Sunday, March 30, 2014

True Identity

Inner urging led me to the credit card website. It wasn't customary for me to check recent activity between statements, but here I was opening the link to see what my card had purchased.  Amazon ebooks for under $2-check, gas station fillups-check, Verizon, Netflix-check, check, both expected expenses settled into their monthly hangouts on my account.  Then I spied a larger than usual charge trying to appear inconspicuous among the regulars. Further down the column several more out-of-place villains were lurking amidst the legits. I checked their sources with a sinking feeling. Unfortunately, I had been duped.

A phone call later, my account was sanitized and a new card issued.  Not too ruffled, I was glad to have caught the culprit's scheming and hoped for the best.  About a week later, the mail brought me a credit card in my name for a chain drugstore account. I called the company and learned someone had applied for the card using my credentials. The fraud department of the company closed the account and I cut up the card. Surely, just coincidence, I assured myself, trying to assuage the growing suspicion inside.

The tax refund check was next; nice chunk of change to spend.  Only it wasn't mine. We hadn't filed this year's taxes yet. All evidence pointed to identity theft, and I began the procedures to make reports and check credit.

Questions loom: how? when? who? I may never know. But I'm trusting that the One who protects me and watches over my affairs will continue his vigilance and my heart is quieted in that confidence. No, he didn't stop this from happening, but I'm certain he has a reason and living in this world just isn't perfect and free from adverse circumstances.

I experienced one kind of identity theft, but I know there are many whose identity has been stolen by the enemy of our souls. They've been duped to believe they could never be accepted by a righteous God or that receiving his identity would mean slavery and loss of freedom to live life their way. Others accept an identity the Creator never intended for them be. Twisted thinking by politically correct voices gave them permission to choose lies for the Truth.  Making sense of hurtful circumstances came through the lenses of comforters who were not committed to the Truth of the Word.

The Good News is there is identity in Jesus Christ that is abundant life. It is all we need for life and godliness. It gives us a heart that wants His ways above all else, to keep learning what His good and perfect will is and to honor and obey his word no matter where it leads us. It allows us to bring our questions, our past hurts and ugliness to the Comforter and Healer. Where the shaking fist is slowly opened by his loving fingers and becomes an outstretched hand ready to receive grace and transforming love. From there answers will come and eyes will be opened.  It will be his grace that brings freedom to change thinking and doing and longings-  inner peace.

Teach me your purposes for my life and lead me in those good works you prepared in advance for me to do, and that you've fashioned me uniquely to fulfill. Your love overcomes whatever keeps us from total abandonment to trusting your work in us and in those around us. Fill me with this love.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


“Never criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” Native American Proverb

Well worn. Familiar with the path. The path that leads to the counter. I wanted to turn and leave, but you kept me planted. So I paid, took the narrow, long white sack and faced the reality of an aging body.  I decide that gratitude is the best response, as you walk me outside.

For the first time I wore your shoes, stood in the pharmacy and asked for a long-term prescription. Forgive me for ever concluding that you were unwilling to keep fit and healthy. DNA codes can't always be cracked with a longer work out or by consuming more brightly colored flavonoids.

I thought the theme for this new year would be another go around of being conformed to more divine Love and Grace. And my need for transformation in these areas will be ongoing, for a long time.  But perhaps the emphasis now is Humility. Crow has been served more than once in my menu recently, and I've noticed how attached I am to pride. Is there a shortcut to this one, Father? I know the end result will be good, but give me a heart that learns quickly.

Pride leads to judging others; may I be willing to try on shoes that are ill-fitting or uncomfortable so I can truly serve others and not stand aloof.  If I am not given their shoes to wear, may I pray as though I was walking beside them.

This verse sobers me:
Hebrews 13:3(NIV)
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Teach me, Father, to pray for North Koreans, Sudanese, Syrians, Ukrainians, unidentified persecuted saints in various places, and others being  mistreated maybe even in my neighborhood. Show me what it means to remember them as if it was me experiencing what they are experiencing!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Secrets Over Sweet Tea Book Review

Book Review

I've read my share of Christian fiction authors over the years, and it is a delight to find those who can hold my interest, challenge my thinking and make me believe I've encountered real-to-life characters who love God, not perfectly, but authentically. Denise Hildreth Jones definitely fits into this category with her novel, Secrets Over Sweet Tea.

The colorful pastor's wife, Scarlett Jo Newberry, is sometimes obnoxious, sometimes hilarious, but always ready to give love away. Scarlett and her husband, Jackson, get involved with two young couples in the church who are struggling in their marriages. Their stories provide a great framework for the author to show how Christ's love can break down walls of self pursuit and self protection.

I was drawn into the pain of the characters as they dealt with infidelity, divorce and loneliness. Scarlett and Jackson give friendship and practical counsel to those they seek to help, and as a reader we benefit from the knowledge they share. The author lets us in on how the characters process their faith, or lack of faith, in the midst of crisis and in any healing that follows the crisis.

Scarlett and Jackson are raising 5 boys, some of them teens. Their parenting style is very relational and warm. Are they too casual when addressing the issue of cussing or manners related to male behavior?  Maybe, but on the other hand, their parenting offers a refreshing mix of firmness and fun.

I'm impressed with the author's ability to create characters from different generations with depth and validity. She moves skillfully between characters and story lines, and resolutions are not always predictable. Christian witness and standards are not compromised. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Jones' writing.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.
received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House. - See more at:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Random Reflections

 Turn Your World Upside Down-Read More!

Recent reading reflections:

"We cannot see the end God has in mind. If we could, we would likely see that the hardships God allows prevent even more debilitating hardships—the by-products of the diminished character that results from a life of ease."
Our problem is not that we make too much of divine love, but too little. God does not love us on our preferred terms, but on His own. His infinite wisdom ensures us that He gives to us a higher love, not a lower one. C. S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain,
"We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves,” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”...I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”
From Randy Alcorn's blog, Feb. 14

 Just yesterday our pastor used this text for his sermon, challenging us to not lose our love for God, the Father:
"You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:4b-5 (NIV)
We can get caught up with being busy doing the work, even seeing good results, but if we have lost our every-day-in-his-presence-love, we are losing out and according to this verse there are huge consequences.
He ended the talk with a suggestion that we spend more time in his presence this week than we did last week.

Then this morning I opened my daily encouragement email from Biblegateway and the devotional text was this exact same verse.  Hmmm...I think I better pay attention. The author Amy Carroll had found that without her love for God continuing to grow, she becomes self-righteous and judgmental.
"To maintain the right heart, God asks us to keep returning to our first love with Him. To rediscover the newness, lightness and joy we felt at first. He urges us to constantly rekindle passion for Him, which will deepen our love for Him and others."

Keep drawing me, Father. On my own, I will turn to other pleasures to satisfy my longings. I want to grow in your love so I can love others with your heart.  I need you!

This intimacy we seek, is described in this way from Watchman Nee's book, Twelve Baskets Full.
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he come."
I Cor. 11:26. Our Lord's object in instituting the Supper was to encourage all His redeemed ones to remember His death continually. He knew the snares and the temptations that would beset our path: and He knew how readily the Cross would lose its freshness in our lives, so He made this special provision to bring it freshly to our memories.  When first we came to the Lord and the reality of His death broke upon us, how fresh it was! But we gradually became careless in our Christian life and consequently the vision dimmed; and we grew accustomed to hearing about the Cross, so that sheer familiarity caused it to lose its impact on our hearts and minds. The realization of its eternal newness will bring a new incentive into our lives that will turn defeat into triumph.  Yes, and what revelation it will bring, and what inspiration, and what intimacy of fellowship with the Lord!"

And of course, nothing can bring us running to our Father for refuge and comfort  like a good ole dose of humiliation, selfish behavior or relationship breeches. We are then, undone. Our need is raw; it's unbearable. Like our worship leader prayed yesterday after singing a song about being undone and how that can lead us to His love,-- "unravel us" until all that is seen is Jesus in us.  Undone, unraveled aren't pretty images to contemplate. But can we dare pray for this, in order to experience the better life in Him?