Saturday, May 31, 2008

Drawin' A Blank

Most who know me know I love to send notes of encouragement. It's one of my favorite things to do when I have the spare time. So when I found some new blank cards at the store yesterday, I was ecstatic. What's even better is that I got the kind with foil gleaming throughout.

The great thing about blank cards is that I get to put my original thoughts inside of them--something I want to say especially for the person I'm sending it to. Just seems more personal than the blanket statements I see on the standard "thinking of you" cards. And when they have a sparkle or a glitter on the cover, it just says "You're special," you know?

God must like blank cards too.  Because I've noticed that when I go before Him with an empty heart, He etches a personal message on it, a unique one just for me. While He is powerful and full of splendor and majesty, He is also personal. He longs to give me His special encouragement and leading for my life.  And when I receive it, my life is wrapped in His foiled light, which glimmers for everyone around me to see. It's such a beautiful way for Him to say "You're special," you know?

"When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name, O LORD God Almighty."
Jeremiah 15:16

Lord, write your words on my heart, those I need to hear, those I need to absorb, and those I need to put into practice. And then Lord, may I come before You with my own special and personal lyrics of praise and worship--from my heart straight to Yours.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Payin' it Forward/Friday's Fiction Feast

“Welcome to Starbucks. This is Jeremy. What can I get you?” I asked the next of a long line of cars at our drive-thru one gloomy Sunday morning.

“Hi, Jeremy, I’d love a grande caramel macchiato, please, but with three shots.”

“That’s a triple grande caramel macchiato. Please drive through.”

The Sunday morning crowd was usually friendly, but even more so today.

“The person in front of you already paid for your drink,” I announced.

She looked shocked. “What? Really?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

A twenty-dollar bill was squeezed in between her fingers and flapping in the breeze outside the window.

“Well, I want to pay for the person’s behind me then.”

I looked over at the register to check the amount. “OUCH! They ordered a bunch of stuff. The total is $18.76.”

Three of the other employees froze to hear what the customer would say. We had a good bet going about how long this “payin-it-forward” thing would last, and I was worried that Keesha might actually win on this car.

“I’ll get it,” the young lady said, “Can’t think of a better way to blow a twenty!”

She seemed genuinely excited. I couldn’t believe it, but I took her money and offered the change.

“God bless your day,” she said, motioning for me to put the rest in the tip box as she drove away.

Eileen and Brian high-fived each other, as they were still in the bet, while Keesha rolled her eyes.

“So whatcha guys bettin’ on?” I heard from the in-house side of the counter. It was Seminary Sam--a regular. He was never shy about telling us the latest subject he was learning at the Seminary down the road. Thus, the nickname.

Brian said, “Oh, about five cars ago, a guy paid for the person’s drink behind them, and it’s continued ever since. Some lady just laid down a twenty-dollar bill for the guy behind her.”

“Wow! I picked the wrong day to order inside!” Sam remarked.

I yelled out to the others: “Got another one, guys!”

“What do you think all this is about?” Seminary Sam was just getting started.

Keesha chimed in with her usual skepticism. “Oh, you know these church people. They probably had some preacher tell them to do it just so that they could invite us to their church or something.”

Sam did not even flinch. “Hmmm….why don’t you ask them which church they are from as they pay?”

“Good idea.” I said, turning back to the window. “Hey, where you headed?”

The man answered, “Off to church. First Baptist.”

Keesha rolled her eyes. “Surprise. Baptist.” Her sarcasm shrilled louder than the milk she was steaming.

“Keep me posted.” Sam gave us a friendly wink and a pat on the counter before he went to his usual table.

Finally, as the last car pulled up, we realized the morning rush was over. So far we had recorded three Baptists, two from the Bible church, and two more from the Lutheran church around the corner. So much for Keesha’s theory.

The lady in the car grabbed her Chai and cranberry scone from me as I made the announcement once more: “The car in front of you paid for yours.”

She shrieked with excitement. “Oh, praise the Lord, that just makes my day! Who do I get to pay for?”

“I’m afraid you’re the last in line, Ma’am.”

She let out a belly laugh. “Well, then, I’ll just have to let you all split the bill instead then.”

“Oh, thank you, ma’am. That’s very nice of you. Where ya' headed?”

“I’m off to praise Jesus, and I’d love to have you join me sometime. Anytime!” Her face absolutely beamed.

Keesha smirked.

The lady drove off before I could even ask her which church she attended.

Sam snuck up on us. “So, what’s the verdict, people? Do we have a church conspiracy?”

“No,” I said, “none of them seemed to know each other. The last lady didn’t even mention where she went to church.”

“Well." Sam leaned his elbow on the counter. “Looks like you’ve just got a glimpse of THE church.”

“THE church?” Keesha looked remotely interested now.

“Yup, when you believe in Jesus, it’s not about which church you belong to, but about WHO you belong to.”

“Holy cow!” I pulled out a folded bill from the tip box. “That lady left us a hundred bucks to split.”

Brian commented, “Hmmm, maybe there’s something more to this church thing after all...”

Seminary Sam asked for a refill AND a moment of our time. He was just getting started.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hunting Wabbit

Every time my family goes on a walk at dusk, our dog loves to chase the bunny rabbits in the neighborhood. And there are bunches of them.

Last night, I watched my dog Abby come to a screeching halt in the middle of a pretty good pace. Her ears perked up, the hair on her spine stood straight out, and she morphed to a hunting dog in a nanosecond. She saw a rabbit gnawing on some grass, unaware of her presence.

The extreme amount of self-control and patience that Abby showed while sneaking up to make her "kill" was nothing short of amazing. I wish I could be that graceful.

But I also noticed the rabbit, who began to sense that something was not right. It froze. It's eyes were the only thing moving, watching for any sudden movement. It's ears were perked, listening for the slightest crunching of the grass.

As crafty and skilled as Abby is at hunting, the rabbit always gets away before Abby's leash is extended to its maximum length.  Hard telling what would happen if we let her off her leash. Yikes.

The Holy Spirit in me showed me a direct parallel between this scene and 1 Peter 5:7-8.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 
Be self-controlled and alert. 
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion 
looking for someone to devour. 
Resist him, standing firm in the faith...

Just as that rabbit is fully alert and prepared for anyone 'hunting wabbit,' so I should be the same in my faith walk. Not only that, but I must rely on my Lord to help me do so. As I ask Him for protection, He will most certainly provide it.  Because He cares for me. Satan is not allowed to harm me as a believer in any way without the Lord's permission. His leash is controlled by the Omnipotent Ruler of the universe.

That's why God gave me these verses. He wants me to do my part. Trust Him, exercise His fruit of self-control, stay aware of the evil and sin that looms around me, and resist it--by standing firm in my faith. 

I'm going to do that the only way I know praying right now.

Lord, You have opened my eyes and ears to a message You wanted me to see and hear. Now give me the legs to walk in this Truth. I love You and want to resist the devil's schemes and traps. I trust You to help me do so. Thank You for caring for me enough to keep me safe.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Women of Passions

I'm so excited!

I'm going to be a contributing author to an awesome project!  The book pictured above should be released in July...the proceeds will go to a ministry that reaches lives all around the world--The Heart of God International.

If you would like to know more about this book or would like to order a copy when it is released, please click here:

So many incredible writers and authors contributing to this. I can't believe they chose me to be in print beside them, but then again, God has His own way and time, doesn't He?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mad Housewife

I'm mad alright--as a hornet!  And I'm hoping writing this blog will help me calm down a bit.

So first I'm desperate--now I'm mad!  Why are housewives getting picked on so much?

You see, I'm standing in line at the grocery store this evening, and right on the end cap of the candy rack is...I'm not kidding you...a wine being showcased called "Mad Housewife." And it's not just at the end of my row, it's at the end of every row! 

What's up with that?

You know, it's high time housewives started standing up for ourselves. Why does the media company think we're so unhappy that we need to have a show about us desperately reaching out to all kinds of sinful habits to be happy again? Why does a winery think that we're so unhappy or "mad" that we'll buy their product to solve our problems?

Aaaaahhhhh!  Just makes me so mad!

My prayer is that as housewives--or family managers or whatever new title we have come up with to bring dignity back to our position--would begin to show the world what we're made of. By being God-strong, God-confident, God-sufficient and God-consuming, we can take back our name. One of two things will happen. Either they'll all leave us alone because they know they can't win or they'll fight harder.

I'm calming down now, and I'm reminded in my spirit that the battle belongs to the Lord. It will be fought on my knees, in my mind and through my words and actions.  I only hope that some other mad housewives will join me along the way...

Ephesians 6:11-13 (The Message)

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. 
So take everything the Master has set out for you, 
well-made weapons of the best materials. 
And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything 
the Devil throws your way. 
This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from 
and forget about in a couple of hours. 
This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil 
and all his angels.
Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. 
Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, 
so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. 
Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. 
Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. 
God's Word is an indispensable weapon. 
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. 
Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Picture-Perfect Suh-WEET

I had a much-needed night out last night. My mother-in-law took me to dinner and the movies. It was perfect: yummy food and drink at the restaurant with a table outside. Strolling through the mall to the movies at a slow pace. Getting into the theatre a whole fifteen minutes early, enjoying humorous laughter and people-watching, all from the best middle seats in the theatre. So relaxed...picture-perfect.

Then the previews began, lots of them, and we were settled in nicely for the feature presentation. The movie began, and we were puzzled. What a strange beginning for a chick flick, I thought. Seconds later, people all over the theatre began to look around, got up and started walking out.

I asked my mother-in-law if she thought a bunch of people had planned a walk-out, because so many were getting up all around the theatre and leaving at the same time. Then it occurred to us. "We're in the wrong movie." So with the mass, we exited, only to be stopped outside the theatre telling us to go back in.

We weren't IN the wrong movie. They had STARTED the wrong movie. So elbowing back through the herd we went, miraculously managing to find our perfect seats still available without earning too big of a bruise in the side.

Our picture-perfect night had been paused, but just for a moment. The movie workers came in and gave us all free vouchers for a free movie ticket, free coke and free popcorn on our next visit. Suh-WEET!  The actual film we saw after all the mayhem was actually quite dull in comparison to the events leading up to it.

Isn't that just like life sometimes? We're walking along and things are pretty ideal. Picture perfect. Then someone or something shows up and changes the scene, usually in an unfavorable way. Instead of waiting on the problem to go away or facing it, we find ourselves trying to escape from it all together. We follow the ways of the world, looking for a way back into our favorable plot, even if we have to go from theatre to theatre looking for it.

If we had left that movie theatre in disgust and not followed the workers' advice to turn around and go back, we would have missed the free movie and popcorn tickets. We would have missed a good laugh down the road. And I would have missed an opportunity to make a blog out of it. ;)

If I try to find an escape for the problems that come my way, I could miss blessings of another kind: the big picture kind. Suh-WEET!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Only Knee-Deep

1 Peter 4:8
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

You know, I've read this passage a gazillion times, but the last few times it has come to my attention, the word "deeply" has popped out like a goblin in the night. It could just say, "Above all, love each other, because love covers...." But there's that word: deeply.

I must confess, now that I've discovered this, it has changed my perspective on the word "love."

"Oh, no know I luv ya, chica."
"I love, Love, LOVE your hair like that."
"Email ya more later. Love, Laura."

And I mean those words. I do. In my knee-deep sort of way. God has shown me that the only way I can love deeply like he tells me to is if He loves through me.

This is the way God loves:
"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."Ephesians 3:17b-19

When He loves through me by the power of the Holy Spirit, it knows no bounds. It is unconditional. It fills others up. When I love knee-deeply by the power of my own knowledge,'s difficult to love the unloveable. I want it to be comfortable and easy.

Anyway, I'm thankful for His continued reminders to me that I can be "rooted and established in love"--the fully under-water kind--and that I have His powerful love to tap in to, if I am willing and get myself out of the way.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so deeply. And may I love like you today, Father. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Director, Please

Today I went to my kids' end of school year awards ceremony. Each class came to the front of the auditorium to be recognized for their achievements and their completion of a rigorous school year. Most of the classes had some sort of speech, Bible verse, pledge or something to recite. And we're talking LONG, difficult stuff. My second grade daughter's class recited the Nicene Creed as the teacher stood in front of them doing small hand motions to help them remember each word. All eyes were glued on her as she directed them. It was beautiful, worshipful. The words resonated clearly.

Another class came forward to do the Lord's Prayer in Latin. Another, a long Bible verse. Another, the Bill of Rights. In each of the last three cases, the teacher was either standing behind them at the podium or off to the side letting them recite on their own. Most of the kids knew their material, but what happened is that one side of the group was faster than the other, and the words were garbled all together.

It was interesting to watch, but the director/producer in me wanted so much to stand up and get them all on the same meter. The class who had the willing director AND who paid attention to her was the only one whose message was clearly heard.

I couldn't help but think about us as believers in the Body of Christ. We have a willing Director. One who never makes mistakes. And when we as the church pay attention to His leading, the message is clearly heard.  When we're all going our own speed and making sure our own voice is heard, however...then all who are listening hear a bunch of nothing. "Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah." (Quote stolen from Charlie Brown)

I want to be a part of the bigger picture for Christ--part of His massive choir making a beautiful song for Him. That takes intentional thinking on my part and deliberate obedience when I want to do things my own way.

Nope, I can't go it alone. I need my Director square in front of me and the rest of His flock to the left and the right of me. And together, all eyes focused on His hand motions, we will speak His voice for all the world to hear.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Gift To Return

A friend of mine helped me mull through some ministry issues today. We got to talking about how much our pride can get in the way of being used by God. We shared openly, honestly, transparently about our "garb"--you know the stuff you can't tell the whole world, lest you be judged by all who are listening.

Then I talked with my sis who spoke more Truth to me. Then a letter came which reminded me why I do what I do. All sorts of stuff began to come together in my heart and soul, and it was my Father at work in me. In His great wisdom, He brought out an old letter and showed it to me. It was a poem He wrote on the tablet of my heart one day...a simple poem that I wrote for the young ones I minister to. Today, he pasted it on my bulletin board and reminded me of its message:

A Gift To Return
By Laura L. Shaw

Your life is precious to our Lord,
“It is very good,” He exclaimed.
Your talent is a gift from Him,
So use it as one unashamed!

Whatever you do with your talent~
Don’t compare, looking around,
You’ll find yourself on sinking ground.

Because the Fact is:

Your talent is needed in this world.
It can make a difference, you know,
For when you use it with His strength,
HE is the star of the show.

Whenever you shine with your talent~
It’s by the power of the Spirit,
He is the One who is able to steer it.

Because the Truth is:

“…you have received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully. Then in all things God will be praised through Jesus Christ.
Give Him the glory and the power
for ever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 4:9b,11b

All of it. All that I do is for His glory...whether it's something I want to do, or something I should do, or something I'm dreading to do. When I use it with His strength and His leading, it is HIM that people will see. It first came from His hands, and that is where I want to return it.

You know, I'm relieved. I think my fear all along is that they would see me instead of Him. That would NOT be a good thing.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Big Deal?

I was watching my eight-year-old daughter yesterday as we were driving down the freeway. Her eyes were busily occupied with all the scenes around her. It took me back to the memory of looking out the car window myself as a kid. Even though I lived in rural Illinois, the world seemed so big when I was looking out the window. Every car, every person, even the corn fields…BIG!

Now when I’m driving, I see lots of cars with little people in them holding hazy objects up to their ears. I used to study the expressions on the faces of people as they would pull up next to me….now I see a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I used to notice big buildings and distinctive landmarks. Now I’m lucky if I notice a speed limit sign or a curb (my SUV needs an alignment, go figure). Weird how I’ve just grown used to my surroundings.

The same is true of my view of God as a kid. He was larger than anyone I could ever imagine. He was somewhere way up high with really humongous ears and eyes. He was pulling the clouds with a string, and He was keeping all the events of the whole world in motion. “He’s got the whole world in His hands…..” was a regular melody inside my head. He was a great big God…..the BIGGEST!!!!

I still BELIEVE God is big, but sometimes I allow Him to be too common. I pass Him by as if He were another building or a blurry person in the car next to me. I get used to my surroundings, my way of life, my bubble.

When did this perspective change? And why? I don’t remember….the windows of my mind are blurry on the subject. I think MAYBE, though, on my journey to have a more personal relationship with Him, instead of Him becoming familiar in an awe-filled way, sometimes I’ve allowed Him to be familiar in a take-for-granted way. Yuck, hate to admit this stuff.

I don’t want to be a kid again. I don’t want to see God as the grand Puppeteer. However, I sincerely pray that my Best Friend, The Savior of my heart and the Lover of my soul would never become just another face to me. I pray that I can love Him as much as He loves me; all the while, remembering that NO ONE can love with that huge kind of love.

HE is my omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent OMNI-Friend. He’s a big deal to me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mama On My Mind

It would have been my mama's birthday today. May 7th, same as my hubby's birthday too. I find myself wishing that God had called me out to write Mom's story while she was still alive, because she has quite a phenomenal story indeed. Can't seem to get my mama off my mind.

The bottom line is that she was handicapped by a tragic car accident in her adulthood. The damage from it caused her years and years of horrific pain that I'm sure no more than a handful have experienced in their lifetime. Though it's taken me my whole life to learn, I am forever endebted to the example she set for me in the faith.

When I get disgruntled, her memory is there. When I get discontent, her memory is there. When I get insecure, her memory is always there. As Mother's Day approaches, it will be my second without her to call on the phone. I miss her. So happy she is whole in mind and body, but I miss her none the same.

God-in-her is the reason that I am who I am today. And what I am is someone who desperately depends on the Lord to get me through each day. She taught me the secret that so many Christians cannot even fathom. It is found in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NIV):

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

The photo above is the last picture my sister and I had with my mom before she couldn't sit up for pictures anymore (only six months later).

Yup, I just got my mama on my mind I may just have to sing a "Happy Birthday" song to her, even if it's just for me.

Two publications have posted my mom's tribute this month, and I am ever so thankful. One is a Christian newspaper in Amarillo, Texas. The other is an online ezine that is viewed all over the world. You can click here if you are interested in reading my mother's incredible story of courage and God-strength:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah BLOG

I read a whole blob of blogs the other day from a bunch of different sources, and for the first time in a long time I did what no writer should do. I compared. NOT a good idea. Won't go into the details of how that made me feel, but I know for sure those 'head hung low' thoughts and feelings were not from the Maker of my gifts and talents.

What's the point of keeping a blog anyway? Is there anything new under the sun? You know, not really. BUT, looking at slices of life through the grid of others in the Body of Christ can be like a Progressive Dinner if you allow the Lord to use them. You get your appetizer at this place--your lunch at another--every once in a while someone throws in a  cocktail--then dinner. After dessert at the last stop, you're stuffed!

The Lord reminded me this morning not to compare. Just fill up on Him and serve the food to whomever is hungry to receive it. This is the verse that lifted my chin from my neck in a way that only my Father could do:

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up His Kingdom: Preach the Word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebukeand encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the Truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

2 Timothy 4: 1-5 (NLT)

There's another blog for another day: Fully carrying out the ministry God has given me. 

Monday, May 5, 2008

Backward Praise

I've been leading kids' worship for almost eighteen years now--long enough that it has become incredibly natural and easy for me to do. Over the last five years, God has laid it on my heart to raise up youth to lead the younger kids in the same way. So I'm on the stage less and less, now directing from the floor more and more. As a result, I've had to learn all the motions backwards. (Yes, I'm in a very contemporary church where we do lots of ACTIVE hand motions and choreography to our songs).

Anyway, if I didn't do the motions backwards, the kids on the stage would be all confused, hands and flip-flops flying every which direction. The older I get, the more concentration it takes to be able to do the motions both ways. It takes extremely intentional thinking on my part. It may sound easy, but...NOT!

This emulates my 'daily living' worship as well. It is so easy for me to spend time in the Word, soaking it up, applying it, teaching it, writing it. It's quite another to mirror the Word to others. That takes extreme focus on my part, as well as intentional surrender to the Holy Spirit. Sounds so simple when I'm reading it and praying it, but...NOT!

James 1:22-25 (NIV) 
Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what is says. 
Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says
 is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, 
after looking at himself, 
goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 
But the man who looks intently into the perfect Law 
that gives freedom, and continues to do this, 
not forgetting what he has heard but doing it-
-he will be blessed in what he does.