The Thing About Anna…

Oh how I love this photo that a Times Daily photog captured. This is Anna standing, with hands raised, cheering on our beloved UNA Lions at the first home game of the season.  That is actually my sweetie pie daughter, Hannah, next to her.

When Hannah texted me the pic, it made me grin from ear to ear.  Why? The thing about Anna is this…she expresses her worship with this same posture.  I usually see Anna in our church’s choir, hands lifted high in worship to Jesus.  Even when she is in the congregation, I often see her worshiping this way.

I know I should be focusing on my own worship at church, and I mostly do. But there are some people I just truly enjoy watching engage with the Spirit and Anna is one of these people.

Hands lifted high is common in scripture. Here is a small sampling…

Lift up your hands to the sanctuary And bless the LORD.  Ps. 134:2

We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven…Lam. 3:41

Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands… Nehemiah 8:6a

Please do not think I am judging people’s worship by whether or not they raise hands. That is between them and God.

However, many of us have no problem lifting hands high and cheering on our favorite sports team. If you have any doubt about this just be at my house on any given Saturday during football season. But when it comes to that kind of enthusiasm for thanking Jesus from the bottom of our heart for what He has done for us – silence. That is odd to me.

So the thing about Anna is she worships as Jesus directed the Samaritan woman in John 4:23…”But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

So thank you, Anna, for the inspiration (and permission) for this post.

 

Eclipse 2017 – The Heavens are Telling

Who’s geeking out with me about the Aug. 21 solar eclipse?

Not to mention it totally makes me think of the Bonnie Tyler song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” 🙂


I got to teach some lessons about this once-in-a-lifetime event this week in my school system and I am completely into it now after researching it. God will be showing off His handiwork with this amazing heavenly display.

Yes, I am a geeky science-girl with two science degrees who believes in a divinely created universe.

Many scientists feel like they must leave their faith at the door because it is not quantifiable. I have a BS in biology and a MAed in chemistry education – and everyday when I was in the classroom – I brought my faith with me.

I don’t see faith and science as being mutually exclusive.

When I study science, I see God’s thumbprint everywhere. There are such masterful designs in our universe, I simply cannot fathom that it has come about rather randomly.

If we took the pieces of a MacBook and scattered them on a deserted island, what are the odds those parts would come together to create a computer? Slim to none I’d say. That’s how I feel about our universe. There is zero chance it randomly came together.

Part of God’s revelation to us, the most basic revelation, is what nature speaks to us in our spirit. Just looking around, we instinctively know there is an Elohim…Creator God.

The Heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1

For since creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:3

One of humanities first stumbling blocks to faith in God is denying His creative nature – He created out of nothing – ex nihilo – according to Genesis 1. God’s revelation of Himself through nature is one of the first things that draw us to Him. If we reject this most basic call, faith in Christ is likely never to happen.

So as you enjoy the solar eclipse…

safely, with ISO 12312-2 compliant lenses…consider who set this whole sha-bang into motion. Let the eclipse be a reminder that we serve an immensely great God who so intricately designed this universe that scientist can accurately predict future eclipses down to the day, hour, and minute.

This same God whose finger keeps the heavenly bodies in synchronous orbit used that same finger to write on our hearts (Romans 2:15).

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.  ~ Augustine

 

 

Real Friends Give You a Shofar for Your 50th Birthday!

Last night, my funny, sweet, smart, Sunday school class surprised me with a birthday party. Oh it is hard to utter, but I will be 50 on June 24th.

Each Sunday, we gather to dig out biblical truths and try to wrap our minds around how we get to live it out the following week. There is a lot (I mean a LOT) of laughter, tears at times, and always gut-honest conversations about our successes and struggles as we strive “2BLike Him” (our class name).

Trumpet in Hebrew is shofar (or showphar). It was blown to usher in the Year of Jubilee!

Of course they gave me the things every 50 year old needs…antacids, muscle pain reliever, gas reliever, false teeth (thanks Jo Lynn). But they also gave me something they knew would grab my heart – a shofar.

Each January I pick my “one word” to keep me focused. This year I chose “jubilee” because it is rich in meaning, especially as I was headed toward my fiftieth year. You can read an in-depth explanation of the biblical meaning of jubilee here: Year of Jubilee.

In short, in Old Testament times, God instructed the Children of Israel to set aside every 50th year as the Year of Jubilee. All kinds of great things happened in this 50th year…slaves were freed, sold land was returned or leased to the original owners for fair prices, and it provided a rhythm of rest for the land and people.

8-12 “Count off seven Sabbaths of years—seven times seven years: Seven Sabbaths of years adds up to forty-nine years. Then sound loud blasts on the ram’s horn on the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement. Sound the ram’s horn all over the land. Sanctify the fiftieth year; make it a holy year. Proclaim freedom all over the land to everyone who lives in it—a Jubilee for you: Each person will go back to his family’s property and reunite with his extended family. The fiftieth year is your Jubilee year…Lev. 25 (MSG)

Shofar is the original word for trumpet…basically a ram’s horn. The Children of Israel ushered in the Year of Jubilee, the 50th year, with a blast of the shofar. What a way to celebrate!

If you hear a loud blast of a ram’s horn on June 24th, it will likely be originating from my back yard. I need to be set free from some things. I need a sabbath from strongholds.

I get it…Jubilee is definitively a Jewish thing. But I am so thankful that Jesus provided our ultimate year of Jubilee the day we surrendered our sin debt to Him. The debt on our account was canceled, but it was transferred to Jesus’ account on the cross…“by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col. 2:14

With all of this in my heart and my head, I am not dreading my birthday. I am looking forward to starting this new year of life with my husband of 30 years and family/friends whom I dearly love.

Happy Jubilee!

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I Am for Peace

I am for peace…

Not in the sappy “Miss America” world peace kind of way…but for true, abiding, Jesus-giving peace. (No offense to any past, present, or future Miss America intended.)

The news headlines yesterday were very disturbing…Shooting in VA at the Republican Congressional baseball practice.

The hatred fueling the shooting has me remarkably puzzled. I wonder how politics could fuel the flames of hatred so hotly that it explodes into a torrent of gunfire on such an innocuous event.

And the hatred explosions burst in all directions…republican, democrat, independent…whatever! The outliers of any political party will and do have their “crazies”.

But when I reflect on some root causes that may have ignited the spark, I am brought back to very public figures who have exhibited inflammatory behaviors.

Suddenly it has become the Hollywood “in vogue” thing to not just bash, jab, and mimic the POTUS, but to spew hateful speech and misogynistic ideas toward the office. Should I name names? Madonna said she entertains the idea of blowing up the Whitehouse; Kathy Griffin (I can barely even type that name without gagging) with her picture of a decapitated Trump; the Julius Caesar play in NY that depicts the stabbing of a Trump-like Caesar.

Please do not think I am defending only President Trump…I am defending the office of the presidency. Trump has done some pretty indefensible things himself.

However, no sitting president deserves that kind of bashing. Furthermore, it insights the fringes of political parties, the outliers, to justify their violent acts.

Even though these public crass displays of disrespect are deplorable, the actual ammo for it is hatred – pure and simple.

I still remember how exhausting social media was before and after the election due to all of the hateful comments on all sides being launched like hand grenades. FaceBook and Twitter were no longer enjoyable. Can we all drop our political grenades? Colossians 4:6 urges us to “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Psalm 120 is attributed to David – admittedly a man of war. However, his heart’s desire was peace even though he lived among a people prone to hate peace…

 Too long has my soul had its dwelling
With those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak,
They are for war. Psalm 120:6-7

Yes David, I am for peace too! But Jesus is our only true source of peace (For He Himself is our peace…Eph. 2:14).  He is the only One who can douse the flames of hatred and restore peace. My prayer is that my behavior and speech is always filled with grace and light and be seasoned with the salt of Jesus.

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The 7 Seals – Honor Thy Mother

How do you even begin to describe a woman who bore seven children? Tired – yep – that would probably be a good place to start.

VaVoom – Mom posing in her bathing suit!

First her name: Shirley Jean Seals. She is a fiesty 5’3″ diabetic who loves her cappuccinos, her pastries, her smokes, and her dog – Bobbi – with an “i”.  And don’t mess with any of her seven kids.

Shirley Jean can mix a drink (former bartender), drive a pulpwood truck with a stick shift, sew a dress in no time flat, and handle a multitude of kids. Our favorite meals that could feed an army of nine people (plus whatever friends might show up) included tacos, chili, spaghetti, goulash, and potato soup.

This is how we emerged from Shirley Jean – Rick, Mike, Carrie, Kevin, Shelly (me), Doug, and Kelli. We were pretty evenly spaced apart by two years.

I surveyed a few of my siblings to see what their favorite Shirley Jean memory or story is. Here is a little sampling:

  • Kelli remembers Mom checking her out of kindergarten every Monday to go eat

    Mom and me on a road trip. Try not to let the smoking hot halter top obscure the Buick we are sitting on.

    at Pizza Hut. What? I only got to do that once or twice!

  • Carrie recalls a memory while living in what we referred to as the “watermelon stand” house – literally a watermelon stand Dad converted into our house. Every Friday when the paychecks came in, Mom and Carrie would cross the Mississippi River bridge into Burlington, IA and hit the McDonalds and get supper for the family. It was free-for-all Friday and everyone got exactly what they wanted!
  • Many nights before Mom headed off to work, I would make a tissue paper (ok toilet paper) flower for her hair. She would tease up that beautiful black hair and pin it in. I thought it looked great – not sure it made it through the night though!

Life threw some hard twists at this little lady. She was raised with 15 children herself under the authority of a father who was quite harsh. It is not cheap raising seven kids, so she was always a hard working mom, inside and outside the home. Two of her sons have passed on into eternity, easily the most heart-wrenching experience of her life.

But guess what? Shirley Jean is still standing – scarred, hurt, understandably depressed at times – but still standing. “Still standing” is a testament to perseverance. When life has thrown hurt at you, sometimes persevering is about all you can do.

But I am so thankful that in our scarred, hurt, and depressing times, we can still hold onto hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Mom, I could buy you any number of things for Mother’s Day, but this gift of hope is better than anything wrapped in floral paper. It is better than any corsage or bouquet of flowers. It is better because it comes from the true source of our joy – Jesus.

Thanks for always being the person who thought her kids were the BEST.  There had to be days when you didn’t want to come home – but you always did and I am thankful for that. Thanks for not giving up on the seven little wild Seals kids who made you proud, broke your heart, and wore you out! Love you!

Recipient of Grace

It is Good Friday…and one of the first things I heard this morning was a man on the Today Show saying, “It is a very humbling experience to be the recipient of such grace from strangers.”

Now his statement had nothing to do with Jesus, Good Friday, or Easter. He was talking about something totally unrelated. But his statement went straight to my heart and hot tears ran down my cheeks.

On Good Friday, anyone who has received Jesus as their personal Savior, received a portion of immeasurable grace. The grace of God was poured out on us when we didn’t deserve it, when we didn’t ask for it, and when we didn’t expect it.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:7

As humans, we may have received a bit of grace from another person.Whenever we have been forgiven by a person whom we truly wronged, we have tasted a bit of grace from another imperfect person. Just when we feel our knees may buckle under the weight of the wrong we have done, someone extends beautiful grace to us.

The extension of grace brings out all the feels…thankfulness, joy, relief, but mostly, I feel humbled. Yes humbled…because I deserved whatever consequences I had earned. But when someone choses to extend grace, it utterly changes the situation.

This week, I have been struggling under the weight of some mistakes I have made. I was living in dread of the consequences. But instead, I was the recipient of grace from some amazing people in my life. Instead of getting raked over the coals, I got encouragement and support. Maybe that is why the statement on the Today Show caught my attention this morning.  I was living in the sunshine of grace.

Experiencing grace from another imperfect human being is powerful. However, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s grace. He knows how rebellious we have been, He knows the sin we have committed…but He still chose to pour out grace upon grace to us. And not just a little grace…abundant grace.

and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. I Timothy 1:14

For perfectly holy God to send His perfectly holy son to demonstrate true grace brings me humbly to my knees. And on this Good Friday, I am reminded how blessed I am to be a recipient of such amazing grace.

And if you have never experienced such amazing grace…we should talk! Here is a link to get you started: Find Peace With God. 

When You’re Not the Girl with the Dramatic Testimony

Her story took my breath away.

The crowd listened intently as she shared how God saved her out of a life of prostitution and drug abuse. She found Jesus in the most unlikely circumstances! The whole place was swept away in the emotion of her story.

In my head, I wondered if I could ever have such a close, intimate relationship with God without experiencing such a trial. When I compare my innocuous story to the dramatic details of others’ testimonies, it makes me doubt that my walk with Christ is as “significant”.

I was saved at age 12, never had a drug problem, have been married to a great man for 30 years, my two kids are serving Jesus faithfully, and I am in great health. No particularly earth-shattering drama – nor do I want that. But in Christian life, we sometimes glorify the dramatic testimonies over the muted, when in fact, they are both amazing works of God’s grace.

Testimonies are powerful vehicles to point people to Jesus.

But we need to check our motives as we share. If the focus is completely on our autobiographical story – a story about us – we need to change the focus. Make sure our testimonies are all about Jesus – not about ourselves.

The woman at the well in John 4 absolutely had a dramatic testimony.  After encountering Jesus, she urged people to “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” She did not lure the crowd in with the sordid details of her five marriages or her live in boyfriend. Her focus was strictly on letting people know she had met the great I Am – and He had forever changed her life.

And if you are a girl like me, without any kind of dramatic life story, do not underestimate what Christ has done in your life. He shed the same blood, went through the same pain, and gave His life for you just as He did for anyone else. Remember the woman at the well and the legalistic Pharisees needed Jesus equally.

If you are not that person with a dramatic testimony,

thank God you do not struggle with the long term consequences of sin such as battling addiction cravings or being haunted by your promiscuous past. Be overjoyed that you have not experienced the pain of divorce or an abortion. Be grateful for what God has saved you from, but don’t be prideful in it either. It is God’s grace working in us, not our own righteousness for sure.

One of God’s Hebrew names is Jehovah Rapha (God our Healer). Look at how it was used in context to the Children of Israel in the wilderness: God said, “If you listen, listen obediently to how God tells you to live in his presence, obeying his commandments and keeping all his laws, then I won’t strike you with all the diseases that I inflicted on the Egyptians; I am God your healer.” Ex. 15:26 (MSG). 

That verse clearly tells us God withheld some diseases for those who are obedient to His commands. We have no idea of what we have been spared. So be grateful for your “innocuous” testimony because God has spared you a great deal of mental and physical pain!

If you are that  person with a dramatic testimony,

listen to the Holy Spirit carefully. He will direct you as to how much and when to share it. Oh friends, your story has power, but don’t let the seduction of the making the story all about you take over. We can make our past circumstances our idols if we solely focus on them.

It’s not the testimony that is amazing – it’s the GRACE!

 

 

 

 

Written in Red



“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

How in the world do you unpack the most well known, most loved verses in the whole Bible?  John 3:16 is the gospel in it’s simplest form.

If the whole of scripture were to some how disappear except for this one beloved verse, there is enough contained in it to lead “whosoever” to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Writers, preachers, and speakers alike often neglect this verse because it has become common and overused. Anybody remember the guy that wore the rainbow wig and John 3:16 t-shirt at major sporting events in the 70’s and 80’s?

More recently Tim Tebow wore eye black with John 3:16 inscribed in it during the 2009 BCS championship game. Google got millions of hits when fans googled the reference.  Amazingly, 3 years to date later when Tebow played in his first NFL game, ESPN reported Tebow threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per completion!

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Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve often heard it called the dark night of the soul – a season of life where God seems to fall silent and uncaring. 

We really don’t like to talk about it because it sounds sacrilegious. So instead of dealing with the darkness, we stuff the reality of our walk through the dark night until we become numb. How do we handle the feeling that God is being cruel?

Have you been there my friend? Are you there at this very moment? Do you feel your heart’s cry for deliverance has stopped at the ceiling? Or maybe you have stepped outside and screamed at the top of your lungs, but your cry dissipates into thin air without reaching the ear of God?

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Record the Vision

Did 2016 leave you scarred and battered? A full revolution around the sun can leave us dizzied and confused.

But there is something exciting about sitting on the edge of one year, ready to leap into a fresh new one. We are filled with hope that this time, our trip around the sun will be better than the last.

I love to use this time of year to reflect and do some long range planning. This is the second year I have used Lara Casey’s Powersheets to launch a new year. It is a great tool to help keep me on track and motivated toward my goals.

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