Thursday, March 29, 2007

Out of the Pit

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear Mark Batterson speak... twice! Mark is the author of the book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day. I'd previously read the book, so I was very excited to 'hear' him in person. It was better than I imagined. I came away from both sessions with some thoughts that really hit the mark, but perhaps the most profound thoughts gave me some simple insight on how to 'attack' my fears, when they attack me.

I'm not altogether sure that I'll represent exactly what he said, but I know what I 'heard'. And it's something worth sharing. Mark said that insecurity is rooted in pride (ex: King Saul in 1 Sam 15). When I think about the bad connotation of 'pride', I think about how pride was the sin that caused the downfall of Satan, and the tool that he in turn used to trip up Eve in the Garden of Eden. Pride said, "Did God really say...?" (Gen. 3:1). It caused Eve to doubt God. Doubt leads to insecurity, and insecurity leads to fear. Therefore, doubt and fear actually attack my trust in God.

Doubt entices me to allow the wrong thoughts that feed the fear that God won't do what He said He'd do, or that maybe I heard Him wrong, or that perhaps He needs to build my character through calamity. Fear is a lie, lies are of the devil, and God has given us the assurance we have the abilty to 'fear not'. Furthermore, His Word promises that He will deliver us from our fears if we seek Him and ask Him to... I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears (Ps. 34:4).

And I do trust God... but, I need to remind myself of that. Batterson calls that being on 'offense' instead of on 'defense'. He points out that Satan wants to condition our emotional reflexes to the default setting of fear, failure, disappointment. God wants to re-condition them, to renew our mind, to restore our settings back to an earlier version. It's kind of what I do when my computer gets screwy... restore the settings to an earlier boot-up version, eliminate the faulty code (or whatever).

Batterson uses the illustration of Benaiah (2 Sam 23:20), who chased a lion (i.e. his fear) into a pit, face-to-face, where one of them wasn't going to come out alive. Benaiah won. We can't defeat our fear without facing it and attacking it. And then we can come out of the pit, more alive.

James 4: 6-8 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mr. Clean

"To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before." Could be the voice of Captain Kirk describing the five year mission of the Starship Enterprise, ... or me, talking to myself in my kitchen Saturday morning.

We were having a problem with our refrigerator, which necessitated pulling it out of its little nesting place, and cleaning places which contained the raw material for God to fashion mankind and maybe a few new civilizations. We don't have a large kitchen, so I literally had to climb over a cabinet to get behind the refrigerator. That didn't really solve the problem; we had to dismantle parts of the freezer, and ended up cleaning the whole refrigerator. So I was in the zone, and decided to clean the rest of the kitchen.

About six months ago, a friend of mine told me about a cleaning product that amazed her, called Mr.Clean Magic Eraser. She told me that it was a special kind of sponge, which really did totally erase dirt from surfaces with relatively no scrubbing, using nothing but water. I respected her opinion enough to go buy it, but then I stuck in under the sink, and forgot about it. Till Saturday, when I needed to clean. I tried it on the wall behind the stove, which was spashed with dried-on spaghetti sauce and who knows what else. And, I was amazed. The spots came right off! With no effort. I was motivated to try it on other things, and found that it expunged everything! And because it's a sponge, it even gets into those hard to reach places, nooks, and crannies. Wow! Is my kitchen clean!

Several years ago, I took a class at my church about discovering my spiritual gifts. I'm sad to say that 'evangelism' was not one of my stronger gifts. However, truthfully, as I was cleaning, I was thinking how my adventure with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a word-picture for understanding the gift of salvation. My friend had told me of an amazing cleaning tool, but it did me no good, until I actually opened the package and used it! I don't mean to be frivolous or irreverent, comparing God to a cleaning product. But I mentally related to people who have heard about Jesus and who know what Good Friday and Easter 'mean', but they keep 'it' under the sink, and don't open and avail themselves to His Gift to cleanse their soul, to be set free, and to be made new. They know He's 'there', but they don't know what they're missing.

A few months ago, my mother-in-law told me to try Lime Away, for those hard-water stains. I have some Lime Away, too... under the sink. Gonna try it. Who knows what thoughts that will spur?

There's still time to clean before Easter.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cod on the Cape

Many years ago, Bruce and I were on Cape Cod, Massachucetts for the first and only time of our lives. We had the notion that Cape Cod is famous for its seafood, so we set out to find a good seafood restaurant. We didn't have any Zagat travel guides, so we did the next best thing... we asked a distinguished-looking old guy who was pumping gas next to us at the gas station.

Bruce asked him if he could direct us to a good restaurant for seafood. The man nodded enthusiastically, and proceeded to relate the directions... "blah, blah, blah, blah, Coonamessett Inn." Bruce shook his hand, said thanks, got in the car, drove away, looked at me and said... "Ok, what did he say??" I didn't speak Cape Codian either, so neither of us had a clue as to where this place was, except that it 'wasn't far'... and the man's hand signals sort of went straight, then left, then right.... How hard could it be?

Two hours later, we still had not found anything remotely resembling an Inn. We were starving. So, we did the next best thing, stopped at McDonalds and ate fish sandwiches (maybe they were cod). At least we had seafood on Cape Cod.

We left McDonalds, and went two blocks,...and... yep! big as life, there it was... the Coonamessett Inn!

We weren't hungry any more, but... well... we probably wouldn't get back to Cape Cod, and this place was famous, so we went in, and ate ANOTHER meal! And, it was very good. And memorable.

To this day, the words Coonamessett Inn speak to me of perseverance. Too often, I grow weary, and I'm tempted to tolerate second best rather than take a deep breath, trust God, and lay claim to His promises for me. When Bruce and I have faced situations that have tested our patience or endurance, one of us has reminded the other not to settle for processed fish sandwiches, but to ride it out another few blocks to get the fresh sea scallops and lobster. We use the simple catchphrase, Coonamessett Inn.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Deep and Wide

When I first became a parent, I became fearful of things that never troubled me before. I knew that my fear was often irrational, but very real to me. One such fear was of bridges. I feared that, for some reason, my car would end up in the water, and I wouldn't be able to save my daughter. While I live in 'the city of bridges', none of them are very long or big, and I was able to 'deal' with my fear.

However, one summer, when Leah was almost 2, we went to Fenwick Island, DE, to visit some friends for a few days before heading to Virginia Beach for a week's vacation. The fastest route from Delaware to Virginia Beach was via a modern marvel called the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It is a 20+ mile combination of low trestle & high bridges, and two mile-long tunnels that go under the bay. While the thought of being on a bridge out in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, with no land in sight, terrified me, the thought of going in the tunnels under the bay paralyzed me. I begged Bruce to go a different way, and he was willing, but noted that it would add 2+ hours to our trip, and with an active 2 year old, couldn't I just trust God and overcome my fears???? So, I bravely agreed to ... take the bridge.

Our trek from Delaware to the CBBT began on a beautiful, cloudless, sunny morning. I was reading my Bible in the car, and my daily devotional scripture verses were: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.(Is. 41;10) and Be strong and very courageous... do not turn... to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go."(Joshua 1:7). Those words should've encouraged me, but I was thinkin'... uh oh. We had a cassette playing cute little kids' songs to entertain Leah,... Angels Watchin' Over Me, I Wonder How It Felt (to be in the belly of a whale) and ...Deep and Wide. Dark, black clouds began to form in the sky ahead of us. Bruce reasoned that the storm was likely... out to sea. Kind of like we'd be in a few minutes. I think I was hyperventilating. Road signs every 100 feet said... "Last Chance to Exit Before Bridge"

We drove up to the bridge, paid our toll, and started across. About a minute later, a deluge began, with 50 mph winds. We could hardly see the roadway (or the edge of it), but we could perceive waves coming up over top of the railing. After a few more minutes, we noticed that there were no other cars around (we learned later that they had closed the bridge to traffic right after us). We were both scared. I realized that my scriptural admonition to not look to the right or left was imperative, not only because looking at the violent sea would frighten us, but because we had to concentrate our attention on seeing the road in front of us. I also knew God had promised to protect us.

We were moving slowly, but finally came to the first tunnel, and what had previously been my greatest fear now became my place of refuge. I was just glad to be able to see, and forgot that we were under 50' of water. I hoped that as we emerged from the shelter, perhaps the storm would have had passed. It didn't. And we faced another 6 miles of open sea in the torrential downpour before the next tunnel. Leah was in her car seat, singing Angels Watchin' Over Me, oblivious to the danger, and content in the belief that her father was in control. Truth is, He was.

Obviously, we made it,... with a story to tell everyone later, ...of how God was very real to me in a time of trouble, how His word sustained me, and how He upheld me with His righteous right hand as I faced my fear. We learned later this was a tropical storm that dumped almost an inch of rain in 50 minutes, and took out the power in all of Hampton Roads for 6 hours. A water spout funnel cloud had also been sighted over the bay.

I've been reading the book of Joshua in my Bible. Joshua was a mighty warrior, and God brags on him. I noticed, tho', that God tells Joshua, at least 12 times, to not be afraid, to be courageous, and to not be discouraged. This tells me two things... first that Joshua, tho' a mighty warrior, must have struggled with some fears, or God wouldn't have had to tell him so many times not to be afraid. Secondly, it tells me that we DO have the power and ability to choose to NOT be afraid and to NOT be discouraged, or God wouldn't have commanded it. Moses' words to Joshua and the people getting ready to enter the Promised Land assured that He would be WITH them. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8
That same promise applies to us, here and now.

The word discouraged means deprived of confidence, hope, or spirit, or hampered/deterred by a lack of courage. Discouragement is a tool used against us. 'Encouraged' means to be supported or inspired with assurance and faith. Honestly, I do struggle with fear at times, and I still don't like driving over long, high bridges, but I know that God's promises enable me to choose, and that His Word is truth. I am encouraged by that.

Monday, March 12, 2007

From Russia with Love

Bruce and I had the pleasure yesterday to have lunch with the Muzart family. Jan and Eric, who have spent the last 14 years as missionaries to Russia, have three young daughters, another child 'on the way', and are currently itinerating in the US till later this year. They plan to return to St. Petersburg, Russia, where they lead a thriving ministry to university students, called SFC (Students For Christ).

Because I'm a big romantic at heart, I was particularly captivated by their 'story' (Jan thinks she may write a book some day). Jan grew up in a small town in Ohio and committed her life to Christ as a young girl. She graduated from DePauw University, with B.A. degrees in French and Music. She wasn't really sure how she would put the two seemingly unrelated areas together in a career, yet, an opportunity opened up for her to spend a year at a Bible College in Leognan, France as a music teacher. She had previously entertained the idea of being a foreign missionary, and the position gave her a chance to explore that option.

Meanwhile... Eric was born and raised in Nice, France. His father was French and his mother, Russian. A gifted athlete, he had been part of an athletic horseback riding troupe as a young man, and after completing his formal college education, was a professional alpine ski instructor, training the "Nice Cote d'Azur Ski Team", and also "l'Equipe de France Citadine". During that time, he accepted Christ in a ski station hotel room, and soon after, he "offered his athletic career to God", feeling called to become a missionary to Russia. He enrolled in a Bible College in... (can you guess ??) Leongan France... et Voilà... Eric and Jan met, fell in love, and were married a year later.

They trained and worked as Bible translators at first, and then in 1993 moved to Kemerovo, Russia in south central Siberia, establishing a ministry to university students. It was then that they connected with our church, when our pastor, Jeff Leake, traveled to Siberia and spent time with them there.

I am hooked with life stories that showcase a God who purposefully orchestrates individual lives, weaving 'seemingly unrelated' training, experiences, and perspectives into His handiwork... nudging and guiding, shaping and guarding, equipping us to fulfill His purpose in us, for us and through us. His plan isn't bound by geography, and His ways are jaw-droppin' marvelous :D
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 96:3, 118:2

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wrist Sundials vs. Wrist Watches

Sundials were used well into the Middle Ages as timepieces and people measured time based on the position of the sun. Prior to 1883 , towns in the US recognized local time relative to 'high noon'. THEN came the railroads, and standardized time and time zones became important for train schedules. And because we love our recreation time, we just adjust our clocks a bit in the summer months and voilà... we're 'saving' daylight time!

This coming Sunday, we Spring Ahead! In previous years, in the US, DST began the first Sunday in April and lasted until the last Sunday in October. But beginning in 2007, we're 'saving' even more! DST starts the second Sunday in March and continues till the first Sunday in November, thanks to the the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Every time zone in the US switches their clock according to local time. Some states choose not to switch. The state of Arizona doesn't recognize DST, but the Navajo Nation within Arizona does. Worldwide, it's kind of like the Tower of Bablel syndrome for time... national policies for saving daylight vary widely, often from year to year and may even be disposed of for 'special occasions'. Japan, India and China don't incorporate any form of daylight saving time. Equatorial and tropical countries don't need it. In Antarctica, there is no daylight in the winter and 24-hours of daylight in the summer, yet research stations there observe Daylight Saving Time anyway.

However we measure it though, we aren't really 'saving' any daylight, we are just adjusting our frame of reference. It's an arbitrary practice which, tho' well-established, still caues confusion to many . One woman laments that if she gives birth to twins 10 minutes apart, with one child born 1:50 AM just prior to the end of DST (Fall) ... the birth order of the two children would be reversed. Likewise, on the day we Spring Ahead no children are born between the hours of 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. And, in order to keep to their published timetables, Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 A.M. and wait one hour before resuming. BTW, if you play the game, Mind Trap... I just gave you big clues to solve three of the puzzles!

Through the 1960's, the observance of DST was mainly left up to individual communites (except during WWI & II) until the problems overcame the precedence:

  • Travel on the 35 mile stretch of highway between Moundsville, WV and Steubenville, OH entailed changing time zones seven times.
  • For five weeks each year, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington D.C., Cleveland, or Baltimore, but Chicago was.
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul were on two different time zones for part of the year.

Thus, a federal law was passed in 1966 establishing the parameters of DST, with states being permitted to opt out by state legislation.

So while the passage of time is established by Divine Design, the measurement of it is a human endeavor for convenience of commerce, government, or entertainment purposes. This due. in part, to the invention of spring powered clocks/watches in 1500 A.D., has enable us to 'manipulate time' to fit our collective lifestyles. It's also a much better fashion statement... Wrist sundials, while having that 'vintage' look, could be somewhat clunky, and it would certainly alter the time display on our cell phones.

Oh, and... we'd need some other way to remind us to change the batteries our smoke detectors.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Thinking à Latte

I regularly read Mark Batterson's blog. One reason is because I like it,... another is because our daughter and son-in-law are a part of the fellowship. They particularly like attending the services on Saturday evenings at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse.

I've become interested in another church that does ministry from a coffeehouse...
Café Life in St. Etienne, France. A few months ago, my husband received a newsletter from the parent organization, GJMI and I was drawn in. I confess that I don't know anything about the ministry, or even how we got on their distribution list, but I spent a long time reading the websites and the blog of Graham Jones and have requested more information from them. There was a flurry of something in my soul, which I'm still trying to pinpoint, but I'll keep you 'posted':) Jones is British, with a ministry base in France. These are comments from his blog, with some observations on the church in America:

"I have just this week returned from a three week ministry tour in the USA... America is a wonderful place but many churches there suffer from "nice, safe, comfortable Christianity syndrome". It sometimes seems as if churches there compete to be the most comfortable, safe church in town. I would rather have a dangerous church than a comfortable one.

While I was there our church here in France was "visited" by the French FBI and my associate pastor (Jean-Luc) was questioned by them. We think this was because we had a healing service here a few weeks ago... My first reaction was to rush in and see them, shouting about my rights etc. And then I got to thinking about Peter and John when they were hauled before the law for healing. They didnt pray for "wisdom"; their prayer was give us more boldness to get out there again and speak your Word. Signs and wonders got us into this mess........More Lord!

Interestingly enough, he also says, "America, I believe, is on the verge of a third Great Awakening and one of the ways this will be manifested is in His healing power being will shake the nation." That seems to be a theme coming from several different sources. Wow.
The GJMI website states that France is traditionally one of the hardest places in the world for the Gospel. Less than 0.4% of the population claims to be born again, and the government makes life difficult for evangelical churches. Thirty years ago, when I was there as a student, I was astounded that the family I lived with not only didn't attend church, they couldn't even direct me to one in the vicinity of their home. I hope to go back there, knowing now what I didn't know then.

I hope that those who say the church in the US is poised for a great awakening are right. Otherwise, we may someday soon lament of America with statistics similar to France. If the church here is too fat and comfortable, maybe we need to burn the fat (Lev. 3:16b).

If you know me personally, I'll bet you're thinking right now... "I wonder who is writing Patty's blog today??" Indeed.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Got Any Two's?

Last Sunday, our pastor challenged us to write a thank you letter to the person who "fished' for us and who was most influential in leading us to a decision to follow Christ (Matt. 4:19). I realized that I don't ever remember thanking him, so I wrote letter, my husband, Bruce.

He wasn't my husband then, but says he was thinking about it. He knew that I had always had a 'faith' in God, and went to church each week without fail, but he sensed that I was missing out on a greater relationship with Him, and by my own assertion, I didn't have the assurance of spending eternity in Heaven. I was an arrogant little fish, and resented him telling me about God. Afterall, in college, I was the one who went to church services on Sunday afternoons, while he sat outside and waited for me, because church wasn't for him.

I had been living out of state for the previous year, and he had told me of his life-changing conversion in phone conversations, but I thought it was another of his wild and crazy 'phases'. It wasn't until he sent me a Bible, and several other books to read, that I realized he was serious. And the changes in him were real. So I began to read, and came to know there was more. For the first time in my life, I understood why the Friday before Easter is called "Good" Friday, and it made me glad, not sad. I finally understood the meaning of all the things I had 'learned', but not 'known', in the first 22 years of church attendance. I realized sitting in a hen house doesn't make you a chicken.

So, thanks to the man with whom I said, "I do" 29 years ago, I do know where I am spending eternity, and I do have a spirited personal realtionship with my Lord and my Savior, Jesus the Christ. And, I do identify with others who have a recognition of their Creator, but not a relationship with Him; I do purpose to be the testimony that there is something more. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life (1 Tim 1:16b).

Got any two's? Go Fish!

Thursday, March 1, 2007


I have questions. Many of them crop up while reading my Bible, and I seek out the answers in various sources. Usually I can find something to explain them. There are a few questions tho' that I'm still wondering about...

For instance, what ever happened to Moses' wife and sons? At the end of the wilderness wandering, we're told that Moses orders his army to wipe out the Midianites because they plotted the downfall of Israel by seducing the Hebrew men to worship the gods of their Midianite love interests (Num. 31:1-30). Moses wife, Zipporah, was a Midianite, and his father-in-law, Jethro, was a Midianite priest. Were they still around when this went down?

Another thing I've wondered about is Jacob's name. When God changed Abram's name to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Simon to Peter, etc., He called them by the new name. After He gave Jacob a new name, Israel, He continues to refer to him, with only a few exceptions, as Jacob ("the God of Ahraham, Isaac and Jacob"). Any reason?

Exodus 12:38 says that when the people left Egypt, they had large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. So why were they complaining that they had no meat (Ex.16:1, Num.11:4)? Were all the animals to be kept for the sacrifices and they resented this?

Then there's this 'fat' thing. Leviticus 3:16b says 'All the fat is the Lord's'. What is that about? (and... He can sure have mine!)

And while not Bible related, do cannibals NOT eat clowns because they taste funny?

And then there's the socks... where do they go after I put them in my dryer?

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Prov. 25:2