You Have a Choice

Exodus 4:8-17 NLT “The Lord said to Moses, “If they do not believe you and are not convinced by the first miraculous sign, they will be convinced by the second sign. And if they don’t believe you or listen to you even after these two signs, then take some water from the Nile River and pour it out on the dry ground. When you do, the water from the Nile will turn to blood on the ground.” But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord ? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”

The life of Moses shows us the blessing and the curse of believing or not believing in our own calling. Moses hindered himself and angered God when he magnified his issues greater than the perception of the god who called him into ministry. He believed that his stuttering had enough power to keep him from fulfilling God’s will for his life. Yet despite his weaknesses and his self-doubt, God continued to encourage and even rebuke Moses to help him fulfill his calling.

Please understand this: there is a reason why God chose you and He chose you on purpose. Your shortcomings don’t disqualify you from serving God or His people. Don’t anger God as Moses did by continually telling Him how unworthy or unequipped you are. God understood your weaknesses, your past failings, your tendencies, and all your proclivities before He chose you. God purposefully chooses people with noticeable flaws because His power is shown best when it has less vanity and pride to compete with. Our issues don’t exclude us from ministry; they actually prepare us for ministry.

John 8:28-32 NIV “So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When a person commits a crime, is found guilty, and pays a consequence or is acquitted of any wrongdoing, it is illegal to try that person again on the same crime. If charges are brought against the person for the same offense, the defending lawyer can assert the clause of double jeopardy as a method of defense. This law is a constitutional right that guarantees a person cannot be charged for the same crime twice. The person cannot be tried again on the same charges even if new evidence is discovered.

Religious Seasons

Luke 9:57-62 NLT “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

When God has chosen to lift His anointing off of someone, someplace, or something, He often gives a charge for His followers to move on to the next place to begin a new season. One of the hardest feats for believers to conquer is to let go of dead things. Even when we can discern God’s presence has moved on, we still try to make things work and disregard what our spirit has perfectly conveyed to our hearts. Instead of acknowledging the finality of what God has spoken, we interpret His word of finished as only a temporary pause.

John 4:1-30 NLT “Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I A m the Messiah!” Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.”

After a long journey, Jesus stopped to rest at a well and met a woman who was caught in the bondage of immoral relationships. This woman had been seeking relief in the arms of men who had neither a positive resolution for her situation nor a desire to bring her true relief. To her surprise, she met a man in Jesus who changed her life in a moment, delivered her from bondage, birthed in her new desires, and gave her a powerful testimony. She met in Jesus a man who not only understood her history, but a man who didn’t condemn her for it when he told her face to face He knew all about it and loved her still.

Taming of The Tongue – Religious Musings

Jabez cried out to God and God granted his request.

It is said that ask and you shall receive. Sometimes the manner in which you ask the Lord determines the level of pain that you are feeling and will therefore influence the timeliness and the abundance which you may receive.

Are you heavy laden with pain? Cry out to the Lord, He will lift your burden
Do you feel trapped in recurring debts, illness, disappointments, grief? Cry out to the Lord, He will set you free!
Are you in doubt about your future, confused about today? Cry out to the Lord, He is the way.
Do you feel alone and haunted by your circumstances? Cry out to the Lord, He understands.

I am so filled with the love of the Lord, I decided to share how He has inspired my heart.


I have no one to turn to but the Lord
He is our saving grace especially in times of trouble and sadness
No matter how hard things may seem
He restores us to joy and gladness!

I am so not worthy for His many blessings
I receive them with humility and sometimes shame
As I know there is so much more that I can do
To glorify His name!

There is no greater love than the love of the Lord
Never compare the Lord to man
As humans there are so many things we don’t understand
Why try to figure it out?
Just trust the Lord and let him lead us by His right hand!

When man disappoints us
The Lord our God will never fail us
At times our mind does not look beyond our own experience
There is so much more beyond the naked eye
Jesus died for us to receive inconceivable blessings!.

Until we believe that our God is a miracle working God
Until we believe that God loves us
Until we believe that God is real
Until we believe that God is genuine
Until we believe that God is true
We will always live below our potential
Never see our life getting better

Take a leap of faith, yes!
Jump into the unknown
Trust God, He will never let you go!

Thank you my Lord and Saviour!

In times of trouble and fear, we should always remember that God is in the midst and He is fighting our battles. We just need to call on Him, depend on Him, Believe in Him, Uplift Him and He will uplift us!

“God is our refuge and stength, an ever-present help in trouble
Therfore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God
the holyplace where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almight is with us
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see the works of the Lord,
the desolations He has brought on the earth
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
He burns the shields with fire
Be still, and know that I am God,
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalms 46

The tongue can be such a dangerous weapon as it controls our actions and the reaction of others. It is the center of ;

Truth   vs. Lies
Peace vs. War
Love vs. Hate
Joy vs. Pain
the Wise  vs. the Unwise
Justice vs.  Injustice
Discipline vs. Disorder
Morality vs. Corruption
Trust vs. Mistrust
The list can go on and on…

What the tongue feeds into the minds of people at times control their actions. As long as we have a tongue we have a responsibility. Leaders, teachers, and other people in influential positions have the opportunity to reach the ears of a larger mass of people. However, we all have the choice to lead an exemplary life and to shape the minds and thoughts of people.

” When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although, they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.”  James 3:3-5.

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatues of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.” James 3: 7-8.

There has to be a conscious effort, discipline and willpower for man to allow God to tame the tongue, by listening, accepting, obeying and living the word of God.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. “

No one is perfect, “we all stumble in different in many ways. If one is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his body  in check.” James 3:2 . When we stumble and fall, we should pick ourselves up again. However, before moving on we should humble ourselves, seek forgiveness and reach out to other who fell along the way due to your error.

  • Do you choose to live a life with a split personality?
  • Do you choose a personality built on God’s foundation?
Allow God to tame your tongue, transform your mind and shape the world.
It’s better to live with a tamed tongue than lead with a tongue of shame!

Helping The Fellowship

I teach in a public school.  I am not allowed to preach to or pray with my students.  But there is no law against ministering to teachers, custodians, parents, and other adults in the building.  So, I pray, counsel, share the Word of God, and have spiritual conversations with adults, all in my public school classroom, room 103.

I have seen several healings, and answered prayer in room 103.  I have renamed room 103 as the Chapel at 103.

I shop at Aldi’s Grocery Store.  My last two shopping trips have been divine encounters.  I was behind a woman who had left her debit card at home.  I offered to pay for her groceries.  After a lengthy give-and-take dialogue, she agreed.

God had opened the door for me to share Jesus with this woman.  She shared information about her life, her family, and to my surprise, the fact that the food I had purchased was her dinner for that evening (she had no other food in her house).  I left there knowing that God had given me the privilege of being used by Him.

On the very next trip to Aldi’s I encountered an elderly lady who was struggling to pull out a shopping cart.  As I helped her, I received a “Thank you, honey”, to which I responded, “You’re welcome.  God bless you.”

“I could really use a blessing right now.”  Well, I immediately sensed this response as my opportunity to bring Jesus into this conversation.

This dear lady shared that she had a decision to make and she needed help making the right decision.  I told her of God’s promise to give wisdom if we ask Him.  So she let me pray with her — right there on the sidewalk in front of the store!

God used me twice in a row at Aldi’s.  Guess what I will expect on my next trip to this store?  I will be looking for an opportunity to witness for Christ.  Yes, it’s time to rename the store Aldi’s Temple.

If we belong to Jesus Christ, we are the Church.  So everywhere we go should become a holy place.  The Holy Spirit lives inside us, so we should be consciously inviting Him to move through our environments with His love and power.

I’m learning to anticipate that God will move everywhere I go.  As I grow in this boldness and expectation, I believe I will see opportunities I had not noticed before.

Perhaps I can rename more of the places I frequent:  Dollar Tree of Life Cathedral, J.C.Penney Tabernacle, and maybe even Burger King of Kings Fellowship.

I received these words in my prayer time on September 1, 2010.  I feel that now is the time to share it with you.

“There is no gravity on this level.  Everything you need will come to you.  You need not strive after it, beg for it, long for it, or even reach for it.  It will come to the place where you are — the place I set you — the place I deliver to you your tools, your message, and your assignment.

Open your hands and receive.  Open your mouth and I will discharge My words.  You need not press for words of your own.  Did I not say My Spirit will give you what to say?

You need only set yourself apart into a quiet place with Me.  You will receive directly from Me.  I will educate you.  Your face will radiate My light.  Your hands will carry My healing touch.  I am with you, in you, and working through you.

Let Me burn through you, purge you, purify you.  You will be transparent as glass, revealing My heart to the world.  They will see only Me.  They will hear only My comforting, healing words of deliverance.  Their response will be not to you, but to Me.

As you are a part in Me, everything that is Mine is available to you, and all that I send to you is close to you, even within your grasp.”

Several years ago, my son Brandon came home from second grade with the idea of making a bird feeder.  You know the kind — a plastic milk jug with a big square cut out of the front.

After we worked together on its construction, Brandon decorated it and tied twine around the top.  Then he ushered me out to the pear tree in the back yard and pointed to his chosen branch.

Just as I tied the final knot, Brandon yelled, “Wait, Mommy, we forgot to fill it!” Oh yeah, without the birdseed the feeder is useless.  It’s just a pretty, but worthless decoration, obstructing the birds’ view of the real food in the tree.

As I recently thought about our project, I heard a whisper in my mind, Beverly, you’re a bird feeder.  A what?  Lord, where is this going?  I wondered.  God, in His wisdom, would show me through His Word what He meant.

Before it became a bird feeder our jug was used for something else.  It had to be emptied out and cleaned before beginning the process of becoming what we wanted it to be.  Likewise, as we repent of our sins and allow Jesus to wash them away with His cleansing blood we start on our way to becoming the instrument God wants us to be.

Just as the jug could not clean itself, neither can we.  “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Now the cutting begins.  The process of cutting the jug is a tedious one because sometimes the jug moves and extraneous cuts can occur.  As God “cuts” us He is pruning and molding us.  It is crucial that we stand still during the cutting phase.

Often God allows circumstances or brings people into our lives to aid in the cutting process.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”  (Proverbs 27:17).  Our battles, conflicts, and confrontations are often used to show us our own faults and prompt us to allow God to take them out of our lives.

After the jug has been fashioned into a bird feeder, it is time to decorate it.  Unlike the decorations of pictures, buttons, and pasta shells we put on the outside of the jug, the ornaments of the child of God should come from within.  “Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:4).

It is time to place our new bird feeder where it can be useful.  First we use twine to connect it to the branch.  The connection is important because without it the bird feeder will fall.

Isn’t that true in our walk with the Lord?  “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me” (John 15:4).  We must stay connected to the Lord in order to be used in His service.

The final act in completing the bird feeder is filling it.  Our Lord wants to fill us so we can be useful for His purpose.  Just as putting marbles in the bird feeder would cause injury to the birds, so being filled with the wrong “food” will cause harm to those we wish to nurture.

Rather than trying to figure out what to feed on, let’s just eat what Jesus eats.  “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).  Doing God’s will fills us with all we need to nourish ourselves and be a benefit to others.

It is God’s will that we study His Word, pray, and obey Him.  He has promised to fill us with His Spirit and equip us for His service.  Just as the bird feeder serves a special purpose if it is properly filled, so we, as instruments of the Lord’s work, will be vessels of honor for Him.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

“My eyeballs are clogging up my faith canal and causing me to choke!”  This sounds strange, but I said that to myself yesterday afternoon as I evaluated my thoughts.

I had almost gotten overwhelmed with the problems I saw before me.  I almost short-circuited from all the directions I was going in at the same time.  I almost quit everything.  Then I remembered what God said.

“For we walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Oh yeah, I know that.  I mean, I know the words.  Now suddenly I was experiencing the Word — the revealed Word — unfolding in my practical life.

My attention to the occurences in my physical environment was darkening my faith.  I had allowed my vision to be disrupted by the circumstances which had appeared in my life.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8).  Walking by faith, truly walking by faith means expecting God to lead.

God is not my co-pilot.  I am not His co-pilot.  He is driving and I am in the back seat safely submitted to His direction and His sovereign will for my life.

A dear friend of mine spoke these words to me as she sensed my struggle.  “All He wants is a yes“.  She didn’t know how profoundly her simple statement affected my outlook.

He only wants a yes.  I don’t have to perform or excel beyond my ability.  I don’t have to open doors or create my own opportunities.  God will direct my path.  With my eyes re-focussed on Jesus I can relax.

Whew…peace is a good feeling.  Now I can concentrate on listening….

Contraband — goods or merchandise imported or exported contrary to law; smuggled goods.

When we enter a country’s borders, we or our luggage can be searched for contraband.  If we are carrying illegal items, our possessions will be confiscated and we will be arrested.

Every jurisdiction has standards for identifying contraband illegally entering its borders.  Contraband is usually described as destructive to the citizens or the environment, not approved as contributing to the welfare of the citizens, or otherwise forbidden by law.  For example, illegal drugs, weapons, or explosives would be considered contraband in most nations.

God has equipped us with an amazing structure for holding our possessions.  It is called the mind.  It was uniquely designed for discovery, invention, judgment, inquiry, and to interpret the signals from our environment.

Quite frequently contraband thoughts invade our minds and clog up the passage of knowledge, wisdom, peace, joy, and success.  These thoughts include (but are not limited to) fear, hatred, pride, unbelief, lust, unforgiveness, and a myriad of other ungodly thoughts.

I call these thoughts “contraband” because they illegally enter our minds.  The only person with authority to make policy over His creation is its Creator.  Any items that are not approved by the policy-maker are deemed illegal.

Where do contraband thoughts come from?  The devil can smuggle ungodly thoughts into our minds, like he tried to give Jesus when he tempted Him three times in the wilderness (Matthew 4:3,6,9).  The most common culprit in bringing illegal thoughts into our minds is our own set of self-directed desires.

“Don’t blame God when you are tempted!  God cannot be tempted by evil, and He doesn’t use evil to tempt others.  We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us.  Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.”  (James 1:13-15 Contemporary English Version).

How then, can we keep contraband thoughts from being unleashed in our minds?  We choose to control them!  God has given us the ability to sift through the thoughts that enter our minds and decide which ones to entertain.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We have a choice.  We can commit to meditating on thoughts that bring us closer to God, or we can grasp contraband thoughts that have been illegally inserted into our minds.  We will truly be rewarded in this life and in eternity as we adhere to God’s standard for a legal thought life.

“Finally my friends, keep your minds on what is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper.  Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”  (Philippians 4:8). 

With God’s Grace

Greetings in the Name of the Lord!

     We must begin with Praise! We are so thankful for all your prayers for the last couple of months. We had been experiencing a strong spiritual attack and when we cried out for prayer, you prayed.
Keith and I took a one month trip to the States to ask for prayer for SoG. The spiritual attacks were strong and we needed help. We were ministered to by our church family, our families and especially our little granddaughter, Leanna. She was ten months old when we spent a month with her and we enjoyed our sweet bonding time, probably the most healing of all. We miss her a lot.
Please continue to pray with us against the enemy. He doesn’t rest.
On our return we came with a group of people from our sending church, First Baptist Church Wilmer. We are so grateful and blessed from that time we had with them. They also began building a hut for us to live in. We will be turning our house over to the ministry to be used for offices and teams and we will be moving into three huts (made from concrete with metal roofs—not mud).I (Lisa) have now finished the proposal to the Government asking for permission to operate a Pilot School using a Christian curriculum with the intent to implement it in all schools. Now all of you know that with God, ALL things are possible. We know that God’s will is for the children to know Him. Please join us in prayer that the Lord will grant favor in the Government for this to happen in His Name.
Clayton has a big job ahead of him right now. He is reorganizing the structure of our Human resources. We have grown large and there needs to be some readjustments. Please pray for him as he focuses on how best to realign everyone to serve the Lord more efficiently.
The son of one of our employees has had a problem for many years with stealing. His father asked us to help him by paying for his school fees to go to a Vo-tech school. Keith felt that he should work for the money and so he established strict rules for the boy to never be allowed near the homes and to be searched when he leaves the compound. All went well for a while and he went to school and came back and worked again then went back to school, but then a couple of weeks ago he showed up here at SoG and somehow made it into our house and stole $750 out of my purse in a matter of minutes. Keith came upon him but did not realize that he had stolen the money. I discovered it later and by then this boy was long gone. Just a few days ago he was arrested in Jinja. He had spent all the money and unless we paid to have him transported to Gulu, they would have to release him on bail. So we paid another $100 to have him brought back to Gulu. Imagine that. Please pray for him and for us as we deal with this sensitive issue.
Also, a few weeks ago we were blessed with a visit from President Museveni’s son, Muhozi Keinerugaba who is a colonel in the army. I was introduced to him in Gulu Town by our LC5, Norbert Mao. He decided to bring the Colonel out to see where we are and hear what we are doing. He arrived with an entourage of three army trucks full of soldiers who scattered across the compound upon arrival. This caused a big stir in the village. The rumor was that Keith was involved somehow in a secret mission with the Uganda army. The Colonel was quite impressed with the ministry and our work for the Education in Uganda.Our little Mavis is now doing so much better!! There were several of you who donated to help her and her family. They are so grateful to you because she would have died. Please continue to pray for her. She is still having trouble walking. During all of her problems with her kidneys and the massive swelling of her body, she was not able to walk. Although the swelling is down some and her kidneys are now functioning better, she is still weak and will not walk yet.

This picture was take when Mavis was in the hospital-she was very swollen.

Future plans for SoG:
• The SoG Christian Academy still needs three more wings to complete the school.
• Electricity/generator is a critical need. We operate the whole compound on a 4.5K generator. To run electricity will cost $14,000 and a 15K generator will cost $15,000.
• We are expanding our discipleship programs.
• We will be operating pilot schools for the new education system.
• We have been offered the use of a building in Gulu Town that was originally built for a Library. We plan to use it for a Christian Library including reading and Bible programs for discipleship and open a coffee shop to sustain itself and the Library.
Please pray with us as we move forward in God’s Kingdom building work. Pray for our staff: Clayton, Alex, Vincent, George, and all the rest. We could not function without them.
Jonathan and Elisha are doing well in school. They are a huge blessing to us and the Ministry as they serve in teaching Sunday School and youth outreach. Please pray for them.
We will close this update for now so that you can read in all in one sitting!
We love and appreciate all of you!!

Waiting On God

Every week, I carve out a little time to respond to something I’m almost embarrassed to talk about, something which still takes me by surprise. Some may call it fan mail, but I consider it ministry. It’s an opportunity for me to continue the conversation with people – perhaps on the other side of the country or even the world – who have been affected by my writing to the point of taking time to let me know that. I try to get to know them and their needs, to turn the conversation away from me and encourage them.

“Are you an author?” a lady asked me last week in a gallery on the Art Crawl line-up downtown.

“Who? Me?” I stammered. “I guess so. Yes, I am.”

“We read your book in my book club and you look just like your picture.”

That had never happened to me before.

A few days before that, I got a phone call from a man who’d read my article in the Amy Writing Awards booklet. After initially feeling more than a little creepy that he tracked down my phone number, I decided he was just a dear older gentleman who hasn’t forgotten how to use an antiquated phone book. But to be on the safe side, I did talk about “my husband” frequently – a trick I also employed in my single days.

Last week, a lady in Kansas emailed me that she’s reviewing my book at her church’s women’s conference. Another first for me.

Every time one of my articles runs in the local paper, “fans” tell me they eagerly wait for each new article I write. And then there are comments that come via my blog and the ones where I’m a guest blogger.

Always unexpected, it’s become one of my favorite aspects of the writing life.

Home. Just saying the word conjures up all kinds of images. What do you envision when you think of home?

I see myself cozily tucked under an afghan in front of a robust fire, hot chocolate in hand and my husband beside me, while a vicious wind piles snow outside our cabin windows.

I’ve never lived in a cabin. But the idea of home stirs up feelings of a safe haven; of warm belonging that insulates me from the cold.

We either remember – or long for – a home filled with laughter and closeness. A place where we are understood and even delighted in. In the security of home, we gain the courage to soar on our path to becoming all we were meant to. And then we can retreat to our refuge to heal our battle wounds.

I’ve lived in a lot of places –three countries, eight states, and I’ve lost count of the number of towns. Each time, I love the newness of the honeymoon-like beginning. But then homesickness is bound to come unbidden.

The other morning, it accosted me once more. After two years of courtship with our new town in the Southeast, my husband and I are still not “one of them.” And we probably never will be. We’re viewed as Californians here, but in California I identified with Eastern Europe. And in Eastern Europe I was The American Girl.

Haven’t I been down this road before?

After one move, I felt particularly sorry for myself for always having to go it alone. Jesus gently realigned my perspective. He reminded me that I’m not alone. He is my home – my forever home – and he makes the move with me to each new earthly home. He takes up residence in my heart and I abide in his heart.

Even when my external world is turned inside out and upside down, He is the one constant who never changes. I may feel lonely at times but the truth is that I am never alone. And neither are you. The one who understands our tumultuous emotions better than we do ourselves will never leave us.

“I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (II Cor. 6:16.)

Years later, on my first morning of life in Romania, I sat on a park bench and poured out my fears to God. Did I have what it took to make it in a place so different from any I’d ever known? As I finished praying, I noticed my favorite deep purple flowering bush from my last home in California, thriving in the middle of Bucharest. If God could provide something purely for my delight that I didn’t need at all, I knew at that moment that He could take care of the rest.

God whispered to my heart that it didn’t matter if I could do it. He had what I needed, and He was going to lavish me with his grace and infuse me with enough strength for each day. ”The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thess. 5:24.)

By the time I returned to the States a decade later, my values had expanded so much through life and ministry in another culture that I had changed, forever marked by the experience. I had to accept the fact that I would never fit in anywhere again. Just as I was an alien overseas, I’d be an alien back in my “home” country.

And that’s a good thing. I’m not meant to become so comfortable here on earth that I stop longing for heaven. My true citizenship is nowhere on earth.

God can plant us and sink our roots down deep wherever we live. But when the cloud moves and He calls us somewhere else, we need to trust him as we pull them up. Again.

This time when loneliness hit, I remembered that I was created for eternity. And someday I’ll be welcomed home.

I love this time of year. It marks the beginning of the end of summer. Signs start to appear that foretell fall’s imminent arrival. The early mornings are now cooler (which I like) and darker (which I don’t like) than they were in July. This past July broke the record for the hottest month ever in the United States and I couldn’t be happier for it to be over.

You may think I’m crazy to be glad for summer’s end, and perhaps this time of year delivers the exact opposite emotion to your doorstep. But to me, it means the end of the heat and humidity.

It also marks the return of students to the campus where I work.

As a child, I loved the seemingly-endless summer days filled with bike rides and swimming in the river and writing stories and playing with our animals. But even then, I had to admit the start of a new school year invigorated me.

I loved the smell of crisp new textbooks, buying a new outfit every fall, picking out school supplies, the excitement of wondering whether I’d like my teachers and my classes. To some, the unknown brings fear, but to me, it means thrill and anticipation.

Spring is the season of new life. Trees and flowers that appeared to be dead return to full vibrancy, pointing us to Christ’s life conquering death. But autumn also seems like a resurrection of sorts to me.

A new school year means new beginnings. A chance for a fresh start. A do-over.

Freshmen are arriving today, full of trepidation and excitement. Their values and life goals will be shaped while they’re in college; their possibilities are limitless and yet to be written.

I wonder which of the freshmen will be introduced to Christ through the Cru students. Who will grow in their relationship with Jesus? Which ones will respond to His call to help reach the world?

Our campus has been in the throes of death, or at the least, in hibernation since graduation in May. This week it is springing to life. Students are beginning to return. Rather than the sound of birds singing as in the springtime, I hear laughter again.

And it sounds beautiful.

“Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” You’ve probably heard this quote, maybe even used it. It’s widely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but never verified, and certainly taken out of context.

If St. Francis indeed made the statement, he must have thought it frequently necessary to use words. He trained large numbers of young men to go with him to preach on the street corners in 12th century Italy.

That quote has become a convenient escape clause for us. A cop-out.

Yes, it’s true that our lives need to match the faith we profess. We need to live with integrity, meaning that we are the same at home AND at work, on Sundays at church AND on Mondays on the interstate. Our public and private selves merge; we become undivided people.

We share the good news both by being tangibly involved in peoples’ lives AND by speaking truth.

No words are ever wasted in the Bible. The little ones carry a lot of weight.

Word AND deed.

Truth AND love.

Neither are any words inadvertently omitted. Notice the absence of the little word “or.” We were never given the option of choosing whether to travel the route of speaking the truth of the gospel OR showing the love of the gospel.

And where are we to do this? Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, AND the remotest part of the earth.

We begin with one small stone, in our town, our Jerusalem. Like ripples that spread out from there, we go on to Judea and Samaria (our country), with the impact radiating out to the world.

“We have enough needs right in our own backyard. What’s the big deal about reaching the world?” Have you heard this sentiment? I have.

Our perspective is skewed. Jesus promised us power to be his witnesses, to testify to his life, everywhere. How would the gospel ever have reached you in your land if earlier saints had ignored this? Maybe the church has been remiss in recent history with an emphasis on preaching to strangers while ignoring the needs of our neighbors. But is that any reason to let the pendulum swing to the exact opposite extreme?

How can we communicate news – good news – apart from words? If you are kind to people, serve hungry people soup, or even go to a foreign country and help build houses, how will they intuitively guess the reason you are so nice?

Many of us attend church our entire lives and still get confused about the finer points of theology. Yes, the gospel is simple, but the depths and complexities of it take a lifetime to plumb. Do we really expect others to figure it all out on their own?

Words are critical. But they must be backed up by action or else they’re empty hypocrisy. And not just one isolated incident, but consistent and authentic action. Anyone can be nice for one hour.

When my friend, Greg, went to Bosnia for a year, he expected the Bosnian people to see there was something different about him because he modeled Christ’s love. Instead, he found people – with no knowledge of Jesus – to be some of the most gracious and generous he’d ever met. His landlord even had a great marriage – apart from knowing Judeo-Christian values.

Greg concluded that kindness wasn’t enough. “The gospel must be shared with words,” he told me.

Good deeds are not enough. Greg had words that brought life. Do you?

esterday I witnessed Americans turning out in droves to cast their vote; more than I’ve ever seen for any presidential election. Cars lined up for a mile waiting to turn into the polling place in my town. People stood in a queue that wrapped around the voting venue, out the door, and spilled onto the sidewalk.

Amazingly, people waited patiently, not a small feat for instant-gratification-loving Americans. At the end of their sojourn, weary yet pleasant workers greeted them with a smile.

The ballots were cast at unorthodox locations: Chick-fil-A restaurants.

Some Americans turned out to vote because First Amendment rights were being threatened. Some came to stand for the Biblical definition of marriage. And some just to support their favorite chicken sandwich with their wallets.

A handful of people stood in front of the restaurant with picket signs, also casting their vote and exercising their free speech. One sign read, “Chick-fil-A serves Hate and Intolerance with their Chicken.” (I wonder if they considered that it might be intolerant to attempt to ban Chick-fil-A from whole cities.)

I felt like I was witnessing something historic.

Last week, I blogged about my fear that we are a nation headed toward Fascism. My angle was the violation of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. The whole brouhaha began when Chick-fil-A’s president merely answered a question posed by a reporter, honestly expressing his personal belief, while refusing to discriminate against anyone with a different belief who eats or works in his company.

Since then, I’ve read many other editorials which have pointed to a bigger First Amendment right being threatened in our Western world: the free exercise of religion. It’s not just evangelical Protestant Christians who are being discriminated against.

Recently, the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) mandate went into effect, requiring that all employers pay for contraception services and abortion-inducing drugs. This forces Catholic organizations to either abandon their consciences or drop health care coverage for employees.

In Cologne, Germany, circumcision was banned as a violation of a newborn’s human rights; thereby infringing on the exercise of religion for Jews. To follow Mosaic law, all male Jewish boys must be circumcised at eight days old. Of all nations in the world, Germany is the last country that should attempt to step on the free expression of Judaism.

Last night, my faith in democracy was restored. Americans spoke up.