Friendly Reminders

Today I had a wonderful phone conversation with my friend Debra. She is in a rather intense battle right now, and she called to share what the Lord had spoken to her. Despite my congestion due to my cold, I loved listening to her talk about the promises the Lord is speaking, the confirmations He is giving, the word-for-word promises and phrases He has been giving her. It did my soul good to listen to her excitement as she shared the ways God is pouring Himself out to her and how thrilled she is and how much peace she has. And truly, she is walking in an incredible peace.

Yesterday I spent an incredible amount of time emailing my friend Mary B. I shared with her the stuff going on in my life and what the Lord has spoken to me, the promises He has given, the verses, the declarations, the words. It also did me good. It reminded me of some things I had forgotten. It stirred up my faith and my resolve. It helped me refocus and get my mind oriented once again to the clear business of Heaven.

Today Debra and I talked about that. Paul says to think of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. He also says to speak to each other with psalms and other heavenly talk. We are told in Deuteronomy to talk about the many ways God has and does deliver us. We are to talk about them when we get up, when we walk, when we sit, when we lie down at night.

I'll tell the truth. I thought those verses were a bit unrealistic, a little "goody goody". I mean, there is reality, you know. The thing is, the only reality is God-what He has done, what He is doing, and what He has promised to do. When we focus on those things and talk about those things, we are speaking in agreement with Him, and that releases power into our lives. We begin to act in accordance with reality-not human logic, and we begin to see big things happening because the reality is God is a big God.

May our thoughts, conversations, and actions always be grounded in Reality....


The Christmas Warm Fuzzies

On my high school alumni board, my friend Jessica mentioned that she loves Christmas, and she mentioned the warm fuzzy feelings she gets about Christmas. It took some time, but I picked a few warm fuzzies I have as well, and I thought I would share them with you.

Since Anna was little, it has become tradition at this time of year for Rob and I to have a handful of $1 bills in our wallets. When Anna was little, she got hooked on putting money into "the buckets". Yeah, the Salvation Army kettles. The red kettle is cool, but that isn't what hooked her.

Anna's very first experience with a Salvation Army kettle is exactly what it should have been.We were bustling into a store because it was COLD!, and outside the store was a man wrapped up in old coat, hat, and gloves. He was as warm as possible when the temperature is hovering just above freezing and the wind is gusting. Over the blowing wind and ringing bell you could hear it--the man was singing. His voice wasn't great. It was as old and worn as he was, but the heart was there, and it was perfect.

Here I am with a three year-old and nine month-old in tow, and Anna stops solid. She was mesmorized. He smiled at her as he sang. I let her listen for a minute, maybe two, before I bustled them into the building where it was warm.

As we did our shopping Anna asked all about the man and the bucket and why he did that, and I explained it to her. She was so amazed that someone would stand in the freezing weather and sing so people would give money for others who needed it.

Would we give money, too?

Before we walked out of the store, I rummaged through my purse to find out what kind of cash I had since I rarely carry any. Divinely, there was a wadded up dollar bill in there, so I gave it to Anna.When we walked out of the store, Anna went to the bucket to slip the dollar in. That was when I found out they put lids on the kettles now. Anna couldn't get it in, and I had Robert who couldn't stand by himself, so the man with the "perfect voice" showed Anna how to fold the dollar and slide it in.

He wished her a Merry Christmas. She beamed. His eyes twinkled. Our world changed.

The next year Anna started asking about the "people with the buckets and bells" before Thanksgiving. I started keeping some ones in my wallet so she could drop them in.

The next year Robert was big enough to drop money in as well. It has now reached the point where the children ask to frequent stores where the "bells and kettles" are, and if the person is singing, we stop and listen.

One time this year, they had four people out there in Santa hats singing away while the bell ringer rang the bell, and at another store, they had a band with different horns. We listened a long time to that one.

Yep, I think my favorite warm fuzzy has to do with the sound of a bell and $1 bills. Funny to me how something priceless can be so cheap.

Another favorite Christmas was when Anna was about 18 months old. She unwrapped all of her presents, pushed them all aside except for her tooth brush and a shirt box lid. She put the toothbrush in the box lid and slid it around, sort of like an ocean drum, "for hours". When she got done, she sat it safely back under the tree, and then she would go back and get it later to play some more. She did that off and on all day. And I sat and watched her. Who knew a box lid and a tooth brush could be so fascinating for an adult as well as a child?

Another favorite Christmas was a few years ago when Robert was two, maybe three. We had put the Christmas tree up in the TV room away from the main transit of a toddler, and after all the gifts were placed under the tree Christmas Eve, we put a gate up so no small children could help themselves to a gift opening frenzy.

When I woke up, I walked down the hall and peered in Robert's room. He wasn't there. I looked in Anna's room. Anna was sound asleep, but Robert wasn't with her. I walked quietly through the living room and peaked around the corner to see the door to the TV room. There stood Robert with his thumb in his mouth, staring over the gate at the pile of wrapped treasure under the tree. As he stood there, he never touched the gate, only tipped his head from side to side as he sucked his thumb and looked at the loot to be had. I watched him for several minutes, and by God's grace was able to sneak a picture before he noticed me. It is by far on of my favorite pictures from Christmas time, and one of my favorite memories.

May your Christmas afford you great memories, people to love and to love you, and the wisdom to recognize them as the wonderful gifts they are....


I believe it was Bach that said he sat down at the keyboard and waited to receive. This was his method for composing so many amazing musical pieces. Tonight, I am following Bach's example. I have sat down at my keyboard and am prepared to receive.

Christmas is a week away. How does it come so quickly? Two weeks ago I thought I was doing well and had the gift issue under control, and I was feeling pretty good about my efforts. Now we are a week away, and I feel it has snuck up on me and caught me unprepared. Gifts are mostly under control, but then I found out we are having Christmas dinner here, which I enjoy, but I am not prepared with food. Even with that, I thought it would be easy to take care of, but then, Rob and Anna started running fevers. We had extra ministry responsibilities. Robert had a doctor's appointment. A friend asked if we would watch her son for a few hours, and we are delighted to do so. Did I mention the women's party at church or the business meetings for Rob? It is amazing how quickly our calendar filled up. Three days ago we had one afternoon scheduled this week. As of this morning, we have one afternoon free. It is amazing to me how things can so quickly get out of control and how quickly things can get lost in the shuffle and busyness of life, and I don't just mean this time of year.

This time of year we hear how people are so busy working on celebrating Christmas that they forget to celebrate the Christ-mass. It's nothing new. 2000 years ago Jesus had the same conversation with the Pharisees and Sadducees. "You're so busy keeping the law and the rules that you've missed the One who gave them to you so you could have a relationship with Him." The rules precluded relationship, not enabled it. It could be argued that Christma has taken on the same character. We are so busy looking for the perfect gift that we end up not enjoying the one for whom we are buying it. Impression becomes more important than expression.

We want folks to be impressed that we knew just want to get them. Nothing wrong with giving the perfect gift as long as it isn't a token brought about by a Pharisee mindset. The Pharisees want to impress God by showing Him their righteousness done in His name on His behalf. What God wanted was an expression of love and gratitude in response to what He had done on their behalf.

Today we try to impress God by declaring that Christ is the reason for the season. From what I've read, Christ is the reason, period. We need to purge our thinking of ideas that we are impressive because we take a holiday and rally around it as a reason to do good things and to think beyond ourselves. If such giving is a seasonal thing, can it truly be that impressive? Doesn't God desire more out of us. Doesn't He desire for us to live a life that expresses love to those in need on any given Monday no matter what the date is?

Is it really so impressive to put a smile on and be nice to everyone in church on Sunday, or is it more expressive of our relationship with Christ to put a smile on and be nice to the rude driver that cut us off or the family member that once again left wet towels and dirty clothes on the floor in the bathroom?

I don't think there is anything wrong with being extra generous this time of year. I think we've failed to miss the point if it is ONLY this time of year. More than that, though, whenever we choose to be generous with our money, patience, or helping hands, we shouldn't do it out of compulsion with the idea that we are impressing God. Instead, our heart should be that of Christ who came for the purpose of EXPRESSING God.

On Christmas and every day, may we all have the heart to express rather than impress....


I do read better than that. Honest.

I have confused some people with my wording on the entry about feeling welcome. The way I worded some things makes it sound like I read at a 5th or 6th grade level. No. I read on very high levels actually. However, as can be seen in this instance, when I check the spelling/grammar of a piece I am writing or have finished,and my program gives me the word count, it also gives me the "readability level" status. That means that a 5th/6th grader could understand what I wrote. I simply do not use sentences that are complex enough or vocabulary that is "big" enough to get above that "readability level".

So, yes, I read fine, well enough to get my bachelor's degree anyway. Sorry about the confusion, but thank you to all you wonderful folk who had great ideas to improve my reading abilities. I'll keep those in my homeschool information because you never know when it will come in handy.

Wishing you the right words for you to enjoy the ability to be understood and to understand.....


Leah's Sisters

My precious and beloved friend Mary Dunham-Faulkner is an amazing lady. I can't even begin to tell you everything, but I will tell you how to find out about her and the incredible ministry the Lord has given her. Check out www.leahssisters.org Her latest One Minute with Mary is so deep in truth it takes sitting and soaking to get the power of it...or the freedom in it. So drop by to check it out.

While you are there, read about the Jireh Center--a miracle of God, and the lives that are being healed through the ministry there. Find about the lives of women in Thailand that are being restored through God's work in that country. And there's more! Really, take time to read about it and let the power of what God is doing in the lives of these women amaze you. Truly, it is amazing. Take time to let it amaze you.

And while you are at it, venture onto this page. I won't tell you anything more than that. http://www.leahssisters.org/index.cfm/pageid/611/index.html


Simply Feeling Welcome

I'm stuck.

Well, that sounds a bit dramatic, but I don't like the term "writer's block". It isn't so much a block. It's more like a bump. You know, like when you are driving with an open cup of something and you hit a bump and it spills. Well, I hit a bump, and the stuff I was going to write about spilled.

So I thought I would drop in and write about my "writer's bump", tell you what I remember, and maybe let things come to mind. In truth, I write better this way anyway. When I try to write "formal" stuff, it is hard. I don't think I am formal. If my friends are reading this, they are laughing as they mutter, "When did you ever think you are formal?"

Formal is something I look at and admire, but it isn't me. I have a lovely friend who does her whole house up every year at Christmas so Southern Living might show up and take pictures at any time. Truly, it is stunning, and I go, sip coffee, chat, and admire. Then I come home, move a magazine or book I've been reading with the children, pick my laptop up off the floor by the couch where I worked on it that morning or last night, pull the wadded throw over me, and snuggle down. My coffee cup sits on a coaster on the carpet so I can reach it easily, and when Rob comes in to watch TV, I move my legs and let him have part of the couch.

Formal is not something we can be accused of. In fact, one time we had a friend come over for a game night, and he rotated out of a game, so he sat down on our couch to watch TV until his turn. He fell asleep and stayed there until the next morning. We thought that was the best compliment we could get.

I've never wanted a home where people were afraid to come in and relax. I've never wanted people to feel they had to be a certain level to be loved on or find refuge with us. Really, I guess that has always been our goal. We have always wanted our house to be a refuge for anyone in need of a place to hide and hang out. Granted, we have our rules. Colored drinks stay in the kitchen or dining areas. Shoes don't go on the furniture. There are certain behaviors that are not acceptable, and guests have to treat each of our family memebers with respect. Yes, we have rules, but they are reasonable, and if folks follow them, they are welcome in our home.

I think God is like that. I think God wants to open His home to anyone who wants in as well. I believe He wants us to know Him as a place of refuge. I think He wants us to know He is a place of rest. Granted, He has rules too, but they are reasonable, and anyone willing to live by His rules is welcome with Him anytime.

Maybe the desire for everyone to feel comfortable spills over into my writing. If I am honest, and I do try to be, the reality is I've never been good at vocabulary. As much as I admire users of big words, I am not one of them. The "reading level" program on my computer usually ranks my writing somewhere on a 5th or 6th grade level. That doesn't sound too impressive for someone who was halfway finished with her classwork toward a master's in math. Yep, that's me. My brain can work at a high enough level to do Master's level math, but my writing level sits right around a 5th or 6th grade level.

And, I confess my writing ability bugged me for a long time.

I tried to console myself by saying I don't want anyone to feel lost when they read something I write because sometimes God uses my "bumps" to provide something profound, and when that happens, I want it as easy to understand as possible. And really, that is true, but it never struck me that my writing level was a gift until last week.

I have been in contact with a dear pastor in Valsad, India, and he invited me to lead a women's conference. The Lord has not opened the door for that yet, but He did use the situation to teach me that speaking in words that "anyone" can understand is a gift. I like to think anyone in America who reads my blog or website can read over a sixth grade level, but one of the wonderful things about the internet is the global connection. There are those who know English for communication purposes but could not understand it at "higher reading levels". Thankfully, the Lord is more concerned about communication than impressive vocabulary. He doesn't need big words to get His message across, which means everyone can feel comfortable listening, even those with the smallest of vocabularies.

Have you ever considered the first sentence God spoke concerning salvation in Christ? The first sentence was simple, "I love you." For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.... It doesn't get any easier than that, and it didn't even come in a formal note. Instead, He sent this simple message via a stable. A place anyone could go if they were humble enough offering a message anyone could understand if they listened.

Now, I am not trying to reduce God in any way. In truth, I don't know that any of us can comprehend the true glory of God. That is the very thing that amazes me even more. Such a glorious God communicating in such a simple way for anyone to understand. Strangely, it can be so hard to understand something so simple.

Wishing you the simple life and the ability to understand the depth of it......


What do you expect when you worship?

Our pastor is doing a wonderful series on worship. I strongly suggest you drop by our church website and listen. The sermon for this weekend is excellent and can really alter your focus and expectations of worship. I also strongly suggest the other sermons as well. Check it out at www.gatewaypeople.com


Why so Hard?

I cannot count the number of times I've heard myself ask the question, "Why do things have to be so hard?" I've heard it from my daughter's mouth when she was trying to master multiplication and division. I've heard it from my husband's mouth during home renovation projects. I've heard it from my son when he was working on getting his ankles together for diving. AND, I've heard it from numerous peopel outside my family, too. I've always sort of shrugged and said, "That's the way life works." However, today, I got the revelation of why things are really so hard.

On Monday I was going to do art with the children, and I was looking for my favorite art book. I couldn't find it. Tuesday found me pulling all the books off the shelves in the sunroom where we do school when weather permits. Wednesday I searched through my stash of books in the garage along with a pile of educaitonal posters I had dumped out there. Yesterday I cleaned the study, checked both children's rooms, and went through the book case in the living room book by book. I couldn't find it. In the meantime, I started looking for another book, and it, too, seems to have vanished into air.

Finally, today, I decided I would just buy another art book. It wasn't hugely expensive, and it was my favorite art book. A bookstore near me is having a sale tomorrow, and I would be there anyway. I'd just pick up another copy then. As for the other book, it wasn't a big deal, and I could probably find the information I needed elsewhere. It would have just been convenient.

As I took one last look around the sunroom and tried to remember the last place I saw the book, I remembered seeing the book was when we had painted as a family. We had used new paint techniques to make some very neat paintings of the ocean. Suddenly, I began to feel that small sense of "Oh no!". It occurred to me that in all my looking, I had not found those pictures either. These were not ordinary pictures. The children had done fantastic work, and I loved those pictures. They were irreplaceable.

At that moment, my motivation shifted from being a bit inconvenienced to an urgency of purpose. I had to find the pictures. Quickly, I reviewed all the places where I had already made a meticulous search. Then I shifted focus to the places where I had "looked" but not searched. We had recycled so much and given away so much in the last few weeks...."Dear God, please let me find those pictures," I said as I walked into the garage and flipped on the light. As I looked around, I saw the only place that had gotten merely a "once over"--the pile of posters. Immediately, I got on my knees and started to carefully pull posters off the top of the pile.

About halfway through, I found a bunch of smaller papers, and as I pulled out the small pile, the missing art book slid out and tumbled to the floor. "Thank you for the book. Please let me find those pictures." The book that had been the source of such frustration all week meant nothing now. My heart was on the pictures. As I moved a pile of sorted papers that had been turned sideways, I caught a glimpse of the ocean blue for which I was looking. After moving two more sorted piles, there were the irreplaceable pictures. A wave of relief and gratitude swept over me. "Oh, God," I said as I sat back on my legs, "Thank you."

As I walked into the kitchen, the children saw the book in my hand and were excited that we would be able to do some more art projects. "Mom, where did you find it?" my daughter asked.

I smiled, "With something I couldn't replace."

It was then that the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Jerri, sometimes I have to push you to the point where you cannot afford to lose because finding me isn't convenient. I have to push you to the point where you are desparate for you to find what you really need or even what you are looking for. I have to push you beyond you for you to search hard enough to find me."

May things be hard enough to push us beyond convenience to desperately searching for Him....