Monday, November 28, 2011

Quiet Moments With God -- Roots of Love

This morning, feeling heavy-hearted, I picked up my devotional and my Bible. I prayed the Lord would meet with me. And of course there he was, waiting. He knows my thoughts before I speak a word of them. He knows every sorrow, every worry and all my joys. He's amazing Father God whose love never fails.

I read and prayed and then rested in His gentle, capable hands. And then I went to a section of scripture that has comforted me many times--Ephesians 3:16 - 19. "I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is his love."

Years ago, while my children napped I sat on my back porch and read these same words. I remember stopping to ask God to help me understand more completely. I set my Bible in my lap and looked out at a valley below my home. It was broad and deep and long and I knew that God's love would fill it and more. He gave me a glimpse of how great His love is. It is beyond human comprehension but it is real and will never fail us. It is His love that gives us strength and empowers us to stand against the storms of life, to trust and to forgive and to love. But first we must plant roots in God's love. Only then will we have the ability to rely on Him and to know the reality of a greater love than our own.

Trust in His love, not man's wobbling version of it, for God's love will never fail us.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Topic Of The Day-- At A Dead Stop?

While going through some of the photos recently taken while on a trip to Seattle I came across one I took while stuck in a traffic jam. It reminded me of my life.

We'd been zipping along on the freeway when all of a sudden we were forced to a stop, surrounded by cars on every side. The freeway had functioned perfectly until it reached a certain threshold of numbers -- too many cars had created a log jam of vehicles.

Sometimes life is like that. We are moving along just fine until we pile on too many obligations or allow others to overload our lives with responsibilities. Have you experienced that place where you feel as if you're stooped beneath the weight of those obligations?

I have. And when it happens it's as if I'm stuck in traffic. I'm not making headway. My work isn't getting done, there's no energy for family or for fun and not even for God. Burn out can be more destructive than we realize. We believe it's only for a time, but sometimes we are unable to climb out of the weariness, the malaise.

The holidays are right in front of us. They contain the perfect recipe for burn out. Before we ruin our favorite time of year by over extending ourselves let's take stock of what really matters. Do what we want, not what's expected. And decide what really matters to us. The rest needs to be left to another time . . . or maybe never.

The house doesn't have to be spotless. Our tables don't need to look like something we've see in Good Housekeeping and we don't have to attend every outreach program or party we're invited to. Say no and find the joy in the season. Remember why we celebrate.

May you all have a holiday season filled with love, joy and peace.

Grace and peace to you,


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Topic of the Day -- Random Thoughts

My daughter Sarah and I just returned home from one of several trips to Washington. My eighty-six-year-old mother had open heart surgery six weeks ago. It wasn't what we expected.

Random Thoughts

Mom should be home -- Instead she's still sick, but she hasn't lost her smile.

I think staph infections are evil.

A Wound Vac is brutal but can save lives. I hope it saves my mother's.

Thank you God for doctors and nurses who care.

Mom wants to go home, but which home? You know God.

Why is it that when I remember and smile I also cry?

I love my mother's smile and her sweet disposition.

Mom loves to tell stories and I love to listen.

Love is powerful, healing and lasts forever.

I thank you God for my life -- It's been full of love and wonderful stories.

Memories are treasures.

I'm grateful for my mother--she taught me love and forgiveness.

I don't like cities--it's wonderful to be back in my peaceful country home.

Suffering is not necessarily bad, but I hate it.

We don't always have to understand why we feel the way we do.

Trust God -- He'll carry us home to heaven when the time is right.

Thank you Mom for loving me the way you do and for the many precious memories.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Topic of the Day -- The Death of Bookstores?

Bookstores are dying off--a bitter pill for readers, bookstore owners and writers to swallow. Why aren't we gathering together in protest, carrying our signs and demanding that someone save our our beloved stores?

Okay . . . protests may be a bit much, but we aren't helpless. We don't have to allow the stores to fail and drop by the wayside. We do have power. It's time to stand up to the bookstore slayers like Amazon and say, "Enough is enough."

Here in my town, we've already lost our bookstores. It's hard to believe.

Have you envisioned a world without bookstores? Will our only local choices be Walmart or Fred Meyer? That would be ugly -- best sellers only and almost no Christian fiction.

What can we do? First take a look at Ann Patchett. She did something. You can read her story at

Hooray for Ann! And there are others of you out there who are able to follow in her footsteps. Please don't wait. We need independent bookstores. The world just won't be the same without them.

If you're in the market and are managing a successful bookstore teach others how to do it. If you're struggling reach out for help, study the market, work smart and get creative. If you do "Readears will come".

And readers, we must band together. Buy books at your local stores. Remember how it used to be--a friendly local merchant chatted with you and often recommended just the right book, we used to get together with other readers and compare best reads, aisles filled with books, the smell of ink. Buying a book with the click of a button is easier but at what cost? Think about it before you click again.

I'm not anti kindle. After all, as a writer I make money off ebook sales. And I sometimes purchase books online, usually used books that I need for research, but I do shop online from time to time. Maybe there's room for both the hometown store and the online store. I'm just asking that you remember your local stores and don't turn your back on them. The owners work hard, they've made a huge investment of time, money and heart. And I have trouble with mega stores that have too much power and too much control over what we read. And personal? I don't think so.

Give it some thought. Here in my town we miss our local stores. The nearest full service bookstore is now ninety miles from my home. Such a sad outcome for me and other local readers. Ninety miles is a long drive to buy a book.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Quiet Moments With God -- Heaven Waits

Heaven waits for us. God's Word tells us that His children will spend eternity with Him there. And God doesn't lie. These days I cling to this promise more and more.

My mother had open heart surgery four weeks ago. At age eighty-six we were uncertain that she'd survive the surgery, but she did. We were grateful, but the weeks that have followed have been harrowing and full of physical suffering.

I spent a week with my Mom when she had the surgery. When I felt that she was stable I returned home. Last weekend I made the trip north again to see her. She's been staying at a rehab center for three weeks and will remain there until she is strong enough and healthy enough to return home. It's been grueling for her.

While I was visiting last week, Mom's health declined and she developed an infection in the wound where her chest had been opened. Uncertain what was causing the pain and swelling in her chest she was rushed to a nearby hospital emergency room where doctors proceeded to poke and prod in search of an answer. It was torture for my mother and for those of us who love her. To make matters worse, we were told that she might have to face another surgery.

We waited, prayed and took turns sitting with her. When I sat with her I watched the monitors and her uneven breathing. She's so thin I could see the undulating rhythm of her heart through her chest wall.

When she stirred, I stood to check on her. She gazed up at me and a smile touched her lips. Her hazel eyes were alight with love and she said, "I'm so thankful you're here. I love you so much." I rested a hand on her cheek, then smoothed her forehead and told her what a wonderful mother she was and how much I loved her. It felt as if we were saying good-bye.

Even now when I think of that moment my eyes fill with tears. But they aren't tears of sorrow, though I feel that, they are tears of gratitude. How blessed I am to be loved so deeply and to love someone the way I do my mother. She blesses me and makes my life richer. To see her in the midst of suffering and yet be filled with gratitude and love is an amazing thing. Death was close, but Mom was not afraid for she believed God's promise of heaven.

Mom is still with us. She's better, but far from well. I don't know what the days ahead will bring. I do know that we each have a certain number of days on this earth, and then we will die. It is my prayer that my mother will have more good years here with us, but one day she will go home to God where many loved ones wait for her.

God's gift of His Son soothes me with peace in these difficult days. I think of heaven and imagine what it will be like to have all of eternity to share with those I love.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, November 04, 2011


I’m thrilled to introduce a new feature to my blog – MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

The first week of each month I will introduce you to someone who is making a difference in their part of the world. We’ve all crossed paths with someone who has altered our lives for the better. I'd like to share some of these special people with you and give you an opportunity to meet someone new and I hope take time to pray for them.

This month I’d like to introduce a special young woman whom I’ve known since she was a girl. Nicole Lewis serves as National Director of Student Led Movements in Italy for Campus Crusade for Christ.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, your family, church, things like that. And can you briefly share your spiritual journey?

I grew up in the small and wonderful town of Glide, Oregon. My parents are Oregonian transplants. My Mom is from Montana and my Dad grew up in New York City. This made for a very fun and culturally diverse household. I think it actually has had a great impact on where I am today, living in another culture that is not my own, yet I feel at home.

I came to faith at a young age through a vacation bible school at my home church. I grew up hearing about Jesus, but it wasn’t until that point in my life where what Jesus did on the cross and a desperate need to understand how to be forgiven for the things I was doing, even at a young age, that I heard the message of the gospel and knew it was the answer I had been looking for. I was right, I was a sinner, but what I hadn’t realized is that Christ came to rescue me from my sin and shame through the cross and to reconcile me to God, when I got that, it changed everything for me.

Even as a child, I had a deep hunger and desire for Christ and God spoke into that desire through the community of my church, through men and women who showed me what it meant to walk with Jesus in a way that made me want to live like that. He spoke to me through worship, teaching me biblical truth, the scriptures we sing as praise to him and he guided me through pastor’s who opened up the Word of God and showed me things there that made me want to know more and more.

It was in my junior year of college though that an incredibly significant change took place in my relationship with God. I went off to Oregon State University and as I got to know young believers my age, and one in particular named Zach, that I began to sense a great gap between the kind of faith they lived and the kind of faith I lived. It was uncomfortable for me and a little frustrating, this Jesus zeal they had and expressed all the time to me and to others. The frustration wasn’t the zeal itself it was that in my soul I knew there was something missing from my life that I both envied and couldn’t stand in theirs. What I later realized, and where the Lord brought me to through Revelation 2 “I hold this against you, you have forsaken your first love,” was that though Jesus was the Savior of my life, I had never let him be Lord. I was still sitting on the throne of my life and what he was asking me to do was to surrender that to Him. One of my life verses that expresses the change in my heart, and the thing I saw in the life of my friend Zach and others like him, are the words of Galatians 2:2 “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Nicole, I remember those days and praying for you. I knew God was working in your life, but wow—amazing!

2. You work and live in Italy. How did a country gal from Oregon end up living in such a distant part of the world?

My journey to living in Italy began with the cultural diversity I grew up with in my home but also an influential trip I took to Europe when I was 15 with my High School Basketball coach. In Junior High my best friend and I decided that for our high school graduation we wanted to go to Paris. I am not even sure how we chose Paris, but we bought posters of the Eifel Tower and were determined to go. But when we were 15 our High School Basketball coach offered us the opportunity to travel with him and his wife for the summer in Europe. Seven of us went on the trip together, including my best friend and I. For two months, we traveled all over Europe, experiencing life overseas, getting to play and coach basketball and to see our beloved Paris. When I came back from that trip I was convinced that one day I needed to live overseas.

The other piece of the answer is part of my journey of growing as a follower of Jesus. My junior year in college, when the Lord radically changed my heart and I made Him the first love of my life, I think my decision to move to Italy was in a sense already made. When you lose your life for Christ’s sake and realize that it now belongs to Him, these life choices become part of our journey of faith. When I joined staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, the organization that I work for, I knew that I could have the possibility to live and work overseas doing student ministry, so I took every opportunity to see what life and mission overseas in the student world was like. When presented with the opportunity to move to Italy to help re-launch the student work there I said yes.

3. Many of us are insulated from the great big world that we live in. I’ve never been to Italy and would love to know more about the country and its people. Can you share some of its unique qualities?

Italy is an incredibly charming and beautiful country. I am sitting on a train right now traveling from Florence (Firenze) where I live, to Rome (Roma) and as I look out the windows I am reminded that I live in a beautiful country. There are parts of the Umpqua Valley where I grew up that look similar to Tuscany, the region that Florence is in, so in some ways it is foreign and yet also a familiar beauty. In some ways it is hard to explain Italy, because Italy is old. In America something that is aged is 200 or 300 years old. In Italy you could live in a building that was built in 1700 or you might live next door to a church that was constructed in 1200 or in Rome by the Coliseum that was built before the time of Christ. For American eyes it is a wonder, but for Italian eyes this is normal. I love that about Italy. In Italy there are many simple things that people enjoy—taking the whole month of August off for vacation to go to the sea or the mountains, new olive oil and wine in November that have just been harvested in September and October, meeting friends after work for appetizers and meals that last 3 hours because nobody is in a hurry to end their time of just being together as friends and family.

One thing that has surprised me about Italy that took me a long time to understand is that the concept of Italy and Italians is not something easily defined. Italy has 21 regions and each one is unique from the other. If you were to meet an Italian and say where are you from, they would not first say “I am Italian” they would say either the region or specific city they come from and then the country. It might sound insignificant but there is a great difference between a Florentine and a Milanese. Each city has its own dialect, different accent, regional and city pasta’s and desserts, different ways of seeing the world. It makes life fun, because you are constantly challenging yourself to understand what people are like and it also means that you get to sample a wide variety of very good food every time you travel. The pasta’s you eat in Florence are not the same pasta’s you will find in Naples. I like that a lot, because food is part of my enjoyment of the culture.

Italy sounds like a place I'd love to visit one day.

4. What does a typical day look like for you?

Oh wow, I wish I had a typical day. I work basically from 9-5 each day. But like today, I am traveling to Rome to be part of a conference of youth workers from all over Europe who are coming together to share best missional practices to reach teenagers. Last Thursday, I was working in my office on a project for our Italian Staff Training and then met with a student for coffee, who’s still processing the gospel. Then I went to our student Bible Study Thursday night, which usually lasts about 4 hours, but includes, of course, dinner. In Italy, ministry and food are inextricably bound. So when I’m in Florence my days are usually spent in combination working at my office and meeting with students. I also travel because of my role in the cities where we have student ministries where I meet with the staff, see how they are doing and help them move toward building movements among students in the University campuses.

Clearly typical does not describe your life--surprising and diverse seem more appropriate.

5. What do you love most about what you do? And what is your least favorite part of your ministry?

I love influencing the lives of others, and I love pointing people to Christ. The thing I have always loved is sharing what Jesus has done for us, with someone for the first time or watching a young believer grow in their faith. One of the most satisfying moments for me is when I watch that young woman or student I have been investing my life in begin to invest their lives in others. It is the sweetest joy.

Some years ago I met a woman at a student conference who I realized had discipled the woman who discipled the woman who discipled me. My great grandmother, if you will, in the faith. I had fun sharing with her about the women I was investing my life in and thanked her for the influence she’d had in the lives of those who were helping me grow. I shared that with the girls I was discipling at the time and I remember when one of them proudly introduced me to my own spiritual grandchildren. Oh Bonnie, it was such a thrill! I don’t even know how to express in words my thanks to the Lord for allowing me the privilege of investing my life in women and being part of the process of how God is changing them to be more like Jesus.

My least favorite part? For me the two hardest things are, first the bittersweet reality of meeting amazing people who change your life and then having to say goodbye to them when the Lord leads them out of the story of your life and into another chapter of their own story. You thank the Lord for the time you had to be woven into the story of each other’s lives, but there is grief at saying goodbye. It is a moment when I am most aware that what I am longing for is eternity where there will be no more goodbyes. I am anxious for it. The other hard thing is to see those you love walk away from the lovely One. I imagine it must be similar to what a parent feels, though I am not a parent so I can only guess and I would assume it is much deeper, when they see their own children making decisions they know are not the best, but you have to let them make their own choices, Experience brings growth. But there is deep pain in watching that happen, deep pain and prayer.

I love your image of spiritual grandchildren. There is nothing more thrilling than watching Christ come alive in the lives of others and to know God included you in the process.

6. Do you have a favorite song, book, scripture. . . why is it a favorite?

Oh man favorite song…there are too too many. I would argue that song is the language of my heart and so there are so many songs that have touched me deeply. I will give you two that are in my mental favorites “playlist”. The old hymn Be thou my Vision and one that the group Selah sings that might be called Before the throne of God Above. Oooooh Books, I love books! My most recent favorite is The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Since I live in Italy, I’ve read two books whose theme is the persecution of the Christians under Nero, The Martyr of the Catacombs and Quo Vadis, which have totally come alive to me here, along with Ben Hur. When I am in a light mood, I love reading the classics, Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins or Nick Hornby and Alexander McCall Smith.

Favorite Scripture--OK, this is one I can answer fairly easily. Though there are several verses that capture different seasons of my life and how the Lord is transforming me, but my all time favorite scripture is actually the 21st chapter of the gospel of John. I love this sweet story of Jesus and Peter meeting once again at the sea of Galilee. I love it because of the question Jesus asks Peter “Simon son of John do you love me?” Three times, the same question and it cuts me to the heart “Nicole, do you love me?” I think that is one of the most significant questions God has ever asked any man, and Jesus and I meet here often. John 21 is our early morning garden walk, it is our coffee bar, it is our sunset stroll and I have come back here with Him time and time again to talk about that question.

A powerful verse. I will meet more often with my Lord over this one as well. Thank you for the reminder.

7. What is your greatest need? And how can we pray for you?

I would say first, please pray that I would not forsake my first love. In Italy, Jesus is everywhere and nowhere. He is painted on walls of buildings and cathedrals but He is like white noise, and people don’t even notice him anymore. The greatest risk for me could be that Jesus becomes the white noise of my own life and heart and at that point I have nothing left to offer. I want and need to love Jesus more passionately and deeply each day. So that would be my first prayer request.
The second is for patience in the process of transition in Italy. We are becoming more and more an Italian led movement. But cross cultural transitions are not easy. We share a common Christian vocabulary, but that does not mean we always attach to those things the same meaning. So pray for me and for my team and our movement as we form a cross cultural identity that in a country that has a long history of division, that we would not let the enemy divide us.

I will add this little vulnerable prayer request, but If it is God’s will, would you pray for a Godly Man, who is Crazy about Jesus to fall deeply in love with me.

Kisses, Nicole

Thank you, Nicole, for giving us a glimpse of your place in the world. And thank you for all that you do for the glory of God. I am and will continue to pray for you, dear one.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Quiet Moments With God -- It Takes Spirit

My granddaughter Olivia and grandson Ezra both had surgery three days prior to Halloween. Ezra had repair work done on both of his ear drums and Olivia had her tonsils removed. Halloween arrived and both of them were feeling miserable. Ezra had started to rally a bit and was excited about the evening's fun. Olivia had been running a fever for two days and that afternoon it was steadily holding at 101. She couldn't eat or drink and was clearly dehydrated and suffering.

Olivia was so sick she had to return to the hospital where she was put on IV fluids and an IV antibiotic. When she was released she should have gone home to bed but . . . it was Halloween. She'd brought her costume with her to the hospital and after being rehydrated she was determined to go trick-or-treating. Managing to find her smile she joined in the fun, at least for a little while, before having to retreat to the comfort and warmth of the car.

It was "only" Halloween, but for my grandchildren it was an important day. Under awful circumstances, they both dug down inside and found the strength to do something that mattered to them. Even though it was "only" trick-or-treating they grabbed hold of their desire, spirit, perseverance and courage and went out and had a good time. The smiles on their faces inspired me.

My grandchildren are always teaching me lessons. They live full out, refusing to allow adversity to stop them . . . and they've had more than their share of troubles I can assure you.

Maybe we can do more than we think is possible. I don't know about you, but the next time I'm thinking about giving up I'm going to remember Olivia and Ezra and the lively spirits that carried them through their pain and exhaustion on their special night.

Grace and peace to you from God.