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Friday, December 27, 2013

How the Story of Rudolf Is Like the Body of Christ


Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer. This is such a great story!!!

Why do I love it so much?

Is it the awesome animation, groovy-hip music, the rounded characters and superb acting?

Actually, it’s the theme of discovering the personal characteristic that makes us feel like a misfit is actually what God gave us as a gift. Like the Body of Christ.

Think about it.

Rudolf’s weird nose saves Christmas. The elf who doesn’t want to build toys, can fix teeth. The Abominable Snowman is the only one tall enough to place the star on the tree and was trained by the gold miner who couldn’t seem to find gold. Lastly, who better to find homes for the Misfit Toys than those who are misfits themselves?

This is how God uses us, as different members of the Body. If you question this idea, read the stories in the Bible. The small shepherd boy who defeats a giant and becomes a warrior king. The man “slow of speech” speaks to Pharaoh. The carpenter’s son (or so it was thought) is truly the Son of God.

We are all gifted by Him to be used for His purposes. When we use them for ourselves, they become a deficit. When seen in light of God’s Will, He will make them our strength!

It’s funny how we often can’t recognize our own gifts. We’ve lived with them all our lives, take them for granted, and don’t realize others are not gifted similarly. Unfortunately, when we do notice others lacking of our gift (the one we take for granted), we see it as a deficit, rather than recognizing their complementary skills. That’s why my other favorite Christmas movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. A movie about a man who’d only done what he knew was right all his life, not realizing his impact, until one day an angel showed him.

There are many George Bailey’s in our world. You could be one of them.

I pray for you all this season, that you will open a most precious gift—the one God gave you for His purpose. It’s a one-of-a-kind, especially made for only you. You’ll love it when you recognize it, because it will bring you lots of happiness when you use it. However, when you use it for Him, it won’t just make you happy …

It will bring you Great, Soul-stirring Joy!

Other posts you might like:
When You Don’t Fit the Mold—by Rachel Phifer
How One Small Girl Inspired a Ministry of Access
A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I Hate the Movie Toy Story

Toy Story Bloopers … I kid you not!

It’s supposed to be a cold, snowy winter. I believe this. Why? Because I am hearing more and more people tell me their mouse stories. The rodents are looking for shelter. In houses.

They know.

Of course, the other reason people are telling me their mouse stories is because we have been sharing ours. We have lived in our home for over twenty years and have never even seen a trace of a rodent. Our neighborhood has tackled ants. The court above us actually had snakes. But this is the year of the rodent. Ugh! I will never look at Mickey Mouse the same. We have boycotted watching Ratatouille.

So, in order to fight the little furry disease-carriers, we’ve had to clean out our basement to make sure these creatures can’t find a space to hide. Oh my! I didn’t realize all the stuff I had stored in there I didn’t need. Stuff I’d kept because I “might” use it later. Stuff kept because it was a gift from someone I loved. And yes, stuff I kept because it carried special memories for me.

I’ve kept stuff out of guilt. Guilt over the gifter who wanted me to LOVE this present more than anyone else’s. Guilt over throwing something away that might still have use … therefore adding to the landfill problem.

Oh, the the guilt weighs on me.

With all this guilt over junk, the LAST thing I need is to feel sorry for a toy cowboy or spaceman who may be set aside because I, or my children, no longer play with them.


No more!!!

This morning I set out 7 bags, and 4 boxes of stuff for the Purple Heart. My husband made two trips to the dump, and there’s still more to do!

Why can’t somebody write an animated story about toys finding a NEW home, a home where they have a new playmate who can appreciate them even more than the kid who had them before? A child who doesn’t have much, but because the donor didn’t hang on to what he doesn’t need, this child now has a special gift?

That would be a precious story.

Oh, the coats I’ve given away that could warm a homeless family. The shoes, the sweaters, the dresses that could finally find use rather than sit in boxes, longing for purpose Smile. Today, I gave them purpose again.

Fly, my friends. Be free. Find a new home and make it a happy one!!!

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)

Other posts you might like:

Such As These

Archie Bunker on Shoes and Socks

A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas in Light of the One Year Anniversary of Sandy Hook—By Lita Parke

Thank you, Connie, for inviting me to share some of my thoughts and musings. I am honored to have my very first guest post to be with your Living the Body of Christ readers. Please let these thoughts encourage you all to worship anew the only One who can heal the broken-hearted and continue to pray for these families and the survivors.

As my five year old turns six just one day before the one year anniversary of Sandy Hook on December 14th, I am struck again by the pain these families are enduring. I cannot even fathom their broken hearts. As our country is mourning the man who has done great things for our world, Nelson Mandela, in a beautiful little enclave in Connecticut, there is also mourning. An aching for those who did great things in protecting those in their care, and grieving for those whose lives were cut short on this earth. I hope my reflections from last year, will be used to give you eyes to see his deep love in sending His only son into this broken mess of a world to give us true freedom, that he is the only Hope we have in the wake of such terror.

Here is my tribute from last Advent …

Sandy Hook and the Meaning of Christmas

Like all of us...there are no words...These times of inexplicable grief during a period that should be happy and joyful.

Last night after our church's beautiful Christmas program, and three joyous parties hosted at our home over the weekend ticked off the list, I was able to think, pray, read, weep.

One of the gems that caught my eye was this article, "Dark Day" by Jamie Dean from World Magazine. The author says,   
"But Christmas will still come, and its message will be especially for those who grieve. Indeed, its message will come from a suffering servant, a man of sorrows, and one who is acquainted with grief. It will come from one who invites those sitting in darkness to feel their sorrow," and yet hope in His promises of what Christmas really means.  
I listened anew to my favorite Christmas carols and then I heard the pain:
Pain of Moms and Dads who lost their precious Children

Pain of Children who lost their Mommies

Pain of Husbands who lost their Wives and are now Half of "One flesh"

Pain of the Neighbors, Family, Friends & Community

Pain for the Ones who survive and may think, "Why me?"

Pain for those struggling with children who have mental illness

And yet, coupled with pain is 


Hope not in our safety plan (which is wise)

nor in homeschooling (which I do)

nor in adding more laws


He is Sovereign and Good and Holy


He experienced the Death of His own Son


Death and Sin were conquered on the cross


In Jesus, we will live forever in His presence 

where there is no more pain, sorrow or grief.

He will wipe every tear.

The double edge of Christmas:
Pain and Healing
Grief and Comfort
Sorrow and Trust

The warm, cozy hymns sounded differently,
struck a chord deep in my heart, 
a new depth of meaning.
Below is a small picture of those carols.
via www.JADEintheparke.com

As I looked again at these hymns, I understood the reality of pain and grief was always present in these carols.  
I didn't have ears to hear.  
Yet, the joyous strains of glad tidings found there coupled with the reality of our sinful world fills my heart with joy.  
Bittersweet today.  
Joyous forever.  
 Hymns from Top Left (moving Clockwise):
Hark the Herald Angels Sing Acappella version
Grace and Peace to you,  
Mom to JADE (and hugging each one tighter)  
Please visit the Sandy Hook Family website in remembrance of those who lost their lives.  Feel free to print out the picture above if it is helpful to you.

It is my gift to anyone who could be blessed by it.

You may fully share this picture but please keep the link where it is attributed. Please do not distribute it or sell it. It belongs to www.jadeintheparke.com  If you are interested in a print with no watermarks, please email jadeintheparke@gmail.com with more details of your request.  
 Lita in wagonLita Parke has been married to her husband, Justin, for almost twenty years. They have four kids who range in age from 17 to 6 and the initials of their first names spell out the curious little name of her blog, www.JADEintheparke.com. She was born and raised in America by her Indian parents who immigrated to the US in the 1960s. She is a study in contrasts: A theatrical, outgoing child of a physicist/computer scientist mother and an engineer/real estate dad. An only child having four. Homeschooling during the week and then teaching cardio kickboxing on the weekend. Grew up not attending church, and now embraces the truth of reformed theology. Loves Jesus, yet needy, broken, and grumpy for His grace, each and every day.  
Other posts you might like:  

Friday, December 6, 2013

C.S. Lewis on Fiction

I just wanted to share this quote from C.S. Lewis with my fellow creatives today ....

“Reason is the natural organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

Think about it. Story takes the facts and makes them live. Being a writer of fiction, a painter of art, or whatever creative pursuit to which you aspire, you can bring life to mere truth.

I've read that with all the great and thoughtful contributions in the area of apologetics, C.S. Lewis valued his fiction the most. I can tell you as a fan of his, the fiction expanded on the prose in ways the prose alone could not have. I aspire to do the same.

Thank you, Mr. Lewis!

Friday, November 29, 2013

ENLIGHTENED—By Lauri Khodabandehloo


I recognized the subtle differences in my fourth and youngest daughter, first, by comparing her growth—physical and developmental—to her three older sisters. I noticed her difficulty pronouncing “dada,” saying it as if she had an accent, and her very odd way of pulling away from me even before she could walk, at ten months of age.

I recognized her total disinterest in looking at anyone, family members or strangers, almost as if we mattered very little in her life. I was sure she was hearing impaired. But not until I found myself on the bedroom floor at the side of my bed where I’d knelt to pray and then crumpled, heartbroken and crying out to God in hopeless despair did I accept the fact that she would never be like her sisters. And there on the floor beside the bed, where I’d pulled my dusty old Bible off the nightstand and turned to the book of Psalms, was where I found the words—the very truth—that would carry me every day after in peace that passes all understanding, no matter where my child’s challenges might take me.

Without thought of where to find the scripture that might ease my fears, or give me some hope to cling to, my eyes fell on the 139th Psalm. There I read the answer to those unknown’s that had haunted my days since Farema’s unexpected birth. As I read the words of the Psalmist, I found the answer to how well God knows me:

You know when I sit, and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

As I read further, I learned through the words of the Psalm, that never was there a moment when God was not near to me, and no matter the disappointments in my life, God would not leave me on my own:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Just before that day in my room, I’d come to realize that raising a child with classic autism can be a devastating endeavor, permeating every aspect of family life. I had daydreamed of future years with the “empty nest” and a chance to do my thing until, without planning or anticipation, I found I was pregnant. Disappointed and distraught, I told myself it would only be a few years longer. But as I sat there on the floor, reading the Word of the Creator, I understood that my life and that of my daughter with all her special needs and challenges had already been planned—long before my own birth. God had it all under control!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

That day my outlook on raising my daughter changed dramatically. I no longer felt the weight of guilt that I’d secretly carried, believing that God had given me this burden, this child, as some sort of punishment for the times I’d chosen my own way instead of his. I began to look forward to each day filled with new and sometimes miraculous accomplishments that I’d been told by the doctors just wasn’t on the horizon for a girl like mine.

My freedom came with knowledge that God had made my daughter as he made each of us, exactly as he’d intentioned. For Farema and me, every day, hour and moment of our lives God has never once let us walk alone, or left us on our own; he has been faithful to hold us close to himself and guide us on this journey through life, including this amazing, puzzling, and mysterious world of autism.


clip_image004 Biography of Lauri Khodabandehloo

Lauri describes her childhood as perfect. She was raised by Christian parents, a mother who was a recording artist, nationally known as “Little Marcy” who sang about Jesus’ love in a child-like voice, and a father whose magnetic personality won him great success as a salesman for Word, Tyndale and Harvest House publishing companies. But although her early life was a road of blessings, walking the path God had designed for her, Lauri’s life took a detour, and she found herself walking the broken road of lost dreams and great sadness.

Through raising her fourth daughter, born with a devastating biological brain dysfunction known as Classic Autism, Lauri describes in her heartrending and vividly honest true life account how she found her way back to a closer, more personal relationship with her Lord.

In Lonely Girl, Gracious God, Lauri reveals the depth of autism’s devastation to family and loved ones, and the truth of God’s unfailing grace. She learns to trust Him in all things, and to see that God sometimes allows trials and pain to draw his children into a more personal relationship with Himself.

Today, Lauri hopes to bring comfort to those whose lives have been turned upside down by life’s disappointments and hardships by revealing to others what she has learned— that nothing in life is by accident for those who love the Lord.

Finding a new capacity for patience and perseverance as she struggles to find a life for her autistic daughter, Lauri comes to understand that often the sorrows of this life are God’s way of showing us that by His unfailing grace, He alone can satisfy the greatest longing of our hearts and that He will always be there to hold us steady as we walk that broken road, with newfound hope and confidence, that leads to His open, ever-loving arms.

Lauri is available to speak to women’s groups and conferences, certified by CLASSEMINARS, Inc., CLASS Communicator

Lonelygirlgraciousgod.com 2262 Dale Ave, Eugene, OR 97408 541-485-5450

Other posts you might like:

On Growth

Jake, The Encourager

Friday, November 22, 2013

God on the Line

Did you ever have a time in your life when you put God on hold to get other things done? I don’t mean momentarily, like you forgot about him during the day. I mean, more like you no longer thought you needed Him, so you left Him as an afterthought. Maybe you hung up on Him altogether.

What happened when you picked up His line again? Was He still there?

Well, let me tell you, not only is He still there, but while He was waiting for you, He held the phone to His ear with his shoulder and continued to work on your behalf!

Years ago I thought I knew too much to concern myself with things of God. I had pushed my childlike faith aside for things of research. I contemplated grand ideas about the world and on occasion considered how a god might fit into it … somewhere.

This god was a small god in my mind. But even though I considered Him small, He still did big things in my life. For example, I can see many ways He’d been preparing me to be the mother of a special needs child. He led me to a story about a mute boy, which would become a favorite years before my son was born. This story taught me how to appreciate my son as nothing else could. God gave me a dog who had several chronic medical issues which required many of the same types of therapies I now use with my son. And He put me in a job with wonderful Christians at just the time I would require a faith before the coming storm.

He was on the line the whole time.

Still, it wasn’t just what he did for me, but how He used me to accomplish His Will even during my weakest (or non-existent) faith moments. There’s nothing like the feel of being an empty vessel of the Lord, even if you don’t know you’re being used at the time.

As a graduate student, I ran and lived in an all-male dorm while working on my counseling degree. This was a tenuous position and my new, all-male, staff let me know they were a little leery. Never before had a woman lived in the all-male dorms at this university. I’d been selected from the applicants who’d actually applied for the resident director position in the all-female hall.

At the first meeting I could sense my staff worried I’d paint the halls pink and hang lacey curtains in the lounges. They asked me pointed questions about my plans and showed their resistance to too much change—particularly since I’d come in mid-year.

It was my goal to develop a sense of authority, yet be sensitive (yes, I used that girly word) to their needs.

Then, my senior resident assistant informed me of a long-standing, streaking (yes, that means naked guys running) tradition the whole community had grown accustomed to and wondered what I’d planned to do about it. It was clear he expected me to do nothing, especially since that had been the protocol for the past several decades.

So here I am, The Woman in the building. I feared taking this tradition away would put me at odds with my staff before I even got started, so I did what the RA wanted. I sat on my hands.

You could say that wasn’t very Christian of me, since streaking in public is against the law and I should have trusted God to have my back while I did the right thing. However, that wasn’t even a consideration for me at the time.

You could say I was a coward for not doing the right thing and sticking to my guns. My only answer to that would be …


But there is one thing you could not say about me. You could not say God had forsaken me, because even though I’d neglected Him, He still used me as an empty vessel.

I muddled through that semester, the lone, twenty-something, woman living with hundreds of hard-partying, college-age (and hormonal) guys. To say the atmosphere was sexually charged would be a vast understatement. My building had the highest rate of Victoria Secret catalogues sent to it. The guys had to buy “lacy under-things” on a regular basis so they could continue to receive it.


While running this building, I endured being hit on in the hallways by droopy-towel-wearing men, I had to protect myself from attempts to get my white shirts wet, and shield myself from what felt like a constant x-ray body scan. On occasion, however, I planned some really cool programs, developed great relationships with guys who needed advice about women, and even got a little respect.

Though I ended up loving that job, for a number of reasons I decided not to continue the next year. Before I knew this would be the case, I worked to select my next-year’s staff. Among the candidates was a stern, thickly built, young man who wore an expression on his face that said, “Don’t mess with me.” He struck me as a man of character and I knew I wanted him working the hall known for the wildest parties. In fact, he’d already lived there. This was also the place my streakers lived.

For some reason, my boss did not like him, but I suspect it was more that she had other candidates in mind for those positions and saw him as a threat to her placing them. We went back and forth much on this issue, but I was not the one in the highest position of authority. I had to fight for this guy, but something told me I must. I did not make it a point to listen to the Holy Spirit regularly (if at all) back then, but I now believe that’s who I heard.

In the end, he got the job.

I later discovered this young man made his first order of business to end the decades-long streaking tradition. When I heard about it from one of my former staff I couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t realize then who was really responsible for this (God), but it felt good to have played a small role in it just the same (even unwittingly). This news also inspired me to be more courageous with my convictions as this young man had been. I’m sure he did not garner favor with his hall mates having taken away their “fun.”

I’ve always carried a certain respect for this guy. So much so that he inspired the character, nick-named Preacher, in my manuscript entitled One Among Men. Though Preacher is not the main character of this story, it was his parallel’s courage that caused me to write about the challenges a new Christian faces in the highly secular environment of a major state university—especially one who is a mid-twenties female living with hundreds of hard-partying, college guys—Sigh!

I love how God used this man’s courage as an example to me, even at a time I did not fully appreciate it. I hope I can do the same for others one day.

Who inspired you when you weren’t looking to be inspired?

Other posts you might like:

Where Did You First Meet God in the Bible?

What Brought You to Christ?

A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

Friday, November 15, 2013

3rdDay Rocker—Making A Ministry From A Passion

Sweet Dean and DodieIf you’ve ever searched for a Third Day song on Youtube you may have come across the name “3rdDayRocker.” I know I have. I always wondered about this guy who gave me so many hours of great Third Day video viewing pleasure before I ever had a chance to see the band live.

Then I became a Third Day Gomer … and got to e-meet, not only him (Dean Radloff), but his wonderful wife, Dodie—the people who turned their passion for great music into a ministry for Christ. I know many who’ve been blessed by Christian music in times of trouble. Dean and Dodie Radloff have made it a point to expand the reach of this art form. So glad they did.

Now, let me introduce them to you …

Connie: Dean and Dodie, tell us about this ministry to bring Christian music to the masses?

Dean: God gifted me with videography skills; a passion for video recording and a very steady hand to obtain high quality concert videos. Dodie and I love attending Christian concerts. I usually video record several songs at each concert we attend, and post them on YouTube. My 3rdDayRocker YouTube channel has blessed countless people with the ability to view a large variety of Christian artists performing live.

Connie: Oh, yes!

How long have you done this, and what prompted you to start?

Dean: I've been video recording at concerts since 2004, albeit with low grade pocket cameras. I began using better quality cameras in 2008. Videos make a great, memorable keepsake of concerts. I felt God was prompting me to share my work with the world, so I decided to open a YouTube account and started posting my videos in January 2009.With sunglasses

Connie: Thank you, Jesus!

Did it start out as a ministry? What happened?

Dean: Originally, the whole video recording hobby was just that; a hobby and a personal keepsake. When I felt God prompting me to start sharing via YouTube, I guess you could say it then developed into a ministry of sorts. A wide variety of positive comments on my videos is a testimony that God is reaching people through them. God's love, joy, peace, healing, and overall blessings received through the Christian artists' music have been conveyed through numerous comments and messages on my YouTube channel.

Connie: Can you describe how it's evolved over the years?

Dean: As anticipated, viewership was fairly small at first. As more and more videos from more and more Christian artists were added, viewership and the number of subscribers grew rapidly. My channel currently has 3,200+ subscribers and has over 3.6 million views. I refuse to monetize my channel (allowing pop-up ads). It blesses me to know others are blessed by great Christian music too. That is very rewarding.

Connie: Wow! I love that!

Dodie: It really blesses us when we are at a concert, out of town, and someone comes up to Dean and says "Are you 3rddayrocker?" It happens at almost every show we go to, and it just reinforces in our hearts that what Dean does is valuable. 

Connie: Yes it is!

With crazy Third Day

Connie: Do you have future plans for your ministry?

I simply plan to keep doing what God has gifted me to do; video record and share with the masses via YouTube and facebook.

Connie: Thank you.

How many concerts do you think you've gone to over the years?

Dean: Way too many to count or even estimate accurately. I became an avid concertgoer as a teenager. Probably at least 500 so far. Since May 2011, Dodie and I have been to 20 Third Day concerts, with 4 more scheduled for this year, and 41 non-Third Day concerts. No wonder we're semi-broke at times. For us, I guess you'd say it's not just a pastime, it's a lifestyle. ;)

Connie: Yep! I remind my husband of the expense of his golf whenever he questions the cost of my concert-going.

Ahem, back to you …

Do you know how many videos you have uploaded?

Dean: So far, 1,200+. The great majority of them are videos I personally recorded at concerts.

Connie: What goes into the process?

Dean: The process of uploading to YouTube? Depends upon the source material and video quality. The larger the video file, the longer it takes time-wise for each upload. As previously stated, the majority are concert videos I recorded. Some are album tracks (songs), some from TV broadcasts, a few from radio interviews. Some videos require some editing prior to uploading, so they take a bit longer to complete. Dodie and I store the original files on hard drives, so they can be viewed and enjoyed on our 55 inch HDTV and Surround Sound system. I've also burned videos to DVD, to share them with others.

Connie: Oh, cool!!!

Do you have a favorite story about a concert you've attended or a video you've shared (or both)?

Dean: A few favorite moments come to mind. Once, we burned 90+ DVDs of a large Gomer gathering and Third Day concert, to share the memorable event with several of our Gomer friends. (For those who don't know what a Gomer is …

Connie: Ahem, they should if they’ve read much of this blog …

… we are a community of ultra-fanatical Third Day fans.) Aside from having a large library of concert and music videos as personal keepsakes, our favorite part is simply sharing and blessing countless people everywhere. Neither of us have musical talent, but we do have the pleasure of sharing live Christian music with the world. We know God touches people in a variety of ways through the great Christian artists we promote via YouTube.

A favorite concert moment was a time when Third Day lead singer Mac Powell grabbed my camera and got some video from the stage.

If you can’t view the video imbed, check out this link.

Dodie: The most meaningful moments we have are the Third Day shows that we get to attend with some of our closest friends from other states. Dean's job blesses us with free flight benefits, so we get to spend quite a bit of time with some friends we dearly love, who live several hundred miles away. One of the most memorable experiences I can think of, though, was a Third Day show that we attended in Detroit, right after we got married, and Mac Powell dedicated a song to Dean and me during the show. That was very exciting, and very unexpected. 

Connie: Awwwww! I soooo love that! I don’t have that video on here, but I have one close to it. This one was recorded only a few days ago.

Thank you, Dean and Dodie, for visiting LBOC today. You guys are like Gomer royalty ;o).

Visit the 3rdDayRocker YouTube channel here:


Other posts you might like:

March of the Minions

When It Rains, He’s There

Where Did You First Meet God in the Bible?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Jesus Freaks

loading planeYears ago, my sister told me this story about something that happened to her on an airplane. She was traveling to different countries back then doing hair shows with a hairdresser colleague of hers who happened to be homosexual.

She and her friend were approached by two long-haired dudes on this plane. I’ll never forget how she had described them at this point of the story as “hot.” These guys were really friendly so she wondered if they were hitting on her. But they were just as friendly with her colleague, too, so she began to believe they were hitting on him.

Then, the unthinkable happened. They asked my sister and her friend if they believed in Jesus! My sister was floored. Her eyes bugged out of her head as she exclaimed, “Connie! They were Jesus Freaks!”

I was perplexed. I thought she knew I took my Christian faith seriously. In fact, she’d often gotten defensive with me about some comment I’d made as though I were judging her because of my faith when I wasn’t. And here, she’s astonished to have met other people with the same belief and called them freaks to me.

How was I supposed to respond to that?

You may say, maybe she didn’t mean “freak” in a bad way ;o). In fact, some Christians use the term with pride. Well, considering these long-haired, “hot” dudes were later described as “greasy” at the end of the same recounting of the story, I’m thinking she meant freaks in a bad way.

And there’s more …

Some years after this incident my sister came to Christ—I mean all-out, on-fire-for-the-Lord kind of coming to Christ. She had been a believer for a couple years and one day mentioned it to me. Knowing that any mention of my faith to her had made her run in the other direction in the past, I greeted this news with warm enthusiasm, though I was cautiously rejoicing inside. She told me how disappointed she had been that no one in her family had been present for her baptism. I asked her why she hadn’t invited me. She said she didn’t think my faith was the same as her faith. When I told her what mine was (now that it was safe to) she said she’d never really known me before.

She didn’t. And I was not allowed to tell her because the minute I would share the one thing most important to me it was somehow twisted into being self-righteous and judgmental, when to me, it was just my passion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’ve never been self-righteous and judgmental—I’m no better than your average Joe. It’s just that it seemed to take on a whole new meaning because I was a Christian.

So why am I telling these stories?

First, because if you are not “a believer” and you have a tendency to think those of us who wear the term are somehow freaks, self-righteous and judgmental, please take another look. Yes, we have standards that we strive toward—only because we believe that God knows better than we, lowly humans, do. And even though we know this with our minds, we continually fail to meet those standards ourselves. It doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

We don’t believe we are better than those not of the faith. If we did, we wouldn’t need a Savior to wipe away our myriad of sins. It’s just that we sometimes want to tell the world about this great God, what He knows, and what He did for us.

Cuz it’s really cool!!!

Okay, sometimes we get a little excited about it, but for us, Jesus dying to wipe away our sins means an eternity of joy. So when you’re feeling bogged down with the complexities of life, maybe we just want to help—

So sue us ;o).

Or better yet, forgive us if we go too far.

Second, if you are a “follower of Christ” who thinks your faith is somehow more enlightened than the other person who manifests the same faith differently than you do, think again. You may be separating yourself from a different member of The Body who has something important to share with you. He or she may not be different, but complementary and just what you need to accomplish a complete ministry within your church.puzzle pieces

My sister and I are extremely different. This used to drive us apart. Now we see it as parts of a whole. We’ve learned soooooo much from each other that we’d never have learned had we only considered the others incompleteness.

Thank you, Jesus, that you allowed us to see!

Other posts you might like:

Do-ers and Be-ers

Is My Faith a Religion or a Relationship?

When Evil Says God Is Good

Friday, November 1, 2013

On Growth—By Gillian Marchenko

Gillian Marchenko, author of the recently published memoir Sun Shine Down, writes about where she and Polly are today, and the importance of noticing growth …sun shine down polly and mom

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon. My youngest daughter Evangeline (adopted from Ukraine in 2009, and who has Down syndrome and Autism) swings in the adaptive swing while her Papa dutifully pushes her back and forth. Elaina and Zoya, our two older girls, with adult-like bodies but childlike hearts, swoop and slide on the monkey bars. I shadow Polly, who also happens to have Down syndrome, to make sure she doesn’t get hurt, to help her if she asks.

An elevated Chicago train rumbles above us along the perimeter of the park. I turn to watch it push forward for a moment. The sun blinds my eyes. I look down at my shoes.

My head raises and I glance around for Polly, who seized the opportunity to rush to another activity while her Mom is momentarily preoccupied.

“Polly, where are you?” I call.

“Over here, Mom. I’m here.”


I turn around where I stand. I don’t see her.


Her voice calls from above. The knotted rope ladder to my right shakes, and catch sight of my daughter’s blue and green Velcro tennis shoes command the ropes as she scurries up.

I had no idea she could climb like that, sure-footed, easily, without any help, on weaving ropes that bend and rock as she moves.

Polly is seven years old

Her diagnosis of Down syndrome picked up my world and threw it against a brick wall. In my memoir, Sun Shine Down (published with T. S. Poetry Press in August), for about a year I stayed drippy, unglued, apart, so very sad about the presence of an extra chromosome in my child, and so very, very frightened of the future.

I was as weak as a mom as Polly was as a new baby. Her infant body resembled a bag of brown sugar. For months, her arms and legs flopped around. She was unable to hold her head up for a long time.

As was I.

But Polly and I both have grown important muscles over the last seven years. Her: muscles to stand, and then run, and jump, and climb a knotted rope ladder. And me: muscles to love without fear, to trust God, to advocate for my daughter, and beyond all else, enjoy the crap out of her.

Polly’s growth astounds me. She works hard to acquire new skills. She makes friends with anyone who comes into her sight. She cracks one-liners, causing our whole family to burst our britches with laughter, and she continues to teach me about what is really worth paying attention to in life.

I am blessed to be Polly’s mother. There have been hard times, and there will be more, but I plan to follow the footsteps of my daughter. To take a step when it is difficult, to work until I am sure-footed and able to chase after whatever God puts in front of me, and to make sure there is enough time in my days to appreciate growth; in my family, and in myself.


Gillian Marchenko headshotGillian Marchenko is an author and national speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her book, Sun Shine Down, a memoir, published with T. S. Poetry Press, was released this fall, 2013.

She writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection, and adoption. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today's Christian Woman, MomSense Magazine, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record.

Gillian says the world is full of people who seem to have it all together. She speaks for the rest of us.

Connect with Gillian on her website www.gillianmarchenko.com, on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/GillianMarchenkoPage) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/GillianMarchenk).

Amazon link for Sun Shine Down: http://goo.gl/3hFdH9

Other posts you might like:

Praying for a Smile: An Ollie Story—By Melissa Tagg

God’s Amazing Kleenex

How to Treat a Child with Autism

Friday, October 25, 2013

Trusting God to Help You Raise Godly Kids—An Interview with Dineen Miller

Are there people in your life who, when they speak, you sometimes feel the Holy Spirit moving through them? Dineen Miller, my guest today, is one of those people. I have yet to actually meet her in person, but every time I receive an interview from her, I am truly inspired. She has taken a topic which could leave many a spouse complaining about the person to whom they are yoked, and has turned it into a reason for praise. If you have no idea what that can look like, read on. You won’t be sorry.

Dineen has also been so gracious as to give away one free copy of her new book, Not Alone: Trusting God to Help You Raise Godly Kids in a Spiritually Mismatched Home, to one lucky commenter. A winner will be chosen one week from today, so please include your email address in the body of the comment.

Welcome Dineen …NotAlone3D

Can you tell us about your new book co-authored with Lynn Donovan?

I have yet to hear a mother say, “I’m a good mom.” As moms we doubt we’re enough to do the job, to raise our kids to know Jesus. The truth is, we’re not, nor do we have to be. God’s right there and He’s partnering with us to raise godly kids. That’s what our new book, Not Alone, is about. It’s for moms who are spiritually mismatched, divorced, separated, or single. God has our back. With His help, we CAN raise godly kids.

I suspect this book could inspire even mothers in spiritually matched households. We all need to place our full faith in God to help us raise our children.

What is the hardest part of raising Godly children in a spiritually mismatched family?

Having two parents with two different viewpoints, who technically have equal right and say to what their children will be taught. So the biggest challenge I’ve faced, and I see many of our readers face, is to do so respectfully and honor the prebelieving spouse’s views in the equation. Sometimes that spouse can be negative or disrespectful of the believing spouse’s faith views and will put down her beliefs in front of the children. It’s crucial in this case that Mom and Dad sit down and discuss respecting each other’s faith choices and to find ways to compromise if needed. Dad may not believe in God and can be honest with the kids about it, but He doesn't need to make Mom look foolish because she does believe in God.

Great advice!

Are there any blessings you’ve found raising children in a spiritually mismatched marriage?

Intentionality. Nothing is taken for granted. Especially eternity! I know being married to my husband (who’s a great guy and dad, by the way!) really pushed me to know the Bible. So my faith runs very deep and my girls have grown up with seeing their mother reading her Bible and pursuing her faith.

Plus they’ve witnessed first-hand the challenges of a spiritual mismatch. My oldest daughter just married a wonderful young man who’s a very strong believer. I started praying for my girls’ future husbands when they were little. My oldest daughter and her husband are a constant reminder to me of how incredibly faithful God is!

I love how God has worked you through this situation.

Can you give us one suggestion of what to do?

Pray and believe. A mother’s prayers are powerful. And we can teach our kids about God in the backyard, at the grocery store and anywhere it seems to be the right time to point something out that’s so clearly by Abba’s hand. The more we live our faith in our daily lives, the more our children catch it. We do our part, and God does the rest.


Can you give us one warning of what not to do?

Don’t see your prebelieving spouse as the enemy, especially in the faith arena. I know that’s hard at times especially if he or she is very antagonistic about it, but I do believe that even then God is bigger. God is always bigger than our spouse’s unbelief. It’s not up to us the change them or make them believe (that applies to our children too). Our job is to love them with the unconditional love of Jesus and let Him do the saving part.

Study carefully the way Jesus interacted with people. You’ll learn a lot about what sacrificial love looks like and what it really means to love someone right where they are, and still see the potential God has placed in them. The exciting part is Abba wants to partner with us to help release that potential in the ones we love and pray for. When we can place our focus there and not on what’s missing, we become a major part of the equation.

Treat a person like trash, and they’ll become trash. Treat a person like you believe they can become what God has planned for them, and you will be on the front row witnessing miracles.

Did I say Amen, yet? Well, Amen again!!!

In our previous interview on InfiniteCharacters.com you talked about how being in a spiritually mismatched marriage has deepened your relationship with God. Can you elaborate on that?

When I first started going to church, I got very involved in several ministries and gobbled up everything I could get my hands on about faith and God. I think my husband got worried because he would ask me a lot of questions about what I believed. I would hesitate because I was afraid I would say the wrong thing. He was afraid I was being “led by the nose” without being sure of the “facts.” That really pushed me to read and study the Bible more so I could answer his questions intelligently and confidently. And I’ve been hooked ever since!

I love that!!!

You just won the Carol Award for The Soul Saver, your novel featuring a couple who is in a spiritually mismatched marriage. How does that feel?

AMAZING!!! That award and so many other things that happened around it are such gifts from God. I am truly living and experiencing Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The Soul Saver was inspired by Abba and my life. I wrote it out of obedience and my love for Jesus. It’s all His. He is my delight and my GREATEST reward. So everything I do I see as chance to “delight” in Him. And the more I do that, the more He pours out these amazing blessings. One of my favorite parts of that award and story is on our blog. I hope your readers will take a moment to read it. I got to wash feet! http://www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.com/my_weblog/2013/09/blessed-to-wash-feet.html

Wow, just read that one. God is definitely intentional.

Do you have any fiction books on the horizon?

I’m working on a short story right now about a woman who spends a week with Jesus but doesn’t realize who He is. My husband wants to help me self-publish it and has even offered to read it. For that reason alone I will finish this story!

And I hope to finish a kind of sequel to The Soul Saver. It’s a completely different story and set of characters but carries the prophetic aspect of art. Instead of sculptures it’s paintings and the one painting them is an ex-mercenary. The book’s about seeing purpose in our pain and knowing who we are in Jesus. I hope one day soon it will have a home too!

Oh goody! I can’t wait. Make sure to let me know so I can interview you again.

Thank you, Connie! Always a pleasure being on your site. Love your interviews, my friend! Hugs!

And don’t forget to comment below to be entered to receive a free copy of Not Alone: Trusting God to Help You Raise Godly Kids in a Spiritually Mismatched Home.


DineenMiller-medDineen Miller believes her years as a youth counselor, a Stephen Minister, a women’s ministry leader and a small group leader fuel her desire to ignite the souls of others through words of truth. She’s also a C.L.A.S.S. Communicator and has been featured on the Moody Radio Network, Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk and FamilyLife Today. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, and they are the proud parents of two daughters and a son-in-law. Dineen is the coauthor of the award winning book, Winning Him Without Words: 10 Keys to Thriving in Your Spiritually Mismatched Marriage and author of the ACFW Carol Award winning book, The Soul Saver. Visit Dineen online at MismatchedandThriving.com.

Other posts you might like:

Life with Depth—by Amy Ford

Where Did You First Meet God in the Bible?

A Change in Perspective—by Dineen Miller

Saturday, October 19, 2013

March of the Minions

Don’t you just love those little yellow guys?!

A few weeks ago I encouraged you to BE a Minion (for God). My point, in case you missed it, was that we don’t have to do BIG things for God for Him to make BIG things happen in us. This week, I wanted to give you examples of what this can look like, so I’m going to do one of those “best of” thingies where I go through past posts to find other Minions for the MIGHTY. These are people who put their faith in action in the everyday. Read the excerpts and see how you can be ready for when God calls you to do something similar. These are not stories about those who served. They are stories about the people who were impacted. See how God used the servers to fill other’s need of a Savior.

Excerpts from Greg Holt’s testimony—a man who was shown Christ when his life was in shambles. I love how he calls his new friends “those” people. Haven’t many of us been afraid of being one of “those?” See what they do for him …

Along the way in this part of the story God stepped in. My wife was a school bus driver, and picked up a special needs child. She became friends with this child’s parents. They were not my friends. I really did not want to have anything to do with them. To make a long story short…I became friends with this couple. This is when things got really interesting.

This couple, well they were some of “those” people; you know those Christian people. Now I began to really like these guys, even though they were Christians. They would talk about God without shoving it down my throat, always had Christian music on. There was just something different about them. They were so nice and always willing to help me out even with my son who was a handful.

See the whole story. “Greg Holt—A Gomer Testimony


Excerpts from Rachel Rutledge’s testimony. She wrote mostly about how the music of Third Day inspired her many times of her life, but what enamored me with her story was when she tells of how a member of the band reached out to her personally. See what I mean …

I was traveling home to Virginia after some girlfriends and I had sung at an event. I stopped at a gas station, when I ran into this band named Third Day! I can't be positive which group member I spoke to (we were all so young then). It was either Mark or David. He wore a 3D t-shirt - upon which I struck up a conversation. I said how I loved the name and that I too was in a group. He then took the next several minutes to witness to me right there in the middle of nowhere at 2am. Even though I was already a Christian, I listened and was so impressed by his heart and willingness to share with a stranger in that situation. It would have been so easy to say hi, thank you, and to move on. From that moment on, I fell in love with Third Day... and more-so with their heart and love for the Lord.

Little did that band member know, but he gave me much hope that night. See, just days before I had been hit several times by my husband while in the car driving to Virginia. I had been in an abusive marriage for 5 years at that point—desperately trying to work things out.

See the whole story. “Rachel Rutledge—A Gomer Testimony"


Excerpts From Chris Cowans’ testimony. A story about a man who was brought to Christ after an explosion almost took his life. There are many minions in this one.

First, one of his colleagues who’d endured the blast with him …

I need to give you some background on the man with the injured legs. His name is Todd Adams. He had been working with me for over four years. I knew he was a Christian. He and I had numerous discussions over the years about his God and his God’s Word. I had attended a First United Methodist church as a child, but I had not attended any church for over twenty years. I was interested in the discussions we had about Jesus Christ, but I did not see eye to eye with everything we discussed. He said he believed everything as it appeared in the Bible, in other words, there were no contradictions of scripture. I had read some of the Bible before. I found what appeared to me to be many contradictions in the scriptures. I could not follow this line of thinking. I believed in a God who was an all-loving, merciful God. I could confess my sins on my deathbed and all would be forgiven. After the explosion occurred, my eyes and ears were clip_image001opened to the truth.

Todd had managed to drag the injured man lying on the floor, Rick, closer to the open doorway. He then assisted Jeff who was still sitting on the floor. Jeff is about 6’ 5" tall and 250 pounds. Todd’s legs were just about to give out on him at this point. Todd called on the name of Jesus to give him the strength to help his injured co-worker. At this point, help had started to arrive.

Then, there is Chris’s teacher who had no idea how her lesson would one day come in handy …

I was not a man given over to a steady prayer life, but I felt that, if there was a God, maybe He could help my friends. I began to pray for my friends and co-workers to all be found alive and to thank God for sending all of the help he had provided
My fourth grade public elementary reading teacher taught my class the 23rd Psalm back in Decatur, Indiana, during the years 1969-1970. I do not think I understood the significance of the words to this beautiful Psalm during that time. I had not even thought of this Psalm for over 20 years. But while I was lying on the ice praying to God for my friends to be all right, this Psalm popped into my head just as clear and fresh as if I had been reading the words. I felt the Spirit of God descend upon me and immediately the Spirit gave me peace and comfort. I knew I would be all right, and that He was in control of the situation.

And here are people Chris had only met once. Don’t think your small acts go unused by the Almighty …

During this time I received many visits from friends and strangers. I had numerous visits from church friends of my injured co-worker. I knew some, but not all of these people. Their love, generosity, and compassion touched me. Two instances, which occurred in the hospital, stand out in my mind. The day I was released, a new nurse was sent in to my room to tend to my injuries. While she was cleaning my burns and applying fresh dressings, she asked me if I knew Jesus. This got my mind to thinking. Did I know Jesus? I had been told of Jesus as a child. I had been told Jesus loved me. But, did I really know Jesus? I couldn’t give her a good answer. I told her I knew of Jesus, but it had been a while since I had been to church or thought about him. She told me Jesus could help me in my road to recovery.  One day before I was released, a woman came into my room. She appeared to be in her mid-thirties and was dressed in a hospital gown. She was a patient at the hospital also. She said she had heard of the accident. She told me to put my faith in the Lord Jesus and he would take care of me. She left the room and I never saw her again. Her picture was in the obituary column the next day. She had died that night. I believe the paper stated she had died of cancer. My mind started to think about the direction my life had been taking and where I needed to be in my walk with God.

Powerful, huh?!!! Look at all those Minions!!!

See the whole story. “How God Got My Attention


And there’s more …

A severely disabled girl who inspired a Special Needs Ministry that spans a continent.

How One Girl Inspired A Ministry of Access

One man who inspired one man … who inspires thousands.

The Man Who Inspired A Congregation—Sorta

The cashier who brightens everyone’s day

The Button Lady

The Baker for God

The Way to God’s Heart Can Be Through His Children’s Stomachs”

The autistic young man who inspires a church service

Jake, The Encourager” I REALLY love this one!!!

While traveling through this “blast from the past” to pick out tidbits of minions to share with you, I found something amazing. In some of these testimonies there is no mention of another person at all—just an encounter with God. However, I suppose there were those who’d been there in some way, and others who prayed at various times of that person’s life. Either way, it is a reminder that WE are not the be-all and end-all of salvation—“I Am” is. He chooses to use us not because He needs us, but because He wants us in The Body, working together for His Glory.

Do you have minions who’ve meant a lot to you? Tell us about them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Life with Depth—by Amy Ford

It is my pleasure to have Amy Ford on LBOC today. She is the co-founder of Embrace Grace, a non-profit ministry with the primary goal of empowering churches to be a safe and non-judging place for single girls to go when they find out they are pregnant. Discover more about her and her new book below.

Welcome Amy …

sailboat2Sometimes I go a few weeks, and it happens WAY too fast, where I glance back and realize that I “coasted” those few weeks. I use that term when there is no acceleration or braking, really doing nothing … just going through life and seeing what happens or falls into my lap. I hate it when that happens! It’s so easy to do though. I never felt like I did something cool or out of the ordinary with investing into my husband or kids, or in general, never accomplished anything in life those few weeks.

I feel like life should be full of little accomplishments that are more than, “I made it through today.” I do realize that we go through seasons in life that are really hard, and maybe that’s all we can offer our world. But most of the time, there is so much more that we can give because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us!

I’m always so amazed at people that live life to the fullest every day, no matter what is happening in their life. There is an Embrace Grace girl that seems to be a “carpe diem” kind of girl, and somehow she also seems to have so much favor in her life too. She was texting me last night SO excited because she had just started her new job this week and had already invested time into a new co-worker she had just met, shared her testimony and how the Lord has impacted her life, and then asked the girl if she would like to ask Jesus into her heart and the girl said YES and so they prayed the prayer, right there at her lunch break. She doesn’t waste time. Every moment for her is an opportunity to impact her world.

For me, I think the hardest part is FINISHING. You know I always talk about the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book and how much I love it. Well one of my strengths is ACTIVATOR. It’s an awesome strength – and pair that up with me being a big dreamer and visionary and I can get things to happen … but the part I have MAJOR flaws with is FINISHING.

I can come up with ideas all the time. Sometimes I’ll even buy a cute “Idea” journal at Barnes and Noble so I can document all my dreams, goals and ideas … but then I lose it and it doesn’t happen. Or sometimes my “to-do” list seems so big and daunting, and I look at my day and somehow will just decide not to answer my phone all day and maybe just hide under my covers. And then I remember, it’s ONE step at a time. Just one. And then go to the next step. And don’t stop stepping. So then I have the bright idea of buying me a super cute “To-Do” list. I actually bought one yesterday! It’s on a cute clipboard with purple flowers. The only problem is, I lose it. I’m not sure why, it just happens. I have so many journals and to-do lists around my house that only have like 3 pages filled. It’s funny.

On Friday I got my final print copies of my book, A Bump in Life: True Stories of Hope & clip_image001Courage during an Unplanned Pregnancy in the mail. The publisher sent me 4 boxes full and as I opened them, I was amazed and reminded, I CAN finish something. I remember thinking, I want to write a book and had all these dreams and ideas about it, but when it came to actually sitting down to write, it was hard. I could come up with a lot of excuses of why I didn’t have the time. But it really just came down to … one step at a time. The to-do list was huge. 55,000 words written is a GIANT task. It was easy for me to say, that’s too hard and takes too long, plus I lost my notes on it a few days ago … but I didn’t. I might have gotten 100 words in one day, but then another day 4,000 and never quitting writing, until one day I realize, I’m DONE! I did it!

God has equipped us with everything we need in order to carry out the dreams inside of us. He knows our strengths and he knows our flaws … but you can still accomplish something. It might not be a book, maybe it’s going back to school, or leading someone to the Lord like the EG girl did, or getting plugged into a ministry … or even starting your own. There will always be something else to do that might interfere. You just gotta make time, clear your schedule, even if that means staying up super late like I did, to impact your world and change your own life while doing it.

Life is too short to coast through it. Live a life of depth. Be purposeful about your days. Accomplish one of your goals, even if it feels like it will take forever, just don’t quit … one step at a time. You might discover a whole new world by hearing God’s voice, and obeying His words! We get one shot at this time on earth, make it count!


Amy Ford headshot2Amy is passionate about helping girls that are walking this journey of being single, pregnant and alone, since that represents her own journey. She is equally passionate about introducing Jesus in a fresh way to a generation of girls that are daddy-less and suffer from low self-esteem, lacking in knowledge of their worth and value—and Who our identity comes from.  She is the author of A Bump in Life: True Stories of Hope & Courage during an Unplanned Pregnancy that released October 1, 2013 with B&H Publishing. She has been a member of Gateway Church for 8 years. She is married to her sweet husband of 15 years, Ryan Ford and they have 4 children: Jess, Mackenzie, Landry & Judah Brave.

Other posts you might like:

When You Don’t Fit the Mold—by Rachel Phifer

Do You Ever Feel Your Offering to God is Too Small?

Did the Apostles Really ‘Dis’ Waitresses?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Owning Up!

It happened for all the wrong reasons, but isn’t that how God often works?

My husband and I got in a fight and I needed to leave the house. I burst out the front door, unlocked my car and fell into the driver’s seat. There, next to me, was the non-functioning, boxed up small appliance I needed to take back to the store before it went out of business the next week. Since I was now in my car and had nowhere else to go, this was my chance to do that.

Still in full fury, I heaved onto the main road, probably cut off a few drivers,driving fast and made my way to the store. I marched inside with my defective product, indignant “they” added to the frustration of my day by giving me the extra burden of returning this thing, and dropped the box on the Customer Service counter. “I need my money back. This doesn’t work,” I said, with all the elegance of woman on fire. 

“Do you have the receipt?”

Uh-oh. Having left the house because of my anger toward the hubby, I didn’t think about the receipt as I drove off in haste. The box had already been in the car.

I fished through my wallet to see if—somehow—I might have just put it in there. No luck. I reached into the bowels of my handbag, hoping against hope it might be there. Sheesh! This was just the culmination of my day.

So what did I do?—

“What do you mean I need a receipt?!”

—The only thing I could do given my ugly mood.

“You need a receipt to return this item,” she said, as though it had been said a thousand times that day.

Undaunted, I pushed forward. “It’s obvious I got it from here.” Don’t ask me how I believed this or even if I really did. All I know was that my disgusting mood was being emptied out on this poor woman as I railed against the store policy.

I have to give her credit, though. She spoke truth in a calm, cool, collected manner to me without the hint of a sneer.

I, on the other hand, after harassing her thoroughly, turned to leave, but was stopped by the security guard at the door. “Do you have a receipt for that, ma’am.” He pointed to the boxed appliance I still possessed, due to my lack of receipt.

Who knows what I said. I believe when Jesus washed away the sin of that day, He must have washed away much of my memory of it too. I just remember the look in the security guard’s eyes when he’d obviously caught the gaze of the woman at the counter. She must have spoken volumes in seconds, communicating to him that he just better let me through.

It’s amazing how my sin can wrap around me so thick I can’t see it at all.

I got in my car and drove away. One car cut me off. I spewed some anger he or she could never have heard. Another car almost ran into me so I raised my hand in the air and screamed, “What are you trying to tell me, Lord?”

Then I noticed—sigh—I did not have my headlights on. These cars probably couldn’t even see me. I thought it was their fault they were cutting me off and now I knew it was mine!

At that moment I realized I’d been wrong in everything I had done over the past hour, even the fight with my husband. I told God, “If that same woman is at the counter tomorrow, I promise I will apologize for my abysmal behavior.” Of course, I’d planned to go early, and since this woman worked night shifts, she’d likely not be there.

I hoped.

So, I got home and apologized to my husband—for what, only the Holy Spirit knows now. Then I trudged back to the store the next day—appliance and receipt in hand—and walked over to the counter.

Imagine the feeling in my gut when I saw that woman there. Imagine the look on her face when she saw me.

Tears filled my eyes as I realized God had blessed me and I needed to be grateful for it. I neared the counter trying to drum up some courage and said, “I don’t know if you remember me from last night …” even though it was obvious she had, “ … but I came in here in a very bad mood and took my anger out on you. I am very sorry.”

Her eyes bugged out and her mouth dropped open. The woman behind her stared with the words “Say what?” shooting from her irises. She’d almost dropped the box she’d been carrying.

Clearly, this does not happen often because these women had no idea how to respond. That made my heart ache even more!

Finally, she spoke a thank you and helped me return my item. The other woman kept eying me like an unusual beast that needed further study as she helped another customer.

I asked if the security guard from the night before was there so I could apologize to him. She said no. Evidently, God’s penance for me was now complete. And I was blessed. Really!

You see, showing Christ to the world is not always about doing the right thing, but owning up to when you do it wrong. Acknowledging to the world your own sinfulness and need of a Savior.

Believe it or not, I think I witnessed to both those ladies behind the counter that day. Both were incredulous and both expressed immense gratitude to me—even after I’d been the one who wronged them. But somehow God took even my ugliness and turned it into His glory.

Other posts you might like:

When God Is Not Like A Parent

What Brought You to Christ?

I Failed God’s Test

Friday, September 27, 2013

Captive in Iran—Book Commentary

captive in Iran coverWhen I first heard about Captive in Iran, by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, I knew it would be interesting—a story of two women in an Iranian prison, jailed for their faith—but it was so much more than that. It was more than an opportunity to learn about another’s culture and how it oppresses the faith I take for granted in my own country. It was a reminder of God’s unending love, unceasing providence and extraordinary wisdom. Though the story is told through two women, I think they’d be the first to agree, it’s not their story—it’s God’s.

What did I gain from reading this account of how two women were unfairly imprisoned with no knowledge of the actual charges and no idea if they’d be executed for them? Hmmm. Let’s see …

I was inspired to maintain faith through storms, long periods of “drought” and to remember that God is always working behind the scenes.

I learned God uses all things for His glory, even in persecution.

I learned He is mightiest when all seems lost.

I learned the power of forgiveness, the power of friendship, the power of love, the power of prayer and even the power of blogging :o)!

I learned miracles happen today.

I learned not to judge others whose lives are very different from mine.

I learned what is really important in life.

I learned to appreciate freedom of religion.

I learned a lot about Iran I hadn’t known before, like the confusing laws about faith, the horrible treatment of women (sanctioned by the prevailing religious forces) and the propaganda against Christianity (like the selling of a false Christian gospel in the stores). I also learned about the “underground believers” who know the real Jesus Christ, but cannot acknowledge Him in public for fear of their safety.

Pray for these people!!!

Lastly, I learned how to evangelize. These women did not push their faith in prison, they just built friendships based on respect and trustworthiness and spoke truth when asked questions.

Read this book and pray for the people of Iran!

Other posts you might like:

A No-Matter-What Kind of Joy

When It Rains, He’s There

Let Me See Redemption Win