Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gnats of the Heart

Gnats, gnats, more gnats! I don't know how the Egyptians stood the plague of gnats (Exodus 8:16-19)! For weeks now I've been battling gnats in our house. I looked on the web and discovered there is such a thing as a fungus gnat. Since we have orchids and I have been keeping them especially healthy with regular feeding, I thought that was the cause. So I scooped some of the dirt off the top and put sand to smother the gnats. Good plan only it didn't work!

There were gnats all over our bedroom window and our bathroom mirror. I sprayed with insect killer and more died every day but they didn't go away.

FINALLY I made an amazing discovery. I found some "hidden" potatoes and onions that had turned to soup. They didn't smell so I didn't find them, but - lo, and behold - when I opened the plastic bag, I smelled them then and a cloud of gnats escaped.

Not a very flattering parable of life but it got me to thinking about the "hidden" pockets in my heart (and yours). Some of those pockets - if I can be honest with myself - are no better than the plastic bag of rotten potatoes and onions and the gnat "fall-out" goes on and on.

God, find those "hidden" pockets of sin and self in my heart. Expose and clean them up and make me what You want me to be. Please, please don't leave me swatting at gnats! Set me free! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's a Haman Heart?

I'm teaching a women's Bible study this fall on the Old Testament book of Esther.

We studied Esther 3 today. That's the chapter where Mordecai (who raised the orphaned Esther) refuses to bow to honor Haman. The King promoted Haman to special status in the kingdom. Everyone is commanded to bow when Haman comes around. Everyone apparently bows except Mordecai.

And then the trouble boils over in a raging tumult!

Haman is enraged that Mordecai dares to defy him and refuses to honor him.

Haman then spins his diabolical plan to kill Mordecai and also to annihilate all the Jews in the vast Persian Empire.

Haman manages to convince King Xerxes to actually give his own signet ring to Haman and thus authorizes Haman to broadcast across the empire the date and time for the execution of all Jews in Persia. It's all scary and very terrible!

Haman's heart is a very dark place filled with sin, anger, hatred, and disdain for both God and others. It would be so easy to look so much darkness in the face, take a step back and feel better or something.

The problem is that this "Haman heart" beats within my own chest and yours as well. None of us is as bad as we might be but the potential for great hearts of darkness exists and thrives! It is a sad reality of life in a world gone wrong!

The radical solution for a Haman heart is heart transplant surgery. Only Jesus Christ can give a heart of flesh in exchange for Haman's heart of stone! Only God's amazing grace can change Haman's heart and mine and yours!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rain and Rainbows

Two Sundays ago, I heard a sermon on Noah, the ark and the rainbow promise. It started me thinking about rain and rainbows.

Recently I read Tullian Tchividjian's blog thoughts (Blog: On Earth as it is in Heaven) on "Trusting God When We Cannot Trace Him" which pressed me further in my thinking about rain and rainbows.

Tullian reminds me of the lines from J.I. Packer's book, Knowing God (p. 97) about understanding "the unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things" that happen.

Paul Brand wrote an entire book relevant to this topic, Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants (now released as The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What Can Do About It). The bottom line to his over 300 pages of really good stuff is that we need pain to survive. From his years as a doctor to leprosy patients in India and in the USA, Dr. Brand has seen up close and personal what painlessness does in harming the human body. Pain is actually a gift in that it motivates us to stop and seek help. It's a matter of self-preservation!

Twenty years ago I heard Dr. Brand speak at the Medical College of Virginia. He talked about his work with lepers and his conclusions about the benefits of pain sensors in the body. When he finished, my husband and I went up to speak to him. At that point in time, I was experiencing some pretty extreme physical pain. It was interesting because Dr. Brand stopped, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You know about pain, don't you?"

George Mattheson wrote the compelling hymn, "Love That Will Not Let Me Go" after he lost his sight and his fiancee walked away from their commitment due to his blindness. Through his tears and pain, Mattheson penned these awesome words

O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; ... O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.

J.I. Packer observes: "We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what He is doing, and what He is after, in His handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, He is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here ... Meanwhile we ought not to hesitate to trust His wisdom, even when He leaves us in the dark." (Knowing God, p. 97)

Tullian blogs: "Faith trusts God even when it cannot trace him. God is doing something in your life, in my life, ... that is above and beyond anything we could ever ask for or imagine. ... God promises that the best is yet to come. Think big. ... "

Remember the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"? Raindrops and deluges fall on all of us. The question is how to get through the rain to the rainbow. The rain may be God's gift to get us to the rainbow where we see and experience God's utter faithfulness!

The challenge for my heart is to not get stuck in the rain but rather to trace the rainbow through the rain! Only God can lead me through the rain to the rainbow!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Restoration "Epiphany" !

I just came home from teaching our day women's Bible study. The study is "Beauty and the Beast: A Study of Esther, A Restoration Story."

I had an epiphany of sorts while I was teaching. 42 plus years ago John and I had 2 Corinthians 5:18 engraved inside our wedding bands: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (restoration)."

How amazing to realize that A Restoration Church is part of that vision that began so long ago!

Our God is so awesome even in such details of life - gently leading and guiding and bringing us to His place of commitment and service! What incredible, amazing grace!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tipping the King

I don't know much about playing chess beyond the checkered board and the pieces - king, queen, knight, rook, etc. I've never played a game of chess.

Yesterday I heard a sermon about Cain and Abel. The central motif of the sermon was a chess game, and it was a compelling metaphor.

The preacher talked about tipping the (losing) king to the victorious king. Of course, he was talking about King Jesus and how we need to tip the "king of our hearts" over in submission to King Jesus. I found the imagery such a significant picture of where my heart should be. King Jesus always is the Victor!

Isn't it silly that we take our little kings and think we're so great and grand in all our bold arrogance? It is pretty stupid to tout our little king - thinking so well of ourselves, thinking we know so much and can do so much! That's the path to a dead end life - an exercise in futility!

What matters is "tipping my little king" over in surrender to the King of Kings! King Jesus always wins in the end, but the wonder in the story is that He can take "my pitiful little king" and change my heart so that I'm not at all impressed with "my little king" anymore. King Jesus changes everything!

Paul writes in his letter to the church at Phillipi: "... at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and ... every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord ... " ! (Philippians 2:10 - 11)

It is all about that "tipping thing" - tipping my "little king" over in surrender to Jesus!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day of Infamy, Day of Remembrance!

It was a beautiful fall day in November 1963. I was leaving a creative writing class at Wheaton College. As I stepped into the fall air I immediately sensed that the world had rocked. Soon I heard the news that John F. Kennedy had been shot and probably fatally wounded - shot in a motorcade in Dallas, TX. I remember that my friend (who is now my husband) was scribbling down thoughts and reactions because he believed that day would go down on the pages of history as another day of infamy. And it did!

Eight long years ago today the world rocked again when two planes deliberately flew into the World Trade Centers twin towers. I turned on the morning news just seconds after the first plane hit. Then I watched in surreal horror as another plane did the same thing! I remember thinking, "Am I really seeing what this looks like? How could this happen twice in the same hour? What in the world is going on?"

Later that morning our phone rang and my brother-in-law wanted to know if we were okay. I said, "Yes, why?" He told me about the plane that crashed near Pittsburgh - actually more than an hour away. It was another day of infamy!

It is a broken world we live in - a world filled with horror, with hate, with sin of all kinds! Mostly I am "insulated" from the worst of life so I am all the more stunned when I'm slapped upside the head with some new horror!

In the book of Revelation, the Bible promises us that someday - maybe soon - God will rock the world for the last time. He will send His Son from heaven one last time. On that wonderful day all wrongs will be made right, the broken will be made new. God will - in the words of J. R. R. Tolkien - make "everything sad come untrue"! On that day injustice will be corrected and recompensed! There will be no more tears, no more sin, no more sickness, no more sadness, no more failure, no more pain - and never any more need to die! (Rev. 21:3-5) On that day the words of Handel's Messiah (taken from Rev. 11:15) will come to life, "... The kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ forever and ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!"

Idols of the Heart

I live in Pittsburgh, otherwise known as "Steeler Town." In 2009 Pittsburgh is also known as "City of Champions." Now I have NOTHING against either the Steelers or champions - be they Penguins with a big silver cup or whatever.

However, I do sometimes want to stand in a prominent place in the city center (perhaps that's Heinz Field), and talk about idols of the heart. I am astonished at the people in this city who plan their lives around a football team!

Tullian Tchividjian - pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL - writes, "Idolatry is centering our attention and affection on something, or someone, smaller than God. In fact, most idols are good things in our lives that we turn into ultimate things–things that take God’s place as we unconciously depend on them to give our lives meaning."

John Calvin once said, “Our hearts are idol making factories.”

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon prayed, "Lord Jesus, take from us now everything that would hinder the closest communion with God. Any wish or desire that might hamper us in prayer remove, we pray You. Any memory of either sorrow or care that might hinder the fixing of our affection wholly on our God, take it away now. What have we to do with idols anymore? You have seen and observed us. You know where the difficulty lies. Help us against it, and may we now come boldly, not in the holy place alone, but in the holiest of all, where we should not dare to come if our great Lord had not torn the veil, sprinkled the mercy seat with His own blood, and asked us to enter."

Here's the shocking truth for my heart: I have my idols, too! My idols aren't Steelers, but I too make idols in my heart. I too center my attention and affection on something or someone smaller than God. My idols are "good" things, too. The problem is that my sinner's heart turns them into ultimate things - things that take God's place. God alone gives meaning to life! Idols - as the ancient prophet Elijah proclaimed on Mt. Carmel - can't do anything, see anything or be anything! (1 Kings 18:16-39)

So, before I "preach" to others, I need to "preach" the Gospel to myself!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


My daughter-in-law is all about organizing stuff. Recently I was in her home office. She has neatly labeled boxes for each of my grandchildren with the "treasures" she's saved from the seasons of their lives just waiting for her to arrange them in a memory book. Jesus may come back before she gets done and probably will, but what an awesome accomplishment! I'm terribly impressed and more than a little envious that I wasn't smart enough to put my children's treasures away in such an organized fashion!

My observations started a process of thought. When my life is said and done and there's nothing left but tears (I can only hope!) here and glory in heaven - what will be the treasures that are left?

Yesterday I heard an author talking about a book she has written. Her book is about what God might put into a memory box. I'm still processing what I heard. She thinks God's memory box would have (among other things): a fig leaf, a sprig of green leaves brought by the dove to Noah, a piece of Joseph's coat, and on she went. It's a clever idea, but I wonder if it doesn't trivialize what God treasures. Somehow I don't think God treasures the perishable. He treasures the imperishable!

Here's a short list of what I think He treasures about me (and you!)!
  • He treasures my adoption into His forever family!
  • He treasures the blood His Son shed to make the Way for me to be eligible for that adoption!
  • He treasures my love for Him!
  • He treasures the restoration He is working in my heart and character!
  • He treasures the people He brings into my life who need Jesus!
And that list can go on and on, but it encourages me in the stress of juggling all the demands of life to feel treasured by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

I haven't felt very treasured or "treasurable" today! I've been struggling to master a computer program. Things that smack of technology are hard for me! I don't like getting past the learning curve!

It helps ratchet down my stress level tonight to reflect that whether I feel treasured or even whether I am very "treasurable" isn't what matters! What matters is WHO treasures me! NOW I can lay my head on my pillow tonight and sleep in peace - I know I am a treasure to Him and that's really all that matters!

Even on days like today when I'm not very "treasurable," He treasures me enough to love me anyway and always and to pick me up, dust me off and set me on solid ground again! That's something for me to treasure, too! I treasure Him!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Kingdom of God is Like ... The Church!

Jesus told many stories describing the Kingdom of God: as a sower sowing seed, as hidden treasure, as a fishing net, as workers in a vineyard, as a wedding reception, and others. Jesus instructed His disciples to pray: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Dr. Duane Litfin, President of Wheaton College, wrote in a recent alumni magazine: "The Kingdom of God is multinational, multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual, and multicultural, a mosaic whose diversity pleases God." I believe that is true as far as it goes, but I also believe Dr. Litfin left out a huge group that the institutional church largely ignores as well.

The Kingdom of God is also (as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12) like a body made up of many parts - some strong, some weak and all needing to function in concert with each other. Just as it is ludicrous and arrogant for an ear to tell an eye, "I don't need you!" or for any part of the body to say such to another part - it is preposterous for the church to say to some who are in God's Kingdom, in essence: "Go away, we don't need you!" The words may be couched more gently but the result is the same. The segment of our society who bear the label "disabled" are largely disenfranchised by the Church of Jesus Christ. They are too difficult, too much trouble, too costly to include.

Jesus went out of His way for the beggar, the blind, the lame and others like them! Jesus was all about restoration! The Kingdom of God is ALSO multi-able!

When Jesus was at a party one day, he told another story. It is the story of a great banquet party. Jesus explained who should be on the guest list: "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives or your rich neighbors; ... when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." (Luke 14:12 - 14)

That's the call and commission of the Church of Jesus Christ with all its inclusion of many nations, many ethnic backgrounds, many languages, many cultures into this diverse mosaic - for all these to include yet one last group: the "multi-abled"! That's when the body - the Body of Christ, the Church - is truly complete! When ALL are included, then God's Kingdom has truly come and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven!

When the church on earth looks like what Jesus described and modeled as He walked this earth, then God's Kingdom will truly come on earth! THEN the mosaic is truly complete and truly pleases God! That's the kind of church mosaic A Restoration Church is all about! And there's a seat ready and waiting for YOU!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Show and Tell

God can use unlikely hands to administer His care, provision, and love. Interestingly enough, two of those hands might reside at the end of your arms.” --Jennifer Rothschild

Joni Eareckson Tada calls this “Show and Tell.”

Remember those days of “show and tell” at school. My youngest granddaughter Clara was supposed to bring an item for “show and tell” that began with a “J.” She came downstairs with her favorite stuffed animal – a monkey named George. When her dad tried to explain that “George” starts with “G” rather than “J” she responded without a hitch, “No, Daddy, this is G-G-George Jackson!

We are God’s “Show and Tell” for here and now. The watching world sees God’s power to change hearts when our hearts are changed by God’s amazing grace. When you and I “take the punches on the chin from the world to show and tell that the cheek can be turned, the cross can be carried, the burden can be borne, the thorn can be accepted, the temptation can be opposed and the wicked can be loved,
[1] then we “Show and Tell” what God is doing to restore brokenness one heart at a time. Jesus has to “show up” in my words and in my actions for me to “Show and Tell” God’s love to a broken, dying world!

I don’t want to be like Clara – reinventing “Show and Tell” to my own imagination. I want to be God’s “Show and Tell” to my watching world today! I am one of those “unlikely hands” with the tall call to show God’s care, provision and love and to wait and watch for opportunities to do so!

[1] Taken from More Precious Than Silver. Copyright © 1998 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sinus Infection, Canoe and FireTeam

Currently I'm battling a sinus infection. Last week it was the aftermath of a canoe trip on the Youghiogheny River which proved to be bone-jarring and muscle cramping. My head hurt and I ached in places I didn't know existed on my body.

So I reverted to my favorite relaxation activity: reading. I chose a "mindless" novel - a book that doesn't require a lot of thought, that is more entertainment than anything else. This book is the story of four brothers who live like a fireteam. They relish any opportunity to take on danger together. They are much stronger together than one by one. That is the idea of a fireteam - a military term for a small unit (usually four or less) who train and fight playing to each man's strengths and compensating for each man's weakness.

My reading started me thinking about the fireteam concept. I certainly don't know much about being a warrior nor do I have military combat experience. BUT I do know more than I wish I did about "combat" - in the home, in the church and in relationships. It's generally nasty stuff! There are always wounds - seen and unseen. Those times and situations are when a real time, real life fireteam is a great resource: one brother or sister locked in a tight unit with two or three others to face the danger together, to strengthen and encourage each other and to form a "safe zone" of protection and hope. It's the one for all and all for one model!

It is the heart wounds of life that cut the deepest. It is those "combat" situations when we most need our own personal "fireteam"! It is the two or three loyal, willing to "go to the mat" friends who stick through danger and never falter who make the best "fireteam."

This word picture could describe A Restoration Church. A Restoration Church is a safe place just and especially because we ARE that fireteam for each other! That is part of what makes A Restoration Church such a safe, special place for heart and life restoration!

Having Jesus as part of the "fireteam" is the Secret Weapon for every struggle! He makes the difference in the outcome of every "battle"! He is the Source of strength and hope anyway and always!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Restoration Heart

It is a long time since I blogged - long summer, lots going on!
Just this week I have been challenged to think about what a restored heart looks like. That would specifically be a heart restored in the only way that works - by the restoration only God can work into a heart and life.
We live in a world no more scarred and marred than it has ever been since just past the dawn of time. In the USA at least there is no longer the thin Christian veneer that existed from our founding to cover the evil that springs from hearts in desperate need of restoration.
William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies. It is the allegorical story of some English schoolboys marooned on a deserted island who try to create a framework for society and governance with catastrophic results. The title of the novel speaks of chaos and the power struggle that exists between God's standards for living and evil. The "lord of the flies" is a reference to Beelzebub or Satan.
That's really the ultimate choice in every relationship, in every culture, in every government or any other structure of life. It's the choice between living under the standard for which we were created - to love God first and most and others next OR reverting to "type" by becoming the worst we can be in those same relationships, culture, government and other structures of life.
God alone can restore the scars of sin. God alone can renew brokenness at the heart level.
Just this week I have personally encountered the same sort of contrast Golding depicts in his novel. My faith is an in-your-face confrontation to those who reject and rebel against God's standard for life. My dilemma is fight or flight. Flight is the easy way. Fight requires standing for truth and right. It's by far the harder path. However to stand and "fight" is ultimately the reason God places His people in any culture. Jesus called it being salt and light. Salt and light both have positive effects. Salt preserves and brings flavor. Light pushes back darkness and reveals truth.
When I was walking our dog Susie in the dark last night, I saw shapes in the shadows. Only light can reveal whether those shapes and shadows are fearful or not.
Being salt in a rotten world and light in darkness requires action. Flight is not an option. Standing firm to be salt and light requires wisdom and effort. It requires seeking strength for the fight from God Himself. He alone has triumphed over sin and evil when His Son hung on a cruel cross outside Jerusalem and then rose triumphant over death and sin. God alone has the power to bring restoration to hearts broken by sin and shame!
Without God's intervention there is no remedy. He is the Creator for all of life. The perfect world He created is broken in every way because of sin. God alone can do something about that brokenness to bring true and total restoration.
The schoolboys lose the thin veneer of civilization that kept them from being the worst they could be. Left to their own devices, their true nature slithers forth in all its ugliness. They cheat, murder, lie, steal and spiral into total savageness. With no adult supervision, they revert to the worst kind of depraved behavior. They lose all restraint. They become on the outside all that their depraved hearts really are on the inside. They don't respect their Creator and they savage each other.
That is what life looks like without Jesus! That is life without God's restoration!
It is not that any of us becomes all that we could or should be in this life. None of us can, but we can start on that path with God's help. When God begins His work of restoration in my heart or yours, His work begins restoration in every way! And then the watching world sees the beauty of God's restoration whether they like it or not!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Disability Kayaking - Living an Adventure, Creating a Memory

Yesterday I went kayaking with some friends. My friend Carol went along. On the surface it was just some friends eating a picnic in a beautiful park and then kayaking a few miles down Pennsylvania's Youghiogheny River.

However this was a very special adventure and memory! Another friend and I first planned to take Carol kayaking, but our plan grew into an adventure and memory for several other disabled friends. All seven of us participated in the adventure and making a wonderful memory!

When I went into Yough Outfitters to pay for the kayak rentals, I told the young man at the counter that we only needed five oars as one person on the trip wouldn't be rowing. (The single kayak was privately owned with its own paddle) I explained that my friend walked with a walker and had a bad shoulder. I wish you could have seen the expression on his face. He said, "You are going to take her kayaking? Are you sure?"

I smiled and said, "Yes and it will work. We have a plan." When he continued to look at me as if I had three heads and an extra eye in the middle of my forehead, I said, "Trust me. It will work fine!"

Yough Outfitters rented us kayaks and transported us to a lovely park. We ate a leasurily picnic and then put in the Yough from the boat ramp. We ended up with seven people and four kayaks: three tandems (kayaks built for two) and a single kayak.

We stowed all our gear including two coolers in the four kayaks. Then we walked Carol from the picnic table across the grass and down a little incline. The wheeled walker she usually uses was back at the outfitters in our van. Two of us got on either side of her and were her "crutches." She also used her folding cane.

Our plan was to seat Carol in the front of a tamdem and then push the kayak into the water. With only a few lurches, Carol was soon seated and ready to roll!

All in all we had a friend with Altzheimer's, a friend who is blind in one eye and another friend who suffers from depression plus Carol who has Parenchymatous cortical degeneration of the cerebellum. She has severe issues with her balance and a number of other challenges.

We put into the Yough River at the park and floated down the river a couple of miles back to Yough Outfitters.

The original plan was for another friend and me to take Carol kayaking. We had a plan as much as you can ever plan for something totally "out of the box" and very challenging.

When we were several miles into the trip, the youngest member of our party decided to jump out and "swim" for awhile. Carol told me she'd like to swim, too. Amazingly Carol was able to sort of fall out into the water without turning the kayak over. She brought two swim noodles. We rigged those around her and removed her life vest. Some of the others held the two kayaks. Two of us got on either side of Carol in the water. We walked her and floated till we were just in sight of the last set of gentle rapids.

When Carol suddenly "fell" over into the water, some in our group were shocked as they didn't know it was planned. The water was mostly shallow enough to walk except for some deeper spots.

When we got close to the rapids, we steered our kayak and Carol over to really shallow water. We were able to push Carol back over the kayak and then turn her so she was seated properly again.

On the way home we all agreed we'd had a blast!

It's so cool to be able to give an adventure and a memory to someone who couldn't do kayaking without considerable effort on someone else's part.

Just getting Carol to the picnic table and then back to the boat ramp to put her in the kayak was challenging and interesting.

By the end of the day, we were all tired, happy and ready to do it all over again another day!

And as Porky Pig says, ""Th-th-th-that's all folks!" - for now!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

UP is an action not a movie!

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. Same old, same old? Not quite!

As I entered, I saw a tall older man in front of me. He was pretty stooped over. His head hung down almost to his chect in a contorted way. His back was hunched from being pulled forward by his contorted neck and head.

I don't know why but I was watching him when he was looking at the doughnut case. He put his hand to his forehead and pushed his head up and held it up with his hand so he could see the doughnuts. He went from there to the produce section. Each place he stopped, he continued the drill. He stopped, put his hand to his forehead and pushed his head up so he could see. As I made my way through the store, he did, too. This forehead - head up routine occurred over and over.

I have a stiff neck from a broken neck I got in a car wreck 32 years ago. I can't turn my head very far. My heart went out to the man in the grocery store. What a way to have to live!

Then I thought: Isn't that exactly what God wants? He wants me to intentionally push my heart and focus upward straight to God's throne where He sits just waiting for His child (That would be me!) to focus on Him. He wants to hear from me. He wants me to think about Him. He wants me to hear what He has to say in His Word. He wants me to talk to Him (when I pray).

But the huge and significant difference between me and the grocery store man is that my focusing on Him isn't a tortuous ritual. It's simple! It's me crawling up into my heavenly Father's lap to have a chat and receive His hug! It gives me strength for this day.

It's something to think about, isn't it? And it's more. It's something to intentionally do over and over and over again!

Friday, July 17, 2009


My husband and I went to Disney World in March 2008. We flew to Orlando for a nephew's wedding and then joined our son's family for two days at Disney World.

We arrived the first day and went straight to Cinderella's castle. In the courtyard we encountered the step-mother, two step-sisters and then Cinderella. Each one signed autographs and spoke with the children who came up to them.

My two little granddaughters were enthralled. They gazed at Cinderella, and I don't know exactly what they were thinking but I can imagine! One of their all-time favorite stories is the Disney story of Cinderella with its beautiful pictures. It's the same book I read to their daddy and uncle so it's well loved!

A few weeks ago at Joni Camp I heard a beautiful Cinderella story. Max Lucado tells this story in his book, A Gentle Thunder.

My friend Kenny took his family to Disney World. He and his family were inside Cinderella's castle. It was packed with kids and parents. Suddenly all the children rushed to one side. Had it been a boat, the castle would have tipped over.

Cinderella had entered. Cinderella. The pristine princess. Kenny said she was perfectly typecast. A gorgeous young girl with each hair in place, flawless skin, and a beaming smile. She stood waist-deep in a garden of kids, each wanting to touch and be touched.

For some reason Kenny turned and looked toward the other side of the castle. It was now vacant except for a boy maybe seven or eight years old. His age was hard to determine because of the disfigurement of his body. Dwarfed in height, face deformed, he stood watching quietly and wistfully, holding the hand of an older brother.

Don't you know what he wanted? He wanted to be with the children. He longed to be in the middle of the kids reaching for Cinderella, calling her name. But can't you feel his fear, fear of yet another rejection? Fear of being taunted again, mocked again?

Don't you wish Cinderella would go to him? Guess what? She did!

She noticed the little boy. She immediately began walking in his direction. Politely but firmly inching through the crowd of children, she finally broke free. She walked quickly across the floor, knelt at eye level with the stunned little boy, and placed a kiss on his face.

Isn't that a totally awesome story? God tells us a similar but much better story on the pages of my Bible. The names in God's story are different, but the story sounds a lot like an echo of this Cinderella story.

On the day Jesus died on His cross, Jesus - the Prince of Peace - encountered a guilty thief beside Him on another cross. Like the boy in the castle, the thief yearned to be part of God's forever family. In fact, he was the first person to enter God's forever family after the cross.

Cinderella bestowed the gift of her attention and a kiss on the twisted face of the little boy. Jesus did even more for the thief. Both gave a gift - Jesus and Cinderella. Both shared love with an outcast. For both the boy and the thief, each was accepted by the beautiful one.

But the gift Jesus gave was far more valuable than Cinderella's. When she walked away from the boy, she took her beauty with her leaving the boy still twisted and deformed. What Jesus did was to give the thief the ultimate make-over forever.

He took our suffering on Him and felt our pain for us. ... He was wounded for the wrong we did; He was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to Him, and we are healed because of His wounds." (Isaiah 53:4-5)


Jesus gave the thief more than a kiss. And Jesus offers you and me much more than a kiss. He gave His life to take your and my punishment. It was a terrible trade for Him - a life-saving one for us. He traded His righteousness for all our sin!

Jesus did much more than pay the thief a visit. He paid the price the thief should have paid because of his sins. He wants to do the same for you and me!

Jesus took more than a minute or two with the thief. He takes more than a minute with you and me. He took away my (and the thief's) guilt and sin and brought both the thief and me into God's forever family forever!

It's awesome and amazing!

At A Restoration Church, we are reaching out to all the lonely, twisted little boys standing against the wall all alone and offering each one the love of Jesus! It's an awesome, exciting opportunity!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wheelchair, Sewing Machine, Baby-sitting Evangelism

A Restoration Church is participating in WORD FM 101.5 's annual Wheels for the World fund-raising campaign this week. I've been thinking about a wheelchair as a gift of hope to soften a person's heart toward Jesus.

God uses so many different ways to reach hearts. I guess He uses about as many different approaches to individual hearts as there are different fingerprints. We are all different. We process information differently. We hear the same words through different filters. It's pretty awesome that God can use you and me with our distinctive differences to make a difference for His Kingdom!

Just today I spread a little of God's love by sewing this morning and keeping twin brothers this afternoon. See what I mean? It's not rocket science! It's just being myself - you being who you are - and both of us can be the hands and feet of Jesus for someone or several someone's any time, anywhere.

Think about it. What do you do well? What skill or interest do you have? Personally I don't like walking up to a stranger and trying to engage in a "God discussion." But I love to share my story of how God has changed my heart!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Disability and Shoes

What in the world could shoes have to do with disability and people affected by disability?

Recently the news in Pittsburgh has followed a disabled Ohio man's story. Apparently he arrived by plane at Pittsburgh International a week ago. No one was there to pick him up due to miscommunication issues. SO he took off on his own walking. He walked 18 miles into Pittsburgh and has apparently been living on the streets until yesterday when a policeman recognized him near a convenience store. In the interim he has done a LOT of walking! The man is now home again in Ohio safe and sound.

The news article about his being found talked about his black dress shoes, no socks and blisters from so much walking. The man wasn't complaining but apparently doesn't plan to do much walking except next door to see his neighbor for some time to come. I was impressed that this disabled man has such an incredible attitude about his swollen, sore feet as sore feet make me cranky! His statement to the police officer (and the condition of his feet) was that his feet were swollen and blistered from all the walking, in black dress shoes and without socks, but that they didn't hurt.

At A Restoration Church we have a very good friend who is also disabled. He had an encounter with another disabled man on the street in a small community near Pittsburgh where both of these men live. The other man actually took off my friend's shoes and socks on the street. He didn't steal the socks and shoes but just apparently has some kind of fascination with feet. The local police know this "shoe man" well. They said he tries to take their shoes off, too.

Who would think of shoes as a disability issue - especially a social issue? My friend has a very good attitude about his own encounter with the "shoe man." My friend now understands that there is a healthy boundary to draw about his own shoes, socks and the "shoe man" or anyone else. In fact he calls the "shoe man" "Triple F" (translation: "Foot Fetish Freddy")!

At A Restoration Church we really care about people affected by disability. We particularly and intentionally want to love these dear folks with the love of Jesus. We want to reach out to them with the hands and heart of Jesus in practical ways. Apparently that includes shoes! Who would think it?

Obviously there are therapeutic, medically related issues regardidng shoes and disability for folks who are paralyzed, etc. but who would think there are social and safety issues as well?

The lesson in these stories is that I have a lot to learn about this HUGE area of caring about people affected by disability. God is teaching me and the rest of us at A Restoration Church some things we can learn from our disabled friends! That's a good thing!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Inquiring Minds?

Remember the commercial: "Do you want to know ... ? Inquiring minds want to know ..." The ad was for the rag mag (magazine) The National Enquirer. I'm thinking of an "inquiring mind" with a little more substance than "National Enquirer" fare.

When my 96-year-old grandmother died, she had an inquiring mind until just the very few last years of her life. I'm sure her "inquiring mind" kept her sharp. She inquired about all kind of things and wasn't shy about asking whatever her "inquiring mind" wanted to know! You better be ready, too, because only an intentional plan prepared you to draw boundaries in response to her inquiries!

I was just musing about what "inquiring minds" want to know. What does my mind spent time wanting to know? I suppose this line of thought was prompted by a devotional I read yesterday about computer time: Facebook, Twitter and all the other ways the computer can eat up time in questionably productive ways.

I see the magazines in the grocery store line that have covers and headlines with banners deliberately contrived to get an inquiring mind to open the cover and read the information inside. It is hardly substantive stuff!

I hope my heart and my head inquire about things that feed my spirit. How much does my inquiring mind seek God? How much time do I spend reading the Bible and contemplating its application to my life?

The path to a restored heart is an inquiring mind seeking God where He can be found: principally in the pages of His Word!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Disability - Learning from the King of Pop

I spent yesterday hanging around with a bunch of teenagers kayaking on the Youghiogheny River. It was a lot of fun! After our kayak trip, we invaded a local pizza place for some really delicious pizza. While we waited for our pizza, the TV blared news about the "earth-shattering events" of the day at the funeral of the King of Pop Michael Jackson.

Now I'm cool but I'm not hip to Michael Jackson. I don't own a single one of his Cd's nor do I aspire to. I've seen passing glimpses over the years of Michael in some of his "over the top" performances. I've heard more than I wanted about his bizarre lifestyle. I remember the picture of his dangling his infant son Prince Michael II over a balcony in Berlin and other even more unspeakable bizarre acts and accusations that swirled around Michael Jackson during his life.

Yesterday I watched Michael's daughter Paris struggle to talk about her father through her tears while her Jackson aunts and uncles stood in a circle around her. What I heard and saw moved me to tears in my heart - not because of Michael's death - but rather because of his life and what it says about the world we live in.

Michael Jackson is the epitome of tragic living! Some say he had it all: he had the world by the tail. Millions worshipped at the altar that was Michael Jackson. I never knelt at that altar but I do mourn from my heart because of who Michael was and the picture of our culture he presents. In that one frail abused body - remanufactured over the years with life-altering surgeries and other treatments - is a living parable of what our American culture worships.

If he did have it all, then why was he so desperately unhappy? What led him to always push the edge of bizarre behavior to one more atrocious act after another? What really went on in his mind and heart? What really happened on his Neverland Ranch in those "secret rooms"? Why was he the boy who never wanted to grow up like his idol Peter Pan?

Michael Jackson had fame. He had celebrity and notoriety. He had money and glitz beyond description. He had adoring crowds screaming at his every gyration.

His life was a long story of abuse beginning in his own childhood. Apparently his own father "dangled his son Michael" from a dangerous height just because he could as he pushed Michael to be a super star - the King of Pop. Accusations of drug and sexual addictions, pedophilia and all kinds of bizarre behavior followed Michael Jackson around wherever he went and even when he tried to hide - under his umbrella or on his Neverland Ranch.

One op-ed piece in the New York Times by Bob Herbert (July 3, 2009) describes Herbert's mid-1980's meeting with Michael Jackson "as one of the creepier experiences of my life." Later in the same article Herbert writes that Michael "weirded me out."

Herbert continues: "... what I wish I had thought more about in those long-ago days of Michael-mania was the era of extreme immaturity and grotesque irresponsibility that was already well under way in America. The craziness played out on a shockingly broad front and Jackson's life, among many others, would prove to be a shining and ultimately tragic example. ... All kinds of restraints were coming off. It was almost as if the adults had gone into hiding. ... In many ways we descended as a society into a fantasyland, trying to leave the limits and consequences and obligations of the real world behind. ... Jackson was the perfect star for the era, the embodiment of fantasy gone wild. He tried to carve himself up into another person, but, of course, there was the same Michael Jackson underneath -- talented but psychologically disabled to the point where he was a danger to himself and others.
Reality is unforgiving. There is no escape. Behind the Jackson facade was the horror of child abuse. Court records and reams of well-documented media accounts contain a stream of serious allegations of child sex abuse and other inappropriate behavior with very young boys. Jackson, a multimillionaire megastar, was excused as an eccentric. Small children were delivered into his company, to spend the night in his bed, often by their parents.
One case of alleged pedophilia against Jackson, the details of which would make your hair stand on end, was settled for a reported $25 million. He beat another case in court.
The Michael-mania that has erupted since Jackson's death - not just an appreciation of his music, but a giddy celebration of his life - is yet another spasm of the culture opting for fantasy over reality. We don't want to look under the rock that was Jackson's real life. As with so many other things, we don't want to know." (Bob Herbert, New York Times, July 3, 2009)

There is a huge teaching moment in the tragic story of Michael Jackson's life and death. It is call for serious Christians - especially parents - to stop and ponder some life lessons we can learn from Michael. Perhaps the greatest success of Michael Jackson's tragic life would be if men and women, teens and children whose hearts belong to Jesus could see this tragedy as a call to reevaluate what we value, what success really looks like from God's perspective and what we need to change in our own hearts.

The glitz, the "success" and fortune all came to a crashing meteoric burn when the King of Pop lost his life for whatever reason (to be determined at some future date related to various tests by forensic pathologists). The bottom line is that Michael the man is dead. He will never prance across another stage. He will never perform another bizzare act or be accused of some audacious activity.

In both life and death Michael screams for thoughtful people everywhere to take a serious look at what "success" should look like in our world. For Christians, the search for what God thinks "success" looks like might begin with the ancient prophet Micah: "Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

If we summon the moral courage to turn over the rock of who and what Michael really was, we will find some horrors but we may also discover what is real and true by way of comparison. That would be a very good thing from a very tragic life!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chasing the Small Stuff

Occasionally beached whales make the news. Recently I saw an article about 300 beached whales. These whales were chasing small stuff - sardines in this case - and got trapped on the beach at low tide. They were so preoccupied by sardines that they encountered danger and death on the beach. The "small stuff" drew them and preoccupied them. They perished as a result.

In life we chase "sardine small stuff." When the "small stuff" fills our focus, we forget more important things. The "small stuff" gets our whole world out of whack.

Jesus put what we should focus on very simply: love God first and most and then love others. We love God because He first loved us. God made a huge sacrifice to demonstrate His love for us. He sent Jesus to the cross.

Recently Islamic extremists in Somalia killed two young sons of a pastor. The pastor, his wife and remaining son fled for their lives to a refugee camp in Kenya where they live without shoes or shelter. The loss of a son is huge! I'm sure that family understand God's love in a deeper way than before their loss. What God did to demonstrate His love was an incredible act! He gave up Jesus to show His great love for us!

We can love others simply because we see what love looks like in God's demonstration of love for us. God touches our hearts with His love and changes us forever! He gives us His love so we can love Him first and others next.

Loving God first and others second is the way to change our world one heart at a time!

The beached whales lost their way chasing small stuff. We too chase "small stuff" to our peril. Our focus must be on God and then others!

Friday, July 3, 2009


We are so silly - to the point of stupidity - about who we mark as "heroes" in our culture: From a LONG list, these few stand out just in this week's news: Michael Jackson and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - both "heroes" of a sort.

Michael Jackson blurred the lines between insanity and genius with his music, his plastic surgeries and his lifestyle. Like Peter Pan, Jackson's own personal hero, he wanted to be the boy who never grew up.

In the arena of politics, Mark Sanford is only the latest in a long line of political figures who stepped off the straight, narrow path of morality, ethics and family values. He crossed the line from "genius" to the insanity of stupidity. Family man with a beautiful wife and four handsome sons, Sanford chose the insane path of infidelity over commitment and faithfulness.

There are other heroes. One of note is Oprah, one of the wealthiest women in the world. Her daily television program is watched religiously by millions. She is a living icon who has shaped culture in her own image. The "Oprah cult" is alive and seems well. She is a blazing star in this day and time.

The list of heroes - both real and fictional - goes on. Literature and life give us these heroes. They are larger than life. They do extraordinary things. They face danger, adversity and challenges with courage and self-sacrifice for some greater good. Our culture worships these heroes and models them.

The meaning of "hero" is rooted in the ideas of protector, defender and guardian. All too often the heroes in history, in literature and in real time here and now eventually evidence flaws that damage both themselves and others who have worshipped at their feet.

Particularly pop heroes (or heroines) shape culture with their music, beauty or brillance. The sad truth is that often these individuals betray the public trust by their actions. Brittany Spears, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Bill Clinton and a long list of others have blazed in glory and then crashed and burned.

The truth and problem is that we are all flawed no matter how we try to hide behind brillance and glitz. It started in the Garden of Eden when a man and a woman were seduced by wanting to be like God. They ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They passed on to all their posterity the pain of brokenness. Satan, once the most powerful and beautiful of all the angels, fell from the height of heaven because he wanted to be like and even more important than God Himself (Isaiah 14:12 - 14). There is something so seductive about beauty, prestige and power.

The stuff of heroes - both for the hero and his following - is sitting on a high pedestal surrounded by throngs of "worshippers." The true hero (or heroine) is the one who perseveres to the end protecting honor and integrity, defending right and good and guarding truth.

The only One who has ever lived and persevered as Protector, Defender and Guardian without flaw or failure is Jesus, the Son of God! He alone is worthy of our worship! He lived the perfect life so he could change our hearts and our culture forever.

Other heroes are flawed and broken no matter how they dress up with glitz and glitter. Jesus made no pretense. Jesus led no army. Jesus had no beauty that distinguished Him from other men (Isaiah 53:3). An endless stream of heroes have marched across the pages of literature and life, but only Jesus is the Hero Who never fails!

Jesus never wrote a best seller. He never was elected to political office. Actually He did none of the things that constitute a hero by our culture's standards. But His life validates Him as Hero more than any entertainer or politician or military genius. He never made a life-changing scientific discovery, but He created the world and all that is in it. He was born in obscurity but lives today as the King of Kings. He calls people from every time, tribe and tongue to follow His example of love. He modeled forgiveness when He called from His cross, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." He alone of all who have ever lived and carried the label "hero" is truly worthy of the name!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Worrying Heart! Why?

Last night I opened a very disturbing piece of mail. Then I lay awake all night worrying - so much for living by faith! I'm not proud of my lack of faith, but that's me - SO much like Peter - looking at the waves and starting to sink! (Matthew 14:22 - 36)

Our oldest son took our two oldest grandchildren out in a canoe one Sunday afternoon. Our grandson began to get a bit nervous as they got farther and farther from shore. He asked, "Dad, can you swim to shore from here?" His dad answered, "Yes, Matthew. I can probably stand on the bottom and walk to shore from here." "OK, Dad." A bit further out, Matthew asked the question again. His dad gave him the same answer. Matthew breathed a sigh of relief and said, "OK, that's good, because if we tip over I don't know if Jesus can get here in time." His dad reminded Matthew of how Jesus took care of His disciples in a boat in a storm. Matthew's response was: "I know, but that was a bigger boat than this canoe because there were more than 12 men in that boat."

I thought that was a funny story, but after last night I realize I have the same mentality. I'm living like I'm not sure Jesus can take care of me and my problems. My worrying last night was no different than my grandson doubting "Jesus could get there in time." It's so hard to trust God and wait and rest. My way is to do what I can do to "fix" the problem or to do what I did last night and worry about how I'm going to fix the problem. What I need to do is let Jesus "do His thing" to restore the broken piece of life (no matter what it is) in His time and in His way.

It is like the old hymn says, "Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

My head knows He can fix anything - even this problem! My head knows Jesus loves and cares for us. The problem is with my heart. My heart is scared because - like Peter when he got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water - I start looking at the waves instead of looking at the Savior. That's when I sink into worry.

My prayer needs to be: "O, God, give me a heart to trust You and to wait for Your restoring grace." It may not be easy, but with a restored heart and keeping my eyes on my Savior - It's always right and good! Jesus said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? ... seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ... do not worry about tomorrow ... " (Matthew 6:27 - 34)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Disability, Chocolate Bunnies and Easter Eggs

What does disability have to do with chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs? Well, nothing really! But persons affected by disability - which, in a sense, includes everyone because we are all broken in various ways - need so much more than chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. Chocolate bunnies might fix the chocolate craving temporarily. Easter eggs are dyed pretty colors and hidden for happy children to find. But neither chocolate bunnies or Easter eggs offer hope for change to people affected by disability.

Disabilities profoundly change the way life is lived. Disabilities affect more than the individual - the whole family is affected. Children affected by disability are often not included in "normal" activities like an Easter egg hunt for a variety of "reasons." These exclusions contribute to the isolation many who are affected by disability feel. Sometimes people with disabilities find that they have no friends. They are often over-looked or intentionally excluded because of their disability.

It’s an ugly reality of our society that perfection is honored and disability is distained. It is so sad that often people who can dress up and fix up and live to such a standard of “perfection” are really very broken people themselves.

People affected by disability are just like anyone else. They want friends. They need meaningful relationships. They deserve being treated with dignity and value. They want to be able to contribute to life and family in significant ways. They want to be included. They want to make significant contributions.

Just the other day I was at an office where a young man affected by disability was being coached in sound editing using certain software. He sat diligently with his headphones carefully listening and making adjustments. Being given a significant task and knowing he is making a difference is huge encouragement for him!

The real truth is, we all need each other. People affected by disability can teach the rest of us so much about endurance and hope and persistence. They are living parables of how to face challenges. We can all learn from each other. We all can contribute to the completeness of the whole.

Yesterday was Easter. For many people Easter means little more than candy and egg hunts.

For people affected by disability Easter should be the most wonderful day in the whole year. Easter is our celebration of Jesus coming back to life. The hope of the resurrection is the best news of us all and especially for people affected by disability! Jesus promises to “make all things new.” That includes broken bodies and minds! That includes broken relationships! That includes broken dreams and dashed hopes!

Jesus promises to “make all things new(Rev. 21:5). This ULTIMATE makeover begins with Easter, continues when we journey with Jesus through life until that day in eternity when He will totally “make all things new”!

I have my own missing and/or broken body parts so I’m looking forward to “being made new.” My “issues” pale in significance when I consider how some live. Joni Eareckson Tada who has been a quadriplegic in a wheelchair for over 40 years wrote a devotional I received by email just today:

My girlfriend arrived to get me up and ready for the day. It had been a rough night - sleeplessness, and stabbing, razor-sharp pain in my neck and shoulders. When I told her about it, she sighed and said, "Joni... I'll bet you just can't wait for heaven." As she brushed my hair, I sat and dreamed about what I've dreamed of a thousand times: my eternal home, just over the near horizon. … Some people look at my wheelchair, hear my enthusiasm for heaven, and conclude that it's a death wish. Now it's true, when I was first injured, I only viewed heaven as a place where I could get back what I had lost. I would receive hands that worked and feet that walked and even danced. … My attitude changed as I studied the Scriptures. I realized that heaven was mainly focused on Jesus, not me. (Joni Eareckson Tada, Pearls of Great Price, 2006)

And Joni knows what I also know: Heaven is the “getting” place for NEW in every sense of the word!

Disability and Extreme Home Makeover

The Easter Sunday 2009 segment of Extreme Home Makeover last night was fascinating. George and Barbara Kadzis opened their hearts and enlarged their family circle to include six disabled children from China. Melody is blind. Julia is deaf. Martin's right arm and hand are deformed. Phoenix anbd Celeste have cleft palates in the process of restoration. Aileen was orphaned by disease and desertion and facing emotional challenges as a result.

Barbara is a lifelong teacher. George worked as a dentist in a prison. Their resources were limited. Their home in Florida was badly damaged by a hurricane, and then George contracted terminal brain cancer. His dying wish was for his family to have a safe, appropriate home to live in.

George and Barbara didn't know a word of Chinese when they adopted all but their one biological son Chris. To communicate they used the medium of music. Several of the children played musical instruments: piano, violin, flute, zither and guitar. Julie dances to every note though she is deaf.

Extreme Home Makeover and their vast crew and main character designers madeover the Kadzis home in one week. During that week George was dying in the hospital. He died three days after his family moved into their new home.

I have lots of questions about the extreme home makeover concept and how much or little help it gives permanently. How can people who need so much pay taxes on this new and much more expensive home? and more.

But what was compelling about last night's episode wasn't the new home. What was compelling was the hearts - George and Barbara's obvious love for all their children and the reciprical love of their children. George and Barbara offered a whole new world and life to their six adopted children. To do so, they made significant sacrifices. Their example of love radically and obviously impacted their community.

That started me thinking. People affected by disability are all around us. The question is: how are we taking these who have such great need into our circle of love and friendship? Do we care enough to take the risk and step out of our comfort zone? Obviously George and Barbara benefited as much from their adopted family as did the children they adopted. By not including people affected by disability in our lives we run the risk of missing an incredible opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing! Here's to warm hearts willing to include others who may have a different way of being into our circle and hearts and homes!

George and Barbara did in their home and family what A Restoration Church is doing in being a church in the South Hills of Pittsburgh - reaching out with genuine love and acceptance! George and Barbara needed the help of the crew for Extreme Home Makeover and their community. At A Restoration Church we need God's help to push us out of our comfort zone to make a radical difference in our community.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

One Small Step or One Giant Leap?

July 20, 1969 is the day man first walked on the moon. Neil Armstrong stepped down the ladder and onto the moon's surface where he spoke a scripted phrase, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The only problem is that he boggled his line. He intended to say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." NASA helped with the "cover-up" and claimed technical difficulties obscured the "a."

Covering up and reinventing history doesn't change the truth. There is no rewind button to go back and play the scene over again. It is what it is!

A huge part of God's restoration in our hearts is taking away our fear of exposure. God changes our hearts so we feel so secure in His love that we can acknowledge mistakes and sins. God's forgiving grace can make us bold to be honest and real!

It is in the moments of exposure that we come to understand best God's amazing grace and to know that He loves us anyway and always!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Barack Obama and the Special Olympics

Recently our new president got himself into hot water over bowling in the White House alley. Appearing on Jay Leno's late night show, he compared his score to "Special Olympics."

"It's like - it was like Special Olympics or something," he said, smiling.

There has been much appropriate outrage over his remark. Stupidity is the best excuse he has! I fear his gaffe may stem from much deeper roots than stupidity, however.

One political figure with close ties to disability in her own family described the President's remark as "shocking." Her own view of persons affected by disability is that they are "our world's most precious and unique people."

It is both sad and interesting that those who think the most of themselves and their abilities disdain and discard as insignificant the "precious and unique people" of the special needs community.

People with special needs often have no voice in our culture. Shame on the church of Jesus Christ for not aggressively working to include all these who have a different way of being! By their very differences, they have so much to contribute. They have much to teach the "able."

At A Restoration Church we intentionally include individuals and families affected by disability! It has nothing to do with the Special Olympics. It has everything to do with completion! Paul said, "... you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Cor. 12:27)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Come When Called or Just Come?!

Do you know this drill? “O, I’m so sorry. What do you need? Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do.” And then get out of Dodge before any specifics are discussed.

Such a drill is a band-aid on a guilty conscience but it bears no resemblance to “bearing each other’s burdens.” Gal. 6:2

Just exactly what does that need to look like for me? For you?

There is apparent tension between what Paul says in Galatians 6:2 and what James writes in James 2:14 – 16: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds… Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If any one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well. Keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Where is the manual for parsing these principles?

Certainly, “to bear another’s burden” doesn’t mean standing back with arms folded assessing their progress. Nor is it running along beside someone carrying a heavy burden shouting encouragement. Bearing another’s burden must include in some way taking on that burden as if it were your or my own.

Clearly Jesus calls us by His Word and His strong example to love with both mercy and grace. He also sets the pace in helping the wounded, loving the hurting and doing whatever it takes to meet a burdening need. He stopped in mid-stride – while he was on a very important mission to save a VIP man’s daughter – to help a woman who simply touched his robe. (Mark 5:24 – 34)

So yesterday after church when a family group showed up asking for money, was I wrong to question the legitimacy of the need based on past experience with this same family unit? How does the principle of “being wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16) apply? Was I – in fact – guilty of doing exactly what James suggests is a travesty of faith: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If any one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well. Keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”?

There is perhaps more than a little irony in the fact that I left church to literally help someone lift some logs at the bottom of our drive. It was really not a “woman task” - especially not two women way into their middle years - but we were stubborn enough to do it.

So are “burdens” on some hidden scale? Logs belong to my friend and me; money and food belong to someone else.

Hmmm! At least it has me thinking and wondering - which has to be a first step!

Now the phone rings: “Hello” “Can you help keep some special needs kids while their parents enjoy a coffee house experience in three days?” I have to smile. God MUST have a sense of humor. He certainly is giving me opportunity to continue my quest to understand what it means “to come when called” – to bear another’s burden!

What is becoming crystal clear in my fog of wonder is that it all requires a changed heart! It's just not natural to put others first, and that's a very good thing! "Natural" is not the path to restoration!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Live Like You're Dying

The sermon at A Restoration Church today is Luke 21:5-38 - "Serene Living in Turbulent Times!"

The bullet points are:

  • Norhing is permanent
  • Nothing is easy
  • Nothing is hopeless
  • Live in HOPE!
How can these concepts be translated into "child language" for a children's page?

Lots of thoughts going round in my head:

  • Noah's family on the ark. They were sure living in HOPE when they walked up the gangplank into that huge boat with all the smells and sounds of all the animals and birds in the world.
  • Peter walking on the water toward Jesus, getting scared, starting to sink and finally taking hold of Jesus' hand. Once I took a Red Cross life-saving class. One thing they taught us was to rescue a drowning person from behind so he/she can't get a "death hold" on you and drag you down with him or her. I can only imagine how scared Peter was and how much he needed Jesus to reach out His helping hand of HOPE.
  • Then there's the story Jesus told about the two contractors. Each built a house - one on sand, the other on rock. Then the rains and storms came. The house on the rock stood. The house on the sand went smash!

Well, I went with the "Three Little Pigs" instead. They each built a house: one of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks. When the Big Bad Wolf came calling, he huffed and puffed and blew down the houses of straw and sticks. Only the brick house offered HOPE and safety from the Big Bad Wolf!

In the story of the two builders, one was smart and one was stupid. In the "Three Little Pigs," two were lazy and stupid and one worked smarter and harder.

Then I checked my email and read a church planting blog giving the advice to "live like you're dying" when planting a church. I guess that was the essence for both Noah and Peter. They had to face the reality of the alternative before they could trust the HOPE!

I've had my own experience with living like I'm dying. It's scary stuff, but it's also where the most real reality of life is!

Country singer Tim McGraw wrote a song about "Live Like You Were Dying" based on his personal experience. He expresses doing all the things he shoved to the back burner to do later - doing them right now - like sky diving, rocky mountain climbing, two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu! "And I loved deeper ... and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"!

What happens when we "live we are dying"? What's important shifts to what's really important! Risks don't matter except to become worth the cost. People and relationships mean more. Living God's purpose becomes a matter of life or death! Time races and we race with it as we live like we were dying!

I guess it goes without saying that "living like I'm dying" means my heart changes, too! My prayer becomes: "Lord, give me dying eyes and dying ears and a dying heart to see and hear and love with life or death urgency!" That's how Jesus lived His last days, for sure!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hide and Seek and Heaven

"Ready or not - here I come" - these are the words for the game "hide and seek." The hunter yells to warn the hunted that the hunter is on the prowl.

Death is no game. It comes to us all eventually whether we're ready or not! Death is the hunter that stalks us all.

I've been thinking about death this week. My friend died Tuesday. She is finally free of her pain. No more tumors will grow in her frail body. She has taken her last gasping breath and felt her last terrible pain. Just the night before as I stood at the end of her bed at hospice and asked if there was anything I could get her, she responded with her typical, "No, I'm good." I looked into her eyes and said, "You would say that no matter what, wouldn't you?" She responded, "I'm as good as I'm ever going to be." Then I knew that she finally knew she was looking death in the face very soon. Just a few hours later she slipped into eternity. They told me it was "unexpected" when I showed up the next morning.

There's a song: "Life is filled with guns and war ... I wish we'd all been ready." Death comes whether we're ready or not. Death eventually finds us all no matter how or where we hide.

Jesus told a prominent leader named Nicodemus in Jerusalem one dark night, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) That's the way to be ready when death comes - JESUS! He's the ONLY path to heaven! He is the only sure hiding place in life and when death comes!

Only Jesus can make death a path to heaven! Only Jesus can make us ready for both death and heaven! Life is filled with guns and war and pain and more. Only Jesus fixes our hearts so we can leave our broken bodies behind and move on to a far better place beyond death - heaven.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Broad Shoulders and Restored Hearts

" ... The government will be upon His shoulders ... " -

Today we will have a new president in this country. In a sense the mantle of government (at least one of the three branches) will pass onto his shoulders.

But these words are not about about Barak Obama. They are not about any president. They were written ages and ages ago by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6) about the King who would come to be the Savior who alone can restore our hearts and our world to put things really right as God intended in the first place. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He is the real Peace-Maker - both between God and man and between men, women and children as He changes one heart at a time with His saving love and grace!

Our times, our culture and our country are under the gaze and sovereign authority of King Jesus! His shoulders are worthy and able to rest government upon.

Pray for our new president. He will assume the mantle of tremendous responsibility this day. He will need King Jesus to do his job well. We need to pray that King Jesus will bring His restoration to our country, to our hearts as only He can!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Long Time - No See - New Year

I'm involved in a journey. It began in 2008. My good friend is dying of cancer. It is a special gift to be walking this journey of pain with her and her daughter.

Today Joni Eareckson Tada writes in her daily devotional about New Year resolutions and 2 Corinthians 4:16: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

My friend is outwardly wasting away. The cancer has a death grip on her body. My prayer for her and her daughter is that they will discover the secret of God's inner renewal. It's the only way to make this painful journey with peace and confidence!

Cancer is an ugly disease. Unseen it winds its nasty tentacles through organs, tissue and bone until it chokes out life. There are treatments like chemo and radiation. There are drugs for the pain. There are friends like me for loving support, but the truth is that none of these stop the deadly onslaught of the disease process once it is well-established. The body outwardly and inwardly wastes away.

The ONLY hope to hold onto is God's restoration of the heart!

On His way to Gethsemene and betrayal, Jesus spoke words of comfort to His disciples. He knew they would soon desperately need the truth of what He spoke. He said, "Don't let this throw you. You trust in God, don't you? Trust Me. There is plenty of room for you in My Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on My way to get a room ready for you? ... I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from Me." (John 14:1-6, The Message)

Jesus was promising "heart renewal" for now and for ever. That's the only hope to hold onto - Jesus, the Road to God and heaven! He's the only path to heart restoration! He promises to make "all things new" (Rev. 21:5) - even bodies riddled with cancer!