Sunday, December 21, 2008

Contented Christmas

Here in the northwest, we're experiencing one of the most severe winter weather systems ever. Today, we have much snow and frigid temps as we face the wedding of a dear friend. We hope many will struggle through the snow to celebrate with her. But considering Puyallup has no snowplows and relies entirely on sand to keep the roads clear, I have my doubts. We'll see though.

Today, I want to just make a few notes on contentedness. After all, Christmas is the time to be driven by dissatisfaction. We women want to provide our families the perfect decorations, the perfect food, the perfect gifts, the perfect parties. And sometimes, when we are thwarted, whether by weather or finances, children or time, we end up with a kind of miserable lump in our gut. A sorrow in our memory. It is born with dissatisfaction.

And Proverbs has the answer: Contentedness.

Check out these good words:

Those who love money will never have enough.
Riches are hoarded to harm the saver. (Prov. 5:13)
It is good to eat well, drink good wine, and enjoy your work. (3:18)
Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don't have (6:19)
He might live a thousand years twice but never have contentment. (6:6)

So, how do you stay contented? Cultivate thankfulness! Remember those who have much less. GIVE to the poor. Pray for those who struggle. Live in the NOW (don't let your mind wander; when you are with your kids concentrate on savoring the moment) Try to avoid or restrict list-making (YES! list-making generates pressure for all the undone things. If you struggle with contentedness, consider what that long list of "to-dos" does to your psyche!) Tell those you love how much they mean to you. Mute or turn off the commercials. Focus on simplifying.

In a season where everything around you is geared to MAKE you dissatisfied, ask God to plant in you a deep sense of contentedness. It's the treatment for what ails us.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Faith Enables

So, I was reading the dreaded Hebrews passage the other day. You know the one, chapter eleven, the faith passage. Most of the time, that kind of reading can make you feel a little like a "faith weany." Yes?

And (remember that I'm using this new interactive attempt at quiet time),  I noticed this important pattern. In every place where faith is mentioned, it is followed by a VERB. A DOING word. 

By faith, Abel Obeyed.
By faith Enoch pleased God
By faith Noah (built an ark)
Sarah conceived
Abe offered Isaac
Isaac blessed his sons
Joseph spoke (of the future)
Moses parents (hid the baby)
Moses left Egypt.

See the pattern? While faith isn't an action word. It is the MEANS to action. It is NOT the means to passivity. 

Faith and action. Go together. Action happens BY FAITH.

James said something about faith and action, didn't he? You show me your faith and I'll show you my action. (Bette's paraphrase)

I got to wondering what that means. How does faith produce action? If faith comes from God, and action is our part of it, then, is faith our response to God? Our responsive response to God? Our active response to God in our life?

So, I guess I have to ask. What has faith made you do lately?

Good question, eh?

It's almost the Christmas season. I'm taking my laptop to the Mac doctor tomorrow. So, don't know when I'll get it back. In the meantime, I'm wishing you a wonderful holiday season.

Turns out that I finished the novel and turned it in last Friday night. Yahoo! And, the fire investigator who looked at the story says he is extremely impressed with the "page turner" and can't wait to read the whole manuscript. So, that's a good sign. Should be out this summer. I'll keep you posted. Blessings, one and all. And remember the One we celebrate.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Long Time No See

I've had trouble logging on and adding to this blog lately. So, I'll try to bring you up to date as quickly as I can. 

Kim (my husband of 33 years) and I were in Italy the last part of September, and part of October, celebrating our anniversary. It was a whirlwind, two-week trip, involving entirely too many towns, hotels, and museums. And frankly, lots of gelato. Mmmm good.

Since we've been home, I've done a retreat at the Firs in Bellingham, and worked hard on the new fiction project. It's due in three and a half weeks. If you're of the praying sort, I could really use the prayer support.

And, here's what I want to share with you. It comes from a friend of mine in Portland, who's been following Jesus for a long time. Her relationship with the savior is different than mine, but we often challenge one another to grow in Christ. 

Her latest discovery is a new approach to her quiet time. Kerrie is a random, artist type personality. She has trouble reading the Bible sequentially. It doesn't stick that way. She reads, but doesn't leave it with any real growth. So, the Lord seems to have led her to a new style. I thought I'd share it with you. I've been working at it for a while, and I've been excited by the change in my quiet times. See what you think:

She started with a three ring notebook. She added dividers labeled, "Questions," (what she wants to know more about. She has topics like "What moves the heart of God?" "What does generosity mean?" "What are the principles of the kingdom?") "Bible" (meaning answers to the questions she's asking) "Speaking" (meaning she writes what she thinks God is telling her about her own life and prayer concerns) and lastly "Prayer" (meaning her list of prayer concerns for her own life and others)

The cool thing about the approach is that she starts every day with a question for God. Then, she either listens as he leads her to scripture, or she uses a traditional tool, like a concordance or index to look for answers. Anything that she feels she learns, she writes down in actual quotes from the text. (Bible section).

I've been doing it too, only I use it while going through my traditional approach to reading scripture. For instance, one of the things I've noted going through the book of Proverbs is a list of the things that delight God. I've wondered, what does that mean? To delight God? To tickle him? To make him warm and fuzzy? I don't know, exactly but I'm learning. I'm thinking. I'm asking.

But the list is amazing. It includes honesty. The prayer of the righteous. Keeping your word, and a bunch of other simple ideas. 

You might try a notebook. You can add pages wherever your notes fill up a page. You can change direction at any time. And best of all, it's interactive. It's a way to really include God and wait for his leading as you spend time with him. Try it. And let me know what you think?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's Here

Jeremiah, A Bright Light in a Dark Season.

It's out. 

You can buy it anywhere!

110 Pages of Fiction

I'm guilty. 

I'm not very consistent at blogging. But I can tell you this. Writing a book -- any book -- takes time. Lots of time. Since the 11th of August, I've written about 110 pages of fiction. The book is due to the publisher December 1st.

Writing a book is about connecting the dots. Take one idea. Add a character. Give the character a desire that she cannot attain. Add words. Stick with it. One page after another.

At first, it feels like carving letters out of marble.

Eventually, the story takes on a life of its own, and things go more smoothly.

But writing a book is a bit like living the Christian life. You cannot begin on the day the book is due. Neither should you begin the Christian life on the day before your life is over. 

You begin today. You start with what you know. You add a little bit day after day after day. You don't give up. Some days are more productive than others. And then you put in another day, and another, and another.

In the end, when you are consistent -- with a book, or with your life -- you will have something eternal to show for it, something that wasn't now is.

And I think it's worth it. Writing. Living for Christ. 

It's a long term investment. It pays. No hostile takeovers, Wall street buyouts, or stock depreciation. Not affected by mortgage lending rates, or the housing crisis. 

Invest in Jesus, one day at a time, and be there when he gives out the dividends. It's worth it. Yes?

Small decision, BIG results

From Ezra, I read this. "This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel." (Ezra 7:10)

Three little decisions. To study the WORD. To obey the WORD. To teach the WORD. 

And one indication of his motivational level. Ezra had DETERMINED.

Funny, isn't it. We can make those same decisions. To study. To obey. To teach. And we can have the same level of motivation as Ezra did. We can decide to be DETERMINED. 

Stubbornly set upon. Unwavering. Committed. Undistracted.

We can put our muscle behind our will. And we can have results too. 

What happened to Ezra as a result of this determination? He was appointed by the King of Persia to come to Jerusalem from Babylon, and single handedly lead the Jews in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. AND, he was responsible for educating the Jews in the Law of God when they returned from the Babylonian Captivity.

He made a decision in his own heart-- probably in the quiet of his own soul. He put all he had into the decision. He stuck with it. He didn't back off, slow down or give up.  And God honored the decision by choosing Ezra to lead God's people back into their faith-life. 

A little decision. A huge result.

What could happen in your life, if you made the same decision?

Do YOU know?

From 2 Timothy 3:10, I read, "But you know what I teach, Timothy, and how I live and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith and how long I have suffered. You know  my love and my patient endurance. . . 

The singlemindedness of this verse struck me with a fierceness I don't often find in daily reading. 

Think about it. Paul had absolute confidence in the message of his lifestyle. Without the slightest hesitation, he believes that Timothy could specifically recite Paul's purpose in life. Timothy knows, because Paul knows. And Timothy knows because Paul lives his life with his purpose in mind. 

It shows.

And I began to think about myself, and my world. How many of us could be that confident? Do I KNOW my life's purpose? 

Do you?

And here is a much harder question: Are you living your life with such complete openness that those who love you could say, "Oh yeah, Bette's life purpose is . . ."

Would your friends know?

Do you have purpose? What is it?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jeremiah Goes to Press

I thought you might like to see the new cover of the Jeremiah Bible Study! Just this past week, I heard from my editor, who assures me that the entire project was uploaded to the press last Wednesday. He's really excited about the quality of the study, and the ways that students will grow in the Lord because of our efforts... Since he works with studies all the time, his enthusiasm really encouraged me. I'm already thinking that I'd like to do another study for AMG press. They're a good company to work with. (with which to work!)
All of this means that actual copies should be available at bookstores very soon. If your Bible study or home group hasn't chosen a study for the fall, perhaps you'd like to look at this one. You can find the cover copy at this address:

And, you'll be happy to know that you can order the study through ANY bookstore, whether your local Christian store, or a big-box store like Borders or Amazon. In fact, at Amazon, you'll find the book here: (look it up by searching my last name, NORDBERG, BETTE)

I've finished reading Job, and started 1st Timothy. I hope to post more about that tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm working on a new novel due in December. Pray with me, would you? I'm not sure of the story, and I'm asking God to help me day by day. And one more thing...

As you watch the Olympics (isn't it exciting?) think about this verse:

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1st Corinthians 9:25)

Are you in Spiritual Training?


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Whole Truth and Wisdom

Since I last posted, I’ve read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, as well the book of Esther and have moved on to the book of Job.

During vacation, Kim enjoyed listening to my daily reading out loud. He was patient with my stopping to make notes and highlight passages. And at the end of our trip, I closed with, “And so ends another happy message from Job.”

It is a dark book, isn’t it?

God clearly allows some VERY bad stuff into Job’s life. There isn’t any doubt about God’s complicity in Satan’s meddling with Job. And if it isn’t enough to lose your family, your business, your home, you riches, Job gets to see the exact nature of his friends. Not a good thing in this case.

Now, granted I’m only about half way through, at this point.

But these are my observations:

You know Job’s lousy friends did some things right. For instance, when they heard about Job’s difficulty, they went to him. They sat down, observed the seriousness of his situation, and they were silent. They simply mourned with him. The let him feel their presence. There are times when silence is the best medicine.

Unfortunately, these guys just don’t know how to keep the silence going.

And when they begin to speak, they show just how little wisdom they possess.

The thing is, all the characters in the book of Job—Job included— have bits of the truth. They know some facts about God. Some things about the way he works. But they don’t know all the facts. They don’t know the WHOLE truth.

And they know VERY little about God’s ways with people.

The facts constitute knowledge. The understanding of God constitutes wisdom.

And the book shows us, at the very least, how dangerous it is to begin preaching before we have the whole council of God. The whole story. All the facts. The whole Book.

We Christians can become like Job’s friends, spouting off all kinds of half-truths that leave the listener confused and wounded. I’ve seen it happen, and so have you. More than that, when we don’t work at understanding God, we will lack the wisdom to share anything of real value with the world around us.

That was the problem with Job’s friends. Half-truths. Misunderstandings. Foolish imaginations. And Job struggled with it too. The only antidote is the Word and the Spirit. With those things, we come to wisdom and truth.

How Different We are

Greetings from Denver International Airport.

Since we last spoke, I’ve been out of town a lot. My husband and I went on our annual trip to Canada aboard Amazing Grace, our powerboat. We had a great time, mostly, and perfect weather, but I didn’t have an Internet connection for most of the month.

Since then, I’ve finished the Galley Proofs of Jeremiah (did you have any idea how many times we re-work material before we publish?), and have only one chapter of proofing left to go. I’ve struggled with plotting a new novel, but I’ll tell you more about that later…

This past weekend, I attended the Florida Outpouring, as they are calling the revival in Lakeland, Florida. I’ve got to say, it was a stretching experience. Florida is hot and humid in late July; and the revival tent is a hot spot as well.

One of my primary reflections has to do with the kind of group hosting and attending this revival. In general, they worship freely. They dance, sing, and respond to God in wild abandon. The worship goes on for a long time, without interruption. I’m a little jealous of the way they can let go, and it makes me wonder how much like King David’s wife —Michael—I might have become.

These people come to this revival desperate for more of God. They are eager to hear from Him, and eager to respond to what they hear. They shout and cheer, and they clap and laugh. This audience leaves the speaker with no doubts about their response to the subject at hand.

I just have to wonder, how is God going to handle all of us in heaven? There will be those who sing hymns and those who dance through worship. There will be those who sing Gregorian chant and those who wave flags. Each of us is so very different, and so deeply tied to our styles and preferences.

I know that we’ll have all eternity to figure these things out. But after spending a full weekend outside of my comfort zone, I wonder how we can do it? If three evening services was a stretch, what will eternity be like?

I’ll share more about my Bible reading in the next issue.

How Different We are

Greetings from Denver International Airport.

Since we last spoke, I’ve been out of town a lot. My husband and I went on our annual trip to Canada aboard Amazing Grace, our powerboat. We had a great time, mostly, and perfect weather, but I didn’t have an Internet connection for most of the month.

Since then, I’ve finished the Galley Proofs of Jeremiah (did you have any idea how many times we re-work material before we publish?), and have only one chapter of proofing left to go. I’ve struggled with plotting a new novel, but I’ll tell you more about that later…

This past weekend, I attended the Florida Outpouring, as they are calling the revival in Lakeland, Florida. I’ve got to say, it was a stretching experience. Florida is hot and humid in late July; and the revival tent is a hot spot as well.

One of my primary reflections has to do with the kind of group hosting and attending this revival. In general, they worship freely. They dance, sing, and respond to God in wild abandon. The worship goes on for a long time, without interruption. I’m a little jealous of the way they can let go, and it makes me wonder how much like King David’s wife —Michael—I might have become.

These people come to this revival desperate for more of God. They are eager to hear from Him, and eager to respond to what they hear. They shout and cheer, and they clap and laugh. This audience leaves the speaker with no doubts about their response to the subject at hand.

I just have to wonder, how is God going to handle all of us in heaven? There will be those who sing hymns and those who dance through worship. There will be those who sing Gregorian chant and those who wave flags. Each of us is so very different, and so deeply tied to our styles and preferences.

I know that we’ll have all eternity to figure these things out. But after spending a full weekend outside of my comfort zone, I wonder how we can do it? If three evening services was a stretch, what will eternity be like?

I’ll share more about my Bible reading in the next issue.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fessing Up

Last night at church, a good friend greeted me with, "May 6th"

I didn't need the gift of interpretation for that one.

I'm a bad blogger.

And truthfully, I've been struggling the last month or so. Life isn't always a picnic, is it? And some struggles last a long long time. As for my life, I've finished the edits on Jeremiah (I think) and won't see the book again until I see the Galley Copies (page proofs) in late July. I'm going to include a cover photo here, though, for those who might be interested.

And, I have a fiction project that should be due some time late this fall. If you ever pray for a blogger, pray for me. I have NO IDEA what the story is about. I have the parts -- like puzzle pieces -- laying all over my desk. But they aren't coming together. I need some divine guidance.

As for my last entry, and the second half of the story, my point is/was simple. Here we go...

Remember that Chronicles (another account of the Kings of Israel) was written AFTER the Jews returned from Exile in Babylon. If you check the stories in Kings and compare them to Chronicles, you'll notice quite a few differences. Chronicles has a more positive bent. It includes fewer of those nasty details that the book of Kings includes.

Remember too that Jeremiah was given an impossible task -- God asked Jeremiah to speak to his people, to turn the people to repentance. But the people would not repent. Instead, Jerusalem was destroyed (586 BC) and most of the population was killed. The poorest of the land were taken to Babylon. So, the question was: Was Jeremiah's ministry a total failure? Did ANYONE get what he was trying to say? Did he influence anyone to move closer to God?

And I have proof in the book of Chronicles...

"Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king ... He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God and he refused to humble himself in the presence of the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke for the LORD."

Written more than seventy years after the first captives were taken from Jerusalem, this writer acknowledges that Jeremiah was the prophet. That the prophet spoke the truth; he spoke for God. This writer sees that the captivity is the result of the people's sin, and he recognizes this BECAUSE of Jeremiah's work. Quite an acclamation, I think.

So, my point (which I was trying to bring up in the last post ), is something you probably already know. Not everything you do for God will post results now. Sometimes the task before you seems impossible. It may be. It may be that you are called to continue where you will not see earthly success.

But on the other hand, it may be that your influence will be revealed later. Next week. Next year. Seventy years from now.

I encourage you to continue. Remember the prophet Jeremiah; don't give up. This is one blogger who is preaching to her own choir. I hope I can learn to listen.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The context of 1st Chronicles

Before I comment on Chronicles, I need to start in the book of Jeremiah.

I'm kind of a Jeremiah buff these days. I have a Bible Study on Jeremiah that will be published this summer by AMG publishers. The two books (Jeremiah and Chronicles) are connected historically, and understanding Jeremiah will help put Chronicles in a more perfect perspective. You see Jeremiah was the last prophet to speak to God's people before the Babylonian army attacked Jerusalem. He was the last man to try to turn God's people around. The last one to beg God's people to reconsider their actions.

Unfortunately the people did not listen to Jeremiah. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took the people away.

The books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles were written AFTER the Babylonian captivity. After the people had spent more than seventy years in a land far from Israel. God's people had been relocated, from Israel's southern kingdom to what is now modern Iraq. From a land of milk and honey to a desert land, where they didn't understand the language, where the people worshiped idols. It had been a hard lesson. They had lost their homes, their city (Jerusalem) their nation (Judah) and their king. Never again would Judah or Israel exist as a sovereign nation.

Chronicles was written by folks who had been humbled, who had learned the hard lesson God intended for them to learn. These writers knew that the God of Israel was not a person to trifle with. God wanted their WHOLE devotion, and would accept nothing less.

Here is the key verse of Jeremiah. You'll find it in chapter two. "For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me -- the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all." (Jeremiah 2:13) This problem, this turning away from God and going after idols summarizes God's entire list of complaints against his people.

Interesting isn't it, that this two-part complaint also sums up most of the New Testament. God says to us, "Don't be a fool. Don't turn away from me-- the fountain of living water -- and follow after empty promises."

Today, empty promises abound: Sexuality without restrictions. No fault divorce. Easy money. Debt reduction. Second mortgages. Plastic surgery. On-line degree programs. Important titles. Weight loss plans.

In fact, if you want to swim in empty promises, there is no time like an election year!

But God says, DON'T.

Turn to me. I am the living water. I alone will fulfill.

And I can prove that God's people finally got Jeremiah's message. The problem is, they got the message too late. I share that with you in our next post.

They got the message. But it was too late for them. What about you?


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ephesians, sort of

Okay, so Oprah didn't call. You can't say I didn't try! I'm still open to discourse.

I don't think this entry will be entirely about the book of Ephesians, which I just finished. Instead, it will be about the stirring that is happening in my soul, of late.

A week ago, I went to Redding California with a friend. Kerrie has been struggling with a long dark winter of chemotherapy for b-cell lymphoma. We went for prayer. She needs a perfect PET scan, (which was taken last Thursday) or the dreaded treatment may have to start over. She swears that she won't ever do it again. Given her determination, prayer seemed a much easier solution than beating my friend into treatment submission.

So, off we went.

And that was the beginning of my stirring.

Bethel Church, in Redding, is making a deliberate and concentrated effort to meet the needs of people coming for prayer. They had prayer volunteers after the Friday night service. And again in a healing room on Saturday morning. And again after both Sunday morning services. It wasn't just one or two for prayer, but hundreds. And hundreds of dedicated, prayerful, prophetic volunteers, interceding for whomever asked. It was amazing.

And guess what? These people don't pray like I'm used to. They are loud, demonstrative, and quiet and humble, and gentle and bold -- all of these strange things, all at the same time. Sometimes they shake. Sometimes they make strange noises. Some tremble. Others make no unusual noise at all. But here is the amazing thing. They seem to move the hand of God. In amazing ways. One example: Kerrie drove into town with a very infected big toe. On Monday morning, the toe was completely healed.

It wasn't like I was used to. But no one could miss the genuine humility and servanthood with which these brothers and sisters in Christ cared for us. We were deeply touched by their ministry. By the end of this week, we should know more about the results of her scan.

And since that experience, I'm feeling so many things. So many questions:

Why Redding?
Why not Puyallup?
Who does God listen to?
And what about Prophetic ministry?
How do we learn to listen to the voice of God? Can I hear his voice?

So,then two nights ago, I had a fight with my husband. Nothing bloody. Just the usual marital stuff. I was tired. He was stressed. And I'm reading Ephesians.

Ephesians, the book of the impossible.

Be humble.
Be patient with each other.
Make room for one another's faults.
Throw off you old evil nature.
You must display a new nature, because you are a new person created in Christ Jesus.
Follow God's example.
Live a life full of love.

Sometimes, I feel like tossing my Bible across the room. You see, I can't live a Godly life. I can't do it. I'm impatient, selfish, easy to anger, quick to retort. I haven't the power on my own to live this kind of life.

But then I went back to the beginning of the book.

God's secret plan is a plan centered on Christ.
God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that he will give us everything he has promised.
I pray that you will UNDERSTAND the INCREDIBLE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER toward us who believe.
He raised us from the dead along with Christ.
Because of Christ and our faith in him we can come fearlessly into God's presence and be sure of his glad welcome.

And as a result of these, Paul prays:

that God will be more and more at home in our hearts.
that we will know his glorious unlimited resources, and mighty inner strength available through his Holy Spirit.

And this, By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more that we would ever dare to ask or hope.

And that I guess is the secret of Ephesians. I can't do it. Can't.

But God in me can.

Just like God in those Redding prayer warriors can.

For some reason, he has chosen to live in those who love him. To accomplish amazing things THROUGH us. It's more than I can understand. That he would give us the power to change the world. To make a difference.

To BE different.

But that is the plan. And the mystery of it all is stirring something new in me. How about you? Are you feeling a breeze?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Call me, Oprah

My dear Oprah,

I have something you need!

You have influence, but no power.
You have money, but no peace.
You have truth, but not THE TRUTH.
You have friends, but not a Daddy.
You have possessions, but not provision.
You lead others, but do not know the way.

Call me, I'm in the book.


Good news? Again!

I am writing this from a retreat center not far from home. I’ve spent the weekend with another group of strangers. Strangers, yes, and yet still sisters. I love meeting God’s children for weekend retreats. Yes, I’m the presenter; but most often I am also the listener, the learner, the observer. I always come away blessed by HIS work in his kids.

I’ve recently finished the books of 1st and 2nd Kings, and I’ve begun Ephesians. I want to make one last comment about the situation which closes this important historical and Biblical account. I used to think that 2nd Kings had a dismal ending; these days, I look at it slightly differently.

Certainly the Babylonian Army conquers the Kingdom of Judah, and carries most of her citizens off into a distant land. And that seems very bad.

To them, it must have been. Many of their people perished in the siege of Jerusalem. Many died of starvation. Others died in the invasion of the Babylonians. Many more died on the trip to Babylon. History tells us the captives were chained and had to walk day and night. Nebuchadnezzar was afraid that if they prayed, their God would rescue them during the trip. He didn’t want to give them time to pray.

For those of us who read this account nearly 2,500 years later, the story has yet another facet. We see the WHOLE picture. We have read God’s urgent warnings, given first before his people even entered the promise land. We have observed God’s patient correction, starting nearly five hundred years BEFORE the captivity, given by prophet after prophet, saying, “Obey me. Have no other Gods but me; or I will cast you out of this land. Serve me with your whole heart, or I will call for some distant nation to come here and punish you.”

Guess what? He did. The Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 586 BC, and took most of her inhabitants to live in Babylon. They left the land desolate. Sad? Yes. Still…

One of the best parts of this sad story is this truth: God keeps his promises!

Whether for good (heaven, salvation, eternal life through Jesus Christ) or for evil (eternal separation and pain), God keeps his word! That the Judeans were conquered and led off to Babylon is proven Middle Eastern History. That they came back has been documented by many historical items of the time, including recovered Persian documents.

So, once again, God proves that you can absolutely rely on both his promises and his warnings. He gives his Word. And he keeps it.

He warns us that the wages of sin is death. He tells us that eternal separation waits for those who refuse his provision in Jesus Christ. He tells us that those who trust in Christ will have eternal life. These are his Words. He will keep these promises.

So, what is it? Good news or bad news?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Personal Responsibility

Nature or nurture?

We've all asked the question. We've watched as good parents struggle with children bent on destroying themselves, either with drugs or rebellion or both; and we've wondered. Why? How can such great parents turn out such crazy kids?

And the reverse is also true. Once in a while, a really bad parent ends up with the most amazing child.

Where'd it come from, we wonder.

It's the same question I ponder as I read through the books of First and Second Kings. In these books, the two nations, Israel (the Northern kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom) list king after king after king. And in one case after another, the Lord, through the writer of the Word, pronounces judgement on both the man and his leadership.

If you're paying attention, and you aren't confused by the narrative which jumps back and forth between the two countries (almost as if it were an account of the presidents of Canada and the United States, all mingled together) you'll notice the same thing in the book of kings. A good king is followed by a crazy son, who grows up to become a really bad king. Later, suddenly, for no apparent reason, the next generation produces a king who follows after God.

How can that be?

I can't find a consistent reason for any of it. Yes, the Word of God plays a part. Godly advisers play a part. But there is one other common denominator in all of the stories of all the kings included therein.

Personal Responsibility.

By this I mean that in NO CASE does God ever say, "Hey, you know, I realize that you had a really terrible upbringing. So, here's what I'm gonna do. I'll let it slide. After all, you didn't have anyone to teach you right from wrong..."

Nope. God holds each of these men personally responsible for his own choices.

Much as he holds us responsible for our own choices.

So, no matter how much you'd like to shift blame (and believe me, I'm the queen of blame-shifting), it isn't going to cut it with God. Don't tell him that you didn't go to church because your husband didn't want to. Don't explain that you don't read the Word because no one taught you how. Don't try to explain away your sin with cultural influences, family history, or genetics. It just won't cut it with God. He will hold YOU, personally responsible for your actions, choices, and attitudes.

But there is some really good news in all of this.

Once you take personal responsibility for yourself, you can make a great exchange. God himself will take the punishment for your foolishness. He will exchange your sin for his sinlessness. It's a remarkable bargain, delivered in the person of Jesus Christ. He died for your personal responsibility.

There will be an accounting. God will evaluate your life, just as he evaluated the lives of the Kings of Israel. Own up. Agree with the truth about your life. And then, make the exchange.

His death for your sin. His resurrection for your forgiveness. His new life for your new life.

It's a bargain, I'll tell you. I did it, in 1974. Wow, what a ride! I've enjoyed most every moment since then.

I've never been sorry. Try that on for size. How about you? Have you made the exchange/


Thursday, March 13, 2008


Hello out there,

I'm writing to you from Palm Desert California, where our family is resting and playing in the sun.

Lately I've been working hard on a retreat I'm presenting for a group of women in Olympia, Washington. It pleases me to look at our culture -- both the Christian culture, and the American Culture -- and to think deeply about what influences are pushing us first this way and then the next.

And what enables me to evaluate these forces with wisdom is the enduring truth of the Word of God.

Most recently, I think, the American culture has become enamored, even bewitched by the beloved Queen of Daytime Talk, Oprah Winfrey.

I admit, I've enjoyed more than one of her shows. I like watching designers, listening to the casts of the latest movies, and hearing the true life stories of amazing survivors.

But have you noticed the wild detour that our Talk Show Queen has taken lately? She has fully embraced the theology of THE SECRET. After that, she has promoted the The Miracle. The Year of Miracles. And Embracing Your Midlife. All from the same author (see the quote below)

She talks openly and frequently about sending "good thoughts" out into the universe so that "what you desire" will come to you.

And, her latest project, "THE NEW EARTH," is being harped on every show.

My advice dear Bible Believing Friends? Don't fall for it. BEWARE! Evaluate. Compare the words she espouses word for word with THE WORD OF GOD. One is hoax. The other is the enduring word of truth.

The latest of her thrilling finds in the literary world, are nothing less than foolishness. At the other end, many thoughts in the books she espouses are full blown heresy.

I include the following quote from the Oprah website, with the link included, which I excerpted from "A Year of Miracles" last Sunday, the 1st of March.

Begin Quote

In remembering who you truly are, you are returned to holy perception. And through that return, you bless the world with every thought you think. Because all minds are joined, every thought of love you hold is a healing extended to everyone.

The light of the world brings peace to every mind through my forgiveness.

How holy are you who have the power to bring peace to every mind! How blessed are you who can learn to recognize the means for letting this be done through you! What purpose could you have that would bring you greater happiness?

You are indeed the light of the world with such a function. The Son of God looks to you for his redemption. It is yours to give him, for it belongs to you. Accept no trivial purpose or meaningless desire in its place, or you will forget your function and leave the Son of God in hell. This is no idle request that is being asked of you. You are being asked to accept salvation that it may be yours to give.

End Quote.

The Son of God needs us for HIS redemption?
I bless the world with my thoughts?
All minds are joined?
My thoughts bring healing to everyone?

I don't think so.

This particular passage falls so far from the realm of truth, that I have a hard time believing that anyone could be fooled. But then think about it. It sounds good. It strokes the ego of our own importance. It uses holy words, and important sounding phrases. The only ones who can't tell that it is false are those who have not yet made friends with the Word of God.

Makes this thing we are doing more important than ever, doesn't it?

How else can we smell a rat?

If we know the Word, then we have everything we need to evaluate the world around us.

Once a friend asked if I would like a glass of water. "Sure," I answered.

"Even if it poison in it?"

"Of course not." I thought she was crazy.

"But I only put a tiny bit in. A drop. No more."

Her analogy is strong. Even a tiny bit of untruth will make poison out of something completely innocuous. Spend time in the Word. Grow to love it. Evaluate the changing world by the unchanging truths you find there!


Thursday, February 21, 2008


You won't believe what I've been up to...

I had my friend Kerrie at my house after her 5th chemo treatment. I hosted a band from Oregon, while planning and executing a benefit concert for a Congo Orphanage. (The benefit raised almost nine thousand dollars!) In the same week, I baked six flourless chocolate cakes, and two cheesecakes (I gave up and bought the rest from Costco). I spoke twice at this great women's gig in Federal Way, I had company all weekend, went to church three times with one of the bandmembers, and at the end of it all?

I was totally exhausted.

So, no blogging for a while.

Right this minute, I'm actually reading in Second Samuel myself. Still, I want to comment on this one thing...

2 Samuel 5:4. "David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all.'

So, what's the big deal? In I Samuel, we find that David was anointed as king when he was just a boy, the youngest of his father's boys. We don't know how old he was. But we do know that he was so very young that his father even "dismissed him" believing that he couldn't possibly be the son that Samuel might be choosing as Israel's next king.

So, David was just a kid when he found out that God wanted him to serve as king.

And he waited, perhaps 15 years for his promised promotion.

And this is my point: God makes lots of promises to his followers. Some are in the word. Some personal "words" we get by the Holy Spirit as we move through our daily lives. The trick is that God rarely includes a time-line with his promises. We rarely know when he will bring these things to pass. So it's important that we be as patient as possible.

David's wait enabled him to learn much about God. He learned much about leadership. David realized the importance of God's timing, and of not trying to wrench God's purposes by bringing the promise to pass in his own way. David could have killed Saul himself. Instead, he waited for God to depose the king. An important lesson for all of us.

So, are you clinging to a promise from God? Are you willing to wait?


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Who's watching Who?

I'm reading in Second Samuel, but I want to make an observation about 1st Samuel...

And while doing so, I want to show you how the Holy Spirit uses the word to bring attention to problems in my own life.

Here is the passage that caught my attention...

"But something happened when the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed Goliath. Women came out from all the towns along the way to celebrate and to cheer for King Saul, and they sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals... "Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands!" This made Saul very angry. "What's this?"he said. "They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they'll be making him their king!" So, from that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

At this point in the story, we already know that Saul has a problem with obedience. He wants to be the boss, rather than God. But Saul has another issue too.

Most would simply call this problem jealousy. After all, the English even uses that term.

But there is more than meets the eye.

What precipitates the event? Isn't it that Saul is focused on what others think? He's concerned about the praise of others, about acknowledging his success in the war against the Philistines, about getting credit for what he's done.

The jealousy is the result, yes. But the problem begins when Saul worries about what others think, when in truth he has only one person to please.

Me too.

I spend WAY too much time worrying about this stupid issue. I hear my brain process questions about what others think -- all the time, "Are they watching? What do they think? Did they like my speech? Do I look good enough? What will I wear? What will they think of me if I say that?"

My focus gets dragged off in the wrong direction all the time. I sympathize with Saul. But I know that this one battle of the mind must be won if I will ever succeed in pleasing my God.

He is the one I must please. Not the audience. Not the publisher. Not the reviewer. Not my friends. Not my pastor.

If I can wrap my mind around this one fact, I think I can be free of all kinds of vices. Jealousy. Envy. Embarrassment. Self-consciousness. Anxiety.

If I could grab this one thought, I could gain a great deal of peace...

I must please only the one who made me.

Saul missed it. I struggle with it. Do you?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A word for the MIddle.

I posted this on Kerrie Hubbard's Caring Bridges Website.

I thought that many of you might encouragement from it... The following is a quote:

I just wanted to write to all of you who are in this battle with Kerrie. I think we need to remember that the hardest part of any race, of any assignment, of any chore -- whether we are talking marathon or 7K, Reaching the WORLD for Christ or teaching the three year old Sunday School class, cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina, or just cleaning my bathroom.

The hardest part is the MIDDLE.

That's because in the beginning we have gusto. Enthusiasm. The excitement of beginnings. The hope of accomplishment. Hope for change. Hope for success. That kind of energy lasts a while. At least until we realize what we've gotten ourselves into. And then, when that first burst of enthusiasm wanes, we find ourselves with nothing but a mess.

Sore feet.
Stinky refrigerators sitting at the curb.
Piles of clothes to sort.
Walls stripped of plasterboard.
And our arms feel heavy
And our legs cramp.
And we are hungry.

That, my friend, is the middle.

And that's when most of us want to take ourselves to the curb and give up too. "Maybe the garbage guys'll take me!"

We want to sit down.
Soak our feet.
Call the Maid Brigade.
Change the goals to fit the reality.

Sometimes, we even want to quit.

But the middle is always just before the end! It precedes the last half. The finish. The last lap.

And sometimes, when we are sweaty and stinky and sore, we must keep our eyes on the bell lap.

Let me put it this way. When Kerrie was riding up the HORRIBLE Hills of Washington, as we rode our bicycles across the state, I said this to her...

Keep your head down.
Don't even look at how far it is to the top of the hill.
Pick a spot, just up the road a tiny bit, and FOCUS ON IT.
Pick a sign, a reflector. Even a weed.
Say to yourself, "I can make it THAT FAR. And THEN, I can decide if I want to quit."

Keep your breathing even.
Calm your nerves.
Find your rhythm.
Don't let yourself be distracted the the HUGENESS of the hill. Watch the ground, the gravel, the ants as you pass by.
Keep your eyes on that tiny next step, and push toward that simple step.

It holds true for every task. Remember, the MIDDLE is really the hardest part.

Whether you are in the middle of your own hill.
Or you are in the middle of your prayer for Kerrie.
Or, in Kerrie's case, she is in the middle of a battle for her life.

The MIDDLE is the hardest part.

Where all of us, are most tempted to quit.

Remember the middle is JUST BEFORE THE END.
Keep your head down.
Don't look at the size of what is left.
Find your inner calm in Jesus.
Keep your rhythm.
Don't panic.

And you too can ride to the highest hills.

If you can just make it through the middle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Honestly, Really?

I'm reading in the book of 1st Samuel. Of course, most of you know this is the story of Israel getting and losing their first king. The prophet Samuel first anoints Saul as king. But Saul has some serious problems. He thinks that he knows more about what is best for him than God. When God says, "Kill them all," Saul thinks it's better to keep the best things for himself. So, he keeps the sheep and cattle and even leaves some of the enemy alive. When Samuel says, "wait for me to offer the sacrifice," Saul decides that he can do the offering himself --after all his men expect it!

Saul specializes in disobedience.

So, most of us agree with Samuel's famous comment, "Obedience is better than sacrifice." And when Samuel announces that the kingdom has been taken from Saul and given to someone else, we understand why.

We never liked Saul much anyway.

But when it comes to David, things aren't much different, really. Even though he is introduced as "a man after God's own heart." He has some serious problems of his own. One, in particular, I never noticed until last night.

Here is my observation: If you took a blue pencil and underlined all of David's lies in the book of 1st Samuel, you would find that most of the second half of the book is BLUE.

He lies to a priest about why he is out and about. He lies to an entire city by pretending to be 'crazy.' He lies to the king of the Philistines, saying that he's raiding the towns of Judah, when in fact he is destroying entire towns and everyone in them in order to support himself and his men. He lies to the men of the king, promising that he's going to help them destroy the Israelites.

I think the root of the lies come from this phrase, "Someday, Saul is going to get me. The best thing for me to do is to escape to the Philistines." (I Sam 27:1)

Do you see it? David stopped believing that God would deliver him. His fear made him decide that he had to save himself.

Fear can do that.

So, he began to lie. David began to believe that unless he protected himself, God would not or could not protect him. And lying became second nature to him.

Now obviously, David isn't perfect. And he has some wonderful qualities that are shown all through his life.

But letting fear take root in his heart gave birth to sin.

I'm paying attention because the truth is a tough thing for me. I want to be absolutely honest with myself and with others. But it's hard. I struggle with it. David struggled too. And when I think about it, fear is what motivates me too. I'm afraid that the truth will make people reject me. I'm afraid that the truth might hurt someone, or make someone angry, or get me into trouble. So, I lie. I'm afraid that God can't deliver me from uncomfortable or difficult situations.

But I think it's a battle worth fighting. What about you? How honest are you? How do you deal with dishonest people? Is it important to you?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I am not what happens to me.

I've just finished the book of Ruth, and am on to 1st Samuel.

But for you, I just want to park at this sentence in Ruth. It is spoken by a woman who has left her home during a famine. She's gone somewhere else with her husband and two sons. While away, her husband and both sons die, leaving her alone with two daughters-in law.

Hearing that there is now food at home, Naomi heads back home. Only one of the two in-laws goes with her. And when she hits town, she says this interesting sentence, "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. ... The LORD has afflicted me."

Now, the story is not really about Naomi, and most teachers bounce right on to Ruth's story. After all, it's a lovely romance about a poor outsider who marries the rich relative. Who wouldn't move on?

But Naomi's word's struck me.

Did you notice? Naomi has let what happened TO HER, become her identity. Her name, Naomi, means pleasant. But Mara, the name she chooses means bitter.

Okay, so she's had a really rough time of it.

But where is her focus? She's stuck on what's missing. What's happened. AND, she is blaming GOD for it all. "HE HAS AFFLICTED ME," she says.

I'm thinking, she could have come back with this as her focus. "At long last I am home. I have a daughter-in-law who loves me so much, she won't leave me. I will end my days with my family around me, in my own land, with my own people."

Instead, she says, "I am one who has loved and lost."

It would be like us saying these things:

"I am left." (her husband left her)
"I am infertile."
"I am a bad habit."
"I am multiple sclerosis."
"I am incest."
"I am lost my job."
"I am failure." (I missed a goal)

Truly, we are NOT what happens TO us. And, unlike poor Naomi -- who has suffered enormous loss -- we can choose to be grateful people, men and women who are overcomers. People who say these kinds of things:

"I am loved by God."
"I have been chosen to mentor rather than mother."
"I am an overcomer."
"I am a survivor."
"I am learning."
"I am reframing."

Though God, in the scripture, makes no comment on Naomi's expression to her old friends, I would have to say this:

If you look at yourself as no more than what happens TO YOU, you give away all opportunity for change and growth. No wonder Naomi was bitter!

Think about it.