Thursday, November 17, 2011


The annual silent-killer is upon us once again. The oft paralyzing pressure of holiday gift giving.

By definition, the word "gift" means something that is given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without it being earned.

In essence, the thought reads quite pleasant. Especially the part that says this: something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient...

Everyone enjoys receiving something for nothing, whether we admit it or not.

However, when a gift no longer remains a gift, but is influenced by an inherent need to deserve the gift, then it becomes a trade, and the silent-killer kicks into full gear.  'Now, I owe something in return.'  It is no longer just a gift, but a responsibility to make sure the gift-giver knows that the gift given was appreciated, whether it was truly enjoyed or not. This sort of social pressure, intended to bless, more often introduces a burden, to the giver and receiver alike.

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I sheepishly admit, I have received Christmas gifts in the past that I have had absolutely no use for.

Not the right size.
Not the right color.
Not the right style.
Not the right whatever.
And, with no receipt.

I’m sure you can relate.

Nonetheless, I like to be frugal, practical and resourceful.

I have a special drawer that houses a variety of items that once sat under someone else’s Christmas tree waiting for the trade. This storage place is known as my “re-gifting” collection. A host of unneeded things waiting for just the right recipient on just the right occasion. Like I stated, I like to be frugal, practical and resourceful (other words for re-gifting), especially at Christmastime when the silent-killer of gift-giving pressure comes crushing down upon me and my bank account.

I imagine I, too, have given, more than once, a sweetly wrapped gift that made its way to that “special” drawer or cupboard or box; or worse, the garage for the next yard sale. Or maybe my re-gifting collection are really just re-gifted gifts. Hmmm... (To any one reading this utterly transparent admission of guilt of re-gifting or giving of useless gifts, I seek your forgiveness now.) The quote “It’s the thought that counts” seems all too frequently, an excuse at one time or another to justify meaningless trinkets dressed in shiny green and red wrap. My heart discloses that I have hidden behind those words. I want to defend myself by appointing our consumer driven culture to blame, but I cannot.  The truth is it's the gift that counts.

I am learning that the most excellent gift of deepest value worth receiving and giving AND re-gifting is more of an obedient action than a tangible thing.  At least and at best, this is what Jesus believed. And commanded.

In Matthew chapter 22, verse 36, the Pharisees questioned Jesus:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

The Teacher responded in verses 37-39:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”


Love is not a thought. Love is an action.

Let us vow to make gift giving different this year.

First, may we not buy gifts without special meaning; nor buy the lie that we must buy a gift.

Second, let us not give what we do not have. May we not be tempted to rack up debt, except the continuing debt to love others.

Third, may our gifts not merely say that we love each other, but let us show our love in action and in truth.

Here are just a few gift giving ideas and suggestions of how to package your gifts:

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is content. Love is humble. Love is unassuming. Love honors others. Love is selfless. Love controls self.  Love forgives and forgets. Love delights in goodness. Love always rejoices in the truth.  Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails.*

Love. The only gift that never fails.

Always the perfect size; never too big or ever too slight.

Always the right color; never dreary, forever shining bright.

Always the right style; never changing, always perfect and right.

Love. The most splendid gift worth giving. (And re-gifting.)

Happy Birthday Jesus. Happy Christmas All.

* 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Truth Always Sets Us Free

A tremulous, decade long trial of Alcoholism led me to whole-heartedly believe Rick's addiction was a disease. In 1956, Alcoholism received its disease label by The American Medical Association. This modern theory states that problem drinking is sometimes caused by a disease in the brain, characterized by altered brain structure and function. Many in the medical and science field claim it as such, right up there with Diabetes, a disease without a cure, (or in which case, a cure for Alcoholism was offered by Dr. W. H. Sanders & Co. in 1904),  only treatable and controlled with medication and therapy (and abstinence). 

For 9+ years I have been deceived. For 9+ years I have believed that the sin that stole my childhood and more that half my life, that relentlessly tried to destroy my marriage was a disease

I grew up with drinking. It was all around me. I took my first drink of alcohol when I was 12. By the time I was 16 I was drinking and getting drunk fairly regularly. I was a good student. I was a great artist. I was a kind friend. And I was a partier. 
I was cool. I was popular. 

I was deceived. 
My years in high school and as a young adult were laced with irresponsibility of drinking too much, only to later think, "...boy, I'm getting old--it's becoming harder to recover from a hangover..." 

I was 25 when Rick and I met. I, still drinking, and Rick--a "real" drinker. 
We had lots of fun together--at first. 
We fell in love. Deeply. It truly was love at first sight. 

It wasn't until nearly 5 years into our marriage that I acknowledged we had a "real" problem.
He loved something else, someone else--more than me.

After another horrendous and fearful two years of drinking, fighting, anger, hating, and raging, my heart closed up. 

The evening of March 19th, 2002 I vowed to myself, to God, I would never touch alcohol again. It had become my poisonous enemy! 

After a night of complete blackout drunkenness, Rick chose to get sober--again--for real.

On March 20, 2002, he drove, by himself, to ER, where he was diagnosed with alcohol poisoning. After IV hydration and recovery, he admitted himself into rehab. During his 6 month treatment program we were educated about the disease of alcohol and drug addiction. We soon believed this "brain disease" was only manageable through sobriety, meds and counseling, but incurable.  They called it a "progressive disease". 

So, he began the work of treating his disease, and together, (by the grace of God alone), we began the work of healing our marriage.

Nearly a year passed and Rick remained sober, his mind and body still free of alcohol and drugs with the help and support of family, counselors, medication and sheer will.

On March 8, 2003, Rick was introduced to The real Great Physician.
On March 8, 2003, Rick gave his life to his Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today, Rick has been sober for 9 years and 5 months. I, too, diagnosed not as an addict, but an "abuser", am sober. 

For the last 9 years I have believed and spoke frankly of the addiction that gripped my husband (and I), and many others I know and love, as a disease
Until today.

Today, I publicly claim that the doctors and therapists and AA groups are deceived. 

I heard it said that God's definition of drunkenness is not UNCONTROLLABLE drinking, but UNCONTROLLED drinking.

Yes, alcohol addiction is a disease, but not like Diabetes, or cancer, or Arthritis. Alcoholism is a disease of the soul. Alcoholism is sin. Addiction is sin. Uncontrolled drinking is sin.

In Galatians 5:21, Paul writes,
"Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

That's pretty scary. 

Many believe that God will take their addiction from them when He is ready...
Since when did Jesus say, at the cross, "...when I'm ready...?"
I believe that on that heart-wrenching, life-altering day up on Calvary Hill He was ready, and in a loud voice proclaimed, "Tetelestai"--It is finished. (John 19:30)

If you are a Christian, you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. {Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:4}
If you are a Christian, you have the supernatural power to control your lusts and sinful behaviors that only desire to steal, kill and destroy you. {Acts 1:8}
If you are a Christian, you are a new creation in Christ, the old man is dead. {2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:24}
If you are a Christian, you have been set free. You have the freedom to say, "No" to sin. {Rom. 6:17-18}

By the grace of God, let not the deception of our minds, hearts, and the Devil be our way any longer. {John 8:44,1 John 1:8, Rom. 8:2}
Children of God, we are called to be sacred vessels filled with His Holy Spirit.

“And be not drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit." Ephesians 5:18 
"We were under great pressure,  far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a peril, and  He will deliver us. On Him, we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us."  
2 Corinthians 1:10

Again, could the Bible more clear?

Natural wants are to be answered, but evil appetites must be checked and denied. To ask meat for our necessities, is our duty, we are taught to pray for daily bread; (but to ask meat for our lusts, is provoking God, Ps. 78:18). -Matthew Henry

Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.  John 8:31-32, Gal. 5:1

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Breath of God

After my most recent trial I began praying a new prayer.

"Father God, please prepare me for whatever You choose for my life…may I be rooted deeper in my faith and knowledge of You than ever before...may I not be shaken..."

I use the word “trial” to describe what has been, by far, the most life-changing experience I’ve been through to date. I wonder as I choose the word if it is worthy to convey such an experience of feeling the breath of God upon me. It just doesn’t seem to qualify.

Last year, my husband and I were overwhelmed to learn he was stricken with Stage 4 Lymphoma. Our lives abruptly shifted from a restful season of floating down the lazy river on a breezy Sunday afternoon to a season of white knuckling our faith, fingernails digging deep into the bedposts of life as emotional tidal waves and tornados of despair competed for the joy we had found in walking with Jesus Christ. 

I look back now and know as sure as I can see my hands that it was not me or my husband holding on for dear life and sanity, but God. It was the Lord who stepped into our trial and not only held on to us, but gently covered us from the pestilential storm of cancer. I have never, in all my roller coaster life, felt the divine protection and peace of heaven as I knew last year. 

The Spirit of the Lord was upon us.

I clung to His promises like a life preserver. I knew without them I would drown in my own deluded mind. God’s Word became a brilliant lighthouse leading me through the fog of uncertain tomorrows and protected me from temptations to walk by sight rather than faith. 

Isaiah 26:3 was and still remains one of my daily staples. 

“You will keep in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You; because he trusts in You.”

This leads me back four years ago when my two daughters and I traveled to Washington State to spend some much needed time with my little sister (“little” meaning, she is younger than me; God happened to bless her with the long legs and me with authority; I happen to think He favored her just a bit), and her kids. She left California over a decade ago. Since, our relationship has blossomed into a thing of vibrant beauty. It is said, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." This has been the case between us.  The long years apart have established and strengthened an intimate bond we failed to embrace during our younger years.  My heart gnaws with longing to spend time with her, and our visit was long overdue.

While there, the four cousins, little sister and I were blessed to go to Church together. A quaint body of kind faces and warm greetings gladly welcomed us. I followed little sister’s leading through the sanctuary and sat down to be fed. The visiting pastor's teaching was compelling and full of fire. I chewed on every word, taking notes as best I could. My pen flew across the stark white pages of my journal. Within the hour I had reproduced the preacher's message in chicken scratch; somewhat appearing to be secret code, of which I alone could translate. I was full-and satisfied.

During the service my eye caught little sister discreetly flagging for my attention. She passed me a manila colored note card that she had previously tucked in her Bible. I received the mysterious card with delight anticipating a special message just for me.

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe."
                                                            Ephesians 1:17-19a

As I eagerly read the typed words, unexpected thoughts flooded my mind.

“Why is she giving this to me?”
“Know Him better?”

I settled my confused and slightly insulted disappointment with my very own brilliant rationale.

“Obviously, she has no idea how well I know Him these days.”

(Little did I know just how rich and powerful and personal those very verses I had so hastily passed off as for someone else would mean to me one day.)

Months and years came and went and every so often I’d happen upon the manila colored note card. Each time I would grow increasingly curious.

“Why did she give this to me?”
“Does she know something I don’t?”

I began to allow God to teach my heart what this meant for me.

Surely I was in a deeper place with the Lord than ever before. I was thirsty and hungry for more of what He was willing to show me. Regardless, I was all over the place at times verses being the woman of a quiet and gentle spirit; I was still learning what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, “Be still…”

It wasn’t until I received a picture text from my beloved niece, little sister’s daughter, smack dab in the middle of my most recent trial, that it hit me!

My little sister may not have had any particular reason for giving Paul’s words to me that chilly Sunday morning in Washington, but God had every particular reason. He knew exactly how and what He was going to reveal to me in the future-

His indescribable presence.

Monday, July 18, 2011

His Bride

"You have stolen My heart, My sister, My bride; you have stolen My heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful is your love, My sister, My bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!"
Song of Solomon 4:9-10

The passion of Christ's heart burns within my soul! 
I can barely contain the torrential flood of overwhelming love and joyous revelation that I am His bride, His chosen, His gift from the Father. 

How delightful is my love toward Him.

This is His work.

Because I often wonder how can I live up to such an extraordinary calling when I so often fail in my own marriage here in this temporary life, what kind of bride am I through the holy eyes of the Bridegroom, the ultimate Husband, and Master, and Friend? 

I look in the mirror, into my own wandering eyes, pools of blue and gray, and I see stubborn leftover parts of a willful child dressed in sour pride and fear and discontent. A wicked voice determines to pin me to my old reputation of ugly and selfish and cold. 

The Bridegroom sweetly offers His faithful hand to me anyway, in spite of my fleshly disease, trusting the Divine Creator has created a new veil and gown for me. The color of righteousness white.

He smiles upon helplessness, my wretched soul melts, and as He teaches me to trust with a trust I have never known, I begin to feel safe and believe Him, learning to desire more and more the abandonment of who I once was, who I am now, and wholly crave the one He wants me to be.

I want to love with pleasing love.

Ah, then it occurs to me. I no longer feel the desperate need to be a better person, a better wife, a better Christian; what I feel is the compelling need to love Jesus.  

This is His work alone.

Humbled, I wait patiently, learning to trust Him completely to finish all He has begun and desires to do in me, His righteous bride. 

“Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me. I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." John 17:24-26

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Compromise Kills

My spiritual eyes burn with passionate pleadings and angst.
The devil tells me with subtle deception to 
"Close them, give rest, let [peace] refresh your weary sight". 

Enemy lie compresses Truth as thin, flimsy gauze dresses rotting disease.

"They say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You will have peace"'; And as for everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, They say, 'Calamity will not come upon you.'
Jeremiah 23:17

But, I cannot shut out the burning flame deep within my heart, my spirit, that speaks grieving whispers of terror for those who shamelessly walk with a limp-
the injured foot that keeps its step in his world, subjecting itself to temptation and defile, tickling its toes with flatter and sin- 
this follower's walk, crippled and brittle. 

O how our Savior was broken for our brokenness. 

Yet He remains the Truth and the Life that delivers the lame; 
even those who ignorantly and arrogantly choose to walk their own way with the weighted drag of sin, the ravenous cancer that chews away at the tickled toe.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love to the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; 
but he who does the will of God abides forever."
1 John 2:15-17

Be free, my beloved, 
Be free! 

Walk in the way of the Good Shepherd's leading.
Open thine eyes and see clearly His narrow path.
Step far from the edge of sin's enticing, compromising road 

and be healed.

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." 
Hebrews 10:22-23

Faith views each promise in its connection with the promise-giver and, because she does so, 
can with assurance say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!" Psalm 23:6

Thursday, June 23, 2011

how to be happy {blessed}

give much...expect little


live your life in love.

do what you would have done to you...

submit to one another.

be kind.

let not your heart be troubled...

keep your eyes fixed on things above...

your mind free from hate...


be grateful.


trust God alone.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!" Isaiah 26:3 nlt