Friday, October 14, 2016

Blessings in the Cereal Aisle

You wouldn't expect to be in awe of the cereal aisle, would you? I guess that depends on your perspective.

My first few years at NASA, I occasionally worked with Russian cosmonauts who came to train in Houston. Many of them brought their spouses with them.  

I'll never forget the day I went to a grocery store with one of the cosmonaut's wives. She was wide-eyed as we walked around the store.  

Accustomed to an open market where she bargained for meat hanging in open stalls, she marveled at the already cut-and-packaged chicken, beef, and pork. She couldn't believe the selection.

The canned vegetables, the seasonings - many she'd never heard of - and the mound of toilet paper amazed her.

But what captivated her the most was the cereal aisle. She walked along it, her face glowed like she'd just found a pearl of great price. Shredded Wheat to Lucky Charms, Bran Flakes to Cocoa Puffs - she was in a breakfast wonderland.

To me, it was just a meat counter, just a vegetable aisle, just a row of cereal. 

How often is it just salvation, just His grace, just His presence?

When did I last 

  • Gaze wide-eyed at His majesty 
  • Marvel at His love
  • Stand amazed at His provision
  • Worship, captivated by His love

When did I last worship the Pearl of Great Price, Jesus, with total abandon? 

Do I remember the awe I felt when I first met Him and realized the grace and mercy He freely offered me?

Do I take Him for granted?

Lord, please give me that lady's perspective when I consider the riches I have in You!

Blessed? Please share!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Start at the Wall!

I am the vine; you are the branches. ...Apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Some things are so obvious, they should be automatic. Like this one: When a piece of equipment won't turn on, start at the wall.

One of the experiments my team worked on required three pieces of equipment. We built the first rough prototypes and, after we got each piece running OK, we scheduled the first test of the whole system. 

We set the whole thing up - all the cables it looked like a pile of yarn the cat tore up. kind of like behind your TV or computer. 

Remember, there are three engineers standing around the rack; that's important to the story.

One of us turned on the power strip and two pieces hummed to life. A green power light and lots of flashing lights. One unit just sat there, mocking us quietly. 

We scrambled into action. We moved the rack away from the wall and checked all the cables that connected the system; everything looked good. We checked the wiring in the misbehaving piece, A-OK.

Unfortunately, none of us looked down to the power strip. Finally, a team member glanced down and saw the problem: the silent unit wasn't plugged in. We all laughed in embarrassment and plugged it in - Wallah! It worked!

It's a proven fact: a machine won't work without a power source.

How many of us struggle through hard times or with difficult decisions without tapping into our power source?

We look at our circumstances and feel powerless and overwhelmed. We look so together but know one knows we're a wreck inside. 

When we face hard decisions, we balance all the pros and cons but uncertainty lurks inside. 

Are we plugged into our power Source? 

Only Jesus can provide the wisdom we need. Only Jesus can strengthen and empower us to stay upright in the hard days.

How do we plug in?

  • God'sWord
  • Prayer
  • Our dear Christian friends
  • Praise and worship

When we feel weak and overcome by life, start at the Wall. If our connections to the Vine are strong, we can hum to life through trials and challenging decisions. 

Check your power cord and plug it in!

If you are blessed, Please share

Friday, September 23, 2016

God's Copyright

For us, as creative types, a copyright is our best friend. We have exclusive, legal rights to our work. Our creations are protected; they can't be borrowed, changed, or stolen.

You wouldn't expect copyright to be an issue for a Shuttle experiment but it can be. For one of my projects, the scientist wanted to use questionnaires he'd developed to monitor group dynamics. How does the relationship between team members change over time?

Say, for instance, a shuttle crew. Commander, Pilot, Payload Specialist, and a few crew members. Confined in the Shuttle for 10 days or on the International Space Station for several months. The success of the mission depends on the crew getting along and working smoothly together.

But we ran into a hitch. NASA wanted the experiment done during the mission but they wanted to change the format of the questionnaires. The scientist protested, loudly. He'd used these for years and he knew they worked. He created them; no one else had the right to change them.

The struggle went on. Eventually, the scientist - the creator - won.

You and I - we are copyrighted creations. God created each one of us uniquely and then He recreated our minds, hearts, and lives when we believed in Jesus as our Savior.

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

God holds the copyright on our lives.

  • The past can't come lumbering in and try to reshape His creation.
  • Old failures can't insert themselves into new lives and alter His future plans.
  • Fear can't weave into our new hearts and rewrite the truth God has inscribed there.
God protects our new lives. We are sealed in Him.

[He] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:22

We walk in  
assurance of our newness, 
confidence of our future, and  
certainty of God's truth.

We are copyrighted!

Friday, September 16, 2016

What More Can I Do?

One of the last projects I worked on while I was at NASA was also one of the hardest and most frustrating.

The equipment was built by the scientist and, when we received it, it had lots of problems. It didn't pass some of the tests NASA required and we had to redesign several parts. All the while, my supervisors kept hounding me:

  • Did you get that re-design finished?
  • Did you fix the problem with the measurement system?
  • Are you going to have it ready in time to launch?
My team worked like crazy, working evenings and even some weekends. We did everything we could to ensure that it would ship to Kennedy Space Center on time.

Finally, one Friday morning, at the end of a long week, I lost my cool. I said, "We're working overtime! We're getting all the help we can. What more can we do?"

I wonder, does God ever ask that?

What More Can I Do?

I admit my prayers are often focus on questions and requests.
  • Do You hear me? I've begged you to heal my friend for so long.
  • I need You to fix my car. I can't afford a car bill.  
  • When will my sister get a new job? She's going to kill herself working so hard.
Of course, in the NASA world, functioning equipment launched on time is the measure of success.

What is the measure of success in our walk with God?

Too often, we're tempted to measure by His answers to our prayers. 
We might define His love for us by the requests He grants.

If You loved me, You would...
How can You let this happen and yet say You love me?

And God asks, "What more can I do?"

  • I sent My Son from His place of power to be born a defenseless baby.
  • He traded His throne of glory for a cave of farm animals.
  • I watched Him be ridiculed and called a heretic.
  • I stood by while He was beaten, tortured, and murdered.

All this I did to show my infinite love for you.

I resurrected Him to life and promised you eternal life with Me.
I gave you the Holy Spirit to live within you, to be your Guide and Peace.

All this I did because I hunger to have you with Me forever.

My love is not defined by what I will do or can do.

It is sealed and delivered by what I have already done. 

Our Father longs to hear our prayers. Jesus Himself is our Advocate to bring our pleas and praise before the Lord. We are commanded to pray continuously, to bring our petitions to Him.

The depth of our relationship with Him is defined by His unchangeable character, His perfect mercy, and His indescribable grace.

We need never doubt God's love because He doesn't step into our circumstances in the way we want or when we want.

His love is proven by the cross and the empty tomb. 

P.S. Our hard work paid off and the equipment made it to Kennedy in plenty of time to launch on the Shuttle, and find it's way to the International Space Station. The experiment ran beautifully!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Science and Faith

Science and Faith: One enriches the other.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8

I'm a scientist. We're fascinated by
  • The design of a single cell
  • The stability of constellations for thousands of years
  • The precise chemical structure of proteins, granite, and DNA

I know the Creator of the human body; I’m intrigued by His design.
I know the Architect of the heavens; I’m captivated by the forces that keep it in place.
I know the Builder who formed the mountains and restrained the seas; I’m enthralled by their structure and power.

We can never fully understand the intricacy of the Master Scientist's creation.

I'm an engineer. We're challenged by application.
  • A machine that measures the pollution in the air.
  • An ultrasound that uses the speed of sound waves to "see" tissue.
  • EEG leads that record the heartbeat of a crewmember while in orbit. 

I know the Electrician who created the nervous system to carry electrical signals.
I know the Physicist who formed eyes that detect differing speeds of light to see color.
I know the Chemist who shaped red blood cells to bind oxygen and carry it throughout the body.  

Anything man invents pales in comparison to the designs of the Master Engineer. 

So I laugh when I'm challenged:

“Why do you believe in God? No one’s seen Him or proved His existence.” 

“It’s impossible to be a scientist and a Bible-believing Christian.”

I use a highly technical word to describe these statements: Baloney! Perhaps you like poppycock better. 

Of course scientists can't prove the existence of God; He can't be quantified.
Obviously engineers can't design anything more elegant than the innovations of the Creator.  

The Lord is Wisdom and Truth. 
My work is built on this sure Foundation.
  • Without Truth, knowledge is unattainable. 
  • Without Wisdom, scientific methods fail.  
  • Without the Lord's guidance, design is chaos.
Science deepens my faith and engineering increases my sense of wonder at the skill of the Lord. It's His grace that allows us to explore the world and to understand its mysteries.  

The next time you look up at the stars or marvel at the function of the human body, Praise God that He reveals His creation to you. 

Please Share!

Friday, July 15, 2016

In the Beginning God...

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

Lately, God has prompted me to look back and see His work along the path that lead me to Johnson Space Center in Houston. It seems the pieces fall into place clearly as I reflect on God's guidance.

If someone told me when I was a kid, even when I was in my 20s, that I would someday be an engineer at NASA, I would have laughed hysterically.

But God’s plans were far better than I could ever imagine!
As I look back, I can see each step with which He led me to that amazing place.

Step 1: The wondrous world in a microscope. When I was ten years old, I was sick and had lots of tests run. One day, when the tech came to draw my blood, I asked if I could into the lab with him and watch. He let me look in the microscope and told me about white cells, red cells, and platelets. I was addicted on the spot.

God filled me with a sense of wonder and gave me a glimpse of His creation's intricate beauty. I was captivated by this marvelous thing we call the human body.

Can you look back, perhaps back into your childhood, when God captivated your mind and imagination?

Step 2: An uncharacteristic boldness. In high school, back in the days when girls were expected to take home economics and shorthand, I filled my schedule with biology, chemistry, and physics classes. My adviser took one look at my list and refused to approve it but the love of science God poured into my heart and mind was too strong to give up. Now, believe it or not, I was shy and easily intimidated when I was young. I stood my ground and harassed the poor lady until she signed it to get rid of me.

Where would I be now if I'd given up and allowed my adviser to push me, a round peg, into a square hole? I didn't realize it at the time but God gave me the boldness I needed to follow my heart.

When God leads you in a direction that might not fit other's plans for you, be bold! Follow God and see where He takes you.

Step 3: M. D. Anderson. When I graduated from college with a biology degree, I went to work in the chemistry lab at M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston. Because M.D.A. was a large hospital, many companies sent us prototype lab machines to use and evaluate. Occasionally a piece of equipment would break down and we’d call them for help. Troubleshooting often involved taking off the back to check wiring and wiggle strange looking electrical components. I loved it and soon became the designated fixer.

I'd never been a technical person. If something broke, I always yelled for my husband. But God had different plans. I became interested in how the equipment was designed and how it analyzed the samples to give us the information we needed.

Stay open to God's voice. Allow Him to do the unexpected.

Step 4: Back to college. At some point I asked the guy on the phone how I could get into design of this fantastic stuff. He described a brand new field, biomedical engineering, and suggested I look into that. Now, don’t bug your eyes at this term. It’s just a fancy way of saying that we learn all we can about the body and design equipment to study it or to diagnose problems.

With my husband's full support , I went to college to get an engineering degree. The girl who never had any confidence in her math abilities buried myself in math. In my research, I worked with a group who examined how nerve cells communicated with each other. I was fascinated!

A few years later, I proudly hung an engineering diploma on my wall. At the time I didn’t consider that it was totally God and not me.

When God takes you out of your comfort zone, accept the challenge. Be assured, He will provide the courage to step in with gusto.

God's plan comes together! One morning a couple years later, I went for a job interview at NASA. They had an upcoming shuttle mission that focused on how the body's nervous system operated in no gravity. They told me I was the perfect person and, that Monday, I drove to JSC to begin my new job.

God's path began with a ten year old staring into a microscope and ended at NASA. Only He could lead me on such an unexpected journey. Each step prepared me for a life greater and grander than I ever imagined.

Look back at the wandering path your life has followed. Open your eyes of faith and God will show you the miracle of His guidance. Perhaps you life now looks nothing like you imagined. Maybe your steps have been hard but God has used each step to mold you into the person you are today.

Have you landed in a place that seems too difficult to bear? Trust the One who creates every winding path. He will use this time to prepare you for tomorrow. A tomorrow beyond your wildest imaginings.

Blessed? Please share!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Need a Little White Space?

He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

My team spent hours designing our experiment. We'd spent more hours training the shuttle crew to perform it on orbit. Didn't the scheduler know that? Why, then, did he refuse to allow time for the shuttle crew to do it on days I'd requested? 

Believe it or not, he insisted that my experiment wasn't the only important one being performed on that shuttle mission. (Of course it was!) He'd have to schedule ten-hour work days for the crew if everyone's requested tasks were to be done. 

If I was flexible in my requested days, he could fit it in. If I'd redesign the experiment so it could be done in four sessions rather than five, he could assure me it would be done on this mission. 

His job was to jealously guard white space - down time for the crew. 

Without scheduled breaks, the crew could become exhausted. They might have to pick and chose which tasks were more important. 

You see, the crew was too gung-ho. They'd work 24-hour days if they weren't forced to rest. The schedulers insisted on rest times spread throughout each day. During the mission, they hounded the crew to take their breaks. Unfortunately, once the guys were in the shuttle, orbiting over 200 miles above sea level, we didn't have much control. All we could do was tell them and hope they behaved.

Sound familiar? 

We all have way too many important tasks to do. We all run ourselves ragged with 30 hours of work to cram into a 24-hour day. 

But who guards our white space? Who says, "Come away with me and get some rest."?

Our kids might, except that their schedules are as packed as ours. Our husbands might, except that they have the same problem. 

Jesus does. In more ways than one. 

  • He calls us to slip into a quiet space and spend time at rest with Him. 
  • He makes us feel exhausted and hopes we'll listen to Him.
  • He invites us to take a family vacation and give everyone time to relax.
  • Sometimes, as He did with me, He says "Enough is enough!" 

He allowed me to work myself until I was sick. I even had a minor wreck because I fought going to sleep at the wheel. Still, I didn't listen. Finally, He took advantage of a lay-off and I lost my job. Boy, was I mad! I refused to acknowledge that it was my own fault. 

Like me, we all have the right to ignore Him - for a while. The crew often ignored the scheduler. If they weren't quite finished with a task when white space was set to start, they kept right on working. If they were troubleshooting a problem, they refused to give up. We knew what was going on but there was no way to reach across the miles and slap them.  

Jesus can reach across the miles and say "Sit down!" Don't make Him do that! Trust me, it isn't pretty. 

Draw aside with Him and pray about your priorities. Talk to your family. They might welcome a chance to slow down a bit. 

Above all, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Please share!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Do We Pray Without Seeing?

I walked into the reception area. My heart leaped around like a baby goat. Another job interview. I’d lived in the Houston area for year and my new engineering degree had burned a hole in my pocket.

I’d prayed, a lot. While I scoured newspapers for jobs, I prayed. When I filled out an application, I prayed. Every time I headed in for an interview…well, you get the picture. Even so, the jobs always went to someone else. I was pretty discouraged.

That morning, I prayed extra hard. I had an interview with a company that contracted engineers to work at NASA. Wow, wouldn’t that be cool? There were a few openings for engineers to design experiments and to help train the astronauts to perform them while on the shuttle. It almost took my breath away!

I sat in the reception area and squirmed. I chatted with the lady at the desk and commented that I’d prayed all the way there. She assured me the Lord had just the right job for me and said she’d pray during my interview.

It went great! So great, in fact, that they offered me the job on the spot. Can you start on Monday? I stared at my future boss in shock and I said – get this – “I have to pray about it.”

I went back into the reception area and the lady excitedly asked me how it went. I told her I’d been offered the job and I was going to pray about it. She looked at me like I’d suddenly sprouted a giraffe’s head. “Honey, you’ve been praying! You’ve prayed like crazy. Don’t you recognize His answer when it’s staring you in the face? You get right back in there and take this job!”

As her words sunk into my brain, my soon-to-be boss came into the room. I turned and said, “Is that job still open?” (Duh, it had been all of 2 minutes.) Two hours later, I sat in my car with paperwork in my lap that said I was an engineer at NASA!!

Now, what’s wrong with this story? I prayed diligently. I asked for wisdom and guidance. Every time I walked into an interview room, I prayed for clear direction. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, I focused so hard on prayer that I forgot to keep my eyes open for His answer. If not for that sweet lady, I would’ve walked away without a job – an amazing job that took me from exhilaration to tragedy and back again over the next nine years.

How often do we do that? We pray faithfully. We might write our prayer requests in a journal. We go back and pray through them every morning. They stay on our hearts days on end, perhaps years go by.

Then, an opportunity comes along. Do we embrace it or stare at it blindly?

We pray for healing in a relationship and a chance comes to visit that person. Do we pray, “God, should I talk to them about this or just chit-chat and see how it goes?” Or “Thank You! Soften our hearts and guide my words.”

We pray for a used car that fits our tight budget and the perfect one appears on a sales lot. “God, this is great! It’s just what I need and I can afford it. Should I buy it?” Or “Praise You, Lord! You answer prayer!!”

We’re unemployed and pray diligently for a job opportunity. An interview goes great and the perfect job’s ours for the taking. “Lord, this is amazing! I can’t believe it! I’m going home and pray about it some more.” Or “Lord, Your goodness is beyond words! I’m in awe of You. Thank You!”

Prayer changes us. It teaches us to
  • Pray with confidence, assured that He hears.
  • Pray expectantly and wait in faith.
  • Burst with joy when we see His answer.  

I realize this might be a bit simplistic. Of course, the "perfect" thing might not be God's answer. But, as we bring our requests before Him, pray for eyes to see His answer. If you do, you'll recognize it when it comes along. 

Cling to your faith. 
Stand on the confidence that He hears. 
Be alert for His answer. 
Praise Him when it comes.

Then grasp His gift with both hands and make Him proud!

Please Share! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sum of Our Steps

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? Prov 20:24

My Uncle John was in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. To this day, even in his nineties, he cries about his friends who died around him as they came on shore. The last time I saw him, he asked me why God allowed him to live when so many others died.

I looked around the room, filled with his children, grandchildren, and a smattering of great-grandchildren, and said, "This is why, Uncle John. Your children love the Lord and they are a blessing to so many. Your faith has been passed down to your grandchildren and they are raising their children in your footsteps. You and Aunt Joanne are building a monument to God's faithfulness. You have lived a full life; you live out God's purpose every day. This room is filled with your legacy."

Most of us don't have such tragedy in our past but we've all walked crooked paths. Like my Uncle John, sometimes we don't understand the road our lives have followed. We walk, step by step. Of course we've taken detours, but even those times were under God's hand.

My uncle's life was the sum of his steps and the same is true for us: heavy steps of tragedy and dancing steps of celebrations, shuffling steps through difficulties and leaps of joy during miracles.

Can we look back and rejoice in the winding paths our lives have traveled? Can we see how God led us from beginning to end? God used each step to mold us into unique people. The hills and valleys shaped us into gifted individuals that can serve Him in ways no one else can.

Do you think your life's inconsequential? Think again! God's path is never without purpose. The sum of your steps defines the remarkable person are.

Your steps through childhood molded the adult you are today. The love you pour out on those around you grew out of the path, be it challenging or nurturing, that you walked during those years.

The joys and sorrows that led you over mountains and through valleys shaped your talents, your hopes, and your dreams.

God directed each step to draw you to Himself and to create the one-of-a-kind person you are. No step was wasted. No stumble was without purpose. Witness, servant, spouse, parent, employer or employee: You are the sum of your steps.

As for me...
My father was a harsh, demanding man and that filled me with a longing for a Father who would love me unconditionally.
My childhood in a military family shaped how I view my country and the world.
My work at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center taught my heart the preciousness of each life and ordered my priorities.
A tragedy that almost destroyed my family taught me that I couldn't survive without God and filled me with awe at His power to heal.
My time as an engineer at NASA taught me the potential of people to imagine, to explore, and to push boundaries toward the unknown.

As I look back, I can see how each twist and turn led me to the place I stand today.

I am - you are - the sum of our steps, each one guided by God.

If you're unfamiliar with the battle of Normandy, here are a couple references:
D-day and Omaha beach – a brief summary

Photo credit: James Petts from London, England (Winding path) 

Please share!

Friday, May 20, 2016

4 Truths to Conquer the 4 D's

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.   2 Corinthians 4: 1, 7-9

It's been a year. A year since the writer's conference last May.

It doesn't seem like that long; well, sometimes it feels longer.

I've spent several years working on a manuscript and, finally, I felt ready to present it to a few agents and publishers. Excited, I met with 3 agents and 1 publisher. The reaction was not what I'd hoped for.

"It's great! It's innovative! It's imaginative!" they said. I was thrilled.

"It's too innovative. It's too imaginative. We're not sure we can sell it. It's a big risk." I crashed.

A roller coaster built on someone else's expectations and opinions. 

I dragged myself home.

  • Discouraged 
  • Depressed 
  • Defeated
  • Doubtful

I promptly threw myself a not-so-little pity party with boxes of tissues and sad movies. It went on for months.

When it was finally over, doubts remained:

  • Did God really call me to do this? To be a writer, a parent, a nurse or doctor, a lawyer or a janitor? Why?!
  • There's no way I can do this, I'm inept and totally incapable. My writing's gibberish, my parenting skills are nil, my compassion disappears with my first cup of coffee. I don't care anymore. 
  • It's too hard, I can't keep going. Every sentence is torture, I want to give up on my marriage and my kids, no one's life is better because I'm here, I'm sick of cleaning up other people's messes. I want to quit.  
  • If God really wanted me to do this, why is it so difficult?  

One morning not so long ago, I read 2 Corinthians 4. In His grace, God whispered to me as I read: Here are 4 truths to conquer the 4 Ds.

1. "Through God’s mercy we have this ministry." 
Why did He call me to do this? It's an expression of His mercy! Mercy shown to me; without it, I wouldn't be His child and I'd be useless to Him. Mercy shown to others around me. He uses me, in some small way, to show His love to those who need it.

When He calls us to serve Him, it's an expression of His mercy - mercy the world starves for. 

2. "Treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Of course, I'm unqualified and a failure. I'm a jar. A blob of clay, shaped into a container, and fired until hard as a rock. Jars can't do anything on their own. They can't fill themselves and walk around offering their services to people who need them. I'm a shaped lump of clay. The power is in the Potter's hands.

Any treasure in us - talents, abilities, gifts - are poured into us by God. Any power we have comes from God and God alone.

3. "We are hard pressed on every side... perplexed...persecuted...struck down..."  
Excuse me, but I'd prefer to skip this part of being used. I want to be in my beautiful house and bless others while I sit on my comfy couch. That's how I would do it in my own power.
God does it in His all-surpassing power. If the work is easy, I glory in my power. If the work is hard, I become an instrument of His power.

My power brings failure; His power brings glory to His Name.  

4. "We are not crushed...not in despair...not abandoned...not destroyed."  
Who says we're not? When I got home from the conference, I felt all of those. I had to choose to change my perspective.

  • When I listened, God spoke to me through His Word. 
  • When I shared my struggles with my dear friends, they encouraged me. 
  • When I prayed as I sat at my keyboard, words came. Lots of them were still deleted but, more and more, they expressed the treasure He poured into me. 

When we submit our weaknesses to His power and trust Him to work through us, impossible became possible. 

Here it is, May again. The writers conference begins in a few days. What is my choice? Do I cower at home or step forward in God's power?

I choose God's power!

When have you struggled with God's call? How did He lift you up?

Photos: 123

If you are blessed by this, Please Share!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Goin' Church Shopping'?

Last week I wrote about my salvation experience and how long I was haunted by fear and doubt. If you missed it, you'll find it here: Haunted

Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

Goin' church shopping - we all dread it. When we move, it's easy to say, "I'll start visiting churches next Sunday." When my husband and I moved a few years ago, it took us a long time to find one we were both comfortable with.

As a baby Christian, I longed for a church where I could rejoice in this new love I'd found.  As I look back, I see the critical steps God used to guide me and I hope these will help you if you're looking for a church home.

1. Know what you believe.  I believed God loved me and, because Jesus died on the cross, I was forgiven and accepted by Him. I craved to know Him more deeply. I had a small King James Bible with Jesus' words in red. Surely, I thought, Jesus' precious words were the best way to the Truth.

I skipped from red words to red words, painstakingly making a list of what I believed He taught.

I remember Mom occasionally saying, "Paul said..." At that point, I didn't know for sure who Paul was and I wasn't interested in what he said! Cocky, huh?

For me, truth was found in Jesus' words and in His only. 

As we look for a church home, we should search God's Word and allow Him to speak to us. That was especially important for me because I had no foundation. Even if we happen to belong to a certain denomination, we need to reaffirm what we believe. Above all, base what you believe on God's Word. He alone is the source of Truth.

2. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Where to start? I had no idea so I went with my friends' families. Every Sunday I asked God to show me if that was where I belonged. Of course, I hoped my best friend's church would be the perfect one, but it didn't turn out that way.

Sometimes I was confused and uncomfortable with the ritual. Other times I heard teachings that didn't match my list. This was simplistic and even dangerous; I could've ended up anywhere - even with someone as horrible as James Jones or David Koresh. But, as I look back, I see how God guided me and protected me every step.

Some of us don't identify with a particular denomination. We can trust God for discernment to find teaching that's consistent with our beliefs. Others might be part of a certain one, but be wary because the name on the church sign doesn't always mean the doctrine's true. Listen to God; depend on Him and His Word to guide you.

3. Trust God to meet your family's needs. I needed a church with a strong youth group that would love me and challenge me to grow. Most of the ones I visited met that criteria but many of them weren't consistent with what I believed. It was hard to move on when the youth group was fun but I was uncomfortable with the teaching.

Every family's different. We usually choose churches to visit based on our needs: an active youth group, a nursery that will teach our little ones about Jesus, an inviting, supportive senior-citizen's class. It's easy to focus on those things and forget to seek God's leading. It's tempting to jump into a church that ministers to our families but give second place to doctrine. 

God's taught me that nothing is more important than the Truth. Ministry can become hollow when the teaching's weak or even incorrect. Above all else, we need to grow in Jesus. 

God knows our needs and He'll guide us to a church that balances our ministry needs and our needs for His Truth. I praise Him because He led me to a church that loved me, involved me in activities that strengthened the gifts He gave me, and challenged me to grow in my knowledge of Him. 

Stand on His Truth, listen to His guidance, and trust Him to lead you to a church that will truly become home. Then rejoice in Him! 

When you've searched for a new church home, how has God guided you?

Photos  1234

Please Share!

Friday, May 6, 2016


Am I Saved?

That's a question that haunted me for years.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

I wasn't raised in a typical church. My parents were in the military and we spent many years overseas. Worship services were divided into two groups: Catholic and everyone else. We were "everyone else." Dad didn't think much of church so we didn't go very often anyway. 

My understanding of Jesus came through Christmas hymns and the songs we sang as kids. "Jesus Loves Me." "Jesus Loves the Little Children." I didn't understand why Good Friday was good. I knew Easter was a joyous time because Jesus was alive but I didn't grasp the significance. 

One night, when I was 16, Dad was out of town so Mom turned the TV to a Billy Graham crusade. I was fascinated by the simple message: Jesus loved me so much that He died for me so I could be forgiven. He rose from the dead so I could live with Him forever. Billy Graham's words penetrated my heart in a way I'd never experienced before. 

In the middle of the night, I woke up filled with a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. I remember crying because I thought there was no way God could love me. 

I whispered, "Jesus, if You will accept me, I give myself to You." 

I can't describe the love, acceptance, peace, and joy I felt. I felt like I was wrapped in a warm blanket. I still cry as I think about it. 

A hunger for God's Word and a yearning to be in church filled me. My search for a church home is a topic for next Friday's post. 

I settled into a church, a true babe in Christ, and I was lost and confused much of the time. I didn't understand a lot of the "Christian vocabulary."

And I was scared. 

Every time I heard the pastor or my teacher repeat the "sinner's prayer," I panicked.

Jesus, I know You died on the cross for me.
I am a sinner and I ask you to forgive me.
Come into my heart and give me the gift of eternal life. 

Um...I didn't say any of that, not exactly. 

  • I knew He died for me but I didn't voice it that night.
  • I knew how worthless and hopeless I was and I asked Him to accept me. Was that the same as asking for forgiveness?
  • I gave myself to Him,  all that I was. Was that the same as asking Him to come into my heart?
  • I knew He was alive but I didn't think about it at that moment. 

Was I saved? Saved from what? I didn't think about Hell. I wanted to be saved from myself, the worthless, hopeless person I was, and to become His - loved and cherished.

Then God led me to what is now my favorite verse, familiar as it is. Many of us can quote John 3:16 in our sleep. For me, in my fear, it was a new and precious truth.

God loved me - I felt that to the depths of my soul.
He gave His Son for me - I was and still am in awe of that
I believed in Him - with all my heart, my mind, and my strength.

Jesus said it, I believe it, and that's good enough! 

Uncertainty faded away. I no longer repeat the "sinner's prayer" again and again because I'm afraid it didn't stick.

Often we need the guidance of a prayer to form our thoughts but we don't come to Jesus through a formula. 

Jesus doesn't need to hear what we believe deep in our hearts; He sees it already. What He wants is our desire to be His and His alone. 

Dear one, if you have given yourself to Jesus and you feel His love in and around you, don't let anyone or anything destroy your confidence.

If you have said all the right words but there still is an ache, a hole in your heart, reach out to Jesus and ask Him to take you, just as you are, and to make you His. He will bathe you in His love and you will belong to Him forever. 

He loves us beyond all we can imagine!

If these words blessed you, Please Share!

Friday, April 29, 2016

One-on-one with Satan: Jesus

This post is adapted from my Bible study, Storms of Life

Last week we looked at the three lies Satan told Eve to confuse her and to cause her to disobey God. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

For Satan to tempt Eve is one thing, but for him to have the nerve to attack God's Son shows how prideful he is. In the encounter described in Matthew 4, Satan believed he could stand face-to-face with God and defeat Him. Let's learn from Jesus' responses.

What a change of scenery! After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, God proclaimed that Jesus was His Son (Matthew 3:13-17). But, rather than allow Jesus to begin His ministry in the wake of this amazing event, God led Jesus into the desert to be tempted. 

Why? Did God need to test Jesus' obedience? Of course not!  Jesus was Holy God, wrapped in flesh. Instead, God's aim was to teach us, to provide us with weapons to defeat Satan's attacks. The enemy came to Jesus when He was weak and tried to trick Him with three lies that he still uses today.

1. You don't need God, you can take care of yourself!

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus was hungry. Of course He was, after 40 days in the desert. Satan took advantage of Jesus' physical weakness and tempted Him to put His needs before God's will. 

What's so wrong with  that? Why should Jesus go hungry - He was the Son of God, for pete's sake! Of course God would provide for Jesus at some point but why wait? Why starve for one more minute?

For Jesus to use His supernatural powers to meet His needs would violate God's plan: Jesus was to live as a man and trust God to supply all His needs. 

Satan knows each of our specific weaknesses and he uses the same tactic on us. He tempts us to satisfy our needs and desires apart from God. He encourages us to grab what we want without waiting on God. Of course God can meet our needs, but we can do a better job and we can do it now!

We can resist the enemy's temptation the same way Jesus did: through God's Word. Jesus says that our confidence is built on the truth and faithfulness of God's Word. When we throw our faith in God's provision back in Satan's face, we can stand strong against his lies. 

2. How can you be sure God will keep His promises?

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4: 5-7

The bold-faced audacity! Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus! The words he spoke come from Psalm 91:11-12. He pulled out the phrases that suited his purpose but he left out that this promise has a condition: "if you  make the Most High your dwelling," (Psalm 91:9).

Will God protect you as He promised, Jesus? Let's just see! Throw yourself off this high point and force His hand. Make God prove Himself.

If Jesus had doubted God's protection on this day, would he have doubted God's promise to resurrect Him when He faced death on the cross? If He had chosen to test God's faithfulness, the spotless sacrifice would have been tarnished and our redemption would have been destroyed. 

Again, Jesus counters Satan's ploy with God's Word. I often rush ahead in my own will and, when everything's a mess, I cry out, "God, why didn't You keep Your promises to protect me?" We can stand strong in God's presence and in His protection. When we trust God's faithfulness, we won't need to challenge Him because our confidence is in Him. 

3. If you compromise, you can have all you want now!

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4:8-11

I can't imagine how desperately tempting this must have been. Sure, Jesus knew the glory and kingship that awaited Him - on the other side of the cross. But Satan promised Jesus that He could be King, now. He could rule over all the nations, now. He could sit on the throne of glory, now.

But there was a condition: worship Satan instead of God. Would Jesus seize His glory now, with no pain and no agony - with no cross? 

If Jesus had chosen to avoid the cross and to seize His glory painlessly, all of us would still be condemned. Before Jesus could be King, He had to be Savior. 

A third time, Jesus stood on God's truth: Worship the Lord only! The temptation to gain through compromise is a dangerous one. Life will be so much easier if we step off of the narrow way and walk on the comfortable path of compromise. Jesus knew the glory that awaited Him was greater than anything Satan could offer Him and the same is true for us. What we can gain in the here and now pales in comparison to what God promises us: eternal life with Him.  

Do you see the pattern here? The most precious part of this account is that Jesus never once called upon His power as fully God.

He defeated Satan as fully man - using a weapon we all have sitting in our homes: God's Word. 

When we study God's Word and stay sensitive to His voice, He will bring His truth to mind and help us defeat Satan's strategies. He never leaves us defenseless. 

Praise the Lord, Jesus never wavered! 

How has God strengthened you to stand strong in the face of Satan's temptations?

Share your thoughts so we can grow in our faith together.

Photo credits: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. images

If this post has blessed you, Please Share!

Friday, April 22, 2016

One-on-one with Satan

This post is adapted from my Bible study Storms of Life


Face-to-face, eye-to-eye, one-on-one. Can you imagine standing toe-to-toe with Satan? I’d have a stroke or drop dead, or both! But that’s exactly what happened. Two people in Scripture stood in the presence of Satan: Eve, in the Garden of Eden, and Jesus, after forty days in the desert. 

On the surface, these are two radically different events but, when we look closer, we can identify the tactics Satan uses today. He tempts us when we’re vulnerable and attacks us when we’re weak.

We’ll start with Satan’s encounter with Eve learn to protect ourselves from his lies. Next week, we’ll watch Jesus defeat the enemy at his own game.

Adam and Eve lived in a perfect garden. Everything they needed was within their reach. They didn’t know illness, sorrow, fear, or anxiety. Best of all, they walked with God – can you imagine their conversations?

Into this paradise, slithered the snake, to entice and entrap them. With three lies, he destroyed their perfect lives.

1. God doesn’t mean what He says.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

Satan’s intent was to throw Eve off-balance, to cause her to doubt God’s words. He bombards us with the same question. "Did God really say..."

He tries to convince us that God didn’t really mean what He said or that it no longer applies to us. 

It’s dangerous when we doubt one part of what God says because it’s a slippery slope to doubting even more. Gossip, dishonesty, or immorality become easy because the question has taken root in our minds: Did God really say that?

2. God is a liar!

“You will not surely die, said the serpent to the woman.” Genesis 3:4

Can you believe it? Satan looked straight at Eve and declared that God was lying. You won’t die. In fact, there won’t be any consequences at all.

This lie is rampant today. Society chants the mantra, “It’s your life! If it feels good, do it!” We live in a world where sinful behavior is rewarded with success and happiness. Our friends live with careless abandon and they seem to suffer no consequences.

When we wade in sin and nothing happens, we feel safe to go in deeper. Often, the consequences are disastrous and can leave long-lasting scars. Listen to that small voice, “Don’t do that, it’s too dangerous.” 

God’s Word is truth and we can trust Him to lead us to safe waters.

3. You will be like God!

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” Genesis 3:5

This is the most attractive lie of all. Eve was captivated by the idea that she could be her own god. It still sounds wonderful. We can set our own standards for good and evil. We can define sin to suit our purposes. We want to command our own future. Our will becomes our guide and we ignore God.

When we try to take our lives into our own hands, it usually leads to a mess. When will we learn: God is God and we are not! Selfishness leads to sorrow. Only God knows the path to joy.

How can we resist Satan’s lies?
  • Know God’s Word.  Spend time with Him. Read His Word. It’s a powerful weapon against doubt.
  • Count your blessings. Are the things you’re tempted to do worth the risk?
  • Build your life on God’s standards. Trust Him; He knows what’s best for us.
  • Listen to the warnings He places in our minds. He often reminds us of a phrase or verse from Scripture that helps us.
  • Run! Eve was on the right track when she exposed Satan’s lie, but that wasn’t enough. If she’d walked away, Satan would’ve been defeated. Run, don’t walk to God’s protection.

Satan’s goal is to kill, steal, and destroy our peace and joy. He strives to unravel our relationships with God and to cripple our witness. He uses the same lies but, in God’s strength, we can fight back and win. 

Photo credits: Thad Bergmeir via Google images ; via pinterest;;

Please share!!