The ministry of the lake

Every time we go to the lake Brad brings a book along as if he’s going to have some magical time where he isn’t watching the kids to read.  Sometimes I grab a book too, just to play along with this fantasy.

Even if I had a half an hour of solitude, I would probably spend it people watching.  I’m convinced the lake is full of the most interesting people in the county.  There are the moms that dip a toe in the water with their toddler, young adults horsing around in the deep end, teenagers getting in trouble, adolescents twirling off the high dive, grandmas waiting in the shade with a towel, leathery ladies frying in the sun and chain smokers at a picnic table.

It you were to encounter some of these people in public, they might be what you refer to as “sketchy”.  You may avoid eye contact on the sidewalk or lock your car doors while driving by.

Despite the diversity of the lake crowd, in my 20 some years of swimming there I have never witnessed anything worse than a slew of curse words spoken too loudly.  No fights, arguments, or illicit substances.

It turns out the diversity of the lake crowd results in unity.

There is one purpose for going to the lake and it’s to have fun.  It doesn’t matter if you like to swim, eat burgers, play putt putt or fish, the lake has it all.

In the bible Paul tell us that unity in the church is going to look a whole lot like diversity.   He says that some people will be teachers, some pastors, others prophets, evangelists or apostles and that their jobs are to equip the church until we are one unified body.

I love the lake because it’s fun and unpretentious.  Nobody expects you to be who you aren’t and it’s OK if you are still rough around the edges.

Likewise, in the Kingdom of God you are accepted, whether you’re the leathery lady or just dipping a toe in.

Jesus wants you.  His desire is for you to have fun and be yourself, stepping into your identity as a child of God.  He needs everyone, the rebellious teen, rambunctious adolescent and the waiting Grandmas, for the Kingdom to be fulfilled.

You are desired.

Devotion>Decency

Decency: behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability

Devotion: great love, affection, or admiration for someone

Recently the Lord spoke to me the phrase “the decency is gone”.  As I looked up the definition of decency, I heard the Lord speaking that His standard is here and the world’s is gone.

Later that day the Lord was so good to give me another phrase: “Decency is being replaced by devotion.”  He wants me to look to Him with great love and affection because He is the only one who can show me my true, Christ given identity.

I was reminded of the story of King David, who brought the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem after it had been in the hands of the Philistines.  David was so overwhelmed with the glory and goodness of God watching the ark enter the city that he basically danced around in his underwear with praise.  The daughter of the previous king was watching him with disdain.  Later, she confronts David saying, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would.”

Instead of being embarrassed, King David proudly responds, “I will celebrate before the Lord, I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”  David had his eyes fixed in adoration upon the Lord and the praise that David exhibited was exactly what God wanted from him.

Let us not conform to the standards of this world, but to adore our father above all else.  Above comfort, above a good name, above decency.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” John 14:15-17

Foggy sadness

The day is moving along but the fog outside has intensified.  By nine it should be dissipating, driven away by the newness of the day and the sun shining bright.  But today, this second day of the year, it’s worsening.

Sadness crept into my heart in much the same way.  When things should be the most joyful, sadness can be as the fog, thick and relentless.  In some ways I welcome it, that old familiar feeling.  I allow myself to wallow in my surroundings, in the things that shouldn’t be, but are.

I want to feel entitled to my sadness.  I want to feel justification that the world is against me and that life is harder for me than those around me.

Selfishness is the root of sadness.

I needed to climb out of the hole of self-pity, but first I needed to let myself cry.  To feel the feelings that God gave me, even if they are no indication of the life He has for me or the nature of His goodness.

I spent evenings in the ambiance of the Christmas tree lamenting what doesn’t seem quite right.  Selfishness gave way to self-reflection and I could hear God calling me to more.

I remembered years past, the sewing, the painting, the embroidery that I would put my identity in for a while because I saw others doing it and knew I could too.  Then I was tired and burnt out with no time or space left for projects.  These four, almost five, children have taken up every nook and cranny of our small house.

God began highlighting how important creating is for my own, wait for the dreaded word, self-care.  But self-care isn’t selfish if it connects me with my Creator.

I thought back to the prophetic word I received last spring, the one about how I would write and that would snowball into big and beautiful things.  The word that I’ve tucked in my back pocket just waiting for God to make happen.  It turns out sometimes He’s just waiting for us to make the move.

Writing requires nothing more than a pencil and a piece of paper and certainly I have plenty of room for that.  My laptop easily slides under the couch for a few words here and there.

Writing.

Always something I’ve dabbled in for a few months and then lost interest or inspiration, God has prompted me to look past the need for “inspiration” and just put words on a page on a regular basis.  He’s pushing me out of my comfort zone.

I want to write short stories, maybe an entire novel someday.  Not today, not tomorrow, but soon enough that will feel possible.  I just need more practice.

Brad is the writer in this family, but who says there can’t be more than one?  It only makes sense to take advantage of living with the best editor I know, the one who has taught me everything I know about writing.

To top it off, I get a pretty good discount.

Business, not as usual.

Not many know this, but the first business Brad and I ever started was an online hookah retailer.  Yes, you heard me right, we sold hookahs in college.

I can’t stop laughing while writing this out because it seems so long ago and so foreign, but once upon a time this young married couple at Ohio University went into business with a friend because they thought they could get a corner on the hookah business in Athens.  Plus, we enjoyed smoking the fun fruity tobaccos.  They were somehow “better” for you because they tasted good, right?

This isn’t something you lead with when introducing yourself, or even when sharing your life, but it’s an important part of our story because it was one of the first times we decided to do life differently.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t go well and we weren’t able to quit our jobs and lived as the hookah kings of Athens, but we began to learn lessons about what it means to own a business.

A few years later after doing the “normal” job thing we both quit to travel and pursue God in greater measure.  We developed our own businesses because we knew deep down there had to be more for us than working 40 hours a week to make a corporation rich.

We built our businesses, I took pictures and Brad designed websites, and we made them work mostly on our own.  We prayed about them and when things were hard we asked God to bless them and help make ends meet.   The beautiful thing is he always did; we always had enough.  We built our businesses and God was our sidekick.

A few years passed and after many late night front porch sessions it was decided that Brad would build a new company that helped people self-publish their writing.  We were older and more in tune with the Lord.   Through prayer this direction felt right, but it was still us doing the building and the grunt work.  Again, we would come to the Lord with prayer requests when money was tight or when there was a tough situation, but this was still a business that WE made and that WE were in control of.    Despite that, He has blessed this business beyond measure and we have learned to hand over more of our lives, little by little, to the God and creator of our Universe.

God began calling Brad and I to full time ministry this past year.  We explored and prayed for what that would be, and slowly the vision came into focus.

We are to start a School for Kingdom Writers here in Zanesville.  Students will live here for two years, immersed in both a writing and Kingdom living program.

For the first time in our lives, this is all God.  There is no way this school would come to fruition by our own accord.  It’s too mighty and massive and we are not skilled in all the parts necessary for it to thrive.  Oh, not to mention the large cost it will incur, and we are a people that live committed to doing everything with zero debt.

But God has relayed to us in many prayer sessions and prophetic words via our brothers and sisters that HE is going to do this in His power, not ours.  We are merely vessels, but he has assured us to dream the big dreams that he is laying on our hearts because they will certainly come to pass.

This doesn’t mean we sit back as passive spectators in our life, but it does mean that we can choose to not participate in the worry and stress that comes with starting a non-profit.  We get the chance to trust our creator fully and without waver, knowing that even as we’ve held onto parts of our lives for our own, HE STILL PROVIDED FOR US.

This is a defining moment in our lives as we take the leap of faith from in control to His control.  We are all in, ready to look like fools for the sake of the advancement of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His wave of great mercy and love is coming in and it will wash over everything in this land, in this community and The School of Kingdom Writers is going to be one part of how He chooses to spread His message.  To God be all the glory.

Seasons

This will be the third September in a row that we enter into a huge life transition.  Two years ago we took over as owners of a restaurant and one year ago we closed that restaurant.

This September the Lord is leading us to a project bigger than ourselves, bigger than we could ever accomplish or set out to do on our own.  In three weeks, we will no longer have a steady income provided by the work of our hands, but we trust that God always pays for what He orders.  This is exciting, wonderful, terrifying and beautiful.  The Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and He wants us all to play a role in this movement.

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When we allow ourselves to live seasonally, not just in the physical seasons, but also with the seasons of life, we begin to appreciate what each one has taught us and how it changes our perspective to look forward to what is next as well as appreciate where we came from.

Sometimes we come from a long, hard and dull winter and we’re left tired and restless.  We can appreciate the newness that is springing forth in our hearts because we’ve been through the wilderness.  Other times we’re worn out and tired from a nonstop summer season and are ready to cozy into a quiet autumn rest.

Seasonal living is a recognition that if we’re walking with the Lord, ALL the experiences we live through are significant.  The negative experiences grow and shift us, and the joyful ones encourage and build us up.

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The year we owned a restaurant was one of the most tumultuous and turbulent years we’ve ever experienced.  There was much joy to be found, but it was coupled with a heavy dose of exhaustion, frustration and feeling a little like God has led us to a place that makes no sense.

When we closed there was a rehabilitation period that we went through as a family.  We were disjointed and quite short with each other while living from a place of stress and exhaustion.  It took time and energy to apply with our children and ourselves to relearn what our priorities are and how to love first.

Just today I realized that I am still readjusting.  I’m learning to get back into routine tasks like walking to the woods on hard days, or good days, just any days.  Getting outside as a family is good for all of us but was one of the first things I dropped during that hard season.

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I parked myself near a patch of butterfly weed this morning and to watch the monarchs, the swallowtails, the cabbage moths and the bumblebees share this glorious plant.  It was incredible and wonderful and reminded me of how much beauty God graced this world with.

We are created in His image and when we appreciate the beautiful butterflies, the stunning flowers of the field and the smells of a late summer walk we are communing with who God is.  He is the most outrageous lover of beauty that ever has or will exist.

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A few years ago during a hard parenting season, God spoke the phrase “steer the ships” to show me what raising many kids would look like.

I got an image of a fleet of old fashioned sailing ships in my mind, some are far ahead, some are a little behind, another might be off to the left or the right but they’re all headed in the same direction.

Sometimes one of us drifts off track, but God reminded me that my job as a parent isn’t to make them exactly like all the other ships but instead to make sure they keep traveling in the same direction as the rest of us.

God has made us wonderfully unique, but he has also formed us into a purposeful family.  We are made to leave a legacy to our children and our grandchildren, and I think the best way to do that is to make sure we are all headed ever closer to the One who matters most.

Past pain.

I woke up with piercing pain in my right thumb. It’s not a new pain and has visited often the past couple of years, making it difficult to do nearly everything from opening toothpaste tubes to writing.

I have received prayer for it and for a time it was healed. I’ll go for weeks not thinking about it but then out of nowhere it begins to hurt again.

I retrace my steps over the previous days. Did I eat too much sugar? Have my phone in my right hand for too long? Perhaps I have a gluten intolerance that is causing inflammation?

I went through all these motions this morning and I even googled arthritis.

Googling, of course, is never a good option and I shut that down quickly. I reached out to a couple of friends for prayer and reminded myself that I am strong and pain is mostly a mental game. If I do things a certain way without bending my thumb it doesn’t hurt, so I rely on my other 9 digits.

Something made me remember, the divine interruption of the Lord I suppose, that this was the finger that I severed as a child, crashing my bike on a steep hill.

Gosh, is that it? Is this an old injury coming back to haunt me?

God told me, “I want to heal you of your past wounds.”

This is a message for me, but I also believe it’s for others dealing with emotional scars. Past wounds can look healed, but are often underlying triggers for pain, hurt and anger.

We think back and wonder if it’s because we didn’t get enough sleep, watched the scary movie, or should have taken a bubble bath instead of mowing the lawn. We feel guilt because we thought we had finally overcome the negativity that was holding us back.

Even when we look healed on the outside, we can be bleeding on the inside.

God’s desire is for us to be free of all pain and to be healed of all wounds. In fact, he already died on the cross for that freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV

The enemy wants to hold us in a place where we think we are OK, but we just can’t place our finger on the rage that wells up, the sadness that grips, or the worry that gnaws. That is NOT the goodness that our God has promised us and it’s time we rise up and take back territory that the enemy thinks he has “claimed”. Good news, the enemy was ALREADY defeated when Jesus died on that cross.

We wait patiently for the day that we get to live in the new heaven and new earth that God has promised us, a place where there will be no more sadness, suffering or pain.  But we’re not there yet and now must contend and fight for our freedom and joy.

He canceled out every legal violation we had on our record and the old arrest warrant that stood to indict us. He erased it all—our sins, our stained soul—he deleted it all and they cannot be retrieved! Everything we once were in Adam has been placed onto his cross and nailed permanently there as a public display of cancellation.

Then Jesus made a public spectacle of all the powers and principalities of darkness, stripping away from them every weapon and all their spiritual authority and power to accuse us. And by the power of the cross, Jesus led them around as prisoners in a procession of triumph. He was not their prisoner; they were his! Colossians 2:14-15 TPT

There is abundant freedom that comes from stepping into the identity that God gives us.  The powers of darkness can no longer accuse us there, the grips of evil can no longer hold us down.  Life with Christ is evermore stepping into the power and authority that he gave us when he died.  There is still evil in the world and bad things are still prevalent, but God in His abundant mercy has made a way for us to move through and around the powers of darkness by recognizing that Christ bore it all!

*If this resonates with you, please reach out to me or someone you trust for prayer. I believe God has healing for you.*

Raspberries

This morning I took the kids to our favorite secluded park to pick black raspberries.  I was certain I would hit paydirt, but instead most of the spots had already been picked over.  We had a great time wading the creek and walking around, but my measly one quart of berries was less than I had hoped for.

I drove away slowly craning my neck for just a few more, and then I spotted it, the mother load of berries!  I gleaned more in a couple of minutes wading through that brush than I had in an hour tromping through the park.

Life with God is so similar.  Just as we’ve shifted our expectations to accepting something is over, lost or gone, He shows up in big and amazing ways.


Black raspberries are a fruit of neglect.  The less you do to your property, the more likely you are to grow berries.  This is truly the perfect kind of harvesting for people like us who strive do the least amount of work possible and don’t care too much (but a little) about how overgrown their place looks.

Our neglect is the earth’s abundance.

Of all your harvests, those
Are pleasantest that come
Freest: blackberries from
Wild fencerows; strawberries
You happen on in crossing
The grassy slopes in June;
Wild cherries and wild grapes,
Sour at first taste, Then sweet;
Persimmons and blackhaws
That you pick up to eat
On days you walk among
The red and yellow leaves;
And walnuts, hickory nuts
Gathered beneath the trees
In your wild foragings
The earth feeds you the way
She feeds the beasts and birds.

An exceprt from Wendell Berry’s poem “The Farm”


The first summer we lived here we went on a trip to Disney World.  I ran down over the hill early the morning we set out on the journey to Orlando and found a patch of wild berries.  I had never eaten a wild raspberry before, despite having grown up in the country, but I plucked one and popped it in my mouth.  We drove off and I spent the next couple of hours worrying that I had in fact ingested a poisonous berry masquerading itself as a harmless raspberry.  Spoiler alert: I survived.

My confidence has grown quite a bit since then, in many ways, and I now find myself plucking weeds out of the ground to dry for salves and counting down the days until our blackberries finally ripen.

God wants to take care of us in the same sort of way if we allow Him.  We don’t have to work hard pruning and cutting and mowing because He will do all of that for us.  He is a good and gracious God that provides us with way more than we could ever imagine.


Picking berries is a poky business.  I suit up in my tall boots and long pants, but still get pricked and poked trying to reach that clump of beautiful berries just a little too far into the bramble.  The scratches are worth it, though every time I think of the first person to successfully receive penicillin because a scratch from his rose bushes turned into a life threatening infection.  Apparently, scratches can be deadly.

Oh, but one bite of those juicy, complexly flavored morsels is worth the bug bites, the scratches, the tromps through the high and itchy grass.  The greater the risk we take the higher the reward, and earth doesn’t give much greater rewards than a ripe black raspberry.

Instead

The grass is growing again.

Last summer we were over our heads in a drowning restaurant, racing to get an addition built and trying to keep a homestead and family from falling prey to many weeds.

It broke us open.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

 Through our brokenness, God has prevailed and has not left us.  The past year has been one of immense growth and change.  We have found the “insteads”.  

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,

the oil of joy
instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3

 I walked outside on a warm summer night and noticed we nearly have a lawn again.  I looked at the overhang that is almost finished, the garden that, despite the weeds, is flourishing, the new herb patch that brings me joy and I can see that God brought us out of a spiritual desolation as well as a personal one.  Our life is flourishing again, and we are forever closer to the One who provided it all.

Instead of complaint, He has given me a spirit of thankfulness.  Instead of frustration, a spirit of patience.

Instead of fear, He has given me faith.

On the move

The morning dew wets my feet as I walk out to cut the feverfew from its stem.

I place the flowers in vases throughout the house.  I will just have to get rid of it in a few days when it is brown and rotten, but this act of bringing the outside in fills me with enough joy that the extra work is worth it.

Isn’t that the the crux of work?  The reward must be worth the effort expended.  For many, the reward of a paycheck feeds their motivation as the alarm clock drones every morning.  Others of us are moved by a spiritual world that is beyond our understanding yet we are aware of this perishing world and look forward to a new Jerusalem.  With this hope in our hearts, we do our jobs with love that comes from the desire for everyone to feel that same hope.

What do we know that is so special?  Only that Jesus allowed his body to be broken so that we could be free.  And until that message resonates deep in the heart of someone they will look at us as fools.  To those of us blessed to be disciples we know that, finally, for first time in our lives we no longer are foolish. 

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

I return to writing after a few hours of life has passed.  The Lord prompted me to take a walk around our gardens and I reflect on how, for the first time in my life, weeding has felt accomplishable this year.  It may still not be enjoyable but I truly have felt a growing satisfaction from keeping my beds as weed free as I am able.  I observe my plants every day with the tenderness of a parent, excited to see buds forming and blossoms opening.

God tends us in this way, and when we are open to the pruning and to the weeding we are free to blossom and bud extravagantly into the true identity he has for us.  No longer will we have to be tossed around by the emotions of life here on this perishing earth, instead we have eternal life to look forward to.  An eternal life free of sadness, sighing and brokenness, filled with never-ending praise and worship of our one true King.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”  John 15:1-2

Look deep into the headlines and you will see the Gospel message coming to life around us.  God always keeps his promises.

“All over the world the gospel is bearing fruit and growing”  Colossians 1:6

A few weeks ago, in that special place between wake and sleep, God gave me a vision.  I saw an amusement park and in the area near a row of carnival games there was a man who looked like a carnie, yet he was completely flat and one dimensional!  But, excitingly, he began to fill up like a balloon and came to life again.  God showed me that those that have felt dull and one dimensional are filling up with the love and Spirit of God to become some of the most wonderful, colorful and radiant human beings you’ve ever seen.

God is on the move.

 

A city redeemed

God is readying Zanesville for a season of transformation.  The old ways are leaving and new life is entering.

The Lord has been strategically drawing people here for decades.  I’ve lost count of how many people have told us they felt led to Zanesville by the Holy Spirit.  One person told me that saw our town as a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14)

Believers that have been crying, “Revival!”  and “Come, Holy Spirit” are beginning to see the fruit of their labor.  The sick are healed, the deaf can hear and the blind see.  The Lord’s presence is gaining strength and we GET to be part of it.

I urge you to cry out for His Kingdom to come in your homes, in your work, in your church, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:8)

God has graciously given me a vision of a flock of birds dropping the Holy Spirit in a circle over our city, so let us “fan into flame the gift of God.” (2 Tim. 1:6)

He is here, have faith!