Saturday, December 29, 2007

I am so excited as I type this that I can barely sit long enough to do it! It doesn't hurt that I have a Clint Brown praise CD playing, but that's not the biggest reason! (I hesitated to share this at first because the Word encourages us to give in secret, but I really feel led to because this is such a "Glory to God" story--I actually had very little to do with it; it was all Him!) Let me start at the beginning...

Some of you know that I have a special burden on my heart for sexually exploited children. I was raised in a very sheltered environment, where adults could be trusted for provision, safety, and love. I really had no idea how cruel the world could be until I left wide-eyed for college, and even there the world's evils were sugar-coated.

When I began teaching college, however, my students' research projects taught me a lot. My eyes were opened to a lot of shocking realities that people face daily, especially women and girls, on a global scale. As I read the harsh, often personal accounts of victims, saw images of their living conditions, or evidence of unimaginable abuse, I would often just crumble and begin to sob at the injustice of it all. How can this kind of stuff happen? How can people be so filled with hate and utter disregard of others?

Anyway, a few months ago, I received my World Vision gift catalog in the mail. I love getting it every year because you can choose very specific donations to make in someone's name—their gift. Every year I think how much I'd like to do it, and every year I don't. It seems so stupid, but I just let it fall by the way-side because the Christmas lists given to me by family don't include things like “a goat for an impoverished family.”

So I'm flipping through the catalog, occasionally throwing observations up to God like, “Oh, Lord, it would be so cool to donate a home for a family in the Honduras” or “Oh, MAN, would I love to help drill a well for this kid in Malawi, Father!”

And then I got to page 27. If it had been there in years past, I hadn't seen it. In bold white letters, against a black and gray background of the silhouettes of three young girls in dresses and high heels, were the words Sold. Trafficked. Abused. Then in smaller black letters underneath, “An estimated 2 million children are enslaved in the global commercial sex trade—most of them girls. You can give them hope.” (You can see the catalog for yourself at http://www.worldvisiongifts.org/).

Friends, the Holy Spirit stirred in me in a way that I can't fully explain. My stomach turned, my heart rate increased so rapidly that I felt pain in my chest. And my eyes filled to overflowing in no time flat. God made it very clear to me right then and there that this would be the best present I get this year—giving hope to girls in this situation, being Him to them.

I shared with a few folks that this was what I wanted for Christmas, but I received traditional gifts instead. So the crisp new C-note my mom gives us “kids” every year was the answer. Usually, that cash is my “fun” money and I dream about the new boots or clothes I'll get with it. But not this year.

Hallelujah!


I just donated on-line and as I did so, I prayed that God would multiply the donation and use it to bless the precious victims beyond my wildest dreams and to protect them from evil. You know what God did? Just as I finished my prayer, Clint Brown sang, “Satan's defeated. The enemy is under our feet!” AMEN!!! Now, I know that my meager donation won't save them all, and from human perspective will hardly make a dent, but if the enemy is defeated in ONE girl's life..., well, I don't have words for how awesome that would be. And I felt like that's exactly what God promised me as I hit “submit”. What a privilege!!!! What a gift!


A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y'ALL!!! May God's presence rock your world in 2008!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cast your Vote

Attention those of you who have daughters! (And those of you who have sons that will one day marry someone's daughter! And those of you who may teach, work with, or otherwise influence someone's daughter!) I was led to Vickie Courtney's blog to vote on which cover she should use for a book she has coming out. Click on the link and cast your vote too--it's her December 13th post. When I read the title of her book, I immediately thought I have to get this when it comes out! And as I read through her blog, it was like reading my own thoughts. I mean, in the midst of the star of "Zoey 101" getting pregnant at 16, of Gabriella from High School Musical being photographed nude, and LiLo (who my daughters met through "The Parent Trap" and "Herbie the Lovebug ") and all her drug-related exploits, we have GOT to talk to our daughters about right and wrong. How awesome to have someone championing the cause for our daughters, and consequently, our sons, too. That's a bandwagon worth jumping on.

Incidentally, on a completely unrelated matter, I've been neglecting the old blog lately! (Do you notice my gift of stating the obvious?!) Lately, most of my writing energies, especially the ones that address things God has been showing me, have been posted on the Olive Branch (see sidebar). The women's ministry would love to have you visit there, too! :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crazy Hair Day

Last Thursday was “crazy hair” day at school to inspire being crazy about reading. Crazy hair day with the girls has always been easy. Numerous pony tails in weird locations, beads, hair bands, big bows, lots of gel or hairspray, and BAM! Crazy hair heaven.

But not my boy.

Now hear me…I understand why he wouldn’t want bows, beads, or tails (more like horns in this case). I understand a six-year-old boy’s desire to assert his masculinity, especially when little else about him exudes it just yet. That’s cool.

What’s not cool is that he insisted that his adorable blond locks be coated, no PLASTERED, with orange face paint. Mm hmm…you heard me. Waxy, greasy, left-over Halloween face paint.

See, it was all my fault because I hadn’t bought any spray-on, wash-out hair color. (MAN, why had that not been item number one on my shopping list?!) And the boy wanted orange hair.

So with about 10 minutes until the bus was due to arrive, I found what I thought would be an acceptable substitute for the spray (hey, it was orange!). A few streaks around his face and he’d be happy, so I thought.

Uh uh. “Mom, I look like a cheetah with just those few spots. I want it ALL orange.”

“Bud, you don’t realize how hard that’s going to be to get out. Seriously. You could be orange for Thanksgiving,” I tried to scare, I mean reason with him.

He didn’t care; maybe he thought the fall color would be appropriate. Or maybe he’s just stubborn. Variations on the above dialog ping-ponged for several minutes while his sister and I glopped on more and more orange stuff. (I know I probably should have exercised my full parental authority here and just shut the whole process down, but I can relate to the pain of not having my hair the way I want it. What can I say?)

The final result: a head solidly caked with orange face paint crowning a very unhappy face. His expectations did NOT match the outcome. Woe was us.

As I drove the kids to school (oh yes—we’d long since missed the bus), I tried to cheer him up, but when that kid’s in a mood, it lasts --where does he GET that?! When he got out of the car, three kids (one with orange-sprayed hair--argh!) approached him and I prayed that their smiles were ones of delight, not teasing malice.

He was pretty tight-lipped that evening when I asked how his day had gone. He said he “won craziest hair in the class but all that meant was people laughed at him.” Ah.

Shampoo, rinse, repeat x 6 = a very orange bathtub and not-so-orange-anymore hair. But it was still very waxy in texture and a bit rusty tinted. It would have to do. Thankfully, the next day was Friday and I heard there were other left-over indicators of crazy hair day besides the ones Skylar suffered.

What finally got the greasy waxiness out? At the wise promptings of the boy’s father, who is quite knowledgeable about hair and hair care products, I finally tried…Palmolive! If it gets grease off dishes, it should work on hair too, right? Three applications finally did the trick.

Here’s the whole crazy-haired class. Major props go out to Mrs. “Pippi” Wernz! I’m sure there’s no need to point out which kid is mine! ;-)



Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat, 2007!

This poor unsuspecting chef is about to fall into the clutches of...uh...of...now, what was I again? Since most of the effort and planning went into the kids' costumes, Shane and I came up with ours in about five minutes. I just slapped on some scary make-up and a hood, but I'm not really sure "what" I was!


Spiderman battles ornery Pirate Girl to save the Egyptian Queen and her treasures.


Spidey shows off some of his awesome web-throwing technique. He's so dexterous he's even able to web-shoot while protecting his candy bucket from harm!




Egyptian Queen demonstrates how to "Walk Like An Egyptian" to observers. Not only is it an appropriate cultural response to 80's girl band music--esp. the Bangles, but also to Steve Martin's "King Tut." (Oh yes, I really had the "45" for that song!)




More rad moves from Spidey--the "crouch and shoot" position.



Pirate Girl peruses the landscape in search of her ship. Be that her pirate buddies a'sailin' on the horizon, Matey?
Egyptian Queen demonstrates the side-to-side head move, another popular Egyptian dance.



Hammin' it up while waiting on the rest of the posse. Pirate Girl's parrot scouts the ground for snacks. "RAWW RAWW, Polly want a pumpkin seed."



The whole sordid bunch. Even Penny-Poo cooperated for this shot. She was dressed as a furry chocolate bar. :-)



Attitude. Nuf said.


Enjoying the fruits of Trick-or-Treating. Much bargaining, wheeling and dealing, and bartering took place. Ultimately, Spidey saw good conquer evil, Pirate Girl was content with her evening's plunder, and Egyptian Queen was delighted with her new treasure.



The rest of the pictures are from carving pumpkins on Sunday. WE LOVE HALLOWEEN!





Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cave-In-Rock Trip

I hope you'll all indulge me as I share some of my favorite pix from our trip last weekend. We had a great time on our little get-away.

This was our cabin. It was a duplex, so only the right half was ours. We had a beautiful view of the Ohio River and saw some huge barges going by.


Here's the fam standing on a rock at Cave-In-Rock Park. It was just a short walk from the cabin. That's the Ohio River in the background.



This is the name-sake of the place, the "Cave In Rock" where pirates used to hang out in the old days and wait for something to come by they could ambush. Supposedly movies have been filmed here, but we didn't find out which ones. Shane asked some park workers for brochures but they said they don't have any because everything's online now. So he asked if they had internet hook-up. The answer? No. (?????)

The cave goes back farther, but I'm sure you don't want to see ALL my pictures! :-)



This was the scenic outlook at the Garden of the Gods. I was shocked that there were no fences or even warning signs, because one wrong step could've resulted in a fall to the death!


My nerves were shot trying to keep my eye on the kids and with all the other people around, it was tough. The kids LOVED peering over edges and slipping though tight spots. (I kept reminding God of his promise in Psalm 91:11-12. "For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone." I figured they'd keep their heads from striking stones too, Amen?)













This picture represents my favorite part of the trip. We took a hike on a trail at Garden of the Gods called Indian Point. We got off the trail and scaled down from a high point to discover a bunch of little caves and neat places. And we had it all to ourselves! The kids also tried their hand at rock climbing (I stayed on bottom to cushion any falls) and Shane and I were both so impressed with how well they did strategizing where to put their feet and hands.






Back in Cave-In-Rock, we saw a sign for an old jailhouse so we had to go check that out. Like everything else, it was free and standing wide open for anyone to view. The kids had misbehaved so we had them apprehended and taken into custody. :-)










The big jail bust!







Oddly enough, the past came closer to the present than I would've thought. One of the most interesting historic landmarks to the kids was...a telephone booth!!! Shane told them that before cell phones, people had to stop their cars to make phone calls from one of these things. They could not believe you put coins inside. Of course, they had to check it out. This one was actually still in service.
So who'd have thought...The mystery of caves and rock formations, the intrigue of a den for piracy and the backdrop of films, an old-time jail that held real "bad guys" and...a telephone booth. We had a great time!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Woman Fights Blender, Blender Wins

Oh, it was going to be grand! A healthful breakfast packed with antioxidants, protein, phytonutrients, and fiber, AND I knew the kids would like it because they had all given thumbs up prior to this morning. Y’all, I was ON it—I was already dressed, preened, made up, and had now set out to bless my family with a nutritionally high-powered breakfast so they could tackle their day of learning and working.

I loaded the blender with frozen berries, vanilla soy milk, a dash of vanilla, and just a little
bit of sugar. A little chop (for the ice), a little blend (to work it all together), a little liquefy (to thin it just a bit), and—BAM! A fruit smoothie that was even pretty in the dessert glass with a spoon and bendie straw.

Pouring out the kids’ portions had depleted the supply. So for Shane and me, I needed to whip up a new batch. Noooooo problem…

I had to open a new bag of berries and this particular batch was frozen together in big chunks. After adding the other ingredients, I hit chop, then blend, but the berries remained unified in their little ice berg. Equipped with too much confidence, I figured hey, I’ll push down with a spoon just long enough for the blades to grip the ice so it can start chopping, then pull it right out and put the lid back on.

The voice of wisdom faintly reminded me of why I’d had to get a new blender last year when I’d sent a spoon through the glass, ruining blender, spoon, and any hope of a frozen treat. But I disregarded the voice because, after all, I knew what I was doing this time.

Friends, did you know that when the blades start chopping at three billion miles an hour, you don’t have time to get the spoon out before stuff starts flying? About 1/100th of a second after I hit “chop”, my face, hair, ceiling, cabinets, and wall were splotched purple! Deep, dark, blueberry purple. Which stains. Bad.

So the first order of business was to get that stuff off the ceiling, walls, and cabinets. In their infancy, the stains washed off easily. This whole time, the kids were watching me wide-eyed and silent, scared to death to even move until they’d gauged my reaction. As I turned around and saw them in that state, I couldn’t help but start giggling, which opened the floodgates for a great family laugh. How nuts was this, after all?!

I was also pleasantly surprised that my clothes looked as if they’d escaped for the most part! Thank goodness for black, busy prints; if I’d had to decide what to wear all over again, I’d have been late for work, for sure. And there were other areas that needed attention…such as my eyes. Blueberry skins must be a little thicker than contact lenses because they were kind of rough on the ol’ eyelids. Thankfully I plucked them out pretty easily. They also must be kind of sticky because they didn’t want to detach from my hair quite so easily (did I mention staining? I think I’ve discovered an all-natural hair dye if you decide to go punk).

And the blender? Not a nick. It survived to face me another day, a day in which you can bet I’ll be a little more humble as I approach its turbo buttons and blades.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Swatch?

I was reading an article the other day about a new car coming out that's tiny, fuel efficient, and all that. But what I thought was most interesting is that the car's inventor is the same guy who invented Swatch watches! Travel back in time with me, fellow "coming of age in the 80's" peeps, and try to recall. What did your favorite Swatch look like?

Unlike everybody who was anybody, I did not wear eight at one time (guess that made me a nobody). I was a farmer's daughter who considered herself lucky to have even one. And that's all I had, but I loved it. It had one red band, one black band, and the face was green paisley. As I write that, it sounds butt-ugly, but then again, it was the 80's. And then there were the Swatch guards. We couldn't have our Swatches getting scratched now, could we? I had a yellow one, a black one, and I think a blue one. Sometimes I twisted them or funkified them in some other way. But they broke after too much manipulation. I don't know whatever happened to old Swatchie. Maybe it'll turn up one of these days.

You know what's coming...tell me about your Swatches! :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Rescuer

I've gotten so behind on my blogging! But I was catching up on reading some today and ran across this video on Sanya's. I couldn't resist posting it too. Watch it to the end and you will most definitely be blessed. After I watched it, the song "Rescue" that we sing at church kept going through my mind..."I need you Jesus, to come to my rescue...Where else can I go? No other name by which I am saved. Capture me with Grace. I will follow you..."

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=ee73e63418003b47d7d5&msg=Your+feature+request+is+sent+successfuly

Friday, August 17, 2007

Where One Door Closes...

Last night I shut the door on a pretty big part of my life. Literally. I closed my office door at ISU and walked away from a cleared out, empty office. I took my name plate from the door, put it in my “take home” box, and turned in my keys in the secretary’s drop box. Wow. I’d closed that office door behind me and walked down that hallway so many times through the years, often hauling a book bag full of papers to grade. Despite teaching English composition all those years, on my way out I began to get a little mathematical in my thinking…

Ten full years is twenty semesters. Each semester I had four sections, each with an enrollment of right around 25. One hundred students per semester is 200 per year, times 10 years is 2000 students. It varied a bit from course to course, but usually within a semester, my students would write five papers a piece. With each of my students doing that, it means that I graded around 10,000 papers during my time at ISU!!! I really don’t even want to convert that to hours because it might be too painful, plus some papers were a fast grade, as opposed to the research paper which usually took between 30-45 minutes per paper!

But aside from all that grading, I really did enjoy being in the classroom with those students. It will seem really weird next week to know that classes are starting and I won’t be there to welcome in a whole new crop of freshman comp students. And while I know in my heart of hearts that it was time for me to leave, and making the decision to get out of my comfort zone and switch careers was exactly what God showed me he wanted me to do, at least for now, I’m still a bit sentimental about the whole thing. So yes, I’ll close that chapter of the book, but I won’t completely close the door on what that chapter has been grooming me for: the possibility of continuing to impact people from the front of the room, whether indirectly or (prayer of prayers!) quite directly, striving to show them Jesus.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bird Update

I'm afraid I have a very sad update to the last post. Our little cage-dwelling tweeter has flown on home to Glory. Rest in peace, little Buddy.

But on a positive note, the hummers are thriving as much as ever. Check out these snapshots and see if you can find them all...



We'll start out easy. This first one only shows three. :-)


These next two show six in each. Can you see them all? If not look for blurry spots where only a wing may be showing.

Pretty cool, huh? Fascinating creatures. I could wax philosophic here about how like hummingbirds we are, buzzing around with our "buzzy" lives, but requiring constant nourishment from the well-spring of life, the sweet nectar of our Saviour, but I won't. :-)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Eat Like a What?!

You know that saying “She eats like a bird?” As in, “No wonder she’s so skinny. She eats like a bird, ya know.” Well I’m here to tell you it’s a LIE. Birds eat like pigs!

Our household has turned into quite an aviary lately and it’s all I can do to keep up with the appetites of these feathered “friends” of ours. First of all, the hummingbirds are already on their fourth bag (and I mean, the largest-sized sugar bag that Walmart carries) of sugar for the summer. We have a pretty big glass feeder and even though I fill it with sugar water in the morning, it’s empty by the time I get home from work. It’s not unusual to see seven or eight hummers swarming the feeder at once. I’ve been dive-bombed many times as I’m filling the feeder, too. Patience is not a hummingbird virtue.

And now there’s a little tweeter that Maisie found at the bottom of a bush. We bought a cheap bird cage for it because it looks like it’s on the cusp of beginner flight school. Man, is he cute! Still has some of the fluff hanging on, but lots of feathers too. Good ‘ol Pop went and bought crickets so the kids could feed it. It’s also been feasting on blackberries, bananas, and the occasional earthworm or moth. This bird does NOT “eat like a bird” and when hunger pains hit, even in the wee hours of the morning, his not-so-cute “cheep cheeping” lets us know loud and clear.

So the next time you see a slim figure and decide to comment on said figure’s eating habits, say she must eat like a fish, squirrel, or whatever, but definitely not a bird. :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jesus Was At The Hospital

A few days ago, the P31 devotion discussed making decisions based on the “Jesus Approval” stamp. I can relate to that concept because of a decision my husband and I had to make recently.

Many of you know that my six-year-old son had surgery on his feet last Friday. I kid him about being bionic now (think six-million dollar man!) because he had titanium implants put in each foot to keep his ankles from rolling in. This wasn’t a surgery that was considered essential by some, but Shane and I wanted it for him so that he won’t suffer the same back problems his flat-footed great uncle now suffers, when he becomes an adult. I had prayed for God to show me through His Word if this surgery was against His will. I mean, a part of me wondered if we should just leave the situation in the hands of the Great Physician, ya know?

But God never gave me that nudge not to proceed; in fact, I perceived quite a bit of confirmation to go ahead. I knew right then that God would use our being at the hospital to bring himself Glory and I realized I could stamp this decision with “Jesus Approval.” Just look at what God did while we were there…

*Skylar’s attitude was remarkable during the whole thing…no crying or whining, except just as he was waking from the anesthesia. Many staff members commented on his cute personality and cooperation, and I believe (at the risk of being a biased parent) that this kid was a tremendous witness for Jesus by his bravery and peace.

*When the surgeon came out to the waiting room after the surgery, he said, “God was looking out for your son today.” (I had my Bible open when he approached, so I’m not sure if his comment was based on that or if he would have said it anyway.) I said, “Well, we already know that, but what do you mean?” He proceeded to tell me that the place Skylar was originally scheduled to have surgery across the street (checking in that morning had been a bit “wearing”), had been evacuated due to a chemical spill! If the original plan had unfurled, Sky’s surgery would’ve been post-poned—NOT cool with school fast approaching--or worse, interrupted!

*A bit later in the waiting room, a woman burst through some swinging double doors crying. As she sat, her heart-wrenching sobs touched everyone within earshot. A few seconds later, a few other women came out behind her, one of whom was my friend from ISU, Mary Ann, the Department Secretary.

All the sudden it clicked! The woman who was upset was my friend, M’s mom! M teaches at ISU too but she was out of town. Mary Ann had come to the hospital to see me, check on Sky, and offer support to M’s mom, who had just found out her husband’s foot would likely have to be amputated because of diabetes. Now, what are the odds that on the very same day, at the very same time, I would be in the exact same place as the mother of my friend, both of whom had just learned some very disturbing information.

Warriors, this was the most visual, vivid call to prayer I’ve had recently. M’s mom was crying that all those prayers had been useless and when one of her friends said she’d keep praying, M’s mom shouted “NO! God had his chance. I’m not praying any more.” My heart aches for this woman and I so want to see her and her family have peace. Please join me in lifting up this family in your prayers.

So you see, The Great Physician was at the hospital that day. He was protector, orchestrator, encourager, and intercessor. He blessed, and I'm pretty sure he was blessed, too. I can hear that stamper now...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

VBS 2007

Another year of VBS has come and gone. And with it came some commentary from the ankle-biters—some of it annoying, some of it hilarious, some of it moving, and some of it downright dumbfounding. Just to set the scene for these little quips, let me tell you how we do things in the drama department, otherwise known as “Bible Adventures.”

To transport the kids as much as possible from craft/games/snack mode, we bring them upstairs, out of the norm, and into kind of a mysterious place. We cover the walls with black plastic and except for a few strategically placed spotlights, the room is dark. The set varies from night to night based on the Bible story. We’ve had everything from campfires to the marshy banks of the Jordan River that kids had to cross barefoot (have you ever walked across wet, squishy towels? It DID feel like mud!). Since I mostly leave the acting to others so that I can do all the behind-the-scenes stuff, I’m hidden behind the black plastic, working the soundtrack or providing other effects.

One night our actor, Michael, instructed the kids to pray in their groups. One kid piped up: (and imagine diva-like attitude here) “YOU pray!” Michael would say, “Let’s be quiet.” The kid would retort, “YOU be quiet!” You get the idea. Hecklers!

On that same night, the crews were to discuss tough things or problems in their lives. I heard a precious little girl just inches away from me on the other side of the plastic, share that she has to move again because her mom got a new boyfriend. Wow. (Kudos to that crew leader.)

Kelly, who was playing Rahab, (we didn’t mention her occupation to the kiddos) kept “hushing” the kids because there were soldiers around looking for the spies. But every time she said “God is with us” they were supposed to yell “Wa-Hoo!” Imagine the confusion! After one particularly loud Wa-Hoo, which was encouraged by Rahab, I hear MY six-year-old’s voice over her following hushes, “But YOU told us to!” Murmers of agreement followed. Those kids thought she was nuts! :-)

On "Jordan River" night, as kids came forward to get a river rock and erect an alter, one kid proclaimed, “I have a rock and I’m not afraid to use it!” During that same chaos, someone apparently said “freaking” because a stern response of “We DO NOT say the word “Freaking” shot back and quieted things down.

Another night, Dale and Michael played officers in Joshua’s army and Dale was supposed to stall as he marched around the walls of Jericho. The kids were in pyramids (they were the walls, so the stalling was quite a problem.) It went something like this…

Dale: Okay, that’s four times around…oooh, I lost count. Let’s start all over.
Kids: NOOOOOOOOOO!!! That was FOUR!!!
Dale: Oh. Okay. Fiiiiiiive. Oh no. I need a potty break. Let me stop for a minute!
One kid: Go in your pants.
Dale: (Whiney) Ooohh…I don’t like to go in my pants—they get wet and squishy.
Kid: Do it anyway. Keep marching! (Oh, the lesson there!)

The last night, Dale was a Doctor of Leprosy and he used an onion analogy to show the kids how badly a leper would want rid of the disease. Each kid’s right hand was rubbed with an onion (they were rid of the smell by the end—really cool trick—ask me about it!), but in the meantime, imagine the smell in the room! These analyses were heard:
Smells like an armpit in here!
I like that smell!
Do NOT rub me with that onion!
Smells like my dog’s poop!

Well, there ya go! Fragrant oil was later passed around to symbolize Jesus’ sweet grace and healing. As the crew leaders put a drop of oil on each child’s hand, they were supposed to say something like “God loves you, So-and-so” including their name. One little boy grabbed MY hand, dabbed it with oil and said “God loves you. You be blessed too.”

And THAT'S what it’s all about!

Monday, July 2, 2007

She Speaks, Part 2

Meaningful experience #2—God works through us, even when we're oblivious!

To fully appreciate this “God-incidence” you have to go back with me to She Speaks 2006. It was my first time at this conference, or any writing/speaking conference. I had signed up for the writer’s track and on the first night we had the option of meeting with other writers for a peer evaluation session. Since Satan was doing a number on my nerves, I was on the lookout for friendly, encouraging faces. All alone at a table towards the back, I saw a woman I was just drawn to for no apparent reason other than she just looked “cool”—someone I could hang with. Plus, she was smiling warmly at me, so I asked if I could join her. Her name was (and is!) Lisa Marrone and I liked her immediately.

We ended up with three or four others in our group, read each other’s work, and gave encouraging feedback to each other. I remember Lisa’s article was about the Fruit of the Spirit and I loved its insight.

Throughout the rest of the weekend we ran in to each other quite a bit and would stop to chat. She asked how my appointment with the literary agent went and I shared how it was less than stellar. She didn’t have an appointment, but did have a book idea and wondered what I thought about her approaching him with it. My viewpoint was, “Why not? Go for it!” When I saw her later, she shared that she had pulled him aside and he seemed interested in her idea. I congratulated her, we exchanged contact information, and we parted ways at the end of the weekend.

Flash forward to early 2007. I was on the P31 website looking at the registration information for this year’s conference when I noticed a testimony in the side-bar. It was written by a physical therapist (hey, wasn’t Lisa a physical therapist?) who said the world of writing had been foreign to her (hey, didn’t Lisa share that with our group?), but because of the conference, was signed by the William K. Jensen Literary Agency and had a two book contract. NO WAY, I thought. I went to the agent’s website and sure enough, there was MY Lisa’s picture! She did it! He signed her! When this year’s conference rolled around, I wondered if I’d see her again or if she’d be too busy working on her books and marketing them to attend.

As it turned out, I didn’t even have to search the crowd for her. I hadn’t been in the hotel five minutes when, upon checking in, I turned around and saw that beautiful smile accompanied by a friendly wave. She came over to not only hug me, but to impart a warm kiss on my cheek. I congratulated her on being signed and asked how things were going. We had breakfast together on Saturday when she blessed me more than she’ll probably ever know. That is when she shared with me that when she speaks to groups, she includes me. A little confused, I asked, “What do you mean?”

She explained that when we connected last year, she took my feedback as confirmation from God for her to pursue her book ideas. She didn’t consider herself a writer at all, but knew God was asking her write. Though she doubted her ability, she valued my credentials as a writing instructor at ISU and said God used me to show her that “someone who should know” validated her writing. I was a piece of the overall puzzle. Wow. I cannot put into words how humbled I was by that. Praise the Lord! If you want to check her and her books out, go to http://www.wkjagency.com/ and click on authors. That’s my Lisa! What a blessing!

Ya know, we go to things like conferences and seminars and even church with our own preconceived notions of what will go down, how God will show Himself, or even what we will or won’t get out of it. As if we can predict God’s plan! I thought I knew my purpose there last year (why, to get published, of course! Ha!), but I had no idea…wasn’t even close. Praise God for using a broken vessel like me and praise Him for using Lisa and hookin’ us up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

She Speaks, Part I

As some of you may have already heard, God did show up in some awesome ways at the She Speaks conference this past weekend. I personally had two really meaningful experiences, tangible reminders for me from my Heavenly Father that He’s got my back. So that this post doesn’t go on too long, I’ll write about one of these instances now and save the other one for another post…

Meaningful experience #1—Out of Obedience, God Always Offers Growth and Blessing

Those of you who know me personally, know that I cry. Often. And wetly (okay, I know that’s not a word, but it somehow seems better than “soggily”). ;-) When I pray, especially out loud with others, share “God-stuff,” or just when I’m moved, I usually gush forth. I’ve often let this inhibit me from sharing or praying—I mean, who wants to be a big crumpled, sobbing heap in front of others?

Since I’d signed up for the beginning speaker track at the conference, I was required to share a three-minute testimony on Friday night and a five-minute teaching talk on Saturday. Teaching is my thing and I welcomed that opportunity. But a testimony? Well, now, that’s different because that involves opening up. That makes me vulnerable. That’s when I cry…oh no. But that’s when it hit me. That “little” issue I have is what I needed to give my testimony about! God made that clear to me. It was like He was saying, “Kathy I want you to publicly acknowledge your acceptance and obedience in this area. Yes, in front of strangers.” Wow. I really didn’t want to make that kind of impression, but I knew I needed to do it. (At least, I figured, when I DO break down—it was never a question of “if”—then at least it will serve as evidence of my message, ya know?)

I built my testimony around Paul asking God to take away his “thorn” (II Cor. 12:7) because I'd also longed for God to take away my thorn of crying. But just as Paul accepted that God’s grace was sufficient for him, I’ve begun to see it's sufficient for me when dealing with my thorn too.

So Friday night then, for me, was sort of numbing. My speaker group members was so sweet in their encouragement, and Missy “raised me up” by declaring my lingering tears “AWESOME!” but I was left kind of with the feeling, “Okay God, I obeyed. Do with it what you will.”

Check out what He willed to do with it. ALL DAY Saturday, I didn’t cry. Not once! I’d had meetings with a magazine editor, a literary agent, a publisher, and gave my teaching talk—all sans tears! I even prayed at lunch and Sara of the Marshall FCC posse commented, “Wow, you didn’t cry!” As I marveled at each tear-free episode, God was affirming me saying, “See Kath, give it up in obedience and I’ll bless you for it.”

I’m not able to say I’m no longer tear-prone. The alter-call Saturday night proved that. But the whole experience was so liberating because God showed me it doesn’t even matter. I’m to persevere, regardless. If He wants to use my tears, cool. If he doesn’t, cool. And you know what? That’s pretty cool. ;-)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Salmon Anyone?

No wonder salmon is so good for us! Just look at the cardio workout you have to endure just to enjoy some! :-)

Hilarious Grizzly Bear Video

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Ain't No Shuckin' and Jivin'

I had never heard the phrase "shuckin' and jivin'" before I met Shane. I'm not even sure where it originated. Maybe a movie? A TV show? Or maybe it was another one of those southern expressions he picked up in Texas, like "fixin' to" or "y'all." But it's a phrase we turn quite a bit around our house and it's synonymous with "messing around" or "wasting time," as in, " Hey kids, let's go! We got no time to be shuckin' and jivin'. Practice starts in ten minutes!" Yep. These days we just don't seem to have much time for shuckin' and jivin'. Or do we?

Elisha sure didn't. I haved LOVED reading about him in 2 Kings this past week. This man of God seemed to have ZERO tolerance for ANY shuckin' and jivin'. Proof?

*Elijah asks Elisha what he'd like from him before he's taken up. Elisha's response? "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit"(2:9). That's bold. That's brassy. That's NOT shuckin' and jivin'.

*Nasty water was causing infertility and death. Elisha throws salt into it and proclaims God's declaration that it will be wholesome thereafter (2:19-22). No messin' around.

*Some hooligans taunted Elisha, giving him grief about his bald head. Let them get under his skin? No way! He cursed them in the name of the Lord, they were mauled by two bears, and the prophet continued on his way (2:23-25). He had work to do.

This extremely confident behavior continues through chapters 4 and 5, as we see Elisha offer help to a needy widow, a faithful Shunammite woman, and Naaman the leper. In every case, his word from the Lord and the directive he gives are decisive, clear, and quick. Absolutely no hint of shuckin' and jivin' whatsoever.

When it comes to living my life for God, many times I'm guilty of over-thinking. Or I'll hop on board mentally and spiritually, but my physical execution lags behind. Maybe I need to internalize that whole "not shuckin' and jivin'" concept and truly apply it. It's not a matter of being rash or acting on gut-instincts, but it IS about having that God-confidence that reaches out to help people and to attract others to the faith.

Oh to be like Elisha! To be so in tune with the Father that I don't continually seek confirmation. To have that rare combination of bold mercy that enabled him to see others' needs and get busy right away to help their situations. To not second-guess myself or my God. To be so faith-filled to know, really 100% know, that as the prayer or claim leaves my mouth, it's as good as done. Wow.

Come on y'all...ain't no time to be shuckin' and jivin'!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Need Your Opinions!

I've been asked to speak at a Pure at Heart event next weekend and the theme is dealing with pressure to fit in or conform to society's view of beauty. I want to tie that in with God's call to modesty and we'll explore what this means as we submit even our choices in appearance to our Lord and Savior. This is a touchy topic for a lot of people and I only want to go where the Holy Spirit leads. With regard to not being a stumbling block for others, our clothing choices come into play again...particularly with men being the visual creatures they are. So what I'm really asking for here is that you look at the pictures below and just react to each of them with a comment. (Those of you who don't like to post on blogs could email me at kathy.lay@hotmail.com with your reactions.) Comment on such aspects as...What kind of person do I think this is? What vibe is she giving off? Does she "look" like a Christ-follower? Would I want to be like her? Is this a modest outfit? I think the answers will actually be quite varied, and quite honestly, I'm not sure what I'll get back. It should be interesting! I'm also asking that if you all could please refer this to others I'd really appreciate it--especially the male perspective from the teen-age years on up. (Heads up--though there is a bit of skin, it's comparable to what you'd see on prime-time TV.) I plan on sharing what I find with the group of young ladies next weekend and we'll examine it through the lenses of God's Word. Thanks so much!!! (And by the way, your prayers for God's sovereignty through all this would also be appreciated!)











Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sweet Blessing

Sorry I've been off the blog for awhile. The last several weeks of the semester were busier than ever, and last week I was actually employed by both ISU and the state. I'm learning the ropes of my new job slowly and so far I really like it.

Since "Mom's working five days a week now" we're trying to get the kids to take on more responsibility at home. After dinner last night, Shane asked the kids to go ahead and load the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen. They not only did a great job, but I was pleasantly surprised that someone had simultaneously packed my lunch for me today! In a little tupperware container was some leftover duck (Shane's dad is a duck hunter and we reap the benefits), some sweet potato chunks, and a salad housed in a separate container so it wouldn't get yucky! I was so impressed! And best of all, on the top was a little note that said, "To Mommy, Love Maisie." I don't think I've ever had a lunch so special. :-)

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Modern Day Gibeah?

Today's "Read the Bible in a Year" reading (and by the way, if you're still on board, I'd love to hear from you!) includes scripture that impacted me very deeply the first time I read it last summer. In fact, it struck me so much that I wrote about it back then. I apologize up front for the length--I was fueled by some pretty intense emotion--but following is what I wrote about Judges 19 & 20 many moons ago.


A Modern-Day Gibeah?

I was blessed at church the other day to hear from the sister and brother-in-law of our youth minister. Trish and Dave Holabeck are planning a mission trip to Cambodia in the near future. They had already made one visit there so on this visit to our church they shared a presentation about the country and its people. One of the most memorable parts for me was when Dave said that Cambodia ranks highest across the globe for child prostitution, mostly due to American and European men visiting the country who are willing to pay money for a child.

One reason this fact keeps gnawing at me is that I’ve read a little about human trafficking. It is a current topic of interest for my composition students as they complete research projects. I’ve been appalled reading accounts of children as young as three being abused in ways most people can’t fathom. I’ve wept at the unfairness and the robbery of innocence. So, even though I’ve nothing in my personal history that allows me to say, “I know how they feel” (thank you, Jesus), I do have three kids of my own and a vivid enough imagination to be repulsed and bitterly angered by those who perpetuate and participate in this abomination.

Flash backward a few days from the Holabecks’ presentation. In my Bible reading time I had ended up in Judges 19. My NIV labels this chapter “A Levite and His Concubine.” This was not a story I was familiar with, so I proceeded, half-way expecting a “Joseph and Potipher’s wife” or “Samson and Delilah”-type story. Was I ever wrong.

Here’s the summation: An unnamed Levite has an unfaithful concubine from Bethlehem, Judah, who returned to her father’s home. When her husband goes back to get her, they tarry a few days while the father, probably eager for the reconciliation, implores them to stay a little longer to refresh and enjoy themselves. After several days of giving into Dad, the Levite insists on leaving in the late afternoon, putting them near Gibeah at nightfall. They hang out by the city square waiting for someone to offer them a place to stay for the night. Lo and behold, a “good ol’ boy” from the Levite’s area, Ephraim, offers to put them up. Wicked men from Gibeah show up and demand to have sex with the Levite, but the host declines this “disgraceful thing” offering instead his virgin daughter and the concubine. (Yeah, I know—why that’s not disgraceful too is beyond me.)

Though it appears the old man’s daughter is spared, the Levite takes (the Hebrew verb implies force) the concubine and hands her over. Perhaps he was seeking revenge because of her prior unfaithfulness, but even so, the cruelty is striking. She is raped and abused all night and at “daybreak she fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.” Upon finding her crumbled there, her husband tells her to get up so they can go (nice guy!). Getting no answer, he loads up her dead body to go home. Once there, he dismembers her into twelve parts, sending them to all areas of Israel. The people said, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!”

I’ll tell you what I thought about it—I was mortified! I cried as I read over and over about the concubine collapsing at the door after facing a night of unspeakable horror and brutality. “God, why is this even in the Bible?!” I vented to Him. “What in the world is worth recording about these evil men and how they so readily betrayed a helpless woman?” I was really angry about the irony, too; the host and Levite regarded the crowd of rapists as evil and vile, but saw nothing wrong about sending a woman out to them?! Come ON! (That “pointing out the speck in another's eye while ignoring your own plank” scripture floods my mind at this point.)

But you know, God reminded me that “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 16—17). That’s ALL scripture. So how can even this horrific account of the Levite and his concubine thoroughly equip Christians for every good work?

See, with Dave and Trish’s visit to our church and the mission they have before them in spreading the good news of Jesus among a culture so poor that it sells its children, it dawned on me that a person who is seeking—seeking freedom, peace, purpose—might be able to relate to the horrible story. A precious soul, child or adult, who has suffered at the hands of evil would feel less alone to know that intertwined in God’s wonderful story of history, there have been others who unjustly endured violence and violation. Though the concubine’s life was stolen from her, God used her legacy as a rally-cry to stir the Isrealites into a much-needed war against evil (see Ch. 20). And guess who got to launch the first fight? The Lord said, “Judah shall go first.” (v. 18). The concubine (who was from there) is avenged through this by God! And you can bet he was caring for her soul tenderly in heaven as she had her front-row seat for the battle.

I don’t even pretend to know all the delicate and loving ways that Dave and Trish will be fruitful in showing Jesus to Cambodians—and trust me, they will—but this scripture, especially when coupled with others about child-sacrifices, and how the Lord always seeks revenge, could just possibly provide hope for the victims who have suffered from the trafficking that takes place there. These people are surviviors! They’re champions with a purpose! And with the Lord of all creation on their side, they too, will be well-equipped to fight the battle.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Load of Horse P**p?

Oh my goodness--it has been two whole weeks since I posted on this thing! I feel like I've been in high gear and didn't even realize how much time had past. When I stopped and thought about what had kept me so busy over the past few weeks, I thought it made for a pretty interesting list...
*Moved my mother-in-law and step-father-in-law (is that a word?) to Marshall from Jeffersonville, IN.
*Graded ninety-some "Works Cited" exercises from my students. (Ah...remember good ol' MLA documentation style, former students?)
*Tried to push blue spruce, douglas fir, and crown vetch on acquaintances to help the girls with a 4-H fundraiser (get your orders in now!).
*Packed up the family for a weekend getaway (which included the first item listed above).
*Filled out a THICK employment packet for my new job--okay, still workin' on that one.
*Enjoyed to the fullest extent Jen's posts about Cootie, Easter egg dying, and a heart-beatin' butt...(my sides still ache).
*Admired Missy's knack for keeping the men in her family closely cropped and clean-cut.
*Admired Missy's knack for keeping committed to a very difficult complaint fast.
*Enjoyed reading everyone's reactions and experiences while taking their own complaint fasts.
*Wondered why I'm not yet doing a complaint fast.
*Got all sentimental and nostalgic and wistful lookin' at the pictures on Gretchen's new blog.
*Made preparations for being out of town next week on vacation--okay, still workin' on that too.
*And last but not least, I helped Shane unload a truck bed full of horse poop onto our garden at 9:00 last night. No really. We did. The moon was beautiful. And we should have a bumper crop this summer. :-)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Number 12


Yesterday, my honey and I "celebrated" our twelfth anniversary. I use the term "celebrated" in sort of an unconventional way, though. We didn't go out to a nice restaurant, we didn't take a trip, and we didn't exchange gifts. But it was definitely a celebration. We didn't do any typical anniversary-type "stuff," maybe because it was Sunday and by the time we got home from church it was already 1:00. Or maybe because we had band practice in the evening. Or maybe because we'd celebrated Valentine's Day and both our birthdays in the last month. Or maybe because we didn't want to have to pay a sitter when we knew Shane's mom would be here later this week and she'd watch the kids for free...
Or maybe it was because after twelve years that have seen highs--new and exciting jobs, a housebuilding project, establishing a life in this community, growing spiritually, and having children--as well as lows--miscarriage, infertility, depression, and other hard knocks--we know that no card or special gift can even begin to capture what we know we share. Now, I like cards, and dinners out, and gifts. A lot. But trying to "fit them in" yesterday would've somehow felt like a forced celebration, ya know?

Oh, but it was a GRAND celebration...

In the afternoon we loaded up kids, canine, and bikes in the truck and went to Lincoln Trail for a nice family bike ride. It only lasted about a quarter mile though, because on the other side of the dam was a little pier. If you know our kids at all, you know that rocks, water, and potential treasure can occupy them for hours. And Penny, our chocolate lab (who is very strong) was kind of tough to manage on her leash from a moving bike. She was actually pulling Shane at one point! So at this little area, I soaked in the beauty of an early spring day and enjoyed the company of the people I love best. I was overwhelmed with how blessed I am and I'm tearing up even now just thinking about it.

The picture above relates to sort of an inside scoop that I'll letcha in on. When Shane was little, his family nicknamed him "Bug" because he crawled around so fast. The name stuck and his Dad still calls him that to this day. I guess that makes him my Love Bug. :-)

So on the day after our 12th Anniversary, please know how much I love you, Baby. God has paired us up for great purposes (three of which are already revealed!) and I'm so honored to be your wife. Happy Anniversary. I wouldn't have wanted to spend it any other way.

Monday, March 5, 2007

My Shining Star


Friday night I was on the way to church for Ladies Night Out. I was slated to give the devotional and I saw this as kind of a defining event. Some of you know that for the last year and a half or so, I've felt the call from God to do some sort of speaking/writing ministry, but lately it seems to have kind of stalled out.

(Ever been there? God shows in numerous ways that He wants you to do something, but when it doesn't happen in our way or our time, we begin to question whether we heard the call correctly? Or even at all?)

So anyway, I was just kind of nervous about the whole thing because without realizing it, I had begun to associate the outcome of this one devotion as the confirmation from God to continue on this path or not.

As I got to the south edge of town, with the western sky on my left, I noticed what a truly beautiful evening it was. It was crisp and completely cloudless. The sun was already below the horizon, but it left that lovely graduation of blazing orange, to pink, to purple, to blue, to deep vast nighttime sky. And in that deeper blue, there was one bright, glittering star. Now, I know that Jesus is the "morning" star (Isaiah 14:12, II Peter 1:19, Rev. 22:16), but when my eye was caught by that evening star in all its solitary splendor, I felt His presence wash over me, encouraging me that He was with me. I was reminded that everything (no matter the outcome!) will be alright. I just needed to give it to Him and all would be fine. He reminded me that I was obedient in the message I was sharing, that I'd prayed through the preparation and practice, and that the rest was up to Him. Ahh, Freedom! I was simply the messenger and His will would be done, even if I messed up. How truly liberating.
II Peter 1:19--And we have word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in the dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts...21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Unsettled and a Talking Donkey

If I were asked to describe my life in one and only one word right now, it would be "unsettled." And that seems crazy to me. The choice for my life-partner was determined a loooooong time ago (longer than either of us knew) and has been confirmed many times over (Whew! Thank you, God, for him; he's wonderful). The decision to have kids, as well as how many, has been settled for awhile now (unless God has some plans I don't know about yet--look at Lysa TerKeurst, for Pete's sake!). We live in a community we love with wonderful Christian influence. We seek God's promptings in living out His will for our lives. These are things I'm sure about, so why do I feel unsettled?

Enter Brittanie D. She is at a different life phase than I am, and yet when I read her blog last night I could sooo identify with it. I think we all can. In fact, I believe we'll all probably continue to have seasons of "unsettledness" because God can use them so powerfully to mold and shape us. Those are our pruning times.

If you want to be blessed, click on Brittanie's link over there ---->
and read her posting entitled "God's Favorite Verbs." It's as deep and inspiring and beautiful as she is. (Love ya, Brit!)

In another handing out of "props" (did you have any idea how widely anticipated and highly coveted the Kathy's Blog Awards are? Riiiiiiight....)...
Major props go out to our brother Denn-I for being the first estrogen-challenged participant in our little blog community. Wooo Hoooo! Da blog----->

And if this posting doesn't seem void of unity enough or is quite disjointed or unsettled enough for you, I could write about Balaam's talking donkey in today's RTBIAY readings. My study Bible suggests the use of the animal makes sense in light of Balaam's pagan animal divination, and it's ironic that the donkey could see what was spiritually right, while its owner could not. I LOVE that God chose to talk through a donkey! How infinite is He? And I love that he chooses the tools to talk to us that are unique to our circumstances.

Ya know, I don't feel quite so unsettled anymore. :-)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Ditty

Attribute it to cabin fever after being snow-bound for two days, or just the crazy spirit of Valentine's love, but the kiddos and I have created a little Valentine's song. To fully enjoy this you must grab two or three people you love and belt it out at the top of your lungs. Presenting...

Cupid, The Diapered Archer

(Sung to the tune of Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer)

Cupid, the diapered archer, had a pair of rosy cheeks,
And if you ever saw him, your love life might get some tweaks.
All of his love-filled arrows, flying through the chilly air,
Might really hit their target, and then your heart you'll have to share!

Then that cupid, he'll look around, and see who you might match.
And when he sets his sights on him (or her), you're gonna have your catch.

Ooooooo (dramatically draw out with flair) oooooh, Cupid the diapered archer, hit his targets fair and square.
And on this Valentine's Day, (dramatically slow and crescendo) he's... made... a... rather... love...ly... pair!

Ske-be-bop, skooby-de-bop, He's made a rather lovely pair!!!

Wasn't that fun? Bet you didn't know we could skat! Oh, yeah!
(My apologies to people who know true musical direction.)

YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Happy Valentine's Day! We love you!!!

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Power of Speakin' It

It has come up in a few different Sunday school classes and in varied snippets of conversation: the power that comes from speaking the Word into our lives. In yesterday's scripture reading, John 6:63 brought that concept to mind again. "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." Life, spirit, word... Life from the spirit in the word. Bruthas and sistas, hang on to your hats...you have got to check out the following link. If you don't have a good ten to fifteen minutes, do it later because you'll want to absorb it. The very end was a powerful reminder to me that even praying before meals can significantly impact us. Father, I praise you for the Power in speaking the Word! Guide me to tap into that which you freely give. By the power in the Name of Jesus, Amen.

http://www.mercola.com/display/router.aspx?docid=26359

Monday, February 5, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

We were talking in Sunday school yesterday about how cool it is that for several weeks in a row now, the lesson we've had in class has mirrored the sermon. Nonbelievers would say, "Yeah, that's quite a coincidence." We say, "God must really be trying to get our attention by orchestrating it this way." I LOVE when He does that.

A similar "mirroring" incident caught my attention between another message at church yesterday and our RTBIAY readings. A quote from the elder's meditation resonated with me: "God wants our whole heart and our obedience." Ah, yes. An excellent message for 21st century folks like ourselves, right?

But check out how closely that actually reflects, or mirrors, what we've been reading in Leviticus. In the first chapter alone we read three different times about the sacrificial offerings that were "a whole burnt offering made by the fire, very pleasing to the Lord." Many more references in the following chapters indicate how pleasing it was to God when the Israelites offered their numerous sacrifices, obediently adhering to a strict set of procedures. A few things strike me about this.

First, the offerings (at least those in Chapter one) were WHOLE. Complete. The whole she-bang and kit-n-kaboodle. Application? We are to hold nothing back. Nada. Not grudges or anger, not hurt feelings or pride, not arrogance or ignorance. We are to give it all to Him, offering our WHOLE selves as living sacrifices.

Second, these were BURNT offerings made by the fire. Been burnt lately? Felt the heat and panicked because the flames were nipping at your heels? Have you felt consumed? In faith, trust that your Lord is preparing you for whatever your next step is. In fact, He's probably happily singing over you (Zeph. 3:17), knuckle-deep in forming you to the perfect shape. Lev. 9:28 says, "...It was an offering given to the Lord by fire, very pleasing to the Lord." Imagine the aroma of your sacrifice, the smoke resulting from your fire, rising to God and Him inhaling deeply and contentedly because you recognize his Lordship.

The third thing that strikes me about Leviticus so far is just the imposing detail in correctly executing the procedures. (Praise God for the New Covenant, Amen?) But we see how serious God was about His people following his directions to the letter when Aaron's sons take a short-cut and are struck dead (Ch. 10). So the key? Careful, meticulous obedience. Chapter 16 concludes by noting, "Moses followed ALL these instructions that the Lord had given to him."

It has also been neat that these OT readings are now paired up with readings from John. The initial Tabernacle blueprints are striking when juxtaposed with Jesus' claim to "Destroy this temple and in three days I'll raise it up." The ritual of the sacrifices are an interesting contrast to the sacrifice of wholly believing. Incredulous Nichodemus is told that belief in Jesus will be his salvation and that there's no judgment awaiting those who trust (Jn. 3).

What was law for the people of Moses' era is freedom for us today, sitting in our pews under the new covenant, and hearing the message, "God wants our WHOLE heart and our obedience." That's what is pleasing to the Lord. (Thanks, Darren!)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kathy the Israelite

This post has literally been a week in the making. It has been through several drafts and to be honest, I'm still not happy with it. It's hard to write about something I'm ashamed of. But I published anyway, because as Christians, we're supposed to be real. Not all about the happy veneer exterior. So I'd feel dishonest and fake if I didn't share a deep, dark secret...

I was such an Israelite last week!

Now before anyone gets offended, please understand I'm talking about a Moses-led, Exodus-experiencing, miracle-witnessing, wilderness-wandering Israelite. You know... the kind that, back in Sunday school class, you referred to as a whiner and complainer. Yep, that was me last week.

You see, my son had pneumonia. In fact, in his young life, he's had it three times and when his little body is wracked with coughing, I just feel so helpless! And frustrated! (Parents, can I get a witness on that?!) So in between long waits in the doctor's office and pharmacy, in between juggling my daughters' homework and dinner with plying an unwilling, feverish child with nasty medicine, in between frustration with missing work, and all the other nuances of life, self-pity began to kick in:

"Oh Lord, why? Why can't my kids ever make it through winter without getting sick? Why do mine get sick more than anyone else's?" (Not true, but it always seems that way). "They only have sugary cereal for breakfast on rare occasions and they never drink pop. We eat only whole grain bread, and I make sure they have lots of fruit and at least one serving of veggies per day. We try to get in as many Superfoods as possible. I take them to the chiropractor for regular adjustments in order to boost their immune systems. Oh, Lord, how can they possibly be getting sick?"

Translation: God, I'm doing my part and you're not doing yours.

Whoa. Now wait a minute there. If I boil all my complaints down to one underlying issue, that misaligned view must really be what is at the core of all my mental caterwauling. Ouch.

Just like the Israelites, I was focused on me, my immediate and short-sighted circumstances, and had not placed hope and faith where they belonged. As incredulous as the Israelites' wavering faith always seemed to me, I'm confronted with the gnawing realization that I'm even worse than they were! Why?

The Israelites had just witnessed plagues against their enemies and walked through the sea between parted water walls, and they thought the Lord would let them die of starvation?

I have three generally healthy, bright, beautiful kids, and I suggest that God's not doing his job?!

The Israelites had Moses interceding for them and still drifted toward other idols?

I have JESUS interceding for me and I've done the same?!

I didn't craft a golden calf, but I had come to believe that through diet and other "keys to optimal health" that I had some modicum of control over my kids' health. Oh, how I clinched it tightly. But over the course of the last week, God gently pried my fingers loose, showing me that HE is in control and His grace is sufficient for me (II Cor. 12:9). Shane often says, "It's only by God's grace that we can even get up and tie our shoes in the morning." And it's only by His grace that my kids (or any of us) are healthy.

Father, thank you for smashing my idol. I know from your word that you do want us to be good stewards of our bodies and in faith I believe you do bless us in part according to how we manage your gifts. But in Exodus, you demonstrated that obedience to your will came FIRST, even clearly stating you'd protect the people from plagues if they remain faithful. Obviously, that's where I fell short too. I thank and praise you for your forgiveness and your grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Now...I'm off to the doctor. No, really. Lexi has a cough and an ear infection. (PTL!) :-)




Monday, January 22, 2007

Uh...Pharaoh?

Now typically, I like frogs. They're kind of cute, they eat insect pests, and my kids love to play with them. But imagine being completely overrun with them. Genesis 8 describes the plague of frogs as being so thick that they were even invading beds, ovens, and kneading bowls. It'd be kind of hard to sleep with those slimy, ribbitting guys trying to slip into your PJ's for warmth. It would also be a bit disconcerting to bite into your bread and sense something unusually chewy, only to look down and see half a frog oozing out at you. And then there's what they leave behind.

So Pharaoh, fed up (pun intended) with all this, summons Moses and Aaron to pray to their God to remove the frogs. Moses challenges Pharaoh to determine the time the prayer should take place. (Now here's the part that makes my jaw drop...)

Pharaoh responds, "Do it tomorrow."

(Okay, re-read that first part of v. 10. because I KNOW he didn't just say "tomorrow.")

"Do it tomorrow," Pharaoh said.

Oh no he didn't. Why on earth would he allow the frogs to remain one more day if he didn't have to?! Unless it was exactly 11:59:59 p.m. (or whatever the ancient Egyptian equivalent would be), then I simply do not understand how Pharaoh could respond this way in the midst of such nastiness. Why did he not burst out desperately, "Today...do it right now to end this!"

But then as God so often does, He transports me from His Word to my life...or more accurately, His Word IN my life: "Kathy, why do you judge him? You do this all the time. When you're worrying about a decision to make, you tell yourself that you need to pray about that, and sometimes you do, but sometimes you forget entirely. Or someone who is struggling will confide in you and you tell her 'I'll pray for you,' implying that you'll do it later. Why not do it right then? By waiting, you're postponing resolution or healing, just like Pharaoh did. So quit judging."

Excuse me while I go eat some humble pie...hopefully, the frogless variety. :-)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Moses, Moses, Moses

How cool is the story of Moses? He beat the odds from the very beginning by being born to a very creative and brave mom. But when the going got tough, Moses got going...to Midian, that is. God kept his hand on his chosen one, however, and revealed his plans to one stubborn, stuttering dude. For every protest Moses offered God about why he couldn't possibly do what he was asked, God had an answer for it...

Moses: Who am I to lead the Israelites? I'm nobody.
God: I'll be with you.
Moses: What if they don't believe me or listen to me?
God: I'll do miraculous signs through you.
Moses: But I'm slow of speech and tongue.
God: I made that mouth; I'll help you use it.
Moses: Please send someone else...

At this point (Ex. 4:14), Moses had pushed even Almighty God to the limit. In fact, my NIV says, "Then the Lord's anger burned against Moses" (emphasis mine). But he still provided help in the form of brother and spokesman Aaron.

So in the big picture, things looked like they were humming along...the plan was revealed, Moses was finally on board now with the promise of Aaron joining in, and as they traveled, God was sharing what would happen when they got back to Egypt. Then the story takes a very interesting turn:

Ex. 4:24--26, NLT: "On the journey, when Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the Lord confronted Moses and was about to kill him..." (What?! Kill him?! This was the guy hand-picked to deliver the Israelites! This really threw me for a loop.) "...But Zipporah, his wife, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She threw the foreskin at Moses' feet and said, 'What a blood-smeared bridegroom you are to me!'...After that, the Lord left him alone."

Was God still angry with Moses for arguing? Was there something else that wasn't mentioned? In confusion, I consulted my NIV study Bible to see what explanation it offered about this bizarre scenario. It states: Sensing that divine displeasure had threatened Moses' life, she quickly performed the circumcision on her young son...Circumcision may have been repulsive to her. (The "may" there cracks me up--Ya think?!) An interesting side note is that "feet" was probably a euphemism for "genitals"--Zipporah really wanted Moses to understand how angry she was that she had to do his work for him!

Moses had neglected to circumcise his own son, disobeying THE benchmark covenant that began with Abraham. Good thing Zipporah stepped up! So what's the application here? Even though God has chosen you specifically to further His divine plan, you'll still be held accountable for disobedience. (The bonus lesson: choose a responsible spouse!) :-)