Sunday, December 4, 2016

Behold He Comes, Bringing Joy

When Jesus took up the scroll in the synagogue, as recorded in Luke 4, he read from the prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on him a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment or praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The angels told the shepherd, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

Peter reminded his readers that though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8).

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It gives vivid, tangible evidence of the presence of God in our lives. What could be more winsome than a person, filled with the presence of the Lord, living joyfully, even in the face of difficulties?

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy -- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

(This post first appeared in December of 2013.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

America's Most Urgent Prayer Need

This article was posted on May 1, 2013, as we anticipated the Nation Day of Pray. It is as pertinent today as it was three-and-a-half years ago, only now it is more obvious. With the election fast approaching, I ask you to read with an open heart. I believe it is God's desire for our nation. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. People in the Stanwood-Camano community will, once again, meet in the parking lot of Haggen from 12:00 till 1:00 p.m. to worship and pray together while people across the country will be praying in similar gatherings throughout the day, focusing on the injunction to "Pray for America," the theme of this year's National Day of Prayer.

We watch, stunned, as each day we see greater evidence of the need for prayer for our nation. It is impossible to listen to the news without recognizing that America is in distress—economically, politically, spiritually, in our families, our schools, and our neighborhoods.

But I believe there is a need even deeper than our need for reform in our country. It is for revival.

Revival is what happens when men and women of God come to him in humility, crying out for God's forgiveness for sin, for his cleansing, and for his deep work in their lives. It comes when we acknowledge our desperation as individuals and as a church for God himself, when we realize that we cannot do the work of God without the grace and power of God. It comes when we throw ourselves completely on him, allowing him to fill and direct us.

The fruit of revival is manifold, but I believe the greatest evidence of revival is love. When we have met with God and he has revived our souls—and our churches—there will be such an outpouring of God's love within the church and into the community that everyone will know that we are his disciples (John 13:35). And we will work to end injustice; we will serve with joy; we will not bicker among ourselves; we will be clean vessels through which the light of Christ can shine.

When God's people are revived in this way, others will be drawn to the light. But until revival comes,  we will not experience the fullness of God's power in our lives or our nation.

I encourage you to pray for America, but don't limit your prayers to one day of the year. Let's make prayer for our nation a part of our daily lives. Let us pray from hearts that are seeking him for revival. Let us allow God to do his work within our own hearts and within the church. Until we seek his face and receive his cleansing we cannot really expect God to heal our land.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Love Like There's No Tomorrow

Everybody dies. The thing is, most of us don't get the chance to write about it later. Ocieanna Fleiss did. In Love Like There's No Tomorrow: How a Cardiac Arrest Brought My Heart to Life she tells the story of her death and recovery.

Ocieanna's died on a Saturday night. Her heart stopped for over ten minutes. Although the medical team got it started again, they held out little hope for her survival. Despite the odds, God brought her back to full health.

But that is only part of the story. Through Love Like There's No Tomorrow I met a delicate child who struggled to find her place in the world and in her family. I watched her grow into a young woman whose purpose in life was to earn God's favor. I saw a beloved wife and mother who was stressed and overwhelmed by life's demands. The cardiac arrest was the beginning of a a healing that "brought her heart to life" in ways she had never before experienced. It propelled her into God's glorious grace.

Ocieanna's unique writing voice combines beautifully with her responsive heart to God's deep work in her life. Her story is one of hope for all who are former—or even current—legalists, for those who constantly feel the strains of life, and for all who long to be at rest in the Lord. I'm guessing that's pretty much all of us!

Meet her for yourself at her website,, where you can read the first three chapters of Love Like There's No Tomorrow, find a link to purchase any of her four books, browse her blog, or invite her to speak to your group.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Voices From the Past

Today I'm sharing this story, originally posted on February 2, 2010, because it reminds me of my big brother, Tommy, and gives a glimpse into our dad's sweetness. Even now, at 90, I Dad's sweetness and love remain strong. Happy Father's Day, Papa.

Tommy and me, 1954
I couldn't pronounce my r's when I was little. I called myself "Gin-juh" and my baby sister "Glowia." I must have been about four and my brother Tommy five when he decided I needed a little coaching. I'm told the conversation went something like this:

"Ginger, say car."
"No, say car."
"Ginger, say ca-rrrr."
"No, honey, say ca-urh."
At this point I started jumping up and down shouting, "He called me honey! He called me honey!"

When I was digging through the boxes of childhood treasures in our garage in December, I came across a small canister. Thinking it strange that someone had saved an old can of shoe polish, I pulled it out and discovered a small yellowed note taped to the top which read, "Us at home, Nov 23, 1954." It was a wire recording! We found a man in Seattle to transfer the recording to CD and just last night were able to give my parents their belated Christmas present.

On the recording, Dad played the part of Art Linkletter and told us we were on his "Houseparty" radio program. He asked us questions about ourselves -- names (Tommy and Gin-juh), ages (five and fo-uh), what our parents did (Daddy was a nol'um layer [linoleum layer] and Mama didn't work but she liked to read), who was the boss at our house (of course the answer was our Daddy!). Tommy said George Washington was the smartest man in the world, and his wife was the smartest woman. I said the prettiest woman in the world was Mrs O'Brien! No one at the table had any idea who Mrs O'Brien was, but she must have been gorgeous. Already I had two boyfriends -- Chuck and Leroy. Tommy thought it would be fun to be a zraff(giraffe) so that he could watch the fireballs, and for no reason I could come up with, I wanted to be an ow-uu (owl). In an attempt to get five-month-old Gloria to talk, we made her cry instead.
Me and my daddy, 1956

We each sang a song, exuberant me with words I can't quite make out, and my brother singing sweetly and clearly, "Whisper a prayer in the morning, whisper a prayer at noon, whisper a prayer in the evening, so keep your heart in tune." 

Tommy and I did a lively rendition of "I Love to Go to Sunday School," then Dad and I sang "Whisper a Prayer" with Tommy, this time Tommy singing the harmony to Dad's and my melody. Tommy was undisturbed by my attempt to find the right note or even by the melody that Dad was singing as he harmonized high above us. I'd forgotten how naturally music came to him. 

Our family didn't own a recorder or camera during our early days, so this find is especially precious to us. Tom and I were glad to get it back from being transferred while my brother Ted, who was passing through on his way back to Juneau, and Peach (that is, Glowia) were both available to hear it too. Tim, check the mail. Your copy will be there in a couple of days.

Now where did we put that cassette of our boys when they were preschoolers?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Hound of Heaven: A Modern Adaptation

The Hound of Heaven has been calling me today, reminding me of his relentless pursuit of humankind. Despite the old English Francis Thompson used in his enduring poem, The Hound of Heaven, when he wrote it over a hundred years ago, even the modern day reader cannot miss the meaning of the story. Propelled forward at a heart-pounding pace, the poem tells of a soul being chased through life by One who will not give up the quest. Finally the hounded hears the Voice of Love as the Hound moves in:
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for they harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
All which they child's mistake
Fancies as lost,
I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come.
I have written before about this poem that captured my imagination when I was a teenager. I write again today because I want to share an updated version of The Hound of Heaven by Oxvision Films. This animated modern adaptation is beautifully done, telling the story in word and image that connects well with 21st century young people.

As you watch the video below and sense in your heart that God is following hard after someone in your life, pray for your loved one and ask the Lord to help them yield to the God who wants only their best. Share the video with the young people in your life. Do you see in this video your own story? Why not post it on your social media, and include your own testimony.

Father, use this updated version of The Hound of Heaven and whatever other means you choose to draw people to yourself. Help us be sensitive to the needs of those around us and might we be faithful to take advantage of any opportunity you give us to share the truth of your love with others. May it all be for your glory. Amen.

See the video here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

What's Better Than a Chocolate Bar? Making It Yourself!

When you walk into Salt & Thistle, a cute little shop close to Subway in the Stanwood Camano Plaza, you will notice local handmade goods and other sustainable products. Cute, bright, practical, fun items to buy for gifts or keep for yourself. You'll also find baked goods, soups, quiche, and smoothies, made fresh daily on site.

Melissa Tarkington, owner of Salt & Thistle, has a dream to provide small, local farmers and producers an outlet for their goods. Besides offering retail space and creating tasty treats, she also makes Salt & Thistle's community kitchen available to local vendors who need a place to prepare their goods. And she offers a variety of classes—pretty much whatever you want to learn—to groups of four or more.

A list of the chocolates Melissa makes and sells at Salt & Thistle 

"Do you offer chocolate making?" I asked Melissa one day. I had already discovered the delicious chocolate bars she makes and had purchased them on several occasions. "Sure! If you want to make some chocolate I can do a class for you."

The birthday of my friend Joan offered the perfect excuse for a chocolate making class. We gathered some friends and set the date. When we arrived the table was set for six, with food as scrumptious as it was beautiful. When we'd had the last bite of salad and hors d'oeuvres that we could fit in, Melissa brought out the bowls of chocolate for a taste test.

Joan, the Birthday Girl, and our lovely dinner

"This one was..."

For loving chocolate like I do, I discovered that I'm not too discerning about what I'm eating! I had few words to describe the chocolate pieces and I wasn't even sure which ones I preferred. But Melissa gave us several words to apply to the confection—such as bitter or smooth finish, dark fruit notes, coffee and vanilla bean flavor, and hard snap. which is how top grade chocolate responds when being broken. She also instructed us in the world of chocolate making, such as where cacao beans come from (ten degrees on either side of the Equator); the sad reality that many growers and producers use child labor in their businesses; and what it means when chocolate "blooms." (When the oil separates from the chocolate the top of he bar looks dark, like an oil slick; when the sugar separates it gets powdery. Don't worry, though. The taste of the chocolate is not degraded.)

Then we were ready to make our own bars. Melissa had two pots of chocolate waiting for us, a pot of dark and a pot of milk chocolate. She also had a tray of nuts, berries, coconut, sea salt and other goodies that we could add to our bars.

Stirring the dark chocolate

Once we chose our ingredients we poured a ladle of chocolate into a mold and added our goodies. Here's Joan pouring hers. Mine was harder to pour because the dark chocolate had begun to harden.

I added "date bacon" to my candy bar. I did NOT want bacon in my chocolate but Melissa assured me that it was actually chopped dates, fried briefly in a pan with olive oil, a bit of maple syrup, and smoked salt. The mold below shows my date bacon bar on the left with two chocolate bars that were tempered by hand on a cold steel table. You have to work fast in this business or things don't turn out too pretty!

A few of the chocolate bars were ready to take home at the end of the evening. Melissa popped them out the molds and wrapped them for us. I took mine home to share it with m family. Not too beautiful, but it tasted just fine!

My friends and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. Thanks, Melissa, for a great evening. We wish you success in your venture with Salt & Thistle and the many ways you serve the community.

Stop by Salt & Thistle for a little shopping and a bite to eat. They are open Tuesday through Saturday. If you are looking for a commercial kitchen, check with Melissa. And if you are looking for a class on canning, making scones, chocolate, or pretty much whatever you can think of, give this versatile young woman a call. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Consider it Pure Joy?

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

Have we ever considered the trials we pass through "pure joy"? Has there ever been a time when the end results of the faith-testing—perseverance, maturity, completeness, lacking nothing—have captivated us so thoroughly that we not only endured the trial but delighted in it?

If you are like me, you hear James's words in your head, but your internal auto-correct turns them into, "Don't kick and scream, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Grit your teeth and bear up, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." After all, what is perseverance if it isn't slogging through a difficulty all the way to its completion?

We need a new understanding of this profound passage. How, indeed, can we consider trials a joy?

Here is how James 1:2-4 is rendered in The Voice:
Don't run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.
The joy James is talking about may not be our initial response to trials, but if we respond to them in faith (which blossoms under pressure) and learn to patiently endure, we will ultimately find joy in our hardships.

In my post entitled Surrendered I said that Jesus "was able to survive the experience of being surrendered [by Pilate] to the will of the crowd because he had already surrendered himself to the will of the Father." And so it is with us. If we are surrendered to the will of our loving Father, we can trust Him with anything that comes into our lives. Our faith and patience will grow as we trust him through our trials.

At the end of this long journey we will stand before the Lord; we'll be mature, complete, and wanting nothing. Knowing that each trial we endure along the way is preparing us for that great moment, we can rejoice. We are God's, and He using our trials for our good!

Read more about The Voice.