Tuesday, October 27, 2009

She Reads and honoring parents

Hello, if you've come over from my Forgotten No More devotion that ran yesterday about the children in Ecuador. Be sure and check out my post from yesterday to see Mauricio.

Meanwhile, have you read today's P31 devotion? It's by my She Speaks roommate Ariel Allison. This year was the first time in eons I'd roomed with someone outside the P31 team at the conference and boy was I glad I did. Love her! She is also the main contributor now at P31's She Reads blog. Have you been there? This week she is talking about the father-daughter relationship on the blog and the commandment to honor our parents.

I found out that's a sore spot for many when I asked my readers about it in this post and this one. That command fingers and pokes at old wounds and disappointments we’re certain we were never meant to have. Nonetheless, there sits the command — in the middle of the 10 Commandments — with no exceptions or qualifications noted. Jump in the discussion over there today, or ask Ariel a question about it. She's co-authored a non-fiction book on the father-daughter relationship so she is a great person to ask.

Gotta run and teach at the university! I pray great blessings on your day!

Friday, October 23, 2009

When God Writes Your To-Do List

Welcome to the readers visiting from my devotion published with Proverbs 31 today.
Glad you've stopped by. If you'd like to read about the day I met Mauricio, and see a picture of him in his Sunday-best duds, follow this link to an earlier post.

On Friday night I put the kids to bed and headed to my treadmill for a short walk. Usually I listen to music as I walk, but that evening I decided just to walk and pray. I told God about several things registering as worries in my mind.

One of the things I prayed about was my two children. They are each going through a rough patch right now, with seemingly no breakthroughs in sight. You know that hurts a momma's heart.

I also prayed about the escalating number of ministry responsibilities I'm facing. I prayed through my list of these one-by-one with Him . Then I noted that I felt like I need an assistant.

Another thing I told Him was I wanted my life and ministry to hum in harmony with His purposes for me, but felt overwhelmed as to where to focus my (limited) attention next. Hence, I figured an assistant could help.

I also lamented the fact that I don't seem to read as much as I used to. And yet there is SO MUCH that I want to read. Need to read. Plan to read. I recall people telling me, "I don't know how you read so much, Rachel. I just can't find the time or concentration to do that." Honestly, then I couldn't understand how they could not read a lot. Now I get it. So I asked God to give me back the ability to read and recall as well as I used to. And to complete all those things on my to-read stack.

I prayed about other things and people as well. I praised God. And I lifted up several people's prayer requests I'd heard last week through P31. Then I got off the treadmill and felt God whisper in my heart, "I will be Your assistant."

Minutes later as I headed for my home office I felt Him say, "There's lots to read, but only one thing is required." (My Bible)

Once on my laptop, I received email notification of a new comment on my Life Comes at You Fast post. Heading to my blog to read it, I caught sight of the scriptures I'd put there earlier in the day.

"The LORD is with me; he is my helper."
~ Psalm 118:7a

See, Rachel, I am here. And I will be the assistance you need.

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless."
~ Psalm 10:4

I see the situations with your children. You can trust me with this, Rachel.

My head lowered as I realized what God was doing. He was answering my prayers - with the verses in my own blog post.

Next I looked at the other verse I'd listed ("Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I."~ Isaiah 58:9). I didn't sense an immediate connection between it and my earlier prayers--until I read it in its context. Then I totally saw my Divine Assistant scheduling my busy days for me, to ensure they would hum in harmony with God's purposes just like I prayed:

"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry."

~ Isaiah 58:9-11 (MSG)

That was Friday night, and He has already confirmed this "Isaiah 58 to-do list" to me several times. Plus, my son experienced a small breakthrough yesterday and my daughter, a major one on Saturday. Friends, we serve a God who hears and answers our prayers. A God willing to direct, and bless, our paths. A God who wants our lives to glow with His grace. And a God who wants us to care for His people, particularly our families and the needy.

PS. If you sense God impressing the above passage on your heart as well, hop over and check out Compassion International today.

Life Comes at You Fast

That's me doing almost 50 mph yesterday.

(No, I wasn't speeding.)(Yes, I took this pic while driving.)
(Don't fret, nobody was on the road and I didn't have to look thru a viewfinder.)

Now look closely ... on the left side of my hood beyond the windshield.

It's a little green lizard hanging on for dear life!

(Yep, took this pic while driving too.)


Ever feel like that little green lizard? One minute you're lying in the sun on a car just a few feet from the hydrangea bush you live under. Life is grand. And the next minute, you're on a wildly unexpected, even dangerous ride that will take you miles from the comfort zone of your habitat. And you're thanking God for giving you sticky feet.

OK, well maybe God didn't give us sticky feet to hang on with when life comes at us fast, but He gave us something even better to hang on with - Himself.

"Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:
Here am I."
~ Isaiah 58:9

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless."
~ Psalm 10:4

"The LORD is with me; he is my helper."
~ Psalm 118:7a

Note: No lizards were (intentionally) harmed in the making of this post. Although, he wasn't still on the hood by the time I arrived at church. I'm hoping maybe he hopped off at a stop light and crawled under the nearest azalea bush to catch his little lizard breath.

Friday, October 16, 2009

a thirsty woman

It’s Friday. Earlier I was sitting in the crowded café of my Barnes and Noble bookstore, passing the rainy afternoon while working on my laptop. My stomach repeatedly growled. It was almost 1:30 and I’d not yet had lunch. Hunger urged me to pack up and head next door to a restaurant. I purposed instead to keep my attention on the project at hand. Then something else demanded my attention.

A woman, maybe 35, in jeans and a green rain jacket walked by carrying a black purse. I noticed because she walked with the gate of a person with a disability. Several steps past me she stopped, turned around, and looked at me. I smiled. She began to speak to me in incomprehensible syllables. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I smiled. She repeated her groaning.

“What is it?” I inquired.

After “speaking” a few more sentences, she reached out her hand toward me. The akwardness was growing. All her motions were noticeably slow. Once her arm was extended, she wiggled her fingers while looking at me with soft eyes that didn't seem to fully focus.

Patrons at surrounding tables stared my direction as well. She just keep wiggling her fingers, uttering sounds no one understood. I looked around. She was alone. I smiled again and said, “What do you need?” She came closer, her hand reaching for my wrist resting on my laptop. Maybe she just wants to touch me for some reason, I thought.

Instead, she took my hand and pulled me up from my chair. My eyes made contact with the man at the table behind her. He looked at me with a mix of surprise and questioning. I suspect my facial expression matched his.

I allowed the woman in the rain slicker to lead me by the hand. She took me to the coffee condiments counter that housed a stack of plastic cups and a help-yourself pitcher of water. She grabbed the cup-stack, wrestling 4 off the top. For over a minute she struggled to separate one cup from the four. I wondered if I should help her. I held out my hands but she never allowed me to reach the cups. I waited.

Once she had her single cup, she pointed to the water pitcher. I lifted it and poured her a glass. She drank the whole thing, and pointed to the pitcher again. I poured another cup. She downed it and reached for the pitcher herself this time. Uh oh, I thought.

I watched, judging her ability as she attempted to pour her own drink. Moving ever so gingerly, she tilted the pitcher while holding the cup. This seemed in slow motion. Her aim was off a few fractions of an inch, so at the last second I maneuvered her hand with the cup to the precise spot to catch the water.

All this while she didn’t look at me or speak to me. I just stood next to her at the counter.

When the cup neared full, I said, “OK.” She stopped pouring and drank her third glassful in a row. Wow, she was thirsty. Maybe she just doesn't know when to stop. I wondered if I should cut her off when she began pouring a fourth cup. Instead I let her fill it, as slowly as before.

I questioned why she sought my help only to do it herself? She knew where the water was and seemed fairly capable of pouring it - at least in a rain jacket. As she drank that fourth cup, I wiped the small spills from the counter. Suddenly this passage came to my mind:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

I was chosen to serve today, I thought. Chosen to share water, perhaps with a woman and perhaps with the Living Water Himself. This was the best thing I did all day. All week. All month even. Maybe all year.

After the fourth cupful, a care taker showed up on the scene and led the woman away. She looked back at me one last time. I smiled. By the time I returned to my seat, the café patrons were no longer watching me or the woman—our interaction at the condiment counter had been quiet and lengthy. They’d gone back to reading their books. I, however, couldn’t return to my project. My thoughts were captivated by Jesus’ words, and the woman in the green rain slicker.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Call Me Crazy but ...

I made a new friend at She Speaks this year - actually I made several as I do every year. She Speaks is like preschool. Everyone feels new and awkward, but quickly gets along fine once they discover they all like the same things ... swings and crayons, or in our case, words and Jesus. But that's beside the point. The new friend I'm referencing is Hillary at The Other Mama.

Hillary is some kind of crazy, y'all. (You've been forewarned.) Today Hillary is hosting a link party on the topic of "Crazy Things." She says, "Any crazy or fun thing goes! Just write a post about it and link up!" She invited my participation, and I obliged. You can too. So head over there when you're done here and I'm certain you'll find a few laughs in her crazy party.

I'm not promising, however, that you'll laugh at my "crazy" post.

Unless you are a nervous laugher.

You see I'm not going to tell you about any of the many crazy things I've thought, done, liked or said. I'm not going to tell you about ...

  • the crazy things I eat like peanut butter & banana sandwiches with mayo, or pimento cheese on steak.
  • the crazy things I think, like when I wear something once but don't get it dirty enough to wash, I feel like I can't hang it back in the closet with the totally clean clothes because it will somehow contaminate them.
  • the crazy things I've worn. (see my wardrobe circa 1984 and something called parachute pants)
  • the crazy ideas I carried out like laying out in the sun with butter on (wonder if Paula Deen does that), or jumping down the laundry chute (would make for a good short-cut between floors, except getting stuck at the bottom really slows you down).
  • the crazy products I've tried like Sun-In. (Notice how dark my natural hair color is? It turned a shade of orange only a Clemson fan could love. The only thing worse was when I tried to correct it by dying it jet black and looked like Elvira for 6 weeks. I was goth before goth was cool.)
  • the crazy things I've said, like when I demanded of Rick the other day, "Guess what I didn't even think of?!" He replied, "Most of the time I can't even guess what you are thinking, Rach, much less what you didn't think."

Nope, not going to tell you about all the crazy things I own, love or do. Instead I'm going to tell you about a crazy thought bouncing 'round my head today:

What if Christianity isn't real?

Cue the nervous laughter. (Here is where you might call me crazy.)

Seriously, what if none of it--God, Jesus, salvation, life-after-death, heaven, the Bible--what if none of it is real? Stay with me here. Ever had that thought? If so, what did you do with it?
If you read my last post you'll realize I'm in a contemplate-deep-questions-about-God mood this week. So I thought it out and arrived at this conclusion: I think I would still try to follow Christ even if Christianity isn't real and there is nothing beyond this life. (Here's where you can call me crazy again.) But I believe in Jesus' way of life -- the way of love, of rising above, of self-sacrificing, of giving, of forgiving, of being honest and authentic. It's a beautiful, if difficult, way to live.
So I decided I would follow Him irregardless - even if that makes me "crazy."
Let me clarify, I do believe Christianity is real. (God, Jesus, salvation, life-after-death, heaven, the Bible - all of it.) There is evidence for it in history. And there is evidence for it in my heart and my life. It's not often that I question it but once in a while I do. My pastor likes to say the opposite of faith is not doubt, it's certainty. I agree. And none of us can be 100% certain on this side of eternity - that's why it takes faith, and that's why faith is the currency of God's kingdom.
So maybe I'm not so crazy to momentarily entertain such thoughts after all. Today I questioned my beliefs, and wound up strengthening them.
Finally, I think I can say with relative certainty that butter-burned-skin, parachute-pants, and Clemson-orange-hair is not a good look for me. But then you're probably sane enough to have known that already, aren't you?

Monday, October 12, 2009

John Piper bends my mind, y'all ...

... in a good kind of way.

Today I'm reading in his book Spectacular Sins. I know, great title. (I thought I'd committed a few of those myself so I had to pick up the book and see what he was referring to.)

On page 48 Piper asks what I think is a totally valid question: "Why does God not simply wipe out Satan?"

Satan deserves it. He deserved it thousands, millions or quadrillions of years ago, and he still does today. He's never going to repent. In fact, Revelation 20:10 tells us that God is going to cast Satan into a lake of fire where he will be tormented forever more. So why isn't he there now? Why is he left to roam the earth, causing us such trouble between now and then?

Ever wondered this? Can we know the answer to this question?

Piper cites Colossians 1:16 as the ultimate reason: Because all things were created through Christ and for Christ, the continued existence of Satan somehow glorifies the Son. You see why my mind is bending? I'm looking sideways at the book, hoping the logic of that will come into view ... and I'm getting a crick in my neck.

Piper writes,

"The Son of God, Jesus Christ, will be more highly honored and more deeply appreciated and loved in the end because he defeats Satan not the moment after Satan fell, but through millennia of long-suffering, patience, humility, servanthood, suffering, and decisively through his own death. ... The glory of Christ reaches its highest point in the obedient sacrifice of the cross where Jesus triumphed over the devil. ... We would not know Christ in the fullness of his glory if he had not defeated Satan in the way he did."

I tend to read Piper in small spurts; he gives me so much to think about. Still, I relish these mind-warping bursts of Piper-sight he offers. Off to the treadmill to (slow) jog and ponder.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Get Your Prayer On!

E.M. Bounds is one of my favorite writers on the topic of prayer.
Let me show you why:

"We can do nothing without prayer. All things can be done by importunate prayer. It surmounts or removes all obstacles, overcomes every resisting force and gains its ends in the face of invincible hindrances."
- E. M. Bounds

"Faith, and hope, and patience and all the strong, beautiful, vital forces of piety are withered and dead in a prayerless life. The life of the individual believer, his personal salvation, and personal Christian graces have their being, bloom, and fruitage in prayer."
- E. M. Bounds

"God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them."
- E. M. Bounds

"Other duties become pressing and absorbing, and crowd our prayer. "Choked to death" would be the coroner's verdict in many cases of dead praying if an inquest could be secured on this dire, spiritual calamity."
- E. M. Bounds

"We can never know God as it is our privilege to know Him by brief repetitions that are requests for personal favors, and nothing more."
- E. M. Bounds

"To say prayers in a decent, delicate way is not heavy work. But to pray really, to pray till hell feels the ponderous stroke, to pray till the iron gates of difficulty are opened, till the mountains of obstacles are removed, till the mists are exhaled and the clouds are lifted, and the sunshine of a cloudless day brightens - this is hard work, but it is God's work, and man's best labor."
- E. M. Bounds

"Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublimest; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities - they are limited only by the omnipotence of God."
- E. M. Bounds

"Prayer puts God's work in His hands - and keeps it there."
- E. M. Bounds

Is prayer something you struggle to accomplish? Something that comes easy to you? Something you've improved upon over time? Something you long to do more of?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fantabulous Fiction Giveaway

I started a new novel last week that I'm loving so far. It's called The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner and it's already won two awards this year. Susan also wrote today's P31 devotion by the way.

This book drew me in right away, and Susan's writing is superb. It opens with a college student, Lauren Durough, embarking on an intriguing project with a librarian. I love novels set at universities! (If you have any university/student novels to recommend to me - please leave titles in the comments.) Here is the plot summary:

Leaving a life of privilege to strike out on her own, Lauren Durough breaks with her family’s expectations and takes a part-time job from eighty-three-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles. The mysterious employer asks Lauren to transcribe the journal entries of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, a victim of the Salem witch trials.

Immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. As the fervor around the witch accusations increases, Mercy becomes trapped, unable to fight the overwhelming influence of snap judgments and superstitions. Lauren realizes that the secrets of Mercy’s story extend beyond the pages of her diary, living on in the mysterious, embittered Abigail.

The secret of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant of the misguided judge? Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is?

Want to read this book too? Want a FREE copy? Pop over to P31's new site for fiction fans called She Reads and enter the drawing to win a copy of this book, plus a copy of Susan's next release White Picket Fences, plus a pretty leather-bound journal and pen set.

You can even read the first chapter at the She Reads site, so take a few minutes and check it out. And if you've got a book club - or ever wanted to start one - you'll also find links to discussion questions and activities to go along with the novel.

What are you still doing here?? Click on the She Reads link above and go enter to become one of four winners in this fantabulous fiction giveaway! Happy reading.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tune in today

It's not often that I tell y'all to go watch Oprah.

In fact, it's never--until today.

My friend Lysa TerKeurst is going to be on today. To find out more about it, go read at Tracie Miles' blog or at Lysa's blog.

I'm about to road trip with my dad and my kids this weekend to see the Duke vs. VA Tech game. We'll be sitting on the Duke side, but my dad is a huge Hokies fan. Could get ugly!

Hope you have a great weekend ~ Rachel