Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I grew up with the Western…my father an avid reader of Zane Grey. Great television Westerns like Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Bonanza, The Virginian, The Rifleman, just to name a few, a part of my early development: “Happy Trails to You” hummed in my head for more days than I can count. With the success of Lonesome Dove, both the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and the television mini-series, and most recently the remake of True Grit, demonstrates the strong possibility the Western will make a comeback, one of the reasons I why I can recommend Henry McLaughlin’s award-winning book, Journey to Riverbend, due for release February, 2011. http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Riverbend-Henry-McLaughlin/dp/1414339429/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1293586928&sr=1-1 also available on Kindle.

“We’re so proud of Henry and his award-winning first novel. This one grabs you from the first sentence and never lets go.” Said Jerry B. Jenkins, owner of the Christian Writers Guild. And it doesn’t take long before we realize why Henry won Operation First Novel sponsored by Christian Writers Guild.
I echo Jerry’s sentiments because Henry is a former critique partner. Fearless Fiction Writers knew from the first, Henry would do great things with his writing.

Michael Carter makes a journey to Riverbend as a favor to a boy he counseled who dies on the gallows. Ben Cartairs left his home after a falling out with his father and wants more than anything in this world to be reconciled. But, when Ben is hung, unable to prove his innocence, Michael promises to find Ben’s father and tell him he could be proud of the man his son had become, a changed life saved by Grace.  

Soon after his arrival in Riverbend, Michael learns that Ben's father, Sam Carstairs has been kidnapped. Michael joins the search party, determined to fulfill his promise. But the journey to Riverbend isn’t only about Ben and Sam Carstairs. In the tension that follows his journey, Michael recalls his own evil past, his bloody brawl with his father and a journey that had resulted in Michael’s salvation. In Riverbend, Michael meets and falls in love with the beautiful Rachel Stone, a former prostitute who has conquered her past through faith but who is resistant to trust any man.  

And so it is that all the characters McLaughlin introduces are on independent journeys. In this historical western, McLaughlin mirrors the same situations many Christians and non-believers struggle with today. Told with raw reality that was the West of bygone days, McLaughlin takes the reader on parallel journeys. Kudos for a job well done. An entertaining read from start to finish. 

By Henry McLaughlin
© 2011

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I pulled out my recipe for snicker doodles, an old-time favorite for the holidays. As I put in the shortening, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, the recipe said to blend until creamy. My mind flashed to when I first learned how to bake, back in the day when cake mixes were a novelty or used for last minute church suppers.

The kitchen was my mother’s paradise and her instructions were gospel. To deter meant banishment from the stove.

First: “Wash your hands. No good cook comes to the kitchen with dirty hands.”

Next: “Now read the recipe, and put all the ingredients on the shelf.”

Third step, to my mother the most crucial in the whole process: “cream the shortening, butter, eggs and sugars.”

I stuck in the rotary beaters, set it on high and splashed wet globs from one end of the kitchen to the other. “Done,” I said.

Mother knew better, knew I was always in a hurry to get to the end of a project. “Nope. It’s too grainy. Set the beater on low, scrape the sides frequently, fold the batter together and repeat. Let time and the ingredients do their magic.”

Reluctantly, I started again, following her directions blowing out my frustration all the while. “This takes too long.”  

“Don’t rush it,” Mother said. “Creaming is the most important step in the whole process. If you hurry the creaming, the cookies will come out crumbly and dry. Creaming is what makes them chewy and delectable. Don’t rush the creaming. It takes time but the result is worth it.”

I slowed down and watched with wonder as the goo gradually melded into a creamy, light texture, the ingredients transforming before my eyes.

As I carefully creamed for the snicker doodles, Mother’s words came back to me. I thought about our instant society, how we crave immediate results, the growing tendency to hurry through life in the fastest checkout line. In our haste we blunder through the mix of it all, leaving globs of broken dreams in the muck of our speed.

I thought how the creaming principle is true in all the rooms of our lives, not just the kitchen. We tend to rush for the pleasure without enduring the process. God has given us the recipe for a rich, textured life. If we take the time to cream it, not be satisfied with grainy goo or toss it aside because of its unpleasantness—if we repeatedly scrape, fold and beat for as long as it takes, the grimy gook of our shattered hopes will become that creamed foundation that awakens the flavor of our human experience.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Remember Jim Neighbors, Gomer Pyle, who smiled with every new twist and turn in his life? I love surprises. And I hope I never get too old to appreciate the new or the old with a twist. This blog is dedicated to life at its fullest. Not every surprise brings joyous news, like a flooded kitchen sink in the middle of a holiday dinner. But every surprise is a reminder that life is far from boring.

My husband and I stopped at an IHOP on our way to New York City to visit our son for Thanksgiving. Even an IHOP is a treat…we don’t eat out that much. But we were met with a surprise in a place where we thought no one would know anything about us or that we were approaching our 33rd anniversary.

I left for a few minutes to go to the ladies room. When I came back, I saw my husband’s neck stretched, perhaps looking for me. Maybe I was gone a little longer than expected. When I sat down, an elderly man came to our table and handed us a poem he’d scribbled on a napkin, written in the voice of my husband. What a special moment, found at random. Made us want to give back a little…a random kindness in return to perhaps give someone else the pleasure of a surprise.

YOU LEFT ME by Joe Testo

                My Darling, you left me

                For minute or two

                Though that is not much

                Still I missed you

                So I thank the Good Lord up above

                For giving me you

                My Darling, to love.

                Give someone a random surprise today. In fact, come back and let us know about it. God bless.

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Things Held Back by Old Worries

Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

The desert, though dangerous, hot, uncomfortable, and teeming with mirages, is not to be feared. God has promised rivers in them. He will bring new things out of the old. The reason we fail to realize this is because we feel safer clinging to the old oasis. We fear journeying out into the desert because we don’t know where or when the next oasis will be. We cling to our hurts, fearful if we let them go we’ll receive bigger ones. We cling to our disappointments, afraid to try again. We falsely believe failure means God didn’t want us to succeed. Perhaps God wants us to put that first foot forward in spite of our doubts, comfort and biasis. Maybe He has already moved us toward that New Thing, but we fail to grasp his leading because we are too encompassed with our arguments against why we should keep the old.

What do you think?

Ponder me back.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth (Genesis 9:13 NIV).

“There it is!” I felt warm and tingly inside to see the other end of the rainbow.

We’d traveled for a few hours through the rain, miserable mist and sometimes torrents. When the mist lifted, I caught a glimpse of the rainbow’s start. It ascended high into the clouds then seemed to disappear. But where there is one side of the rainbow, there has to be another. I found myself focusing on the rainbow, tracing its outline, searching, until finally, there it was.

My joy would not have been as great, if I had given up looking for it, doubting it existed since I couldn’t see it.

I wonder if our faith is sometimes stretched like that rainbow. We pray through the storm, and see a start of God’s handiwork, a glimpse of His plan, a fruitful beginning to the work He gives us. Then, it seems like it all disappears behind the clouds. We can no longer feel God’s touch on our lives. Here is where Faith makes a difference, the substance of things unseen. Like the rainbow, we must remember: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

I wonder if sometimes I stop looking for God’s handiwork because of my lack of Faith. If God starts a rainbow, won’t He finish it?

Ponder me back.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Need a Moment? Instead of Twix, Why Not try God?

When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say (Luke 12:11-12).

I angst over a deadline for a column, and with no thought entering in my mind or heart, I worried I’d come up with a blank page. Then I prayed, when I should have prayed first.

Why do we fool ourselves into thinking God does not care about our creative instincts? If He created the world and all that is within, and if we are created in His image, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that we also have a well-spring of creative imaginings? When we pray first, we not only have our limited supply, but we tap into God’s unending resources.

 Do we believe He cares about our creative projects—even our contribution to a pot luck supper? I know He has rescued my poor baking skills more than once—that is if I ask Him to help before I mess things up by trying it on my own.

I think the application applies to all our endeavors, especially the words we say and the words we write. When the time comes, God will provide the words in the right place and with the right punch.

Have a family member or friend you want to talk to but afraid you’ll say the wrong thing? God will heap His wisdom into our thoughts, our tongues and our hands.

What do you think?
Ponder me back.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Daddy I Felled

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The two-year old darted around the apartment like a butterfly in a flower garden, touching this and climbing that.

“Kaylee, get down. You’re going to get hurt,” the father repeatedly warned.

But Kaylee’s desire to explore her world proved insatiable. Every chair and stool proved to be a challenge waiting to be conquered.

“Kaylee, sit down now while I fix your soup,” the father said.

Kaylee scurried to her favorite chair. But while her father’s attention was turned away, she stood and rocked it, tumbling unto the floor with a loud bang. Her father rushed to her side.

Tears streamed her cheeks as she sobbed, “Daddy, I felled.”

Dad knew the fall was the child’s fault. In her stubbornness, she pursued the course of disobedience. But rather than chide, the father simply kissed her tears and said, “It’s alright, Kaylee. Daddy’s here now.”

From that moment on, Kaylee sat in her chair as a proper young lady should.

As I witnessed this father’s tender interaction, I thought of how many times I’ve tempted God with my disobedience, even though He has repeatedly warned me that I will fall if I’m not careful. How many times, have I run to Him with watered eyes, “Daddy, I felled.”

Yet, whenever I seek Him in my contrition, He picks me up, wipes away my tears, not condemning but loving, and reminds me He is always near.

What do you think?
Ponder me back

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

I would hurry to my place of shelter,

far from the tempest and storm (Psalm 44:8 NIV).

The other day our area was hit with unusual storm patterns for the North County. I sat glued to the local news channel as it kept repeatedly warning people to get inside, go into their basements, or find shelter in the innermost room of their home. The conditions were ripe for a tornado.

For some parts of the country, threats of tornados may be a frequent occurrence. Although, Northern Adirondacks might have microbursts, localized wind funnels that create havoc for in a short swathe, tornados are relatively unheard of. Although my immediate area was spared the damage, homes within a mile or two of me were rattled and ravaged.

So what did I do? Stayed in my recliner, drank my coffee and watched the broadcast with amusement. ”It won’t happen here. Never has and never will.”

A friend told how she immediately got up, filled some jugs of water, plugged in a temporary phone line, and protected herself in case she lost power. I thought how foolish I had been to just sit and do nothing. Fortunately, no harm done, but what about the next time? Should I rest easy simply because I escaped the full impact of the storm?

I think how sometimes as a believer I tend toward armchair spirituality. I hear the warnings, yet I remain fixated on my current comfort, unwilling to get up and prepare, read my Bible for advice or most importantly, pray for a wall of protection against the enemy’s buffeting winds.

And so today, I am asking the Spirit to push me out of my laziness, pull me up with His hand, and shove me toward action, not wait for the reality of the storm but to respond at the first warning.

How about you? Ponder me back.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


1 Kings 19:3- 18

“I have had enough Lord,” he said. “Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors”…All at once an angel touched him…”

I had one of those days. They don’t happen often, but they do happen. People who suffer from migraines know that episodes are often preceded by what is termed an aura. Sometimes, I see flashing lights. Sometimes, I get depressed. Sometimes, most of the time, the episode is preceded by fogginess. Thankfully that’s the less oppressive aura and the easier for my family and friends to deal with.

But sometimes, I have severe agitation. Things that normally don’t bother me crash in on me. It’s a woe-is- me-my-life-sucks pity party on a grand scale. Think PMS on steroids. A rare aura, indeed, but traumatic just the same.

Mental health professionals teach a method of calming for children who experience meltdowns, or episodic agitation. The technique includes pulling the child into a secure hold called a wrap-a-round, a blanket of secure acceptance. Sometimes singing helps. Other times, encouraging the child to breath deeply or mediate will bring a calming affect.

Once calm, the child can go on with his day, refreshed and reassured.

At times when these meltdowns occur, I seek God’s face. He never fails to wrap me in His love. Reminding me I’m not going insane. This is a physical episode that will pass. I look to Him to quiet my spirit.

Elijah had a spiritual meltdown. The Bible says he was downcast in spirit. God sustained him through his weakness. Then he picked him up and told him to get on his way (see above reference)

I think believers can have spiritual meltdowns as well. Those episodes when God seems distant and far away. When the complications of a world gone beserk fall down on our shoulders and bring us to the point of utter and complete frustration.

But we have a Father who will wrap us in His wisdom and love, if we ask. He will sing to us a new song of joy and hope. And when our spirits are refreshed, he sets us up and says, “You’re okay now Get on with your life.”

Ponder me back.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is Grace Achieved or Birthed?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

Why do we strive for holiness as something we can achieve for ourselves? “I’m trying to be a good Christian,” I hear over and over again. We chisel our days to incorporate all the good spiritual habits that ought to bring us closer to God. We schedule our “hour with God” as if our time with Him was for His benefit. We live for God rather than live with God. I wonder if much of our spiritual effort is for our benefit, rather than God’s, that human need to be cognizant of all we sacrifice. Most often, I believe, that kind of sacrifice is not God ordered. We think we must shout our love in blood and tears in order for God to hear us. We carefully slice our finances to make certain God receives His tenth.

These spiritual habits, according to Oswald Chambers, are dangerous, for they come from our pride rather than a natural extension and evidence of God’s indwelling. I wonder if the operative word is “effort.” When we put forth effort, perhaps our motivation is to impress God, rather than respond to God. By effort, we become the doer rather than God.

Maybe holiness is something that is bred within us, an instinct that is generated by God alone rather than our spiritual habits. We do not study breathing in order to breathe. We simply breathe. If God has made us new creatures, as the Bible says, then He will do the work of changing us. As He is the seed, He is also the caretaker of the seed He has planted. He will cultivate, and He will harvest.

I wonder if by working at goodness, we pull against the easy yoke God has placed upon us.

Does that mean we should not read God’s word or pray or study? Does that mean we should not feed the hungry, give offerings to His storehouse?

Of course not.

Perhaps it means that our seeking after the things of God falls hort if we do so to achieve Grace. Rather these things are a response to the Grace we have already received.

What do you think? Ponder me back.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Joy in the Labor

“Beware of any work for God which enables you to evade concentration on Him.”

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

The father asked his two young sons to rake the backyard. “I’d like it done before I come home from work.” He handed each of them a five-dollar bill in advance.

“Okay, Dad,” they both said.

“Good,” the father said. Then he left the house.

The oldest boy fondled his money. “If we get it done this morning, we can go the Arcade this afternoon.”

The youngest flipped the curtain aside. “If we’re finished early, we could trim the hedges. Didn’t you notice how tired Dad seemed this morning?”

While each will complete the task, which do you think will find joy in the labor?

My guess is the boy who had his Dad in mind.

Most Christians feel they work for God’s pleasure. Unfortunately, some misplace where the reward is found. Some believe satisfaction comes after the work. Some look to being chosen as the source of their joy. Some believe the reward is in a job well done. While these worldly philosophies are admirable, will these motivations bring us true joy in the Lord?

God does not call us to labor for the labor itself. He does not pleasure in our slavery, but in our companionship. The work is pleasurable because God is beside us.

Where has our joy gone? Perhaps in our zeal to work for God, we have shut him out of the partnership. The work itself becomes our idol for it has replaced God’s prominence in our lives. Our labors take precedence over the One who called us to them.

“For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building” 1 Corinthians 3:9 NIV.

Friday, March 26, 2010




1) Stress less.
The gulls do not store up for themselves fish and shrimp and yet they do not starve. If a bird can find food enough each day so can a man, woman and child.

2) Love more.
Love is free. Taxed, but still free. Families and friends remain the true source of significance. A life loved and being loved will outlast any economic downturn so share more, not less.

3) Give it all to God.
Nations rise and fall. Economies expand and collapse. Through it all, God remains on His throne. Whatever financial difficulties you face today God foresaw it long ago and will see you through. During tough times you may be tempted to recoil, retreat and redouble your efforts, but God’s economy calls for to a radical departure from our human response. God says, “Give it up.” Not quit, but let go. Work, yes. Budget, yes. But give whatever remains of your wealth give to Him and trust that He’ll make it stretch to provide for your daily needs.

4) Dream big.
 Dreams do not die, they only go dormant. A nut buried in the ground does not remain a nut. In time it becomes an oak. You may not see your dreams come true but that doesn’t mean they won’t. History is replete with discovers born from the grave. Make a photo album of places you’d like to visit and give it away as a gift. Write a letter of past memories and share it with your spouse and children. Our plans for the future begin with our desires of today.

5) Smile often.
You matter less than you think and will be missed more than you know so be careful how you live. Your actions and attitudes matter.

6) Trust others.
Trust begins with an open hand. We cannot reach for the future with a closed fist. If you want to move forward you will have to trust again. Be wise, be discerning but trust. This is, after all, the lifeblood of our economy.

7) Let go.
You cannot make a sun rise, sparrow sing or rain cloud bloom. You control less than you think so relax, let go and help those you can.

8) Travel more.
 Memories cannot be reposed or auctioned off and their value does not fluctuate with the market so travel more, not less. Time is the only contraband you have and what you don’t spend on others you should exchange for memories so take trips—even if it’s only around the block to a new park, creek or community center. Moving gets us going. (‘Kay, Yogi Berra didn’t say it but he could’ve.)

9) Spend less, savor more.
A small meal eaten slowly can fill a hungry belly. Give thanks for the small things and do not begrudge the tough times. You can endure more than we think. You’re an American.

10) Look up.
 A bowed head will miss the sunrise, sunset and silver lining. Of all creatures man stands nearest to heaven so lift your chin, open your eyes and gaze toward the stars.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NIV).

“Oops,” I said as I took the scissors to my mother’s hair.
“Somehow that doesn’t give me a lot of confidence,” she said.
Some days oops flow like lava, one mistake melting into another.  I lose confidence that I will ever get this Christian thing right.
“Oops!  I wish I hadn't spent all that money.” I comment as I return from shopping, having been unable to resist those 50 percent off sales promotions. When I examine my purchases, I realize I could have easily done without many of the items purchased.
 “Oops, I wish I had stuck to my diet,” I moan when I step on the scales, wishing I had not eaten that second piece of Black Forest cake.
Our spiritual lives seem as imperfect as our shopping sprees and sugary feasts.
“Oops, I wish I hadn't said that hurtful remark,” I chastise myself after hurling my spouse’s mislaid sneakers across the room.  
As oops spill, I wonder if it’s even possible to live a holy life.  I waste hours in self-incrimination until God pulls at my spiritual ears to get my attention.
“Enough with the apologies,” God tells me.  He reminds me that holiness is an attitude, a desire for the things of God.
“Holiness is not perfection,” God reminds me.
 “You will still make mistakes,” He tells me. “Holiness is a seeking after the things I want to give you. Wallowing in your oops is wasted energy. Remember, I have a remedy. Give me your oops and I will exchange them for peace.”
Have you ever struggled with the oops?
Ponder me back.

Monday, February 8, 2010


“The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal—not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond.”

And so the author describes the concept behind her memoir, Thin Places, where she takes the reader inside those events and times of her life, a series of thin places where God has come near. From the times of her earliest memories to even the present breath she breathes, God has proven himself, revealed himself over and over again in these thin places in the author’s life.

Written with painful honesty, Mary DeMuth brings the reader on an emotional journey as she honestly shares not only the deep areas of her life that brought her guilt, shame, and pain; but how God met her through those “thin places.”

Rarely does a book come along that brings home the true nature of God’s healing and presence through those narrow passages in our lives when we feel abandoned, scorned, or dirtied. This is one such book. This reviewer gives it a whopping five stars, wishing the scale would let me go higher. I highly recommend, Thin Places.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
So I tried a practical life illustration with my grandson. He wanted me to buy more of the fancy valentines because they were so cool he wanted to keep some for himself. “So, Andy, if you have 27 valentines and you are sending out 20 valentines, how many will you have left?” He thought about that for a minute. He got angry and upset. There were more people he should send valentines to, so he still needed more valentines. Because he wanted to be certain to keep some for himself, he made himself unhappy with what he already possed in abundance.
I wonder if I try to manipulate God in the same way. I wonder if I’m consumed by trying to get God to give me what I want, instead of accepting that what He gives me is all I need.

In my view, my kitchen needs a complete gutting and overhaul. I am so tired of looking at broken floor and bent ceiling tiles, buckled walls and decaying cupboards. It seems everyone I know has a beautiful kitchen. Why can't I have one? Since I work at home, the deficit is always before me. I hound Heaven with my request. “Don’t you love me, God? If you do, why don’t I have a new kitchen? I’d be a much better Christian with a new kitchen. I'd give out more valentines...I’d entertain more…and the arguments go on and on.”

And since God doesn’t see fit to give me a new kitchen, I start imagining ways I can get it myself. I can forsake my calling, go out and get a real job and then have enough money to redo the kitchen. Before I know it, my behavior follows my resentment. I hate the job God has given me because I can’t get a new kitchen from it. I can’t focus on my writing anymore. Or my prayer life either. I end out the day accomplishing nothing, slapping myself with a wet noodle for lack of productivity. The morrow starts the cycle all over again.

A friend mentioned that she is recently convicted to start her day by asking the Son to shine on her day. To bring to her day what God wants for her, rather than what she thinks is important. Easier said than done. Does it begin with reordering my thoughts? Do I ask God to change my environment or do I ask God to change me?

What do you think? Ponder me back.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Surrendering Doubt

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.” Job 37 5 – 6.

Job believed nothing could compare with God’s power. He had always bowed his will to God’s authority. His circumstances were beyond his comprehension. How could these disasters be for Job’s benefit? Did God permit them or orchestrate them? How could these disasters make Job a better man?
Even today, the book of Job disturbs believers. If God loves us and God cares about us, why does He allow such horrific events into our lives? We have already arrived to the point of subjection, and we believe God is sovereign and in control. Then why does He allow the downpour of calamity? For some, the gales are relentless like the buffeting winds of a hurricane.

I have witnessed many saints who grow nearer to God during these times when the faint hearted would collapse. These, perhaps, are the times, like Job, when we must surrender our doubts and helplessness, and stand back in awe of what God will accomplish. What do you think? Ponder me back.

Monday, January 25, 2010


“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 NIV).

“Oh, I never go see a movie,” Jane said. “They are way too expensive. I just let my friends tell me what happened. That’s just as good, isn’t it?”

That makes about as much sense as losing weight by listening to how much exercise our friends do. We only truly understand and appreciate an event by first hand experience.

We want to glean information the same way. Through the work and research of others.

With so much information at our fingertips, we want to be in control of our decisions. That is good consumerism. However, assimilation of knowledge will not make us doctors or lawyers anymore than staying in one of those smart hotels.

When Mindy had a pain in her abdomen, she visited a medical website, entered her symptoms and discovered she could have anything from a stomach flu to terminal cancer. When she finally consulted an expert, her doctor put her on a high fiber diet for chronic constipation and the symptoms cleared.

Unfortunately, we approach our spiritual life in much the same way as our search for knowledge. Through second hand resources.

Sheila Walsh says in Women of Faith Devotional Bible, “I think we Christians have become lazy. We would rather read a book about him or how someone else became closer to God than spend time alone with him ourselves. We would rather listen to someone else’s interpretation of the Word of God than read it for ourselves. And yet we alone are accountable for what we believe.”

We rob ourselves of intimacy with God because we stop short with our knowledge about God. He has given us his Word, the power of prayer, and His very presence to lead us into a relationship with Him. Why then do we persist in secondhand Christianity?

Ponder me back

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When Get Up and Go Gets Up and Goes

The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we 'get up and get going.' God does not give us overcoming life--He gives us life as we overcome."--- Oswald Chambers

Oswald wrote these words a long time ago. How did he know that our culture today would be so draining we’d have problems plodding through our days? So what should I do when my get up and go gets up and goes? Should I simply sit and wait for it to come back? There are days I think it has permanently left the building.

Sometimes my kids would complain that they didn’t feel like going to school. Of course, I dumbly retorted with, “Well, some days I don’t feel like going to work. So what would happen if I didn’t go to work?”

Kids are smarter than that. They equate the job with money. Kids aren’t paid to go to school. So the analogy falls short and the kids’ incentive to attend school is by no means enhanced. So I reverted to the old standby sans rationale…”Get out of bed. You’re going to school because I said so.” After they complied, their agile joints finally got their juices flowing. Often they’d come home saying their day ended up being good afterall.

Often, the body will eventually fall into sync with the mind. Exercise gurus are quick to point out that the feel- good hormone lags behind the action. In other words, the getup and go will return once my get up and go gets going.

I suppose that is true with our spiritual life as well. There are aspects of the Christian life that demand energy often at times when I feel the most depleted. That is when the Father reminds me, “Let his mind be also in you…”

So which comes first? Fortitude or attitude?

Ponder me back.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm Glad I'm a Tree

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61: 1 – 3 NIV).

Do you ever think of yourself as a tree? Tall and straight and fully adorned in green leaves? Here God promises to the refuse of the world and use them for His glory. He reaches out to the poor, to the despairing, to the prisoner, to the lost. Whether our circumstances are of our own making, a calamity or catastrophe beyond our imaginings, or because humankind’s rebellion, I believe God wants to make the dark places light, satiate the hungry, and set the captive free.

I believe God intimately knows the brokenhearted and offers renewal. With so great an offer, why are we slow to respond? What captive would not want to be free? What weary traveler would not want to find rest? What disease-ridden soul would not want to be cured?

The Lord asked the paralytic man at the wading pool a seemingly foolish question-Wilt thou be whole? (John 5:6). If he were cured, his life would change dramatically. He had to decide whether to walk in newness or cling to the security of the old. Healing and freedom would catapult him into the unfamiliar.
Perhaps that is why the path to repentance and salvation is so narrow (Matthew 7:13). It is an entrance into a vast unknown and few dare to choose the path.
Let me “leaf” you with this thought:
I believe that God will fashion those who seek to be made whole into a strong and mighty oak amidst His grove. What do you think
Ponder me back

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Irrational Fear

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:16).

There’s that word again—fear. Why do I fear that which I cannot control? If God is sovereign, doesn't He have power over that which causes me to shake in my boots? Is my fear irrational, then? I don't think its the body's chemical reaction to unpleasantness that is at issue here.

A reporter interviewed a missionary soon after the devastating earthquake that toppled so much of Haiti. He stated that he'd been in the country thirty years. He'd seen political upheaval, disease, hurricanes, and mudslides. But he had never known this kind of terror in his life.

Preachers exhort, “Do not fear. If you are weak, God will strengthen. If you thirst—God will provide a fountain. If you hunger, God will supply.” But in reality, many wonderful Christians do hunger, thirst, and succumb to the ravages of the flesh. Does God expect us to ignore our human composition when confronted with the terrible?

 If fear is an instinct, as natural as gulping for air after emerging from a fire or climbing out of a deep pool, why does the Bible equate it as a sin? Or does the verse imply that it is a sin to remain in a state of fear?

I wonder if fear is like anger, natural but laden with potential harm if we react to the anger or fear in a way that does not glorify God. Perhaps the one who continues in fear has not yet surrendered that fear to God's sovereignty. And if we wallow in our fear we are exercising a belief that God has sent the trouble as punishment. Just as the Bible says to be angry and sin not, God reminds the believer there is a solution for fear. We need not nor should we continue in it.

When we do, when we allow uncertainty to paralyze or when we react impulsively, we rob ourselves of God's provision. We'd rather believe he chastens us than loves us. While he may not remove the circumstance that caused the fear, He will most assuredly carry His child over or through the horrific. If death is the result, then we are forever in His arms. Conversely, when we claim that Love, there is no longer any room for fear.

Ponder me back.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hopefully Devoted To You

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality (Romans 12:10 – 13).

Susan scowled when Darma was assigned the solo part. “She always gets the solos,” Susan complained to her husband at dinner. “I’m just as good a singer as she is.”
I must confess, when my fellow writers announce their publication successes, I am a lot like Susan. While I extend gracious congratulations, my heart says, “When’s my turn, Lord?” When I read this verse, I am checked.
While neglect and abuse exist, the majority of parents are devoted to their children. They take pride in their accomplishments. They put their children’s needs above their own. Imagine how much stronger families would be if spouses did this for one another?
I wonder what our churches would look like if we were truly devoted to one another as a parent is to a child. As God demonstrates His devotion to us? We could not contain the influx.
Ponder me back

Friday, January 8, 2010

Advancing the Ball

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17 NIV)

With the all the technology in this world, why can’t they invent a bed that makes itself? Why must we toil in fruitless endeavors, wasting our lives away with the mundane? No matter how many dishwashers we have in the house, someone has to load them. And they need to be emptied before they can be used again.

There is always some task screaming at us to be tended to. If it’s not laundry, it’s mending. If it’s not moving the lawn, it’s pulling the weeds. It never fails that as soon as I clean the kitchen, someone in the household has a hankering for a snack. “Leave it alone for an hour at least,” I demand in my best general’s tone. “I’d like to just look at for a few minutes at least.”

I wonder if even the most exciting careers are riddled with the mundane. Sometimes the mundane seems to overshadow what I feel is productivity. I feel like that golfer who hits the ball and watches it hit a tree and go backwards another hundred yards. No wonder the Psalmist worries that his life will be frittered by the mundane and asks God to honor the work of his hands. Ever feel that way?
Ponder me back

Thursday, January 7, 2010

No-quitter Zone

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10 NKJV).

It happened again. A criticism came my way on a new work in progress, jolting my confidence. “Why do I bother to write?” I ask myself. Then another comment came in on the same section that said, “Great writing!” It seems that like so many other areas of our lives, judgment will vary according to who is doing the evaluation..
We’ve done our best. We’ve cast our bread upon the water to the point our heads hurt. And yet the criticisms mount. And we wonder, “Why bother?” The encouragement filters in…suck up. Don’t quit. Keep keeping on. Good advice and so we follow it. But the pain remains.

Like many who receive disappointing news, writers often cope with rejection by self-chastisement, going to the mall, or downing a box of chocolates. Some of us wallpaper our offices with rejection letters or mount them unto a dart board. We collect them for the biggest, best, or funniest rejection story like fishermen glory in the one that got away.
Sometimes within our arsenal of coping mechanisms God will send his encouraging word…always right for the occasion. How has God cushioned you in the throes of discouragement? Let’s cyber clink our coffee cups and frolic in the no-quitter zone.
Ponder me back.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Papa Don't Preach

Some of you may remember Madonna’s music video—that of a teenager who tells her father about her unplanned pregnancy. She pleads with him not to tell her she’d been wrong. She already knew that. She wanted to know, “Will you help me or condemn me?”

I find that most readers make the same request. Don’t throw the message in my face. I already know when I’ve fallen. Just tell me how to get back up. What about you? Do you want to hear it straight or do you prefer sugar coating? Do you prefer a little to a time or being dumped on? How do we writers speak the truth in love with our written words?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Immunity or Opportunity?

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV).

We are not immune. We have aches and pains and succumb to viruses. Christians experience the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease, cancer, and pulmonary disorders. Even those who have worked hard to keep their bodies in top physical condition may endure other hardships such as financial ruin, career failures, and even marriage disappointments. No amount of preparedness, prevention, or perseverance will completely shield us from the perils of this world.

The beauty of faith is not the absence of vulnerability but rather the experience of God’s Grace through the ordeals. We naturally ask, why can’t I learn this lesson without the experience? I wonder if maybe we are detoured from our rose-laden pathways in order to help others we meet on those dusty paths. Perhaps our endurance, with God's leading, through those courses that would cause many to give up will brighten the road for others. Do we seek immunity or opportunity?

What do you think?