Thursday, December 31, 2009


Are your children any better off for the Christmas gifts they have received?

Are they more content?


Less in want?

More at peace with themselves and their siblings?

Are they better people?

For that matter, are YOU?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I am.

It's ridiculous.

I sat down to write about it, pray about it, in my journal this morning. I confessed my sins and asked Jesus to take away my greed. I usually write in a jumbled flurry of thoughts and then go back and pray what I've written. What I noticed as I did this struck me as funny. Ha-ha funny even. I am such a visual person that God very often deals with me in ways that I can see, and I love Him for it. As I looked at my journal page, I noticed a pattern. The first word on the left-hand column of more than fifty percent of the lines I'd written was


I could almost feel the heat of the light bulb, people. It was shining brightly, directly over my head. I am discontent because my focus is


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, December 3, 2009

This is the day

It's the second anniversary of my mom's death.

I was really sad on Monday, and on Tuesday when I sat up late and read through all the journal entries I wrote during the last month of her life. Today Sadness is here but seems to be resting. Like she's long claimed her home in my heart but has finally decided to unpack boxes and hang pictures. Sadness in comfy slippers. The idea of Sadness being a part of me is interesting. It makes sense. Just like my mom will always be a part of me, so will be her loss.

I asked Jesus to tell her that I miss her. I don't think it's convoluted theology to think He will do it. God is so clearly a God of relationships, and relationships don't end in death. At least not for those of us who have secured eternity by trusting in Jesus' death and resurrection.

And with that knowledge, I think even Sadness is smiling.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I am such an emotional creature. I think I mostly walk neither by faith nor by sight, but by feelings. Right now I feel tired. And apathetic. Numb even. I feel like I have so little to give You, nothing tangible to lay at your feet.

This must be how my mom felt, after so many years of sickness. I know she loved You to the end. I know, because she told me, that it was well with her soul...but I think that was about it. That was hard for me, when I'd come to rely on her as such a tower of faith.

It occurs to me, even as I'm writing this, that this prolonged illness of my own is a little gift from You, a small window into what my mom dealt with. Even in my exhaustion and apathy, You are teaching me.

The emotion, the high, if you will, is not the sum or substance of my faith. The sweet feeling of being close to You, that surge of joy that so often brings tears to my eyes, is wondrous. It's good, and powerful even, but it's not what sustains me. The memory of the high cannot carry me through the valley. Memory of emotion is just that--memory.

No. What carries me through the valley is this:
-The sure knowledge of Your faithfulness.
-The fact that no matter how my emotions ebb and flow like the tides, Your tender love for me will never change.
-That no matter what I do or how I feel, You are still exactly Who You say You are.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Playing for the winning team

I met with my pastor yesterday, to discuss heavy spiritual topics. We ended up discussing things like male vs. female teenage hormones. He, being a father to four daughters, said, in regard to my all-male, all-teen/pre-teen household,

"You'll get short bursts of the hormone issues, while I, I have an eight lane raging highway full of them."

Heh. Having been on that highway, I could hardly disagree.

Something else he said has really stuck with me, and that is what I wanted to share with you. Our main discussion concerned the participation of Christians in predominately un-Christian things. In this case it was Yoga and Tai Chi.

Firstly, he reminded me that ALL THINGS are slated for redemption. Jesus did die primarily to redeem us, but included in the Fall were every created thing.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
Revelation 21:5 (KJV)

Secondly, he reminded me that all things are permissible.

Looking at it one way, you could say, "Anything goes. Because of God's immense generosity and grace, we don't have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster." But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (The Message)

Thirdly, and this was the one that flipped me:

"Remember, You are already redeemed. You are no longer on the defensive. You can be salt and light, because Jesus was raised from the dead."

Ahhhhhhh. Think that over a bit. Although I may feel (in this day and age) that I am the minority, that I have to defend my self, my faith, my God, this is not the case. I am already on the winning team. I need to go out, unapologetically and unafraid, and live in such a way as to be that salt and light.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Worship from the box

I was sitting in church yesterday, distracted by the:

-very loud baby directly in front of me, with the mother who kept taking her to the back of the sanctuary and the grandmother who turned around and around and around to see how they were doing,
-eight rows of teenagers beginning three rows ahead of mine, with the unfortunate (for him) family member in my direct line of vision watching a video clip on a buddy's cell phone,
-Minister of Worship and his cool Converse, with white socks,
-woman who is always so friendly but dresses way to cool to be my friend, dressed so cool that I couldn't quit looking at her outfit,

and I thought:

If only I could come to church, enter a sound-proof box and put on blinders that limit my line of vision to the stage in front of me, then I could concentrate.

Well, there would still be the Converse. And the socks.

But still. I am so easily distracted that it becomes terribly difficult to focus, to worship, to get the re-fueling I so desperately need.

And then, as He so often does, God whispered in my ear.

Sounds like life, Karen.

And then I think He smiled.

In life I am so easily distracted that it becomes terribly difficult to focus, to worship, to get the re-fueling I so desperately need.

I won't list all that I am distracted by...this post would be one for the Guinness Book of World Records. I do know that when my day begins with even the littlest chat with Jesus, when I focus right from my pillow, the day is smoother, more peaceful, and the world and all its distractions are less, well, distracting.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I wish I felt it more often. My sense is that I let my emotions cloud this thing I have been given, and though it's ever-present, I rarely reach out and grab hold of it.

Today, though. It is HERE.

Today I have the joy of the Lord.

How did I manage to grab hold of it today, you ask?

Well...I don't think I was aware of it necessarily, but this morning--first thing--I sought the Lord.

I asked for His help while I was still lying in bed.

I gave him my day as I walked the dog. I asked Him to help me not waste the time He has given me. I told him I wanted to walk with Jesus today.

I listened to worship music while I purposefully tidied the yard, planted some flowers, read through emails and chatted with my sissy on the phone.

I spent less time (although not none) mindlessly surfing the web. I stopped, closed my eyes and sang out to Him when a song moved me to.

And you know what? It's here. That peace that passes understanding. That joy that is not circumstance-dependent. That presence of the Helper.

My very human tendency is to now beat myself up over not reaching out and grabbing more and more often. Instead, though, I will close my eyes and thank Him for what I have right. now.

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:11.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reminding God

The idea of reminding God baffled me in my Sunday School days. Asking God to remember? Please! He knows the number of hairs on my head!

I think I get it a bit more now (although I have no illusions and fully understand that God is so deep it will take all of eternity to get Him).

I think, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, that God likes to be reminded of what He's promised us. It lets Him know that we're paying attention (or something deeper and more spiritual that I don't yet get).

So let's try a little something. In the spirit of the wonderful Beth Moore, let's ask God to show off for us. Let's remind Him of his promises and see what happens.

Here are a few suggestions, but be encouraged to dig through your bible and find one (or some) that fit where you are in this life.

--Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jer. 33:3 (when you need to know more about Him)

--He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phill 1:6 (when you need to remind God that He's not finished with you yet)

--I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (when it seems like the sun will never shine again)

--If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5 (for parenting. or marriage. or work. or friendship.)

--The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your love, oh Lord, endures forever. Do not abandon the work of your hands. Ps. 138:8 (when you step out in faith and then feel suddenly alone and scared, waiting for God to move)

--As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. 2 Chron. 26:5b (when you're trying to write a brilliant article about a really great author)

Go! Do it! Let me know how God shows off for you, and I'll do the same.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I could so be Oprah

The Christian Oprah. For sure.

I love people so darn much. I am fascinated with their stories. I could so totally rock that role, where it was my job, my sworn duty, to root out people and their amazing God-stories. Seriously, give me a couch, a tv camera, some Jimmy Choos (so long as I didn't have to walk. Or stand up.), and an army of staff members to research, shop, dress, coif, and otherwise make me look good.

I could do it.

I would have a cooking segment, too. I would use my own crummy mismatched knives and my stained white colander with the broken handle. I would substitute ingredients, just like I do at home, and have children as my taste-testers. I would employ the three-minute rule and make big pots of coffee for my guests to sip on while we talk. And I would love on them, just like Jesus. I would ask them brilliant questions and get them to share the amazing things God is doing in their lives.

Meanwhile, my personal assistant(s) would be backstage, setting up orthodontist appointments and making sure any and all permission slips are signed and returned in a timely manner.

I would a brilliant Christian Oprah.

So far, God has not taken me up on my great idea. I get the feeling that He would just like me to be a brilliant Karen. No tv cameras, no Jimmy Choos. No personal assistants.

I do have a Helper, though.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18 NKJV)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I was a woman on a mission yesterday. I had something grownup to do; something that was in no way related to laundry or carpools or cooking endless amounts of food for people who are never, ever full.

And I was a wreck.

You see, yesterday I got to interview the author of this great book.

And I was a wreck.

I have this magical, phenomenal way of forgetting key items in any major endeavor. It has to do with the creative brain (I tell myself) and the fact that creative people are procrastinators, due to the fact that our brains are constantly whirring and coming up with new and great ideas. Or so I tell myself.

I tried to be like my husband. I laid out clothes, packed the right colored purse, stacked a little pile with notebook, tape recorder, and the book, along with my printed directions.

I was still a scattered mess, so I took 10 minutes to read my bible and pray. My mind wouldn't stop so I flipped to that old standby, John 15 (v4, NIV).

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I read it over and over, begging my churning mind to grasp the meaning. I finally gave up and fell to my knees. Even in prayer, I couldn't stop the Crazy Brain. Finally, I just asked for help.


And then I hit the road. I was 35 minutes later than I wanted to be, but there was still plenty of cushion, so I didn't panic...until I took 495E instead of 495N. Then I freaked. I got off the interstate, but had NO CLUE how to get back to where I needed to be. I drove, and drove, and dug in the console for the life-saving GPS, but there was no GPS. It was at that moment that I realized the key item I had forgotten was the author's cell phone number.

After a few choice thoughts (which I will not share here), I took a deep breath and prayed.

I can't. I can't! I can't do this without You!

And I turned my head to see a sign that read:


with an arrow, pointing the way.

And then the funniest thought came to my mind. A thought which showed me, a) My wrong turn was no surprise to God, and b) He's hilarious.

I was lost without the GPS. Even with my printed directions, I needed that GPS to save the day.


God-Positioning System

I am lost without Him.

John 15:4

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting it

I'm reading the book of John, and for days now I've been stuck on chapter 15. I can't get past it. I keep reading it over and over, trying to get what Jesus is saying.

I'm pretty sure I could spend a lifetime doing this and still not get it.

I've been asking for Help, which seems a reasonable (wise even?) thing to do. It's like that word that's on the tip of your tongue. So close, but yet so stinking far.

I'm determined to keep at it, because my heart is just sure there is a treasure trove of goodness there. I want it.

Admittedly, I'm very scattered this morning (or, er, always) and focusing on anything is difficult. I think, though, that I may have a glimpse of something and it seemed like a good idea to lasso it and put it into words before it slips away. Here goes..

I flew by verse nine several times before settling on it with a little bing! of a lightbulb. Verse nine reads (NKJ version today):

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

Did you get a bing!?

Think of this. Try to imagine God's relationship with Jesus. It is perfect. It is true love (insert Princess Bride voice if you like). It is exactly the way relationship is meant to be. It is a I Corinthians 13 kind of love,

(Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.)

existing in a perfect, selfless, symbiotic relationship between the very definition of Love and His only Son.

Yes. It's a ton to wrap your mind around, I know. But now try to wrap your mind around this:

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.

The love that Jesus has for you (and me!) is as pure, as selfless, as perfect as the love the Father has for the Son.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On my heart

Jesus, today I want to wage a holy war against the devil's plans to destroy families. I pray for those whose marriages are on fragile ground. I ask that You tear down the powers and principalities and plans for destruction. I ask for hope where there is none, softness of heart where calluses have hardened, GRACE where only judgment has been, and Your mercy upon those who are suffering. I ask that you would not allow Satan any toehold and that you would take back what he has stolen.

I ask that You take back tender feelings.
I ask that You take back joy.
I ask that You take back laughter.
I ask that You take back hope.
I ask that You take back compassion.
I ask that You take back respect.
I ask that You take back love.

I ask that You take back kindness in every form; I ask that you expand to fill in every gap, become balm for every wound, encourage hearts to hope again, and allow parents to model Your plans for marriage to their children.

I ask You to move mightily.
I wait in expectation.
I thrill to see You move!
I thank you for hearing my prayers.
I love you!

Monday, September 28, 2009

What I learned from Jonah (more than eat your veggies)

Yesterday was part four of a four-part study of Jonah. When the pastor mentioned this, I breathed a sigh of relief. Almost done with Jonah. Jonah just seems so....Sunday School. Yes, he disobeyed God, yes he was swallowed by the big fish, yes God heard his prayer, had the fish chuck him up, and yes, Jonah went and did the thing he should have done in the first place. Yawn.

Really. At first (and second, and third) glance, Jonah almost seems like your classic do-what-you're-told-or-else story. If I didn't believe that the Bible is God's Word (and I do), I might think Jonah's story was designed to get small children to eat their vegetables. Truthfully, I like vegetables, so instead of really listening yesterday, I made my grocery list. Oh, I kept one ear dutifully in the game. I even looked up occasionally, but I was really one big inner yawn.

And then. Pastor got me with the punchline. What he said made me sit straight up, engage both ears, and glance furtively at my husband's notes to be sure I was hearing what I heard. In hindsight, I'll bet he spent four weeks purposely leading up to this point.

The verses (I'll let you read them, I chose the NLT) speak of a whiny, petulant Jonah. A Jonah who, even after having been given the grace of salvation (from the great fish), cannot extend that same grace to the Ninevites. The Ninevites were such a hateful, horrible, violent people that Jonah said he would rather die himself than to see them spared. These people, from the capital of the Assyrian Empire, were known for their heinous torture of captives, and Jonah very likely had known friends, neighbors, loved-ones and even family who had met this gruesome fate. He could not see a single reason for God to spare such an enemy of His people.

And yet.

God wanted to. He wanted not just to spare them, but to save them. He wanted Jonah to go; He wanted to give them a chance to repent, to change their ways, to turn back to God. God was so sweetly loving these awful people that he even included their animals as a reason to spare them. God didn't want to so much as kill the animals in Ninevah.

That was the first punch. Get ready for the 'ol one-two.

Whose Jonah are you? Who is it that has wronged you, or those you love? Who is it that you are so sure that God should wipe off the face of the planet? Who is it that does not deserve the same grace He has so sweetly extended to you?

Yeah. I could name a name or two myself. There are those who have caused so much pain in my life or the lives of those I love that I have been


that God could not, should not love them.

The question is this:

Who am I, the girl to whom so very much grace has been given, to decide where and to whom God should and should not extend that same grace?

And the question is this:

Who are you?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Clean as you go

I was thinking of my friend Carey the other afternoon. I was up to my elbows in cookie baking and the kitchen was a mess. Carey's voice rang in my ear, from waaaay back when, when we were roomates in college. I heard her say, "*CAYG! Clean as you go, Karen!" I smiled at the air and thought (lovingly),

Neat freak.

Somewhere in the middle of a sleepless night it came to me. THIS IS HOW WE NEED TO MAINTAIN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS.

Then I fell back asleep.

This morning, after getting three kids and one dog out the door, drinking two cups of coffee, returning four text messages, and doing a blogging read-by, I sat down with my bible.

I'm not sure why, but I'm continually amazed when God does this. Today's reading was on this very subject.

No, Jesus did not clean as he went, Carey.

He did tell us to, though. I'm pretty sure the full message would have been lost on me had I not had the very recent experiences of both Carey and God whispering in my ear. I probably would have blown right past the first chunk of John 13:10, which says:

Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean."


I got out some handy references and did a bit of research. Here is what I learned. The words bathed and washed are translated from two different Greek words (I can't figure out how to write them, or I would). The first indicates a religious ceremonial washing, like what was required of the Jews before coming into God's presence. The second, though, is commonly used in New Testament (NT) translation as the word for washing hands or feet.

Work with me, people.

Jesus death on the cross eliminated the need for ceremonial washing (and sacrifice, He being the ultimate sacrifice). Once we are "in Him" (i.e. believers in his death and resurrection for our sins) we are ultimately clean and have open access to God. Our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior effectively cleanses us of ALL our sin and puts us right before God.


We continue to sin. We mess up, fall down, lapse, deviate, offend, wander, transgress on a daily basis. This dirties our hands, so to speak. Practically speaking, it puts distance between us and God.

Are you still with me? Take a deep breath, and ponder for a moment...

Cleaning as you go.

*more on CAYG next time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Meet me at the pole

Kids around America are praying at their schools' flagpoles this morning. That makes me feel hopeful for this nation for the first time in quite awhile.

This is the verse that keeps coming to my mind:

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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14

America used to be One Nation Under God. Now we are very much One Nation Under gods. The god may be Yahweh, or Budda, or Allah, or money, or our selfish selves and our very own list of I wants. Whatever you god, I think you're short-sighted if you don't see the downhill slide of our great country. It scares me, because I love this place, and I'm proud to be an American. Or I was proud. I'm not so sure anymore.

I didn't go to the pole with the kids this morning, mostly because I wanted a cup of coffee more than I wanted to haul myself out the door extra-early. I will go to my knees though. I will humble myself and pray and seek Yahweh's face and turn from my wicked ways (or do my very best to), and ask God to hear from heaven and forgive my sin and heal. this. land.

I hope you do the same.