Writer, teacher and Public Speaker

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Weary Warriors POW/MIA

 Fellow Warriors and Friends - I have Prayed

A series of Bible commentaries sit in my store room gathering dust. They belonged to a preacher friend of mine, but he grew weary and hung up his shield and laid down his sword. I keep these boxes, not as a morbid reminder of what once was, but as “the substance of things hoped for.” Through eyes of faith I see what can be once again.

I salute those who have been captured and are prisoners of this invisible war. To those who once wielded this sharp two-edged sword. To those who taught me what we were fighting for. I honor you for the years served, and pray you'll rise to fight once more.

You are missing in action, but one day I pray you’ll find the strength to take hold of that which once took hold of you. You disappeared from the horizon where you once stood so tall. You’ve stumbled, and fallen, barely able to crawl - your face is buried under the sands of time.

We fought side by side, you and I. You held your shield high, even higher than mine. Yet now you lay on bloodied fields, wounded and barely conscious. I know the Spirit that once reached me is the same Spirit that reaches out to you. I know the Breath of life that can breathe on these dry bones.

To those warriors who led in song, your voice ascended as you praised your way through each day. David’s Psalms continue to be sung long after his season of sin. I will not discard the songs you sang. I believe your praise will rise again.

To the teachers and preachers I have known. Men and women with divine insights that poured forth from your heart. It is God’s kindness that draws us home. In His presence is healing and strength. There is rest for your weary soul and an anointing of strength so you're able to fight once more.

(borrowed from Getty's Images)
You've been taken as a prisoner in this war - missing in action - perhaps you've forgotten what we were fighting for. Some were wounded by friendly fire, struck by bullets never intended for them.  Other's took a direct hit from the enemy of our souls, for others the greatest enemy was hidden within your heart. The unforgiveness and bitterness grew too big for you to control, the hidden lust consumed a victimized heart.

But hope is not lost, as our savior said to Peter just before the tragic and glorious night of his crucifixion. "I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail." Fellow warrior, believer, friend let me assure you that me and mine have prayed for you. We pray for the germ of hope within this withered and dried seed to spring forth, so life will come from that which seems dead.

There is life beyond failure, rise up, the joy of the Lord is your strength. This life is just a blip on the screen of eternity. My friend I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. Come forth - remove the grave clothes and pick up your dormant shield. Allow those stiffened hands to take the grip of your weary sword. God is on your side and if he is for us then who can be against us? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hope in a Manger

Two days ago we learned that my brother-in-law in California passed away. It has already been a difficult holiday season but receiving that news created a vacuum in our hearts. He spent the holidays with us last year here in Tennessee and this past spring we spent a few meaningful days with him in Simi Valley California.

And so once again this aching grief knocks on our door. Grief has been too frequent a guest these last two years and it compounds with each loss. We now feel a bit like a sailboat that sits motionless in the ocean. We lift our heads toward the sky facing the sun and wait for a force that is greater than us to carry us to our next destination. 

It starts as the slightest breeze -- just enough to warrant the raising of our sail. The tiny ripples of water near the hull of our boat reminds us there are still destinations on our horizon.  This invisible force will carry us forward.

Hope is not a conjured up emotion or mere optimism. It is a divine gift as mysterious as the wind that blows where it will. Hope is the cleft in the rock that protects us from the raging storm. Hope is the door in the desert just beyond the fleeting mirage. Hope. One of the three eternal mysteries, all other gifts will pass but Faith, Hope and Love.

Hope is my anchor and as the prophet Zechariah writes in the Messianic prophecy about Zion. “Return to your fortress you prisoners of Hope” – Hope is my fortress.

Don’t look at the baby Jesus born in a manger through the lenses of a society that has dramatized and commercialized the message. Look at the story through the lenses of an occupied nation where a young couple from rural Galilee return to Bethlehem because of the decree of a Roman Ruler.  

Then in the most unlikely of place a cave where animals lived - a young girl went into labor.  I assure you everything about that moment and place was void of hope and then the tiniest babe, so dependent upon frail humanity,  took his first breath. At that moment the heavens erupted into praise. Peace on earth and Good will towards men. This was to be a game changer. 

May the God of hope fill your hearts. It is this mystery that shall fill the bellows of our hearts this season and carry us to the next horizon. Because in the end these three remain, Faith, hope and Love.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sin and Chocolate

Sin has always been an unpopular topic. Unless we are speaking of something as innocuous as chocolate, I know, some of you are thinking. “Tammy chocolate is anything but innocuous.” But, that is a topic for another blog.

When I was a young rebel, I loved my sin. I was not impressed with religious people who needed to point out my sin.  I worked at an eatery in downtown Nashville on Sundays. This is when the religious crowd came in for lunch, most were bossy, graceless and left lousy tips. I had little patience for such people, one weekend I was written up for ‘huffing’ at a customer. As my boss wrote the word on the warning slip, we both smiled. She resolved the issue and removed me from the Sunday schedule. As a self-actualized sinner, I can tell you I did not want to leave my sinful ways, especially if it meant returning to the place of the Sunday restaurant patrons.

Sin has many definitions: Biblically it is ‘missing the mark’ – ‘falling short of the glory of God’ – open and defiant rebellion against God. One preacher’s definition that resonates with me is that sin is: “meeting a legitimate need illegitimately.”  For example, humans have a legitimate need for intimacy. Sometimes this legitimate need causes some to run headlong into unhealthy and even immoral relationships in an effort to find intimacy.

Whether it is an unredeemed unrepentant sinner, which I once was. Or whether it is redeemed folks who endeavor to press forward in discipleship: basically sin is not a popular topic.

Sins of passion are the easiest to repent from because the behavior is evident. Sins of passions go way beyond sexual sin by the way. It may include gluttony, abusive anger or even murder. An individual may have a compulsion towards certain behaviors, and may feel powerless against the compulsion. 

If you are a follower of Christ, sin fills you with conviction and shame. Note I wrote conviction not condemnation, according to Romans 8:1 “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” But He will convict you, because your actions have put a wedge in your relationship with Him. Convictions calls us to repent, to “confess our sins, [because] he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin, and purify us from all unrighteousness.” James the brother of Christ even encourages us to ‘confess sins to each other, and pray for each other so that healing will come.’ Many sins are easy to identify and repent of. The more difficult sins are the sins of the heart. These are the silent killers, the sins that lurk deep in the covert corners of the heart.

Whether you are a follower of Christ or not a follower, the issue of sin is just a matter of how you deal with it. As a Christian we have an advocate and we have the Holy Spirit who fills us with the power to overcome our sinful compulsions.

With unbelievers sin is obvious, it is honest and open. But with believers the church environment becomes a place filled with  “mask-wearers” who deal with secret struggles AKA sin.

My experience inside or outside the doors of the church is that sin is an unpopular topic. Christians will come forward to ask for physical healing long before they come to an altar and openly confess the sin that is ‘tripping them up.’  Perhaps if they came forward to deal with the sin, they may be healed.

If a preacher were to make a public invitation for all who struggled with sin to stand up, I can assure you very few would stand. They would be too concerned about what other Christians would think. By definition it is the ‘sin of pride’ that keeps them from standing, but they are too proud to see it.

In the end the topic of sin is just a bit overwhelming. I can tell you I’m glad I’ve been redeemed, and I have an advocate to whom I can go to with my sin. And until the day arrives when I will be with him and sin will be no more. I think I’ll just sit down for my quite time of devotions and have a mocha latte and a chocolate.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Judgment and the House of the Lord

“Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.”

What I see and hear right now from church going folks is that judgment is coming to our nation because of the recent Supreme Court ruling. I see lots of prayer-less and careless fingers pointing to “those people” who have brought down our nation.

When Nehemiah prayed to God, he prayed, “We have sinned—“ he included himself in the corporate sins of his nation. When the prophet Isaiah prayed, he said, “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” In the presence of a Holy God he saw not just the sins of his nation, but he saw his own sin.

When we point our graceless fingers at the unbelievers it smacks of self-righteousness, not authentic righteousness. With authentic righteousness we realize, “my righteousness is as filthy rags.” There is “none who is righteous. No not one.” – “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Pride and especially religious pride is an abomination before God.

Have you not read about the time that James and John offered to call down fire from heaven upon those who rejected Christ? In turn Christ responded, “You don’t know what spirit you are of!”

I’ve been part of the organized church now for more than twenty years and there is much I love, I’ve found grace and acceptance from many unlikely souls. But I’ve wrestled with much in the church that is ‘ungodly’. Fifteen years ago, I came very close to leaving the “organized church.” I saw behaviors, sins if you will, that ripped my heart out.

Furthermore, I’ve noticed that the service that draws the fewest churchgoers is the prayer meeting. How do Christians expect to keep the graces and disciplines of God if they fail to seek His face, privately and corporately?

It is only through prayer that His Spirit fills me to overflowing so I can live in His strength and not my own. Otherwise I risk having my prayers be as unpleasant as a clanging symbol. I challenge you, if you pray today, go in your kitchen and take a metal spoon and mixing bowl. Beat on it while you pray. That’s how it sounds when we come before God with a loveless heart. And who can change our loveless hearts? Him, only Him.

Will judgment come to our nation? Perhaps. But from what I read in scripture Judgment begins in the house of the Lord. First we must take inventory of our own hearts – if we consider ourselves to be God’s people, then we must turn our hearts towards him. What rudder will turn this nation around?

God himself told us through the prayers of King Solomon. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.” (emphasis mine.)

Our hearts should be more grieved than angry - we should seek God first so we can give prayerful and thoughtful responses. Perhaps all preaching should cease for a while and we should just call a solemn assembly. Perhaps every Sunday service should be a prayer service rather than a pep-rally. How can the unbelieving world know about the "kindness of God that leads to repentance" if the people who bear God's name are unkind? If I was an unbeliever I certainly wouldn't want to come to a church filled with those sorts of folks.

Monday, April 6, 2015

My Conflicted Heart

~My Conflicted Heart ~

I arrived home early to the small apartment in Valley Ranch, Texas. The parking lot was crowded with emergency vehicles: two police cruisers and an ambulance. I parked near the swimming pool and dodged into my apartment.  I positioned myself in front of the kitchen window and witnessed the unfolding drama in the adjacent building.

Police were stationed at the corners and behind the dumpster, they were in a ready position with their weapons drawn. The EMT's were banging on the door of my neighbor's apartment. A few tense moments passed. Nothing. The emergency personal shouted to each other. My eyes were fixed upon the door as it cracked open, and he emerged. I had seen him only a few times - my neighbor whose oversized clothes hung upon his sharp boney figure. But on this day he wore no clothes, his pale emaciated figure emerged from the dark apartment. He lifted up his hands and shouted, "This is glorious." The masked medical personnel reached their gloved hands towards him. He spat at them, and continued to reach towards the heavens and smile. My heart broke. The disease had reached his mind. Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome- He was alone and desperate. In a matter of minutes they restrained him and put him in the ambulance. I walked to the living room in an attempt to move past the images. Still almost twenty years later I cannot erase the scene from my mind - what a desperate and lonely world.

I had know others who had died from AIDS. Some were surrounded by those who cared, while others died alone. Their fleeting lovers were nowhere to be found - the whispers seeped through our community. "I haven't seen him in a while?",  "Haven't you heard?" - "Look at him - he was so handsome." They all vanished like a vapor before our eyes. Those who were once desirable and sought after, now sat alone in dimly lit bars.

When I made a decision to follow after Christ, I left that community. I joined the community of the evangelical church - to many it seemed I deserted and defected to the ranks of the enemy. For many years I felt torn, I still cared, but my life had taken drastic turn down a new path. It wasn't a perfect path and I was often disappointed by the comments of those who had no inkling about the life I once lived and the people I once loved. I sat alone in my silence and listened. But along the journey I met many Christians who surprised me with their grace and compassion. I wrestled as I shared my story. Many could not handle the truth, and I let them believe I was who they needed me to be. As I grew in my relationship with Christ I learned who I was in Christ. He redefined me and gave me a new identity. I felt safe and secure in Him, but I still needed to find a way to navigate within the ranks of His less than perfect church.

As my story became public there were many who encouraged me to continue and were encouraged by my honesty. But there were others who felt I should jump on their political band wagons, and be a representative for their political fight. They could not see the struggle in my heart - I don't want to build walls, I want to build bridges.

There is a story in Luke 9; where the Samaritans rejected the message that Christ had brought them, they asked him to leave their territory. In their zeal to defend Christ, James and John offered to "call down fire from heaven." Christ looked at them and rebuked them. In some versions he is quoted as saying, "you do not know what spirit you are of, the Son of Man did not come to destroy lives, but to save them."

If God's character is never changing, and if today is a day of grace and not judgment, can we not apply these words to situations where Christians might desire to call down fire upon those who reject Christ? Does God's kindness still not have the power to turn men (and women's) hearts to repentance?

The church is the body of Christ - we are his hands and feet extended. I think the church needs to become a little more kind towards those who still reject the message. Christ words on the cross were not just for that moment - they echo throughout all eternity. "Father forgive them they know not what they do." Judgment begins in the house of the Lord, repentance begins with the people of God.

Throughout the history of the church there are blood stained hands because we responded wrongly to the battles that raged. I do not have the answer regarding the political battles that rage, but isn't it time that we found a better way to respond? Isn't it time that we discovered the heart of God rather than respond wrongly in our zeal?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pure and Simple

I’ve been asked, sometimes in a mocking way, so "God speaks to you? How does this happen?" Pure and simple: Daily I hear the messages of the Life Giver or the Destroyer. The messages may come through songs, literature, messages or scripture. The thoughts and messages that come to my mind control the direction of my day and ultimately my life’s path. I determine which is which by determining if I am being pushed down or lifted up.

For many reasons the past week has been a difficult one – there are challenges with caring for my aging parents, professional opportunities and deadlines, and probably the most stressful of all, having one foot and a good bit of my heart in New England while the rest of me is in Nashville.  The demands of life bring constant stresses, and I cannot say I always respond well – I’ve felt anxiety and anger and my throat tightens with a sob I never have time to release. Before you ask - one not-so-brief visit to the ER confirmed what I knew all along, my heart is healthy.

Today we finishing packing our overstuffed van. In my arms I held a handful of items, as I stepped out into the cool New England air and walked towards the vehicle. I looked up to the blue sky and thought,“God – do you really care about all these mundane things? Do we really matter?” From the driveway the sound of a soft battering caught my attention – I saw a shadow fluttering against our garage window. How I hoped it was a Red bird, Cardinal or even an Oriel – but no it was just a sparrow. I even said it out loud, “Just a sparrow” – I grabbed a nearby cloth and went and trapped it and held it in my hands as I walked towards the open garage doors, it wriggled free and flew to freedom. The bird thought I was its captor, but in fact I was its liberator.

In the end perhaps it was probably all just a crazy coincidence – but ever since I’ve had the words of a familiar hymn running through my head – “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me – "

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tender Mercies

I put my arm around the eight-year-old camper who stiffened beneath my touch. In an instant the image of my eight-year-old self flashed before me. Like the foster child beneath my arms, I too had learned to resist affection at a young age

No doubt the reason for this is the fact that I grew up in boarding school. My mother often recalls her visits and how her little girl stiffened within her loving embrace. Perhaps it was my way of punishing my parents, I cannot say, but I do know resistance became my standard response. I learned to deprive myself of that which I longed for the most.

As a young adult I learned about other embraces, and I reached out to other lonely souls hoping to find one to whom I could cling. But the flirtations were fleeting and the affections only left me hungering for more.

Whether you’d known me a lifetime or if we just met, the hug was brief and the release quick.

At the age of thirty I reached out and touched the hem of the One who knew me best. He returned my tentative touch with one of healing perfection and untainted love. And though I remained guarded, He taught my soul about tenderness.

In time my soul learned to trust again and I met, and eight years later married my husband. He noticed the scarcity of affection within my family, but he took the risk and made me his wife. Cautiously my openly affectionate husband taught me to express the heart’s deep current of emotion. Without hesitation or desperation I learned about the tender mercies of touch.

This summer after a long absence I returned to New England, the place where I am known the best. I was welcomed with unrestrained affection. In one embrace I almost lost my ability to breathe – but for the first time in two score and eleven years I did not push away. With a heart of gratitude I relaxed and received.

I praise God for his many gifts, but today I am grateful for the gift of human touch. Not touch that demands a price I cannot pay, but touch that is conceived in a bottomless well of pure love.  I’m grateful that I’ve not only learned to receive, but also give this priceless gift that requires no words.

Imagine a lifetime where you’ve complicated something so simple and beautiful as a hug.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Skinny on Contentment


Lately I’ve been paraphrasing Paul’s verse from Philippians 4:11-12, that in whatever circumstances, I’ve learned to be content. Whether rich or poor, hungry or fed, skinny or fat: I’ve learned to be content.

Oddly enough my version isn’t too far from the original. However the reason I’ve been quoting my paraphrase is because of a group of women in a boutique in Jackson, Tennessee.

Before I go any further let me say I’ve never been one to group shop. My husband, blessed martyr that he is, has a great eye and usually agrees to shop with me about twice a year when I need to reinforce my wardrobe. Other than that I’m not much of a shopper of clothes, especially since my clothes have gotten uncomfortably snug. I feel a bit like a overssize pillow shoved into an undersize case.

But in early April these ladies unknowingly gave me the gift of a lifetime, and ever since there has been a shift of monumental proportions in my thinking.

For you see since I was ten years old I’ve always been concerned that I was too fat. And there were some occasions, even as a young person when I put on more weight than I should. During my junior year of high school the soft pretzels in a Philadelphia suburb did me in. For a lifetime, I’ve struggled with weight and self-image. Actually it was more than that – with extra weight came a sense of self-loathing. Terribly unhealthy – but who knew?

However, during that day in April those ladies liberated me.  They were beautiful, and comfortable in their own skin. They realized that their purpose for being was defined by more than a dress size, and somehow in those joyous shopping moments I was set free!

Free I tell you. So now I quote – whether I’m skinny or fat I’ve learned to be content. I want to be healthy and active and that’s my goal.  The result may be a smaller clothing size, but until that day – I am content…

… and grateful to that beautiful group of ladies, who were of all shapes and size.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If God had a Scrapbook

I was scheduled to speak at a scrapbooking retreat here in New England. These were my thoughts for opening night.

If God had a scrapbook an image of your face would be on each page. Sometimes we think that is impossible, as if everything else in the world takes priority over us, but let me tell you that if God takes notice when even the smallest sparrow falls to the earth and dies, then he is very attentive to those who he created in his own image.

If God had a scrapbook he would have memories of your birth and your earliest years. My friends little girl once saw prisms of light dancing on the wall. With wonder she looked up to her mom and pointed, “look Mommy Dod … Dod.”

God heard your child’s heart, and heard the prayers you whispered when you began to grow. He saw the faith in your heart – the faith of a child: pure and simple before life and doubt came and clouded belief.

If God had a scrapbook he would have kept scraps of your prayers. The ones that no one knows of; the times you slipped into an empty church or a hospital chapel. The times you were awestruck by the beauty of creation and praise spilled out of your heart. He took note of those moments.

Like a doting father or a heartsick lover: God has a kept a scrapbook that is dedicated to you. He is crazy about you! He longs to be in relationship with you.

If God had a scrapbook, he would have pages of the times you felt your heart would burst with joy, and other times when you thought it would break from grief. He saw you when you passed through the darkest valleys, and walked alone through the shadows of fear.

If God had a scrapbook it would be filled with memories of you. Open up your heart and give Him a chance to reveal His endless love.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

God's Kids


I set her free from that dark little box of shame that she has carried for eighty years.
I set her free by telling her story – the story of dark heavy figures standing over frightened little girls in the middle of the night.

Children don't know how to speak of such things - moments that leave shameful shadows that last a lifetime. 

But now as the sunsets on these many years, the little girl knows she was not to blame.

The story is out now, she is free: Eighty years a prisoner of that filthy little box!

“But who will keep the child, we can't put her in the woods to be raised by the wolves- so we put her in homes with predators of another kind.”

Lord God – arise through us!

Psalm 10:12-18

Arise, O Lord! Punish the wicked, O God!
 Do not ignore the helpless! 
Why do the wicked get away with despising God? They think, “God will never call us to account.”

But you see the trouble and grief they cause. You take note of it and punish them. The helpless put their trust in you. You defend the orphans.

Break the arms of these wicked, evil people! Go after them until the last one is destroyed.

The Lord is king forever and ever!  The godless nations will vanish from the land.

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.  Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.

You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,  so mere people can no longer terrify them.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Ugly Savior

My Ugly Savior

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2)

In a world where we have christian celebrities and dynamic, attractive preachers, I think this verse becomes significant. What draws people to our message? Is it our attractiveness, or are we attractive because of his presence in us? It reminds me of a story from the Brush Arbor meetings in Kentucky - one Methodist preacher became famous for the powerful sermons and manifestations that followed his preaching, but the other extraordinary feature about this preacher was that he was, "just about the ugliest man you had ever laid eyes on."

Not to say we shouldn't be well groomed or present ourselves as best as we can, but the question is what do we put our confidence in? Are we confident because we look good: or do we lack confidence because we feel we don't look good enough? In the end what does it matter? It's the anointing of God and his presence in our lives that makes us the most attractive.

It's difficult to imagine that Jesus may not have been attractive. The more I know of him the more lovely he becomes. When artists paint him or when visions are seen he is always beautiful. But what else could he be? To know him is to love him. To love him is to be attracted to him in such a powerful way that we cannot help but portray him as beautiful.

Isn't it just like God to come to earth as an average (even below average?) looking man? God rarely works within the systems that our world has created. God always turns our systems upside-down. There was nothing in the natural that would attract us to him. It was his divinity and supernatural anointing that drew the world to him. How awesome that as he walked the earth people were drawn to him because of what poured out of him. He was the resurrection and the life, the bright and beautiful morning star. Those who were religious were repelled by him, but those who recognized their need for a savior couldn't stay away. 

One day I shall see him face to face - I will know as I am known. On that day I shall see him as he is, and I have no doubt that when I see him he will be beautiful. From this side of the cross he could be nothing but beautiful. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter -

Consider this my two cents regarding the latest Internet phenomenon that says Easter is really based upon a Babylonian goddess named "Ishtar" - the goddess of fertility whose symbols are eggs and bunnies. 

Since turning my life over to Christ in 1990, I've witnessed many bans and boycotts. From Disney, Halloween, to Santa Claus and Christmas and then Easter (the first campaign, not the most recent.) I use to jump on some of these “ban” wagons, I felt duped, I had long been ignorant of too many pagan/worldly agendas. But then I noticed that many Christians who led and participated in these campaigns felt more passionate about their causes than they did about the cause of Christ to save a lost and dying world. It seemed like a bit of a double standard. I backed away and came to terms in my own heart. Many Christian campaigns put a wall between me, and the people in the world that God loves.

That year I started deliberately giving candy to the kids who came to my porch on Halloween, I bought a Mickey Mouse watch, I helped my Mother build her Santa Claus collection and I celebrate Christmas (even though I know Jesus wasn't born on December 25th.) I try and put Christ in the center of everything in hopes that the world might see Christ in me. I left all the info-maniacs to fend for them selves. When Christ becomes the center he easily trumps all other pagan symbols and gods.  
Easter falls near Passover ... Christ was crucified on Passover. This year, 2013, Passover began March 25th and Ends April 2nd. All throughout history we can trace Easter and find it occurs on or around Passover. Coincidently In the northern hemisphere Easter is celebrated in early spring. I like the fact that Easter falls in the spring because the whole earth is resurrecting from a wintery grave. Even the animals know it is time to reproduce. Spring is a time of new life and fruitfulness. The resurrection power of Christ made my life new and fruitful.
I used the Daily Beast as my source to do some research. I purposely chose a non-Christian source because I didn’t want to be subjected to the biases that unconsciously occur when articles are written. This is a segment from Megan Mcardle’s article.

“ ... Easter is an English word.  The Greeks and Romans called it Pascha, which is why Easter is Pasqua in Italian, Pascua in Spanish, and Paques in French.  How exactly did the name of a Canaanite fertility goddess skip all the way to England from the Middle East without stopping in Rome or Byzantium? Ishtar was the goddess of love, war and sex… 

Ishtar was associated with fertility and sex. However, her symbols were the lion, the gate and the eight-pointed star; I can't find any evidence of eggs or rabbits symbolically belonging to her. And Easter has nothing to do with her.

Most scholars believe that Easter gets its name from Eostre or Ostara, a Germanic pagan goddess. English and German are two of the very few languages that use some variation of the word Easter (or in German, Ostern)... Most other European languages use one form or another of the Latin name for Easter, Pascha, ... derived from the Hebrew Pesach, meaning Passover."

Which is it? A Babylonian pagan goddess or a Germanic one? And what about the word in other languages, the ones that don't use a derivation of 'Ishtar?' Does anyone get why this bugs me yet? The true gospel message is consistent in every culture and every language. It is consistent in every hemisphere whether it is springtime, or not. These other “ban” wagons are distractions from the true message.

The bottom line for me is that we must resist being sidetracked from the true focus of the Christian message. I am Christian because Jesus Christ the Passover lamb died for my sins and ransomed my life from the grave. There is no greater message in the world than the redeeming message of God’s Love. “He loved me (and the rest of the world) while we were still sinners." Pagans - Hedonist - Communist. 

May the Spirit of Jesus Christ Rise up in his church!

Happy Easter!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stump Growth

I recently watched a news story about a project that endeavors to save the amazing Redwood and Sequoia trees for the future. If you've ever driven through the national parks that are home to these trees you cannot help but appreciate the vision of the founder, David Milarch.

In the NBC news clip, the reporter stood in front of a stump that was thirty feet across. The one hundred and thirty year old stump had once been the foundation to a tree that was 'forty stories tall'. Today around the base of the seemingly dead stump, fresh green sprigs grow. The "stump growth" is harvested and taken to the lab, and from this they (clone) and plant new trees.

I know nothing of the man behind the science, or the organization, Archangel, Ancient Tree Archive. But I appreciate their futuristic vision. Long after this generation is gone, another generation will appreciate the fruits of their labor.

In the kingdom of God much of what we are called to do is for the next generation. For them to benefit from the fruit of our vision, we must have hope for the future. We cannot allow the dark clouds of information to obscure our vision. We must hold tightly to 'the substance of things hoped for.' These fast growing Redwood seedlings are the substance of things hoped for.

Life can cut us down and all that is left of our dreams are stumps, but that does not have to be the end. Because God can bring life back to that which has died.

Even in the ancient book of Job we find the same wisdom:

"For there is hope for a tree,
When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And its shoots will not fail.
"Though its roots grow old in the ground
And its stump dies in the dry soil,
At the scent of water it will flourish
And put forth sprigs like a plant (14:7-9)

At the very scent of water there will be new growth. Have your dreams died? Do you feel as though everything has been cut down, and all that is left is a stump? Lift up your head, look to the One who is the living water.

He is the one who repairs, restores and resurrects. "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice..." (Isaiah 42:3) 

Imagine! The One who conceived of the Redwood and the Sequoia tree; the God of the universe and endless galaxies desires to breathe new life into us. He makes all things new. May His fountains flow over those who have lost hope - may what seems as a lifeless stump flourish into new growth! For the sake of the earth and the next generation. For the sake of His Glory, or as Bach might write, "Soli Deo gloria."

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Beauty of the Desert

There is a Psalm that is well marked on the pages of my Bible. Each time I read it, I mark it for emphasis. The ink has begun to bleed through to the other side. 

It reveals the despair and hopelessness of a worshiper. One who had known the joy of His Presence as worshippers were led into the house of the Lord. It is a Psalm of desperation, and yet it shows hope ... I will not give up! I will praise Him! 

I will put on a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. The oil of joy instead of mourning, and a crown of beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61)

The success of a blog is dependent upon the consistency of the blogger. Though the last four months have uncovered a storm of words. It seems none have made it beyond the pages of my journal or the margins of my Bible. 

My Soul longs for God - the Living God. May he rain down on me ... may he reign in me.

As a deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for You, God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night,
while all day long people say to me,
"Where is your God?"

I remember this as I pour out my heart:

how I walked with many,
leading the festive processions to the house of God,
with joyful and thankful shouts.

Why am I depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God, I will still praise Him,
My savior and my God.  Psalm 42:1-5 (HCSB)

It is in the dry places that we grow thirsty. Our heavenly bridegroom allures and leads us to the desert. And it is in the desert where he speaks tenderly to us. He restores our vineyards, and causes the places of defeat to become a door of hope. It is in the desert that our songs are restored. (Hosea 2:14-17)
"...joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

A Harvest of Joy: 
a mother/daughter memoir 
Due out March 2013

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life's "If Nots"

A few weeks ago, I finished reading the book, “Aggie: a girl without a country.” I had read it many years ago, but the recent reading affected me in a profound way. The first time I was inspired and awed by the story of a little Norwegian baby who was left orphaned in the Belgian Congo by her missionary father. He left the country a widower, bitter and faithless.  

Recently as I read the book,  I thought of several friends whose faith has failed. They were my peers: pastors, missionaries and lay ministers. When they reached midlife, it seems their theology fell apart, and they abandoned the very faith they had built their lives upon.

I can relate to disillusion and anger we feel in life. I lived with the deep undercurrent of frustration for many years. While my friends were all in Bible School, I spent most of my young adult years angry with God and the church. I had no interest in its seemingly empty creeds and doctrines. I explored the world’s alternatives and pleasures, and in the end they left me bankrupt. I decided I'd rather live this life, its pleasure and pain, with Christ rather than without Him. 

I’m grateful for the book I read soon after I made that commitment. I was living in Texas, and for my thirtieth birthday I took myself on a personal retreat. It was in a tent near Fredericksburg, Texas that I read Oswald Chamber’s book, “Baffled to Fight Better” – a study on the life of Job.

The words that stuck with me most was the quote, “Job had an implicit hold on God, not an explicit hold on God.” When all of Job’s pre-conceived ideas and creeds fell apart, he never lost faith. For a lifetime Job had been faithful and true, yet his world still fell apart. In the midst of the storms, he made bold declaration. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away - Blessed be the name of the Lord.” “Though he slay me, I will serve him.” While his friends quoted creeds and theologies, Job held on to the only truth he knew, “I know my redeemer lives.” *

As I observe the lives of friends who have abandoned their ministries and faith, I think perhaps they too lost their explicit hold on God. When life and theologies no longer made sense, all they could do was drop out of the battle. Perhaps their struggle was for a kingdom and not the King. I do not think this is the end of their stories. Every day I pray they will have a face-to-face encounter with their King 'who is the lifter of their heads.' *

I want my faith to be strong enough to handle the "if nots." As the three Israelite boys in the book of Daniel said. “Our God is able to save us, but if not, we still will not bow down.” As the apostle Paul said, “I want to know him, the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.” I refuse to ask for one and hope to be exempt from the other.

May we be so baffled by His presence that we will fight better. "May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven." 

* Job 1:21, Job 13:15, Job 19:25  -- * Psalm 3:3

Saturday, September 22, 2012

All that's Left

The sky is falling, or so they say
Those pundits who pontificate
Today it fell, and
Beyond the sky was
A kingdom with no end

Today, the earth shook,
It crumbled beneath my feet
Beneath this terra not so firma
I found a Rock – a Cornerstone
No thing on earth compares

When the fabric of life
Unravels, I discovered a
Thread that has carried me along

He’s more than a verse
Or even a song
He’s all that’s right
In a world gone wrong.

When all life’s an illusion
A ridiculous sham!

He remains
the great

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cathedrals of the World

Melk Abbey Austria ©
Once we travelled the rails and snaked our way high into the Swiss Alps to Andermatt. On our way back to the station we found a small church with huge wooden doors. Together my husband and I sat in the holy hush of candle light; surrounded by murals and sculptures from another time. I imagined the workers who built this haven so high on the rocky peaks.

I have walked cobbled stoned paths in Israel, Austria, Germany and Pompeii. I've bathed in light that danced its way through a million stained shards of glass, and rested in the splendor of places with domes covered in gold. I've watched the tourists with their careless cameras disrupt the faithful few. And listened to the walls hoping to hear the prayers of a thousand years. I eavesdropped once, though the language I did not know, to the prayer of one broken heart. Once I found an empty space, and risked singing an anthem of praise just to hear it echo off the ancient stones. When the tour ended, I filed out in hallowed silence, though my heart hungered for more.

But there's a faraway place that I hold so dear. A place that fills my heart with unspeakable delight. It has been the most magnificent cathedral of all. The artistry and worship were more than my senses could bare. No murals crowded my view of the sky, the walls were mud, but draped in vibrant cloth. I hold this place close to my heart, and think of it when the difficult days come (and trust me they do). 

The rhythm of their praise still echoes in my ear -- These were the songs of joy Christ must have heard as he endured the cross. Every tribe and tongue singing praises to their King. -- I remember that place and the sounds of their song. 

I remember their smiles and the way the children danced. The dust covered faces and ragged clothes. Nowhere near were there domes of gold. 

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God" Matthew 5:3

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fickle Hearts

I'm so glad God has used earthly relationship to explain His love for us. He uses all of the earthly examples, A father, a mother, a brother, a friend, a lover and an eternal bridegroom.

My husband and I are in our eighth year of marriage - I lift my glass, or tip my hat (whichever you prefer) to those who are decades ahead of us in your matrimonial journey. 

Trinity Church 2004
In our few short years, one of the more important lessons I have learned is you fall in love with the person you thought they were, but you grow to love (and commit to love) them for the person they really are. "I love you, not for who I thought you were, or for who I need you to be, but I love you for who you are."

Unless we go into marriage with this type of commitment then we may have the tendency to bail.

The same is true with our relationship with God. Often times we go into this relationship because of who we think He is. And when He fails to meet our expectations, we have a tendency to bail, rather than stay in the relationship and love Him for who he is.

In our brokenness, we form the objects of our love into who we need them to be. It's what we do with each other, and it is what we do with God, but He refuses to fit into the molds we've created for Him. If He did, He would be enabling our idolatrous natures. Ultimately what God desires to do is to heal our brokenness. He alone can heal the voids and wounds of our hearts. His love is greater than any earthly example: He loves with perfection. Until we can love Him for who He is, we love with the selfishness of a child. 

Whether in our earthly relationships, or with the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, the greatest reward is to allow love to become a selfless offering, so that we might know and be known. 

1 Corinthians 13:12 - "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."