Grow and prosper …

“Good people will prosper like palm trees… “Psalm 92:12

imageMy last position as a church secretary was at a church named The Church of the Palms. The first time I drove into the parking lot, I noticed the palm trees and thought how the name of the church fit well with the landscape. Of course, the church was planted before the small palm trees were set into place and grew to become a strong symbol of the purpose of the church.

Unlike the decorative palm trees in my neighborhood, palm trees had a purpose in biblical history. In some areas in the world, the fruit from the palm trees feed thousands of people, the fibers from the base are woven into ropes, tall trunks become lumber, the leaves are used to weave mats, bags, furniture, and baskets. And, tree sap is used to produce a drinkable wine! [Source:]

Palm trees bend and sway during a storm, but rarely fall. They are said to “strive ever upward, even when burdened.” In Psalm 92, David says if we live a good life, we will prosper like palm trees.

The Church of the Palms has weathered many storms, too, but continues to stand firm with the declaration, “No matter who you are or where you are on your life’s journey, you are welcome here!”

Thank you for the opportunity to serve in a church that helped me grow stronger in my faith. Amen.

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Luck or grace?

“Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.” Proverbs 13:12

imageI have a younger friend, who as a single mother embezzled money to take care of her children. The court system sent her to a federal prison for many years and severed her rights to raise the children. She was rehabilitated to return to society. For awhile she had a good job, but lost it to “someone who needed a job.” She found another job, and when her car broke down, she couldn’t make her shift and got fired. Over the past four years she has experienced depression, addiction, homelessness, and broken relationships. Recently, she got a job and joyfully is ready to tackle life again.

Another young friend lost her three children and spent time in county jail for failure to protect her children from her boyfriend. Yet, when offered a promotion at a fast-food restaurant, the HR department said they couldn’t risk having her in a position where she would handle money. Go figure … So, by trying to better herself through seeking a promotion, she lost the job.

It is possible the people (like many of us) passing judgment on these two women have done something in their past that could have put them behind bars, but they didn’t get caught. Call it good luck or grace. Whatever it is, we all need a break.

Dear Lord, help me be that “good break” for others. Amen.

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It’s not just what you eat …

“Daniel appealed to a steward … ‘Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.’” Daniel 1:11-13.

imageDaniel and three of his friends were in training under King Nebuchadnezzar, who wanted them to eat like a king to become strong. Daniel did not want to go against his belief, so convinced a steward to feed them vegetables and water only. Later when they compared the bodies of the vegetarians to the meat eaters, Daniel and his friends were larger and stronger than the meat eaters.

I’m visiting my daughter in New Jersey. Her husband is on a temporary vegetarian-style diet. I had no idea how much more intentional one has to plan to get enough protein into your diet when you aren’t eating meat. I grew up on a farm where meals pivoted around meat–two or three times a day. Even today, when I open my freezer to see what I can cook for dinner, I see a pork roast and think of mashed potatoes, green beans, and a salad–a simple dinner. When cooking for Kyle, I see zucchini, summer squash, onions, and mushrooms and have to become creative to add protein to a dish in which I would normally use either ground beef or sliced pepperoni.

The story of Daniel’s vegetarian eating style isn’t about getting enough protein into the diet. Daniel stayed true to his beliefs and trusted God would fortify him with strength for his body, mind, and soul.

Help us, Lord, eat healthy meals to maintain our bodies for service to you. Amen.

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Don’t assume …

“Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Ephesians 5:17

imageA few months into our marriage, Glen and I learned our first lesson in finances. We had just moved from San Diego to Bremerton, Washington, where we were lonely. Imagine how pleased we were one evening to entertain an encyclopedia salesman. With his sales pitch he wowed us into agreeing they were the most significant purchase we would ever make.

I watched Glen nod in approval to the salesman’s comments, and he watched me do the same. When it came to closing the deal, we signed on the dotted line. After the salesman left, Glen said to me, “I hope you like YOUR books.” I looked at him and said, “I hope you like YOUR books.” Neither one of us really wanted them, but we lacked the skills to talk to each other about making a significant purchase.

We moved those encyclopedias from Washington to Iowa, to Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, and finally sold them three decades later at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar. Did we gain knowledge from reading the books? Perhaps, but not as much as we did from the experience of making a purchase neither of us wanted.

Dear Lord, help us seek guidance for every aspect of our lives. Amen.

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Marching to the same tune …

“He [God] handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other…” Ephesians 4:11-13

imageI love a parade–especially the marching bands. My daughter, Susan, marched with he Waubonsie Valley High School Warriors, composed of around one-hundred volunteers from the band program. They were known and respected at parades for performing a complicated turn called a minstrel corner.

Imagine standing or sitting at an intersection along the parade route and observe a marching band coming straight toward you. Your reaction might be to move in fear of being trampled. But at that moment the marchers suddenly begin to weave through one another and somehow make the turn and head forward in perfect formation.

Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesians about the gifts handed out to different people to work within the church for the purpose of moving them “rhythmically and easily with each other.” I can’t imagine how many hours Director Staley worked with the band to get the minstrel turn down to a science. But, as with the first servants of Christ in the church, the gifted marchers made a great impression on the crowds all along the parade route.

Dear Lord, help us work together to make Jesus known. Amen.

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Too much too soon?

“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now.” John 16:12

imageAs a mother I wanted to share with my children the knowledge I had gained throughout my life–mostly to help them avoid making the same mistakes. As a story teller, I had to bite my tongue and pull back on the reigns to keep from giving them TMI (too much information). Part of the discernment process in sharing a story is to discern what is appropriate for the age and maturity level of the audience. And, to know when to be silent.

When training a new church secretary, I would get overly enthused about telling them everything I knew about the job. I could tell when the new employee got to the TMI stage. Their eyes would glaze over, and they began to glance at the door, as if to escape and never return, and I knew training was over for the day.

The disciples had spent years learning from Jesus who instinctively knew how much they could handle. When telling them about the Holy Spirit (Friend and Spirit of Truth), he warned them ahead of time they would be guided by an invisible Friend who would help them continue their ministry in his absence. It is my hope my children will pass on to their children the values and faith experiences I’ve given them.

Dear Lord, let us learn at our own pace and pass on the Good News about your love and grace. Amen.

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“When I was a boy at my father’s knee, the pride and joy of my mother, he would sit me down and drill me: “Take this to heart. Do what I tell you—live!” Proverbs 4:3

imageI grew up with three brothers. My parents weren’t dictators or helicopter parent, and they were fair. When they spoke, we listened, as there was a fair amount of fear in consequences for bad behavior. I remember one particular spanking marathon, which was well deserved. Imagine three children in a wooden outhouse lighting toilet paper on fire and tossing it down into the holes, and how that could have turned out.

On more than one occasion, I heard my dad say to my brothers, “If you don’t straighten out, I’ll take you to Eldora”–a training institute for troubled boys. We had driven by the place, and it didn’t look much like home.

God doesn’t threaten us with a training center when we disobey his commands. And, through grace, when we live a clean life, we are his pride and joy.

Dear Lord, thank you for loving us regardless of our bad behavior. Amen.

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Pick up your garbage …

“You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge.” Psalm 8:6

003Soon after one of my three attempts at retirement, we spent a summer as campground hosts at the Ledges State Park in Boone, Iowa. Our task consisted of being “present” to assist campers and to keep the dry camping, semi-modern restrooms clean and stocked. During the week, our chores were light, but on the weekend when the campground filled to capacity, Glen and I made several trips to check out the restrooms. On one occasion, a camper “got sick” in one of the sinks in the women’s restroom. I thought,  Three toilets and the whole outdoors, and someone chose to puke in the sink?!#!?#

God created the world for us to enjoy, not destroy. On Monday mornings, I would grab a garbage bag and a pair of rubber gloves and walk through every site on the campground to pick up garbage left behind. My theory was, “If God didn’t put it there, man should not have either.” I gathered everything larger than a dime–cigarette butts, the pull tabs from beer and soda cans, straws from juice boxes, candy wrappers, small toys, etc., etc.

If everyone leaned over and picked up their own garbage, think how beautiful every square inch of the Earth would be.

Lord, help us show love for your creation by the way we care for it. Amen.

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How did you get such wisdom?

“You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight.” Proverbs 3:13

imageWhen I googled, “Wisest person in the world” I got the answer “King Solomon.” God granted Solomon one wish, and he asked for wisdom. Solomon appeared to be a well-rounded man–prolific writer, poet, diplomat, scientist, architect, and manager. Yet, as wise and talented as he was, he lost insight. Solomon’s lust for earthly treasurers and power kept him from being obedient to God.

Bible historians believe Solomon wrote Proverbs–the book of wisdom–during the middle portion of his life. Perhaps through all the temptations he faced, similar to the ones we face today, he gained insight and became an even wiser man.

As a kid I thought my mother, father, teachers, and pastors to be some of the wisest people I knew. As an adult, I see that wisdom comes from education, the road of hard knocks, life-lessons learned from trial and error, and in “fearing” God. Solomon tells us we need to buddy up with Lady Insight to become a partner with Lady Wisdom. We hope by mid-life we figure this out and can be seen by our children and younger people as being wise and insightful.

Dear Lord, it is my prayer that Lady Wisdom and Lady Insight be my constant companion. Amen.

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Pass up a good offer?

[Balaam said] “Even if Balak gave me his palace stuffed with silver and gold, I couldn’t do anything on my own, whether good or bad, that went against God’s command.” Numbers 24:13

imageWhen the Israelites entered Moab, they sent the people of Moab into a panic and feared they would take over, like “crows picking a carcass clean.” (Numbers 22:4) King Balak sent for Balaam to curse the Israelites, but instead Balaam blessed them, refusing to do anything against God’s wishes.

In today’s world, Balak might be like a CEO of a large company that fears smaller companies may start up and offer employees higher starting wages. Mr. CEO offers a wise and charismatic new senator big sums of money for his campaign chest to introduce a bill to make it difficult for new businesses to crop up.

However, when the bill is presented to the senate, it is full of praise and ways for the government to fund new businesses to spur on the economy. The CEO becomes furious and takes back his offer of campaign money. Of course, this is a fairytale.

Easy access to credit, clever advertising and marketing, and a “want verses need” mentality makes it more difficult to stand firm on what we believe God wants for us.

Dear God, help us sort our worldly desires with heavenly guidance. Amen.

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