Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Loss of a Legand

He was a modern-day legend and icon of my lifetime, and it is hard to believe it's even true, but Steve Jobs passed away today. The story of his success has inspired an entire generation. I grew up knowing the story it seems, from humble beginnings in his parents' garage, a college drop out, to becoming a multimillionaire in his early 20s. He is responsible, not just for the success of Apple, but also for that of Disney-Pixar, and, in many ways I think he was seen as the image of what it means to really "make it" in this world. Yet, with all of the power, all the technology, all of the wealth and fame, he could not escape a tragic and early end, much like Walt Disney, Jobs corporation will continue, sadly without the benefit of his vision and leadership.

Christ's followers also suffered the premature loss of a leader. In response they scattered, becoming disorganized and afraid. Fortunately, unlike the leaders of Apple, Christ's followers did not have to continue on with out him.  Three days after his death he rose again, and he is still seated at the right hand of God the Father, leading his people through his Word and Spirit. Aren't you glad to serve a risen Savior, not a lost legend?

RIP Steve Jobs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dress for the Job You Want

A mentor of mine used to tell me, "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." I was a college student at the time, and would often just blow off this statement.  I would think, "but I'm not there yet, what is the point." I didn't really understand what she was trying to say to me.

Now that I'm in Divinity School, working toward a M.Div. degree, I'm starting to see the wisdom of her words.  Every semester we have a special chapel service at school to commission the new students as they begin their theological education.  It is a lovely service and definitely a time to wear your "Sunday best."  This year in particular it was special because we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the divinity school with an elegant and special lunch.  I went out and bought a new suit for the occasion.

 After lunch, however, I had just enough of a break to go home and change before my next class, so I took advantage of the opportunity.  When I arrived back on campus a little while later, in my black capris and my mickey mouse t-shirt, I felt suddenly completely out of place.  Most of my classmates had not had opportunity to change, and were still in their chapel clothes. Sitting there, the words of that wise mentor came back to me.  "Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."

As I was preparing to head for the church where I am currently working as an intern for part of my requirements, those words came back to me again.  I was prepared to lead in a women's ministry meeting, with a short Bible study and even a hand out with some things to be discussed.  I knew, as an intern, and the youngest woman at the table, and especially in the very relaxed setting of this church, that I could easily have gone in the casual outfit I was wearing, but I didn't.  I changed into the suit that I'd worn to chapel the day before, and I think it paid off.  The ladies noticed right away, and I think I gained a new level of respect, even as the youngest woman in the room.

In reflecting on this lesson learned for me, I could not help but think about the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:11-14.  In this passage Paul reminds us that we are to live as if we are already in "the day." He's talking about living as if we are already walking in the day of Christ's return, when He will establish His Kingdom with us.  He says to put off the darkness, and put on the light.  In essence, when Paul says, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh" (Rom. 13:14), he is really saying, "Dress for the job you want in the Kingdom, not for the temporary position you hold on this earth." What job do you want in the Kingdom?  Are you dressed properly for the One who has the power to grant that job to notice you?

Friday, September 2, 2011


As a child, I dreaded Vacation Bible School. I would always go for at least a couple of days at my grandmother's church and I always thought it was so boring.  There were no cool songs to sing, no decorations or theme, there were snacks I supposed, but not very creative ones, and the only crafts I remember making were homemade bookmarks.  We would spend forever in the sanctuary memorizing long passages of scripture and, to be honest, the only thing that I really can quote to this day from those Bible schools is this:

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, and I will hide its word in my heart that I might not sin against God.

These are wonderful words, and I know that some of them are taken from Scripture, but they are not exactly words that changed my heart and made me excited about Jesus.  In fact, I don't even remember having the Gospel presented to me at those Bible Schools, at least not in a way that I could understand.

It is amazing how much VBS has changed since then. Over this summer, my three children went to FIVE different Vacation Bible Schools, three of them with different themes, and all very different from the ones I grew up with.  Each church made every effort to transform the sanctuary and Bible study classrooms.  There are awesome songs that teach the Biblical truths and Scripture verses. The snacks and crafts are amazingly creative, and the games are a lot of fun. Most importantly, the VBS curriculums today teach leaders how to present the Gospel to children in age appropriate terms. Unlike when I was a child, these kids want to come.  They look forward every year to seeing what the next year's theme will be and they leave singing the songs and telling the Bible stories.  They are excited about Jesus.

What are your fondest VBS memories?  Are there any songs or Bible stories that you remember specifically? Maybe you accepted Christ as Savior because of VBS, or maybe you were like me, bored to tears and wishing you could be anywhere else on those beautiful summer days.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reflections on Luke 10:38-42

When I was a teenager, my pastor initiated a new program in our church. It involved holding in-home, small group Bible studies. Of course, my parents were among the first to volunteer to host a study in our home, and, on Friday nights, three couples, each with a teenage daughter, gathered in our living room. This sent my mom into a frenzy of activity. She would clean and shop for a full day, always looking for a new recipe to try, then she would serve as hostess for the two or three hours they were there. After they left, she immediately started doing dishes and straitening up. Everything had to be just right for her guests. Imagine what it would have been like if the guest had been Jesus himself.

Martha didn't have to imagine. In Luke 10, Jesus and his disciple were the guests she was to entertain at her home in Bethany.  I imagine her running around, much like my mother when I was younger.  She made sure everything was spotless, the food looked as good as it smelled, and no one ever went with an empty cup. Maybe she caught a word, here or there, of Jesus' teaching and pondered it as she was doing dishes or preparing the meal, but perhaps her distractions were so great that she didn't even take the time to process the little nuggets of truth.  It was, after all, her duty as a woman to serve.

Mary took a different approach to Jesus' visit.  She sat, listening to his teachings.  I imagine her hanging on every word he said, letting them sink in to her heart and her mind.  Women were not supposed to learn in this way.  Most rabbis would have condemned her and sent her away to serve alongside her sister.  She was sitting as a disciple, among the disciples.

Martha, overwhelmed by all the work to be done, expected Jesus to follow the cultural norms and insist Mary do her duty.  After all, wasn't it important work to minister to the needs of one's guests? Later on Paul will even call this kind of service a spiritual gift ans some will even be set aside as "deacons" or literally servants.

Jesus' response to her is interesting.  He doesn't tell her not to serve at all, but he tells her only one thing is necessary.  He knew it was important to her to be helpful, bu he also did not need her to work herself into a frenzy.  Mary had chosen the better task, to spend time listening, letting his words abide within her.

As women, many of us find ourselves like Martha. We need to keep in mind the same thing Jesus tried to teach her.  We should not neglect serving those who Christ brings to us, but we also do not need to work ourselves to death. The most valuable thing we can do, for ourselves and for those God placed in our lives is to bring them to the feet of Jesus.  We need to learn with them there how to be more like him in every aspect of our lives.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Overturning Tables

Several of the Gospel writers record a very similar account of a particular event in the life of Jesus.  Matthew 21 is my favorite account of the story.  Jesus has just rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the Highest!" As he enters, obviously drawing a crowd, He goes straight to his "Father's House," the Temple. Upon entering He does something He must have wanted to do since he was a boy astonishing the teachers with his wisdom.  He turns over the moneychangers' tables and begins to admonish them, quoting from the book of Isaiah 56:7, "MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE PEOPLES!" but, "you have turned it into a robber's den!" Then He does something that seems to make the Scribes and Chief Priests even more upset.  He heals the lame and the blind in the temple.  He also accepts praise from a group that his own disciples once tried to get rid of and many today wrongly believe should be seen but not heard in church, the children! While Jesus gladly accepted the praise of those who were the least in society, who had the fewest rights and who were the most helpless, the priests where indignant that He would not only disrupt business as usual in the temple, but then allow these undesirables to give praise to Him right in the temple court.

I understand why this was so unsettling for the priests and Sadducees and Scribes working in the temple.  They did not understand who Jesus was, or why he had come.  They had not experienced his saving grace or accepted his free gift of forgiveness of sin.  The church today, however, knows and understands all of those things, so surely we would never react the way the Chief Priests did toward anyone who was seeking to worship the Savior? While most of us would be quick to answer, "No, of course we wouldn't," I came across a news story that demonstrates a church that did just that in the name of "distraction free worship." All this family sought to do was worship on Easter Sunday morning, the church should be the one place that the family of a special needs child should be able to come and feel loved, accepted, and wanted, not feel like a burden or an inconvenience. There should be no one excluded from worship, but all should be freely allowed to come and express in whatever way they are able their praise and honor to the Lord.

What is it that you are doing to make sure that your church is, "A house of prayer for all people?" What is your congregation doing to allow the "Little children" to come to Jesus? What are we, as God's people doing to reach out to those in our society who are the most hopeless and helpless and who have no voice?  Are we defending them, accepting them, loving them as Jesus did, or are we ignoring them and turning the other way in the name of connivence?

Monday, May 30, 2011


For many families this is a weekend for bar-b-q and fun in the pool.  I have many wonderful memories of the whole family at my grandparents pool on weekends like this, or at the beach or a spring where we would enjoy hamburgers and hotdogs and get burnt to a crisp while splashing in the surf or tubing down the rapids at Rock Springs in the wonderfully cold water.  I don't know about any of you, but I never really thought about why we celebrate this unofficial "Beginning of Summer" weekend when I was a kid.  I just enjoyed it.

Now that I'm grown I have a better understanding and know that this day is set aside as a remembrance.  I love that I live in the USA and enjoy so many freedoms the rest of the world, especially women in the rest of the world, do not have.  I thank God for the veterans who have fought and especially for those who have died for that.  Today is a day to remember them.

But, even as we remember their sacrifice, there is one who paid a bigger price for us, and he has also left us a symbol of remembrance.  I was blessed with the opportunity to worship with my brother and his wife yesterday, and, as we took communion as the ultimate symbol of remembrance, the pastor challenged us to remember the life and death of the One who gave all for us.  He did not give himself for us out of a sense of duty, nor out of a sense of pride, but out of the purest love, agape. He didn't give himself for the life of a friend, or even for the life of a country, but for the redemption of the whole world and everyone in it.  Most importantly he didn't fight in a battle to save his own life, but he freely laid it down because he knew it was the only way any could have true peace with God and even with ourselves.  This Memorial Day remember and be thankful.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What's to Celebrate?

News travels very fast in the world  today.  I went to bed early last night, not knowing what had happened half way around the world. This morning I woke up to facebook posts, blogs, and news stories informing the world about the death of Osama Bin Laden.  The reactions were mixed, some posts were jubilant, some were attempts to put a comical spin on the situation (as I'm certain many late night comedians will attempt to do), others were concerned and sincere. As I consider the events of the last few days, I cannot help but wonder what they mean for the future.  Undoubtedly some of Bin Laden's followers will want to strike back and avenge his death. After all defending someone that we sincerely believe is right is a natural human response that even the Apostle Peter was prone to give in to.  Surely this event is not the end of terrorism and all the horrors that it brings any more than Hitler's death brought an end to war or genocide on the planet. So what are we celebrating and what should our response as Christians be?

I remember 9/11/2001 very well.  I remember coming into the day room at the dorm and watching live coverage as the plane hit the second tower.  I remember the feeling that, I think, struck all of us at that moment.  The feeling of wanting revenge and of needing to blame someone.  But Romans 12 gives instructions to Christians what to do.  Verse 21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Paul wants us to remember that we are to reach out in peace, as ambassadors representing the goodness of God.  We need not seek retribution, just as Jesus did not seek it on the cross.  We should not rejoice of the death of one who has done so much wrong, but we should pray for those who are angered by it, that they would find the peace of God.  I want to close this blog with the facebook status I found to be most appropriate and thoughtful.  "Rejoice that he will no longer kill. But mourn that he never knew Christ."

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Wedding

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I am a bit of a Disney Fanatic.  They also know that my favorite Disney movie is Cinderella.  The classic and beautiful story of the common girl who became a princess.  Today, a real life Cinderella story of sorts took place.  The wedding of Prince William, future king of England to the commoner, Kate Middleton captivated most of the world today.  It was a beautiful ceremony, and the love story most little girls dream about all their lives, the opportunity to become a real live princess.

It reminded me of another wedding that will happen one day when Christ will return for His Bride, the Church.  We are the Bride, not simply of the future king of an earthly nation, but the Bride of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who is over all the nations.  We will not be greeted by mere church bells, but by the singing of angels.  Today was a glorious day indeed for the British people.  That day will be glorious for all of us who are ready and waiting for the Lord's coming in glory.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Count the Cost

In the early church, faith in Christ came at a cost. The earliest Christians often lost family and friends because they gave up their religion. They may have even lost property and businesses because of persecutions at various times. Many were imprisoned and tortured for their faith. Many died as martyrs. After Constantine issued the “Edict of Milan” much of that changed. The threat of persecution ended and being a Christian no longer involved the threat of martyrdom. It was around this same time that the rise of a new movement in the Christian life began to emerge. That new movement would come to be known as Monasticism.

The father of this movement, an Egyptian named Anthony, died in 356. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote down Anthony’s story a year later. According to Athanasius, it was the Gospel account of Jesus telling the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor that compelled Anthony. He applied this statement directly to himself, gave up all his possessions, and went to the dessert to pursue a life wholly focused on God.

Monasticism has changed and developed over the centuries since Anthony was first compelled to go into the dessert. Monastics have found ways to separate themselves from the world in order to pursue holiness both individually, as anchorites, and in communities, like those who follow the rules of St. Basil or St. Benedict. Clearly, not everyone is called to the monastic life of course. However, as Ivan Kauffman states so beautifully in his book Follow Me, “The monks demonstrated, as the martyrs before them had, that Christian faith makes it possible for ordinary people to live in an entirely new way, but they did so in a new way – by their lives rather than their deaths.” Maybe this is what it means to daily take up our crosses and follow Him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

For Christians, Good Friday is a day of remembrance and reflection.  It is the day we look to the cross and the blood that was shed by the one who knew no sin so that we could be redeemed.  The events of this day allow us a personal relationship with God and teach us to love others with the love of Christ, by being willing to lay down our own lives for them.  I can not understand then why one Florida pastor wants to use it as a day of hate and protest.  In the Fox news article from this morning the same may whose act of burning a Koran sparked riots and even led to the death of Americans, is planning a protest for today outside of a Mosque in Detroit, MI.

The thought that anyone who claims Jesus as Savior could take this day to propose such an event is inconceivable.  Jesus said he did not come to condemn, but to give life.  He did not protest when they came to take Him away, but went willingly and peacefully to the cross.  Today, of all days on the Christian calendar, should be the day when we seek to spread Christ's peace, and love to a lost and dying world.  I hope that each of us will find a way to share with someone what is "Good" about today, the broken body and the shed blood of our Lord.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Already, but Not Yet

We live in an instant society.  We can have food cooked in minutes, have messages sent, received, and responded too in less than an hour, post writing and video with the click of a mouse for the whole world to see, and even send pictures instantly to friends and family no matter where they are through the touch of a button on our cell phones.  It isn't any wonder why the attention span of most of us is very short and why we grow impatient waiting for more than a couple of minutes for anything.  The concept of, "All things come to those who wait," seems ridiculous.  "Good things take time," is almost laughable in our society.  I think we have forgotten the joy and excitement of anticipation, of looking forward to something wonderful that we know is ready and waiting for us.

As a Christian, when I reflect on the story of that first Easter Sunday, I can't help but think about Mary as the story unfolds in the 20th chapter of John's gospel.  Undoubtedly she was weeping and heartbroken over the events of the days before, as she approached the tomb with Peter and John by her side. Finding it open and empty, the two disciples who had been so close to Jesus in his ministry gave up, abandoning her to return to their homes.  There Mary stood, abandoned, hurting, confused.  She had experienced what it was like to walk with Jesus.  She'd watched Him heal people with a word or a touch. When she turned and sought comfort from the gardener, a total stranger, she once again knew what it was like for pain to disappear with a single word.  "Mary," he said, and there was instant recognition, instant healing, and an instant response.  Then Jesus asked her to wait.  "Stop clinging to me," he said, then he instructed her, "go, tell my brothers."  Jesus was already there, in the flesh, before her eyes, but she could not yet celebrate the way she longed to.

So it is with the church.  The Kingdom of God is already here in our midst.  Jesus has made it possible for us to be a part of God's family and of God's perfect plan.  We celebrate it the best we know how and proclaim it from the nations, but we can not yet celebrate the way we long to, around His glorious throne.

What about in your individual lives?  Is there something that you can already see, and touch in your life, that you are waiting for?  Maybe you are expecting a baby or a grandchild and looking forward to the day you can finally hold him or her in your arms.  Maybe it's an opportunity that you can not tell anyone about yet, but you are certain it is there and you are waiting for the moment you can fully enjoy and celebrate.  I don't know what it is that you are looking forward to in your life, but I hope and pray that you learn to enjoy the anticipation as much as you enjoy the celebration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What Will You Give?

Growing up in a rural Southern Baptist Church, I was never really exposed to the season of Lent.  I thought that it was something that Catholics and maybe Episcopals did and Protestants didn't do.  Now that I have been privileged  to attend Divinity School for several semesters where I have had a great deal of opportunity to study the history of many Christian traditions, I have a growing appreciation for the seasons of the church calendar, including the 40 days leading up to Easter known as the season of Lent.

When I came across this news story about a boy who really takes seriously this special time of year that Christians set aside to remember Christ's sacrifice, I could not help but be moved by it.  This teenager in Missouri gave up speaking for 40 days.  According to the article some of his friends didn't understand why he was doing this, and some even walked away, but that didn't matter to this young man.  He plans for his first words on Easter Sunday to be words of thanksgiving to God for the gift of His Son.

What about the rest of us?  What small sacrifice are we willing to give to show our thankfulness to God for His unspeakable gift?  Are you willing to possibly loose friends in the process?  Many in the early church gave everything, even their lives to follow Christ.  Every year they fasted for 40 days prior to Easter, ending in a celebration of the Resurrection.  I hope to challenge everyone who reads this, including myself, to find ways to give up something for the Glory of the One who gave us everything.

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31

Friday, April 8, 2011

Forever Families

International adoption is a subject that is very close to my heart.  My best friend works for an agency that helps children find their "forever families" and one day my husband and I hope to provide that permanent family to a child who is left without one.  So when I read about countries that work to slow down the process, forcing these children who have already been through so much to stay in orphanages longer, rather than getting them home more quickly, it saddens me.

Ethiopia has, up until recently, been a place where children had the opportunity to get to their new homes quickly.  As many as fifty cases were reviewed a day, allowing the adoption process to move smoothly and relatively quickly.  Recently however, they limited their case load to five cases a day.  This will potentially cut the number of adoptions up to 90%. That means children and parents are going to be forced to wait to be united.  Who can possibly benefit from such a delay, the children, the parents, the caregivers in the orphanage who are probably already overrun with children to care for?

Isn't it good to know that our Heavenly Father doesn't delay in hearing our case.  When we come to Him we don't have to wait for a government agency or any other third party to grant us permission to cry out, "Abba, Father."  Ephesians 1:4-6 says that he chose us "before the foundation of the world" and predestined us to adoption as His children, for His glory.  I pray, every day, for children around the world who are without a family to be allowed to join their "forever families," but more than that, I pray every day that those who are not part of God's Forever Family will come to Him in Faith and find in Him their "Abba."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Attention to Detail

Yesterday was the first day of games for our church's Upward Soccer league 2011 season.  As league directors we are responsible for making sure that games start on time, players and their families know which field to play on and which color jersey to wear, every game has a referee, concessions run smoothly, half-time devotions are covered, and that 150 children, their families, and coaches leave with smiling faces.  We don't do all these things alone, there is a great deal of help available to us, but ultimately it is our responsibility if a detail is overlooked.  After spending a great deal of time yesterday attempting to make sure all our bases were covered the best we possibly could, we left the field a little after three.  We were not the last to leave, and believed that the couple of people who were left would cover the last few clean up details.  We drove back by the church a couple hours later to discover we were very wrong.  No one had taken the two bags of trash to the dumpster and the wind had scattered it all across the soccer field!  Trash was everywhere, littering the field and the wooded area surrounding it.  The garbage we thought was taken care of had come back to haunt us.

How many times does this happen in our own lives?  We think we have something contained and it comes back even more fiercely than before.  Maybe it's unforgiveness or bitterness about something that we think we have locked away.  Maybe it's some bad habit that we think we have kicked and it comes back when we find ourselves in a stressful situation.  Whatever it is in our life that we believe we have under control may be just a good strong wind away from wreaking havoc all over again.  There is One who is able to help us overcome the garbage in our lives.  He will be our strength in time of weakness and stress, He is the one who is able to calm the winds in our lives or to help us find a place of peace and rest so that we can withstand the storms.  He is the Lord Jesus, who died and rose again so that He could remove all our garbage and replace it with "abundant life."

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB)

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Fear in Love

My family got our first family pet last week.  My four year old daughter has been wanting a four-legged creature pretty much since the day she could talk, and for her birthday we finally broke down and adopted a dog.  She is very sweet, completely house trained, but extremely shy and timid, especially around the kids.  Even though she runs almost every time they try to pet her, all three kids, especially my youngest, love her to pieces.  Yesterday, the dog must have finally had enough, because the moment she saw an opportunity, she ran.  After backing out of her collar when my husband was trying to get her to come in after her walk, we spent over an hour tracking down and then trying to catch the terrified and freezing  pup.  She has no idea how to be loved, and we are quite inexperienced in how to love an animal, but we are doing our best to show her that we love her very much.

Unlike our love, our Heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love, and yet we sometimes run from Him in fear.  Adam and Eve were afraid, so they hid from God.  Jonah tried to run from God and found himself in the belly of a fish. I would guess that nearly everyone has run from Him at some time in our lives because we fear punishment for something we've done or maybe because we fear the calling God has for our lives.  The only solution to running in fear is to simply trust His love.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18