Dead or Alive

There are only three events in a man’s life; birth, life, and death; he is not conscious of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live. ~Jean de la Bruyere

Death is so final. No more conversations, no more laughter, no more birthday parties, cake, or candles.

Death separates, isolates, penetrates.

Death brings tears, anger, depression, and great, great sadness.

I’ve lost count of the number of deaths I’ve witnessed in the last year.

Everyone dies.

But not everyone lives.

Continue reading “Dead or Alive”

Expectations or expectant?

Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations. ~Ryunosuke Satoro

“Was there a woman with a white hat?”

Matt and I had just moved from Texas to Pennsylvania. I had been told by an angel that our new family would be in Philadelphia. I was also given a vision of a woman in a white dress and white hat.

“Yes, there was.” Matt replied, and the decision was sealed.

I don’t always get voices or visions. Sometimes dreams are just dreams.

But I’ve learned to listen expectantly, not with expectations.

You see, sometimes the woman with a white dress and hat is actually something else. This past year my dreams have been about babies, and I know it isn’t a physical baby that God is growing inside of me.

Paul wanted terribly to go to Asia to tell the good news of Jesus, but for some reason the Holy Spirit didn’t think it was the right time. He kept deterring Paul. Then one night, Paul had a vision of a man calling him to Macedonia.

Paul obeyed the vision and headed straight away to Macedonia where he met . . . women.

But Paul wasn’t alarmed. He didn’t need to find the man that had called in his vision. He was called to Macedonia and he went.

Maybe God has given you a vision of missionary work. It might not be in Europe to teach at a school but the other side of town to help someone very different from yourself.

Or perhaps God has sent you a message to preach the Word. Your pulpit might be a couch in your neighbor’s living room or a short chair in the church preschool.

Has God given you a desire to open a medical clinic for the destitute? It might not be in a third-world country. It could be in the economically-deprived areas of Appalachia.

Whatever God is calling you to, don’t limit him to the vision.

Expect to be amazed.

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 jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves. ~William Penn

One of my middle school students belongs to a radio-reading club. She and a boy write a script together and then read it to the school over the PA system.

Another girl in the school likes this boy and gives my student “the evil eye” at lunch time.  There is nothing for the other girl to be jealous of; my student is in love with her cat and doesn’t seem to have noticed boys yet.

Jealousy is funny like that. It shows up to the party whether or not it was invited.

Paul and Barnabas were passing through Pisidian Antioch and went into the synagogue. During the meeting, the leaders of the synagogue invited them to speak.

Paul and Barnabas told the gathered Jews and Gentiles about Jesus and the free gift of salvation. The people invited the two men to come back and teach the following week.

When the next Sabbath came, nearly the entire city showed up to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say.

You see it coming, don’t you?

A big green cowboy riding into town on an even greener horse.

The very people who had invited Paul and Barnabas to speak were now filled with jealousy. They began to spread lies about the men. They incited the “popular people” against them and had them run out of town.

They lost the gift and gained the grave.

We can see the error of their ways, but can we see our own?

Do you invite a friend to join your book club but regret it when she becomes the life of the party?

Do you audition with a friend for the local theater and then smirk at every mistake she makes after she gets the lead role?

Or is it more serious than that? Have you hoped your Christian brother or sister would fail? That bad things would happen to them instead of to you for a change? That their children would screw up like yours?

Notice in Acts 13, that it isn’t the jealous synagogue rulers who have a happy ending. It’s the ones who followed Jesus and let others live in the limelight.

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:14-16 NIV

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. (

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