Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Conclusion

The phrase that is guaranteed to wake up an audience: “And in conclusion...”

It's New Year’s Eve. Today’s news will carry summaries of the big stories of this year, and tomorrow’s will be about the first children born in the new year. You may rush to donate to your church or charity before the year’s tax-deduction books close. Perhaps you’ll finish off the Christmas sweets today, knowing that the diet resumes tomorrow.

I asked Facebook friends what their biggest stories of the year were. Some answered natural disasters, some getting fired or laid off from a job, some said the terrible economy or which party won the elections, and one said that her husband's life is now measured in days. I think one of the best things in a difficult year was meeting new people, including relatives, and laughing with--or at--friends in Facebook. I like the "If you can't beat it, laugh at it" attitude, which gives energy to push through and prevail after all.

The New Year holiday is significant. It’s the day when people remember one year and look forward to a clean start in the next. The Roman god Janus, after whom January was named, was the god of gates and doorways, depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. It's interesting that the apostle James spoke of the double-minded man as being unstable (James 1:8). There's really only one way to face what's handed to us in this world: forward, head-on. No turning back.

Jesus, who is our true Door and Gate, said, "I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved. Through me they will come and go and find pasture." John 10:9 CEV 

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV says: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

That's not to say that we should forget our experiences or the ways in which we grew. No, that’s why God gave us reason and wisdom, the application of knowledge. He wants us to forget and forgive ungodly actions and imperfect human ways, and look forward with joyful anticipation to the work He wants to do in us, and through us to humanity. Don’t dwell in past glories or miseries—walk by faith into the future.

The future springs up: could it be a spring of fresh water bubbling up through gravel, or the tension in a metal spiral spring? Either way, there’s irrepressible energy coming to you from God.

What new thing will God do in you in the coming year? What gift has He given you that He’s eagerly waiting to unwrap and set before you? Don’t wait for tomorrow—accept it today!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Hanging of the Greens

With this headline, The Hanging of the Greens, one might expect to find a political-commentary article about how conservatives who deny the global warming phenomena have lynched some environmentalists. Happily, this is a whole different theme! (Read on, below the video.)

The rich woods of Lebanon will be delivered-all that cypress and oak and pine—To give a splendid elegance to my Sanctuary, as I make my footstool glorious. Isaiah 60:13 MSG
In some denominations, people have taken care not to celebrate Christmas traditions from pagan origins, including decorated trees or garlands in the sanctuary. In other churches, Christmas trees carry pledges or gifts to needy families or a community project.
I’ve been employed as a keyboardist and choir director for several denominations, and they have a wonderful tradition that my church hasn’t celebrated: the hanging of the greens. On the first Sunday of Advent, during the worship service, they bring fresh fir and pine boughs, handmade Christmas ornaments (some antique), and carry in a fragrant tree for the chancel. The sanctuary decoration is not left to a committee or a person with a design degree. As they move through the liturgy of praise to God, the choir members, children, couples, singles, and the elderly, all participate in beautifying God’s house and decorating the tree. Carols are sung, candles are lit, scriptures are read, children imperfectly clang the hand bells, and Communion is joyfully shared and celebrated. Offerings of green garlands and ornaments, as well as tithes and gifts of money, are presented to the Lord. In other words, the people fellowship and worship together, their eyes on God.
I hope that you will be blessed by the verses my Christian friends quote and sing in their Hanging of the Greens ceremony:
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints. Psalm 52:8-9 KJV
I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me. Hosea 14:8 NIV
A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch. Isaiah 11:1 MSG

All your people will live right and well, in permanent possession of the land. They’re the green shoot that I planted, planted with my own hands to display my glory.
Isaiah 60:21 MSG

Friday, December 3, 2010

An old-fashioned Christmas

Throughout December, my parents loved to do traditional activities to prepare for Christmas: bake and decorate shaped cookies (to give to the neighbors), hold a Christmas-theme recital for Mom’s piano students, and decorate the house differently each year. We always cooked the entire Christmas feast from scratch. One year, we thought we’d do the “Little House on the Prairie” sort of d├ęcor. We strung popcorn to lay garlands on the Christmas tree, and baked gingerbread men and other frosted cookies, pierced their heads, and threaded yarn through them to make dangling ornaments. (Tragically, many cookies broke when pierced, and we were forced to eat our mistakes.) We finally had enough cookies and popcorn to decorate our tree, and we went to bed.

The next morning, I went to the living room to admire our — hey! What happened to all the cookies and popcorn? Gypsy, the 25-pound miniature poodle, lay behind the tree, looking guilty as sin, with probably two pounds of Christmas treats in her tummy. She’d stood on her hind legs and walked around the tree, eating everything up to 36 inches from the floor. The glass and paper ornaments remained pristine.

Gypsy didn’t know the Genesis story about not eating from the tree in the center of the garden, or the one about David eating the sacred bread in the tabernacle. She was smart, but she was just a dog with a sweet tooth. Stolen bread tastes sweet, but soon your mouth is full of gravel. Proverbs 20:16 MSG. Gypsy wasn’t completely at fault. Valuables are safe in a wise person’s home; fools put it all out for yard sales. Proverbs 21:20 MSG. We should have known that edible decorations would be too tempting for a dog!

Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes. Mark 4:24-25 MSG. Pet lovers understand that whatever we give our animals in treats, toys, vet bills, and other expenses, we receive back in rich measure.

This is a worrisome time in the global economy. We’re trying to plan our personal, church, and corporate budgets for the next year, wondering whether we should freeze at current levels, invest now while prices are low, cut back on essentials, or conserve every penny against the time when pennies are again worth stooping to pick up. Pay off those bills to avoid interest, or take advantage of tax deductions and depreciation? Should we look for extra income from freelance or part-time jobs?

It’s gift-giving time in almost every culture, whatever the religious (or non-religious) beliefs. Should we limit our spending? Stimulate the economy with the purchase of a giant electronic marvel or gas-guzzling vehicle for the family? Think about handicrafts or homemade goods for gift-giving? Is there anything left of you to volunteer at a soup kitchen, tie quilts at the Dorcas meeting, deliver meals to the homebound, or rock preemies at the neonatal ward?

Perhaps instead of giving Dad another thing for his shelf (and eventually the garage rafters), we should consider giving a gift in his name. You know the kind: groceries or a check to help the local food bank, or one of many animal rescue organizations. And for your brother’s teenagers, a gift to a a child sponsorship group like Compassion or World Vision, or a Haitian relief organization, or to a charity like

Doing good deeds motivated by love, and leaving the materialism and rush behind, will give us that feeling of an old-fashioned Christmas. Christmas is about the heart, not about stuff. It’s being like God: compassionate, merciful, loving and forgiving – not doing the expected thing for advertisers and corporations.

That applies to all of us. Let’s invest our tender care, our gentle touch, our careful respect, in people. It’s the best gift we can give. Material goods pale in comparison to pleasant relationships. We’ll all be blessed beyond measure.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6 NIV. That is exactly what Jesus did when He came to dwell with us. Surprisingly, He expressed His faith in us: His faith that we would listen to His voice and learn to be like the One Who expresses Himself through love.

If we love Him, we will keep His commands, which are to love the Lord with all we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That kind of love would blow modern Christmases out of the water! It would be a bright, guiding star in the darkness, leading seekers to the Light.

It starts with YOU.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eternal life and Hanukkah

© 2004 Christy K Robinson

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. John 10:22-23 NASB

There is a festival of lights that pierces the long nights of winter, and it’s been celebrated for more than 2,000 years. The festival recalls the 168-165 BC Maccabees’ revolt against the assimilation of Hellenistic Jews and oppression by the Syrian Greeks who had desecrated the Jerusalem Temple. When the Maccabean Jews reclaimed the Temple, there was only one day’s measure of consecrated oil to burn in the large menorah. Because of their prayer and sincere intention to cleanse God’s sanctuary, He kept the lamp burning for eight days, until more olive oil could be obtained and ritually purified.

The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication.” Jews and Christians believe that this dedication and purification of the Temple was a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of the desecration and cleansing of the sanctuary. Today’s Hanukkah customs include gift-giving and family celebrations. Many holiday foods are fried to commemorate the miracle of the oil.

Jesus celebrated Hanukkah! John 10:22-23 NASB says that Jesus was at the Temple during the festival of dedication—Hanukkah. Jesus used this Hanukkah celebration to compare the miracle of extending the life of consecrated oil in a lamp, and the heart consecrated to Him. God is all-powerful to grant eternal life or measureless oil. He’s more interested in your heart than He is in ceremonies or the accoutrements of worship.

The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10:24-30 NASB

Eternal life which no one can snatch from God’s nail-scarred hand. He extends His hand to you right now, just as you are. Accept your gift!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The harvest of gratitude

It’s a quickstep now, to the end of the year. The Thanksgiving holidays, winter festivals, the whole Christmas season, and New Years celebrations race along, catching everyone in their path. Miss one finger crossover in that sonata, and you’ll go sideways with the metronome! 
It’s like that at the ministry where I work, as we work through budget projections, strategic planning, the end-of-year bookkeeping, the most generous time of year for our financial supporters, the everyday duties, the conventions to prepare for and attend, and big projects with too-close deadlines. Of course, it never stops, because nothing slows down in the new year, either! It’s not as easy to keep smiling (as opposed to grimacing) when there’s so much pressure during the holiday season. Surely you have experienced the same thing. Even retired people say that since they retired, they’ve never worked so hard!
But then we receive a thank-you from halfway around the world or even across the country, reminding us that we are loved, appreciated, and that someone thanks God for us! That knowledge brings a burst of energy. It’s encouraging!
In Ukraine, I watched some “church ladies” who were entranced with the message of grace they heard from their visiting evangelist. And later, when that evangelist learned of their joy, he was encouraged and strengthened in his labors. In Russia, when the social worker at Zaoksky Theological Seminary heard of the American and Canadian interest in providing Bible teaching and comfort to “her” orphans, and watched as they impetuously filled the passed hat with $2300 in rubles, dollars, and grivnas, she wept for joy. (And the people who gave were not far from tears, either.)
Nearly a hundred evangelists left their families at home, and sacrificed thousands of dollars and weeks of their time to minister in Ukraine. Yes, they enjoyed their missionary service time there, they made friends, they loved the hospitality—but when they flew home, they were unsure of the results of their investment. They were planting seeds for the Holy Spirit to nurture and harvest—but they wanted to have a glimpse of the progress. Who wouldn’t?
God loves to give us gifts. So He inspired the union president to send a thank-you letter by email, along with an Excel file of the baptism and Bible-study preliminary results. Imagine the joy they’re feeling right now! They’ll not be able to contain their enthusiasm, but will share that excitement with their church families. 
“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, ‘He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.’ This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 MSG.
So sacrificial giving grows great wealth? Although it seems like a paradox, that’s what Paul is saying. Investing in seed and the hard labor that goes along with farming the crop leads to a multiplied yield. The harvested grain becomes bread for your meals, even the bread of Communion. God is truly extravagant.
When we realize even a tiny bit of what God has done for us in His mercy, compassion, and boundless love by offering His own perfect, divine life to give us eternal life at His side—we have a reason to be grateful. It’s so much more than being thankful for a nice house, job, health, loved ones, or a special meal on the table. God actually gives us the attitude and action of gratitude.
The English clergyman and poet, George Herbert (1593-1633), wrote,

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more—a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart whose very pulse may be
Thy praise.

“Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!” 2 Corinthians 9:12-15 MSG.
Yes, thank God for His gift of a grateful and gracious heart. Thank Him that we live in a country that recognizes that giving money, time, and thanks is a blessing to not only the recipient, but the giver as well. Thank Him that He has given you extravagant blessings in order that you may have the same joy of giving that He does.
Thank you, Lord, for making us grateful. Thank you for sharing brilliant glimpses of eternity and what our puny labors have wrought. Thank you for the very pizzazz and vibrancy that comes from giving—and from receiving thanks. Remind us to share that gratitude, that grateful heart, with those around us by thanking them.

Published elsewhere in November 2007

Sunday, October 24, 2010

St Crispin's Day

We don't deserve praise! The LORD alone deserves all of the praise, because of his love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1 CEV

In 1989, I dashed home from the movie theater, humming the Henry V soundtrack theme and its descant repeatedly, until I could reproduce it on my piano, and notate it so I’d never forget it. I still use that theme when playing softly under a prayer or offertory. The music for Non Nobis Domine had a great effect upon me because of its setting in the Shakespeare play.

In the morality play similar to Psalm 115, King Henry V of England was pursuing his ancestral rights to territory in France, but (naturally) was being rebuffed by the French government. As Anglo-centric William Shakespeare wrote it, the arrogant, godless French depended upon their superior numbers, home advantage, and mercenary muscles to beat the battle-weary, disease-ridden, far-from-home, humble, God-fearing English at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415--St Crispin's Day. When the battle was over, the French herald gave Henry the news of his victory. Vast numbers of French had died, and only a handful of the English had gone down.

Shakespeare’s poetic rendering of King Henry’s victory speech was: “O God, thy arm was here; And not to us, but to thy arm alone, Ascribe we all! When, without stratagem, But in plain shock and even play of battle, Was ever known so great and little loss On one part and on the other? Take it, God, For it is none but thine! Come, go we in procession to the village. And be it death proclaimed through our host To boast of this or take the praise from God Which is his only… God fought for us. Do we all holy rites; Let there be sung Non nobis and Te Deum.”

God fought.. for us! It's almost unbelievable. But he loves us with a love that literally tore him apart to save us from hell. He fought for us when we never wanted him, or thought of him with anything but fear and distrust. He fought for us because he's our creator and parent. He knew before the creation of the world how each one of us would need him and his love, and that we'd do anything to get away from his care--and he loved us the more for our misery and need. God fought for us. And he won.

In the 1989 movie, composer Patrick Doyle begins singing “Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam,” and gradually the weary, heroic English soldiers join the glorious chorus as they trudge to the nearby church.

The Non nobis is Psalm 115:1-3: Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The first fruit

Whatever it takes, Lord, fulfill your promise and work your purpose for my life. Even if I lose my job. Or my health. Or my possessions. None of that matters without love. You formed me for that purpose: to love. You said, 
"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:7-17 NIV
And that's all I'm asking. For the completedness of love. That God will take delight and joy in me because I love others. Finding the job and the concerns with daily life will be resolved because when I ask in Jesus' name (which is Love) and for his glory, he will give whatever I ask, and as he said at first, whatever I wish. What I remember hearing in countless Bible classes and commentaries, sermons and seminars, is whatever I "need." [And forget asking for anything material, the teachers and pastors said. What we're supposed to ask for is the Holy Spirit and his gifts.] But Jesus is not talking about needs of food, water, shelter.

This passage is not the Great Commission, where Jesus sent his disciples into all the world to tell people who he was and what he stood for, and to love others as he loved, resulting in discipleship and enlargement of the kingdom of God. No, this was an intimate, last-will-and-testament moment before Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Final words spoken with urgency and on the verge of tears because they were so important. Jesus communicated his most intimate thoughts with his Father, and let his disciples—now his friends—into that relationship.

Jesus said that he was the vine, and his followers are the branches which bear much fruit. But he doesn't describe the fruit in terms of works of righteousness or accomplishments. He doesn't say that keeping the Ten Commandments is fruit. His fruit is about loving one another. In Galatians 5:22, the first fruit of the Spirit is love. The trunk of the vine carries nourishment from the roots to the branches with their leaves, tendrils, and the grapes themselves. This love or fruit is not a product of our trying, but of our receiving.

It seems too simple. Just "love." Shouldn't there be more to it, involving time, money, exertion, or pain? Shouldn't we sell up, give our goods to the poor, and travel to foreign lands to preach at people? Maybe, if that is what God is unmistakeably telling you. As anyone knows who loves, those things come right along with love. Love is not just a pleasant emotion about the upholstery in your new car, or that you prefer chocolate ice cream to 100-calorie yogurts. Love can be a very rocky road, as parents of teenagers will tell you, or spouses who have weathered life's storms. Or missionaries who have been surrounded by death and disease, terrorism and peril. Love is difficult.

But in this passage, Jesus says that love is the most important concept, the most important life, that we can choose. The decision to love is the decision to be godly, because God is Love. He is the source of love. He is the sap that runs through the vine's trunk and into the branches, and fills the fruit with sweet juice. That juice is what we drink at the Communion or Eucharist service. Jesus' blood was symbolized by the juice of the grape.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:7-11 MSG
Oswald Chambers wrote: "The love of God is not created— it is His nature. When we receive the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit, He unites us with God so that His love is demonstrated in us. The goal of the indwelling Holy Spirit is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was."

Love is more than a feeling. It's part of our spirit, the spirit that was created in the image of God. He created us to love him and to love one another. He is the love that runs in our veins, and fills that best fruit of all with its sweet juice.

Lord, give me love. Let love fill my respiratory and circulatory systems to overflowing. Let me bear fruit.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My book is now available for sale!

Get your Christmas gift list checked off NOW, because the book you'll give your friends and family members is now available.

We Shall Be Changed is an adult daily-devotional and inspirational book, edited by ME! And I wrote 92 of the 365 inspirational essays, so I'm the principal author, too. This hardcover book has 375 pages.

It was begun in 2004, printed by my former employer in 2005 as four separate quarterly paperbacks, and then Review & Herald Publishing Association picked it up for 2010 hardcover publication. They manufactured the books in June 2010, and my "baby" is for sale now, in time for Christmas  and end-of-year birthday gifts--and to satisfy those New Year resolutions to improve oneself.

Some of you have suggested you'd like a signed copy. If you're a friend in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you know how to reach me. (I have none for sale.) If you purchase the book from the publisher, Amazon, or an ABC bookstore, and would like a signed bookplate, contact me by commenting on this article, and I'll send you a sticker to affix inside.

Each article is written (or re-written or edited) in a breezy-fresh, conversational style, and is accompanied by a scripture for the day, taken from modern, contemporary versions of the Bible. Some of the modern applications of ancient texts will surprise you (in a good way, of course).

The book was created from the beginning (I know, I put it in the writers' guidelines!) for a non-denominational, Christian audience, so you won't find dogma, branding, or secret rituals in these pages! Just everyday situations with a fresh, upbeat perspective, tied to a daily scripture text. If you're looking for a positive kick-start to your day, this book should be open on your night table. If you're looking for an inoffensive, nonpartisan, inspirational gift for a friend or family member--this is it. It might show another dimension to the God you thought you knew!

Here are the online ordering sites for We Shall Be Changed:

Publisher (RHPA) will ship faster than Amazon. Ask them about institutional discounts or volume discounts.

Amazon (visit this site to "see inside" the book, including text and graphics). Note that Amazon's shipping is 2-5 weeks (because they have to order it from RHPA).

Or call toll-free to order We Shall Be Changed: 1-800-765-6955.

Related posts:

Friday, August 20, 2010

It’s a dry rain

“When it rains, I like to tell children that God is crying. Probably because of something they did.” ~from Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey

I was born in a desert city, an arid place with high summer temperatures which people excuse with “It’s a dry heat.” There are few places on earth like this, where rain is welcomed with dancing in the streets, where people come out of their offices and homes to experience for themselves the big splatters of rain, the blasts of ever-cooler wind that take the temperature from 110° to 80°, the bolts of lightning striking the power substations. 

We desert people love our storms. Like gamblers coaching dice, we look to the eastern sky and beg the thunderheads building over the mountains, “Come on, baby, you can make it!”

It’s called the monsoon season, although it bears no resemblance to the monsoons of the Near East. When I was a child and the city was much smaller, the storms hit several times a week through July and August. Now that Phoenix is 100 miles from northwest to southeast, the column of heat rising from concrete and asphalt bounces all but the strongest storms back into the desert and its mountains.

The funny thing is, desert storms aren’t broad systems, but individual towering clouds only a few miles across. Sometimes the rain will fall 30 feet away on the neighbor’s property, but your own property gets nothing. Wet sidewalks there, dry here. The Doppler radar on your computer shows a big red blob headed for your neighborhood—but the storm splits and goes around, leaving you with all the dust, some of the cool, and a few of the sprinkles. But not the downpour that would wash away the months of powdered sand, stream off the roof, or sink into the thirsty ground. Someone wrote on Facebook, “It’s a dry rain.”

Here in this dry place, separated from loved ones, rejected by an employer, applying for jobs in the black hole of the economic recession, seeing no spark of a love life, unable to afford the reunion this year, lacking resources for health care, not qualifying for aid after paying taxes for 35 years, having moved away from a house that I made home, leaving friends in another state, and feeling unappreciated—I need rain. 

It’s been my practice to follow the advice of a friend, to “stay sweet and positive” in my relationships and communications. Certainly in this discouraging world, it’s important to present myself as strong and happy, that I have my act together and am successful in my work, that I'm invulnerable and have faith in God’s desire and ability to bless, that because I’m a child of God he supplies all my need. It's not hypocritical to want to portray God as my "everything"--it's called evangelism, sharing the good news that our loving God is the answer. But I confess that I'm the same as every other hurt child.

The danger is that my own friends and family don’t understand the need because they see the image I successfully projected. They have their own need to worry about, so if they think I’m doing all right, well, that’s all good. So day after day, month after month, I am a heat island, repelling the storms I need in the fiction that I-am-woman-hear-me-roar. No hugs, no touches, no heart-to-heart communication. No rain.

The powerful and beautiful storm clouds tower above, and there are precursors to a soaking rain. Then the storm splits and goes around, and I’m left as hot and dry as ever, but this time without hope. It could be days or weeks before the next storm appears, and it may roll over again, leaving its refreshing blessings on someone else.

Your Father in heaven… gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:45 NLT

The point of the verse is to love the unlovable as well as the lovable, just as God distributes his grace to all, righteous and unrighteous. But at this beaten-down, vulnerable time (that seems to drag on endlessly), I just need to know deep inside that I’m loved by God and loved by people, that all this painful change is not the consequence of something I did or a bad choice I made. It's the way of the world that is not our home. However, it's the only home any of us has known thus far.

I need real, wet, soaking, refreshing rain. I need to feel that God is not punishing me; that he's not withholding blessing to teach me a lesson; that he's not closing all the doors—and windows, too. I need to know that he's not crying about something I did. Hearing people say they’ll pray for me is nice, but it’s not enough. I don’t know what will fill my empty reservoir.

Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. Isaiah 35:6-7 NLT

That would be a good start to filling the dry desert lake. There would be enough water to release into the dry riverbed filled with rocks, prickly cacti, and mesquite trees, and let it nourish the lands beyond.

Surely I’m not the only person on earth going through the parched, empty valley, desperate for the pillar of cloud. Look around. Those who seem to have it all together—don’t. Millions have lost their jobs and had to make hard choices when they thought that their years of sacrificial work and good sense would allow them to thrive, not just survive. They've seen their immediate family turn away. They have deep wounds that they hide in an attempt to keep it together for an example to others, and to "witness" about godly life. God doesn't need our public relations efforts. He will be glorified anyway.

What can you do? Realize that everyone is a lost, lonely child. Start with a hug. When they pull away in embarrassment or confusion, give an extra squeeze as if to say "I just can't do it in only one hug." Don't believe them when they say everything's all right and change the subject. Your open heart might be rain to them. They might step outside, inhale the sweet breeze, soak up the raindrops, and begin to dance.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower

Mom and I would climb the ladder, take a blanket up to the still-hot roof, and watch the Perseids meteor shower in the northeastern sky while we talked softly and laughed. The brightest meteors fell after midnight. My dad and brother, early to bed, missed it all. When Phoenix, Arizona was a small city in clear desert air, we could see the Milky Way. Phoenix is a megalopolis now, and city lights have overcome the starry host. Sometimes, there are monsoon clouds obscuring the stars anyway.

Laurentius was a Christian deacon martyred by the Romans in 258 AD. They roasted him on an iron stove, from which he reportedly (and improbably) cried out, “I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other.” The saint’s death was remembered on his feast day, August 10, and the shooting stars of the Perseids meteor shower also became known as the fiery Tears of St. Lawrence.

The meteors we see are only the size of a grain of sand, with a few reaching the size of a pea or marble. They are the “exhaust” trail of the Swift-Tuttle Comet, which circles our Sun every 130 years. Earth passes through this grainy trail every year at this time, and the grains fall through our atmosphere at 37 miles per second, flaming with heat friction.

The Lord was not obligated to create anything, much less such fascinating beauty. But He has His reputation to keep up. The beauty was not lost on the ancients, either.

Isaiah 40:26 MSG: Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name—so magnificent! so powerful!—and never overlooks a single one?

Song of Solomon 6:10 MSG: Has anyone ever seen anything like this—dawn-fresh, moon-lovely, sun-radiant, ravishing as the night sky with its galaxies of stars?

Daniel 12:3 MSG: Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever. 

This article featured on " Daily Inspiration and Arts Travel" at

Monday, August 2, 2010

Predictions and prophecies

I wrote this article in early June 2008. We all know what happened in September 2008: the collapse of multi-national financial institutions and the government admission that we, um, er, had been in a recession after all since December 2007. Hmmm, what a surprise. It was an even greater surprise when I was laid off in June 2009, and in September 2009 a financial expert declared that the Great Recession was over. Well, at least HE has a job.

June 2008– Some in-the-position-to-know newsmakers, pundits, and government spokespeople look at financial indicators and say that the economy is strong, to spend your tax refund on big-ticket items, and not to listen to the pessimistic forecasters--there will be no recession in 2008. Others say that not only is a recession predicted, it is already upon us. The local newspaper has changed its editorial format to reflect the many pages of legal notices about foreclosures and bankruptcies. Many newspapers have closed their operations for lack of advertising revenue and subscription losses. Two months ago, we heard that US gasoline prices might rise as high as $4 per gallon. In California, $4 is a dimming, distant memory. We've been there and done that.

On Sunday, June 1 [2008], a religious program predicted that Fred Thompson and Hillary Clinton would receive their party nominations, and battle it out for the 2008 US presidential election (must have been taped last December before primaries!), and that people should invest everything in precious metals against the coming economic meltdown. In 2001, the Iraq war was predicted by the Secretary of Defense to last no more than five months. Geologists predict that southern California will suffer a 7.8 earthquake in our lifetime. This hurricane season will be more terrible than others because of worldwide climate change. Every time the doorbell rings, my dog predicts that very dangerous people have come calling.

With all the alarms and hype, it’s easy to sink into a funk about how awful the world is. We Christians say to each other that surely, Jesus is coming "soon." But Jesus said that two millennia ago, and it doesn’t seem particularly immediate! Meanwhile, it’s definitely more difficult to make the income stretch to meet the expenditure, and the “bad guys” work even harder in myriad ways to steal your earnings.

How was it possible that in the midst of a hurricane of several days’ duration, and the impending doom of the ship carrying him, the apostle Paul was able to have peace, and tell his fellow sufferers that all was well, to have a meal, and they’d all be saved? How could Jesus’ disciples, experienced fishermen, be expected to know that their slumbering Master would calm their raging tempest with His spoken word?

Hebrews 13 has interesting prepositions and conjunctions. The writer exhorts us to keep loving both our spiritual family and the aliens among us; to cultivate hospitality because we may be honored with the presence of the angels; to honor marriage vows (even if you’re not married, be faithful to your future spouse); and then – “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6 NLT.

How do those statements track? For? So? Surprising little words. Paul used the same little words at the end of the two-week gale that threatened 276 lives on the ship. So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” Acts 27:25 NLT

This part of the story holds a huge surprise: cut loose your only hope and security, let it drift off and sink, and watch what God will do to your situation. 
Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship. But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away.  Acts 27:30-32 NLT

LET GO?? Be relaxed? Have peace? Put your hands down and stop struggling? That’s a lot like saying during the Force-Five tornado, “Peace, be still.”

A song lyric by Steven Curtis Chapman says, “Sometimes His voice comes calling / Like rolling thunder, / Or like driving rain; / And sometimes His voice is quiet, / And we start to wonder / If He knows our pain. / But He who spoke peace to the water / Cares more for our hearts than the waves…” *

We often attribute troubles and storms to the enemy. To the devil. But sometimes it’s God Himself in the raging hurricane or the earthquake or the fire. His voice, the same voice that created the heavens and earth, the same voice that declares our salvation, comes in a whisper, and it comes in a roar. Sometimes His glory and grace can best be revealed in what we perceive as trouble.

How was God’s glory revealed in Paul’s storm and shipwreck? Everything happened as Paul’s angel had said. No one even lost a hair in the ship’s breakup and the swim to the island. But better than that, when the poisonous snake struck Paul's hand, people witnessed God’s miraculous healing power and became believers in Jesus Christ.

Just by reading the news, we can see how predictions played out as the months and years pass, and we can make educated predictions of our own. But some predictions are not of this world: they’re spiritually discerned. That’s how we can predict with confidence during a crisis of finance or war, during a life-threatening natural disaster, that we trust in the Lord and have submitted all we are and have to Him, SO He is in control and we will have no fear FOR He is God alone.

We have faith. We trust that God’s glory will be revealed, and that we are His servants, His instruments to make peace where there is war, to create prosperity from disaster, to encourage and lift up the terrified and hopeless and abused.

We know that this world is the unreal, and that the kingdom of God is the ultimate reality. It’s all upside down and backward from what we’ve always known. The first is the last. The peace is found in the eye of the storm.

Predictions. We will have NO FEAR. All we have to know is that God will never leave us or forsake us. Ever. Because He is Immanuel, God With Us.

* His Eyes, by Steven Curtis Chapman, c. 1988.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A hummingbird's heart

Hummingbird hearts beat 1,260 to 1,400 times per minute or average 23 beats per second. Their wings beat 55 to 75 times per second, creating the famous humming noise. They live an average of three years. Some migrate thousands of miles in a single season, following the blooming plants. They need to eat (flower nectar and tiny insects) about every ten minutes to maintain their metabolism. They can’t walk or hop, but they can hover. Their two-inch-wide nests are made of plant down, spider webs, and stray bits of fluff.

“My” green and tan hummingbirds love blue sage and lavender spikes, ripe black mulberries, and pink orchid trees. They’re boldly curious little beasts, hovering close and checking me out as I water the plants or read in my garden nook. They perch in the trees, do aerobatics, and buzz the dog’s head. When they scold my cats for just existing, their chirps can be heard many meters away. The tiny ones peer in the kitchen window as I’m preparing a meal. When the young hummer is temporarily abandoned in the orchid tree, she chitters for her parents for ten minutes before she’s hungry enough to seek and sip her own nectar (which was why she was “abandoned” in the first place).

Hummingbirds are so inoffensive--and beloved--that when they get into a house through an open window or door, we try everything to lure them back outside. When a hummer came into my kitchen through a door but kept butting the window looking for a way out, I put the cats behind a door, and tried luring it with a big red advertisement. No luck. So I went outside, took off the screen, and gently and slowly opened the window. Still the bird wouldn't go out the open side. So I slowly and quietly shooed it toward the open air and it flew away like a lightning bolt.

I was researching 17th-century New England for a book I'm writing, and came across this description of a hummingbird. The writer, William Wood, published his 1634 book on natural history for the English Puritan emigrants. Hummingbirds were unknown in the Old World, so this was a new species to them.
The Humbird is one of the wonders of the Countrey, being no bigger than a Hornet, yet hath all the demensions of a Bird, as bill, and wings, with quills, spiderlike legges, small clawes: For colour, she is as glorious as the Raine-bow; as she flies, she makes a little humming noise like a Humble-bee: wherefore shee is called the Humbird.

Like many other species, the hummingbird is not mentioned in the Bible, which is admittedly not a scientific nature handbook. They are native to the Americas, not to the Bible lands. Would it be a stretch to liken our desire for a relationship with the Lord, to a hummingbird’s heart? Imagine that with every heartbeat (and at 23 beats per second it’s humming, too), you would “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV

Perhaps this hum is an example of having a song in your heart. A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song. Proverbs 15:15 MSG

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Greater love hath no dog

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:13-14
This is my command: Love each other. John 15:17

When I was five, my parents adopted a miniature poodle from the Humane Society shelter. We named her Gypsy. She was gunmetal gray, with soft, wavy hair—not curly, like a poodle. Sometimes, her hair grew out all shaggy, as you see in the photo.

Although only about 25 pounds, Gypsy was a giant in spirit. She knew about 70 phrases and commands, learned with graham cracker treats. She came along on every vacation between Phoenix and northern Minnesota, where my grandparents lived. Gypsy would stick her head out the window and her pink tongue would fly in the Rambler’s slipstream. When we arrived at the lake cabin in Minnesota, Gypsy snuffled around the lake shore while we frolicked in the water.

My teenage cousin Debbie had a similar hairstyle and coloring to my mom. When Debbie flew by the dock on water skis and released the tow rope, Gypsy thought Debbie was Mom, and Mom seemed to be drowning. Gypsy, at full tilt, launched herself from the dock and paddled to Debbie to save her life. When Debbie turned around to swim back in, Gypsy discovered her mistake, gave up on the rescue, and headed back to shore, but her long fur dragged her down in the water. My dad ended up rescuing the struggling dog. Thirty years later, we still laugh at the memory.

Another time, my family was playing on a hand-pulled mono-rail car, crossing the Verde River in Arizona. My younger brother shouted with laughter, and that was enough for the mighty poodle to launch from our elderly friend’s care, diving into the swift river to save us. Again, Gypsy had to be rescued from her heroic mission.

God gave us domestic animals for love, companionship, to assist us in many ways, and to teach us lessons about our relationship with and obedience to our Master. The prophet Nathan used a pet ewe to teach David about his sin (2 Samuel 12). Many faithful animals love their masters more than their own lives, and their obedience is legendary.

Praise God for His wisdom and His gift of pets to brighten our lives and teach us about love, tenderness, obedience, and loyalty.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Citizens of a kingdom

The kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21 NIV

Jan and Dorothy, nurses, have dual Canadian-American citizenship. Antoinette, from the Azores Islands, is a resident alien in America. Steve, a New Zealander, was adopted by Arizona’s Pima Indian tribe, then moved back Down Under. Cordell is “Jamerican,” a Jamaican-born, naturalized American. Lance, from Australia, recently was sworn into American citizenship. Ana Maria, from Ecuador, is a health educator in a jail system. One of her sons is in pastoral training. Darwin, from Missouri, sat in a Niagara Falls Canadian-side restaurant, looking at the American shore. “Across that river lies freedom,” he declared melodramatically. The server was not amused.

My friends are from all over the world. And the best friends of all don’t even belong to this world! We are aliens. We’re not green and tentacled, but we don’t fit in with most other earthlings. We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not a pie-in-the-sky futuristic kingdom that we’ll see shortly after Jesus’ Second Coming. It’s now, and it’s been here since we accepted salvation or “got saved.” We may choke on smog, see cigarette butts and homeless people in the gutter, and hear of oppression everywhere on the globe. But we Christians are, at this moment, living in the Kingdom. It’s both current reality and future promise.

We who live in democratized countries don’t usually understand the distinction between a reign and a realm. The reign is a time and place of government rule. But the realm is the territory or sphere of influence. And because the Kingdom of Heaven is in our hearts, and our Monarch is Jesus, He is our King now as well as after His advent.

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within [among] you.” Luke 17:20-21 NIV

American Independence Day is always a fun holiday. It lacks the pressures of Thanksgiving or Christmas; there’s no need to use the day for chores or a dental appointment. On the plus side, you get the day off work, there are fireworks, picnics, swimming, parades, news stories about heroes, and sales. At church this week, we sing “America the Beautiful,” and “Faith of Our Fathers.” Flags and bunting are everywhere. We dress in national colors.

My favorite Independence Days were ones spent in Washington, DC, with the symphony orchestra playing and the shells bursting over the Washington Monument; and at Lake Powell, Arizona, where we swam and boated, watched a parade, met Navajo code talkers, and saw fireworks from a sandstone mesa. I once spent July 4 at the British Museum in London, where I wore my colors and was wished well by a tour guide!

Patriotism means supporting our government and armed forces, waving the flag, cheering for our country in sports, and having the “correct” political beliefs. Are we true patriots for doing these acts, or are there other ways of expressing love and honor for our country?

What about obeying the laws, including speed limits and zoning ordinances? Do we hire and pay people under the table to avoid taxes? Do we lie on tax forms? Do we study the voter information and the news reports and vote for issues, moral principles, and qualified people, or do we vote a party ticket? (Do we vote at all?) People offered their lives for these liberties we sometimes discount, and for the lifestyle we believe is our right.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 NIV

It’s been said that you are your true self when no one is looking. Are you a patriot? Are you a “doer” or just a talker? Wave your flag with pride, but follow it up with a life worthy of a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We Shall Be Changed is now in hardcover!

It finally happened! It started in early 2004, when I wondered how I could compile 366 first-person essays on how God transforms lives, and use it with the thousands of constituents of my former employer, Quiet Hour Ministries. And it's resurrected as a hardcover daily devotional book published by Review & Herald Publishing Association in June 2010.

The book's primary purpose is to show how God and his message of intimacy are clear and easy-to-understand without theological jargon. It speaks of how we, the writers, were transformed by the revelation of  God's love for us.

There were countless nights and weekends spent at my home office, using a 10-year-old Macintosh with dial-up internet, devising the writer guidelines, writing my 92 essays, rewriting many of the essays I solicited from others, and editing and formatting all the essays for length, content, redundancy, leaps of logic (or lack of it), correcting misquotes of scripture, paraphrasing quotes from other authors (to avoid misquotes and copyright issues), and many other activities. I emailed Word documents to the office computer, and the articles were reviewed by the ministry officers and proofread. It was wonderful to make new friendships with writers around the world.

The first version of We Shall Be Changed was issued in 2005, in four quarterly soft-cover books that our staff designed and proofread, had printed locally, and mailed to subscribers. Nearly every employee was involved in this book: some of them wrote essays, but the customer service people, those in accounting, the mailroom, marketing, evangelism, information services--we all had a stake. We formatted it in a database to run on our company website. Even the website was revamped partly to accommodate the text of our book. Once it was out in the hands of readers, we received scores of notes of praise for the articles, and the phone calls were universally positive.

Early in 2006, we sent the set of books to each writer, to board members of The Quiet Hour, and a number of influential ministry partners. One of the sets was sent as a thank-you gift to Jeannette Johnson, acquisitions editor at RHPA, who had helped me several times over the years. She phoned me and asked if RHPA could re-publish the set in 2010. My voice was calm and professional while we talked, but when I hung up, my office chair was spinning as I raced down the hall to share the news.

Although I had done more than 90 percent of the writing and editing work at home, I had done it under the authority of The Quiet Hour. And of course they funded the first edition and paid the salaries of the entire staff who participated.

When it was time to submit the updated manuscript early in 2009, I again worked nights and evenings at home, although this time with a laptop and fast Internet! It took about six weeks of evenings, plus a few weekends, to revamp the old manuscript, find 365 scripture verses to fit every essay, replace weaker essays with new ones, format it as required by RHPA, and email it away. About 10 days later, Jeannette notified me that the book had passed muster with the book committee, and that it would be printed in 2010 and marketed for 2011. Click here to see what the publisher and friends said about the book manuscript in 2009.

Just a few days later, I was laid off from my position as communications director, along with a third of other staff members.

In late April of 2010, I began researching a historical novel on Mary Barrett Dyer, my grandmother 12 generations ago. It's not a biography, history, or theological treatise. It's a narrative of a woman who defied convention, and even colonial law, to obey her Holy Spirit-directed conscience. Her execution changed American history. I believe I'm uniquely suited to tell Mary's story because of my faith, knowledge of the Bible, genealogy and history research, and experience working with religious institutions and their policies and leaders. (For lots of info on Mary and William Dyer, join her Facebook page HERE.)

I received my five (only) complimentary copies of We Shall Be Changed on June 23, and they'll be marketed (probably late summer 2010) by RHPA and Adventist Book Centers in catalog mailers and their online bookstores. For sale information, I'll post links in Facebook and on this blog's margin. Some have indicated an interest in having their copy signed by me, and I will do so locally. But for others, I'll design and print a sticky bookplate and mail it to you in your self-addressed stamped envelope.

Meanwhile, life goes on. And I need to get back to my novel!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Midsummer: the veil is open

Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh. Hebrews 10:19, 20 NKJV

Today is the longest daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For thousands of years, this date has been observed by devotees of pagan gods, and bonfires were lit and vigils held during the short hours of darkness. The idea was that people were safe from the evil spirits within the circle of the bonfires' light.

Ancient peoples built their pyramids, stone circles, palaces, road alignments, shrines, and temples based on their solar observations on this day in particular.

At solar festivals (solstices, equinoxes, and the six-week intervals between—February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1), the eve of solar holy days was seen as a time when the veil (something that conceals, separates, or screens like a curtain) between this world and the Otherworld (of spirits, gods, fairies, and the dead) was very weak, and powerful Otherworld figures could cross through.

Just like they built Christian churches over pagan religious shrines, our ancestors replaced these festivals with feasts and holidays. Most pagan holidays had to do with sex and fertility (Easter, May Day), but also with death and rebirth (Halloween/All Saints, Christmas, Lent).

Christians are so blessed to live in peace and freedom from fear. We don’t have to appease vengeful gods by burning sage, pouring out libations, or making blood sacrifices. We need not fear haunting or demon possession because Christ Almighty protects us with His veil.

Hebrews 10:19-24 NKJV says: Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith... Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.

That’s an encouraging, satisfying, peacemaking message from God. He is all-powerful, and we are His children, so let us go forth in His Name, in His strength, and in His heart of grace. And in contrast to what those evil spirits would do if they're loosed, let’s use this Midsummer as an occasion to stir up love and good works.

Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping others in ways they need us, far more than what we'd choose to "do unto others." (A little religious joke there.) Sometimes it's as easy as listening without giving advice, or an extra two seconds of a hug, just because. Other times, it will involve sacrifice on our parts. But God gives us the discernment to know what to say and do--and what not to say and do at the appropriate times. He'll show us who needs the lovins. When the veil is open, not only do we have access to the Father, but His love is freely poured out on us, and through us to others.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whatever it takes--part 2

The very morning I lost my job was the day I prayed a radical prayer: God, do whatever it takes. “Lord, to accomplish these specific things, to fulfill your promises, and advance your plan for me, do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. I accept that it could be painful for a time, maybe even excruciating. I’m already at my breaking point. But I also trust that you will heal me again as you have before, and I’ll be blessed more greatly. So just do it. Whatever it takes.”

One year ago today, June 18, 2009, I’d been under some extreme stress. I’d been falsely accused of something, and then the accuser manufactured “evidence” and mailed it to himself to make it look like an anonymous person had complained about me. I was never charged to my face, but the accusations about me, and the demands to investigate me, continued for months. The tension, which I internalized, built to a point where I couldn’t walk without terrible pain and had to be hospitalized for cellulitis, and it was several weeks before I could return to work. The work that had been praised by others (including the acceptance of my book manuscript by a Christian publishing house) was criticized and rejected in-house. The accusations continued behind my back, and my friend defended me, but since my knowledge of the matter could get him fired, I couldn’t say or do anything. Again the tensions built, and finally, in a mass layoff of staff blamed on the recession, my dismissal was included in the layoffs. (And my friend ultimately lost his job anyway.)

The year 2009 was not one of my best. After my layoff in one of the most economically-depressed areas of the country, inland southern California, I couldn’t find a job. For reasons beyond my control, I didn’t qualify for state unemployment compensation, and after five months, it was clear I needed to sell my home before I’d have to miss payments and ruin my credit. The few employers (in Phoenix) that had me interview with them chose other applicants. Someone that I cared deeply for decided the feeling wasn’t mutual, declaring in an email that I needed to fix my own problems (which I hadn’t asked to be fixed—only shared as steam vent). I packed up my home of 13 years, and took care of my own business, said goodbye to my church and friends, and moved back to my hometown of Phoenix.

What I write here isn’t one percent of all that happened. Those of you who follow this blog know it’s not a personal journal, but a themed collection of my articles that celebrate discovering love, particularly the love of God. I’ve written many pieces on relationships with friends and family, as well as learning ways that God shows his love. 

There have been many blessings during the last 12 months. I had countless messages of support and caring, and many friends assured me that they frequently pray for me. Some people made sacrificial financial gifts to me when I was completely out of money. My house sold in only 30 days, and I made a profit on it, which is my only support now. I received a small financial settlement in a legal agreement (which I’m not allowed to speak about). I started writing a historical novel which is much more difficult than I anticipated, but will be fantastic, even if I do say so myself.

I continue to pray for restoration in my broken life: a place to feel at home, peace of mind, complete health, inspiration in my writing, to be a blessing to my friends and to lift them up, to be an honorable and godly woman, for my father to be proud of me. To learn for the first time what it is to have my love returned, to be loved and cherished, held and comforted and whispered to, instead of rejected as not good enough. To find a new church family where I can be nurtured and minister in turn. To find a job where my co-workers and I energize one another with new ideas—and where I can have health insurance and medical care for the first time in a year. These are the desires of my heart, and while I don’t understand why they’re not already answered after so many years of faithful prayer, I continue to hold on, day after day, year after year, whatever it takes.

I’ve given my life and my choices to God because I know his plans for me are much better than my own. I still believe that God spoke to ME. He inspired me and lifted my heart. He placed scripture before me and spoke to my spirit when I was in prayer. I know he loves me and is with me all the time, even when I can’t sense him nearby.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT.


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