Oatmeal is a Power Food

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
A picture of fitness, my dear husband is my model for healthy living. Nine years ago he taught me the secret of eating oatmeal for breakfast. Among the claims of this little power grain are that it reduces cholesterol, fights cancer and prevents heart disease. Those three reasons alone were enough to convince me to feature it in my breakfast time rotation. It took me several attempts to perfect my microwave oatmeal technique but now I am a pro. I cook my mo-mo (as Clara calls it) it three two-minute segments separated by a stir. This means that many mornings I have six minutes to use. Over a near decade I have learned that in two minutes I can:

  • Write four encouraging notes on my daughters' lunch napkins

  • Trade out my laundry

  • Surf Facebook and send up a prayer or two for some hurting pals

  • Make a list of things for which I'm thankful

  • Empty the dishwasher

The possibilities of what I can do in just two minutes are many. Turns out my little oats were stuffed with more than just nutrition. They were packed with the gift of time spent two minutes at a time.

This morning's passage is Matthew 8. This section is one of miracles. Jesus' displays His power through healing the sick, settling a raging storm and commanding demons. Truly there is no task too big for God.

As I pictured Christ bringing health and peace to so many, I visualized that same power dwelling in me. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine and that the power of God lives inside us. The power living inside me gives me the option to choose what to do with the two-minute intervals that pop up throughout my day.

I may not be able to bring healing to the sick, but I can use two minutes to pray for their health. I can not calm the storms that rage around me, but I can spend two minutes penning an encouraging note to a friend in the midst of a storm. I likely will never command the obedience of demons but I can take two minutes to store God's word in my heart and prepare me for battle.

I am thankful for any health benefits that my morning mo-mo sends my way. However, the lasting potential that breakfast food grants me is the gift of six minutes spent just two minutes at a time.

Jesus, today I will have roughly 500 two-minute increments in my day. I have 500 opportunities to cherish or squander. Today I pray that I will pause whether it's over a bowl of oatmeal or my washer and dryer and use some of those 500 gifts to offer healing and hope to the world around me.

The Way is Hard

Matthew 7:14b The way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Every Wednesday morning I am privileged to meet with the most extraordinary group of women.

  • Carolyn is the mother of a special boy whose body came with unique challenges. With his packaging, come weeks filled with problems that seem about four sizes too big for her shoes. How can God ask so much of His servants?

  • Kristi has her house on the market. She has already received two offers that unexpectedly fell through. Even though she now has a third, it's impossible to relax and rejoice. Why can it be so difficult to discern God's will?

  • Michelle has four children six and under. This week her second youngest, Grace, pulled a pot of boiling rice off the stove and onto herself. She's now covered with second degree burns. When does parenting get any easier?

Through the seasons of my life I have asked each of these questions myself. I have learned by experience that the way is hard.

Today I am reading Matthew 7. As Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount, he covers topics from the danger of judging others and the importance of treating others the way we ourselves wish to be treated. Smack dab in the middle of this passage Jesus exhorts that "the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Verse 14)

Surely Jesus wouldn't just leave me hopeless with this pronouncement. Where is the good news in the gospel? Thankfully, Jesus also gives His followers two strongholds to which we can cling during difficult days.

  1. The Power of Prayer (Verses 7-11) - All you have to do is ask. It sounds so easy. It is. Help is just one conversation away.

  2. The Promise of Preservation (Verses 24-27) - Rain falls on every roof. It is the home whose hearts are turned to Jesus that find preservation through the storms of life. The winds blow and the storms may rage but Jesus' presence with the believer makes him able to stand.

Each Wednesday the women I congregate with inspire me. More importantly they walk with me through the storms of life. They strengthen me with their prayers. They encourage me with their presence. Those "few" make my way less hard.

Jesus, thank you for the gift of godly friendship. You have granted me the precious opportunity to walk through the seasons of my life with other women. Though all my questions may not be answered, my problems certainly seem more manageable when shared with women whose heart's beat for You. Today I will walk beside them with the gift of my prayers and my presence. Together we will persevere.

Sounds Like Beauty to Me

Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.
I can hear the birds chirping outside my window. Their joyous song plays throughout the day. Too often I don't hear it. It is in quiet moments of reflection that their song pierces my consciousness and romances my heart with its' beauty. Their chorus reminds me of other sounds that move my heart:

  • Hums - Before I was ever married my mom offered me a piece of advice I haven't forgotten. "As early as possible in the day, get your machines working for you." This sage admonition has punctuated many a day with peace. Their gentle whirring of the dishwasher or dryer settles my heart and allows it to focus on the priceless people who generate those dishes and clothes and not the chores that face me.

  • Buzzes - As daylight surrenders to evening I long for the vibration of the garage. Its' rattle signals my husband's return. It brings completion to our family and contentment to my soul. My love has come home.

  • Boings - Tender are the springs that sprinkle laughter around our back yard. The bounce of the trampoline is faint but it means giggles are sure to follow. The most precious symphony of chortles is the harmony produced when all four of my girls laugh at once. Our trampoline sends smiles from the backyard and onto my face.

Today I am studying Matthew 6. This is the second of three chapters that comprise Jesus' longest recorded sermon, The Sermon on the Mount. The theme of this passage is the danger of actions done to be seen by men.

Just as sounds around my house bring gladness to my heart, so do sounds bring joy to the heart of God:

  • Silent Service (Verses 2-4) - Endless opportunities to serve others present themselves each day. We can assist the homeless, elderly, impoverished or imprisoned. The question is not if God wants us to help others but rather how. When we lend a helping hand is that hand poised ready to clap our own praise? Or is our hand quietly serving preferring to be noticed only by God. It is the latter that pleases Jesus.

  • Whispered Prayers (Verses 5-15) - My favorite Christian song released in the last year is "Better Than a Hallelujah" by Amy Grant. The premise of this song is that God prefers gut-wrenching honesty offered in the midnight of our pain to insincere praise echoed for other's ears. God is less concerned with the length of and flowery words in our prayers and far more impressed with a heart that is honest with God.

  • Quiet Sacrifice (Verses 16-24) - Fasting, the practice of with staining from food to focus on God, is long out of fashion. In Jesus' day, people would don a gloomy expression and their worst digs to make certain everyone knew they were fasting. Whatever we offer as a sacrifice to God - sleep, money, time, energy or food - should be done with a glad heart. If I sacrifice to garner recognition, I actually didn't sacrifice at all. What I do without to honor God, should be done only for Him.

Jesus, thank you for these moments of silence spent with You. Today I can serve my family and make certain they know how hard I worked or I can choose the greater reward of serving You. I can mouth empty prayers that I think will impress others or I can choose to utter the sincerest cries of my heart to an audience of One. I can make sacrifices that are actually shows or I can give to You alone. I pray today that whatever I do generates a quiet chorus heard only by You. That sounds like beauty to me.

Marriage is not Hawaii 5-0

Matthew 5:13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
When I married Scott, I believed God had given me a fairy tale life. Scott had rescued me and my two daughters from financial ruin and fulfilled my life-long dream of becoming a stay-at-home mom. I had a passionate love relationship with my husband. Why then did I feel so miserable? Overwhelming unhappiness was exacerbated by incomparable guilt. I shouldn't feel like this. I should be grateful for the vast, undeserved blessings God had given me. But I wasn't. In fact I was depressed and distressed. Having been divorced, I had first-hand knowledge of where this kind of misery leads - desolation. Today's passage is Matthew 5. Matthew 5-7 is commonly referred to as the "Sermon on the Mount" and is in fact the longest recorded sermon delivered by Jesus. Each verse is rich with challenge and life-change. Among this treasure trove of Jesus' wisdom are these words, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?" (Verse 13) There was a time in my marriage when my salty had become bland. I had come into my marriage expecting a fairy tale that I have come to call Hawaii 5-0. I thought my marriage would be a paradise. I also anticipated it would be fair and equitable. Hawaii 5-0. My marriage was neither. Then I read this question of Jesus in Matthew 5:13 and rephrased it in my mind like this. If today were your first date with Scott and you treated him exactly as you did today, would he ever ask you out for a second? The answer was no. In an instant I knew that I had been focusing on the ways I thought he should change. How might my marriage be revitalized if I stopped lasering on him and started concentrating on once again becoming the fun, salty girl he had married. When I shifted my focus from him to me, a miracle took place. The paradise I was chasing began to bloom in the ordinary moments where I chose to meet his needs instead of mine. When I ceased keeping score and began to serve him expecting nothing in return my marriage became better than equitable. I stopped huffing and asking for help and he began to help me voluntarily. Jesus, You know all to well that I am still tempted to focus my eyes on Scott when You still have so much work to do in me. Thank you for the blessing of marriage. There's no such thing as a fairy tale but that doesn't mean life can't be one. Today I choose to cast aside my expectations of perfection and fairness and seek to serve instead of being served.

She Speaks

Proverbs 31:26 She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

The She Speaks Conference is a life-changing conference for women seeking to step out in the passion God has placed on her heart. Hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries, She Speaks encourages and equips to make the most of their messages, communicating God's Word through speaking, writing and leading.

The Lord has laid is on my heart to take the next step in following the dream to write and speak for His glory by attending She Speaks in July, 2011. In order for this conference to become a reality for my, my first step is to raise funds. Will you prayerfully consider partnering with me through a financial contribution towards a scholarship?

As you feel led to join me in this exciting call, there are two ways to participate. Call Proverbs 31 Ministried at 877-731-4663 to contribute by credit card; or send a check payable to Proverbs 31 Ministries to:

Proverbs 31 Ministries
She Speaks Scholarship/Shannon Milholland
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105

Please be sure to designate the scholarship in my name in order to credit my scholarship fund. You will be receipted for your tax-deductible donation. For more information: www.shespeaksconference.com

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Is Jesus Irrelevant?

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and to save what was lost.

I unplugged my alarm clock. Well actually it was my husband, Scott. He took one look at the web of cords dangling from the outlet next to my end of the bed and pronounced it a fire hazard. That clock has sat on my nightstand for over twenty-five years. Honestly, it has become a bit of a "security blanket" for me.

It has seen me through college all-nighters, midnight feedings and early morning runs. It is my silent friend that greets me throughout the night. My alarm clock has granted me hundreds of extra hours of sleep over the years, one blurry-eyed peak at a time.

I wasn't entirely certain I could function without it. Nevertheless, I decided I'd attempt to creep out of the 1980s with a test run of waking up one morning to the sound of an iPhone app. I have managed for over a week now. It appears my alarm clock will join my typewriter, corded phone and desktop in the pile of electronics labeled "irrelevant".

This morning I am studying Matthew 4. In this passage, Jesus takes a trek through the desert that honestly sounds like zero fun to me. He fasts for forty days and nights. The thought alone is invoking Chewbacca-esque noises from my abdomen. Then He endures a show-down with Satan in which He is tempted body, spirit and soul.

As Jesus marches out of the wilderness bolstered by a victory seen only by God, He moves into the true ministry phase of His life. Matthew records for us that Jesus, like His cousin John, preaches a singular message. From the wilderness on His basic sermon outline was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Verse 17)

I could under no set of circumstances imagine the pastor of a modern day American church standing up and delivering such a simple sermon. Every seminary graduate learns that an effective sermon requires a minimum of three main points. In fact most churches would consider this sermon to be far too negative, condemning and judgmental to be deemed acceptable. Should Jesus' model for preaching go the way of my alarm clock - outdated and irrelevant?

But Jesus isn't irrelevant. He transforms every aspect of my life. He isn't just relevant to my life. He is essential. So what of His sermon?

Jesus came for one reason only: to seek and to save the lost. Without repentance, there is no salvation. Without repentance, Jesus came for no purpose. Without repentance, Jesus becomes irrelevant.

Jesus, today I see my sin through a magnifying glass. Your grace was poured out on me because I needed it so desperately. I still do. Today help me focus on just one area in my life where I need to repent. Through repentance I will experience a fresh shower of Your amazing grace and draw another step closer to Your precious heart.

Heavenly Highways

Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it."

Her name is Lola. She's a bit on the bossy side but she doesn't eat much so I think I'll keep her around. I like Lola. She gets me where I need to go and generally in a most expedient fashion.

Lola is the family nickname for the resident GPS system in my car. Now I sometimes wonder how I got places back when I had to route every journey on Mapquest and then fumble through pages of directions...all while driving. No fumbling with Lola. She just barks out orders and then announces her "recalculation" in a mildly irritated voice when I fail to obey her every command.

Lola is smart but occasionally she sends me somewhere via a most circuitous route. Because I tend to blindly follow her lead, it could be weeks or even months before I realize she's taken me around when I could have gone straight through.

This morning's passage is Matthew 3. John the Baptist, the just older cousin of Jesus, is in the desert region surrounding the Jordan River. He dresses oddly, smells funny and still has people flocking to his side to be baptized.

John was not much to look at and I doubt an impressive linguist. His sermons could scarcely be classified as multi-syllabic since essentially every one was "Repent!" Long before the invention of satellites, people found their way to John. One day Jesus himself was counted among the crowd.

Approximately seven hundred years prior to John's birth, the prophet Isaiah had predicted he would come as a "voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (Isaiah 40:3, also Verse 3)

John's mission was two-fold: 1) testify about and 2) prepare for Jesus. John could not have used my friendly GPS because she has a tendency to take me wandering. Only a straight path is appropriate for Jesus. Do I make the way straight for Jesus or do I expect Him to follow me around in circles long after He's mapped the course for me? I must admit, like Lola, I sometimes get sidetracked. This happens for one of three reasons:
  1. The Road is Missing - Sometimes Lola maps a particular route because her software hasn't been updated and she's missing a new road in her memory. Shannon sometimes maps a route without consulting the software at all. I assume I can route first and ask Jesus for His blessing later once my plans have been established. This map always leads me to a place I wish I hadn't wandered.
  2. Loss of Contact - Overcast days can also spell certain doom for Lola's ability to function. On those days she can't navigate because she's lost the connection to her satellite. A prayerless, Bibleless day in my life leads to loss of connection with my Heavenly Satellite Feed. I get out of sync with God and the "me before Jesus" tries to resurface. On a day like that it's better to keep my car parked in the driveway until I've reestablished contact.
  3. Low Battery/No Power Cord - If I run Lola long enough without recharging her, she simply runs out of juice. So do I. God's intended plan for our lives includes heavenly pauses where we stop running and mapping and just rest. When my battery is running low and no power cord is in sight, I know it is past time to stop navigating and rest.

Jesus, You don't intend for me to take a crooked path. You intend for me to make a straight path for You. I can do that by letting You plot the course, making certain we stay in contact while travelling and resting when my battery gets low. Today I think I'll keep the car in the driveway and spend some extended time consulting my favorite map which is labeled "Holy Bible" and reconnect with it's Author.

Can You Give Me Some Directions?

Psalm 38:15 Lord I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.

Texting in the hands of a busy, middle-aged mother of four can be a dangerous indeed. Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way. Our fifteen year old, Hannah, was crawling across five states in a youth bus headed to ski in Colorado. Anytime the opportunity presents itself to communicate with a child who is hundreds of miles from home, I am nothing short of ecstatic.

Like icing on the cake, I was already mid-texting conversation with my friend Lori when Hannah's text notification popped up. As I lined up a babysitter on one conversation, I chatted about bus adventures on the other. Not just every forty year old is such a delightful mixture of savvy and sophisticated. At least this is how I assessed myself until I texted my friend Lori and asked her where she'd stopped for breakfast this morning.

When I realized my mistake, embarrassment engulfed my savvy and left me silly instead. Since Lori lives just one street behind me, she must have thought I spend my Sundays monitoring my neighbors movements. Without a moment's hesitation, she reported they had gone out to get doughnuts. At that particular moment I'd like to have crawled into my device labeled iPhone and licked my wounds amongst the safety of its' circuitry.

Today's passage is Matthew 2. In Matthew's birth account, he skips the welcome party announced by angels and attended by shepherds and goes straight for the after party. Some time later, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem in search of Jesus. They came armed with presents for the newborn king. The star had guided them to Jerusalem but then taken a leave of absence long enough to prompt the wise men to pull their camels over at the nearest watering hole and ask for directions.

Unfortunately they asked Insecure Herod who couldn't share the limelight if it were shining directly down on his head. Herod's stated intention was to worship Christ himself but his actual plan was to eliminate the competition for his throne. After their encounter with the wise men, Joseph wasted no time relocating his little family to safety of Egypt. An angel had warned Joseph to protect his son. One simple communication preserved three lives.

While the wise men's poor decision of trusting Herod didn't cost Jesus His life, it did end the life of every male in that area under the age of two. They had made a fatal mistake.

In this fast-paced world where I can barely manage to keep my texting conversations straight, I wonder if I like the wise men foolishly ask the wrong people for directions. The wise men could have surpassed Herod and sought their needed advice directly from the Jewish scholars. Sheepishly I must admit, that all to often I seek answers from the wrong sources. If instead I chose to slow down and ask the Right Source, I would avoid many mistakes.

Jesus, today help me slow down and seek the only Source of truth. There I will get the correct answers to my questions. When I pause to fill my tank at Your gas station, the fuel is always premium grade.

Love Among the Pancakes

1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

"How about we make pancakes for breakfast?", Clara (5) asked with a twinkle in her eye I find difficult to resist. As delicately cracked eggs sloshed into the bottom of the bowl and little flour puffs encircled our heads, I thought how many precious moments I've spent with my girls in the kitchen. Certain Clara was equally enraptured in our culinary fellowship I inquired what was her favorite part of making pancakes.

"Choosing what shape each family member should get." This was an answer quite different from the one I expected. In truth, our pancake "shapers" are limited in choice. Besides Mickey Mouse, they symbolize various holidays with hearts, bunnies and chicks rounding out the choices. It struck me as a bit odd that she took such great pleasure in designating a shape out of so few. One by one she selected a particular shape for each of her sisters, punctuated with her rationale for each pick.

Since Scott was already at church, only she and I remained. After some contemplation, she chose the two hearts. "Because I want Jesus in my heart like He's in yours, Mommy", she explained.

This morning I began the book of Matthew. It is satisfying to begin reading the gospels during the Easter season. Somewhere amongst those bunny and chick pancake shapers, Jesus reminded me what a treasure the next month will be.

The book of Matthew opens with the complete genealogy of Jesus' earthly father, Joseph. This account seems almost out of place when one considers that Joseph was only Jesus' step-father. Jesus had been conceived of the Holy Spirit. As if God were reading my mind, I notice that the next verses give us a picture into what was happening in the heart of Joseph. This passage highlights three distinct characteristics that Joseph portrays:
  • Respect (Verse 19) - When Joseph discovered Mary's pregnancy, his initial reaction was to save her from public disgrace. He didn't worry about what the neighbors would say behind his back, but rather how he could protect his love.
  • Obedience (Verse 24) - Simply put, Joseph did what God asked of him. He was fully within his legal and religious rights to divorce her but instead He chose to believe the angel and continue his relationship with Mary. In fact, he obeyed every detail given him right down to the name that should be given to his step-son.
  • Restraint (Verse 25) - Joseph brought Mary home to be his wife but did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. Personally, I've never known a groom that exercised that extent of restraint but he forewent satisfying his own desires to watch over Mary and take care of her needs until after Jesus was born.

Could it be that God gave us this genealogy because it was in that grand line-up of relatives that Joseph learned the qualities of respect, obedience and restraint? Was it from Jacob who worked fourteen years for Rachel that he understood restraint? Perhaps it was from Boaz who fulfilled his marital obligation as kinsman redeemer that he comprehended obedience. Was respect patterned after David's example when he stood by his friend Jonathan and honored their friendship even after death by caring for Jonathan's relative?

There in the kitchen it dawned on me how many silent lessons we teach our children. Someday Clara will realize that technically her father was a step-father to two of her sisters. Scott's character qualities of respect, obedience and restraint have made and will continue to make an impression on each of his children. Joseph and Scott share these attributes because they've modeled their lives on a common source.

By putting those traits into practice, Joseph was uniquely qualified to be Jesus' daddy. Jesus in turn has qualified Scott to be the daddy to our four precious daughters. This morning a pancake griddle was transformed into an altar where I praised God for the impact my husband has on our kids by living out his faith in front of them.

Jesus, thank you for inserting my husband in all four of my daughter's genealogies. You knew the kind of father he'd be to our girls. You knew he would far surpass anything for which I could ask or even imagine. You knew he would show each of them how blessed it is to live life with You. That's why Clara peered into a heart-shaped pancake and saw Your love written there. Today help me choose my words and actions carefully that I too may be someone after whom my children should model their lives.


Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

At three he clipped coupons from the paper and pretended they were money. At five he drew pictures and sold them to his parents. At eleven he walked himself to the bank and opened his first savings account. These behaviors were not taught to my husband, Scott.

The first time he played Monopoly, Scott knew that he had been given a natural inclination toward and proclivity for money management. Finance comes easy to him because it isn't just something he does. It's something that simply flows out of the way he was hard wired by God.

This morning is the last chapter in the last book of the Bible, Revelation 22. As the Holy Spirit inspired John to write, God the Father knew this would be His last written word to all mankind. I want to drink in every syllable because it seems there must be an extra measure of significance here.

So what is God's final word to His people? Water. Not just any water. Living water that flows from the throne of God.

This Living Water has been forsaken (Jeremiah 2:13). This Living Water has been offered to the most ordinary, sinful people (John 4:10). This Living Water flows from the throne of God because it is His essence.

God created a universe, a planet and a people. God wrote a book. There is only one reason. Redemption.

Before Scott knew Christ, he worshipped at the throne of money. He allowed a natural gift given to him by God alone to become an obsession that consumed his thoughts and actions. The longer he worshipped this god, the emptier his life became. His life became a barren waste land filled with cars, houses, bank accounts and zero satisfaction.

God knew that every one of us would worship at the throne of gods that promise happiness but end in hell. Yet before He even made us, he devised a way to redeem His people back to Himself. Living Water will quench the desires which rage inside us. Living Water satisfies.

Jesus, You sit at the right hand of Father, pouring out Living Water on the people You have created. Over twenty years ago is splashed all over me. I thirst for You, Jesus, because You satisfy by longing heart. Today may I offer others the most precious gift - a glass of crystal clear Living Water.

A Litter of Love

A Note to my Regular Readers: Today's posting is a break from my usual format. I have included the first few paragraphs of a piece that will be available in print later this summer. This short story is based on actual events from the Milholland family.
As long shadows begin to dance on the wall behind me, I realize how long it's been since I've seen Scott. Before he even inserts his key in the lock, I know his approach is imminent because I hear his footfall just beyond the door. I run to the door and reward his return with a barrage of kisses and wagging. I am reunited with my best friend once more.
His delight to see me equals my own but behind his smile I note the slump of his shoulders. I wonder to what place it is that my best friend has gone. His body is here but his mind and heart are absent. He works longer hours now that the woman moved away. When I glance towards our front door, I can still see her sneer as she slammed the door shut with her suitcase in hand. I wonder if he sees her there too.
Every night now is the same. Gone are the weekend pauses in our schedule. I think he goes to work because he sees her face at the door same as me. When Scott comes home each night, he heats a can of something on the stove. Whatever it is, it's not enough because he seems lighter every time I look at him. He scarfs it down over the sink as he grabs my leash for my second favorite part of our evening.
Interested in the conclusion? Tune in later this summer...

True That!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Since my first daughter went to school I have made it a habit to write a little note on their lunch napkins. This is not a huge investment of my time. At most it requires ten minutes. However, this simple act of kindness has an impact disproportionate to the time consumed.

More teachers, other students and even my own children have remarked how much they look forward to the notes on my children's napkins. I think these little moments mean so much because they contain the inscribed words of my love.

I wish my children were greeted each morning by a mother who was never critical, sensitive, tired or rash but that is simply not true. What is true is that they are often greeted by those lunchtime words of hope, encouragement and love. Those words speak the truth that lies in my heart underneath a sometimes critical, sensitive, tired or rash exterior. My children hold fast to that truth.

This morning I am tackling Revelations 21. The day of a new heaven and earth has dawned. What is wrong has been made right. Christ has come to rule in glory, righteousness and power. Nestled among these words of hope I find, "I am making everything new! Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true." (Verse 5)

I can assure you that there is not a single morning when I wake up and think to myself that today is a today I want to be critical, sensitive, tired or rash towards my children. Instead my desire is just the opposite. Inevitably those "off" mornings come and when they do Satan is quick on the offense. "See. I told you. You're not really a Christian. You're not even a decent mother." He even uses God's Word against me. "Remember 2 Corinthians 5:17? You are supposed to be new but you're sure not acting like it."

Here is Jesus' beautiful words of truth written not just on a disposible lunch napkin but in the permanent ink of scripture. "I am making everything new." This is a process; not an event.
Day by day Jesus is molding my heart to look more like His. True I may wake up tomorrow with a bad case of the grumpies but because of Christ's grace and work in my life, those days come with lesser frequency.

Jesus, thank you for instructing John so clearly to record Your words that are trustworthy and true. You are making me new. True, I am work in progress. Today I choose to trust You and the diligence of Your labor in me. I will hold fast to Your truth. To the best of my ability I will cooperate with the change process knowing that one day I will step over the threshold from this life to heaven. Then and only then will Your change process reach its' completion.

The Forecast is Delight

Job 27:10 Will they find delight in the Almighty? Will they call on God at all times?

Snowing again and it doesn't look like it will stop any time soon. The weather channel is saying we'll have another three inches by day's end. So much for the sunny South.

I read on Facebook that I am supposed to dread days like this. Four kids unexpectedly trapped indoors and who lack the clothing or desire to spend hours out in the frigid air are the formula for the destruction of a mother's sanity. Yet I am thrilled at the thought that my children are my captive audience for the day.

I am wrought with anticipation. Will we play games by the warmth of the fire? Will we pile on the bed and laugh at the antics of a cartoon character? Will we wander in conversation until we land on a subject that lies deep underneath the surface of my children's hearts?

Today I am studying Revelation 20. As this prophetic book nears its' end, a scene of judgment unfolds. Satan and his cohorts are thrown into the lake of fire. Books are opened; books that recorded every deed.

As a new Christian, considering a day as described in this passage terrified me. I offered God a long list of accomplishments I desired to achieve prior to my last days, however they would come. I wanted to have children. An addendum was made that I watch them reach adulthood. Then I added the requirement that I witness each marriage. There was no end to my requests.

While a snow day may not be as ominous as the events in Revelation 20, I could face them with an equal portion of dread. No supply of bread and milk can amply prepare a mom for the onslaught of restless children who have been cooped up indoors one day too many. Days like that can only be overcome with the undergirding of Jesus' patience, love and strength.

I am out of step with other moms because I enjoy the unexpected delight of toddlers with too few activities and teenager who count a day without friends a death sentence. We find delight in that which we choose to.

I no longer dread the day described in today's scripture. I have found my delight in Jesus. The sooner the day my last breath dawns, the sooner I can worship at His feet. That is a joy no weatherman can forecast.

Jesus, thank you for the unexpected. It reminds me of the importance of drawing my patience, love and strength from You. Today whether today's forecast is calm or stormy may I walk through this day with the confidence of knowing my today and my tomorrow.

The Beauty of a Bride

1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment.

Like any bride I wanted to look my very best on my wedding day. My shoulders were tanned carefully to avoid stripes over my shoulders. My arms sculpted precisely to avoid any unwelcome movement. My hair cut, colored and coiffed. My makeup applied and reapplied. When my would-be husband peered down the aisle, I wanted him to see the very best version of myself.

Today's passage is Revelation 19. Babylon has fallen and all heaven celebrates. Jesus' bride, the church, stands ready to meet her groom. She too has taken care in her presentation. Her preparation spanned centuries and millennia. At last she is adorned in fine linen to walk down the aisle to her intended.

The preparation for marriage in most modern cultures is focused on the outward beauty of the bride. Painstaking measures are taken to ensure that every detail of her appearance and wardrobe exudes beauty. What is striking about this scripture is not that the church is adorned in fine linen but rather what that fabric represents. "Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints." (Verse 8)

Jesus is not concerned with the outward appearance of His bride. He is captivated by the beauty of her heart. Jesus is not impressed with our adornment. He is concerned with our substance not our shell. The ultimate beauty regiment in the eyes of God are acts of kindness, love and self-sacrifice.

The mother who rises early to feed her children a warm breakfast. The father who empties his pockets out of compassion each morning on his walk to his office. The family who always has room for one more at the dinner table. The single mother who buys coffee for the men who wait in the rain for day labor. When Jesus peers down the aisle at His bride, He sees us draped in these moments.

Jesus, You have given the gift of Your church to this lost and dying world. Like any gift, the packaging should be attractive to entice its opening. However, a package encased in the finest trappings but containing nothing is a sore disappointment. Today may my actions shout, "Come Lord Jesus. Your bride is making herself ready."

How to Build a Recession-Proof Portfolio

Revelation 18:11 The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her (Babylon) because no one buys their cargoes anymore.

Scott and I spent last weekend in inner city Memphis on a bi-annual event hosted by our church entitled the Urban Plunge. Over three nights and portions of four days we observed, ate, fellowshipped, worked and worshipped in some of the most impoverished zip codes in Memphis.
  • I met "Soup" Campbell who ministers in a needy neighborhood. He exhibits great joy not because of where he resides but rather Who resides in him.
  • I met Ken Bennett who began a ministry on the streets of another poverty-stricken area in a beat up old van. He now has a $4.2 million facility which reaches hundreds of youth every week. They come because they witness first-hand his greater love for people than possessions.
  • I met Jim Kennedy who designed a program to take ex-cons from a life of prison to purpose by investing countless hours giving them life skills, job training and a spiritual foundation. He has partnered with God to rehabilitate hundreds of hardened criminals because he was willing to work for the good of others instead of unrestrained financial gain.

This morning I am working through Revelation 18. This chapter describes the fall of the prophetic city named Babylon. Clearly these are future events but what unfolds there sounds more like a scene in any current U.S. city than in some distant town located in a foreign land. The people mourned the loss of their economic livelihood and nothing else.

The picture was reminiscent of the wave of sadness that followed the recent economic downturn here in the states. It is heart-wrenching to watch or even be someone who loses our job, home or wealth. However, over the last few years I've heard little lament over how the loss of assets would impact the poor, down-trodden and disadvantaged in our country.

My trip to the inner city stands in sharp contrast to the rampant materialism in the zip code where I live. While I was there, these words of Jesus kept ringing in my ear, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:25, 27) I pray this weekend I experienced a permanent shift of focus away from my petty problems and onto the power of a single act of kindness offered from a heart of humility.

Jesus, whatever I do for the least of these, I do for you. Thank you for reminding me that people are more important than my portfolio and that true wealth is that which is accumulated for Your kingdom and not in my closet, garage or pocketbook. Today help me to see with Your eyes the unlimited opportunities all around me to alleviate suffering. In turn I know You will transform my meager acts of kindness into magnets that will draw those around me into Your arms of love and grace.

That Winning Feeling

Proverbs 2:7-8 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Clara (5) wants to win. There's no other way to say it. Whether we're playing Candyland or Memory, she has a singular goal in mind - victory.

Recently, she found a new show that she wants to watch. It's called The Avengers and is a compilation of many great comic book heroes of old. The Hulk, Captain America, Ironman and others have formed an alliance that should make any super villain think twice before exacting his evil plan. I doubt she's interested in the fight scenes or even the heroics. Knowing Clara, she is drawn to fact that the Avengers win against all odds. No matter how grim the situation appears, victory is just in store.

Today's passage is Revelation 17. In this chapter, a powerful woman and the kings of earth band together to battle Christ. They are the ultimate super villains; Jesus is our hero. "They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lord and Kings and kings." (Verse 14).

No matter what it is I am up against today, Jesus is my conqueror. No matter how grim my situation may appear, victory is just in store. Jesus has already paid for the victory.

Jesus, You are my shield. My guard. My protection. Today I will trust in You knowing there is nothing I can encounter that You have not already chosen to ultimate become a victory in my life.

Judge Not

Psalm 96:13b He (God) will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

A few years back, I was subjected to a three year court battle over the terms of my divorce that I thought had been settled years earlier. Having little previous experience with family law, I was dumbfounded by what I witnessed with this extended look into our civil court system. What I found primarily were judges who didn't want to judge. Instead they wanted a clean docket of cases which had been settled not heard.

This morning I am reading Revelation 16. This chapter outlines seven bowls of judgment which God will allow to be poured out on the world in days to come. It is difficult for me to mesh these pronouncements of worldwide horror with the God of love who sacrificed His only Son to redeem a lost and dying world. However, even as the angels are tipping the bowls to initiate one of these disasters, they proclaim that God's judgments are true and just (Verses 5, 7).

I don't know exactly why the judges don't want to hear cases involving family law. I suspect it is at least in part because they know deep down they are not qualified to make those decisions. A handful of documents and a court appearance by adversarial former spouses could never give a truly accurate picture of the best interest of a child.

By sharp contrast, God is totally qualified to judge. He has the complete picture - past, present and future. He doesn't have to order a psychological profile to understand our minds. He doesn't need a home survey to assess our living conditions. He already knows what is best for us.

Jesus, You are the righteous Judge. You don't need my assistance in this matter. Today may I remember that You don't need me in Your court room. My job is not to judge. You have no openings for jurors. Today instead I'll be a bailiff of Your love.

I'll Have What She's Having

1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18 Rejoice always. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Long before Larry the Cucumber from Veggie Tales, I have been the queen of silly songs. Ever since the first of my four beauties slid into my arms, my heart has been inspired to compose quirky little songs that I sing just for them.

When Carynne (now 4) was just old enough to walk, we were toddling out of church to the backdrop of a cloudless Texas sky as I sang the "Rynnie Roo" to the top of her blond curls. Unbeknownst to me, another toddler named Corinne was walking with her mommy nearby. She looked up at her with pleading eyes that would melt any mommy's heart and asked, "Mommy, would you sing the Rynnie Roo song to me?"

This morning's reading is the 15th Chapter of Revelation. On this trip through Revelation I have noted one consistent theme in every chapter. In heaven, God is praised. Here on earth, all too often, I stop praising and complain and cease give thanks and grumble.

Taking my eyes off Jesus is the source of my discontent and envy is my most common accelerant. That day in the parking lot little Corinne was actually saying, "I want what she's having." She saw a mommy singing silly songs to her daughter. She wanted that for herself. What she didn't know that day was that my voice is better suited for the shower than the parking lot while her own mother's voice is a symphony of beauty. Some day my Carynne will look across the parking lot while I'm singing, dancing or generally embarrassing her and see Corinne's mom acting refined and restrained and say to herself, "I want what she's having."

I fail to praise Jesus because I'm too busy looking at someone else's giftings, circumstances or even perhaps finances to look up and see the symphony of beauty God is showering down on me.

Jesus, today I'm going to read off of my own menu and stop letting my eyes wander over to the next table. When my eyes are busy noticing all the ways You are working in my life and my family, I count my blessings. My heart bursts with praise and gratitude. Today I will open my eyes to praise You with my mouth.

Why Creation Matters

Isaiah 43:14,15 This is what the Lord says-your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ...I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King.

Hannah (15) has obtained that coveted 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" piece of plastic that eventually spells F-R-E-E-D-O-M for today's teens. When Hannah first slid behind the wheel, I knew what I was supposed to feel. I was supposed to experience a mixture of dread and fear. Instead what I felt was an odd combination of excitement and peace.

I have actually dreaded revealing this fact far more than the driving instruction that has followed her acquisition. None of like to be outside acceptable norms. For parents, the acceptable norm is to not want your child to have the privilege of driving. The truth is Hannah has earned it. She has proven herself to be a young woman of character, sound decision making and solid faith. Does she falter? Of course. But far less than I did at fifteen I assure you.

What scares me more than the prospect of her driving is the content of her science textbooks. This is yet another revelation I dread making. I was a biology major and even though I attended a "Christian" university I was thoroughly indoctrinated with the belief that although there was a God, He could have only used the vehicle of evolution to bring about the species. This thought is prevalent in society today. Evolution is not a theory. It is a fact. Anyone who differs with the "facts" of evolution is considered a moron. I suppose I'm throwing myself headlong into the lot with the morons because I take God at His word that He spoke all creation into existence.

Today's passage is Revelation 14. The prophetic events of this book continue to unfold. Here there are three angels: one who proclaims God's truth, one who declares judgment on "Babylon", and one who details the consequences of following another than the one true God. Note how the first angel describes God. "Fear God and give him glory...Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water." (Verse 7)

Perhaps you are where I once was and not convinced that it matters whether God is Creator or just your Redeemer through Christ.
  • For in him (Jesus) all things were created (1 Corinthians 1:16)

  • You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things (Revelation 4:11)

  • For it is by grace you have been saved...created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8, 10)

Jesus created all things. He is not just Savior. He is both Creator and Savior. He can not be one if He is not the other.

Jesus, I was created to have a relationship with You. You are worthy of all praise, honor and glory because You are both Creator and Redeemer. Today as I drink in the wonders of Your creation, I will remember that every leaf and breeze has been sent by You to draw all mankind to Your heart. You are my creator. You are my savior. You are my friend.

Not Without My Siblings

Ephesians 1:4 For he (God) chose us in him (Jesus) before the creation of the world.

This morning Clara (5) and Carynne (4) went outside to test the morning temperature and I gathered the final items for our morning's departure. No one wanders into the backyard without our dog, Brady, following closely behind. In what felt like seconds to me, the three of them had made their way up onto the trampoline and were laughing and wagging as if our departure were hours instead of minutes away.

As I urged the three of them back into the house, I noticed as usual Brady was the last one to come back to the house. He sniffed and meandered until he was certain both Clara and Carynne were not only in the house but were definitively not returning to his backyard puppy playground. Whether out of companionship or protection, he has decided he's not going in without his "siblings".

Today I am studying Revelation 13. This chapter is chock full of the material which spawns nightmares. This passage is considered prophetic in nature by most Bible scholars. It talks of a dreadful dragon who gives power to a brutal beast. Together they wreak havoc on earth and its' inhabitants. Yet even in the midst of such a grim scene, there is a great Hope. The Lamb - Jesus Christ.

Jesus was the dedicated sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. He was slain before the creation of the world (Verse 8). Before Adam and Eve walked in the garden. Before He walked the roads of Galilee. Before He physically hung on the cross. Our names were already written on his heart. He looked at the Father and said, "I will not leave without my siblings."

Jesus, Your love is immense - beyond measure. Perfect love casts out fear. When my life seems like a nightmare, Your perfect love casts out fear. When my day is smooth sailing on calm waters, Your perfect love casts out fear. The Father stands at the door calling my name. Today I will go where He leads because You first declared You wouldn't leave without me.