Friday, November 13, 2015

Grace Rediscovered: Thanksgiving Joy

Grace Rediscovered: Thanksgiving Joy: My neighbor Mary crosses the street. I put down my leaf rake, and she gives me a great big bear hug.  She has been praying for me for the p...

Thanksgiving Joy

My neighbor Mary crosses the street. I put down my leaf rake, and she gives me a great big bear hug.  She has been praying for me for the past three years.

“How are you doing?   How are your check-ups?” she asks.

“Three years now-cancer free!” I say smiling from ear to ear.

We continue catching up when she just suddenly blurts out, “ Well aren’t you a happy thing!”

The words come out of nowhere and I can’t imagine why she said that precisely at that moment, but as we talk about Thanksgiving plans and catch up on our families, the words stick in my head.

Later when I’m folding laundry it really hits me.  I AM HAPPY!  No, really honestly happy!  Some days I feel like I could just burst and out of me would come pink and purple flowers, rainbows, peace signs and hearts.  Kidding of course but you get the picture.

I ‘m a little surprised myself.  In the past I have always felt a certain melancholy but lately joy is pushing up and obviously enough that Mary noticed. 

This thankfulness I’ve been practicing has fruit!  JOY!  I’m beaming now with the thought of it.  OK I admit it. I am a big Ann Voskamp fan and through her words I have been inspired to look at things differently.  I am learning how to be thankful in all things and see the beauty that is all around me if I just look with eyes wide opened. 

Yes I’ve been busy planting seeds and I didn’t even know it.  Seeds of thankfulness and now the fruit is coming – ready to share with others.

But it’s more than just the writing of thanks and this new perspective; it’s also the atmospheric conditions that are making them grow. (Did I just use that big word?) The practice of thankfulness has been leading me into His presence (Psalm 100:4) and in His presence is fullness of Joy! (Psalm 16:11) It is His presence that brings the swelling fullness that just flows over.

You were just having a good day you might say, and I might agree, except now I know every day is a good day. Each day that I live on this earth is a gift from God to see and experience His beauty.  A day to crawl up in His lap and experience His goodness, to bask in His glorious presence and let the seeds grow!

Each day in every situation we get to choose to grumble or to give thanks. 
What kind of seeds will you plant?

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! 
Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4 (ESV)

 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; 
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16: 11(ESV)

“God is happiest of all.  Joy is God’s life.”1

1Ann Voskamp pg. 86 One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Friday, October 9, 2015


He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; 
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4) 

A fledgling was stuck in our driveway next to the drainpipe that would soon be gushing water from the steady rain that had begun late that Saturday afternoon.

Earlier that day I heard the mother and father squawking at their little one who had gotten itself into a less than ideal spot. Down in our driveway the poor little guy was not able to rise above the four-foot wall that had him trapped and I wasn’t sure what to do.

How long he had been stuck there? Was he injured?  What if a neighborhood cat stalked by and was looking for some easy pickings’?  Should I intervene? Pick up the poor thing, lift him over the wall and place him in the soft grass?  I stood there close to him trying to decide.   If I touched him would his parents disown him? (This is what my mom always told us.)  What if I wore gloves and then gathered him up?  Would he smell like the earth I’d been digging in instead of my own human scent and then he’d be welcomed back into the family?

The concern soon got the best of me. I was going to pick him up with my garden gloves, but then I got a check in my spirit. "Leave him alone," is what I thought I heard in my spirit.

God had been speaking to me recently about letting Him take control of my own “baby”(who is now a full grown adult!) – and I was struggling.  I wanted to intervene, to steer him in the right direction, to pick him up and put him in a place where the grass is soft and he would be safe.

As the rain got harder the mother flew down and nudged the little one to higher ground above the drainpipe.  She was sitting part way on him guarding against him being carried away.  The downpour continued and though the drainpipe was gushing water, the birds were safe.  I didn’t need to intervene after all!  The situation was under control.  Ok Lord I hear you. You’ve got everything under control.

God spoke to me a third time at church that Sunday through Pastor Bob’s sermon. Don’t you love how God is so faithful to continue to speak to us even though we are so slow to learn?  I felt like God said to me: "Just like the little bird the other day, you don’t need to do anything; I’ve got this covered- quit interfering."

Had I been interfering with God’s plan for my son, playing the Holy Spirit?

As I saw the little bird looking helpless it was hard for me to resist the urge to help him out of his mess.  There are times when I should help my children out, but there are other times, when even though the situation looks bad, if the Holy Spirit prompts me to stay back and don’t intervene, I need to obey.

Just as Pastor Bob preached, I need to remember that:
God has a plan for my child
I am not God
Don’t play the Holy Spirit
God has no grandchildren*

Each of us needs to decide on our own whether to accept God’s gift of sonship.   As much as we want that for our children (and God desires it even more), we cannot make that choice for them.  We need to daily release our children to God so that He can be the one who swoops down and covers them with His wings. God’s got it covered.

The little bird eventually flew up on the car, then all the way over the wall into the soft grass – safe.

Mom and baby



Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Just Say NO!

Levi our big golden retriever had just been neutered.  It was a bit more of an operation than normal for that procedure and so I was already concerned.  He was so drugged up he slept right through the first night. The next morning however, we soon realized he would need to wear the “cone of shame” so that he would not bother his stitches.   He was not allowed to run free in the backyard, as he is accustomed to doing.  I had to walk him around so that he could go to the bathroom. He seemed to be fine but then after about 10 hours I realized he hadn’t gone to the bathroom….at all.  He had been eating and drinking just fine. So I began fretting, praying.  What could be wrong? My mind started buzzing. I put a call into the vet but while I waited for their return call back I researched on the Internet all the scary results of not peeing and began worrying some more.  I walk him again and again. Nothing.  My mind was spinning by now. By the time Phil got home from work I could barely think straight! However, wise and patient man that he is, he clearly saw through all the muddle I had created.  Levi couldn’t properly smell with his cone on.  I had not even thought of this.  Of course! Dogs sniff around first to prompt them to do their business. Phil removed the cone, walked him, and after a while Tada! Pee!

OH HOW FOOLISH I FELT, AND HOW FOOLISH I WAS!  How much time had I spent unproductively worrying that Levi’s kidneys might burst or that something serious might be wrong.

I had just recently finished the bible study “Breathe” by one of my favorite teachers, Priscilla Shirer. Through the study she showed how the Sabbath principle should be a lifestyle that enables us to “steer clear of bondage.” The Hebrew word for Sabbath is Shabbat, which means to cease, to stop, to pause, to come to an end. God used the study to show me a few areas in my life that needed a Sabbath. Tendencies to take on too many things just because I couldn’t say “No”(been there?)  and being too much of a perfectionist on projects were just a few.  But now I believe I saw a greater and deeper area that needed Sabbath rest.  My mind.

I see it clearer now- the slave I can be to thoughts.  Bound by worry or indecision – how sad and unnecessary.  It is easy to revert to this unproductive way of thinking because I have allowed it for so long. But now I am determined with God’s grace and help to JUST SAY NO (to worrying). Take a Sabbath from over thinking everything.  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH (let it go -quit ruminating) I guess it really comes down to trust – if I really trust God then I will rest in him.

From decisions as simple as what to make for dinner or as complicated as what to do in this season of my life. When my mind starts spinning, I need to stop. Breathe! Just say No- I’m not going there. Enough is enough! Then I can pray and release my concern to God, who loves me in my muddling and ruminating, but who desires to see me living a life that is free- resting in Him.

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Words of Life

I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in June 2012.  Besides being shocked, because I had felt fine until a few weeks earlier, I felt that I just wasn’t a strong enough person to go through what I knew was ahead.  My mother had passed away just 3 years earlier from uterine cancer and I knew some of what she went through.

I had seen God’s faithfulness many times before and knew he would be with me every step of the way on this cancer journey. His word had always been precious to me, but it became something that would truly be a lifeline. From the beginning and still today the following verses have given me courage.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philip. 4:13)

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor.12: 9-10)

God’s word encourages us, and gives us peace.  As I laid in intensive care after surgery, still groggy from the drugs, barely able to talk or move, my sweet daughter Danielle read soothing words from the Psalms that calmed my spirit.

When I got home from the hospital my dear friend Dianne, along with bringing meals, brought me a blue notebook that I treasure to this day.  In it she wrote out bible verses and inserted my name in each of them.  I poured over those scriptures daily.  Along with my strong husband, the blue notebook became a faithful companion during my chemo sessions.

Words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that Death and life are in the power of the tongue. God’s word brings life, but I would come to realize that negative words have power too.
 During my recovery, a well-meaning friend who had also had ovarian cancer called and relayed one negative thing after another that happened to her during her cancer journey.  When I hung up the phone I felt terrible! I felt bad for her, but I also started feeling terrible inside.  I knew right then that I could not let that negativity get into my spirit!  I needed to shift my thinking and as Philippians 4:8 instructs us: think on things that are pure, lovely and a good report.
 There are many ways to get God’s living word in your life; words that will encourage, bring peace and give life. Everyday open up the bible and read His precious promises. You may even want to start your own blue notebook.  Bible Gateway is a great place to search for scriptures on whatever you need. There are many great devotionals out there too.  A few that really spoke to me through the cancer journey were Jesus Calling and Jesus Today by Sarah Young and Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional. 
This month I am celebrating 3 years with NED – No Evidence of Disease- healed, as I like to say! I am so grateful to God and am thankful each day for life.

My daughter Danielle,  granddaughter Sophie and yours truly celebrating God's faithfulness!

Whatever struggle you are going through, let God’s word fill you.
His words bring life.

 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Psalm 107:20

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Join the Dance

Arms in mid flight
Body twirling in delight
My little Sophie spins

In every picture of her I see it -Hands never all the way down.
My little butterfly- always ready to take off and fly.
Carefree- Happy

Where does the dance go?  As we get older why does the twirling stop?

As dearly loved children, we start out life knowing that we are accepted and loved just the way we are- knowing that our parents will take care of us– that all of our needs would be met. 

But then we grow up.  We get schooled.   We become wise.   We can do things ourselves.  The cares of life take up residence, make our hands hang low and the dance slows or stops altogether.

Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 18:3

We need to be free again like a little child, trusting and knowing that our heavenly father dearly loves us and that he will always do what’s best for us.  A small child is dependent on their parents for everything.  We need to depend on our Abba Daddy for everything!  HE is our provider, our protector, our shield, our deliverer, our healer, our savior, our redeemer, and our counselor.  He holds our lives in His hands. He has got everything under control.

Maybe you entered the kingdom of God with childlike faith, but somewhere along the line, you got schooled- became wise- thought that you were big enough to handle things on your own.  I know I sometimes find myself there.  Not truly living in the freedom that is ours.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. Galatians 5:1(MSG) 

I want to live there- totally free- totally trusting- able to dance and fly.

Child like faith
Child like wonder
Mountains to climb
Dragons to slay
Princesses to save
Worlds to conquer
Oh what Freedom
Oh what joy!

Let the dance begin!

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”  It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Roman 8:14-17

Friday, April 17, 2015

Shake a Leg!

A typical Pittsburgh day has me in a funk.  The gray seems to suck the energy out of me.  Nothing is wrong, just feeling kind of yuck.  Oh how I want to lay down and just take a short nap.  The dog had us up at 5:30 AGAIN but I fight the urge and start dinner.

I have the "Open Sky" CD by IONA playing.  15 years old, but it has been musically inspiring me again.  So I chop the vegetables for our chili and sing along while I gaze out the kitchen window.  Still gray and getting grayer. Even looks like the rain may be coming.  Can't seem to rise above the pushed down feeling.

The next song starts with the uilleann pipes playing a celtic melody and it sounds the way I imagine Ireland looks.  Green and lush.  The tempo picks up and I sway as I continue to chop.  Soon the music is swelling and I have to get rid of the knife in my hands.  I am doing a clog dance in the kitchen - picture Riverdance- straight body and feet flying.  Well not exactly but the heaviness is lifting the more I dance the more my energy is restored.  I look out the window.  There is a break in the clouds and the sun is shining through.   God's little reminder to me.  Praise Him - the joy will follow!

Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp. (Psalm 149:3)

Psalm 150

 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Taken Away

I was out stomping around the backyard a few days ago.  Between the dog and the winter, the backyard was looking pretty nasty – until today.

Snow ushered in the 1st day of Spring and now the yard was covered.  The white blanket hiding all the ugliness; all the yard’s imperfections simply gone! Tomorrow however, when it reaches near 60 degrees, the blights will reappear again, for they were never taken away, just hidden from my eyes.

How grateful I am that God doesn’t just cover our sins like that blanket of snow hiding the mess.  He completely removes them. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) East never meets west so they are gone forever. Once we have repented and asked for forgiveness, how silly to take those sins back and claim them again as our own.

My sweet friend shared a story of a woman who had been very ill but now was healed.  She wrestled, as I sometimes do, with the thought of the illness reoccurring. God asked her why she was stealing from Him.  Stealing!  She couldn’t believe her ears.  “Lord I would never steal from you!” she cried out.  In her spirit He spoke.  I have taken that sickness, my child, in my own body – don’t take it away from me – that would be stealing.

As I heard the story it pierced my heart – had I been doing the same thing?

I had never thought of sickness being taken away in the same way I had thought of sin being taken away.  Taken away for good never to haunt me again.

When I think about it, weren’t all those people who were healed by Jesus in the bible healed permanently? Yes! They weren’t just healed for a season- they were healed for good.

As I have learned to not take my sin back, but to leave it at the cross with Jesus, I need to learn to never take cancer back but leave it with Him. He has graciously taken it in his battered and tortured body, and even though "worry thoughts" may come, I need to take those thought captive and remember. He has taken it all.  Taken it all away.  All sin.  All sickness.  In exchange He has given me new life and I want to live each day taken away by Him.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Begin Again

They come out holding signs
Signs of who they were and who they have become
Of what held them back and now what pushes them on
Signs of their past and of their future

Imprisoned / Set Free
Timid / Bold
Lost / Found
Unloved / Loved
Addicted / Clean
Rejected / Accepted
me / Him

The newly added chorus of Amazing Grace fills the church as they walk across the stage bearing their signs of the struggle and flipping the sign to show the victory Christ has given them.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my savior has ransomed me
And like a flood his mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace.

The wells burst forth inside of me
Wells of joy and gratitude
The tears pouring so fast I can’t keep my face dry

Some of those bearing signs I know -Some are strangers.

I want to shout it out
Yes this one is me! - And that one that just crossed the stage is me too!
Oh how I related to that one - and oh I’ve also had that struggle before

Healing  -  Hope -  Starting Over -  Beginning Again

At the start of this New Year it is good to remember that we can have a fresh start.
No matter what our past- in Christ we can begin again.  He makes all things new.

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. 
2 Corinthians 5:17(CEV)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14(NIV)