Sunday, May 31, 2009

Obese, Unbathed and a Low IQ

I credit my pastor, Pete Hise at Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY, for the idea for this blog entry ...

Summer 1977.
The Salvation Army building.
Akron, Ohio.

I am 12.

We are on our way home from the Salvation Army's Sunday evening services. My parents are pastors in this northern Ohio city. Sundays are spent forever in the chapel, classrooms and freshly-mopped hallways of The Akron Citadel Corps -- or, The Salvation Army's local church.

I am learning to play a brass baritone and have just had the opportunity to sit on stage and toot out a 2nd baritone melody. I click the latch on the black instrument case, kneeling on the floor of the band room, when my father pokes his head in the doorway.

"Come on, kiddo. Time to go home. We're locking up."

I nod and stow the brass away and move into the hallway towards the plated glass doors.

Then I see her.

She's sitting on a wooden bench, her ankles crossed, her hands folded in her lap. She's only 15, but she looks as if she's 30. She has lived a lifetime of hardship and of poverty, of little love and much pain.

I recoil slightly as she looks up and smiles at me.

"Hi Heidi. You guys are taking me home tonight."

"Oh ... sure. That's great. Just great."

I manage a smile but inside I am screaming NO!

Her presence in and around my family is repulsive to me. Her hair hangs in greasy strands around her obese face. Her body reeks a pungent odor. And I will soon be sitting next to her in our station wagon.

My father nods at me, and my mother barks an order at my younger brother, who stops throwing a small ball against the wall long enough to traipse outside like a lolly gagging puppy.

We pile into the car, three abreast in the back seat. At the last second I nudge my brother in first so that he will separate me from the object of my distaste. He glares at me when he realizes my trick and scoots in unwillingly.

We drive in silence, all five of us. She looks out the window, her chin resting in her palm, and my parents stoically stare straight ahead. My brother sits with his arms crossed, and I try to keep my mind off of the ripe smell of unbathed flesh and filthy hair.

Finally, we pull up to her house, a shack really, and she smiles and thanks us for the lift. My parents nod and smile. My brother and I have been well-taught to be polite, so we wish her a good night.

As soon as she has disappeared through the front door, all four of us simultaneously reach for the windows and crank them down.

"Drive fast, Dad," my brother orders.

"Yeah, Dad, it's unbelievable in here," I chime in.

"Poor girl," my mother laments.

"Poor girl, nothing," my dad snarls. "There's no excuse for that. She has no self-control to stop eating, and she should have the brains to take a bath at least once a week."

"No one has taught her," my mother shoots back. "No one has loved her."

My brother and I exchange glances and roll our eyes at each other. Our mother is always defending the poor people she serves, always finding compassion, always giving them a prominent place in the midst of our family's every day life.

"I agree with Dad," I say.

She scowls at me from the front seat. "You have been given a lot of opportunities that she hasn't. She doesn't know any better."

"I don't care," I snip. "I agree that she needs to stop shoving food in her mouth and not come around other people until she takes care of that smell."

We drive the rest of the way home in silence, and I plot the whole way how I will beat my brother to the shower to wash the stench from my nostrils.

What does this have to do with a "Christian safehouse" discussion? Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story ...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sorry for Story-Telling Break!

Hi Readers,

I know a lot of you have been pinging in during the past few days, looking for new entries. Apologies. I am at the end of writing up 10 stories this week for one of my clients. This morning I am in the midst of story #7.

I do have stories churning in my brain to tell you! I look forward to diving in this weekend after the mortgage-paying writing is at an end.

Thanks for your patience and for your kind loyalty to the blog, and I'll be back soon.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

My (Not So) Secret Diary

Ever want to read a page out of someone else's diary?

Well ... now you have your chance.

I'm opening my diary, or journal, to you ... to a very private entry that I penned yesterday afternoon, sitting under a giant Oak during a women's church retreat.

We had been given an assignment: We had to have one hour of quiet time, all by ourselves, with God. To get the discussion started with Him, we were given a "word." Our task was to think about how this word described us and what God wanted to tell us about how He saw us.

Here's the catch, though ... These words weren't random, or so we were told. The retreat organizers literally prayed over which words to write down on pieces of paper. Then, they prayed that each person would receive the word that God wanted them to have, specifically. They randomly handed out the words on slips of paper to each of us as we headed out for quiet time.

Now ... keep in mind ... there were nearly 300 women there. As I headed towards the person who was about to hand me my "word," I thought to myself, "This is like a horoscope. Anyone could find anything that could relate to them. There is nothing special about this."

Cynical, yes?

As I looked down at the word that had been placed in my hands, I almost burst into tears. Then I almost laughed out loud, long and hard. I shook my head in amazement. This was not a coincidence, I thought.

And then ... I wrote this entry in my journal book. It's very private. It is secretive. It reveals some telling things about me.

But it also reveals telling things about God. That's why I am sharing it with you.

Here is my not-so-secret entry, written on a grassy hill, under the shade of enormous branches of the old tree:


I am beaten down.
I feel worn -- not pretty or effective anymore. I don't feel like a good mom. I am not a loving wife. I am impatient, harsh, angry, resentful.
Beaten down.
Sometimes I think that I would be better off dead -- in Heaven -- that the rest of the world would be better off without me.
I wish for death.
I feel useless.

And then, You gave me this word:


How did You know I needed this word??

How is it possible I received this word?

You are telling me that You promise to empower me.


What does it mean?


I breathe.
I exhale.
I breathe.

I enjoy breath.
I relish Your Spirit's Presence.
I am one with You.

You are faithful to me.
Your promises are steadfast.
I do not have to rely on myself, my own strength, my own will or pride.

When I am tired, all I need to do is REST IN YOU.


I am not alone.
I am not unworthy of your love, because You have made me worthy BY Your love.
You have made me Your child -- Your baby.

You empower me with all that You possess.

To be empowered by the Creator of ALL THERE IS ... what wonder.

If God is on our side, who can ever be against us???

"You are empowered," He says to me.

"Breathe Me in.
Take in My strength.
You are empowered,
empowered to be a mom, a wife, a friend, a missionary, an apologist, a sister, a daughter, a warrior, a crusader, a truth teller, a witness.


Bring your cares to Him, Heidi.
Let Him shoulder your burdens, fears, worries, anxieties, sadness.
Let Him empower you.

Breathe. Breathe.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Haters," by Maya Angelou

Nikki, one of my sweet friends, just sent me this insightful message by Maya Angelou. Priscilla's and Aquila's Place is for us to receive refuge from those who would hate us because of Jesus. Angelou hits some points that were very encouraging to me today! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!



By Maya Angelou

A hater is someone who is jealous and envious and spends all their
time trying to make you look small so they can look tall.
They are very negative people to say the least. Nothing is ever
good enough!

When you make your mark, you will always attract some haters...

That's why you have to be careful with whom you share your
blessings and your dreams, because some folk can't handle seeing
you blessed...

It's dangerous to be like somebody else... If God wanted you to be
like somebody else, He would have given you what He gave them! Right?

You never know what people have gone through to get what they

The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they
don't know my story...

If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, you
can rest assured that the water bill is higher there too!

We've all got some haters among us!

Some people envy you because you can:
a) Have a relationship with God
b) Light up a room when you walk in
c) Start your own business
d) Tell a man/woman to hit the curb
(if he/she isn't about the right thing)
e) Raise your children without both parents being
in the home

Haters can't stand to see you happy.
Haters will never want to see you succeed.
Most of our haters are people who are supposed to be
on our side.

How do you handle your undercover haters?
You can handle these haters by:

1. Knowing who you are & who your true friends are

2. Having a purpose to your life: Purpose does not
mean having a job. You can have a job and still be

A purpose is having a clear sense of what God has called you to be.
Your purpose is not defined by what others think about you.

3. By remembering what you have is by divine
prerogative and not human manipulation.

Fulfill your dreams! You only have one life to live...when its your
time to leave this earth, you want to be able to say, 'I've lived my
life and fulfilled my dreams, Now I'm ready to go HOME!

When God gives you favor, you can tell your haters, 'Don't look at
me...Look at who is in charge of me...'

'A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man
should have to seek Him first to find her.'

Maya Angelou

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Mysterious Sadness

This is a true story.

I don't write it so that you'll think highly of me or give me special sainthood status ... I write it because I want you to see how powerfully God uses our prayers to help each other in our struggles. Here at Priscilla's and Aquila's Place, I want us to be able to grasp truths like this so that we can prop each other up.

So, this is what happened to me on Friday, a few days ago ...

I'd just poured myself a cup of coffee and had decided that the weather was nice enough to sit on our back deck, sip my Java and do my morning Bible reading and prayers.

As I opened my Bible, I felt a strong urge to shut it. I ignored the urge and tried to read. But the words just became black markings on the paper for me ... I wasn't taking them in. My mind was wandering. I couldn't concentrate.

So I closed the Bible, leaned back in my chair and took a sip of coffee, thinking about what or who needed prayers.

A new friend came to mind. Brent and I know this young lady's husband from Quest Community Church, but only recently, that very week, we had a chance to get to know her as well. The two of them came out for dinner on our boat.

I didn't understand why this girl was in my mind. But all of a sudden, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread and sadness.

If you read my other blog, Kingdom Treasures, you know that I am not the type of person who easily is moved to tears. But when this new friend came into my mind, I started crying. The tears spilled onto my cheeks. As her face flashed before me, all I could do was cry and cry.

I prayed for her, although I did not know why I should.

And when I had finished praying, the tears miraculously stopped.

About an hour later, I was checking out updates on Twitter. Someone mentioned that they'd just returned from the hospital after visiting a friend. Coincidentally, this friend of theirs had the same name as the girl for whom I'd just prayed. But I thought nothing of it and continued to work.

I forgot about the entire incident on my deck.

The next morning my pastor, Pete Hise, posted a blog entry. He spoke of one of his dearest friends and how she had suddenly fallen ill with terrible pain.

It suddenly occurred to me that I also hadn't seen any Twitters from my new friend's husband, who is fairly active in Internet social networking circles.

I wondered ... Could this person in the hospital be the girl for whom I had prayed?

I asked around, and discovered ... yes, it was indeed her.

Why do I tell you this story?

I want you to see the importance of 1) listening when God pushes your heart to pray about something in particular and 2) showering fellow believers with prayer, even if their name pops into your mind for just a moment.

I did not know or understand the reason on Friday for my sudden feelings of sadness and emotion involving this girl. You can't imagine how shocked I was to discover that she was at the center of a crisis, right at the time I was praying.

So ... what about you?

Do you pray for fellow Christians regularly? Do you take time to find out what's going on in their lives? And if you don't know them well, do you ask God to guide your prayers so that you will utter the words that will strengthen others?

And what are your needs?

How can I pray for you today?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rum Punch & A Red Hot Temper

I credit one of my pastors at Quest Community Church, Helen Musick, with the idea for this blog entry.

What's your weakness -- your Achilles heel?

Mine is a red-hot temper.

When I was a news reporter, my temper was infamous among reporters, editors and sources alike.

I once stormed out of a sheriff's office because I'd been promised an exclusive, only to arrive and to see another reporter from the competing paper there, too. I threw a temper tantrum and slammed the door on the way out. When I got back to the newsroom, my editor ordered that I go back. I refused. Right at that moment, as I was yelling at the editor, the phone on my desk rang. It was the sheriff, apologizing. He'd thrown out the other reporter and was asking me to come back. Smugly, I hung up the phone, looked my editor in the eye and snarled, "I told you so," stormed out again and got my rightful exclusive.

I have a bunch of stories like that.

A red hot temper comes in handy if you have the where-with-all on how to handle it.

Unfortunately for me, it usually also leads me down the primrose path of destruction.

Yes, I'm being serious.

More than once, my temper has almost cost me my marriage. It has almost cost me very dear friends. It has always gotten in the middle of my relationships with my mom and brother. And yet, somehow, people keep forgiving me.

Maybe that's the reason I allow myself to fly off the handle.

Admittedly, though, I've tried really hard in recent years to get a handle on this thing. And I've been doing much better.

But there are times when ... my temper creeps up like an old friend and nudges me in the side. "Go on," it tells me. "You know that person has it coming. Give it to 'em. They deserve it. That whiplash tongue of yours can destroy them with a few words. They won't know what hit them."

And of course, they don't.

It takes a great deal of self-will to keep this nasty little bugger at bay -- and of course, there would be no self-will without daily prayer.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday at Quest, I heard a little story from one of our pastors, Helen Musick. And it reminded me of this ongoing struggle I have with my temper.

Helen had a situation on a cruise. She was tempted to drink some rum punch. For some people, that may not seem like a big deal. But Helen is very open with us at Quest that she is a recovering alcoholic. I watched as she told her story on stage. Her voice quavered. She shook a little. She showed us how she brought the glass to her face, then right up to under her nose, where she could breathe in the aroma of the alcohol. But just before she could taste it, her husband showed up. She looked into his eyes -- and she saw grace. She immediately put the drink down. She felt very ashamed and abashed about this whole thing.

As I reflected on Helen's experience, I could really relate to it. There have been countless times -- countless times -- when I have held the cup of anger to my nose and breathed in a whiff of its powerful charm.

I love telling people off. I really do. I get a charge in putting them in their place and not letting them get away with anything.

But God's Spirit has made it very clear to me that this is sinful. It does not reflect the person that He wants me to be. It is a great temptation to me to allow myself the luxury of sounding off.

So here is the question I have for you ... and I've posed it to Helen as well ...

When does temptation become sin?

Does it require full action? For example ... Do you think that when Helen held that rum punch to her nose, that was a sin? See, I don't. But on the other hand, I think to myself ... does desire in and of itself constitute sin? If you want something badly but do not partake of it, have you sinned because you wanted it?

I struggle with the same thing with my temper.

If I want to tell someone off -- really badly -- is the desire to do so a sin? Is it just as bad for me to stand in front of the mirror and yell the words at my reflection? Even though they're not present and can't hear my words, is it acting on the anger?

Or ... are we struggling with our human natures? Just struggling ... not sinning?

When we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," I really think this is what Jesus is talking about -- these situations where we are right on the edge, right on the abyss of falling. We need Him to step in and help us get out of those situations with rum punch -- or those feelings of red-hot anger -- so that we can walk away whole.

And if we fail ... as Helen put it so beautifully yesterday ... are we willing to forgive ourselves as He forgives us?

I don't really have answers for you in this blog entry. I'm just mulling it. And what better place to mull it than here at Priscilla's and Aquila's Place?

So what about you?

What are your struggles? What are your thoughts on this?

How can I pray for you?

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Most Happy Sound

A home in Lexington, Kentucky.

Traveling down a hallway, the sound genuinely surprised me.

It was most happy.

But there was so much more behind it ... it was ... an echo of Heaven.

I was visiting a friend's home for lunch with about six other Christian women.

I'd just excused myself to freshen up, when the sound tickled my ears, drowning out the running water from the faucet where I was rinsing soap bubbles from my hands.

Like most believing Christians who gather at a meal, we had just shared a brief prayer before eating. Our leader asked God to bless the food ... and then she said something else that is commonly part of social prayer:

"And please be among us with Your Presence."

We tucked into our sandwiches and salads while sharing stories about children, school calendars and summer plans.

Then a few minutes later, I went down the hallway and shut the door of the powder room ... when the sound came.


Then silence.

Then louder laughter!

Then silence.

Then raucous laughter!

And so on.

The laughter became more and more boisterous. Someone was obviously telling a good story or a great joke, I thought at first.

But then something else hit me.

The laughter was endearing, precious, sweet. It wasn't centered around filthy jokes or gossip at someone else's expense. It wasn't based on political discussion or a judgmental dissection of a group in society.

It was laughter grounded and rooted in the Presence.

We'd asked for His Presence.

And the laughter ... this most happy sound ... was tangible evidence that He was there, sitting among the women at that table.

And He was laughing.

I knew He was laughing with them, enjoying His creations, loving His daughters, lavishing them with His tender and beautiful Spirit.

It was a most happy sound ... a sound of family members whose Father had given all so that they could dwell together, support each other, love each other ...

and laugh.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn Hop on Our Boat

Last Saturday.
Royalty's Fishing Camp & Marina.
1 Mile Down the Road from Our House.
Harrodsburg, KY.

We found them on the dock, casting a net near an unsuspecting fish, hoping that a dead fish they had tucked in its folds would lure the live one into their trap.

"We already caught a big 'un," the older boy says.

"Yeah! You should see it!" the younger one exclaims.

"How did you catch it?" Brent asks.

"Well, see, we find these dead fish by the edge of the lake and we put them in this here net," the older one drawls in a central Kentucky accent. "Then we come over to this part of the dock and dip the net in. The fish come over to us! And we catch 'em!"

Brent and I exchange glances, eyebrows raised.

"You're really smart," Brent tells the boys.

Their grins stretch from cheek to cheek. "Thank you," the little one says, turning back to his task at hand.

Neil is kneeling at dock's edge, peering into the water, watching as the large fish circles the net. "Fishing is easy," he says.

We all laugh.

Brent and I head over to our pontoon, parked a few feet away. A few seconds later, the boys follow us.

"Is this your boat?" the older one asks.


"Can we sit with you?"

"Sure! Don't you want to fish with your net, though?" I ask.

"We like sitting on boats," the little one says.

"Do you need to let your parents know where you are?" I ask.

The older one quickly says, "They don't care. They're just sitting at home. They don't care where we are."

The information takes me aback, but I just try to act nonchalant.

Neil happily jumps aboard. As an only child, he's thrilled when any other small person gets in the near vicinity. He chatters happily at the boys, and they respond sweetly, even though a lot of what he tells them sounds like jibberish about Sonic the Hedgehog.

We pull out a Scrabble game, and the boys are surprisingly fascinated by it. They spend the next half hour building words and helping Neil sound them out. They're pleasant. Boisterous, but well-behaved. Energized, but respectful -- and obedient.

They abandon Scrabble for the dock, where Neil suggests a wrestling match.

"Buddy, I don't think so," I quickly intervene.

"Shh," Brent says under his breath. "I'm watching them. Go back to reading your book. I'll make sure they don't get too rough. Boys need to play."

I huff and uneasily turn my eyes back to the pages of "East of Eden," all the while keeping my ears tuned firmly on the three.

I'm very surprised at the vocabulary of the younger child. He is Huckleberry Finn personified -- bright eyes, tussled hair ... and language peppered with the F word.

His older brother senses my displeasure and quickly comes back onto the boat to sit next to me. I look up from the book.

"I'm sorry about my brother," he says sheepishly. "He uses a lot of bad words. It's not very good, is it?"

I smile at this child who has such a generous and tender heart. "It's OK," I tell him. "Don't worry."

But I can see the boy is worried. Before I have a chance to interject a motherly plea for the F word to stop, he yells over to "Huck."

"Hey! Stop using that word! That little boy sh'nt hear it! Cut it out!" he says, then looking back at me and smiling for my approval.

I pat him on the shoulder. "You are a sweet boy and a good brother."

I learn more about their family situation. He continues to sit with me and prattle, sometimes about school, sometimes about fishing, but always returning to their family.

I feel a question burning in my heart. I feel a strong sense from God that I am supposed to ask it. "But are you sure?" I question Him silently. "Ask," He tells me.

I take a deep breath.

"Hey, listen. Do you two guys go to church anywhere?"

The child looks down at his feet. "No ma'am."

"Would you like to come to church with us? We have a really cool church."

He meets my gaze. His expression is filled with hope.

"Really? Sure! I would love it! I know where you live!" (this last sentence surprises me more than a little!) "I will ride my bike to your house. Tell me what time to be there."

We talk about Quest Community Church, and then I write down our name, address and phone number for him to give to his parents.

He and "Huck" excitedly take the paper and leave, tromping up the hill towards their home.

"Look at them, Brent. They're just like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Aren't they so cute?"

Brent rolls his eyes. "You just want to save the whole world, don't you?"

"Well, what's wrong with trying? One person at a time. I didn't come up with that church question by myself, by the way. He was telling me to ask it."

Brent takes in this information solemnly and nods. "OK. Well, if He was telling you to ask it, I guess you can't ignore that."

The next morning, we wait to see if the boys will show or if their parents will call.

The phone stays silent.

The driveway stays empty.

We leave for Quest.

But I pray.

And when we return to the dock later that afternoon, we see them coasting around on another boat. They wave, and we wave back.

"I want to be on that boat with them," Neil says.

"Neil, we have a whole summer with them," I tell him.

"And besides, I think it won't be long before they start coming to church with us."

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

"The Godfather" is one of my all-time favorite flicks -- and books.

(Funny that a good Christian girl would say it, right? I just had a thing for a young Al Pacino, I think. No surprise I married a man who closely resembles him!)

There are a lot of great quotes peppered throughout (and if you're a Godfather maniac as I am, you'll immediately conjure the scene from the blog title today).

But a sage piece of "advice" comes from Michael Corleone (my beloved Al Pacino) to his brother Fredo:

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever."

This morning, as you can see from the comments listed in the entry below, I got into a little tiff with a regular blog visitor who is highly critical of my church, Quest Community Church, in Lexington, Kentucky. Nothing really burns me up more than when someone lobs fiery arrows from dark corners, and that they use the anonymity of the Internet to do it.

So, I lost my temper, as you'll see from my responses to his posts, which by the way I didn't print because they were libelous.

I thought about removing the entry entirely, because quite frankly, I know a lot of non-Christian people read this blog all over the world. I was concerned that they would think, "Look at those Christians. All they know to do is fight amongst each other. No wonder they're a dying religion."

And then I decided ... this actually is a perfect example of a pearl of wisdom from "The Godfather."

"You're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again."

Why is this important? Precisely for the reason I mentioned above ... as Christians, we have enough going on with the world -- enough persecution, enough twisting of our words, enough maligning of our character, enough sabotaging of the advancement of the Truth.

Why do we fight each other?

What causes such division, such strife?

If we can't agree, if we can't love, if we can't unify -- how is the world to take us seriously? Because if we fight each other, we might as well be "taking sides outside the family."


I apologize to all of you for losing my temper and posting the angry comments to the critic.

And I want you to know that ... divisive comments will not be printed here. The blog is meant for exchanging encouragement.

As I told my critic, if you want to fight within the family for the world to see, take your argument to the world.

But I'm done fighting. Doing so just means that I'm giving ammunition to those that would want to tear the family apart.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What Really Gets My Panties in a Wad ...

If you're from the United States, you'll recognize it as a routine question asked during polite conversation in the South ...

Where do you go to church?

Actually, the question itself does not bother me in the least.

However ... what really gets my panties in a wad (and excuse the crassness, but it's the only way I can describe my severe agitation) ... is the exchange that occurs after I tell local people that I attend Quest Community Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

Blank stare.

"You do?"

"Yes, and we love it!"

And then comes the statement that grates like nails on a chalkboard:

"Well, but ... that's a seeker church, isn't it?"

Pardon me, but when someone says that to me, it's all I can do to keep myself from punching their lights out.

Why does that offend me? Well ... For one thing, if you're not a church goer, let me explain the dynamic between Christians who attend traditional churches and those who attend churches like Quest.

A "seeker church" is a place where people focus on introducing God to others who have never been to church much in their lives.

But its meaning goes a little deeper than that. See, I have always connected that phrase with Spiritual Snobbery.

What the person really is saying is (not out loud, but implied) ...

"Do you really want to go to a church where most people don't have a clue about the Bible?"

"What if your kid has to go to Sunday School where the other kids might come from homes where they swear? He could hear something he shouldn't."

"Do you want to go to a place where every single sermon is one-dimensional and only focuses on John 3:16? Don't you think you should attend a church where you're challenged to dig into meaty portions of Scripture every week?"

"Seeker churches are filled with people who are very worldly, sometimes even agnostic, maybe even homeless. Why would you go to a place like that?"

"Wouldn't you rather go to a place where you can socialize with other Christians who have been Christians for a while? Why would you want to be around people who are just figuring out their spirituality?"

And on and on.

Do you think I'm being judgmental and hard on people who use the phrase, "Seeker Church?"

Maybe so ... but I know one thing's for sure ... when I tell the locals that our family loves Quest, nine times out of 10, the look I get is highly disapproving.

My question would be ... why wouldn't I go to a church like this?

Why wouldn't I want to be in a place where the Word of God is as fresh as the dew on the grass?

Why wouldn't I attend a place where people are excited -- Snoopy Happy Dance Excited -- about finding freedom and grace?

Why wouldn't I want my child to be around other children from diverse ethnic backgrounds who could use some love and encouragement?

Why wouldn't I want to be in a sanctuary where the Name of Jesus is not only praised but adored and glorified -- loudly and exuberantly -- every single week?

Why wouldn't I want to hang out with newcomers who can't wait for the sermon, who never look at their watches, who linger and prefer to staying over rushing to the line at the nearest Applebee's, whose values are on Spiritual food not their stomachs?

Seeker Church.

For the people who love to use that phrase, my question is ... Why isn't your church that way? And why would you want to go to any other type of place whose goal is anything but expanding the Kingdom?

Am I harsh?


But I just prefer to think of myself as a Seeker-lover.

In fact, I'm a Seeker, too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Prayed for You Today (Yes, You!)

If you are reading this blog, you were at the center of my prayers this morning.

Some of you I know by name.

Some of you, I know by your geographic location, because I’m able to track my visitors and see where you are in the world.

Some of you, I know by anonymous postings to my blog entries.

And some of you, I know by long and deep friendships or family ties.

Whether I knew your face or not, I prayed for you this morning. Many I prayed for individually.

I prayed for my regular visitors in Pakistan. I don’t know what you are experiencing with the Taliban’s resurgence, but I am concerned about you.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

I prayed for my regular visitors in India. I don’t know if you are Christian, Hindu or Muslim. I don’t know if you are being persecuted for being a Christian or if you are of another faith that regards Christians with suspicion. But I know of the turmoil taking place within India.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

I prayed for a regular visitor in Sao Palo, Brazil. You translated one of my most recent posts about “The Disembodied Voice” into Portuguese. I prayed that this entry answered some questions for you or gave you strength.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

I prayed for regular visitors in the Philippines; in Christchurch, New Zealand; in Australia; in London, England; Hamburg, Germany; Bangkok, Thailand … and in New Jersey, Georgia, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, Arizona, Ohio. You are my most faithful readers, did you know it? I don’t know your circumstances, but I prayed that you would be filled with grace and peace today.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

By name, I prayed for my friends and work colleagues who visit the blog. I am honored that you think enough of my writing to read it. I hope that in some small way these blogs will connect you to the One who loves you.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

By name, I prayed for my family members. Some know Jesus personally. Some don’t and are still searching. Wherever you find yourself, I covet the knowledge of God’s love for you.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

And if you are one of the pastors or leaders or attendees at Quest Community Church, I prayed for you. You are the reason I started blogging. You are the reason my spirit is continually re-ignited with passion for a Holy and loving God. You are the light that shines in the darkest places, unabashedly, boldly and courageously.

You are on my mind and in my heart – and in God’s heart.

I prayed for you today. (Yes, you!)

Do you want me to pray for anything specific for you? Post it here or send an email to me at

I will pray for you. I will lift your name to the One who has dreams for your life that you can’t imagine, the One who treasures you as His Kingdom Treasure, the One who loves you, loves you.

Loves YOU.

How can I pray for you today?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Fear of the Dark

May 1970.
The Bronx, New York

I am 5.

I dread bedtime, not because I dread sleep but because I am sure the monsters are under my bed and in my closet, ready to spring on my tiny little body and eat me alive.

My mother leaves the hall light on and keeps my door open. But it’s not enough.

I am terrified of the dark.

So she compromises some more. She turns on my bedroom light and sternly orders me to sleep and makes her way downstairs as I plead with her to stay.

And then, silence, save the distant drone of Walter Cronkite in the warm and safe living room light.

I completely PANIC.

I creep to the closet door and look inside.


I crawl on all fours and look under my bed.


I slowly make my way to the door frame.

Dare I go downstairs?

I step, as quietly as I can, on each pre-1940s wooden step until I’m at the landing, and then I crane my head around the corner. My parents are sitting together on the couch, my father’s arm around my mother, my mother’s head on his chest. Safe. I know I am protected, but I just have to stay away from my room, or those monsters will get me.

Then, unfortunately for me, they simultaneously lift their heads and look right at me. How did they hear me?

“What are you doing up?” my father barks.

“I’m afraid of the monsters in my room.”

“Get back in there!”

And I race to my doorway, still not entering the realm of terror, still clinging to the hallway light and the comforting sound below.

“Are you in your bed?” he shouts up at me.


“You get in there or I’ll spank you!”

’Nuff said.

Woefully I slink back to my bed and sit up, clutching the sheets to my chin. How will I ever sleep, knowing that those creatures will attack me as soon as I’m out cold?

Then, I come up with an idea.

My mother, always a font of creativity, has stowed some poster board under my bed for special coloring binges. I grab one of the sheets and a crayon, and methodically, deliberately, I write these words:


(Just remember I hadn’t learned to spell yet).

I smile smugly. “Those monsters aren’t as smart as I am,” I think to myself. “They won’t even know that I’m a little kid under the covers.”

I prop the sign against the side of my bed, pull up the covers and immediately go to sleep.

I am confident that my sign to scare them away will do the trick, and I will sleep in contentment.

And I do.

Two weeks ago.
My bedroom.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am 43.

I am still afraid of the dark.


I keep a tree filled with twinkle lights on throughout the night on my stair landing. If I wake, its light comforts me.

I was so afraid of the dark when I was a child, that when Neil comes to get me in the night, I go straight to his room and sleep next to him until morning.

I know what it’s like to be afraid of the dark and of monsters unseen. I don't want him to be afraid like I was.

At 2 a.m., I wake suddenly. It’s so dark I can’t see my hand. I grab Brent’s arm.

“What is it?” he yelps.

“Why are the lights off of the twinkle tree? Why did you unplug it?” I yell.

“Geez! I didn’t unplug it. The electricity is off. We had a thunderstorm.”

I can’t explain to you this irrational fear of the dark, but it continues to haunt me. I feel I am suffocating. I can’t breathe. I grab my glasses and touch my toes to the floorboards.

“Where are you going?”

“Upstairs. I have to be able to see light.”


I creep up to our living room landing and make my way to the front door. As I open it, a strong breeze kisses my cheeks, and I breathe in the night air gratefully, while I gaze at the street light on the corner. I make my way back to a recliner and stare at the light streaming into the foyer, waiting for our home’s power to be restored.

I sleep. Two hours later, the lights on the twinkle tree come back to life and wake me. I make my way back to our room, comforted by the light, and settle into my pillow.

As long as the light is shining on me, I can sleep in contentment.

And I do.

Yesterday, 7:10 a.m.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, KY.

I have just put Neil on the school bus.

Still wiping the sleep from my eyes, I open my computer to check for morning messages from editors and to assess my routine for the day.

And I am met with darkness.

It floods over me, like the blackest of nights, suffocating me, churning panic in the pit of my belly.

What is your worst fear? Mine is that my child will be abducted.

I am gazing at a notification in my inbox:

“A sex offender has just moved near you. Click here for their location,” it says.

I do and suck in my breath as the map covers my screen, green dots indicating the homes of offenders near my own.

I feel scared and angry, just like I felt at age 5 when I battled the monsters in my room with the poster board sign.

Then I open my other email account. “Gena123 is following you on Twitter.” “Brandy78 is following you on Twitter.” “Joe95 is following you on Twitter.”

The list goes on.

Each of these people have Twitter accounts that boast their sexual adventures. They have links to their own Web sites (no, didn’t click those, promise) that I assume are pornographic in nature.

I angrily hit, “Delete, Delete, Delete,” and ask myself, “Why are they following me? Are they trying to harass me? Are they trying to scare me? Are they following me because of the photo I’ve posted with me and Neil?”

And as soon as the thoughts hit me, the Voice speaks to my heart.

“You’re in the light. They’re in the darkness. Don’t you think they may be following you on Twitter because you are in the light? You can show them the Safety from the monsters in their lives.”

My heart softens.

“What do you want me to do about this?” I ask Him.

“Love them. I love them. Love them for Me.”

And so I do.

I post a line on my Twitter page:

“To my recent followers who boast their sex addictions: Check out my blog at Someone loves YOU.”

Will it make a difference?

I don’t know, but I do know one thing:

I am safe in the Light. And they should be safe, too.

They should sleep in contentment, under His grace

… as I do.