Friday, November 25, 2016

During this season of sharing gratitude, our thoughts always embrace the joy our children bring. Our two daughters certainly fill my heart to overflowing. It's been a while since my daughter, Mandy, has blessed us with the beautiful way she writes from a heart that is staid on God.

         "My hope, faith, and trust are in no man or woman. This is a painful lesson that has been learned in the church and through a small handful of believers over the years, ironically. My hope, faith, and trust are in One, and in Him alone. This is not to address the past, but to speak of the valuable lessons learned from it. It is also not in reference to where our family is now and has been the last few years, but rather in reference to the blessed broken road that led us here. 

          When you walk through deep pain and loss, loss of relationships and former havens particularly, especially if these are associated with the church, people tend to move one of two ways... Away from the church altogether, or continuing on with their mission and calling. For us, the pain ultimately clarified our calling. We serve God alone, and loving and serving people, along with using our gifts to help the local church body, fall under that calling. Walking through the deepest pain I (we) have ever been through to this point was actually and ultimately the most freeing. I no longer look to man or woman- friends, family, or strangers, to save me, to value me, or to validate me. God is and will always be my only Resource in Whom to find these things. My eyes are not so much on this world as they are looking toward the Kingdom for which we were created. 

          As a people, we will prosper if we serve each other. The world will take notice. My encouragement to you is that no matter how, or how badly you've been burned, you will find a group or body to plug into and use your gifts to serve. Now more than ever. So many of our friends are already serving their communities in any number of ways. We cannot go wrong in serving, and remembering Who we serve. And we certainly can't go wrong in continuing to pray. That is always where the power really is. Much love to you all."


"This world is not my home
I'm just a-passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue..."

Mandy Kniskern
November 9, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ibervillea Sonorae

I recently heard about a plant called Ibervillea Sonorae. Ever heard of it? It is a fascinating anomaly. A spectacular perennial desert plant, it produces yellow flowers in summer and little bright miniature red-orange melons in autumn. Not so unusual, is it? But now starts the weirdness. If you see it during the dry season, it looks like a dried chunk of loose wood, or maybe a large cow dropping. It doesn’t have roots or stems.

But it is alive. 
If rain occurs, that’s when the flowers and fruits appear. If there is no rain, little anticipatory shoots reach out looking for water. Finding none, it simply dries up to try another year. It can exist for indefinite periods, up to several years, without soil or water.

Now that’s what I call perseverance.

Have you ever found yourself enduring a dry period? Maybe you sent out little shoots of hope and found nothing but indifference. Fatigue can take a toll on our lives. A lingering illness can cause such dryness in our soul. 

Are you patiently waiting for the next thirst-quenching rain? There is an unending supply of life-giving water available for those who send down a few roots. You may have to dig deeper than you have before, but if you persist in your search you will soon be a vibrant and productive plant again.

That is a promise from God.

“On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” John 7:37-38 (MSG)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Working for the Jewish Carpenter



            A remarkable elderly woman in our congregation spent many years ministering to women in prison. Every week a guard would usher her into a visiting room where she would counsel, love, and pray for these women of all ages and experiences.  She could be a bit forbidding on the outside, but once you knew her, she was non-judgmental, wise, and tender on the inside. I believe the women in prison respected her and then blossomed under her loving care.  She had a bumper sticker on her car that said, “I work for the Jewish carpenter.”

             Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, certainly placed the right woman in a job that suited her to a Tee.

             I like the idea of “working for the Jewish carpenter.” I imagine Jesus in his shop, a sort of first century version of a tool belt around his waist. He holds a hammer in his hand as he points to something outside the shop. He gives me a task, explaining what he wants done through lips that hold a few nails in place while he talks. Somehow, that vignette brings God’s divine will for me down to a level I can understand.


“But you be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

 (2 Chronicles 15:7 NKJV)

            Some weeks I may cook dinner for people recovering from illness; other days may find me bringing clothes to the Salvation Army donation center, or praying with a troubled friend. I never know what my Boss has in store for me, but keeping that image in mind prevents me from getting flustered or anxious.

            When I’m running late, I remember he has my time card.

            When I don’t think I’m up to the task, I remember he’s a call away.

            When I screw up, I remember he knows exactly what I’m trying to do and he’ll take care of it.

            He has my back.

            When I’m scared to death, I remember my retirement package.

            He knows when I need a raise.

            He never turns an applicant away. There is no need for references or previous experience. Any employee can grow in his/her job by reading the employee manual called the Bible. He provides many free in-service instructions based on that manual too.

I do know that when you work for the Jewish carpenter, he will keep you busier that a long tailed cat in a roomful of rockers. I am busier now that I’m retired than when I worked for “the man.” And I am having much more fun and experiencing some very interesting adventures as he teaches me.


God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.”

(Hebrews  6:10-11 The Journey NIV)




Saturday, October 15, 2016

That Timeless Voice

For most of my adult life I have made every effort to leave my past behind me where it belongs and move forward. Rarely do I stop and examine a piece of my early history for long because an unpleasant memory will inevitably drop in and ruin the party. Thankfully, I made an exception today.

When I was in High School I had a massive crush on country singer, John Michael Montgomery. His dimples were the reason for my existence and his face was the first thing I saw when I opened my locker. This morning as I dropped my child off at school, I pulled into my driveway and lingered as a familiar song embraced me like an old friend.

As Life’s a Dance swept over me I was instantly transported to a time when everyone had a pager hanging out of their pocket, Patrick Swayze was still alive and as hunky as ever, and there was not a Kardashian to be seen or heard. It was a time when I was just starting to find my way through high school, just beginning to discover who I was meant to be. Those were the days when my home life was tumultuous and sometimes downright scary. Yet all it took was one song to help me find some sense of sanity in a dangerously insane world. I remember when that sweet voice would somehow in some unexpected way help me navigate through the most challenging times of my adolescence. For reasons I can’t explain, Mr. Montgomery’s music was a lifeline to me, a source of soothing comfort in a cold and unfriendly world. The irony of this unexpected jaunt through time is not lost on me.

Me at age 14
Tomorrow I’m going to face an unpleasant part of my past once again. I find it utterly mind-blowing that today God would use one of my favorite voices of that time to comfort me and gently remind me that it’s all going to be ok. Then again, God is just full of surprises and that doesn’t surprise me at all.

‘You are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned…
…For I am the Lord your God.’
Psalm 43:1-3

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

End of Religion

Currently our church is doing a study on the concept of grace. The sermons, Bible studies, Sunday school classes and Care Groups are discussing the same topic. That’s refreshing. Grace is a simple word. But oh how deep it is.

And I wonder if we really understand it.

The church I grew up in did NOT dispense grace. They knew what God expected of you and told you so…and in the case of my Mother…daily. I exercised on the performance treadmill all day, every day. Yet I did not obtain any sense of achievement or peace. In fact, I ended up in the hospital bleeding internally due to stuffing the questions I had regarding the lack of love from so-called Christians.
In my 30’s, I did a total reassessment of God, religion, relationships, and me. My life was filled with guilt and shame over the inability to live up to the Christian standard. As I studied the Bible for myself and listened to preachers outside of my denomination, I was shocked at the message I discovered.

I could get off the performance treadmill. God did not require that. Thus, I began a journey that continues to this day.

I’ve had people say, “I could never be religious like you.” I quickly reply. “I used to be religious, but I gave it up.” The conversation that ensues is always interesting and allows me to clarify what being a Christ-follower means.

Here’s a quote from my study today.

“Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.” Robert Capon

What a relief to understand that my human effort is not needed for God to work. If I make myself available, He might enlist me to help. No pressure. That frees me up to just love…the addict, the homosexual, the busybody and the legalist. And therein lies the rub. I don’t like some of them. That’s when grace comes into play in my life. I need it as much as they do.

It’s time for the end of religion. Our nation needs to exercise grace. So do our churches. And each one of us needs to extend grace to others…and to ourselves.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)


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