intended to fulfill my personal purposes of companionship, pleasure & fulfillment—though those outcomes will result IF my focus is on God’s purposes

Prayer is a necessity:

• Seek scriptures for one another. Wrestle for each other. Colossians 4:12

• Seek to see God’s work and His glory revealed to children. Build a legacy. Psalm 90:16,17

• Triumph is in mercy. Hide in Jesus. James 2:13

• Be confident in God! Hebrews 10:35

 

Families are the foundation of every society…the fabric of the world.  Christian homes are to be a place of nurturing and truth.  Honoring the heritage we have received helps us celebrate both the past and the future.  The Family Heritage Guide is a fun family activity.  Interview elder family members–share your own stories.  Celebrate the gift of family!

Will you commit to pray for your home to be built on the Word of God…and will you commit to pray for other families as well?

Cleaning out the heart

My animals often reveal things in my heart that I can easily manage or bury in day-to-day living.  Yesterday was Gretchen’s turn to clean out my heart.  It was hot and the week had been long and busy.  gretchen-hug  I planned to stop by for a quick pat on the nose and a weight measurement before heading home to dinner with my family.

Gretchen had other plans.  Initially, it seemed we would play a little game that I call, ‘Who’s the lead mare?’  When I’ve not been spending time with her, she likes to make me work to catch her.  I was okay with that–but like every bad habit, it grew–and it wasn’t pretty.

Instead of the usual leisurely trot by me and a stop to see if I was playing, she ran all out from one end of the field to the other–over logs, through brush.  She kept her ear toward me on each pass and stopped at the other end of the field.  A few laps of that and the amusement of the earlier games evaporated.  I had created a monster that needed correction.  And I wasn’t happy about it; it wasn’t on my agenda for the day.

I was due for a heart cleaning…emotionally, spiritually and physically.  I’ll spare you the ugly blow-by-blow physical details but the fly-over includes the pain of twisting my ankles a few times, some angry words, a few angry kicks from Gretchen, and a lot of panting, sweating and heart-thudding from both of us. Like every time that sin & flesh reign, the unrest spills over onto others…Riesa’s horse got into the action by dumping her as she tried to help me.   Struggles reveals weaknesses–and build strength!  Seeing God clearly requires seeing our short-comings and mistakes.

You can’t go with God and stay the way you are!

What Gretchen reminded me was that my agenda is not the rule of the day–nor is it her reason for being.  She is living, breathing creature with certain needs that must be met–and those are not just physical needs of food and shelter.  She needs attention that includes exercise and discipline.  I can’t just indulge her–not can I indulge myself with her.  She’s not just for my enjoyment.  In fact, her reason for being in my life is to increase my awareness of the goodness of God.  Usually she does that with the sweet enjoyment of relationship and working toward common goals.  Yesterday, her stubborn-ness was an effective tool…because she showed me how I am with the One who ‘owns me.’

You see, God often interrupts my plans too.  His ways are not mine.  Like with my horse, most of my God-time is easy awareness of the blessings of relationship.  To me, the work of faith is as much the joy as the relationship.  The principles of the Word work in life as effectively as they work in the barn.  And the joy of seeing God at work usually keeps my heart singing.  He is my heart desire and usually my preferences coincide with His.  I don’t even know that lurking below the surface is that flesh nature simply indulging itself…not sacrificially worshipping at all.

Those times of failing offer the best potential for transformation!

But yesterday, Gretchen and I had a different agenda.  My preferences were not the rule of the day, and my idols bubbled to the surface.  With my preferences pre-empted, I lost my focus on the One who determines everything.  His goodness didn’t change.  His principles didn’t change.  But I forgot to look at them…and failed to implement them.  It’s the blindness we all experience…but Jesus heals!  Infections have to be exposed and cleaned. I am so thankful for how my animals help with that process.

What we don’t see (or feel) can’t be confessed and released.  

God knew my weariness from the week.  He knew my family was waiting for me to get home for dinner.  He also knew I battle being self-centered; I tend to people-please.  Those things interfere with being a surrendered servant.  They need to go.  In His goodness, he used Gretchen to expose them in me.  In her goodness, she worked me over and through them until we implemented some biblical principles of respectful relationship.  Now it is my work to be sure I implement them in my faith walk.

All of life offers us opportunity to experience transformation.  We are all on a journey to becoming like Christ.  

How does God help you see and feel the things He wants to change in you?

 

 

How we live matters.

The chaos and horrors of the world pile up to make us feel helpless and hopeless.  It isn’t true.  Every life has impact; every life matters.  We must accept responsibility both for how we live and what we look at.  The children’s song I used to sing with the children is on my heart this morning:

Proverbs says that in the path of the righteous there is no death.  That doesn’t mean that any of us can always do righteously or that no one will die. It means that lives seeking God with passion and perseverance…lives seeking righteousness IN Christ emanate life.

Last evening we looked at these verses from Romans.

Romans 8:24-25New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Many believe in Jesus…accept ‘fire insurance’ so to speak.  We are willing to believe in the face of what they cannot control…but then set out to control everything else.  We have a ‘confident assurance’ for eternity but doubt God’s ability to handle a car repair or a disability or …. you name whatever robs your peace.

We only believe what we live.  Peace is possible in the midst of ALL things.  I was compelled to write this this morning after reading of a recent martyrdom in the Middle East.  The article is painful to read.  It reminded me both of the reality of my faith for life…and the impact of lives focused on Jesus.  I want to be found faithful.  I want to live–and die–to the glory of God.  It takes time, focus and intentional living.  Let’s do it!

When the eight victims were forced to kneel for their beheadings, all eight prayed loudly.

“Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s Prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus,” the ministry director explained. “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!'”

 

Seeing God’s Glory in Parkinson’s Disease

Reprint of a column from the Baptist Voice in honor of the birthday of this saint who shows us the way of Christ!  It was our joy to see Dave & Terri on our NY trip this year.  They both press on in the face of Parkinsons–bringing great glory to God.  Love to you both, my friends!  Thank you for helping me grow in grace & knowledge simply by being yourselves!

Parkinson’s disease is relentless and destructive. It attacks the body in a myriad of ways: hand tremors, walking impairments, speech, and even involuntary movements such as blinking. Seldom is Parkinson’s linked to the concept of a blessing. Our victory report today, though, is somehow who sees eternal victories in this earthly curse.   God’s glory is present even in Parkinson’s…

Perhaps you have unknowingly enjoyed some of the victory yourself through attendance at one of the Southern Gospel concerts at First Baptist Church of Port Crane. Dave Samson, the concert organizer, is God’s victorious soldier of today’s column. His victory report is not without the reality of damage inflicted through Parkinson’s. The loss of his job and its income; increased difficulties with basic and necessary daily tasks: speaking, writing, typing, buttoning a shirt, driving, walking; impairment of his carpentry hobby; and greater burdens on his wife and family are all part of Dave’s battlefield losses. Nevertheless, Dave also sees a field of sowing and harvesting created by the Parkinson’s because it narrowed his options and increased his focus!

Dave had long enjoyed listening to Southern Gospel Concerts. He and his wife, Terri traveled to area performances as their schedules permitted, but never dreamed of organizing local events. As Dave’s disease progressed, his sales career in Christian resources became difficult to the point of danger. His driving ability impacted by the disease, Dave accepted the need to apply for disability. The debilitation to Dave’s overall motor function sped the disability process along and financial worries were somewhat eased. However, Dave officially became ‘disabled’ rather rapidly, and he felt at loose ends. Though all of his movements had slowed, he still wanted to live fully!

Much to his frustration, the diagnosis generated such sympathy from those who cared that others often restrained him from doing even what he could. In fact, the kind intentions began to make him feel not like an invalid but as if he were simply in-valid—of no apparent use anymore. Fortunately, Dave believed (and believes) that when God allows one door to close, it is so He can clear the path to a better doorway. Such was the case in this situation.

It began when Dave agreed to the simple task of making a phone call to find out about the availability of a gospel group. It has grown to a Southern Gospel concert ministry with hundreds who attend at a tiny country church in rural New York. Every concert touches hearts for Jesus; many times, there are professions of salvation or rededication.

Dave willingly pays the physical costs for this labor of love. He says his illness has given him time; the ministry provides him purpose. He sees victories that are eternal because he accepts the disease as filtered through by the loving hand of the Sovereign Father. Is there something in your life that needs a new perspective? Ask God to show you how He can transform your roadblock into a doorway to blessing!

Jeremiah 29:11

What Good is Praying?

The coming elections evoke much heated discussion.  Every hot button topic of society flares up as the issues boil down to the choice of one candidate.  This won’t be a piece on whom you should vote for or what you should consider.  It is a glimpse of how God works individually in the midst of our lost world.  That is the hope we must bring to the world because every political issue is a storm that obscures our view of souls precious to God.

Look for individual needs and seek the face of God.  Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father….to pray!  What greater work can we undertake than imitating Him.  This is a call to prayer for we who wear the name Christian.  Prayer for one person at a time…prayer that God’s will be done in each and every life beginning with our own… Prayer is the key choice we must make no matter whom our nation elects.

I don’t know the global answers or the national answers, but I do know God speaks to us individually as we navigate our way through this fallen world.  The story below is one I wrote several years ago…the story of a Christian caught in a dilemma of conscience and career…a story of calling out to God.

I don’t need all the answers because I know the One who wrote the story…and its ending.  History unfolds every day; my choice is to go my own way or seek the direction of the Director.  Prayer–for myself, for others–links me up to the very heart of God.  When I don’t have a clue about the plan, I can have confidence in the Planner.

First published in The Baptist Voice, Conklin, NY, 2011

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. (Psalms 91:14)

Our victory report today is of a devoted young Christian who came face-to-face with sacrificing her dreams to make a stand for Jesus Christ. Her personal courage and convictions join with the Lord’s work to provide us with an opportunity to rejoice.

The legality of abortion in America has created a dilemma for pro-life medical professionals. In many instances, the law requires one to set aside personal moral convictions. Jane understood the situation and actually chose a medical university located in a state with what is known as a ‘conscience law.’ This is a law that protects pro-life medical staff from being required to assist with any procedure they personally find morally objectionable (e.g. abortion). Sadly, Jane learned that the law is not necessarily extended to Christian medical students.

Well into her graduate studies, Jane was assigned to work in a family planning clinic. Recognizing that the stated requirement of ‘abortion counseling’ did not mean offering a pro-life viewpoint, Jane approached the Dean. He informed her that she was the only student who had ever objected based on moral concerns, and that the requirement would not be altered to accommodate her views. She was informed that failure to perform the duties assigned would result in a failing grade. Completing her education would be impossible. Praise God, He deals with the impossible perfectly!

With great trepidation, Jane prepared to work at the clinic—and to face the spiritual battlefield. Her family engaged prayer support through their church and internet chains; prayer for her courage to stand strong and for God to orchestrate the details perfectly. As Jane began her rotation, the dean firmly told her “leave your (moral) baggage at the door when you see patients…”

Jane’s plan was to approach the supervising physician directly with her concerns; however, the busyness of the clinic prevented any such private conversation. The first week passed in a whirl with no abortion-counseling situation arising. Rather than simply hope for the best for the duration of the rotation, Jane made the difficult decision to contact her Supervisor at home. Despite his reputation as a rather irascible individual, the doctor was gracious and supportive. A former Catholic, he respected her convictions and protected her from the obligation to provide abortion counseling! God provided the requested courage for Jane, managed the caseload she was assigned and worked in the heart of the supervising physician. God is faithful!

As Americans, we know our country was founded by individuals who were willing to sacrifice for their personal beliefs. What a joy to know the same depth of conviction lives on in a young American. Might we all support one another in prayers and by living with such integrity. We do not want a world that believes moral convictions can be ‘checked at the door.’ We need courage like Jane’s—we need to be prayer warriors!

Living Legacies!

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2

Typically, the beautiful treasures of this life are found only through deep searching. Sometimes, though, the amazing grace of God reveals Truth in moments of mercy. Such glorious truths are never meant for one heart alone. In fact, the light God gives that we do not share becomes darkness. But that’s another topic. Today, I want to share a glimpse of God’s purposeful work across generations. It encouraged me, and I offer it with a prayer that it will energize you as well.

Our family moved hundreds of miles from our ‘roots’ in rural New York State a few years ago. Each year we go ‘home’ to visit those who share history with us. In every life, legacies are worked out…good inheritances and bad. Within all of it, God works! When we receive that work, His good purposes come to fruition.

This year we were invited to attend church with a loved one. The invitation itself was evidence of the work of God in her life. Delighted to celebrate this new connection to the Body, we went with little expectation of anything more than ‘church’ and the joy of being with our loved one. The church was one I had intermittent connection with over the years. And it was a great church service—good fellowship with old friends who were there, an excellent Biblical message, a church that was thriving. It was much more than that, though.

That particular church was part of my uncle’s life legacy. He had been one of the founding members and part of the building team. As I sat in that building, I suddenly realized it was more a part of my legacy than I knew—and more than the church—or its members–could have known. Interactions with that church—and people in it—dotted my memory. In the times those connections happened, they did not feel impactful—and sometimes not even positive. But God was at working His plan in and through those who were faithfully—but imperfectly following Him.
Along with that awareness, there was much more of the weaving God there. The music came from a church one of my South Carolina friends attends…a friend who attends Bible Study in our home. Other worshippers at the service were from a church that had greatly influenced our marriage and family decades before. Every connection I recognized throbbed with the purpose of God and the imperfection of the earthly—and God was in it all.

He was there in my own rebellion and insecurity, in my grief and in my lostness. He was there in the church split that brought new folks to this church. He was there in the message. He is present in the controversies that surround the church that produced the music. God knows and uses it all because His purposes will not be thwarted. God weaves our strengths and weaknesses for our good and His glory. He is never put off by our inadequacy because His strength is perfect in our weakness.

Feeling the presence of God link my past to my present

fills me with enthusiasm for the future!

As I began processing all that I realized that is how God works. We don’t always see what He is doing, but the Great I AM is always present; His plans always underway. And as I thought about that, the complexity of legacies gave me fresh awe for God. My Grandma’s passion for Bible Reading sowed seeds that produced a harvest in my uncle’s life. He, too, fed on the Word daily. Perhaps other legacies being eradicated kept those seeds from rooting in my dad’s life…but they flourish in mine. In the fullness of time the beautiful work of God will overcome the destructive legacies as Light is spread by faithful servants.

That transforming light is SO needed. Because in every life, there are ugly realities inherited as well. Suicides, alcoholism, divorce, broken relationships, and strong-willed independence are part of my inheritance too. The work of the enemy is what Jesus came to destroy. As we seek Him, we produce a legacy of seeds that can do just that. We can’t do it for another…but passionately seeking Jesus individually produces a “Taste and See” life that God will use. He is faithful to His promises. Even when we cannot see it, He is at work.

I’d love to hear how you see God at work in your heart and life.  I pray those of you connected to this piece because of our shared lives will see God at work in your lives in fresh new ways.  He is good and worthy of praise.  Rejoice in Him. Live in Him.

 

Wisdom in Action

Yesterday we looked at the Spirit of Wisdom.  Today, enjoy a look at the promise in action from a friend of mine!

The lofty ideas of scripture may make our hearts soar in the pews on Sunday morning or in our morning devotion times, but those ideas brought into the trenches do even more: they allow the glory of God to blaze. Jesus did not come to delight our hearts; He came to give us abundant life! Last week we considered the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that infuses Christ’s character. Let’s walk today with a sister-in-Christ who allowed that Spirit to sustain her in the trenches of life.

The circumstances of our days can either block our view of Christ or lift us closer to Him. Elizabeth, a home school mother, felt overwhelmed as she faced the many tasks a new school year brought. Each responsibility felt weighty on its own: educating her own children, meeting her missionary responsibilities through Campus Bible Fellowship, editing a discipleship course, caring for the needs of family and serving in their church. All of us know the all-consuming weariness and despair the ‘simple’ tasks of life can bring. Sometimes it feels that survival is the best we can hope for in life: that is the lie of the enemy thrown up to block our vision of the risen Christ!

Early in the year, Elizabeth encountered a quote that God used to lift her eyes to the possibilities placed before her: “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Throughout the year, Elizabeth embraced the challenge to view her ‘impossible situations’ as opportunities for God. Mid-way through the year, her pastor quoted a verse she had known for years: ‘Without me, ye can do nothing.’ The Spirit grabbed that truth and immediately brought another to mind: ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.’ Listen to how Elizabeth describes the ‘Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ that infused her with those words:

“For the first time I noticed the identical words in those two verses I had memorized years earlier. Without Christ I CAN DO nothing, but by His strength I CAN DO everything He wants me to do–even what seems humanly impossible.”

Elizabeth gives us a great example of the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation instilling confidence and hope for her earthly walk! Often, our minds know truths but our hearts fail to connect the realities of our life with the spiritual truths of Christ. God has plans and purposes for each of us; we need only to look to Him to have those plans fulfilled. In our faith walk, as we grow more like Christ, the Spirit continually uses the circumstances of life to highlight the truths we have hidden in our hearts and reveal the glory of God. What truths are you storing up for the Spirit‘s use in your heart and for the revelation of His glory?

Joy in the Journey

God is always present.  He is the Great I AM.  Sometimes we struggle to see His fingerprints on our lives.  Joy in the Journey comes as we seek to recognize the work of God in our lives–and in the lives of those around us.

Joy in the Journey is a tool box for those wanting to know more of the presence of God.  This book is useful for individual or group study.  Workshops for small group leaders or multi-week studies can be arranged for groups wishing to dig deeper into the topic.  The books are available for individual purchase at Amazon and CreateSpace.   A PDF version of the book can be ordered below:

Joy in the Journey PDF

God desires for us to ENJOY this life! He has given it to us as a gift. Joy in the Journey provides tools for unpacking the gifts He has given! Exploring the seasons of life–and God’s presence in each–deepens understanding and reveals the fingerprints of God in every detail of life. Utilizing journaling and insights from such greats as St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila’s ‘Interior Castle’, Joy in the Journey leads you toward the abundant life Jesus desires for you!

$1.99

More information on Workshops is available here.

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