Wednesday, December 3, 2008

God the ultimate Maestro

Recently, God has been showing me how He is working through his people and orchestrating all sorts of events here on earth (major and minor and some which would seem insignificant and go unnoticed in those unattuned). As a musician, it is a touching visual image for me to imagine God on a 360 degree stage at command of an incredible symphony with His baton. Some of the countermelodies are not recognized even by the musicians who play them because they can’t hear all the parts the other instruments are playing.

I’ve been noticing that sometimes people are unaware of how their acts are being used by God—but it is a wonderful encouragement to find out here on earth how that occurred. God is using his people to carry out his plan and sometimes little, seemingly random, spontaneous acts are being directed by God—orchestrated at a higher level. It is an awesome privilege and blessing to be God’s hands and feet here on earth, have His Spirit, and know that you are part of a greater plan that God is carrying out through you. Some people have an amazing ability to hear God’s voice and obey, and other times people don’t always recognize it’s God’s voice, but take action and this action is used by God. For some reason, I had thought that one needed to be doing something intentionally for God’s purpose to be used by God—vs. living out life as a Christian and then Christ in you is carrying out His purpose. Then there is the fact that God is all powerful and can use all people and events for his good pleasure.

Here are a couple examples that have spoken to me as of late. A few weeks ago, a Christian friend gave me a bag of clothes she was passing down for my son, Eli. It was only a handful of items, yet it was exactly what we needed. In fact, the subject of my thank you e-mail to her was, “how did you know exactly what Eli needed?” I looked through those clothes and felt so blessed!! The gift included a couple of sweaters. He had needed some sweaters (and I’d even had bought an “ugly” one at a garage sale recently out of necessity). It also had a hooded sweatshirt jacket –and I had discovered the previous weekend that his only light jacket with a hood was a size too small. There was also a pair of pants and a couple of weeks before my mom had asked what Eli needed and I had told her pants! I was reminded of the words of a favorite hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”—all of my needs he hath provided. Now I could go buy new stuff for him, but God knows I don’t enjoy spending my time and money that way, am into recycling, etc.—and would rather put extra money into something eternal. Speaking of which, we recently made a donation to a ministry and the handwritten thank you card explained that our gift was an answer to a specific prayer . . . so the blessing keeps on going.

I was telling my friend in Wisconsin this story and she had a “freaky” story to share. She was counseling a friend about her career and highly recommended the friend watch, “Chariots of Fire.” Later, the friend called and asked whether she’d sent her that movie, since it had arrived in her mail without any sender info. No, my friend in Wisconsin had not sent it or arranged its sending. . . somehow God was working through someone else.

I’ve just started a couple books contrasting Christianity with Buddhism. One of the differences between the two is the view of the nature of God—a personal Creator/controller or an impersonal non-being (karma type). I definitely have experienced the personal God and know His baton is moving all around!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Today I spoke at Bible Study on the subject of worship and what God had been teaching me about it.

First, for a bit of a refresher course of what worship is and why we include it during Bible Study. Worship is about giving God glory – the worth that he’s due. He is our creator, our provider, he sent his Son for us. As recipients of that amazing gift, thanksgiving and gratitude in the form of worship flows out of us.

Worship helps change our focus from ourselves to God. It connects us to God when our hearts are one with his and we are worshipping with our spirit, not just singing. This came to mind last summer when I was singing with my sister during church. As sisters, we have a natural voice blend, and we can harmonize together—so I caught myself performing and NOT worshipping. My focus was on myself and on the gift of music, —but not the Giver. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit caught me pretty quickly and I refocused. God listens to our hearts, not just our voices.

Worship music streams truth into our minds and helps us hide it in our hearts so that we can live it out. In selecting songs every week, leadership provides the theme of the lecture then songs are chosen to reinforce the lecture’s message, to help us “get it.”

God is the creator of all things and the giver of good gifts and one of these gifts is music. Music has a special way of speaking to us—however, we are all unique and certain styles of music are not universally appreciated.

Ethnomusicology and cultural issues
Last spring, I had the opportunity to hear a Wycliffe missionary couple [Tom & Kristy Avery] speak about Ethnomusicology with tribal cultures. As missionaries, they want to reach the people of the world with the gospel and know that music is a powerful vehicle to do that. However, they’ve found that each culture has its own “heart music.” That is, music that is familiar and loved within that culture—that can interact with deeper thoughts and emotions. So they don’t just translate Western hymns and impose them on the people. They listen to and record the local music that appeals to the people then set scripture to music of that culture so that it will speak to the people’s hearts and truly minister. They explain that, “Such music lifts the words of Scripture off the printed page and gets God’s thoughts into minds and hearts.” Note: Tom Avery was promoted—and is now worshipping in heaven. I count it a privilege to have had the opportunity to hear him speak and sit down and speak with him last spring; it made a huge impression on me. A tribute to him is posted on youtube:

In many churches, forms of music have become a very polarizing issue. At some level, it seems like everyone is demanding THEIR heart music. The more I study and learn I find that it isn’t about my rights or my glory, but about God’s. Perhaps some of the concepts we’ll be studying later in I Corinthians can speak to these situations. Paul asks believers to defer for the sake of others and to do everything in love. In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul said that he had become all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some. In I Corinthians 10:33, he says he is not seeking his own good, but the good of many so that they may be saved. It’s difficult, though, because the goal of worshipping together is for each of us to be drawn closer to God, but different styles of music don’t speak to everyone the same way.

With this group, we come from many different traditions and experiences, so we’re familiar with different songs, too. And, if you’re unfamiliar, sometimes it takes longer for the message of the song to connect with you. If you’re not familiar with a song, I would encourage you to try to grasp the truth in its message; the heart of the song.

So, I’ve discussed how God uses music in worship to connect with us and speak truth to us. I also mentioned that worship itself is giving God glory and worth that He’s due. This summer, I read something in the book entitled Captivating, that was a new, yet beautiful thought to ponder—our worship can minister to the heart of God. Wow! Thinking about it that way really clarified the concept of glorifying God and brought the significance of worship to a new level for me. The book gave the example of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive oil. His disciples thought it was a waste, but Jesus thought it was a beautiful thing and was deeply touched by her lavish gift.

I asked a Bible scholar about this—saying, I want to believe this and it makes sense, but can it be backed up by scripture that we can minister to God’s heart through worship? He said, yes, and as God works things out, he’d just taught a lesson about it and so he sent me the notes. The notes discussed how we can make God happy, take pleasure in us, delight in us, rejoice over us, etc. These ways include our praise and worship of Him, as well as our knowledge of Him, our obedience, and the good things he does for us. As we are in the image of God, we have emotions like Him and one of the things that bring him pleasure and blesses his heart is our worship. He loves it when we offer our hearts to him in devotion.

God desires for us to seek his face, to get to know him, to love and worship him wholeheartedly. He’s calling us, and worship is one way we can respond to him with our whole selves. A friend of mine had a very rough time last fall, yet Sunday morning in the choir, her face was radiant—she forgot about herself and concentrated on Him and worshipped Him! She said it was the highlight of her week—she felt like it was just her and God. As we draw close to Him, he will draw close to us—and cause us to become like him. Psalm 34:5 says, Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that “we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.”

It is an awesome privilege for us as believers to be God’s temple and the body of Christ here on earth. Romans 12:1, encourages us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices as an act of worship and Hebrews 13:15 says to offer a sacrifice of praise.

It is from hearts filled with love for him that worship, obedience, good works, and acts of love flow. We can worship God through all of the aspects of our lives and serve and participate as his hands and feet here on earth. As Christians, we don’t have to earn God’s favor, we already have it. We can live with gratitude and show our adoration in worship to Christ for his sacrifice for us and be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be part of His plan. So, let me encourage you to respond to the call of God to know him and to minister to his heart through your worship.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Least of these

This week at Moms’ Connection (our church’s homespun and free version of MOPS) our session was about how we should see ourselves as God sees us. I was tasked to try to come up with a game that might emphasize some of these truths. It struck me that we women are often critical of ourselves and others, and don't see the precious daughter of God that He created, sees and loves. I was reminded of a Bible Study last spring over Matthew 25:31-46, the parable of the sheep and goats.

In this parable, Jesus explains that He will eternally separate those who served others and those who didn't.

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

At the time, I had been a little disturbed by this. It was sort of a conundrum (was I doing things I wouldn’t know I was doing?). I was trying to figure out how this fit with my understanding of grace. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, 8”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I was concerned that I wasn’t doing enough, was comparing myself to others, etc. I knew that this wasn’t grace focused thinking—when acts are out of fear versus thankfulness. Grace is the influence of God in our hearts and its reflection in our lives (not out of duty, but out of love and gratitude).

So, as I was pondering all of these things, I felt God reassure me that he sees the little things done by his children (and is working through us even when we aren’t aware of it). I was reminded of words in the book, "The Shack," that God is especially fond of each of us. I was also reminded of how everything is turned around in the kingdom of God—the weak become strong, the poor in spirit are blessed and theirs is the kingdom of heaven, the poor become rich. When we do things to the least of these, we do them to Him. Success in the world is not equivalent with success by God’s standards. I felt his love as he reminded me of ways I and others have been his hands and feet.

This was such a reassurance to me of God’s love, of his way of calming my fears from the Bible Study last spring, and I wanted to share it with the women in Moms Connection to hopefully give them a glimpse of God’s pleasure in them, too, and the beauty in the other women in the room who have also given of themselves.

I had been planning to do a Human Bingo game, but as I was thinking about all of these things, new ideas came into my mind which created this game piece. The game was lively. I really had no idea if a whole page BINGO would be possible—but, yes, several women were able to get signatures on every spot from our group of less than 30 women. It was a special reminder of how God is working through all of us in various ways. Here's the list of the bingo blanks (can't figure out how to get an excel spreadsheet to correctly copy over here).

Has Donated blood
Gave to a beggar
Gave to a bell ringer
Kissed a child's boo boo
has taken a meal to someone
has adopted a child
visited someone sick
visited someone in prison
contributed to Helping Hand Ministries (our church's ministry for those in need)
served at a homeless shelter
gone on a mission trip
wrote a friend an encouraging note
prayed for someone who came to mind
taught children
made an Operation Christmas child shoebox
gave an Angel Tree gift
donated clothing
visited someone in a nursing home
given someone a needed hug
gave a drink to someone thirsty
invited a stranger in
supports a missionary or ministry
helped with Special Olympics
cared for a sick relative

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A tribute to my church Grandma

Every child should feel loved and special—and the more positive influences on a child’s life, the better. One woman who made my childhood even better was Mrs. Hart, who traded her earthly dwelling for a heavenly one on Wednesday. She was 89 and had been married over 70 years!

Mrs. Hart had a way of making me, and many other kids from church, feel very special. She and Mr. Hart let us sit with them during Sunday night services and occasionally would watch us while our parents would shop for Christmas presents. Somehow, that gift of time and presence added to my sense of worth as a person and also made me look forward to going to church to be with more people who loved me. She was a loving, gentle, sweet, positive Christian woman and a Southern lady, too.

I would try to visit the Harts whenever I was back “home.” In the last couple of years, she and Mr. Hart had a sudden, drastic change when they both fell and had to leave their home and lose their independence. When I visited their new place over Christmas, I had a sweet, grown up, conversation with her as she discussed disappointment in the change of circumstances, being isolated, and dependent on others, and how she was trying to live out her beliefs to be joyful despite the circumstances. This July, my sisters and I visited her in the hospital, where she had ended up after another fall. She was her usual sweet self and we were so glad to have visited her. I didn’t know it would be the last time.

How is my life better from knowing her and from her investment in my life? My childhood was enriched by a feeling of being loved by many . . . my family and then others such as Mr. and Mrs. Hart who adopted us, made us feel special, and gave my parents a break, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mountains are moving!

If you have ever talked to me about my neighborhood in Norfolk, you have probably heard me complain—

--about the drug house with a constant flow of traffic, noise, criminal activity, and trash
--the frat house across the street with loud parties, trash, cars taking all of the parking spots, drugs, an unusually high number of side swiped car, one witnessed drunk driving hit & run, and other such aggravations

I’d coordinated a neighborhood watch, been in contact with our neighborhood police contact, etc. and then this past spring I added to my neighborhood to my prayer list, being reminded of 2 Chronicles 20:12, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."

After living with these situations for four years, here is what has happened in the last few months:
1) The drug dealer was put (back) in jail for a while, and has subsequently gotten a job and an apartment so he no longer lives with his relative on our street and that drug traffic is gone!!
2) The frat boys were kicked out and their house is fixed up and on the market!! No noise, parking problems, trash, and drug deals there anymore.
3) There was a school connected to our street and twice a day a bus would come by and set off our car alarm, the school created traffic for our street, and when we had tried to sell our house, a potential buyer had been turned off by the school’s presence. Well, the school district closed the school to students, so no more buses twice a day, parent traffic, etc.

I had been praying for God to work on my block and he outdid my expectations in ways I had not even imagined!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My recent reads

What a summer! I have only been home for 10 days all summer, so on my vacations I have read a number of great books!

**** The Shack (friends everywhere have also been reading this)—it’s a brain-bending work of fiction that causes one to look at God in a totally different (yet positive) way. A broken man has a weekend makeover with God in three persons (literally) and God causes him to re-think all of his preconceived and somewhat negative images of God. It causes one to examine a lot of beliefs that are not necessarily directly scriptural, but are part of one’s thinking when “churched.” It also presents a somewhat more inclusive idea of those who will be in heaven; those seeking a relationship with God, although not always/only those who fit into the traditional “Christian” definition.

***** If Jesus Were a Parent—by Naz. Pastor Hal Perkins. A fascinating and inspiring book about having a discipleship plan for children to teach them to listen to God and develop a relationship with him. I really loved this book and found it spiritually motivating and encouraging. He and his wife had a plan—they began praying for their children and determined their overriding goal in parenting was for their children to have authentic relationships with Jesus. The author’s mission was to disciple his children as Jesus would, to develop Christ followers and then disciple makers. He talks about how he developed a relationship with his kids including having a special outing with each of them weekly starting at a young age so that he would trust and talk with him. These weekly dates continued through their teen years and he gives true life examples of the fruit of this in his children’s lives. He also explains how to teach children at a very young age to discern God’s voice, follow His lead in their lives, and pray meaningfully. It was really inspiring and I’m hoping to implement these techniques with my kids. The forward says, “This book is all about helping you understand how to cooperate with God in positively influencing and winning your child’s heart.” For parents, it also gives direction on developing spiritual maturity.

***** Captivating—by John and Stasi Eldridge—discusses a woman’s heart—desire for romance, beauty, and God’s desire for wholeness. It's the sister book to Wild At Heart which was/is sort of a rage at churches for small groups for men. The book talks about core desires of women--to be in an adventure, to be beautiful and to be loved and then all the complications with this while living in a fallen world. The book is a refreshing reminder of Jesus' love and desire for wholeness for us and a relationship with us. There's a chapter about men "arousing Adam" that I found very interesting, too. It basically says every man is wounded and looking for approval, first from his father and then from a woman. "His search for validation is the driving force of his life." On page 151, it says this is the root of most affairs. The book goes on to say that we should validate each other, but our primary validation has to come from God. (It also says that this works both ways--women look to men to meet all their needs instead of God, etc.)

***1/2 How to Listen to God—by Charles Stanley—I had an older (1985) edition. It discusses various ways God speaks to his people today. It is a pretty short book and put together a lot of things I’d heard before, but has affected some of the decisions I’ve made since reading it.

*****+ I’ve also watched Love & Respect seven hour DVD marriage series by Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs—AWESOME! The series humorously explains male and female differences--how God made us different, not good or bad. The essence is that men need respect and women need to feel loved. If this is not happening the couple gets on the crazy cycle and everything starts setting them off spinning. It has caused me to look at male/female interaction differently and explained oh so many things in life. I bought it and am planning to share with all my friends who are interested (let me know!). It’s in book form, too. Info and purchasing info is at: I mention this because I couldn’t find it on amazon or when I was looking and one opened set sold on ebay for $20 more than retail!

*** The Mommy Diaries—This is a MOPS book, sent to all MOPS moms this year. It is definitely more like a Chicken Soup book than the Nanny Diaries! It has many brief essays about adventures in motherhood and lessons learned along the way.

*** Focus on the Family’s Growing a Healthy Home edited by Yorkey—an older book with many chapters relating to family /marriage/child raising/health issues.

**** Book: Breathing Grace by Dr. Harry Kraus—uses a medical model to explain grace. I’ve been learning more about grace in my Establishing God’s Peace class ( and this totally agreed with that teaching. I have this on CD and have listened to it several times. As Christians, we don’t have to earn God’s favor, we already have it and we can live fully with gratitude to Christ for his sacrifice for us. The book is really a beautiful reminder that we don’t have to have this heaviness over our shoulders, will I be good enough, do enough, etc.—Jesus paid the debt for our sin and our motivation for service is not out of fear, but out of love.

**** The Five Love Languages of Kids by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. This book is a follow up to the best seller book for couples-The Five Love Languages—that is awesome and I like to give as a wedding gift. Anyway, it talks about filling a child’s love tank by understanding how they like love expressed to them, whether by words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, or acts of service. They say that it really isn’t possible to detect your child’s primary love language until they are about five—so express love in all these ways while they’re young and until you find out which way is most meaningful to them. One way to determine their primary love language is just to ask them how they know you (the parent) loves them and see whether they describe presents, time together, things you’ve done for them, etc.

**** A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle—This was the book for Oprah’s online class. He uses a lot of scripture and some Buddhist principles as well, discussing concepts like living in the present, enjoying nature and contemplating it (as Jesus said “see how the lilies grow”), how not to get stressed out, contentment, spiritual oppression (he called it a pain body), not taking life or yourself too seriously, not defining yourself by the role you play, etc. It was very interesting and in some cases presented Biblical truth with a fresh explanation of it that was helpful. I wasn’t in agreement with all of it, but will “cling to what is good.”

***** The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. My college friends who considered me a feminazi will roll on the floor when they hear this title. However, I love this book and am now reading it for the third time (I need lots of reminders!). It is just full of common sense wisdom about how to have harmony in marriage by giving up the desire to always be right, have everything done your way, have the last word, etc. Here’s a typical nugget (p. 55), “Either you hold your tongue and preserve harmony or you speak critically and create a chasm of resentment and resistance.” Like the previous book—it just re-states scripture in another way which is helpful. It also meshes very nicely with the Love & Respect DVD message.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine

This week, I flew three legs of flights from the west coast to the east and, yes, it was the RED EYE. Add to this, that I was taking with me a very active three year old boy and a lap child--32 pounds, but not quite two.

I couldn't sleep the night before the flight, but I got up and read my Bible and read the scripture, that "God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine," and prayed that this would occur for these flights.

We survived the flights! Here are some of the answers to the prayers.

Initially, as an after thought, I asked whether my parents could get a gate pass to help me get the two kids (two backpacks, stroller, and carseat) through security. The ticket agent said she would make an exception and do this for us!! The kids were so wild that it took all three of us adults to look after them and the luggage, but we didn't lose them or the luggage.

There was an extra (free!) seat for Ava on all three legs of the flights, even the 10 p.m.-6 a.m. flight from San Francisco to Dulles which was overbooked. This was particularly amazing. The flight was overbooked, yet there was an extra seat directly across the aisle from our seats, and Eli was able to take it. On the first flight, there was a guy assigned to the seat we needed and he was very gracious to find another spot.

Both children slept soundly during the long, overnight cross country flight. The friendly people next to Eli, kept him covered with a blanket and a pillow under his head. They even gave us their pretzels since we had slept (I had attempted, at least) during the snack times.

Random people helped me carry the carseat when I needed help.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lesser Known facts about me

I've traveled to 47 states
I've backpacked through and inspected salt plants in Central America
I've worked with uranium
I've worked in a hospital in India
I pitched fastpitch softball (windmill technique and all)
I saw Rick Steves in Rome and got him to autograph my Rick Steves Rome guidebook
I was chased by a cow while hiking in Pakistan
I've snorkeled in Papua New Guinea
I got a parasite in Guatemala (and it wasn't the painless diet plan I'd imagined)
I ran cross country in high school
I've sewn all the window treatments in my house

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cereal Shopping Bargain!!

I had a shopping success this week. Farm Fresh had this special--cheerios and a bunch of other GM cereal was on sale $2 a box and then if you bought 10 boxes you'd get $10 off to make $1 a box. Plus I had about five $.75 to $1 off coupons, so I bought 12 boxes, plus $2 worth of corn and $4 worth of salad dressing. The total for all items? $12.72. The checker was in disbelief and actually pulled the ad to confirm. Basically, I paid about $.50 a box for cereal. I'm totally stocked up now!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


This weekend I had an opportunity to hear a Wycliffe missionary couple speak regarding Ethnomusicology with tribal cultures. Their goal is to provide cultures meaningful music to interact with deeper thoughts and emotions (not just translating Western hymns/choruses). To do that they listen/record the local music that appeals to the people then help set scripture to music of that culture so that it will speak to the people’s hearts and truly minister (going along with Wycliffe’s goal of God’s word being accessible to all people in the language of their heart). They evaluate the local resources, instruments, etc. and see what they want to use. In some cases, certain instruments have been used for pagan ceremonies so they contemplate whether to use them, knowing that God can redeem instruments/elements of secular music, etc. They said that music is not the universal language in that it is not universally understood and reactions to it are not the same. They use local language and music traditions, the sounds of which may even seem odd or evil to us, but not to the nationals. He played some music for us—one song was in a minor key and sounded like a dirge, yet the lyrics talked about how it was God who makes them so happy. It seemed so ironic, yet he said that the music really did appeal to the local people and did lift their spirits. I found their talk fascinating and saw some parallels with some of the challenges I have selecting music for my Community Bible Study group trying to make the music and worship meaningful with a group coming from many different backgrounds.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stinkin' Good Smashed Potatoes

Peeled potatoes, halved
Gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
Minced Garlic
a little salt
freshly cracked pepper
water about half way up the pot of potatoes

later--milk and butter to taste

Combine ingredients in pressure cooker, bring to pressure, then turn down to a steady stream for about 8 minutes. After pressure is released, smash the potatoes and add milk and butter to taste. We really enjoyed this creation, but the kids weren't too fond of it.