Archive for May, 2011


I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t say they want to be happy and fulfilled in life.  When I look back on my own experience, I see where I made that an endless pursuit.

My opinion is that it’s part of the human condition.  It’s the result of  the garden…..where Adam and Eve fell for the snakes, “You need more than what you have.” line.

Before that they were complete because they had full access to God and each other.  There was no words like lonely, hurting, grieving, unfulfilled in language.

Here’s the good news.  First of all, Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection what was needed to fix what makes us sick.

We are reconnected to God, and can have an intimate personal relationship with Him.  We can walk with Him, talk with Him, sit with Him, and it’s a two way communication.  Not just us talking, Him too!

It’s all about relationship!  As a woman, I know the longing we have for intimacy.  We want someone to understand us, fill the void, value us and adore us.  We want to be needed and wanted.   And as a woman, I also know I looked for that in all the wrong places and nothing fixed it!

Once I understood it is about me and Jesus, I saw things shift.  I no longer looked to or at my husband.  It wasn’t up to him to fix me or my needs.  I realized only God could fix me and meet my innermost needs.

I stopped looking for my kids, my mom, my family, my friends, my career, my circumstances, my money…..as the source of what I needed or the reason for my unhappiness.

It’s all about what you are looking for and who/what you are turning to fix what is wrong.

All the way through Psalm 119 we learn what we must turn to if we want a full and blessed life.  Jesus gave us the cure, we just have to take the medicine.  Here are some of the things it talks about.

When we don’t know what to do:  Ask and seek out His precept for that situation.

Speak His word over your situation.  Example:  If you need peace:  God says, My peace I leave with You.  Speak the peace of God over your heart and mind and life.

If you want joy, rejoice in the riches of God’s word and the life of Jesus.

If you want a bountiful life: (Vs. 17) Hear, receive and love and obey His word.

If you want freedom from guilt and shame or hatred of others, keep His word.

If you want deliverance from those who come against you, Meditate on His statutes. (Vs. 23)

If you want happiness and good counsel, Go to His testimonies.

If you are feeling like your life is over, or worthless and long to have a new awakening:  (25) Turn to His word for revival and stimulation.

If you are grieving:  (26) Open your griefs to God and let him teach you and follow his ways.

If your life is heavy, unbearable and you feel weak, turn to His promises to raise you from the pit and strengthen you.

If you are living a lie and unfaithful to God, ask that He will impart His law into your heart.

I could go on forever.  Summing it up is verse 18 , 20 and 33.

Open my eyes that I may behold the wonderful things that come out of your laws (precepts and principles).  My heart is breaking with the longing it has for your ordinances and judgments at all times.  Teach me O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will keep it to the end. 

What could you do today to open up to God’s precepts and follow His direction?

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Lot’s of buzz around Idol last night.  Regardless of who you wanted to win or your thoughts on the season,  that moment at the end when they announced Scotty was pretty sweet.

The unscripted response and the kisses and communication between him and Lauren were beautiful.  His amazement, humbleness, and love and emotion in the last song was touching.

I love the shows that bring that kind of surprise and impromptu reaction.  I think that’s why some of the reality tv is such a hit.  We love to see winners and good things happen.  The reactions of surprise and the journey give us many glimpses into the real person.  You can’t watch someone that long without understanding who is plastic and who is not.  And people are tired of fakeness.

Yet, in the Hollywood glam and glitz overload that has shaped our culture, especially since television entered the scene, we can have trouble discerning what is real.

My sis and I were talking yesterday about marriage and relationship.  We both married our high school sweethearts.  We laughed about a girl’s desire to have a prince, but that we don’t always act like their princesses.   We swapped stories of difficult moments we both experienced, the emotional reactions, and the lessons we have learned along the way.

Interestingly, we both had a big ah ha moment.

Mine……..I was a young mom, hooked on the popular soap operas of the day, my favorite being The Young and The Restless.  I planned my life around them, a much needed escape I thought from the mundane day to day routine.

One particular day, right in the middle of an all out fight with my husband, I heard myself repeat the exact words I had heard a star on the show, say to hers that day when their relationship exploded.  It jarred me to reality and I realized the effect of  that on my marriage.  I never watched them again!

My sis……Jan was sharing the ups and downs of her marriage as well.  She talked about her longing for her prince to be her knight in shining armor. She longed for romance from a guy who isn’t really romantic.  She had been watching a  movie with her husband and she said to him, why don’t you talk to me like that?  His reply, “Because I don’t have a script.”

Whether it’s in marriage or life overall,  many of us have lived out of the script we’ve written for ourselves and others.  It’s a script of expectations and lies based on what we’ve experienced.   Because we either don’t understand or are afraid to be look at our own hurts and needs,  we fashion a plastic god out of our expectations for ourselves and those around us. The script we’ve written controls us.  We give it power. We shape our lives around it.

The problem is that god is hollow and empty when you get to the core.  Some of us have been taught to stuff every emotion and need and live like a “good Christian”. Others live by letting whatever they want and need control them and become obsessed with what will make them happy.

There is only one script we can live our life by.  It’s a script that allows for us to live whole and healed, authentic and real.  It goes beyond the circumstances of our marriage, our day, our life.  It goes beyond the woundings of our soul.

Even though it’s only one word, it’s difficult to remember sometimes.  The word?

Love.  Not the squishy, emotional, romantic Hollywood drama kind. The nitty gritty, everyday, requires focus, hardwork, and commitment kind of love.

Love God all your heart, mind, and soul, love yourself, and love your neighbor (everyone else) just as much!

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By Marian Struble

Sometimes, you just gotta take a bath!  As a child, it was always early Saturday evening, right after dinner.  Oh how I hated ending my afternoon of playing outside and having to come in to get ready for Sunday church. But that was our weekly Saturday routine.  Chores in the morning before we could go out and play, then in before dinner, baths and hair, and then studying our Sunday School lesson.

As I think about that today, I realize as much as I hated it, my life today is fuller because I learned that there is balance in life:  Work, Play, Study and Preparation. But then I wanted to play!

Life is like that.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind, we forget to come away.  Today’s culture of entertainment, excitement, and fun can lead us to believe it’s all about playing and enjoying life.

And I believe in dreaming big, but sometimes we get so caught up in our fairy tales and are push for what makes us happy, we lose sight of the what’s really important.

Then we wonder why life isn’t working for us.  We get stuck in a race that runs us around in circles.  Doing the same things and never finding the happiness we seek.  We become dizzy and confused from chasing the rainbow that never seems to appear.  We become self-consumed, and if we aren’t careful end up in the pit of despair, blaming others and everything that’s happened to us for our current condition of emotional turmoil.

Have you been there?  I sure have!

Psalm 119:9 gives us the answer to change that.  (My paraphrase) How does somebody change their way and reverse the course?  By looking at himself and conforming his life to Your word.

You see, God is a good parent!   He knew we were gonna get dirty, playing in life.  But, he loved us enough to pour our bath water so we could get clean again.  He reconciled the whole world when He  poured out himself  by Jesus coming, living, dying and resurrecting.   He left behind the record of what He said and how He lived for us to read.  And more importantly, He wrote the law of God on our hearts.

Loving God is not about some gushy, emotional feeling and goosebumps.  (Although I’ve had some of those along the way!)  It’s about setting our lives in the right direction.  It’s about recognizing this gift and doing all we can to finish well.

Verse 10 puts it well.  I have sought for you with my WHOLE heart, asking you and yearning for you.  O, Don’t let me wander or step aside (either because I’m ignorant or willful) from Your commandments.

So I’ll end with three important questions.

When you look at your life today, what evidence do you find that you are following God with your WHOLE (desiring His path, and surrendering to it) heart?

Where do you see that you have wandered or stepped aside from God’s rules for living?

What step could you take today to change your way?

Sometimes, it’s bath time.  Jump in.  The water is refreshing and the joy is full.

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Rules! Rules! Rules!

As a rule, kids don’t like a bunch of rules! Sorry….couldn’t resist the play on words.

After all, what’s the point? Why care about making a bed, picking up a room, observing a curfew, or any other silly thing parents insist on?

There is something about youthfulness that prides itself on a  “I’ll do it my way” philosophy for life.  Resistance is part of the growing up process.  And I don’t know about you, but a lot of the rules my parents made, still don’t make sense to me.

In today’s culture, age is not the only indicator of  a rebel heart.  If we are honest, none of us like being told what to do and when we are,  we tend to resist.

I grew up in a very legalistic church.  Just about everything was a sin.  One thing that wasn’t missing in my upbringing was fear of God.  But then of course, it wasn’t a very healthy viewpoint when I stop to think about it.  There wasn’t much flexibility in even the man-made rules, and the films about hell terrified my young heart.  No matter how much they said God loved me, the primary motivating force of me being a “good girl” was the fear I’d be left behind.

In hindsight, even though it was quite a perversion of the gospel, I’m grateful because it probably kept me from getting into any serious trouble.

Still, I like the picture I have of God and His rules or direction now,  much better. Psalm 119:3-9 talks about God’s commandment to keep His precepts.  While I use to think about those rules as decrees in the hands of an angry God, I know now that His precepts, like any good parents rules are born out of love and wanting life to work for us.

When our desire is to hear, receive, love, and obey God’s direction, we will experience that happy, blessed state we desire.  Why?  Not because everything will be perfect and we’ll have no problems, but instead, because we experience inner peace.

He gave us His precepts because He designed a world of order and peace and beauty.  He knew those rules would make it work. It’s as simple as knowing that every choice brings a result, whether good or bad.

Here’s some reasons why it’s important.

1. Respecting and following His precepts protects us from guilt and shame .  (vs. 6) We will inherit His promises.

2.  Knowing and following His direction keeps us on the right path.  Without the map we’d lose our way and wander in the desert, just like the children of Israel.

3. Examining our lifes by the plumbline God has set can be a catylyst for  change and maturity.  (vs. 9-Amplified)  “How shall a young man cleanse his way? By listening and keeping watch over himself, according to Your word (conforming His life to it).”

If we want peace, joy and all the other things that bring emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being we must learn and pay attention to the rules.

Being a Christian is not a matter of saying some prayer and that’s that.  A true Christ follower takes to heart His words and sets His precepts front and center. It’s not about fear.  It’s about faith.  Faith that we are loved sacrificially, unconditionally,  and that He has our best interest at heart.  When you have that kind of faith, you want to walk in His way no matter how difficult it seems.

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Who doesn’t want to be or feel happy? Everybody I know!

Yet do we really understand what happiness is?

In my experience, women especially can get consumed with the illusive chase of that happy feeling.  I remember being right in the middle of that pursuit.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  I could have saved myself a lot of pain and reached a place of enduring happiness a lot sooner.

Here’s what I know.  Happiness is directly related to our state of mind.  It has little to do with our circumstances.  If that wasn’t true, how could those who have suffered greatly still have a song in their heart and a smile on their face?

When I was chasing the happiness rainbow, I thought it was about my marriage, my kids, my house, my current situation.  I was focused on my pain….the pain of my past, places where I wasn’t understood, where I’d been, what I’d done, and what had been done to me.  That focus created a path of running in circles, leading nowhere, always searching for the next great happy moment. Instead of finding more happiness, I became increasingly unhappy.

If you strip down happiness to the very core Psalm 119:2 would be at it’s center.  Happy is the one who seeks and inquires for and of Him, and craves Him with the whole heart.

I could preach and teach for weeks on this verse! Here’s just a few points to guide you to that happy ever after we all crave.

1.  Happiness is not in the fairytale in your head!  It’s not about the “perfect” world you think you want or whatever area in your life you feel needs fixing.

2. You get to decide to be happy.  Happiness is a choice based on what you focus on.  No thing or person can steal true happiness, joy and security from you if you are resting and find your happiness in the source of all happiness.

3.  There are three core things that bring blessing and happiness. When these things are the priority,  a state of blessed happiness will follow.

a. Seek the presence of God in your life. You can’t help but feel safe, secure, well loved and at peace when God is the focus.  It’s the intimate relationship with God that is filling and fulfilling

b.  Ask Him for the answers.  Let Him speak to your soul, mind, and spirit.  Go to Him first and always with your pain, your frustration, and questions.  Let Him become your master teacher.  Listen for His voice.

c.  Examine your cravings.  Our satisfaction in life is based on what/who you are looking to to fill the longing in your soul.  If we want true lasting happiness, we must look at what we are desiring.  Desiring and craving Him with our WHOLE heart is the key to a happy life.

In my experience, unhappy people are unhappy because they seek value, love, perfection, healing, etc. outside of the true source of love and life.  They have not recognized that the God relationship is the only place we can find the lasting characteristics of happiness.  The kind of security God’s love brings is not dependent on circumstances, emotions, or people.

What step could you take today to refocus on the source of true happiness?

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While we were on vacation, we visited my cousin who has done a lot of genealogy work.  I was so excited when she pulled out a notebook that contained a copy of my mom and dad’s marriage certificate.  How precious to have this document as a witness to their union and our family line!

Psalm 119:2 says: “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied), are they who keep His testimonies……”

As I thought about that verse, I asked myself,  What does keeping His testimonies look like?

A testimony is a declaration (written or oral) from a witness that confirms or denies something that is in question.   It is important in a court of law to prove or disprove the validity of some legal claim.  It’s  part of the telling of one’s story, whether it’s our nation’s or world’s history, our family heritage, or our own experiences in life.

The Hebrew word for keep means to guard, maintain, obey, etc.

That leads me to another question.  What is my life saying about Jesus? When we claim to be following Jesus, I believe it always comes down to that question. It’s not for the purpose of making someone feel guilty if they mess up.  It’s to set our eyes on the finish line of a life well lived.

Here’s a few steps for keeping His testimonies.

1.  Keep learning.  Study the life and words of Jesus.  What He said and did is evidence of who He is.  It sets the tone for how we should live.

2.  Keep a record.  Write down the lessons you’ve learned and times you’ve encountered God in a powerful way.  Record your prayers and the answers.  Journal about your journey through life and how God has come through or how you overcame some obstacle in your path.

3.  Keep declaring.  Confess the promises and character of God over your life.  Your words are powerful.  When you confess with your mouth the opposite of what God says you are taking yourself out of agreement with who He is.

4.  Keep practicing.  Practice the character of God in your life.  Knowledge is of no worth if it is not applied.  You can know every verse of scripture and say all the right words but if you are not practicing what is right you will not have a blessed life.

5.  Keep sharing.  Tell His story through your story.  Share who God is and the difference He’s made in your life with everyone.  Tell your kids, your husband, your family, your friends, your neighbor, your community, your world.  Don’t just tell them for the sake of telling them.  Speak from your heart.  And live what you speak.

Lord, let my life preserve the record of who you are and what you’ve done for generations to come.

What could you do today to keep His testimonies?

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Taught To Walk

Taught To Walk

As I watched my youngest son walk across the stage to get his Master’s in teaching my heart was full of joy and pride.  It represented years of study, homework, testing, and hours of classroom practice. Yet none of that or the diploma means a thing if he doesn’t apply it.

Sounds a little like life, doesn’t it? If we compared life to obtaining a degree, we might understand it better.  Think about it this way.

What if the representation of graduating to a  life of success was our inner state of well-being?   If you knew that the choices, words, and  steps you took in life were directly linked to your happiness, would it make a difference in what you decided?

Psalm 119 conveys some truth about living a blessed, happy life.  Psalm 119:1 says:  “Blessed (Happy, fortunate, to be envied) are the undefiled (the upright, truly sincere, and blameless) in the way of God, who walk (order their conduct and conversation) in the law of the Lord (the whole of God’s revealed will). ”  Amplified

The truth is in life, you get to decide, and what you decide will determine your inner well-being.  So how does that play out?

1. You decide if you want to be blessed, happy, etc.

2.  If you do, you decide where you want your heart and attitude.  If you want a blessed inner life you must develop strong and good character.  You must maintain an attitude of sincerity and honesty before God and men.  You must focus on living a life without regret.

3.  You know what you control.  You don’t get to control every circumstance but you do get to choose the words you speak and the way you act.  A blessed, happy life is based on choosing those words and actions according to God’s character and principles.

Sometimes as Christians we treat life as a fairy tale. We assume that the happy ending we are meant to have is illusive and dependent on God’s will and His decree.  And, we expect God to wave a magic wand and get us out of all the messes we make.

Truth is, God has already planned for our blessed, happy and abundant life.  He has already laid out the principles for every situation that will bring us peace, joy, etc.   He believed in us enough to give His own son’s life in return for ours.

Our inner well being is a direct result of whether we are walking out what God has taught us and our desire to continue to pursue following His steps.  We haven’t really learned until we apply it by walking it out.

God’s path is plain and straight.  Simple enough for a child to understand.  We are the ones who make it complicated and crooked.

If your inner life, regardless of your outward circumstances is not happy,  look at what you are saying and examine your actions.  What can you do to change course and get you back on God’s pathway?

Blessed and happy, to be envied are those who walk in the way of the Lord.

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“…the greatest of these is love.”  These familiar words from I Corinthians 13 have been the  theme for many weddings, sermons, and many debates in the church, especially lately.  We seem to be wrestling with its meaning and as a church trying to define what it looks like to live in love.

Story is important when we are wrestling with our experiences.  That’s why this new release, The Practice of Love, Real Stories of Living Into The Kingdom of God is important.  This collection paints a picture of what it looks like to love God, your self, your neighbor and your enemy,  as told through the experience of each of the authors.

It was such a privelege to be able to contribute by sharing a portion of our story.  It could have fit into any one of the categories, but the most profound realization through the whole experience was how our view of loving God changed.  We no longer could embrace standard answers or plastic quotes in Christianese.  We had to work it out for ourselves in the middle of a story that was confusing, painful, and was without the fairy tale ending we had expected.

There is no doubt that at least one of the stories in this collection will strike a chord in your own life’s song.

I hope you’ll check it out and begin sharing with us your own stories of practicing love.   You can purchase it here.   http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615450199

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Where Are You?

On the road traveling to my youngest son’s graduation.  Hardly seems possible that my baby is all grown up and has a Master’s degree in English and will now shape the next generation. 

When he was young, one of the things he was intrigued by was geology.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

Sometimes as adults we lose our enthusiasm for what we want to be.  We give up on the life we want and settle for the circumstances of our yesterday.  God didn’t plan it that way. 

Even when life is not what we want we get to choose our attitude.  So today I hope you’ll follow this Dr. Suess quote.  He’s a wise cat!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you will be the guy who’ll decide where you’ll go. Oh the places you’ll go.~ Dr. Seuss

Don’t like where you are at.  Choose to walk in a different direction.  The life you have is not about your location due to circumstances, it’s about the location of your heart and head.  Those are things you have control of.

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What’s Success To You?

“So in keeping with our discussion of an excellent life:  Success for me is knowing that I am always working toward exhibiting Christ’s character in my own life in every area. It’s knowing that I have on “this day” entered into my own intimate relationship with Christ. And as a result, it is knowing that on “this day” I have been a vessel that pours out God’s love as I invest in every relationship He has brought my way! In other words, Knowing who God is so I can be all I am, touching one heart at a time.”

What is success to you?

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