Thursday, March 29, 2012

Clues to The Way, The Truth and The Life!

One way to solve a mystery is with a scavenger hunt. I’m not talking about the one where you can’t find your glasses or your credit card! Not THAT scavenger hunt! My daughter and her husband made a scavenger hunt to surprise their 5 and 7 year olds with a trip. The kids found clues when their parents posed questions like, “Where do we make a hot part of dinner?” In the oven they found a picture of the Willis Tower. Yeah, I know. When I grew up there, it was the Sears Tower. Then they’d bring the envelope back to their parents and tell what they saw. One picture was the Chicago skyline. Another question, “Where do we take our clothes when they need to get clean?” Down the basement they dashed to the washing machine to find a picture of the Shedd Aquarium. And so it went until the kids said, “All of these things are in Chicago. Are we going to CHICAGO?” When the excitement quieted down, there was one clue left. In the last envelope was a picture of a train! “Are we taking the TRAIN to Chicago?” Yes! Shock and awe! The clues to a wonderful trip were built on their special interests, seek and find and fascination to the 9 ’s with trains. They would adventure to a place about which they read and want to know more. All of this with mom and dad, people they trust with their tomorrows.

How often do we say, “I don’t have a CLUE!” about life? We search for clues all the time. For example, last week a “Reason Rally” drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C. looking for clues on how to promote secularism to highlight the political power of nonbelievers. Their first attempt to “unify, energize and embolden secular people nationwide” was 10 years ago with “The Godless March on Washington,” with an estimated 2,000 participants. Last week those numbers reportedly increased to 10,000. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, told the crowd, “We are here to deliver a message to America. We are here and we will never be silent again.” This purportedly largest-ever gathering of non-believers in one place, stood in the rain as speakers, singers and comedians charged them with channeling their common rejection of God into a force for political change.

The flip side of the rejection-of-God group would be those of us who believe in the Triune God, the Great 3 in 1, Who sent His only Son to die for our sins and rise again. How do we know? God provides clues to lead people to His plan for life here and hereafter. Hundreds of clues in the Old Testament gave people hope for thousands of years before they turned out to be more than clues. They were prophecies that came true. Such as where He would be born, of what lineage, where and how He would die for our sins and rise again.

Unlike the kid’s scavenger hunt, God’s clues are life saving. Instead of asking, “Where do we take things that need to be cleaned?” we need to know, “Where do I go when my heart, mind and soul need to be cleansed?” The answer is not in an envelope, it’s in the Bible, in Baptism and through Holy Communion. The Cross is the price Jesus paid for us to be cleansed. What a cleaning bill!

In John 16, Jesus assures His disciples the world will hate them like it hated Him and His Father’s work through Him. He’s about to face His torture, death and resurrection. They don’t get it. How could they? People don’t rise from the dead. Jesus speaks to their limitations, knowing in a few days His Words will start to make sense, allay their fears and prove He is God in the flesh. Then He adds, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”

He gives them a huge CLUE. They couldn’t bear knowing any more, so He doesn’t burden them any further. He promises they’ll understand more about the Truth as the Holy Spirit guides them, once He returns to heaven.

The children I told about at the beginning found clues from parents they trusted about going to Chicago, a place they'd read about and wanted to see. Christians find more than clues. From God's Word, which we trust, we read about and find promises that through faith in Christ, we are forgiven and go to heaven when we die. We could make a case for the success of Christianity by noting that since Jesus’ death and resurrection over 2,000 years ago, 3 billion, 200 million people worldwide believe. But that’s not entirely the point. The point is, what about you? Who do YOU say that He is? The kids discovered they were going to Chicago, but they still had to wait a whole week for the trip! It was “now...not yet!” That’s part of the Christian walk, too. This Lenten season we’re aware of staking our lives, through faith in Christ, on getting “there,” to heaven for eternity, and waiting now. Will we wait well? We will when we take seriously the clues from God’s Word in living our daily lives.

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This is my last blog on the "Woman to Woman" website. Thanks tons for following me, for believing with me and for sharing your insights. I love hearing from you and coming to speak to your events. Continue to stay in touch with me through Send me your email/facebook address and I'll let you know if/when
I set up a personal website in the near future. God's richest blessings to you!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Being less anxious!

It looks like a convention under my bird feeder this week with temperatures near 80 degrees in mid-March! I keep re-filling the birdbath, so my fine-feathered friends can splash, fluff up, fly away and swoop down for more. reports even warmer officially recorded winters and springs like this one, dating back to the late 1800’s. Weather cycles fascinate and puzzle us. Right now we’re hoping against a fickle spring that dips temperatures into the danger zone for the fruit trees! This warm weather is even affecting sap production from the maple trees, so guess what happens to syrup prices? We’ve been fooled by the weather before.

I look at the birds outside my window and wonder if I should warn them not to be fooled, maybe not put all their eggs in one nest! They wouldn’t understand. A Sunday School song comes to mind. “His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me!” The birds will be fine. Their marvelous mystery of managing has captivated people since the beginning of time. God knows. He designed them to eat right without reading labels, to go south when north winds blow and to flock together with birds of a feather! They’re not worried, just enjoying their Maker’s world.

He cares even more for us, the humans He lovingly created one by one! Jesus’ disciple, Peter, wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 That’s worth heeding right now as we face massive unemployment and businesses closing down; as we watch our savings downsize and our expenses upsize. Feeding on that, without trusting God’s provision, can make us anxious! We need to be wise, of course, about living our lives and managing our money. But just as God assures us we can “Be anxious for nothing,” He provides the how-to’s with that. He invites us to feed, like the birds outside my window, as often as we need to at the “feeder” of His Word! We can dive in to the Bible and bathe in His love as we feed on His promises. Our weather issues are less about the barometer and more about “whether” or not things go as we hope and how we’ll cope. And there’s God …with His daily enabling through the faith He gives us in His Son. He’s specific about how to live and think and act. Whatever we face is covered in this kind of “feeding.”

I won’t bother the birds with the forecast. I can’t communicate with them, except to offer food and water. Unless I become a bird, and I won’t even TRY to worm myself into THAT scenario. Seriously, thank God He didn’t simply offer food and water after He created us. He went much further, to communicate His love for us. And He didn’t just “try,” He became one of us! This Lenten season we ponder the extremes God went to in saving us from ourselves, our sins, through His Son’s saving work on the Cross. Look how elated we are over the flowers and leaves coming out of dead-looking branches and ground this spring. But even more awesome is that Jesus came out from the tomb, was raised from really dead, not just dead-looking. That’s the ultimate victory over sin, death and the power of satan. And He did it for you and for me. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We simply receive it by His grace through faith.

To the Christian, God offers the forgiving, life giving “feast” of the Lord’s Supper and food by feeding on His Holy Word and the washing away of our sins through the waters of Holy Baptism. Go to that “feeder” and bathe in the SONshine of His Spirit and you will be anxious for a lot less and thankful for a lot more!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Madly in Love!

March Madness is here! I’m fascinated with the best of the best competing at that level. Two world leaders, U.S. President Barrack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were criticized for postponing weightier matters for front row seats at the kickoff match in Dayton, OH. We can anticipate 68 teams, 67 games, in-depth character studies and lots of trivia. Univ. of Kansas sets a record with its 23rd appearance since the games began in 1908. Duke comes in a distant second with 17 visits. Excitement and hype are guaranteed, over winners and losers, through hope and heartbreak.

Fasten your safety belt because now I’m turning a hard right from March Madness into being “madly” in love! I know, kind of free flowing….or as my kids would say…RANdom, but this has to do with our “journey” during Lent. Our journey to the cross with Jesus, that is, thinking about His Words, examining how we live those out, or not.

What do you think when you hear “madly in love?” Maybe your first “crush” or being crazy about someone. Perhaps unconditional love or a love that “drives your bus,” as they say about what motivates you. I know a man who confesses he’s still madly in love with his wife of 50 years! On the subject of “madly in love, “ Thomas Aquinas, the 13th C Roman Catholic Priest/Philosopher commented on living in harmony. I quote, “First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God!” “Madly in love with the same God!” Unlike March Madness, “madly in love with God” has no losers, only winners!

Here are two examples that go beyond the Lenten season in following the way of Christ. They make all the difference in the world….and in the world hereafter! The first “madly in love with God” journey is the Children’s Christian Concern Society. Based in Topeka, KS, this worldwide outreach is a recognized service organization of the LCMS. 40 years ago they began with 11 children. They’re now blessed to reach 25 THOUSAND children through 241 sites in 25 countries. Education leads children out of poverty. For 30 years, Concordia Day Care Center has provided a haven for the children of the BangNa [BongNaah’] Slum on the edge of Bangkok. Every day, 45 children as young as two years old come to this bright and engaging preschool. They learn Thai and English letters and numbers with regular Bible lessons and prayers. In the afternoon 15-20 school age children come to the center to use the computers to do their homework.
In 2010, a fire destroyed ten dwellings in the slum, putting its 1780 inhabitants in danger. Miraculously, no one was killed or severely injured. Gifts of clothing, household goods, and building materials from Christians distributed through the Day Care Center showed this Buddhist community that God deeply loves them. When CCCS staff visited the site just a few months later, homes were already being rebuilt. To learn more visit

The other “journey” I love to tell about is Lutheran Church Charities under the direction of Tim Hetzner in Addison, IL [] This mission brings the comfort, compassion, Presence and proclamation of Christ to those in need. They connect with needs in creatively brilliant ways! Their K-9 Parish Comfort Dog ministry, for example, sends trained dogs and their trainers into not only churches and Sunday schools, but also disaster areas, like Haiti, New Orleans and recently to tornado ravaged areas in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and this week in Michigan. One dog I heard about visited a high school counselor’s office to meet a student who had not spoken to anyone for 3 months after witnessing the murder of his friend. When the counselor left the room and came back, he found the student on his knees talking to the dog and the gates for healing were opened. LCC also offers Biblical educational resources, daily email devotionals, soup kitchens, parish nurse, deaf and ethnic ministry support. Maybe one of them is speaking to your heart. Both organizations, Children’s Christian Concern Society and Lutheran Church Charities are donor supported and rely on volunteers and the prayers of those of us who are “madly in love with God.”

Why cite such organizations during Lent? Because they bring it home about our “journey” with Christ to the cross. They compel us to respond to Jesus’ sacrificial love for our greatest need, being lost in our sin and apart from God without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. How can the world tell you’re madly in love with God? If you’re looking for a way to show it, ask Him to point it out to you. He will! It could be through one of the journeys I told you about today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who Do You Say He Is?

Have you noticed how the 40 days of Lent can give Christians pause? It’s a journey for our souls to catch up with our bodies. And it begins when we ask God to be transformed through “the renewing of our minds,” as the Bible puts it. Meditating on Christ being born when and how He was, living perfectly the way He did, dying for our sin as He was sent by His Father to do and then rising from the dead…. either brings comfort or it can raise a whole lot of questions. Or both!

One of my favorite journey stories came out of great visits I had with Charlie and Dottie Duke. In the late ‘90’s I recorded the “Woman to Woman” show in their New Braunfels, TX home. Charlie “Moonwalker” Duke, as he was later called, was absolutely out of this world back in the ‘70’s, as a lunar module pilot on Apollo 16. This man kept his cool atop 6 million tons of fuel, anticipating blastoff...then cruised at 25,000 miles per hour while floating in zero gravity. He was the 10th man to walk on the moon, spending 20 hours on its surface. The world noticed.

But Charlie didn’t seem to notice, when he returned with 213 lbs of moonrocks, that his marriage was on the rocks. His wife, Dottie, did. Charlie had promised to put her first in his life when they married, but his pursuit of a skyrocketing career left that plan in the dust. Two children and 12 years later, Dottie was depressed, had given up on the marriage and spent her time devouring self help books, but to no avail. She thought about divorce and even contemplated suicide.

They were churchgoers and one Sunday the church held a “spiritual renewal weekend.” The guests shared their personal stories of getting to know Jesus and what a difference He’d made in their lives. When they talked about answered prayer, they caught Dottie’s attention. That night she knelt down without Charlie knowing it and confessed to God that she needed to know if He was real and that if He was, to please come to her as He had to the people who seemed filled with love and joy in church that morning. And if He wasn’t, she just wanted to die.

BTW, Charlie attended the same service and had been “under”whelmed. Dottie didn’t have any startling revelation or sudden spiritual awakening after that prayer, but she soon noticed she wasn’t reaching for the self help books anymore, now that she’d taken up Bible reading! She got into a Bible study and learned about letting go of her resentment of Charlie and putting him in God’s hands. She began to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and every day she tried to forgive Charlie for his lack of responsiveness in the marriage. For several years she did this and grew in her faith to the point she found joy and a renewed love for herself and others.

Then one day Charlie went to a Men’s Bible study at a country club. They discussed Mark 8, where Jesus heals the blind man at Bethsaida and as He and the disciples walk to another town, He asks them, “Who do people say I am?” They
replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

After the Bible study, Charlie “Moon Walker” Duke, the big strong astronaut who brought rocks back from the moon, got into his car, put the key in the ignition and as the engine started up, it was as if he heard inside his head, “Charlie, who do YOU say I am?” Without warning, Charlie dropped his head onto his hands on the steering wheel and told God he wanted to find out. From that day forward, his spiritual quest led him to confess Christ as his Lord and Savior. Their marriage was ultimately healed, through forgiveness by both parties. In fact, they traveled the world for years to military bases to help other marriages thrive as they depended on Christ.

What about your journey this Lenten season? Who do YOU say He is? When you spend time with Him and listen to His Word, He’ll give you instruction and direction, lovingly, with the destination in mind that He won for you on the cross!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shoes and Lent

It’s Friday with Phyllis! On a recent cross country flight I was amused over an announcement by the flight attendant. Once airborne, she asked, “Did anyone leave a shoe in the lounge area? If you look down and notice one shoe is missing, please let us know. This could be yours. It’s either a man’s shoe or a large woman’s shoe.” Most people smiled and went back to their conversations. I saw a few men actually look at their shoes! Women did not, as if doing so might indicate their size! Quicker than you can spell “yikes!” the shoe was delivered to the gentleman in the row ahead of mine. At which point his wife exclaimed, “How did you drop that?” It was one of those rugged, open any-person kind of shoe and it had fallen out of his backpack.

With this much time on my hands, it’s a cross country flight, I thought of sayings about shoes. “If the shoe fits wear it.” I even thought, “Walk in another man’s shoes, if they fit. But be sure to look down to see if you’re missing one!” The most famous shoe saying is, “You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” The man in front of me was truly glad to be able to walk the California miles he looked forward to in his own shoes, both of them.

I remembered Captain Kangaroo telling me on the “Woman to Woman” show years ago that he was very concerned about kids with entitlement attitudes who figured the key to basketball stardom was a certain brand of shoe. Skip the hard work, just get the shoes! Have you heard this quote? “These are my new shoes. They're good shoes. They won't make you rich like me, they won't make you rebound like me, they definitely won't make you handsome like me. They'll only make you have shoes like me. That's it.” This from the very quotable basketball player Charles Barkley (American Basketball Player, b.1963.

During this season of Lent, the 40 days prior to Easter, when Christians contemplate Jesus’ walk to the cross for our sins, do we think about His shoes, His sandals? I do when I read in Acts 13:25 what John The Baptizer said as he was completing his work compelling people to repent of their sin to get right with God. He said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’ Interesting point from the man about whom Jesus said in Luke 7:28, “I tell you, among those born of women, there is none greater than John.”

In our Lenten journey, we may give up chocolate or gossip. We may go to church more often than normal. But what other ways can we identify with the Christ during Lent? I’ll be exploring that in the weeks ahead, but for today I’m urging you to pray for Christians who are as radical in their cultures as John the Baptizer was in his. John was martyred for his faith, his head served up on a platter before the king, with no good reason, just at the whim of a girl who’d caught his eye, along with the murderous suggestion of her mother. Persecution of Christians worldwide is at an all time high, no good reason, just political incorrectness or the threat of losing control when people leave other faiths. In the news right now is Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's impending execution in Iran. Nadarkhani has been in prison for his Christian faith for over 860 days. A mounting outcry worldwide is calling for his release. He’s one of thousands in that country alone being persecuted for his faith.

We started out with a story about shoes today. We may not be able to walk in Jesus’ shoes, but we can count on Him to walk in ours. He walked in our situations, and worse, when He lived on earth, and all the way to the cross. Because He’s eternal, He still does. He carries us when we can’t walk, in fact.

For more about that we read the Bible and sing hymns like the 17th century, “Let us ever walk with Jesus,” .. ‘follow His example pure.

Flee the world, which would deceive us
And to sin our souls allure.
Ever in His footsteps treading,
Body here, yet soul above,
Full of faith and hope and love,
Let us do the Father's bidding.
Faithful Lord, abide with me;
Savior, lead, I follow Thee.

The rest of that hymn empowers and comforts us in our soul-searching and repentance this Lenten season. May God bless us in our journey and draw us closer to Himself.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Which One of Us Do You Love The Most?

Let’s stay with the topic of love! We’ve had a pretty good run at it so far this month!

One of my 4 kids used to wonder which of them I loved most of all. I’d tell her the story about my Grandmother to help her understand that I loved each one with the same intensity, but with individualized focus and propensity!

Grandma Kringel modeled grace and mercy to the 9’s. My biological grandmother died when I was 2 and my grandfather later married this lovely woman! She affirmed me, whether teaching me to play canasta, single deck of course, when I was 8; or exuding over the sour cherries I picked from her tree so she could make pies with my help and when she sewed clothes for my “Bride Doll.” She and Grandpa traveled to be with us when our parents went out of town. In contrast to his miserly affection, she was my cheerleader and encourager no matter what was going on in my life. She had no idea what WAS going on in my life, actually, because I was a shy child and didn’t share my fears or hopes with anyone. It would have been pretty hard for her to guess, since she’d had no children of her own.

I was drawn to my grandmother because she made me feel special, so special in fact that I was pretty sure I was her favorite. That was NOT spoken, mind you, but if I’d had a trusted friend, I would have confessed it with little guilt. I felt really good about my relationship with my grandmother. She never knew it, but there were times when she was my “life-line!” I could get quiet inside just thinking about sitting next to her on the porch swing in Pittsburgh when she tried to teach me to knit. I was terrible at it and had no patience with the knit one purl two part…but I loved being with her so much I held the needles and made truly awful looking doll scarves! Her fondness for me, her unconditional regard, soothed my soul, even when she wasn’t around.

When I had my first child, the miles between us were many, but I did take the baby to meet her. We had a sweet time. My parents traveled to see her more often in her later years and were concerned about how frugally she lived, turning off her water heater at night for instance, or cooking down her leftover bars of soap to save money. They supplemented her meager income a little now and then when she would let them. So it was with great surprise when she died and the will was read that, lo and behold….Grandma Kringel left me money in her will! There it was…my name and the amount! And, there it was…the name of every other one of her 10 grandchildren ..and their amounts, the same as mine! $2,000 for each of us! Imagine her sacrifice on our behalf! Who would have guessed? We’d all benefited from her unconditional affection, as we were able to receive it. I never talked it over with my cousins, but I assumed they must have felt as loved as I did. I wasn’t loved any less or more than they were. I was loved for who I was by who she was!

That story seemed to settle my daughter’s curiosity about how I could love each one of my four children as much as the others!

Incidentally, my dad offered to invest my inheritance for 5 years. This was in the ‘70’s and times were good. That investment increased 17 times, significantly multiplying the blessing of my grandmother’s sacrificial love! I see a reflection here of God’s love for us. The Bible calls believers “adopted” sons and daughters of the King, whom He loves equally! In fact we can’t do anything to make Him love us more or less! I was “adopted” into my grandmother’s life when my widowed grandfather married a second time. I knew my grandmother loved me, humanly speaking, for sure! God loves us for sure, no matter what. I had no idea about my grandmother’s riches until she died. In Eph 3:8 the Apostle Paul describes the “boundless riches of Christ” for us to expect and enjoy them! In RO 11:33, St. Paul again. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” That’s Who God IS! That’s a peek at how His love draws us close to Him every day!

I can still feel my grandmother’s affirming presence when she comes to mind. My heavenly Father’s Presence is always with me whether I can feel it or not. Whom does He love the most? Everyone He ever made. That’s you. That’s me. And that’s the Truth! Feel the love?!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Some Kinda Love!

One of my favorite love letters ever came, not on Valentine’s Day, but just in time to catch my heart by surprise! My grandson, James, who calls me “Oma,” was 5 years old when he asked his mom for an envelope. Sure…why do you want an envelope? “To write Oma a love letter!” I didn’t know about this until it came in the mail. I’d like to read it to you, if you have time! And you DO have time. 5 year old love letters aren’t very long. My name and address were printed on the envelope and inside, the penciled letter read, “Dear Oma, This is a love letter.” Love, James

This week we’ve been delivered a lot of love notes at best, love topics at least. From Valentine’s Day love to the Grammy’s with their love songs about love gone wrong and love that’s good, to Whitney Houston’s tragic death and the playing and replaying of her hit, “I will always love you!” This church choir child came from a privileged heritage that included famous soul singers like her mother Cissy Houston, cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, and her godmother Aretha Franklin. Whitney was 11 when she sang in her New Jersey church's junior gospel choir. After being discovered and nurtured by Clive Davis, she went on to win diamond, multi-platinum, platinum and gold for her incredible voice. 140 million albums, sold worldwide. She sang the song in her heart to the world that fell in love with her. But along the way, something changed her tune, altered the key in which she lived her life and nothing was ever the same. The beauty and grace of her notes and her face had a different place toward the end of her “space,” called 48 years.

Her music lives on, as does her inspiration. I take to heart other lessons from her life as well. In her 2009 interview with Oprah, Whitney openly confessed her dilemma, especially concerning drugs and a difficult marriage. "When it gets to the point where you're sitting in your home and you're just trying to cover what you don't want people to know. It's painful," she said. "And then you want more, just so that you don't let anybody see you cry."

Whitney Houston revealed that"amazingly," through it all, she continued to read the Bible. "I knew God was there. I knew the light was there and I was just trying to get back to it." She also told Winfrey that her ex-husband "was my drug...that's what my high was. Him." How easy it is for us to put someone or some THING on a pedestal and do what they do, let ourselves be enticed, even when we know God warns us to “have no other gods before Me.”

One of the many messages in this highly talented woman’s life is to be careful with whom we spend time and with whom we fall in love. When the Bible teaches to “guard your heart,” that includes falling in love wisely, because when you fall in love you give you heart to the object of your love. Pedro Arrupe, born in Spain, served the Lord as a missionary for much of his incredibly dedicated life (1907-1991). He described this love, “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

“I will always love you” the way we all WANT to be loved. But there’s only One Who loves perfectly like that. We leave Whitney’s eternal destiny in the Hands of a loving God whose mercy and grace will be celebrated in her memorial service for family and friends, right where she first fell in love with Jesus.

Part of the take away for me is that it’s not only about how she died, how we die, when and where. It’s “Where do we go from there?” How did we live for Christ, IN Christ, with Christ? How did we respond to His promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age? Dolly Parton wrote “I will always love you” to a business partner she was leaving. Jesus says, “I will always love you” to you and to me. The music stopped in Whitney’s case. But the beat goes on because God says through Christ, “I will always love you.” Some kinda love! What’s your response?

Feb 10 The Valentine of All Valentines!

Are you decorating a shoebox to be filled with valentines from your friends next week? Maybe not, but I bet you salivate when you see those little boxes of heart shaped candies! It’s not that they’re so good, but that we’re conditioned to do that, beginning with our first tiny candy hearts with “u r cute” printed on them! Well, guess what? Marketing picked up on that one a long time ago. Those folks use the same principle, more often than we realize, to get the pupils of our eyes to dilate with pleasure over a product or idea, or to get us to respond in a certain way. Buyer beware! The more aware we are, the less we fall for the wrong response triggers out there!

Our human nature goes for marketing gimmicks like earning bonus points or double coupons when we shop here, work out there, fly a certain airline enough for a free round trip. Obviously some of it’s to our advantage, so why not? My question is, why is that so appealing? It’s partly because we like something for nothing, we’re drawn to the extras, the add-on’s. They give us reward. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when you use ‘em up, where’s the reward? After we get the prize, the free trip, the free whatever it is, then it’s “Thanks for the memories.” That lasts awhile, but eventually it’s back to start and we have to earn the bonus points, the add-on’s all over again.

By contrast, God’s great, over-the-top marketing of His love is a bonus, like a reward we can never use up. For openers, we can’t even earn it. He doesn’t dole it out as a perk for good behavior or for praying to Him so many times a day or attending church every week. He gives it freely because God IS love. BTW, “freely” doesn’t just mean gladly, to everyone, always no matter what you’ve done or are doing. That’s true and it would be more than enough, but He goes even further on the love scale. His love is free. It costs us nothing. But it cost Him everything. So he’s serious about love. His commitment is to everyone who believes His Son Jesus Christ willingly/lovingly gave His life on the cross for our sins. He didn’t do this just to start a religious movement. Love came down at Christmas, lived among us so we could see Love in the flesh and then Love conquered sin, death and the power of the devil.

This is the Valentine of all Valentines. Whether or not we get a long stemmed rose or a box of candy or valentine card from someone special, we have an everlasting Love from The Living God, Who makes our hearts beat one hundred and three thousand, six hundred and eighty nine [103,689] times a day! Those beats long for Him because He built that in to our design. St. Augustine put it this way, "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."

His everlasting, unfailing love is bigger than any candy, cake or flower shaped heart we can imagine. It’s sweeter than anything we’ve come up with since time began! It’s a little like the way humans market, come to think of it. We hear about this Love of God for us, even though we don’t understand it and can not wrap our human minds around it. Then when we welcome God’s Holy Spirit into our hearts, He gradually teaches Who He is and about the take away for us in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, things like forgiveness and courage and peace that passes understanding. We open up to the potential we have through this Love as we try it on. And we get a FREE TRIP at the end! This is not a round trip, but entrance into the very Presence of our Heavenly Father, the Love of our lives, for eternity! Won’t that be heavenly! Think about it as you open that Valentine right now! And as you pass it on, remember why… We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Friday, February 3, 2012

For the Love of God

Does anybody know where the expression, “For the love of God!” originated? I can’t find the source. When I hear reverent people who love The Lord God Almighty, say “For the love of God,” it focuses me on His love, over all other kinds of love. I do say it to myself now and then as a reminder of that in trying moments. But I have to confess, I won’t say it out loud, because it can sound like I’m taking the name of the Lord in vain, about which He warns, “DON’T!”

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, something new popped into my thinking. I’ll call these examples of the “love of God” that’s missing among us. Through the years people I care about have “graduated to heaven,” as my friend Pastor David Maier puts it. Go to for my interview with David Maier & his wife and son. It was the first show in 2011. It’s called “Out of Control Is Ok!” Incredible story of facing opposition. Back to “the love of God” expression and those missing among us. As I attend events where my now “graduated to heaven” friends were major players, I see things that aren’t as lovely right now, simply because the person who shared the love of God in them, is gone. This is not meant to slight anyone. It caught me by surprise, but it’s happened more than once, so I do want to think further on it.

For example, to give you an idea of where I’m headed, at the church dinners, bazaars, especially the soup and salad fun raiser, it’s not the same anymore. I finally figured out what’s missing. It’s Shirley’s homemade soup and her fresh baked breads, loaves and loaves of different breads, which she cut with an electric knife! And her jams and jellies aren’t there either, much less her pickles. Also missing are Margaret’s little potted aloe plants and other starts from summer cuttings neatly rooted to take home. Her home grown elephant garlic and generous bunches of fresh basil, absent from the offerings on the table. Now we have good enough rolls from the bakery and no one comments on the soups, but we all know the difference. We’re in a bit of a pickle.

I did inquire once, to see if Shirley’s recipes went missing. No, I was told, she did them from her head and never wrote them down! Now she’s forgetful and that was that. I left it alone and moved on and then one day it hit me. Shirley and Margaret and the others carefully, dutifully, endlessly, joyfully shared their gifts quietly through the years. We’d all say “Uhmm, wonderful!” and “Thank you for taking the trouble to do all this!” But who wondered what would come next?

That’s what I’m wondering right now. WHO will come next? Part of my answer came rather too quickly. “You will!” I heard very clearly in my head. I’ve enjoyed serving the Lord by loving people with other gifts than those that are missing. But as I’m getting older, would it be a nice way to love through some of those replacement duties that are missing? I do pick my own berries and fruits all summer and put them up. How much trouble would it be to make a few more batches? I used to make all our breads before the best bakery in the world came to town. I could do that again, just for special church occasions. The aroma would be worth it! And maybe I’ll even buy an electric slicing knife! I give friends slips of my garden plants all summer long. I suppose I could pot a few to put out for others to buy and raise some money for charity. About those soups…uhm hmm…well, I could cook up some of favorites from the website recipe column. I’d forgotten how my sister and I used to trail the gargantuan pickle truck over to Bear Lake, MI from the cottage and wait til it loaded up all the right sized cucumbers and left. Then we’d buy a bushel of odd sizes to take home and pickle! I still have those mason jars!

Thanks for accompanying me on this mental detour! Does it make you wonder how you can restore some of the LOVEliness that’s missing in your little corner of the world? Maybe that’s where the saying ,“For the Love of God” came from; someone pondering, “Now what will I do to share it!” Your turn!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Convincing Me!

This week I’ve enjoyed the Florida Gulf coast, in a different way than Santorum, Gingrich and Romney! I’m not working any crowds, doing any convincing, like they are these days. Instead I’m BEING CONVINCED. And politics has nothing to do with it!

On our morning beach walks we marvel at red, white and black mangrove trees. These guardians of the shore grow in estuaries where freshwater from the land mixes with saltwater from the ocean, creating brackish water. On a guided nature hike we learned that black mangrove trees exude the salt through their leaves and their trunks, literally sweating it out to maintain the right balance to thrive. These fascinating trees not only protect the shores from storms, they also cradle the nursery of the seas. The brackish water in which the mangrove trees grow, gives fish and shellfish strong starts in a protective ecosystem.

We saw a Gopher Tortoise, a land turtle protected from extinction by the State of FL for what he does. This guy digs down 6’, then makes a tunnel 30’ long and then the neighbors move in… numbering more than 350 other species! Talk about, "There goes the neighborhood!" We walked under The Great Blue Heron and Egrets flying overhead and the Black Skimmer scooping up fish as it skimmed the top of the water. We stood within 20 feet of dozens of huge Pelicans diving straight into the Gulf and popping up with a mouthful every time. All of this captivating, even breathtaking. I think of God’s particular concern for creation when I stand in the midst of it like this. In Matthew 10:29-31 we read, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Just as I was oohing and aahing, our conservancy guide pointed out beautiful orbweaver spiders creating massive silk webs. I wondered out loud, “Why in the world would God invest so much of Himself in things that few notice or appreciate?” I’d walked that same area earlier in the week and hadn’t picked up on the detail. I’ve thought about it a lot since. All of the creatures and pieces of creation we encountered on our walks is staying with me, even though I’m back home in my daily routines which do not include what I’ve just described. I have a renewed sense of how God is wooing us.

I’m being convinced this week through His provision and protection for lesser creatures that makes me trust His complete and total provision for me in what Christ accomplished on the Cross and then rising from the dead! My holiday at the shore has washed away some of life’s fears and replaced them with faith. And it only took a few spiders, a relic turtle and some dashing birds of the air to do it! What will it take for you to be further convinced that you can trust the Lord Who counts the hairs on your head and the sparrows that fall from the sky? Unlike the way political candidates try to convince us, God wants to convince us without forcing the issue. He reveals His glory in the everyday ways He comes to us. He doesn’t say, “Take it or leave it.” It’s not, “Believe it or not,” like with the candidates. It’s more taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy being convinced!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Trust God in the Details

Last week my husband and I were excited because our son, Brooks, was flying in from across the world where he lives. We email, text and Skype … but there’s nothing like person to person! Especially with our kids. Lots of us have this challenge. Our kids go with the job opportunity that often takes them far away. To have Brooks home for three whole days would be heavenly for us and give him time for the jetlag rebound! I worried about his layover at O’Hare, which in my experience is prone to closing over things, like rain, wind, snow, ice and lake effect - anything. I steeled myself against COUNTing on his arrival and checked about 7 times a day! I think moms have a God-given right to hover like that!

We had a plan. Friday airport pick up by our St. Louis son-in-law and Friday dinner in our Illinois home for all of us until Brooks “crashed” in our earlier time zone!

As winter weather advisories loomed, I prayed “expecting,” as they say. Expecting a strong “maybe.” To be honest, I knew this little side trip could be cancelled by weather and Brooks would have to stay in Chicago, which was his meeting destination in the first place. The only thing I knew for sure… he would if he could.

With the FRIDAY dinner deadline in mind, I was slightly distracted by our first significant snow of the year on Thursday. With 2-3” here in St. Louis and a predicted 7-10” in Chicago, my anxiety meter went up. Maybe by Friday O’Hare would be shoveled out and Brooks’ flight would land. I must have had pretty balanced brain chemistry that Thursday, because when our daughter, Hannah, called and asked if she and the kids could come over to sled and stay for dinner, I said “YES!” Normally I’d be flying through the house with last minute prep. But the house was ready, so we sledded instead. My body was sledding, but my head was fussing over Brooks getting here the next day. We ended up eating dinner out. After all, I had my sites set on a big dinner the NEXT night when Brooks arrived.

Hannah’s husband was running late, so we ordered for her kids. Meanwhile, I’m planning how much baking I can still get done before I go to bed when these nice people go home! That’s when the kids at the dinner table looked straight past me and called out, “Brooksie!” There he was. A day early and that’s why their daddy was late! The airport run!

I turned and my eyes saw him, the beautiful sight of my son, but I couldn’t take it in. In fact, I couldn’t process his actually being there until later that evening. What IS that? It’s like a trick. When I pray for something and it’s answered, why don’t I “get it” right away? Why does it take so long for it to sink in?

In a way this reminds me of Acts 12 when King Herod was on a rampage against Christians and beheaded James, the brother of John? He put his next victim, the Apostle Peter, in prison under military guard until after Passover when he would be killed. The church prayed fervently to God for Peter’s release. The very night before Herod planned to execute him, Peter was asleep between two soldiers, secured by chains, with sentries guarding the doors. You can read how an angel tapped Peter on the shoulder to wake up, walked him out of the prison and down the street. Peter thought it was a vision. But realizing that he’d been rescued, he went to the house where they were praying for him. Rhoda, the maid, answers the door, recognizes his voice, doesn’t open the door, but in her excitement runs back to tell the others who tell her she’s crazy! Rhoda believes and the others, including the apostles, don’t! I can identify after seeing, but not seeing, Brooks a day early from across the world!

The take-away from all of this: We can get so antsy over the answer, we can’t recognize it when it arrives.

It’s Leap year… so let’s leap into 2012 expecting answers. Like Isaiah tells us, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save nor His ear too dull to hear.” He’s the “more than” God..more than you would think or ask. As it turned out, Brooks caught an earlier flight due to a cancelled meeting. He decided to surprise us. By coming in a day early, although his international flight was an hour and a half late into O’Hare, he caught a flight to St. Louis with 10 minutes to spare. It was the last flight out of O’Hare because of the weather! No-one knows the behind the scenes story most of the time. Even more reason to trust God in the details of our lives.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Call for Help You Can Count On!

JANUARY 13, 2012 Call For Help You Can Count On!

On this “Friday with Phyllis,” I’d like to tell you about my friend Lisa, who’s also my egg lady! Whenever I stop for eggs my world gets bigger by learning how to hold carrots for the horse or how to pick up the rabbits, but last week was singular! Lisa has two gorgeous Partridge Cochin roosters who strut their stuff with lots of fluff, but it was a little rough for one last September. Lisa’s husband was out of town and in the middle of the night, over the air conditioning, she somehow heard a ruckus out in the chicken shed. She grabbed a flashlight and went to find a raccoon lurking in the hen house. He’d dug his way under the door and scrambled out the way he’d come in as soon as Lisa put him in the spotlight! Her light also revealed a badly mangled rooster cowering in the corner, reeling from his predator’s attack. His head was a mess because the raccoon had him by the head. “He was almost gonna be dinner,” she told me.

Now I’m hearing this story last week, four months later, while the roosters are strutting toward me from across the yard, as happy as you please. Even with Buster, the Corgi, barking to ward them off, they kept coming! It turns out they recognized Lisa standing next to me and figured she’d go get some corn. Which she did. Buster was ushered into the house, BTW, so I could get the REST of the story right next to these beautiful multicolored, large, fluffy feathered birds with fully feathered legs and feet. I had noticed one was a bit leaner than the other, but otherwise they were identical. So now I knew what had happened!

Talk about a close call. Lisa isn’t sure how she heard the squawking over the noise of the air conditioner, with the windows closed, but she and the rooster are glad she did. She saved his life. In fact, when I told Lisa I was using this story today, she said she’d tell the “boys,” the rooster brothers…so they’d have something to crow about!

When trouble digs its way into your life in a moment of physical, spiritual, emotional darkness, do you squawk like the roosters did? I hope so, maybe not that loudly, but in some appropriate way because it’s good to let it be known you need help. It can be any threat to body, soul or mind that alerts us to danger. The question is….. who hears our cries for help and shines a light into our situation? [The raccoon heard the rooster’s cry…no help there.] We want the one with the best light, don’t we, to expose what’s going on and rescue us? And WHAT if we don’t see it coming and there’s no time to squawk?

In either case, the Bible speaks to that. Hebrews 13: 5,6 "God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” The rooster was helpless. He couldn’t run for help, couldn’t save himself. Lisa had to intervene, stop the attack and get the rooster to safety. It took months for the rooster to heal and it took this incident for Lisa to secure the area under the door of the chicken house.

In 2 Cor the Apostle Paul refers to God as “The God of all comfort…Who comforts us in all our troubles.” There’s no limit to what or how God will intervene in our close calls, the attacks against us. When He shines His Light..the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, into your life, through prayer or Bible study for example, it sends away dark thoughts and circumstances. Like the rooster, we need outside intervention. We can’t save ourselves from attacks. So call on God, in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ…Expect Him…and trust His timing and mercies in your behalf.

And now a little plug for the February 3 & 4th Women's Day of Renewal at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Collinsville, IL. ”Responding with Faith” is the theme. We’ll look at finding faith for our freakouts with the insights of Psychologist Dr. Melanie Wilson who teams up with me on the stage! All women are invited to this fabulous event, the 12th annual WDR at GSLC in C’vle. Expect God to shine His Light on your freakout so you can respond with Faith. His Holy Spirit gives you the faith…you have that", It’s a given," as they say. But you’re still scared, hiding in the corner of your nest, your hen house, behind your thoughts about what freaks you out. Your job, stepping out with confidence knowing your weakness, your scars may show. Like the rooster beaten up by the raccoon. But guess what…like Lisa’s flashlight shined into the rooster’s corner and scared away the raccoon..God’s Light, His Holy Spirit shines into your dark too. You have choices about how to respond to freakouts. Find out what they are at the Women's Day of Renewal. Contact:

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year Aspirations!

We have 6 days under our belt in 2012. How’s your new year’s resolution going? For some inspiration, here’s an idea. Look back over your shoulder at December 2011 when Time Magazine announced its “Person of the Year.” For 84 years the winners have included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, Bill & Melinda Gates and Bono who shared the 2005 honor for being shrewd about doing good, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow! Awesome. Young People were highlighted in 1966 for shaking up society and trusting no one over 30. I was young then. I remember. There have been U S Astronauts and Presidents, along with men and women from other countries who’d most impacted the news and our lives, for good or otherwise, to exemplify what was important about their year.

Would you have guessed the 2011 “Person of the Year?” Admittedly, there were strong finalists, like Admiral William McRaven and Congressman Paul Ryan. And the “PERSON of the Year” was THE PROTESTOR! Not as in “Thou doest protest too much!” Oh no…it was “more is better” and “too much is never enough.” Now Protest IS REALLY NOTHING new. It’s made news headlines before and even changed history, but it’s been rather subdued by the good times of the last decade. Before the “bubble” burst in the U.S. a few years ago. Many thought the good times would never end and became complacent in them.

If lethargy was rampant world-wide, then protest became kindling for the fire when in Tunisia in Dec of 2010, a hard working 26 yr old street vendor had been dehumanized by harsh and unfair treatment at the hands of his town authorities one too many times. He went to city officials to file a complaint. Getting no response, he poured paint thinner on himself and lit a match. “My son set himself on fire for dignity," his mother said. His sister added, “In Tunisia, dignity is more important than bread.” [mom = Mannoubia Bouazizi] This incident incited the huge protest in Tunisia that overturned the government there.

Protestors from all over the world are mentioned in Time magazine’s award. From the nameless masses who swarmed the streets with the Arab spring to the protestors in Greece and the Occupy Wall Street movement and on it goes…notice was taken and high marks given by Time magazine, 2011. Protestors were cited to share a desire to reform and improve their countries’ political and economic woes. Egyptian eruptions came out of fraudulent elections in 2010. In Russia it was the reality that another six (or 12) years of Vladimir Putin, the Time magazine 2007 “Person of the Year” incidentally, might NOT improve prosperity and daily life.

What does this have to do with my NY’s resolution and yours? The Bible teaches us about resolution in terms of who drives your bus and what motivates you to stand up and be counted. Who of us doesn’t protest something to one extent or another? But how & why we do it matter to God whose Son, Jesus Christ endured protest and protested Himself here on earth. If Jesus had demanded to be treated fairly with dignity, where would that have taken Him? How many times was He offended.. from “no room at the Inn” to false accusations and injustice on the cross?

He could have marched with signs and gotten air time and said “Forget This Stuff!” And then where would We be? Instead He said, “Forgive them and gave His life as a sacrifice to give US dignity…even, especially, when others don’t. Maybe this year we can protest with more of a Divine purpose.

The Bible says, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psalm 37:23). Let’s check with Him first.

‘Know where you are headed and you will stay on solid ground’ (Proverbs 4:26). ‘Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’ (Proverbs 19:21).

Above all, let’s be sure to seek God’s will in whatever cause we promote. 1 Sam 2:10 warns that those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. That sounds like something to avoid! In the process, we stay humble, as He gives us the grace to encourage others and work for good change. That's why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." And when we get beaten down and discouraged by the opposition, we take heart from Heb 12:3 “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Of course, begin any protest with prayer!

Bottom line: in contrast to proTEST, let’s PROclaim..the Good News of JC. In contrast to OCCUPY, let’s BE OCCUPIED by the HS. That’s how God guides our protests to be most effective so what we occupy will count far beyond the here and now! Lord willing, That should make for a great 2012!

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