Monday, December 28, 2009

Reading in 2010

So many books, so little time!  

I'm compiling my 2010 Reading List. I usually do this at the beginning of the year in some form or another...but I'm usually not quite as intentional about it as I am being this year. I tend to stack books "to be read." The larger the stack of unread books, the better I feel, because I know they are there waiting for me at any given moment.  

When I get the time.  

The trouble is, there is so little time.  

And when you stack my spare time next to my stack of unread books, it appears the stack of unread books has already far surpassed the stack of spare time I will have in my life ever again. Hence, the intentionality. My goal for 2010 is to read one book a week. Because, as my friend Scott Jones tweeted yesterday, "Men can live w/out air a few minutes, w/out water for 2 weeks, w/out food for 2 months - and w/out a new thought for years on end." -K Ruth (LOVED that!)  

However...(and herein lies the catch!) my determination and intentionality to consume at least 52 books in 2010, I am more focused than ever before on consuming the Word. It would be interesting as well as scary and horrifying to know how many well-meaning people with an intense hunger to know God were led off the path into the the side roads of humanism, self-adulation, and dependence on abilities and marketing instead of the Spirit, all because of what they fed their mind on a daily basis.  

Every book must be processed through the filter of the Word.  

Every innovative idea must be processed through the filter of the Word.  

Every emphatic re-discovered "truth" must be processed through the filter of the Word.  

Otherwise, our souls will soon become a product of of our culture, and the eternal will be swallowed up in the slick, and our lives will become worthless, empty, clanging bells. But there is no way to process all the new books and ideas through the filter of the Word if we don't KNOW the Word. If it isn't hidden in our hearts. If we don't read it over and over and over again to allow the layers of revelation it contains to overwhelm us fresh and new every morning.  

I don't agree a lot of Eugene Peterson's doctrinal positions. But there are a few things he is so right on about until it makes me want to hug him. And he can express it so much more succinctly than I. So, I'll just let him sum up my little out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new-year thoughts I am having this crisp, cold morning.  

He says, "The blunt reality is that for all our sophistication, learning, and self-study we don't know enough to run our lives. The sorry state of the lives of the many who have taken their own experience as the text for their lives is a damning refutation of the pretensions of the sovereignty of the self. We require a text that reveals what we cannot know by simply pooling the acquired knowledge of the ages. The book, the Bible, reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are. We need to know the lay of the land that we are living in.  

...Without this text, [the Bible], firmly established at the authoritative center of our communal and personal lives, we will founder. We will sink into a swamp of well-meaning but ineffectual men and women who are mired unmercifully in our needs and wants and feelings."  

Exactly right, Rev. Mr. Peterson. I couldn't have said it better myself!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tis the Season

Christmas cheer.  Parties.  Happiness flying, penetrating every crack.  Laughter.  Food (so much food!).  Tears (because death comes even at Christmas).  Exhaustion.  Presents.  Hurry.  Cookies.  Love.  Thanksgiving.  Joy.  Singing--off-key, on-key, doesn't-matter-what-key.

Vision.  A little bit of anxiety that death will come too quickly and the to-do list will not be finished.  Dreams.  Calendars.  Clocks.  Yes, I will be happy to.  No, I'm sorry, I can't.  I would love to, but.  Focus.  This next year, I will (fill-in-the-blank).

Then, out of it all, a nugget emerges.  One of those moments that catches your soul off-guard and brings tears of clarity raining down your face.

You may just say, "What?  What's the big deal about that?  The Shock lady is a little bit too dramatic for me."

That's okay.

Because, then again, maybe you WON'T say that.  Maybe it will explode in your heart, too.

Read it and watch the whole 5 minutes of the video:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Wouldn't you agree that this would give anybody the Christmas Spirit?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mr. Willie

So, it's the perfect Saturday afternoon and I'm standing at the kitchen counter mixing up a batch of Breakfast Cookies that are to die for.  It's freezing cold outside, the fire is blazing in the fireplace, and Nat King Cole is crooning to me about "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire."  The dogs are sleeping on the rug under the kitchen table, Bradyn is on the couch exploring Facebook, Terry is at the office, and Kendra has gone to the grocery store for some essential baking ingredients that are nowhere to be found in the pantry.

I'm happy.  Content.  Thankful.  Full of dreams and plans for 2010, but satisfied for now just to be baking cookies on this wonderful Saturday afternoon.  Until Kendra walked back through the door.

She dumped the groceries on the table and turned to me teary-eyed.  "Mom?  Do you remember Mr. Willie?  The homeless man I connected to a few years ago when we were feeding them in the park every Saturday morning?  Remember Mom?  Brother Tim baptized him.  He and I just had a connection, ya know?"

I did remember.  She would frequently come home from those Saturday mornings talking about Mr. Willie. Talking about how there was just something about him that was different.  She really cared about him.  The youth group has since stopped their Saturday morning homeless ministry and she had lost contact with Mr. Willie.

"Mom, I was coming out of the grocery store and when I turned the corner, Mr. Willie was coming across the parking lot pushing a buggy and tears were POURING down his face.  I saw him and just went straight to him and hugged him and said, 'Mr. Willie, what's wrong?' Mom, when he saw me, he just lifted his hands and said, 'Thank you, Lord! Thank you!' I asked him again what was wrong and he just said, 'It's gonna be all right now.  The Lord has let me see you and has reminded me that He loves me.  I've seen you and I know it's gonna be all right!' Mom, he wouldn't tell me what was wrong, he just kept saying that seeing me had let him know the Lord loved him and it was going to be all right.  I asked him if he needed anything and he said the Lord was going to provide it.  I had $5 in my pocket and made him take it.  I told him he had to come to church Sunday and he said that he would be there because the Lord had sent me to let him know it was all right.  He went into the store crying happy tears instead of sad tears and I went on to my car.  Oh MOM!"

Dear God in heaven.  Thank you for reminding me one more time that "to whom much has been given, much will be required." Thank you for reminding me again that Mr. Willie needs my touch this Christmas.  My presence.  My cookies and tears.  All Mr. Willie needs is to see a caring face that reminded him of You to let him know that You still care.  Oh Lord, please help me to stay sensitive this Christmas season.  And to give freely of my hugs and my cookies and my prayers.

Help me to love the Mr. Willies that cross my path.

And Lord, help me to not be so busy and so focused on my list that I miss them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mark at the Sunday Crusade

I'm re-posting some of the pics and comments from today's services which Mark attended.  There will be more to come in a few more days.  Mark is below in the brown shirt with both his hands raised.

The man praying in the altar below is Marino, our Catholic driver. We hired him to help us find Mark, and he just stayed with us when Pastor got here. Pastor told him, "Buddy, if you stay around us you will become one of us." He spoke with tongues and had the most wonderful experience. Captain Mayor, (Also Pastor Mayor, is laying hands on him. It turns out that Marino lives very near to one of Pastor Mayor's church's!)

Now, don't worry too much... but Mark played with the Laker's basketball that we bought him so much that he must have dislocated some bones in his hand. His little hand was swollen and very painful, but he still worshipped with the best of them!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mark's World - Monday

These two students from the ACTS Bible School have eagerly agreed to make Mark's village their priority. They are going to be teaching bible studies and this young man will personally escort the children to church every Sunday.

When we showed up Mark was playing with the village kids, and if you will notice, he is wearing the POA wrist band from the 21 day fast. He is so proud of it.

The look on his face when he opened up his backpack and saw his Kobe Bryant jersey was priceless.

He just couldn't believe it was his. This was a dream he thought would never come true.

It wasn't long and we left his home and followed him as he ran out to the basket ball court to try out his new ball.

There was a group of older kids who jealously watched Mark as he bounced his new ball. They didn't know I could understand them and I heard them say, "As soon as they leave we are going to take that ball."

That didn't set too well with us, and Brenda being so timid (NOT!!) walked into the middle of those boys and said, "You see this ball? It belongs to Mark. It is up to him if you play with it. Don't take it."

The boys responded pretty well to that sobering bit of news, so we decided to reward them. We told them, "If you don't take Mark's ball, then on Sunday we will give you a new basketball of your own." They actually clapped their hands and began to cheer.

(This place is breaking the bank, and I couldn't be happier.)

About that time a lady began calling, "Ma'am Brenda, Ma'am Brenda!!" It was a villager who has attended Pastor Caesar Pestano's church for a long time. She came running over to Brenda and said, "My granddaughter came running into my house saying, 'Sister Brenda is here!' I didn't believe it... but it is true." She was overwhelmed to know that we were interested in her village and in her neighbors.

Then this little girl (standing in front of Brenda in the picture below) walked up to Brenda and said, "Are you born again?" Brenda said she was and the girl replied in pure English, "So am I and I never miss church." It turns out she is a member in one of our churches also.

The thing is, she lives in what can only be described as a hole in the ground. It looks like a dog house, and a really bad one at that. Every time it rains, she said all of their belongings get wet.

Her name is Janice and she is going to be helping Mark and the whole family become more comfortable with church. This is SUCH a God thing.
Now we are thinking of ways to help Janice and her family.

(this was copied from the Mallory's

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mark Continues

The story of Mark continues.

Brenda and Jeff picked him and his family up Saturday morning at 9 am (7 pm Friday, our time) to go to the Trinidad's Kids Church which they host on Saturday.  This is for the street children, of whom most are from an extremely poor region by a large dumping ground.  The dumping ground is how they survive.  The Trinidads teach them about God and about cleanliness, character, and Christianity.  They feed them a hot meal each week and hold a service with them.

This is what Brenda and Jeff reported about the POA KIDS Change the World money:

POA Kids!!!

Your money was SUCH a blessing to the kids in Tondo. We didn't really know what to buy these kids, so we asked Sister Sonja Trinidad, the Pastor's wife. She said, "They all carry things to school and a backpack would be such a blessing."

So, we went to one of the BIGGEST malls in the world, the Mall of Asia, and thought we could find what they needed there.

Now, this broke my heart, but she also said, "The thing they would like the most..." (Now I would not have guessed this in a thousand years) "...they need a hand towel and a face towel so they can take a bath properly."

She said that they were trying to teach these street kids about things like keeping clean, and taking care of yourself.

"They would also love to have a bar of soap."
Oh my!

So, that is exactly what we did. With YOUR money, we bought each kid a really neat package. A backpack, a hand towel and wash cloth, and a bar of soap.

~Jeff and Brenda

Brenda emailed me that Mark was very moved in the service and cried when told that Jesus was more than a statue; He lives today and loves Mark and wants to live in his heart.  I am so thankful that we now have someone who knows where he lives and knows about him that can make sure he gets to experience Jesus.

Mark is going to be a great man of God one day.  So are many of the POA KIDS.  All it takes is a vision of what can be.

God does the rest.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finding Mark

If you have followed this blog since March, you will remember reading the short entry that I posted about Mark, the 12-year-old that we met on the bus before we left for Baguio.

In subsequent visits, Jeff and Brenda Mallory have searched for Mark with no success.  He captured our hearts that day.  We couldn't shake the feeling that something special was in store for him.

In our World Missions Sunday on September 27, 2009, I closed the service with the story of Mark.  His picture was up on the screens and he walked into everyone's heart that day.  We asked everyone to pray that we would meet him again and as they left the building, we gave them a copy of his picture to keep on their refrigerator to remind them to pray for him and all the other Marks in the cities around the world.

Well, Jeff and Brenda left Tuesday morning to go back to the Philippines for a short visit and last night, they found Mark.

I am overwhelmed by what is transpiring even now as I type this.

Jeff has written the story out on their blog,  But I want to copy it here as well.  This is a God-story of the highest order.  I am absolutely overwhelmed at how huge He is but how He loves us everyone.  Enough to send people thousands of miles to find one 12-year-old boy in a city of 14-16 million people.

You haven't heard the last from Mark.  He is destined for something beyond our comprehension.  There is no doubt in my mind about it.

Read Jeff's words:

Many of you may be wondering who Mark is? After all, there are people talking about him on blogs, the POA has handed out pictures of Mark to thousands, and they are all praying for him.

This is one of the most wonderful stories you will ever hear.

Back in March of this year, Melani, Brenda, Kendra, Kori and Jordan were taking a bus trip up north of Manila and were waiting in the bus terminal when a young boy boarded the bus holding a stack of daily newspapers. A conversation began.

“What is your name?” “I am Mark.” He replied.

Since it was about 1:00 in the afternoon and he appeared to be young they asked of him, “How old are you?” His replies were always sure, with a quiet confidence and organic charm. “I am twelve ma’am.”
“Mark, do you go to school?” “Yes ma’am. I go to school from 6:00 am until 12:00 and then I go to work, selling papers.”

“Everyday?” The twelve year old replied, “Every day ma’am.”

That was about all there was to it. Just one of the thousands of people we pass every day, like ships in the night, not really aware that you just intersected another living soul… an immeasurable treasure we too often take for granted.

They sent him on his way after buying a paper, giving him a tip, and loading him down with some candy. And that was it… or so they thought. For some reason, none of them could get Mark out of their minds. Driving down the road, the country side passing by… the group was silent, as though something special had happened, but they weren’t exactly sure what.

Melani said, “That is Bradyn. My boy is 12.” They all let that sink in, and little by little it began to flow out of them. “When we go back, we need to find Mark.”

They didn’t know what they would do once they found him, they just all agreed they needed to.

Later, when Melani was looking through her pictures, she found a good one of Mark.

That was all there was too it, to the meeting that is. It began months of focused prayer for Mark and his family.

Brenda, Jordan and Kori and I were in that bus terminal back in May, we looked for Mark and he wasn’t there. Everyone told us that it would be almost impossible to find him. After all, what is one kid among 14 million people? After the four typhoons, the devastating floods, and the diseases that followed… what is the chances Mark is still… we didn’t want to think about that.

On the plane coming in last night, I looked out the window, over that vast ocean of lights that stamped the earth where the great city of Manila lay, I asked God out loud, “Lord, please lead us to Mark. I know it may be impossible for me to find him, but nothing is impossible for you.”

We left the hotel with a prayer for Mark, and headed out into the traffic and sea of humanity.

We hired a car at the hotel and told him what we were doing. He didn’t get it at all… he did later though. The first thing we did was go by the Philippine UPC headquarters office to enlist some help. We had pictures of Mark printed and distributed and told them, “Whoever finds Mark will get a 1,000 peso reward.”

Since that was worth about 4 days wages, there were many who were suddenly interested, very interested in Mark. Brother Don Callo said, “How many Marks do you want to find?” And everyone laughed.

Someone was going to go to the newspaper company pictured in the photo of Mark, and ask for help finding him that way.

Brenda and I went to the bus terminal, this was third time Brenda and I had been to this terminal, and the first two times had not been fruitful. But this time was different, we both felt it.

There were so many people praying for Mark. I would imagine there are literally hundreds of refrigerators with Mark’s picture on them.

When we were pulling up to the bus terminal Brenda said, “This has to be a God thing.” My heart was beating fast as I realized how close we were to a miracle, I could feel it.

The first person Brenda showed the picture to knew Mark. “That is my nephew. What do you want with him?” I didn’t blame him for being guarded as to our motives. Brenda drew a crowd and soon everyone wanted to know what was going on.

I felt my words were so inadequate in my attempt to explain why we wanted to see Mark, but I kept explaining anyway. “We are missionaries, and…” I did my best to explain how there was church back in America praying for a poor, squatter kid, living in a ghetto. I didn’t think I was doing a very good job but they had less guile than I must have because they accepted my story, and suddenly the whole nature of the crowd changed. They were all talking to each other, telling each other that the “Americanos are missionaries and God told them to find Mark.”

They all were so excited, the security guards began helping us, giving us advice, and talking a mile a minute.

Mark’s uncle, Randy, jumped into the front seat of our car and said, “Get in, I will take you to Mark’s house.”

Brenda and I were stunned. We just looked at each other shaking our heads. “I can’t believe we are going to Mark’s house!” Brenda whispered.

The story took an even more thrilling, and miraculous turn, when Randy took us in a direction toward the ACTS bible school. The place we have lived and worked out of for many years. We ended up just a few hundred yards away from the Bible school! We had passed this little shanty town literally thousands of times.

To get to Mark’s “house” you have to go down a small side street, past lean to’s and squatter’s houses. These were some of the poorest of the poor. We were so excited though because we would soon be seeing Mark.

People were so friendly and nice as we passed them. The little street cantinas with people sitting on buckets, or boxes as chairs, the kids taking baths in laundry pails, the old men flashing toothless smiles, the young men killing time because there was no job to be found.

Randy led us into a small opening in the endless shanties, and after a few turns in an even smaller alleyway, we came to an uneven ladder that led up into a dark, and confined loft.

My heart constricted and my eyes watered as Randy said, “Here is Mark’s house.”

He went up to knock on the “door” while we waited downstairs. The door opened and a woman came to the top of the landing and looked down on us with muted surprise. Her eyes did not have hope in them, rather, I felt she was looking down on us, “Good things don’t happen to us. This must be a trick.”

We were invited in and found that Mark had just gone to work not long ago. We visited with the puzzled mom and grandmother, and Mark’s two sisters and one brother, all younger than Mark.
Mark is the man of the house. This twelve year old boy’s father had abandoned them to start another family somewhere and so it was left to Mark to watch out for his family.

We tried to explain to Mark’s family what we were doing and the thing that got through to them the most was when I said, “God has heard your prayers. God knows your name.” A flicker of hope came into Mark’s mom, Tess, and a smile appeared briefly.

We gave Tess some money and told her to feed her family, or give them a treat of some kind… but we hadn’t seen Mark, so we headed back to the bus terminal.

When we got there it seemed like everyone was at the side of the street waiting for us. All of the porters, the vendors, the bus conductors and even some passengers were waving at us when we walked up. They were waving their hands excitedly and one of the security guards came over to us and said, “You missed Mark by seconds! He got here just after you left and went running home.”
They told us to wait for him that Mark would be back. It was quite a run to Mark’s house from the terminal.

Everyone wanted to put there two cents in on Mark while we waited. “He is a good boy.”

Someone else said, “Mark is a hard worker.” A guy standing by me said, “You are helping the right boy.” This little boy had the respect of a lot of people.

We went into a 7 Eleven and were going to buy a drink and some donuts for the people who had worked so hard to help us connect with Mark. I was standing by the refrigerator when I heard someone say excitedly, “Here he is!” Standing in the aisle of that store was a handsome, smiling Mark.
His back was straight, his head up, his eyes bright and what a smile! He was looking at Brenda with recognition and was not one bit shy. Brenda asked for a hug and he gave her the minimum, and stood back and smiled up at me.

I want to find out what this kid has been praying for the last few months because I got the feeling that he was not shocked by this at all. It was as though he was stepping into an expected destiny.
Strangely, it was not awkward at all. I had been wondering what I would say to Mark, but it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t just words, prayers go before you, I believe prayer creates and builds relationships between spiritual entities, and it felt like he was an extended family member, and it seemed he felt that way too.

Brenda and I were fighting back tears, Good Lord! The LAST thing we needed to do was go blubbering all over this kid! So, Brenda went down the chip aisle and squirted out a few tears and then regained her composure, and I was left to be the strong one, so I just said to Mark, “Let’s go shopping!”
“Get whatever you want, we are going to bring some stuff home to your family.”

After seeing where Mark lived and the obvious poverty of their family, I wasn’t surprised to see him carefully choose a single bag of potato chips and walk back to me with grateful eyes. I said, “Oh no, that is just the beginning! We are going to get lots of stuff!”

It took him a while to catch on. He always reached for the smallest thing, and would get one. One small pack of coffee mix, I went behind him and grabbed a handful. He just looked up at me with big eyes. This was not his reality at all.

A crowd had formed at the glass front of this 7 Eleven. The guard only allowed prospective shoppers in and Mark’s friends, and those who knew Mark were gathering around the windows as though the NBA Finals were being shown. From time to time he would wave at one of them and they would wave back.
A woman must have heard what was going on because she came into the store and walked over to Mark and put her hand on his head and looked at me and said, “You could not have chosen a better boy to help. Mark is a special boy. Thank you, thank you so much for blessing him like this. He deserves it.”

That little 7 Eleven was not used to be people filling up shopping baskets like that, and it took every employee in the place to check Mark out. We went down every aisle, except the booze aisle and the refrigerated section (because he didn’t have one at home) and had a living blast doing it.

As we walked through the crowd that had gathered outside they were patting him on the back, they were tussling his hair, they were saying things to him, “Mark, you are famous now!” “Mark, you are big time!”

We put the bags of groceries in the trunk of the car, and took Mark and Randy back to Mark’s little village.

As we walked in, the people were calling out to Mark, but they weren’t calling him Mark. They were calling him by his middle name, “Christian! Who are your friends Christian? What are they doing with you?”

He is known as Christian at home. Mark Christian DeLaCruz.

The family sat on the piece of thin plywood that served as the bed the six of them slept on and the bags were gathered around their feet on the floor. They just sat there looking at them.

We asked them to look through the stuff and it took them a while to get into it.

The first thing Mark did was take out a Coke bottle and walk over to Brenda, “Ma’am, are you thirsty?” Brenda declined and I looked at Brenda’s eyes and could see she was not far from losing it.

Mark, or Christian, began to go through the bags showing his family what he had brought home. There were more oohs and aaahs than I have heard in the last 5 Christmas’.

The first thing Christian’s grandmother got out was a toothbrush and she opened it up and began telling the little girl on her lap what it was. Demonstrating by pantomiming the brush stroke.

Christian began organizing everything in the bags. Candy in one, toiletries in another, chips in another, drinks and so on, until everything was organized.

We were driving away when our driver said, "I asked about this boy while you were shopping. Everyone says good things about him. I can tell by observing, this is a special young man." He drove for a little while and then he looked into the rear veiw mirror at me and said, "Thank you for doing this for my people."

Saturday Mark, and his family are going with us to a children’s service. He doesn’t know it yet, but I am giving him an iPod with some Christian music on it. I know that will blow his mind.

I believe that we will see Mark and his whole family respond to God’s touch this Saturday. Then we are connecting them with a great church that is very near to their home.

For all of you who prayed, for all of you who sent… you were there with us today. This is your deal too, and I hope you all pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seventeen years

Seventeen years ago on November 11.  About 6:11 a.m.  He flew to meet the sun as it was coming up.

He left an awfully deep cavern in my heart that won't hold anything else but him.

I know he's with God, but there are days I would just really like for him to be with me.

I know I'll see him then, but there are days I want to see him now.

I know he wouldn't want to come back, but that doesn't seem to be able to stop me from wanting him to.

He was the greatest dad ever.

I miss him.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thoughts from the Chair on Training Up A Child

There is not one of us who has a guarantee on how any child raised in our home will choose to live their life.

However, Proverbs 22:6 DOES say to "train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  I take that to mean that if they stray, they will come back at least by the time they are old.  And by then, I may be dead!  So, I cannot with assurance say that we are guaranteed to see a successful end result to all of this child rearing.

But what really troubles me is the fact that so many think that "training up a child in the way he should go" means making sure they learn their memory verse for Sunday School and making sure they are in Sunday School, church, and Children's ministry.

Then, eight hours per day, five days per week, nine months per year, they are sent to be trained by the world's system.

They are taught values by a teacher who may or may not believe in God.

They are taught social interaction by other children who receive their teaching from Hollywood.

They are cared for by someone else while their parents work until late or attend church meetings until late or stress over homework with them until late.

They are loved.  Absolutely!  They are well-fed, well-clothed, and well-entertained.  They are prayed with at bedtime and hugged and celebrated.

And that's it.  That's the training.  And the cries of lamentation are loud when the attitudes and dysfunction and lack of assuming responsibility and disrespect toward God and leaders and authority begin to overtake the bedtime prayers and the gifts and snuggles.

I wish I had the voice and the influence and the right words to say it.

Society and school and church cannot raise your children.  Only YOU can do that.  And it takes sacrifice of extra money and sacrifice of some personal dreams for a whole lot of your years while you put your life on hold to shape theirs.

YOU had them.  YOU have the responsibility of training them in the way they should go.  And that is a 24/7 job.

Well....can you tell I have a somewhat strong opinion about that?

Until our homes become the church, the church is merely religion.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

2009: Elephant Season

I don't normally duplicate the posts from  But the Elephant Season discussion is one that I felt needed to make the leap over. you go!

At the beginning of 2009, "Elephant Season" was declared in the Lives of Shocks.

Now that may sound a little bit daunting, or a little bit militant, or a lotta bit confrontational.

What it has been is very liberating!

All of us have elephants in our lives.  And our houses.  And our churches.  And our jobs.  Those big, clumsy, giant situations that suck all the air out of the room and cause tons of damage to their environment.

It is amazing to me how much we tiptoe around them and try to pretend they are the same size as everything else and spend large sections of time (which are then gone forever) trying to clean up the messes they create and repair the breakage they have incurred.

Well, finally, we got tired of them.  So, 2009 = Elephant Season.  We didn't start out deliberately and systematically attacking the elephants.  We actually told God that He could see them, too, and would He please help us.  If He would kill them, we would cut them in small pieces and remove them.  He said "Okay."

We now have an elephant graveyard here at The Homeplace.  It is a delightfully free and airy spot to which we invite all to come.  We also encourage all to create your own.

We even have eight weeks left!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thoughts from the Chair on the Sabbath

The concept of the Sabbath is something that has been gnawing away at my spirit for a long time.  Eating at it, picking at it, cropping up when I'm very, very busy doing the Lord's work...

Not Sunday.  Not the day of worship and work...the hardest day of the week...the one at which we sigh in relief when it finally comes to an end...the day of measuring for Christians...not that.  

Sabbath.  The concept which is referenced in the Ten Commandments.  The premise upon which God himself operated when creating Creation.  You know...the one which is outdated, out-of-fashion, irrelevant, not cultural.

This is a nice little thought provoker I recently ran across.  Ponder it a second before you hurry on to the next...thing.

If there is no Sabbath- no regular and commanded not-working, not-talking — we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God’s work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easier to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing “this is my fathers world” and end up chirping little self-centred ditties about what we are doing and feeling.

The Most difficult command to keep, a most difficult practice to cultivate. It is one of the most abused and distorted practices of the Christians life. Many through the centuries have suffered much under oppressive Sabbath regimes. And more than a few of us have been among the oppressors.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thoughts from the Chair on Approval

I recently posted this on Facebook:  

Approval addiction is a killer and destroys the pursuit of truth.  It is insidious and relentless and we rarely acknowledge that we deal with it.

I didn't get a lot of feedback from it.  It was game day after all and LSU was scheduled to play Florida in 3 hours.  So, a lot of people were not in a deep pondering mode, I'm sure.  But what I believe happened in many cases is that people read the statement, felt a sting as it tried to drive deep into their consciousness, and shook it off defensively as memory pictures flashed across the screens of their mind that they summarily dismissed.

Embroiled as many are in the changes sweeping through lives in our religious organization as well as many of our close friends and family members, opinions and life-changing direction decisions are rattling the panes in the windows of all of our homes.  This one is going this way.  That one is going that way.  This one "isn't going to live under this any more."  That one "is stating my claim as to where I stand."  

Running throughout all of the rhetorical hoopla (which is emanating from 360 surround sound) is a not-so-subtle thread of "THIS is where I want to be accepted.  It is from those sharing THIS philosophy that I want my identity and acceptance."

All of it is quite disturbing.  

In a lot of cases, it seems that alignment with a school of thought depends much on the approval of those ensconced in that particular camp.  Or the need to make a wide, black line of demarcation between the camp with whom one totally disagrees and one's present thought processes.  To remove oneself from all defined ares of thought doesn't seem to be an option.  One must must step into one box or must align here or align there.  To not do so risks disapproval from ALL areas.

Not many people are strong enough to do that.  

Not many people are secure enough in who they are and in Whose they are to do that.  

Not many people have enough of a true concept of what the approval of God looks like to do that. 

It would be very interesting to know how we would live, how we would act, how we would look, and what our relationship to God would be if we lived on a desert island with no one else watching us.  Just us, food, shelter, God and His Word.  

Nobody to police us, nobody to judge us, nobody to instruct us, nobody to clap for us.

Nobody to tell us how anointed we are, or how right on we are, or how far off we are.

Nobody to impress, nobody to win, nobody to be an example for, nobody.

Just us and God.

Living for the approval of One.

What would life look like then?

I would like for this chair to become my desert island.

Thoughts from the Chair

Here is the chair:

Why this chair?  Well, because it just happens to be the most comfortable one at the moment.  And having been sidelined unexpectedly by a torn calf muscle 14 days ago, I have been spending way more time than I have wanted to in this chair.  I've been very creative in dreaming up ways to occupy my time.  I have:

  • read a LOT on my Kindle
  • paid bills on my computer
  • played Boggle on my iPhone
  • worked overtime Facebooking and Twittering
  • found new templates for my blogs
  • prayed
  • read the Word
  • made out all my Christmas lists
  • watched a documentary about the Holocaust
  • listened to millions of songs on iTunes
  • finished my taxes for 2008
  • caught up on conversations with my children and husband.  (However, I still have lots to talk about with them.  Won't EVER get caught up on that!)
  • thought.  And thought.  And thought.  About lots of stuff.
Some of those thoughts I will share.  Here.  Others you will never know about.  :-)

So, my blogs may come closer together in the next few days.  I still have quite a bit more down time in this chair.  And a lot more thoughts.  Stay tuned...  

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were you?

It was Tuesday morning...I was standing in my kitchen, washing a few dishes...preparing to leave for the church. It was going to be a hectic week. Today was the day we had been diligently preparing for...we were tired, sleep-deprived, and extremely excited. Mickey Mangun and I had talked for months, advertised, planned, worked...and the S.H.E. conference was scheduled to officially begin in about 10 hours.

When the phone rang and I heard the voice of James Owens on the other end, no alarm bells rang. James had been working diligently, also...he was doing all he could to make the conference a success from the technical end. But his voice sounded a little funny...."Ummmm....have you heard anything?" "No, about what?" "About the twin towers?" "No...what?" "A plane just flew into one of them."

To be honest, my first thought was "Why did he call me about this? This is really bad...I hate it...but I'm about to see him at the church..." I didn't grasp the magnitude of it. I said that was terrible and those poor people and I'm going to see what's online about it...and hung up.

Five minutes later, he called back and said the second tower had just been hit.

Something started churning then in the pit of my stomach...

When I got to the church, the towers began to fall. We were horrified...we were was hard to put one foot in front of the other and hard to think and impossible to process.

Should we cancel the conference? Should we continue? I just wanted to go get my kids from school and hide in my house. The calls started coming in. Air traffic was grounded...hundreds of preachers wives were stranded in airports...some were caught in the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City...what to do? The decision was made to carry on for those who could get here....

Through the years, we've heard stories from so many of the women who were en route and became stranded and stuck in crazy places across the United States. One preacher's wife went through the Atlanta, Georgia airport and gathered up everybody she could find that looked like they might be traveling to the conference...they got together and rented a van and drove the remaining 12 hours, arriving at the end of the first night's events. Some turned back...all they wanted to do was to get to their husbands and children and hug everybody close. Some said they felt they HAD to get here.

Did we do the right thing by continuing the conference? I don't know. It totally drained us, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It took us weeks to recover. But testimonies from those who came have been incredible. They still ask if we will ever do it again. They were strengthened and encouraged...

Isn't it amazing? This incredible world-changing event...and we talk about where WE were, what WE were doing, and how it affected OUR lives. We want to personalize it. We want to make it part of who WE are. We want to become a player in the drama. Not so much that we are hurt or suffer, but we want to share in the impact of the event...we want to emerge unscathed, but we want the world to know that we participated.

Is that why Christianity sometimes seems so shallow in the lives of some people?

The cross was a major event. The resurrection was a major event. Pentecost was a major event. The life of a Christ-follower is major. Here I am. Pick me. I believe. I'm a part. I don't want to hurt...or suffer...or lose any part of my life in the process...but I'm participating!

What does it really mean to remember 9-11?

What does it really mean to remember His death?

Friday, August 28, 2009


I'm reflecting on betrayal today.

It happens to everybody...quite frequently. The Bible said it is inevitable that offenses come. It also speaks of "wounds of a friend." (It says they are "faithful"...but the word "wound" still implies pain to me).

We are able and encouraged to grieve death. It is a painful loss and a wound to the human spirit.

But grieving betrayal isn't quite as accepted. There is an unspoken message that we are to "just get over it." Oh it's okay to talk about it to somebody once or twice...but after that, shut up and move on. So we do.

And then, just when we think we've conquered it, something jumps back over the wall and here we go again.

I am wondering if the pain of Judas' betrayal was just as deep to Jesus as the pain of His crucifixion? He's definitely been there...He knows...He's felt the heavy stone of the loss of friendship and love and camaraderie deep in His spirit, too...

I don't really know who said it first, but I love it..."Bitterness is the poison pill I take hoping you die."

You aren't the only person in life to have been betrayed unfairly. Neither am I. Every person who has ever lived on this planet has experienced it. Even Jesus.

And the truth is, it will happen again--to you and to me--until life is no more.

So I purpose today to deal with it as it comes. Grieve the loss, ponder the motivation, search for my part of the process, and forgive. If I have to do it all again tomorrow, I will.

But what I will NOT do is allow it to tie me to a stake of insecurity, or distrust, or isolation, or lack of love, or bitterness.

Betrayal is an often understated, powerful tool of the Enemy.

Knowing that, I will face it head on and love a little deeper...forgive a little quicker...and continue to give of what I have to those who are in need. And know that there will be some who will take what I give and use it to become stronger...and then turn around and bite the hand that fed them.

They did it to Jesus. He knows. And He still died for them anyway.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Am Sad

My dear, dear friend...Barbara Ann Willoughby...entered the gates of Heaven yesterday.

I'm supposed to be happy. She is no longer suffering. Her battle with cancer is over and she won! She is dancing around the Throne of the eternal God at this moment.

But it's hard for me to be happy.

My heart hurts. I ache. There is a tightness in my chest and a big round ball in my throat.

I will remember her with joy. When I say her name, I smile. But my smile quickly fades because I am still human. I am still here. I am still on this side of the river. And she is not. We are separated by an expanse called Death.

I am not tormented by questions...God is sovereign and He does all things well. He said "no" and He knows why. I learned years ago that He can be trusted no matter what.

Faith, to me, is defined as trusting Him serenely even when I don't understand or agree.

But I am sad. I am sad for her children. For Meghan and Barak and Mikayla. For the fact that she will not see them married nor hold grandchildren still to come. I am sad for Steve, who will continue his fight against his own cancer alone. I am sad for Tabernacle of Joy in Singapore who loved her without restraint. And I am sad for all of the ones who will never meet her...never experience her infectious joy or watch her graceful dance or hear her incredible laugh. I am sad for me and for my husband...for the fact that we four will never again ride the back country roads with no destination in mind just to talk and laugh and share vision and feel God and friendship and love.

My heart hurts.

Monday, August 3, 2009

To those who have lost loved ones

The following piece was written by Kendra on her Facebook page yesterday.  It struck a chord with so many...I am honored that she is my daughter and proud to be able to post this here...

To those who have lost loved ones:

I sat at the piano for a while tonight playing a new song. Heavy hearted I began to play an incredible tune by Hillsong and silently pray for the McCool family. “No we-eping, no hurt or pain, no suf-fering, you hold him now, you hold him now…” I couldn’t hold the tears anymore as I stopped playing. Names flooded my mind: Cory McCool….Katie Moore…Sharon Ivie Smith…Denny Doyle…Jason Tackett…Wanda Washington…Cai Larsen…why…why…WHY…

I don't understand. Even after I finish this, I won't understand. I will have godly perspective as I should, but I will not understand.

Death. It strips you of everything and leaves you with a taunt, “Now what are you gonna do?” I hate death. I hate funerals. I HATE cancer. If cancer were a person I would go to jail for murder. Sounds elementary, but you don’t know what people feel unless you’ve been told you have cancer or it develops in a loved one. Cancer is cruel…and even though it’s taken down many that I love, it can still be conquered.

We ask God for healing on behalf of our loved ones- but we scream at Him when they die. I wonder if He ever whispers when we walk away, “But I did. I did what you asked. I DID heal them…..just not in your will…in mine.”

I shoved the piano stool back as I swiftly stood up and walked upstairs. I collapsed on my bed. With tears streaming down my face staring at the ceiling fan I realized why they were taken…they lived their lives to where God finally said, “Well done.” They set their affections on things above. They weren’t concerned with church politics or position.

I have a long way to go before God says, “Well done.”

I am convinced that if we had a TRUE revelation of Heaven, we wouldn’t mourn as much. We would mourn, that’s unavoidable and human nature, but we wouldn’t mourn as much.

From now on, I won’t envision the “death” of the ones I loved, but I will envision Bro. and Sis. Lumpkin doing the Jitterbug on some clouds by their mansion. Katie is probably grinning from ear to ear…and I know she isn’t in any pain. Cai is probably chasing kids and designing a backdrop for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Sharon Smith is cracking EVERYONE up. And singing. Denny Doyle probably is polishing up his “Sam and Will” shrine. As for Kenneth Brady- he’s probably just taking a walk…possibly with Jack Shock…enjoying the scenery and asking God what’s what. And Cory…Cory McCool I would imagine is awestruck of the King without a fear of the future in his mind. He’s probably been singing the same endless song since he got there- and telling everyone about how they will LOVE his wife and kids when they arrive.

I’m setting my affections on things above- this world is not my home- I’m ready to get out of here.

“Where the streets are made of gold, in Your presence healed and whole, let these songs of heaven rise to You alone. No weeping, no hurt or pain; no suffering, You hold me now, You hold me now. No darkness, no sick or lame; no hiding, You hold me now, You hold me now.” -Hillsong