Tag Archives: church

Visions of Sugarplums

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. ~Woodrow Wilson

Sugarplums were deceitful. They were candy-coated seeds and nuts, most likely intended as indigestion remedies.

But in their heyday, children probably considered them like today’s kids do M&M’s. They were candy.  So when Clement Moore tells us that the children have visions of sugarplums, they were dreaming sweet dreams.

We tell sweet dreams to others. Sometimes we also tell our nightmares to our bunk mate or roomy.

Seldom do we tell our visions, though.

Because you just never know how people will take them. Will they believe you? Do you believe yourself?

Peter was having visions while he was praying. He followed through on the visions’ directives and traveled to Caesarea to welcome Gentiles into the kingdom.

When the Jewish apostles and believers heard about it, they believed the vision because it matched what Jesus had told them while he was still on Earth.

I have had visions as well. I don’t often throw my visions out to the public because, like Peter, I’m just a bit unsure how it will be accepted. You may ask how I know if a vision is true or from God?

I think Peter gives us some guidelines.

If the vision sounds outlandish or perhaps even against the normal “rules” of the church, does the vision occur more than one time?

If it does occur more than once, go to the second criteria: does it follow God’s word? If so, you can be reasonably sure you have a vision from God.

The last criteria is where you have to step out in faith.

When you follow the vision, does it lead you to success? Do others believe you?

God gives visions to his followers so that great things can be accomplished for the kingdom. Visions freed the Israelites from slavery. Visions kept them from entering losing battles. And visions declared that Gentiles were part of the kingdom as well.

What if Peter hadn’t obeyed the vision?

How will the kingdom be affected if you don’t obey?

You will never know what might have been, but you will always know what isn’t.

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17 NIV


“The Church is the source of joy because Jesus stayed on the cross and Syria is on the cross and awaiting the day it will be resurrected. No one in any society has this joy except the Church.”~ Syrian Pastor

Occasionally someone has said mean things to me about being a Christian. That’s it. That’s the extent of persecution that I have suffered.

Stephen was a young man who believed in truth. He spoke truth. He lived truth. And he died for truth.

The early church was not yet hiding. Disciples were telling others about the good news of Jesus. The Messiah had come. He had been tortured and killed, but he also had been raised again to life.

Now everyone could have a relationship with the Father. Now everyone could experience true life.

That didn’t go over very well.

Fear of the government made the rulers wield their power. Fear of the rulers made the people turn in their brothers.

Fear was left at the doorstep by the first recorded martyr- Stephen.

Fear is still a contributing factor to the church’s persecution. Leaders fear losing power over their citizens. Neighbors fear being drawn into incriminating relationships. Family members fear their community will ostracize and isolate them.

It has been nearly two thousand years since Stephen stood up for Christ. His example lives on in those Christians who refuse to surrender to fear.

Christians in over 40 countries face persecution. There are about 300,000 Christians living in North Korea, the most dangerous place for Christians. During 2017-18, over 3,000 Christians were killed around the world; nearly 1300 were abducted; over 1,000  Christian women were raped or sexually harassed; and nearly 800 churches were attacked.

November 4 was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Churches across America and around the world prayed for our brothers and sisters who are finding creative ways to disguise their worship.

Perhaps, like me, you have only been taunted. Suffering for the cause of Christ is as foreign to you as Monday Night Football would have been to Stephen. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.

Prayer is a weapon of mass destruction. Prayer strengthens the Army of God. Prayer sinks Satan’s battleships. Prayer shields soldiers of Christ and camouflages special forces.

Will you fight for your Christian brothers and sisters?

Will you pray?

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3 NIV

Growing and Giving

I try to live my life like my father lives his. He always takes care of everyone else first. He won’t even start eating until he’s sure everyone else in the family has started eating. Another thing: My dad never judges me by whether I win or lose. ~Ben Roethlisberger

If you give a mouse a cookie, you better have crayons and cleaning supplies handy, as well as a glass of milk.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

An old friend was bemoaning the state of her church and that “young people just don’t seem to care” about being involved in church life.

Many times what seems important to one person is brushed aside by others.

A Christmas pageant is planned and only half the children are involved. A community yard sale for charity is scheduled and not enough people participate to make it a success. An elderly couple’s home needs to be weatherized before winter and only the two oldest men in the congregation show up to help.

Our lives are so busy that it’s easy to pass by these opportunities. We have our own schedules, priorities, and problems.

What can be done?

The early church seemed to have an answer: eating and praising.

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

Yet, when we take time to eat with people, we also take time to talk. Talking leads to concern and compassion. That leads to reworking our schedules and serving others.

And THAT leads to encountering Christ.

So grab a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. It’s time to share Jesus with the world.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV

Big and Small Parts

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. ~Napoleon Hill

My sons were involved in community theater during their school years. The older one enjoyed acting as well as being behind the scenes. He built sets, painted scenery, ran lights, and was a stage manager. His roles ranged from supporting actor to lead actor.

The younger son didn’t care for acting, but he enjoyed the technical side of theater- carpentry, electrical work, lighting. He built sets, operated sound and light equipment, handed props to actors, set up and cleaned up.

Both of them were important to run the show.

The church was just getting up and running. There was concern about leading the movement now that Judas Iscariot was dead. What were they supposed to do?

They turned to prayer and scripture for their answer.

It seemed right to them to appoint another leader, one who had been with them from the beginning. They came up with two possibilities: Matthias and Justus. They chose Matthias.

There isn’t any more commentary on either of these men after that. All we know is that they were both good enough and trusted enough for the people to put them forward.

Perhaps Matthias was better suited for staying in Jerusalem because of family commitments or connections. Perhaps Justus was needed elsewhere or in another capacity. Maybe Matthias had more knowledge of money, or culture, or the scriptures. Or could it be that Justus was going to be an early example of a martyr, like Stephen?

Only God knows why Matthias was chosen over Justus.

Only God knows what you have been chosen to do and why.

Perhaps you are to be an example of faithfulness to other young marrieds while your husband serves a lengthy jail term.

Maybe you are adept at learning languages and are asked to be a missionary.

It could be that you are to be the mother or grandmother of a future world leader. Right now you are called to spend time with that child, patiently guiding and directing him or her.

You may have no idea why or what God is calling you to do.

That’s alright.

God does.

And like Matthias and Justus, you must do it. Not for the sake of glory or fame, but for the glory of God and him alone.

It’s very true . . .

There are no small parts.

 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV

Protect the Body

The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free. ~Swami Vivekinanda

My children have been raised in the South. They know about sunscreen. We spray it, slather it, and squirt it. Experience has been a hard task master when it comes to sunburn.

These two boys have kept me busy with ER visits, Urgent Care trips, and calls to the aunt who’s a nurse. We have a closet full of steroids for poison ivy, allergy pills for sudden attacks, antibiotic ointment for cuts and abrasions, and syrup of Ipecac just in case. Thankfully I never needed that one.

I have a special box for Band-Aids, wrapping bandages, and adhesive tape. Boxes of heat relief pads stand near bottles of aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen just waiting for pulled muscles or aching heads.

We do our best to protect our body from pain and disease. We feed our body nutrient-rich foods, drink plenty of water, and exercise. We wash our hands, brush our teeth, and trim our hair.

Sometimes, . . . we even have ice cream. Shh.


You’re asked to teach the children’s Bible class next quarter and just can’t find the time or energy.

The church teens are going to a youth rally and need a chaperone. You can’t even imagine.

The seniors’ group is looking for someone to head up a card ministry. That’s too outdated for you.

A Christian sister needs a ride for an MRI scan, but you’re just too busy . . .

The Christian family is more than just family. We are a body. We are here to protect each other, heal each other, help each other, love each other, even spoil each other.

Are you treating the church as well as you do your own body?

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:3-5 ESV


Living in the Fandom

People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society. ~Vince Lombardi

There are an estimated 50 million tailgaters in America, spending 12 billion dollars annually in tailgating food and supplies. Tailgating appears to be the entire point of the game for at least 35% of the tailgating population, who never even enter the stadium. (blog.nationwide.com)

Arriving early is important to get the shady spots. Games like corn hole and ladder ball are set up in the parking lot behind cars or on grassy strips next to the pavement. The smell of charcoal and grilling meats, or smoked meats in some parts of the country, wafts through the cool autumn afternoon as the sound of the school band warming up across the street drowns out the blaring music from nearby stereos.

Why do so many people spend so much time and money tailgating? Because of the sense of belonging it develops. They share food, cheer on their team, find comrades, and develop relationships. Tailgating gives people a sense of belonging.

So every year in late summer, when students return to their books and classrooms, the tailgaters return to the parking lots. This is their place. This where they catch up with each other, find out how others fared through the last year. Share food,  a drink, a laugh, a hope.

Church attendance is like tailgating, except it’s year-round. I love getting together with friends and family. We eat together, build relationships, talk and joke with each other. There’s even music and occasionally dancing and games.

Relationship building is what church is all about . . . Deepening relationships . . . Sharing food and drink that never ends . . . Laughing and crying through our achievements and our failures . . . Finding a common goal . . . Victory in Jesus.

But it is much more important than tailgating on a football Saturday. At this tailgating party, we prepare for the game. Because we aren’t just fans. We’re members of the team.

My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God’s people. Ephesians 1:18 CEV

Truthful Church

fountain-1346870__180Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We were practicing some songs for church services. I stood in the sound booth forwarding the slides while everyone else sat in the front of the church learning their parts. Rain started falling hard, so we finished with one last song appropriately titled Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

It’s a familiar old hymn. I knew my part and sang with abandon alone in the booth.

Come, Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace,
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

Voices in the front of the church drifted back to me while a torrent pounded on the roof above. I stood, still advancing slides, and lifted my face toward God. Then came the verse . . .

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I thought of a dear, dear friend who is wandering right now. Then the tears spilled over as I realized I am just as easily prone to wander. The showers outside were nothing compared to the dam that spilled over in the sound booth.

Robert Robinson penned those words back in 1757 not knowing that one day he would leave his Lord and Savior. Or maybe he did know. Why else would he write “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it”? Though he did wander from God, late in life he returned. He had known his true self.

For weeks I kept singing that song, always meditating on that phrase “prone to wander.” Finally, during my morning quiet time I got out a church hymnal determined to sing through the whole song. I held the last note and then in surprise realized I hadn’t sung the line that was haunting me.

I looked back through the verses . . . No prone to wander.

The song had been “cleaned up.” Instead, “Never let me wander from Thee, never leave the God I love.” Good words, good thoughts, but not the stark truth of a heart that knows itself. The strength of the truth doesn’t ring out . . . It’s the difference of being soiled or being filthy, of an unkempt house verses a pig sty.

That song has haunted me for well over a month now. Last week started out rough, and went on to include the kitchen ceiling falling. Yep. Just falling. Like dust and insulation and heavy rock plaster knocking dents in my walls, floor, refrigerator, and furniture.

Then, Matt’s face swelled and his temperature rose as an abscessed tooth attacked him. Monday morning I called the home insurance again, only to be told again that the house damage is not covered. We headed to the dentist in the afternoon not knowing what would happen.

We spent hours in the office to be given a prescription for antibiotic that the pharmacist couldn’t fill. By then the dentist’s office was closed, so no antibiotic. We headed to dinner, seeing as it was Matt’s birthday. Matt and Jonathan, both sick, picked at their meals and we left. I pulled into the driveway and parked. One of my roosters had been attacked and now lay dead in the field.

I went to the mailbox, looked at an envelope, and opened it. A letter from Amos’s school explaining that he can’t register for classes for next semester until I get some more paperwork to them . . . Paperwork they already have received at least twice.

I walked to the porch and unleashed the dog to go in the house. Instead of running to his dog dish, he turned and ran off the porch into the wide, wide world. I threw my purse and the mail on the porch while a piece of nastiness flew out of my mouth.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.

Church, that verse is in there for a reason. We must be transparent with each other. You can spend a week in meditation, reflection, and prayer. You can come out of it strong and encouraged, and you can be hit long and hard, shocked and awed in quick succession with Satan’s flaming arrows . . . and off you wander like a dog going after the neighbor in heat.

I do plead with God: Never let me wander from Thee, Never leave the God I love. But God knows the truth. He knows the times I turn tail and run. He knows my tendencies, my inward thoughts, my weaknesses.

So, Lord, I ask you to move me past my proclivity to wander. Let me finish like Robert Robinson’s verse:

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

And may the church be there in my transparency to encourage me and make me strong again.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .”         1 Thessalonians 5:11a NIV

I Miss English

quebec-815376__180We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.~ Dorothy Day

Jonathan and I sat on a bench overlooking the St. Lawrence River. People passed by on the boardwalk, sharing ice creams, holding hands, talking, joking, laughing. It was our fifth evening in this foreign country.

“I miss English,” Jonathan said and grimaced.

It wasn’t so terribly difficult to get along in Quebec. Most people were accommodating and spoke to us in heavily-accented English. Honestly, as soon as I said “bon jour” they switched to English. I guess I have a heavy accent as well.

But Jonathan’s remark, “I miss English.”, could have seemed oddly out of place. I mean, weren’t we, right then at that moment, enjoying a conversation in English? Yes, but we didn’t understand all of the other conversations going on around us.

Earlier during a street performance, I had stepped on a woman’s foot as she was trying to stand from our position sitting on the ground. I apologized, “So sorry.” She responded, “Bunch of French words you don’t understand.” She smiled and I knew it was forgiven, but I felt out of place.

Weekly I feel like I go on a trip to a foreign land. I don’t understand the culture, the language, the reasoning, the anything. I do my best to understand, to try to explain my actions, but it’s tiring. Like listening to French for a week.

That’s why I go to church every Sunday. At church I understand people. I know what is expected. I know the culture. Church helps me to get through the rest of the week in a foreign land.

God knew what he was doing when he gave us community. Are you missing your home language? Maybe it’s time you headed back home, back to church.

 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Preachers and Their Wives

church-768613__180It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching. Francis of Assisi

My name is Traci and I am a preacher’s wife. In some ways it is like an addiction. I have very little control over it, and, yet, I enjoy it. It is a mystery.

I distinctly remember as a sixth grader telling my Sunday School teachers that I would NEVER marry a preacher. It was not the life for me. (I’m not sure why I thought that. I think it looked too holy.) In my defense, Matt was studying banking when we met. I had no idea I would end up married to a preacher.

But God called and we answered. Over twenty years later we are still on the phone.

Preachers and their wives have been important to me as role models. How do I raise humans in a “fish bowl”? How do I serve others when I have needs of my own? How do I be kind to someone who is tearing my husband apart? How do I serve God’s church when it is smacking me upside the head?

I have watched preacher’s wives who refuse to be involved in their husband’s church, and I have watched others who are so involved they are also employed by the church. Most times the wives volunteer extensively in the church. The job is the life.

I have watched families lose their children because of the church. Sometimes the husband is so involved in ministering to others that his own family gets left behind.

But I have also seen the wife and children come alongside the husband and learn to serve together. I have seen loving, supportive spouses encourage their mates to follow God’s calling. I have witnessed people leaving their comfort zones to enter the spiritual battlefield.

I know the frustration of being the immediate solution to a lack of Sunday School teachers, the answer to who will provide dinner for a family, and the inability to go anywhere for a weekend.

But I also know the tremendous joy of being intimately involved in guiding someone to the narrow path of Christ. I have received the gift of witnessing generosity and unexpected love. I have observed superstar teams of preachers and their wives do amazing things through the power of their boss.

I am happy to be a part of the circle. Thank you to all of those who have guided me on this journey. I love you.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 NIV