Friday, December 15, 2006

Anna's Band Concert

Anna had her annual Christmas band concert last night. It was so fun! Next year Joshua will be there with her. It's hard to believe she is already in Middle School. Here she is with three of her best friends and her saxaphone.

Doug and Joshua being enthralled by the music.

And this is what happens when you leave Kiki and Joshua unattended in a car for too long with a digital camera. We're thinking of making a calendar and calling it "Random acts of Boredom."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Goodness of the Lord and an incredible gift

Thanks to all of you who have written and called to check up on me. I appreciate it more than you realize.

I just haven't wanted to post in a while. The past couple of months has been like spiritual boot camp. So many good things have been happening--with the new church, students accepting Christ, and new relationships forming regularly.

But on a personal level, I've just been exhausted. God has been stripping away my pride, idolatry, and weaning me of my need for other's approval. I've been forced to rely on Him alone. That has not been easy for this sanguine people-pleaser.

I've lost the desire to interact with anyone. I have really felt "different", "radical" and alone. Not only does our calling set us apart as freaks, but I have been feeling my "third-culture" ness more than ever before.

It always seems worse this time of year, during the holiday season. The whole consumeristic, excessive materialism within American culture will always be a struggle for me.

I grew up in the midst of dire poverty, and those images are burned on my heart. The contrast of my two cultures is hard to reconcile at times.

One recent source of refreshment for me, though, was the day we spent at the mission downtown, feeding the homeless and serving alongside the young men in the "cognitive renewal" program. These young men--once trapped in the bondage of addiction--are now voluntarily serving others and sharing the love of Christ.

I think God not only commands us, but has put something in us that longs to take care of the poor, the orphaned and the widow. As our hearts begin to beat in tune with His,we are compelled to serve. Left neglected, that void cries out to be filled.

I love our ministry at CMU. But I am constantly surrounded by the gifted, privileged and superior. Even our neighborhood is filled with the spiritually lost, but affluent. I long to be with the socially disadvantaged--to be the hands and feet of Christ in a practical way.

And I miss Africa--the people, sights, sounds, and smells. I long to hear the joyful singing and dancing at church, and smell the wonderful aroma of mealie-meal porridge over an open fire. I miss the children's bright smiles and joyful innocence.

Through these past few weeks, God has given me a promise in the words of Psalm 27. I have repeatedly read that passage--especially the last two verses.

Psa 27:13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.
Psa 27:14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

God is so good, and so faithful. Yesterday He truly refreshed my soul.

My husband gave me my Christmas present a little early. It could not have been more perfect, and encouraged me in such a powerful way.

Guess what he gave me? A sponsorship, through Compassion International, for the most precious little guy in all of Africa. He is five years old, lives in Tanzania, and loves soccer just as much as I do!!!

And guess what his name is??? LIVING!!!! I can now say I have truly seen the "goodness of the Lord in the land of the Living." : )

I can't wait to learn more about Living's life. In some ways, his childhood and mine are probably similar. But in other ways they are tragically different.

Does he like to eat guavas straight off the tree, and kick around a rag ball in the backyard? Has he ever climbed a baobab tree to pick a gourd, and broken it open to eat the sour fruit inside? Does he catch red velvet spiders after it rains? Does he watch the men play Mancala in the shelter by the road, or tease the ant lions until they come up out of their traps and grab onto his stick?

Does he help the older boys herd cattle and carry water from the well? Does he have his own knob-kerrie to fend against snakes and predators? Does he love the booming African thunderstorms, and the sound of the raindrops drumming on the tin roof? Does he ever walk down to the local store, and buy a hot bottle of coke and a piece of candy? Or does his family even have the few shillings to buy him a treat?

Does he ever go to bed hungry, or wonder what happened to his father? Does he have shoes to wear to school, and a sweater for those chilly mornings? Has he ever owned his own box of crayons, or notepad, or pencils? Has he heard that Jesus loves him? Does he know God has has a plan for his life?

One day I hope that I will get a chance to take my own family back to Africa. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get to meet this little guy as well. If I do, I want to be able to tell him in his heart language that he is loved and prayed for every day.

Thank you, Doug, for an amazing Christmas present. And thank you, Abba, for your goodness.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Smart People

One thing I love about working at CMU is that every day is unpredictable.

Today we were standing at the hot chocolate table, when J.W. calmly stated, "Look. There's Dennis Quaid."

Sure enough--there he was--walking his white lab puppy on the lawn in front of the CFA building.

Turns out they are filming the movie "Smart People" this week on campus. Apparently Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church are also on site.

We walked over and watched them shoot one scene of the movie. They will be at CMU until next Tuesday or Wednesday, filming scenes at several locations on campus.

Just as we were packing up to leave in the late afternoon, Dennis walked right past us on his way to dinner. The funny thing is.....on our campus nobody really cares about celebrities, so people seldom react.

In fact, I heard today that they've had some difficulty getting students to be extras. Apparently one responded by saying, "I'm not sure. How much of a time commitment would that be? I don't want it to cut into my studying."

And so goes another weird and wonderful day at CMU. I love it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Birth Announcements!

This weekend brought big news around here! Two of our former CrossSeekers, Ed and Becky Fillipih, delivered their first child. Katie was born bright and early on Friday morning.

But later that day, there was another new birth. Danyelle was sitting in her dorm room, reading her Bible, when suddenly God opened her eyes to the full reality of who He was. Right there, alone with God, Danyelle believed and was born into new life in Christ.

We have been praying for her for so many months. There is lots of rejoicing going on within our group right now!!! This is joy on top of joy after Andy's decision just a few weeks ago.

It is so fun to get to witness God transforming the lives of college students. We've also noticed a pattern emerging in how God has worked. Without exception, we have seen each of these elements in the lives of our students who have accepted Christ.

1. Persistent, tearful, gut-wrenching intercession--When the Holy Spirit places a name of a friend or family member on the heart of one of our Christian students, our whole group begins to pray earnestly for that person. We believe James 5:16, which says our prayers are "powerful and effective."

2. Genuine, sacrificial relationships--intellectual arguments do not convince students of the truth of God's Word. It is transparent, authentic Christian living, and friendship extended in love that they find attractive.

3. Getting into God's Word--every single time it has been the Word of God and the revelation of the Holy Spirit that ultimately brings students to belief. His Word is "powerful and effective, and sharper than any two-edged sword." In fact, most of the students have ended up being alone with God, reading His Word, when they finally made the decision to believe in Christ. But that was preceded by months of reading the Bible, participating in small group, and meeting one-on-one with Christians.

4. Total life change and rapid discipleship--when students have spent months in God's Word before believing in Him, they have fallen in love with His Word by the time they come to faith. It has been amazing to watch the pace at which these students grow, and to see the radical change that occurs in their life and countenance. They are typically already entrenched in a small group, and surrounded by other believers who are encouraging/supporting them in their new walk. They read their Bibles--both Old and New Testaments. And they are, without exception, incredible evangelists. At the point where they finally come to belief, they are so convinced that they are willing to share their testimony boldly. They are also quickly grown into strong leaders, and are so grateful for the prayers lifted up on their behalf, that they tend to be powerful intercessors as well.

We don't get to see huge numbers of people coming to faith in Christ here, and the work is often lonely, exhausting and just plain tough. But the depth of what God is doing here is so precious. We get to be around radical young Christians, and it is way cool.

It's funny--on campus we've been dubbed the "Jesus freaks" or the "radical Christian hot chocolate people". But it's amazing how many of the same people who label us also want to hang out with us, or seek out our students to "talk to" when they are in trouble. The beauty of Christ is foreign but attractive to them.

Pray for our group. There are so many names still on our "lost friends" list. We need committed, faithful intercessors to fight with us on their behalf. Sometimes we get weary, and wonder "when, God???" But we cannot leave the battle. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."--Ephesians 6:12

Thursday, November 02, 2006

There is Power in the Name

I love stories like this one. God is so clearly with us through all that He asks us to endure.

This is such a powerful reminder, too, of the importance of intercessory prayer. When I was reading it, I immediately thought of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians.

2Co 1:9-11

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

As I was with Moses.......

God often takes us back to promises He has given in the past, to remind us of His faithfulness.

He did that just a few weeks after we returned to Oklahoma from Pennsylvania. I was wrestling with God again over the call to CMU. I gave Him every excuse in the book as to why I could not go:

"Lord, I can't go to a smart school. You know I'm a dingbat. I can't carry on conversations with techies!!!"

"You know I will never be able to drive in a big city like that!!"

"My parents just retired in the States! I need to be near them!"

But God spoke again, loudly and clearly, through a scripture from our Daily Bread promise box. I pulled the card out that morning, and the words almost jumped off the page at me.

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." --Joshua 3:7c

God was clearly reminding me of His faithfulness, through the exact same verse that had impacted me on our vision trip.

Just a few days ago He did it again. We have been receiving boxes and boxes of "Christmas in August" stuff from churches all over the United States. My favorite part of those packages are the handmade cards from all the little kids.

It had been a particularly tough week (in the midst of a difficult season) when the mail carrier arrived at the door one morning with a package from a little church down South. I was emotionally drained and spiritually exhausted that day, and had cried out to God for some encouragement. What happened next blew me away.

As I cut open the box, there was a little purple card laying on the very top. It had star and flower cutouts pasted on it, as well as a "Daily Bread" card. Guess what verse was on the card?

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." --Joshua 3:7c

I opened the card. Inside, someone had scribbled in black marker: "We are thinking of you and praying for you. Don't forget--God is always with you."

That was the only card--amidst the 1,000+ we have received--which had a daily bread card pasted to it. I truly believe that card was from God to me, because I needed to hear Him that very day.

That card is now taped to my refrigerator. It's a reminder that I serve a very present and personal God who provides for my deepest needs.

Psalm 36:5-9

"Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Pour Down Like Rain

This week is the fourth anniversary of our vision trip to PA. It was on October 24, 2002, that we arrived in Harrisburg amidst snow flurries and falling leaves.

At that point, we were just praying and seeking God's direction--whatever that might be. I was secretly hoping that He would let us stay in Oklahoma City. I loved working at the Children's Home, and being so close to my parents--who had finally retired on American soil.

But God had a different plan. That night, as freezing rain pelted the roof of the mission house, my heart began to change. Here is my journal entry from that day:

God woke me up about 3am, and began speaking to me. The words of a Mercy Me song were playing in my head.

"Word of God speak.
Would you pour down like rain.
Washing my eyes to see Your Majesty.
To be still and know that You're in this place.
Please let me stay and rest in your Holiness.
Word of God speak."

Scripture verses began to pop in my head. Most of them were about God's character and faithfulness. Praise songs played in my mind, and I had a really sweet time of intimate fellowship with the Lord.

God spoke very clearly. "I am in this place." In my heart I understood that He was at work in Pennsylvania, and I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment.

In my quiet time, I had just started the book of Joshua. That second morning in PA, I read what was already one of my favorite passages of scripture.

Joshua 1:5-9 "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

In the past when I have read that passage, it's the "be strong and courageous", "meditate on the Word" and "the Lord is with you" messages that I notice.

But this time verse 5 seemed to jump off the page at me. "Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you." For the rest of the day, as we drove through York and Shippensburg looking at campuses, those words were in the forefront of my mind.

I understood how God had been with Moses. I had just finished reading through the account of the wanderings in the desert. God was ever-present, interceding, faithful, forgiving, compassionate, but also HOLY in those accounts. The thought that He could abide with us in the same manner blew me away.

I filed that thought away to mull over later.

We looked at various campuses in the Central PA area, but it was not until three days later in Pittsburgh that we knew we were home. Here's my entry from the 27th.

We really liked the CMU campus. Something just felt right about it. Pittsburgh was pretty, too. I would be scared to death of driving here, but would get used to it, I'm sure. I really like the bridges and all the tall, skinny houses. I'm scared to death today, but excited at the same time!

And here we are now.....four years later.....settled and established in the place where God has called us.

Looking back, it's incredible to see how God orchestrated it all.

March, 2003--went to support school in Topeka, Kansas. Felt like God further confirmed our calling through one of our team leaders, who was from Pittsburgh, and had been saved while in college. His Jewish family had totally disowned him after his conversion, but Ellis went on into full-time ministry and is now impacting college ministers all over the United States through Campus Crusade.

September 1, 2003--It became clear that we needed to make our calling public, and focus full-time on support raising. We quit our jobs and spent the next weeks intensely praying and visiting prospective supporters.

October, 2003--Doug moved to Pittsburgh to find us a house. He came home right before Thanksgiving.

December 28th, 2003--after a hurried Christmas that we barely even remember--we loaded up the moving van and drove to Pennsylvania. Amazingly, we were at 80% of our support!!! I can't even tell you how it came in--it's like God just put it in our account Himself.

December 31, 2003--closed on a home I had just seen for the first time.

January, 2004--Moved in amidst 28 straight days of snow and freezing rain. Had our first CrossSeekers worship time on campus, and started meeting with our intern, Chris Massa.

But when we walked into our first meeting at CMU, I felt really out of place. There were only 12 students there--all male--most of them graduate students--and all engineers. My first thought was, "How will I ever fit into this environment?"

March, 2004--We realized that we were not going to be able to do campus ministry the way it had been done when we were in college. So we scrapped all of our agendas, and just began praying that God would send 8 core leaders to build upon.

2004-2005 school year--it was amazing what God did. One by one, those leaders simply walked through the door and told us that God had led them to be part of our group. It certainly wasn't anything that we were doing. Jarrod said that he actually hated our meetings at first, but came out of obedience to God. : )

2005-2006--we just stand in awe of what God has done. Our group has grown, and reflects a diversity and broad spectrum of campus life (no longer just male, graduate engineers--although we still have some of those who are key leaders in our group and who we are so thankful for!!!) We have been privileged to see students come to Christ, and others grow deeper in their walk. We've seen them gain a heart for missions and a passion for unreached people groups. We've had opportunities to serve, both in our own community and overseas. Our small groups are thriving. The students are passionate about reaching their lost friends. God is at work on our campus.

October 29, 2006--we start the new church plant in Oakland. We'll be meeting in John and Amanda's apartment, and starting with 12 core members.

November, 2006-eternity--can't wait to see what God has planned. : )

WOW!!! Even though these past four years have had tough points, too, I can only be grateful that God has allowed us to be part of what He is doing in Pittsburgh.

Isa 64:3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
Isa 64:4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

What I'm learning from the Qur'an

One of our Muslim friends gave us a copy of the Qur'an last week. It has been interesting to read it, and it has given me a deeper love and concern for my friends.

There was a time when I would not have felt comfortable reading it, or even having one in my home. But I have realized three things: 1) Our Bible is the living, active Word of God---this is simply a book. I don't need to be afraid of it 2) "Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:1-6) and 3) Reading it helps me better understand, and so be better able to pray for, communicate with and serve my Muslim friends.

What I have discovered so far has made me sad. When you read the Qur'an, it is a very binding set of laws. Adam and I were discussing it, and both had the same impression. He asked, "where is the evidence of love? I see strong teachings about judgement and mercy, but where is the love from God to man?"

When Adam asked one of our Muslim friends that question, our friend seemed to indicate that love only exists between a man and a woman. Even phileo love, between brothers, was a somewhat foreign concept to him.

He was explaining how Allah is a reactive God. If we extend a hand towards him, then he will extend an arm back towards us. If we walk towards him, he will run towards us. It is very dependent on works and our ability to be "good enough". Their very lives are ruled by daily legalistic practices, and they are constantly held in the tension between their good and bad deeds. No matter how loyal and good they strive to be, they still also have no assurance that they will "make it" to paradise. (with one exception, which is the killing of infidels. I think I actually understand better about that, but don't want to discuss it in this post.)

As our friend stated, "we live in a balance between fear and hope."

Just studying the Qur'an has made me incredulously grateful for our God. He is so good, and his love endures forever!!!! When I see Him contrasted against the gods of other religions, I realize what an incredible and incomprehensible gift He has given us.

I also have a fuller understanding of the magnitude of His sacrifice. No other religion has a god who was willing to humble Himself to the point of becoming one of us. And yet He went beyond that, and gave His very life on our behalf!!! Why would He continue to love us that much, when we fall so short? How can He be so Holy, and yet also so merciful?

Thanks be to God, for His indescribable Gift.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Letter from Adam

The picture is refusing to show up--I'll try again later. For now, this represents Adam's face. : )

Yesterday was our regular lemonade table in the middle of campus. That is always the highlight of my week, because it is the time we really get to engage in some deep conversations with students who are not believers.

But this year I have had another joy, in getting to watch our intern, Adam, interacting with students. It was only 13 months ago that Adam himself found a personal relationship with Christ.

I can't tell you how fun it is just to be around him and watch God working through him. Adam has absorbed the Word and grown faster than anyone I've ever known. He is sold out, and has a passion for reaching the nations. He was one of five students who spent Spring Break ministering in Peru (in the picture above he is with one of the men he met there.) Adam definitely has the gift of evangelism!!!

I asked him if he would write something for my blog. Here it is:

The difference between knowing God
and knowing about God

A few years ago, I used to know about God. I knew what the bible said He did: that He came to die for our sins and reconcile us back to Himself. I knew that He asked us: 1) not to sin, 2) to love others and to be good to them, 3) to love
Him most of all.
I dutifully went to church every Sunday morning and tried to be good to others because it was what I was supposed to do. In appearance, it may have looked like I really loved God, I think I even fooled myself.

But truthfully, it was a chore for me, I couldn't wait to put in my hours and forget about Him for the week. His commandments were things I had to do. I did not enjoy my time that was spent doing godly things. I would rather have been elsewhere, doing what I wanted to do.
In church, when we were supposed to be in His presence, my thoughts drifted to "How much longer" or "this is so boring". What would I have done if I would have had to put up with this "bordem" for all eternity?

That changed a little over a year ago; now I know God. I know why He needed to come and die for us. I desire to be with Him at all times now. Being with Him on Sunday morning is one thing I now look forward to as an essential part of the week.
In fact, I don't even have to wait til Sunday morning anymore, I can be with Him 24/7. It is no longer out of duty that I follow His commandments, but because I want to follow them and to serve Him.
I wait eagerly for the day when in heaven I am able to be with Him for all eternity. Now that I know Him, I know that I truly love Him.

In Christ,


When Taking a Stand Hurts

This has not been a fun week. There have been several different situations occur that have forced me way out of my comfort zone and caused me to have to stand in very lonely and difficult positions. I absolutely HATE confrontation or hurting anyone's feelings.

1. There was an issue with my Bible Study. I have so been enjoying that group and the fellowship of other women. But we started a new series this week, and it was simply not truth. In fact, the man whose book we are studying is a Universalist.

So I had to take a tough stand and confront what I believe is heresy. It has made me a very unpopular person, and a very lonely one. Even though I have tried to be respectful and as gentle as possible, I dared to question a beloved teacher, and then had to take it to a higher authority. So my name is mud.

I also lost my outlet for fellowship and study with other women.

2. One of my dear friends in ministry is currently making some decisions that go against God's principles. I have tried to be honest with her, and am concerned that she is on a fast track to a lot of pain, hurt, and possibly the end of her ministry.

However, I seem to be the only one counseling her against pursuing the relationship with this man. Even though others have concerns, no one wants to hurt her feelings.

It has caused a barrier between us, and makes me sad. Not only that, but I feel like it will ultimately hurt her ministry and the lives that God has given her stewardship of. The Lord puts boundaries in place to protect us and to guard His Holiness. When we violate that, there are consequences.

3. I learned this week that one of my own mentors, and a man I deeply respect, resigned from his church after confessing to a moral shortcoming.

I believe that in this case he could be biblically restored, and the situation can lead to a powerful testimony of the grace of God. But my fear is that it won't happen.

Ministers are just as human and as susceptible to falling as anyone else. Most people will acknowledge that.

But few churches create a healthy or safe climate for those who are struggling. There is no way to find healthy accountability when they first begin to slip, and no place to find restoration when they do fall. We have built a culture of condemnation.

I personally will not condemn or shame this man, and chose to remove myself from some conversations as a result.

I am sad and grieved for him and his family, because I know that he truly loves the Lord, and that he has been used powerfully in the lives of many people through the years. I can only imagine how much he is beating himself up over all of this, and admire his character in coming forward when he could easily have continued to hide the sin.

I also know that "but for the grace of God go I." All of us deal with temptation and struggles of the flesh.

4. I've had to tell some people who I love that their deepest conviction is a lie.

I struggle with this, because so many of my friends are not Christians. Many of them subscribe to other world religions. They are devout in their beliefs, and very dedicated in the practice of their faith. Yet so, so lost.

Tomorrow night one of those friends is coming to dinner. He is a wonderful person whose company we truly enjoy, and also a devout Muslim. On Sunday we will be spending time with another couple who are in a similiar position.

A popular mindset here in Pittsburgh is the notion that "as long as a person is truly SEEKING, and is devout in their faith, then God will surely have mercy on them and allow them into heaven."

But that is simply not Biblical. There is no other name on earth by which men may be saved.

Do you know how hard it is to answer a friend when they ask, "So you believe that I will go to hell, because I don't serve YOUR God?" It would be so much more comfortable, and so much easier, to say, "God is so loving and merciful that He will forgive anyway, as long as you truly are seeking."

But we cannot water down the truth. If we believe in the inerrant, infallible Word of God, then there is no compromise.

Even when it hurts.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Lost Virtue?

Something we have been discussing recently in our home is the virtue of honor. What does it mean to truly "honor God"? What does it mean to honor those around us, beginning with our family?

I love my daughter Anna's description. She said, "it means to act kind and loving towards someone, and pray for them, even when they are getting on your last nerve."

Sadly, I think American society is lacking in honor. Even the church and the home are missing this crucial element. I am speaking personally on this--I wish we exhibited more honor within my own immediate family.

But as a society, we no longer seem to respect our elders, or extend kindness to others, or greet strangers on the street. We have become an individualistic, me-centered culture.

But what does God say about honor? Here are just a few of the verses we came across:

Pro 3:9 Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce;
Pro 3:10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.

Pro 3:35 The wise will inherit honor, But fools display dishonor.

Pro 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.

Pro 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair.

Pro 21:21 He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.

Pro 22:4 The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life.

Pro 29:23 A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Isa 29:13 Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
Isa 29:14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed."

Exo 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Lev 19:32 'You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.

Mal 2:2 "If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says the LORD of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart.

Luk 14:10 "But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.

Joh 5:22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
Joh 5:23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Rom 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Rom 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
Rom 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Rom 12:12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
Rom 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Rom 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

1Ti 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1Ti 5:3 Honor widows who are widows indeed;

1Pe 2:17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

What is your definition of "honor"? What are some insights you have on this topic? Any other verses to share?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spiritual Warfare and Training

Our sending church back in Oklahoma City--Southern Hills--has started a study that I am so incredibly excited about.

It is called 90 Days Through the Bible and gets people digging into the Word of God.

I am so proud to have come from a church who understands the "first things." The Bible is living, active and powerful. It changes lives, heals and transforms. It is our spiritual weapon, and our source of peace. It does not return void.

Psalm 119:165 "Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cry of my heart

Yesterday was such an amazing day on campus, that I am struggling to put it into words. It was one of those intense, God-orchestrated times.

We had just set up our lemonade table, when Khalid and Mohuiddin came along and camped out next to us. They are two students who we already know well, and they were putting up a booth for the Muslim Student Association.

We were able to spend the next six hours of the day fellowshipping and hanging out with several members of their group. Many of them we already had friendships with.

We talked about God and Islam and Christianity. We clowned around, discussed life in general and just enjoyed each other's company. There was an openness and ease that was refreshing. We were able to ask honest questions and genuinely learn from one another.

At one point in the day, I was in a deep conversation with a guy named Mohamed when my Israeli friend, Shary, came along. She is someone who I have not seen in a long time, and I was eager to hear about the group of Jewish American students she took on their Birthright trip to Israel this Summer.

(I also love the fact that an Israeli Jew, an Egyptian Muslim and an American Christian were standing in the middle of campus together!)

Through the course of the day, we had many incredible opportunities, which I won't share in detail on a public forum. But it was clear that God is actively at work on our campus.

The day was so full of meaningful conversations that we didn't even have time to eat lunch. I managed to get down three crackers at one point between dialogues, but that was it.

As I was driving home I could hardly contain my excitement. But at the same time my heart was heavy.

It hurts to love people with a veil over their eyes. It's painful to plead for the souls of your friends, not knowing their ultimate destiny. All I can do is cling to the hope that God, in His mercy, will open their eyes and hearts to see the deity of Jesus.

You know what is interesting, though? God has given me a passion and love for the "people of the book" that I did not have before coming to Pittsburgh. In fact, if you had asked me how I felt about both the Muslims and the Jews just a few years ago, I would have said that I hoped to never be called to live with either one. Both have a reputation for their religous zeal and ruthlessness. My assumption has always been that they were so set in their beliefs that they would never listen to someone like me.

But God has softened my heart. Two things happened Monday which just confirm that fact.

I decided to stop by the University Center that morning, before meeting with a student. As I walked in, I noticed a little Jewish boy, about 2 or 3 years old, playing at his mother's feet. His dark hair curled around the edges of his kippah, and his huge brown eyes were deep and innocent.

I wanted to run up and just pray over him, to plead with God that this family would be part of the remnant who recognized that the Messiah had come. That morning I had read Romans 9 and 10--the passage which speaks of Paul's desire to see the salvation of the Jews.

The words of Romans 10:1-2 rang out in my heart. "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge."

I echo those words, but my prayer does not stop there. It extends to all the descendants of Abraham. Even though Isaac and Ishmael were sons of Abraham--called the "friend of God"--their children no longer have a relationship with Him.

Monday evening Doug and I watched the movie "United 93". The whole movie was intense. But one scene hit me really hard, and for reasons you might not expect.

It was the point in the story where everyone on board the plane realized that they were going to die. The passengers frantically recited the Lord's Prayer, while the terrorists passionately prayed to Allah. Again, I thought about Paul's words--"they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge."

A few years ago, I would have only felt anger towards men who could commit such a heinous act. But today, my heart breaks for a people deceived by the darkness. I am sad for them. They are so sincere, yet misguided in their pursuit of righteousness.

But I cling to this hope. I know that God is love. I know that He is merciful. He changes lives. He alone is God.

Psalm 146:8-10 The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous;
The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
The LORD will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

Invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind

Tuesday at Bible Study God clearly spoke to me again. We were in Luke 14, and had just gotten to the parable of the feast.
Luke 14:12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When
you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or
your relatives or rich neighbors
, otherwise they may also invite you in return
and that will be your repayment.
Luke 14:13 "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind........

Suddenly God smacked me over the head. BAM!!!! I saw the answer to what has been troubling me about the church over the past several months.

Those of you who know me, realize that I have longed for a place to really dig deep into the Word and fellowship with other Christians. I yearn to openly discuss, question and dialogue about the richness of the Bible and the wonders of our God. I want to be with hungry people.

I have been increasingly disgruntled at not being able to find that place. I want to go deeper than a few verses, Sunday School answers and "self-help Christianity". I need to be with those who can be real and transparent about their struggles, yet who recognize that through the power of Him who lives within us, we can navigate the complexities of life. I want to be in an "iron-sharpens-iron" environment, where we can share the joy of peeling back the layers of God's Word and discover precious nuggets of truth together.

I have, in my despair, asked "Lord, do you not care that I have a place to be in fellowship....and to find accountability? How can I lead others when I have no place to refill???"

But I have been looking in the wrong place.

"invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind..."

Yesterday I saw my city with fresh eyes. I live every day among the spiritually poor, crippled, lame and blind. I have very few in my world who are "seasoned" Christians, or who have ever had the opportunity to be discipled or to study the Word. Most of the people around me do not even have a personal relationship with Christ.

But if I get truly gut-level honest with myself, I don't really want to spend my time in the insulation of the church walls.

In this parable, it goes on to tell how the invited guests who already knew the host made excuses not to come. Unfortunately, they took their relationship with him for granted, and did not feel an urgency to come to the feast.

By contrast, those with great need were hungry. Coming to the table was a privilege for them, and they came with eagerness and excitement.

I immediately thought of Adam. One of my favorite things in the whole world is just to spend time talking with him. I love his questions. I love his depth. I love his childlike faith.

It is refreshing just to be around him. I can't explain how amazing it is to watch him share his faith on Wednesdays at the table. That kid is a walking sponge, and he is devouring the truth of the Word. In his one short year of being a Christian, he has reached a point where I now seek counsel from him, because his perspective is so fresh and spirit-driven.

I thought about how much of my life has been spent attending church-related events. While they have their merit, that's not where my heart lies. I want to feast and fellowship with the poor, crippled, lame and blind!!! How fun to be around people who recognize the invitation to the meal as a privilege, honor and blessing.

I realize that my calling is to invite the hungry to the table. And I believe through the power of the living, active Word of God, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I can be refreshed in that environment while discipling others. I don't need to find a group of "seasoned" Christians. I need to begin serving those who may not even yet know Who they are looking for.

My perspective has changed today. I realize what a blessing it is to be on a campus where I have endless opportunities. I get to interact with those blinded by false religion, crippled by church abuse, and poor in spirit because they never had the opportunity to grow in their faith.

We live in a neighborhood and go to school with lost, hurting, poor souls longing for answers. I shop at a store, and eat at restaurants, and go to sporting events with people who are spiritually empty.

And what a refreshment my Bible Study is!!! I love the fact that there is a curiosity and innocence and freedom from pre-conceived "churchiology". This last week sincere questions were raised on everything from extreme unction to Katherine Kuhlman and Islam!!!

Lord, I thank you for the blessing of being able to freely feast on your Word. Thank you for our daily bread. Draw the hungry to your table, and let them find the satisfaction that only comes from knowing you.

Divine appointments

I love it when God orchestrates divine appointments. It happened to me on Monday.

I started this week realizing that I was not on top of my game spiritually. I know God is GOD, and at the core of my spirit, that belief has not wavered. But I am disillusioned right now with "church", and wrestling with my own position on some spiritual issues.

So walking down Forbes on Monday, I told God, "It's going to have to be all you and your Holy Spirit today. In my weakness, reveal your strength."

At that very point, God said to me, "I need you to talk to Ray." Ray is the mail carrier who works on Forbes, and I really don't bump into him that often. God would have to make that happen if he wanted us to talk.

I was also a little unsettled by the thought of dialoguing with him when I wasn't feeling particularly spiritual. I enjoy our conversations, but he is very intellectual, and can be blunt and intimidating. Ray was raised in a traditional religion, but got burned and left as a young teen. He would now probably call himself more Unitarian.

But as I got to the bottom of Forbes, I saw him. And he clearly was headed towards me.

We ended up talking through his entire lunch break, but it was such a good conversation. God recently brought a priest and some others into his life who are stirring up questions in his spirit. It was exciting to realize that there are multiple dimensions of God's activity occuring--including many that I will never even know. I am simply one small piece of the bigger plan for Ray's life.

We had more to talk about that we had time, so we ended the conversation with a promise to pick it up again on campus in the near future. He knows where our office is in the University Center, so hopefully we can dialogue again soon.

The coolest part is that it was TOTALLY God speaking through me that morning. My mind and my flesh could never have come up with the things that were said. It is so cool when God does that.

Continue to pray for Ray. I believe that God is working in him, and has an incredible plan for his life. I don't know that I will ever get to see the unfolding of it. So much of what we do is the initial seed planting. But God in His goodness continues to allow imperfect people like me to be part of carrying his incredible story to a lost and dying world. What a privilege!!!

2Co 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2Co 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Father's Blessing

I was recently reading in 2 Samuel 6, when this verse struck me, "Then David came back to give a blessing to his family" (2 Sam. 6:20a).

If you remember, it was right after they had gone and retrieved the ark of God, and had just finished an incredible time of worship.

I find it interesting that David's priority after such an intense spiritual experience was to go and bless his family.

One of my former pastors, Rex Holt, would pray a "Father's Blessing" over his kids each night at bedtime. It was straight scripture, and I believe had a powerful impact on them growing up.

Do any of you practice a "Father's Blessing", and if so, how exactly do you go about it? I am intrigued by this concept, and would love to hear from you.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Our New Addition

On Saturday we added a new member to our family. She is a sweetie! We're pretty sure that she is all beagle. Our neighbor looked at her and said she has the markings of a purebred dog, even though we got her from a rescue.

The hardest part was leaving with her. The mother beagle happened to be in a cage beside where our car was parked. When she saw her puppy, she ran to the fence, stuck her nose through, and was whimpering for her little one. It almost broke my heart.

We haven't given her a name yet, because our family can't come to a consensus on anything. So for now, it's just "little girl." She's a snuggler who likes nothing better than to sit on your lap and have her head scratched.

But she's also a typical toddler. Into everything, and it all goes in the mouth. We've suddenly realized how non-babyproofed our house has become.

Thankfully, she's a really easy and smart dog, who already sleeps through the night, loves her crate, and is catching on to housetraining. We had two new firsts this morning--leash training and a bath (neither of which she was real fond of.)

All of you in the Pittsburgh area are more than welcome to come meet her. She LOVES people!!!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Our City is Mourning

I am grieving today with my fellow Pittsburghers over the loss of our Mayor, Bob O'Connor. If there is anything that could be said about this man, it is that he LOVED this city and gave his life to serving her.

He was "the People's Mayor"--and loved nothing more than walking the streets downtown, mingling with citizens, or eating in a restaurant up on Forbes. He had huge dreams and ambitions for this city, to restore her to the glory days that she previously knew.

When he spoke about Pittsburgh, his whole face would light up. He had dreamed of being mayor of our city for most of his life. That dream finally came true last November, when on his third attempt he was elected mayor.

One reason he has been such a good mayor, is that he is truly a Pittsburgher. In his lifetime has worked in a steel mill and in the family restaurant, served over a decade on city council, and even became a Eucharistic minister of the Catholic church so that he could serve communion to residents in senior care centers. He initiated the "Redd Up" campaign to clean up our downtown area, and had a strategy to bring economic health back to Pittsburgh.

Mayor O'Connor did not expect to hold such a short term in office. When he went to the hospital in July with flu-like symptoms, he had no idea that he would be diagnosed with brain cancer and succumb so quickly to the illness.

Our whole city has been in prayer for the O'Connor family these past few weeks. I've often wondered where he stood with God, and prayed that He knew the Lord as his Savior. I know that he was a devout Catholic whose son is a priest. However, only God knows the heart of a man.

But I've learned so much from the example of Mayor O'Connor. I hope that I can have as much passion, joy and allegiance to the city of my King as Mayor O'Connor did for Pittsburgh. It has given me a new desire to "get back to Kingdom purposes" and lay aside the messy distractions that have been in my way.

I don't know how much time I will have on this earth, either. But at the end of my life, when I get to heaven, I want to hear "she was a loyal citizen of the King."

Redd up, yens. We've got Kingdom purposes to fulfill.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stained Glass Masquerade

Apparently the topic of my last few posts struck a chord. I have received emails from several people who feel the same way.

Interestingly enough, most of them are missionaries or former missionaries.

There is a Casting Crowns song out right now that speaks volumes. It's called "Stained Glass Masquerade", and is on their Lifesong album.

But these words hit me between the eyes. Here's an excerpt from the song:
Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

So what do you think is the answer? Why do we seem to struggle so much to find that genuine connection and transparent fellowship? Do you think it has to do with the individualism and busyness of the American culture? Or is it something else?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I had an overwhelming experience yesterday. And I'm still processing it. But I also have a sense of hope through this that I haven't had in a long time.

This has been a tough season of my life. We have been so isolated here in the ministry.

I've also been really questioning my call as a woman in ministry. Even though I know what God Himself has told me, I also hear the voice of leaders in our denomination telling me that I can't be who I am called to be. So I live under that constant tension, confusion and pressure.

Those who know me well will tell you I have not been myself for a while. So yesterday I decided to join a Bible Study group that was recommended by a local counselor. It meets on Tuesdays, which is my day off campus.

But what I found at this study caught me off guard. First of all, the teacher was this dear, funny lady who has been in full-time ministry for over 21 years. She also happens to be 84 years old, and talks about God in such a warm, personal way that it's as if He is standing next to her in the room.

The group ranged in age from early 20s through senior adults. But there was something unique about them from the moment I walked in. They were so REAL and transparent. Each lady was at a different point in her journey, but it was so clear that they were deeply in love with Christ and had a reverence for the Word of God.

They were also not afraid to speak openly and freely. There were questions asked and statements made that I had never heard in a Bible Study before. Raw, genuine questions like, "why does the Bible teach that premarital sex is wrong?"

I realized that most of these women had come to Christ later in lives and were free from the influences of church culture. Since they were at all different stages of their walk, and did not know yet how to play the Christian "game", there were no questions/comments that were off limits. It was SOOOO refreshing.

It also occurred to me that they had not yet been given the list of "THOU SHALT NOTS FOR WOMEN" that those of us who have grown up in church have lived under. Every single woman in that room was plugged into ministry of some sort, even though they were all wives and mothers and some were even fairly new believers. There was no wrestling with "Can I do this if I'm female?" or "should I wait until I'm more grounded in my faith?" There was this general attitude of "how can I keep from sharing what God has done in my life?!!!!"

We were studying the parable of the Good Samaritan. We had just passed the part where the man was beaten up, and began discussing the role of the thieves in the story. We all agreed that they represent satan, who has come to "steal, kill and to destroy." We discussed how satan's goal is to defeat us and keep us from fulfilling God's call on our life.

But the next part hit me between the eyes. The teacher said, "Did you notice where the next source of pain comes from, though? Who ignored the man when he was at his point of greatest need? How often do you see the Law and the Church abandoning the hurting Christian?"

That did it. I started to sob. Thirty seven years of deep wounds started to come out. That was me. I have felt such pain from my church and denomination.

I realized these women have a freedom in Christ that I don't. They don't even have a concept of what I mean when I speak of the bondage I feel as a woman in the church. I couldn't even really voice it. I just sobbed.

Do you know what they did next, though? They did not treat me like a freak for breaking down. They didn't scold me for being too emotional or for stating that church authorities can be hurtful and mean.

They surrounded me and laid hands on me and prayed for me.

I can't tell you what that was like.

I realized something yesterday. We didn't spend the majority of our time in there talking about the opinions of biblical authorities, or the accomplishments of noted personalities, or church doctrine, or programs, or church history, or philosophy.

We talked about God. We discussed how amazing, wonderful, loving, graceful, kind, patient, creative and personal He is. And when our eyes were looking up, rather than vertical, there was such freedom in Christ, not bondage.

I'm still not really sure what happened yesterday. My head is still spinning. But I want what those women have. And I want to find that freedom to be who I am called to be by my Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"You can't leave God out of prayer"

Last night as I was preparing dinner, Joshua came in with an intense look on his face. "Mommy," he said. "I think I'm going to put a note in my teacher's 'I have a problem' box."

I stopped cooking to give him my full attention. "One of our spelling words this week is 'pray' ", he explained, "and the definition that we were given for it is 'to hope very much.' That's just wrong. You can't leave God out of prayer."

Later in the evening, he decided to also write the publisher of his spelling book. So I helped him find the contact info and send an email.

Here's what he wrote:

Dear Houghton-Mifflin:

One of my spelling words this week is
"pray". Your Reading Vocabulary book says that it means "to hope very much."

That's wrong. To pray is to talk to God. Webster's dictionary even
defines it as "to talk to God."



Son, I have another definition for you. It's the word "conviction", and it means "to have the courage to stand up for what you believe."

We're proud of you, kiddo.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Middle School Woes

Anna started Middle School yesterday. And apparently the world also came to an end.

I put a very tearful kid to bed last night. It was hard to see her like that.

Anna is such an incredible daughter. She is sweet, charming, loving, and fun. She is very self-sufficient, with a creative flair (she made the cake in this picture all by herself) and has her Daddy's ability to stretch a dollar insanely far.

But two things she is not: a morning person, or a big fan of change. So a 6:30 bus, and 12 periods of classes have literally rocked her world.

I tried to encourage her by telling her my Middle School horror stories. After all....I survived it and am proof that there is life beyond 6th grade.

I remember my first day at McArthur Middle School in Jonesboro, AR. It was 7th grade, and we'd just come back to the States on furlough.

I realized immediately it was going to be a challenge. There should be boot camp for things like combination locks, opening milk cartons, and dealing with 8th grade boys who burp and throw spit balls.

But the most horrific moment came when I walked into English. From the back of the room Jim, EVIL Jim, stated, "aren't you that kid who wet her pants back in 3rd grade?"

YES, I wet my pants in 3rd grade. It was our last furlough, and my first day EVER in public school. The math teacher was a total meanie who warned us that we had better not interrupt her teaching with any trivia. When I realized I needed to go to the restroom, I was too afraid to raise my hand. I just sat there, frozen, as the yellow puddle under my chair grew bigger and bigger.

So that lovely announcement from Jim kicked off my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad first day in Middle School. And I came out of it still breathing, and even managed to make some friends in the process.

Do any of you have some words of wisdom or stories that you could share with Anna of how you survived the "tween" years?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting Older

This month my big brother and my supervisor both turn 40. It's made me very conscious of how suddenly we've arrived at "middle age." So in honor of Mark and Jerome, here's a little article taken from Enjoy!


1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings."

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

5. And when God, who created the entire universe with all of its glories, decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

6. You should not confuse your career with your life.

7. No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

8. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

9. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

10. Never lick a steak knife.

11. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.

12. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip.

13. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.

14. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

15. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.

16. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

17. The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.

18. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)

19. Your friends love you anyway.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Walking to the Sky

There's a sculpture on our campus that just intrigues me. You can read more about it here.

What story in the Bible does it remind you of? It amazes me how civilization never learns. We still believe that we our own accomplishments will be our salvation.

Yesterday was international orientation. It was their first day on campus. I watched as a mosaic of people, from various races and multiple nations, paused at the base of the sculpture to look up into the sky.

I wondered what each of their stories were. I wanted to ask, "What are you really searching for? Do you know HIM--the One?"

Pray for our campus as we get ready to begin a new year. Once again, we have the opportunity to impact the world from our little base in Oakland. Pray that we would make the most of every opportunity.

I think of the words of David and of the people of Israel:

1Ch 16:23-35
Sing to the LORD, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and joy are in His place.

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him; Worship the LORD in holy array.

Tremble before Him, all the earth; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; And let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."

Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it.

Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD; For He is coming to judge the earth.

O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Then say, "Save us, O God of our salvation, And gather us and deliver us from the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name, And glory in Your praise."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I've been tagged

I have been tagged by both Tim Sweatman and Rob Slagle, so I guess I had better respond.

I had recently sworn off books, having assumed I fulfilled my quota of them last year. Somewhere between McManus and Sproul I think I blew a fuse, so had gone back to my standard reading level--things like the "Adventures of Calvin and Hobbes" and Strongbad's emails.

But here goes nothing.

1. One book that changed your life: It's really a bible study rather than a book, but it was the Covenant study by Kay Arthur. Not only did the topic significantly impact me, but it was also where I learned the inductive Bible study method. Another great Bible Study that has recently impacted me is "Believing God" by Beth Moore.
One book that influenced me at a crucial time in my life was "The Sacred Romance" by Curtis and Eldredge.
2. One book that you've read more than once: "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" by W. Philip Keller. I love anything by him. Another one of his that I've read multiple times is "What is the Father Like?" One I really want is "Rabboni: Which is to say, Master."
3. One book that you'd want on a desert island: "Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills: A Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills"
by Thomas J. Elpel
4. One book that made you laugh: "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency" by Alexander Mcall Smith. Not only is it true to African culture, it's just cute.
5. One book that made you cry: "A Child Named 'It'" by Dave Pelzer. In some ways I wish it had never been written. But it is the reality of child abuse.
6. One book that you wish you had written: "The Kneeling Christian" by an unknown Christian
7. One book you wish had never been written: "101 Uses for a Dead Cat" by Simon Bond
8. One book that you are currently reading: Just finished "Israel, My Beloved" by Kay Arthur, and now reading "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
9. One book that you've been meaning to read: "Rees Howells, Intercessor" by Norman Grubb.

I tag James Touchton, Kelly Reed and Jerome Stockert.

Road Trip---Need Your Help

One of the pivotal events in our ministry each year has been the Passion conference which is held during the Winter break. Not only has it had a huge impact on our students, but has shaped our entire ministry.

The past two years it has been held in Nashville, and we've taken 12 and 21 students respectively. Local churches there in Tennessee have been kind enough to let our group sleep in their gym or family life center, which has enabled us to keep the price for students at an affordable rate.

But this year Passion moved to Atlanta! So we are needing to find a place to stay on the way down (since it will be an 11+ hour trip for us) and church in that area who would be willing to let us stay in their facilities. We may possibly be combining with the Penn State group as well, and we'll probably bring around 20 students each.

All we really need are shower/bathroom facilities and a floor to crash on. If you know of anyone who might can help us, then please let us know ASAP.

Our housing needs for P07:

Two nights stay in a gym/family life center with showers - somewhere along the I-77 corridor in North Carolina, or anywhere from Winston/Salem to Charlotte (on the way to Atlanta).
1st night we would arrive in the evening of 12/31 and depart the morning of 1/1
2nd night we would arrive in the late afternoon/evening of 1/4 and depart the morning of 1/5

Three nights stay in a gym/family life center with showers - anywhere in the Atlanta area - preferably near the Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta
We would be arriving in the afternoon of 1/1, and departing the morning of 1/4

Sunday, August 13, 2006


I've been listening to Dave Hunt's "Until That Day" cd, and there is a song on it that resonates with me.

It's called "Lonely", and the words are as follows.
Your stars above me
Reach out to hold me
Your waves are singing me to sleep
And in the stillness, you say you
love me
Within the whispers of your breeze.

But I'm so lonely, I'm so lonely, I'm so lonely

I know you're with me
You never leave me
I know you're right here by my
I know what I know
Should make me happy
But I can't convince
myself tonight

'Cause I'm so lonely, I'm so lonely, I'm so

Why is it that we can have a deep, intimate relationship with God, and yet still feel so lonely? Why--if God is the "fullness of Him who fills everything in every way" do we still need human connection so much?

Why is it so difficult to make those true friendships, especially in Christian circles? It seems like we can be surrounded by people, yet never get past the plastic facades. Even in family relationships, there are barriers to intimacy.

Is it just that we are a broken people, and will never be whole until we get to heaven? Is it just that we are "not of this world", and that need for community will never be satisfied until we are with Him? Why do we still struggle so much with loneliness........?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sad Loss for Arkansas

My mom called today to tell me that KATV Sports Director Paul Eels was killed in a car accident Monday night.

I had the privilege of knowing Paul for a Summer, and he was as genuine in person as he comes across on television.

I did my internship at Channel 7 (KATV) in Little Rock while I was in college. I learned quickly what a hedonistic and brutal world broadcasting can be.

But Paul was always cheerful, and a constant encourager. He never took himself too seriously, and did not have the big head you would expect someone known as the "Voice of the Razorbacks" to display.

He was great to us interns--and was incredibly patient, even when we messed up. I remember one night I had been cussed out by a producer for a glitch in the teleprompter that night. I was close to tears, and very much aware of my status as "bottom of the food chain." Paul put a very fatherly hand on my shoulder, and told me not to let it get to me. Ironically, HE was the one who my mistake had hurt--it occurred during the sports segment.

I did not realize that he was a Christian until recently, just because we never talked about it. But Jeff, a sports reporter under Paul, was open about his faith, and there was a stark contrast between the spirit of the sports department and the rest of the station.

It was so cool to discover that Paul had also loved the Lord. It just read this article from "Spirit" magazine, and was excited to hear from others how he has been a key player in planting New Life Church, which has multiple campuses in the Little Rock area.

My prayers are with his family, and I hurt for them. Arkansas lost a very kind, fun and noble man this week. TOUCHDOWN ARKANSAS!!!

Tears for Asia

This story on the IMB website really touched my heart. It's exciting to hear about leaders whose hearts are tender enough to cry for the nations.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired of criticism, argument, and negativity within our denomination.

However, this stuff pumps me up and gets me excited about getting back in the trenches. I love the testimonies from the field--stories of how God is at work in our leadership, and how we are unified in a passion to reach the lost.

I'm ready to hear the praises. Do you have any stories of how God has worked where you are, or spoken into your life recently? Let's celebrate the good things He has done.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dare to Be a Daniel--Great Resource for Kids!

There is a great resource that has recently been put out by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It is called Dare to Be a Daniel and is a great way for teaching kids how to share their faith.

It can be used by the child as an online study, or parents can order a free kit to use at home. We are doing both.

Not only does it teach key scriptures and principles of evangelism, it also builds confidence, and there is even an online message board where kids can share with one another.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Update from Julianna

Hey, everybody! Thanks for your prayers for my family. We got a response from one church, who can help us with a one-time gift. We appreciate that!

But we've got a lot of ground to cover here in Philly, so please keep praying for God to provide for us.

Our goal is to eventually have the majority of financial support throughout our region coming from local churches and individuals.

As all of our ministries throughout Pennsylvania grow, and as our students continue to catch a vision for what we are doing, that will naturally develop. Our stronger, more established campus ministries are also getting to a point where they can partner with and support the work on new campuses.

But in the interim period, we are going to need some short-term support from individuals and churches outside of our region.

One cool thing about our Pennsylvania/South Jersey team is that we really want our ministries to reflect the culture that we live and work in. That means we want our team to be as diverse as the society around us. For example, the Pittsburgh team should be a cross-section of the Pittsburgh culture, the Philly team a cross-section of the Philly culture, etc.

We are getting there, but also have a ways to go. Half of our campus ministry team in PA/SJ are either native to Pennsylvania, or went to college here and were active in our campus ministries as students. Twelve of our 34 staff members were students in one of our ministries while in college.

We also have an international component to our ministries, and want to cultivate that even more. We have staff who grew up in Russia, Moldova, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Taiwan, Canada, Turkey and the foreign states of Alaska, North Dakota and Texas. : )

Please continue to pray for collegiate ministry in Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Pray especially that God would continue to call out workers, and supporters to provide for them. The harvest here is plentiful, and there are doors open all around us. But we need more laborers and more ministry partners.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ministry Opportunity--Letter from Julianna

This is a couple who work on our campus ministry team. Our CrossSeeker group has adopted them as well, and are partnering with their ministry on the other side of the state.

One of the cool things that God has been doing recently is calling native Pennsylvanians to serve here in our own state. That is really exciting!!! But it also presents a challenge, because our Baptist churches are small, and financial resources are spread so thin.

So we are appealing to you guys to get the word out about the Mussers. They need some churches or individuals to come alongside and partner with them financially in the work at Drexel. Even if you aren't able to help at the moment, then please pass the word along to others. This is an amazing opportunity to get in on the ground level of a new work with limitless potential. Please pray seriously about being part of Brian and Jennifer's support team!!!

Hi. My name is Julianna Musser. I live in Levittown, Pennsylvania.

This is my Mommy and Daddy--Brian and Jennifer. They are Mission Service Corps missionaries with the North American Mission Board. They work at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Kiki thinks I'm one of the most charming little gals she has ever met. She and Doug also love my parents and believe in their ministry.

My parents are native Pennsylvanians. They fell in love while they were students at Messiah College in Grantham. They got married in 2001. While Daddy was in college, he went to Mexico and spent a semester there doing missions. God began at that point to call him into ministry.

But everything really started happening last year. Mommy and Daddy realized that God wanted them to become campus ministers at Drexel. They both had great jobs(my parents are VERY smart!) but were willing to give them up to follow God's call. Daddy was a lab manager and research assistant doing studies on the AIDS virus. Mommy was a Counseling Specialist in the Philadelphia school district.

They quit their jobs, and began raising support. THEN GUESS WHAT???? I decided to make my entrance into the world. Mommy had a tough pregnancy, too, which made things a little harder.

I am writing to ask for your help. Our churches here in Pennsylvania are pretty little. Most of them struggle to even pay their pastors. We don't have the abundance of resources that many of you in the Bible Belt do. We need some more churches and people to partner with us.

My friends Anna and Joshua told me that you were really nice and that I should let you know about my family. They said that you guys can seriously PRAY!!!! My family needs prayer right now. We need to get more support. This month got a little tight, and Mommy wasn't sure how we were going to pay our bills. But God provided at the last minute, like He always does. He is so good to us!!!

Things are going well at Drexel. Daddy started a weekly Bible Study back in March. There is a picture below of him meeting with some of the students. He also got to take some students to Zambia this Summer for a mission trip. Our interns, Alex and Yelena, went with him on that trip. There is a picture of the whole team below, and of them ministering to the people they met in Zambia.

My Mommy didn't go to Africa, because she stayed home to take care of me. But she is also an important part of the ministry at Drexel. We believe that God has called us as a family to do this.

Would you please pray for us? Also, if any of you feel like God is leading you to partner with us, you can email my Daddy at

One last thing-- would let your churches, sunday school classes, friends, cousins, distant relatives, etc. know about us?

Thank you!