Monday, June 30

Be Imitators

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1

Our Bible study class has been focusing on growing in our relationship with Christ. Last week, we talked about relational discipleship: investing in the spiritual growth of others. There are three main relationships every believer needs: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy (or a few of each). The above verse is about the Paul in our lives.

Paul was an imitator of Christ. He strived to be like Jesus, and although he was still a flawed and sinful human, I think he came closer to that goal than most of us do! In this verse, he is boldly telling his fellow Christians– including us –to follow his example, because he was following Christ’s example. I think he understood the difficulty we sometimes have with trying to be like Christ, since Christ is not a tangible, touchable man standing before us. Yes, we can learn about him through prayer and through studying the Bible, and he is indeed always with us, but it is harder to imitate someone we cannot literally see and touch. So Paul sets an example for us.

Our teacher likened our spiritual maturity to climbing a cliff (not something I plan to do in real life!). We are all tethered together, and we all depend upon each other to reach the top. You need that person who has already climbed higher to help you continue your climb as well. We all need a Paul in our lives: a mentor. We all need someone who is farther along in their walk with Christ to help us grow in our own. I am blessed with a few Pauls in my own life. Do you have someone like that in your life? If not, I encourage you to seek someone who can be a Paul to you.

(Tomorrow’s post will be about the Barnabas we all need.)

Saturday, June 28

Go Make Disciples

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
I admit that I have trouble with this. When I think of evangelizing, I have visions of televangelists with big hair and fake tears. “Churchy” lingo makes me cringe. And if it makes me, a church-going Christian cringe, then how must it make the un-churched person feel? I have some un-churched friends, even a very atheist friend (but I’m still praying for her!) and I know as soon as Christianese enters conversation, they send up a big concrete wall and none of it gets through to them.

But for a long time, all I knew were the churchy words. I think it takes a lot more understanding to “get” the big concepts that the Bible teaches, and then to put them in our own words. We have to make it a natural part of conversation. The way we talk when God is the topic of conversation shouldn’t sound significantly different from the way we talk about any topic. I don’t mean to be irrevrent about it, but we shouldn’t suddenly switch gears to “sound holy” when we speak of the Bible, or our relationship with Christ. I have finally realized that it takes doing it– actually talking about Christ, and about my relationship with him– to become comfortable with it. If I feel uncomfortable talking about it, that will show in conversation, and I’ll most likely end up making the other person uncomfortable, too. And that sure won’t make them want to know Christ.

What I am trying to do is to become so comfortable talking about Christ that my enthusiasm about life with him will come shining through. I want to live my life in a way that glorifies him. I want to live joyfully, so that those who know me (but don’t yet know Christ) will want to know what my “secret” is. And when they ask, or when the opportunity comes for me to bring it up, I want to talk about Jesus in a way that makes them want to get to know him, too. Without “preaching” at them or thumping a Bible. (That part can come later.)

The other day, I finally watched the “Cardboard Testimony” video I’ve heard about from friends. If you haven’t seen this, you can find it on YouTube. Watching the people walking by with their cardboard testimonies was pretty powerful, but the part that spoke to me the most was at the end of the video. A man (the pastor, maybe??) asked, what if this was the greeting committee for you when you reached heaven? Because of what you had done and the lives you had touched here on earth, all these souls waited to greet you and thank you for the part you had in getting them to heaven. Wow. That is definitely something to strive towards. Will I have a welcoming committee like that? Will you?

Tuesday, June 24


“The LORD is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the LORD is a just God. Happy are all who wait patiently for Him.” Isaiah 30:18
I remember a time when my daughter did something she knew she wasn’t suppose to do, and she got hurt. She was mad; I knew it was mostly mad at herself, but she was mad at me, too, simply because she realized I was right. If she had followed the rules I had given her, it would have prevented her from getting hurt. As soon as she stopped being mad and asked for my help, I rushed over to console her, and she apologized for breaking the rules. I took care of the boo-boo, she learned a valuable lesson, and we snuggled.

This is what God wants to do. There are times (too many!) when I have broken the rules, went against what I know God wanted me to do. And I got mad at myself for screwing up, but I think at first I was even a little mad at God for being right! As soon as I acknowledged that I had sinned, and asked for his help, he rushed right in to comfort and love on me. He was right there the whole time, just waiting for me to look up and ask for help. The Lord knows this life is hard, and he knows I’m going to mess up sometimes, especially when I step out ahead of him, and don’t wait for his instructions. When I do what I think best, without waiting to hear what God has to say on the matter, I’m most likely going to get hurt. But when I listen, and I wait, things go so much better.

Please also read my post about perseverance on my other blog here.)

Tuesday, June 17

Made Complete

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:18-19
It took me long time to learn this: God can’t love me any more than he already does. Think about that. He loves me (and you!) so much that it isn’t even possible to love me (and you!) more than he does right now. When I sin, I think that makes him sad, and probably angry, but it doesn’t make him love me less. This means it is not possible for me to mess up so bad that God finally says, “Enough! I loved her right up until then, but not any more.” Nope; that just won’t ever happen. He loved me even before he knit me together in my mother’s womb, and he’ll keep on loving me every day of my life and beyond.

This also means that I can’t be good enough to earn his love. If I can’t do anything to lose God’s love, then I also can’t do anything to win it. How freeing that is! God’s love is not conditional! I love this verse above. Try for a minute to fathom just how wide, long, high, deep God’s love is. As far as east is from west? His love is even wider. As long as the beginning of time until the end? His love is even longer. As high as the tallest mountains, or even up into space? His love is even higher. As deep as the depths of the ocean, or the very center of the earth? His love is even deeper. Big enough to love us when we turn away from him? Yes, that big, and bigger.

I know I’ll never fully be able to comprehend God’s vast love. Sometimes I read amazing, touching love stories, and I think, “Now THAT is a true example of great love.” But as great and inspirational as those stories are, they are a mere drop in the ocean compared to God’s love.

God loves you, and he’ll never stop loving you. When we understand and accept this joyous truth, then we “will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Now that’s truly something to celebrate.

Thursday, June 12


“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

I’ve read this verse for years, but I guess it was one of those that kind of made me uncomfortable. I felt like I “got it”, but I don’t think I really did. I think the big clincher for me was Randy Alcorn’s book, Money, Possessions, and Eternity. That is definitely not a comfortable book to read for anyone living the life of luxury. And as he points out, if you have a computer or cell phone or television, as well as a roof over your head and enough food to eat, then you are in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people. Wrap your brain around that for a second.

That means, if I can’t afford a new car, or that trip to the salon, what - in the BIG picture - am I really missing out on? It’s ok to have and do things that we enjoy; it doesn’t make us sinners. BUT if we start thinking of every thing we own, or every dollar we spend in relation to eternity, how will that affect our day-to-day decisions? For us, it involved making the commitment to officially tithe, on every bit of money we make, every week, rather than when it wouldn’t “stretch” us a little thin. It also meant deciding to sell my fancier car for something more practical, and to sell our 2nd vehicle (still for sale ~ anybody want to buy a Jeep?). That will mean some inconvenience, but we don’t want to be slaves to our money, slaves to a paycheck. There are many ways our thinking about what we own and what we spend has changed in the past year or so, and I have a feeling God isn’t done with us on that topic.

Even if we can afford all the niceties, how does having a Ferrari in the garage glorify God or help bring others to him? That car, and all the other things we own will someday be nothing but a heap of rust. My home will be nothing but dust. That is hard for me to handle. So since collecting things here is pointless, how do we store up those treasures in heaven? By doing things that matter for eternity. By allowing Christ to work through us to bless those around us, and to have some part in helping others to know Christ or to grow in their relationship with him. That is true treasure.

And that bit about your heart being where your treasure is? I have been learning more and more how true that really is. If you tithe, especially when things are tight, you are making a choice to trust God to meet your needs by showing him you’re going to choose to give back to him even before that stack of bills is paid. If you sponsor a child in Haiti, you will begin to care more deeply about the plight of children there and around the world. If your money is in going to your house and your car, then you are going to care quite a lot about those things. What do I want to care about? Then that’s where my money needs to go.

Tuesday, June 10

Think on These

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,
think on these things.”
Philippians 4:8

I am a worrier, a worst-case scenario kind of girl. I guess I have always thought if I prepare for the worst, then anything else will seem manageable. When I start thinking that way, my husband jokingly reminds me how ridiculous I’m being my saying something like, “and the HOUSE is going to FLIP OVER on us!” Yes, I’m that crazy sometimes. The problem with that is that these scenarios are all hypothetical, which means I absolutely can’t truly prepare, AND these kinds of thoughts just make me worry more. I used to have the craziest, most vivid nightmares, so even my subconscious was thinking this way.

For years I thought this way (I still do sometimes, but I’m doing much better!), and didn’t realize that it was largely due to what I was allowing myself to put in my head (tv, books, news), AND what I was allowing myself to think about. Sometimes real life is indeed sad and scary; there’s nothing I can do about that, and I don’t want to shield myself from the pain of others if there is any way I can help them. What I can do, though, is “capture” my bad thoughts and make a deliberate choice not to think those things. In even the saddest of situations, I believe there is something good that can be found if one looks hard enough. So I must choose to think on those good things, and not dwell on the bad.

On a day to day basis, I try to live this verse simply, too. I literally take time to stop and smell the roses on my way to the mailbox, and I was thrilled to see two of my daylillies finally open today. I cherish those moments in the evening when I lie down with my daughter in her bedroom and we talk about our day before she drifts off to sleep. I delight in all the fun moments I spend with my husband. I enjoy decorating with “pretty” things, and I make a point to savor each cup of steaming hot tea. I periodically make a mental list of some of my many blessings, and take a few moments to think on those things and thank the wonderful and compassionate God who created them all. And you know what? I almost never have bad dreams nowadays, and I very seldom think “the house is going to flip over” anymore. {smile}

Sunday, June 8

Strong Roots

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence indeed is the LORD.

He will be like a tree planted by water:
it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn’t fear when heat comes,
and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought
or cease producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Here in Georgia, we’ve had a terrible drought for a few years now, and last year began serious watering bans. It’s been interesting, but sad, to see which plants have survived and which ones have succumbed to the drought. Almost everything I planted last spring, before the watering ban, died over the summer because we couldn’t water it. But the plants that already had good established roots survived. Some of them looked a little worse for the wear, but they survived, and they have perked up beautifully this spring. That’s what this verse brings to mind. Often it seems that we trust in the Lord when things are going well, but when things get tough, do we cling steadfastly to him, or do we blame him for our troubles? If we have truly put our trust in him, then the answer is that we continue to cling to him. We’ll be like those plants that survived the drought, and like the tree in this verse, and we’ll be able to withstand the drought because our roots run deep down to the living water that never runs out. The thing is, we have to make sure we have those deep roots, and that comes from a true relationship with Jesus, which, in turn, comes from spending time with him in prayer and in his Word. That’s where we get the never-ending living water, and THAT is what allows us to keep producing fruit.

Saturday, June 7


“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
I tend to compare myself to others. I know I shouldn’t, but I still do. Since God is still working on me, I expect to get better about that eventually. What I have to remind myself is that everyone has different gifts. I can’t be good at everything, BUT I can use whatever gift God gave me to glorify him. I can let him use me to bless others with my abilities. In fact, I feel very honored and humbled today because I followed a comment on my “counting tears” post, and the commenter wrote on her own blog that my post blessed her. That touched me so much. One of the things I’ve been wanting to to more of is write, but I feel lost as to where to start, so I blog as a creative outlet in hopes of dusting off my creative juices. But blogging doesn’t seem like anything special, certainly not anything good enough for God to use. But he has, and not just with this one person; there are others who have left the most wonderful comments or sent me emails about something I’ve said in a blog post (mostly on my other blog) that touched them in some way. I should never underestimate what God can do.

The only things I can remember being passionate about doing were: becoming a mom (did that!), teaching (doing that with homeschooling!), writing (just not all those dreaded lit class papers!), and photography. I’ve loved photography for as long as I can remember, but no one in my sphere of influence thought it was a “real job”, so I never tried to do it in “real life”. Over the years, I did keep it up as a favorite hobby, though. After much encouragement, my husband convinced me that we should start a photography business, and we did, last December. This first year, we’re really just gearing up and trying to discover exactly where our passion is, so that next year we’ll really try to kick it (the business) into gear. But here again, I wondered how taking pictures of people would really glorify God. Sure, creating tangible memories is a wonderful thing, and the photographs in my home bless me daily. I still felt like it was sort of “lesser” talent, though. That was until we discovered NILMDTS. This really is something that blesses families going through probably the most difficult and painful moments of their lives, and God has chosen to allow us to be part of this blessing. Again, I’m amazed and humbled.

I will continue to ask God to help me use all the gifts he’s given me, even the ones that seem insignifigant, to bless others, and to glorify him. I know he will, if I let him. I recently found this quote, and I have it on my other blog, and on the bulletin board next to my computer. I want to live by it.

When I stand before God at the
end of my life I would hope that
I would have not a single bit
of talent left and could say,
"I used everything you gave me."
~Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, June 4

Counting Tears

Psalm 56:8:
You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.”

Sometimes, when I’m after the feeling of a verse, rather than the precise literal meaning, I just love The Message translation. This is one of those times.

I love what this tells me about who God is. He loves me, I know that. But how much? Enough to keep track of every tear I cry, every sleepless night I’ve ever had. He knows when I am sad, and he cares deeply. I love my daughter, but I sure haven’t kept up with every tear she’s cried! God loves me so much more than I’m capable of loving her, and for me, that is both humbling and mind-boggling.

I’ve seen a whole lot heartache lately. Deep grief. Some in the lives of “real-life” friends, some in the blogs I read. But also as a NILMDTS photographer, I’ve been thrown into the midst of the great pain of strangers. I did not know those parents until we got to the hospital, and they were already grieving the child they knew they would not bring home. My heart breaks for them, and for my friends, and for anyone who has ever experienced such deep grief. But I know that God is there, too, and he is counting every single tear they cry. He is grieving with them. He knows the pain of watching his own child die. Even if they can’t feel it or acknowledge it at the time, God is holding them close through it all.

Tuesday, June 3


Psalm 34:1 “I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

This is what I’m working towards, but I fall woefully short. The Lord has loved me, saved me, forgiven me; he strengthens me, teaches me, blesses me in too many ways to count. Praise should be continually in my mouth. But still, I complain, I worry, I get grumpy. I know Jesus must just shake his head at me sometimes - or maybe lots of times.

But I’m trying. I want to live my life in a way that praises and glorifies Christ. I don’t think I should literally be speaking nothing but words of praise to God all day long, but I want every single thing I do and say and think to be a form of praise, acknowledging and thanking him for all he has done and continues to do.

Sunday, June 1


Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
About four years ago, I really felt like God spoke to me about this very thing. I don’t remember specifically what verse I was reading, but I do remember coming very unwillingly to the realization that I needed to forgive those who had hurt me. I sure didn’t want to, and I felt very justified in my anger and hurt; what these people had done was wrong! Their actions hurt me more than I’d ever been hurt in my life. I did NOT want to forgive them.

The Lord didn’t give up, though. He kept telling me the same thing: that if I didn’t forgive, then I was, in essence, saying that I was better than God. Not forgiving them meant that I was claiming to be better, wiser, and holier than God. No, I never consciously thought any of these things, but I realized that this was exactly what I was doing.

In 2 Samuel, King David gets involved in some big-time sin, and when he realizes what he has done, he says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He didn’t say he’d sinned against Uriah, who he’d had murdered after committing adultery with Uriah’s wife; he said he’d sinned against the Lord. David repented and the Lord took away his sin, but there would be consequences, as there always are when we sin. When we sin, it does indeed have an effect - sometimes a huge one - on the person we sin against, but the person we’re really sinning against is God. That realization kicked me in the gut. I had spent all this time thinking I was so justified in hanging onto this unforgiveness, and thinking humanly, that was true. But that’s not how God looks at it. It didn’t matter what anybody had done to me; I had sinned against God by not forgiving them. In the verse above, Jesus says plain and simple that IF we forgive people for their wrongdoings, then our heavenly Father will forgive us. But if we DON’T forgive people, then God will not forgive us. Ouch.

It was SO hard to do, but I asked Christ to help me forgive them. At first, I couldn’t even pray that I would forgive them - I had to start by asking him to help me wantto forgive them. I knew my unforgiveness was a sin, but I was hanging onto it tightly. I equate this to what they say in Alcholics Anonymous about the first step being to admit you have a problem. I admitted to God that I had this unforgiveness and anger, and I stumbled through praying that I’d begin to want to forgive. Slowly that began to happen, and then I could pray that my heart would continue to soften and that I would be able to forgive them. I still couldn’t ever fathom how that could happen, but eventually it did. Was there a fairy-tale happy ending with us all skipping along together into the sunset? No. A couple of those relationships are permantly severed, but I have re-established a relationships with a few others. The important part is the change in my heart.

Not all of my friends and family understood why I did this. They love me, so my pain became personal to them, too. But Jesus tells us very plainly to love our neighbor AND our enemy. And as Christians, we ought to stand out from the rest of the world in how we show forgiveness. Christ came to take on our sins, so we could be forgiven and free; it’s only fitting that we pass along that love and forgiveness to others.