Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shot for the Soul

This is the time of year I get reeeeally burned out. I’m ready for the research papers, the end-of-year school projects, the extra activities, everything—to come to a screeching halt. You may be in a completely different season of life than me, but I’m certain whether you are a student, a working professional, an empty nester, or …, in some way this message applies to you.

I read a story to my daughter last week about Leonardo Da Vinci*, how sometimes he would work on a painting or an invention for several years, only to struggle with finishing it out (though often he did, thank goodness). He loved creating and imagining, building the plans, then lacked the drive to complete them. Most of the time, his desire to finish was based on how enormous he imagined the idea to be in terms of impact and renown. Wow, oh wow, could I relate to that personality flaw.

When I came across this version of the popular Hebrews 12 verse today, it grabbed the ear of my heart and held on for a good while:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Several things jumped out at me here. “Never quit” as a result of “extra spiritual fat.”  The NIV says, “everything that hinders.” Pretty loose interpretation here, but how necessary. What spiritual activities do you engage in that are extra? Mere fluff? What are some of the things you do out of compulsion or legalism or self-righteousness or pride? Hmmm.

No parasitic sins.”  These are not the ones committed accidentally. These are the ones that are eating away at you, infecting you from having your best run ever.

“Study how He did it.”  Gotta spend time studying. How did Jesus endure everything He had to endure to get through this life completing His mission? Was He always the first one to sign up for the next availability of service in the temple? Did He stop to meet every person’s need? What did He do, and how does that apply today?

“Because He never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.”  Thought about where you’re headed lately? Thought about those who might not go along to Heaven with you because you’re too busy to love them or serve them or talk about Jesus to them? Do you let others’ opinions weigh you down? Do your earthly circumstances consume you, keeping you from seeing your future reality? Was His sight on earthly renown or eternal placement?

“When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”  Wowzer. This is where reflection, praise and thanksgiving come in. Notice it doesn’t say to go over your own story. It says to go over HIS. Look at what HE faced. Look at what HE endured. Stop, look. Listen. Prepare for a jolt of java-like determination to get you going again.

I don’t know about you, friends, but this worked for me. I’m not only ready to finish out my kids’ school year without having a meltdown, I’m also ready to tackle some other unfinished projects around the house. More than anything, I’m determined to lean in to get to know my Savior better. It is my relationship with Him that matters most. I want to learn His way of reacting to situations, His way of dealing with stupid questions, His way of dealing with Holier-than-Thous. I need to know what kinds of opportunities were important to Him, what kind of people caught His attention. HOW He handled the stress, the insults, the publicity. His mission. And the only way to do that is by fixing our eyes on Jesus first and foremost.

Where are you with all of this? 

I long for all of us to have His adrenaline shot into our souls, to examine our priorities, our sin struggles, our relationship with Jesus. I pray for all of us to finish strong…blameless, and to take at least one or two souls with us to our final destination. All of this so that we can have an “exhilarating finish, in and with God.” 

And may He receive glory and honor and praise, for it is all in His name we live and move and breathe. Amen.

* source: Leonardo DaVinci by Diane Stanley

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pause and Ponder A Simple Life

Some go about it differently than others, but most of us, if we're honest, try to make life pleasurable and happy for our kids, spouses and friends. We work to give them a "better life," at least our definition of it.

My second child and firstborn daughter, AnaLee, teaches me so much, though, as she defines pleasure from a different perspective than most. Emotionally speaking, she's tightly wired like her mama, but in every other way she's a free bird. She's simple, practical and real. Crowds? No thanks. Hectic schedule? Not unless you want to pick her up in pieces off the floor a few days into it. She likes to keep things simple, clean and organized.

I love her.

Anyway, she wrote this Fantabulous poem, and though I don't share personal family details often on my blog, I had to here. The message in her writing is ponder-worthy, and it caused me to praise the Lord for the work of His hands, especially my daughter.

by AnaLee Shaw

A small house in the countryside,
In front of a big backyard.
Sauntering down the dirt road,
Far from a boulevard.

Just a small school by a little church around a tiny well,
Living and working hard.
With a good herding dog, and a nutmeg horse,
And nice folks--no one a card.

This is where I want to live,
By the beautiful countryside.
I'll own what the world has to give.

One day I'll move there,
I'll sieve from the city-like ways,
And enjoy winter when the trees are bare,
And, in the summer, walk by the riverside bays.

Someday I'll get work,
And move to the countryside.
I'll have a family, and we'll avoid the skunks that lurk,
And enjoy playing in the lake tide.

Someday, One day, Now-a-day,
I dream of living on the countryside.

What are you dreaming of these days?

Do you need more simplicity in your life?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pause and Ponder Your King--only Praise Will Follow

I've seen this over a dozen times, and it still has the same effect on me. About 5 minutes of your time will cause You to worship the King all day long:

A video set to the famous sermon of Dr. S.M Lockridge

Is HE your King?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Springs of Gloom and Cheer

It's Pattering's Fiction Friday, and Yvonne at My Back Door is hosting.

Springs of Gloom and Cheer

Tears were not an item originally intended for my grocery list, but they were scribbled all over it now..





Can’t. Do. This. ANYMORE.


Moments earlier, as I sat at the kitchen table trying to organize my day, the sight outside my window grabbed the shirt of my heart and wouldn’t let go. My daughter was blasting out a happy song while springing up and down on the trampoline with her favorite doll.

Up and down, singing her merry melody.

Up high with a playful kick, a bounce to her feet, then down on her bottom and up on her feet again.

Such was the state of my emotions on and off since childhood, but lately, the bouncing had seemed unbearable. Shouting on top of the mountain of cheer. Sighing in the valley of gloom. Sometimes three times in the same day.

I quit.

I’m tired of the trampoline.

“Hi, Mama,” Lilly said as she tried to catch her breath. “Mama, did you see me on the trampoline? I was jumping really high. Molly and I could almost reach the sky.”

Yes, I’ve been there many times. “I know, Sweetie, you sure you didn’t touch a cloud?”

“Maybe. What’s wrong, Mama? Your eyes are crying.”

I forced a smile. “Ohhhhh, they’re just love tears, Baby Doll.”

“Oh. Well, did you see us fall too, Mama? I landed right on top of Molly and made her sad.” Lilly rocked her Molly doll back and forth, just like I had rocked Lilly so many times when I’d made her sad with my topple down of emotions.

“Molly knows how much you love her, Sweetie. You’d never fall down on her on purpose, would you?”

She smacked a kiss on the doll’s braided hair. “Nooooo, never,” Lilly vowed through gritted teeth. “I love my Molly tooooo much,” She snuggled her close as she sprang to the next room.

And I love you too much, Lilly. I juggled the spinning saucers of solutions in my mind, trying to catch each one before they broke in self-defeat. My sister had been begging me to see a counselor. My best friend was absolutely certain that it was time to let the doctor prescribe some meds. My husband knew that a good workout and diet plan would balance out my hormonal teeter-totter. My spiritual mentor reminded me to pray more, memorize more Scripture. Truth be told, I knew ALL of the advice was sound, but I lacked the clarity to know what to do first.

God help me. It’s too confusing. I can’t do this.

Lilly’s piano lesson shattered my defeated thoughts. “Mommy made me mash my M&Ms. Do, Doooo,” Up and down her warm-up scales she went, pedal all the way to the floor. Over and over. Each note ricocheted on the walls of my nerves. “Mommy MADE ME MASH my M&Ms. Do DOOOOO!!!!”

Eyes shut now, I could hardly bear the extra noise causing confusion to swell within my chest. I leaned against the kitchen counter, then melted into it.

“Sing with me, Molly,” Lilly coached. “Now this one’s extra important, Molly, okay? So sing it with all your heart to Jesus. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.”

Lilly’s precious voice singing the song I'd sung to her over and over again invited my tears to join in. They streamed like hot summer rain down my cheeks.

“I want to see you. I want to see you...”

That’s what I want too. Lord, show me what to do.

“…LOUDER, Molly. To see You high and lifted up. Shining in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love. As we sing holy, holy, holy.”

The Holy Spirit poured out His counsel to me, and I knew what to do...

While Lilly and Molly sang up and down the scales of “holies,” I laid down my pride and picked up the phone - because I was tired of the trampoline.

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.”
Psalm 40:2 

***"Open The Eyes of My Heart"
Words and Music by Paul Baloche

*****If you or someone you know needs help with depression or mood swings, I’m here to pray. Also, don’t hesitate to call a close friend you trust, a compassionate ministry leader or a professional Christian Counselor.

A few ministries I trust are as follows:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Unsettling Marriage

Try to remember a time when you were so comfortable that you drifted off into a half-sleep. This happened to me often in church as a kid. It was the one place where I felt so at ease and warm inside that sometimes I would almost fall asleep. If it hadn’t been for the fear that people would judge me for dozing off all the way, I most certainly would have! It was a horrible feeling being in the middle of awake and asleep, though,… especially when the pipe organ chimed at the end of the service, and I would get a jolted tingle from head to toe as I tried to look awake to all those around me.

God has been so good to sound the pipe organ as I’ve needed it throughout my life—not just the ones in church, but also those in my spiritual life. Recently, the Lord chimed into my head the desire to ponder my role as a wife. I have a good marriage, but is it all it could be? I wonder if I’ve become content with patterns or attitudes that I shouldn’t be? In many ways, I contribute a great deal. In other ways, I’ve become too comfortable and nodded off. Have you who are married reflected upon this lately?

We all know the cliché about “settling down and getting married.” Well, what happens if you settle down to get married and then somewhere down the road, you just settle? Let me explain. I’ve recorded some of the things I’ve either said to myself or have heard others in marriage say over the past year or so (bear in mind these are usually from people who have been married for 10 or more years):

“I want us to be closer, but it’s just so much work!”

“We don’t have anything in common anymore.”

“He says I’ve ‘let myself go."

“We stopped trying to pray or read the Bible together, because we end up arguing.”

“I pray for him, but nothing ever changes.”

“I’m so tired of hearing him complain about his work. Can’t he just be happy?”

“I can’t ever do anything right in his eyes, so I’ve just quit trying.”

“He has his TV in the den and I have mine in the bedroom….that way, we both watch what we want to watch.”

“He wants more of me than I have to give. I’m tired after being with the kids all day.”

“I like working because I get praise there. That’s more than I can say for home.”

“He can just forget about having sex more than once a week. That’s enough as it is.”

Ok, I’m stopping, just in case you’re getting uncomfortable. I could probably fill up an entire blog with comments just like these. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about major problems in marriage, just the normal everyday stuff. Unfortunately, though, if you settle in the small areas every single day, the potential is greater for large issues later.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b, NIV)
My paraphrase for this subject:
“He gave us marriage that we could have one life together, and have it to the full.”

I want to experience His fullness and abundance in my marriage, as much as it is up to me, don’t you? That means we need to pray and then respond as He leads us…He will do the rest. For me, that may mean watching a motorcycle race on TV instead of
Law and Order (or working on my blog--ouch). It may mean caring enough about my husband to truly listen to him, even if I’m I’ve used up all my energy for the day. It may mean getting out of my stretchy shorts before he comes home so that I can look beautiful for him. For you, it might mean returning gentle words instead of harsh ones…or maybe trading Nagatha’s hat in for Carissa’s!☺   

Have you thought about the things that matter to your spouse lately? Do you pray for him daily? No matter the issues, we all could use this piece of advice from Philippians 2:1-5 to help us stay awake in our relationships:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,
if any comfort from His love,
if any fellowship with the Spirit,
if any tenderness and compassion,
then make my joy complete by being like-minded,
having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”
Somehow these verses are easier live out with our friends or co-workers or people at church, but God desires our marriages to honor Him, “shining like stars in the universe as we hold out the Word of life.” (Philippians 2:15, 16a)

So, dear married friends, as much as it is up to us, let’s pray together that the Lord would settle us on the firm foundation of His plan for our part in a God-honoring union—not for the norm in this “crooked and depraved generation.” Stay in the Word and pray Pray PRAY, and it will guide you how to live and love less selfishly, more deeply, less casually and more fully…may we never settle for less!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Have any phrases that repeat themselves over and over in your mind? I have many. One that comes up a LOT is the line from the movie Forrest Gump which his friend Jenny says every time he’s in trouble. “Run, Forrest, Run!”

Often, when I think of running in the spiritual sense, I picture resisting evil or fleeing for cover or safety when I’m in trouble. Verses like these come to my mind:

“…they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31b
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance…”  Hebrews 12:1b
In other words...
"Run, Laura, Run!"

I’ve become a pretty strong runner spiritually, even though sometimes I sprint in the wrong direction, forcing the Lord to help me out of the woods. But lately, He's reminded me to race with a different end in mind.

My friends regularly get a chuckle out of the fact that I call myself a female David. “I’m Davidia,” I’ll joke with them. That could seem like I’m bragging, because after all David is known as the man “after God’s own heart.” But that’s not the part of David's character I'm referring to. I’m talking about his high highs and his low lows. I mean, is there anyone else in the Bible that expresses his gut feelings—praise ones or depressed ones—to the Lord so vulnerably and vehemently? When it’s praise time, the goin’ is good. But when it’s down in the dirt time, it ain’t so pretty. (Bear in mind, though, that David almost always praised the Lord even in the midst of his low moments…this is not a quality of his that I’ve mastered yet).

It’s no wonder I run to the Psalms whenever I need company with my mood swings. Sometimes, Depression surfaces from somewhere within me, and I know I need to run fast and hard from it. The Lord is teaching me, though, that it’s not really about what I’m running FROM, it’s about who I’m running TO

I’m not running from my depression, I’m running to the Maker of joy. 
I’m not running from temptation, I’m running to the God of righteousness. 
I’m not running from my own personal prison. I’m running to the One who set me free.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

"Run, Laura, Run!"

How about you? Are you running from or to?

At one point in the movie that I mentioned above, Jenny says something to Forrest as she is getting ready to hitch a ride away from him and her problems for the dozenth time. “Listen. you promise me something, okay?” she begs. “Just if you’re ever in trouble, don’t try to be brave. You just run, OK? Just run away.”

Amen, Jenny. I couldn’t agree more in the context of this message. It’s not about us being brave enough. It’s about Him being strong in our weakness, for “God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” (1st Corinthians 1:25b) So, just run, okay?

Run to Righteousness. 
Run to Joy. 
Run to Forgiveness. 
Run to Truth. 
Run to Grace. 
Run to the Lord.

Run, Believer, Run!

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; 
the righteous run to it and are safe.” 
Prov. 18:10

This is a devotional sent out via email to my subscribers. If you would like to receive these in your inbox, simply click here and add your email address.

All Scriptures are taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted.
Quotes from Forrest Gump were taken from

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hope & Help for Depression

Linking you to my friend Peter today from When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong. He has put together all of his posts on recovery from major depression and the hope that exists at the end.

I am so humbled by the fact that he would put this in book form, free to reproduce. Believe me when I tell you, it is masterfully written. The best part is that it doesn't read like a manual; rather a journal and a conversation. His posts have been vulnerable, authentic, personal and deep, yet filled with hope and joy.

Please go by When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong and glean from this resource if you battle with depression or long to help someone who does. Your soul will be blessed. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Deal, Down the Road

I was watching my eight-year-old daughter as we were driving down the freeway one day. 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.

"This new plan I'm making with Israel 
isn't going to be written on paper, 
isn't going to be chiseled in stone; 
This time I'm writing out the plan in them, 
carving it on the lining of their hearts. 
I'll be their God, 
they'll be my people. 
They won't go to school to learn about me, 
or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons. 
They'll all get to know me firsthand, 
the little and the big, the small and the great. 
They'll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, 
with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean."

Hebrews 8:10-12, The Message

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Backward Praise, Down the Road a Bit

I was a kids' worship leader for almost 20 years--long enough that it became incredibly natural and easy for me to do. In the last five years of that ministry, God laid it on my heart to raise up youth to lead the younger kids in the same way. So I began leading from the stage less and directing from the floor more. As a result, I 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).

If I hadn't shown the motions backwards, the youth leading on the stage would've been all confused, hands and flip-flops flying every which direction. It took intense concentration and EXtremely intentional thinking for me to be able to do the motions both ways. 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. It 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.
My friends, pause & ponder this: Are you living a life of backward praise?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Internet Cafe Devotions: Upon Reflection...

I'm at the Internet Cafe today with a message I believe all ladies, young, older and in-between need to hear...I pray you meet me there.

Internet Cafe Devotions: Upon Reflection...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

If You Want To Change The World, Pick Up Your Pen

I came across a verse at the Supernatural Living blog yesterday for Word-Filled Wednesday. For some reason, it struck me and stayed with me all day.

"Write down the revelation..." 
Habakkuk 2:2b

Of course there's more words surrounding that verse, and I don't want to take it out of context, but it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen."
Martin Luther

Think about it, the power of the written word has changed the world, and it has changed you and me. The Word of God is the most influential of all, and the list goes down the chain from there.

But it got me to thinking, what revelation do I need to write down? Sights and sounds and situations bring new revelations all the time. Beyond that, how could I influence my world by picking up my pen? Pen is figurative, but go with me.

~ Pause.

How does this apply to you?

Perhaps you need to write that book you've been putting off writing.
Maybe you are feeling led to be more purposeful with your blog.
Could you make a huge difference by getting on the floor and drawing a picture with your child?
Do you need to send a letter to that Senator? that Superintendent? that newspaper?
It might be time to pull the "thank you" or "thinking of you" cards out of the drawer.
And way outside the box: could your Facebook use a facelift by making a difference with your words there? Perhaps send some Scriptures a-twittering and see where they land.

With your pen, you can write "Great job at the presentation" to your employee, or "I'm praying for you" in your child's lunchbox. You can raise support for a cause or remind your spouse how much he/she means to you. You can draw a gospel presentation on a napkin at the coffee shop or loan a pen to the person next to you in church.

Whatever you do, please don't leave His pen behind your ear...

~ Ponder

Has God laid anything on your heart to write lately?
Do you have a revelation burning that God wants you to share?
Are you faithful to share the most important Word of all? 
Isaiah 55:11: "so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

~ Praise

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your Word, especially the Word made flesh, that lived among us and then chose to die for our sins. We praise You for giving us the Bible, to study, to hide in our hearts, and to share with others. And Lord, we long to be faithful to use our own words--speaking ones, writing ones, thinking ones--to make a difference in this world, big and small and in-between. Show us what You want us to write or draw or teach through our pens, God. And we pray it all in Jesus' name, Amen.

***I hope you'll go by the Internet Cafe tomorrow and see what God laid on my heart to write about bikinis, (cough), I mean about appearances. I pray it is just the revelation you need for your soul this week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

He Will Do That...

What has God called you to?
What are the purposes He has laid on your heart?

If He's called you to the mission field,
If He's called you to serve in your church,
If He's called you to be a stay at home mom,
If He's called you to evangelize in your workplace,

If He's called you to availability,
Or mentoring,
Or waiting,
Or praying,
Or taking in the poor,
Or using your gifts and talents,



Lord Jesus, You are faithful, and You are committed. You love us and have our perfect best in mind. Help us this day to deny whatever distracts us from You and be attentive and faithful to Your call. Whatever it is, Lord, we long to obey. We trust You, for it is in Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Would you like to see more Truth-filled Scripture pictures? Then hike on over to:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brook Howell Shares Her Story

It's day number ELEVEN, out of all eleven salvation testimonies shared on Selah these past 2 weeks. I am so truly thankful for each and every guest contributor, and I hope it has caused your heart to pause, ponder and praise the Giver of eternal life in Him!

Meet Brook. Her heart for outreach and discipleship shine through her story, and I can't wait to share it with you...

A New Creation
by Brook Howell
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; 
the old has gone, the new has come!" 
2 Corinthians 5:17
As the weather has turned from cold and dreary to sunny and breezy, my mood has changed from depressed to hopeful. As I was pondering this change today and how much I was acting like my "normal" goofy, off the wall odd-ball self, I thought of the verse above.

Sixteen years ago, there was an even bigger shift in my life. A shift that gives new meaning to "the old has gone, the new has come!"

I grew up in a small town in Northeast Nebraska of approximately 600. There were 15 students in my graduating class. For generations, my family had attended the Lutheran church. I went to Sunday School, learned many Bible stories, was confirmed and intellectually knew all about God. But I didn't "know" God in a personal way.

After I graduated from high school, I moved to Lincoln and attended the University. I was so blessed to move into Love Hall on East Campus with 40-50 other women where we cooked and cleaned for ourselves so that our expenses were less. Many of the women I lived with attended Bible Studies and rallies through the Navigators. The Navigators are a Christian outreach ministry to many different places such as university campuses. Their mission is to help bring people to Christ and equip them to serve and grow in their walk with the Lord.

During my first year of college, I attended Bible Studies, rallies and church with several of the women from Love Hall. As the weeks and months of my freshmen year went by I began to see that my life was different from these women. I wasn't exactly sure how or why, but felt a strong desire to have what they had.

That winter I remember being sick of my negativity and the judgmental way I responded to people. The day after attending a formal with a group of people from Navigators, I sat in my room contemplating. My mind whirled with thoughts and as most undergraduates do, I focused on my future. What did my future hold? Did I want my life to continue on the same path I was on at the time?

I considered what knew about God. In my mind, I knew that God had sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for the sin of the world. But I didn't take that promise personally.

As I thought about what was going on in my life and what I saw in the new friends I had, I knew the time had come to ask the questions out loud that I had been chewing on for months. In Love Hall, we had big sisters or mentors. I went in search of my mentor, but she was out. Instead I talked to her room ate, Jodi.

Jodi listened as I talked about what was going on in my life. I don't remember details of what happened in their room that day, but I do remember how I suddenly came to realize that God loves me - Brook - and that He sent Jesus to earth to die for my sins. Wow! How could I not accept this great gift?

Jodi led me in the sinner's prayer. It went something like this - Lord, I am a sinner and need you to forgive me. Please come into my heart and help me to live for you. On March 16, 1993, I became a new creation! The old was gone, the new had come!

I can't say there were fireworks after that moment, but my life did change. Like the metamorphosis of a butterfly, I felt like I had escaped my cocoon and was free to fly! I was no longer a plain colored caterpillar or pupa, but a beautiful butterfly. I no longer had the heaviness of being bound, but the lightness of being free.

When we open our lives and our hearts to God and let Him transform us, the results are so much more than we could ever dream or imagine.

Some Bible verses that I clung to during those first days were these:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

and Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Have you made the personal decision to ask God to transform your life? Have you asked God to come into your heart, change you and make you? Have you asked Him to forgive you and cleanse you of your sins?

If not, why not make a decision during this time of renewal, of new growth, in this season of spring?

If you haven't made God Lord of your life and you'd like to, simply follow the steps that I did sixteen years ago. Open your heart and speak words to God from your heart. If you need help, you can use words like these...God, I know that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I believe that your Son, Jesus, came and died for my sins. Please forgive me, come into my life and help me to live for you. Amen.

If you made this decision right now or anytime in the past, welcome to the kingdom! Please know that whether you share this decision with me personally or not, please find a church and get plugged in. Following the Lord is the most amazing journey you will experience and it has eternal benefits!

God's Word also holds so many promises for you as a new believer. If you don't already have a Bible, please find one in a translation that's easy to understand like the New International Version (NIV) or New Living Translation (NLT) and begin reading in the book of John in the New Testament. I would also suggest reading a Psalm or a Proverb a day for encouragement.

During the next few weeks I will be sharing the ways that I have used to draw near to God. No matter where you are in your relationship with the Savior, I hope these resources will help and encourage you to draw near to God as He draws near to you. (See Brooke's blog for these resources...)

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of Jesus. I cannot image how it grieved you to give your only Son for the sin of the World. Savior, please work in our hearts and help us to be mindful of this great gift each and every day of our lives. Help us to seek you first in all we do. Love us and grow us to be more like You. Motivate us to spend time with you in prayer, in your Word, in worship and in many other ways that increase our love for you. As we seek you, let us know your will for our lives so that we can live and serve in ways that bring you glory always. In your name we praise, Amen

Brook Howell is a child of God who desires to know Him, to encourage others in their walk with the Savior and to live up to the high calling of a woman of prayer.  Raised in Nebraska and transplanted in Missouri, Brook has been married to her "techie" husband for nine years and together they have journeyed through infertility, loss, and Brook's battle with depression.  Brook is a former teacher, current foster mother, future West Highland White Terrier breeder and professional counseling graduate student.  The promise she clings to is Isaiah 58:11 (NIV) which says, "The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stina Rose Shares Her Story

It's day number TEN out of eleven salvation testimonies to be shared on Selah the days leading up to and just after Easter. I can't think of a better way to celebrate His resurrection than hearing God-stories of souls raised from death to life. So pause. Ponder what He has done. Then praise Him!!!!

I love the salvation testimony that Stina Rose published, because it gives the perspective of how she came to know Christ as a young child. It is such a precious testimony and made my heart melt picturing her little face and body racing to her daddy. I hope that it blesses and enriches your faith as well. Praise the Lord!

My Salvation Testimony
by Stina Rose

You’re jealous. The words came unbidden as I looked at my brother lying in his crib. Why would I be jealous of a little baby? He was too small to eat candy, ride a bicycle or go to school. What was there to be jealous of? No matter how hard I tried to ignore that little voice, I knew it was right. I was jealous, just like Joseph’s brothers in the Bible. For my whole life, I had been the center of attention, but now everyone wanted to see the new baby. They had all forgotten about the older sister. Yes, I was jealous. I knew that jealousy was a sin and sinners went to hell.

I was going to hell!

Terror seized my heart. I took off down the stairs as fast as my five-year-old legs could carry me. My dad was napping in the worn green chair across from the stairs. I ran to him and flew into his lap. He jumped as my boney knees made contact with his unsuspecting stomach.

“Daddy,” I cried before he could yell at me for my rude awakening, “I’m going to hell! I need to get saved.”

Dad’s eyes got wide at my straightforward announcement. He picked up my little green Gideon New Testament and shared with me the simple plan of salvation. On my father’s knee, with his thick moustache tickling my ear, I repented of my sins and received God’s gift of salvation.

Though it was over twenty years ago, that day is forever burned into my memory. The road from there to here has been a great adventure of growth and learning to trust the Lord in every situation of life. Am I perfect? Far from it! But, with God’s grace, I am perfectible.

Christina "Stina Rose" Banks spends her days herding dust bunnies, checking facebook, day dreaming, reading blogs, playing SuDuko, practicing trumpet and running errands. Every once in a while, she even gets some words down on paper. As an aspiring writer, Christina dreams of seeing her work in print. Always looking for ways to use her God-given talents, she is most content when she is busy working with children in the church. Happily married for the last 394 days, Christina makes her home in the beautiful little town of Deep River, Ontario. You can find more of Stina's writings at her blog, The Scroll Bag.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Karen/Irritable Mother Shares Her Story

It's day number NINE out of eleven salvation testimonies to be shared on Selah the days leading up to and just after Easter. I can't think of a better way to celebrate His resurrection than hearing God-stories of souls raised from death to life. So pause. Ponder what He has done. Then praise Him!!!!

I was excited when Karen offered up her salvation testimony, first of all because I thought it was AWESOME to have a story from someone whose profile name was "Irritable Mother," lol (later to find out that she has a book with that in the title), but mainly because I think there are many people out there who think they believe who haven't truly started a relationship with Jesus Christ. I'll zip my lips now, and let Karen tell her story. I was blessed.

My Love Story
by Karen Hossink

I grew up in the church. Attended worship services most Sundays (Except when I could convince my mom I was just too tired to get up), participated in the youth choirs, went to summer church camp seven years in a row, and was active in the youth group. Somehow, though, I missed the memo that I needed to receive Jesus personally.

I knew the Christmas and Easter stories. I understood that Jesus came to earth to be the Savior of the world and that He died to pay the price for our sins. I believed He was resurrected on the third day and later ascended into heaven. I "got" all that. And I thought that was enough. Thought I was covered and good to go, because Jesus did what He needed to do.

And that is all Jesus meant to me for the first 18 years of my life.

He was God and He was Man. He was the Savior of the world, even. But to me, there was nothing personal about Him at all. Jesus was more like a fact of history to me. Someone who lived long ago and did a wonderful thing, but who really wasn't relevant to my life "today."

Oh, there were times when I paid more attention to Him. Like when I had a couple different boyfriends in high school. One was a pastor's kid and another was a nice "church boy." And when I was going out with those guys I certainly had a greater interest in God things.

With the pastor's kid, I learned lots of nice Christian songs and went with him to a senior center to sing them. We did stuff with his youth group and I was happy to sit and listen to the leader's talk about God. When I was seeing the church boy, I went with him to his church and Sunday school. I talked the talk, and thought I was a nice church girl, too.

But when those relationships ended, so did my attention to "God." (I put His name in quotes, because now I know I wasn't truly paying attention to Him.)

Then I went to college.
And I met a guy.
And he was cute.

He asked me if I went to church and, of course, I said yes. OK, so I hadn't been to church since college started, but that wasn't what he asked. And when he asked if I would like to go with him sometime, of course I said I would love to. I mean, he was cute, and I'd been through that drill a couple times before. The guy likes God, so you do church things with him, and everyone is happy.

I had no idea my life was about to turn around.

This guy wasn't like the others. He didn't just "go" to church. He talked about why he went. He asked me questions about why I attended church. He read the Bible with me. And talked about it. I had no idea you could have a conversation about what the Bible says!

And this is the part that really threw me for a loop. This guy seemed more interested in me - I mean, Karen. The person inside my body. - than in this cute little body I was walking around in. (Trust me, it was cuter 19 years and three kids ago!) So there I was, blown away by this guy who seemed to really believe in God. Whose faith in God mattered outside of Sunday morning. And who looked at me differently than any other guy I'd ever known. I was falling in love with him, and I wanted to hear what he had to say about this church thing.
As I listened, I came to understand I was missing something. While it was true that what Jesus did on the cross was "enough," I finally realized there was something I needed to do. I needed to respond. I needed to confess my sin and admit my need for a Savior. And I needed to receive Jesus into my life as that Savior. I already knew He was the Savior of the world. Now I needed to accept Him as my Savior.

And this is where I like to say the love of my life introduced me to an even Greater Love.

But remember? I had been through the drill before. Like the guy, like his God. But when you break up, so goes the God thing?

Not this time.

Several months - maybe a year - later the thought occurred to me, Even if he and I break up, this relationship I have with God through Jesus is not going to end! Our relationship was personal. He was finally real to me. I cannot describe the joy that understanding brought to my heart.

In the end, breaking up wasn't an issue, anyway. I married that "guy."

And so my love story continues...

When she isn't dealing with pre-teen drama, looking for lost socks, or solving third-grade math problems, Karen Hossink likes to spend time speaking and writing. Karen's quirky sense of humor, life experiences, and honest confessions - combined with the goodness of God – have been encouraging audiences since 2005. Whether you're reading her books or her blog, or listening to her speak, after spending time with Karen you will be assured of two things: You are not alone, and God is good!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Joanne Sher Opens Her Book to Share Her Story

It's day number EIGHT out of eleven salvation testimonies to be shared on Selah the days leading up to and just after Easter. I can't think of a better way to celebrate His resurrection than hearing God-stories of souls raised from death to life. So pause. Ponder what He has done. Then praise Him!!!!

How perfect that Joanne's salvation testimony is published on Good Friday. Prepare to worship the One who saves after reading her powerful story. Every time I read it, I do.

In Old Testament Black and White
by Joanne Sher

I didn’t have much experience with Christianity as a kid. I was Jewish, Bat Mitzvahed at 13, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Though my high school wasn’t closed for Jewish holidays, a quarter of the students were absent for the High Holy Days.

My father was raised orthodox; my maternal grandfather was a former cantor; my great aunt still kept kosher. My Jewish roots ran deep, and were important to me.

I do remember, however, my first church service. I was eight or so, and we were visiting my aunt and her family. I don’t remember the service, but I recall the pastor saying something disparaging about Jews, causing me to run out, quite upset. I still don’t remember what he said, but I did not enter a church again for 10 years.

The next one was Catholic. I was in college, dating a Catholic who brought me to Mass. I remember looking up at the front of the church, seeing the crucifix, and feeling more uncomfortable than I ever had before. I kept my eyes down for the rest of the service. That cross haunted me for quite a while.

I had other minor "encounters" with Christianity, but it wasn’t until I was married and living in the Midwest twelve years later that that cross grabbed my attention again.

My husband was nominally Jewish and we both followed our faith for a while. We soon stopped attending synagogue, however, neither of the local ones being to our liking. We still celebrated the major holidays, but nothing more.

I was working as a freelance writer for the local daily paper, and the religion editor had taken a liking to me, so I was writing for him. One day, he called and asked if I would cover a Christian women’s conference the following Saturday. I agreed skeptically, assuming it would be a bunch of fake, mushy women screaming "Hallelujah" and praising God for their wonderful lives.

Was I ever wrong.

The moment I walked into the arena, I felt a camaraderie among the women there, and a peace I simply couldn’t explain. The speakers, who I normally would have dismissed as hokey, resonated with me, and I felt myself filled with the same camaraderie and peace as those around me. I didn’t want to leave.

Unfortunately, I had no choice - I had a deadline to meet! And, as I left the building to walk the three blocks to the newspaper office, I felt that peace leave me just as suddenly as it arrived.

A myriad of questions ran through my mind.

What did those women have that I didn’t?

Could I find that kind of peace in Judaism if I was more devout, or was this a Christian phenomenon?

I decided I needed to start this quest of mine with my own faith. I found my copy of the Hebrew Bible and read the entire Old Testament from beginning to end in two weeks. I also typed out about 20 pages of notes.

Those two weeks brought several things to light, including my lack of obedience to God’s laws, and the emphasis throughout the Old Testament on vengeance and justice.

I knew what I had to do next. I began reading the New Testament. And there, it seemed, were answers to all my questions, comfort from all my fears. I finished the NT in another week, and added another dozen pages of notes to my collection.

Yet, I had some serious misgivings. I saw Jesus as a wonderful man, someone to emulate, but as God? As Messiah? My Jewish background and teachings were digging at me - "God is One," "Christ was a Jew-hater," and other mantras reverberated in my mind. I MIGHT be able to accept Jesus as Lord, but Savior?

Still, I started attending a bible-believing church, and began reading the bible through again. I got many new revelations on the Old Testament the second time through, but none as monumental as the one I received about 5 months after the women’s conference, from Isaiah.
But he was wounded because of our sins,
Crushed because of our iniquities.
He bore the chastisement that made us whole,
And by his bruises we were healed.

Isaiah 53:5 JPS
There it was, in black and while - in the Hebrew Scriptures: Christ’s death on the cross as payment for my sins. At this point, I had no choice. I embraced the cross, and have never turned back.

Joanne Sher is a wife, mother of two, and devoted lover of Jesus. She was saved out of Judaism ten years ago and has a passion for writing, encouraging others in the Lord, and caring for her family. A writer by calling, she enjoys writing devotionals, at Exemplify Online and at her blog An Open Book. She is currently working on editing and polishing Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, a non-fiction book on God’s workings through her husband’s serious health issues. She also loves to write short fiction that glorifies God, and has several novel ideas on the back burner.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Marita Thelander Shares Her Story

It's day number SEVEN out of eleven salvation testimonies to be shared on Selah the days leading up to and just after Easter. I can't think of a better way to celebrate His resurrection than hearing God-stories of souls raised from death to life. So pause. Ponder what He has done. Then praise Him!!!!

Today, Marita Thelander shares her salvation story. I love watching her go through the process of owning her faith, but to see her personality shine through it all is an added bonus for sure. It will be obvious to you as you read that one of her many God-given gifts is writing stories. I pray this ministers to you. May God receive the glory!

by Marita Thelander

At nine-years-old, I nervously picked at my fingernails in the front seat of the Grand Torino station wagon as my mom drove me to the church on a warm August morning. The car pulled up the little slope of the parking lot and my tummy did a flip-flop, somersault, and then landed in a thud when she stopped near the bus.

Sandy and Carol ran to greet me. “This is going to be so much fun,” Sandy exclaimed. She always had a flare for the dramatics. Tall and skinny Carol just smiled. Her eyes showed the excitement more than Sandy’s mouth blabbed it.

My mom handed the adult in charge my permission slip and the driver whisked away my belongings. My friends waited patiently as I gave my mom a hug and accepted her last minute “behave” talk.

On the bus, Sandy opened a duffle bag stuffed full of a variety of snacks. “The food at camp is gross, so my mom sends me with stuff she knows I like so I won’t starve.”

“If you would learn to eat real food, you wouldn’t starve,” Carol spoke for the first time.

I turned to wave at my mom as the bus pulled out of the parking lot. Being the youngest of six kids, I had seen all my siblings get to go off on adventures. This would be a new experience for me. Excitement, mixed with fear of the unknown, threatened to cause tears to slip down my face.

Camp had a lot of fun things, and, like at home, I blended into the background, unnoticed.

From as early as I could remember, I had been a compliant child. At the end of my Kindergarten year, my teacher told my mom I should be held back a year. “She is so small and I don’t think she has learned anything,” Mrs. Anderson had told my mom over the phone.

“Are you sure?” My mom asked in disbelief. “She reads out loud to me when I’m ironing or doing dishes.”

After some persuasion, Mrs. Andersen agreed to have me tested. Not only could I read, but my math and reading skills were mid to post first grade level.

On the way home from the test, my mom asked me, “Why didn’t you tell Mrs. Andersen you could read?”

I shrugged my thin shoulders and simply answered, “On the first day of school she told us to sit down and be quiet. So I did.”

So, the words of the speaker one night in chapel, caught my attention. I sat up straight and tried to focus on what he had to say. “If your mama makes it to heaven it is because of a choice she made to accept Christ as her Savior. You can’t make it to heaven on your mama’s apron strings.”

I sat on the edge of my seat in an attempt to ignore Sandy’s constant whispers and doodles.

“Your parents make choices for you. What to eat. What to wear,” he continued, “but choosing Christ as your Savior is a choice only you can make.”

Being the youngest of six, I always did what I was told. I had three sisters that were nineteen, eighteen, and sixteen and two brothers that were thirteen and eleven. Everyone made my choices for me, and not always good choices, either. Good or bad, I complied.

“Tonight you can choose to accept Christ,” the speaker began his altar call.

I had accepted Christ before in Children’s Church…and Sunday School…and VBS…and Missionettes. Pretty much, anytime the sinner’s prayer had been offered, I prayed it.

He invited those who wanted to accept Christ to come forward, and instructed the adults to leave us alone. “They are old enough to make this choice on their own. They are old enough to say the words themselves.”

I knelt near a post at the far end of the altar area and found my own words to ask Jesus to forgive me and become my Savior. I didn’t want to leave the sweet presence I experienced for the first time ever.

I searched for new words to express myself to God. Tears slipped down my chubby cheeks. I heard myself speak louder with boldness and raised my hands in simple praise.

A woman slipped her arm around me and asked, “Is this the first time you have spoken in tongues, Sweetie?”

I wiped my face. “In what?”

She gently hugged me and whispered, “Stay close to Him. He has a special purpose for you.”

When I went home, I told no one of my camp experience. I had been a good secret keeper all my life. My commitment to Christ had been my choice. A choice no one could take away from me.

Marita is a middle-aged woman who thrives on her husband’s love, mixed with generous portions of good chocolate and daily lattes. She serves beside her husband as they pastor a small church in the mountain community of Randle, nestled among the Cascade foothills in Washington.

Married for 27 years, she has three adult children, two of which are married. While she never liked the title of mother-in-law, Marita does enjoy the new season of life called Gramma-in-luv. With five grandchildren under the age of three, Marita feels she taught her children the concept of loving their spouses quite well.

In the past year, Marita began to pursue a long hidden desire to write. She has treasured friendships that have developed over the internet that share the same passion for writing and sharing God’s love. If she can get her ADD, middle-aged, menopausal mind to focus once in awhile, she may actually accomplish something.

You can find more of her written works at or at her blog, Mari-flower.