Category Archives: Inside Out

God’s Involved

Do you ever reflect on the ways God’s shown up in your life? Stuff that is beyond coincidence. Stuff that isn’t the big story, like being healed from a life-threatening disease, but is still only explained by His interaction with your life?

Today I reflect on the year 2002. A homeschooling mamma, I taught part time at a Christian Enrichment school for homeschoolers. My class, Mindboggling Missionaries, was primarily wiggly boys. I wanted to capture their imagination, touch their spirit, and give them heroes to immaculate. Missionaries. It was an easy topic to sustain with endless opportunities for creative learning. The Trailblazer series by Dave and Neta Jackson provided the base and the boys, my assistant teacher, and I soon traveled to exotic and distant lands. We played games, made crafts, and ate foods from these cultures. (Rule one when dealing with squirrely boys before lunch is food!) Together we learned about ordinary people who did extraordinary things when lives where surrendered to God. (I found out later those elementary boys took bets on have far Miss Paula would get into glass before the story of these heroes brought her to tears. lol) Oh the people we studied!  Prince Kaboo. Martin Luther. Gladys Aylward. Adoniram Judson!

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Adoniram Judson Picture taken from this site, where you can also read his story

Adoniram Judson.

 

One of the first American missionaries and the first to bring the gospel to Burma.

He’s the one who broke my heart.

As I taught about Adoniram’s life, which was wrought with suffering, I secretly cried out to God. My spirit understood that even one life changed for eternity was “mindbogglingly” more important than I could understand. But as I read of his loss of three children and his wife, of the cruelty he endured while in prison, I wondered. Those first six years in Burma were especially hard, and at the end of them he had only one Burmese convert.

“Was it worth it?” I cried silently. His story haunted me.

About this time, through a strange string of circumstances, I learned a Burmese refugee, Dah Doh, lived only five minutes from me. I decided to visit her in hopes she might talk to our class about Burma. As I walked down the dark hallway to her apartment, I wondered if I would find a Buddha outside her door.

The Burmese woman graciously invited me inside. She fed me traditional food, and within minutes I discovered she had a rich and vibrant faith in Jesus, a faith that helped her survive years in a horrible refugee camp in Thailand after she escaped the cruel government of Myanmar, which is what the conquering army renamed Burma.

“I’m teaching about Adoniram Judson,” I said. “Have you heard of him?”

Dah Doh’s eyes lit with joy, and she grabbed an old cassette tape. When she pushed play on the worn tape player, the voices of children singing in Burmese filled the air. She translated the words of a hymn into English. I don’t remember her exact translation, but I googled what I remembered and found this Burmese hymn that seems close:

Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Brushing tears from my eyes, I understood.

Before me, almost 200 years later, stood the fruit of Adoniram’s sacrifice. Dah Doh explained that most of her people, the Karen, were Christians because of the missionary work of Adoniram Judson in the early-mid 1800s.

What a glorious answer God gave to my broken-hearted cry! He could have simply led me to statistics about the wonderful success of Adoniram’s ministry toward the end of his life, but instead the Lord showed me how Adoniram’s willingness to continue to serve, despite intense suffering, left a legacy that still survives, nearly two centuries later.

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Prince Sao Ky Seng and Princess Inge Sargent. Photo from this site.

Dah Doh came to my class, and the children loved her. She captured their attention as she talked of her beloved homeland.

 

Dah Doh (and God!) had another surprise for us. Dah Doh knew Princess Inge, who was once married to the Prince of Burma. Inge met Prince Sao Kya Seng when they both attended Colorado University in Boulder. When they married and she returned with him to his native land, she didn’t know he was the Shan Prince until brightly colored ships greeted them in the harbor. The prince and princess served the people with an eye to their good. The prince gave his rice fields to the farmers who cared for them and sought ways to strengthen the economy. Inge taught nutrition, established a birthing clinic, and built a trilingual school. They had two daughters and were happy in their work on behalf of their people and country. But Prince Sao Kya Seng’s leaning toward democracy upset the army, and he was killed during a coo. Princess Inge eventually escaped with her two daughters. She hid her identity, taught high school German, and eventually remarried. But she couldn’t stop thinking of the plight of her people. She began to tell her story and to raise awareness for the plight of the Burmese people. (You can read more about them here and here.)

Princess Inge came to our class. We were all so excited! She talked of Burma and the needs of the Burmese people. We were so moved, the children took up a collection.

I started this post thinking about God-moments. I’ve often pondered this one. My heart is tender when I think of how thoroughly He answered the aching (even accusing) questions of this young mamma’s heart. Passion floods as I think about how He turned that teaching moment for ME into an incredible experience for those I taught.

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.                                                                                   ~ Adoniram Judson

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Flourishing Moments

f2f memes portrait - Page 007Need a quick pick-me-up each morning?

I post short, encouraging thoughts on my author/speaker page on Facebook daily.

Just follow me there! If you pin my page to the top of your feed, Flourishing Moments will automatically post to your timeline so you don’t have to go looking for them.

Here’s a sample:

The true essence of our destiny is living as a masterpiece. It’s easy to let our good works or our service become the focus. But God didn’t say our work is the masterpiece, He says we are.

Flourishing Moments are that pause in your day that helps you take a breath and refocus.

Hope to see you there!

(Lurk and read, like and share, or comment. I love to interact with readers there!)

Blessings,

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Levis and Hijabs

30698037_10155553271969077_4312443565172064256_nImagine walking into the 9/11 memorial next to a vibrant, first-generation New Yorker who is dressed head to toe in traditional Muslim attire. Her hair is completely hidden beneath her hijab, and layers of loose-fitting clothes cover her wrists and ankles. She is twenty-one, bright and articulate. Her conversation, despite a slight accent, sounds much like that of any American college student as she complains about how hard Calculus Four is. We know Sushmita will make a fine secondary math teacher.

I want to know how she feels, as a Muslim woman, as she steps into this place, but I don’t want to pry. Finally I ask, “Were you old enough to remember 9/11?”

Sushmita explains that she was too young to understand what happened, but that she experienced the aftermath when she came to school in her traditional attire. The other children ostracized and bullied her. They called her “Osama’s daughter.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay.” My new friend smiled. “They carried much pain. They needed to release it.”

20180411_141302As this vivacious young woman walked through the memorial, it was obvious she carried much pain as well, not for how she was treated, but for tragic deaths of so many of her fellow New Yorkers. She stood for nearly thirty minutes listening to name after name, story after story, of New Yorkers who died that day. Long after I couldn’t take it anymore, she and my daughter lingered there, grieving. Honoring the ordinary people who suffered that day. Standing in solidarity with their friends and families.

I walked also with another new friend, Mina. Mina is a beautiful Afghan woman who has lived in the states for five years and recently applied for citizenship. Her grief was palpable, as was her concern for ours. I soon realized she didn’t experience the memorial as one who’d seen the devastation on TV like I had. She saw it through the lens of her life in Afghanistan, where such tragedy occurs on a regular basis.*

Often we asked each other, “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Are you?”

The time came when the grief flowed out in my new friend’s tears. For the people of 9/11, for the people in her homeland who daily face the fear of attack. She told me that every morning the first thing she does is check Facebook to see if her family in Afghanistan is alive. She is glad to be here with her husband and children. Safe from the daily fear of bombs. But her brother, her sisters, her loved ones in Afghanistan live daily with the very real possibility of tragedy.

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Mina pointed at two young women standing nearby, Sushmita and my daughter, Sarah.  In broken English she explained that at any moment a bomb could explode between them, taking half of each of their bodies. She pointed to her hand and talked of a friend who no longer had a finger. Another who no longer had an arm.

We were women together that day. An American team with their new friends from another culture. Grief and love bound us together, weaving through the varied experiences that brought us to this place and the shared experience of the moment. Before and after this time we would laugh together. But in this space we wept as one.

Please pray for Mina and Shusmita. That love will bind their wounds. Pray for their struggle as they press forward in their desire to live as free Americans who come to this land to love and be loved.  Please pray for the safety of their families in their countries of origin, the loved ones who face great uncertainty every day.

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Blessings,

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*Today’s heart-breaking story from Kabul, Afghanistan.  As I work on this blog, I text with my friend Mina. She sends me pictures of this tragedy, and once again we cry together, her from her home in NYC, me from mine in Denver. Two women. Hearts forever joined.

How Do I Show Up?

Successful career. Successful relationship.

Finances. Respect.

The list could go on, couldn’t it? The one of things that get in the way of true living. (Notice I didn’t say the list of things wrong to desire.)

But don’t they get in the way?

Of the good moments.

We miss too many of life’s beautiful moments because our focus is in on worrying about something on the list.

They get in the way.

Of productivity.

It slows when fear of financial problems, a need to succeed, or managing relationship replaces creative energy.

Of delight.

There’s nothing like fear and striving and worry to zap life’s joy.

Of healthy relationship.

Relationships are harder when we worry about success or think they can be managed.

Of success itself.

How far could we go if life wasn’t driven by the need to succeed? Is it success if we’re constantly grasping and fearing its loss?

What if we lived from passion instead?

Passion to bless.

God and others. In daily interaction. In work, even work that doesn’t feel like calling offers opportunity to bless. In relationships, even when they aren’t fun.

Passion to receive love and share it.

Humans know how to love because they were first loved by their Creator. (We love because He first loved us.) So we take a stand and shout to the world (and mostly that negative, nagging voice in our head), “I am loved!” Then we pause and reflect the love back to its origin. “I love you, too, God!” Then we step into our families, our friendships, our work place, our Facebook groups, our schools, our blogs . . .  our life. We step into life and love others with the love we are given.

Passion to move forward as our true selves.

To let the real us, the strong, true, gifted person who wants to bless and love, show up in the world. (Which means we constantly tell the fearful, striving, success-craving, down-on-herself/himself, selfish voices to shut up.) We acknowledge our strengths. Enjoy them, even. Believe that we were designed with a uniqueness this world needs.

What if we stopped chasing success and instead stepped boldly into life from our passion?

Wouldn’t this be the ultimate act of glorifying the One who made us?

Until Next time,

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PS These thoughts rolled out this morning as I deal with real life. I write as a sojourner, longing desperately to put aside my self-absorption, worries, and fears to live out my destiny.  To be all-in with God and to be put out with fear. To let my neediness fall aside as I focus on my passion. As I seek to trust God with my life instead of grasping for things that cannot fill me up. To be about passionate work with eternal significance, not chasing a paycheck or significance or career advancement. To believe God will supply all my needs and that I am free to go about my Father’s business without letting lesser things slow my productivity and advancement.

Pondering Billy Graham

I’m rarely captivated by the news, but I’ve watched video after video and read press release after press release about Billy Graham. Here’s the thing. They make me weep because I long to speak with such boldness, kindness, and wisdom about the wonder of being loved and invited into a relationship with the King of All. I long to not only have Billy Graham’s courage, but to also have his ability to serve for God’s glory without worry about what people think. He staunchly refused to look to the approval (or disapproval) of humanity and stood firm in his conviction that all glory he received would be returned to his Father.

I watched a video that paid tribute to Billy Graham and kept using the word “he” (referring to Billy) every time it talked about the success of his ministry. “He” built. “He” drew. “He made.” As I watched, I knew that Billy would be upset by the video. He would tell the writer that everything that happened was because God moved, not because Billy built it.

Billy once said, “So many people think that somehow I carry a revival around in a suitcase, and they just announce me and something happens—but that’s not true. This is the work of God, and the Bible warns that God will not share His glory with another. All the publicity that we receive sometimes frightens me because I feel that therein lies a great danger. If God should take His hand off me, I would have no more spiritual power. The whole secret of the success of our meetings is spiritual—it’s God answering prayer. I cannot take credit for any of it.”

Another thing that I admire about Billy Graham was that he was able to reject the doctrinal lines that were so prevalent in the 1950s. He chose to ignore religion and its barriers and to simply preach about the Jesus who gave everything to change lives. I read in one of the articles that conservatives criticized him for not being conservative enough and liberals criticized him for not being liberal enough, and my heart sang. He didn’t engage in the division. He stood for Jesus. There are pictures of him in liturgical attire even though as a young man, he was known for his loud suits and southern baptist style.

I have a personal story about this ability he had to encourage. My father-in-law, Ray, served many years in a small denomination with a lot of doctrinal distinctives. He told me that he and Billy Graham had conversation about these beliefs. He saw Billy again years later and Billy remembered Ray and the conversation. Billy asked Ray if he still believed all that. Ray said yes. Billy shook his hand and told him to keep preaching it. Ray’s eyes shone as he told me the story. It had obviously deeply encouraged this man, who served God with all his strength for over 50 years in that little denomination for little pay or accolade.

I’ve often wondered about this story. Here is what I believe. Billy wanted to see the gospel of Jesus preached, and he saw in Ray, not the ways they were different, but the way they stood together, in the passion for sharing Jesus with the world.

I wish people who loved Jesus could be more like that. I wish I could. I wish as believers we could let go our fears and boxes and focus on what really matters. The truth that Jesus gave His all to save us–to take us from the darkness and confusion of the world and our own soul and free us to live in the hope and light of an eternity that we are already a part of.

As I scroll Facebook and the Internet today, I love learning little tidbits about how Billy lived. From those of you whose lives intersected with his. From the media. Every story shows a focus on the person, a value for the human heart. From my friend Joy, who once served him when he bought a blood pressure machine where she worked, to stories of presidents who said things like, “He helped me choose to stop drinking” and “when he prayed you felt like he was praying for you, not the president.” (Not direct quotes, just writing from memory here.)

I want to be like that too. To value each human soul. To see the cashier at the grocery store instead of just plodding through. To also see the person behind the fame or position as a person not a position.

And a person is all Billy was.

I stared at his picture this morning, stunned that he had preached Jesus to over 200 million people, not including the countless others, like my friend Robbie who watched him on TV and then had a personal encounter with her God at eight years old. I stared at his picture, and I heard, “He was just a man.” And that doesn’t put Billy down. It does what Billy did. It exalts that God who took a humble man and moved through him for the sake of the world HE loves.

One news writer said something like, “We don’t expect another to ever have this kind of impact on the world again.”

I think Billy would balk at that statement. I do. Because it wasn’t about Billy, though his courage and devotion were required for all God accomplished through him. It was about God moving at just the right time in history through just the right man for the job. Billy is no longer in this world. But God is here. With us. He looks at each of us, just people. Like Billy. And he has a plan for our lives, as He told my friend Robbie after she saw Billy on TV. Our God is still alive. He has has not stopped caring about the malignancy of the human soul, the evil that steals our joy and confuses our life. He is working now, every minute, to draw His beloved children into His heart. He never stops doing that. He never stops moving with intention and passion to love and call us to Himself. He longs for us. He longs to enjoy relationship with us. He longs to reveal Himself and His love to every single person He created. And He created us all.

I don’t know if there will be another man who gets to preach Jesus to that many people. But I do know that God will keep moving to reach his people. He will keep calling people to pray for this nation and for the world and for their children and next door neighbors. He will continue to pour His miracles through humble and surrendered hearts–and He will continue to humble proud hearts and give them the ability to surrender to His love.

God’s plan for Billy Graham was breath-taking. Glorious. And Billy always looked right back to God to steady Him. He knew every good gift came from the Father.

God’s plan for you and me is glorious too. Maybe that’s why we’re so captivated by the news of this man who every year for 60 years was named as one of the most influential men in the world. Maybe we’re caught because Billy is simply a man. A man who dared to let God do whatever God wanted through him. Maybe we’re amazed because our heart longs to be that too. Men and women who make a God-sized difference in our human-sized experience. Most of us won’t preach to millions of people. But all of us impact our world. All of us were chosen before the foundation of the world to do the good works God planned in advance for us to do (Hebrews). All of us, like Queen Esther, are chosen for “such a time as this” for whatever God has planned for our ordinary, extraordinary lives.

I believe when we’re with our Savior face-to-face, we’ll discover that Billy learned from Him that every single soul is valuable. That there is no greater love for Billy Graham than for you and me. That our God loves no matter our status. That He will look us right in the eye, and we will know our worth to Him.

I watched a bunch of videos and read a lot of press releases, but I love this page in particular. It’s simply quotes from Billy.

Remembering the life and legacy of Billy Graham (1918-2018).
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FLAW = Free to Live As Worthy

If you’re like me, flaws can really bug you. The Lord is graciously teaching me to step out of self-judgement and offer myself the same grace as He offers me.

The gals in my prayer group and I were talking with the Lord about this awhile back. One of the women was given this acronym as we prayed. FLAW = Free to Live As Worthy.

This concept is the focus of my first installment of Flourishing Moments. Flourishing Moments is something that grew out of some questions I’ve been asking myself and the Lord: How can I bless people who follow my blog, newsletter, or author page? What can I offer that is of value? What truly makes a difference?

I’m not sure of all the answers yet, but I do have a starting place.

Flourishing Moments begins this week on my author/speaker page on Facebook.

Each week day I’ll post words I believe will encourage us as we seek to love Jesus and be loved by Him. The thoughts are designed to help us lay down our struggles and self-judgement and receive His boundless grace.

Here’s the post I shared there today so you can get a taste of what you can expect from Flourishing Moments. I hope you’ll join me on my author page! Maybe even mark my author page to pin to the top of your daily FB news feed so you can see these posts each morning. God-given truth refreshes the soul, yes?

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Photo by Tonya Vander

Do you ever feel flawed?

Most of us do at some point. Heck, most of us feel flawed daily. The thing is, how we see our flaws determines how we weather this journey we’re on.

It’s important as we heal that we understand God’s perspective on our faults and failures and those faults and failures of people who hurt us.

Our flaws. Their flaws.

We humans are hard on ourselves and others, holding people to high, unattainable standards. We experience tremendous judgment and pain when we (or they) don’t “live up.” Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed with our flaws that we go to the other extreme and pretend they don’t exist. Or we acknowledge our flaws but blame others for our faults and failures. Sometimes we do that with people who’ve hurt us too. We make excuses for the people who’ve behaved badly or pretend the incidents never happened.

All of this is, of course, a lie.

The great news is that Jesus came so all of us could be Free to Live As Worthy. His blood cleansed us. He believed we were worthy of His gift. He knows us inside and out, and our flaws don’t worry Him. He set us free from the dark stuff. He daily works within us to finish the good work He started.

Next time you’re hung up on a flaw, why not remember the cross and look at it this way. FLAWs don’t have to take us out, they can be reminders that we are:
Free to
Live
As
Worthy

~ Thoughts adapted from Soul Scents: Flourish.

Blessings,

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PS I’d love feedback from those of you who hang out here at my blog. I’ve been thinking about how to continue to share about the books–I’m loving these posts by fellow authors–but also to share the kind of thing I shared today. Another idea is some series. A friend suggested I do a blog series on starting a spiritual journal. And I’m aching to write a series about the things Jerry and I are learning as he recovers from his recent heart attack. What would bless you. Any thoughts?

Ok . . . Just a Note About that Last Author

Maybe I’ll share just one thing about the author in A Bouquet of Brides who I chose not to introduce this week: me. You know plenty about me already, right? And my writing journey has been so entwined with several of the authors in this collection, that you got bits of my story as I talked about them. But I want to share one more thing. This:

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Why that picture?

Because God sent these angels to hold me together on my writing journey, to walk with me into greater personal freedom, and to cheer me on in my calling.

It’s my prayer group, and we’re beginning our 7th year of meeting regularly. We call ourselves the Council of Kings. We believe that God has a destiny and a kingdom for each of us. (Not just in this group. For you too.)

I love you Deb, Kathy, Margie, and Jill. As I move forward in the writing and speaking the Lord is calling me to do, I’m grateful for the support God has given me by His Spirit and through loved ones.

Which means I need to add one more picture. It’s not easy having a writer for a wife or mom. She can get really distracted and disappear for hours. Her income is sporadic. Her tears come often. But these special people fill my heart with joy even on the hard days.

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Until Next time,

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