Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Verse

A royal verse for a royal day...

James 2:8
"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,'
you are doing well."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Orphans vs. Children

Sometimes I am tempted to feel like little orphan Annie. That's not a good day. I forget all the Jesus has promised and done for me.

And some days I feel overwhelmed by the wonderful truth that I am truly God's child. I cry out to God as my Abba, Father. These are good days.

But most days I feel a little of both. Orphan and daughter. And I have discovered that praying through this chart is a good way to ask God to help me experience life more as a daughter and less as an orphan.

You can check out this checklist at World Harvest Mission. Click on the "Orphans vs. Children" PDF link.

Romans 8:15 "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lessons in Liturgy

Growing up in a liturgical church, I often grew tired of the remote prayers and weekly order of worship. The scripted words just kind of rolled off my tongue and were too easy to say without ever thinking or even feeling. I felt like I could go through the motions of worship without fully engaging my heart.

And later I was glad to move on to other styles of worship and more “heartfelt” prayers. At least, that is what I thought back then.

Recently, I have realized the value and purpose of those prayers and liturgy. Much liturgy is straight from scripture. For some churches, it is the only remaining remnant of the Gospel left, sadly.

This past Easter our very contemporary church was having a time of confession during worship. All of a sudden, the familiar words I recited weekly as a young girl popped up on the screen...

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

...and as the words and memories flooded my mind, I realized how thankful I am to have learned them at a young age. These prayers taught me how to talk to God. They taught me how to repent. They were a tutor for living the Christian life. And I'm grateful. Now, when I am at a loss for words to pray, these familiar words lead me to God.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Habakkuk Prayer

Even though there's no milk for morning cereal,
nor bread and fruit for lunch,
the children are still bickering
and I have no clue what to cook for dinner,
even though they're grumbling about their schoolwork
and my do-list is a mile long,
YET I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just Right!

This spring at a homeschool curriculum fair I searched high and low for just the right Bible curriculum. In years past, I've sort of gone the devotional route with our Bible time in school, and of course we've had plenty of verses to memorize for our weekly Awana Club. But I wanted to find a curriculum that did an overview of each book of the Bible while connecting them as one grand story.

So I searched and searched and searched....and I felt a bit like the Berenstain Bears in Old Hat, New Hat.

I found some that were too long. Too weak. Too out-dated. Too much. Too little. Too moralistic. Too fragmented. Too boring!

Then I came home, and as I was cleaning out an old desk and throwing out old curriculum catalogs, I happened to glance at one. Suddenly I spotted it: A Bible course for children that is a historical, chronological study of the Bible for kids. It's called God's Great Covenant, and it's published by Classical Academic Press.
I think I found it--one that is just right!

Here's what their website says about the course:

"Teaching the Bible to young children can be a large task, and is often divided up into many small stories. However, if you would like to teach your students the truly big picture of the Bible, and show them how God has been at work in his people since before creation, you will find God’s Great Covenant to be a unique, surprising, and excellent Bible curriculum. The Bible, taught chronologically, by means of simple and direct stories, chants, and meditation on God’s character define God’s Great Covenant. Even many adults find themselves learning new facts, making surprising connections, and being blessed by reminder of God’s faithfulness, and how he always keeps his promises. Taught from a covenantal and reformed theological perspective, and rooted in Scripture, you will find this series to be a blessing to your classroom or family."

I'm really excited to use this with my youngest two this fall. There's even an audio file that you can purchase to listen to on the go. Nice!

I'm thankful to have discovered this series. I know it's not perfect, as no curriculum is, but it's what I had in mind all along.

Growing a Garden

Our Garden of Gratitude
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"

I woke up this morning needing to preach the Gospel to myself again. It's only the day after Easter, but I happen to have a very, very short short-term memory. So it's time to again pave new trails in my mind and think on things that are true, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy. And grow a Garden of Gratitude in my heart along with my children.

60. Celebrating Resurrection Day with dear friends
61. Amazing Love!
62. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies...
63. Growing Gardens of Gratitude
64. "Behold, I am making all things new!"
65. Indelible Grace music
66. April showers
67. Safety from severe St. Louis storms
68. Easter Monday faith
69. Let Me Be A Woman by Elisabeth Elliot
70. Leftover Easter candy

Sunday, April 24, 2011


When I started my mini-marathon this week, I was hoping some would run with me and join me in reading the Gospel of John this week leading up to Easter. I didn't expect to run with Mary and the disciples of long ago, though.

As I was nearing the end of my race through John, the words jumped out on the page. After Mary sees the stone of the tomb removed, she runs to Peter. She runs!

Then I read...
"So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in...Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed."

They see the empty tomb. There certainly is some confusion, and they can't explain it all, but later Jesus appears and makes the mystery clear. He reveals himself to them several times, but my favorite is when he reunites with his disciples at the sea for a breakfast of fish and bread. After the sadness of the Last Supper, joy returns in the morning of this First Breakfast.

And I wonder: Do I run to the truth of the resurrection each day, yes, each moment of my life? Do I let the new life of Jesus transform my every action? Do I see and believe? Do I live the new resurrected life? Do I experience the victory of the empty tomb every day?

Thank you, Jesus, for your victory that's mine because of Easter. Make me an Easter person every day. May I always run to you!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Last Days

Nearing the end of our Gospel sprint through John...

What would you do in your last days here on earth? What does Jesus do? He comforts us and prays for us. Amazing love!

John 16:22
"So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."

John 16:33
"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

John 17:15
"I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one."

Jesus is betrayed, arrested, accused, mocked, deserted, condemned, flogged, beaten, and crucified. And then he is buried. Thankfully, that is not the end of the story.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Running To The End

In John today...
"Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." To. The. End.

Jesus, the ultimate servant, washes His disciples feet. Yes, even the betrayer's feet. He serves His enemy. And how do we treat those who betray us? We are to serve them, like Jesus. To. The. End.

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
How do we do this? How often do we fail to do this? Lord, help us to love others like you. To. The. End.

"Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full...This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
We abide. We love. We lay down our lives like Jesus. To. The. End.

We cling to the True Branch of Life that was crushed for our death, for our joy, for our life. He did this to His own end--for our new beginning.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gospel Sprint

Still sprinting through the Gospel of John this Easter week. Are you running with me?

I saw the Good Shepherd again. "He calls His own sheep by name." Really? Why do I so often forget this? I forget that He really knows my name. So my heart sang, "Savior, Like a Shepherd Led Us," our wedding hymn from nearly 14 years ago. Thou hast bought us, thine we are...

The death of Lazarus was not just a beautiful prelude to Jesus' resurrection, but it made me once again realize that Jesus really does know our emotions. Really. He too was "moved in His spirit and greatly troubled." He cried real tears of pain and sadness.

And then there's Mary and Martha again. Martha is still serving, and Mary has once again chosen what is best. She uses her best perfume to lavish love on Jesus. Oh, how can I be more like Mary than Martha?

Triumphantly, the ancient words of Zephaniah are fulfilled:
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;

righteous and having salvation is he,

humble and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

And I am rejoicing!

I ask myself the all important questions:

"Which do I love more? The glory that comes from man or the glory that comes from God?"


"How can I wash another's feet?"


"What does it look like to lay down my life for my friends?"


"Do I truly believe that apart from Jesus I can do absolutely nothing?"


"Why do I all too easily forget that I have a Helper?"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Running Through the Gospel

I'm running a mini-marathon through the Gospel of John.

Today in John...
"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone..."
John 8:7

So much confusion over who Jesus was. Jesus caused quite a stir...mostly with the chief priests and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. How sad as conflicts among followers of God continue to spill over into our lives today.

Jesus, help us see you for who you truly are, and in seeing ourselves as chief among sinners, may we lay down our stones. Forever. For only when those stones disappear will we see new resurrection life in our relationships.

Easter Reading

I intended to read the Bible in a year last year. Didn't happen.

I also planned to read the whole Gospel of John during Lent leading up to Easter. Failed again.

I even hoped to work on some weekly Bible memorization using my nifty Fighter Verse app from Desiring God Ministries. That lasted just a few weeks. I'm behind now and don't know if I can even catch up.

I live in the land of good intentions and well-made plans. I just stink at the follow through.

This Easter week I've decided I need to keep it simple, though. So I'm reading through the book of John all week this week. (Yes, in my mind, this is simple. Short term goals are better for me.) I'm thinking since there are 21 chapters, that's 3 chapters a day for each day of Holy Week to take a sweeping look at the life, ministry, and last days of Jesus. I can't remember the last time I have read the book as a whole, so I'm excited. This is one goal I'm really, really hoping to keep.

I met the Word Made Flesh. He is LIGHT and LIFE.

I was reminded that from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.

John the Baptist announced "Prepare the way of the Lord" and my heart sang a familiar tune from long gone Bible camp days.

Jesus called his first disciples, and I remembered why we named our second born Andrew. We prayed that like this disciple, he would have a special relationship with his brother and with his Savior.

Jesus turned water into wine, and I am thankful that we have a God who celebrates extravagantly.

I was once again reminded that "He must increase but I must decrease."

And today...
I am reminded how much I am like the woman at the well...prostituting my heart out to idols that will never truly satisfy when I am really thirsting for living water. So I say with my sister, "Give me this water, too, Jesus."

I realize that I am also the blind, lame, and paralyzed. Too many days I am blinded by my own sin. I often fail to walk in the fullness of the Gospel. Sadly, some days I am even paralyzed by fear. Thank you, God, for meeting me in my need and bringing healing.

And I can't help but wonder when I read the feeding of the five thousand. How did I forget that when Jesus took the bread and fish from that generous young boy, He first gave thanks? He hadn't even multiplied it yet. It still wasn't enough, but He thanked God for the little, and God made it much. Enough. Ann Voskamp puts it well: "Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle."

Care to join me in reading John this week? You can catch up and we can finish strong by Easter. Kind of like running a little mini Gospel-marathon together. Except instead of 26.2, we only have 21 chapters to cover!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Gift Giveaway-CLOSED

I'm hosting my first giveaway. A gift for you. I wish I could give away 1000 copies of One Thousand Gifts, but I have one special copy to send to one very special someone. I'm praying for this person right now. Could it be you?

Ann Voskamp's book has been a best seller for weeks now. Why? It's unlike anything you've ever read. It's a memoir. It's poetry. It's wisdom and honesty and painful questions and a courageous challenge to look at all of life differently. To receive all of God's gifts as good. As Ann bravely shares her story, you, too, may be inspired to count gifts along with her. I was.

So I have a copy of this amazing and beautiful book sitting on my kitchen counter, and as I cook and clean and meditate on Holy Week all week, I will be praying for the next person who will be blessed by this treasure. I can't wait to send it off as my Easter gift to you.

Here's several ways to enter:
1-Simply leave me a comment. I love comments--your words are gifts! And that's one entry.
2-"Like" this post on Facebook, and come back and leave me another comment telling me you did for a second entry.
3-Want to enter again? Consider subscribing to my blog, His Story to Tell. I'd love to share our stories together. Let me know you did by leaving me another comment for a third entry.

I'll randomly pick a winner this Friday, April 22. Good Friday. It'll be good, indeed!
AND THE WINNER IS....Beth! So glad to pass on the blessing! Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mountain Chickens

51. The smile of success on my boys--Thank You, Lord for strong minds!
52. Visiting the herpetarium with my snake-loving boys
53. Mountain Chickens--God's creativity in Caribbean animals
54. Two iguanas in love: "They are on a date, Mommy!"
55. Up close and personal...with the giraffe--My, what big tongue you have!
56. Holding my growing girl's hand--please don't ever get too old for this
57. The squeal of joy from my animal-loving daughter as we explore
58. LIFE--all around us
59. A free zoo. Thank you, St. Louis!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Add to the Beauty

Love this song from Sara Groves. I can't help but hum along as I count the gifts around me. Listen to the lyrics...

We come with beautiful secrets
We come with purposes written on our hearts, written on our souls
We come to every new morning
With possibilities only we can hold, that only we can hold

Redemption comes in strange place, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are...

And I want to add to the beauty To tell a better story...

This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful...

49. Mercies new every morning
50. Eucharisteo: finding beauty everywhere

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beautiful Things by Gungor

Found a new favorite. Kind of reminds me of the folksy music from the movie Once.

This album is on sale on Amazon. Check it out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sanctuary in the City

We walked.

He led. We followed.

"Let's take this street. We've got time," he announced.

"But my way is faster, " I challenged.

Funny, he's choosing adventure, and I'm voting for efficiency. How the tables turn.

Slowing from our quick city pace, we notice the brave blooms of spring and catch the scent of early blossoms and then we discover it...

A sanctuary in the city. Serenity amidst chaos.

"Let's go inside," he suggests.

"But do we have time?" I wonder.

"Should we even be here?" the little ones question.

We enter, and time stands still.

Our eyes are naturally drawn upward. Our feet slow to a still, and our hands reach for other lenses. We have to store up this moment forever.

"Mommy, come pray with me."

Really? She's inviting me to talk to God?

We kneel and pause and whisper and believe.

This mosaic of marvelous beauty transports me from the mess of the menial and mundane.

Our necks strain to gaze heavenward and drink it all in.

Fill my cup, Lord, and let it overflow. Let me never forget the contrast of this moment. In the chaos and cacophony of my crazy life, slow time down and make me rest in your sanctuary of Truth, Beauty and Hope.

46. Following his lead
47. Following His lead
48. Can I say it again, "SPRING!"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Storms

This weekend our son is off to a "Spring Storm" retreat with bus loads of other tweeners and some pretty amazing superhero-like saints. I'm praying that the weekend will be full of memories and meaningful growth in his relationship with God and his friends. And I'm also thinking about other spring storms we've experienced...

Last year God brought about the "perfect storm" in my life. A trio of troubles, if you will. I was approaching homeschool burnout, our new neighborhood was still empty, and commuting miles to church left us feeling distant and empty each week. I remember one dark night crying out to Doug,

"Something needs to change."

We talked. We prayed and waited. Finally, we realized that God was wanting us to start looking for community closer to home. Imagine that. But it's hard to say no to a good thing and walk in faith towards a God-thing.

I wonder...

"Was this how Peter felt when Jesus gave the invitation to step into water waves towards Him?"

And just like He promised, God gave us bread and fish, not stones or serpents. He led us to a place of refuge and to Refuge, a young community of believers that longs to love God and people extravagantly with truth and grace.

And suddenly I see the rainbow after the rain.

41. Refuge Church, St Charles
42. Purple blossoms majesty
43. "Count it all joy..."
44. Spring Storm and spring storms
45. A weekend away

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Counting and Remembering

Still counting my blessings around here and remembering Easter.

Another favorite tradition I've had since childhood is celebrating Jesus as our Passover Lamb by baking, decorating, and eating yummy lamb cake.

I can almost taste the coconut...

31. Eucharisteo: new eyes to see
32. God is good (always) & He loves me (forever)
33. The lost is found
34. A broken lamp, but an honest son
35. Sweet 12-year old friend leading worship
36. Sunshine & Vitamin D
37. Spontaneous playdates
38. Dear Easter memories
39. Jesus, Lamb of God
40. Coconut, jellybeans, and cream cheese frosting

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Keeping Jesus in Easter

We have had family devotions that have worked. And then we have had many more that have ended up in disaster. I could tell you more stories about the times that our expectations were too high, times we were too tired, and times when we ended up just plain lecturing. One memorable night we even had popcorn flying, people crying, and parents repenting. Not the kind of sweet family together time you've always dreamed of.

But then there's Easter.

Easter is my favorite holiday. It truly is a holy day, the most holiest. Without Easter, there would be no purpose for Christmas. There would be no real thanks in Thanksgiving. All the other days in between would be meaningless and hopeless.

Some years back when our children were very small we started a very simple Easter tradition during Holy Week. It went something like this. On Palm Sunday we would come home from church and act out Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Doug would be the donkey, and the kids would take turns pretending to be Jesus and ride on his back. We would lay our coats on the floor, wave paper palm branches, and shout "Hosanna!"

Later in the week on Maundy Thursday, we would spread a picnic blanket on the floor of our living room and each a supper of bread, cheese, nuts, and fruits. We would talk about how Jesus shared the cup of wine with his disciples and told them it was his blood. He broke the bread and declared that it was his body. Our family would eat french baguettes together and drink grape juice as we remembered this special supper Jesus had with his friends. Then, according to the John 13 account, we would have a family foot washing ceremony and even sing a song to end the night.

The next day we would celebrate Good Friday. Growing up, I remember meaningful Good Friday services in my little Lutheran church. The churches we have gone to as a married couple have sadly never had a Good Friday service, so we had our own at home. Doug would find two pieces of scrap wood to form a cross. Then, on little scraps of paper, we would write the names of sins we were struggling with or simply the word "SIN," and then we would take turns nailing the papers to the cross. These papers would magically disappear on Easter morning.

One of my favorite traditions at Easter has been telling the Easter story with homemade Resurrection Eggs. While you can buy a beautiful set in the store, you can make an even cheaper and more meaningful set at home with an empty egg carton, leftover plastic Easter eggs, and simple objects like a nail, a piece of cloth, and a tiny stone. These little treasures inside each egg have helped my children to retell the story of Easter over and over and over again.

Thankfully, Easter has been a time of sweet memories, and it has also been a time to recommit to discipling our children. While we'll continue these Holy Week traditions, I'm also considering adding something new to our Easter memories. Here's some Easter ideas I've found on the web:
  • Noel Piper has a Lenten devotional using candles called "Lenten Lights."
  • Ann Voskamp has directions to create a beautiful Easter passion tree here.
  • An article from Focus on the Family shared many of the same Holy Week activities I mentioned above and more.
So, how do you keep Jesus in Easter?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Simple Gift

She quietly pulled me aside and whispered, "Kara, I have a gift for you." In my hands she placed a small, simple diary, complete with lock and key. It reminded me of something I once had as a young girl filled with childish hopes and future dreams.

"Why?" I asked. It wasn't my birthday. It wasn't Christmas. It was just an ordinary day, but this was out of the ordinary.

"I want you to record in this journal all the verses that remind you of how God loves you. And then I want you to go verse by verse and pray that God would help you to love your husband in the same way that He loves you."

My eyes welled up with tears. She knew my struggles. She knew how often I had rejected God's extraordinary love and how I had failed to love my husband well. She knew, but she didn't condemn. She filled my heart with hope that day. Her simple gift changed everything. And I am forever grateful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's Only a Camera

We arrived home from a little spring break getaway to find a wonderful surprise planted in our front yard. A tree.

This discovery brought pure joy to all of our hearts. A tree! My children imagined climbing. My husband imagined shade. I imagined glorious spring blossoms and majestic fall leaves. Now our house really feels like a home. We have a tree!

One morning later my sweet daughter's voice sang, "Mommy, Mommy! A robin! We have a robin in our tree!" And our feet ran to grab the fancy camera lens to capture a memory of our new friend.

A split second later the winged creature was gone and so was our perfect picture. I set the camera on the ledge to wait for his return.

And then it happened. Moments later, I would experience the first of many a "hard eucharisteo" that Ann Voscamp describes in One Thousand Gifts.

That same sweet daughter, fleeing her schoolwork, wisks her beloved toy off the ledge, and simultaneously knocks the new, expensive camera off the ledge, and it crashes onto the hardwood floor.

I scream, "NOOOOO!" and I hold more words back, and my heart sinks a thousand depths. I hold my breath as I fumble to turn it on, but nothing happens. I inhale slowly, and this time I do not scream. I think, "My daughter's heart is more important than this camera." And, "That's why there are camera repair shops for times like this." And "I'd rather have a broken camera than a broken daughter." But I really, really, really want to scream and cry and hit my tear stained pillow. Instead, the little one runs upstairs and does this for the both of us.

I try to convince the boys to return to their schoolwork while I attempt to console her. My emotional middle son knows, though, and asks, "Can I please come with you and help? I think she needs some love right now."

We talk her through it. We pray together through it. It's only a camera. We have more blessings than we can imagine, and it's only a camera. It's only a camera.

And then it happens. Big brother suddenly appears and announces, "LOOK! I got it to work. It's working! It's working!" And we cry and hug and laugh and breathe again. A small miracle happens to my camera. A bigger miracle happens in my heart.

And I begin to learn the new language lessons of giving thanks and discovering joy in everything. Even the hard things.

Later that day, I hear my sweet girl's words one more time. "Mommy! He's back! He's back!" She quietly asks, "Can we take a picture now?" And we run to get the camera. And we miss him again. But this time, we know better where to leave the lens while we wait for his return. Now we are thankful God has given us new eyes to see. And we count our blessings again.

29. Our first tree and first robin
30. A working Canon Rebel T1i