Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013!!

I had great aspirations to post our Christmas letter before the Mayan Apocalypse, but obviously that didn’t happen.  This year has been full of surprises.

Despite our protests, our youngest daughter Kelsey crossed over to the dark side – as you can see from our Christmas picture, she chose to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after graduating from NRCA with honors this year. She has really enjoyed her first semester and is especially thankful for a great roommate.

Meanwhile, Megan is making plans to graduate from NC State University this coming May. She is finishing up her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies – European Concentration and minors in Spanish and Arts Entrepreneurship. She has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to continue her studies by completing independent research in Prague on how the arts can be used to facilitate inclusion among the Romani population. If the Fulbright doesn’t work out, she has several backup plans – all with the intent of returning to Prague.

Daniel is enjoying his last year in middle school. He is really broadening his musical repertoire – he’s currently first chair trombone, plays drums and jimbe in the Student praise band at church, and is teaching himself how to play a variety of songs on his electric guitar. He was thrilled to get an acoustic electric guitar for Christmas and is hoping to lead worship not only at church, but at chapel at NRCA as well.

Matt is in fifth grade – finishing elementary school. It’s hard to imagine that half of our children have now graduated from high school and we will soon have no one in elementary school. Where have the years gone? Matt was excited to sing in the Christmas musical at church and has really enjoyed starting band this year. He is playing the trumpet and picking it up quite well.

Randy continues to teach Pre-Algebra at NRCA and serve as Worship Pastor at Wakefield Baptist. This past year included leading his first international mission trip as he took a team that included Kelsey to Bolivia. It was not only a great time for the two of them, but a productive visit as well. They were able to spend quite a bit of time with students at the local university and built relationships that are continuing to grow through the modern technology of social media. Over 300 people attended their showings of the Jesus Film and as many as 90 became followers of Christ.

Felicia got a wonderful Christmas surprise in the form of a job offer! Starting January 7, she will be managing Compensation and Classification for the Division of Public Health. She is very excited about this opportunity and eager to see what God has in store. She and her friend Daphne were able to return to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May for the second time. Felicia was humbled and delighted to receive Second Place in the Young Adult Category for her first, as yet unpublished, novel, CzechMate. She is (slowly) working on edits and hopes to submit it for publication in the coming months. In the meantime, her contacts from the conference resulted in her second published story. You can pre-order a copy online now of God’s Provision in Tough Times at
 which features an encouraging true story of how God worked in our lives through difficult circumstances.

This past year was filled with several unhappy surprises as well. In March, Felicia’s father underwent back surgery and experienced severe complications. At one point, the doctors did not expect him to make it through the night, but we are very thankful that our prayers were answered and he is doing much better. We had planned a large 50th Anniversary celebration for him and her mom, which we ended up having to postpone until he was feeling better in October. Just a couple of weeks before the re-scheduled party, he had two more mishaps which included totaling their new car and getting a helicopter ride to Pitt Memorial. We told him we were going through with the party with or without him so he might as well get better and enjoy it, and that seemed to perk him up a bit.

 In December, we suffered a terrible shock when Felicia’s older brother, Hal, had a stroke. Hal is the absolute picture of health, and we are very hopeful that he will recover the use of his left arm and leg, but it was a powerful reminder that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Whether it is the Mayan Apocalypse, an alien invasion, or simply our own mortality – this life will end for each of us and most likely sooner than we think. As you celebrate the Christmas season and look forward to the New Year, do you know the One we celebrate?  Our prayer is that you know the peace of God  through a relationship with His Son this season.

See you next year!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Liebster Award

I'm still trying to figure this out, so if I don't do it right, my apologies!

When you receive the award you are suppose to post random facts about yourself and answer questions from the person who nominated you. You pass the award onto other blogs and ask them to do the same. There are variations to the exact number of desired responses so I have chosen seven as the number for the responses.

Seven Random Facts:
1. I'm an Army Brat who lived in 8 states and two foreign countries. Facebook's "hometown" identification makes me crazy.
2. I was over 40 when I finally settled on what I want to be when I grow up....and older than that when I realized I had already been doing it my whole life. (Writing)
3. Since Lesley Eischen (who tagged me for this award) mentioned Radio Mystery Theater, I have to admit that when I lived in Korea, I used to listen to The Shadow all the time. "The Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men..."
4. I was a "Trojan", a "Criminal" and finally an "Imp." That's what happens when you move a lot.
5. I am that person who starts a conversation any time I am forced to wait in line for more than 60 seconds. My kids love it. (not)
6. The one talent I most wish I had and do not, is being able to tune. But what I lack in quality, I more than make up for in volume. :-)
7. My favorite place in the world is the desert southwest at sunset.

Seven Questions:
1. Do you parallel park or drive around the block?
Parallel matter how many tries it takes or how long the guy behind me lays on his horn.
2. If someone wrote a book about your life, what would they title it?
Unmerited Grace
3. If you had to choose a favorite book of the Bible, what would it be and why?
Revelations - love to read how the story ends! God wins.
4. Fiction or non-fiction? Why?
Fiction - both for reading and for writing. Love to read others' stories and love to create stories of my own.
5. How would you spend a million dollars?
 Tithe, pay off house, car, etc., set aside enough for my kids' college, help with friends' medical bills.
6. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Could never pick just one place...
7. What recent blessing from the Lord would you like to share?
God's sovereignty - every situation that touches our lives as believers has a purpose - to conform us to the image of Christ.

The seven questions above are the same for those that I have nominated. Here are my nominations for the Liebster Award:
1. Lori Roeleveld at:
2. Daphne Woodall at:
3. Cathy Baker at:
4. Rachel Anderson Piferi at:
5. Wendy Focht Foreman at:
6. Megan Bridges at:
7. Julie Webb Kelly at:

Hope you enjoy playing - if not, send me a message and I'll take your name off the list!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Iron Sharpens Iron

This phrase has been going through my mind a lot lately. I've had several opportunities where God has used others to polish my rough edges or prompted me to offer guidance and counsel to others. Each of these moments has given me a glimpse into some aspects of 'sharpening' that I had not really considered before.

First, in order to sharpen a blade, there must be contact. Metal must touch metal. We can't hone a blade from across the room and we can't influence someone's life without touching it. We have to draw near to them, show compassion and demonstrate the love of Christ - love that is unconditional, not dependent on them taking our advice - before we begin to offer instruction.

Proverbs 27:6
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Sometimes the contact required to sharpen us makes sparks fly. Just as a blade against a stone will shower sparks as it is shaped, accountability sometimes leads to conflict. We've all experienced times when we were being corrected and immediately bristled at the correction. We are prone to become defensive, to try to justify our actions, to even counter-attack with all the shortcomings we see in the other person. But God desires that we receive correction humbly.

Proverbs 12:1
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. (OUCH!)

The source for our bristling is our pride. No matter how often we tell ourselves we have beaten that monster down, it raises its head in the most unlikely places. We can even find ourselves becoming prideful about how very humble we are!

Proverbs 15:31
Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.

The value of correction is not based on the tool used, but on the hands of the One using it. Often we want to judge the words of someone offering correction based on their own strengths instead of based on God's strength. A stone used to sharpen a blade need not be perfect to be useful. Personally, I could pick up a tool perfectly suited for a task, but I don't have the skill or wisdom to put the tool to use. Similarly, God in His omnipotence can use even unbelievers to point out our rough points - the value of the correction lies in how God uses it, not in the person who provides it. We must weigh any correction received against God's Word and allow the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. Sometimes the 'correction' may be simply a distraction or an attack of the enemy, based on personal preferences and biases with no basis in Scripture. If so, receive it graciously and discard it quietly. "As much as it depends on you, live peaceably..."

But if it is consistent with God's Word, then we should accept it as being from the Lord regardless of how He chose to deliver it. After all, even a clock with a dead battery is right twice a day.

Proverbs 15:32
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

A dull blade is useless. How can we expect for the Lord to use us, if we don't allow Him to sharpen us? If we want to be true followers of Christ, useful and effective in ministry and to be found faithful servants, we all will undergo discipline, sharpening, as painful as it may be.

Hebrews 12:5-6
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a

Sharpening can be painful. Coming face-to-face with our own sin is never pleasant. When God shows us something in our lives that grieves His heart, as believers we are cut to the core. Godly repentance is the only response.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"We will sell no wine before its time"

Remember Orson Welles plugging Paul Masson wine with the line "We will sell no wine before its time"?

I have a confession to make. (Anyone who knows me will not be surprised at all.) I tend to rush into things. I rush to get to appointments on time (15 minutes early), rush my kids out of bed (15 minutes before they need to), rush, rush, rush. Maybe you are like me and always rushing from one thing to the next.

In this fast-paced, fast-food, fast-lane society, do we sometimes think we can fast-track our friends and neighbors to Christ? The Gospel is so simple, all they really need to do is repent of their sins and trust in Jesus - shouldn't they be able to do that in fifteen minutes or less?

God showed me something in my quiet time this morning that really slapped me in the face with how I've been expecting fast-food results, when God is a slow-growth God. Don't get me wrong, when God wants to, He can move mountains in minutes - but that's when He moves, not us.

I was reading from 2 Timothy 2:25-26, "25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." The picture that came to mind was of fruit that takes time to ripen. We can pick it before it's ready...we can even try to ripen it after it has been picked, but it will never be as sweet as if we allow it the time to ripen on the vine or tree.

Similarly, we must recognize that only God can bring the godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). If instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to convict someone of sin, we confront them harshly, we are more likely to put them on the defensive or even turn them away. We give the enemy an extra trap to use in holding them - their natural self-defense mechanism - that causes them to 'tune out' anything else we might say.

I'm not suggesting that we ignore sin, cover up sin, or call what God calls sinful anything else. 

Fruit needs three things to ripen - sunlight, water, and nutrient-rich soil. Those locked in Satan's grip need the same three things.

They need light - Jesus said that WE are the light of the world. They need for us to be in their lives, allowing Jesus to shine through us on them. Jesus never pointed fingers at those locked in sin, unless it was the sin of Pharisaical pride, instead He showed love and compassion. He met their physical needs and then encouraged them to turn from sin. But even in his admonishment to turn from sin, He did so gently. When we show the love of Jesus to others, especially to those who attack, persecute, or oppose us, we shine His light on them.

They need water - the Holy Spirit is symbolized by water throughout the New Testament. We who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit allow His water to flow to them by living in a manner that demonstrates His cleansing. When we are empowered to overcome sin by the Holy Spirit, those locked in sin see that power, that victory - and they want the freedom and joy that we have. The catch here is do WE have it? We have to live in victory. If we, believers, live in bondage to sin, what do we really have to offer them?

They need nutrition. Matthew 4:4 tells us: "Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ " They need the Word of God, not crashing over their head, but gently applied to their heart. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." and 1 Peter 3:15 admonishes us "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give aanswer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

Allowing God to work in someone's life, on His timetable instead of ours, requires faith. We must trust that God loves that person even more than we do. That He has a plan for their life. That if there is any possibility of them being saved, God's plan will succeed in reaching them. But we can't rush that plan. All we can do is offer the warmth and light of Jesus' love, the refreshment and hope of living according to the Spirit, and the nourishment of God's Word.

"plantedApollos watered, but God gave the increase." (1 Cor. 3:6)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bringing Your Faith to Work

(I've decided to periodically post reviews of books that I've read and believe are worth recommending to my friends and followers. Hopefully, this will become a regular feature! My first review is of Fruit at Work, by Chris Evans, currently available on at

Being a missionary in your workplace can be even more challenging than being on the mission field in some ways. While on the mission field, you can focus your wholehearted attention on the single goal of meeting needs and reaching lives for Jesus in an overt and open way, often in the workplace you must witness without openly quoting Scripture or invoking Jesus’ name.

Fruit at Work is a practical, engaging and well-researched look at how Christians can take the principals of God’s Word to work with them each day. As a successful businessman, Chris Evans speaks from a perspective that many Christian writers lack. He offers encouragement that the same fruit that God promises should accompany the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, also promotes effective business practices. Mr. Evans digs into the meaning of each aspect of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ mentioned in Galatians 5. In each chapter, he unpacks the historical context and meaning of the word and then explains how contemporary business people can exhibit that aspect to glorify God, reach the lost, and still merit excellent performance reviews from their manager. Whether you are an entry-level employee at McDonald’s or the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, you will find the insights and examples from Mr. Evans’ own years of experience entertaining and enlightening, as well as practically beneficial both to your mission and to your career.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cheerleader or Professional Mourner?

4 "Fathers,[a] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (NIV)
 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (NASB)
Or as the parallel verse in Colossians admonishes,
3:21 "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."

I was listening to Focus on the Family on my commute home last week as Jay Payleitner discussed excerpts from his book, 52 Things Kids Need from their Dad. Jay described the time he had come home after winning his first match at a wrestling competition as a Junior in high school on the JV team. He was thrilled to have finally won a match, but his father's reaction, "great, maybe next year you'll make the Varsity team," quickly deflated his enthusiasm. His father didn't mean to crush his son - he hoped to spur him on to greater achievement in the future. But instead, the boy heard that all his hard work was still not good enough to please his dad.

Jay made the point that we should practice Romans 12:15 with our children and "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." He suggested that we must recognize the feelings our child displays and join them where they are at. 

If Johnny is bummed out that he came in second, commiserate and then encourage them. "I know - it's awful! You were so close. But you're getting better each time! Next time, I bet you'll take first place!" 

On the other hand, if second place is a new record for Johnny and he's  thrilled, celebrate like it's the state championship victory! Leave the exhortation for another time and simply enjoy the achievement today.

If Susie has been tops in her class for three years and her 99 on that Chem Exam just cost her Valedictorian, cry with her, crack open the Blue Bell and begin the chick flick film festival. But if she runs in screaming with delight because she finally earned a C, pat her on the back and say, "Good job! I'm proud of you." 

Of course, most of us want better than 'average' for our kids. We expect more! 

We know they are capable of more, after all, they are OUR kids. They're bound to be exceptional.

I have to confess, as an over-achiever, people-pleaser myself, it is incredibly difficult for me to rejoice when my children achieve anything less than a gold medal, five star performance. I'm terribly competitive, as anyone who has played cards or volleyball with me knows...what I lack in skill, I make up for in competitive spirit and trash-talking.

I'm a firm believer that kids will live up (or down) to your expectations. Some of the worst train-wrecks I've seen regarding teens gone wild have been in families where the parents joked about the kids making terrible life choices from the time they were little. It was as if they had written a blueprint for their children to follow. 

The point is, set high expectations, but also recognize the reality of where your child is now.

What I heard Jay saying, and consequently recognized in my own life, is that when I fail to join my child where they are at, it can frustrate them, exasperate them, and ultimately leave them bitter toward me. It breeds resentment of me as someone who 'doesn't understand them'. Suddenly I find myself with a child whose mood is defiant and disrespectful and wonder, "What is their problem?" 

If we rejoice when they rejoice and mourn when they mourn; if we celebrate when they think it's worth celebrating and commiserate when they need someone to agree that the world just isn't fair, we will find a new bond being built. It's built on understanding who my child is and where they are regarding their self-image. It's not an easy, one-size-fits-all answer. I have to know my child well enough to see whether the result is one that they are proud of and want to celebrate, or one that feels like defeat. 

Then you'll know whether you need to break out the pom-poms or the tissues!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Writer's Plot Writing Conference

book open pages flying out.JPGThe Writer’s Plot Writing Conference
Don't have time for a 4-5 day conference? Can't afford to travel but still want to work on your craft?

The Writer's Plot Writing Conference presents:

The Story Continues...
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Furman University
3300 Poinsett Hwy, Greenville, SC 29613

Keynote Speaker:  Harold Underdown
Early Bird Special Price:  $80 until June 16th
Regular Price (after June 16th):  $100
Manuscript Critique:  $45 (first 10 pages)
Special Critique with Harold Underdown for rejected manuscript consultation:  $45 (first 10 pages)
Deadline for submission:  June 16th

Register online:
10% discount for TWP members for all prices

Presenters include:

Harold Underdown – consulting editor, former vice president & editorial director at ipicturebooks, former editorial director at Charlesbridge, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books

Edie Melsonsocial media marketing expert, author of best-selling ebook, Social Media Marketing for Writers and a devotional, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle

Vonda Skeltonauthor of Seeing Through the Lies (for women), three Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries (for children), and numerous magazine articles for adults

Patricia Thomasauthor of 7 picture books, including “Stand Back,” said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” as well as numerous magazine articles and short stories

Pam Zollmanaward-winning author of 40 children’s books, hundreds of short stories and articles (for adults and children), and former editor at Highlights Magazine.

Alan Gratzaward-winning author of six children’s and YA books, short stories, magazine articles, plays, and several episodes of A&E’s City Confidential

Jessica AlexanderAssociate Editor for Peachtree Publishing

Katya JensenEditorial and Subrights Coordinator for Peachtree Publishing

Diana Flegal – Literary agent with Hartline Literary Agency

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Glimpses of Heaven

I doubt the streets of gold will be carpeted with sage, cream, and black swirly patterns on a rust background. There probably won't be straight-backed chairs in muted earth tones, elevators that make the stairs seem enticing, or quandaries about how to properly moderate the temperature to please both the pre- and post-menopausal crowd. Whatever meals are served will somehow unite delightful flavors with the very best nutrition...after all, God created it all, right?

These minor differences aside, I had the pleasure to get a tiny glimpse of heaven here on earth a couple of weeks ago when I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I've been walking on clouds ever since, and have only now come down from the clouds to share my view.

The first thing that struck me as utterly heavenly was the welcome upon our arrival. Friends, some of whom I'd never actually met face to face, greeted me from across the parking lot by name. We squealed in delight and dodged traffic to hug one another and share our joyful reunion.

Isn't that just like heaven?

Imagine running across the golden pavement to hug the neck of brothers and sisters in Christ we never met on this earth. The Apostle Paul. John Huss and John Calvin. William Wilberforce. Annie Armstrong.  Corrie Ten Boom. C.S. Lewis. John Bunyan. Amy Carmichael. Jim Elliot and Nate Saint. Helen Keller. Joni Earickson Tada. Billy Graham.

I was humbled and moved to find that not only other conferees knew me by name, but some of the faculty remembered me. Me? Greeted ME by name, with a hug, and 'so glad you were able to come this year!'

Another glimpse of heaven. 

Those heroes we've studied, read about, prayed for from across the world, and weeped over...they will greet us by name. 'So glad to see you!' 'So glad you're here!' As thrilling as it was to have Alton Gansky or Todd Starnes recognize me...imagine having Mother Teresa thank you for that mission trip you took to India. Imagine C.S. Lewis thanking you for the stories you wrote (inspired by his own work) or Billy Graham thanking you for preaching the Word.

All those whose names you know, and even those whose names you've never heard, will squeal with delight and run (fly? float? waft, perhaps?) to greet name!

They are that 'great cloud of witnesses' that surrounds us in Hebrews 12:1. 

Like the faculty at Blue Ridge who have reached the 'publication' milestone and are encouraging and cheering on those still reaching for that prize, so the heroes of our faith are calling out to us, praying for us, encouraging us to run the Christian race with perseverance and faith. 

And then there was the worship...a room filled with brothers and sisters in Christ whose only common ground was their love for Christ and a desire to share that love with others through the written word. There were believers from all over this country and ones who had lived in many parts of the world. Believers from different ethnic and racial backgrounds and believers from various denominations. When I closed my eyes and listened to the voices raised together singing songs of praise to our God, I could almost see His face smiling at the heavenly sound of hearts fully committed to Him.

Photo by Mary Freeman Denman

I was struck not only by the power of the Holy Spirit in that place, but by the fact that it seemed novel. After all, shouldn't that be what we experience each and every week when we gather with other believers? Believers that we know much better how to pray for, how to minister to, how to share the love of Christ with? Believers we've known for years and seen God at work in their lives?

I've spent some time reflecting on this experience and praying about why it was different. And what I could do about it.

A few differences - lessons to me and I hope to you - came to mind:

1) Preparation: I had prepared for this conference, both practically and prayerfully.

Although I usually have a quiet time and pray each morning - too often on Sunday mornings I sleep in and find myself rushing to find the children's shoes, search for a missing earring, or grab a bite to eat instead of spending time really preparing to worship. Taking the time to set out everyone's clothes for church, set the alarm with time for prayer, and recognize the importance of both physical and spiritual preparation will change your Sunday morning experience.

2) Expectation: I had come to this conference expecting God to show up and to experience his presence there in a powerful way.

It is far too easy to become complacent about our freedom to meet with other believers and worship God. We can easily take for granted the fact that the Holy Spirit is there with us each time we gather together.



He is convicting hearts of sin, comforting those suffering, encouraging others to stand firm, calling someone to ministry. Coming to worship with an expectation that God is going to do - this very day - something that only He can do will transform your church.

3) Submission: Through prayer, I had come to a place of laying my efforts on the altar and having peace with whatever God's will might be.

It is so easy for me to come to church with an agenda. I have great ideas for what the church should do about the service, the music, the budget - you name it. But until I have laid all my ideas on the altar before God and asked Him to give me instead His perspective, I'm not ready to worship. Worship isn't a time for pressing my agenda, it's a time for submitting to God's.

I'm so thankful for the glimpse of heaven I had at Blue Ridge, but I'm hungry for more. What if we could experience that same fellowship, communion, and worship each time we gather with other believers? What if we set aside all the petty differences that so easily divide us, and focused instead on the One that unites us? What if we prepared for Sunday morning (and every other gathering of believers) as if we expected God to do something miraculous among us? What if we submitted all our personal preferences, experience, and wisdom, and let God lead us into His presence?

We might all get a glimpse of Heaven.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Last Minute Thoughts about BRMCWC

Hook.  Check.  Pitch.  Check. Business cards. Check.  One Sheet. Check.  Check. Check. Check. (One for each project that I've given any attention to whatsoever.)  Handy-dandy 3-ring binder organized exactly according to Edie Melson's suggestion.  List of all the stuff I must remember to pack. Check. (Is the car large enough? hmm.)

Deep breath.
So all the physical preparations are made - well, not all of them - still have the mani and pedi set for tomorrow morning.

What about the spiritual preparations?  Have I prayed enough?  Is that even possible?  I've definitely spent quite a bit of time in prayer, seeking God's direction and preparation for this trip.  I've prayed that God would prepare my heart for whatever I hear - good news or bad.  That I would learn and retain the information that I'm exposed to and allow it to improve my skills as a writer.  That God would give me peace, calm, and confidence as I speak with editors, agents and publishers and that He would open their hearts to the work that He put on my heart to write.

I've prayed for safe travel for me and my roommate, for the presenters and for the other attendees.  I've prayed for my family to manage successfully this week without me! I've prayed for my workplace to keep functioning well without me despite half a dozen statewide projects in full swing. 

I've prayed for everything that came to mind and when nothing else came to mind, I sat in silence and asked the Holy Spirit to intercede beyond what I could imagine to pray for.

I think I'm ready.  Well, except for actually packing the fifteen or so outfits that I have planned to take for a 5 day conference...
(This is a re-post from my preparation for BRMCWC in 2010)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Power of Prayer

As Christians, we often talk about the power of prayer. We tell friends, "I'm praying for you" - and sometimes we actually do. We encourage one another with scripture about praying. We record prayer requests, keep prayer journals, and read books on the "Power of a Praying Fill-in-the-Blank".

But do we really get that God answers prayers? Do we grasp that our prayers can change the outcome, can avert tragedy?

Don't get me wrong - God is sovereign and maybe He would have done what He would have done regardless of our prayers. I don't know.

I do know that there have been a few times when God has answered my prayers so powerfully, so immediately, and so clearly that I am simply awed by the realization. I'm stunned by the thought that the God of the Universe, who spoke the world into being, heard our heartfelt cries and met our need.

One of those times was about a year ago - when a tornado swept through our neighborhood while my husband and two young sons were at home. As my oldest daughter and I prayed that God would "change the path of the storm and protect our family," the tornado ripped the empty house across the street off of its foundation and tossed it into the street and then hopped over our house causing no major structural damage.

This week was another example of how God hears and answers our prayers. My father, who is 73 and has had more than his share of medical problems in the past, went to Duke Hospital on Monday for major back surgery. The surgery went according to plans and he seemed to be recovering well the first 24 hours. But as the second day progressed, he developed a complication which is not uncommon following surgery - his digestive system stopped working properly. By Thursday, he was not able to keep any food down and they needed to place a tube to extract the contents of his stomach. Unfortunately, his very strong gag reflex made this nearly impossible and in the midst of their efforts, his vitals dropped drastically. They moved him to ICU, where they could sedate him and get the tube in place.

Within an hour, they called and said the doctor wanted to speak with us. They brought us into a small, private conference room and within a few minutes the doctor and half a dozen other staff members came in, introduced themselves and launched into their explanation. The bottom line was that they believed my father's bowels were perforated, ruptured or necrotic (the tissue was dying). The only means to determine or correct this would be to do emergency exploratory surgery; however, his vitals were so bad, they did not know if he would survive the surgery. They estimated he had a 10-15% chance of surviving and there was a strong possibility that if they got in and found what they anticipated, they might have to simply close him up and let us say our good-byes. I'm thankful to say I've never before had doctors present so grim a prognosis and I hope I never do again.

My younger brother, my mother and I were the only ones there and they said they could give us just a minute with him before surgery - essentially to say good-bye in case he didn't make it through the surgery.

As we hovered by his bedside for no more than a minute or two, I laid my hand on his stomach and prayed. For the doctors - wisdom, skill and discernment. For my father - strength and determination to fight. For my family - strength and faith to trust and praise God regardless of the outcome.

We adjourned back to the 'bad news room' - our private conference room, where we were to be left alone to wait for news. Of course, by this time, I had posted on facebook and mobilized a virtual army of prayer warriors on dad's behalf. My older brother and his wife as well as my own husband arrived. Randy led us in prayer shortly afterward and then, before going into surgery, the doctor stepped in for just a moment to offer the first glimmer of hope. Dad's vitals had strengthened - just a bit. Still critical, but it was an improvement.

An hour or so later, the doctor returned to tell us that their worst fears were unfounded. There was no perforation, no necrosis. Although Dad was still very ill, his numbers were improving. Two days later (Saturday evening) and he is no longer on a ventilator, he's conscious and seems to be out of the woods. He still has a long recovery and rehabilitation for the original back surgery as well as recovery from the exploratory surgery, but God answered all our prayers.

I know that prayers aren't always answered in the way we hope. I know there are times that despite our fervent prayers - joined with the prayers of friends and family around the world - loved ones die. Bad things do happen. I certainly don't believe for one moment that anything about us made our prayers special, made God hear them more, or made them more effective.

 This isn't a how-to guide.

But we will never know what prayer God may answer if we never ask. We will never know if our prayer might have made the difference if we never pray it. If we face an impossible situation and we don't pray, we will be forever haunted by the possibility that our prayers would have made all the difference.

"You have not, because you ask not."

Lord, help me to remember your powerful answer to our prayers. Each time a friend shares a prayer request, help me to pray diligently for them. Help me to remember that "the fervent prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." Thank you, Lord, that you do hear our prayers. That you do answer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is it Better to be Right or Right with God?

It seems as if everyone I know has experienced interpersonal conflicts lately. I'm sure my next interpersonal conflict is waiting just around the bend - maybe when you read this post!

If you've lived on this planet long enough to learn to walk and talk, you've probably experienced conflict - maybe on a daily basis. If you serve in ministry, you've definitely experienced it.

Misunderstandings. Differences of opinion. Hurt feelings. Offensive words or actions. Body language that speaks volumes. And if all that were not enough, social media provides a whole new realm for us to come into conflict since the there are no non-verbal cues to promote understanding.

Sometimes we are in the wrong. We react in an instant without considering the tone of voice or choice of words - or maybe without realizing our CAPS LOCK is on! It's easy - or at least easi-ER - to admit we're wrong when we recognize that we made a mistake. God brings conviction and we repent; we seek the forgiveness of the one we wronged and hopefully reconcile, moving on together with a little more sensitivity and thought the next time. Or so we hope.

But what about when we didn't do anything wrong? What about when we are confident that our words and actions were Spirit-led? Should we apologize for doing exactly what God led us to do? Would God lead us to do something that creates conflict? We expect conflict between us and the world as we seek to live for Christ - but are blind-sided when the conflict is not with the world, but with the person praying next to us on Sunday, or the person sitting beside us at our table.

Our sense of justice cries out that it's unfair. That we should be the one to receive an apology.

Jesus provides an interesting example for us in Matthew 5:23-24: " 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."

Notice that Jesus does NOT say, "if you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that you have wronged your brother or sister". The point is really not who was wrong or right, but that the relationship be restored. 

Paul admonished in Romans, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)

He does NOT say, "Stand up for yourself! Fight for your rights! Win at all cost!"

Our culture in America, though founded in many ways on godly principles and heritage, teaches a proud and rebellious spirit that is anything but biblical. The Word says to "13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13-14) Yet the Colonists perceived they were being treated unjustly and rose up against that authority, and Americans have bristled at authority ever since. Instead of recognizing a unique and special circumstance where God intervened to overturn an unjust ruler, Americans have embraced and glorified the rebellion itself. We've passed down an ideology of demanding our rights whether it be from the government, our friends, our family, or our church. (Don't get me started on how we've expanded what we believe those rights should include!)

We've abandoned the priority of relationships over rights.

God's priority is always relationship over rights.

John 13:34-35   34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Remember that Jesus spoke these words after showing them what this love looks like by washing the feet of his disciples. Even the feet of Judas Iscariot, knowing that in moments Judas would leave to betray him. Even the feet of Peter, who would soon deny that he knew Jesus. 

Photo courtesy of Keiki Hendrix

That is the way Christ directs us to love - to wash the feet of the one who betrays us. To humble ourselves before someone who may not deserve such grace...just as we do not deserve such grace from Christ.

Romans 12:10  "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves."

Corinthians 13:11  "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."

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

God is all about relationships. Just as our salvation is not about doing a list of things but about having a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, so He desires that we prioritize relationships over our own rights. 

It's not about saying that what you did was wrong - it it truly was led by the Lord. But it is about seeking reconciliation anyway. Ask forgiveness for the hurt caused, if not for the actual words or actions. 

God has a way bringing humility to those who choose not to humble themselves. As one who has learned the hard way - it is better to humble yourself before God must do it for you!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

To Serve or To Be Served?

How do you picture God reacting when you stand before His throne? If you're a Christian, do you embrace the scripture that describes a crown of righteousness reserved for you? ("Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." 2 Tim. 4:8.) Do you look forward to the day when you will hear "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25: 21, 23)?

Perhaps, like me, you will find this passage (Luke 17:7-10) a little more difficult to digest:
7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

What? No crown? No "well done, good and faithful servant"? No "enter into my rest"?

This passage doesn't contradict those other passages, but it does speak to our heart and our motives. Are we living in accordance with God's Word because of the rewards we believe we will receive? Are we thinking of each person we share the Gospel with as another notch on our Bible belt? Do we entertain for one moment that we have done anything deserving of praise and honor from the Most High? Lord, have mercy on us if we let such a thought enter our minds.

Now compare this passage with Matthew 7:22 "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’" Do you see the similarity of heart? Do you see the pride inherent in the thought that our Master should serve us or that 'I' did anything of merit?

Anything that is accomplished of eternal value through our lives, will only be accomplished by God, through His Spirit, living in us.

So how could I think that I deserve a crown or a throne or even a "well done" when it isn't I who did it, but Christ living in me?

Easier said than done to be sure.

Do I remember that showing love to someone is not about how I feel or what they deserve, but about allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me? When I finally DO the thing God has called me to - serve in the nursery, help a family in need, give to help missions, show love to my co-workers - do I pat myself on the back and feel satisfied with that meager offering? Do I compare my service to others and set myself up as judge?

Do I envision God saying, "Come sit down, you've had a tough day in the field, let me wait upon you"?

Lord, Have mercy on me if I seek anything but to serve you, if I entertain for one instant the notion that I deserve something other than eternal separation from you, that my works merit any compliment or reward from you. Let my heart's desire be to serve, rather than to be served. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Verse do you NOT believe...

My friend Lori Roeleveld wrote an excellent blog (
about how there are certain verses we, devout Christians, don't really believe. Or at least we don't live as if we believe them. And after all, the way we live reveals what we really believe. She concluded by asking, "What passage do you NOT believe?"

Since I've never been accused of being succinct, my response would clearly not fit within the parameters of a comment.

We'll start with the verse that I cling to, memorized long ago, and quote often if for no other reason than to remind myself that I SHOULD believe it.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28.

It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling just saying it doesn't it? I mean, it's basically saying, "it's all good." What's hard to believe about that, right?

What about when it doesn't seem good? Is cancer good? Is the death of someone you love good? Is abuse good?

Of course not. None of these things are good and God's Word isn't calling them good. However, it is telling us that God can work through even these things, and worse, to bring about good. I've even seen Him do it.

So why is it that when someone treats me badly, falsely accuses me, or hurts someone I love, I have such a hard time? I'm not even talking about forgiving them - that is sometimes the easy part. I'm talking about seeing that hurt and recognizing God's hand in using it for my good. Doesn't Romans 8:28 promise that God is going to work that for my good? Of course He is! In that case, shouldn't I be giving thanks and praising Him for the situation and how, in His wisdom and power, He is going to turn something that seems so bad into something good?

That leads to the second passage I struggle with...1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

It doesn't say, "Rejoice when the sun shines, pray when you have a spare moment, and give thanks when you get that big promotion." THAT I could live with. THAT I could follow. But God wants us to see life from a different perspective - a heavenly and heaven-centered perspective. An eternal perspective. A view that says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18

 Keep in mind, Paul was speaking of torture, shipwreck, rejection from his own people, and being beaten almost to death...and finally, eventually killed for the sake of the gospel - those are the light and momentary troubles he referred to later in the letter to the Corinthians. (2 Cor. 4:17 "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.)
Lori, thanks so much for your challenge - you always inspire me to dig deeper and take a second look in the mirror of God's Word, to never be satisfied with what I see, but to strive always to draw nearer, live truer, and grow stronger by recognizing my weakness and the only source of my strength.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Welcome to 2012!

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and we’re just now starting our update so perhaps we’ll call this a ‘New Year’s Letter’ rather than a Christmas one. The past year has been amazing - filled with some of the most awesome blessings God has given us in our 23 years together. So perhaps this year instead of sharing a little about each family member, we’ll count down our Top Ten Blessings of 2011! Drumroll, please.

10) In May, Daniel auditioned for and was accepted into the NRCA Marching Band. As a rising seventh grader, he helped the Marching Knights win numerous awards competing against marching bands comprised of only high school students. He also enjoyed marching in his first parade, the Raleigh Christmas Parade, in November. God has blessed all of our children with wonderful musical talent and we are so thankful for those who have worked with them to develop those talents.

9) In March, Kelsey traveled with her friend Christina and her parents to Disney World to celebrate Christina’s 18th birthday. Her family had never been to Disney World, so Kelsey was able to help them find their way around – this being her FOURTH trip! And it turns out she will be going again this spring with the concert band to perform at downtown Disney as they did in 2010. We are thankful for the many friends that God has brought into our lives and the lives of our children. We are blessed that our children have friends that lift them up and encourage them in so many ways.

8) In December, Kelsey was accepted to NCSU and Appalachian State University…but to date, she is still waiting to hear from UNC-Chapel Hill which is her first choice. Randy and Felicia are still asking themselves where they went wrong. She plans to get a Pre-Med undergraduate degree and then go to Medical School. Although we tease Kelsey about being a traitor in this Wolfpack-red family, we praise God for the calling she feels toward missions and medicine, even if it means she ends up a Tarheel!

7) In November, Felicia and Matthew successfully progressed to the rank of Yellow Belt in TaeKwonDo. Much to Felicia’s disappointment, Matt promptly decided that was as far as he wanted to go! We are so blessed to have the physical ability to exercise and grow stronger.

6) In May, Felicia successfully coordinated moving the North Carolina Turnpike Authority approximately 8 miles from a lovely, wooded office less than a mile from Crabtree Valley Mall…to the Transportation Building in downtown Raleigh. As she said more than once during the process, “I’ve moved 23 times in my 45 years – if there is one thing I know about, it’s moving!” While some of her suggestions were met with strange looks and doubts about their necessity, everyone agreed that the move went much more smoothly than anticipated thanks to her expertise. Even the smallest things, or things that don’t seem like blessings at the moment, God uses in our lives and we are so thankful for all the experiences that God has used to mold us over the years.

5) In June, Randy was recognized for his dedication and commitment in teaching Pre-Algebra with the Founder’s Award, as he also celebrated his fifth anniversary of serving at North Raleigh Christian Academy. What a blessing it has been to watch Randy answer God’s call to ministry both at NRCA and at Wakefield Baptist Church and to see how God has blessed his work in both places.

4) In July, Felicia and her mother enjoyed the trip of a lifetime visiting five European countries in sixteen days! If you’ve followed Felicia’s blog, you probably have already read all about their adventures. We are so blessed to have had this time together and especially to have a close relationship. We are so thankful that despite some health concerns and surgeries, Felicia’s parents remain well and active.

3) In June, Kelsey was able to return to Bolivia with a mission team from our church for the second year. Her Spanish classes really paid off and she was able to interact with the Bolivian people without a translator this year. She loved seeing friends she had made the year before and meeting new ones as well as working with close friends from Wakefield. She is excitedly planning to return again in 2012 – only this time, Randy will be leading the team on what will be his first international mission trip. Felicia and Megan are planning and preparing to go as well and trusting that the Lord will provide for all four of us to make the trip. We praise God for the opportunity to share the good news.

2) In May, Megan left on a nine week adventure to Europe. Her major in International Studies required at least six semester hours in Study Abroad credit, so there was little doubt in her mind where that should be spent. She was thrilled to find that NCSU has a Prague Institute and she was able to take Czech Literature and Screenwriting to fulfill her requirement. She connected with two other girls in the program and they spent several days in London before the program began and she also went on an excursion to Berlin. In addition, she was able to meet up with a missionary team and travel to some small villages where they helped a church with an outreach program and ministered to Burmese refugees. We thank God for keeping Megan safe during her travels and providing opportunities for her to show the love of Christ.

1) On April 16, a tremendous weather system left North Carolina looking as if a monster had raked its claws across the state as tornadoes cut several lines across the middle of the state destroying homes and businesses. Randy, Daniel and Matthew had front row seats as the tornado demolished the home across the street from us, hopped over our house, and wiped out a number of trees in our backyard. Although what appeared to be minor damage to our house turned out to be more significant, we are thankful for the homeowners insurance that left us better off than before the storm – with a new roof, new siding, and new porch posts. But more than anything else, we give thanks to the Lord for answering our prayers at that moment and protecting our family.

Of all our many blessings this year, we are most thankful for the health and safety that God has provided for all of us throughout this year. We have so enjoyed seeing all the pictures of friends and family, of children all grown up and new babies born. Thank you to each of you for sharing your family with us. May God bless you and your family in 2012!