Sunday, December 31, 2006

Healing the Sick

If someone came to our church and she was bleeding, what would you do? Would you fill her a bag of canned goods and invite her to the next women’s Bible study? Of course not! You would call 911 and hold her hand and pray with her until the paramedics arrived.

You would understand that a health care professional is needed to heal her. It is clear that to deny this and try to take matters into your own hands is to endanger the health of the person you are trying to help.

People who are suffering mental illness or have deep emotional wounds are not bleeding. Sometimes you can tell right away that something is wrong; but other times you cannot. Sometimes they are skilled at hiding their wounds.

These people are not helped by attending a Bible study. They may indeed be seeking sympathy and help and inviting them to study the Word of God may seem initially like a good idea.

But it is not. And it’s not that they are not “well enough” to be able to participate in Bible study.

It’s like inviting the bleeding woman to Bible study. It is not healing. It is not what she needs. She must be directed to a health care professional. To not do this, to take matters into our own hands, is to endanger the person you are trying to help.

You also are endangering others. Because people who are mentally ill, or who have deep emotional wounds may hurt other people. They may hurt the other people we are ministering to. They may erode the effectiveness of our ministry by steering us off the course that Christ has us on.

They may hurt ministry workers, who are sympathetic to their plight and try to help in ways that over-extend or endanger themselves, the church and their families. Rarely, but it happens, that some people are manipulative and hurt those who try to help them.

Please do not misunderstand...we all, at times, experience deep emotional wounds. I certainly have! When we do, we do not want to forsake the fellowship of believers, especially our Bible study group. But sometime the wounds are so deep that individual help is also needed to experience healing and peace. Taking our deep issues to a group of women gives us too much superficial advice, too many voices, which adds to the confusion instead of giving clarity and peace.

And often mentally illness can be treated and while under adequate treatment, they are well able to attend a study. If they lapse in their treatment, however, that is when problems can occur.

People who come to a Bible study must have a desire to study God's word. People who have shown up at a Bible study are there because someone invited them or they discovered it on their own. But people show up because there is something inside them compelling them to try it. There is an interest, curiosity, desire on their part. They are not just dropped into it, or come because of another need that a Bible study cannot fulfill.

As ministry leaders, we must provide a safe place, physically and emotionally, for those who we serve, and those who serve with us.
  • We must set up boundaries that make our church a safe place.
  • We must be able to determine, not only who is bleeding physically, but also who is bleeding mentally or emotionally.
  • We must know the right health care professionals to contact.
  • We must train those who serve under us.
We must because we who lead must lead with diligence.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them... he who leads, with diligence... Romans 12:6,8

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Parting

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)
Yes, Dad.
It’s time, Son.
I’m ready. I’m willing. I’ve always been willing.
Yes, I know. It was your idea from the first.
We all agreed it was the only way. I want it this
way. From the beginning we knew that if we gave
them the choice, they would go their own way.
But we wanted them to choose us freely.
You are right. It is not love if they do not
choose us.
Yes, and we want them to experience the joy
of true love. And since all of them have
chosen to go their own way, the only way to
save them once and for all is for me to go to them. I love them too much to lose them forever.
Me too. But even after your work is done,
some of them, indeed most of them, still
will not choose you.
Even still for those few who come to me, Dad,
I am willing. Just for them, I do this. It is difficult for me to leave you and all this.
Son, we will talk. Whenever you want,
I’m here for you.
We won’t really be apart until the end.
That will be the hardest part.
But it will be worth it.
I love them so much, Dad. We can’t not do this.
Even you are free to choose, Son.
You can choose to not do this.
Yes, I know. I will do this. I’m ready to go now.
Just one last thing, Dad -- Hold me.
Don’t worry, Son, I will not let you go.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What I learned at the retreat

What I learned at the retreat did not come from any of the teaching sessions, or the worship, or the conversations this year, although they were all good.

What I learned came through the process of planning the retreat. It reminded me of a retreat the disciples went on with Jesus. They too, were at a remote place. But there were 5,000 men there, plus their women and children. Jesus was teaching them, but then that annoying detail arose…it was dinner time and they were far far away from any fast food places. The disciples came to Jesus with the issue. His answer was amazing.

Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." Matthew 14:16

Can’t you just see the disciples standing there with their mouths open? Yeah, right. We can’t do that.

That was how I felt at the retreat. There would be at least 100 people there, of all ages. They needed worship and teaching and child care and youth activities and social opportunities and recreational activities. And the people committed to the team? Well, there was me. And only me.

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. Matthew 14:17

And so that was my dilemma. I did not have enough. No nursery leader, no youth leader, no pastor even on Sunday. I only had my gifts and a the list of people who were paying to attend. Would they come through for the church, for the Body? I didn’t know, but I knew what I had to do.

“Bring them here to me," He said. Matthew 14:18

So I kept bringing it back to Jesus. My five loaves and two fish. And I’d put them at His feet and told Him, “This was not my idea. This is all about You. You have to come through for me or it will not happen. You are my only hope.”

They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Matthew 14:20

And He did. The people all helped. It was a wonderful retreat, some said the best ever.

And so I learned it doesn’t matter what you have to start with. As long as you bring all that you have to Jesus, He can still feed the multitude.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Retreat to the New Life

Living the New Life (Colossians 3:1-3)
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

Why are we going on retreat? It's a lot of money. It's a lot of work. It is a lot of time. After all, we just did it last year.

Well, the head count is down. So a lot of us are saying no, I can't fit it in. I don't have the money.

But for me and my house, we are all going, and one more of us. A little one, but he will be there, Gio Moreau. It will be his first retreat.

We are going because we have been raised to new life in Christ and we need to be reminded of the realities of heaven. Because we died, and our real life is hidden in Christ. Because we need to, annually, spend a whole weekend away just to let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill our lives. We need to teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. We want to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. (Colossians 3:16)

That's why we are going. And that's why it is worth every second, every penny.

Father, it is with that worthy intent, that I have been planning this retreat. Show up there, Beloved and fill us. And I won't care who else comes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mommy, my hands are sticky!

As I approached the dance studio, I saw the mothers standing at the window, peeking in intently through the blinds. I looked in too and saw the little girls in their dance clothes and tap shoes, holding hands.

“They are too cute,” I said and one of the mothers turned to me briefly and sighed, “Oh! Yes!”

And I thought, that is how God watches us! He looks on as we go about our day, and He thinks about how lovely we are to Him. As for these the little girls, there was nothing particular in them, it was just that they were loved by their mothers. They were their little girls.

We are God’s children, His handiwork, and He has gone to great lengths to woo us, win us, and call us His own. He adores us and looks at us as we do our own children.

After class was over, I went inside and watched as the dance teacher gave out lollipops to the girls. One little brother, not more than 3 years old, approached her, but she looked over his head first to get his mother’s approval before she gave him the pop.

Can’t you picture how the story went later on? The little boy would finish the pop and give the bitten up stick to his mom, who would then place it in her bag. Then he would notice his hands.

“Mommy, my hands are sticky!”

Then mom would reach in her bag and pull out a wet wipe and clean up not only his hands but his face as well. Then I can see her kissing his sweet clean face.

And this too reminded me on how God handles the sin in our lives. Like the mom, He knows we are going to get dirty from sin. He has already prepared for that, in the same way the mom has packed up wet wipes and stored them in her bag. Like mom, He waits for us to be done with our sin, and know that we are indeed “sticky.” And then He cleanses us.

Not that we are going to stay clean. He knows that. Like mom, He has packed up a good amount of wipes.

Like the mom knew when she agreed to allow her son to have the lollipop that he would be sticky when he was done, God already knows all about our sin and only desires for us to be clean again. He watches and waits for us to be ready. He does not watch and wait to punish us, but only to cleanse and restore us.

And then come His kiss.

I don’t think we can ever out grow or out sin God’s loving desire for us. We are always His own. Because as I had looked through the dance studio window that day, it was my own 17 year-old daughter I saw, old enough to be the student teacher now, in her high heeled tap shoes, holding a little one’s hand. It was her who I thought was “too cute.”

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin. …
5 For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. …
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Same Sex Marriage in NJ

Our dear sister Amy started this discussion on our Called Aside Yahoo email loop and I want to record my response here. Her concern was the ruling of the NJ Supreme Court on Same Sex Marriage. Hers was a " call to arms" to contact our candidates on this issue. Below was my reply.

Just the other day the issue came up that we, as a church, choose not to promote any political party.

Actually, I confess to you all, that it was only during the last presidental election, that God revealed to me that He is not definitively Republican. When I realized that Sandy, and several other friends who I love, admire and respect as believers, were not voting for the Republican candidate, I was forced to reconsider my thoughts on the matter.

Pastor Ed says it best when he says, "God did not come to take sides, He came to take over."

As for the matter at hand, Al showed me the article in the Star Ledger. I looked at the list of issues that the people in gay relationships had. I looked at the photo of the two women, holding each other. I sat there and considered in a different way, what my Beloved Jesus would say about such things.

I am sure that Jesus does not desire these people in be the bondage of this sin. He desires to set the captives free, and this is one of the stronger bondages that people find themselves in.

But we cannot break their bondage by enacting laws. God tried that already. It did not work. The Jews were the only one surprised by that, He knew it was not going to work all along and had made other plans from the beginning.

When Jesus came, He had other plans for releasing people from sin. He loved them. He served them. He befriended them. Even the sinful, diseased ones that the religious people of the day would not even go near. One by one by one at a time.

Re-read for yourself the account in John 8 (see below), the woman caught in adultrey. These are the questions to consider:

  1. How does Jesus treat this woman caught in this sin?
  2. Is there any doubt that He thinks, and in the end she knows, that this is sin?
  3. Who else does Jesus correct in this story? Is it only the woman? Does He not also correct those who wished to condemn her? Note how gentle He is in that too!!

Ok, so how do we apply this to our lives and this issue? My take is this:

Jesus loves these people caught in this sin of homosexuality. He died for them and desired to be reconciled to them. He wants to free them from this.

We can only be an active part in releasing them from this sin by our love and the Spirit within us by serving them. Showing them the love of Christ and praying that His Spirit would annoint them and free them. One by one by one. There is no short cut. I really don't think enacting laws will do it.

I strongly agree the cultural climate of our country is changed by the laws we enact and by the media. I do think NJ enacting this law is a bad thing because it shows and contributes to the slide of our culture into the absyss of sin.

But if we are going to expend energy to solve the problem as Jesus would, we have to go to the hurting people, and love them. We can get on our knees for them. Not to the law makers.

John 8
1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

an audience of One

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:5-6

Let me confess ... I have been trying to find friends to blog with.

I have been sending my friends blog-entries. I have put my URL on all my emails. I have been blog-surfing, I guess you would call it, looking for people to connect with. I tried looking for like-minded people. I tried looking for lost people to communicate the love of Christ to.

I confess to you I have been looking for an audience. Like the hypocrites Jesus talks about in Matthew 6, I have been trying to find a cyper-street corner on which to pray out loud. And You, my Father in Heaven, in Your infinite mercy and wisdom, has thwarted my efforts on all sides.

I need to give this up and understand that this blog is a prayer. I need to remind myself that I have an audience of One.

And really, who else is my audience? One time I showed an entry to a friend. I had wrote it specifically to process an on-going conflict we had. He did not get it. He said the writing was good but he did not get the part at the end. That was because it was not written to him!! God got it. He got the whole thing. He didn't need me to explain it to Him.

Jesus, Beloved, You alone give me words, thoughts, the heart and spirit to desire to communicate with you. Sometimes I read what I wrote and am comforted. Maybe someday You may indeed enlarge my boundaries and give me a wider audience. I do not think it would be bad to pray for this. But in Your time and in Your way, not mine.

Maybe I will never have a wider audience.

It doesn't matter. Because the God and creator of the Universe, He hears my every word, sees my every tear, even the unspoken whispers of my heart. He loves me. He reads every word. He always had.

What more can I ask for?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

From Prayer to Peace

"When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.” Jonah from inside the big fish, 2:7

The email said “prayer request” and when I opened and read it, the contents took my breath away.

I confess to you, I have seen the ones titled “prayer request” and have not opened them, just because my day could not take another piece of bad news. But this one took me by surprise. It was too big for me.

Yes! And that is how it is supposed to be. Prayer requests are too big for us. When my daughters are hungry, I can make breakfast. When they forget to bring a water bottle to dance class, I can buy them one as I take my walk. I can give them the extra ten dollars they need to buy lunch with their friends.

But the cancer, the accident, the lost job, the broken relationship, the wayward daughter--these things I cannot fix. And that is exactly the point. These things we take to each other only to have them taken to our Father in heaven. Only He can fix these things.

The last name of the woman who sends us these prayer requests is named “Temple.” That is so interesting. From her hands through cyperspace, we get these requests. And then back to Christ’s temple they go, as we place them at His feet in prayer. Too big for us, but nothing is impossible to Him.

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)

And there they go, off our hearts, onto Him. Ah! Peace!

Go into the party

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Luke 15:31

There was a saying we had in corporate. After a project was over, then came the persecution of the innocent and the promotion of the non-participants.

Isn’t that how the older son felt in this parable? I can relate to him. I have been the faithful one. I have been here serving you all these years. I was the one out in the fields today with the sheep and the dung and the dirt. Now he comes back, and he gets the robe and the ring and the big party. He did not do anything to deserve your kindness. He did no work. He even hurt you by leaving and taking half your money!

And what do I get? More dirty work. And no thanks.

Makes you want to do just what the older son here did, stand outside of the big party and sulk.

But the fathers plea to him says it all. You have always been with me. Everything I had has always been yours.

And I hear Jesus saying to me,

“It is not a mistake that you have stayed behind as your brother left. I needed you here to serve. I knew you would be willing and up to it. It is a great honor to have been chosen for the field. They are My sheep you have loved and loved well. The gift for you, dearest daughter, is that you have had been chosen to be in My house all this time.

And do you really want to trade 5 minutes of fame on the platform for the years you have been in My house serving Me?”

No, dear Jesus, I do not. The gift You have given me truly is greater than I deserve. Hold my hand, sweet Jesus, and let’s go into the party together.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Say Yes

Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, left heaven to show us His love. He laid His glory down and became one of us, even a babe born to a poor unmarried Jewish girl, named Mary. In order to reconcile us to His Father, He Himself took on all the sins of the world, and paid the penalty for them all. The cost? His life.

Not only did He die to pay this price, but He died a painful, lengthy, humiliating death. He did this by His own choice, no one made Him, not even God the Father. He did it because He loves us that much.

Afterwards He displayed His power over death, by rising back to life. By doing this, He shows us that He can give us new life. Spiritual life. Eternal life.

Jesus loves us and want all of us to have eternal life. Our Father in heaven wants to be reconciled to us all, to have a sweet and loving relationship with us all. But He will not force us. We have to choose Him. We have to say yes to His invitation to relationship. To His love.

How do we say yes to God?

God is always listening. When we talk to Him in our heart, in our mind, it is prayer. If you do not know what to pray, that is ok. The Holy Spirit translates even our confused words to Him, and He always understands us, as a mother understands the babblings of her babies.

But for those of you who want to read the words, here is a sample prayer, to say Yes to God.

Dear Jesus,

I know now that I am not good enough to enter heaven and God's presence on my own. I would have to be perfect, and I admit I am not. I thank You that You always knew that and made a way for me to get to heaven, even as I am.

Yes, I accept Your free gift with thanks.

I ask that You come into my heart and that You be my God and my Lord.

Jesus, I am not sure that will happen after this. But I choose to trust You with my life.


If you prayed this prayer, or still have questions, please comment me.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.
(Revelation 3:20)

I'm desperate for You

It was a few days before my 25th wedding anniversary and I was looking for the perfect card. I picked up card after card that were made for a wife to buy her husband on their anniversary. Since this was a special one, a funny card didn’t seem right. But the sentimental ones did not ring true for us either.

"I’m made for you"
“You are perfect for me"
“You complete me”

No, that was not it. As much as I love him and he loves me, as good for each other as we are, it did not ring true.

But, my sisters, don’t you find that true for you as well? No matter how much we love our husbands, how much they love us, as good as they can be, there is that empty place that they cannot fill. It is true for them too, we can never be enough to fill all the empty places for them either.

Only Jesus can do that.

One of the sad things of this world is watching people try, always unsuccessfully, to fill that place with other things. It can be good things, like work, or children, or a fruitful hobby (or shopping!!). It can be evil or draining things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, illicit sex (or shopping!). But in the end, the result is the same.

Nothing can fill that hole but Jesus.

Thanks be to God, Jesus is willing and able to fill us, every day, with His holy presence, living with us, sharing His wisdom and His love.

I did find a card for my husband, and when we shared time together, we spent time with Jesus too. As we invited Christ to the table with us, He not only filled us up with His presence, but He drew us closer together in a true love, with a true intimacy that only He can bring.

Because it is a love centered in Him.

This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me…
I‘m desperate for You
I'm lost without You

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not your color

"I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." Matthew 13:13

My sixteen-year-old, Debbie, and I are driving to church and she looks at me and says, "Mom, that lipstick is not a good color for you. You really need to take it off and put on something else."

So I fished around and found a napkin and wiped it off. She found something else in my purse that I then applied it, as women often do, at the next red light.

I grew up a "tom-boy." You’d be much more likely to find me riding my bike, up a tree, or wading in a brook, than to find me playing with my mom’s make-up. My mom, however, was a "girly" girl. She would never leave the house without lipstick on.

I find that God has such a sense of humor giving me daughters who are much more like my mother than myself. It’s almost like He is giving me another chance with these kind of women. Because I love Debbie so much that it is hard to hate her guts just because she is so beautiful and has such fashion sense.

My mom tried to give me fashion sense advice but I often rebuffed her. I remember clearly one night when I was a teen, I came downstairs, dressed for a date and she said to me, "Did you comb your hair?" Even today, if we are going out together she will instruct me to put on lipstick before we go.

I did not want to hear my mother. Maybe it was her way of telling me. Maybe it was the foolishness of my youth. I wanted to be the woman I was and not who she wanted me to be. I wanted to know I was not wrong in my opinions and my choices.

While there was some merit to that, often we do to see ourselves as others see us. Don’t we all need someone to ride beside us and be frank with us when we have the wrong color lipstick on? Should we not embrace those who love us enough to tell us that?

Now, maybe because I am older, I welcome the information. Some times the comment is not valid or right for me, but I want to know.

How often have I heard people speak but have hardened my heart? Is God not still using the situations and people in my life as parables, instructing me to make my life more like His?

Let us all pray that we have a ears that hear and hearts that desire to know God’s best color for our lives.

And when we speak truth to others, may we do it with the love and gentleness, like Debbie.

"For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them." Matthew 13:15

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What pleases the Lord

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
--Ephesians 5:24

I find that many women see this instruction as limiting, constraining, not freeing. But that depends on how you look at it.

Of course, this verse is much more comforting if your husband follows the instructions in the following verse: "Husbands love your wives just as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her..." But I believed that even if your husband is not committed to Christ, or is not committed to His leadings, this commandment to submit to our husbands is truth and life for us.

Again, we need to follow the Leader, not keeping our eyes on these others.

The freedom in the verse comes from what it is NOT telling us to do. Often women get caught up in pleasing too many people. I know, I do! But this instruction tells us to submit to our husbands. Not our children, or our bosses, or our mothers, or our girlfriends. But submit to our husbands IN EVERYTHING. That means that he is our primary leader, as Christ is our head as believers.

I hear too many voices and am confused. I see many faces and I want them all to be happy, to be pleased with me. But I find I cannot please them all. Often their desires are contridictory or overly straining on me. It is like I need permission to say NO.

But my husband, he cares for me above all those others. When I am constrained by him, often I can find rest, because he does not desire me to be harried. He does not want me to work too hard. He does not want me to be driven by the demands of my job, or my social life or even the needs of our children.

He wants me to be able to rest with him. As Christ does.

He also sees where my blind spots are and can direct me around the potholes of life, if I will only hear him.

And what of those of us who have no husband today? Take joy in this truth...

For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is His name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.
--Isaiah 54:5

Follow the Leader

"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me."
--John 10:27

This Sunday I was up in the control room, coaching two of our new volunteers in the art of running a PowerPoint slideshow during the Sunday service. The music is not scripted, but very much "flows with the moving of the Spirit." Therefore, as the worship song is sung, the PowerPoint operator has to pay close attention to the worship leader. Sometimes he cues us by saying the first few words he will sing next. Sometimes the cue is how the song is rising or falling in tempo. The cues are always there, but some times they are harder to read than others.

The most important rule to follow is: pay close attention to the worship leader. You must take care not to not get distracted by the others talking and working next to you in the balcony, or even not get too caught up in singing the song that you miss your cue from the worship leader.

So this Sunday, I stood in the balcony, pointing out to the new volunteers the the more subtle cues. One of the hardest to get right is to not move ahead to the next slide too fast. Often we will sing a chorus over and over again. We don't want the slideshow to rush ahead of the worship leader.

Recently, I had discovered that the worship leader not only giving clues for the PowerPoint operator. The musicians and the vocalists also need to pay attention to the cues of the worship leader. Sunday I watched as Larry, a new addition to our vocalist group, paid close attention to Mark as he led the worship. As long as Larry knew where Mark was going with the song, Larry then felt free to improvise his vocal parts, singing so eloquently in the background. But again, in order to do that, he had to pay close attention to the leader.

As I watched this play out from my spot in the balcony, I considered how this mirrors how we are to follow Christ. I know I would like my life to be more scripted, to know the timing and the order of things to happen in my life. It is distressing when my life get out of order. Of worse, when I get stuck in one place too long for me, and I long to move ahead.

But my life is not my own. It is hidden in Christ. Only He knows the best ebb and flow, the right rhythm, the right order. Instead of getting caught up in what is happening in the world, or even in my own life too much, I need to play close attention to my Leader and listen carefully for His cues. Sometimes they are subtle and I can easily miss them.

When I listen closely and know where my Leader is going, I can be free to be creative and use the gifts He has given me in freedom, knowing it will fit in with the other things He is doing, like how Larry did on Sunday.

Another interesting component to this on Sunday was watching Pastor Jeff. Usually he leads worship himself, but today, he was being led in worship by Mark. He spent some time in the balcony with us, but then got a microphone and I thought he was going to join the singers on the stage, but instead, he joined the audience. My guess is, he did not think they were involved enough. So, again, paying close attention to the leader, Pastor Jeff began to sing from the audience and clap in response, getting those in the audience to join him.

I realized that even the audience has an important part in worship.

As believers in Christ, we all have a vital role to play. As we follow the Leader, others watch us. As we joyfully sing in the song of redemptive life, as we clap in response and follow Christ, others see us and are encouraged to follow along too. Maybe not all, but that is not the point.

Often I have been tempted to lead others to response to Christ by my words, by my instructions. But this no longer seems productive to me. I need to lead others towards Christ with my life, by following the Leader myself, by acting in response to His cues to me. In the past I have only gotten distracted from following the Leader myself when I spend too much energy trying to instruct others.

So I am going to follow the Leader, listening closely to His Word, listening to His voice speaking to my heart, knowing that hidden in there, there is a cue for me today.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I will build My church

Matthew 16

15 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

For those in church ministry, what a wonderfully freeing word, “I will build My church.” It is so sweet, let’s savor it and take it apart word by word.

“I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

I: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, it is He who will build the church. Not me, not the pastor or the worship leader or the Leadership Team, but our beloved Jesus, our Savior, and Creator of the universe.

will: Not possibly, or maybe, or He is planning to, but He will. It is sure as the dawn.

build: It will grow, take shape, get larger, be constructed according to plan. It will not stay stagnant, it will not be downsized, it will not die. It is living and it will continue to develop, and be built up.
My: Not your church, or their church. Jesus is only interested in building His own church. If we want to get in on what He is doing, He is already building it. He gives no promises on building what is not His.

church: This was no building that He was talking about. This is the first time the word Church is used in the NIV. He was talking about the Body of believers.

and: Plus, in addition to, please note this extra part of the promise…

the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it: Absolutely no power, on earth or in the underworld, no person, no matter how powerful in a worldly way, not matter how evil or slick or stupid, will win in the battle to destroy Christ’s church. No power, no where.

This is so sweet because I cannot mess it up, because it is not me who is building the church. It is Jesus. Neither can anyone else, who I am afraid is doing it wrong, they cannot cause the church to fail. No matter what, Jesus will prevail!

So I can just go on vacation now, right. Right.

But see how Jesus starts this by pointing out how Peter is different from other people who have heard His message. To Peter it has been revealed, from His Father in heaven, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is on this Rock of faith that Jesus builds His church. Using us, who know Him, love Him and are devoted to Him, as the foundation to continue His building of the church. He is the cornerstone
(Esphesians 2:20), but He builds His church on us.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ok, so I'm 13 again

Ok, this is goofy and SOooooOOoooo 13 but I got it from a 50 year old friend of mine so maybe it is ok for such as me!!

Not to waste it, I'm adding it to my blog! Here you go!

1. FIRST Name - Barbara

2. Middle NAME? - Ann, my grandmothers name and it was mandatory for everyone to have a middle name of Ann in my family!

3. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? No, mom made sure that if my middle name was Ann, my first name was not the same as anyone else in my family. The catch was, in grammer school, there were always at least two other Barbaras in my classes.

4. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? This morning (of course!)



7. KIDS? – 2 and 1 grandkid

8. WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? most days, yes. Some days I wish I could leave the state and leave me home.

9. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? yes and a blog!

10. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? A bad habit I am trying to kick. Not doing too well at kicking it, I must add.



13. FAVORITE CEREAL? Granola with dates (at least 1 million calories :)


15. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes, too strong for my own good.


17. SHOE SIZE? 8 W I D E

18. RED OR PINK? - RED!!

19. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? the gray hairs in my eyebrows

20. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? dad and Aunt Tillie


22. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES YOU ARE WEARING? blank pant, white shoes


24. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The humm of my PC and the cars whizing by Watchung Avenue...almost as relaxing as the ocean!






30. FAVORITE DRINK? hmm, a hard one! coffee!! Coke! Red wine!!

31. FAVORITE SPORT? swimming

32. HAIR COLOR? - brown

33. EYE COLOR? - brown


35. FAVORITE FOOD? really hard question...I love food! chinese


37. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? white with Red stripes

38. FAVORITE DESSERT? Chocolate ice cream


41. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? I have no idea


43. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? – I just tossed it last week

43. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? – I gave it up for Lent last year and have been very happy since

44. FAVORITE SOUNDS? My grandson's coo



49. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT ? Being very mediocre at many things

50. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? On a very Hot July day, the very last day in July 1955 in Newark New Jersey.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Recital

Thirteen years ago, little Debbie, age three, stood on stage for her first dance recital. She wore a black and white outfit that looked like a maid. It had a white lacey hat and a skirt that stood out a foot on either side. When she got on the stage, she forgot most of the dance, but no one cared because she looked so cute.

And I stood behind the curtain and cried.

Debbie is age sixteen now. She had five performances in this recital, five stunning costumes. She danced on high healed tap shoes. She danced on pointe. She danced behind the curtain for the 1st and 2nd grade class that she student taught this year.

She danced in the finale, with her dancing teacher.

And I sat in my seat, looked at how beautiful, grown-up and talented she had become and cried.

If only the rest of life was like that. If only we could start out as babes, and in the end gain the talent and grace to dance on stage beside our teachers.

Yes, that is what I want. I want to be grown-up now, just like that.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Our Authority, His Authority

I finished The Believer’s Authority by Kenneth E. Hagin this morning and in the morning there is always more clarity.

So here’s the Barbara Ruglio definitive word on the subject, free of charge because who would pay money for such….

I still think there is merit in some of this theory. We do have authority as believers. We have authority over sin and temptation in our life, thus Pastor Ed telling us to talk to it: “Temptation, you cannot have my future, my family or my faith!” Notice how we were not encouraged to address Satan and I think that is instructive.

I agree that if we do not exercise the spiritual gift of self control with the other fruits of the Spirit, that sin can overtake us in our lives. I believe we need to exercise authority in this area in our own lives and not wait for "Genie" Jesus to pour self control on us and make us want to stop sinning. We need to take the steps of authority, in a prayerful, discerning way, with the help of our sisters and brothers in Christ, dependent always on His power, but being pro-active in it.

I agree that our prayers change things. I believe in the power of prayer. I therefore must believe that when we fail to pray, we can fail to be healed, to overcome the sin in our own life, and to be Christ’s hands, feet and voice in redeeming the world.

I agree that the church, us as believers, are Jesus’ only plan to redeem the world. He has no “plan B.”

But God remains God, not matter what theories and theologies we may try to build around Him. He will do what He will do. After all, God is funny like that, He thinks He is God. And that is where not the “word” of faith comes in, but the “rest” of faith, if you would. We need to rest and find peace that God has it no matter what it looks like and continue to pray and serve and learn.

I believe that God hears our prayers and lovingly answers them, as a loving mother discerns the needs of her small child, understanding and effectively helping. When onlookers wonder what the kid is muttering, the mother knows. God knows us like that. There is no right way to pray. We only need to keep praying and as we exercise our prayer life, our conversations with God get fuller, richer, deeper. It is a growing relationship we want, after all, not religion.

And as for me, when I look for a pastor and a church where I can grow and serve and devote my life, I want to find one who is not focused on our authority and our words of faith, but on His Power, His Authority and His Words of truth and grace, of mercy and love.

And that is why I am at MCC.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Where she left me standing

Today I went back to the place where she left me standing.

I must have been about 10 years old. It was after CCD classes on a Wednesday late afternoon. And I stood there waiting with my younger brother.

We waited and all the other children got picked up or started walking home. We waited and waited, until we anxiously started to walk to the corner. That was as far as I dared to go because I did not know the way home.

I remember staring at the brick buildings. I remember wondering where she was and when she was going to come for us. I struggle to remember the feelings, because they defy words.

And one day, one of those waiting days on that corner, when it seemed like we waited forever and the sky was growing dark, one of those days I must have decided that I need not wait for her any more. Some day, I would be big enough and I would know the way home. I would learn it. I would be able to walk home and not wait for her at anymore.

And I did. I walked to school. I walked to dance classes. I walked to stores. I walked to church.

And when the laundry was never done, I started to do the laundry. And when dinner was never cooked, I learned to cook it.

I did it. And it was done.

I did not have to tell her and have her not listen. I would not have to hear her excuses. I would not have to wait on the corner and wonder. I could do it myself. I could be done.

I walked that way today. Past the church where I had CCD. Past the corner where I stood 40 years ago and waited. And from there I walked home.

Use my words, she tells me. But my words never helped. She never understood. She never said she was sorry. There was always a good excuse. And the next time, she always did it again.

Don't abandon me, she tells me. But when we can not talk about it, how can we compromise? How long can I wait?

Until I am done.

And one by one, I became done with everyone and everything. It can not go on like this.

Father, You have called me to a place where I must confront, I must stay and fix it. I can not be done and walk away, walk home. But I do not know what to do. What do I do, Father? Give me the words of truth. Help them hear. Help us compromise.

And You alone, My Beloved, will get the glory.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How Will They Know?

John 13:35
"By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

We are called to love one another,
not to fix one another.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Questions in My Heart

But it only takes one wrong person among you to infect all the others. I am trusting God to bring you back to believing as I do about these things. God will deal with that person, whoever he is, who has been troubling and confusing you.
(Galatians 5:9-10 LT)

Father, help me keep my eyes focused on You. Let me allow You to deal with all the questions in my heart.

Sometimes we ask the wrong questions. You have given us the answers to every question that is of You in Your Book, Your letters of love to us.
And we know, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
(Romans 8:28)

The wrong questions lead us down rabbit trails of anguish and confusion. There are no definitive answers to these questions, they are not the ones to focus on. These questions take our focus off of Christ, His love, His provision, His purpose for our lives today.

Father, I desire to trust You, but it is so hard and my wounds, my wickedness gets in the way.

So Father please, help me to trust You

Sunday, May 07, 2006

For the Mom to Be

In Praise of a Good Wife: Proverbs 31
10 A truly good wife is the most precious treasure a man can find!
11 Her husband depends on her, and she never lets him down.
12 She is good to him every day of her life...
20 and she helps the poor and the needy.
21 Her family has warm clothing, and so she doesn't worry when it snows.
22 She does her own sewing, and everything she wears is beautiful.
24 She makes clothes to sell to the shop owners.
25 She is strong and graceful, as well as cheerful about the future.
26 Her words are sensible, and her advice is thoughtful.
27 She takes good care of her family and is never lazy.
28 Her children praise her, and with great pride her husband says,
29 "There are many good women, but you are the best!"
30 Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away,
but a woman who honors the LORD deserves to be praised.
31 Show her respect-- praise her in public for what she has done.

My Dear Christina,

You are about to embark on one of life's most wonderous journeys...the journey of motherhood.

It is a journey full of joy and sorrow, something that you will do by instinct and by diligent effort. It is something that you learned to do in the times even before you have memories, while I was mothering you. My prayer is that you will recall the best of what I poured into you and that our Father in Heaven will enpower you to overcome all that was not of Him.

As you begin, please consider my advice....

(1) Rely on prayer. God loves this baby much more than you do and is vested in his health, development and has great plans for his future. So pray for guidance when you are confused, pray for consolation and encouragement when you are overwhelmed and distressed, and pray for forgiveness when you make a mistake. God longs to give all these things to you freely and abundantly. But our Father is a polite God, He will not force Himself upon you. So seek Him out.

(2) Rely on friends. Diligently seek out other women with small children. Their company will encourage you, their example will teach you, their children will be your sons first friends. No one will understand your concerns and give you as much good advice and sensitive sympathy as other mothers. You will need this like you need air.

(3) Rely on your instincts. While it is good to get advice from other women, it is important to know that the best person to decide what is best for your son is you and Manny. This may have been a surprise to us, but God knew about it all along and He purposefully put this baby inside of you long ago and will give you everything you need to raise him. Every child is different. The best person to decide for your son is you.

(4) Be kind to yourself. Feed the mother first. Get enough rest. Take care of your needs. A sick, tired, grumpy, hungry mother is not a good mother. Taking care yourself is very important to the care of your baby.

(5) Don't forget the Daddy. Take time to nourish your relationship with Manny. In the craziness and confusion, you can forget about him. In the physical care for your child, your need for affection will diminish, but his will not. Be nice to him. You need him.

And remember, the answer to the question is always yes, no matter what, I love you!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

For I wait for You

Psalm 25: 1, 3, 7, 11, 20, 21

To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul…
Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed…

Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
According to Your mercy remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD …

For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great…
Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You…
For I wait for You.

He said to me…

I forgive you
I have redeemed you
I have not rejected you
Wait for Me

Saturday, April 15, 2006

There is another who would steal my heart

Psalm 44
4 You are my King, O God…
5 Through You we will push down our enemies;
Through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us.
6 For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor shall my sword save me.
7 But You have saved us from our enemies,
And have put to shame those who hated us.
8 In God we boast all day long,
And praise Your name forever.

There is another, My Beloved, who would steal my heart. He woos me, he wants me, not to have me, Beloved, but to steal me from You.

And although You will not let him have all of me, he is content to take what he can get. To deter me from Your presence, Your service, Your peace and Your love.

And I cannot withstand him, no. He is too smart for me. He masquerades as an angel of light and pretends he is my friend.

But he hates me. He would destroy me.

I cannot withstand him, My Beloved, but You can. I will not trust in my strength, but in You alone.

Protect me, My Beloved, from him. You are victorious, the One who conquered even death itself. Cover me with Your blood so that I may be forgiven. Hold me close and whisper Your truth to me. Do not let me go. Let me feel Your heart, let me feel You, closer than my breath.

He cannot have me. I am Yours.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What my mother taught me

Barbara, it is your job to guard your virture. No one else can be trusted to do this. It is for you to do alone.

Men are wired to conquer your virtue, not to protect it. All men. There are no exceptions. It is up to you to guard your body and your mind and your heart.

We guard our virtue for our Beloved alone, not for any man. We guard our virtue because our Beloved is a jealous Lover. He would have us to have none before Him, none beside Him. We cannot hide from Him in darkened rooms, behind closed doors. All is laid bare before Him, every look, every touch, every breath, every longing of our heart.

So, Barbara, guard your virtue with all diligence. The penalties are woesome but the rewards are sweet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What I learned in dancing school

Don’t watch the other girl’s feet. When she makes a mistake, you’ll follow her.

When she makes a mistake, the best thing to help her is to keep dancing. Then she can watch you to catch up.

When you make a mistake, keep dancing. You can catch up but once you stop, you’re done.

Keep your mind on your dance, not on what is happening later that night, or what happened that afternnoon. You need your mind to dance, as well as your feet.

Don’t think about the steps you can’t do well yet. Focus on how much better you were than when you started.

Do not be dismayed by the looks of the chubby girl in the mirror. Many people think she is cute just the way she is.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Redirected, Not Rejected

Psalm 23:4I may walk through valleys
as dark as death,
but I won't be afraid.
You are with me,
and your shepherd's rod makes me feel safe.

They may reject me, but You, My Beloved, do not
You stand beside me, Your arm around me

They may ignore me, but You, My Beloved, hear each silent word of my heart
My head rests on Your chest, I listen for Your heartbeat

You may use your rod to redirect me
But never to reject me.

And I desire to go where You lead me,
Even threw the valley, if it is Your will.
Because there is no place as dark as the place
I end up when I wander away from Your leadings.

Lead me with Your voice.
Lead me with Your rod.
Lead me with their rejection, if You must
But lead me.

Lead me, My Beloved, I am Yours.

I am Yours.

Friday, February 03, 2006

He has come for me

My Beloved has rescued me!
He has heard my cry
He has had pity on my plight
He has scaled the wall
A mighty wall He has lept

He has come to me
And lifted me up
Carried me to high ground
Above the rising tide
Out and over

I can see them now
They are of no consequence
In the fullness of time
He has come for me
My Beloved, My Hero, My Lord

"He has made everything beautiful in it's time..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Where can you find me?

It's easy to find me.

I am usually standing at the sink. Yes, really. No matter where I am, if there is a sink, that's where I will be, washing dishes, putting dishes away, cooking and making more dirty dishes. No matter if I am at work or at home, or at someone else's home, I'll be at the sink.

Maybe because I am a mom.

Or, I'm in my car. I often have one or two teenagers with me, although I have been known to have 7 in my car (it's a 5-person car, you understand). Watching them all exit is like a comedy routine! My car is so old. (how old is it?) It's so old that when my daughters and friends started writing on the back seats and ceiling, I didn't care, because when I am done with this car, I am only going to throw it away. Actually, I kinda like some of it, especially the "I love Mrs. R -- Big John" on my sun visor.

Maybe because I am a mom.

Or, I'm at my PC. I love my PC. I can talk to all my friends on IM... Ok, maybe I only have a few that actually sign on that much because I am so old.

Maybe because I am a mom.

Or, I am at my kitchen table with my three of my Bibles and my journal, talking to My Beloved. He encourages me, comforts me, instructs me, weeps with me. I pray a lot these days.

Maybe because I am a mother of teenagers.

Yep, that would be it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What was I thinking?

I have lost my mind. What was I thinking? That anyone would care to read my ramblings.

But I know that My Beloved wants to hear all. Tune it and you'll hear more about Him.