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Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Pass It On

My parents own a very large, beautiful Fostoria punch bowl that has been passed down in the family. My dad says it now sits on the very same pedestal style table that it sat on in his home as he was growing up. Not only does that prove that my dad is a creature of habit, but it shows how very proud he is of that punch bowl and how much he has enjoyed it over the years.

While I was growing up in my parents' home, The Punch Bowl always played a prominent part in our social affairs. My mom would tenderly wash it out, put it in a prominent place, frame it with a swag of fresh cut ivy and perhaps a few flowers, fill it with pretty and delicious punch, set the matching punch cups beside it along with the large silver ladle, and assign a very responsible person to serve the sweet beverage from it. I think we probably served punch more than the average family just because we had this huge, gorgeous bowl from which to serve it.

Other people knew about and admired our punch bowl too. When my mom would host a baby or bridal shower with other women, she would often be asked to bring her punch bowl to the church or to someone else's home so it could be used for the shindig. My mom would clean it out (this punch bowl, though treasured, was not a sacred cow and sometimes odds and ends would find their way into the punch bowl for no particular reason - probably thanks to my brother and me more than my parents), wrap it carefully in large, thick towels, and put it gingerly in the back of her car. She'd tote it to the location of the shower, arrange it on the table and serve delicious punch from it. Then she'd clean it out and carry it home to its permanent resting place, at which point I'm sure my dad would breath a sigh of relief. But I also know he was pleased as punch for it to be used. (Aren't I witty?)

We moved several times when I was a kid. We never moved far, mind you. We just zig-zagged back and forth across town a few times while my mom tried to decide exactly where she wanted to live. At any rate, each time we moved that punch bowl was moved like any other piece of furniture or like the television or the washing machine. My parents never looked at it and said, "You know, maybe it's time to just put this thing away. Maybe we should just pack it up and put it in the basement." They always found a place just for the punch bowl because, after all, didn't everyone have a punch bowl in their dining room? And didn't everyone have a table just for the punch bowl? I'm sure they did.

Here's the thing about the punch bowl though. For years I saw my parents display the punch bowl proudly. I watched them take care of it and protect it. I enjoyed the fact that they used it and used it often. I heard the compliments they received on it and watched others admire it. Sometimes we would come across a similar punch bowl at an antique store or flea market and we would look at the price, just out of curiosity. We would walk away feeling even more delighted with our punch bowl. My mom knew great punch recipes and I enjoyed the cool, refreshing beverages should would serve from the bowl on birthdays, at showers, during Christmas, and on New Year's Eve. For a big bowl of cut glass that can only really be used on special occasions, that punch bowl sure did play a big part in our everyday lives. And you know what?

I want that punch bowl.


Unfortunately, I'm told I don't get to have it. I'm told it has to stay in the Winton family so my brother and his wife get the punch bowl. But here, here. Bitterness and envy are not the purpose of this blog post. I'll save that one for another day.

The purpose today is simply to say that because my parents used, cared for, prominently displayed, shared, treasured, and valued that punch bowl, I naturally want it. If they had boxed it up and put it in the attic all those years, I could probably care less about it. We want what we see others use and value, not so much what we know they have but never see or hear about.

And so, as we finish up Senior Adult Tribute week here on Off the Beaten Path, I want to say something to all of you who are senior adults and to all of you who are fast becoming older - that would be all of us. 

If you want to pass your faith in Christ on to the next generation, if you want your kids and your grandkids to value your faith and claim it for themselves, then don't hide it away for pete's sake! Put your faith out on a lovely pedestal table, care for it tenderly, protect it at all costs, use it frequently, share it with others, and talk about it glowingly. If you'll check the price tag on your faith occasionally, you'll see it is quite costly and worthy of all the honor you can possibly give it. Don't hide it in the basement of your life or box it up and put it in the attic. Put it out there!

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. 
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 
In the same way, let your light shine before men, 
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16

Do your kids know about your faith? Do they treasure it, marvel at it, want it for themselves? What can you and I do to make our faith a little more appealing to the next generation? Maybe we should ladle it up with a refreshing serving of lime sherbet punch! Couldn't hurt!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Purposely Pondering the Path


Recently I've been mapping out our family's upcoming journey on Highway 1 along the California coastline. I've never even stepped foot in California, so I'm probably the last person who should be mapping out our journey. But alas, the responsibility has fallen upon me.

I have a gazillion different tabs opened on my computer right now, all displaying various bits of information about our proposed journey. We're looking into traveling to California via Amtrak, so I have a half dozen tabs displaying various Amtrak schedules, routes, pricing charts, etc. 

I need to know what to see along the coast of California, so I have a variety of Suite101.com articles open that tell me where to eat, where to see whales, where to lodge, how long to allow ourselves for the drive, etc.

I need to know where I can get cheap, but reasonably decent hotels, so I have Travelocity, Priceline.com, and Hotels.com all working hard for me.

And I'm trying to map out our journey in a reasonable fashion so I don't have two teenagers whining about the amount of time we're spending in the car, so I have Mapquest showing me exactly how long it's going to take to get from point A to point B to point C...you get the picture. And don't worry, I realize I need to allot extra time beyond what Mapquest is indicating so we can actually stop and look at the Pacific Ocean instead of just zooming past it.

I spent almost four hours on my travel plans yesterday afternoon and still have not sat down with James to finalize anything. At this point it's all still a pipe dream, yet I've poured hours into it and crowded my brain with endless facts, opinions, options, suggestions, highlights, schedules, and dollar amounts. I've put a lot of work into mapping out this trip and I'm not even sure it's going to happen.

So why  do I bother? Because I want to take the right path. I want our trip to include good things, beautiful sites, restful stops, ease of travel, safety, conservative pricing, and joy. I don't just want to get from point A to point G; I want to enjoy the journey.

And that makes me think:

If I'm willing to spend a full afternoon plus who-knows-how-much-more-time mapping out a journey up the California coastline, shouldn't I be willing to spend a little time and energy seeking the right path for life? After all, there's so much more at stake than time and dollars.

The Bible teaches that there are options for the path we choose in life as well. It takes intent and discipline to get on the right path, but it's well worth it. Just like the right path for my family's vacation produces benefits in the way of cost savings, beautiful vistas, safety, and general enjoyment, choosing the right path in life yields important benefits too.

If you want to enjoy life, navigate it safely, get to your chosen destination and accomplish what you've set out to accomplish, you're wise to consider the path you take carefully.

"The naive believes everything, but the prudent man
considers his steps." (Proverbs 14:15)

So how do we get on the right path? We consider our path carefully. We put some time into studying God's manual for the journey, the Bible. We diligently seek His wisdom because, after all, He knows the path better than anyone else - He forged it! We ask Him daily where to plant our feet. And we wait on His timing before moving forward. 

And what are the benefits of such careful planning? We get on a path that promises:
  • joy and pleasure - Psalm 16:11
  • sure footing - Psalm 27:11
  • righteousness in the eyes of a holy God - Psalm 23:3
  • lovingkindness and truth - Psalm 25:10
  • good things to enjoy - Psalm 65:11
  • ease of navigation - Proverbs 3:6
  • and good lighting - Psalm 119:105
And if we plan carefully, we can also make sure we avoid the wrong paths, the ones characterized by:
  • slippery places - Jeremiah 23:12
  • crookedness - Isaiah 59:8
  • and evil - Psalm 36:4
I'm going to keep planning my family's trip to California and if you have any helpful tips, I welcome those. But I'm also going to spend some time contemplating the path I'm on in life. I invite you to do the same and to share with us what you are doing to make sure you're on the right path. Do you have a daily briefing with God? Is there a particular request you pray each day as you get on the path? Specifically how do you use God's Word as a navigational tool? What part do other people's journeys play in the planning of your own?
I'd love to hear from you today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Not So Wordy Wednesday

And so, for Not So Wordy Wednesday during my week of tribute to senior adults I present to you my two favorite seniors: Mom and Dad!

They are pictured here standing on the same portico they stood on just after saying "I do" to each other 50 years previous. I wonder if they had any idea at that time how hard marriage would be and yet how rewarding it would be at the same time? I wonder if they even imagined the family who would follow and admire them so? I doubt it.

My parents are blessed and my parents are a blessing, not only to me and my brother and our families, but to many, many other people. They minister to tired caregivers and dying patients with Hospice. They support missionaries and their families with monthly checks so they can spread the gospel. My mom is constantly baking an extra casserole or pound cake to take to a friend or neighbor. My dad continues to do hard, laborious repairs and upgrades in the homes of widows and invalids. They go on mission trips with their church and still roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty. I cannot list all the ways my parents serve, they are too numerous. They are a shining example to their children and grandchildren.

But right now they're probably sitting at a McDonald's drinking coffee and working a crossword puzzle. Later today they'll play a game of cards with friends and tomorrow they'll hit the golf course. They know how to enjoy life and God has graciously rewarded them with a number of years of retirement bliss. They have served Him well and continue to do so. He has lavished His grace upon them and they are grateful.

"I know there is nothing better for them
than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime;
moreover, that every man who eats and drinks
sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God."
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

Do you have a more recent hero of the faith you'd like to tell me about? I'd love to know about your modern day Trailblazers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Old-Fashioned Integrity

Daniel did more than sit among the closed-mouthed lions. He lived a life a integrity, wisdom, and insight. How? The same way he ended up in the lions' den - through prayer.

You'll remember that Daniel's three-times-daily habit of prayer landed him in a den of hungry lions while the king who esteemed him paced the floor and lost his appetite. But I imagine Daniel just did what came naturally to him as he was thrown into the cave of lions by his jealous adversaries. He surely prayed.

And just in case Daniel faltered for even a moment in his faith, King Darius, who obviously esteemed Daniel highly, shouted out to him, "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you." Isn't it amazing how sometimes those around us have more faith in the God they've seen us follow than we have within ourselves? But even that faith is based on the consistent way they've seen us follow our God to that point.

Daniel did indeed survive the lions' den. In fact, he attested that his God sent His angel to shut the lions' mouths and they did not harm him at all. Why? Because Daniel was innocent before God and before the king. He had committed no crime. He was a man of integrity and God honors and loves truth in the inner man.

O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? 
Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
(Psalm 15:1-2)

I've always heard and really even believed that there are no perfect people in the Bible, only a perfect and holy God. Each biblical character has their flaws and we usually get a least a glimpse of those faults to help us remember they too needed a savior. 

But no faults are really recorded about Daniel. We know he wasn't perfect because in Daniel 9:20 he says, "Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel..." Daniel evidently had sins to confess, but God in His sovereignty has not seen fit to list even one of them in His Word - quite unusual. Unlike the lessons He wants us to learn from the sins of David, the shortcomings of Joseph, the terrible past of Paul, or the unpredictability of Peter, God must want us to dwell on the integrity of Daniel.
  • Daniel made godly choices (Daniel 1:11-13)
  • Daniel led others to be godly (Daniel 1:11)
  • Daniel made up his mind to not defile himself with the culture around him (Daniel 1:8)
  • Daniel respected authority (Daniel 1:8,11)
  • Daniel attributed his wisdom and insight to God alone (Daniel 2:28)
  • Daniel blessed and praised God (Daniel 2:19)
  • Daniel was not politically correct, but spoke the unpopular truth (Daniel 4:27)
  • Daniel had a reputation for godliness and wisdom (Daniel 5:13)
  • Daniel distinguished himself among his peers through his extraordinary spirit (Daniel 6:3)
  • Daniel lived a life of integrity in front of others (Daniel 6:5)
  • Daniel was a man of prayer (Daniel 6:10)
  • Daniel was highly esteemed in heaven (Daniel 9:23)
  • Daniel was entrusted with great insight (Daniel 9:23)
Sometimes we use the faults and sins of well-known and well-beloved biblical characters to excuse our own. We reason that if they couldn't live immaculate lives then neither can we. And indeed, we are born into sin and cannot live sinless lives. But we can live lives of honor and integrity. We can live above the fray. We can live free from habitual sin, free from sins that would master us and characterize us.

Psalm 119:133 says, "Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me." In other words, don't let my life be characterized by any sin, but let it be known for godliness and biblical living.

So today as we think about this biblical trailblazer, let's consider how he walked the ancient path with integrity of heart and character. God so esteemed him that He only mentions what is good and honorable about him in the Bible. There must have been no sin that so mastered Daniel that God found it necessary to make us aware of it. Could He and would He do the same for you or me? Is there a sin that would have to be mentioned in any narrative about me in order to present me fairly? Or would God go to such lengths as He did with Daniel to let others know that I am a woman of integrity? Personally, for me, I doubt it. I know my flaws all to well and can't imagine God leaving them out of "my story."

But then again Jesus has erased them all from the story of my life. Hallelujah and praise Him for that!

From Paul and Peter and David and others we may gain the courage to face our sins, confess them, turn from them, claim the gracious gift of righteousness restored, and live with hope. But from Daniel let us gain the courage and the conviction to live lives in which no sin takes center stage. Let us take the challenge to live lives of integrity.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Tribute to the Old(er)

In many Asian cultures older people are highly esteemed and revered, a fact that is periodically touted from some evening news show so that we in America will feel guilty for the disrespect we show our own seniors. In deed, I have felt the deserved twinge of guilt on behalf of our country.

However, in the Christian church where we march to the beat of a different Drummer, we ought to set the bar for treatment of our elderly a bit higher, higher even than that of the Asian cultures. And indeed I believe we do.

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking to the Association of Baptist Ministries with the Aging at their annual meeting in Phoenix. These folks all work with senior adults in various forms - as church leaders, as staff for homes for the aging, at educational institutions, in community agencies, etc. These are the folks on the front line of our effort to show respect and honor to our seniors. Not only that, but they strive to encourage them, equip them for lasting ministries, serve them, make life a little easier and more enjoyable for them, and even challenge them to new heights spiritually.

Speaking before this group got me to thinking about how, in recent years, the churches I've been a part of truly have made an effort to honor and minister to senior adults. And in return, these senior adults have continued to bless their churches and communities with service, wisdom, love, and generosity. My own parents, smack dab in the middle of their senior adult years whether they like to admit it or not, have not slowed their service to their church or decreased their generosity to it by one iota. In fact, they are probably more involved than in the past when they were busy with careers and raising a family.

So this week, in honor of our senior adults, is "hats off to seniors week!" That is, it is here on this blog. You won't find befitting cards at your Hallmark store or anything. But each day you'll find a post on this blog that highlights a senior adult, provides a few reflections on their lives and ministries, or something seniory.

Before I addressed the conference this weekend, we heard a brief devotional from Steve Bass, my state's Baptist missionary and a dear friend of my husband's. I was so impressed by Steve's words that I knew immediately I wanted to share them with you. Maybe impressed isn't the right word choice. I was convicted, challenged and pointed in a new direction - backwards.

One of Steve's main points in his mini-devotional was simply this:

Not all great ideas are new ones. Some of the very best ideas come from the past.

He referred to a book by Mark Shaw called 10 Great Ideas From Church History and simply inferred that perhaps the church, in our commendable effort to move forward, has forgotten to look backward occasionally and review that which was indeed good and worth doing again.

And of course, the main thing we all need to look back and embrace is the cross, as Shaw states in the opening pages of his book. In our efforts to be innovative, forward thinking, progressive and on the cutting edge, we might should realize that "the narrow channel of long-term progress for the church lies in a new engagement with the message of the cross." If we throw out the old rugged cross in our attempt to make everything more polished and sophisticated, we have thrown out our very purpose for being and, perhaps just as importantly, the very thing that we have to offer the world that differs from every other religion. Heaven forbid.

Moving forward is always the goal and we should certainly follow the apostle Paul's advice and forget "what is past" - past sins, past failures, past insecurities, and past misunderstandings. But we shouldn't forget the old, old story or the old victories, the old stories of those who've gone before us, or the old celebrations of answered prayers.

Sometimes we just need to remember with sweet reminiscence, nothing more. The old has passed and simply will not work again, but we can remember with fondness and a chuckle or two. Other times we need to go back and revisit the old ways and see if they might not work again. We need to try that old shoe on and wear it if it fits and looks retroactively stylish. Still other times, as with the gospel message itself, we need to cling to the old with a stubborn grip.

So what of the old do you need to revisit today? Maybe it's the way your parents raised you. Maybe they had something there after all and no new parenting guru could possibly top their simple style. Maybe its the way your parents stuck with their marriage vows even when the going got tough. Perhaps you've realized that the new mantra of "if it's lost it's zing, toss it" is no good and certainly not biblical and now you're willing to work at your marriage the old-fashioned way.

Maybe you need to revisit the old way of studying your Bible - scripture by scripture, meditating on it, memorizing it, and obeying it, for pete's sake! Maybe you need to go back to the envelop method for handling your finances - stashing a set amount of cash (that's long, green pieces of fabric like paper, in case you forgot) in various envelops for gas, groceries, house supplies, eating out, etc. And then using only that cash to pay for life.

We've not gone as far back as our early marriage days to revive the envelop method (though it did work), but we have gone back to using only cash. Takes a little getting used to when you go backwards in order to move forward, but that old shoe is starting to feel more and more comfortable.

Maybe it's time to go back to the old way of being a family - family night dinners around a table, board games instead of computerized ones, chores instead of a housekeeper, decent bedtimes, and family devotionals.

Any thoughts here? What do you think it might be worth looking back at in order to truly move forward?

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Nasty Little Four-Lettered Word - FEAR

This is one of those days when I could let fear run over me like a freight train, crippling me and keeping me from getting where I need to go. But I chose to let God's love throw that fear right out of my path so I can breath easier and move on.

Abby is getting on the dreaded yellow school bus this afternoon and making the three hour ride to Phoenix on I-10, not my favorite stretch of highway. She's heading to the state competition for One Act Play. I'm thrilled for her, but I always have to deal with a familiar set of fears when I let one of my children go somewhere like this.

If you live in Arizona you know how often I-10 has to completely shut down in the passage between Tucson and Phoenix because of some accident. There are no access roads out there and the smallest of collisions (if there is such a thing) can cause traffic to come to a complete halt because no one has any way of moving around it.

Did I mention the yellow school bus? Not my favorite mode of transportation on a busy highway either.

Several years ago while Daniel was off at youth camp I made the HUGE MISTAKE of watching a television movie about a Texas youth group that had encountered a flooded river on their way home from camp. They were riding in 15-passenger vans just like Daniel's group. I watched with horror, fixated on the TV like a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming car, as teens clung to trees for their lives while raging waters threatened to take them under. Eventually a number of these kids did drown. True story.

What in the world was I thinking watching such a movie at such a time? Imagine the paralyzing fear I had to deal with the rest of that week!

Road trips are one of the many fear-inducing things I don't especially relish about raising kids. But I'm at that stage where you have to let go a little and trust that God is taking care of them.

In fact, I'm at that stage where, according to experts like James Dobson, I have to be letting go a little more every day. He says in the article here that real love demands freedom. "There comes a point where our record as parents is in the books, our training has been completed, and the moment of release has arrived," says Dobson. He's not just referring to letting your child get on a yellow school bus and ride down I-10; he's talking about parents of teenagers giving increasing amounts of responsibility and freedom to their growing kids so those kids will begin making wise choices on their own... hopefully. And if they don't, they fall flat on their faces, not yours.

That's where I'm at in the parenting gig - at the place where it gets riskier and riskier to let go, but I have to. It's a scary place to be, as many of you can attest.

But you may be at a totally different place in the parenting continuum and yet that place may be equally frightening for you.
  • Maybe it's time to put your baby on a schedule and let them "cry it out" a little if need be. 
  • Maybe it's time to let your child go on his first sleepover. 
  • Maybe it's time to discipline them for something you've been overlooking up to this point, but now you know it's time to hold them responsible for their actions. 
  • Maybe it's time to let your child fail at something - a school project, a test, a sports try-out, a friendship, a business venture, etc.
  • Maybe it's time to send them off to college while you stay home, alone for the first time in years.
  • Maybe it's time to allow your daughter to have a relationship with a boy, ever so supervised of course!
  • Maybe it's time to tell them to "move out!"
Throughout parenting we have to be willing to move on in the process, to make the tough decisions, to take the unpopular but effective route, to say no, to say yes, to let go.

It's tough to let go if fear is tightening your grip.

In fact fear keeps us from doing a lot of the things we know we're supposed to do - not just in parenting, but in every avenue of life.

The solution? According to the Bible it's twofold:

  1. Let God's love (His love for you, His love for your child, His love for your spouse, etc.) cast out that fear, get rid of it. 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..." If you walk in God's love, you'll be able to do what He's calling you to do without fear of the future, fear of the what ifs, or fear of failure.
  2. Fear God instead of man. Galatians 1:10 and Colossians 3:22 remind us that we should be more intent on pleasing God than anyone else, even our children.

Fear is a mighty force, but it doesn't have to cripple us and keep us off the right path. We can come to terms with our fears, take them to God and allow Him to transform our fears into courage. Fear puts us on the wide path that leads to destruction. Courage places us squarely on the narrow path and gives us a gentle push in the right direction.

And that's what I want to throw out there for us to mull over this weekend.
  1. What fear is keeping you from doing the very thing you know you're supposed to be doing?
  2. What is your greatest fear in parenting and how has it at times crippled you?
  3. How do you overcome your fears to do what is right?
Don't let fear tighten your grip, dear friend. Let go and trust God to bring about His desired outcome. You can trust Him and you can walk without fear.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Hostess with the Mostest

The hostesses at my favorite local restaurants are nice and all, but they rarely do more than hold the door open, ask how many are in my party and take my name. The "head hostess" rarely even seats me; she delegates that job to someone carrying crayons and a stack of menus who must be a sub-hostess or something.

That's not the kind of hostess I'm going to be tomorrow night.

Our women's ministry is having a huge Birthday Party for all the women in our church and their guests tomorrow night. No, we don't live in some time warp where every woman has the same birthday; we're just celebrating everyone's birthday at once. Every woman will sit at a table with other women who have their birthday in the same month. In other words, everyone with a birthday in February, like me, will sit together. The February ladies will all enjoy a meal together at tables decorated in a theme appropriate to their month of the year, in this case the Olympics, because the Olympics are in February you see.

Except I won't be sitting at the February table.

I get the honor of hostessing the January ladies. We were having trouble getting a hostess for January who had a birthday in that month, so I volunteered. And now I get to make it a special evening for those dear ladies.

So as I put last minute finishes on the decorations (our theme is A Cold Winter's Night and I'm decorating by using an old brown quilt as a table cloth and using lots of yo yos for things like the name tags and all) and make sure we have all the elements for a good "comfort food" meal, I've also contemplated what kind of hostess I want to be.

My pre-party jobs have included inviting all the ladies with January birthdays to attend, arranging for the meal by asking each lady to bring her favorite comfort food, planning the decorations, and creating a special take-home "birthday gift" for each lady. I'm finishing up all those things today and will decorate my table tomorrow at 4:00. But my job doesn't end there.

These are the darling (if I do say so) little dish towels I'm making for each of my ladies.
Aren't they cute? Those are yo yos, in case you were wondering.

 This is where I'm at on this project as of Thursday morning :(

At least I got all 30 yo yos made last night while watching the Olympics. What was I thinking when I decided to do this?

I know me and I know how stressed out I can get over things like this, trying to make every little detail just right. I've already bitten of more than I can feasibly handle with the gift I'm making for my ladies and now I have a few extra responsibilities tomorrow night because one of my fellow ministry team ladies can't be there due to a family situation and I will need to do her job as well. I can let the stress mount and I'll be a frazzled mess tomorrow night or I can get a grip and be a real hostess.

I'm determined to do more than make things look pretty and say hello. I'm going to show real hospitality.

I was raised by Mrs. Hospitality herself. My mom was not raised with the finer things in life, but she was raised to share what she had, to make other people feel special, and to serve others. When I was growing up in her home, she demonstrated true, biblical hospitality again and again. Whether we were having someone over for an impromptu bowl of soup and a game of cards or she was hostessing a grand buffet for our church staff, she always went to the nth degree to make everyone feel like she had been anticipating their arrival, like she had pulled out all the stops just for them.

But while my mom loves to set a pretty table using her best china and flowers fresh from her rose garden, she makes sure she has all those details taken care of far in advance so that when her guests arrive they become the focus of her attention. The lemons are sliced and in a crystal bowl, the food is warm and ready, the music is playing softly and the coffee is set to perk at the designated time. My mom is sitting down and ready to greet her guests with the apron long ago discarded and the nerves and frazzled plans replaced by hospitable anticipation.

And that's the kind of hostess I want to be tomorrow night. Instead of worrying about whether everything looks just right, I want to be more concerned that each lady at my table feels welcomed and included. In fact I want each lady to feel like her arrival has been anticipated and her company is appreciated.

First Peter 4:9 says, "Be hospitable to one another without complaint." That may sound like an easy request, but anyone who has ever hosted a real shindig knows how hard it can be to show true hospitality without fretting and murmuring under your breath the whole time. I think the key is to focus on the right thing, don't you? If I'm focused on whether the gladiolas in the center of my table are opened up enough or on whether everyone likes the gifts I made, I'll end up being a grumpy, self-absorbed, frowny-faced hostess. But if I focus on helping each lady have an enjoyable evening then I'll have more fun and they will too.

Decorating tables and preparing a feast are a piece of cake compared to showing true hospitality. Real hospitality, in fact, may mean serving a slightly burnt roast, forgetting to put the sliced lemons out, and dealing with a whiny kid in the middle of the meal, but still having your guests feel like they had the time of their lives. When a guest is able to overlook all the little snafus and still go home feeling like they've been loved on a little, the hostess has done her job.

Got any tricks for practicing true hospitality up your sleeve? I'd love to hear how you make your guests feel welcomed and anticipated. Or if you don't do a lot of entertaining yourself, what makes you feel special as a guest? What have you experienced in the way of true hospitality that left you feeling warm and loved?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Not So Wordy Wednesday - M & M Trail Mix

I love trail mix! The picture here is not a picture of the recipe I'm providing here today, but it looks good to me all the same.

Personally, it's not trail mix to me without raisins and maybe another dried fruit or two; however, I seem to be in the minority. That's ok; that means I get all the dried fruit when I hike with anyone in my family or with my hiking buddy Kim.

Here's my favorite recipe for trail mix. It requires a little stove top action and oven time, but don't let that scare you away. It's well worth the effort. I like to make it with seasonal M&Ms - pastels at Easter, patriotic colors at Independence Day, Fall colors in the Autumn, etc.

2 Tbsp. butter or margerine
1 cup Cheerios (plain or honeynut)
2 cups granola
1 cup raisins
4 Tbsp. honey
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
1 cup coarsely chopped pretzels
2 cups M&Ms chocolate candies

In a large pot over low heat, melt butter; add honey until blended. Remove from heat & add cereal, nuts, pretzels, granola, and raisins, stirring until all pieces are evenly coated. Spread mixture onto cookie sheet & bake at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes (do not over bake!). Spread baked mixture onto waxed paper & allow to cool completely. Pour into large bowl and mix in your favorite M&Ms variety (I prefer plain milk chocolate). Store in tightly covered container or large ziploc bags. Makes about 7 cups.


Tell me what you like in your trail mix. I'd love to know if you're a nutty person, a fruity gal or guy like me, or just crave (and hog) the chocolate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Have you ever given your all only to find that your sacrifice had left you shorthanded? Have you ever heard the call, followed with courage and determination, stood your ground with conviction, only to fear later that you had missed something after all? Have you ever felt so good about the direction you were headed only to look behind you and see that everyone who had been following you earlier was now headed in another direction?

You're in good company.

John, a close relative of Jesus, had literally been born to "guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:79) His father Zacharias had been told that this would be a special child and his mother Elizabeth had felt the confirmation of the Holy Spirit when the child in her belly had encountered the Messiah for the first time. Don't you just bet that John had been raised to know that he was indeed special and that he had a holy calling on his life?

From the very beginning, even before his beginning, John was all about Jesus.

Desert dwelling, locusts eating, camel hair wearing, and repentance preaching John was the kind of guy who drew a crowd and stepped on toes, but not the kind who developed a loyal following. While there were those who stuck close to him, I imagine most of the people from all around the Jordan who were going out to confess their sins and be baptized by this grizzly kind of guy didn't stick around for much of his no-nonsense preaching. Most of us can handle only so much direct and pointed talk before we withdraw into a more comfortable place.

But John didn't shirk away from the task of "making ready the way of the Lord." He embraced it. He boldly called the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers. He told the people to share, the tax gatherers to halt their greediness, the soldiers to stop throwing their weight around, and Herod the tetrarch to .... Well I'm not sure exactly what he told Herod to do, but he made it clear the man was living in sin with his brother's wife! Not a popular message.

John's black and white message was the precursor of Jesus' more colorful one. He preached hell fire and brimstone so Jesus could tell about the kingdom of God. He preached repentance so Jesus could preach grace. He showed no mercy so the Prince of Peace could offer forgiveness. He told it like it was so Jesus could tell it like it could be.

John's message was the same one you heard in your spirit when you were first convicted of your sin. Just like the day you first realized your desperate need for a savior to rescue you from the penalty of your sin, the people of Judea needed to be awakened to their evil ways. John had the unenviable task of painting the bleak picture so Jesus could save more than the day; He could save the world.

Fortunately some people seem to thrive on the dirty work. John was one of them. We see no record of him backing down from speaking the truth. Even when it meant prison.

But here's where things get interesting. I realize I've skipped the familiar anecdotes of John's story - how he recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world, how he argued with the Messiah about whether or not he should baptize Him, how he finally succumbed to the honor and how he pointed to Jesus as the Christ, shooing his own disciples to go away and follow the Messiah. I've also skipped over some of John's most famous and admirable words: He must increase, but I must decrease.

But I want us to look most carefully at John's most pivotal moment of all. The moment when his thriving ministry was coming to a close and Jesus' was just taking off.

John had landed in prison thanks to his bold assessment of Herod and Herodias' union. And as he sits in the stench-filled, dark and gloomy prison he has time to contemplate things. Up to this point undoubtedly things had been moving at a fast and furious pace for John. His ministry had picked up speed over the years and had culminated in the appearance of the One he had prophesied about. So now that things had come to a screeching halt, surely he wandered "What's next? Where does this leave me?"

John's disciples visited him in prison, ecstatic about all that Jesus was doing and the way the crowds were responding to Him. The people were saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and they weren't talking about John. "God has visited His people!" they shouted. But John wasn't a part of the excitement. He was in prison for speaking the truth.

So John sent word to Jesus asking, "Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?"

Now why do you think John sent that message to Jesus? Think about it a minute.

I think it was John's way of simply saying, "help." I think he knew Jesus was the Messiah, no doubt about that and the people were even recognizing Him thanks to John's excellent prep work. I don't think John really doubted that Jesus was the Expected One. I think he was cold and scared and confused and ... left out. Just my opinion. Check it out in Luke 7:16-23 for yourself.

I think Jesus thought the same thing I think because listen to His reply.

Go and report to John what you have seen 
and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, 
the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear,
the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.

Did you catch that last line? Jesus told them to tell John the obvious. "It's Him John. Miracles are happening just like you said they would. Oh, and He said to tell you 'blessed is he who doesn't get offended by Me.'"

I know John was the one of whom Jesus would later say that "among those born of women, there is no one greater," but he was still very human. I think he almost got a little despondent because Jesus, the One for whom he had paved the way, wasn't acting in the way he thought he should. He wasn't coming to John's rescue and he wasn't sending anyone to get him out of prison. He was about to die and Jesus, seemingly, didn't care. John's ministry was at a stinky standstill and Jesus' was thriving.

And yet, I'm going to assume that John took Jesus' admonition to heart and didn't grow offended by Jesus. I'm going to choose to believe that He knew the Messiah of whom he had preached well enough to know that He loved him, He had a job to do, and He was doing it. I'm going to trust that the man who had played such a key role in the coming of the Messiah thoroughly got the "big picture" enough to cling to the promises of God even when things looked bleak.

And that's exactly what we have to do.

When we're at a crossroads and the surroundings look strangely unfamiliar, we have to trust that God has a plan. When we look around us and don't see the blessings we thought we'd earned by now, we have to trust that the hidden, deeper blessings are indeed there. And when we look around and see others prospering while we are not, we must trust that God has not forgotten or forsaken us. We must not be offended when God doesn't "behave."

I'm still a little sickly and all, so I don't know if my ramblings made sense today. But I hope you got something from this reflection on John's most crucial moment. I've been in similar circumstances and I bet you have too. What do you do when God doesn't answer your prayer immediately, on schedule, according to your specifications? What do you do when His answer is "no?" What do you do when you feel you've sacrificed much and seen little return? How do you take it when others are prospering in their ministry and you are struggling in yours?

I'd love to hear from you!


Friday, February 12, 2010

This is My Blog on Drugs

Today's post is a direct result of taking pseudo-ephedrine. That's the decongestant you can only get by showing your driver's license to the pharmacist and going on some cyber-record as having bought the stuff so that if they ever suspect you of having a meth lab in your home, they can shut you down. Or something like that. But it's the only decongestant that will break through my sinus headache and thus, I have taken a small dose this morning.

Problem is, the stuff makes me pretty loopy. My mind races from one thing to the next like a rabbit running from a fire. And so today's blog post will undoubtedly reflect my loopiness.

Tonight our church's youth group begins a Disciple Now weekend. Unfortunately my headache (actually it's a face-ache) prevents me from describing this wonderful program in detail, so I'm providing a link to a somewhat lame explanation on Wikipedia. Click here for some Wiki writer's interpretation of a phenomenal Christian youth movement that has truly transformed youth discipleship around the nation (world?). If you'd like a better explanation you can probably ask any youth minister.

At any rate, I'd really appreciate it if you'd pray for our youth, including my charming daughter. Just say a quick prayer asking God to settle these kids enough to get their ears and their hearts. Ask Him to do a mighty work in their lives, bringing them to a greater realization of how important it is to be saturated in Him. That's the curriculum they're using: Saturate. Also pray for the students and the ministry leader from the University of Arizona Christian student ministry that will be coming to lead our D-Now. Pray for their safety, their focus, and their ability to engage our kids in real dialogue about their relationships with the Lord.

Moving right along to my next thought.

My blogger friend Marla Taviano is having a great sale on her book Changing Your World One Diaper at a Time at her blog site.

You can find the prices and a link to find out more about the book here. I've ordered a box of them for our women's ministry to give to new moms. You might like to do the same or order just a few to tuck in your baby shower gifts in the future. Hanging around so many new moms lately has reminded me how badly these young women need a fresh word from God during this huge transition. Marla is a great writer (friendly and easy to listen to - like talking with your best friend) and she has written a true word of encouragement and perspective for new moms. The sale is only through midnight EST today, so hurry. However, Marla's such a sweetie that she might still give you a price break if you read this after Friday too. Maybe if you offer her some chocolate or something.

Brain is rushing right along!

Valentine's Day will appear on the scene before I post again on here. So, Happy Valentine's Day. Don't forget to express an extra dose of love to your loved ones.

I like it that the big day is on Sunday this year. After all, we have no more precious valentine than our Jesus, the one who wrote the most loving valentine in all of history 2000+ years ago. Written in crimson red, He declared his undying love for us by dying for us. And so this year we have the added advantage of gathering in our places of worship to thank Him for that ultimate expression of love. I encourage you to not get so caught up in the hoopla of boxed candies and roses that you forget to spend a little time with the Lover of your soul, Jesus. Bottom line? Get out of bed and go to church!

Well, thanks for hanging in there with me through my ramblings. If you're on drugs too, then this probably all made perfect sense to you. If not, then take note: This is what my blog looks like on drugs!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Work of Parenting

I changed a baby's diaper yesterday, first one I'd changed in probably a few years at least.

We've had a slew of babies born in our church recently and I've had the privilege of hanging with some of these brand new moms and their wee ones. Ah, the joy of watching a young mom feed her infant, pat his little back until a man-sized burp explodes from his full tummy, and place him down for sweet slumber.

Ah, the greater joy of breathing a sigh of relief over the fact that that young mom is not you!

Not that I didn't love taking care of my two babies almost two decades ago. I did. But it was so much work! So exhausting and frustrating and messy and consuming.

Wait a minute. Now that I think about, not much has changed.

I no longer change diapers, but I clean messy toilets.

I no longer nurse my children 'round the clock, but I have to buy enough groceries to feed an army, and every time I look in my kitchen sink there's a new batch of dishes caked with dried on food.

I no longer push my two around in strollers, but I have to chauffeur a busy teenager no less than six times a day to her next meeting, activity or appointment (what's that all about?). And my husband and I pay for auto insurance so the other one can drive himself around - making that $100 stroller seem mighty appealing.

I don't wash load after load of spit-up rags, teeny towels or tiny little baby socks, but instead I wash huge loads of big jeans, big sweat shirts, big stinky socks and big towels that I've picked up off the bathroom floor.

And I don't wake up to the sounds of a hungry, crying baby, but instead I listen to the rantings and ravings of hormonal teens. There are no temper tantrums in the grocery store (because I don't take my kids there any more!), but there is whining at the GAP and coercing at Forever 21. I don't hurt my back putting my children in their car seats. It is my wallet that is hurting because they get in their "car seats" too often.

Now that I think about it, a sweet little baby might be a welcomed relief about now.

Parenting, at any stage, is a lot of work. And, I've come to realize, if it doesn't seem like a lot of work to you, then you're not doing it right. Raising a human being from infancy to adulthood takes energy, effort, thought, prayer, sweat, tears, and determination. Parenting is not for the fainthearted; it is a job for the brave, the hardworking, the stubborn, and the determined.

But parenting is also amazingly rewarding, fortunately at every stage.

I no longer look into plump little faces that gurgle back at me with sweet little coos, but I get to enjoy the hearty laughter of a young man who is tickled with his own wit and enjoying easy banter with his proud dad.

I no longer get the thrill of watching my daughter's sweet, chubby fingers grasp a cheerio and put it in her mouth. Instead I watch her use her long, graceful fingers and her soft, white hands to express herself during a powerful monologue on stage.

And instead of dressing my babies in hand-smocked dresses or seersucker suits, I'm proud when they dress themselves in tasteful clothes they have chosen, bought, and even washed on their own.

The work goes on, but so does the thrill.

If you're a young mom (or dad) tired from the physical exertion of lugging around heavy car seats, chasing after energetic toddlers, or disciplining terrible twos, hang in there...there's more work to come. But there are more pleasures too. Much of the work moves from the physical to the emotional and spiritual realm. But it's work all the same. And yet, there is great reward in store for the parent who is diligent and does the work.

However old your child is today, what's your favorite part of parenting? What's the hardest work for you right now; what takes your energy and determination? And what thrills your soul?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not So Wordy Wednesday

What language do you speak? Love language that is. I speak the language of gifts. And fortunately for me, many people in my life either speak that language too or they've learned to speak "gifts" just for me.

The thing about people whose native love tongue is gifts is that we truly remember who gave us every single gift we've ever received. When I look at a gift, even years after I've received it, I see the giver every bit as much as I see the gift. To this day I remember who all gave me every piece of my china when I got married. Truly I do.

So today, with fewer words than usual anyhow, I share with you some of the people I see every day when I see the gifts they gave me.

My Sunday School Class in Texas
My husband James

My brother Jimmy


My daughter Abigail




My Dad (made the table and gave me the violet)

My Mom

My Son Daniel

I think it's important to enjoy the gift but always remember and be grateful toward the giver of the gift. And that's why today I encourage us to remember the Giver "of every good thing and every perfect gift" (James 1:17) as we enjoy those blessings. 

Enjoy the gift, but love the Giver.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Heroes is a term I use loosely. 

No one is depicted in God's Word as perfect except Jesus, and He alone is our ultimate hero. Still, there are certainly a number of men and women in the Bible who have lived exemplary lives worth noting and following. Many of these folks blazed the trail of faith for us without the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, an endowment that makes the victorious life so much more attainable for those of us on this side of the cross.

Today we begin our weekly walk with these trailblazing heroes. And though I could have started with any of a number of the faithful, I'll begin with the one the writer of Hebrews began with in the famous Hall of Faith, Hebrews Chapter 11. No, it's not Abraham or even Noah. The author of Hebrews reached even further into history and began with...


His walk of faith was shortened by his own brother and we don't know much about him, but we know Abel's faith was worthy of being called out in the list of faith walkers heralded in Hebrews. So I figure he's worthy of a glance from us too.

If you'd like to check out Abel in the Bible, it won't take you long. You'll find him in Genesis 4:1-8, though the story surrounding him continues into verse 15. He's also mentioned in Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51 (as being righteous) and, of course, in Hebrews 11:4 and 12:24 (which reminds us that while Abel was righteous he wasn't as righteous as Jesus).

The Story
Adam and Eve, banished from the garden of Eden due to their willful sin, conceive a child and name him Cain. Sometime later Eve again gives birth to a boy child and this one is called Abel.

Some time passes by; we're not sure how much. But Cain and Abel are undoubtedly at least young adults. They have chosen their professions, the first two named in the Bible. Cain is a tiller of the ground, a farmer. Abel is a keeper of the flocks.

I wonder why these two young men felt compelled to bring offerings to God? We don't really know. Perhaps their parents told them about the God they had been in such close fellowship with while in the garden. Perhaps they even confessed their poor choices that had landed them outside paradise. Or perhaps God audibly called for them to present an offering to Him. At any rate, Cain and Able offered gifts from their bounty to God.

Cain brought God an offering "of the fruit of the ground." Grain? Vegetables? Fruit? We don't know, but the offering was brought from what he had and from that which he loved, no doubt. The fact that his offering is mentioned first in Genesis 4 may indicate that he was even the one who initiated the whole "let's take God an offering" conversation. Still, we're not sure about that either.

Abel offered God from "the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions." Once again the offering is from what the young man considers his finest, his most precious.

And then the problems begin. 

The Bible says the Lord "had regard for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard."


Cain gets angry in his heart and his countenance falls. Funny how that works, how our emotions show up on our faces even when we don't mean for them to. Cain undoubtedly loses the smile, drops his shoulders and stomps away in disgust. 

God doesn't let this go. He asks Cain, "Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?" 

It almost sounds at this point, to me, that God is saying, "Hey buddy. No need to get all upset. This was your first encounter with Me and your first offering. Instead of getting all bent out of shape and offended, just do the right thing next time." That's my interpretation anyhow. 

God goes on to warn Cain that "if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door" and if you don't get a grip it's going to take you down. You need to master this thing. I think God was warning Cain that if he didn't get an attitude adjustment he would end up doing something much more offensive than he had up to this point.

You know what happens next: Cain doesn't deal with his anger "well" and in fact takes it out on his brother Abel. He kills him, and thus the first murder. More importantly, this is the first time innocent human blood is shed.

Lessons Learned
So that's the story of Abel. Doesn't seem like much. Cain ends up being the star of the show, even if he is a villainous one. So what about that story lands Abel in the Hebrews Hall of Faith and what makes him a trailblazer this Tuesday?

One commentary I read shooed me away from considering the offering these two men brought to God. The commentator said we shouldn't really contemplate what made one offering acceptable to God and the other unworthy of regard. Instead he wanted us to move on to Cain's reaction to God's chastisement. 

But wait a minute. The offering, offered in faith, is the very thing the author of Hebrews highlights about Abel. If God chose to bring it to our attention right off the bat in Hebrews, I'm not about to disregard it.

So here's where I think Abel walked by faith.

The scripture points out very clearly that God judged both the offering and the heart with which it was offered in both cases. We don't know whether Cain's offering, in and of itself, was acceptable or not, but we do know, based on Cain's subsequent actions, that his heart probably was not. 

We also don't know whether Abel's offering, in and of itself, was any better than his brother's (though I'd prefer a juicy steak over a garden salad any day), but we do know his heart was right because the author of Hebrews was divinely inspired to inform us that he had offered his sacrifice in faith and was declared righteous because of it.

The bottom line? Cain's offering represents every time a believer knows what God wants from him and refuses to give it, giving a substitute instead. God prioritizes obedience over sacrifice. And He expects that obedience to come from the heart.

And Samuel said, "Has the Lord
as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams.
(1 Samuel 15:22)

I'm guilty. There are times when I've known God wanted me to obey Him with a certain action or attitude, and instead I tried to appease Him with a sacrifice of sorts. "Tell you what God, I can't do what You're asking, but I'll be sure and read my Bible today" or "Sorry, I can't forgive that person, but I'll be extra nice to so-and-so over there. How's that grab You?" Change of heart? Too hard! Here, have an extra dose of my service instead.

Abel set the standard for righteousness way back in Genesis 4. It begins with a heart that says yes to God and no to self because that heart trusts God. He pleased God with his offering of fatty meat and with his righteous, faith filled heart. In Hebrews 11:6 we learn this is the crux of the matter because it says,

And without faith is is impossible to please Him,
for he who comes to God
must believe that He is, 
and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
(Hebrews 11:6)

Tips for the Trail
And so here's where I think Abel's footprints lead us - to keep our hearts pure and faithful before the Lord, to be real with Him and not try to hide our lack of faith with fruity sacrifices. If God asks us to do something we just can't do with a pure heart, then we need to be honest with Him about that, ask Him to change our hearts and walk in faith. He abhors pretense, that much we know. So let's not try to "look good" to God; let's just be faithful from the heart instead.

What do you think? I welcome your take on Abel, his sacrifice, and how he gained God's favor. Or if you have any other comment, I look forward to hearing that too! Have a blessed Tuesday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Up and Running...or at least Walking...

This is almost as fun as getting up in the morning and putting on a new outfit. No. I take that back. It's definitely more fun. In case you didn't notice, Off the Beaten Path is sporting a brand new do!

Welcome to the new and improved Off the Beaten Path web site and blog. Thanks to my wonderful Design Diva, we're up and running, or at least walking 'cause we do still have a few little bugs to work out. Mainly she has to spend a little time on the phone with me this afternoon telling me how to keep from deleting the whole thing.

As is so typical of me, I got on here Saturday when she was still working on things and started poking around and all. Of course I deleted some stuff accidentally, but not permanently. Some of the text she had entered for me just took a little trip into cyberspace for a few minutes and then, by the sheer grace of God, it came back. But not before I'd e-mailed her and confessed my dilemma. (If I'd just waited a few minutes I wouldn't have needed to confess anything!) Fortunately, since the Design Diva has never met me and lives on the other side of the country I simply had to imagine the faces she was making and the terrible things she was saying about me. After doing that for a little while, I decided to imagine instead that she is a graciously forgiving and patient woman instead and that she simply shrugged her shoulders at my mistakes and said something like, "Oh that poor thing. She's so anxious to get her blog up and running, she just couldn't help herself. I just love people like that!"

At any rate, enough of my vain imaginations!

Don't you just love new? New anything! I'm the kind of woman who can't wait to wear a new article of clothing I just purchased. I go home from the store or receive the article of clothing in the mail via UPS and I immediately come up with some place to wear it. That's why I was so shocked when I visited my friend Kim a couple of weeks ago and learned that she had three perfectly beautiful suits in her closet that still had the tags on them after having purchased them not three days ago, not three months ago, but two years ago! How in the world? That just wouldn't happen in my closet. There are days I wish I could look in my closet and find something with a tag on it, but alas, that has never happened.

I might not be able to find anything brand new in my closet this morning, but I know where I can find some new duds every day. In Christ. In Him all things are new.

A New Spirit
In Ezekiel 11:19 God promised to give the children of the New Covenant, that's us believers, a new spirit. When we sport our new spirit we have the unlimited potential of living beyond the ordinary. Our flesh, which usually cries out and demands its own way, isn't as strong when we walk in this new spirit. When we walk in the spirit and feed the spirit, we are able to live victorious lives and do things we couldn't ordinarily do.

A New Strength
Isaiah 40:31 tells us that if we wait patiently for God to give it to us (instead of racing ahead like I did with the blog Saturday), He'll give us new strength. At my age I could use a little renewed strength. Why can God do this? Because verse 28 says that He never becomes weary or tired and His mind is always sharp. That's the God who's giving me new strength for every day, every trial, and every dilemma.

New Compassions
Fortunately for me and those of you who tend to be a little impetuous like me, God has new compassions and mercies available to us every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says:

The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness.

Great indeed!

New Plans
God is constantly doing new things in our lives. One of my favorite scriptures in recent years is Isaiah 43:18-19:
Do not call to mind the former things, 
Or ponder the things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.

It's a funny thing. When I want to do something new, I'm all over it. But when God wants to do something new in my life, I'm often resistant. I shouldn't be. I've learned that our God can be trusted. If He's doing something new in your life today, you can let go of the old with confidence and trust your God to do something great. Be aware of it, for pete's sake.

New Potential
Finally, we've got bookoodles of potential for all sorts of new things in our lives. Second Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that with Christ all things are new and the old has passed away. In Him we are new people. In Christ, I have new potential for holy living. In Him, I can indeed be a gentle mom, a loving wife, a thoughtful friend, a capable worker, a diligent student, a generous neighbor, and a godly woman.

I had the thrill of putting on a new web site and blog this morning. I'm thrilled with my new do. There was nothing new in my closet with tags still on it. Bless your sweet little weird heart if you're like my friend Kim and have new things just hanging in your closet. Get them out and wear them, for heaven's sake! But regardless of who you are and what's in your closet, you got some new stuff to put on today sweet friend. You've got you some new strength and new potential. You also have new compassions for each new offense. You have a new spirit to overcome those old ways. And you have a trustworthy God doing some new things in your life today.

Don't you just love new stuff?

Tell me what's new with you today? New hair do? New outfit? New favorite verse? New job or dilemma or diet or cereal? I'd love to hear all about it? It's so easy to leave a comment. Won't you indulge me, with today being a new blog do and all? I'd be ever so grateful!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Of Things to Come

Exciting things are happening here in blog world! As our week comes to a close I'd like to take today's post to let you in on a few fun changes coming up.

New Design
Soon and very soon Off the Beaten Path will have a brand new look.The Design Diva is working me up a spanking new blog design even now and has already sent me some very promising mock-ups. I'm thrilled with what I've seen so far and I know you will be too. 

Because my ministry is mostly to women and obviously by a woman, I wanted my blog to have a decidedly feminine look. Still, Off the Beaten Path just lends itself to a woodsy, natural feel. So I asked the Design Diva if she could combine feminine, clean, fresh, natural, and woodsy elements to come up with the perfect look for Off the Beaten Path. She admitted that she had felt stumped for a while there, but came through with flying colors.  The new design includes beautiful fonts, an arresting photo, and some of my new favorite colors - red and brown. I really think you'll like it.

By the way, I'm thrilled that a number of discerning men also read Off the Beaten Path. You are always welcome here! And that's why I wanted the blog to have a slightly feminine look, but still convey the ruggedness of the ancient paths that we are all on together. This blog is not so much about women on a chick hike as it is believers encouraging one another as we follow the ancient paths mapped out by God's Word.

You'll also notice when the new design is up and running that I have a tool bar just below the header of the blog where you can find additional information about my ministry. It may take some time for me to get this section of the site complete, but soon you will be able to find out more about me ('cause I know you want to!), how to purchase my book(s) (I have another one coming out soon!), where you can read some of my published articles, where I'll be speaking, and what types of topics I usually speak on. Hopefully you can tell others about this website and encourage them to check it out and maybe invite me to speak at their (or your) next event. :)

New Weekly Posts
Beginning next week I will introduce two new weekly blog posts. I'm excited about these new regular posts because they will help me focus on something at least a couple of days each week instead of just rambling! Also, you'll be able to know what's coming up a little better.

On Wednesday I'll be posting Not So Wordy Wednesday. This post will be akin to a Foto Friday or Wordless Wednesday and will feature one or more photos and fewer words. I need to do this post on Wednesdays because those are my busiest days of the week and I have less time to post those mornings. But I couldn't bring myself to go wordless because, well, I'm not a photographer. I'm a ... wordsmith of sorts. I just can't promise no words. But I will try so very hard to post more photos and less blah, blah, blah on those days. I bet Wednesdays will become a favorite for many - just don't tell me, ok?

I'm especially looking forward to Tuesdays. On this day each week I'll be posting a new series called Trailblazer Tuesdays. These posts will be based on the charge in Hebrews 12:1 that says:

Therefore, since we have so great
a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance,
and the sin which so easily entangles us,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us.

Each Tuesday we will look at a person from the pages of the Bible who has gone before us, one of the heroes of the faith. These are the men and women with whom God forged the ancient paths we now follow. The ones from the Old Testament had to blaze the trails with faith in the promises God had made concerning the coming Messiah. The heroes in the New Testament had to choose to walk on those ancient paths in a culture that did not recognize the Christ. We have much to gain from knowing their stories and examining their choices.

So, I'm not sure when the new design will be up and running, but watch for it! And join me next Tuesday for the story of one of our Trailblazers from God's Word and on Wednesday for a photo or two and not so many words. Meanwhile, I'll just keep rambling along on the other days of the week! 

I'd love to know what heroes from the Bible you'd like for us to meet. Would you take a few minutes to share with me one or two of your favorite trailblazers?