Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Disembodied Voice in the Car

Last week.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am watching the live Internet broadcast of “Celebration,” the Wednesday night service at Quest Community Church. We have a neat little gadget that allows Web users to chat. You can choose any name and type in your thoughts as the service progresses.

And that’s when “Wondering” shows up.

“What is this?” he asks.

“Hi Wondering,” I type. “What are you wondering? Ha ha!”

“I am wondering what this is,” he answers.

Wondering explains that he was passing through town and overheard some people talking about Quest. So he logged in to see the service for himself. Others in the chat room begin to ask him questions – Where is he from? Has he been to church before? What would he like to know?

I click on his name and pull him into a private chat room. “Hi!” I type. “Would you like to talk and ask me questions here?”

He answers yes. For the next hour or so, Wondering and I chat. We start out by talking about what he’s cooking for supper, and I offer him a recipe for baked Parmesan chicken. Then we exchange thoughts on the existence of God, the story of Jesus and Wondering’s doubts. Two others also are chatting with Wondering in private chat rooms. He clicks back and forth between us, firing one question after another.

I ask Wondering if he’d like to pray to get to know Jesus. He says he doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know if he believes any of this. So I ask, “Would you like me to type in a prayer for you, just to ask God to make Himself known to you?”

“Sure,” Wondering replies.

And so, right there on the Internet, from my isolated cabin in the woods of Kentucky, I pray with Wondering via the World Wide Web. Afterwards, Wondering tells me that he is leaving for Maine. He is on a cross-country trip and will not be staying locally much longer. He might log in again, though. He takes down my email address and also receives some links to sermons from our lead pastor Pete Hise via another chatterer named Amy.

Then we bid goodbye.

Every day during the next week, I say a prayer for Wondering. I ask God to come alongside him and to make Himself known to Wondering. I ask other people to pray, too.

But I wonder if I’ll ever hear from Wondering again.

Last night.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

It’s time again for Quest’s weekly Celebration service. I hop online to watch and chat. I’ve had a difficult week, first nursing Neil through a stomach virus, then catching the virus myself. On top of that, I’m battling a separate infection that requires an antibiotic.

I feel like a useless individual. I have been relegated to my home due to sheer weakness and illness. Throughout the week, I have kicked myself, telling myself things like, “God can’t use you. You’re always sick. You live too far away to help anybody. You can only be a mom. You’re not even well enough to drive into Lexington and volunteer. You’re pathetic.”

Things like that. I’m really good at beating myself up, can you tell?

As I begin to chatter in the Quest online forum, suddenly an anonymous user clicks my name and pulls me into a chat room.

“Hi,” he says. “I am Wondering.”

My heart leaps. I ask Wondering where he is and find out that he has arrived in Maine and is chatting with me from a hotel room.

And then I ask how he’s doing with all of his questions.

Here is his story … told from the chat room (most of my comments excluded – I kept interrupting him!):

“As I was driving on Thursday, I started thinking about all the conversations that I had on here. Things just didn’t seem right to me. So, I just said out loud that if God was real, I needed to see Him and left it at that.”

“And did anything happen?” I asked.

“LOL! (laugh out loud) Yeah, sorry. I am still in awe myself. Well, that night, I don’t even know where I was, somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, I think. It was dark, and I was driving along. I started to see a light ahead of me. I couldn’t explain what it was at first. Then I heard this voice, more audible than the guy talking right now. I pulled over and started to cry.”

“What did the voice say?” I asked.

“I asked who it was. I didn’t see anyone. But I knew there was someone there. I heard the words I had been longing to hear for a long time. All I heard was someone next to me say … ‘I love you my son. Come to Me, and I will give you life.’ I honestly started looking around the car for someone. I didn’t know what to do. So I asked who it was. And there was that same voice saying the same thing. Through my tears, I drove to a gas station. I got out and went in to clean up. People were staring at me, but I didn’t care. As I was coming out, this guy started coming towards me. I was a bit freaked out. He asked me if I was OK, and I told him I was. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Bible. (He was a Gideon.) He said that I needed to read that. So I found a hotel. I took it out and started reading it. After about 3 hours, I was sitting there amazed at all that had happened. I turned on my computer. So, I didn’t know where to go. I had left all the email addresses I received in the hotel in Lexington. … Then I remembered that Amy, I think her name was, had told me about a message (by Pete Hise at Quest). So I found the message from Easter. I listened. And by the end of that message, I knew that I needed Jesus and that I had just been in a car and Jesus had been there with me. So, that night, I asked Jesus to save me.”

Can I get an Amen?

No, really.

Can I get an Amen?

Isn’t God completely astounding?

I have to tell you something … this little story isn’t just about Wondering. God knew that I needed Wondering in my life. I was at such a point of discouragement about reaching other people about Jesus. And God showed me … none of this is about my own efforts.

It’s all about His power, His grace.

All He asks is that we take a step of faith and say to Him, “Please use me.” After that, if you believe and ask for the opportunities … He will lead people right to you who need to hear about Him.

He’ll even speak to someone in their car in the dead of night on an isolated stretch of highway.

And He’ll bring them into His arms.

He just needs you to be willing to plant the seed.

He’ll do the rest.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mahjong Safari

When I'm too tired to write, but also too tired to read, and I don't want to waste my brain energy on a television show, I play this game called Mahjong Safari on a site called

Mahjong Safari relaxes me and for some reason infuses my brain with more creativity. This weekend, as I languished with my stomach virus, I played a lot of Mahjong Safari -- and in doing so, I came to an important revelation about myself and the way that I try to reach others for Jesus.


You heard me right -- playing Mahjong Safari actually helped me figure out a little puzzle in my evangelism approach.

OK ... so first let's back up, because I have to explain how this game works before I can tell you why it changed my way of thinking on talking about Jesus.

You receive a bunch of "tiles" with pictures on them, and you have to match the tiles. They are presented to you in a pattern. The rule, though, is that you can only make a match with two or fewer connecting lines. Additionally, if a tile is hemmed in by others, it's inaccessible. You have to eliminate the tiles around it before you can try to connect it. (What I like about Mahjong Safari are the little animal sounds every time I make a match, but that's actually beside the point.)

As I play this game, I begin to frustrate myself. I can immediately see the tiles with easy matches. But I don't want to go for those tiles. I study the entire pattern and try to pinpoint the tiles that are hardest to reach. Then I study it some more to figure out what must be done to remove the tiles in the way .... so that I can make the most challenging connections.

However, in doing so, I begin to defeat myself. A little clock in the right-hand column limits my time. If I don't make a connection within a certain time period, the game quits completely, and I have to start afresh. So I have just lost the opportunity to eliminate the easy tiles -- and in doing so, I've lost the entire board.

Do you see where I'm headed now?

It hit me last night that I've handled a lot of situations in my life this way. People who like me easily don't get the same type of attention from me as people who are more distant. I make more of an effort to be friends with those who are harder to get. I did the same thing with dating relationships for years -- men who might have been great matches for me were ignored while I focused on those who were more of a challenge. (I finally married the man who asked me out every week for four months straight before I said yes to the first date. How dumb can a person be?)

I carry this same type of attitude into my quest to tell people about Jesus. There are a lot of people who are easily open to hearing about Him. But I don't focus on them. I focus on those who are most resistant to Him. It's as if, by winning them over, I feel I have accomplished more.

God really convicted me of this last night. "Why," He asked, "would you ignore the people who are jumping up and down for more information about Me? You are missing out on an opportunity. This isn't about proving your worth as an effective communicator. This is about reaching people for Me."

I don't really know all of the psychological reasons that I tend to do this. But the important point is ... I've realized that I'm doing it.

Who knew that a weekend with a stomach bug and a marathon of Mahjong Safari would lead me to this conclusion?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thriving in the Seismic Zone

I credit one of my pastors, Justin McCarty, for the idea for this blog entry.

Ever find yourself in the midst of an earthquake?

I'm not talking about actual earthquakes that shake the world's surface ... no ... actually, these earthquakes can be more terrifying than those.

I'm talking about a vicious assault on your entire spiritual well-being.

I'm in the middle of an earthquake right now.

I am writing this from my recliner, my laptop perched on my tummy.

I'm so weak that I can't stand. The only thing I've eaten in the past 36 hours is a small bowl of oyster crackers. I've been sipping Gatorade, but it hasn't stayed in my system long enough to make much of a difference. I caught the stomach flu from my 5-year-old Neil. You wouldn't think this would really affect my mental well-being -- afterall, everyone catches a bug now and then, right?

Well, I would agree, except I have been ill like this since the end of January -- first it was a bout with bronchitis for 2 weeks ... then a round with chicken pox for 4 weeks (chicken pox at age 43 is a real riot, let me tell you) ... and I was just getting back to myself again when I was again laid up in bed for a week for inordinante blood loss (we don't need to go into that, but you get the idea). Then Neil caught this stomach thing that laid him up for a week in bed.

And 36 hours ago, I caught it, too.

But I will tell you truthfully -- the illnesses really are not the primary focus of my discouragement. I am actually very discouraged because they prevent me from doing more for others.

See, I really want to help out at my church. I've had various opportunities to get involved. Every time I try, something like this comes up to prevent it. As an extrovert who thrives on people contact, it is equally discouraging to be stuck in a house in the woods, about a 45-minute drive away.

Some people think that when they volunteer, they're giving of themselves to others. I see it through the opposite lens. When I volunteer, I get so much more in return. Being able to encourage and teach and lead and guide ... it's what makes me feel integral to advancing the good news about Jesus. My spirit becomes so energized with this. If you're an extrovert like me, you probably understand exactly what I mean.

So when my body gets pummeled, and pummeled, and pummeled -- and I'm taken out of the action of where I want to be -- I am overwhelmed with discouragement. How, I ask, can God use someone who is sick all the time?

But this morning, God brought to mind last week's sermon by Justin McCarty, the assistant pastor at Quest Community Church in Lexington.

Someone else had a similar experience -- Paul.

Paul and Silas were trying to hit a bunch of places to share the gospel. But every time they tried going somewhere, they were prevented by the Spirit. Finally, they found themselves in northern Macedonia (northern Greece), after Paul had a vision to go there.

You really have to read this story in Acts 16. It's boggling! Paul casts a demon out of this slave girl. Her master had been making a lot of money from her, because he used her to tell fortunes. He incited a mob to attack Paul and Silas. They found themselves in a dungeon.

So how would you feel? Here is Paul, trying to get to places to tell people about Jesus, and he finds himself tossed out of commission, stuck in a dungeon.

(Well, a house in the woods isn't exactly a dungeon, but sometimes I feel like that!)

Surprise, surprise ... Paul and Silas start singing and praising God.

And an earthquake comes along. It shakes the walls and frees all of the prisoners from their chains.

The jailer draws his sword to kill himself. Paul says, "Stop! We're all here! None of us are gone!"

So this jailer -- the same dude who had ordered Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown into the dungeon -- takes them to his house, washes their stripes and asks for he and his entire family to be baptised.

Then they all sit down to breakfast together!

Now can you make this stuff up???

Here's what I take from this story ... We can thrive in the seismic zone, just like Paul.

I am beaten down physically, but does that mean I can't share with others?

No! I have this cool little gadget here called a laptop, which is connected to a worldwide web of people, all dying to hear about my faith.

And I will share it.

Until I am put in the hospital on life support, I will share it.

Until God decides it's time for me to come home, I will share it.

I may be in circumstances that I wish were different ... but I will share it.

Who knows?

Maybe this seismic zone's purpose is to help me shake the world -- all from a cabin in the woods of Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twittering Madness

OK, so about this whole Twitter thing ...

I never really understood why people were so hooked on it. Twitter seemed like an outlet for narcissists to flaunt their boring little lives and feel like movie stars.
Pointless, mindless meandering through someone else's thoughts was just a time sucker to me.

That's what I thought.

This past weekend we were bored at home, so I logged onto my Twitter account that I'd opened last fall.

"I wonder if I misjudged this thing?" I said to myself ... and started Twittering away.

Now I'm completely addicted.

Really, it's sick.

It's been less than a week, and I love this Twittering Madness.

I'm following old friends, business associates, new friends, moms, other bloggers, the draft picks of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, updates on my fav show (Lost) and my fav bands (U2 and Third Day) ... celebrities (love that little Emma Watson, a.k.a. Hermoine Granger, who is filming the next Harry Potter film) ... there's even a cat on my list.

My favorite one so far has been some person in Miami who calls himself "jedijunkie." His entries are so hysterical that Brent woke up at 1 a.m. because he literally thought I was in the living room weeping ... but it was just the sound of my screams of laughter muffled by the couch pillows. I tell ya -- this guy is FUN-NY.

(The best line that really got me going from jedijunkie was, "Earlier, I sneezed so hard, I punched myself in the face. That's what I'm telling the authorities, anyway." He has a bunch of those.)

So what does this have to do with a "Christian safehouse" blog?

Well, I discovered something else about Twittering ... It's an amazing tool to get the word out about Jesus.

Want to tell people about something cool happening at your church?


Want to tell people that God just answered an impossible prayer with a miracle?


Want to encourage people who are having a bad day and are seeking answers?


Want to meet strangers around the globe who might otherwise never encounter a person who deeply loves Jesus?


Want to reach people in places of the world where mentioning the name of Jesus will get you beheaded or worse? But you're in the U.S., so it really doesn't matter?


You can see the possibilities.

Can you even imagine what the 1st Century apostles/disciples would have done with these technological tools?

You don't have to be a seminary-trained theologian to share good news.

If you can type, you can do this. Even my 5-year-old has been making his way around a keyboard since age 2.


Join me in my madness!

(Maniacal laughter ....)

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Forgiveness Test

My mom is 71 and a widow.

Last week, someone made her cry.

She called me on Friday morning to tell me about it, and she could barely speak.

She was trying to get estimates from local businesses to work on the gutters on her old home. She was dreading the calls, though, because she didn’t want to find out how much this work would cost. She was hoping to find some understanding and kind business owners who would be willing to check out her house.

What she found instead was a nightmare.

It’s hard for my mom to do this kind of stuff. My father died 17 years ago. So every time she has to tackle something of this nature, it just reminds her that he’s not around anymore to help her figure things out. In such moments, she feels vulnerable and alone.

I could barely understand what had happened during that phone call she had made. All I could make out was that the woman had peppered my mom with questions … which made my mom feel defensive. She asked the woman if she wanted her business. “No, I don’t,” the woman answered, adding that my mom was “a liar,” because she hadn’t been answering the questions. Then she hung up on my mom.


What to do?

I thought maybe my mom was making a big deal out of nothing, but I also wanted to get to the bottom of what type of circumstances would leave her in tears like that.

So I took down the business’s number and called it. When the woman answered, I explained who I was and asked why she’d hung up on my mom.

“I certainly did hang up on your mother, and I would do it again,” the woman shouted into the receiver.

“What happened? What did she say that made you so upset?”

And then I experienced what my mom had experienced. The person launched into a diatribe about “widows” and how their expectations are unrealistic. She said she became upset because my mother wanted an estimate before agreeing for the company to do the work. She said she had a right to ask my mother questions and that she had a right to put people in their places if she was not treated with respect. I had no idea what my mom might have said to her, but I know my mom, and she can lay on the Georgia peach charm with the surliest of people. This lady’s story wasn’t ringing true.

When I asked why she’d called my mom a liar and had accused my mom of talking out of both sides of her mouth, the woman became more defensive than ever. She raised her voice. I raised my voice. I told her I’d be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau for her treatment of my mom. She told me she’d be calling the local police department and filing a harassment complaint against both of us.

Then I did something I’m not proud of.

I told her that she sounded like she was mentally ill and that she really needed a prescription for “a happy pill.”

Well, you can imagine what happened after I said it. She hung up on me.

Strange, strange, strange.

I called the Better Business Bureau (as I’d promised). While I was on the phone with them, my phone beeped.

I checked caller ID.

You can guess who it was.

I excused myself from that call, then switched lines so that I could continue the disagreement with the woman, who was calling me again.

Was I ever surprised at what happened next!

It indeed was her … but she was contrite. She was crying a river. She explained that she knew better than to act in that way. She told me that she realized I was defending my mom … and that she would’ve done the same for her mother. She added that the minute she hung up the phone, she saw that she’d behaved badly against an elderly widow.

“I know you’ll have to take action with the Better Business Bureau, and that’s fine,” she said. “I just wanted to call back and say I will accept the consequences, whatever they are, and I’m very sorry.”


What would you do?

I realized immediately that this was a person who might really need compassion.

I have to be honest with you – it’s a lot easier for me to forgive someone who sins against ME than to forgive someone who sins against my MOM. I want to protect my mom, to stand in the gap that my father left. When my mom cries out to me, I feel the same sense of anger as I would if someone attacked my child.

But I heard God speaking to my heart, just as loudly as if He were shouting into my ear:

“Tell that woman you forgive her. I forgave you. Give her your forgiveness willingly.”

So I did.

“It’s okay,” I told her. “We all have bad days. Let’s just let it go.”

She gasped.

“I’m a stranger, and I treated your mother so badly. And you would forgive me?”

“Sure, and I really appreciate you having the courage to call me back,” I said. “I’m no saint. I’ve behaved in ways that I’m ashamed of, and God has forgiven me. Let’s just let it go. I hope you have a nice weekend.”

She said thank you again between choked sobs and hung up.

Sometimes witnessing to Jesus’s grace isn’t about sharing a story about Him.

Sometimes it’s putting into practice grace and forgiveness.

Sometimes … passing the forgiveness test is the loudest message you can send.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'm Twittering Regularly Now

I have a new obsession: Twitter.

You can follow me live now at I'll update you on new blog postings through my Twitter site, too.

Gotta love this thing -- I've had more fun looking up celebrities!

Caution: It's addictive.

See you in Twitterland!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Last Night’s Brush with Death

Last night.
11 p.m.
Route 33, a winding road in rural central Kentucky.

The loud crunch and jolt snapped my drowsy head backwards, forcing my eyes open just in time to see her flying through the air.

She gazed into our headlights as her entire body contorted and spun 360 degrees, and she flailed fluidly as if she was part of a slow-motion sports replay. The last I saw of her was her large brown eyes, as her neck and head gracefully arched backwards, and she seemed to be asking us, “Why?”

“Where did she come from?”

“From your side. She just darted out, and there was nothing I could do.”

Brent continued to drive, and we each craned to see what kind of damage she’d done to the front of the car.

“Do you think we should pull over? Do you think she’s dead?”

“I think we should get home, and I don’t know if she’s dead.”

“Oh, I hope she’s dead. I hope we killed her instantly.”

It’s not a conversation you’d expect to be having after a family outing. We’d just attended opening night for the Lexington Legends, our minor league baseball team. We’d experienced a full-bore American evening, starting with ball park hot dogs and cotton candy, to a stunningly-sung Star Spangled Banner, to the home team’s win, to a shimmering shower of fireworks.

It was a school night, but we love going to the ball park and decided it would be worth it.

And the evening was nothing short of perfect. Kind strangers sitting next to us caught a fly ball, and then they gave it to Neil.

Plus, we were coming off of an Easter high – not from all the candy we’d consumed, but from a wonderful day at Quest Community Church (but that’s for another blog entry!).

Ironically, though, I’d started yesterday pondering death.

Maybe it was because we had been consumed for the past week with Jesus’s crucifixion and with the miracle at the tomb. Maybe it was because I’ve been receiving a lot of emails from our friends at Voice of the Martyrs about some Christians suffering great persecution. Maybe it was because that very morning, I had been studying the seven churches in the book of Revelation and thinking about end times. Or, maybe, it was because of an unsettling conversation I’d had with my mom, who expressed that she feared I’d die before she does if I don’t take better care of my health.

As we sat in the ball park watching the fire works, I was literally thinking to myself, “We are as frail as the dust on that first base. We could go at any moment. I’m so happy I’m enjoying this time with my family.”

If we were to call yesterday my last day on earth, at least it was a good way to end it.

But it wasn’t our time to die.

The deer that ran into our car’s path slid onto the hood, then went flying through the air before she landed in the ditch. Anything could have happened. Her hooves could have come through the windshield and kicked our faces. We were going at least 55 miles per hour on that two-lane road, so at a minimum, the speed should have forced her entire body into our laps on the front seat.

It was as if a Hand reached down and gently slid her off of the car. For whatever reason, the angels were sent to surround us and keep us safe.

We’re not scratched. We’re not sore. Our child continued to sleep in the back seat, held firm by his booster strap. Brent continued to drive. We pulled into our driveway, physically shaking, but other than that, as if nothing had happened.

As I laid my head onto my pillow, I thought, “We should at least be in the hospital … or we could have been in body bags. We shouldn’t be home tonight.”

Why does God allow us to escape unscathed in some situations, but allow for us to suffer or die in others?

This is a question that I will continually ponder until I can see His face and ask Him myself.

In the meantime, today I am grateful for the treasure of breath in my lungs, whole and healthy family members … but most importantly, for the knowledge that if we had all three lost our lives, we all three would be in Jesus’s arms right now.

Do you have that knowledge? If today would be your last day on earth, are you certain that you’d wake to see Him smiling into your eyes?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Case for the Miracle

My friend Aisha was a Muslim. She and I had a weekly appointment: We'd have dinner together in her apartment, and then for a few hours afterwards, we would debate the differences between Christianity and Islam. I enjoyed these exchanges, because Aisha was a dear friend, and nothing we ever said to each other was done in anger or defensiveness.

There was one point that Aisha made time and again that always puzzled me. I would have expected her to assert there was no way Jesus could have risen from the dead. That, in and of itself, is a miracle none of us can prove, but must accept by faith.

But Aisha didn't make that point.

Instead, she argued that Jesus never died -- that He went out of consciousness after being lowered from the cross and that after three days in a cold stone tomb, He regained His strength and walked out of His own accord.

I'd never heard this point of view before, and to be honest, I was stumped into silence. All I could do was shake my head at her and tell her that I couldn't accept it.

That was about 15 years ago.

Then last night, I watched a program about the 12 disciples. During the discussion about how these 12 men had spread the news about Jesus, the program hosts brought up the exact argument I'd heard from Aisha -- what they called, "The Swoon Theory."

I was transfixed as a medical doctor -- who also has his degree in engineering and is an advisor to the National Institutes of Health -- explained why Jesus had indeed died on the cross, and how He had died.

The evidence, he said, was in John's gospel. Standing at the foot of the cross, John had witnessed the spear go into Jesus's side and had seen blood and water flowing out.

It's amazing to me that this detail is included, because it affirmed to this doctor -- and others -- that Jesus died of a ruptured heart. Clotted blood separates from a watery sac that surrounds the heart. So when the spear went into Jesus's side, what exited was blood and water, the doctor said. If He'd been alive, there would have been spurts of red blood as the heart continued to beat.

This morning I wanted to find out if there was more evidence to back up this doctor's claim ... And I found this great article! If you're interested, check out this link:

How cool is it that after 2000 years, the written account of Jesus's death can be affirmed scientifically?

Do you think it a miracle that God had John include that detail in his account ... or just a coincidence?

Personally, I think the case for the miracle has been made.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Prostitutes vs. The Proud

My blogs circulate via, and among the posts today flashed one belonging to my old "friend" Mark at Proud Atheists. In it, he asserted, once again, his beliefs in atheism, on this, Good Friday.

Shortly after, I received an email notification that the debate against Christians was continuing on the Proud Atheist site.

One person commented, "I am aware that, apart from some unpleasant exchanges, this has generally been a healthy debate between bright people but if there are any christians (or members of any religious group) reading this who feel pity in their hearts for me because I don't have a relationship with their god know that I am the one who pities you for all the hours, of this one shot, you have wasted talking to someone who just isn't there."

I find it ironic, in a way, that this debate has arisen (pun intended) during this Easter weekend.

Check out what Paul writes in I Cor. 15: 12-23(New Living Translation) ... and what I've highlighted in bold (verses 19 and 20):

"12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back."

Here's the thing ... We are going to be "pitied," I suppose, among those rational and proud atheists. As our friend at the Proud Atheist site asserted, she (he?) pities us for all of the hours we've "wasted" to talk to "someone who isn't there."

And yet, we are compelled to continue to talk to Him, aren't we?

Why is that?

Do you suppose it's because He HAS risen from the dead, that He IS the Son of the Living God and that He has redeemed us?

I so long for these people to know it like we know it!

I'll leave you tonight with one other parting thought, which popped up today on my iGoogle page. I subscribe to a feed that sends me daily quotes from C.S. Lewis. It can't be a coincidence that this was my quote of the day:

"Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger."

What do you think? Do you have anyone in your life who is in that "proud" category, who you long to experience the love of Christ? How can I pray for you? How can I pray for them?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mel Gibson's "The Passion" and My 5-Year-Old

The book is tucked among several others, unobtrusive and usually unnoticed.

I got it on sale a couple of years ago -- and it probably wasn't selling because of the graphic photos it contained.

It's a pictoral essay from Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ." The photos are combined with Scripture verses, telling what is happening in each one.

If you've seen "The Passion," you know that it's gory, grotesque, wrenching.

In fact, after Brent and I saw the movie shortly after its release, I exited the theater with such an intense migraine that I had to sit in a dark room for a few hours afterwards. I felt I'd been transported back in time and witnessed the crucifixion as it was happening.

I haven't been willing to watch the movie a second time, either to rent it or to buy a copy for our DVD collection. But when I saw the book on sale, I decided to own it so that I could study it and reflect during quiet times, especially right before Easter. This Spring I placed it in the open, but among other books.

I didn't think that Neil really noticed the book volumes we have. But a few nights ago, I was sitting here in the recliner surfing the Web on my laptop when he came to the side of the chair holding it.

"Oh wow, Neil. Look what you found." I was a little chagrined that my 5-year-old was holding this book of torture.

"Mommy, this book is about Jesus. Read it to me."

I hesitated, unsure about what to do. I want him to know the story of the cross, but this seemed like pure overkill.

"You know what, Neil? It's not a good idea. I'll tell you the story about how Jesus died, but let's not look at that book. That book is for grown-ups, because it has a lot of pictures inside that show how people were mean to Jesus."

"I know, Mommy. I was looking at it already. Read it to me."

This just about shook me to the core. But then it occurred to me that when I was 5, I had been so obsessed with the cross that my mother tells of me coloring a picture of Jesus hanging on it, nails and blood and all. How does one so young grasp it? Should they?

I took a breath and made a decision. I would allow Neil to look at the book with me, because I felt that it was better for us to talk about it together than for him to wonder without an explanation.

So we went through it, one page at a time, beginning with Jesus in the garden. Each time we approached a page that had a questionable photo, I would stop before flipping.

"Neil, this next picture is really not very good. I think it will scare you or make you have bad dreams. Let's skip the next one."

"No, Mommy. I want to know. I want to know what happened to Jesus. Please tell me about it."

I turned the page. Neil's eyes widened. "Should we flip it now?"

"No, Mommy. I want to see. I want to see what they did to Him."

We didn't dwell on those photos, but I paused long enough to offer some explanations on some things I hadn't allowed in the past -- like a toy Indiana Jones whip. "You see that those men are using a whip to hurt Jesus. That's why we won't ever buy a whip," I said. Neil nodded.

Another shot showed Mary kneeling next to Jesus, who had stumbled under the weight of the cross. The facing page had another photo -- of Mary kissing Jesus's little palm when He was about Neil's size. "See how much His mommy loved Him? She took care of Jesus when he was small, just like I take care of you." Neil nodded again.

Still, another heinous photo displayed a bloodied Jesus. "Why did He have to bleed so much?" Neil asked. Coincidentally, we'd just been talking about baptisms at our church and what they meant. "Do you remember how the people went under the water to show that they were clean? Well Jesus's blood is what washes us clean for real. He bled so that we would be free from doing wrong things." Neil nodded again.

At the end of the book, there is a photo of Jesus, unscathed as He exits the tomb. I explained what happened on Easter and why He was alive again -- and what it meant for us.

"Thanks, Mommy," Neil said, and slid off of the chair. Taking the book, he gingerly placed it back where it belonged.

"I understand it now."

As we approach Easter, don't forget to share the meaning of the story with your children. Yes, it has its ugliness. It's violent. It's horrible. It's sad.

But in understanding the grief -- the sacrifice -- they understand love.

They understand Him.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Wish That Is Granted ... And Granted ... And Granted

Some people think God is a genie in the sky who should wave His hand and grant them their heart's desires.

Normally I don't subscribe to this way of thinking ... but there has been one wish I have uttered to Him that He grants over and over, each time I ask for it:

I ask Him to bring people to my door who need to hear about Him.

And guess what: He obliges me, sometimes within a few hours.

Why do I need to make this request?

Well, eight years ago I left my career as a news journalist to start a magazine freelance writing business out of my home. I am about as extroverted as one can be -- usually I score off the charts on personality tests as a people-junkie.

So when I decided to work from home, mostly because I was burned out from the frenetic pace needed to gather daily news, it took some adjusting. Soon, though, I figured out how to feed my need for interaction with lots of emails and phone calls -- and occasionally a trek to a local Chamber event where I could schmooze.

In time I built up a successful little operation and have never hurt for work.

But when my baby was born and my husband was in Iraq at the same time, I had to retreat from the public interaction. I could only work four hours per day -- the rest of the time, I was taking care of my infant. And it was during this time of my life when I began to yearn for something a little more -- my own mission, my own way of reaching out to others.

But how to do it? Clearly, as a new mother and a sole business proprietor, there wasn't much opportunity to do the types of things I'd done previously, even when I was first starting out as a freelancer.

So one morning, I sat down and prayed.

"God," I said, "I don't have much of a chance to leave my house. I really want to help other people to know You. But I have no idea how to do it."

Immediately, the answer echoed in my heart and mind: "Ask Me to bring them to you."

Huh. Really? Could He do that? Would He do that? I was living in little Raeford, North Carolina, in a new housing development that had formerly been a cotton field. Was it possible that He would lead people to me?

Well, I thought, it can't hurt to ask.

I did. "OK. Please bring them to my door. Anyone who needs a friend, anyone who wants to talk, anyone who is searching. Please bring them right here."

Within the hour, my doorbell was ringing. It was a neighbor from across the street -- a young Korean woman who struggled with English and who had a 2-year-old. She wanted to invite me to her house for lunch. She had no friends and was lonely, because her husband was in Special Forces and traveled to Latin America frequently.

Throughout that week, more people came to my door ... little girls selling cookies, other neighbors who wondered if I'd watch their cat while they went out of town, even Jehovah's Witnesses.

They haven't stopped coming to my door, either -- not when we lived in Augusta, Georgia, and not even now, when we live in the middle of the woods in central Kentucky.

We laugh at the phrase, "If you build it, they will come" from "Field of Dreams," but in my case, it really is the truth.

If I built a haven for people and opened my heart to be used by God, all I had to do was ask for Him to lead them to me.

And He did.

If you think you're too scared to talk to people about Jesus ... or if you think you're not in a situation where it's possible ... think again.

Ask God to bring them to you.

Then ask Him for wisdom, so that when He leads them into your path, you're ready to share what He wants them to hear.

Because I guarantee you -- this is one wish that He will grant, hands down, each and every time.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Animosity against the Name

The first time it ever happened, it was as if someone had hit me on the left side of the head.

I never saw it coming.

Never had it crossed my mind that it even existed.

And yet – the first time it happened, I instantly recognized that it was displaced.

Animosity against the Name.

Maybe you’ve experienced it, too.

A sudden biting word.

A personal insult.

A snub.

A deriding laugh and roll of the eyes.

An air of superiority, many against you, solely you.

Maybe it went a few steps farther.

Maybe you were tripped.


Or worse.

In America, Christians are accustomed to a majority status. Depending on where you live … if you’re in the South, for example … you are generally shielded from being made to feel that you’re a fool. In America, if you’re a Christian, sometimes you won’t experience animosity unless you go looking for it.

But not always.

Sometimes you might be minding your own business, or doing your own work, not necessarily paying attention to the whispers and sneers around you. And then it hits.

My first encounter with animosity was during my second day of work at a newspaper in York, Pennsylvania, when one of my colleagues approached my desk from behind and snidely whispered into the back of my neck, “Do you go to church or something?” It morphed into other uncomfortable encounters after that.

There are other times when I willingly put myself into a circle of anti-Christian-minded people – like when I posted comments on an atheist’s blog site. In these cases, the animosity is not nearly as subtle. It’s a full-frontal, heavily-weighted gladiatorial attack. However, I’m not nearly as offended with that type of animosity, because it’s not quite as surreptitious. I'm ready for it and willingly open myself up to it.

Either way, though, you need to call it what it is.

It’s not animosity against you.

It’s animosity against The Name.

“I come not to bring peace but a sword,” He once said.

If you’ve been at the receiving end of the animosity against Him, you completely understand His statement -- and uncomfortably so.

What about you?

Have you experienced animosity for the Name? How do you deal with it? How can I pray for you?

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Voice of the Martyrs just sent this to my in box ... Please take a moment to read and visit to sign a petition to the Chinese government. Every voice counts for people who are suffering for Jesus.

"Christian human rights attorney, Gao Zhisheng, disappeared February 4 and was last seen being taken away by a dozen police officers. Gao Zhisheng has been repeatedly kidnapped, arrested, imprisoned and tortured by Chinese authorities, because he has defended the persecuted and has been an unyielding voice for justice in the Chinese courts.

The silence from the highest levels of the Chinese government regarding Gao Zhisheng's kidnapping is deafening. When one brave reporter asked the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson about Gao, "the official paled and was visibly shaken," according to a Western journalist who was an eyewitness.

Because Gao fearlessly cried out to the free world, revealing the abuses of the Chinese government against house church Christians and others persecuted in China, Chinese authorities want to silence his voice. Now, you can speak out on his behalf.

Gao Zhisheng's wife and children, who have also been abused and tormented by Chinese authorities, escaped to the U.S. three weeks ago. They are grateful for the more than 36,000 who are speaking out by signing the petition and sending e-mails, but more help is needed. Will you partner with us to obtain 100,000 signatures and continue to bombard Chinese government, businesses and media with e-mails calling for Gao's release?

Lend your voice to sustain the outcry for Gao Zhisheng's release. Go to to: continue to send e-mails to officials - new e-mails are posted regularly. Make a contribution online. Help us continue to press for Gao's release -- by sustaining this cry for justice."

Thanks for your consideration!