Till death? Maybe.

Today my hubby and I celebrated 25 years together. Silver anniversary, they call it. Sounds old. So does "quarter of a century."

We celebrated it with a spa day for both of us. I'm so relaxed right now I can hardly type!

When my pedicurist learned the reason I was there, her brown eyes widened. "Wow! Twenty-five years. I don't think I know anybody who's been married twenty-five years."

She was in her early thirties, with an eight-year-old daughter to raise alone. I watched the top of her shiny brown hair as she worked on my feet and felt sad for her.


What kind of a legacy are we leaving this next generation that they haven't seen a successful marriage?

Marriage is now touted as a quaint ritual for the "traditionally-minded," a gamble at best, but certainly not "until death do us part." And don't get me started on the "new definitions" that some would like to give marriage, as though the legal joining of any two entities should define what was clearly created to be only between one man and one woman.

So with all the argument, wouldn't it be better to just live together? Wouldn't the eventual split be easier on everyone?

That last question holds the key to the problem. We've come to assume that nothing lasts forever, and unfortunately not much does. Everyone knows products fall apart quicker than they used to. Families join, break apart, rejoin, move...a continuous evolution that often ignores bonds and hearts.

No wonder it's nearly impossible for many to get their minds around the concept of God and eternity. After all, marriage was God's object lesson to help us understand his relationship with us. It's a picture of the everlasting love Christ has for his church. Looks like we're messing up the picture.


How can we truly believe that God loves us for all eternity when we don't have any concept of a relationship that endures forever?

So look around this week. Do you know many couples who've been successfully married for nearly forever? Next time you see one, tell them "Thanks for the picture."
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I have no excuses now, for not being productive!

The above is my new home office area, which I've been putting together for several days--hence, the drop in blog entries this week. I have 5 separate areas of my life to keep running, each with its own set of reference books, papers, files, etc. and my little computer desk was being overrun with it.

My eighth-grade son's homeschool book reports were often buried under counseling folders, my college son's class schedules, or old edits from my literary agent. I knew it was getting bad when I found myself using a diagnostic manual for sexual addictions as a paperweight for my son's spelling test! Now, I have space galore and am tickled pink!

Would you look at all those file drawers? The top one locks--for confidential client files. And as the treasurer for our homeschool coop, I now have a special drawer for those records, too. The rest of our co-op committee will be thrilled that I no longer lose the money! (And if you happen to be one of those committee members--I'm just kidding about losing the money. Sort of.)

So, how fragmented is your life? Isn't it strange how we keep taking on more and more without stopping to evaluate whether we can realistically do it all well? I've learned over the years that nothing is more stifling than being overloaded with responsibility that others have foisted upon us. It is weighty and uncomfortable and all we want is release.
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Imagine that every day you were required to get up early and hoe a huge garden for which you could see no end. Very quickly, the work would become drudgery and your heart would fill with resentment against that stupid garden.
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But what if it was God's garden?
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The secret to carrying a thousand baskets is to never pick up one that isn't the Lord's basket. He promises that his "yoke is easy and His burden is light." We get tired when we're carrying our own baskets, hoeing our own gardens, doing someone else's work.
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I gladly juggle my baskets because each one of them has been handed to me by God himself. They are direct assignments and there is more than enough time to get it all done when I let him prioritize them.
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If you're feeling overwhelmed with life's demands, give yourself a checkup. Are you hoeing someone else's garden?
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If the Dress Fits...


Today marks a milestone in my parenting journey.
My daughter Susie and I are going shopping for her senior banquet dress. This is the LAST senior banquet-prom-dance-formal dress I'll have to shop for with a teenage daughter. I know many mothers love this bonding time with their daughters, but I have always dreaded it--especially with my eldest daughter.
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We would traipse from store to store to store as she tried on and discarded dress after dress, seeing something in the mirror entirely different from what I was seeing.
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"Isn't this cute, Mom?" she would say, modeling a hideous contraption that exposed more than it covered and sagged on her in all the wrong places.
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"Oh, I LOVE this one!" she would gush, swishing silky fabric that I could visualize flying up over her head at the slightest puff of wind. At least it would be covering her chest.
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Hour after hour, we would go through the same routine until I was ready to buy whatever she tried on next and let her deal with her Daddy.
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Susie is much easier to shop with. However her tastes run toward the eccentric, often looking more like costumes than formal dress-up clothes. But the result is often the same as it was with my first daughter--she sees in the mirror what she wants to see.
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Isn't there a little bit of teenage girl in all of us? We put on our best face, smile, and pretend we've got it all under control, even when we're crumbling apart inside. We play church, play happy-marriage, pretend we're the Cleavers when life is really more like the Osbornes. We think we're fooling everyone--even God.
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Are you seeing what you want to see when you look in the mirror? Maybe that's not what God and others see. Maybe you're wearing a dress that doesn't fit, one that isn't what you were created to wear. Maybe you're clinging to your image, your reputation, your dreams when everyone else can see it's time to give it up and move on. Maybe the perfect fit is just around the corner, but you're settling to soon.
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What does God think when he looks at your life? Does it match the plan he designed for you? It's not too late to go change clothes.
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Are You Sinking In It?


Everyone's familiar with the story of Jesus walking on water--and when Peter tried to do it too, he started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus.
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The typical sermon on this passage reminds us that focusing on our problems rather than the power of the Lord makes us despair. And that's a good comparison. But I have another one.
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Lately I've become acutely aware of the deep sin so many Christians are mired in. The Body of Christ bears a shocking resemblance to the sinful world we were delivered from.
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Another "Christian" singer flaunts her homosexual lifestyle. A pastor of a mega church is found with a prostitute. Half the marriages in our church congregations are either coming out of divorce or headed toward it. The more I focus on the beauty and holiness of the Lord, the worse sin offends me.
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I certainly do not consider myself spotless. I'm ever aware of my own shortcomings and have to surrender anew to the Lord daily. But the blatant, open defense of wicked lifestyle choices is a blight on the name of Christ. Christianity is earning a bad reputation---and for good cause.
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The weight of it bore down on me yesterday and the joy I usually feel evaporated. I didn't understand it. It wasn't my sin. It isn't my guilt, but I felt it as though it was. I felt dirty, ashamed, and defeated. As the Scripture says, "When one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts."
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I went to the Lord and asked what was wrong and the story of Peter played across my mind. I saw myself stepping out of the boat and right into the dark churning waters of those who also claim the name of Christ, but live as though Satan was their father. Like Peter, I had begun to focus on the ugliness of sin rather than on the beauty of the Lord and I had lost my joy.
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When I refocused my heart, joy and relief followed. Jesus reminded me that He is not made less pure because of the sin choices of others. His righteousness is not tainted by this world. He's still as perfect and blameless as always and as long as I keep my eyes on that, it doesn't matter what others choose to do. They'll answer to that blameless Savior just as I will.
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So where is your focus?
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Sin should offend us. It offends God. But it doesn't have to defeat us. We are each judged by our own choices, not the wrongs of others. And the standard is unchanging, no matter how cute a spin some would try to put on their own sin.
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Psalm 147 tells us that "The Lord delights in the righteous, in those who fear Him." Bring delight to Him today and He'll take care of the others!
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Are You Mary or Martha?


The Bible story about Jesus' friends Mary and Martha has taken on new meaning for me these past few months.
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To be honest, I was always on Martha's side. I understood her: working her fingers off, trying to make everything nice, doing what needed to be done because nobody else was doing it.
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I thought Jesus was being a little insensitive when he praised Mary instead--for just sitting there! I can see Martha's hands on her hips, her forehead gleaming with sweat, her chest heaving with exertion from juggling bread dough, boiling pots, and a clunky oven all afternoon. I can see her lips tighten as she, for the first time, questions her dear friend's judgement.
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For the past 30 years, I have been Martha. "Just tell me what to do, Lord, and I'm there. I'll stick with it until they peel my rotting corpse off the job! I'll stay the course if it kills me!"
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And it almost did.
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Several months ago, the Lord finally got through to me. He jerked me out of the kitchen and sat me at his feet, where all the strength is. I just didn't know it.
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At first, I tried to protest. "There's so much to do. I'm wasting time just praising you, listening, reading...I should be..."
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"No," he would say. "This is the better way. I need you to be Mary for a while."
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Now I get it. He was right all along. He wasn't scolding Martha. He just saw right into her heart and knew there was no joy in her. She was doing everything right, serving, working, obeying. But she had no strength because she hadn't spent enough time at Jesus' feet. She was about to poop out if she didn't figure out where the real strength came from.
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What about you? Are you a Martha, too? Are you caught up in believing that what you do matters more than who you are inside? Has it become natural for you to ignore your own spiritual dryness as long as you're performing accurately? If you're keeping all the balls in the air, accomplishing good things for God, your family, your community, then isn't that what matters? Isn't that what we're called to do?
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Ask Jesus. He didn't think so.
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Sometimes we don't even realize we're operating under our own steam. It takes Jesus jerking us out of the kitchen before we understand how much we needed it.
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If Jesus came for dinner at your house, would you be in the kitchen preparing a banquet? Or would you serve him nice leftovers and spend every minute you could at his feet, basking in his glory, learning his heart?
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I think he prefers leftovers.
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Where Was God?

This is a difficult post to write, but it's what is on my heart. Maybe you needed to read it today.

As part of my preparation to be a counselor, I've been studying childhood sexual abuse and the life-long damage it causes. I noticed the past couple of days I've felt a little down, as though God had drifted away somewhere. Today as I was praying about the reason, I knew.

I walked to the woods as images of helpless children abused by the adults who were supposed to protect them flitted through my mind. The grief was so great that tears began to drip down my face. I thought of future clients who will struggle to understand, who will look at me and ask, "Where was God?"

"What do I tell them, God?" I asked the clear blue sky as the tears continued to flow. "What do I say when the tortured eyes of a victim pleads for an answer? It's a good question. Where were you?"

The birds continued to sing their carefree songs and the wind touched my hair as I waited for an answer. "I need to know, God. Before I go into that counseling room and face a question too big for me. I need to hear your answer."

Instead, the tears continued to course down my cheeks and make dusty plops on the forest floor. Why was I crying? My heart twisted with a pain that wasn't mine---and then I understood.

The tears weren't mine, either. God wasn't telling me his answer; He was showing me. The tears that dripped unbidden down my cheeks were his tears. The pain of every victim was his pain. I had prayed to have His heart, to know His thoughts, to feel what He felt for every person He brings into my life. This was his answer.

"You were there," I whispered to the clear blue sky. "You were also there when they tortured and murdered your Son. And your heart twisted like mine is doing, but you allowed it anyway because you want to bring beauty from ashes. You want to redeem, to purify, to bring new life to a deadened soul. No wonder you hate sin so bad. It hurts you too."

The tears dried and once again I could worship a God who hated the pain more than I did.

I now have my answer when the time comes. It won't be words, or a quick fix. I can do nothing to erase the memories, the pain, the shame.
But maybe I can show them God's heart.
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Are You Hiding?


"I'm not ready."


"Yes, you are."


No...but..."


"You'll never know enough. You can't help anybody, but I can and I need you to stop hiding and get out there."


Such was the conversation the Lord and I had Sunday evening.
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I've spent an intense 4 1/2 months training for my lay-counseling certification and have learned more than I imagined I could. Of course there are places you can find which offer you a "paper" for a simple how-to course, but I wanted much more than that and the Lord directed me to the perfect school for me. It's deep, it's intense, it's full of incredible spiritual revelations, and when I realized I could continue on in the Master's degree classes for free, I decided to do that too. After all, you can't learn too much. Right? These are people's LIVES I'm dealing with. Can't be overly prepared. Right?
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All well and good, but the problem was, I was putting off gaining the actual paper--which I could do at any time--and get going with the ministry. I hadn't realized that's what I was doing, but the Lord made it pretty clear. "You are hiding. You are waiting until YOU feel secure and I don't want you like that. I need your weakness, not your strength."
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I stopped my prayer, went downstairs, and ordered the one certification class that was lacking. The next day, my pastor called.
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"Got someone I need you to talk to."
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"But...I'm not ready..."
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"You can do it."
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I could feel the Lord nudging me from behind. Probably smiling.
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How many other times have I hidden myself, just as Adam and Eve did in the garden? We hide behind our weaknesses, our frailties, our insecurities, arguing with the Lord, certain he can't mean what we think he means.
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"I'm not good enough..."

"I'm not smart enough..."

"That's for other people who can do better than I..."

All through history, God has called the least likely individuals to do the greatest work for him. Gideon and his measly army; Rahab, the town whore; that crazy, unkempt wild man they called John the Baptist. God delights in taking our inability and doing great things with it.

It's our abilities that get us in trouble with Pride.

The counseling session went just as the Holy Spirit wanted it to go, because I had to rely completely on him. I think that's what the Lord had in mind all along.

So what are you hiding from? What gentle nudging do you feel in the back of your spirit? The one you've successfully tramped down until now, covered with your reasonable excuses, and tried to ignore because you're just "not ready."

If you don't feel ready, you're probably right where God wants you. Come out, come out, wherever you are. Stop hiding. You're missing the game.

Do You Have Your Own God?


A member of my Life Group made a comment last week that has played through my mind all week. He said that God is so personally involved in each of our lives that it's almost as though we each have our own God.
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He's right, but how many professing Christians don't really realize it.
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One major difference between Christianity and man-made religions is that our God is a personal God to each of us. Notice I did NOT say He is "different things to different people." That's the idea many unbelievers prefer. Some love the idea of creating their own gods in their own images. How many times have you heard someone expound rather rapturously, "I believe god is the flowers, the sky, the summer breeze, and within each of us...blah, blah..." Sounds pretty enough for a Hallmark card, but it's utter rubbish.
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God created those things, but He is NOT the equivalent of those things. The apostle Paul warned about people who "worship the creation rather than the Creator."
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Creator God didn't set the planets in motion and then retire. He's been working in and through his creation every moment of every day and yet is able to whisper personally to each of his children who are quiet enough to listen.
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How empty it must be to spend your life chasing after Buddha's ideals, Mohammed's vicious writings, or some fake god who's small enough to fit inside a flower. Those ideas are all man-made. A relationship with God is God-made, undeserved by us, and totally impossible without Him providing the means to attain it.
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I fear too many people who profess to know Christ only know Him in the general sense, a mental acknowledgement that the facts stated in the Bible are historically accurate. John Wesley said, "Mental assent is Satan's best tool for keeping us from God."
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The kind of relationship God wants with each of us is personal. He knows your every thought. He knows your dreams and your hurts and wants you to bring them to him. And when your heart is pure before him, He speaks in that still small voice---just to you. He tells me something different than he tells my Life Group friend, because He's talking to me.
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Do you have your own personal God? Not a god of your making; a relationship of His making.
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If you're only worshipping a corporate figurehead, you're missing the whole point. If you stand in church and sing to the podium, if your prayers seem to hover near the light fixture before crashing back around your ears, if you've never heard His still small whisper and known His voice as certainly as you know the voice of your best friend, then you're missing out.
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You don't have to anymore. Click on the right sidebar with all the question marks. And then let me know if you have any questions. Imagine what He wants to say---just to you!
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Whose Got the Purina?


My 6-pound Maltese put on 2 more pounds the month after we got Babe.
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Suddenly, her food dish was filled with way more food than she could eat. But she tried anyway. Standing guard night and day, she ate as much as she could hold, trying to keep Babe from getting any. Nine months later, she's still at it.



It's not possible to reason with a piece of fluff whose brain is not much bigger than a quarter, so I've given up. But it's aggravating to watch her spend her days lying on the floor by her full dish on the chance that Babe will try to get a bite to eat. Her life would be so much fuller if she wasn't preoccupied with preventing something she really can't control.
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As I refilled the dish today from the giant sack of Purina, I thought how much like Yankee we are. We stand guard over our treasures, our lives, afraid to invest ourselves in the lives of others for fear there won't be anything left for us. We hunker down with our nose to the grindstone, competing for that prize, looking out for number one, because maybe nobody's looking out for us.
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And all the time, God watches us with his big bag of Purina, ready to keep us filled if we'd just get out of the way. He's got an endless supply of everything we need. Investing ourselves in others doesn't deplete the supply in any way. There's always more when we need it.
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It's not only money we're stingy with. Our time, our schedules, our talents can all be poured out over and over again, and like the widow's oil, our lives stay full.
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Yankee may never learn where all that dog food comes from, but we can learn. God says, "Try me now and see. I will open up the windows of Heaven and you will have so much you can't hold it all."
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So, how do you spend your days? Are you lying beside your food dish or do you know Who's keeping it filled?