Sunday, January 15, 2017

Extricating the Introvert

“Mom, I want to give the rest of my burrito to that homeless lady.” I cocked my head and looked at my teenager as if she was speaking another language. “What homeless lady?” I asked. “That one over there.” She turned her body toward the corner of the restaurant we had just vacated. The woman was sitting three tables away from ours and I never even saw her. While I praised God for this tender-hearted child I’ve been given, my spirit was coming apart.

One of the most challenging things about participating in a Daniel fast is not the actual act of omitting certain foods from my diet. It’s the part where God takes an extensive inventory of my thoughts, words, and actions. Everything is splayed open and examined like a patient on the cusp of a major surgery. What I saw today shook me to my core. When did I become so concerned about protecting myself that I failed to notice another human in need just a few feet away?

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Earlier today in church my nephew hugged everyone in my row but made a point to skip over me. The reason why he did that? My arms were crossed. He somehow sensed that I had closed myself off from the world around me. I could blame it on being shy and introverted or I could blame it on the healing process. I've been hurt and I have trust issues and God is still fixing me. The message God wants me to get is loud and clear. Regardless of how introverted I am or where I am in the healing process there is a lost and hurting world out there that needs what I have to offer. When I finally reached out to God in prayer this is what He said…

 “So you messed up. Get up and try again. You made some bad decisions. Make better ones. You spoke when you should have remained silent; remained silent when you should have spoken. Let me speak through you. Stop looking at your skinned knees and start looking toward the finish line. Pick up your feet and keep running. If you’re not happy with your own pace move faster but don’t stop. Believe that I will finish the work I started in you. I believe in you.”

For the kingdom of God is not food or drink,
but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit
Romans 14:17

Update: The day after
I made a conscious effort to smile more and make myself more approachable while I was out running errands. While the name of Jesus did not come up, I had two separate conversations with random strangers. Baby steps…


Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Purpose for Puzzles

At the beginning of each year, we are given the opportunity to put a new puzzle together. When the year starts, all we have is a pile of unknown before us. For some it looks daunting. For others all they see is a big adventure.

Some puzzles are harder to put together than others.

Just as the puzzle goes together more quickly when you start by putting the edge together, in our lives it is implicit that to successfully complete the puzzle we need the framework of prayer, reading our Bible, Christian fellowship and time alone with God. All of those components work together to form a boundary around us.

Another thing about puzzles. They won’t form a completed picture without work. We can pile the pieces on the table and look at them every day. Nothing will change. Life is just like that. It takes effort on our part to begin to put the pieces of our life in the proper place.

Each piece of a puzzle has a specific purpose.

When my husband passed away, the puzzle piled in front of me was hard…very hard. But I didn’t put that puzzle together all by myself. I had lots of help. That is the only puzzle I have ever framed and hung on the wall. As I look at the actual puzzle, it is full of memories of the love of others. It’s a constant reminder of the support I received to produce a beautiful picture.

The puzzle with cereal boxes was much easier to put together than the 1980’s one. It made so much more sense. We knew Cocoa Puffs were chocolate colored. But the 1980’s puzzle was a myriad of faces, mostly people I had no clue who they were.

We will have years that make sense. We understand the world around us and know our place in it. And then comes the year when it’s just a blur. Nothing seems right. We have no idea where we belong. But no matter the difficulty of the puzzle, if we persevere we end up with the perfect picture God has in mind for each of us.

He’s the Puzzle Master.

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”  Jeremiah 17:9-10 (MSG)

Saturday, December 31, 2016




Christmas greetings arrived last week from very old friends. We hadn’t seen this couple since they were newly married, but decades later, we accidently met again and are holding fast to the thread that once connected us.

            Really old friendships just pick up and run from where ever they were last parked.  Old friends know each other so well there’s no need to make connections or try to find common ground. The foundation remained; nothing destroyed it. It is that foundational knowing and loving that instantly rekindles the relationship. There is no need to explain why one hadn’t called or the other hadn’t written; it only matters that they who were apart have reunited.

I think that’s how it is when we dare come before Jesus after years of separation. Consumed with guilt, fearful he will ask for an accounting and some sort of payment for our absence (like a re-admission fee), we question if we can resume the relationship we once knew.  Yet he never hesitates to embrace us again. He knows us far more intimately than our oldest and dearest friends and the Bible tells us that all heaven rejoices rejoice when we are reunited.

If we humans rejoice when friends return, how much more so does the one who loved us enough to die for us? Guilt and fear are part of the law. Martin Luther separated law from Gospel. We need the law to convict us; to make us realize we need God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Gospel, however, is the good news. The Gospel tells us that our very best friend in the whole world is overjoyed to see us again.  Truth be told, He probably arranged the reunion in the first place.

From the parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:11-13 NKJV)

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016


There’s an image ingrained in my memory; the details are so striking that this incident might have happened yesterday rather than thirty five years ago. I was about five or six and bundled up to my chin in my winter coat. The wooden pew was hard and uncomfortable but I was thankful for the warmth and softness of my father sitting next to me. A woman came and sat down beside him. She had long, dark hair and a kind, pretty face. Something within me stirred and for reasons I could not understand I wanted to sit closer to her. We opened our hymn books and began to sing Lord of the Dance…

 “Dance then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the dance said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He!”

She was utterly captivating. Her sweet voice was as stunningly beautiful as anything I’d ever heard. I found myself straining to hear her better and could not hide my disappointment when the song ended. When my father asked me why I was crying I was at a complete loss for words. How could I explain that this stranger, this woman I had never seen before had somehow in some incomprehensible
way just changed my life?

 I’ve always wondered why I carry the memory of that night tucked away in the recesses of my mind. Why is it such a crucial part of who I am? I believe I might have discovered the answer to that question…

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4:6

 The same power that compelled me to want to be near this woman lives inside the heart of every believer. We have the power to captivate people with the love of Christ, drawing them near to his grace and mercy. Lord, let my words, my actions, and the glow of your presence within me compel the world to seek more of you. I pray that they incline their ears to your still small voice, never satisfied until they meet you face to face.

Stunned by His beauty,

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I wonder....if you...would you?

I wonder…

If the innkeeper had known that the pregnant woman at his door was about to deliver the promised Messiah, would he have given up his own quarters to make his bed with the livestock instead of insisting that there was nowhere else for her to rest?

If you knew you were about to become the mother of God Incarnate, Emmanuel, the Savior of the world, might you have spoken up and demanded better treatment?

I wonder….

Did Joseph's face flush with anger at being turned away? Did doubt slither up and bite at his faith? Did he question God's angel-delivered promise?

If you had been tasked the responsibility of raising God's only begotten son, trusted to be a father to a miracle, blessed with a prophetic message from God the Almighty, might you not declare your position and claim your rightly due?

The Bible gives no evidence of Joseph and Mary's reaction, nor their response, to being denied habitable lodging.

My guts tell me they didn't question God, nor did they grumble or puff up. I think they humbly accepted what was kindly offered, and they praised God for the shelter of a stable, a makeshift cradle, and the warmth of hay and horse.

Oh, how they must have trusted Him!

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son;
and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn."
Luke 2:7

Lord, that I would be as trusting as this young couple. That I would be as open to Your voice and as obedient to Your call. That I would so fully submit to Your will. This is my prayer. 
In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 Catrina Bradley, Scattered Seeds

Nativity Images from Pinterest - original sources unknown.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Toxic Relationships

As the years of our lives pass, we are supposed to become older and wiser. Right? And yet I’ve seen 30 year olds far more mature than 70 year olds. So obviously it takes more than just passing years.

In my Christian walk, my Mother told me I became a Christian when I was six. She forced me to be baptized at the age of nine, even though I told her I didn’t understand what was happening. It was years later I made those choices for myself.

When my husband, John, was succumbing to the cancer in his body, we had a lot of talks about life and death. One of the topics that rose to the top on a regular basis was me taking care of me after he was gone. I promised him I would. That entails a lot of different aspects of life.

He wanted me to have an AWD car so I would be safe on the snow. He didn’t specify what kind, so I have a Lexus 350 Sport. J It’s AWD.  We got our finances in order so his mind was at ease about that. Our home had been built to our specifications in 2010, so my shelter was in place.

There was one area we didn’t even think about, relationships that were toxic in our lives. As I sorted through my new normal, the concept of taking care of me involved my emotions. That’s when I became aware of the relationships that had been toxic even before his death. I already recognized that my relationship with my Mother had been very toxic. But as a child I was unable to correct it. The first 30 years of my life I lived as a victim.

When I met John, I was ready to confront unhealthy patterns that might occur in our marriage. We experienced one of the most beautiful relationships I have ever seen.  But it took a lot of work.

It is far easier to distance yourself from a non-related person. When they are a part of your family, that’s a whole different story. But it can be done. Over the past year and one-half I’ve been relieving my stress load. I’m feeling pretty light right now.

One more thing to mention. This does not work if you feel guilty about it. That’s just a different type of stress.  On Thanksgiving, I burned my finger on the cookie sheet I had just removed from the oven that held the dinner rolls. I didn’t reach out and try to touch the sheet again. I knew it wasn’t good for me. And I carried no guilt in that decision.

Are you still trying to touch a hot cookie sheet? Have you put on gloves to protect your hands? Do you need to do a little sorting in your life? A lot of years have passed for me, so I’ve got the older part down. I am 74 today. I’m still working on the wiser part.

 “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)

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


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