Thursday, January 17, 2008


Yesterday we began our Winter/Spring semester of Bible studies for our women's ministry at church. I have the privilege of teaching two classes full of wonderful women - one in the morning and one in the evening. Yesterday we began "Lord, Teach Me to Pray" by Kay Arthur. While I started out teaching Precept Bible studies about 17 years ago, it's been about 4 years since I last taught one, so it's nice to see Kay on my video screen again. I've missed her. Later in the semester we'll shift gears just a tad and do Priscilla Shirer's "Discerning the Voice of God." I think this is a great combo because first we're learning to talk to God, then we'll learn to hear from Him! What do you think?!

I absolutely love teaching Bible studies. Never do I feel more alive, more useful, more humbled, and more joyful than when I am teaching the Bible, in whatever format. But I do love teaching my Wednesday groups (we call them WOW Wednesdays because our women's ministry is called Women of Worth) the best. I get to know them, they talk back, and they treat me so well. I've been teaching 1-3 Bible studies almost continuously for 17 years and I have had the complete privilege of studying with so many interesting, godly and lovely women. They have blessed me to pieces and I can't get enough! I have watched women be absolutely transformed by the Word of God. I have watched women deal with the grief of losing a spouse, suffer through chemotherapy treatments, struggle through a divorce, and ache over prodigal children, all while hanging onto every concept God was teaching them through His Word. I have watched Him be their anchor. I have also watched newby Christians become mature in their faith. I've seen enthusiastic new converts invite their friends to find what they had found. And I've watched mothers bring daughters and daughters-in-law into the wonderful world of Bible study. What a joy!

I am praying for great things to happen to these 50+ women I am teaching on Wednesday. I know God has so much in store for them. I am praying that they will keep their commitments to study each day, to draw near to Him daily. I am praying for teachable spirits, for we all have some hang-ups we need to deal with. And I am praying for results, life-changing results. That's the kind of God we have and that's how powerful His Word is.

Monday, January 14, 2008

No Plain Jane

Tonight Abby and I watched a wonderful Jane Austen movie on Masterpiece Theater. The movie was based on Austen's Persuasion, a powerful story of the battle between love and external influences. I found it hard to believe the producers could do justice to one of Austen's novels in just 1 1/2 hours when it took a whole series some years ago to tell the story of Pride and Prejudice. However, I was quite pleased with the results. The movie was beautiful and stuck close to the author's intent.

The amazing thing is that Austen, a woman who never married, lived a rather sheltered life, and died in her early 40s could have written with such keen perception and an unparalleled grasp of human nature. While her books often depict characters who are shallow and petty, Austen herself must have been extremely thoughtful, imaginative, and deep. Reading her books or watching the movies based on them gives you the opportunity to do far more than see how people lived in the late 1700s to early 1800s. It gives you a glimpse into their minds, some provocatively deep and others pitifully vain and empty. How did she do that?

Amazingly Jane Austen never enjoyed her own success. Unless she has a window from heaven, she has no idea of her fame. Her books continue to be read with fervor and appreciation hundreds of years after she has passed on from a seemingly insignificant life. That makes me wonder about the impact we are making on this earth now. Could it be that some of us are accomplishing far more than we could know at this point? Could it be that we are raising children who will be leaders, inventors, teachers, preachers, or scientists of unique stature? Or perhaps we are writing words that will one day touch a heart and the next touch a nation. Maybe we are building buildings, chartering organizations, or educating students that will continue to make a great mark on the future. Who knows?

This one thing I do know: we leave a print behind. Whether that print be small and almost unnoticeable, huge and hard-to-miss, or somewhat ordinary but unique all the same, we leave our mark on this world. Some of us leave more positive marks behind while others leave scars. A few of us set out to make a specific mark, but most of us just leave prints behind somewhat accidentally, like the fingerprints on my sliding glass door. Still they are marks.

Considering that you have no way of knowing what lasting impact you may be making on this world today, I encourage you to at least leave a holy mark - a mark of godliness in an ungodly world. May you and I determine to leave no marks behind that will cause pain or embarrassment, but only marks of love, kindness, grace, hope, and truth. And then, like Jane Austen, we may have the opportunity to inspire the generations to come with the simple things we did to the glory of God.

P.S. check out the rest of the Masterpiece Theater productions of the Jane Austen works at
They run through April 6th and are well worth watching.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Loose Ends

Do you ever feel like you just have "stuff" hanging out there, ever which way? Unfinished business that just hangs on you like a skirt that's losing it's hem? It seems to me that about five or six times each year I find myself with loose ends all around. I wake up thinking of all the little things I've got to do that day, but I know even then that many of them will remain undone when I go to bed that night. The reason these ends remain loose is because of circumstances. You know how it goes. To check one thing off your list you have to call so-and-so to ask a few questions and then you have to go get a certain form, complete it and mail it off. But you can't get so-and-so to return your call. You're ready to complete the form, you have a stamp on the envelop already and you have the time to rush it to the post office, but so-and-so won't give you the time of day. You're stuck. Loose end number one remains.

To check off another item on your to-do list, you must gather a bunch of things up, load them in the car and haul them to their destination. But you can't find one of the things you need to load up. After combing over your entire house, you find the item in some strange place where someone in your family, whom we would never name on a blog site, has put it. You add the one last item to your pile in the car, trek across town to your destination, and, lo and behold, the place is closed. It's not supposed to be closed. It just is. So you head back home with your load and plan to try again next week when the sign says they'll reopen, but of course you won't. By then you've moved on to other things and that load will stay in your car until you open the trunk to put the next load in there for the next deposit. Then you'll realize you've had a loose end you weren't even aware of for three weeks. Mercy!

I have a tendency, in fact, to ride around with things in the back of my car for a good long while before I get them to where they belong. I just claim that I'm letting them marinate! I've carried baby gifts in the back of my van until the intended recipient was in kindergarten. I've toted dishes I needed to return to benevolent friends until they moved away. So I just add the dish to my cupboards instead. I've hauled pool noodles, beach towels and sunscreen around through the winter months. My children don't help the cause. We carried my daughter's backpack from school around in our van all the way through Christmas vacation. Every time she got out of the van she said she would get it out and take it into the house. She never did. So a few days before she was to return to school, I finally stopped asking. Oh well, like mother, like daughter. (However, I must add, for the sake of my mother who reads this blog, that my mom did not raise me that way. This flaw is purely my own and I place no blame on her!)

Another contributor to loose ends is piles. Do you have piles? I don't necessarily have huge piles, mind you. I guess I really just have stacks. (My mom does have stacks, by the way.) My son has piles. Here in my office, which I share with him and my daughter, he has piles of notebooks, books, papers, cds, and other strange stuff. I make him work through the piles occasionally, but he insists he needs all that stuff and the best place for it is right there. I'd clean out the piles myself, but that can be dangerous. My friend Kim recently cleaned out her teenage son's piles and accidentally threw away an important project for school. She spent the better part of one evening going through a yucky garbage pail to no avail. I'd rather live with the piles for a few more years.

But I digress. My loose ends are not the result of my son's piles. They are caused by my stacks. Just last week I found a bill that was a few days late in one of my stacks. At other times I have found money, birthday cards I thought I'd already mailed, invitations to events past and missed, and a variety of things I blamed my husband for losing. Loose ends, all stacked up neatly, but loose just the same.

Here's another reason I sometimes have loose ends. Interruptions. I get started writing an important e-mail to an editor and the dogs start barking. The UPS man has delivered a package. Well you can't just set an unopened package on the counter and continue writing your e-mail. I have to open the package. I find that it is a sweet gift from a sweet friend. I must call the sweet friend and thank her. She tells me about a new recipe she tried out on her family last night. I must write the recipe down. Come to think of it, let's have this new tasty dish tonight. I must go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients. I come home and prepare the dish. Life happens and now I must clean the kitchen, find my son a red shirt, take the dogs out, and take my daughter to play rehearsal. What e-mail? Just another loose end.

Now, sticking with the theme of this blog, I've got to find a blessing in this mess. It may be a stretch, but here goes. I'm glad to say that though I sometimes have loose ends all over the place, God has left no unfinished business when it comes to me. He promised a Messiah and He sent Him. Jesus lived a wondrously sinless life, taught me how to live, died on the cross for me and rose again. He finished the job. Because He left no loose ends I have assurance and hope. I can go to sleep at night a little frustrated that I didn't complete everything on my list, but I can rest because I know He did. He will never fail me or forsake me. He is not dependent on any other thing or person. His work in my life doesn't depend on someone returning His call. He doesn't allow stuff to accumulate either like I do in my van. He has dealt with my sins once and for all. And His Word says that what He has begun in me, He will see to completion (Philippians 1:6) He has paid the debt and He has sealed me with the Holy Spirit. Though He continues to work on me, He considers me a done deal, paid in full. Glory! Aren't you glad I'm not running things and He is? Just one more reason to be glad that He is God and I'm not. He's the Alpha, but He's also the Omega!

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Things

Well it's a new year! I realize I'm a little late for wishing you a happy new year, though we certainly are still just at the very beginning of 2009. But I thought I'd take a few moments to reflect on some of the things that are new for me this year. I'm not necessarily making new year's resolutions. Those scare me. But I am doing some things differently this year, and it's always a good idea to seek a little accountability on such commitments by sharing them with others. So here goes...

For the past two years I have read the Bible through from beginning to end. That's one of those new year's resolutions that I made a number of times in years past but never succeeded in following through. But two years ago I just made the commitment and did it. I can't quite explain what a huge impact that journey through the Bible made on me. I've read it through twice now and am so grateful I did. I think I'll take another day to just blog about that sometime soon, so stay tuned! At any rate, this year I want to keep my diet of God's Word at an equitable level, but I want to do something different too. So I am trying a different reading plan, one my husband James tells me is espoused by John McArthur. I will be reading one book of the New Testament every day for a month. This January, for instance, I am reading through the entire book of Galatians every day. So far I have kept this commitment, so I have read Galatians 7 times already this year! The point of this reading plan is to slow down and allow God to really teach me something from a section of the Bible. I already grasp Galatians so much better than ever before. I think this is really going to work for me. You might consider doing the same.

For the past 5 or 6 years I have used a Mary Engelbreit calendar for my personal daily calendar. I love those calendars. But this year my friend Kim bought me a bright red calendar from Target that is much more professional and streamlined. I just wanted a change. Today I began filling in my calendar with that eager anticipation that hits me every year as I plan out the months to come. I'm excited about mapping out 2009 in a new format. Sometimes we just need a new map!

My children are getting older and parenting is changing for me. I wish I could say it is easier. It is not. My children do not make it harder. They are both delightful. But the tasks of mothering them have changed dramatically over the years and I am finding my latest responsibilities to be rather daunting at times - sending my son off to his part time job many afternoons, deciding if the play my daughter wants to perform in is suitable for her age, helping my son find scholarship opportunities, taking him to college visitation days, picking out fashionable yet modest clothes with my daughter... They may sound like simple enough tasks, but when you realize you have such a limited amount of time to get some things right before they head out on their own, it is nerve shattering! So this year, while parenting has not gotten easier in essence, I am going to try to take it a little easier. I'm going to spend more time praying for my teens and less time fretting over them. I'm giving them more responsibility (they're going to start doing their own laundry!) and expecting more from them. I'm keeping my words to a minimum, but packing them full of punch. And I'm going to enjoy my kids. They are, after all, quite enjoyable!

I have set one goal for 2008 that has to do with my character. I may set others, but so far this is the only one that is ringing solid for me. I want to be a generous person in 2008. Now I don't have a lot of money, but what I do have I certainly want to share generously. But more specifically I just want to be generous by nature. I want to slow down and spend time with people and on people. I want to give my time to others instead of just using it on myself or spending as I wish. I want to serve generously and with a smile. I want to give of myself - my heart and soul. I intend to start each day by giving myself to the Lord and opening my hands to Him in an act of submission. I want to be used by Him as He sees fit instead of mapping out my own agenda. I want to open up my home to people, share my food, and give my love. I just happen to think God really loves generosity. So I want to be a generous person.

I'm sure 2008 holds many changes and developments for me that will only be realized as I journey through it. But some changes I can determine from the get-go. I choose not to change too much. Life is pretty good already. But there is always room for growth and renewal. I hope you'll join me in making 2008 a year of counting our blessings, thanking God for His goodness, and anticipating His best!