How blessed we are to have friends who lift us up, who speak truth to us, who listen, give advice, encouragement and their constant prayers. This is richness; this is true treasure to have such wonderful women in your life.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Bow My Pain

The most beautiful person I ever met was in her 60s and suffering the effects of Parkinson's Disease.  Her name was Charlene Shurtz.  She was the grandmother of my daughter-in-love, Jen, who is married to my son, Tyler, and my son-in-love, Jonathan, who is married to my daughter, Kaley.  (Yes, siblings married siblings, so I am doubly blessed:)  The very first time I met Charlene, the first thing I noticed was the dancing sparkle of joy in her eyes.  Looking back, it seemed  her body could not hold such joy, so it had no choice but to radiate from her beautiful blue eyes.   Her sense of humor was mischievous.  I remember her gift to Jen at a bridal shower of a nightie that was anything BUT dour, and Jen's reaction of "GRANDMA!!!"  Charlene's impish and delighted smile lit up the room:)  When she was in town, she and her daughter, Kathy, would invite me to lunch and honestly, I would treasure and still do the moments I had just to be in the presence of such a great example of faith.  Charlene bowed her pain in worship.  She never let her pain or discomfort keep her from enjoying a beloved granddaughter's bridal shower or spending time with friends and family.  And the truth cannot fake that kind of inner peace, exuberant joy and lavish love for others.  She could have been discouraged, felt sorry for herself, embarrassed of her failing health and "checked-out" on living life, but I am certainly thanking God she didn't.  She has been my beacon now for years.

And isn't that what bowing your pain in worship ultimately does???  Doesn't it provide hope and promise to those who follow behind us?  Over thirty years ago I had a difficult miscarriage.  I was rushed to the emergency room and to make a long, sad story short...I spent the night listening to babies being born while I lost mine.  Nothing went easy or normal.  Two days later when I came home, I was a changed person. I remember thinking I would rather have physical pain any day than this deep, aching, heartbreaking pain of loss and grief.  Thirty years later would I change my life?  If I could, would I sweep away the pain I felt during those dark days?  Never.  Not for a million dollars.  Through the years, time after time, the Lord has brought across my path young women who are in the midst of the pain and loss of a baby, and I know their pain...I can still feel it.  I know what to say and what NOT to say.  I can tell them you WILL make it through.  Is my pain of miscarriage worship bowed to the Lord?  It is my sweetest worship given every time another precious woman reeling from such a great loss comes my way. I bow it again and again with a grateful heart for the value He has given to the pain I endured.

I had to smile at the "carrot, egg, and coffee" analogy Linda gave in this chapter, "I Bow My Pain."  I'll give a quick synopsis here:  A young woman told her mom the pain in her life was so unbearable she was thinking of just giving up.  Her mom took her into the kitchen, filled three pots with water and placed carrots in one, eggs in another and ground coffee beans in the last and then set them on to boil.  Twenty minutes later, she pulled the carrots and eggs from the water and placed them in bowls and ladled coffee into a cup.   She asked her daughter what she saw and her daughter said, "Eggs, carrots and coffee."  The mom asked her to really take a good look at the carrots and eggs and the daughter then noted the carrots had become soft while the eggs had become hard.  The coffee on the other hand had become rich and flavorful.  This wise mom went on to explain that all three had faced the same adversity...boiling water...but each had reacted differently.  The carrots had been strong, but came out weak.  The fragile eggs became hardened, but the coffee had changed the water! 

So then the question is:  Which are you?  Carrot, egg or coffee?  I thought and thought about that question.  I remembered past difficulties, pressures, worries, painful experiences both physical and emotional and I came to this conclusion:  I go in a carrot or an egg and sometime during the "boiling process" praise God!  He turns me into coffee!:)  I wish I could remember one time that I went in ground beans and came out coffee...but I can't.  I usually have my "carrot" moments:  "I can't do this...This is too difficult...I quit!" And I sometimes have my "egg" moments:  "I am done, Done, DONE!  I don't care anymore!  Forget it all!!!"  For me, all of this carrot and egg stuff is "grinding the coffee beans" to get me to become the coffee that I truly want to be.  The older I get, the shorter my carrot and egg processes are and the more quickly I surrender, allowing the Great Coffee Maker in the Sky to have His better way with me and my life.

I never saw my friend, Charlene's, carrot or egg moments...she was always, always coffee around me.  I am pretty sure if Charlene where still here, she would tell us she had plenty, but she found bowing her pain in worship to be far richer and more satisfying then allowing circumstances of pain to turn her weak or harden her heart.  I know there are many more "Charlenes" out there in the world, bowing their pain in worship each day, and I also know that these people are put into our lives to point the show it IS possible to live a life of faith, hope, love and promise even in the midst of pain. 

Let's face the truth:  pain is an absolute certainty in this life here on earth.  None of us will escape it. It all comes down to the "C" word again...choice.  What we choose to do with our pain will define us and our lives for years to come.   We all know someone who has been weakened by the pain in their lives and they retreat from really living.  They try to make their lives "safe" so that pain won't be an issue...or so they believe.  Others are hardened by the pain.  NO ONE gets in too close.  They close themselves off to sympathy, empathy and, at times, even love in the false belief that they are protecting themselves from  pain.  Whether you retreat or slam up walls...pain will seep in, over run your retreating footsteps or crash through walls.  But there is a choice to do something different...

Surrendering our pain to God gives Him the open door to comfort, give strength and turn our pain into something valuable, something that someday we will look back and find worthy of our sweetest praise.  

So what to choose?  Carrot?  Egg? or Coffee?  For me the real miracle is that I might go in a carrot and even morph into a hard-boiled egg, but sometime during the process I make a choice and come out coffee:).  I always knew there was something deeply spiritual about coffee!!!  

Worship in the midst of pain????  Absolutely.  Maybe tremulously like a soggy carrot at first, or haltingly, barely lifting a hand through the cracked surface of a protective facade, like a seemingly impregnable over-boiled egg, but ultimately we worship with a rich fragrance that fills the air near us and beckons those around to come near and share the comfort and the goodness that is our Lord.

Love to you, my dearest "coffee" loving friends!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Bow My Times of Waiting

Waiting has never been one of my best attributes, in fact, I am flat-out lousy at it.  However, I can say this...I was WAY worse when I was 40:).  When I read Linda's chapter on bowing our times of waiting and what that DOES NOT LOOK LIKE, I saw myself as if looking into a nice, newly windexed mirror.  But I am definitely not alone down through the ages as Linda reminds me...for instance, there is Sarah...

Sarah really messed things up, didn't she with her inability to wait?  Her consequences still reverberate down through the generations. I think just about every woman on the planet can, at some time in their lives, identify with Sarah...especially if you are married...ESPECIALLY if you have children.  We are by motherly nature:  fixers.  So here is my transparent moment:  Hello, I am Cherri.  I am a recovering fixer.

It is difficult for me to wait on a checker who is as slow as molasses in January as my mom used to say.  Peter and I stood in line at Walmart...the express line for 30 minutes as the checker kept trying to put through a credit card that her register would not accept.  She would look up every once in awhile smile and say, "Have patience, please." As time went on, she began joking about how she has lots of "patients."  "Look at you in line" (smile smile smile).  "You are all my patients" (smile smile smile).  I think I gave a gratuitous fleeting smile, but that is truly all I could muster.  I don't think Peter could even lift the corners of his mouth.  For the life of me, I don't know why she kept trying that same card, but eventually the machine had had enough and just locked itself up.  So then she had to call for a manager to unlock her machine and give her some help.  But, of course, Mr. Manager was no where to be found.  Finally, I thought..."I know what will get us out of here...the self-check line."  Have you ever tried one of those?  Oh My Gosh!  Peter and I froze one register because it could not sense the paper towels we put in the bag.  "Please put your item in the bag."  So I picked it up and put it down a little harder.  "Take unidentified item out of bagging area."  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!  So I take the towels out.  "Please put items back in the bag."  And then just like our happy checker's machine...this one froze too.  So we moved onto another register.  We managed to freeze this one as well, but a young man who worked in the area solely to unfreeze machines walked over and waved his magic badge and Viola! register healed.  I want one of those badges.  We walked out an hour later with some pretty soft ice cream, questionable popsicles and of course our problematic paper towels. 

Linda writes we get in the way of God when we get impatient with waiting and try to fix things ourselves.   I think I can accurately say many times we get in our own way as well...much like my dear husband and me during our Walmart fiasco.  I have found waiting to be a skill that needs practice.  I could have practiced a bit in line with our comedian checker...but we had ice cream and that changes everything...nobody messes with my ice cream.  But seriously, we could have handled it differently...with grace. 

Years ago as a young wife and mom, I was disappointed in Peter and his spiritual leadership in our family.  I had a picture of what it looked like and he was not coming NEAR the ideal.  I tried to "help" him by getting him books on how to be a "great spiritual leader."  I told him about programs he could listen to on Focus on the Family.  I bought devotionals by the stacks for him to use in the evenings with the kids and I.  And still he refused to be the man I knew he could be.  For years I devoted myself to forcing, coercing, manipulating and even pleading with the most emotionally charged words I could muster in an attempt to "help" Peter become the spiritual leader I envisioned.  One day I spent some time with my friend, Nancy Robinson, who was a pastor's wife.  I knew here I would find a sympathetic ear for my dilemma and maybe some new ideas.  So she listened to my very sad, dramatic tale of spiritual neglect and then when I finally had spoken my last word, she looked at me with a smile and said, "Cherri, you make a very poor Holy Spirit."  I was stunned.  She went on to explain to me that many times God is working in the lives of people we love and because he does not work on our time schedule, or it doesn't look like what we envisioned, we will push our own agenda and cause a "miscarriage of what God had been trying to birth in that person."  I understood miscarriage.  I'd had a devastating one and realized full well the death that miscarriage brings to a newly formed and developing life.  Nancy went on to say that what I say and do can delay what the Lord wants to do in Peter's life.  It won't derail it by any means (thank goodness I don't have THAT kind of power) but my "fixing" wastes valuable time. 

I began to see that I was a "spiritual abortionist" in my family.  Ugly ugly truth.  I wish I had learned this lesson once and for all.  That I could say I applied this to all relationships in my life, but for some reason I felt my children were exempt.  I could tell stories about some really stupid choices  made as I navigated raising my brood of six, but I won't waste your time.  What I will tell you is that God would not let allow me to keep it up.  Eventually, He taught me the lessons of waiting, listening and obeying and now...when it comes to relationships in my life...I am big on waiting, listening, and obeying because I have seen the value of it.  He has shown me over and over He is trustworthy and I CAN wait.

Linda writes there are three reasons we do not wait and get in God's way:

1.  We only know part of the story.
2.  We are prompted to fix a problem because we care
3.  We are prompted to fix in order to protect ourselves.

And then she asks the question:  Which of these do you most identity with?  And I had to write "All of them" in big bold letters.  At different times in my life I have instantly come to a conclusion, worked out a solution to "fix" and then found out I made matters worse because I had NO CLUE what was really going on.  I rushed ahead with my assumptions...bad idea.  With my children I have jumped into fix because I cared...loved them with so much of my heart that I wanted to fix issues:  real and imagined...bad idea.  And in the case of Peter, many times, if I am to be really honest, my fixing was to take responsibility off of myself.  Back in those early days, I didn't want to be responsible for my own relationship with God.  I remember one time reminding him that if he did not lead me spiritually, he was going to be in BIG trouble when he got to heaven.  I had envisioned standing near as the Lord reprimanded Peter for not leading me as he should have, and I got some sense of satisfaction out of that thought.  But now, at fifty-six, I can say with all honesty I am so grateful Peter did not take on a responsibility that did not belong to him.  It forced me to seek God on my own and, through some difficult times and circumstances, my own roots have grown deep in the Lord.  I treasure my sweet relationship with my Savior.  Truly Peter was being led far better by the Spirit than I was in my arrogance and pride. 

Here's what gives me great joy...Sarah..."By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11 ESV). She is mentioned in Hebrews' "Faith Hall of Fame"!  She was not a perfect woman or follower of God  but even with all her mistakes, eventually she got it....she believed!  JUST LIKE ME!  And girls, that just makes me smile:). 

What if we saw these times of waiting...the short waits..for slow checkers, slow drivers, slow internet connections, slow coffee baristas and the long waits...for lives to change, inspiration to come, prayers to be answered as times given to God in faith as worship?  This could change the way we react in our times of waiting.  It could be just the fertile ground we need to enrich and grow in our lives of faith.   Waiting=Worship...what a wonderful and encouraging concept!

We are imperfect waiters for sure, but we grow in our faith, we grow in our trust, and we grow in our ability to wait, to listen and then to obey.  And we like Sarah triumph over our mistakes and say with David, "But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, 'You are my God.  My times (and my husband's and my children's and all those who I care about) are in Your hand..."  (Psalm 31: 14-15 NIV)

Love to you, my faithful "Hall of Fame" sisters!!!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

I Bow My Work in Worship

You gotta love the Bible.  It breaks ALL the rules.  As a writer I am always careful of absolutes such as "all," "never, and "always."  But the Word of God uses absolutes ALL THE TIME.  Rejoice always.  Give thanks for all things.  Love never fails.  Whether God is addressing our words, our attitudes, our thoughts or our is always emphatically.  So there is no surprise this week as we read about worshiping with our work that He tells us:  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  BOOM!  That is pretty all inclusive from sunup to sundown. 

As I read this chapter I had to wonder what my life would look like if everything I worked at was done with all my heart and given to the Lord in worship.  I can tell you it would look a darn sight different than what has been evident.  My job at the moment is ministry assistant to Women's and Family ministries.  I LOVE my job!  I look forward to going to work.  I love the people I work with, and I completely enjoy the work I have the opportunity to do.  

But what if I had my friend Paula's job as a hospice worker?  Paula sits with the dieing and gives comfort and support to those who are facing imminent death, some of them in unimaginable pain.  Would my attitude be so joyful?  Paula's is.  When she shares about her job, you can hear the compassion and love coming through her words.  She sees her job as ministry...a kind of heavenly midwife.

What if I had my friend Cathy's job at her retirement manor?  Cathy french braids long, grey hair, helps her clients bathe and dress, decorates for dances, and perhaps the greatest gift of all...she listens.  Cathy says there is a "story behind every door" and she truly enjoys listening to life stories of love and loss, of trial and triumph.  She continually calls herself blessed because of her work.

What if I had my friend Lynn's job of stocking shelves in the wee hours of the morning at a local grocery store?  She continually looks for opportunity to serve God by serving others in her workplace.  Lynn has been an inspiration to me as she sees opportunity for service and mission in her job.  

What if I could revisit my mom days...all of the cooking and cleaning, refereeing, teaching, the continual and non-ending everyday tasks of motherhood and homemaking?  Would I see a woman who saw her everyday tasks as worship?  Not often.  Back then the idea never occurred to me that what I was doing day in and day out could have been worship given joyfully to the Lord.  I certainly did see motherhood as a joy (sometimes), a gift (sometimes), as valuable and precious...everyday, but worship?  Not so much.  I think it was because so often I did it awkwardly, with a ton of "off key" moments.  Who would want that????  

I am in awe of a Lord who speaks to us with great compassion and tells us to bring our weaknesses and even our sin to Him...that He will take it.  Load it up..load it on and in those moments of humble submission...we all of our "off key, off beat, tone deaf" worship to Him...and He loves it!  Who?  Who is like our God?

I spent two days attending the Global Leadership Summit that comes out of Bill Hybels' Willowcreek Church in Illinois.  If you get the chance to attend next year in August...jump at it. (For more information about this summit click here: For two days I listened to speakers who encouraged their listeners to work "as unto the Lord."  Each speaker had their own perspective, but in the end it all came down to this:  As you work in whatever tasks you have been given, do it with passion and a great attitude, remembering that this is your ONE chance to work for and serve the Lord and others.  I left there pondering all I heard about being a positive influence in the work place.  Whether it is in your home or at work, there is incredible power in a godly influence.  I considered how we are given opportunities to influence and bless others everyday and in the process we have the opportunity to worship "in word and deed."  There is a great difference between work and work seen through the eyes of worship.  We act differently, speak differently, think differently.

I received a great lesson in the difference between seeing your job as "just a job" and seeing your work as serving and blessing others.  Recently I traveled with my eighty-two year old mom to South Dakota.  She hates to fly.  It is difficult and even fearful for her.  During our trip, she had no less than six different wheelchair attendants as we traversed airports.  Out of those six two stand out clearly.  One was a woman who treated my mom as a task she needed to complete, one that she did not appreciate taking up her precious time.  She was abrupt, hurried and annoyed and my mom and everyone else near her felt every ugly attitude.  The other was a man, Manuel, who treated my mom with value and kindness.  He asked her about her trip, smiled and assured her he would get her to the gate on time.  He made sure she was comfortable and ready to board the plane.  He changed my mom's anxious and fearful mood into joy and laughter.  I wish we could have taken him with us:).  The other four attendants ranged from complacent to cordial.  Manuel, out of them all, was the only one who saw his job of wheelchair attendant as something worth doing with joy and a positive attitude.  It was obvious the others were simply working to get off at the end of a shift.

I am finishing this post after going to church this morning.  The teaching was on the absolutely stunning, crazy, shocking love Christ has for us.  We read from Colossians 1:15-23, an amazing passage describing the "supremacy of Christ" and His great love and sacrifice for us.  It occurred to me while listening this morning that if we "got it"...if we "grasped how wide and long and high and deep is the Love of Christ," maybe worshiping Him with all the work of our hands would become second nature.  

One life...that is all we are given.  Twenty-four hours in every day...and we have the privilege and honor to worship with as many of those hours as we like.  What a thought!!!  Well, girls, I had better get going.  I am making tacos tonight as unto the Lord!

Love you, sweet things!  May you "know the Love that surpasses knowledge" and "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God," so that worship will flow gracefully from your lives!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

I Bow My Attitude

All of my life I have wanted to live in the country.  I have prayed and dreamed about living the country life.  Never in my imaginings did I ever believe I would actually live my dream.  But this year Peter and I bought a beautiful place out in the country through God's good grace alone.  He made it so obvious it was He making this home happen, it could not possibly be denied.  Oh, my gosh!  Was I ever thankful.  I was filled with gratitude until...escrow wanted another $1000 two days before closing and then another $1400 the day the house absolutely HAD to close.  I was filled with gratitude until...the homeowner's insurance was cancelled after only a month in the house because of a fire in the hills near us.  They now wanted triple what they had quoted us in the beginning.  I was grateful until...the enormous koi pond on the property began to have a traumatic fish die off.  Did you know that fish need oxygen?  Yes, indeed they do...and I thought all they needed was water and a handful or two of fish food. Poor things.  Peter and I eat fish not watch them or take care of them.   By the way, it has gotten better...this is for all the koi lovers out there:).

My attitude was pretty bad.  Not only did my grateful attitude morph quickly into ugly, but when my attitude turns south, because I am a word person, I think of all kinds of things I could say.  An entire dialogue goes through my head for days...I lose sleep and the "peaceful country living" is a dream once again.  

Ironically, I sat down with this book to read the next chapter with a bad attitude.  Tomorrow I have to cash...$500 to the insurance company to keep our insurance.  I am stewing over that and have had more than one "mind conversation" with the agent I will be handing over the money to.  In the midst of this "conversation," the Lord reminded better get going on reading the next chapter for the blog.  So I put the conversation on hold and picked up the book.

FOR CRYIN' OUT LOUD...REALLY????  I saw the title, "I Bow My Attitude," and thought..."Oh, Lord, You are a sneaky Guy.  You totally set me up."  I had to smile.  What love...what personal care.  I knew He was answering the call of my heart to love Him better, to worship Him in truth, to be obedient and pleasing to Him.  

Once again I realize worshiping with my attitude is a choice.  I was humbled by the stories Linda tells of others...Corrie ten Boom in the Ravensbruck concentration camp, the young wife whose husband was killed in Iraq, the mother whose daughter was rebelling against her and the Lord.  We would look at these precious sisters and not give a thought to their complaining or bad attitudes. Their situations deserved bad attitudes...they were entitled to them.  And yet, they CHOSE NOT to stay in attitudes of disgust, anger, fear and sorrow and be grateful.  

Linda gives a description of an old woman who overflows with thanksgiving...  "She has a beautiful smile and a contagious laugh.  Her strength is drawn from the River of Living Water, and she whispers to her Lord with a confident intimacy that entices me.  An attitude of gratitude flows over her because she has developed a lifestyle of giving thanks in everything--it has become a part of her very nature.  She no longer has to tell herself, 'Remember to be thankful.'  Her thankful spirit is a by product of years of walking with her God.  This is the woman I want to become."  Me too.  

Today I'm pulling out my "gratitude journal" I use at Thanksgiving and write...Lord, thank You for this home.  Thank You that we can still be insured.    You provide for us and we can trust You.  Thank You that the fish are not dying any longer and we are learning a new to take care of a koi pond, and thank You for the delight our grandchildren take in this pond.  

Colossians 2:7 makes a beautiful prayer specifically to make us into grateful followers and lovers of God:  Lord, I pray that my roots would grow deep down into You and that my entire life would be built on You.  Then my faith will grow strong in the truth You have taught me, and I will overflow with thankfulness.  Lord, I desire to be a thankful daughter, not a grumbler, fretter or complainer.  Help me to make gratefulness a natural part of who I am and not a something I need to remember.  Amen and amen!

Praying that the Lord would bless you with hearts filled with gratitude!