Friday, December 9, 2011


It has been a long time and I am delinquent.  I have no excuses.  I've just not felt like I've had any great gifts of wisdom lately nor have I read any anywhere else.  My cup has been pretty dry lately.  And mostly because of me.  But I ran across this great post from a blog I've started following.  Giving has really been on my mind lately.  I'm like everyone else.  I never have extra money.  It seems like every month is a tight struggle and I never get ahead.  But I also feel the overwhelming desire to help others, give what I have, etc.  That is hard to do and feel like you are meeting your responsibilities as well.  I really like this family.  I like their blog.  I love their commitment to serve the Lord and others and I like this recent post on giving.  Enjoy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Looking up!

Wow! James MacDonald had a good one this week in his Walk in the Word series. He reminds us that when the church began it was about praise. It was about recognizing the greatness of God and the fame of God's Son. He makes a good point that we spend so much time in our churches trying to understand and cater to its followers that we forget why we have come.

Here is the full article. Check out for more.

Look Up

The Weekly Walk...17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. —Ephesians 3:17-21

The other day I had on my desk 30 recent books written about the church of Jesus Christ. One word describes them all: Horizontal. Pretty covers, catchy titles—one theme. They are filled with practical counsel: How to understand your audience, how to impact the people around you, how to influence them, how to win them, how to assimilate them; what they need, what they want, what we think, what they think. And yet, most of them are based on a fatal flaw: They have reduced the Church of Jesus Christ to a man-centered, human-needs-driven, manipulate-able organization—a horizontal thing.

Here's a word you need to have at the forefront of your thinking: vertical. Somehow we've lost this in the church. We’ve replaced the Biblical idea of the church with the idea that the church is supposed to be about the horizontal—about us.

Before the purpose of the Church was ever soteriological (about salvation), it was doxological (about praise). Ephesians 3:20 says: "To Him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ now and forever more." Everything we do has to resound with the fame of the name of God's Son. When that happens, everything else falls into place. Evangelism, discipleship, community impact, ministries of compassion, these things are by-products of a church that is passionately consumed with the glory of God. Vertical is a powerful concept that you need to have at the forefront of your thinking about the work of the Church of Jesus Christ.

The best reasons to be fully engaged in your church won’t be found by looking around, but by looking up! We begin obeying Christ by applying the great commandment to love God—the summary of the vertical relationship (see Mark 12:28-31). When we’ve got that clear, we can tackle the loving neighbor, horizontal thing. Let’s keep the two commands clear and in proper sequence! That’s vertical church. Look up!

Monday, August 1, 2011

So far behind...

Well, I've done a terrible job adding thought to this blog this summer. I have a bag of excuses but that doesn't change the fact that I've been neglectful! This really isn't a post from me, but I wanted to share something sent to me by someone else. I usually don't copy/paste from other sites because I want to send you to their site so they can get credit, but I couldn't find this post online anymore. It was sent to me in an email. But if you want to visit their site for future goodies, go to

Here is the good lesson for the day (or probably month at the rate I'm going):


By Jo Ann Brown

It is amazing to me how God communicates certain lessons. Apparently, I must not listen in a traditional way because He always seems to use nature, my children, or my dogs to teach me things about myself.

As I was walking my dog, Chelsea, today, I noticed she was worse than usual about pulling. She was practically choking herself. She has a 25-foot leash that allows her 25 feet in just about any direction to enjoy without feeling uncomfortable. However, Chelsea seemed to always want to pull the leash as tightly as possible to get to the next "spot" in the road. Keep in mind that we are walking that direction and will be at that "spot" in just a matter of minutes.

Chelsea was so busy looking at the next place, the next moment that she failed to enjoy the place where she was. With 25 feet in any direction, she could only concentrate on the one foot that she could not reach in front of her. All the while we were moving forward, she wanted to be someplace different, further ahead. Her eyes were always one step further than where we were.

When I thought about how ridiculous she was, I realized how ridiculous I am as well. God has been trying to teach me to enjoy the moment while continuing to move forward. Why do I practically choke myself to get to the next place that I fail to enjoy the beauty of the place where I am. As long as I am moving forward, why can't I enjoy the trip?

I made a decision to enjoy things I usually would take for granted. That day, I found myself enjoying even the small things in my life more. I did not just take a shower that day thinking about what I needed to do during my day. I enjoyed my shower, thought about the warm water and how grateful I was that in our country I could take a shower anytime I want. That was probably the best shower I have had in a long time.

I can honestly tell you that I experienced more pleasure from everyday chores than I can ever remember. What a wonderful lesson I learned from my sweet Chelsea. I pray that I can continue to enjoy the place where I am, while continuing to move forward to the place I want to be.

So much joy can lie in the journey if I can be content with where I am and not continually pull to be where I am not quite ready to be. I wish I could say that Chelsea learned her lesson but that would be a lie. She still kills herself to get to that next place in the pavement when everything she needs is right under her nose.


Jo Ann Brown is an MDI subscriber and the mother of two wonderful teens, Brian and Danny and two dogs, Lucky and Chelsea. She can be reached at

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Oaks of Righteousness

This won't be long but I wanted to share this thought. I was reading the Upper Room today - not the one that always used to sit on the back of my grandmother's toilet - but the one I receive, freely, everyday in my email inbox. It has the same words as the one on the back of the toilet, just in a more "in my face" fashion. I don't read it everyday, but I'm glad I did today.

The scripture selection was from Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD,that he may be glorified.

You can read the companion commentary to this online at It is called "Beauty for Ashes".

As for my commentary on this verse, I'll say I found encouragement. I also found that I can be both things here. Isaiah is saying he has come to bring good news because there are people that are hurting or burdened or worn out that need to hear it. He also says he's doing this so they can have gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of a faint spirit. And the final outcome is, that because of their transformed spirit, they will be oaks of righteousness showing off the glory of God.

I've had lots of times when I needed an Isaiah to come to me and give me liberty and bind up my wounds. I'm so thankful for those in my life who inspire and encourage me. Who lift me up. Sometimes they are friends or family but lots of times it is a Christian artist on the radio or the words of an evangelist in a podcast. These people share what they have to glorify God and restore others.

I'm also reminded here that I'm called to be the "resource" for someone else. Because God has given me gladness instead of mourning and praise instead of a faint spirit, I am called to be an "oak of righteousness" for someone else to look upon and see God glorified. It is my anointing to bring the good news to others who are bound, imprisoned, or wounded. That I could be that to someone else in the same way others have been to me is inspiring - it is a call to action. My prayer - "Lord, let not a day go by that I don't share your good news and proclaim liberty to the captives." AMEN.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let Excitement Reign!

I totally love this blog post. Not actually this one that I'm writing, but the one I'm going to tell you about and link to. I am so in awe of people who are always excited about God and what He is doing in their lives. You know they have bad days and trials just like everyone else, but they choose every morning to get up and praise God anyway. I'm trying to be more like that. To find that relationship with God that gives peace every day.

This post is going to be my example for the day, month, maybe year. Who knows! Enjoy.

Title: I'm Sorry Your Life/Church is So "Normal"!

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Cup Is Full but Not Overflowing

Unlike everything else around me that IS overflowing, somehow my words and thoughts haven't been lately. I'm going through a dry spell. God is definitely working in me and blessing me but in the last two months it has been with a very internal purpose. Things that others wouldn't necessarily understand or receive a blessing from hearing or reading.

God IS good. His love DOES endure forever. I'm having to learn about love, growth, change and lots of other hard stuff recently. We were so bless to have Barry Steed from Little Chapel Church (my home church) come and minister to us last night. My heart is overflowing from what was felt in the house of God last night, but I can't put it into words. It comes out in tears or in a smile wider than I've smiled in a long time. I'm sure that seed will bear fruit soon and I'll have something to say but right now all I can say is for everything there is a season and God's timing is perfect. And I'm perfected in Him. And so are you so just hang in there.

I do want to share something from James McDonald that comes at an appropriate time. As Barry said last night, the earth is shaking. All these disasters and all the hardship is painful to even watch, let alone experience. McDonald's "Weekly Walk" article this week was titled, "Will I Get Through This?" I know so many are asking themselves that question today and so many don't have the faith and hope in a savior to give them the comfort that they will. That is what makes me saddest today. So many are lost just beyond our doorstep and our church parking lot. How do we bring them in? How do we love them enough to get out of our recliners and bring the gospel? I'm still searching for these answers. But in the meantime I want to share this article with you at . This happens to be the audio version but you can sign-up on his site to receive the weekly email too. I download his podcast to my phone and often listen when I'm exercising. He has some good teaching. Be blessed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Getting "Radical"

I've shared some about a book we are doing in bible study called, "Satisfy My Thirsty Soul" by Linda Dillow. Well, the same girl that put me on to that book has another one she is reading called "Radical". I've heard others mention it and it sounds great. I'm reading something else right now so it will be a while before I get to it but it is definitely next on the list. Read the post below from her blog and I hope you feel the same passion and encouragement I did when I read it. This mother has a child with a rare skin disorder that is horrible. She has been a blessing to me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Am the Re-Source

I was sitting around just thinking about some things in my life and reflecting a little bit on yesterday's sermon at church and I remembered a message I had heard many months ago. Tim had mentioned in his sermon yesterday that he hears many people make the statement, "Doesn't anyone care about what I think or what I want?"

I'm remembering that today as I'm thinking about some of the things in my life that aren't exactly going as well as I'd hoped. Deep down I know what I want. I know the desires of my heart. I let myself get down and ill sometimes because after all, "doesn't anyone care about what I think or what I want?"

If you've ever been around an adolescent who is being disciplined you know the look and attitude I'm fixing to describe. That attitude that I'm being mistreated because I'm not getting to do or go where I want and no matter what anyone says, or how much sense it makes, I'm just going to be mad and pout. I know you've seen that look. And to those with small children, if you haven't seen it yet, just wait.

It occurred to me this weekend that we must look much like this in our Heavenly Father's eyes. When things don't go our way we pout. We cry out about how it isn't fair and it doesn't make sense. He has given us so much, even our being and yet our only focus is on how we are being mistreated. We've been good. We haven't done anything really wrong. Why can't we have what we want.

As I came to this realization about how I must look to the Father, I must say I was a bit embarrassed. That doesn't mean I won't do it again very soon or that I'm cured forever from being a self-centered, selfish person. It will happen again. But I hope when I see/feel that look on the face of my heart that I'll remember it isn't about me getting what I want.

That leads me to my second thought today, the message I remembered from months back. I was at a worship conference last summer and heard a music minister sharing some words on being the lead worshippers (the phrase they use in place of worship leader). He likened it to a bottle of water. He said to a thirsty person a bottle of water is life giving. It replenishes and cleanses. It is necessary.

I can bring someone a bottle of water and they can be replenished, but I'm not the source of their renewal. I didn't make the water and more than that, the only place I can get the water is from the source. Jesus is the source that the people need. As a Christian, all I can do is bring the source to the one's who need it. I'm a re-source. Just like a bottle, I can run between the source and the need, being filled and poured out over and over again. That is my real job as a Christian. As a believer and disciple, I become a resource to those who have no connection or way to get to the source.

So just as Robert Frost once wrote, "Two roads diverged in a wood," (Thank you Mrs. Spence's English Class), I have ran all over the place in this post. But, I think for me the truth is this - as long as I'm sitting around thinking, "Doesn't anyone care what I want or what I think", I'm missing my chance to be filled and to be a resource. Someone does really care. Jesus cares. And He loves me no matter what path I choose, but to agree with Frost, "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Do you have Passion?

I know I have been a long time coming on this post. It seems like February has been a very long month somehow. We've had a lot going on at our house and with the church and time has been in short supply.

I don't have much to share today but I saw a quote in an article by John Maxwell that I really liked. John Maxwell is a leadership expert. His writings can be used in both the business world and the spiritual, church-building world. He quotes the former COO (chief operating officer) of the Ritz Carlton hotel who said,

You are nothing unless it comes from your heart. Passion, caring, really looking to create excellence. If you perform functions only and go to work only to do processes, then you are effectively retired. And it scares me - most people I see, by age 28, are retired... If you go to work only to fulfill the processes and functions then you are a machine. You have to bring passion, commitment and caring - then you are a human being.

The article, which you can find in full text here has much more to do with success in business but I think we can apply this idea of passion to everyting we do in life. Do you have passion for what you do at work? Do you have passion for the role you play at church? Do you have passion for being a parent? Where you volunteer? Scriptures say,

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24

I've been guilty of slogging through the motions at work, at home, at church, in my marriage, in my friendships, in my parenting...almost everywhere. But I've also had times when I've burned with passion over projects I worked on or services I led worship in. I think the Lord of the harvest wants us to burn for Him. To be filled with passion.

Sometimes we get to a point where the passion is gone. That is when it is easiest to "retire" as the article says. I pray you don't retire. I pray that you seek God and ask Him to fill your life with passion again. Maybe He'll refuel your weary soul. Maybe He'll show you a way to a new job or volunteer position that fires up your soul again. Be on fire for the Lord! Be filled with passion!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Praying and Seeking

In preparation for the worship team retreat where we had a workshop on prayer, I met with the ladies who conducted the prayer workshop. As we were talking, one of them suggested several books on prayer that would be good resources. Since everyone knows I don't like to read, I wasn't sure what to do. I'm already reading, "Satisfy My Thirsty Soul" I thought. There is no way I can pick up another book now. But I wanted to be a little prepared for the retreat, so I thought, "What the heck, maybe I can at least read a few chapters." So I decided to order the book from Inter Library Loan on campus so if I didn't get into it, at least I wouldn't be out any money.

So the book arrived and I began reading. Philip Yancey is the author and it is a book called "Prayer" subtitled "Does It Make Any Difference". ILL doesn't loan books for readers like me. They set deadlines for return within a month of the receiving date and everyone knows I don't read that fast even when I do read. I began reading a few chapters and so far I am really enjoying the book. So when my time ran out I just bought the book on Amazon. I'm almost half-way through and I probably have as many new questions as answers to old ones about prayer.

The author asks a lot of questions like, "If God really cares and really listens, why don't all our prayers get answered." And, "If some of us believe we are predestined then why pray at all. Can we change God's mind?" He raises a lot of questions that frankly have you thinking one minute about giving up on prayer all together and the next thinking you've been doing it wrong for years. I won't say I'm not struggling some with the ideas being presented but if the goal of the author was to make me think and ponder, he definitely has done that well.

I ran across a thought yesterday when I was reading that really made a lot of sense to me. I've gone through times when I've prayed and prayed for direction, answers, movement of the Holy Spirit in a situation and just felt nothing. Completely flat. Dry as a bone. And I've wondered why? Why, if I'm seeking God's will and asking for His direction, doesn't He respond. At least with something. A warm fuzzy or a stomach ache. Something.

In one revealing paragraph I found solace. The author first quotes Augustine who said with regard to the one that prays, "that he himself may be constructed not that God may be instructed." Does prayer construct us? Build us? Shape us into what we are and who we are?

He goes on to say, "I have sometimes found that I get an answer to my persistent request only after I have learned to do without it. The answer then comes as a surprise, an unexpected gift of grace." And here is my favorite part, "I seek the gift, find instead the Giver, and eventually come away with the gift I no longer seek. Asking, seeking and knocking does have an effect on God, as Jesus insists, but it also has a lasting effect on the asker-seeker-knocker."

We pray, not just to have our requests granted or to gain some prize, we pray because that is one way God shapes us and molds us. We've been instructed to do it and regardless of the answers we do or don't receive, we keep on doing it. We keep pressing in. And God uses the time we spend seeking to make us into the disciples He needs.

So don't give up on that prayer. Make your petitions known to God. Go boldly to the throne. The veil has been torn for us, so that we might meet with God face-to-face and have a relationship with Him. Prayer does make a difference.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Centering Prayer

We were very fortunate last week at our worship team retreat to have a workshop on prayer. The ladies that delivered the workshop gave information and showed us how to practice different forms of prayer. One of the types of prayer demonstrated was called Centering Prayer. I guess I should have known about this before but I'd never really heard or seen it demonstrated. Or at least I'd never seen it tagged with this name.

In the Satisfy My Thirsty Soul book I've shared about, the author challenges readers to try something very similar. She doesn't call it centering but calls for us to learn how to "quiet our inner chatter" so we might hear from God. It is very interesting.

So what is centering prayer, you ask? Well, the author of the book suggests that we set aside 20 minutes to focus on God and quietly listen for His response and feel His presence. Have you ever tried to sit quietly and focus on only one thing for 20 minutes before? How about five minutes? This is hard stuff.

The first time I tried this my thoughts went something like this. "God you are so wonderful and good to me. I don't deserver Your...was that the dryer buzzer? What was in there? Oh towels. They can wait. And God I just want to be in your presence and feel your touch...did I remember to put mouth wash on the grocery list? I know I'll forget. Must remember mouth wash. Ok, and God I just want to sit in Your stillness and hear your voice. [5 seconds pass] Is that the refrigerator door? Riley get out of the refrigerator! Grrr." So needless to say in about 60 seconds I really was off to a poor start.

One of the ladies at the retreat offered a nice addition to this practice. She suggested deciding on a word or image that you would come back to when you begin to feel your internal chatter taking over. It might be the visual of you sitting at the feet of Jesus or a word that brings God into focus for you. For me it might be the word "constant". Knowning not only that God is constantly with me but that I want my focus on him to be constant.

I'm not going to say that I have this one down yet by any means, but I will say it is very rewarding and a great blessing. To sit uninterupted in God's presence is a beautiful thing. It brings strength. And I will also say the more I do it, the better I get at turning down the internal chatter. It is like exercising or anything else. Start small. Maybe in your lifestyle a five minute centering prayer would be a miracle. So start there. As you get better at it, you 'll be surprised how fast the time flies.