Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do You Really Surrender all to Me?

My Boy was 13 months old when I found out I was pregnant again. The timing wasn’t ideal but we hadn’t planned for the Boy, and that had worked out. It didn’t take very long, maybe a day or two, before the joy of another child set in. I wanted 4 children and so regardless of timing, this child was welcome.

My Boy was 15 months when my womb unceremoniously gave up the baby. The loss was acute but when the appropriate time had passed, my Man and I tried to conceive again. Nothing. It felt like our initial loss was stretching into months and years. I wanted another child. I had never experienced wanting something so desperately and being denied. It felt like punishment for squandering my good favour on temporal pursuits and possessions.

Tests were conducted and options were presented. I wasn’t satisfied. At church I would sing, “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to him I freely give,” finally the Lord asked me, “Do you really surrender all to me? Give me your dreams for another child.” I struggled to give him the dream for several years but slowly I realized I felt less heartache each month that my body proved it had failed to bear fruit yet again. I began to think about the future in terms of just my Man, my Boy and me.

I replaced my consuming fire of wanting another child with wanting the Lord. I began to realize my Boy was a miracle and gave the Lord praise for the gift I did have.  I sang, “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to him I freely give.” The Lord came to me again and said, “Do you really surrender all to me? Give me your son, your only son.” I said, “Lord that isn’t fair, my brother has 3 children*, I only have one. Please, don’t ask me to surrender my Boy.”


I’m still in that place, of daily surrendering my Boy. I’m aware that many of the great men and women of revivals in the past have sacrificed a lot, including their families. I do not partner with fear, so I refuse to look for the threat that may harm my Boy. Nevertheless, I hope that the stronghold of control in my mind is being tested, rather than the testing in the natural. But if it the test comes, I hope God will provide a way of escape like he did for Abraham. By faith, I believe Jesus died so we would have life.

Living sacrifices, that’s what Paul urges us to be. Every day this week, you are reading about some of the sacrifices we’ve made for Jesus. The good news is anything we sacrifice by faith is credited to us as righteousness. What storehouses of credit are you building up? Let us know in the comments.

*It was kind of a serious point in the narrative so I didn’t want to interrupt to say, what a terrible aunt I am – offering to give up one of my brother’s kids in lieu of my own. I hope my brother doesn’t read this. I love his kids I would protect them as my own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I told my fellow KBer’s last night that I was about to crash and burn.  This morning, isn’t much better.  I’m at the Summer Intensive Learning Experience for my doctoral degree.  I think a better name would be the Summer Sadomasochistic Learning Experience.  While there are many laughs as we work on “team” projects, overall it is a grueling experience.

Yesterday, as a team, we fashioned a toilet paper outfit for modeling.  It was hysterical and a lot of fun.  However, we also listened to over an hour of a guest speaker whose task it was too keep us awake after lunch telling us about his charter school.  I am sure there were some in the room interested.  Most are educators, but I’m not.  It really was of little interest to me, especially right after lunch on day five of ISLE or SSLE.  I used every distraction I could to keep from nodding off.

By supper yesterday, I was feeling good that we were on the downward slope.  Half way through!  Just a few days more to go.  I could make it!  Woo-Hoo – just a few more days of long sitting in class and team activities.  Hopefully I’d be on a productive teams for the rest of the week.  While ideas were short in my brain at this point, hopefully as a team, whatever team I was on, we’d pull it off. 

Then I hit the evening class.  Four assignments will be due before we leave. What?  Four days to complete what?  More team presentations.  More busy work.  A 25 item Meta-Analysis due when? By when did you say?  Looks like they don’t want us to sleep at all.  I’m OLD!  While I may not be collecting Social Security when I finish, I won't be far at all from that milestone.

People try to make me feel better when I talk about being old.  The truth is I am, by almost every standard imaginable, too old for this.  While I constantly think about leaving – no one would blame me.  They’d say well, you know she is a bit old for this.  When asked to image your current work situation I think WHAT? work situation?  I had to do an assignment about my professional life and use my family rather than colleagues... the list goes on and on.  We are supposed to imagine a post-doctoral degree job? career? - my retort is I am old – I have no time to realistically think about a new career.  But yet, I’m here.  I’m still here.

So what does this have to do with sacrifice?  It has a lot to do with it.  As I write this I am looking at a rock.  Last year one of our many teams led a presentation where we took rocks, wrote our names on it, and then wrote why we were here.  I wrote on mine, Glorify God. 

The late night hours, grueling work, running with people the age of my children and hoping they won’t discount having their mother in the room… it’s really not all about me.  It’s not about me at all.  It’s because God put this desire in my heart.  It’s because God knows something I don’t know.  It’s a sacrifice.  Trust me.  Sleeping in a dorm room, sharing a shower, being in classes for nearly eleven hours each day followed by a team project planning time, a video shot, or a musical presentation – that’s a sacrifice.  The only thing that keeps me here is God.  I don’t know what or why, but I do know He’s called me to this place.

Monday, June 27, 2011

God Loves the Smell of Burning Flesh!

I have to say, as a suburban dweller, I love the gas grill. (Yes, that is swordfish on my grill!) But it is nothing like this!

Exodus 29:25 You shall take them from their hands, and offer them up in smoke on the altar on the burnt offering for a soothing aroma before the LORD; it is an offering by fire to the LORD.

This week a diverse group of bloggers, both wise guys and brilliant woman, will endeavor to write about sacrifice. As a self-proclaimed wimp, I don't really feel qualified to start off the week, but that's my job - so here we go.

I find myself sort of an interesting character because I know what goes on inside my head and I easily amused. Occasionally I know about what is happening in my heart too. I am just trying to achieve happiness, have an easy life, and a find a way to make the most amount of money for the least amount of work! You won't find a lot of sacrifice in my day-to-day. Especially if you compared my lifestyle to that of some of the third-world slums I have been to in Brazil and various parts of the Caribbean.

I have met Christians that have given up a lot to serve that Kingdom of God. In fact I met a pastor just this week that gave up a job as principal to be a missionary in the middle east. He seems very happy serving God. Me, I gave up a few vacations to do mission trips, but nothing like him.

Sometimes sacrifice is not giving something up, but saying yes to the Lord. Obedience is better than sacrifice. I think that is more where I come from. I never sit down and say: "Lord, what would you like me to give up?" I will say: "Lord, what do you want me to do?" It's a more dangerous prayer, yet a better expression of my passion for the things of the Kingdom.

Let me explain with an example from my own life. In 1998 I was cruising along as a the CEO of a very profitable internet company. I was making a ton of cash, paid off my debts, drove a BMW, and was able to give generously to the church and its various ministries. Let's just say there was no sacrifice there. Then I went to a meeting with a prophet. I was a bit skeptical because I hadn't really had a lot of experience with all this stuff. He spoke some serious stuff over my life such as missions, international travel and writing. Wow, that was NOT me. I didn't want to go to a foreign country, especially one where they didn't speak English. And I laughed about the writing because I failed English, Grammar and Reading 9 out of 12 years in school.

All I can say is the prophet's words rolled around in my spirit for days, then weeks, and suddenly one morning the Spirit of God came on me as I sat in front of my keyboard and I began to write. For nearly two solid years I wrote just about every day, sending out a daily email. In the midst of that I met a guy from Brazil and our friendship turned into three mission trips to his homeland. All that I did was say yes to the prompting of God. It was in the obedience that I sacrificed some things in life. I didn't feel starved for them, I just focused on what God was having me do.

I guess my sacrifice happens more easily when I am blinded by love, love for my Savior. In the end I gave up useless idols and some conveniences, but the blessing of hanging out with Jesus is amazing!

As a footnote, sometimes we see sacrifice as painful, but many times it is freeing.

I would also add that there is a cost to following Jesus; a price to pay. On the return from my first mission trip to Brazil I came home to some serious situations which transpired while I was away. Within a year I had lost everything but a car full of personal belongings.

Would I do it again? YES!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Please do as I teach...not as I've done.

I don't think it's a secret I have a passion to minister to young people. To be honest, that's what really got me started into blogging a few years back. After fooling around with a website call Stick with Jesus for about a year, I realized that I was technically in over my head and stepped back to focus on a smaller, more localized scale.

God put me where He needed me. For about a year and a half, I've been teaching a college-aged Sunday School class at church. It's a group that extends past the 10 or so that attend regularly on Sunday mornings to a number around 25 that I maintain regular contact with each week. Perfect situation.

My passion for this group is born from a period of falling from the path at their very age in my own life. Sadly, that is the norm and not the exception. Statistic show that over 70% of young people will leave the church before the age of 23. That's an absolutely heartbreaking statistic for any Christian, but I know from personal experience just how devastating being in that statistic is for the young person who falls. Loneliness. Fear. Anxiety. Joylessness. It's all there. Worse yet...those states lead to depression, alcohol and drug use, promiscuity and denial.

I'm going to get real personal for just a minute. I cry for these 25 young people I feel God has charged me with...on a daily basis. I cry, pray, plead with Him to spare them pain, text, Facebook message, tweet, Heytell, call and pray some more. Daily. I constantly walk a fine line between being available and being intrusive. Concerned and not condescending. Loving and not judgmental.

I have my own teenager about to enter the statistical danger zone in a few short years. She's a great kid with a lousy sense of choice-making from time to time. Just like I was at her age. God has charged me as a father to provide a pious example to my be a leader. But I know in my heart it will take more. My mother is a godly women who, without a doubt, spent countless hours praying for her black sheep. I'm very thankful for that fact, but I know it so often takes more.

Young people need mentors. Someone to take an active interest in their life for no other reason than the love of Jesus. Mom and dad love you because...well...they're mom and dad. But a person outside the family is a completely different component in helping keep up a young person's self-esteem and focus on the business of the Kingdom. The big picture stuff that truly matters on an eternal scale.

Naturally, I would love for my circle of influence to expand beyond a few dozen at a time, but that is not for me to decide. Maybe God has a single young person in His plan for me that through my efforts of shining His light...that young person comes to know Him much closer. To go on and make a difference for the Kingdom. The thought brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart with a great joy.

Until I hear otherwise for Him though, I'm going to treat each and every young person in my charge as potentially that one, single soul. Please remember our young people in your prayers today.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's God's up to?

When I read scriptures like Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 29:11, 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 and Ephesians 2:8-10, it's clear that God creates us as we are, and gifts us to be used in His work.

For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to help people. Be it a kid in my class at school that others picked on, an old person in a convalescent home that never received visitors, hungry children in a third world country, or even someone whose story I'd hear on the news. My heart has always ached when I hear of someone's pain, and I've had an intense desire to do something to make it better.

That's why I went into the kind of work that I do. Since 1980, I've always worked in some kind of human services job. I'm drawn to the disenfranchised.

Also I've always been especially interested in helping women. I don't know if it's as simple as the fact that since I'm a woman I'm more inclined to understand women. Or if it's because I was born in 1960 and grew up under the influence of the women's movement. Maybe it's because of the fact that if you look throughout history, all over the globe, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone more universally oppressed than women.

So when I thought about this week's topic of what would be our dream, or ideal, ministry I was a bit stumped. Initially I thought about how there are hurting people everywhere and God's repeatedly provided me with jobs, and ministry opportunities through local churches where I've lived, to reach out in ways that He created my heart to desire. Then I thought about the word "ideal" or "dream" opportunity some more and thought how cool it would be if I had the freedom to openly share the gospel as as well? What would it be like if I daily got to lead hurting people to Christ and then help them individually grow in Him? That would be over the top exciting! Those few times in my life when I've had the opportunity to help someone who was new in her faith to learn and grow have been among the most rewarding endeavors I've ever experienced.

I'm grateful that in my current church I have the opportunity to serve yet, to be candid, it's super rare that I ever get to work in this context with a new Believer, or to invest in a person, one on one, like I get to invest in my supervisors at work. So, if we're dreaming here, that's what would really do it for me.

Yet, I know God is in control of all things. So I choose to try to remain open to Him and sensitive to what He wants me to do each day. I also choose to trust Him that if I "miss it", that He is more than capable of showing me the error of my ways and getting me back on His path. I choose to stand firm in the knowledge (even when I'm as confused as I've been in my job situation and frustrations that I've shared about for the past couple of years) that He does have a plan for my life and it's His plan that I want more than anything else!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stop for the One

I wish you could meet Anne Waterton. Anne is passion personified. She could say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” but she would never say that lest she take any part of the glory that belongs to Christ. Instead, Anne would say, “Follow Jesus, never mind about me.” Anne is passionate about Jesus. I want to be passionate about Jesus like Anne is passionate about Jesus.

Anne has never, and will never be the ‘face’ of public ministry. She will never tour with the Women of Faith or make a name for herself by being a Bible teacher like Kay Arthur, Joyce Meier, or Beth Moore. You will never read a book written by Anne. She is not like Heidi Baker, who has performed miracles in the name of Jesus that can be seen on youtube. Anne probably doesn’t even know who Heidi Baker is but she lived by the same principle, “Stop for the one.” I want to stop for the one, and never miss an opportunity to share the love of Jesus by offering a meal, pray for healing, or just sit and listen.

Anne has three natural children, but I’m certain her descendants are as numerous as the stars in the sky, like Abraham. Whomever God puts in her path, Anne stops for them, usually feeds them and loves them, encourages them in the Word and then continues to pray for them. She is a spiritual mother to so many and her legacy continues to multiply until Jesus comes again. I want to build a future legacy for my natural descendants and my spiritual descendants so that the Lord will bless them as he promises. I want to be a spiritual mother and disciple others to obey everything Jesus commanded.

I met Anne 15 years ago. We would sit together at church; her husband was no longer around and mine didn’t attend church. Anne had a Tuesday night supper prayer group. I don’t know if I invited myself (because that would be like me) or if she invited me (because that would be like her) but I started attending the Tuesday night supper prayer group.

Anne cooked supper for a group of women, usually 6-8. We ate together and then read a passage of Scripture before praying together. Tuesday nights were just one of the myriad of ways that Anne put love into action, loving all the wounded Christians back to spiritual health that showed up at her door; and we were many. She never wondered, “Is this the Father’s will?” Anne spent a lot of time in intimacy with the Father that she knew his will and did it, just like Jesus. I want to spend time with the Father and know his will and do it too, like Anne, like Jesus.

I wish you could meet Anne, but you never will – at least not this side of heaven. The last time I saw Anne, the Holy Spirit said to me, “This is the last time you will see her.” I was grieved but then I saw a vision of heaven. The angels’ joy was uncontainable; they were preparing for the party when God would finally bring her home. All of heaven was excited because Anne had been so faithful, so passionate to do the will of the Father. I want to be famous in heaven because of my faith.

On Friday, June 17, at 5:30pm, Anne walked into heaven and the Father greeted her saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your Master’s happiness.” Anne was passion personified. I want to do the works that are prepared in advance for me to do and when it is over, I want the Father to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want to be like Anne Waterton.

My name is Andrea York. I am humbled and honored to be invited to join this talented group of writers at Kingdom Bloggers. I will be writing on hump day, a.k.a. Wednesday. I’m Canadian, and I guess that makes me a foreign correspondent on this site. I’m also a wife and a mother. If you would like to know more about me, please visit my other blog site,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Little Country Church

Any one remember the Jesus movement and it's music? If you do, you may think of Love Song.  They had a song that sums up where I want to be - Little Country Church.

No religion, not stuffy, talking about the revival and the need for love - common good - putting the past aside... I could stop here and just tell you, that's what I want.  I want to pastor that church.

As a church kid, I spent a long time agonize over the most critical question of my young life, what was God's will for my life?  If one didn't find God's will and say yes to it, your life would be unfulfilled and filled with regret.  As a teenager, I felt I was called to be a missionary.  I had never seen a woman pastor, seems that it was okay to go to deep dark Africa and shed light as a woman, but you couldn’t preach in your local pulpit.  Never did understand that, do you?  An early marriage to a man called to preach and I was on my way.  However, he turned out to be an abuser and when he beat and abandoned me with three children, I was sure that I would forever be the person known as someone who didn’t fulfill their calling.  I was divorced.  To complicate the matter, I remarried.

It took quite a few years of slithering into the church as first a single mother and then a remarried person, before I considered that Romans 11:29 God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty - never canceled, never rescinded, also included me.  While I am convinced, unfortunately a lot of my brothers and sisters in authority and in the pew, are not.

I was asked a similar question to the one your Kingdom Bloggers are answering today a couple of years ago.  I was sitting with the former worship leader of The Well, the small church I had lovingly pastored for a few years.  He said, Joyce, if you could do anything you wanted, if location, money, husband, family, history, etc., if none of it were a factor and it was only you answering, what would you want to do – how would you serve the Kingdom?

Of course, being human, there is a part of me that would like to fill large arenas and be known as Joyce Lighari, the Joyce who replaced Joyce Meyers – when people think of the preacher Joyce, they think of me, not her… Then I thought well, I can teach.  I have lots of education now.  But that wasn’t the question.  The question, like our question this week, was not what do you think people will “let” you do, or what would you settle for, it was what do you want to do for Jesus?

Over Uncle Hershel’s breakfast at Cracker Barrel, I answered him.  I said, I want to pastor a small church.  Yes, a small church!  Why? Because I want to know the sheep.  I want to journey with them through their joys and sorrows.  I wanted to marry them, welcome their babies into the church, baptize them, visit them in the hospital, and do a fitting celebration of their lives as they go home to Jesus.  I want to pastor

Last fall as beaming parents, my husband and I attended the White Coat Ceremony of our son.  As a first year medical student, he was donned with the garment of his calling.  The President of the Medical School made some brief remarks.  He told the student that their's was the second highest calling of humanity.  He said the first was to care for the souls of people as a Pastor.  My dream is a high calling and one that I’ve said yes to – now I sit and wait for God to fulfill His call on my life.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

What Do you Want to be When You Grow Up?

As a kid I really enjoyed my Matchbox cars (I still have some), art, the outdoors and machines. In those days we didn't have remote control TVs, personal computers, and the certainly the digital age was still a long way off. We walked or rode our bikes everywhere, played real sports with real people, and amazingly, cars didn't even have seat-belts. For sure technology has come a long way... but I have changed a little. I prefer to wake up in a hotel room instead of a sleeping bag on the ground. I still do love art and machines.

My conversion to Christ added a whole new dimension to my life, and I became passionate about certain aspects of the Kingdom. And that's what we will be writing about this week, the very thing that we dream about doing as Christians... the passion and desire of our hearts. Oh, and this week we are adding a new Kingdom Blogger; our Canadian friend Andrea. She debuts on Wednesday, don't miss it.

From the moment I encountered Jesus, I got supercharged about Christianity. I wanted to be the best and most knowledgeable Christian I could be. M encounters with God we so real, and I just wanted more and more and more! I loved to watch God at work in powerful ways such as healing, words of knowledge and prophecy. To be honest, I didn't really know what all that stuff was, it was just happening around me and I took it in. And worse I didn't know how to pray or read the Word either. But I know that I wanted Jesus: the Living, Powerful, Amazing One! My spirit was s excited I would lay away thinking about all the things that God would use me to do.

If you've read Kingdom Bloggers for any length of time, you know that I am not too good at all the traditional Christian stuff. I am bit off in the wilderness some days. It is just this past year that I actually found a church that could handle the real me.

My passion as a Christian is to be like Paul was. I want to teach, to travel and to operate in the power gifts. I certainly want to love on people as well. Next week I will tell you how come I am not quite there yet. :) The reality for me is that I have had a chance to travel as a missionary; in fact that is how I met Joyce. God opened the doors to ministry for me and financed it all too! I was out of the country on average about twice a year, and when I wasn't, I ministered just about every week in a Brazilian church in my region.

More recently I have been staging the next season of ministry. I taught a 7 week course on all the things I love about the church, and we have already planned classes out into 2012! I wrote 2 books and about 700 blogs. The best part is that I am working with a great team. And not unlike Kingdom Bloggers, we are starting to work well together. I love teams! I am at my best when I am with others that compliment my gifts. There is such freedom to pass the baton to a co-laborer for Christ and watch them succeed too.

As I look back, that is one of the biggest changes in me, I learned through Christ I need people. I love the gifts that he pours out on the church, and whatever they are, I want to be with them!

I still lay awake at night praying, and thinking about all the things that God has for me. I share my hearts desires, and He give me his. We're in this together for all eternity!

How about you, what's you hope for your Christian walk?

Friday, June 17, 2011

You truly can love people you've never met...thanks to Jesus!

This weeks subject matter took on a little different feel than I originally intended...but I don't ever want to stand in the way of the Holy Spirit working.

First, I've been really encouraged by the number of readers this blog is drawing each week. Thank you. Comments are always welcome and help make the dialogue even better, but just the fact that you read each week is very uplifting to each of us. To God goes all the glory and honor!

As you've seen this week, your Kingdom Bloggers are an assorted bunch. I take great comfort in that fact too. God has opened my eyes to many sanctimonious misconceptions I carried around for years about my faith by using this particular time in my life and this group of writers to accomplish just that. If I had to pick a single lesson that stands above all the rest I've learned in the past few years, it would undoubtedly be...

 1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1, 2

That's right. The sins of the whole world. We have a tendency to often live our lives in a microcosmic sense which creates a seriously skewed vision about how God works. Been there...done (maybe even still doing) that! It's just a sinful by-product of living in such a narcissistic world environment. Instead of becoming more aware and more concerned about God's entire earthly creation as information borders and boundaries opened up globally for our information hungry society thanks in large part to technology,  we have withdrawn back into our shells seemingly afraid to venture out in His name.

I'm not talking about just missionary work to foreign lands either. We are called to reach other in His name, but I personally don't have to board a plane or boat to accomplish that...I just need to walk out of my office and into a number of any other offices at my workplace. That, however, is a completely different post.

In my opinion, people living in the Bible Belt having a particularly distorted view of God's world. It's almost arrogantly ignorant enough to self-proclaim to have become the new Children of God, or Confederate Jews if you will. Don't laugh...take it from someone who lives here every day. If I succumb to this narrow way of thinking, it might look something like this:

 How could someone from the Northeast part of the country (David J) know God better than me? I grew up going to Sunday School and church every single Sunday of my life! I know the Bible! brother David J's biblical knowledge far exceeds my own and rivals anyone I personal know. He is my dear friend and confidant thanks to a loving God who knows and cares about what I need to better serve Him.   

California (Tracy)?! Are there actually Christians in that pagan, liberal state? sister Tracy reflects the very heart of Jesus in everything she writes in a clarity like none other. Her light for Jesus shines brightly for the whole world to see.

Women should be...nuns or something. Not pastors (Joyce)!
...soon to be Dr. Joyce Lighari is equipped educationally and through life experiences better than any pastor I know to lead a flock for Christ. If she were closer, I'd love to be one of her sheep! 

Head-bangers (Dave T) don't really worship. God doesn't like hearing that loud garbage! original member of Kingdom Bloggers, Dave Tevet's worship can be seen in his daily walk with Jesus. He has been blessed with a talent for sharing the Word in a manner anyone can understand.

Our God works in a great big, complex world that He created. His Spirit works just as diligently in the South Pacific as the Southeastern United States. God's love extends to the Buddhist as well as the Baptist. The Mormon as well as the Methodist. The Pakistani Muslim and well as the Pentecostal.

All of humankind is His creation and have been called to accept and share. Through my bond with a few passionate people for Jesus on Kingdom Bloggers, I have a better understanding that it's not just my mission, my church's mission, my denominations's every one's mission to serve the Kingdom...and we need each other to accomplish this.

Last Sunday, a profound message fell on my ears courtesy of Pastor Derek Bell- Our physical bodies need rest, but our souls don't. Satan never takes a vacation.

With my brothers and sisters in Christ close at hand, I never have to worry about falling down spiritually due to exhaustion. Doesn't God think of everything?


Thank you Lord for the privilege to serve You with this special group of people. You have blessed me with their friendship and educated me with their spiritual knowledge. May we never fail to give all honor. praise and glory to your Holy name. In the name and with the love of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Words of Love, Hope, and Power

A few words come to mind when I think about my fellows here at Kingdom Bloggers. Although I've never met any of them in person, or even talked on the phone, they each have a definite presence for me.

The Word is Love
When I think of Tony C, I think of Love. This man just seems to permeate love for others. It's always there in every account he relates; it doesn't matter if he actually comes out and talks about his love for others or not, it's still always in the subtext of whatever he's saying.

The Word is Hope
When I think of Joyce, I think of Hope. Even just the brief bit of her life that I know resounds with hope; God has brought her through so much in her life - how can I hear what God has done for Joyce and not feel hopeful inside?!

The Word is Power
When I think of David, I think of Power. God's power; manifest in us through His Holy Spirit. I see David earnestly seek after God, sincerely seek to be used by God, and passionately seek after the Holy Spirit's power being manifest in his life.

Not so surprisingly, I've learned about Love from Tony, Hope from Joyce, and God's power through us from David. I'm grateful that I've been blessed to be a part of this group and look forward to learning more from each of them in the days ahead.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We Are Family

Some of you may think that I avoided writing yesterday because David was just so good and I couldn’t top it.  Actually I thought about not writing at all for that reason J!  Seriously, I was rather busy yesterday.  Today, I’m getting ready to make and can more mango salsa and mango chutney. 

When I first heard the topic, I thought the topic was what we have learned since writing as a Kingdom Blogger.  Then I read David’s blog and thought, oh, what did we learn about each other?  Now that’s a different story. 

The KB’er I know the best is David.  He is the only one I’ve met in person.  Like he said, we went to Norway on a mission trip together.  I don’t even remember the names of most of the people I went on that trip with but David stood out then and stands above now.  I think if there is one word I’d use for him, it would be faithful.  I know bits and pieces of his life through his blogs.  What I see is a man faithful to the call of God, faithful to his family – a guy that goes on lots of date nights with his wife.  He is a father devoted to his children.  He is also the glue that keeps us together on KB.  He tries at times because of busyness and life to pass the torch of leadership on KB to others.  We try to pick it up but often fail miserably. 

I don’t know Tracy or Tony that well.  I know them only through their writings and our brief exchanges by email.  But I pray for them.  I’ve shed some tears of late as I’ve stormed heaven for David.  I’d do the same for them.  I love them like family.  I hope to meet Tony since we live in the same state now.  I know they pray for me.  They both encourage me.

The thing I’ve learned since writing for KB is that I can write and I enjoy it.  But the most important thing I’ve learned from KB is that the Kingdom of God can and does operate here.  We are family.  We love each other.  We share our lives here in a way that is more intimate that most of us can or do at church on Sunday. 

Tertullian, a father of the church, quoted a pagan who spoke of Christians saying “look how they love one another.”  That’s how it is on the other side of KB – the side you the reader doesn’t see – we love one another.

We all seem to live by Romans 12:10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.  (The Message)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't be a Dunce

Living life takes a lot of strength. Living for Christ takes a lot of faith. Scott Peck said "Life is difficult." (The Road Less Traveled) But that was before he knew Christ. Because the cross is relational, connecting us vertically to God the Father and horizontally to other believers, it changes how we live life. In fact with faith in the finished work of Jesus, we are transformed "life live-ers." We are no longer of this world, but of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ dwells within us! Life in Christ (his yoke) is easy.

This week the motley crew, better known as the Kingdom Bloggers are going to write about what we have learned from each other. You'll gain knowledge of a lot of fun facts which pertain to us. For instance Tony C. does not drink coffee ( I know), Joyce gets a little crazy in church, Tracy knows a lot about mental illness (she needs that knowledge to engage the men of this group!), and Stephanie, well she is passionate about  Jesus! So read on this week, there's a lot more nuggets of truth you can't use at the next Trivial Pursuit game.

It is no secret that even with faith, life is difficult. It is only "putting" our faith in Jesus that makes it any easier. There are certainly some Bible lessons for getting through the tough times. HERE is more on that. I have my own story this past few months as I recover from a heart attack. HERE is the latest on that if you are interested. What makes the journey even more bearable is relationship.

Who would have thought commenting on Tony C Today a few years ago would have led to a friendship that is growing deeper in spite of the thousand miles between us? The open door was an opportunity to pray from him the night before a medical procedure. Since that time I know a lot more about being a southerner because of him - Mountain Dew, sweet tea, and really taking weekends off; the stereotypes are true! And I feel like Elvis lives every time I hear his east Tennessee twang. All kidding aside (which is hard to do with a guy like Tony), I appreciate his prayers. When the T-Man prays, you know that God is listening. I also appreciate his uplifting phone calls when he can fit me on his way from the couch to the bed. Thanks, bro. I hope I am as encouraging to others as you are to me.

I have known Joyce since we went on a mission trip to Norway in 2002. We were part of a team of about 50 Americans and Norwegians. You can read more about that HERE. The truth, I have gotten to know here much better through her blog, Sounds of Hope, and Kingdom Bloggers. She tells the unvarnished truth about real life. I appreciate that because it makes me feel more normal. She makes the simplest religious practice seem exciting; she's a great storyteller too. I wold say Joyce is the pastoral one of the group, often gathering the sheep through Facebook messages and prayer requests. You can count on her for compassion, for prayer and probably for anything else if you need it. All of that comes through in her writing. She likes to have fun too! IE: wearing lampshades in church sounds like a hoot!

Stephanie (when she actually has time to join us on Wednesdays) attended a class that I taught at my church. She gave up 7 Friday evenings (pretty amazing for a 20-something) to hear yours truly carry on about his passion for the Kingdom of God in person. What I know about her is faith, child like faith. She reads the word of God and believes it. I need to be more like that!

Tracy is the member of KB that I know the least. However; it is evident from her writing that she is a reader and doer of the Word of God. I should be more like that. She has been transparent with us about the not so joyous parts of parenting along with the triumphs of kids who make good choices. This crew has a lot of kids ranging newborn to over the hill. As a mental health professional, I have enjoyed her insight into a world that I knew little about. It has released a deeper compassion simply by knowing more about it. So, thanks Tracy.

So there you have it, one of the best life classes I have ever taken is working with these brothers and sisters. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Do you really need any other reason?

“For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

I'm finishing up a series in the Sunday School class I teach about the major world religions. As we went through the section on Eastern religions (Taoism. Buddhism and Confucianism), a connection was being made on a regular basis concerning the shared principles between Eastern religious thought and some New Age philosophy. Bingo! Sure. With this collective epiphany, it would be easy to sit back and declare my work here is done, but I don't think Satan will scurry away so easily after a single lost battle in a much broader war.  The fight must go on...

My fellow Kingdom Bloggers have posted great stuff this week. Insightful. Inspiring. Deeply personal testimony. I'm going to take a slightly different approach to our subject matter of gratitude today. Call it more a 'James-like' position.

I posted the poem by Emerson to help make my point. Ralph seemed very thankful to God for the things he enjoyed in nature as he expressed in his popular poem. But if he truly had gratitude to our Father in heaven for the things of nature he so enjoyed, how could a founder of transcendentalism also pen the very words that later made him the intellectual father of the New Thought movement?

Let me review a little history...New Thought = New Age = we all are gods

So was Ralph thankful to himself or his Father in heaven? I remembered this piece from high school and my rather astute English teacher wrongly pointing to Ralph having a moment of  spiritual gratitude. She was right about it being spiritual, but the inference it was directed at the same God I worship was just a bit off I would later learn.

I believe Emerson was torn at the moment he penned those words between his true feelings (or lack there of) in matters of God and gaining the popular sentiment of his day. So what he provided was nothing more than lip service to God in order to create a positive, popular appearance. Actually, history records that was the very fact of the matter. Ralph may have cryptically hidden his true feelings in a popularly acceptable message in order to gain notoriety, but once he made the big time...the true Emerson was revealed, and he left his fake gratitude for God out of his writings, speeches and teachings from that point forward.

Here comes my pseudo-James moment...true gratitude will result in sustained biblical actions. If I am genuinely appreciative to God for His many blessings, I will do the things He has commanded me to do with that same heart of gratitude. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

Let's take that to another level...

 If I believe what I claim to believe as a Christian...that God the Creator is omnipotent, omnipresent, the Alpha and Omega, the Healer and Comforter...I shouldn't need a single blessing outside of knowing and accepting who God truly is to have that same constant attitude of gratitude.

Knowing what he knows now, I'm guessing Ralph would redirect his appreciation a little differently...given the chance and new found knowledge that God is the Great I Am...and he most certainly is not.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Gratitude Changed Me

I learned the lesson of gratitude at one of the worst times in my life.

It was in the year I turned 40 and my then-husband basically left me for a 30-year old. God provided for me because, although they knew nothing about my personal life, my work came to me and offered me $20K more per year if I'd move to a location about 90 minutes away from where we'd been living and work for them at that location. So I packed up my sons and our stuff, and moved us.

We didn't know anyone at this new location we'd moved to. I didn't know my way around. I was alone with my sons. I was grieving over the loss of a marriage, a mate, and a dream. I can remember holding it together to get everyone off to school in the morning, then crying all the way to work, then getting myself reigned in again to deal with my job, coming home and holding myself together for the boys throughout the evening, then wallowing in sadness through the night. This went on for weeks.

Then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart that I had to start practicing gratitude if I ever wanted out of this deep pit of sorrow that was threatening to engulf me. He showed me that I was perseverating on all these hurtful things in my life, but that these sad things were not the only things in my life. That actually He was blessing me, but that I was so busy focusing on the hurtful things that I wasn't even noticing all the good. That every morning when I woke up I'd think about my broken heart and then the day would go downhill from there.

But I just couldn't seem to stop it. So I took a paper and wrote a few good things in my life on the paper; the fact that I had a job that paid the bills, that my sons are wonderful people, that we were all healthy. I taped that paper on the wall next to my bed so that the first thing in the morning when I woke up I would see that paper, read it, and thank God for those things.

Over time the list grew.

The list grew and so did the pattern of starting each day focusing on things in my life for which I could be thankful. I even began to do it throughout the entire day, whenever my spirit would be heavy, I'd start looking for what was good around me.

Eventually that heaviness was lifted and I experienced happiness, peace, and hope.

Prior to this time in my life, it would have been safe to say that I'd struggled throughout my adult life with depression and feeling really bad about myself. Whenever someone would read a list of characteristics that anyone who had 60% or more of these characteristics could be considered depressed, I'd always have ALL of the characteristics. Prior to that time in my life I'd struggled, not so much with guilt over specific actions, but just with feeling like I was a bad person.

Since then, I don't feel depressed, and I like myself.

That doesn't mean that I don't sometimes feel sad over sad events, or feel disconnected. It also certainly doesn't mean that I don't struggle with specific defects of character. But it does mean that peace, joy, and hope are pervasive in my life.

Gratitude changed my life.

Today I still seek to live in gratitude. I don't do it perfectly, but basically I'm constantly thanking God for all the good stuff He's giving me in each day. I have the freedom to just enjoy the little stuff; like beauty of the clouds in the sky, or appreciation for how my car always starts and gets me to where I need to go, or some nice little thing that someone did during my day that they did not have to do.

I like living this way.

What about you, what was a life event that helped you learn how to practice gratitude?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thanksgiving in June

Based on the concept of Christmas in July, this week we have Thanksgiving in June.  The dictionary doesn’t make much distinction between gratitude and thankfulness.  I know, I looked it up.  However, it seems there is a bit of a difference to me.  Gratitude seems to be a characteristic that we need to cultivate.  Thankfulness seems more immediate.  At least that’s how I see it.

I have difficulty with gratitude.  Life has beaten me up a lot.  I’ve lived long enough to understand that you can never judge the level of another person’s pain.  You know, someone tells you how bad things are for them and you think.  What???  Is that all that’s wrong with you?  You think wow, that’s not that bad.  But it is to them.  And if you are a good friend you keep your thoughts to yourself.  We all have our own levels of tolerance when it comes to life’s losses.

My husband has gratitude.  I’ve never met anyone so appreciative and so willing to say Thank God for every little thing.  For example, I work hard in school.  It is very important to me.  I get good grades.  When I do, I’m quick to share it.  My husband’s response?  Thank God.  I’m like Thank God???  I did that.  Okay, maybe I’m being too candid for some of you, but no one ever accused me of not being honest.

When our children accomplish something and thankfully they are a pretty accomplished bunch.  They’ve worked hard.  They’ve succeeded.  My husband’s response? Thank God… Last night, supper was a bit off schedule.  I had a phone call and talked too long so it wasn’t ready when he walked in the door.  Usually it’s ready and I’m waiting on him.  We often pray over the food, but again, in all honesty, I have to tell you that we don’t always.  As I brought my plate to the table, he was sitting there staring at the food.  We had grilled salmon with an amazing homemade mango chutney I had made over some rice with peppers, onions, zucchini, etc.  The rice has no name as I made it up J.  I asked him, why didn’t you start?  He said this is so good looking and so wonderful we have to pray and thank God for it.  As we bowed our heads and I prayed thanking God for the food, I realized that even though I had cut all those mangoes, roasted the peppers, spent hours on my feet, etc., without God, none of it was possible.  Everything comes from God.

That’s gratitude.  Looking at every situation regardless of whose physical hands or mind produced it, and saying “thank God.” We need to express our gratitude not just when the the big stuff happens like when someone gets unexpected money at the last minute, or those things that we call miracles.  I believe it is what Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grape Food?

I was sitting in a Alateen meeting in the spring of 1978. It was customary to go around the room and share problems & accomplishments. Me, I was there because I had a lot of problems, and my life had really gone off track. Let's just say my mother was kidding when she said "get help, or get out."

After a few meetings I decided to share a problem with the group. I don't remember what it was, but one of the girls there said quietly, "you need and attitude of gratitude."

It didn't compute, so I asked here. "What's grape food?" As gracious as most of the kids were, they still snickered. "Gratitude!" she replied. I felt embarrassed, but I didn't ask what that meant either, for fear of sounding even dumber.

Well, I have learned a lot about gratitude since that time. And this week, the faithful will be sharing their own experiences with the mood changing drug, gratitude.

I have to admit it, some days I am a glass half empty, and other days I am glass half full person. I know that part of that comes from my temperament mix, and part of it comes from some really poor choices that really did end me up in some stinky and depressing circumstances. I also noticed that I am a lot more positive when I can see my way out of a situation, even if it requires a monumental effort on my part.

I have heard lot of "positive confession" teaching over the years at church. Some of it is very good, and some of it was presumption and denial of situations and character defects that really needed to be dealt with.

If things aren't going well, I want to give you permission to say, "I don't feel good today." It is good to go to our Christian friends and ask for prayer. In those prayers God is able to show us: faithfulness, give us wisdom, peace and comfort. They are essential in us bearing one another's burdens. That's the good side of crying out.

The Bible also says that our words have power. If we can prophesy, then we can curse. Let's face it, if we can pray and believe that God will move on our behalf, then we have same power to be negative in the spiritual realm.

James 3:9a With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse.

It is very important to stay away from cursing ourselves and others. I am not thrilled with my job situation. So I am simply praying for a better job situation that is minus the hours of commuting. I ask for pray for the new situation while being attentive to the lessons I am supposed to be learning from this one.

If we belittle someone, or do any sort of name calling, we are cursing God's beloved. Look, I have kids who don't make the best choices all the time, but I always look for places to say, "You must be proud of yourself." or " You did a great job!" It is the focus on what is done right that creates and opportunity for them to do something else well.

My little one is ENERGETIC and runs in the house. Last week she took me out with two cups of hot coffee as I rounded the corner for the dining room table. It was very stupid of her. As upset as I was, I said "No more running in the house!"

And finally there are things we don't say, but run in our minds as an internal dialog. this in the one that i have the most trouble with. And it spills over to the tongue sometimes.

Proverbs 23:7 (ASV) 7 For as he thinketh within himself, so is he.

It is very truthful: I am what I think I am. Some days it is hard not say "I am a failure as a ________. or to not feel shame for something I should have said, or handled differently.

Thank God Jesus loves just the way I am.

How about you, what's your internal dialog like?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Give me warm weather and Attie Gene's lemonade anytime...

What's not to love about Summer! If I sat down and made a list of my Top 10 best memories from my youth, I'm sure at least 6 would come from the summer months. Like Tracy, Vacation Bible School was a big part of the break from regular school. The adults always made sure each year was memorable and exciting...and I greatly appreciate that fact to this day.

As a teenager, I was always looking for ways to make money in the summers. Opportunity usually came in either a hay or tobacco field. Growing up in East Tennessee, both types were in abundance. It wasn't unusual to gain a day of work by word of mouth. My dad would say 'so and so' needs help with hay on Saturday or 'so and so' needs to top his tobacco tomorrow...and there you go. The going rate was usually $20 for an entire day which was a fortune for a teenager back then. Once you got the rep for being a good worker, you'd stay busy most all season.

Putting up hay was hard labor in those days because everyone 'square-baled' back then. For you urban types and kids born after the Reagan Administration, a square bale of hay is a near extinct commodity that was neither light nor square.

These days, square bales are usually limited to Fall decorative displays...well...and erosion controlling devices in some of the poorer counties. Farmers got away from baling this way because it was labor intensive...and labor for such task has gotten both scarce and expensive.

The process involved a tractor, trailer/wagon and a dozen or so workers. The weak link usually drove the tractor. Stacking the bales on the trailer required the most skill, so the process wasn't a perpetual repeat of throwing bales on the wagon, stacking, bales falling off the wagon, throwing bales on the wagon...

Everyone else was a thrower, and I was usually in that group. We would work, share stories, and laugh at people who picked up a bale with an unfortunate tortoise or unusually slow rabbit who got in the way of the baler and ended up mauled. It was hard work, but at the end of the day, the $20 was very real to me. I wasn't about to run out and spend it frivolously on something that would be a distant memory by the next weekend.

Later in college, I worked  in the warmer season as the gardener for Judge Thomas A. Shriver, a former member of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Nashville. Judge Shriver liked to help local college students where he could, and through a stroke of totally blind luck, I got the gig to work at his home when he needed things done around the grounds. Now it was my responsibility to contact the Judge or his wife, Attie Gene, to see if they needed me for work. I would check in a couple of times a week with each call always resulting in a few moments of encouragement from both of them on my school efforts.

But working at the Shriver's became much more than just a paying job for me. The day would start with meeting the near 90 year old judge 'out back', where he would be in his yard hat and boots. There I would get my marching orders for the task at hand with each list always ending 'and turn the compost pile.' Often Judge Shriver would point at a tree or bush he wanted trimmed, but the shaking of his hand would leave me wondering which of the 3 or 4 plants he was referring. So not to embarrass him, I would walk over to the area and placing my hand ask, 'This one Judge Shriver?'

Lunch was always educational and more adventurous than the yard work. Mrs. Shriver would call us in by literally ringing a bell. The Judge would change footwear and put his hat up for lunch. We would wash up in the basement and proceed upstairs where lunch was served on the Shriver's silver settings. Not to paint a wrong picture here because the Shrivers were obviously well off financially, but their home was modest and seasoned. Judge Shriver would eat his lunch in front of the television from a TV tray after his wife got him situated and served. She would then join me at the table where the lunch spread was both diverse and plentiful. I experienced my first crumpet at that table and hot tea poured from a silver pot. It all seemed so...surreal.

Mrs. Shriver: So you found a snake in the yard? Was it the poisonous kind?

Young Tony C: No ma'am, just a black snake. I took care of it.

Mrs. Shriver: More blackberry preserves? Could they get into the main house?

Young Tony C: No thank you. I don't think so. We've got the doors around back sealed pretty good.

Mrs. Shriver: Thank heavens. I would just die if one got in the house. God made the woman and the snake mortal enemies in the Garden of remember.

Young Tony C: Yes ma'am I do. But don't worry. That one will never bother you. That I'm sure.

By the end of lunch, Judge Shriver would be well into his afternoon nap in his reclining chair. I would go back to the yard to finish my list and any other task I could see needed to be done that day. By the time the turning of the compost pile got around, the Judge would be awake and back in the yard with me. Then came my favorite part of the entire job. Getting paid? No, not quite. Judge Shriver and I would clean up and go to the front porch where Attie Gene's famous lemonade would be waiting. No matter how busy I was or what I needed to get back to at school, we would always sit and talk over at least one glass of lemonade. He would share with me a story from his past that was actual living Tennessee history or a favorite story from the Bible.

Don't ask me how I knew the magnitude of those stories as a naive, brash college student in Nashville looking more for the fun side of carpe diem than the philosophical significance...I just knew. I needed the money, and that's why I took the job. But no matter how hard I worked, the payout I received in time spent with the Shrivers combined with the actual wage always outweighed my efforts. It was an experience in my education that I consider invaluable.

I've never been on any court that didn't involve a ball. I'm pretty sure there are no silver serving trays in my least to my knowledge. My home is modest at best. But I truly hope to share the same experience with some young person at some point in my life.  I have a ton of stories, know a bit about biblical life application, and Mrs. Tony C makes a pretty decent pitcher of lemonade too...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What do you think of when you think of summer?

When David suggested the topic of summer and Jesus I was a bit stumped. (OK, David, I DID go to VBS all my elementary school years and loved it.) But then I remembered an event that totally rocked my world when it happened.

I attended public school. When I was in high school I was blessed with lots of friends and involved in many extra curricular activities (not to mention that I actually liked most classes and learning); I just didn't know very many Christians. Especially not any that were super into God, His Word, and who wanted Him first in their lives. At church it seemed like the kids in the high school Sunday school class weren't into God or the Bible either. They were interested in the same things as the kids at school; the opposite gender, clothes, movies, music, cars - everything except the Word. I was interested in all those things too, but I was more interested in God. I kind of felt like a dork because I really wanted to get into the lesson the Sunday school teacher (a college girl who attended the local denominational college) presented, yet I didn't want to be the only student who ever answered questions or got engaged; it felt so awkward.

Then one day during summer school this older girl that I vaguely knew, who was in the same class as my boyfriend (who believed but was a super new Christian), invited him to a Bible study at a guy who went to another high school's house. The study was sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. We went and I'll never forget the pure joy that event stirred up inside of me that hot, summer, night.

There was a room filled with people my age and most of them were every bit as excited about Christ as me. I remember that afterward by boyfriend wanted to leave but that I couldn't tear myself away until only the last few people remained. It was so incredible to talk to other teens about things that really mattered to me. To realize that I was not alone in my faith. I couldn't get enough.

That summer I learned the importance of spending time with people of like faith. I experienced the meaning of fellowship.

Since then it's always seemed to me that summer presents a special time for relationships. Everything can be fun, casual, and outside. There's even time after work, since it doesn't get dark until later, to do things with people. Summer just seems to represent hanging out.

What about you, what does summer represent for you?