Sunday, September 28, 2014

Back to the Emergency Room?

          “Welcome back Mrs. Carrillo.” Said the  ER doctor as he walked in the room. “How did that kidney stone turn out for you last time?”  I couldn’t believe it!  It had been six months since I was last in the ER.  What were the chances of getting the same doctor this time? My husband and I laughed. How is it that we end up at the hospital so many times? One year he had gallbladder surgery over Father’s Day weekend, and now on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, I might be facing the same thing! We joked that we should buy our own hospital gown and booties and bring them with us, since we were there so often.
            There were a few years in our family, when each of us went through some health difficulties. Our daughter had cancer when she was 2 years old. Our son had to have a heart ablation when he was 8. My husband had extensive kidney surgery. All three have had knee problems. Several family members, including our dog, Tacoma, have had ACL repair surgery.  It is not fun at all. There have been seasons when it was painful to walk or run, and I could not exercise at all. I have decided I’m a sunshine girl. I need to get outside, preferably in the sunshine, everyday to keep a positive, happy outlook. Being stuck inside, not feeling well is depressing.
            Because of these health issues, one of the things I am most thankful for in life is good health. It sounds trite to be thankful for good health. Some people take it for granted, especially if they have not had any health problems. But to me, I appreciate feeling healthy and knowing my family is healthy.
            Isn’t that how it is for all of us? Aren’t we most thankful for things we have lost or had to do without? People who had a foreclosure or lost their house are usually very thankful to have a roof over their heads. People who have been laid off are thankful to have jobs. People who have been childless for a season are exceptionally thankful when they have a child. People who have been set free from addictions are extremely thankful they are not in that place anymore.

            The Bible calls for us to be thankful in all situations, not FOR the situations, but IN the situations. This is hard to do, especially when we are in pain or a loved one is in pain. In fact 1 Thessalonians 5:8 says it is God’s will for us to give thanks in all circumstances.
            Kent Crocket in his book, Making Today Count for Eternity, gives four reasons for being thankful in every situation.
                  The attitude of gratitude is important for several reasons:
                          §         Thankfulness acknowledges that God is our provider.
                          §         Thankfulness prevents a complaining spirit.
                          §         Thankfulness creates a positive outlook on life
                          §         Thankfulness invites joy to dwell in our hearts.

            Even when we are in the middle of a challenge, there is usually something to be thankful for. We don’t want to be complainers. We want to have joy and a positive outlook on life.  It starts with being thankful right where we are. Ann Voskamp in her book, One Thousand Gifts, quickly goes past surface thankfulness, and becomes thankful for everything. Many of the things she finds to be thankful for are small, normal everyday things. She kept a journal out all the time and recorded what she was thankful for throughout the day and she found one thousand things she was thankful for!
            Being thankful in all our circumstances brings us closer to the Lord. We are acknowledging the Lord is our provider, sustainer, savior, and God. He will never leave us or forsake us. He died that we might have the abundant life now and in eternity. The thankful life is a joyful life. We all have much to be thankful for. Sometimes we just need to look around us.
            Remember today when you pray, don’t just ask for something, thank God for as may ‘gifts’ as you can think of.

Psalm 107:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.”

For more ABC's on Growing Closer to God, click click here for R or here for S.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Song in Our Heart

             It can be difficult to feel close to a God we can’t see, although, like the wind, His presence is unmistakable. Creation proves He is here, the Bible and history prove He is here, and certainly our changed lives prove He is here.  Connecting with Him can prove difficult, however.
            One of the best ways to connect with the Lord is through singing, music in general, but singing in particular. There is just something about singing that involves the mind, the body and the soul, when directed to the Lord. Praise songs and songs with scripture are inspired and singing them not only touches us deeply, but also must put a smile on the Lord’s face as well.

Take these songs for example:
Jesus Messiah  --     by Chris Tomlin
Sings the names of Jesus, who He is from the Bible, and His amazing love is for us.

What an Awesome God -- Soulfire Revolution
Praises God for all He has done for us and for His goodness, mercy and faithfulness.

Revelation Song   --   by Kari Jobe
A beautiful song that praises Jesus as the only one who is worthy of praise because He is the Holy King of Kings.

We Believe   --     by the Newsboys
Praises the Lord and commits to what we believe from the Bible, that we do indeed believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, new life found in Him, the crucifixion, that He conquered death, the resurrection and that He is coming back again.
            There are so many more praise songs. These are only a few. If these words or the music don’t help you connect to the Lord, there are others that will.
            The point is singing to the Lord helps us feel closer to the Him. When we are feeling far from God, listening to and singing praise songs to Him will bring us back to that closeness we desire.
“The Lord inhabits the praises of His people.” Psalm 22:3
What songs help you feel close to the Lord?

Friday, September 26, 2014


          The teacher asked us to draw a line horizontally across our paper. We were to write the date we were born on the left side of the line, and the current date on the right. She had us write on the timeline the date next to the most important events in our life, like moving, graduating from high school and college, when we got married and when our children were born. Then we were to go back through and write in the date and the event when we knew God was with us. I wrote things like when I committed my life to Christ and when I was baptized. We had to think back over our life and write down when we knew God answered a prayer for us. I wrote down when He healed our daughter from cancer, when I was sick in the hospital and when we had financial setbacks. I also wrote in times when I was seeking direction for my life and He showed me the way, when there were problems and difficult situations and He brought us through them.
            Soon my timeline was filled with all the things the Lord had done throughout my life. It was amazing. It is one thing to say God is always with us working things out for our good, but to see everything written down that He did was a great reminder of how much He loves and cares about me. It increased my faith and gave me hope, that just as He gave me strength to go through difficulties in the past, He would give me strength and wisdom to go through my current situation.
            Remembering the great things the Lord has done is one of the themes of the Bible. They did not draw a line on a piece of paper, but the Lord showed the Israelites a more permanent way for them to remember. In 1 Samuel 7, the Lord gives strength to the Israelites and causes them to defeat their enemy the Philistines. Samuel took a large stone and set it up at the location of the battle. He named it the Ebenezer stone, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
            In Joshua chapter four the Lord had Joshua do something similar. After all the people crossed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Israel for the first time, God told Joshua to bring 12 large stones out of the river. Each stone represented one of the 12 tribes of Israel. He had the stones set up on the dry ground as a memorial to the Lord, for all the great things He did for the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert for 40 years. The Lord specifically wanted the stones standing up in a circle so when their children asked what they were, the Israelites would tell them all the wonderful ways the Lord had taken care of His people.
            Our faith grows when we Remember the great things the Lord has done in our lives. It gives us hope remembering that He has always been there, providing for us, guiding us and strengthening us. We know if He was with us during past difficult situations, He will be there in the midst of our future situations. 
What great things has the Lord done in your life that encourages 
you when new trials come your way?
Standing stones of Remembrance

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Q is for Quietness

            We live in a busy, busy world. We hurry  out the door in the morning, on our way to the multitudes of things on our To Do list:
drive kids to school,                      
            go to work,                                                       
                        pick up groceries,
                                    take kids to the doctor,
                                                pick up prescriptions,
                                                            drop off at soccer practice or guitar lessons,
                                                stop at a store to buy supplies for school projects,
                        drive through the bank,
            cooking, cleaning, working out,
The list is endless.
            It is difficult to sit still and be quiet before God when there is so much to do.  But, that is exactly what the Bible says we need to do to grow closer to the Lord.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God.”
           When Jesus was sleeping on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee a sudden storm rose up and the waves rocked the boat. The disciples woke Jesus up because they were afraid. Jesus said to the storm, “Quiet! Be Still!”
            In the middle of the busyness and storms of our life, He says the same thing to us. In order to grow closer to God, we must make time to be still and quiet before God. As we read His Word and pray, we can focus on what He has for us if we are still and quiet before Him. If we want to trust God and get our strength from Him, the key is to quiet, not just our bodies, but our minds as well.

Isaiah 30:15 - “in quietness and trust is your strength”

What can you do today to make time to be quiet before the Lord?

Practice the Presence of God

            "Live First and Foremost in My Presence. Gradually you will become more aware of Me than of people and places around you. This awareness will not detract from your relationships with others. Instead, it will increase your ability to give love and encouragement to them. My Peace will permeate your words and demeanor. You will be active in the world, yet one step removed from it. You will not be easily shaken, because My enveloping Presence buffers the blow of problems.
            This is the path I have set before you. As you follow it wholeheartedly, you will experience abundant Life and Peace."
From Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

 Psalm 89:15            
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
                        who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Choices (Part 2)

*** This is Part 2 of a two-part story. To read Part 1, Click here. ***
            My heart was breaking for Trish. I couldn’t tell her what to do. This decision was too hard and the consequences were too great. Lord, what should I say to her?
            Tears were streaming down both our faces, knowing how difficult a one-year inpatient rehab would be. Actually, she knew, but I could only imagine. Worse than that, I tried to imagine a year without seeing my kids. It was too much. It was just too sad. I wanted it to be all right. Wasn’t it enough that she returned the phone? But I knew this was a pivotal point in her relationship with God. Lord, this is too much, too painful for her to make this decision.
            “Trish, this is your decision and you need to make it. I do know that if you decide to confess and you end up in the one year rehab program, where will God be?”
“With me.” She sobbed softly.
            Wiping my tears away, I continued, “Yes, God loves you so much Trish, and He is so proud of all you have accomplished here. God will be with you during the whole year. God will be with your girls too. He will never leave you. Who knows, maybe there are women in the rehab place that need what you have, and you will be able to share the Lord with them.”
“I know I need to tell the supervisor. I know that is the right thing to do.” She said.
            We prayed right there for the Lord to give her the words, and if possible, for the supervisor to be lenient with the consequences. We were asking for a miracle. We talked about what she should say. I told her to keep her words short and to the point, no rambling or making excuses. I had her role-play with me, repeating her confession and apology several times. I tried asking stern questions I thought the supervisor might ask, so Trish could practice responding without sounding defensive.
            As we drove back to the house, the thought crossed my mind that she could be leaving today. I might be helping her pack her things and driving her to the parole office, or waiting with her until the parole officer came to pick her up. Either way, it was going to be hard to say goodbye to her knowing where she would be going.
            Before we walked in to the supervisor’s office, I told Trish I would go in with her, but she was to do all the talking. Again, I reminded her to be short and to the point. She lost points with the supervisor before because she rambled and became defensive, and I could tell the supervisor did not trust her.
            The supervisor was intimidating as she sat behind a large black desk. We quietly sat down in the two chairs facing her. I felt like I was in trouble too. Would I also get kicked out of the program? Should I have told the supervisor three weeks ago that Trish broke the rules? I knew it. My first mentor assignment and I had blown it by not turning her in when I knew what she did was wrong.
            Trish started speaking, just as we had rehearsed. She was short and to the point, I was so proud of her. She apologized and acknowledged she was wrong and asked the supervisor to forgive her. The supervisor turned to look at me and asked sternly,
            “Did you know about this, Robyn?”
            My face flushed. “Yes, I did.”  I replied.  I knew it. This was my fault. What a terrible mentor she probably thought I was.
            “So, Trish are you only here now because Robyn told you to come?” She asked accusingly. No, she didn’t. I wanted to defend her. She made the decision on her own. I didn’t say anything.
            “No Ma’am.” Trish said. “I have been feeling guilty for a while. I could not sleep and couldn’t live with it anymore.”
            Again, the supervisor looked at me, “Is this right Robyn? Did you make her come and confess?”
            “No,” an unexpected peace came over me. “I told Trish it was the Holy Spirit speaking to her and not letting her rest. She made this decision all by herself. I am only here to support her.”
            Something changed. I could see a sparkle in the supervisor’s eye. She was trying to appear tough on the outside (and doing a great job, I might add!) but I could tell by her eyes she was proud of Trish. The Lord was softening her right before us.
            “Trish, you know what happened to the other women who got caught with cell phones, right?”
            “Yes Ma’am.” Trish responded.
            “I’m glad you came to me and confessed. This shows you are following the Lord. The Lord forgives you and I forgive you, but there are still consequences for breaking the rules. Had you been caught with the phone or had Robyn told us, I would not have any choice but to remove you from the program.” My heart leapt. Grace! We were about to see grace!
            “Trish, what do you think your consequences should be for breaking the rule?” She asked.
            Trish did not hesitate. Any other consequence would be easy compared to what we had anticipated. “I know I should not be allowed to see my daughters for the rest of the time I’m here, and I should have my other house privileges taken away.”
            “Ok, that sounds fair to me.” The supervisor agreed. “Thank you for coming in today, Trish. I am proud of you and glad you listened to the Holy Spirit in this situation.
            “Thank you, Ma’am. Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.” Trish gushed.
            Outside of the supervisor’s office Trish and I hugged, thrilled with this miraculous turn of events. We both knew it could only be the Lord.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
       In this ABC’s of Growing Closer to God, ‘M’ stands for find a Mentor or be a Mentor. Being a Mentor to someone and helping them grow in their relationship with God will help us grow stronger in our faith as well.
        ‘N’ stands for Nudge.  As we continue to walk with the Lord, we recognize that nudge inside us is the Holy Spirit pointing us toward the right decision.
       How have you felt the Nudge of the Holy Spirit recently?


            I could hear a muted cell phone buzzing as Trish and I walked down the hallway of the women’s after prison house where she lived.
“Is that your phone?” I asked her.
“It’s not my phone. You know I'm not allowed to have a phone,” she said. “It has to be yours.” 
             I dug through my purse trying to find it, but I knew I left my phone in the car. When we got in my car, I found the phone on the floor.
             “Trish, my phone is right here. Do you have a cell phone with you?”  She hung her head and sheepishly replied, “Yes, but only for the last three days. I needed to help my daughter register for school and since I could not leave the house, I needed to talk to her on the phone.” 
            My training to be a mentor for women who were released from prison and living in the Christian transitional program prepared me for constant lying and deflecting responsibility. Did I believe her?  My heart started racing not knowing what to do. Should I walk back in the house and report this rule infraction? What would the consequences be for Trish?
            She had broken a few of the house rules before and had her privileges taken away. I did not want her to get in trouble again. Trish had completed four and half months of the six-month program. She was the first woman I was assigned to mentor, and we hit it off right from the start. The program had strict rules because the women were coming directly from jail or prison, and a judge knew they could not live unsupervised yet.
             As her mentor, I was not supposed to tell her what to do. I was to encourage her in her relationship with God, pray for her, and help her make better decisions so she could live on her own. She was a new believer, having only accepted Christ while in prison. She was a sponge when it came to Spiritual things, learning to study the Bible, learning how to pray and how to trust God. Living in a house with six other women, we also talked about how to respond when she thought she was treated unfairly or she disagreed with the rules.
            We sat in my car, outside the house. What should I do? Should I walk back in and tell the supervisor or drive away? I said a quick prayer, then asked her, 
             “What do you think you should do?”  I could see the look of panic in her eyes. She was wondering what I was going to do. She started rambling, justifying her actions.

             “I’m really sorry. I know I should not have the phone, but I needed to talk to my daughter. I’ve only had the phone for three days. We can take it and give it back to my Mom right now. Can you drive me there? If you could drive me, we could meet her and I could give the phone back and I won’t have it any more.”
            That seemed like a good first step. We drove to a bank to meet her Mom. I’m not sure why I was feeling guilty. I looked around for a police officer inside the bank. What was I worried about? I had done nothing wrong and what Trish did was not illegal. There was no reason to be nervous. Relax.  I told myself. 
            On the drive back to the house, she nervously rambled about her daughter’s school, the confusing details and her frustration about not being able to be there for her daughter. I dropped her off at the house without saying any more about the cell phone. She thanked me and looked relieved as she stepped out of the car.
             Later, I thought of all the things I should have said to her. I didn’t think she understood how serious this was. Although, she was the one who told me three other women were kicked out of the program when they were caught with cell phones.  I never told her how wrong it was, how it was deceptive and how she lied. She lied to me when she said the buzzing was my phone, when she knew all along it was her own phone. I mentally kicked myself for allowing her to think I was okay with her breaking the rules, that what she did was not that bad, and that she made everything right by giving the phone back.
             The next week I called her, and said some of the things I should have said when we were in the car. She acknowledged she was wrong. She apologized again. I had a busy few weeks and did not meet with her again until three weeks later. 
            When I picked her up, she was noticeably troubled. Near tears, she wanted to get out of the house as fast as possible. I thought maybe she had argued with one of the other women. Maybe she had gotten in trouble and had another of her privileges taken away.
            We drove to a coffee shop, found a table outside and sat down. She was full to the brim with something heavy on her mind, and could not wait to spill it out on me.

“Robyn, I can’t do it anymore.” 

“What is that, Trish?”

“I can’t live with the guilt about having the cell phone. Nobody caught me, and it seemed I got away with it for the past three weeks, but I feel terrible. I prayed and asked God to forgive me, but I can’t sleep and I feel like I should tell the supervisor. I can’t stop feeling guilty and I think about it everyday.”

“Really?”  I asked surprised.

“That’s the Holy Spirit, Trish. That is a great sign. We know the Holy Spirit lives inside us when we are convicted of our sin. This is a great step in getting closer to God.”  I was pleased with this huge spiritual growth step.

Tears started flowing down her cheeks. 

“What is it?” I asked.

“You know the last women who were caught with cell phones were kicked out of the program, right?” I nodded. “So, I talked to my parole officer and told him the situation. He didn’t care that I had a cell phone. But he said, because this was my last chance, if I got kicked out of this program, he would put me in a one year inpatient drug rehab place and I wouldn’t get to see my daughters for a year.” Tears flooded out when she mentioned her girls.
            “I want to tell the supervisor, but I don’t want to go to a one year rehab and not get to see my girls.” She cried. “What do you think I should do?”

 (Click here for Part 2.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Loving Your "New" Neighbor: It's more important than you think

This is a continuation of a series on the ABC's of Growing Closer to God. For the letter L, here is my friend Sarah Beckman to share from her blog, Seasonings With Sarah. Thanks Sarah!

Just about 2 years ago, our family made the decision to leave our home in Minnesota and move to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  It has been quite a ride for us as we live out our affectionately termed: “Domestic, Overseas Assignment!”
Life and climate are very different here.  Most days we love the moderate temps and constant sunshine, (the Midwest hasn’t seen the sun much since last Fall!)  Other days we long to exchange the dry, brown, dust-filled topography for the green pastures of the Midwest…and the waters that make them so. Yet, even when we curse the excruciatingly high winds and piles of tumbleweeds they leave in their wake, we are thankful it’s not snow!
We have also adjusted to the Land of “Manana” (tomorrow), which is so vastly different than the pace of Minneapolis.
Things are just different; and that’s okay.
We value the amazing people we’ve met and experiences each day brings.  Our family is blooming where we’re planted, growing both individually and collectively.  But that hasn’t happened without some trials.
If you’ve ever moved, you can relate.  There are just certain struggles that go with the territory.
Feeling lonely because you don’t know anyone is just the tip of the iceberg – but it raises an important point.
There is something we can all do to become people who love our neighbors, especially the newcomers in our churches, neighborhoods, schools, teams, committees, workplaces or wherever we find ourselves on a daily basis.
Instead of keeping our eyes down and living within our comfort zone, what if we looked up and noticed those around us who are struggling with the feelings of uncertainty, inadequacy, unfamiliarity, and stress that come with being the New Guy?
There is immense opportunity to be a source of light and encouragement to these folks, and it’s critical that we recognize it as a Biblical way of life!
Here are a few meaningful ways to become “Love Your Neighbor People”:
1.  Keep a watchful eye!
Every day we experience new people in our life, but often we are too busy to notice their circumstance.  No matter where we are, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.  If you’ve moved, you probably reach out to others more naturally, because you know what it’s like.  But if you’re the person who has “stayed” in roughly the same place for any length of time, you know we can be guilty of neglecting those who are experiencing the trial of new situations.
2. Invite that new neighbor over! 
After we moved to ABQ, there were many weekend nights our family made up fun activities to play together in the backyard to pass the time.  This was great for us as a family, don’t get me wrong!  But after living in the same community for 12 years and having multitudes of friends and invitations, when we sat home on the weekends it became painfully obvious that we didn’t have any friends yet.  It was almost 5 months before we had our first invitation to someone’s house, and no surprise, it was from someone who had moved a great deal themselves.
3.  Bring food!

I love to love my neighbor with food –  because it works!  Bringing a meal, baked goods, or a special item you make is one of the easiest low-stress, methods for meeting someone and making them feel welcome.  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end, you know.  I have several awesome recipes on my website for you to use if you don’t have any of your own.  And don’t be afraid to knock on that door…just think about how you’d feel if someone wanted to bless you with food.
 Have you ever had an experience where you were the “outsider”?   Did anyone reach out to you during that time and how? 

Sarah Beckman is a Speaker, Writer and Communications Coach. Founder of Salt and clay ministries, Sarah speaks to audiences across the country at Women’s Retreats, MOPS groups, Marriage Seminars, Teen and Senior Events. Her topics include: loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.

Friday, September 19, 2014

K is for Kindness

          The drive through line was crowded with cars, all wanting to get their coffee and rush to work that morning. Having fasted before getting blood drawn an hour before, I was as anxious as the next person to get to the front of the line to order my non-fat, no-whip, grande mocha. There were two lines in the parking lot merging into one. I waited patiently (or not so patiently) to merge into the ordering line. When it was my turn, I pulled out and turned my steering wheel to veer into the left lane. Out of nowhere, up barreled a large black SUV, the kind that could hold a whole soccer team. She drove faster than me, and without so much as giving me a glance, she plowed in front of me and took the coveted position in the ordering line.
            Had my kids been with me, one of them would have said, “Mom, why didn’t you honk at her?”  I was more worried about slamming on my brakes and not smashing into the side of her door, than honking. As she flew by me, I noticed right away she was talking on her phone. Of course she was. She never saw me, neither did she know I had been waiting for what seemed like hours, but was probably only fifteen minutes. She had no idea there had been two lines for the past 25 cars and it was my turn. She was oblivious to everything around her. How selfish, I thought to myself.
            Taking deep breaths, I tried to calm my racing heart at the near miss of smashing metal that almost ruined my morning. As I pulled in behind her, I wondered if I had hit her on the driver’s side door, would an insurance company deem that my fault.  Even though she had her phone up to her ear, clearly driving too fast into the parking lot, and obviously not paying attention as she drove, somehow I thought I would be faulted if I crashed into her. The unfairness of that potential situation consumed my mind as I pulled up to order my coffee.
            I rolled down my window to order. Instead of the normal ‘What can I get started for you?’ greeting, the voice in the box sounded surprised and pleased.
 “Ma’am, the car in front of you wants me to tell you she is very sorry she cut you off, and would like for you to order anything on the menu and she will pay for it.”
            Wow! I was stunned. Somehow she realized it had been my turn, and I had been waiting, and she felt bad for barreling in front of me. I smiled and mouthed thank you as I waived at the back of her vehicle. She waived back looking into her review mirror.
            Kindness. Don’t you love acts of kindness? They make me feel as good inside when I give them, as when I am on the receiving end.

            Don’t you know God loves acts of kindness too? No matter what our misguided world says about Him being a ‘gotcha God’ the truth is kindness originated with Him. Kindness is one of the fruits of His spirit. It is the very nature of God to be kind. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says,
“It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” Romans 2:4
And most of the time, God shows his kindness to others, through us.
What act of kindness have you seen lately? 


Monday, September 15, 2014

J is for Just Do It

            Years ago my husband and I competed in triathlons, and by competed I mean completed, as in, our goal was to finish. It was a fun season in our life. We trained with some friends and traveled to different cities to attempt to finish all three legs of the triathlon. The races were the fun part. Our adrenaline was up. There were many other excited racers there. We were prepared. We talked and planned and then rehashed the race with our friends.
            The hard part was the training. The bike training was fun, except if there was a hill involved. For the running I trained with a group of women, and being an extravert, anything done as a group event is fun for me. I remember the coach telling me once, if I had enough oxygen to talk the entire time, I was not running fast enough. ;)
            The swim training was another story. We joined a Masters Swim Team. At the time I thought ‘Masters’ meant we were mastering something. Later, I realized it meant old. The swim training was hardest because we had to wake up at 5:00 am, get dressed, drive to the pool, and jump in to what seemed like ice water at 5:30 in the morning, and then swim for an hour trying to warm up. We did this three days a week. Crazy, I know! We never got used to the cold water. It seemed especially cold, during winter when it was dark, cold and sometimes snowy outside. We never got used to just going for it, and jumping in the pool. We knew we had to do it. This was our only opportunity to practice our swimming and the only opportunity to get better, faster. We knew it was good for us. It was still hard to make ourselves do it. I will never forget my first open water swim in a lake in Dexter, New Mexico. I swam my fastest time and got out of the water exhilarated. All those days jumping in the cold pool paid off, and I was so glad I committed to those early morning practices.

            Growing in our walk with God can seem like jumping in the pool. We know what we need to do to get closer to God, we just need the courage to go for it, and do it. People desire to know God, but can’t make themselves get up and go to church each week. Some people have been believers many years and have never been baptized. They think they will be embarrassed to get wet in front of people. Some people have attended the same church for years, but don’t know anybody because they have never joined a small group or gotten involved. Some people know they need to forgive. Some  need to make a decision to follow God wholeheartedly. Others need to commit to spending daily time communicating with God and reading His Word.
            Sometimes growing closer to God is a matter of following the Nike slogan, to Just Do It. We know it will be good for us. We know it will bring about a closer walk with God, to do the things He lays out for us to do in His Word. Having a closer walk with God is always worth it.
What do you know you need to do to grow closer to God? Just Do It.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Go Ahead. It's Gluten Free.

            Have you looked into eating gluten free? Have you researched lactose, fructose or GMOs? There are a lot of questions to be answered about the food we eat. 
What is healthy now used to be unhealthy and vice versa. Along with wheat, there is butter, fats and eggs to consider. It takes research and reading the latest studies to find the answers to what we should be eating. We can’t trust what someone else says. We need to dig and find reliable sources to know what is truth and what is urban legend or a new fad.

            It is the same with growing closer to God. There is a lot of information, and even the Bible calls itself inexhaustible riches. We have faith that what the Bible teaches is true. We may not be able to see everything now, but we are sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  We do not need to have a dumb faith though. What does the Bible say?  Did Abraham, who is credited as the Father of Faith, follow God blindly? At first it might seem so, because in Genesis the Lord tells Abraham to take his family to a land God would show him . . . as he went.  But, even the Father of Faith did not follow blindly. When the Lord asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac on the mountain, the Bible says Abraham “reasoned” about it. (Hebrews 11:19)  He knew God told him He would build a mighty nation through Isaac. So Abraham reasoned  if he was to sacrifice Isaac, the Lord certainly had the power to bring him back to life. Abraham knew God to be true to his word, and yes, he had tremendous faith, but he also knew the God he had faith in.
            God doesn’t want us to have dumb faith either. He wants us to know the truth, know what we believe and understand His Word. To grow closer to God, we need to research and investigate what the Bible says. Reasoning worked for Abraham, but we have something much more powerful.
We have God’s written and complete Word.
 We have the Holy Spirit living inside to interpret God’s Word.
And, of course, we have the Internet. :)
            Any question we have about what the Bible says, or about who God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit is, we can investigate with the abundant resources we have available.
Do you want to know how creation, evolution and science fit in with the Bible? Where are the dinosaurs and cavemen in the Bible?
Go to
Have a question about what God’s plan is for marriage?
Check out
Are you curious about what the Bible says about how to handle problems in your family? With your children? Blended family? Divorce? Strong willed children? Teens? has books, videos, radio broadcasts, and live counselors to help.
Do you want to know how to handle money God’s way? 
Crown Financial Ministries at, or can walk you through what the Bible says about money.
            These are just a few of the mountains of resources to help answer our questions about living the Christian life. We don’t need to believe blindly. The Bible says we need to study for ourselves, so  we will always have an answer when someone asks us about the hope we have in Jesus.
In the ABC’s of growing closer to God, ‘I’ is to investigate what the Bible says.
What Christian resources do you use to investigate your faith questions?

**If you missed some of the ABCs of Growing Closer to God, start here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

H is for The Hairbrush Story

            Bible teacher, Beth Moore, tells a story about God prompting her to brush an old man’s long, matted hair, while they were in a crowded airport. She argued with God in her mind saying she would rather witness to him, tell him about Jesus and pray with him, than walk up to this total stranger and offer to brush his hair.
            The Lord can be very persuasive and she knew He did not want her to witness to the man. He wanted her to brush his hair.  She walked over to the man and leaned down to speak to him in his wheelchair. She asked quietly at first,
            “Sir, may I have the honor of brushing your hair?”
            “What?” he asked.
            She asked a little louder, knowing all the eyes in the airport were focused on her,
            “Sir, may I have the honor of brushing your hair?”
            Slightly frustrated he said, “Little lady, if you want me to hear you, you are going to have to speak up.”
            Finally, as loudly as she could, and blushing with embarrassment, she shouted,
            “If you want to.” He replied.
            Her dilemma was she didn’t have a hairbrush with her. He pointed her to his bag in the back of his wheelchair. She walked behind his wheelchair, knelt down on the ground, unzipped his bag and carefully started pulling out his stuff until she found the old fashioned hairbrush.

            She put his stuff back, stood up, and started slowly and carefully brushing out his long tangled hair. As she was doing this, God gave her peace. She was no longer embarrassed and it seemed like no one else was in the room but the two of them. When she was finished his hair looked like shiny white silk. She put his hairbrush away and walked around to the front of the wheelchair. She knelt down and held his hands and asked him,
            “Do you know Jesus?”
            “Yes.” He said.   (Of course he did!)
Many years ago his wife would not marry him unless he knew Jesus, he explained.
            About that time the flight attendant came out to wheel him onto the airplane. When she walked back to Beth, with tears in her eyes, she asked,
            “What made you do that?”
            “Jesus.” She answered, “He is the bossiest thing.”

What is the point of the story?  
            In order to grow in our walk with the Lord we need humility.  Beth humbled herself to do what the Lord wanted and to help an older man, who could not help himself.
            The Bible is full of verses on Humility.
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
Proverbs 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
1 Peter 3:8   Finally, all of you, be like-minded, sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
            One of the reasons God has used Beth Moore as one of the powerful Bible teachers of our time is because of her humility.  The Bible says God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
Humility is one of the keys to growing in our walk with God.