Friday, April 23, 2010

It's all about You, Jesus!

Tonight is our first Oh, For Fun (OFF) on Friday women events at our church. So many prayers, so many hands and hearts at work with love, so many faithful women saying yes to this possibility. God has provided all of these things so we may present His love to our friends, our family, the women of our church, the women of our community. My heart is FULL! This song has been in front of me all day and I think it says it all. ..

Matt Redman - Heart of Worship - click here to see video and to hear the song.

It's all about you, Jesus!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pay attention, Grasshopper!

I was at the park yesterday all by myself. I NEVER, EVER go there alone. However, it was an absolutely perfect day and I was killing time as I was waiting to pick up my friend. Besides, it was the park behind the new Bass Pro Shop; so, there were lots of people milling around and I wasn't too worried about lurkers or weirdos preying on my lack of awareness.

How did I know that God was going to send me a lesson while I was sitting there minding my own business? I hate it and love it when this happens. But, it was like I had surround sound throughout my head and tugging on my heart telling me, "OK, Peggy, pay attention here because this is important and I don't want you to miss it". Sometimes I feel like I'm a living "Grasshopper" in my own Kung Fu drama - "Ah, Grasshopper, here is lesson for you" and I reply, "OK, master, I'm paying attention." and, then, muttering under my breath - "Holy cow! I hope I get it".

Anyway, I'm rambling...actually, there were two lessons (that I was aware of)...

The first was this young man and his awesome dog. He had three dogs, two scampering wiener dogs and some sort of golden retriever/yellow lab mix. His big dog was the one I was smitten with. The young man was working with him on his obedience training while the other two "hot dogs" were nearby, playing with each other and looking like little badgers in the grass.

This dog was amazing. For about 20 minutes I watched as his master never uttered a sound and the dog followed his every move - always obedient, always gazing lovingly into his master's eyes, always staying by his side, his desire to please his master the focus of every step and every action he took. This relationship was so in-tune and the intimacy between this man and his dog was beautiful.

I watched and watched, paying close attention, because this lesson I understood. I sat there watching this scene unfold and, all the while, these questions were rolling through my mind - how do I please my Master? Do I follow His instructions obediently and keep my focus on Him so I know the next move? Do I wait patiently, yet with great anticipation, for some sign of what I am to do next? Do I wait for him to clap his hands, indicating the lesson is over, and then run to Him like He is the very reason for my being, relishing in His lavish love and praise? Those questions are still rolling through my mind.

The second lesson was pretty profound for me, as well. I was watching a group of children playing and climbing on this huge rock formation (built for little ones). They were about 3-5 yrs. old - not yet school age and big enough to play and climb, rough and tumble without a lot of help.

Their mothers were just a few feet away as they were all climbing on this big rock. Three of the little energy hounds jumped off the rock and ran off to the next adventure. However, one was left behind, still climbing on the rock. She was climbing diligently and then she turned around and got STUCK. She couldn't go up or down because, instead of facing the wall, she had turned her back to it and lost her focus. She was worried and scared and she couldn't move. She yelled "Help me" and the mothers were busy keeping track of the other kids and not really listening to her. Finally, she got the attention of one of them. This mom did the most amazing thing. Instead of just lifting her down, as I expected, she gently turned her around, took hold of her little foot and gently placed it on the next step and then, again, patiently showed her where her next step should go. I watched as the little girl trusted the directions and her mom guided her from that rock, step by step, with her help.

I've felt like that lately - stuck on the rock, yelling for help and not being able to grab anyone's attention. It's silly. It's just that I lost my focus and I let fear and frustration guide my steps or paralyze me. The past couple of weeks I have had to ask God, once more and again (sigh), to guide me and to lead me where I should go.

So, lesson #1 - God loves me and desires an intimate relationship with me. He showers His extravagant love over me; and, He relishes in my obedience. To be in-tune with my Master is a beautiful thing.

And, lesson #2 - It's easy to get distracted, to lose focus, to let fear paralyze me and to get Stuck! Even during those times, God continues to love me and gently turns me around, shows me the way, holds my hands and guides my steps.

I hope my Master is looking at me with a laughing heart and smiling eyes. I imagine Him telling me, "Well done, Grasshopper, you did, indeed, pay attention. Now, show me what you have learned."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

50 new things update

Well, it seems as if everyday of the past week or so has found me doing something new; so, here I go:

1. I have cooked Penne Pasta with shrimp - yum! (recipe from The Pioneer Woman cookbook)

2.   I have roasted potatoes on the grill prepared with every herb I have in my cabinet - yum! The good thing about preparing potatoes this way - they never taste the same and they are always great. It's a new dish every time I make it.

3. I am, with several others from my church, in the process of preparing the first of our Oh, For Fun (OFF) on Friday events - happens April 23rd - and we are so excited. It will be a fun time to connect and make new friends. This is just for the ladies. And, we've had lots of interest. The goal is 50 women and I already have 24+ commitments before invites even went out the door. And, something new - I actually designed and produced the invites, posters and flyers. Please forgive me for tooting my own horn. Seriously, a lot of people have provided a lot of hard work and love into this project and I am so thankful for the opportunity to begin this ministry. And, I'm thankful for all of the hands that have been a part of it. If you are in the neighborhood on the 23rd, stop in for a while - it's bring a friend and meet a friend night and we'd love for you to join us:

4. I planted my pansies in the planter next to my front door - I hope they grow. They are happy little flowers and smell great. The wind NEVER quits on the hill where we live; so, it is a lesson in tenacity and, sometimes frustration, that I keep trying to grow stuff.

5. As I was planting flowers yesterday, I hung out with a little lizard (5" or so - not as big as the one shown below) that was sunning himself on my porch. I'm glad my husband had warned me that we have a couple of these creatures lurking in our yard. Evidently, Joe believes they are skinks (sp). It has bright colored stripes from the tip of the nose to end of the tail. They grow anywhere from 5-10 inches long and the females are more brightly colored than the males. I thought that was interesting. I did, however, make it very clear to this lizard that I was not going to share space with it INSIDE my house. It has got to stay outside or very bad things will happen - to the lizard, maybe to my husband - and, not to me! Don't you think the front half looks like a snake? Yikes!

6. I went with a couple of folks from our church to the Harvester's food pantry to pick up food for our Necessity pantry. An amazing experience. I always wondered how it is possible to feed a family of four for a month, for $20 bucks. Now, I know. Harvesters is run very efficiently and I was very impressed. I was happy to see that a lot of the fresh produce and bakery items are donated by area grocery stores. I always wondered what happened to the stuff that was a couple of days old. I'm glad it doesn't go to waste.

7. I applied for a couple of jobs outside of my familiar line of work. I hope something comes through. I was a little disappointed last week that the two jobs I was SURE were going to come through for me did not even extend an offer. And, it was a long, long wait to receive that news. A very real lesson in humility. I believe this must be God's way of telling me to look for something different than what I know and what I am comfortable doing. So, we will see. Hope this job situation turns soon...however, we are still trusting God is opening the doors for us, directing us and is walking with us throughout this journey. UPDATE - As I was writing this very paragraph, the phone rang. I now have an interview Thursday at 9AM - Yippee! See, God always provides just when I am least expecting it. That is so cool! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!.

8. On Sunday, we went on the Parade of Homes tour with our friends. We saw some very beautiful homes for some very beautiful prices. Had a great time with our friends and laughed a lot.

9. We have a new member of our family. This past Sunday morning, my niece gave birth to a sweet baby boy - Welcome, Bobby William, to the family. It's going to be so fun to watch you grow. And, you have two awesome big sisters and a big brother to watch out for you! I love your big, baby cheeks.

10. My juddi bush (it's some kind of viburnum and, in my opinion, better than a Korean Spice Lilac) is blooming. It is beautiful and smells delicious - my favorite time of Spring is when this bush blooms. Actually, it blooms for only a very few days. Its fragrance is intoxicating and rides on the wind throughout our yard. Nothing better!

All in all, a good bunch of stuff to put on my list of 50. Opportunities provided every day by God who loves me and continues to shower me with His bountiful blessings. Joe and I will continue to praise Him in this storm and thank Him for His care.

Share His Love...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Our Mighty Oak

Standing directly in the middle of my mother's backyard is a very large and very old Burr oak. The tree is close to 100 ft. tall and is about 8 ft. in diameter. Its branches span the entire width and depth of the yard and it has stood in its same place, with a commanding presence, forever. Many years ago, my dad asked the conservation department to come out and guesstimate the age of the tree. If memory serves correctly, they told us it was about 300 years old. Think about that for a minute and all this tree has experienced during that time.

When I was little, my dad and I would often talk about that wonderful tree. He delighted in feeding my crazy imagination with stories about cowboys and indians using it for shade during long hot, dusty trail rides or protection during fierce gunfights. Of course, it was probably the size of a sapling then. It didn't matter to me. In my mind's eye, I could just see that cowboy or indian apprehensively peeking around the trunk of the tree.

The tree is home to all kinds of wildlife - many families of squirrels have entertained us with their daredevil jumps from branch to branch. Oftentimes, they would sit above us while we were playing a game of catch or raking leaves. They would tease us by tossing huge acorns on our heads. We always thought they did it on purpose. At times, it has been the home of raccoons, oppossum, a snake or two and, always, a myriad offering of birds. It has even been the home to a humongous bee hive that we had to have professionally removed.

Throughout the years, my family, and those important to us, have enjoyed our tree. It may sound strange to say, but; it is one of us. At one time, we had an old tire swing hanging from one of its awesome branches. This branch was huge and about 20-30 ft. off the ground. The swing was an incredibly sturdy rope and the tire hung from it. That swing carried us on many carefree days laughing, screaming and exhilirating in the ride. Or, sometimes, we would just "wind" the rope up into a twist, let go and hang on for dear life as we would spin and spin - either riding on top of the tire or lying on our bellies through the middle.

Life has not always been kind to our oak. It has been hit by lightening several times and has the scars to prove it. It has lost a lot of its larger limbs during the different storms it has endured. Yet, it still stands, strong and weathered and beautiful.

The oak has been a guardian to my family as we have played, enjoyed life and each other below its branches. It has offered shade on sunny days and a cool breeze when the air has been still. It has stood as a sentry and has watched diligently as my sisters and I have grown up. It has also protected our children and now, our grandchildren.

Recently, we had a family celebration and, as we were having a good time together hanging out on my mom's back porch, the talk circled around to that amazing tree. I wondered, as I watched my mom's great-grandchildren playing beneath it, what it would have to say about us. This is now the fourth generation enjoying the shade, the protection and the watchful eye of this incredible testament to God's creation.

My niece's husband was in absolute awe of the size and beauty of the mighty oak. He said something that stuck with me - "Wow, that is really something to be protected". He's right. Not just in the physical sense, though. The oak tree has seen much and knows much about my family and me. It holds secrets of the precious parts of watching us grow, memories we made as we played together, dreamed together and enjoyed being a family together. It is a special part of us and I hope we have brought it joy, too.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I was weepy! Easter Sunday and I was overwhelmed with a monumental case of emotional upheaval. My heart was so full it cried most of the morning.

First of all, my mom joined us at church. She visits every now and then and, for some reason, it was so important for me that she be there with us this Easter. We are not a huggy, physical display of affection type of family. Sure, we touch each other - just not a lot. But, oh, how we love - deep and true. God is faithful and loves us abundantly and, as I was sitting there beside mom during the service, I realized one of the reasons I know that God is faithful and I know His love is abundant is because of how my mother loves me - unconditionally, deeply, faithfully, always - even when I am so undeserving. She is my example of Grace - mostly because of the way she loves - the way she has always loved - she knows no other way. My heart was overflowing with love for her. It literally took my breath away!

Another reason I was weepy is that celebrating Easter with our children is especially hard for me. Even though we love each other deeply and enjoy being together, our immediate family is not always united in the reason we celebrate. We were missing two of our daughters and their families at our celebration and I felt the void, deeply. In addition, none of our children have much of a connection with their faith and it hurts me that they miss the deeper meaning of Easter. Or, at least, that is my worry. We always enjoy being together and celebrating the beautiful newness of spring, the Easter eggs, the flowers and a great dinner with lots of laughter. However, I yearn for them to have a more fulfilling understanding of what this day is all about. I want them to grasp how powerful it is that God loves us enough to die for us and it is the only thing in this life that is truly worth knowing and understanding. I want them to experience the overwhelming love that He chose to pour out for us on the cross. I want them to have hearts that rejoice in the resurrection. And, to know that whatever they face in this life, He is there with them, singing over them and quieting them with His love when they feel alone or afraid. I want them to share our heart and love for God so they can feel His love for each of them. I know, these decisions belong to them and, if only they find Him, it will make all of the difference in how they love, forgive, live their lives and raise their families. My heart longs to celebrate these lasting things with them. And, I pray that I may be their example of Grace.

I was weepy because my heart is tender and full - full of love for my family, for those that are here with me; and, for those that have long been gone and I still think about each day; full of anticipation of victories to come, full of anticipation and hope for new beginnings, adventures and opportunities, full of wonder, and, especially, full of thanks - for God's love so lavishly and unselfishly offered.

Ephesians 3:17-19
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (NLT)

Friday, April 2, 2010

dealing with the aftermath of Good Friday

Our church celebrates Holy Week. So, every night the week before Easter we have a service that somewhat follows the events taking place in the life of Christ during this week. It gets really interesting toward the end of the week...

Last night, Maundy Thursday, the sermon was on the "last supper" and, in addition to communion, we have a foot washing service - makes a lot of people very uncomfortable, which is interesting. I don't know if it is just the idea of "feet" in general or the idea of washing the feet of others with a servant's attitude that bothers people. I had to work through that one myself when we first started attending the Episcopal church because I have serious issues with both. In addition, at the end of the service, the altar area is stripped bare and everything on the altar and surrounding the altar is removed in complete silence - all of the color, the table coverings, the altar Bible, flowers, everything - even the light that is lit at all times indicating Christ is ever present in this place - everything is removed. It always makes me cry because it makes me realize how lonely it is to be there when I stop to consider Christ not being there with me. Even though I know the end of the story, the place is cold and bare and not full of a lot of hope. And, it makes me sad to leave because, as we know, there is subterfuge, betrayal and denial about to take place in the wee hours of the morning. 

Today is Good Friday and we will be going to church soon to take part in the last big service of Holy Week. Tonight, most of the congregation will reenact the horrific events that occurred on this day - Christ's crucifixion and death. No one ever wants to portray Jesus - I wonder why this is? Maybe because most of us can relate to the other characters so much better: Pilate, as he "washes his hands" of responsibility of making bad decisions; the Pharisees with their self-righteous, all-knowing understanding of right and wrong and of power; the Roman Soldiers, as they enjoy their mocking and dark sense of fun; Mary, Jesus' mother, who witnesses and endures His suffering as only a mother can while pondering the heart and will of her Beloved God; the followers of Jesus who still were trying to figure out just exactly who this man is and how He has touched their lives; Peter, my particular favorite, always strong in his convictions until they really mattered and, then of course, there is Judas - who was probably the most honest of the bunch - just misdirected... I can see why we relate. It's quite a cast of characters to say the least. I can only say that Forgiveness is a VERY GOOD THING!

At the end of the evening, we get to wait and see what happens next. Like Mary we are allowed to ponder all of these things in our hearts. We know something spectacular has happened, we are dealing with the aftermath and trying to process what it means for each of us. We are allowed to consider the life-changing events of this day; and, if we are willing, to gain a new understanding of forgiveness, sacrifice, a wounded heart and God's amazing, amazing love.