Thursday, October 29, 2009

Involve Me, and I Understand

Last week, our family visited the Alamo in San Antonio. The kids have never seen it, although they have studied about it in school and read about the brave men who fought in the Texas Revolution. However, there is nothing like Active Learning, which is a process wherein students engage/interact with course content. An ancient Chinese Proverb sums up this learning approach: "Tell me, and I'll forget. Show me, and I might remember. Involve me, and I understand."

Before leaving home, we had printed out a History Hunt for the Alamo. It was a two page fill-in-the blank questionaire that guided us through the courtyards and rooms of the 300 year old mission. As we searched for the answers to questions such as find the flags and their corresponding number of defenders from Scotland? Kentucky? New York? or "Draw the cattle brand for Mission San Antonio de Valero", or "In this room there is a plaque that tells us that this room protected the [women and children] who survived the siege," we were able to experience a more personalized view of the siege and battle of the Alamo.

I believe that God wants us to step into His big story in an even more intentional way. The Bible says in Matthew 7:24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock." Verse 26 "But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand."

In his book God 360, Andy Flannagan shares 120 experiential devotionals that facilitate the participant's ability to see God in places where perhaps we've never looked for or seen Him. It is a great resource for learning to "allow God's Spirit to weave himself into every moment of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound as well as impacting your spirit." To see people, places and things the way God sees them. It is an active devotional that challenges the reader to act on what we read in scripture -- to experience and apply it.

A way to get engaged locally is to join Scare Away Hunger, an annual McKinney opportunity to experience God by actively engaging neighbors in collecting food for the hungry in McKinney. Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat;" Seven churches have joined together for the purpose of replenishing the Community Food Pantry of McKinney whose primary goal is to insure that no one goes to bed hungry. Please join us this weekend on October 31 to engage with those around us, being Christ's hands and feet as we demonstrate the difference He has made in our lives.

Be encouraged that God is omnipresent and omniscient. He is everywhere, all-knowing and involved in the tinyest details of each person's life here on earth. He has a purpose and plan that He is actively carrying out, with or without us. But He wants us to help him so we can be where He is and really get to know Him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 31 is Bigger than Halloween

Ninja. Pirate. Pumpkin girl. Superheroes plan to invade our house this weekend. Cute as they are, and despite having participated when we were kids, my husband and I still have mixed feelings about the whole Halloween tradition. Like we need any more cavity abetting! More than that, of course, is the uneasiness about supporting a tradition that, in other parts of the world, celebrates evil spirits and pagan rituals. Many Christians feel the same tension, choosing a variety of options on how to, or not to, acknowledge Halloween.

Love it or hate it, October 31 has a greater significance than its identity as the Eve of All Saints' Day. In Slovenia and parts of Germany, people enjoy it as a civic holiday. Some protestant churches celebrate it as a religious holiday, with special liturgies, songs and garments. Both the civic and religious celebrations for Reformation Day remember a particular October 31—the day in 1517 that Dr. Martin Luther chose to post his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

A normally unremarkable event, the posting of this particular document set in motion a conflict that reshaped the history of western civilization. It is hard to overstate the consequences of the 95 Theses. One man, a monk dedicated to the truth of scripture, challenged the leaders of his Church to debate, among other things, the selling of indulgences.

This practice of selling forgiveness enticed common people, most of whom were poor, to purchase indulgences that would, according to the pope, buy their deceased relatives out of purgatory and into heaven. The proceeds from these sales lined the pockets of various princes and bishops while propagating the myth that forgiveness could be bought. An illiterate populace depended on their educated church leaders to guide them in their faith. In Luther’s mind, the church had deceived her people. He chose to challenge this particular issue, and the theology behind it, at Wittenberg.

Why risk the wrath of his church superiors? As a young monk, Luther struggled with feeling good enough for God. He could not understand how God could or ever would accept him. Fasting, prayer, confession—none seemed enough to please a holy God. He spent years trying, to no avail. During this season of struggle, he began a study of Romans. In the first chapter, he found freedom. Verse 17 reads, " it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'"

"This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification," he wrote, "is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness."

Luther came to understand that he could never earn forgiveness, never earn God’s love and grace, and never do enough to make himself righteous. Consider these truths he found in further readings of Romans:

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (3:22-24).

And again in chapter five:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (vv 1-2).

Justification through faith. Faith alone. Sola fide. Christ paid the penalty for my sin because he loved me and knew that I could never pay that price outside of hell. All my good works emerge out of a heart of gratitude, not from obligation and certainly not as a means to evening the score between me and God. As if that were possible!

Luther discovered freedom in his study of Romans and other New Testament books. His congregants heard him teach on these truths, other monks began reading his prolific writings about justification by faith, and when the 95 Theses were posted, then copied, the church leaders called him to account. At his trial at the Diet of Worms three years later, Luther stood before a vast assembly of world leaders religious and secular (there was little separation at the time). When the Pope’s envoy listed the charges against him and asked if he would repudiate his teachings and writings, Luther responded:

Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or by evident reason... my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

"My conscience is captive to the word of God." Luther's words should inspire all Christians to hold fast to the Truth. To study and know it, to meditate on and memorize it. To act in accordance with it—to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. (cf Micah 6:8)

We celebrate October 31 as Reformation Day, recalling the catalytic event that loosed a world-changing revolution of thought and practice. However you choose to observe Halloween, remember that Christ has freed you from darkness and brought you into his kingdom of light, if you but believe. Sola fide!

(this article was originally written for and posted on

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bring Home the Wonder of Christmas!

Sunday, November 8th
7:00 - 9:00 PM

Our Ladies Fall Event is quickly approaching and it is something that you do not want to miss. Our guest speaker this year is Mary Beth Lagerborg. Mary Beth is an author and has also served on the staff of MOPS International.

Our theme this year is "Bring Home the Wonder of Christmas". Mary Beth will be teaching us how to ready our hearts and homes for the holidays. What a wonderful time to start getting into the Christmas spirit and even learning a few new traditions that you could start for your family. Topics for the evening include:
  • Exploring family expectations in a Pre-Holiday Family Meeting
  • Choosing traditions to develop, and ones to leave behind
  • Selecting doable tasks, and releasing guilt from the rest
  • Realizing Advent as a season of spiritual preparation
  • Bringing the story of the Nativity alive to children
  • Demonstrating 12 practical, economical ways to enrich the season at home using each of the senses
  • Providing 12 “five-minute fixes” to de-stress such holiday situations as unexpected company or a quick dish for the company potluck
You will also enjoy wonderful Christmas music by Kenneth & Teri Ussery along with dessert and coffee catered by Coffee & Cream.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Sunday, November 1st. You can purchase your tickets here.

Join us for this wonderful evening to begin getting ready for the upcoming holidays.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,a]"> Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking Off My Mask

For the past couple of weeks, I have heard the word "mask". Every time I would hear that word spoken, my spirit would stir on the inside. Why? Did I have something to hide? Is there something I am hiding? Or could this be my own safe haven for survival? If no one "really" knows what's going on with me, then I am safe. But am I? So many questions from one little word mask.

The point in wearing a mask is to disguise, to hide, and to keep your true identity hidden. For me, wearing a mask became my protection. I had to find a way to keep those out that I felt would bring me harm. I could put on a mask and pretend to be stronger, faster, prettier, smarter and thinner. You name it; I had a mask for it. Hmmm, does that all sound insecure or what? I had convinced myself that whatever I needed to do to get through, I would do it. As long as it didn’t bring hurt upon anyone else.

But I am reminded daily, that God loves me just the way I am. And since He knows all there is to know about me, what is there to try and hide from Him? I mean, He is the ONLY ONE that I am to fully please. I have daily reminders that nothing is hidden from the Lord. He sees all and He knows all. I am exposed to Him from the crown of my head to the soul of my feet. And that's a good thing. It's a very good thing because I do need someone to always be accountable for my actions. For all that I say and do, and for all the places I travel that I think are private and visited in secret. Perhaps for all those times when my heart reveals its' true color when I am placed in a situation or environment with someone who is a little different from me.

When I mess up, I grab a mask. I want to cover myself from the Lord because of the guilt and shame of my sins, my true identity. I don't want Him to see me being so ugly and filthy from having a bad attitude or speaking unkind words; especially when He takes the time to wash and bathe me in His Holy Word. I don't know about you, but the devil really cranks it up after I have spent time with the Lord being refreshed, renewed, and restored.

Somewhere along my journey, I lost my identity. Maybe it was stolen from me, maybe I gave it away. Nonetheless, I now know where I am and what I need to do to get back to who God created me to be. The Lord says that He will love me despite my shortcomings. He has forgiven me for the times when I thought I had to “cover up”. He wants me to be right in Him and with others. And all that takes is for me to be true to myself, true to others and mostly true to Him. He has given me another chance to reveal the beauty that is within. No more masks!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seeking Clarity Among the Noise

I am tired. Well, honestly, I am sick and tired-literally. I have been burning the midnight oil on more than one occasion, putting too many irons in the fire and need another activity like I need a hole in my head. These metaphors parallel the frazzled life of a hard to say no-er. I am guilty as charged, and paying the price for doing too much during a flu epidemic. But I am finding my way back to the simpler life. What have I learned as I reflect on my noisy life? Just as it is difficult to listen to two pieces of music at the same time, it is hard to listen to God’s voice when there are too many things challenging it. Yet, like me, most women have multiple activities chattering in our ear and competing for our attention. Most are well purposed. Distractions are sometimes subtle like a whisper, relaying layers of seemingly silent clatter drowning out the most important voice of all, Our Lord’s voice. By noon, we have forgotten the voice of intention from God, and are racing to and from activities with reckless abandonment. Sometimes we tackle tasks with the hopes of glorifying the Lord and in the mean time we are not doing anything well. We are tired, empty and burned out. God did not intend for us to live this way.

Gently and thankfully, this is what my time with the Lord has revealed. There are 3 ways to put our schedules in alignment with God’s plan for our lives. Isaiah 43:7 says are created for God’s glory, to complete His tasks for His glory. We need to go back to the nuts and bolts of our faith.
Firstly, we need to seek God first with our schedules. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) God’s word is filled with direction. “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding. To receive instruction in wise behavior. A wise man will hear and increase in his learning.” (Proverbs 1:5) In our world of instant connection, it is easy to be distracted from God’s original intention of the day. Seeking our Lord first before anything else is vital for the course our day will take.

Secondly, clarify why we are choosing to be involved in an actual activity. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for man.” Lately, I find an excuse for why I am doing something (saying it is for the Lord), when I am really fulfilling a need that I, alone, will never fill. Praying to God for His clarification and listening to His voice while being in His word are ways to check my motives. I pray He gives me understanding of His Will.

Lastly, God says to rest in Him and His will. Hebrews 4:10, says, “Anyone who rests in God’s rest, also rests from his own rest.” Taking the time to stop and truly rest in God is when I hear God’s voice the clearest. He will force me to do this if I do not plan this in my day.
And like today, I am alone, sick and tired, finding my rest in God and spending time with Him. It is like a spring in a desert land, refreshing, soothing and healing; medicine for my sick soul. I pray that I may unearth God’s voice buried among the noise of the world. I know God has a plan for my daily life just as He has a plan for you. I challenge you as I challenge me- slow down, seek God, clarify His will and do not forget to ask Him what plans He has for you today.
Your life is so important and matters!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Life Story

A life story. We all have one. Actually, we all have several. I love hearing people's stories. As a mom, I hear a lot of stories. My kids tell me some wonderful stories. They and their friends tell me stories. I also hear stories from neighbors, friends, even strangers. Each life story has purpose, intricacies, nuances, characters, tragedies, heroes, and suspense. Each life story has GOD's hand woven throughout the plot.

One day a few weeks ago I was privileged to hear a conversation between my son and a friend. I was driving a group of kids from one place to another. We were dropping off and picking up- the usual- one gets out here, one gets in here. As my middle daughter and a friend were loading the car, I heard my son in the third row ask a friend, "Have you ever heard my life story?" I was a little caught off guard by this. My son has quite a life story. His story is a detailed one that takes more time than I have right now. GOD saved his life several times in miraculous ways. I was wondering how my son would share this information, with this friend, in this time, in this chaos. I kept listening. I looked in the rear view mirror. I saw him grab my daughter's Bible. He opened it to John 3:16 and read it out loud to his friend: "For GOD so loved the world that He gave His one and only SON so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Then my son shared this: "That's it. That's my life story. GOD loves me and I love Him. Do you believe this too?"

Well, praise GOD, that's my life story, too. I believe it. Yes, all of the other parts of my life that pointed me to the cross and to belief matter. But, the simplicity of this is wonderful! GOD loves me and I love Him. Oh, I want to keep it this pure. I want my life story to be this simple, this pure. I want my family's story to be this simple.

When all of your life's story seems confusing, hard, or too complicated, make it simple again. Remember, GOD loves you. He died to make it all OK. We will have everlasting life with Him- if we believe that JESUS is the CHRIST the SON of GOD who died for our sins. If you accept this free gift, this can be your life story. What a great story!

Many chapters of my life have been painful, GOD has held me in those times and carried me with such peace and love. No matter all of the inbetweens, it all comes down to the fact that I was never alone. It is a true statement that GOD loves me at all times and is always with me. I love the simplicity of my son's statement: GOD loves me and I love Him. I hope no matter how complicated my life gets in the days ahead, I will remember to slow down and focus on this. Is this truly my life story? Or, am I allowing something else to take over and be the storyline?

"Dear Father, thank You for sending JESUS to die for me. Thank You for being my life story. Please keep my life simple, pure, and centered on You."


Thursday, October 8, 2009


Have you ever known someone who is really encouraging? Someone who always knows how to make a person feel better and seems to always have Jesus shining through them as they speak to others? I have a friend like that. A few years ago when we were taking a Bible study class together, she would go up to the teacher every week after class to shake her hand or give her a hug and tell the leader what a great job she had done. Encouraging. I remember watching her and thinking, "I want to be like that." And several years later, I still want to be like that. I want to build others up, not tear them down. I want to show Jesus by the words I speak. Yet, I still struggle at making this part of my routine.

The Bible speaks several times throughout Scripture about encouragement:
  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
  • But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13
  • Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

From these verses, I learn that I am to encourage others daily--but am I? Are you? I don't know that I can honestly say I am. There are some days when the best I can do is just make it through the day. However, when I think about the days that I do take the time to encourage others, I realize how much better those days tend to be. The days when I do remember to listen to the nudge that's urging me to say something kind, I find that I am blessed as well.

So, what do you say we try it? I challenge you (and me!): Let's make it a habit to encourage someone every day--whether it's your husband or the person behind the counter at the store, find something that can build someone else up and share it. Maybe it's your minister or your boss; maybe it's the doctor or the school teacher....Whoever it is, my guess is they could use a kind word.

And for some of you, your first job may be to start by saying kind things to yourself. Build yourself up as well. The Lord has great plans for His people, and He did not make a mistake with any one of us. Don't let the Enemy's lies tie you down. We are the King's Creation, so let's start acting like it!

(For those of you taking this challenge, I'd love it if you'd post a comment about how you encouraged someone--or how someone else encouraged you.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Take a Moment

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
--John 15:13

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
--Mother Teresa

I am a firm believer in the restorative powers of "a day of rest". I think if even God rested on the seventh day, we should all take a cue from His lead! Our world these days is so fast-paced, our calendars so jam-packed.. sometimes, as women, it can be enough to make our heads spin. We desperately NEED moments of rest.

There's almost nothing I love better than a long Sunday afternoon nap, when it's raining outside. Not all "resting" has to be napping, however. God created us for companionship, for friendship, for fellowship. After time with a friend, we usually find ourselves re-energized, refreshed and renewed! It's so easy to get caught up in work, taking care of children, responsibilities.. just "Life" in general, that sometimes we look up and realize we haven't seen or talked with our friends in far too long.

Grab a friend today, ladies.. whether you swing through Starbucks together, rent a chick flick and laugh until your sides ache, or just relax and have some yummy goodies together and catch up on each other's lives.

I thought I'd include a few easy, fun recipes for the cooler fall weather. Invite a friend over to share, drop by her house & surprise her with a treat, or (my favorite) invite her over and make a fun, easy recipe together. The time spent together, conversation and laughter will be priceless.

For many humorous girlfriend stories, more delicious recipes, and inspirational scriptures, check out a book, "Coffee Cup Friendship & Cheesecake Fun", by one of my favorite authors, Becky Freeman.

May you feel truly rested after spending time with one of God's greatest treasures: a good friend!

Mixed Fruit Cider
1 quart apple cider
1 quart pineapple juice
3 cinnamon sticks
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced

In a Dutch oven, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain mixture, discarding solids. Serve warm.

Baked Artichoke Dip
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. Tabasco

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Spoon into lightly greased 1-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.
Serve with melba toast rounds or your favorite crackers.
Source: The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Pull-Apart Bacon Bread
1 tsp. veg. oil
3/4 c. green pepper, chopped
3/4 c. onion, chopped
3 cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 lb. bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a skillet; saute peppers and onion until tender. Remove from heat, set aside. Slice biscuits into quarters; place in a mixing bowl. Add vegetables, bacon, butter and cheese; toss until mixed. Arrange biscuit mixture in a greased 10" tube or Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. Serves 8.
Source: Gooseberry Patch's "Flavors of Fall"

Sopapilla Cheesecake
2 cans crescent rolls
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter

Layer 1 can crescent rolls in a greased 9x13 pan; pinch together to cover the bottom. Cream together 1 cup sugar, 2 pkgs. cream cheese, and the vanilla. Spread mixture over crescent roll dough in pan. Top with 1 can crescent rolls; pinch together to cover top. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Melt butter and drizzle over the top; spread gently to cover. Bake 30 minutes at 350.

Easy Chocolate Chip Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 sm. box vanilla instant pudding mix
1 sm. box chocolate instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Powdered sugar (for top, if desired)

Mix together cake mix, pudding mixes, eggs, oil and water. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Bake in greased Bundt pan for one hour at 350 degrees. Let cool slightly in pan, then invert onto rack and cool completely. Transfer to cake plate. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the top for presentation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Beautiful Mess

Okay...I am struggling with what to write this week! So I am sitting here praying about what to write, and amazingly, I began to hear this song by MercyMe:

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
[CHORUS]Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest In Your holiness
Word of God speak
I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the nose
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice[REPEAT CHORUS 2x]
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay

How cool is that? Okay, I have to share that I have found myself "in the midst of" Him in a powerful way the past few weeks. Have you heard of dv8? Well, they not only have cool tshirts, but they are reaching out to at-risk kids in east McKinney, Texas (for those of you who may be out-of-towners). God is weaving lives together in a way that only He could do.

What started out as a plea for help with summer activities from the McKinney Housing Authority, because their budget had been cut, led to a week-long vacation Bible school complete with donated lunch every day and now to a weekly program that operates on a $0 budget, and continues to grow each week. Many of the kids and volunteers were also a part of the annual Clothe A Child event at Kohl's department store which provides school clothes to needy elementary aged kids through generous monetary donations from the community.

To take things even a step further, all of these kids attend schools where mentors from the community volunteer to have lunch with them once a week. I don't know who is more blessed, the kids or the volunteers. Our God is a God of relationships. It is the most important thing He desires to have with us, and what He desires for us to have with each other -- especially with those who are at a disadvantage. When Jesus was on the earth, He was a barrier breaker. He went where others would not go. He sought out those who were rejected. He preached a message of grace, mercy, forgiveness, restoration and hope.

So, if you want to go where Jesus would go if He were in McKinney, Texas today, a good place to start is by contacting 3e McKinney at 3e McKinney seeks to make a significant and sustainable difference in the lives of people in need in our city by being salt and light. Seeking to rebuild, restore, and renew this city for the cause of Christ.

Another great resource to check out is a book called This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley.