Know More

This last week we celebrated the retirement of a woman completing a lifetime of ministry. (Though, as my friend would readily agree, in Christian ministry retirement only means a change of emphasis!) We heard amusing stories of her first job–as the steadying hand for junior highers in their enthusiastic, bumpy road of faith. “She paid attention to me” was a thread woven through the tapestry of many memories. When relatively few females pursued seminary training, this woman plunged into the fray. Through the years she has ministered in churches, communities, in the graduate level international classroom. She tackled an oft-neglected topic as her doctoral dissertation. The microphone that afternoon in the beautifully decorated reception room was well used as person after person lauded her person as well as her accomplishments; words like strong, faithful, consistent, dedicated were repeated.

Then one man posed this question: “Because of your many years of living and working in Europe, can you tell us how American Christians can better understand the often confusing state of world affairs, especially what’s happening now in Europe and the Middle East?” She paused only momentatily and I wondered how this woman of strong opinions would answer without alienating her American audience!

“Know more!” was her emphatic answer. Among other things she added, “Don’t just listen to your three favorite (and here I add, ‘perhaps biased’!) media outlets. Read and listen widely. Just know morei”

It’s easy to become lazy when information comes from every side. Like infants, we become accustomed to being spoon fed. We don’t stretch beyond our familiar and comfortable physical, mental, spiritual, emotional borders. We rarely ask questions of our preconceived and culturally soothing ideas and beliefs, leading to cemented minds and hearts.

It doesn’t take intellectual prowess or supposed “deep thinking” to consistently be on the alert for “knowing more.” Discovering why people think and act deepens relationships. Reading the newspaper with map or globe nearby gives us insight into events and people worlds away from our shores. Author Julie Gordon encourages us to ask, “How am I gaining more insight into God’s ways and becoming more complete in knowing God?”

Why not join me in a lifetime goal of knowing more?


PS  Several people have asked me to include a question or suggestion (Action Point?) at the end of most blogs for personal or group thought and/or action. Feel free to use these in any way that is helpful. If you wish to respond to me, click on Comment or reply to me at


Action Point: Purchase a globe and when you hear or read about a nation mentioned by newscasters or reported in print media, find the nation on the globe. Notice not only where it is, but its proximity to other nations. Intentionally imagine yourself in that situation. What are you seeing? feeling? Current examples: girl hostages in Nigeria, fighting in the Ukraine.

The Epistle of Facebook

FacebookBefore I am accused of being sacrilegious, let me explain that the word ‘epistle’ according to my Oxford English Dictionary simply means “a letter, especially one of a literary, formal or public nature.” Thus, because this post is of a “public nature”…

During one of my Facebook meanderings, I discovered news about family and friends, new babies, recent vacations, exciting job challenges, etc. It was good to catch up and I reminded myself to more often wander through the site.

My eyes widened, however, when I saw an inflammatory headline about President Obama. The words didn’t just condemn a political stance or decision. They impugned his character and motives, his racial identity, his very person. Most disturbing, this was posted for the entire world by a person I assume to be a Christian. I came to that conclusion by other of her posts: she identifies herself as such, is compassionate toward others (with this one obvious exception!), involved in her church and community and is a loving parent.

In an instant my thoughts flew to other words I’d recently read: Brothers and sisters, whatever is true… noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8). And, of course, the words that Jesus’ own brother wrote: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9).

We live in the usually wonderful world of technology. The good news of Jesus now flies to every corner of the globe where the internet reaches. I personally receive comments from nations where missionaries and other Christian workers cannot physically be present, or are in mortal danger if they cross the borders. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work through technology, there truly are no closed countries. The “epistle” of Facebook is neutral, but what is posted carries moral and spiritual weight.

James spares no words in describing the danger of a similarly neutral tool, the tongue. He knew full well that our tongues have been created by God, for God. But he’s adamant about how what was created for good can be used for evil. Read these words of James in “Marilyn’s paraphrase:” Facebook is a small part of life, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. Facebook also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame Facebook. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With Facebook we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Amen and amen.

Day After Mother’s Day

I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day. I enjoyed telephone chats with our three children yesterday, but I also love their spontaneous texts about a grandchild’s success (or tears) or pictures of Pacific waves rolling to shore (he knows I have a love affair with the ocean) or an email about her latest cooking accomplishment (with Kenyans or New Yorkers as guests). Hallmark—or homemade—cards are appreciated but I fondly remember the time my husband and I returned home to find our dining room table covered with a white sheet, my fine goblets filled with grape juice and a candle glowing: it was our anniversary. Flowers sent via FTD© are always appreciated but oh, those dandelions that graced our table in years gone by.

Perhaps we should begin a Day-After-Mother’s-Day celebration in which we mothers honor our children. Not only a time to laud their accomplishments but also an occasion to note their character, or the small, often unnoticed, marks they leave on the world. All of our three use words with skill and artistry. One son’s career is in the publishing industry where not only are his words influencing others but his creativity is seen in his design of book covers. Another son uses his words to help people more clearly see God’s love. Our daughter’s words not are only seen in poetry and story but in how she helps teenagers move their often muddled ideas into (semi!) coherent English.

Our daughter has never been satisfied with pat answers, a trait that has caused her heartache along with insight about God, herself and others that astounds. Our oldest son’s sense of humor is quirky and spot on. This firmly planted Californian laughs—almost giggles—at our Colorado snow on Mother’s Day and also roars at a friend’s joke over a glass of beer. Our younger son enthusiastically throws himself into his daughters’ soccer or his son’s rugby games and Daddy Daughter dances while also wholeheartedly pursuing the passion of Christian ministry.

Our daughter influences thousands of lives from around the world as she pours herself into the rarely applauded career of teaching, especially the niche of training international students to read and write English. Our sons have committed themselves to marriage and family which sometimes means they have placed their own desires on hold. I seriously doubt they see this as grave sacrifice; it is merely a fact of life that brings its own rewards as that path is lovingly chosen. In so doing they encourages their wives to be women of influence and will be seeing their children make greater marks on the world than they could personally accomplish.

These three children—now adults—are really no different than many of your own. Shall we begin this new holiday, this Day After Mother’s Day celebration? I think our children might be surprised, would certainly be encouraged, by our efforts.

Tent Pegs

I am not a camper. In my opinion, tents should be limited to military bivouacs or emergency shelters. My husband delights in telling all who will listen that he has had me in tents only twice in 57 years of married life. And both times were…intense.

But even I know the importance of tent pegs. Without the proper peg, made of a suitable material, and without its proper use, tent occupants may awaken to canvas floating onto their faces or, in windy conditions, said canvas whipping away. One expert says that in addition to holding the tent in place, pegs help maintain the tent’s shape.

My fairly well-worn Bible has lots of underlining, countless asterisks, usually decipherable notes and dates to mark a certain phrase or verse that had special meaning. In the margin near Psalm 31:14-15 I’ve written these words: TENT PEG!

What was happening in writer David’s life to initiate these words: I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God” My times are in your hands…? And why are these words so important to me? Why do I need them as an anchor so I won’t “float away,” so I “maintain my proper emotional and spiritual shape”?

It’s likely that Psalm 31 was written in response to critical events in David’s life. Although anointed as king, he was being pursued by Saul and his armies (see 1 Samuel 23). Saul was deternined to kill this upstart in order to maintain his own position even though he’d been warned that because of rebellion and self-centeredness, “The Lord had torn the kingdom from him.” In the psalm David reveals his vulnerability with words like anguish, affliction, contempt, forgotten. Words that picture a man who is on the verge of losing not only a worthy goal, but his own life.

I’ve never been in the midst of a military battle. I’ve never had to literally fight for my life. But countless times I’ve had to choose to say, “I trust in you, Lord” in the midst of a spiritual or emotional battle. Often those words have come in what a call the paradox of hopeless faith–perhaps like Peter when in a mixture of resignation and faith he said to Jesus, “Master, to whom would we go? We’ve thrown in our lot with you, we’ve cut all our ties, you’re the only one left, you’re IT!” Whatever Peter’s tone of voice, whatever David or Marilyn’s tone of voice, Jesus accepts the declaration.

But it’s the next phrase that pounds in my tent peg with the mallet of conviction: “My times are in your hands…” That means I choose not to live in regret, in the murky waters of “what might have been.” To be honest, it can be comfortable to live there awhile, to dwell on decisions made in the past, to wonder what life would have been like if… But that’s only a place to visit, not settle into. My yesterdays, my todays, my tomorrows are anchored in the One most trustworthy.

Thomas Cranmer, a 16th century Christian martyr, said it best, God takes us on journeys where we do not wish to go. He makes us travel by roads we do not wish to use…to take us to places that we never wish to leave.