Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Master and Servant

Moses said to the LORD (Yahweh), "O Lord (ADONAY), I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue."   13.  But Moses said, "O Lord (ADONAY), please send someone else to do it."  Exodus 4: 10, 13

This week we continue in Moses' story as we discover our relationship with ADONAY, Lord, Master.  In the passages above, Moses addresses God as Adonay, acknowledging that God is his Master at the same time he is questioning God's calling.

Take a minute... have you ever done this?  I know I have, probably way too often.  And then I wonder, 'how can I question God's choice!?  That's pretty brazen!  And not how I should respond, regardless of what I think about myself.'  Then I get into the whole downward spiral of beating myself up for questioning God and not feeling worthy of His calling.  It's a rabbit hole of negativity that I find myself falling down.  Have you been down that rabbit hole?

The Good News is that ADONAY doesn't allow us to fall too far, especially when He is the one giving us a task.  He is our Master and calls us to do His work, not our own.  He equips us, even when we doubt ourselves.  And when we really doubt our ability, like Moses did, He allays our fears by sending help.  Yahweh, our personal redeemer, sends someone to grab our ankle and pull us up out of the rabbit hole, like Aaron did for Moses.  Aaron came alongside Moses to carry out the Lord Master's plan of setting His people free.

My personal 'rabbit hole' is trying to figure out what it all means... As I'm reading the Bible I often wonder 'what was God thinking?!  What was the point?  Why did God or a person make that choice?  What am I suppose to get from this story?'  While exploring, wondering, and questioning can be useful tools to a deeper understanding and faith, they can also set a trap of out of control questions, guesses, and tangents that take me further away from the Truth.  When I notice that I've gone down that twisting, twirling tangent I listen for God's voice, I pray for guidance back out of that dark hole and on to the right path.  I return always to the truth of God's love for me, that He is both Adonay (Lord, Master) and Yahweh (LORD, always near).  I am His servant; He loves me and would not ask of me anything that He cannot do through me.  He has given me a brain with which to gain knowledge, help others and I should use it for good, not for questioning God's command.

As you work through the study questions on page 40 and 41, take the time to write out your answers (either in the book or in your journal).  Spend some extra time on questions 4 and 6.  Try to be very honest with yourself, though it's not always easy to do.  And for question 6, if there has been someone specifically who has come alongside you, allow this to be an opportunity to acknowledge them.  Reach out to them and let them know how thankful you are.  Perhaps they are unaware of your gratitude.  Either way, it's always nice to hear a word of thanks!

REMINDER: We will not meet at Redeemer this week, Oct 31st or next week, Nov 7th due to numerous conflicts.  Keep reading and I will keep posting; we can have our study right here on the blog over the next 2 weeks!  I look forward to reading your comments and discussing "ADONAY  LORD, MASTER" with you.  Click here to post your comment.
For next week, read "YAHWEH ROPHE THE LORD WHO HEALS".

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A close, personal Redeemer

"God replied, "I AM WHO I AM.  Just tell them, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"  Exodus 3:14 (NLT)

Have you ever felt like God is just up there, far away and uninterested in life here on earth?  I have and suspect that even the most devout have too, even if it was fleetingly.  Sometimes, when life is difficult, we wonder if God takes any notice.

He does!  In the reading for this week, Exodus 3: 1-20, we meet THE LORD, YAHWEH, "... a name closely linked to God's redeeming acts in the history of his chosen people". (The Names of God,  by Ann Spangler, pg 33)  It is in the character of this name, YAHWEH, that we take comfort that God has been and will be, always present with those who "... obey the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways, the LORD will establish you as his holy people as he solemnly promised to do."  Deut. 28:9.

In our reading, Moses is called in a not-so-subtle, yet very private & personal way, to lead God's people out of Egypt.  He comes to Moses, they have a conversation in which God tells him of His concerns about the Israelites, and of the rescue that Moses will lead in His name.  Moses questions God's choice in leadership, but God assures him and promises to be with him.  It is this revelation of WHO God is that will ensure Moses' success as leader, fulfilling God's command.

I have always loved this story, but most often focused on the big, miraculous, exciting things that happened.  Today, thanks to the questions in our study, I am focused more on what God reveals about himself and what that means to me.  What is God revealing to you?  Write down your answers as they first come to you.  But don't forget about it as you go about your life.  Allow the questions and the Scripture to remain with you throughout your day and your week.  Come back to the questions later and see if your perspective has changed or more has been revealed as you spend time with God's Word.

The next time you have a conversation with God and He calls you to something you don't think you can do, call on YAHWEH.  When you feel like God is far away, pray to THE LORD, YAHWEH  and remember His promises.  YAHWEH  IS and always WILL BE, He is with us,  He is merciful, gracious, rich in unfailing love and forgiveness; He is a strong fortress and will save us from our sins.  These words and many more descriptions of YAHWEH can be found in the "passages for continued study" on page 37.  As you read through these passages, make note of the descriptors of THE LORD.  What comfort and strength do you receive from them?  If you don't yet have the book, I am happy to list the passages in the comments,  just ask :)

In your journal this week, write about a time when you met THE LORD, YAHWEH.  Your experience may not have included a burning bush, but anytime God is with us during a challenge is significant.  As you recall the time, reflect on how you felt before, during, and after.  Record how the experience effected you and those around you.

"May the LORD bless you and protect you.  May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace."  Numbers 6: 24-26

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

One step at a time

"Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns."  Genesis 22:13a

Have you ever found yourself at the corner of "a rock and a hard place"?  What did you do?  Where did you turn?  What was the state of your heart?

In this week's study, we are exploring YAHWEH YIREH, The Lord Will Provide.

The verse above is taken from the larger story found in Genesis 22.  God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only and long awaited for son, Isaac.  Personally, I have gone through the gamut of emotions with this passage over the years.  From horror that God would ask such a thing, to horror that Abraham would go as far as he did!  I've also been sad, mad, confused, worried and scared.

I've even put myself in Sarah's shoes a few times and wondered what she was thinking as her husband & son went off into the dessert.  Did she have a feeling something was amiss?  I truly struggled with the whole idea that God would put his trusted servant to the test in this way.  Hadn't Abraham already proven how faithful his was?  And by extension, if He tested Abraham like this, what could He have in store for me?!  I'm not up to that kind of test!

However, as I read it with the understanding of The Lord Will Provide, I see that perhaps this is as much a test for us, the readers, as it was for Abraham.  Perhaps we are meant to struggle with this story of belief, faith, sacrifice, and provision.  Maybe we're suppose to move forward, one step at a time, and allow God to provide for our future, just as Abraham trusted that God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice.

Our author, Ann Spangler, brings this idea to light when she asks us to compare this scene with John 1:29, where John the Baptist declares Jesus as the Lamb of God.  Spend some time with question 3.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the connection between the scenes AND how it relates to your life.

When have you met YAHWEH YIREH?  When has The Lord provided for you?  I'd love to read your story of provision!  Don't forget, click here to go to the website to Comment, if you are reading this in your e-mail.

I look forward to seeing many of you in person on Friday morning!  Remember, though, this is also for those who cannot make it in person.  Follow along in the book (The Names of God by Ann Spangler) and connect with the group through the comments.  If you are a friend or member of our home church, Redeemer Lutheran, connect with us during other events and on Sunday mornings!  If you are joining us through this blog and live in the area, we'd love to meet you at Redeemer!  Go to our website for all the details of where & when.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's in a Name?

"No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah."  
~ excerpts from Genesis 17:1-18

Hello!  Welcome to week 3 of our study, The Names of God by Ann Spangler.

This week we are introduced to EL SHADDAY, God Almighty.  If you've been around the church or listen to Christian music, this is probably a name you've heard before.  Amy Grant made the name more known with her 1982 song, "El Shaddai".  If you're new to the church or have never heard Ms. Grant's song, that's okay!  All you need to know is in our study this week.

In our reading, (Genesis 21:22-34) it is God Himself who reveals this name to Abram and by doing this reveals who He is.  WOW!  How would you react if God revealed Himself to you with this name?  Pay close attention to how Abraham reacts.  What is your take on that?  I'm really not sure what to think about Abraham and his response!  Though it does bring to mind times when I've reacted the same way to God's calling, "who? me?  you must be kidding!  how am I suppose to do that?"

You may notice that I used both Abram and Abraham in that last paragraph.  That's because he was Abram at the beginning of our reading and Abraham by the end of it.  God changes his wife's name, too.  Why do you think God changes their names?  What significance does that have? And what could that possibly mean for us?

While the reading is short and EL SHADDAY may be familiar to you,  I encourage you to spend quiet time with the questions, especially #5 & #6.  It is in pondering and answering these questions that God will be revealed to you and others through your life.

If you don't yet have the book, here are the last two questions:

#5. Have you ever had to wait a long time before God acted in your circumstances?  Describe your experiences and how it tested you.

#6. What does the name EL SHADDAY, God Almighty, mean to you?  How have you experienced God's almighty power working on your behalf?

I would love to read about how you have experienced El Shadday in your life.  I hope you will share your story in the Comments!

Have a wonderful week!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  ~ Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nothing is hidden

"He will not let you stumble and fall; the one who watches over you will not sleep.  The Lord himself watches over you!  The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade."  Psalm 121: 3, 5

How comforting is our opening verse!  Knowing that God does not sleep, but keeps an ever watchful eye on me, as a protector, fills me with warmth and confidence.

But what about those times when I fall short, very short?  Then the idea that God sees what I did or didn't do, allows feelings of guilt and shame creep in.  I want to run & hide.

What about those times of difficulties and suffering?  Does God see me then?  Sometimes it feels like He doesn't!  But the name EL ROI implies that He does.

This week we are encountering EL ROI, the God who sees me.  The passages for continued study at the end of this section point towards a God who is ever watchful over us; the comforting side of His all seeing-ness.  But, our Key Scripture is in the story of Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman who bore Abram's first son.  It is Hagar who gave this name to the Lord.  And I suspect that maybe she felt like God wasn't watching over her.  And once she realized He had been, she felt a little guilty about the way she had behaved.

Fortunately, her story doesn't end there!

As you study and read her experience, discover in your own life when you have encountered EL ROI, the God who sees me.

I encourage you to write down those times in your life when you suspected God had taken a 'coffee break' from His watchfulness.  Then try to recall if that difficult time later proved useful or turned into a blessing.  Perhaps you are in that difficult time right now.  Journal your thoughts and feelings as they come to you.  Write prayers to ELOHIM and EL ROI and watch as God, in His time and His way, turns your world around.

I'd love to hear about your encounter with EL ROI, the God who sees me.  Comment below (click here if you are reading this in e-mail) to share your experience!   I can't wait to read how God is working in your life!!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Creativity - it's in us!

"In ages past you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands." Psalm 102:25

As I try to gather my thoughts on this first name of God, ELOHIM, I am all aflutter!  There is so much conveyed by the description 'mighty creator'.

What comes to mind for you?  Think & journal about it before you continue reading.  I want to hear what your thoughts are before you read mine!  Seriously, stop reading and write what comes to mind when you ponder what God, Mighty Creator looks like, sounds like; what characteristics & emotions bubble up to the surface upon hearing that title?

Good!  I hope you'll share your thoughts & ideas in the Comments!

When I see God, Mighty Creator I see order & logic coupled with imagination, ingenuity, and indulgence.  To create things as big as space, as deep as the oceans, and as powerful as wind requires strength beyond my understanding.  And to create all the colors found in nature, the variety of tastes & smells & sounds, and the proliferation of the all the different kinds of creatures, speaks to me of a God who just couldn't get enough, of anything!  Once His creative wheels got rolling, He just kept on going.  And while it seems obvious to us to create the world in the order in which He did, it still speaks of a God who is orderly & logical.  There is gentleness, too, in flower petals, soft breezes, the lap of ocean waves upon the shore, and the bonds of family among people & animals.  Mighty Creator is God so big He created everything, from the sun to the stripes on a bumble bee.  And yet, offers to give it all to us to care for and is forever concerned with each one of us, because we are His creation too.

Recall a time when you created something.  How did you feel during the process?  Afterwards?  Did you stand back and admire your work?  Did you give it to someone?  What did you expect or hope for in return?  Or did you keep because it's too difficult to entrust it to someone else?
When I write I spend quite a lot of time on it.  I write, re-write, read it a hundred times, change it, stare at it, wonder what someone else will think about it and then, when I think it is just right and feel a little pride in what I have done, with shaking finger I hit "publish".
Then wait and hope that someone is touched by what I have created.

It's not easy to create something and then give it away.  But that's exactly what God did in Genesis 1:26-30.  How does this idea of God as creator and us as being entrusted with His creation influence how you live your life?  And how can we instill in future generations the idea that we are the recipients of a heavenly treasure right here on earth?

When have you known ELOHIM - God, Mighty Creator?  I look forward to reading your encounter with the creator of the universe.

Your partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to the Beginning

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1

Welcome!  I am so excited that you are here!  I told you we were going back to the beginning and our opening verse is as close to the beginning as we can get.

I can't wait to get started on our new study, The Names of God by Ann Spangler (not to be confused with her books, Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus).  

I have always been fascinated by names, which is beyond ironic because I have such a hard time remembering people's names.  But, in ages past (and even still in many cultures today) names were very meaningful.  They told others who you were, who your family was, where you were from, possibly what your parents' hopes were for you, and maybe even revealed some of your personality.  Some believed a person's destiny was linked with their name!

As you read through the English version of the Bible, have you ever noticed the different ways God is mentioned?  Things like, "Lord God", "God of Gods", "Almighty", "Almighty God" and so on.  Even as a kid in Sunday School, I wondered about the redundancy of it.  It wasn't until much later, when it really sunk in that the Bible wasn't first written in English and the English language is both complex (because it borrows from so many other languages) and over simplified (because we reduce multiple ideas and feelings into one word) that I became intrigued with the original names of God used in the ancient text.

Can you imagine my excitement when I found this book?!  

As I explored it's contents, my excitement grew because it also meets my Bible study criteria: short readings, a few easy questions, and a few that will really get us talking (deep thinking).  Bonus: It's a 1-book study!  The Scripture is included in the book, so it's easy to throw in your bag and take it along anywhere!  It's just right for those beginning their Faith Journey, those who may be new to Bible study, and interesting & intriguing enough for those who have been studying for years.  It's also written to be done either individually or as a group - perfect for our mash-up Bible study of in-person and on-line communication.  If you can't make it in-person, I hope that you will join us here, on the blog, to discuss The Names of God.

I really can't wait to get started!!

We will begin with ELOHIM, on page 11.  But, it's always a good idea to read the Introduction (page 9); it's brief and gives a good understanding of where the author is coming from and what she hopes to accomplish through her book.  I love that Ms. Spangler has included a Pronunciation Guide (page 7-8)!   Yea!!

If you're like me and like to think about your answers to the study questions and ponder the "Passages for Continued Study" please read and answer the questions for ELOHIM (p 9-15). 

There is one question I would like everyone to answer for every name of God: Do you know God in this way?  This is a great question to ask yourself before you even begin reading and one to write about in your journal.  Yes, your journal - get it out, dust it off, and get writing :)  That's a note to myself, too!

This week we will do only one name because, of course, we will want to catch up on what everyone was doing over the summer!  If you'd like to bring something that represents your summer, please feel free to do so (think Kindergarten show & tell)!  Wink, wink Paula ;)  If you can't meet on Friday morning, please let us all know what you've been up to this summer in the Comments.  We'd love to hear from you!

I will see you Friday morning, September 12th!  I'll have the coffee brewing by 9:10 am!  Come then to catch up with everyone.  We will begin our formal study by 9:30.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Summer Read Along - Interrupted!

"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV

Thank you for joining me on the summer read along!  I apologize for being MIA on the blog, but the summer has not gone as planned and 'my time' was almost non-existent!  I hope you enjoyed the book. What did you like most?  Have you explored any other writing by Suzanne Woods Fisher?  I now follow her on Twitter and Instagram and always enjoy her posts.

Unfortunately, I have yet to locate my missing book, so I am at a loss to talk about the last section.  I'm sure it's around here somewhere...  Please share your thoughts about the last part of the book (or the entire book, for that matter) in the Comment section below.  Don't forget, if you're reading this in your e-mail, click here to go to the blog to leave your comment.  I can't wait to read what you discovered in the pages of our book!

One of the aspects of Amish life that resonates with me is the idea that their faith is not a separate part of their lives.  They live their faith every day - it's in their homes, their work, their relationships - it's a natural part of the fabric of their lives and their community.  It's not to say that they don't have troubles, flaws, or questions, they have many of the same personal struggles and temptations we do.
It reminds me of Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 (the opening verse).  Grab your Bible (or your Bible app) and look up the verse to see more fully the context in which it is spoken.  Moses is speaking to the people of Israel just after he gives them the Ten Commandments.  He's telling them, and us, that we are to obey God all day, every day.  Not just when we are in trouble or on the Sabbath, but always.  Our faith is within us and is to be within everything we do and say and how we live.

When God's word is in our hearts and blankets our lives, we are often able to see and hear God in everyday situations.  Here's a link to a Proverb's 31 devotion that is a wonderful example of how an everyday situation revealed God's word in the author's life.  Have you ever encountered a faith moment in the grocery store line?  How about in a song, not a hymn or Christian song, a secular song?  Or a novel?  I have an aunt, uncle, and cousin who think the Harry Potter books are satanic because their pastor told them they were.  I, however, devoured them (and the movies) and read them to my children.  We own all the books, movies, and even a few wands, and are planning our second trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because I saw lessons of the great power of Love, Faith, and Forgiveness in the pages of those books.  When my family talks about the books we are reading or the music we listen to, we talk about the message that is being conveyed and how that fits into our family's values & our faith.  It's never anything fancy or pious, just regular conversations.  It's what works for us and how, as a parent, I follow Moses' advice.

It's paramount to be a part of a faith community, to attend church on Sunday, to meet regularly together to learn and discuss the Word of God with each other and to be the Body of Christ.  But it is important too, to have the commands of God written on our hearts, to teach them and talk about them daily, to knit them into the fabric of our lives, and to be open to seeing God and hearing God every day.

How do you see and hear God every day?  And how do you pass this on to the young people in your life?  Sharing how you do this will encourage all of us and give us new ideas on how to live our faith and follow God's commands every day.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding of my erratic posting and total derailment (through misplacing my book) of the summer read-along.  Truly, I hope you enjoyed the book.  This was my second reading, and even so, I am disappointed that I could not finish reading it this time around.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer!  I will be announcing our Fall study as soon as I figure out what it is (yes, I'm THAT far behind)!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Monday, July 14, 2014

Our Summer Read-a-Long Continues

"A happy home is more than a roof over your head, it's a foundation under your feet." ~ Amish Proverb

Hello!  Thanks for joining me on the summer read, Amish Values for Your Family, by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  How do you like the book so far?  I just love reading the short stories about a lifestyle that is different from my own and discovering that we are not as shockingly different as I at first thought.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did grow up in Pennsylvania; York County to be specific.  We didn't know any Amish or Mennonite families, but there were Mennonite families in the area.  Lancaster, where many Amish farms & communities are, was only a short drive away.  And I know that my great grandmothers did many things the way the Amish do them, sharing many of the same family values, work ethic, and child rearing philosophies.  These have filtered down and watered down through my family over the years, but I have to admit, in my heart of hearts I yearn for a less cluttered life.  And I don't mean less busy or easier or void of all modern conveniences.  I think what's coming to light for me is a desire for a more focused & satisfied life - whatever that means or whatever that looks like!  I'd imagine it's not the same as my Amish counterpart.  Happily, I think most days I am heading in the right direction.

What story or idea spoke to you?  It's difficult for me to choose just one... I think it's the overall ideas of child rearing that speak the loudest to me.  Here are some things that caught my attention from Section One:

*  Children are important and need to be involved in all aspects of family life from a young age.  However, the family (and the world) should not revolve around a child or the children.  I really like this because when children are involved in family life from a young age, their love for helping, doing, and learning comes to light.  And 'work' and 'learning' aren't dreadful things, they are just a natural part of life.

*  Sometimes it's not about the money spent or saved.  Taking longer to do something because it's a learning experience and an opportunity to bond with your child is always worth the extra time and money!  The story about the rabbit hutch (page 19) is a perfect example of this.  We've had a similar story taking place in our own backyard this summer.  We purchased a new cedar play structure for our youngest daughter and decided to put it together ourselves.  It's hard work, complicated, and slow going but it has been an opportunity for my husband and son to build something together.

*  Don't get frazzled when things don't go as planned or expected or hoped.  This one is easier said than done, but worth it's weight in gold!

*  The Amish do not yell at their children!  Children are generally quiet, even when playing, as compared to English children.  I think there is a direct correlation here.  :)

*  And the children learn chores, manners, social norms and how to behave from their parents, older siblings, and grandparents.  While I don't think children should be sheltered from outside influences, it's nice not to have to fight the media on a child's expectations of what is 'normal'.

*  The Amish have a strong connection to nature.  I share this value with my children, too.  When there's a strong connection to nature, it fosters caring, nurturing, and understanding for others, for the planet, and for those who cannot speak for themselves (animals & plants).  Raising and/or caring for animals or planting and tending a garden offers endless opportunities for growth and understanding about ourselves and the world around us.  No game, book, movie, or classroom can equal the lessons learned through experiences with nature!

I'd love to hear what is coming to light for you!  How are you like the Amish?  Are you incorporating any ideas from the book into your life?  Do you have a favorite Amish Proverb?  I can't wait to hear all about it in the Comment section!!!

One way I have had the pleasure of bringing some Amish life into my own is through Amish Friendship Bread.  If you don't know what it is, ask me in the Comments and I'll explain it more, but here I'll skip right to the good part.  I currently have many loaves in my freezer, along with 8 starters and 12 batches of batter!  My freezers are overflowing with Amish Friendship Bread!!  But through this  abundance I have discovered a wonderful website, Friendship Bread Kitchen!  It is filled with delicious recipes so I will never run out of things to make with my batter.  My latest creations, Root Beer AFB & AFB Chocolate Chip Pancakes (aka Monster Cakes because we make them huge) are big hits with my family!  And she writes novels, too!  More books to put on my must-read list!
If you would like a bag of batter, let me know in the Comment section and I'll get it to you!  Either way, check out the website!  You will want some!!

Wishing you all a lovely week.  And remember, "The forest would be quiet if no birds sang except the best." ~ Amish Proverb

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Summer Read-A-Long!

"The kind of ancestors you have is not as important as the ones your children have."  ~ Amish Proverb

Welcome Back!  Oh, how I have missed you!  Thanks for joining me on the summer read-a-long.  I am very excited to get started on Amish Values for Your Family.

The month of June was so busy for my family it will be a welcome respite to delve into a book about slowing down and keeping family close.  Over the next four weeks we'll take a peek into the Amish and Mennonite (Anabaptist) lifestyles and how we can embrace some aspects of the simple life.  Our author, Suzanne Woods Fisher, writes both fiction and non-fiction books, has a website click here to go to her site, and hosts a blog click here.  She and her family also raise puppies for Guide Dogs!  Her website & blog are wonderfully inspiring.  You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter!  Kind of ironic considering she writes about a lifestyle that avoids or limits modern influences :)  But, I am glad she is so connected and accessible!  I hope you will visit her sites or follow her, if you are on Facebook or Twitter, and read some of her novels.  And be sure to Comment about what you're reading!  I'd love to hear about her other works.

Each of the four sections has a theme and is filled with short stories (3-4 pages) around that theme, starts with an Amish Proverb (my personal favorite), includes some advice on how we can incorporate an Amish value into our busy lives, and ends with "In their own words...", quotes from The Budget, a weekly newspaper for the Amish-Mennonite community.  It's a quick, easy read that will enlighten and inspire - perfect for summer reading!

The first section, Children Are Loved but Not Adored, includes memories of Amish childhood and what made it so special.  Being inspired by that, please share in the comments something that made your childhood special.  It might be a particular family tradition, a one-time summer trip, or quiet time with family.  To take it one step further, ask your children what favorite memory they have from their childhood.  Whether they are still in their childhood or grown, you just may be surprised at their most beloved memories!

I look forward to reading your special childhood memories!

"The best things in life are not things."  ~ Amish Proverb

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"A Model of Wholeness"

"And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." 
Matthew 3:17

This is what happened as Jesus came up out of the water after his baptism by John the Baptist.  It is a short, but incredibly powerful declaration.  It has been depicted in TV, film, and as artwork, but it's difficult to really capture what that voice must have sounded like.  Can you hear it?

As we finish our study on Discovering Our Spiritual Style, we look at Jesus' spirituality as a model of wholeness.  We will explore the ideas of integration (who we are together) and individuation (who we are individually) and take a brief look at how Jesus used these in his ministry.  We will also read several Bible passages that highlight Jesus' balance of Head, Incarnation, Heart, and Mystery or the four quadrants Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.  

Because we have radically slowed down the pace of this study (it's original intention is for a one- or two-day seminar) it's been easy to get 'caught up' in the individual quadrants and lose sight of the overall purpose of the study.  The nice part is that we have been able to explore different worship experiences, especially the Art & Meditation portions.  My hope is that we have all been able to get to know how our individual style fits us, strengthens us and serves a greater purpose in the whole.  And, to quote the study guide, "The goal is not to get anyone to radically change their spiritual style but to assist each other in expanding our spirituality range, to help us find more ways to experience God, and to have greater appreciation for that which is less familiar or comfortable to us." (pg. 23).

I see that, not only as the goal of this study (and book), but in becoming the person God created me to be.  He has given each of us strengths, talents, and abilities, but not so that we can live alone.  He designed us to fit together, to help each other, to provide the missing element for one another.  No person can be complete - perfect - except for Jesus.  He is our model; what we strive for but can never attain on our own.  We need to be connected to God and to each other to draw closer to experiencing spiritual wholeness.

I'd love to hear how you draw closer to experiencing wholeness in your worship.  Do you pray and worship intentionally from each quadrant?  Do you have people or groups in your life who help you to expand and engage in ways that are different than your most comfortable way?

If you will be attending in person on Friday, please bring your favorite Bible!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Air and Fire

"Suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush.  Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn't burn up."  Exodus 3:2 (NLT)

We continue to explore the different paths of spiritual experience in the "Paths to Wholeness" resource, based on the book, Discover Your Spiritual Type by Corinne Ware.
This week we are exploring worship & prayer through Air and Fire!  Both are used throughout the Bible to represent God's presence.  The burning bush is one of my favorites and most vivid!  And it calls Moses to extreme action for the Kingdom of God (one of the markers for the Fire path).

Reading is one of my favorite things to do.  Whether it be for knowledge or entertainment, I am most content to sit & read.  When I took my daughter for a visit to her future college, she went to dinner with her future teammates and they urged me to come along.  They couldn't understand why the prospect of eating alone in my hotel room and reading a book was appealing to me.  I've known this about myself from a very young age, but I never put it together with my spirituality.
This is the insight that our study is giving us.  And it's importance goes beyond just knowing and understanding how we, as individuals, prefer to worship.  It can be helpful by showing us, individually and corporately, what we need to continue to grow in our faith; how to step out of our comfort zone; and how to seek out and appreciate the gifts of others.

Ms. Ware and her predecessor, Urban T. Holmes, contend that we all have tendencies towards one or two paths, but that it is important to maintain a balance among the 4 quadrants (paths).  "The circle emphasizes Holmes's belief that each of four types of authentic religious experience is needed as part of a healthy whole.  The circle itself represents the value placed on unity and on the interdependence of each part."  (Discover Your Spiritual Type, pg. 9).
In other words, I need to do more than keep my nose in a book!  To maintain a balanced life, spiritually and otherwise, I should look to the other paths of Water & Fire to provided the proper tension to my Earth & Air paths.  When I look around at my immediate family and friends, I recognize that often they provide the balance and pull or push that I need to draw me off of my comfy sofa, out of the pages of an interesting book and into the world of action and expression.

I hope, as we study these different paths, that we can open ourselves to new experiences.  Even if we don't incorporate new practices into our personal worship and prayer time, it's still a valuable tool to use on our journey in becoming the person God created us to be.  He created us to be part of a whole, part of a community.  None of us can be complete without each other, by design.

Here's a quick overview of what we will do on Friday when we meet:

First we will look at the Fire Path and talk about volunteerism.  Please read page 20 so that you are familiar with this path's characteristics.  We will not discuss "the situations" on page 21.  We may briefly discuss how we, individually and as a church, contribute to The Kingdom of God through our volunteer efforts.

The bulk of our time will be exploring Air through contemplative meditation.  Please read pages 17,18, and 19 so you are familiar with what we will be doing.  This will make the transition into the meditation smoother and give us more time for the meditation and discussion or quiet time.  If you would like to bring a pillow to sit on for the meditation, please do so.  We will be sitting silently for 10 minutes.

WINNER!!!  Congratulations, Paula!  You are the winner of the journal and pen giveaway!  I will bring it to our meeting on Friday.

Please share your experiences so far in exploring the different paths of spirituality.  Were you surprised by your dominate path?  Do you need to be more balanced?  How do you plan on drawing from the other paths?

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Earth and Water

"And God said, "let the water beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear."  And so it was.  God named the dry ground "land" and the water "seas".  And God saw that it was good."  Genesis 1: 9-10 

Have you figured out your spiritual style based on Corinne Ware's guide?  I am finding it fascinating, but then again, I am mostly Earth, with a strong showing from Air!  Which means, I like this kind of stuff: "thinking" spirituality, the written word has power, love of order, concrete, attempts to make sense of spiritual experiences and give them names!  Describes me and this study to a "T"!  Who else would try to label one's spiritual experiences except an Earth type :)

On Friday I was pushed out of my comfort zone and into the "water".  And it was amazing!!  I am not artsy, though I have a high appreciation and love for art, music, dance, and all things made by human hands.  Personally, I can't draw a stick figure and a blank canvas or lump of clay is just that: a blank, lumpy thing!  But our study is encouraging us to learn about and experience different ways of seeking God, responding to worship, and being spiritual.  So, art supplies were gathered and we ventured into guided meditation.  After allowing the meditation to sit in our minds and hearts for a few minutes, we turned to the water colors, acrylics, and play dough to respond to our experience.  INCREDIBLE!  Afterwards we shared our art, how we felt, what we "saw", and what moved us.   One of the many unexpected results is that often we didn't know exactly why we responded the way we did: a purple house, a red braid of hair.  Some of us had memories stirred and the art reflected that: a jar of nard, a camel, a bowl of peas.  And some responded to the immediate: a rainbow on the hard packed ground, the silhouette of Jesus' head, a free-form poem echoing the meditation, and blue play dough kneaded into nothing in particular.  The process was authentic and the results were rich!

Whether or not you were able to participate last Friday, let me encourage you dip your toe into the "water".  It is refreshing!  As we journey through Holy Week, grab a brush, some clay, or a pen and dare to respond with art from your heart.  Listen to some music that stirs your soul.  Write poetry.  Draw or paint, allowing color to express your emotions.  For more inspiration, here is a link to my friend Jess's blog, Liturgy Beyond Words.  I met her when I was a member of The Presbyterian Church of Morris Plains.  She has since gone off to Seminary and is discovering the world of Liturgical Art.  This is the link to the art work she did during the Palm Sunday sermon.  Her whole blog is very interesting - I hope it inspires you.

Thank you Lisa, for sharing your inspired response from our Friday gathering!  BEAUTIFUL!

The water path is not just about art: it includes being intuitive, extemporaneous prayer, music, evangelism, witnessing and establishing relationships with other people and with God.  In the book, Discover Your Spiritual Type, Ms. Ware says you "seek illumination by heartfelt intuition." (pg 39).  I think that's lovely!

I would love to hear about your artistic response to the Word!  Or what role you think art plays in our spiritual experience.  Have you had a spiritual artful experience that you would like to share?  Comment below and you could be the winner of my next give away!  From those who comment on Art & Spirituality, a random person will be chosen to receive a set of watercolors and a pad of water color paper!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It All Fits Together

"Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm."  Ephesians 6:13

Welcome Spring!  Most people greet spring with great enthusiasm and excitement.  Not me.  Although it's not a popular stance, spring is my least favorite of the four seasons.  I don't get excited until the end of May.  And technically, it's still spring, but March and April hold little appeal for me outside of the fact that some dear friends & family celebrate their birthdays in those months and I do love Easter.  I won't go into all the reasons I am glum & grumpy, but instead turn to one of the verses in my Warrior scripture.

I have been wondering how my word 'warrior' was going to serve me throughout the coming year.  Today, after journaling the happenings of the last few days, I am beginning to see how Ephesians 6:10-18 will help.  I decided to view my glum & grumpy attitude through My Word and this Scripture and it dawned on me that "my time of evil" can be something different for everyone.  

It sounds like some great battle, but it can also mean those little battles I fight every day.  When I want to sit on the sofa, snap at my kids, or yell at the ref who just made a horrible call, I need to resist.  God commands, through Solomon's wise teachings, that I speak "kind words because they are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body" Proverbs 16:24.  He says I should wear the shoes of peace (not get agitated at the ump) and that I will need the shield of faith to protect me from Satan's fiery arrows (that little devil on my shoulder telling me that I have time for one more game on my iPhone, the laundry can wait).  It might seem like a stretch, but these little, daily skirmishes add-up at the end of the day.  I have to decide if I will have a day led by God or a day lost in the muck of selfishness and annoyance.  

What are your 'times of evil'?  Are they little things throughout the day or a big thing that seems impossible to overcome?  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, "But with God everything is possible."(NLT).  And as we study God's word together, we are gathering tools to help us draw closer to God and learn to rely on Him.  

Use your One Word to slow down; take a look at the situation through the lens of your word and the Scripture you have chosen.  God will use these tools and lead you.

Use your journal to examine your state of mind, a situation, or just to write what's in your heart and mind.  Journaling your journey will allow you to see how far you have come and recall all the wonderful things God is doing in your life.  I find it amazing what comes about while taking the time to write it out!

And as we explore our Spiritual Style, we will gain an understanding of what stirs us, fulfills us, and how we best experience our spirituality.  If you haven't already done so, flip ahead in the packet to read the "Dominant characteristics" and "Worship & Theology" of the different paths.  It's fascinating!

I am excited to learn how our different spiritual paths connect, support and compliment each other.  
And how knowing our paths will enhance our use of our One Word, our journals, our gatherings and how we each have our own style of growing closer to the woman God created us to be.

A Giveaway!!

For a chance to win a journal & pen share your response to discovering your personal spiritual style/path in the comment section.  Do the characteristics fit you?  Were you surprised by the outcome?  A winner will be chosen at random from qualifying comments on April 15th.

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

You've Got Style

"Praise to the Lord!  Sing to the Lord a new song.  Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. 3 Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp."  Psalm 149: 1,3

You've got spiritual style!  It's true!  Do you know what it is?  We think of style when it comes to clothing, home decor, car, music choices, even the way we parent, and engage in relationships.  But have you ever considered your Spiritual Style?  And I'm not talking about what you wear to church :)

I'm referring to the way in which you follow God.  The way you worship in church and in your life; how you draw closer to God.  We all have spiritual gifts, talents, traditions, and rituals; but style is more about how we like to do these things.  And although there is no right or wrong when it comes to style, it certainly can stir up emotions and controversy.

Over the next 6 weeks (7 on the calendar because we're not meeting on Good Friday) we are going to explore the different spiritual styles as defined by Corinne Ware in her book, Discover your Spiritual Type: A Guide to Individual and Congregational Growth.   We will not be reading the book (although it is encouraged).  Instead we will be following a "retreat resource" put together by the WELCA.  We will explore what Spiritual Style is and how it impacts our personal worship.  We will also have the opportunity to discover our own spiritual path(s) as well as the spiritual paths of others.  After discovering our own style(s), we will then have the opportunity to experience each of the spiritual paths, as defined in the book.

In preparation, please carefully read pages 3-5 of the "Paths to Wholeness" handout.  Take some time to answer the questions on pages 3 & 4 completely and consider your personal style.
Please do not read ahead!  

For those who have One Word, my hope is that this will be complimentary to living your life through the lens of that word.  Another layer of understanding ourselves, our Sisters, and our relationship to God.

In the comments below, please share your "style" of life as you understand it.  How do you think this will influence your spiritual style?  I'm excited to read all about you "stylish" women!

As a follow-up to last Friday's session, I'd like to thank Janice for that beautiful and moving display of our words.  That had style!  And in my style, I came home and wrote about it - in my journal and in poetry.  Please indulge me as I share my response:

My One Word walks across the room.
Held aloft by little arms.
Clutched in tiny fingers.
Look!  There it is!
It walks, unafraid, across the room.
Silent.  Strong.  
It walks with purpose, not knowing where the journey will end.
My heart is so full it spills from my eyes.
Our One Words parade through the room.
Look!  There's yours!
A living reminder of our journey with the Lord.

Your Partner in Ministry,

Eph 6:10-18

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the sould and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Remember, do not forget!

"Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.  Remember the wonders he has performed,     his miracles, and the rulings he has given..." Psalm 105:4-5

"Remember, do not forget (fill in the blank)..."! 
I can't tell you how many times I've said that to my husband, my children, my family, the class parents, my friends, and myself!  I pen reminder notes, send them via e-mail, in newsletters and blogs, and sometimes I even resort to making phone calls or face to face meetings.  I have 3 calendars, plus those put out by the various teams and organizations that have a hand in making our family schedule.  All in an effort to remember to not forget something!   In fact, right this minute I am remembering that I have forgotten to mail a check!  Thank goodness for notes - when I checked, I saw that I had mailed it, a week before the deadline!  Have you ever done that?  Thought you forget, only to discover that you didn't!?  It makes me wonder what kind of life I've gotten myself into when I forget that I remembered!

Forgetfulness is not a 21st Century problem!  It goes back to the very beginning of human existence.  In My One Word, Mike Ashcraft talks about the Israelites forgetting God's love for them as they wandered through the desert.  It seems like a crazy thing to forget, considering the miracles that took place to get them out of Egypt, but it happened.  And it happens to me all the time!  I am acutely aware that I am a very forgetful person.  I forget people's names right after they introduce themselves; I forget important birthdays; or where I hid gifts, documents, and that air freshener refill that I love and they only had 1 left!  I forget to rely on God for what I need, to thank Him for all he has done and to enjoy the life he gives me.  My forgetfulness can be so frustrating!  So, I turned to 'the great big book of everything': the Bible.

I looked it up on Bible Gateway and the phrase "do not forget" (or some form of it) appears in 15 passages (NLT) from the books of Deuteronomy through Hebrews.   These include commands to God's people and the promise that God does not forget.  Okay, so I'm not the only one who is both using this phrase and in need of it.  It is comforting to know it's not just me!

Then I searched the word "remember" and was overwhelmed by 267 passages (NLT)!  I guess that settles it; humans need to be told to remember!  It appears in 52 out of 66 books of the Bible!  From Genesis to Revelation!  If it was written down that many times, can you imagine how many times it was spoken?!  Clearly, remembering is something we have to be reminded to do.  So when we forget, because we will, we shouldn't throw in the towel.  Pray and keep moving forward on the path to becoming the person God created us to be.

What are some ways you remember things?  I'm sure you learned RoyGBiv to recall the colors of the rainbow, and Every Good Boy Does Fine (or similar phrase) and FACE to learn to read music.  What about now, how do you remember important events, schedules, goals, and God's promises? How will you remember your One Word this year?  What will you do to "Keep it in front of you", as Mike urges us in chapter 5 of My One Word.  And how will you recall everything that happened throughout the year on your journey with your word?  Mike has a suggestion for that, too: "write your guts out"!  For more encouragement click here to read what Women of the ELCA says about journaling.

I am excited to read how you will keep your word present and engaging throughout the year!  For those of you who leave a comment based on these questions, I will randomly choose one person to receive a pen and journal!  I will choose and announce the winner on Wednesday,  April 2nd!

What's Next?
Our next study will begin Friday, April 4th.  Copies of the free booklet can be picked up from me or you can dowload it here.  It is about finding your style of following God's lead! 

Your Partner in Ministry,
Eph 6:10-18

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My One Word - Chapters 11 & 12

"And the Lord replied, "I will personally go with you, Moses.  I will give you rest - everything will be fine for you."  Then Moses said, "If you don't go with us personally, don't let us move a step from this place."  Exodus 33:14-15

As we come to the end of the book, we are reminded of the importance of The Journey.  By now, you have probably chosen a word, or at least narrowed it down.  But in the process of choosing, don't forget the purpose of your One Word - to draw closer to God.

I chose an obvious word for chapter 11: WAIT and for chapter 12 it is JOURNEY.  Both words point to the fact that it takes time to get to our destination, just as both chapters talk about the importance of what happens between today and a year from today with our one word.  We all have a 'destination' in mind when we choose a word - a new & improved self, attitude, outlook, etc.  But it's the moments and days in between now and then that make the change possible. Often times we see a journey as just a waiting time til we get to our destination.  But there's a better way to view it;  Mike puts it this way, "Waiting prepares me for his (God's) lead." (MOW, 159).

Most importantly, it's who we rely on to make that change in us.  Just before the passage above, Moses is a talking with God and expressing concern about traveling to the Promised Land.  The Lord's assurance is not just for Moses - it's for us, too!  When we wait on the Lord, our time is not wasted.  When God travels with us on our journey, he teaches " to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" Psalm 90:12  

Over the next few days, as you finish reading "My One Word" and begin a year-long journey with your word, don't forget to travel with the best tour guide around: God!  Remember to stop and smell the roses and keep a travel journal so that you can look back and recall all the things, big & small / good & bad, that you experienced along the way.  "The normal, natural pace of our lives will not likely lead us toward spiritual formation" (MOW, 23), so be intentional in your endeavour, stay focused on your word, and remain open to what God is doing in your life.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My One Word - Chapters 9 & 10

"There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler."  ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I read this quote this morning on Facebook - it was posted by the ELCA.  If you are on Facebook you should follow them!  They've been posting inspiring quotes throughout Lent!  When I read this one, I couldn't help but think of the My One Word project!  Mike talks about staying open to what God will do through our focus on our word in chapter 7.  And in chapter 10 he touches on why journaling is so important; one of the reasons being that it allows us to see later, that meaning which wasn't clear in the beginning.  We stay with one word for a year, because it is a journey whose destination is not yet known.

Regardless of where you are, keep moving forward, keep reading and writing; listen for God's voice in your search for your word and stay open to what He will do with you throughout the coming year.

Chapter 9 is a little aggressive!  With a title like, "Blow Up the Moment", what did I expect?  But when it comes to avoiding or defeating sin (whatever the sin is) we can't take a laissez-faire attitude.  I thought of the word TEST in this chapter.  Mike suggests we run some tests when we are in situations that can lead us away from God.  We have asked the question over & over, "how do I know it's God talking to me".  In this chapter (along with the 4 C's in chapter 6) Mike gives us some guidance as to how to slow ourselves down and control our thoughts, rather than letting emotions and our "mind monkeys" control them!  I love the image of "mind monkeys"!  It cracks me up and. at the same time, scares me a little!  My mind monkeys run the range from "5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" to the pack of baboons chasing Jane in Disney's Tarzan.  Can you tell I have kids!?  No matter what your mind monkeys look like, they can be tamed with Scripture.

The word that came to me in chapter 10 is a bit obvious: WRITE!  Mike implores us to write our guts out.  And even for someone like me, who enjoys writing, it's not an easy task.  It is a discipline.  To take the time every day or even every other day, to slow down long enough to put pen to paper and record our thoughts, observations, activities, and feelings requires discipline and obedience.  I know I didn't do so well last year with this, but this year it is one of the things I hope to incorporate through focusing on my one word.  Mike does a fantastic job of proclaiming the benefits of journaling.  So, I won't restate his declarations, I'll just say "Find a journal and get started!  Right now!"

We are almost to the end of the book, but that is merely the beginning of the journey!  If you have your word, great!  I hope you have already found a Scripture to guide you and are working on your one small action.  If you haven't yet chosen a word, stick with the process and keep your eyes and ears open!  I thought I had my word narrowed down to 2 last week.  I shared them, Kindness & Obey, but what others said in the course of discussing their words and mine, I have since heard another whispering to me.  More research, listening and writing for me this week!

In the comment section, please share your word (if you have one), your Scripture, your one small action or any questions or struggles you are having discovering your word.  I can't wait to read about your One Word!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My One Word - Chapters 7 & 8

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1

This study is going fast!  I don't know about you, but I feel like even though I can get the reading done, the reflection questions will take a little more time to really sink in.  I suppose that's why this is a year long endeavour and not just a 4 or 8 week study!  Hang in there and remember, it's about the process, not perfection.

Chapter 7, "Let It Morph" is all about staying OPEN (my word for the chapter) to what God is doing in  us through our word.  Proverbs 16:9 says "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." I know, it seems contradictory to say 'stay focused' AND 'stay open'!  Staying focused on our word, which is chosen with help and direction from God, will begin the work and staying open to what God has intended for us will sustain us and "bring about his purposes and our maturity" (MOW, 101).  As you journal your journey throughout the year, you will begin to see how staying open to what God wants will allow your word to morph.

Chapter 8, "Seeing Through Your Word" is all about TRAINING!  I was never an athlete, but my children are!  Training is something I have learned a great deal about as an adult and I'm trying my best to pass on this newly acquired knowledge to my children.  Training, not just physically, but mentally & spiritually, is very important!  It is how we can be strong when we are put to the test.  The way we think, they way we view the world, the way we react to the world is a little bit 'nature' (how we're wired) and a little bit (maybe a lotta bit) 'nurture'.  We are intelligent and can train our brains.  Mike goes even further and says that we can also, with God's help, through the lens of our one word, train our hearts.  On page 107 Mike puts it this way, "what we see determines the direction we will go.  The attention of our eyes focuses the affection of our hearts.   The eyes of our heart, once enlightened... show us a reality that our physical eyes cannot see.  A reality based on the words and promises of God."  Of course, all of this is dependent on staying focused on our word and staying open to what God has in store!

Once you have a word, write in your journal your reason for choosing that word.  What inspired, drove, or impressed you about the word? What hopes do you have for the year?  Answering these questions now will be helpful in the weeks and months to come.  It will serve as a reminder of your intentions and help you to see how your word morphs over the year.

I would love to know what your word is and why you chose it!  Please comment below to share with us!

As soon as I have settled on my word, I will let you know!  Remember, it's a process not a race; it may take some time to settle on your word for the year.  Stick with it, pray, and let God guide you to His word for you.

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24

Monday, March 10, 2014

My One Word - Chapters 5 & 6

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."  John 10:27 ESV

Last week was an amazing week for my two teenagers!  My daughter and her partner won a state-wide video contest, my son had a hat trick, his team won a weekend tournament, and their high school hockey team became State Champions!  I can't help but be very proud of them!

Have you had days like this, where you're on top of the world?  Energy is high and it seeps into everything you do. Take a moment to  recall that time.  How long did that euphoria last?  How long did it sustain you?  In our busy lives it's easy to forget even the most exciting & uplifting feelings that we experience.  In fact, when I mentioned what a great week it was, my daughter said, "Oh yea, that was this week!" in reference to her video contest.  Amazing!  They had worked very hard on the project and drumming up votes, yet with everything else going on, she had forgotten that it was only days before that she had celebrated a victory.  Memories can be short, even for the good things in life!

A one word description for chapter five is Remember.  Mike talks about how forgetful we humans can be and gives us our first challenge: "Don't fail to remember." (pg. 76).  Even with all the work that we put into discovering our one word, chances are that if we are not intentional, we can forget our word.  He says, "... the single most difficult part of this One Word journey is continuing to focus on our word for a full year." (pg. 75).  In the Reflect section, he gives us some good advice about how to keep our word in front of us.

Last year I decided to electronically sign all my e-mails with the Bible verse that contains my word.  Every time I sent an e-mail, it was there.  Often I would re-read my e-mail through the lens of My One Word and make appropriate changes or not send it at all!
What are the ways you are going to keep your One Word in front of you?  Please share your ways in the Comments!  I can't wait to read all your creative ideas.

The one word I chose for chapter six is: Obey.  Personally, I find that difficult.  I am a rule follower, but I don't like being told what to do!  On page 82 Mike gives us challenge #2: "... stop making excuses for inactivity."  Oh, I am so good at making excuses - I consider it a hobby!  But that's not what God expects; 'he is waiting for us to obey.' (pg. 90).  Mike also tackles the question of 'how do I know it's God's voice?'.  According to him, hearing God requires the Four C's: Consistency in my walk; Clarity on his purpose; Confirmation in the Word; and Counsel from wise friends.  When you're unsure if what you're hearing is coming from God, put it to the test of the 4 C's.

And don't forget to journal your journey!  It's the best way to remember, reflect, and obey.

Connect and share in the comments :)  I look forward to reading about your One Word journey!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, March 6, 2014


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."  2 Corinthians 517 ESV

Welcome!  I am so glad you are here!  We are currently reading My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen.

In an homage to choosing one word for a year, I have decided to listen for one word in each chapter.  Mike packs so much into each chapter, I found it helpful to look for an overall theme.

As I read chapter three, one word kept coming to mind: patience.  This chapter is Mike's 'formula' for choosing a word: his process, thinking, and Scripture.  He lays out an approach that is very helpful in tackling such a daunting task.  And overall I hear him urging us to be patient.  Follow the process, use a pen & paper (because it takes longer to write words than it does to think them), dig into your thoughts and Scripture. Over and over he says things like, "So give this question some in-depth thought.  Don't rush the process.   Approach this patiently.  ...allowing questions to remain questions for some period of time - so that truth can arise."  (pg 45).  In an earlier chapter Mike mentions that his church took the better part of 3 weeks choosing a word.  This is not a process to be rushed; there is no deadline to be met.  Stay with the process and continue to move forward.  It is time well spent.

Even if you think you already know your word for this year, I encourage you to go through the process with an open heart and mind.  Often times it is not about the destination, but the journey.  There is much to be learned along the way.

One thing I found very helpful to me over this past year is choosing a Bible verse to go with my word.  It was this verse that sustained, encouraged and reminded me of my One Word and what it was I was moving towards; who I wanted to become in Christ.  This was my anchor!  It made the difference between this being another self-help workshop and a catalyst for true & lasting change.  I implore you to connect your one word to a verse in the Bible!

Honesty is the word that floated to the surface of chapter four for me.  Maybe you have a different view?  I'd love to know what it is!  We all approach this project from right where we are and see things from various angles.  But if I had to sum up chapter 4 in one word it would be honesty.  I loved Mike's story about his chat over coffee with Jerry!  I know people who fit this scenario and yet, I know that at times I do, too.  It is so easy to think there is something wrong with everyone else, especially when we are self-deceived.  When we are not honest with ourselves, like Jerry or like Dan, it's difficult to move forward with change.  Honesty, especially with oneself, does not come quickly.  When we are self-deceived it is probably a result of years of thought patterns, habits, and covering over.  And just like Rome wasn't built in a day, neither were our self-deceiving ways.  It will take some time and effort to sort through that hall of mirrors to find the real self!

On page 66 Mike lists the three things required for our formation to happen:
1. An accurate view of Christ
2. An accurate view of yourself
3. An accurate view of yourself in Christ
"Regularly looking into Scripture will help with all three."  (pg 66).

So, how are you doing with the reading?  I know this can be a challenge, especially if it's been some time since you've taken a class where note taking is required.  Not that it's required for this study, but I think it's very helpful.  If you are having difficulty, here are some things that I do to help me read, understand, and note things of importance (to me).

1. I write in my book!  It took me a long time to write in my books, but now I do it freely.  I underline (sometimes in multiple colors), star, question, and write other notes as I read.

2. A notebook (or journal)!  I keep my notebook with my book, along with a pen or two.  I take notes by chapter and write the page number of almost everything, so I can more easily find it later.

3. Personalize!  When I'm taking notes, either paraphrasing or quoting, I change the pronouns to make it personal.  For example, on page 61 he writes, "Only when we being to let what we believe affect what we do are we able to embrace the process of formation."  In my notes, I changed all the "we"'s to "I"'s.  Go back and read it, inserting "I" for "we" and you'll see what a more powerful impact it has.  This is also very powerful when reading Scripture.

4. List!  I make the lists; not always how Mike suggests, but I do make the lists.  If you don't have the time to sit quietly to make your list, take a suggestion from the show "My Name Is Earl".  He jotted down his list of things he wanted to change on a little piece of paper and carried it in his wallet.  If you're always on the go, consider making your lists in a small notebook you can throw in your purse and work on it anytime you have a moment or when something comes to mind.

5. Read daily!  Even if it's only half a chapter, or read one day and spend time with the Reflection Questions the next.  This will give you the time you need to follow the  process.  However, the timeline of finishing the book is up to you, which is why I've adopted this new format of blogging 2 chapters at a time and reserving our coffee hour discussions for the video of the day.  This is a very personal project you have chosen to do.    Because we are a group, there is a schedule we'll follow (generally 4 chapters a week) so that our discussions are mutually beneficial and the video series is timely.  But if you are on a chapter I've already posted and want to comment on it - great!  Go to the blog post about that chapter and comment; I'll get your comment and do my best to respond.
P.S. I tend to carry my book to appointments so I can squeeze in some reading while I'm waiting :)

I hope these tips are helpful.  Do you have any other tips you'd like to share?  Working quiet time into our busy lives is a challenge and advice is always welcome.

Comment below on your thoughts, insights, and questions for chapters 3 & 4.  I can't wait to connect with you and hear what you have to say about your My One Word project so far!

Keep reading, keep writing, and keep praying!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24