"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Okay folks it's time to start talking!  What are your stumbling blocks to wellness?  Why don't you "eat healthy?"  Why don't you exercise?  Why do you worry all the time? Why don't you "do" your hobby?
Why don't you...?

Come on, let's get real.  What is stopping us from being healthy?  Usually we don't even take the time to stop and think except for as we're running out the door thinking, well I blew it again - no exercise this morning!  So take some time, today or very soon. Think about it. Really, what is the deal?  Do you not think that YOU are worth the time or effort? You are.  You are a Treasure to God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waving My Banner


I love studying the names of God.  Why? Who knows except that the first time a wonderful friend led a group of women through a study of some names of God my life was changed.  I mean really changed. It definitely took my relationship with God to a new level. Now it's very common for me to think about what "name" or "part" of God I just read about or experienced.  I'm telling you that because this morning I was thinking about Jehovah-Nissi. (pronounced juh-HO-vah NEE-see) 

Ancient armies carried standard or banners that were their identification and symboled their ideals.  It was like a flag, something that could be seen from far away, serving as a rallying point for the troops before a battle.

This weekend I began waving my banner of God around some friends.  My friends baby had some tests done that require them to have further tests done.  She may have a life-altering/threatening illness. The blood test they did on her did not come back 100% ok. There is a 10% chance she may have this illness.  Now as if that is not enough to scare parents, this family already has a wonderful special needs child so they are very aware of all that special needs children bring to life.  ENTER MY BANNER - JEHOVAH-NISSI   See I can wave my banner.  My banner reminds me and all who see it that God wins.  He loves us and takes care of us through the battles of life. I know because I've lived through a few.  I called my friend and verbally waved my banner where she could see it.  I reminded her of some of my family's story and how God has protected, prepared, supplied and cared for us through our battles. She was a part of our protection and care so she is knows our story to be true.  We prayed to ask God to continue to care for her family, for His will to be done in His way.  That's what waving our banner of Jehovah-Nissi is all about, a rallying point. A declaration of who we are, what we believe and a reminder of what God has already done in our lives. 

You know the story where this was first exhibited in the Bible. It comes from Exodus 17 (read it!)
The Lord told Moses that they needed to fight the Amalakites (the bad guys).  Moses tells Joshua who gathered some men to fight. Moses, Arron and Hur went to the mountain top and Moses raised his arms - his banner.  As long as his arms were up, his team was winning. When he got tired and his arms started to come down they began losing.  HOWEVER, HIS FRIENDS helped him by getting him a rock to lean on and physically helping him to hold his arms up until the battle was won.  Then they built an altar there, a reminder of what God did, and named it, Jehovah-Nissi.

This is a great story reminding us that is it necessary for us to remember what God has done and declare it to encourage others. Who do you need to remind of what the Lord has done in your life? Yourself? A friend or family member?  Wave your banner high!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Self-Care? What is that?

Kevin Torner shared this from the Napolean Hill Foundation
One of the primary motives for all action is love! It is the force that engages people and causes them to take immediate command of their time and talents. When we love individuals, family, friends, causes, etc., we are almost compelled to do whatever it takes to make dreams come true. All this talk about love causes one to wonder why we then put self-love on the back burner and allow the other "loves" of our life to take precedence over our own?
I would like to suggest that if we care for ourselves first, we then have a wellspring from which to draw in the care of others. By denying ourselves the common goodwill we extend to others, we are depleting ourselves and on our way to a personal meltdown. Take time to care for yourself and in doing so you will be better equipped to care for others.
In caring for yourself, have you done the following lately?
1. Taken a holiday of your own choosing?
2. Declined work when you were already overloaded?
3. Asked someone for help instead of shouldering the work on your own?
4. Granted yourself personal quiet time instead of filling every minute of each day with a time synchronized to-do list?
5. Turned down a request for a lunch date, get-together, or friend's night out just because you would rather do something else?
6. Read a book, watched a show, listened to a cd, took a walk, shopped where you wanted to, and ate what you wanted because it pleased you?
7. Created a day with your own agenda from morning to night?
8. Said "no" without feeling guilty or second-guessing your motives?
9. Considered what made you happy?
10. Planned for the future instead of dreading it?
If we give ourselves more to enjoy, we will be healthier, happier, and more terrific that we can even imagine. You have heard the financial concept of paying yourself first, right? Well, look to this day for you first, and do what it is that brings joy to your life. From this perspective, all things look more positive and appealing.

When we are "full", cared for we can fully care for others.  "love your neighbor as yourself."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself...

"Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."  Mark 12:30-31

What do you think of when you read those verses?  I don't know about you but I lean strongly toward the first verse thinking the Lord wants me to love Him with "all I've got."  While that may be true I can't ignore the last part, "love your neighbor AS YOURSELF". (emphasis mine)  What in the world does that mean? What does that look like?  For one thing, I haven't spent much time thinking about this part of the verse...ever.  I've been taught and have taught others that we are to love your neighbor. You know, I've told the "good Samaritan" story. Talked to my kids about being kind to all of the kids in their class etc etc but if you break down the grammar of that verse it is implying that we should love our "neighbor" LIKE we love OURSELVES. Love myself?  Haven't really thought about it much.

If I look around I'm very aware of two schools of thought.
1.  Every commercial, lots of magazines and books and the attitude generally in today's society says, "I AM ME. Let ME be ME."  I want...and I'm going to get it.
2. In some Christian/religious circles you are taught that it is vanity to spend time and money to "look" better. For example, don't waste your money on alot of make up and clothes. Doesn't matter if you are tired and have a huge project at work, if you neighbor needs help - get over there! :)

In my opinion there is a "grain" of truth - but pretty much only a "grain" of truth in both of these schools of thought.  The Bible tells us we are to "love ourselves".  Love isn't just a feeling. It is a decision to invest in another person. It's a relationship. Relationships require that you know the other person. That you spend time with them. That you listen to them. That you tell them the truth and not just what they want to hear. That you encourage, challenge, and support them.  Now think about yourself. I don't know about you but until the last few years I can tell you that I didn't spend much time doing any of those things for myself until a situation presented itself and I absolutely "had to".  For example my Senior year of High School I "had to" spend some time figuring out enough about "me" to decide what to do after I graduated.

Please hear the whole message here. Read all of Mark 12:30-31 again. It does not just talk about loving "me". It talks about loving God with all we've got and then loving our neighbors.  But it is implying that we have to love ourselves too.  We have to have love to share love.  We can't give what we don't have.  When my husband crashed 7 years ago the counselor told him that his supply was empty. He described it like water going over a dam to feed a river. He said we are the "behind the dam" part and when we serve we should be serving from our supply behind the dam. However, if we have constant outflow we can drain ourselves dry and then we have nothing to give.  When we run on empty we can hurt ourselves.  There's those well known verses in Ecclesiastes, "a time to laugh and a time to cry..."
We need to pay enough attention to ourselves to be sure that we are filled up. Why? So we can love the Lord our God with ALL of OUR heart, soul, mind and strength.  (Did you notice it names every aspect of our lives - spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical?)

So today's question is are you taking care of yourself?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

All summer I've been reasonably back on my "healthy" cycle. Recently however, I've been convicted of that - my cycles of doing things in a healthy manner...for while. Then for the tiniest little excuse my cycle ends. Which begins my cycle of I just won't pay much if any attention to my own health. NOT GOOD.

However, the past few weeks our small group has been studying a chapter on self-care. This quote by Dr. Gary Smalley from The DNA of Relationships really got me, "Taking good care of yourself is actually a godly thing. It's always in the best interest of all parties involved. Why? Because only you're full do you have the resources to care for others. You cannot fully extend yourself unless you operate from fullness. And you never will get full unless you take good care of yourself."  It makes perfect sense.  Years ago I was a Hospice Director.  I saw over and over again how the caregivers would wear themselves out, never or rarely taking time for themselves. The problem with that is if their loved ones illness was prolonged the caregiver would get sick. If the caregiver gets sick we now have 2 patients...you get the picture. 

So I'm well aware of the principal of taking care of yourself. What I'm not so good at is consistency.  The sad thing is I can see that I passed this trait on to my children.  So today I'm taking a step in the right direction.  I would like to declare Wednesdays, Wellness Wednesdays on my blog.  (Want to hear something scary?  My daughter just started an accountability wellness time on her blog too. Check it out http://www.lifelovegreen.com/2011/08/report-card-intro )

What I would like to do is talk about real life ways to get or stay healthy. My "thing" is that our health needs to include all aspects of our life, physical, mental and emotional. So this day will have a wide variety of topics and I hope to have great, wide open discussions and hear from alot of my knowledgeable friends on their areas of expertise.

Weight is out of control here in America and it is causing many of our health issues nationwide. I'm not looking to become a "top model", often they are not healthy either. Anorexia is it's own problem. But I want to be healthy so I can really enjoy life and can serve the Lord, my God with ALL my heart, soul and mind...."

So one thing I've done is cut down on the amount of sweet treats in my life. I like desserts and treats. To help me out I stopped them all for 3 weeks. That helped to get the "taste" out of my mouth. :)  Now I am enjoying them maybe 3-4 times a week and I'm only eating the ones I really like.  What about you what is one healthy thing you are doing for yourself?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Growing Relationships

So I've been studying my husband more purposefully the past couple of days and realizing like most things of value in life you have to be intentional. You have to make a choice to do it. When I was a very young child I made a choice to accept the love and forgiveness of God AND to follow Him. That is a choice I've never regretted. (unlike many other choices along the way)  My life is a journey of getting to know the God of the universe.

This morning I've been thinking I'm so glad I am far enough along on my journey to know that God is in charge and that He loves us more than we can imagine.  In the past couple of weeks two friends of ours teen-age daughters have been struck with life-threatening illnesses. While these are very tough, intense times for these families, they know like I do that God loves their girls. That knowledge does not make it easy but their is peace in amongst the anxiousness.  I know because 7 years ago now our son-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and my husband crashed. However because I have a relationship with God I knew that He cared for my "Marks" (yep, they were both named Mark).  Today more than ever I know that God is capable of handling whatever this life has for us. So as I pray for my friends and their daughters I am able to trust that God will do what is best for them. We have to know someone in order to trust them.

"If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people." Exodus 33:13 NIV  This is Moses talking with the Lord. Moses, God's choice to lead the Children of Israel to the Promised Land. The verse  before this one acknowledges that God knows him (Moses) by name and that he is favored by God. Yet Moses had to ask God to teach him His ways. Why? So that Moses could know God.  The Amplified Bible says know = "progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understand more strongly and clearly".   That, is a continual process. I'm choosing to continue with this process. I want to really know my Lord and Savior. So like studying my husband, I'm studying God. I've asked him, like Moses did to teach me His ways so that I can know Him. Want to join me on this challenge?

Oh and if you want to join me in praying for our friends, their daughters names are Tara and Briele. Thanks!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Challenge

Okay, so I spent the day with my husband. We went to the State Fair and had a great time meandering around checking things out. I thought this would be a great place to learn something new about him. It was harder than I thought.  I will say that I learned again how thorough he likes to be. (smile) Walking through one of the buildings with all of the random booths trying to sell you something - I could skip around, pick and choose. Not him, he likes to walk through in an organized fashion, up and down the isles against the traffic. (less crowded?)  I was also reminded how much of a maven he is. A maven is a collector of information on any and all topics. This makes him a great conversationalist. He can talk to almost anybody!  Lastly I was amazed at how he likes to know ALL about the things he worked with. We looked at every dealer who carried some kind of mower whether it was a type he could actually use or not. He compared what they are made of, what kind of engine, safety features, sizes - well just everything!  The great thing is he stores away this knowledge and can often fix something when it's broken or worn out and often invents his own way of doing it.

What did you learn? Was it easy or did you, like me find it difficult to learn something "new"?  I'd like to think it was hard for me because I know my husband pretty well, but I don't want to get lazy and miss something important!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Challenge for Today!

Okay, so I'm challenging you today to observe, listen, study, watch someone you care about and try to learn one new thing about them.  Share what you learn tomorrow.  It doesn't matter what day you read this, that day is your TODAY!

I'm taking the challenge and I guarantee it will be worth the effort! In fact it could be just plain fun!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How to Stay Committed to Your Relationships

So this thing called covenant relationship is kind of "sticky" at best.  It's easy as long as your partner is nice, cooperative and agrees with you but we all know that doesn't happen all the time even in the best of friendships. I love my husband. We are friends. We laugh at alot of the same stupid things. We are easily entertained. We both think our kids are the best. However when we're cleaning the storage room and he's packing the boxes in so tight you can't get your fingers between them because "it makes the best use of space" he drives me crazy!  Should I abandon him at that point? Of course not, but what about when the issue is more important. What about when you feel you are not being valued or have been betrayed? Then is it okay?
That's not how God does it. God sticks with us even when we don't stick with Him. God loves us even when we don't speak up when someone at work is harming others by not doing their job properly. He loves us even when we lose our temper and say hurtful things to our kids or spouse. He hangs in there and continues to communicate with us. He does that because He loves us and He knows us inside and out. He knows what He created us to be.  I believe it's alot about really knowing those you are committed to. Granted we don't need to know those we only work with as well as our own family members but we do need to know them within the context of work.
Think about this a bit. Who is it easy to defend and/or forgive in your life?  Chances are good it's those you know and care about the most. I'm challenging you to get to know those you are committed to even better. I believe all relationships are life long learning situations. People do not stay the same. We all have seasons in our lives which change some of our perspectives. We need to study those we love so we are aware when they change. These changes effect our relationships.  We recently taught a class on the marriage relationship.  Several couples had been married more than 40 years.  I was so encouraged that they still wanted to learn and grow in their relationship.  One couple said we "want to learn to have more fun in our relationship."  Isn't that great! We are NEVER too old to learn or to love.
God's love for us is "new every morning. Great is His faithfulness." That's our example for our relationships.  Have a great day studying and loving those around you!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Commitment, that's a "sticky" word for most of us.  We want the people around us to be committed to whatever we are working on. We want them to show up when they say they will and to finish the project we are working on. On the other hand, we ourselves don't want to be "stuck" doing something that we really don't want to do so we answer requests "I'll be there if..."  We have an old friend who when asked to bring something to a meeting would answer "I will if I remember." He meant it. It wasn't very helpful. You never knew for sure if you would have what you needed from him at the time you asked for it.

In the past few weeks we have met and talked with many old and new friends. In one form or another this subject kept coming up. Someone had "let them down." Or they just didn't think they could be a part of that group or their marriage anymore because someone had "let them down." Some people are not actively a part of a local church because they don't like the way Christians talk or are portrayed in the media. They don't want to be associated with "hypocrites." Those people disappointed them.

While studying for teaching on marriage at the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference I challenged the term "marriage covenant".  I asked pastor-friends. I looked up all the verses I could find using covenant in my concordance. (well maybe not ALL of them) I also studied the Biblical definition. What I learned is that a covenant is a commitment. When you enter into a covenant you are agreeing to stick to the deal, whatever that might be.  The clinker is that when you enter into that agreement you are agreeing to keep up your part no matter what the other guy does.  In Genesis 15 the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham that his family will inherit the Land. The Lord made the covenant. He will carry it out. Abraham had a part - it is to believe and obey but God's covenant is not based on Abraham's participation.  He also did that through His son, Jesus. God made a covenant to love us and save us from our sins.  He did His part. He sent His son to die to cleanse us from our sins. We choose whether or not we will participate (recognize our sins, repent and receive His forgiveness) but He did it irregardless of our reaction. He loves us that much. He is that committed.

Kindof puts a new slant on our life commitments doesn't it? When my co-worker doesn't hold up their end of the work and I bail out because "they aren't helping" I'm really not very committed am I? Or even more importantly, when our spouse doesn't behave the way we want them to and we react with retaliation or just give up on the relationship - we're not carrying out the covenant we made with them when we got married.  I'm even thinking about our commitment to the Body of Christ.  When we don't join in a local church on a ongoing basis it seems to me we're not very committed to the Body of Christ. We just want to use it when it's convenient or helpful to ourselves. I believe we are missing out on lots of great though maybe at times hard things. Deep relationships, support, encouragement, and love are built over time.

What's your commitment level?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Time Together

So following  our 9 days at the fabulous Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference we had a few days "off" and then we joined "Weekend On the Farm" in southwest Iowa.  Having just returned home last night we haven't even had time to process the whole experience yet but I really want to begin to share with all of you the thoughts the Lord keeps bringing to mind.

I'm aware that many people don't value gathering together on a regular basis with other believers - some people call that gathering "church". Some of those people are close friends and/or family to me. Some of us (yep, that includes me) have been hurt in/through experiences happening at the local church we were attending. That's sad, very sad but it shouldn't stop us from gathering on a regular basis. To me it's much like my experience with exercising.  We all know it's good for us to get aerobic exercise on a regular basis in our life. So we start out, but when we start out on our own we often slip back into our old routines and soon our great plans have failed and we are watching tv all evening again! (maybe that's just me but I don't think so) However, I've found when I involved someone else in my plans I am SO MUCH BETTER about actually keeping my plans. The results are..., well there are actually results. (rather than no results because I didn't do it.) I feel better mentally and physically. I might lose a few pounds or inches and I've gotten to know someone better. It's great.

An excuse I've heard for not gathering is that "they are not where I am at". You know what? Hopefully that is true! In a gathering of believers there should be a full range of levels of belief from those who don't know what they believe to those who are well seasoned and are very learned. That's the beauty of it. We all learn from one another.

This past weekend we gathered with about 70 other people from across the nation in a tent on a farm in southwest Iowa. I don't know what church most of them go to when they are at home. I know one gentleman didn't have a church he called home. Some people taught us regarding God's heart for different aspects of life. Others shared what God is teaching them through their life experiences right now. Some of the talks really spoke to me. Honestly, some of them didn't so much. But the truth is I did learn.  I am challenged as I leave for work today to really "do life" with those I work with. To be willing to "get my hands dirty" as needed to share the love of Jesus with those around me. Why? Because I spent time with other believers.

I've heard it said that church, and I'm referring to the gathering of believers on a weekly basis should be like a vitamin for us.  I believe that. Our relationship with God is ours to develop, feed, care for but like our physical body we need the input of others to help us do it right. None of us knows everything but when we "pool" our knowledge, encouragement, and energy we are powerful!

Do you have a church home? Are you there enough to not only learn but to help someone else?

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Question

Do you take time to be quiet, even just for a few moments? I have been busy with people and in the public for solid week now. I'm lonely for some time alone. How crazy is that? I know at home I can even fill my quiet time with music, or reading, or listening to someone else's voice. I am challenged this week to take time to be quiet. To listen to the silence. To allow a time, a space God cn fill. It's not complicated. Simple. Quiet. God loves me. He loves you. He wants to spend time with me. He doesn't need me to always be doing something. He desires me. He desires you.

If you doubt this thought, think about your loved ones. You just wnt to be with them. They don't always need to say or do anything. I love it when my kids are are around!

So? Do you actually spend quiet time with God?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Living With God

It's one of my favorite times of the year, Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference time. This year marks our 10th year here. Each year amazes me.  It is such a mix of old time tent meetings and yet is totally "up to date."  I'm sitting in the "tabernacle" at this moment. It's a building with a roof and floor but two of the side walls are huge garage-type doors.  They open and we put out the awnings and everything that goes on inside is open to all the passers-by.  Yet as I look at the stage it's full of musicians practicing at the moment. They have lights and sound. The words are on screens.  But in the last 1/2 hour I've heard hymns that are my parents favorites and contemporary christian music as well. We've already met missionaries from around the world and been taught by some local favorites.  Why am I telling you all this?  Because although the theme for this year is "Restored Rejoice" (Psalm 23:2-3) there is another theme going on here. Simplicity - focused life.  Life is about relationships. (period) We were created for relationship - with God.  He made a way for us to get to know Him and live with Him eternally.  We can use big words. We can write long dissertations but it all boils down to the fact that God loves us.  He loves us enough that He sent His one and only son to die on the cross for our sins.  Jesus' blood was shed so that we might be made clean. The Bible says we are made "white as snow". Why? So we can have relationship with Him. He did the "work" but we have to accept it. It's up to us how much of this relationship we will choose to accept/allow into our lives.  Our morning Bible teacher, Skye Jethani made the comment this morning that "the gospel"is not how we get to heaven. It's how we getto God.  There is a difference.  God didn't send His son, Jesus just to save us from eternal damnation. He saved us to give us life as well as freedom from eternal damnation!

Are you saving your relationship with God for heaven? Why? Living life with God is AMAZING! I can testify to this!