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.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Recently I read the story of Jesus before Pilate. It was early on Friday morning of Holy Week. The religious leaders had arrested Jesus, tried him, and found him worthy of death. Because execution was forbidden for Jews, they took him to stand trial before Pilate.

After questioning Jesus, Pilate was convinced of his innocence. However, the religious leaders had aroused the crowds, and Pilate was afraid of them. "What shall I do with Jesus?" Pilate asked the people. "Crucify him!" they cried. Ignoring his own convictions and his wife's pleas for Jesus's life, he washed his hands of any guilt and released Barabbas, "the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one [the crowds] asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will" (Luke 23:25).

What a chilling thought, that the holy Son of God would be surrendered to the will of an angry mob.

I noticed a handwritten message in the margin of my Bible, pointing me back a chapter to Luke 22:42. We see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night, just hours prior to his trial before Pilate. Hear him pray: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Jesus was able to survive the experience of being surrendered to the will of the crowd because he had already surrendered himself to the will of the Father.

This is how we, too, can be equipped for those experiences where we seem to have no control of our situation. Perhaps it is illness or a broken relationship, or maybe it is financial strain or the grief over a loved one's death. If we have submitted ourselves to the Father's will we can rest in His loving hands. Surrendered to God, we need not be afraid of "the will of the crowd" concerning us.

In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? 
Psalm 56:4

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In Time of Trouble

When South African pastor Andrew Murray was visiting England in 1895, he began to suffer pain from a previous back injury. While he was recuperating, his hostess told him of a woman who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any counsel for her. Murray said, "Give her this paper which I have been writing for my own [encouragement]. It may be that she will find it helpful." This is what Murray wrote:

"In time of trouble say: 
God will keep us by His love. By His grace, we can rest in Him. 
First—God brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place. In that I will rest. 
Next—He will keep me in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child. 
Then—He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He meant to bestow. 
Last—In His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows. 
I am here—by God's appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time."

* * * * * * * * *  

This story is from David Jeremiah's book, What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do and appeared recently in Our Daily Bread.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sun Breaks

Taken at Cannon Beach, Oregon in October, 2015

When the sun breaks through a rip in the clouds and floods the vistas with golden light, heads go up and lungs expand. It's like a mini-vacation, a kiss of beauty from the heavens, a note of encouragement that brighter days are coming. 
~ Joan Husby, in the introduction to her blog, Sun Breaks

We've had record-breaking rainfalls this winter. Rain has come to us in buckets and sheets, and even a few cats and dogs. Yet we've had enough sun breaks these past three months to keep us from total madness.

In the past week Tom and I have taken advantage of these rare moments and gone out with our cameras in search of some beauty. We didn't have to go far. The photos below were all taken within twelve miles of our home.

Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens, located at Freeborn Lutheran Church on 300th St NW, east of I-5 at exit 218, is clearly visible from the freeway. A work in progress, this gardens will eventually showcase a thousand plants native to the Pacific Northwest. With beautiful boardwalks, educational kiosks, grasses growing on the roofs, and native habitats, people will come from miles around to enjoy this marvelous botanical gardens.

Workers were at the park while we explored, preparing the security system for the many glass pieces that will be on display, creations of artists from nearby Pilchuck Glass School.

Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island has much to offer visitors but nothing more appealing than the warm sunshine and these apple blossoms that greeted us.

We wanted to check for eagles on Thomle Road, just off Marine Drive. Shortly after we turned on Thomle Road we saw an eagle sitting on a branch, not too far from his nest. Down the road we discovered two more adult birds and another nest, And then there were the cherry trees laden with blossoms in the late afternoon sun.

The forecast is for several more days of rain. Perhaps we'll get a few sun breaks. But even if we don't, the heavens have given us a kiss of beauty, and it's enough to keep me going until Spring is here to stay.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Face to Face with Jesus

I recently read Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim's Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love. The author, Samaa Habib, was raised in a Muslin family in the Middle East. Her nation was in turmoil for much of her growing up years. As a teenager she began attending a tae kwon do class taught by a group of Christians who shared the love of Jesus with their students, she chose to follow Christ.

Samaa's book, written with Bodie Thoene, tells the story of her earnest faith and tireless pursuit of Jesus, even in the face of unrelenting difficulties. For example, her church, far from her home, held an all-night prayer service that began at 10 p.m. every Friday. But her country was in the midst of civil war and public transportation was unreliable. Besides, there was a curfew in the city, so every time she went to the prayer meeting she put her life on the line. Even to go to the bread line to get food for the family was hazardous. With danger lurking each time she left the house, she also faced danger in her own home. Her parents and many of her siblings opposed her conversion and threatened to take her life.

The pages of Face to Face with Jesus throb with the steadfast faith of this young woman and the steadfast faithfulness of God. Again and again He rescued her from difficulty, disaster, and death. Indeed, the title of the book comes from the moments in which she literally was face to face with Jesus in Heaven.

Many people today face perils similar to Samaa's. Strengthen them, Lord. Show Yourself strong on their behalf and may they live and die for Your glory.

Most of us in the West will never experience such dire circumstances. Lord, use Samaa's book to call us to Your heart so that we, too, will pursue You tirelessly and live for you joyously. Help us to abandon ourselves totally to the One who is faithful.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Told the Mountain to Move

Patricia Raybon grew up in the church. She was a good Christian lady. But when her husband was rushed to the hospital for life-saving emergency surgery, and her daughter had left the church to embrace Islam, and her relationship with her mother had deteriorated into an obligation, she started praying. She studied the masters of prayer, Andrew Murray, R.A. Torrey, Mother Theresa, Richard Foster and many other men and women of yesterday and today who had learned to pray. And she sought the Lord for herself and poured over the pages of Scripture, struggling through the issues that seemed like immovable mountains in her life.

It is out of this experience that she wrote the book, I Told the Mountain to Move: A determined struggle to learn how to pray; a triumphant lesson in learning to love. Patricia Raybon is utterly honest; I'm sure I have never read a book by an author more transparent than Raybon. A journalist who teaches at University of Colorado at Boulder, she is a fine writer with a unique voice. A powerful voice. A voice that draws the reader into her mind and her heart.

The book is made up of twenty-four prayer lessons that Patricia Raybon learned through the years covered in the book, lessons with names like "Love Each Other" and "Be of Good Cheer," simple words but often foreign concepts. I Told the Mountain to Move describes the amazing changes that occurred in Patricia herself as she learned to pray from the Lord himself.

I found the most impressive change to be the transformation that occurred in her most significant relationships. As the book began, her marriage was in disarray, she felt compelled to preach to her daughter, and she and her mother could barely be in the same room together. The Lord restored each of these relationships as he taught Patricia about love and prayer.

If you struggle with prayer, if your relationships lack grace, if you have unsurmountable problems, then you are right where Patricia Raybon started out. Let her take you on a journey that will teach you to pray the kind of prayers that make mountains move.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Today's Post

You'll find me today at Northwest Healthy Mama, where I talk about my Northwest Healthy Dad who just turned 90 a few days ago. Stop by and take a look!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Growing as a Writer

I've been writing all my life. Three pieces from my grade school days come to mind, two poems—one a retelling of the Christmas story and the other describing an idyllic community with tree lined streets and lots of churches, a place where I thought I would like to live—and a fanciful tale in which I described the noses of the people who got off the bus while I waited to get on. My childhood diary was less interesting, featuring entries such as,"This morning I played at Gretchen's house. I had tomato soup for lunch." Clearly not all writing is equal.

With term papers in high school and college, essay tests, and letters, lots of letters, I had many opportunities to pursue my love of writing. Years later, when Tom and I found ourselves in a rural community where jobs were as scarce as hen's teeth, we decided to start our own business. Tom's background in graphic arts and publication design at Boeing and my writing experience led us to create a publication of our own, a magazine we called Family Scrapbook. We put up a half-wall in the huge living room of our hundred-year-old farmhouse, making it possible for us to keep an eye on our two preschool sons while we created our 40-page bi-monthly magazine. It was a venture far beyond our previous experience and proved to be just the creative challenge we needed.

Now, twenty years later, I look back through the seven issues of Family Scrapbook we published before the cost of producing a national magazine overwhelmed our resources, and smile deep inside, remembering the joy of working with my husband on a project so completely satisfying.

Christmas letters and an occasional article made up the bulk of my writing for the next fifteen years. Then one morning I awoke with an urgency to start a blog. I could hardly wait for my son to get off the computer so that I could get started. I lept onto the computer and hardly came up for air until I had my first post up. That was September 17, 2009. I've loved blogging–sharing things I care about while honing my writing skills. I joined Northwest Christian Writers Association (NCWA) and love hanging out at the monthly meetings and various writers conferences with folks who, like me, want to write to the glory of God.

Our Critique Group -- Members (left to right, standing) Me, Joan Husby, Diana Savage,
Agnes Lawless, Sylvia Stewart, (seated) Marjorie Stewart

A year ago I was invited to join a critique group. Of all my writing adventures, this is by far the most stretching. These women, these beautiful, creative, amazing women, have become dear friends and colleagues to me. Being with them for a year has inspired me to work harder and write better. It is a group who pours themselves into one another's writing and after the critique session ends we share our joys and concerns over brown bag lunches.

Each of these women is an accomplished and prolific writer and every time we meet I learn more about the breadth of their writing skills and the depth of their faith in Christ. I am grateful to have these lovely women in my life.

Are you a budding writer (or artist, or musician, or actor, or...) who wonders if you will ever really get good at your craft? Do you feel like the years are slipping away and you may never become accomplished and God will never use you? I have often felt that way too. But as I look back over the years I can see that the Lord was growing me as a writer all along. The childish poems and school essays, the letters to my camp friends, the magazine and the blog—these things were years apart but they were what I could do at the time. If you have a dream in you heart that the Lord put there, He will nurture it. Keep at it; find support through NCWA or another group; take a class; hire a mentor.  Bring your dreams to Jesus. He just may show you how He has been growing you over the years. And don't worry about when and how He is ever going to use you. Chances are, He already is.