Julie Miller

Julie Miller has not set their biography yet

 Our fourth guest is a writer of poetry. Her name is Denise Smith Collier and her beautiful words can be found on her Facebook page, Heart of Worship. May these words from both of her poems bless and encourage you today...

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_woman-praying-with-bible-w350x232.jpg

 

Love Letter from Jesus

 

My beautiful bride,
I long so for you,
With sharing our love,
Communion of two.

Days feel like thousands,
Not having you close,
Thoughts that consume,
My heart yearning most.

Your scent like a rose,
A smell like no other,
That reaches to Me,
Excitement uncovers.

Soon I will come,
My arms to then hold,
And take you with Me,
The place we'll call home.

Continue reading
Tagged in: You are loved

It's our third week and we are really excited to share another lovely lady's blog with you. Her name is Heidi Zwart. She has a wonderful blog about health and wholeness that you will be so encouraged by. Follow her at www.heidizwart.com.

We pray that these words that Heidi wrote will resonate with you today as you move toward a healthier life, day by day.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_9H4NkipBQNu3TzcV8O1L_getting_healthy_is_hard.png

Have you ever blamed yourself for not eating well, exercising consistently, or having a body you just can’t seem to love? Me too. And, there’s a reason we share this struggle.
Getting healthy is hard. 
But it’s not because we lack willpower or haven’t found the right diet plan. It’s not because we haven’t mastered good habits or broken bad ones. The truth is, we were born into this fight. Our struggle began long before we were born...  
Our story started with Earth’s first inhabitants, Adam & Eve, a beautiful garden, a serpent, and a piece of fruit. One small not-so-great decision has impacted everything since. Everything.
Including our health.
Even if you’ve never been a regular church-goer, you’re probably familiar with the story that unfolded in the Garden of Eden. Whether or not you believe the Genesis account to be an accurate reflection of history, I encourage you to lean in and give this story a chance. Keep the door open to the possibility that this story matters.
More importantly, consider that this story just may hold the key to healing not only your health but your life.
Continue reading

 This week we Heart Matters gals are highlighting Amber Krueger's beautiful blog. She uses her gifts of creativity and artistry to bless and encourage others to do the same.

 

Check out her blog: https://byambershands.com/. It's a wonderful collection of yummy recipes, creative crafts and ideas to inspire you to tap into your own God-given gifts and abilities.

 

 

 

The last few days have been incredibly difficult ones for me.

 

On days like today, when my heart is heavily burdened, when my thoughts are clouded and my spirit is grieved, I find myself drawn to performing simple tasks with my hands.

 

Today I turned off the television, turned away from social media, did my best to shut out all the distractions and baked bread.

 

 

 

There is something about the process of baking bread– the taking of simple ingredients like flour, water, and yeast; the working of dough in one’s hands and making something wonderful out of it– that helps to order one’s thoughts and soothe a troubled soul.

 

 

Our lives require more silence than we’re typically given. When I was younger I avoided silence at all costs. Now I find myself seeking out the few moments I can get.

 

The resting of the dough reminds me to take time for silence, for reflection, for prayer.

 

Continue reading

During the month of July, we gals at Heart Matters want to lift the voices of other women who write beautiful blogs.

I'm delighted to re-post a beautifully written blog by Hannah Sorvik Fordice.

 

“I don’t know who I am! I’m like cat here, a couple of no-name slobs. We belong to nobody and nobody belongs to us. We don’t even belong to each other.”
— Breakfast at Tiffany's
 
b2ap3_thumbnail_static1.squarespace.com.jpg
 

"Did you hear a cat too? Or am I crazy?"

 

My husband and I paused on the sidewalk, our dog Valkyrie, anxiously pulling us backwards toward the river. There in the middle of the sidewalk behind us was the tiniest orange kitten mewing forlornly. My hubby crouched down and low-and-behold that wee kitty ran right up to him and started purring. 

 

The little dude was probably only 5 weeks old and covered in dirt. We waited for awhile to make sure that momma cat wasn't hiding in the bushes or out on a quick hunt but no one ever showed. So we took a few steps forward and our new furry friend followed right on our heels. We casually walked home, with neighbors gaping at that strange couple walking their giant German Shepherd and small orange kitten. You know, totally normal. 

 

When we got home we washed the kitten off in the sink, wrapped him in a towel, and gave him some cat food, which he consumed so fast that I had to wonder when his last meal was. My hubby held him, all bundled up, and stroked his ears and he purred his way right into the type of sleep one only experiences when completely safe. 

 

I can't help but think that me and that kitten have a lot in common. I may not be feline, covered in hair, or orange (except that one time I used tanning lotion wrong), but I am in so many ways seeking safety, sustenance, love and ultimately a forever Home (capital "H"). 

 

If there is one thing that I have learned over the last five months it is that none of us are invincible and none of us get to escape from this life unscathed by suffering. The more loss I experience the more my size in relation to the world seems to shrink. I have gone from the belief that I am a lion, king of the jungle, to the belief that I am a kitten, vulnerable and lost.

Continue reading

The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye, it is hello, goodbye…until we meet again.

—Jimi Hendrix

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Waving-Goodbye-007_20170617-032435_1.jpg

 

One of the advantages of advancing years are all the memories that are stowed away in the heart. Like treasures that have been carefully tucked away up in the attic, we brush the cobwebs aside, lift the trunk lid and memories come spilling out.

We recently returned from a trip out East. Since many of my favorite memories from childhood have their roots firmly planted in my hometown in Pennsylvania, the few days we spent there were a pure gift.

Staying with my uncle and aunt, I dragged them down to the banks of the Allegheny River where my grandparents had lived. Past the home where my little family had lived. Up to Jakes Rocks to hike. Downtown to eat Greek at The Plaza. And we even made a pitstop at Bon Ton to stock up on Pittsburgh Steeler gear.

Each memory tied to my past. Yet, they were brand new memories-in-the-making, as well.

As we pulled away to head back home, tears streamed down my cheeks. Standing in their driveways, my uncle, aunt and their neighbour, who just happens to be my second mom, Mary Blick, whom I had just spent a lovely morning with, waved goodbye… I was undone.

Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to our son in Cleveland. Wasn’t it only moments early that we had hugged hello?

We made a stop to see friends in Michigan. There were warm embraces with every family member upon arrival. Our time together—a blessing—as if no time had passed between visits. Then before we knew it, we were hugging once again. Goodbye.

Hello, goodbye.

Isn’t that life in a nutshell? A series of hello’s and goodbyes?

Continue reading

I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me.

—Maxine

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_maxine.jpg

 

I’m aging. And it’s getting more and more apparent: from the crow’s feet around my eyes to my ever-growing wattle neck. Yep. Inherited that lovely item from my grandma o. There were so many wonderful traits I would have loved to have inherited from grams, but, this is the one I got. 

 

Then there’s the problem of those little gray cells in my noggin. It seems this old brain of mine just doesn’t function like it used to. In fact, these days it seems to malfunction more often than it functions. 

 

Pretty sure roughly a third of my life has been spent standing in the middle of the room

wondering what I came in here for.

—Unknown

 

It’s like the Hallmark card I found years back. On the front cover was a cartoon figure of a large headed guy with little brain cells jumping out of his ears. When you opened it, it read, “Eugene didn’t mind that he was losing brain cells every day. He just wished they would be less dramatic about it.”

 

Recently, over the course of one day, I set out with our dog for a morning walk, but upon arriving home, realized I’d forgotten to grab the keys and had locked myself out of the house. When I finally did get back in, I decided to run to the local grocer. Filling my cart with all the necessary items, I reached the cashier only to discover I had forgotten my purse. Then to top it all off, at supper time, I turned on the wrong burner to boil some eggs, when I returned at the beeping of my timer, I was horrified to see my Le Creuset Dutch oven burnt to a crisp. A costly mistake that left me in tears.

 

My son keeps telling me, “Mom, you’ve got to focus.” He follows that by launching into the sermon I used to give him when he was young, ‘Before you walk out the door… before you start supper… ask yourself, “Where am I going? What am I doing? Stop and concentrate on the task at hand.”

Continue reading

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”

Mandy Hale

 

“I tell you the truth, anything you do for the least of my people here, you also do for me.”

Matthew 25:40

 

I have taken hundreds of photos of flowers over the years, perhaps thousands. But, there’s a photo I took last summer, on a hike in Montana, of tiny pink bell-shaped flowers cascading down from somewhere high overhead, that still comes to mind every now and then.  

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_6963-Edited_20170418-033908_1.JPG

 

I think the reason they cross my mind so often is their humble appearance.

 

Even if no one else stopped to notice them that day, those Twinflowers willingly bent low to bless anyone on the lookout for little love gifts such as these. They certainly blessed me.

 

But, for all their sweetness, few people would have noticed them, because looming large nearby, tall stalks of bright fuchsia-colored Fireweed and fiery red Indian Paintbrush eclipsed them. Tiny pale flowers clinging to rock’s edge are easily overlooked.  

As is often the case, it’s the bright showy blossoms that catch folk’s eyes.

 

That seems true of people too. We are often enamored by the bright, the beautiful, and the talented.

 

Perhaps that’s why the upstaged Twinflowers touched me so. And touch me still. Their humble presence reminds me so much of my Grandpa Simey…and of the Savior.

 

My gramps walked gently upon this earth of ours. He was unassuming. A man of few words. Whose love of God was lived out in humility. Caring. Generosity.  

 

His father died when he was six. At the age of ten he was sent to live in a boarding house where he worked for his keep. Skilled, but, not schooled, he became a machinist by trade. With carpentry skills to boot, he also built a few houses in his day. But, it wasn't these abilities that made him memorable.

 

It was what my grandpa did behind the scenes that is his true legacy. Growing up in poverty, he never forgot what it felt like to have nothing. Once, after reading a story about a family living in their car in his small-town newspaper, he went in search of them. When he discovered their whereabouts, he brought groceries, clothing and money to help tide them over.

 

When my grandpa died, over 700 people came to pay their respects. Story-after-story was shared by those who attended, telling of his generosity and gentle, unpretentious life of self-giving. Each one touched by God in some way by my Twinflower grandpa who, too, bent low to bless.

Continue reading

We gals grew up hearing and reading love stories and fairy tales from the time we were little. One of my very favorites was, and still is, Cinderella. 

 

Perhaps I am drawn to her story because, like myself, she was just an ordinary gal. 

 

And, she, like many of us, found herself stuck in what felt like the inescapable drudgery of daily life.  

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_grid-cell-cinderella.jpg

  

With the death of her mother and father, she felt very much alone and unloved. And sometimes we can feel lost and alone in this great big world of ours too. 

 

She also experienced the painful feeling of rejection and ridicule by those who should have loved her. Instead, her stepmother and stepsisters were wickedly cruel. And who of us hasn’t experienced hurt-filled words?

 

But then, one day, she encountered “divine intervention” and the experience was transformational, to say the least. From dirty cinder soot clothes to a sparkling new ballgown, she soon found herself the Belle of the Ball dancing with the Prince Himself. 

 

But, as is the case in all our lives, in a blink of an eye, real life rushed back in and she once again found herself in the same old routine of life, back in the cinder soot. The memory of her encounter with the Prince began to fade. 

 

Fortunately, her prince had not forgotten her. He had been searching high and low throughout the land to find her. 

 

When he finally did find her, she was not dressed in that beautiful ballgown like the night he’d first danced with her; no, she now stood before him in all her cinder soot shabbiness.

 

He, however, could’ve cared less about her outward appearance. Because his only motivation for knocking on her door that day…was love. He loved her…just as she was. 

 

Victor Hugo once said…

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved…loved for ourselves.

  

And isn’t that what we all long for in the end? 

 

Love stories. Fairy tales. Call them what you will, there’s a reason why we gals are drawn to them. 

 

I think it’s because, like Cinderella, we too hope that despite our ordinariness, our unexceptionalness, yes, even our cinder soot shabbiness, we too might be chosen. And not just chosen. Loved. Loved for who we are. Loved NEW. Loved from ordinary into extraordinary. 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Cinderella2.jpg

  

Because if love is anything…it is transforming.

Continue reading

No book is a chapter

No chapter tells the whole story

No mistake defines who we are…

Bob Goff

 

One day a gentleman came to my mother-in-law’s door saying that he could resurface her driveway for several hundred dollars. He told her, “I’ve been doing some resurfacing in the neighborhood and have enough supplies to do your small driveway.”

 

She and my sister-in-law had been discussing that very thing recently, so she said, “Sure, why not?”

 

After working a short time, the gentleman came back to the door to say that he had finished the job. Happy that he had done such quick work, she readily wrote him a check and continued about her day.

 

When my sister-in-law got home, she gingerly walked across the newly resurfaced driveway. But, something seemed amiss. It wasn’t until she spotted her own footprints on the floor, that she realized that the guy who had “resurfaced” their driveway had conned mom by pouring motor oil over the driveway not by laying tar.

 

She and mom immediately jumped in the car and headed to the bank to stop payment on the check. But, that con man had gone directly to her bank and cashed her check straightaway after leaving her place. 

 

Mom was heartsick. Devastated. We all were. Not only had he conned her out of a significant amount of money. He had left her with a big mess to clean up.

 

We may think that kind of thing could never happen to us. But, catch any one of us off guard and we can be duped just like my mother-in-law…

 

Sometimes with much graver consequences. Like Jehoshaphat.

 

Yep. That’s right. I said, Jehoshaphat.

 

You may not be familiar with this king of Judah. But, he was one of the good ones. And that’s saying something, because there weren’t too many of them back in the Old Testament days. In either Judah or Israel.  

 

The Bible describes him in 1st Kings 22:43 and in 2nd Chronicles 20:32 as a king ‘who did right in the eyes of the Lord.’ That’s because Jehoshaphat’s heart was devoted to the ways of God (2nd Chronicles 17:6). He sought God’s direction (2nd Chronicles 18:4). He implemented reforms. He removed idol worship from the land (2nd Chronicles 17:6). He raised up judges to act according to God’s standards (2nd Chronicles 19:5). He set in place spiritual standards, as well, teaching his people God’s Law (2nd Chronicles 17:9) and elevating godly men to the priesthood (2nd Chronicles 19:11).

 

Yet, like all of us, in unguarded moments, he, too, was fooled. One of those decisions cost him a fleet of ships (2nd Chronicles 20:33-37). But, the other nearly cost him his life.

Continue reading

I heard an old man speak once… He said that he’d finally figured out a few years ago that his profound sense of control, in the world and over his life, is an addiction and a total illusion. He said that when he sees little kids sitting in the back seat of cars, in those car seats that have steering wheels, with grim expressions of concentration on their faces, clearly convinced that their efforts are causing the car to do whatever it is doing, he thinks of himself and his relationship with God: God who drives along silently, gently amused, in the real driver’s seat.

Anne Lamott 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_steering-wheel_20170122-165058_1.png

 

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a firstborn. A child of divorce. A burden-bearer by nature that desperately wants everything to be alright. Or a combination of all three. 

 

But, I do know this… I definitely struggle with control issues. 

 

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had over the years with my Spiritual Director that have centered around this stumbling stone in my life. 

 

I’ve wrestled down the need to please others. Perhaps when you are pushing sixty you finally realize that the only one worth pleasing is God. I’ve made this my goal now…

 

Walk worthy of the Lord, please him in everything…

Colossians 1:10 

 

I’ve also learned to let go of perfectionism. 

 

Unfortunately for my boys, I didn’t learn that lesson until later in their childhood. Poor guys would stand befuddled in the middle of a room wondering where their toys went when they turned their backs on them. In an effort to keep the house neat and tidy, toys got swept away into the toybox as quickly as the boys would set them down.  

 

My sister once challenged me about my need to have everything in its place and it hurt me terribly. But, I got the message loud and clear one evening when after scurrying around like a mad woman after the boys, my hubby asked me, “Is the President of the United States coming for dinner?” I responded with a quizzical “no.” “Then let the boys play!” he responded.

 

Young mommies take a tip from me… 

Parents, don’t exasperate your children…

Ephesians 6:4

Continue reading

“I’m feeling very thin and vulnerable, in a good way.”

Amy Layne Litzelman

 

It hit out of nowhere. The flu.

 

It started as a simple little sore throat the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

 

Soon the “dripping facet” phase kicked in, and I couldn’t get Kleenex’s to my nose fast enough.

 

The bug hit my vocal cords next leaving me speechless for almost a week. Which some may not have thought such a bad outcome. But, then, gravity pulled it all down into my lungs and the coughing fits began, leaving me exhausted.

 

I won’t bore you with any more details. But, let’s just say there is a reason why I’m sharing my woes with you.

 

You see, it’s the holidays. And with the holidays come certain expectations.

 

Gifts, for one. As I’ve been incapacitated these days, shopping is out. Fortunately, we live in the days of Cyber deals. So at least I’ve got that one covered.

 

But, there are other expectations.

 

Like cookie baking. By this time in December I would’ve had several varieties of Christmas cookies made and in the deep freeze. But, this year I just baked my first batch. And it may be the only batch.

 

Like decorating. Most of my decorations are still in plastic bins out in our garage.

 

Like hosting parties. Due to my nasty bug, there will be no parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting or caroling out in the snow...

 

I find it all a bit depressing not being able to pull it altogether and create the kind of Christmas we’ve had in the past.

 

But, I know that I’m not the only one struggling to keep up this Christmas.

Continue reading

They ate till they were gorged— he had given them what they craved.

Psalm 78:29

 

There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and from mere gluttony.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

The sparrows that moved into the neighborhood in recent weeks number in the dozens. Since their arrival, my favorite songbird, the little house wren living in our veggie patch, has flown the coop. In fact, they’ve driven out several of my sweet bird friends.

 

From sunup to sundown, they gorge themselves at my feeder. Every spot filled with little brown birds. And they’re not much into sharing, either. At least not with birds of other varieties. My cardinals and chickadees must make do with the leftovers they scatter on the ground below.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_feeder-sparrows.jpg

 

I’ve gone to some lengths to scare them off. I’ve even trained our dog to chase them off. But, they just toy with her now…they’re not in the least bit frightened by the sight of her.

 

I’ve taken the feeder down for a several days, only to discover them back in droves once it goes back up again.

 

The feeding frenzy happening in my backyard reminds me a lot of the frenzy to come. You know the one. It occurs every year around the holidays.

 

The time when folks camp outside of stores all night long hoping to be the first to grab all those door-buster deals. The time when tempers are short and lines are long. The time when we conveniently forget about calories so we can gobble down goodies without guilt.

 

That time of year when we human beings begin to look, and act, a lot like my sparrows.

 

To most Americans the holidays mean overindulgence.

 

A time when we loosen our belts. Eat too much. Drink too much. Buy too much.

Continue reading

…the Father…does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

 

This morning, as I sit in an Adirondack chair on the edge of a shrub-covered cliff overlooking the deep, blue waters of Lake Superior, little yellow finches sing around me and loons dive for breakfast. Gulls soar in the crystal clear skies or perch themselves one-legged along the pebble-lined beach below. There is a sweet fragrance of wildflowers in the air.

 “Will heaven smell like this?” I wonder. I take a deep breath and exhale a whispered “thank you” to God. 

When I first approached the cliffs today, I fully expected to find Lake Superior surging and tumbling over itself in white-caps. This gigantic, ocean-like body of water is often in motion. Instead, I discovered that there was hardly a ripple on its surface. It was as smooth as glass and a picture of serenity itself.  But, I know the legends of this big lake the Chippewa tribe once called Gitche Gumee. As calm as it may be this morning, hidden beneath the tides’ gentle lapping lies a shifting shadow, an unsettled stirring. This scene of beauty and tranquility, which elicits such peace in my heart today, can turn abruptly into powerful, life-threatening gales, depending on what weather the wind blows in. 

And much like these changeable waters, our lives, too, alter with unpredictable rhythm.

Continue reading

“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.”

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

You made summer… and gave it to the earth.

Psalm 74:17

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

13769555 728057540666237 5507394359649162879 n

 

 

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Henry James

Continue reading

It's that time of year again! Time for buying school supplies, filling backpacks and waving goodbye as the bus pulls away. But, for some, like our guest writer, Heidi Zwart, the school year also means leaving her firstborn son 1,000's of miles away at college.

May all you mama's and grandmama's be blessed by her words and by God Himself as this another school year commences. 

 

 


 

 

Don’t blink. Time flies. It’ll be over before you know it. So many clichés. But now I’m living them. Why?

My first-born just left the nest.

I swear it was yesterday I embraced Drew while we sobbed together in our kitchen after announcing our move to the East Coast. It was 5 years ago.

The day before that, I smiled as he smiled back at me for the first time… with braces. It was 7 years ago.

And just before that, I walked him to the end of the street before he stepped onto that big yellow bus for Lincoln Elementary. It was 13 years ago.

And JUST the day before,  I labored for 27 hours for a long-awaited 10 pound, 1 ounce baby boy named Andrew, who forever changed my name to mom. It was 18 years ago.

Can anyone relate?

Looking back I feel incredible joy living right alongside sadness at the moments that we’ve left behind. Some will get hazy with the passing of time while others will remain firmly locked with crystal clarity.

A few years ago, during a moment of panic about the future, a friend shared wise words with me about preparing for, enjoying, and letting go of each moment in time. Her words have carried me through the past five years and will forever guide me into the future.

Simply put, letting go is a process and we are equipped for each step. If we look too far ahead, we get overwhelmed. The truth is, we never live life as fast as we do in our own mind. Our kids don’t go from kindergarten to marriage overnight.

Continue reading

A nun I know once told me she kept begging God to take her character defects away from her. After years of this prayer, God finally got back to her: I'm not going to take anything away from you, you have to give it to Me.

Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

I first crossed paths with them in the housewares department; a young dad pushing his two-year-old son in a cart with his four-year-old daughter skipping along close beside. He was obviously passing through this department on the way to his desired destination, judging by the hurried pace with which he was moving.

 

As they whirred past, I overheard the little boy ask his dad if he would buy something for him, to which his father replied, “If you’re patient, I’ll stop and get some ice cream treats on our way home.” 

 

Without missing a beat the little girl responded, “Well, I was actually thinking candy, but that’s alright.” 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_candy.jpg

 

But, apparently it really wasn’t alright, because as I turned the corner, I heard her say, just a tad bit louder, “Well, I was actually thinking candy, but that’s alright.”

 

I couldn’t help but chuckle the next time I heard her little voice coming from the next aisle repeating her plea once more. Perhaps she was hoping that the third time would be the charm. 

  

I have no idea if she got her wish or not, but, her words have stuck with me ever since.

 

Mostly because over the past few weeks, we gals at Heart Matters have been writing about the various aspects of prayer using the acronym A.C.T.S.−which stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

 

And guess whose turn it was to write about supplication? Yep! You guessed it, me!

 

But, what exactly is supplication? That word doesn’t get used much these days. Somehow I had a sneaking suspicion that little four-year-old may have been on to something and she didn't even know it.

 

So, I turned to my trusty dictionary to see if I could find some fresh ideas on this old 15th century term. And the definition I found was enlightening indeed.

Continue reading
Tagged in: Supplication

Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective!

James 5:16

 

As we walked through the large wooden doors into the Cathedral of the Divine Savior in Morelia, Mexico, a hushed awe fell over me. Light flooded the lofty hallways and sanctuary. A service was in progress as tardy parishioners trickled in, finding a seat in the back. I smiled thinking, “They are not unlike American parishioners, I see.” 

 

Making our way along one of the side corridors, we passed two confessionals. Both of which were in use and had waiting lines. I had never seen this before, and not growing up Catholic I was taken by the scene. 

 

Trying to be discreet, I watched the priests with their ears pressed against the screen inside their shadowed confessionals. The confessors, too, leaned in on the other side of the screen and quietly whispered the sins and sorrows that weighed heavy on their hearts.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Morelia-Cathedral-67011.jpg

  

It was a very moving experience for me. And I’ve been pondering it ever since.

  

As Protestants*, we don’t have confessionals. We take all of our heartaches and guilt directly to Jesus, our personal High Priest. 

 

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God...who understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testing we do, yet did not sin...let us come boldly to the throne of our God and there receive mercy and find grace when we need help.

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

But, I can’t help but wonder if this stance on confessionals hasn't contributed to many of us Protestants to avoid the admonishment by James to confess our sins to one another. We tell the Savior our secret sins, but, without accountability and prayer support, we often find ourselves repeating those sins again and again. Even if we try really hard not to. We continually find ourselves echoing Paul’s thoughts in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” 

 

I, for one, could really do with a confessional!

Continue reading

 Nothing is so infectious as example.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

 

Do you have role models in your life? People you look up to? People whose lives, work, attitude or actions encourage and challenge you to believe more fully and to live and love God and others more freely?

 

One precious role model in my life of late is a woman I've come to really look up to. A gal who lived in the early days of the first century church. A gal named Lydia.

 

I knew she was a kindred spirit right off the bat when I "happened upon" her in Acts 16:13 sitting with friends along the river's edge in quiet prayer, contemplation and worship. Lydia's love for God drew her away from the maddening crowds, the crowds that swarmed the ancient temples of the gods of her day, to a place where God's fingerprints in creation could be seen, His presence felt and the whisper of His voice heard.

 

 b2ap3_thumbnail_Gathered-by-the-river-640x480.jpg

 

That is certainly where I would've been found had I lived in that day. For I am what Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Pathways, calls a Naturalist. But, Lydia and I are not the only ones who meet God best in creation. Gary reminds me that, "God met Hagar in the desert, Abraham on a mountain, Jacob at a river crossing, and Moses in a burning bush." Even Jesus spent a good deal of time praying and teaching outdoors. "Who is to say that birds weren't flying overhead when he spoke of God's care for them? Or that he wasn't pointing to real flowers when He talked of their beauty?"1

 

There in that lovely place of stillness God had Lydia's rapt attention. No wonder her heart broke wide open when Paul and his entourage sat down to share the story of God's sweet gift of love, the gift of His Son and salvation, with her that day!

Continue reading

 Death, like ocean waves, surrounded me,
and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters.

2nd Samuel 22:6 CEV

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_stormy-ocean-wave-ali-oneal-printscapes.jpg  

 

I have heard it said that trouble comes in threes. I know it's just an old wives tale, but, oddly enough it happens from time-to-time. It's happened to me. How about you?

 

The first time it happened I was a freshman in college.

 

The troubles started when my parents divorced and sold our home. A couple months later I was involved in a rollover car accident that completely totaled my car. Then three months later, after a constant struggle with neurological issues, I discovered that I had actually broken my neck in the accident. Surgery, a month-long hospital stay and six months in a metal body/neck brace followed. 

 

Fragile and unable to care for myself, I was released into the care of my precious Grandma and Grandpa O who lovingly nurtured and prayed me back on my feet.

The next time it happened I was married, with two small sons, and smack dab in the middle of a move. Moving is just plain stressful no matter how excited you are to start a new life in a new neighborhood.

 

Then came a phone call in the middle of the night. My sister had just been admitted into the hospital with a brain tumor. Packing ended ubruptly. I was needed seventy five miles away to care for my sister and brother-in-law's children as she underwent surgery.

 

Moving day loomed large, but, my world had come to a screeching halt.

 

That's when my friends stepped in. They packed, they cleaned, they wall-papered our new kitchen, hung curtains, moved us in and brought meals. 

 

Then the third wave hit. Another phone call. Another diagnoses of cancer. Only this time it was my hubby's dad. Five months of hospital visits ensued. Then a gathering at a graveside.

 

I didn't rebound as quickly this time round. Darkness overshadowed light. Grief like sea billows rolled. I just couldn't get my spiritual equilibrium back. 

 

Friends noticed the gray cloud hanging heavy over my heart and gathered round about me. Calls were made. Prayers were offered. Loving arms were extended. Doctor appointments made. And my spiritual equilibrium eventually restored.

 

I suppose that's why I love the book of Ruth so much. It's the story of two women. Two women who were precious to God. Two women just like you and I. Naomi, who knew what it felt like to have troubles come in threes and Ruth, whose nurturing affection and strong faith helped her friend get back on her feet again.

Continue reading

After praying and pining for a child of her own, Elizabeth had long settled it in her heart, now that her childbearing years were far behind her, that she would never experience being a mother.

 

But, that didn’t stop others from speculation and gossip as to the why’s and wherefores. In that day childlessness was often attributed to sin of some sort on the part of the woman.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_gossip-2.jpg

 

The pain-filled stares and the whispers were not lost on Elizabeth all those years.

 

Then...the unthinkable happened.

 

One afternoon while her husband was tending the altar of incense in the temple in Jerusalem, an angel appeared to him. He was told that God had chosen Elizabeth to carry a son. But, this was not to be just any son. Oh no! Their little guy would be commissioned to call God’s people back to Him. He would be the one preparing the way for the Messiah. 

 

Zechariah couldn’t believe what he was hearing or seeing, and his lack of faith in the face of such an amazing angelic appearance literally left him in dumbfounded silence. A mute! Can you imagine him going home that night and having to play a game of charades to try to explain all this to Elizabeth?

 

I can only imagine the shock, the laughter, the tears, the relief, and the awe Elizabeth must have experienced when she realized that she was actually pregnant.

 

I would have wanted to flaunt my burgeoning figure throughout town just to show those gossip-mongers a thing or two. But, Elizabeth decided to spend the last five months of her pregnancy in seclusion.

 

Yes! That’s right! In seclusion!

Continue reading