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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Open Hands

My parents stayed with us over Christmas.
They came early to avoid a storm that rendered us knee deep in snow by Friday.
One night, we sat discussing family values. Not like Murphy Brown/ Dan Quail family values, but spoken and unspoken values that each home lives by whether they realize it or not.
Spoken values are actively taught.
Like in the home I grew up in some of our "taught" values were: loving God, going to church, being kind to people. Some spoken values in my husband's home consisted of going to church, working hard, and eating supper together every night at 6.
But unspoken values are different. As a lovely friend recently explained, unspoken family values are like banners hanging outside your home that children choose to either adopt or reject. Things like being thin, having money, a squeaky clean home, being quiet in the morning (that was one of my mom's quirks that I definitely adopted) rank as unspoken values. One unspoken value in my home of origin was generosity.
My parents stood, in the middle of their lives, with open hands ready to receive whatever God gave them and just as ready to give it away to whomever needed it. This wasn't just monetary generosity, although that was part of it. Anything they had was for anyone in their life to use and benefit from like: generosity with time, energy, praise, intellect, smiles, laughter. Although never verbalized, this open-handedness was modeled day in and day out. Stinginess played no part in my home life.

Not everyone is so blessed to see it in their home.

Also over Christmas, I witnessed the extreme contrast between living life either open handed and close-fisted.
A good customer of mine routinely buys coupons for free coffees so she can hand them out to whomever she thinks need it.
My close friends' daughter married last week and people, out of their generosity, offered candles, lights, vases, name it...for decorating purposes.
We, as a family, received several generous gifts from people who know that's works' been scarce.
Both my friends in the real world and the blogging world (Chris @ Experiencing Grace and Peace and Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus) wrote about open handed giving in recent weeks.
Christmas itself, God sending His only Son so we can have free, unearned salvation, is the greatest act of open-handedness ever experienced.
Free, unconditional generosity from both God and man.
What a blessing.
On the flip side, I saw close-fisted selfishness at its worst. The greedy, selfish attitude of people fairly close to me rendered me both speechless and angry.

As I think about the people, the open handed ones and the closed-fisted ones, I'm struck with the contrast of demeanor. Since I know all the people I'm writing about, I can tell you that they share the same faith, and the same general values...yet one group gives and the other hoardes.
What does the hoarder gain by keeping what's his? When I look at this individual, I see resentment, bitterness, loneliness and deep suspicion.
What does the open handed giver receive for giving freely? I see joy, peace, friends in abundance and more generosity.

Oh, that my hands and heart would remain open to give and receive whatever God brings and that attitudes of selfishness, greed, and hoarding would be snuffed out.

Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

"Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:17

Friday, December 18, 2009


For what seems like the millionth time, I click "favorites" and check Facebook or this blog or my email. I just checked a few minutes ago...I'm sure nothing has changed...yet, I need to look again.

What am I doing....what am I looking for?
In all these various checks, what am I longing for?
Friendship? I have friends.
Information? I have Google.
Inspiration? I have the Bible, art, nature, music, & books.
God? I have God.
Since I was 7, I've "had" God or more significantly He's had me.
But knowing God, having God, doesn't mean the end of longing.
In fact, I think it means the beginning of longing...true, deep, passionate, yearning for more of the One True God.
And the more He gives, the more I realize I lack and the more I want. Frustration sets in as it seems like God gets more & more elusive the closer I get to Him...but that's another topic...

So, back to my incessant need for meaningful human contact, even if it's via electronics... I realized this morning as I kept checking my various modes of communication, that I am searching for God: searching for Him, longing for His love and His words to me, through His people.

Last week I read Romans 12...verses 4 & 5 say Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We are the body of Christ.
We are the hands and feet of Christ-a familiar enough phrase- but have you stopped to think of what you're saying and what that means?
It means you're desperately needed. Not just by the world, but by other Christians (Galatians 6:9).

A few weeks ago, a lovely couple visited our church. She's an occasional customer of mine, so of course I visited with her & her husband after the service. They loved it. And I know her well enough to know, they genuinely loved it. They felt at ease & at home with our informality and the spirit of community we have.
But they didn't come back.
Talking with a mutual friend, I realized that they (the couple) saw the need for community when they were hurting; when they needed something. But they didn't see how valuable they were to someone else's community. When have I done that? Underestimated what God wanted me to be to a certain group of people? Underestimated His presence in me and how it ministered to others?
We think we're being humble by deflecting praise or denying our worth, but we're actually being selfish...withholding something we're made to give.
"...we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
You, dear reader, are needed.
There are things God has planned for you. Jeremiah 29:11, a beautiful passage, is quoted so often: "For I know the plans I have for you , declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future."
But how does He prosper you and give you hope and help you realize your future? Many times, it's through others. Yes, He wants to bless you and prosper you, but He wants to bless and minister and provide for someone else also and through you.
Someone in your life needs what you have to offer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Supreme Darkness

There’s no light in the sky.
Early morning, before dawn, I love the quiet.
I love the peace.
I love being the only one awake in the morning.
Still sleepy, I stumble through the house. Not yet ready to acknowledge that my day started, I don’t want to turn on the lights, but my mind is busy with all the preparations of life in the sunlit hours. Laundry to wash, food to prepare, heart to quiet.

Why is “heart to quiet” always the last on my mental list? I don’t even realize it’s not quiet until I notice myself distracted, anxious, and short tempered…and it’s not even light out and no one else is awake.
Thankfully, He calls me.
Gently, quietly, persistently, he calls me to come away with Him. Sometimes that means sitting with my journal, other times it’s pouring over scripture, but today, he called me to the keyboard. Not sure where to start or what to write, I look out the window at the blackness and think once again about the beautiful way God uses creation to point to Himself and remind us of His faithfulness.
It’s black now, but dawn will come.

It comes every day.
The seasons change, the time of dawn and dusk changes, but it still comes; as faithful as He is yet dictated by Him.
For my birthday last year, a dear friend gave me “The Dark night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross. Not easy reading, by any means. In fact, I'm barely halfway through and it's a not a long book. Although it's hard to get through, I love it. I love that a Spanish, Carmelite monk from the 16th century could write a poem (and exposition on it) that speaks Truth to me 500 years later. It’s given me a new love and appreciation and understanding for the dark nights in my own soul. I’m learning not to despise them or see them as something merely to endure, but rather to see them as a place to meet an infinitely mysterious God.
This mysterious God in the dark night isn’t necessarily a comfort and doesn’t give cozy feelings of love and protection. In fact, at times, His absence is more profound than His presence. But His lurking presence is there.

Like a black hole that can’t be seen but draws everything around it in; that’s God. Like Aslan chasing Shasta & Aravis in "The Horse & His Boy"—dangerous yet there for protection; like Aragorn in the "Lord of the Rings" sitting in the corner of the Prancing pony-- menacing yet somehow good… that’s this “dark night” God.
As light begins to break and this day will start whether I’m ready for it or not, I give the day and the nights ahead, once again, to You, my mysterious, chasing, pursuing, sometimes silent but always good God.

Psalm 30
I will exalt you, O LORD,

for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O LORD my God, I called to you for help

and you healed me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the grave

you spared me from going down into the pit.
Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;

praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,

but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said,

"I will never be shaken."
O LORD, when you favored me,

you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
To you, O LORD, I called;

to the Lord I cried for mercy:
"What gain is there in my destruction,

in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;

O LORD, be my help."
You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Love of God

The following is a portion of my journal entry on October 20, 2009...

"'The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; it goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell...'
Love. Respect. Value. Use. Obedience. Love can include all these things, but doesn't always. I think that's where I get hung up. I know You love me. But value me beyond my obedience or usefulness? I'm not so sure. And even in my obedience & usefulness, I don't necessarily feel any of Your pleasure or delight in me. So I'm left wondering 'What will it take? How can I get Your attention?'...Bring me to a deeper understanding of You--Your love--and self-sacrifice"

Exhausted with comparisons and weary with doubt, I turned to Him.

What does He have to say to me? About me? About you?

I know I'm loved unconditionally; so are you.

I know I don't earn that love; neither do you.

I know I can't lose His love; neither can you.

So, why do I fall so quickly into earning favor with God?

Wanting desperately to be one of His "favorites" of the children He speaks to in oh-so personal ways...I do things I think He'll like; that I think He'll notice.

Somehow, I think my only value lies in my usefulness.

Somehow, I think His love is contingent on my obedience or level of self-sacrifice.

I know it's not true.

I know that's not true.

But why do some people seem to have a direct line to God and His love and others flounder on the outskirts?

I don't have an answer.

Faithful, obedient, trusting people flounder; unsure of His love.

I've been searching the Bible, trying to find out more about His love.

Jeremiah 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with lovingkindness..."

Lamentations 3: "because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed..."

Zephaniah 3:17 "...He will quiet you with His love..."

I John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God..."

Isaiah 63: 9 "In His love and mercy, He redeemed them..."

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave is only Son..."

Romans 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This is a small sampling...I'm still searching...still trying to see these verses in their context...still trying to believe and know that each of His children is His favorite.

I am His favorite...

You are His favorite...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainy Days

It's raining today.
The gray clouds hang low in the air and the rain comes in a steady downpour.
Inside my shop, I can watch the rain and hear it beat against the windows.
The puddles are rising, but this isn't the flooding kind of rain. This is the gentle soaking variety.
No storms today, just gray skies and big drops of water.
From a young age, my dad taught me a love and respect for storms. Sitting on our screened in back porch, listening to the thunder and seeing the streaks of lightening flash across the sky are fond memories.
Now, as an adult, I love storms in Iowa. There aren't trees or hills to block out the beauty, so you can watch a storm building and approaching for hours sometimes. My husband and I sit on our front porch and watch the natural fireworks light up the sky and can feel God's power.
His might is so evident to me in the middle of a storm.
He's just so big.
But what about everyday, ordinary rain, like we 're experiencing today? Do I see God's power in it?
There's nothing flashy about today's rain.
Nothing dramatic.
It's just plain old rain.
When storms blow into lives around me, I often see God's power and unmistakable presence.
I see people being held up by the power of prayer; being strengthened by the outpouring of love and concern from a community; being protected and guided by God's providential hand.
But those are the big things.
But what about in the everyday, ordinary rainy days of life? What about the everyday things like constant financial pressure, or the drudgery's of your job, or the ongoing marital discord over nothing or the everyday-ness of dealing with an aging parent or a willful child, or the relentless ache of grief, or the exhaustion of caring for a special needs child, or the everyday challenges of a chronic illness?
Of course He's there: in all His grace, sovereignty, power and faithfulness, He's there.
But the low hanging clouds and the mundane tap tap tap of the rain dampen our senses and obscure our view and somehow this magnificent, awe-inspiring God seems, through the gloom, to be unavailable, unfamiliar, unapproachable and unloving.
If you've done any sort of consistent Bible reading and study, you'll be familiar with Lamentations 3:22-23:
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
But have you read what comes before those verses? Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, is listing all the ways God, the same God in verses 22 & 23, has left him, abandoned him, afflicted him, scorned him and made him a laughing stock.
It puts these verses in a different light doesn't it? They become much more than nice words to hang on your wall or sing about or throw around lightly. They become the lifeblood of living each day only by His grace.
Just something to think about today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Going the Distance

They were amazing.
Strong, confident, and running to their potential, my son and his teammates captured the title in their Conference and all seven runners made the All-Conference team.
The chilly night wasn’t over, though. There were two more races to be run by the Junior Varsity.
As wonderful as it was to watch our Varsity teams excel, the JV races brought tears to my eyes.
Right before the boys JV race started I heard coach say to the guys “Cheer for J. Everywhere you can on the course, cheer for J.” I asked a parent standing by what the coach meant (because we all cheered for everybody, why single out J?) The parent explained to me that even though he’d been part of the team all season, J hadn’t run a single race due to serious health issues. So this meet, one of the last of the season, was his first race. We parents cheered for him with the boys at the first turn, and then the seven, who had already finished their race, took off again to meet J at another part on the course.
Later, tears came to my eyes as I watched the entire Varsity team running alongside J as he struggled far behind the other runners. His older teammates dropped out as he approached the last leg of the race and cheered from the sidelines as J finished…tired, weary, and minutes behind the next runner. But he’d finished his race and he wasn’t alone.
Then the girls’ race started. All season I’d watched her; struggling well behind the others almost shuffling instead of running. Yet there she was, running this race no differently than the others. Race after race, she ran to the finish no matter what. I marveled at her perseverance and determination. Later, as the scant crowd cheered her across the finish line, with a lump in my throat, my eyes once again filled with tears as she finished her own race.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

Throughout the years, God uses certain phrases in this familiar verse to change my heart or focus. At times “throw off anything that hinders” convicts me. “Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” rang particularly true when my dear father-in-law lost his battle with cancer. But the last year, because of what a friend said in a conversation, the phrase “run the race marked out for us” impacts my heart.
So yesterday, as I watched runners of every shape, size, and ability cross the finish line, I realized again that we each have to run our own race. We can’t run the race marked for someone else; we’d only be discouraged or confused.
In Christ, we all have the same goal, but each individual’s race is unique. Some people start out fast; others have a kick at the end. Some are always in front and others constantly bring up the rear.
Is the last person’s race any less important than the winner’s? In this spiritual race, it’s crossing the finish line that matters. It’s getting to the end, knowing we’ve done our best and run the race that our Coach set before us with determination and perseverance that holds value.
Thankfully, we don’t run alone, but we have teammates cheering us on from the sidelines and even, at times, running alongside us.

What a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I've had a hard time posting lately.

Not because of technical difficulties.

Not because of lack of material. No, I've written volumes.

But the volumes are filled with my lastest bout with depression which is frankly, well, depressing and doesn't make for great reading.

For 23 years I've dealt with the ups and downs of clinical depression. I'm at a point now, of understanding that I've done everything I can do to bring relief and healing. Medication, counseling, prayer, scripture, supportive community...I've experienced it all and thank God for all of it.

There have been measures of healing and times of living symptom free, again, thank God.

But no matter how much I beg God, He, so far, has not completely removed the burden. I don't know why and ultimately it doesn't matter.

The point is, it's something He wants me to live with and continue experiencing.

Only He can bring complete relief and in my case, He doesn't. He's taught me lessons, used my experiences to help others, given me tools to handle it, but He hasn't brought complete healing.

I know many of you reading this can't possibly understand and are filled with questions, judgments, and possible remedies.

I also know that some of you reading this struggle too, perhaps silently.

Others have people in their lives that they can see deal with depression and are at a loss to help.
I'm not writing this for any ones sympathy, pity or advice.

I offer my story as a testament to God's power (for keeping me alive & functioning) and His faithfulness (for in reality, never leaving me even when it feels like it) and His sovereignty (He will bring healing when it suits His purpose).
It's also offered, hoping that it causes those of you prone to judge others struggling, to reserve judgement, those of you prone to depression to tell someone, and those dealing with it in someone elses life to pursue that person so they don't feel so alone.

Friday, October 2, 2009

As I was doing my hair this morning, it struck me that we spend a lot of time taking care of dead things.
Our hair is dead, yet we spend time, energy and money to make it look nice.
Our nails are dead, yet we file and paint them so people will notice.
They are dead.
It got me thinking about all the other dead things in my life that I dress up, decorate, spend time, money and energy on...

"We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life...For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Rom 6

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Love Divine

Two human loves make one divine.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Love...I saw it in their eyes, their smiles and their touches. I saw it between father & daughter as they danced. I saw it as the bride & groom and their parents shared communion together. I saw it in sisters & brothers, grandparents, cousins,and friends as they interacted. The weekend was saturated with love.

Joy...In the toasts given by the best man & maid of honor, the beaming smiles of parents, grandparents, and friends, even in the tears of one of the groomsmen, joy abounded.

Peace...Despite the stress of decorating, preparing, and running errands there was peace that passed understanding.

Patience...Witnessed between the bride & groom, the bride & her mom, the groom & his mom, and the countless others involved, a spirit of patience prevailed.

Kindness...The reassuring hugs and words spoken to calm nerves resounded with kindness.

Goodness...Evident in the pure life-styles of the bride and groom and and the joy of the witnesses, goodness permeated the celebration.

Faithfulness...Listening to vows spoken in love and trust, witnessing God praised and watching three sets of grandparents dancing to honor at least 50 years of marriage a piece, faithfulness flourished.

Watching the Rockies play...Attending a High Tea...Sharing meals...Googling endangered native wildflowers...Line Dancing at the rehearsal dinner...Decorating...Golfing...Rejoicing at the ceremony...Celebrating at the reception...hiking on Sunday...

From the time we arrived on Wednesday to our departure on Monday morning, the weekend was characterized by Beauty...Truth...Grace...and lots of laughter and fun.

David & Katie,

What a privilege to be included in your beautiful celebration! May you know God's blessing, peace, and abiding love as you begin your adventure together!

love, Aunt Patty

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Mid sentence I realized I was doing it.
Somewhere in the conversation I'd ceased really listening and started planning what I'd say back. Without being aware, I had an agenda and I was implementing it; making sure she knew what I thought, knew, and understood.
I had something to prove. I quit listening to her with an ear and heart to minister and understand her, and listened only for how I could respond in a way that would show her that a)I'm not the idiot I think she thinks I am and 2) I am a faith-filled person even if I think she doubts it.
Instead of genuinely putting her needs and concerns above my own, I pushed my own agenda of being understood. It doesn't happen very often--this need to prove myself--but once in a while it rears it's ugly head.
I'm sure to the casual observer nothing seemed amiss, but I knew what was driving my end of the conversation. I gave myself the mental equivalent of a slap and continued the conversation with a different motive and attitude. I have no idea if she noticed or not, but it made all the difference on my end.

Ephesians 4:2 "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pretty Princess

She's always been sweet. Usually smiling, kind and gentle; that's my girl.
She woke up this morning, got ready and greeted me with a big hug & smile.
Happy birthday, honey! I whispered, still blinking the sleep from my eyes.
Thanks, mom! came the cheery response.

She's been waiting for this day for months. Well, years, really.

Her celebration started a week ago. Twelve girls descended on our home ready for a party. But the planning has been in the works for a month.
I suggested she have a theme for the party. She looked at me and replied, with a characteristic smile "Disney Princesses". That sounded like fun...I'm all into dressy, girly, princess stuff. Armed with nothing but ideas ( and a little cash), we headed off to party places and dollar stores to search for princessy stuff.
A few weeks later, the cake baked, the table set, the house and food ready, and no males in sight, we prepared for the arrival of the girls.

Upon entering our home in a swarm, they donned their borrowed princess dresses, primped in front of mirrors and then the party started.

After a fun, loud, giggly photo shoot, and amidst lots of talking, laughter, and goofy teenage girl stuff, I called them into the banquet. With gifts for each girl, food in abundance and friendship all around, they celebrated with us.

Twelve 15 and 16 year old girls dressed up like princesses, sitting at a feast, enjoying one another. Reading from I Peter 2:9-10 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood..." , I prayed with them and told them how, if you were a daughter of the King you were truly a princess. It was all I could do to not to cry(sappy person that I am).
Well, the meal ended and they went on to spend hours laughing, talking, playing truth or dare, mafia, sitting around a fire, having a dance off (at 4 a.m.) and staying up ALL night! It was everything she'd hoped for and worth the missed sleep for me.

But that was a week ago. Today's the day.
She's finally sixteen.
Brad & I gave her a ring this morning. A ring to remind her of our love, to remind her of her Heavenly Father's love, to remind her of a call to holiness, and to remind her that she's truly a princess.
Happy Birthday, Beautiful girl...we love you!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Beauty in the everyday...

The last few weeks have been crazy. Not crazy busy, but crazy with the whole spectrum of life: from the tragedy of car accidents, plane crashes, tragic deaths and the effects of cancer to the blessings of newborns, healthy pregnancies and the overwhelming joy of adoption.
I've started three separate posts to try to put into words all that's been on my heart and mind but abandoned each.
How can you sum up so much life and death, joy and sorrow in a post?
My brains been working overtime to try to deal with it all; to let God be God, to truly pray "your will be done", to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
In the midst of it, I keep going back to the beauty I see everywhere around me.
Beauty in the joys of adoption & new in friends rising to the occasion and putting their own needs on hold so they can minister to someone in measures of in accepting God's in in God's in God's abundant in His amazing in His sustaining presence (whether felt or not) in His strong arm being mighty to in His in YHWH.

"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple" Psalm 27:4

Monday, June 8, 2009


Realizing I needed a Savior at the tender age of 7, I began my now lifelong journey of faith. 35 years later, my faith doesn't look like I ever thought it would or could. Other people's faith's don't look like I thought. Our personal faith's come in all different sizes, shapes & colors. Some people get to live in (as a friend called it) the pretty little thatched roof bungalow of a Thomas Kincaid painting...inviting, full of light, and cozy. Deep doubts over the Truth are almost non-existant. Their faith is still very real and deep and beautiful, but it's not hard for them to believe. Other people's faith is like an endless desert or wilderness...stark but still full of life; also full of depth and beauty yet often a struggle for survival. Other people live somewhere in between. I've spent a lot of my life thinking that eventually everyone who professed Christ should end up in the bungalow. I don't believe that anymore.

I don't know about you, but I often doubt my faith. I doubt the validity of the claims of Christ, I doubt that the Bible is really the Word of God. I doubt there's a God. I doubt just about everything related to this "faith" we call Christianity. Why do I doubt? Partly because it's who I am to question. Partly because I confuse religion for faith. And partly because the claims of Christianity seem ludicris...I mean One God becoming man to save us?? A being beyond us, controlling the universe? C'mon.
But amid all the doubts, I still believe. Why do I still believe? Is it habit? Superstition? Fear? Lack of reflection? Lack of reason? Laziness? Because Christianity "works"? Because I see evidence of God in nature, humanity, the universe, even myself?
The simple, truthful answer is, I don't have a choice but to believe.
There have been times in my life when I wanted to stop believing; wanted to embrace secular humanism, existentialism or rationalism.
Those times have indeed led me to searching the Bible and asking other's what and why they believe.
But ultimately, it's not reading the Bible more, or praying more, or seeing God in people around me, or remembering His faithfulness that keeps me believing.
It's this abstract, absolutely uncontainable, indescribable, very real Thing that goes beyond my reason and beyond my feeling and beyond the definable that keeps holding on to me.
So even when I try to let go, I can't. It's got me. I cannot not believe.
Even with my doubts and inability to live in the tidy little bungalow, I still believe.
I know that by merely expressing my thoughts, doubts and questions, many of you may doubt me and be very uncomfortable with this entry. But my hope is, that others who aren't sure will continue searching and may be taken captive by this utterly unbelievable God.

Creed by Rich Mullins track #13 on player
I believe in God the Father almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried
And I believe what I believe

It's what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man
I believe that He who suffered

Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God's mighty right hand
I believe that He's returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men
I believe it, I believe it I believe it I believe it, I believe it
I believe in God the Father almighty

Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,
Our Lord I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends
And I believe what I believe

It's what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fragile Growth

"And they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." ~Isaiah the Prophet, Isaiah 61:3b

Okay, so it's not an oak, it's a maple. Brad noticed it growing up between the garage and the compost box (in a 3 inch wide space) a few years ago. Standing true and straight, protected (and probably fed) by the compost box, the tree grew to about 6 feet tall before Brad transplanted it. As he dug it up last fall, he saw that the base and the roots were twisted because of the garage's foundation. He gently carved away at the base, trying not to damage the roots. After planting it, we waited all winter wondering if the fragile tree would make it. This spring...still standing tall...still very fragile...the maple has leaves! The volunteer sapling with the damaged root system survived.

"Zee grrrapes, zay haf to sufair to prodoos zee finest vine in zee vurld." ~some, hard to understand French woman on a PBS travel show
The host of the travel show was in Burgundy, France talking with a wine maker. She, the vintner, was showing him the centuries old vineyards and explaining why Burgundy wine is so wonderful and rare. The soil is awful and the environmental conditions less than ideal for most plants. She went on to say that the grapes have to suffer...that when the vines have to work to grow in the harsh environment they pick up unique, special flavors not found anywhere else in the world. The suffering grapes produce one of kind wine.

"With a very dry and strong southerly wind blowing, we could use some moisture..."
~Dave Winslow, Weather guy on KTIV

Living on the Great Plains, we're used to, shall we say, strong air currents. But even by Iowa's standards, we've experienced brutal, sustained winds the last 2 1/2 days and nights. I spent all day Saturday planting flowers and tomatoes and dividing perennials...would the fragile plants survive the onslaught...I wondered. I tried to keep them watered; I moved the ones I could to more protected areas, but some just had to endure the harsh, dry winds. I was sure my tomato plants would snap. Sleeping with the windows open, I woke up about 3 a.m. to quiet; the winds finally died down. First thing this morning, I stepped out to check on my plants. I think they've made it. The tomatoes didn't snap and the others were already straighting back up. The wind swept little plants endured.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~Jesus, John 16:33

I don't know what your story is, but we've all experienced tight spots that damage our root system, less than ideal growing conditions, and dry hot winds that threaten to snap us off at the base. We all have times in our lives of fragility. Times when standing tall seems impossible, fruit non-existent and growth unattainable.

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us...." ~Paul, Romans 5:2b-5a

I know sometimes it feels like no amount of character building seems worth the pain. But whatever your struggle today, I do believe (for myself and for you) that He is shaping you into an oak...cultivating one of a kind grapes in your heart...and giving you a strong foundation to endure the winds to come...not so you'll be happy or so you won't have to suffer anymore, but for His glory and renown.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Words aptly written...

"Sticks and stones may brake my bones but words will never hurt me."
Whoever came up with this little childhood gem should be racked. It's one of the biggest lies that I've heard.
Words do hurt. They can do unrepairable damage. Italic
I remember stinging words from every stage in my life. Like whispers in the quiet night, hurtful, pain filled words come back and echo in my ears when I'm doubting myself, or doubting God.
Why do words hurt so much? And why are they so easily recalled? I feel like some of the painful words spoken to me left an indelible print on who I am as a person. Having a kid make fun of my teeth or my ears, left me always self conscious of those traits. Having boys in junior high rate me compared to other girls left scars on my heart that just don't go away. As an adult, I know they were speaking out of their own insecurities and their own pain and that there was little truth in what they said. But even as adults, we suffer the pain of cutting remarks...words that degrade us or bring into question our worth. The legacy left by those hurtful words is a vast, deep one.
Thankfully, I've also been on the receiving end of beautiful, encouraging, Truth filled words. Growing up, my mom rarely spoke harshly, raised her voice or made any negative comments to us. She just didn't. Both my parents, in general, live Proverbs 25:11 "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." They walk through life handing out golden apples left and right.
So, Jennifer, at GDWJ ( recently posted several blogs giving her own reasons for blogging. Of course, that got me thinking about why I blog.
Is it simply exhibitionist tendencies? Is it the desire to be known...really known on a heart level? Is it because I love to write? I didn't come up with any one answer, but I guess I blog because I know the impact words have had on my own life. I know that words can do more damage than sticks and stones...but words can also bring healing, encouragement, insight, wisdom, peace, grace, joy...words can leave a vast, deep, legacy of love.
That's partly what I hope my blog does. I know I'm honest to a fault at times and it probably either freaks some people out or gives them the impression that I'm always one step away from some sort of "Peaceful Pines" institution. But, I blog, and try to be honest doing it, because I'm compelled to share (hopefully) life giving words.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rough hewn

It was a rough few hours last night at the Horstman household. After sitting in the rain and wind without an umbrella for over an hour, watching my daughter play soccer, I gently informed her that we couldn't stay for the boys game, but had to head back home (a half hour drive) right away.
I prepared myself. I knew what was coming.
No tears.
No rolling eyes.
No yelling, angry protests.
Just a clenched jaw and a stony silence. My 15 year old was upset and angry.
I tried not to let it change my mood.
Good Game! You played well!...thanks
Do you want a steamer before we leave to warm you up?...sure
As we drove on in silence, I started to question my decision. Maybe we should've wasn't that big of a deal...what's another two hours...
Then I heard the voice of Reason reassuring me I'd done the right thing. We needed to be home. The rest of the family needed us home.
I thought of all I'd done the last few days, specifically for her:
drove 15 miles out of my way to pick her up and take her to another town 10 miles the other direction so she could eat a special supper with friends...
waited in that other town while she was with those friends then drove her back home...
got up early to make her favorite muffins for breakfast...
went to the grocery store at 7 a.m. to get drinks she told me she needed for the soccer team...
dropped everything and drove like a maniac to her game after she called me panicking because she didn't have her home game socks...
But, I realized, none of it mattered at that moment. All that mattered to her, right then, was that we didn't stay for the boys game. No amount of gifts, running around, schedule changing, or words of encouragement mattered. Thankfully, Reason kept me from saying any of this. I just drove on, pondering.
I do this to God all the time. ALL THE TIME.
My life is like the best Christmas morning ever! I'm like a kid surrounded with gifts that I asked for and dozens that I didn't dare ask for because they're beyond my wildest expectations. But instead of revelling in the moment, I sit in the middle of my presents, disappointed by the one that is missing from under the tree. I clench me teeth and sit in stony silence wondering Why didn't He give me that? I've asked for years's a good thing...why won't He give me that?
As I sat in the van, with one of my greatest "gifts" sitting next to me, I unclenched my jaw and broke the silence with Him. I began to thank God for all He's given me: for all the times I've called on Him in a panic and He's rescued me...for all the trivial things I thought I needed that's He's patiently provided...for all the essentials He gives me every day that I all too often take for granted.
The rest of the night was fine. She got over it (which I knew she would), I kept my cool and didn't make it worse (another gift), and I went to bed thanking Him.

track #11 on the player

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Hi Mom.
Once again, my week was so crazy (and I'm not that organized) that I didn't get a card or gift off to you...bad daughter, I know. It's one of the nasty things about living far away, I can't do things last minute!
So, I'm sorry my sentiments have to come via a computer screen.
I love you, Mom.
I know I don't always show it and can be reserved and reticent...but I do love you.
I love your ever present smile.
I love your quick laugh.
I love your true heart.
I love your steadfast faith.
I love the grace you extend to everyone.
I love the way you unabashedly love Dad, your daughters & sons in laws & all your grand kids.
I love your constant awe and wonder.
But most of all, I love your love for God...
I love you, Mom.
May your heart be blessed and encouraged today.
Love, Patty

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hand Woven

I don't know why I turned down that road. I never go there. Concentrating on the next task, I usually speed right by without ever noticing the iron gates, gravestones, and sign announcing the entrance to the cemetery. But today, in the cool rain and mist, I made the right hand turn and drove into St. Pat's Catholic cemetery.
Intrigued by the old markers, I drove slowly, taking mental notes of the dates and names. All the time, I wondered about the lives lived, the children lost, the spouses mourned.
Life is so short, I mused to myself.
That's when I saw it. Amid the Kennedy's, Mulhearn's, and O'Donnell's stood a big red stone family marker with "Burnes"engraved on the obelisk.
What? Burnes?
Curious, I got out and walked through the wet grass.
Yep..That's what it said...Thos Burnes: born December 24th 1833 died 1897.
Is Thos short for Thomas, I wondered.
Who was he? How did he get here? Could we be related?
Burnes is my maiden name and frankly, there aren't that many of us. I grew up in Michigan but I know my forefathers settled in Hopkins Minnesota, but I never expected to find my name in a cemetery in Northwest Iowa.
What did it mean? Did it mean that this place I fought so many years to call home could really be where my roots were?
I don't know. I don't know what it means, if anything.
I've thought a lot lately about God's big picture and how we only see a tiny, minuscule part.
My daughter is doing a project for English on families. They had to find relatives that came through Ellis Island. Well, all my ancestors have been here too long, but several of Brad's came from the Netherlands at the turn of the century and did make the journey through the Island. In searching for records, we found that there was a unique surname of good friends of ours from college that were on the same boat as Brad's ancestors. Amazing isn't it? To think that people over 100 years ago could have had a connection, long forgotten, that was remade by great grandchildren who never knew?
That's how it felt to see my name on that family marker. Could I have a connection to this place beyond marriage?
It would take much more research to find out, but the point is, God is ever weaving our lives together in a tapestry beyond out comprehension.
Our lives are so short and in two generations, no one will remember me or anything I've done, but somehow, how I live now, will impact future generations in ways I can't begin to imagine. It feels overwhelming and sweet, and lovely and big all at the same time.

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty and I will meditate on your wonderful works... They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness."
Psalm 145:1-7(italics mine)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

State of Play

I'm not a big game player. When we have friends over, we rarely pull out the cards or game board. But I have been know to engage in a nasty little diversion I think you'll all recognize. It's the ever addicting past time where everyone's a loser called: "Let's Compare!"

As a woman, I'm an excellent player having practiced from an early age. No matter the category...houses, clothes, weight, husbands, kids, talents...I play often and competitively. But, as I just stated, I'm always the loser. the other day I played, in my mind, a rousing game in the spiritual category; comparing spiritual gifts, effectiveness, God's love, and maturity level with some of my sisters in Christ.

When I'd exhausted myself mentally, I realized, yet again, that the outcome is always the same. It' a ridiculous vain pursuit, this comparison game. Much like tic tack toe...always ending in scratch.
Upon reflection, I decided there are only three possible endings in the comparison game:
1. feel like a complete and total loser because of how short we fall
B. judge the other person so we'll feel better about ourselves or
3. (my personal favorite) accuse God of not caring about us as much as others because if He cared, He'd make us ok.

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Romans 12:3

Paul's words to the Romans bring both comfort and conviction to me. Inherent in the verse is permission, even exhortation, not to compare and that, of course in comforting. Conviction because I begin to realize that my comparisons come from a place of pride...a place of dissatisfaction with what God's given me, with how He's made me...a place that demands what I think I deserve and screams out "I want more for me!".

A few verses later, after Paul names several different gifts and talks about how we all have different strengths that we should use whole-heartedly, he says "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:9-10

"You are not here for you" once again resounds in my head, ever calling me out of myself and into community...calling me away from the comparison game and into a more satisfying match of out-loving or out-gracing or out-giving my brothers and sisters...calling me away from pride and back to the foot of the cross where true selflessness exists.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


" repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..." Isaiah 15:30

Why is repenting, resting, waiting, and trusting so hard?
Arranging, planning, managing...those are easy.
But, although I'm no Biblical scholar, I don't recall in all my years of reading scripture and listening to sermons ever hearing an exhortation to contrive & manipulate our own circumstances.
Yet, that seems as natural to me as breathing. I don't even realize I do it sometimes. And honestly, if you know me, I'm not a control freak...I'm an "in the moment" kinda girl. So how do you more naturally managing people do it???
If I'm laid back & struggle, it must be awful for you.
Or perhaps personality has nothing to do with. Perhaps it's simply human nature to want "dominion" over our selves and our surroundings.
Either way, repentance, rest, quietness and trust are hard things to live.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:1-3

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eagle Eye

We watched the movie "Eagle Eye" last week. A sci-fi, techno thriller, it's basically about a rogue computer that has access to literally everything and everyone--intimate details of everyones personal lives.
You only know what I tell you about me. Anyone in my life only sees or knows what I share. They may make observations about body language or tone of voice and infer things about what I'm thinking or feeling...but no one knows anything for sure about me (or you) unless we share it.
Accept, of course, God.
He knows it all. The good, the bad, and the really really ugly. Whether I bring my anger, pain, hurt, judgmental attitude, or jealous spirit to Him or not, he knows it.
I heard Sheila Walsh speak several years ago and she said something that stuck with me: "God has seen the whole movie of my life and he loves me anyway."
He, the real Eagle Eye, sees it all and loves me anyway.
So yesterday, as I sat watching the rain and playing a spiritual game of "He loves me, He loves me not" in my head (based, mind you, on my own perceptions), plucking imaginary petals off a fictitious daisy, He reminded me of His Eagle Eye.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Friday, April 17, 2009

Laying it down...again

giving up me...
giving up my rights....
giving up my ways...
laying it all down...again...

"Here is my heart
this is my everything
take it and make me new...
leave me wanting nothing but you" ~Eddie Kirkland

Monday, April 13, 2009


A few weeks ago, I had to call someones home right after they'd been through a difficult several weeks. As I dialed, I fully expected to get their answering machine and leave a message. But after a few rings, she picked up. When I got off the phone I thought, there's no way I would have answered my phone. There's no way, the day after my mom died, that I'd answer the phone in a "normal" voice.
Why? Because (and it's only recently been brought to my attention--by none other than God) I am, in fact, a habitual avoider.

I've always been a procrastinator, but I didn't realize how much I avoid.
House cleaning.
Hard situations.
People who bug me.
People who hurt my feelings.
People who suck the last bit of energy out of me.
People in general.
Really stupid, trivial things.

Trying to mend my ways, to be obedient, to not miss out on blessings He has in store for me, I'm working on non-avoidance.

But me, being me, wants to know why I avoid.
As you can imagine, there are likely tons of reasons (fear, for instance), but the one that strikes me today, is that I avoid because often, I try to do things on my own. And we all know that failure waits right around the corner from self sufficiency.

"If we undertake work for God and get out of touch with Him, the sense of responsibility will be overwhelmingly crushing; but if we roll back on God that which He has put upon us, He takes away the sense on responsibility by bringing in the realization of Himself."
Oswald Chamber My Utmost of His Highest

I've had several opportunities the last few days to practice non-avoidance...and so far so good. With His reminders, strength and grace, perhaps I'm on my way to being a Reformed Avoider.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Justify: 1)to prove to be right or reasonable or 2) to regard as righteous or worthy of salvation

Everyday I try to justify myself: to prove myself or my action or thoughts as right or reasonable.
When I sin, I make excuses.
I don't want to admit my mistakes.
I don't want to be wrong...I want to be justified... to be regarded as worthy.
I want to do it on my own.
I don't want to need someone else to justify me so I can be worthy.
I want to stand on my own merits.
I don't want to need someone else to justify me.
But here's the sad fact: on my own, I'm utterly hopeless.
I screw up all the time and even when I do do nice things, all the crap outweighs the meagre good.
The only way I can be justified or proved right or regarded as righteous and worthy is through Jesus...the only human who didn't screw up.
He's the only one who can justify me...make me righteous. Only through His perfect sacrifice...on the cross, am I able to be ok.
So while you're dining on your Easter ham or enjoying your jelly beans tomorrow chew on this: "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:22-24

Monday, April 6, 2009


You are not here for you.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how those words came to echo through my brain and are etched in my mind like a permanent fixture. Throughout the day and even in the night, each time I think somethings not fair or am tempted to have hurt feelings or want recognition or need validation, the words come back to me. Not in a demeaning, demoralizing way...but in a gentle, reminding sort of way.
This morning, quite frankly like many mornings, I felt like I needed yet another reassurance of God's love for me. Opening my Bible, I read the words from I John 3:16: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Do I really need any more assurances (even though I often feel as if I do)? He laid down His life for me and now asks me to daily lay down my life for others. He loves me because He's allowing me and convicting me and helping me realize the truth of the words "you are not here for you."
The hardest part of this, for me, is that truly laying down my life means anonymity.
Anonymity, according to the dictionary means: the quality or state of being unknown or unacknowledged. We don't like to be unknown. In fact, we all have a deep longing to be truly, deeply known. Yet, when we know we're known by God, the Creator of the universe, being known for what we do seems somehow superfluous.
When we're laying down our lives there's no attention getting, no recognition, sometimes even misunderstanding of what you did or didn't do. Being willing to be ok with all of that often trips me up. Yet the call "you are not here for you" means giving up me.

**After thinking about and rereading the above post, I can't help but notice the dischord between talking about anonymity and publishing a very public blog. Weird.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Scheduled Outrage

After signing in, my eyes skimmed the page and I saw the announcement at the top:

"Scheduled outrage at 4:00PM PDT...".

Wow! That's weird, I thought. Is blogspot sponsoring a public demonstration of some sort?

Huh. Maybe that's what I need...a scheduled outrage. I never know what to do with my anger...

I looked again.

"Scheduled outage"

Oh. That makes a lot more sense.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Woman at Rest

I'm not talking about a sleeping woman. I'm not talking about a confident woman. I'm not talking about an accomplished woman. I'm not talking about a calm woman. I'm not talking about a passive woman. I'm not talking about a positive woman. I"m not talking about a perfect woman.
I'm talking about a woman at rest.
She speaks truth and sees even the most difficult situations clearly.
She doesn't deny hardship or pain and allows emotions as they come.
She's not always quiet and demure but there's something in her demeanor which exudes peace.
She's not necessarily okay with who she is, but she's great with who God is and it shows.
No need to control, contrive or manage...God's got it.
No need to hang on to the past or worry about the future...God's got it.
She can live in the moment...good, bad or ugly... because God's got it.
She is a thing of beauty and a rarity.
There are many imitations in our world and churches, but few women who truly rest.
If you're privileged enough to know one, thank her today for making her world a better place.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Simple Life

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverence the race marked out for us." Heb 12:1b

What strikes me about this verse that there is a distinction between "everything that hinders" and "the sin that...entangles". We tend to assume that whatever would hinder us from our Spiritual walk with God, or our "race" would be a sin...but that's not what it says.
On "The Amazing Race" Sunday night, team members had to strip down to their underwear and run over a mile through the streets of Moscow. One of the guys had huge boots on. There he was, sans clothing, but with huge bulky boots.
When I read this verse this morning, that picture came to mind. Those things that hinder us that are not sins are like those big, clunky army boots. They're not wrong or bad but they do nothing to help us run the race swiftly and with perserverence.
I know what's hindering me...expectations, too many commitments, dreams & wishes...

Talking to a friend the other day, we meandered into a conversation about kids activities and people choosing simple lives. I live in a tiny town where, frankly, there aren't always a lot of distractions. That's a blessing. But even here, in Mayberry, life can be hectic and it can be easy to strap on army boots and carry layers of unneccessary baggage while running the "race set out for me". Daily, it's an effort to seek God and willingly shed the extra limit the kids participation in activities, to limit my own commitments (to good things), to rest and teach rest to my kids, to show hospitality without "entertaining", to let go of what I think are the "have to's" and sit at His feet...the list goes on...

The other verse that I read this morning that I think dovetails with Hebrews 12 is Psalm 46:10a..."Cease striving and know that I am God."

Monday, March 16, 2009


"I run from suffering people, I know I do" confessed my friend, tearfully.

My sweet, godly friend felt guilty about missed opportunities to reach out and share in someone else's life. We talked at length about offering ourselves to people. How we tend to think if we don't have something big to offer, we shouldn't offer at all. Or how satan tells us we have nothing to offer so we should stay away.

But Jesus didn't live that way. He offered himself to each person who crossed his path. He offered peace, healing, hope, love, and grace through His words, silence, actions, reactions, prayers and tears.

What do you have to offer the next person who crosses your path? A smile? Compliment? The Good News? Food? Clothing? Encouraging words? Wisdom? Or perhaps silence?

Willingly offer...willingly stay emtionally and physically with someone who's suffering and see how God works.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Active Dying

As I write this, my dear friend and her precious family are staring cancer and it's effects square in the face. In an email, her daughter (and also a close-as-a-sister friend) wrote that the doctor questioned if her body was beginning the "active process of dying".
Aside from the obvious sadness at this news, and the tears, and desire to be close to all of them, the phrase "active process of dying" struck me.
We think of death as a state of stagnancy not a process of activity. And yet, in our spiritual life, death is all about an active process.
In Angela Morrow's artical The Journey Towards Death she states that "The dying process usually begins well before death actually occurs." If you're a Christian, the day you acknowledged that you needed a Savior and couldn't save yourself, is the day the active process of dying began.
We don't want to die. Even though it's inevitable, we don't like that we are going to die physically. But in the spiritual realm, it seems even harder. As I pointed out in an earlier blog, we love ourselves and we love our sin. We don't want to give up either. We (I) say I want to live life to the full. But I can't, truly live, until I daily die...daily give up my rights, my "glory", my agenda, for His.
It's tough...this active process of dying. But die we must.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:24 "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Not an easy process, dying. Losing everything you hold dear...losing who you thought you were and who you expected to it all up and for what?
Jesus tell us in Revelation 3 "To him who overcomes, I will give the right ot sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne."

**I know that none of these thoughts are new and frankly it feels a little half done, but I'm still processing it. Maybe I'll write more later. By the way, if you want to read some more on irony in our Christian life, check out my friend Jennifers blog: "Getting Down With Jesus" and click on "Beautiful Irony"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sisterly Love

"In thee my soul shall own combined the sister and the friend." Catherine Killigrew

Dear Kameron,

When I reflect on who you are, the single most descriptive word that comes to mind is humble. Even as you read the last sentence, I imagine you, with tears welling up in your eyes, shaking your head, denying the truth of it.

And it is true, Kameron. I have never, in my life, experienced an ounce of judgement from you...never...not even when it would have been justified.

You freely lavish grace on each person blessed enough to have even a casual conversation with you.

Your faith, tested and tried, is a beautiful, deep, rich well that I've been privileged from which to drink and grow.

Your words of wisdom and understanding have been a balm to my soul my entire life.

Your kindness and mercy drench those around you with God's love.

You are amazing...beautiful, intelligent, creative, funny, wise, discerning, well read, and strong... and you have no idea.

May your birthday be filled with lavish blessings, not the least of which would be that you get a glimpse of how dearly you are loved...


Monday, March 2, 2009

Why are you here?

The following are a few unedited journal entries from last week...

2/25 "You are not here for you."

2/26 Driving back from Sioux City, listening to Catholic radio, the words were crystal clear to me. "You are not here for you." I started crying, realizing once again, that I live, most of the time, for me.

The guy on the radio (Ben somebody) was a "religion consultant" for the TV show Joan of Arcadia, which I loved for the brief time it aired. He (Ben) was talking about how Joan (the main character who had regular face to face encounters with God) never reaped the benefits of all her experiences with she always struggled with self-sacrifice. That's the moment when the words "You are not here for you" rang loud and clear in my head and heart.
"You don't exist for yourself, Patty, I made you for others." God then proceeded to list all the "others" he'd made me for...among the list were people I struggle with, people I deeply love, people who are like me and individuals who are drastically different; friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers...
The phrase kept going through my head like it was on one of those electronic message boards..."you are not here for exist for are not here for exist for others..." and on and on.
The idea of existing for others is hardly a new concept. Yet once again, I needed to know; I needed to remember why I spend time on this earth...

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he prepared in advance for us to do" Ephesians 2:10

2/27 Driving to Josh & MB's pops concert, listening to the radio, we stumbled on a song that I hadn't heard. As I listened, there was a phrase in the chorus that I was sure I wasn't hearing right. I asked the kids if they knew the song or phrase, they claimed they didn't know either.
If the lead singer was saying what I thought he was saying, I was shocked.
Then, today, home sick with the flu, I switched on the TV and saw these early 20-somethings singing the same song I'd heard on the radio. Again, I couldn't quite believe I was hearing the chorus correctly, so now, armed with the song name & group (America's Suiteheart by Fallout Boy), I googled.
I was right...the last phrase in the chorus is"I'm in love with my own sin".
Yep, that's what it says: "I'm in love with my own sin".
I haven't researched the group enough to know what they're all about...if it's satire, social commentary or just a bunch of kids looking for cool lyrics; but the Truth of the phrase hit me.
I am, in deed, in love with my own sin. And because I'm in love with my own sin, I have BIG problems when God tells me "You're not here for you".
Admit it, we love our sin. Maybe not all of it and probably not in theory; we know it's bad and that it hurts us and others, but on some fundamental level, we love our sin. We guard it, justify it, rationalize it, protect it, nurse it...we'd do just about anything to keep ourselves in control of our lives...which is THE sin. We want ourselves in the center and everything else, including God, as little satellites revolving around us.

"You are not here for you."

"For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do" Ephesians 2:10

Thursday, February 26, 2009


"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?
The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him." Proverbs 20:6,7

Dear Dad,
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" Anyone who knows you, Dad, finds faithfulness in you;
faithfully loving mom,
faithfully loving us, your children and grandchildren,
faithfully seeking God,
and faithfully serving and ministering to each person you meet.

Your children and grandchildren are blessed by you, Dad;
by your faithfulness,
by your love,
by your righteousness,
and by your blamelessness.
Each person who has contact with you senses
your caring heart,
your keen intellect,
your gracious spirit,
and your unabashed love for God.
You encourage and build up friends and strangers alike;
where ever you go, Dad, you're an offering.

May you be blessed today
as you celebrate
72 years of life...
72 years pf blessing...
72 years of God's hand ever present in your life!

I love you, Dad! Happy Birthday!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Clear Blue

Sunrise by Brandon Heath
You wanna sound off you can't find the words to
Nothin' makes sense in the way that it used to
Can't find the plus in the positive thinking
The well's run dry and you're not done drinking

Clouds start comin' and the sky will fall
Clock stares back from the bedroom wall
Now you're breathin' just to make it through the night

All you need is a sunrise
Just a moment of dawn
If you're lost in the twilight
Close your eyes and move on
When you're tired in the waiting
Even though it's gonna take you
A little more time
Just a little more time the sun's gonna find you

Holding your days like a stack of paper
Then you're chasing the wind as the pages scatter
You can save a few but you can't get 'em all back
So get out fast with your heart in tact

Find yourself on the very edge
Lying awake in an empty bed
Now you're breathin' just to make it through the night

All you need is a sunrise
Just a moment of dawn
If you're lost in the twilight
Close your eyes and move on
When you're tired in the waiting
Even though it's gonna take you
A little more time
Just a little more time the sun's gonna find you

Looking out on a clear blue Iowa sky without a cloud in sight, I'm reminded once again that there's always hope for a sunrise...always hope.

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you...The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end." Isaiah 60: 1, 19-20

I don't know your past hurts, present sorrows, or future fears...but I do know there is always hope...He who is calling you is faithful...

Monday, February 9, 2009


On FB (face book) I have access to both my son's & daughter's sites (that's part of why I have fb). When I checked my MB's last week I noticed she'd changed something....she'd put her "life verse" right under her name.
When each of the kids were born, Brad & I picked out a life verse for them; I also prayed (and have continued to pray) that God would "write His name on their heart"...or become real to each of them personally. The life verse isn't something we've made a huge deal about, but obviously it's impacting MB.
I wasn't given a life verse when I was parents were not Christians yet. But in the last ten years, God's given me many life verses...words that make an impact on my heart and leave an indelible impression.
One night, in the midst of my darkest depression, when I didn't think I'd make it until morning, God gave Brad the insight, wisdom, and strength to step in and intervene on my behalf. Psalm 40 became very real to me: "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Brad was God's physical presence to me, taking my hand and lifting me. That wasn't the end of the struggle, but it was yet another evidence of God's faithfulness to me.
I've thought alot lately about this verse...and the firm place to stand. I have no doubt that I'm on a solid rock; The Solid Rock~ Jesus.
I guess, growing up, I pictured true, solid faith, or someone standing on the rock, kinda like a cartoon: confident Super Faith Girl, with hands on hips, chin up, cape & hair blowing in the breeze, boldly going wherever God wanted her next.
But, as I wrote in a collective journal that a few close friends and I have, the truth of my faith is more like someone shipwrecked on the rock. Pulled from the dangerous seas, I lay, sprawled out, desperately hanging on while the wind & waves threaten and even the rock seems slippery. Most days it feels too risky to actually stand...I more like cling for dear life, afraid at any moment of being swallowed by the sea. I don't feel like a confident Super Faith Girl with my cape flapping in the wind.
The reality of life is that people die--children & loved ones, churches needlessly split, people screw up and sin, they get divorces, they intentionally and unintentionally hurt others, parents abandon their children, mental illness & depression are real...and we all end up shipwrecked. And even after we're rescued, all of the above still doesn't go away.
As this movie (of me on the rock) was playing in my head and I was praying and telling God all this, He, for a brief moment, pulled back the camera for a wide angle shot. The shipwrecked girl clinging for dear life on a little outcropping of rock wasn't what I thought. I could see that I wasn't clinging to a tiny piece of rock, but firmly planted on a huge bed rock foundation.
I realized that, as I wrote in my last blog, God's got me. I don't have to be Super Faith Girl...I just have to be me. With all my doubts, insecurities, short comings, questions, failures and yes, with depression, He's got me. Through the crap, He's got me.
Continuing to live life in faith, not giving up, not giving in, is standing on the Rock even when it seems like there's no standing involved.

Some of you reading this have never struggled with depression, or your faith. Praise God! That's wonderful for you.

Others of you are more like me. Faith is a challenge. Following & trusting God involves labor.

Some of you maybe think I'm crazy, talking to God and're not sure what you believe or if you believe anything.

If you're part of the first group, praise God and please realize that every one's faith story is different.

If you're part of the second group...well, I don't know what to say because it's a daily battle and although I know I'm safe on the rock, I often don't feel it.

And if you feel like you're shipwrecked and clinging to a plank ready to drown and there's no rocks in sight, please contact me.*