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Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Satisfied... at Last!" - Small Group Leader/Teacher Give-Away

I'm so excited about this Bible study, not because I wrote it, but because of what it says. I feel passionately about the message of this book and so humbled and grateful that God let me put it into a study. I don't claim to have the market on this topic, by any means. (In fact I've already thought of a dozen things I should have said but didn't, things I should have written differently, and lessons I should have included, but it's too late now!) I'm no great theologian, but I felt like I had something to share and God very graciously gave me a Bible lesson on this topic one day at a time. The result is this 6-week study about finding contentment for our souls in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.

This Bible study is for two types of women:
  • Those who know they are searching for something more that will fill their lives and make them happier, more content, more satisfied. These women would gladly raise their hands and say, "No, I'm not satisfied and I'm tired of looking for something to do the trick!" I've been that woman in the past. This is the woman who has looked to possessions, relationships, activities, accomplishments, adventures, and a wide gamut of other things to bring deep, abiding, lasting and satisfying contentment to her hungry soul. But, in her quest to find that elusive something, she's probably also run into the roadblocks of obsessions, addictions, unhealthy relationships, and even a few muddy pits. This woman is probably tired of searching for satisfaction for her soul and will willingly sit down with this book and gobble it up!
But there's another type of woman that this study will suit as well:
  • Those who think they're completely satisfied, but are actually just feasting on the junk food this world has to offer. I've been that woman too. I’ve searched out and feasted upon cheap substitutes instead of the only One who can truly satisfy the longings in my soul. And although these substitutes may have quieted my hunger pangs for a while, they also had the potential to enslave me, make a fool of me, or at least rob me of true and lasting abundance. Truthfully, many of us have no idea what we’re missing at the King’s table because we’re munching on the sugary snacks offered by this world and the poisonous concoctions placed before us by the enemy. This woman thinks she's full and satisfied, but her soul's current diet is actually a lousy substitute for the abundant life Jesus promised.
Folks, this is a cut-to-the-chase kind of study. It gets to the heart of the matter very quickly and requires a little transparency and honesty on the student's part. But it also offers real, tangible, and doable instructions for finding that long anticipated satisfaction.

Enough about the Bible study. Let me tell you what I'm offering this weekend. I hate promoting my speaking or writing ministry. But as a friend told me just the other night at dinner, if I don't promote the book I can't get out the message that God gave me. I'm not at all for tooting my own horn, but I'm all about passing on the things that God has done for my soul.

"Come and hear, all who fear God,
and I will tell of what
He has done for my soul."
Psalm 66:16

And that's what this book is - my attempt to share with you a very important thing He has done for my soul. He has completely satisfied it...at last.

Ok, so I digress again. Let's give this one more shot at moving along!

Here's the Give-Away!

I would like to get several copies of Satisfied...at Last! into the hands of those of you who either teach, lead or facilitate Bibles studies, those of you who make decisions about what is taught at your church or ministry, or those of you who think you might seriously consider leading a small group study of this 6-week (7 session) Bible study.

All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me that you would like to check out the study for future use with a group.

Now, if you just want to do the study on your own -- and I hope many of you do! -- then tell me that too. I'll randomly choose one lucky winner who just wants the study for her own personal use. But I'll choose several of you who will give the book a serious look-see for the purpose of teaching it in the future or passing it on to the person who will. You're not making any commitment to order the book for your group. You're just expressing interest.

So in summary (because I've rambled as usual), there are two ways to win a copy of Satisfied...at Last!:

  1. Leave a comment expressing interest in the book for a future study as a leader, facilitator, teacher, etc. Tell me about how you would consider using it and what you do in regards to women's Bible studies.
  2. Leave a comment telling me that you're not a teacher or facilitator, but you'd love to win a copy for personal use.
I'll choose several (who knows how many?) in the first category based on book availability and your comment. I'll choose one in the second category randomly.

Hey, and pass this on to Bible study leaders you know. If they don't blog, enter for them.

Thanks for putting up with my rambling! You know my heart, I hope. Blessings, dear bloggy friends. You delight me!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Photos, Fish, and...Finally!

Here are the photos I promised on Monday of our family with Sam. Click here for the story if you missed it. These pictures were taken Sunday after lunch. Last night we got to have one last dinner with our new friend from Hawaii before he heads home this weekend. He is such a joy and we will sorely miss him.

Our quirky family decided that since we ate our first Sunday lunch with Sam at Carl's Jr., we should eat our last lunch with him there as well.

And here are some photos of my new favorite recipe. Tuesday night I got adventurous and tried out a new recipe. I'd never made fish tacos before, but my husband loves them and I thought I'd give it a try. But I didn't want to make some sorry excuse for a fish taco. I wanted something really good and authentic. James is quick to criticize lousy knock-offs when he's had a bad fish taco, so I wanted to get mine right.

I hit the jackpot! So here's the recipe:

Fish Tacos:

1 lb. thin fish fillets (I used Tilapia)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp. vegetable oil

2 cups shredded lettuce
1 diced avocado
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 chopped green onions (all of onion)
juice of one lime
2 tsp olive oil

8 warmed corn tortillas or taco shells
chopped tomato (optional)
finely grated cheese (optional)
salsa (optional)

Coat each fillet with some kosher salt and cumin. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add fish; cook 5-7 minutes, turning once, until just cooked through, tender and flaky.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss 2 cups shredded lettuce, 1 diced avocado, 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, 2 chopped green onions, juice of one lime and 2 tsp olive oil.

Remove cooked fish to a plate with paper towels and break into chunks. Fill 8 warmed taco shells with fish, lettuce mixture and tomato and cheese, if desired. Also top with salsa if you'd like, but there's plenty of flavor without it. Enjoy!

And Finally!

Look what the UPS guy brought me yesterday!

It's my new book!

I'm so excited I can't stand it! I'll post more about it tomorrow and you'll want to check back in within the next few days for that post because it will definitely include a "Give-Away!"

But for now, I'm just relieved that it's ready and I'll be teaching the pilot class of it this fall! Yippee!

Have a great day!

PS - If you just can't wait another day and must order your copy of my 6-week Bible study now, here's the link where you can order it from the publisher. I know you're all chomping at the bit! He, he!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jealous? Then Get Up!

Since it rained here during the night and the sun never peeked out from the clouds this morning, I slept in today. That may sound lazy crazy, but that's just how my mind determines whether to get up at 5:45 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. I normally arise early so I can go for my walk, water my flowers, and have my quiet time outside on the back porch. But this morning two of the three were not going to happen. So I chose to sleep in.

When the phone rang at 8:00 I was still in my morning fog. You know the one where your voice is not your own, your eyesight is a little blurry, your brain isn't registering in complete thoughts much less complete sentences and your gait is decidedly awkward. My mom, who lives in the eastern time zone three hours ahead of me, effused her midday alertness and enthusiasm over the phone. I struggled to recognize my own mother's voice, remember what day it is, and answer her string of questions coherently. By the time our quick phone call ended and I hung up, I was actually awake. And I was jealous too.

Of all things, my mom had gone on and on about how much she enjoys her early mornings at the camp ground where they are enjoying a week away (away from what I don't know. What exactly do retired people get "away" from?)... (I bet I'll get some comments on that one!) She talked about getting up early, fixing her cup of coffee and heading outside to have her devotional time. She repeated over and over how much she enjoys that time alone before my dad arises and joins her - a time of solitude, fresh beginnings, a clean slate, quiet and peace.

Meanwhile, my dogs jumped around my feet, whining to be let outside. My daughter lumbered down the stairs in her own morning fog and flicked on the television. And my computer screen advertised the multitude of e-mails that awaited me. I had lost my opportunity for that early morning moment of solitude and calm. Oh sure, I'd still have a devotional time with my Bible and prayer, but it would be accompanied by the sarcastic voices of the Gilmore Girls, the whines of my dogs, and the sloshing hum of the dishwasher. No peace and stillness for me.

In Psalm 5:3, David writes:

In the morning, O Lord, 
Thou wilt hear my voice; 
In the morning 
I will order my prayer to Thee 
and eagerly watch.

I suppose the "debate" over whether a Christian really needs to have a morning quiet time as opposed to a devotional time any other time of the day is the one argument I have heard the most in Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and women's retreats. At one spring retreat I helped plan, author and speaker Edwina Patterson based her entire four-message program on the premise that we should spend time with the Lord early in the morning rather than later in the day. I don't need to tell you that feelings bristled and attitudes swelled up like sprained ankles that weekend! Some folks just aren't morning people and when you tell them they need to have a quiet time in the morning you might as well be telling them they have to cover their heads at church, observe the Passover, and quit eating bacon. They scream legalism and shut that conversation down.

And I get that, I really do. Our daily time with the Lord should be anything but a legalistic and regimented time. It should ooze with enthusiasm, a genuine desire to "be there," and willingness.

But I also believe there is quite a bit of merit (and biblical precedence) for meeting with God early in your day, before the routine and urgent grab your focus, before the noises of the day drown out His voice, and before the brash voice of the world has the opportunity to lull you into complacency and even desensitize you to His gentle, quiet voice.

Author and counselor Selwyn Hughes states my case even better than I can:

Those who do not provide for a set-aside 
time during the day -- preferably in the morning,
when they can replenish their spiritual resources --
may find that they have to provide a time at the 
end of the day for regret, for repentance,
and for eating humble pie.
I especially love Hughes' thinking about why the morning is perhaps the ideal time to meet with our Maker. He talks of a traveler who arose early in the morning in the Himalayas to watch the sun rise on the towering peaks. Here's what the traveler told him:

There, as the day began to dawn, we saw arise before 
our enraptured gaze, within a complete
semicircle, twenty peaks each above
twenty thousand feet in height, snow-capped
with virgin snow. For half an hour the
curtain (of cloud) was lifted...Then the mists
began to fill the valleys between, and the 
view was gone. Gone? No, not really--it was 
forever laid up in our green and grateful memories.

And Hughes correlates this early riser's view of his surroundings to the perspective one gains from meeting with God early in the day:

That is what a quiet time in the early part 
of the day does for you. Before the mists of 
worldly happenings blot out your view of God, 
you can take a time-exposure of Him 
which is indelibly imprinted on your mind. 
Then, after the mists close in, 
the vision is still there within.
And that is what I missed this morning. By the time I had my moments with Jesus this morning - reading His Word, sharing my concerns with Him, meditating on His truth, and listening to His quiet voice - my day had already been crowded with the noises, distractions, demands, and concerns of this day. I had missed that small window of opportunity to see my world through His perspective before I saw it through my own cloudy one. Not that I couldn't recapture some of that later at 9:00, but it would be much more difficult.

I've often been jealous of folks who seem to have such a godly perspective on their life and the world around them - people who almost seem to live on a different spiritual plain than I do. They see things more clearly, recognize God's hand in every situation, wait patiently on Him to act before they jump into action, walk closely with their God through every up and down, and carry on an easy-going conversation with their Lord throughout the day, as though it is second nature to run everything by Him. 

But the truth is, I don't need to be jealous. I just need to get up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Taking in a Couple More

There are several reasons why I really should wait to post today's Ministry Monday post a little later, the primary reason being that I have photos to go with it but they're not accessible right now. So if you're reading this and there are not pictures, come back later and it see if I delivered.

But the fact that I've been so delinquent in posting at all this summer, much less in a timely fashion, propels me to go ahead and get this thing up and running before this evening (or before my son comes home from work to give me the photos from his camera).

Still, let me say up front that the other problem I have with this post is that it might come off sounding a little self-promoting and I hate that with a passion. It is never my desire to toot my own horn, but in this case I simply want you to hear the song my horn is playing. In other less ridiculously flowery words, I love the message of this little story even though it happens to come from my own personal experience. Hey, what can I say, for once my family managed to get it right and do something both a little noble and extremely rewarding. But it's not because we're all that special or generous or giving or thoughtful. It's just that God lined everything up and hit us with an awesome opportunity right in the middle of our collective foreheads! That's what it usually takes for the Harms family to do something right...

We've had the awesome privilege of occasionally providing bed and shower for one of my son's college friends for the past year or so now. Actually, we consider Jesse a friend too. His whole family lived here when we moved here and attended our church. We enjoyed their friendship and still keep in touch with them. But right about the time Jesse graduated from high school, they all took off for Germany and left him here to go to college at the University of Arizona. (Personally, I think I would leave my middle school age kids behind if I were moving to a foreign country and keep the more mature kids around! Not really...just joking!)

At any rate, when Jesse comes "home" to Sierra Vista (mainly to visit his girlfriend and other friends) we've been able to provide him with a futon and a shower and an occasional hot meal. Granted, our futon is out in the middle of our "open" bonus room, so the one thing we haven't really offered him is much privacy. But he seems ok with it.

I've been pleased as punch to offer Jesse a place to stay on the occasional weekend and Christmas break because I would want someone to do the same for my man child. And I know Deb and Trace (Jesse's parents) would do just that in a heart beat. In fact, maybe Daniel will head over to Germany one of these days and take them up on it. He would obviously get the better end of the stick.

Daniel and Jesse - both self-proclaimed geeks - checking out Daniel's new computer just after graduation a little over a year ago. (Terrible quality photo, I realize)

I never really thought much about our futon as a ministry tool when we bought it, but that's just what it's turned out to be. Jesse has probably slept on it more than any one other person. And I'm glad that has become it's primary purpose. Do you have anything like our futon that, now that you think about it, has turned into an avenue of ministry? A spare bedroom, an extra car, your kitchen, a cabin in the mountains?

In June we had another young college student visit our church for the first time. My husband contacted him just like he contacts all first time visitors via e-mail. When he did, the student responded with a request for someone to give him a ride to church each week. He was here just for the summer and didn't have a car. (He had paid $5 for a bus ride to church that first week. We were impressed.) My husband told Daniel to give Sam a call and offer him a ride for the next Sunday. 

To make a long story short, Daniel began giving Sam a ride to church each Sunday which eventually turned into a ride to work each morning (after Daniel got a job in the same building) which eventually turned into Sam going to lunch with us most Sundays which eventually turned into a lasting and precious friendship with this young man from Hawaii.

I know Sam is grateful for the rides and the lunches and the friendship, but he probably has no idea how thankful we are for him entering our lives. We've learned so much from this college student from Carnegie Mellon. He and his parents moved to Hawaii from China when he was young and his grandfather is a pastor at their Chinese church in Hawaii. Sam is a dedicated young Christian who not only sought out a ride to church during his summer job stint, but is actively involved in a Christian small group at Carnegie Mellon, a school better known for its high learning and intellectual atmosphere than a Christian environment. I like Sam. We all like Sam. And we hate saying goodbye to him this week. Yesterday was our last Sunday lunch with him and this week will be the last one that Daniel will get to give Sam a lift to work and share his lunch hour with him. We have truly been blessed by this young man's presence this summer and we're holding onto the hope that he may be back next summer.

So not only has our futon become a tool for ministry to a young college man, but our 1992 Ford Tempo that we affectionately call Mr. B has also lent itself to ministry this summer. Sam probably had no idea he'd be riding around in a cheap blue jalopy this summer, but it, along with Daniel, has gotten him back and forth to the two most important places he needed to go: work and church. We're thrilled that God chose to use us to minister to Sam. We really were the ones who got the bigger blessing.

I've shared our two little scenarios of how God has allowed us to minister to some college guys. Now let me give you a few things I've learned along the way.
  • God can use the simplest things in your life, your most basic possessions, to minister to others. Probably He uses the things we hold the most loosely in our grips. I've certainly not held tightly to the futon or our '92 Tempo. But that makes me wonder if there are other possessions that I'm gripping so closely to my chest that I'm preventing God from using them for bigger purposes and thus increasing their value... 
  • The returns on giving to others is far greater than the investment. We get so much joy out of being around both Jesse and Sam. They have no idea.
  • God inevitably links us up with ministry opportunities. All we have to do is be available and willing. We all need to be on the lookout for these golden opportunities and grab them with gusto when they come our way. No need to be shy about it or get caught up in wondering if you're doing it right; just offer or say yes.
  • Ministry is not just about "doing something" for someone. It's about building relationships. I'm so glad we didn't just give Sam a ride, but that we took him to lunch and spent time getting to know him. And I'm equally glad that we haven't just offered Jesse a bed, but we've shared dinner, played board games, and visited with him.
Please don't think I'm proudly telling you what we've done right. We do so little "right" it seems; we certainly have no bragging rights. But this morning my heart is simply full with the benefits of investing the little bit that we have in these two young men. I just want you to know that your heart can be equally full when you simply offer what you have with open hands and allow God to use you in someone else's life. What a blessing.

PS We have pictures of our family with Sam that we took yesterday after lunch. I'll try to get those up later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Peach of a Day

Guess what I'll be doing today?

Something I haven't done in a long time!

I'll be filling these little jars with sweet peach preserves...

and hopefully a larger jar or two with sweet sliced peaches for use in peach cobblers in the future.

This is the result of an innocent, 1-minute conversation with my friend Stephanie while at a funeral yesterday. It went quickly from Stephanie asking, "Have you ever done in canning?" to "I'll bring you everything you need" to this showing up at my doorstep an hour later.

So, much to my surprise, I'm canning peaches today!

But first this...

In fact, I may have to make another pot! It's been a while since I've put anything edible in a sterile jar and sealed it with the hopes that it would still be edible months from now.

Wish me well!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nosing Around in Your Business

He was there to see how we behaved, no question about it. I'd never seen the man before, but others said he had been in Sunday School that morning as well as one of the worship services. Now he was trying to get in the main door of the church which leads to the sanctuary. We could see him through the windows of the Fellowship Hall where we were meeting, so someone went outside to fetch him. We had just begun our annual church business meeting in which we would be voting on the budget and a staffing change. It was reported that we had a quorum, but there certainly weren't many of our church members there. To be real honest, church "business" just isn't a big draw for most folks in our congregation.

The gentleman entered the room where the 60 or so of us were seated around tables and took a seat with a few other friendly looking folks. I turned my attention back to the moderator at the front of the room. I knew the gentleman would be watching this small gathering from our congregation to see how we conducted the business of our church, but I wasn't fazed. I knew that if this meeting went like the others I had attended over the past five years, there would be a little discussion (mainly for informational purposes), a few questions (innocent enough, free of skepticism or manipulation tactics), a lot of laughter, and mostly unanimous votes. Not that our church operates on autopilot or that the membership doesn't care about the ins and outs of the business, but we're just not the type of church that argues or seeks out division. After the meeting we would sit around those same tables and enjoy homemade ice cream, more laughter, and lively conversation. Truthfully, that's why most of the people were there - for the ice cream, not the budget report or anything else on the agenda.

I'm glad the man came to a business meeting to check our church out. I think it's wise for anyone looking for a new church family to investigate the behind the scenes stuff and not just the Sunday show. And I have no idea what the man's impressions of our simple business meeting were. Perhaps he's the kind who would have preferred to see some lively discussion or heated arguments. I doubt it, but you never know.

But here's what I do know. Last night our church conducted the Lord's business (because it's a necessary part of being a church in our modern world) with love, respect, and sweet fellowship. And that speaks volumes about our church family.

I've been in some nasty church business meetings, I'm ashamed to say. I bet you have too. I'm seen some terrible behavior, malicious attacks, snide comments, ungodly decisions, and lousy attitudes. That's not to say that every time there's a disagreement in a church business meeting that it's a bad thing. Church families can disagree among themselves and still behave lovingly and godly. But you and I both know the difference between simple disagreement and ... evil. And, yes, I've seen a some evil in churches.

Here's what we need to know on this Ministry Monday. Ministry is not just about serving others or doing good or teaching the Bible or even loving on the needy. It's about doing all of those things with enough internal integrity to cause those who are watching to sit up and take notice. It's about showing the world that you've got the "real thing" and the "real thing" has made enough of a real difference in you that you can now lovingly and generously share the bounty with others. Ministry is as much about the platform from which you minister as it is the good that you are doing.

Jesus was constantly concerned about motive, attitude, heart condition, and the like. He called the pharisees hypocrites, questioned the motives of the crowd that followed Him, taught his disciples to truly love, and noticed the hearts of those who gave generously, even when their generosity seemed small to others. He was more interested in the how and why than the what or where or when.

The gentleman who visited our church last night during a business meeting undoubtedly saw a family that loves and respects each other and that is more concerned about sharing the gospel than voting on every little move we make. I'm thrilled to be a part of a church that operates with such peace and harmony.

But the bigger question for you and me today is "What are those who are watching me really seeing?" Sure, they may see us teaching a Bible study or taking food to a grieving family or giving our time on a mission trip or visiting the sick. But do they also see us acting with integrity, respecting our leaders, refraining from gossip and slander, forgiving those who offend us, and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? Do they see us handling our personal business - schedules, finances, homes, families, jobs, etc. - with integrity and self-discipline and love? Do they see our joy and peace? Do they notice a lack of anxiety and worry and stress? If so, they'll be more likely to hang around long enough to hear what we have to say about the Lord we serve. If not, we'd be better off to stop "ministering" so as not to mislead. How we behave says so much more than the little details of our "ministry" do. We can all put on a nice show now and then, but real ministry has its roots in the every day, the mundane, the business, the backstage.

It's when someone sticks their nose in your business that they really get a whiff of who you are. We might prefer they didn't do that. We might shudder at the thought. But I guarantee you, someone is nosing around and trying to determine if you're really worth listening to, if you've really got anything they need. When they finally find the right door to get inside and check you out, what are they going to find?

I'm thinking on this today. I hope you will too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Of Names and Hikes

My Names for Yesterday

Yesterday I mentioned that I'd let you know what name I had earned through my attitudes, words, and behavior throughout the day. I realize you don't really earn a name in one day, but over the course of time. But I came up with a few anyhow.

One reader, Courtney, offered a link in her comment that leads to a great web site that gives meanings for all sorts of names. This link specifically leads to Hebrew and Jewish names and their meanings. Check it out if you dare and consider what names you have earned. Here's what I came up with based on what I did and how I lived just yesterday:

Leah - Weary (I was exhausted by 7:00 pm, from what I do not know!)

Moria - My teacher is God (I did spend some time studying my Bible yesterday and my kids and husband know I love doing this. He teaches me so much each day!)

Oran - pale one (I went swimming at my friend Rosita's house yesterday and since she has dark skin she would probably say I am a pale one!)

Sachiel - angel of water (at least I like to think I looked like an angel as I swam through the water! Probably not...)

Zebulon - home (I spent a lot of time doing home things yesterday - laundry, cooking, ironing, etc.)

Hiking with My Pal

Last week I did a 6.7 mile hike with my hiking buddy and friend, Kim. Since it's July in Arizona (and elsewhere, of course) I decided we should head up to the top of Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina mountain range for our trek. It's about 30 meaningful and significant degrees cooler up there! So we drove about 5000 feet up into the mountains - no small feat for these two windy road wimps - and got to our destination of 7,410 feet at about 9:00 that morning.

This photo was actually take on the way down. I was holding on to the arm rests too tightly on the way up to take any pictures!

It's amazing how you can go from this...

... to this in Arizona in just a matter of minutes.

We started at Marshall Gulch at 9:00. This is my "good hair" shot...because if you've been reading my blog long at all you know I have a real thing for good hair moments. When hiking, I have to seize the moment because the hair is always the first thing to go!

I think this is at the beginning of the trail. Actually the guy at REI told us to take the drainage ditch up the hill instead of the actual trail because it was prettier, so we did. At some point we joined the actual trail but we have no idea when that occurred...

I just wanted to make sure you realized there was plenty of uphill climbing on this hike. I like to get credit where credit is due...

This photo cracks me up because, though it's a great picture of Kim, the moment was a little awkward. We came across this young woman who was all by herself and having some kind of moment. She had stopped in a little grove of trees and was staring into space. I'm not sure if she was becoming one with nature, praying, birdwatching or just stretching and breathing, but it was obviously some kind of ...moment. And it was at this moment that Kim decided we needed to take a break and she needed to eat some Chips Ahoy cookies. She was rattling the wrapper and posing for pics and this woman was communing with nature or watching birds or something. I was relieved when Kim finally decided we could move on!

Of course the awkwardness didn't keep me from posing for a picture too. After all, the hair was still looking pretty good.

It was about here that we came across a whole big group of girls and their adult sponsors from some kind of camp. They were practically marching through the woods and yelling something like "hidey hey, hidey hoe!" If Kim and I didn't ruin that young woman's "moment," this little band of enthusiastic hikers certainly did!

I love a good dirt trail surrounded by soft green grass. Unfortunately, this was not typical for this hike. It was mostly rocky and rough. I guess that's kind of how life is too. We crave the shaded, even, and nicely trimmed trail sections, but generally live on the rocky inclines.

Once we got off the Marshall Gulch Trail and onto the Aspen Trail, it was all up hill. Breaks like this became more and more common. As we looked up we thought, "Surely we're not going all the way to the top!" But, alas we did. At this point the trail definitely earned its "more difficult" rating.

We could hear men's voices ahead of us and assumed they were hikers we would soon be crossing paths with. But, alas, we were actually hearing the men who were working on these towers. This is the top of the mountain that we didn't realize we were hiking to. We hiked up 1,000 feet to 8,400.

When we got to the top, I sat on a little bench and ate my lunch (it was a pleasant 65 degrees or so at this point), while Kim...

walked over to the ski lift and asked if we could have a ride down and back up. Even though she offered to pay for it (with what I don't know because we didn't have any money on us!), the guy wouldn't let us get on at the top. You had to get on at the bottom! So then Kim visited with all the people who got off the lift. I have no idea what they were talking about.

This was the view as we headed back down. Not very pretty because a recent fire burned all the aspen trees in this section. But the far off view was nice.

Here Kim is in a grove of Aspens and ferns at the bottom of the trail.

Same grove. Very picture worthy. The grove that is, not me.

On the way down.

Our only picture together. You never know how the shots are going to turn out when you ask someone else to take them. But, at this point I didn't care! From here we headed to In' N Out for burgers and fresh fries. Now that is the way to end a hike!

Great hike! Great day! Great friend!

PS - one more thing! If my pictures of the hike made you hot and tired, you might want to head over to StoneGables where Yvonne is giving away a Cuisinart Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt and Sorbet Maker! Yippee! You'll love her blog and maybe even win a nifty kitchen gadget!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Would They Call Me?

We call someone who is optimistic and positive a Pollyanna. Our name for a woman who stirs the pot and creates a lot of mayhem might be a drama queen. And we might say someone who lets everyone walk all over them is a doormat. We tend to give labels based on demeanor, attitude, words and actions. I'll admit it - I know a couple of men from former churches that I called "the turtle" and "the weasel." I won't tell you who they were and why I called them that (only to myself, by the way), but suffice it to say they earned these titles by their consistent poor behavior.

But in the book of Acts we are introduced to a man whom Jesus' apostles affectionately called "Son of Encouragement" or Barnabas. Did you realize that Barnabas wasn't this missionary's birth name? His name was actually Joseph, but he was called Barnabas because, like the turtle and the weasel, his character, consistent behavior, and attitude earned him the name. And so, throughout the rest of the New Testament, wherever Joseph the Levite of Cyprian birth was mentioned he was called Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement.

Why did the apostles call this man Son of Encouragement? Here's a little list of some of the things I found out about Barnabas from the Scriptures. See if you don't agree with the apostles' assessment:
  • He sold a tract of land he owned and brought the money to the apostles and laid it at their feet (Acts 4:37).
  • He cleared the air between Paul and the apostles, standing as Paul's advocate before them and defending his personal testimony (Acts 9:27).
  • He witnessed God at work among the church at Antioch and "rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord." (Acts 11:23)
  • "He was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." (Acts 11:24)
  • He was sought out for his teaching about Jesus. He had earned a reputation as a good and accurate teacher. (Acts 13:7)
  • The people loved hearing the gospel from him and couldn't get enough! (Acts 13:42)
  • He was bold! (Acts 13:46)
  • When faced with persecution and personal attack, he and Paul "shook off the dust of their feet" and went on to the next place undaunted. (Acts 13:51)
  • Even after leaving a city with a taste of defeat, he was "continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."
  • Over and over, he and Paul continued to preach the gospel boldly in the face of bitter persecution and mocking. (Acts 14:1-7)
  • When the people in Lystra began praising him and Paul and calling them Zeus and Hermes respectively, they adamantly refused such praise and worship and deflected it all to the true God instead. (Acts 14:14-15)
  • He went from city to city "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.'"
  • The apostles and elders called him their beloved Barnabas. (Acts 15:25)
  • He insisted on giving John Mark a second chance and taking him on missionary tour with him, even when Paul disagreed. (Acts 15:37-39)
  • He erred on the side of believing in people rather than on the side of skepticism. (Galatians 2:13)
I'd say they got Barnabas' name right. He was indeed a son of encouragement, the kind of guy you'd want to know and be associated with, the kind of man you'd want on your side when the going got tough, and the type of friend you'd want to lift you up when you were sinking.

There are folks all around us today who could use a little encouragement. As we see from Barnabas' example, encouragement isn't just all about words or platitudes either. It's about standing next to someone who's facing the firing squad, so to speak. It's about defending the helpless and holding up the weak. Encouragement includes financially supporting those you believe in, those who are doing something important and sacred. It also includes a steady diet of prayer and worship so that strength and joy and fortitude flow easily from you to others. Encouragement means you keep going in the face of discouragement until slowly but surely your own courage returns and even spreads to those around you. And it means always, always giving God the glory and honor He alone deserves and never gobbling up the praises of men for yourself.

Realizing that Barnabas wasn't really Barnabas at all, but that he had simply earned that name by his consistently encouraging conduct, made me think about my own name. Not the name I was given at birth, but the "names" I've earned. I hesitate to spend too much time thinking about it, to tell you the truth. The prospects are a little scary. But I can determine the "names" by which I'd like to be called from this day forward. "Daughter of Encouragement" would be a good one, as would "Godly Girl" or "Woman of Wisdom" or "Kay of Kindness" or "Faithful Follower."  Unfortunately I can't just fill out a few forms and send them into some government office to receive the rights to these names. I must earn them the old fashioned way - through a change in character, a renewal of my mind, consistent behavior, and an attitude that rises to the occasions I find myself in on a daily basis.

So, just to get us started, let's think about our name for today. At the end of this day let's reflect back on our attitudes, words and behaviors and determine what name we have earned - just for this day. A little scary, huh? But a worthwhile exercise no doubt. Tell you what, tomorrow I will even take the time to leave a comment in the comment section letting you know what name I gave myself for the day. Granted, the names we give ourselves may differ from the ones others think we have truly earned, but it's a place to start.

What would they call me? Good question. What would they call you?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Living the Sacred Life

"The Holy Spirit came down on them, 
just as on us at the beginning."
- Acts 11:15

How are you serving the Lord today? If you're not working at a Vacation Bible School or serving on a mission trip to a foreign land, you may be tempted to think you're not really doing any kind of ministry on this Monday morning in the middle of July. But it doesn't have to be that way. This very mundane Monday can be full of the sacred, dedicated to the holy, and rich in ministry...for any believer.

In Acts 11, the apostle Peter seemed a little surprised that the Holy Spirit had come down upon and moved into the Gentile folks he spoke to about Jesus. He'd barely gotten use to the fact that the Holy Spirit could indwell any Jew who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Peter had probably assumed that when Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit in the upper room right before He died on the cross He was only promising Him to the twelve who were gathered there. But when the fire of the Holy Spirit heated things up it was in the hearts and souls of 120, not 12. And later the apostles would witness the Holy Spirit moving into the lives of even non-Jews. With time and experience they learned that the Holy Spirit would reside within all those who followed Jesus.

With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are all walking, talking, serving disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit comes with a calling. He's not here just to make our lives a little easier; He comes into our lives to give us power, direction, wisdom, spiritual gifts, passion, and purpose. We're called to share the gospel, minister to the hurting, shed light in the darkness, love the unloved, and teach the truth. And we have the one thing required to be successful in that lifestyle of ministry - the Holy Spirit.

Today I'm at my desk answering e-mails, catching up on correspondence about speaking engagements, tending to details about my soon-to-be-published book, sending out magazine queries and making arrangements for women's ministry events at my church. That may sound like glamorous ministry (if you're really insecure!). Believe me, it's not. I even struggle to see it as significant or worthwhile at times. But it's the work God has given me to do today.

I'm also doing loads of laundry my husband and daughter brought home from youth camp, cooking dinner for my guys (Abby's off at another camp), taking care of my dogs, dusting the furniture and running errands. If I'm not careful I could easily categorize these tasks as non-ministry while the stuff done at my desk seems more "ministry like." But the truth is, whatever work God gives me for this day is my ministry. If the Holy Spirit is working through me to give me the energy, the right motivation, the sweet spirit, and the grateful heart to do the job well, then I'm ministering well. But if I cut Him out of it and try to do my household jobs and serve my family on my own, neglecting to see my every moment as ministry, then I'm just operating in the flesh and nothing I do will amount to much.

We all have work to do. Who we do that work with determines whether it's aimless, worthless, trivial and mundane or whether it's significant, meaningful, and even sacred. Invite the Holy Spirit to join you, even flow through you, as you do your given tasks today and see if you don't feel just a touch more purposeful and intentional about your work. He can make all the difference. He is the one difference between just living and living the sacred life.