Baseball 2020!

What horrible luck – Spectrum finally ends the stalemate so everyone can finally watch the Dodgers and there is no baseball season!

The thing about this whole covid-19 thing is that every day is like a whole new ballgame.  And I started thinking right off the bat, the whole baseball lingo really describes this current season of life.
Warning – the following may be too much for you… just trying to cover my bases!
For starters, No matter how on the ball we are in ministry, we were really thrown a curve ball this year.  Several on our strike teams are pinch-hitting for others and MANY are stepping up to the plate to help the team.  And others have been touching base with friends regularly!

I could be way off base, but I think that together we are batting a thousand as we play hard ball with this virus.  Even though we are rookies at dealing with this we are keeping our eye on the ball (goal) and trusting God to coach us to victory!

Okay, you have probably had more than enough!  But really baseball is a lot like life.  It is a team sport – it can’t be played or won alone.  Everyone has a specific role to play/job to do.  One person can make a difference, no matter how late in the game it is.   Sometimes we have to make sacrifices.  And sometimes we make errors or end up in a slump.  Everyone benefits from encouragement and cheering on.  Many things aren’t fair, there are ups and downs, but a true player learns to make the most of the opportunities he gets.  It can be as fun to watch as it is to play.  The goal is always home!  (How is that for hitting it out of the park?!)  Thanks for humoring me through these very random thoughts, that may even seem out of left field!

There is a sign as you leave the Angel’s ballpark which says: In life, as in baseball, it is the number of times you safely reach home that counts.  My dear friend Ruth has said that when she travels she prays that she and her loved ones will all safely reach home.  Of course you can see the double meaning…asking for protection for safe travels in this life, and also to safely arrive in heaven.  That is my prayer too.

2 Tim 4:7 says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful.”  We can remain faithful to the calling, no matter how the play is called.

FYI – Of course baseball is biblical. 
In the big inning (beginning), Eve stole first, Adam stole second.  Cain struck out Abel, Rebekah went to the well with a pitcher, Moses stretched out his hand and caught it, Gideon rattled the pitchers,  Goliath was put out by David, the Angels and the Giants were rained out, Ezekiel caused men to walk and the prodigal son made a home run.

On Hold

So the other day I called my phone company to add a personal hotspot to one of the lines on my plan. I was on hold for over 2 hours so eventually the “soothing” music was not so soothing and I was worried that I would be cut off and have to start over. It reminded me of Phoebe Buffet from the TV show Friends who was on hold for 2 days. Eventually I got through and the situation was taken care of, but it got me thinking about how to behave when life is put on hold. Most of us are not used to being slowed down and we don’t like having to stay home. We don’t like waiting for our turn; we don’t do well with long lines; we can’t stand a lack of choices or being limited in any way. Yes, it is hard to be patient, to take orders from authorities, to feel out of control (As if we ever had control anyway!) Yet, this exactly what we are called every day – to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer, Rom.12:12.

The Bible is full of people whose lives were on hold and most were for much longer than 2 hours or 2 days. Joseph was on hold for 2 years in prison. Abraham and Sarah waited for years for an heir and Hannah for a son. Paul waited a long time to be a missionary to the gentiles. Heb. 11:13 says that some people who waited even died in faith before receiving the answer at the end of the long hold! Think about this: being on hold can actually be a good thing, especially if we let faith change us even before it changes our circumstances. Seeds die before a harvest is reaped. Germs are thwarted when we don’t touch anything. Patience’s perfect work makes us complete.

There is a sense that this time of social distancing and quarantine is like being on hold. We have no idea when the order to stay at home will be lifted. We don’t have any idea when the store shelves will be restocked or if the stock market will stop sliding downhill. Being on hold is not fun but God is more concerned about how we conduct ourselves while “on hold”.  We can sit angrily and plan a sharp response to the person who will eventually answer at the other end, or we can do plenty of other things while waiting our place in the queue!  We can exercise. We can pray.  We can put on someone else’s “shoes”. We can tidy up our “waiting” room. We can practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques. We can let God be God. We can look ahead and make plans for the celebration when we are finally released from the temporary prison of being on hold.

I think the best thing to do while being on hold is to hold on. Hold on to hope. Hold on to joy. Hold on to the promises. Hold on to the One who first laid hold of us (Phil. 3:12).  Let’s hang on and hang in there together.

Happy Anniversary!

40 years ago your marriage began. I am so blessed to have been there. It is a privilege to stand up for a marriage but it is also a responsibility to stand before God and loved ones and promise to support and pray for and defend another’s relationship. I have tried to not taken that job lightly.  It is still humbling and I am grateful that you asked me. I truly believe the goal of a marriage, rather than the reason, is an important distinction.  How can a person best honor God with their life? If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then how can I honor God in all of my relationships? Perhaps it includes daily putting another’s needs before my own and becoming one with that person to shine even brighter as witnesses in a dark world.  Marriage is an opportunity from God to grow further in faith with another person and yours does that well. Thank you for the example you set for my own marriage. Thank you for the example you set for others, primarily your children and grand children.

Marriage is God’s idea. In fact, I would suggest that it is meant to be the closest understanding of the intimate relationship that the triune God experiences. People are meant to live in communion with one another, sharing life and love with others sacrificially, like the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Further, there may be no analogy used more in scripture to illustrate the love Christ has for his Church than that of marriage; bridegroom and bride, husband and wife. If the writers of scripture see this spousal relationship as important enough to illustrate Christ’s love, the conclusion can be drawn that the love and communion shared in marriage must have profound importance. No other relationship symbolizes life and love as marriage does.

People often ask couples who have been married for a long time what the secret to their happily ever after is. I would love to hear your answers but I am sure part of that is based on your relationship to the Lord as well as choosing to love one another each day. 

Once I saw an anniversary card that showed an older couple holding hands and the caption said something to the effect, “Falling in love is easy, but growing old in love is a rare gift.” Both are incredible parts of life and you have enjoyed both.

  • Young love loves every quirky thing they do and mature love loves them even when they are driving you crazy.
  • Young love sees every new adventure as exciting. Mature love realizes it is all an adventure – even the little moments.
  • Young love is finding the right person. Mature love is being the right person.
  • Young love does everything is its power to make the other happy; and mature love knows that making difficult and selfless choices means more than one’s own desires.
  • Young love wants to introduce them to all your best friends. Mature love knows an intimacy that is deeper and closer than any other best friend you’ve ever had.
  • Young love does everything to be noticed and valued by the other. Mature love notices and values everything and every moment with the other.
  • Young love brings out the best in oneself. Mature love brings out the best in the other.
  • Young love enjoys the sweet, easy laughter that comes with being new. Mature love means making each other laugh the unquenchable laugh of grace.
  • Young love looks forward to the next moment you get to spend together and treasures the little things. Mature love knows without a doubt that they will be there every moment in your heart, and thankfully hears their happy voice in the next room or the quiet breathing next to you each night.
  • Young love can’t stop thinking about the other person. Mature love can’t either.
  • Young love means uncovering all the layers of the person who has captivated you and revealing more of yourself to them piece by piece. Mature love can’t tell the difference between your 2 hearts for the two are one, knowing that there is no end to the depths of love.
  • Young love cannot stop looking at the other person. Mature love is 2 people looking together in the same direction.
  • Young love is based on emotion. Mature love is a decision.
  • Young love’s story starts ‘once upon a time’. Mature love’s story is ‘happily ever after’.

May you both continue grow in wisdom, joy and grace before God and your families.

May your home always be a place of truth and lovingkindness, of faith and good will toward all who enter it.

May your marriage advance the kingdom.

May the blessings of the last 40 years be only a glimpse of the joys yet to come.

May the God who has kept you together, in His infinite goodness and mercy, continue to mold you into the likeness of  His Son.

May the Lord look upon you with favor and preserve you all your days.

May your life instill hope and may you never lose sight of the cross for Jesus’ sake.


Boring is a bad word

Are you bored? Is sheltering at home driving you crazy? Have you binged watched until you want to puke? Have you cleaned and purged every corner of your living space? I have heard that word more in the last few weeks than I have in quite awhile so I felt compelled to share my views.

One of the assignments I used to assign my TIU classes was a Creativity Calendar, where the students were to proactively plan something creative every day for 30 days. It takes 21 days to create a habit and then 6 weeks to make that habit “permanent.” The idea was to do something, however small, that was different to start to work out the imagination muscle, which for many had atrophied.  Creativity is a muscle that grows stronger as it is flexed.  And if we don’t flex it, it won’t move, as most muscles do not put themselves into action.

Since we are created in the image of the Creator we are all made in His creative likeness. Many people who say they are not creative are really just people who have ignored this reality or have narrowed the definition of creativity and imagination to people who dance and draw, in much the same way that modern Christians have reduced the majesty of worship to singing alone.  God’s world is full of wonders and we have the great privilege and responsibility to communicate His beauty in many and varied ways.  Additionally, creativity is contagious. When I hear stories of people in history who used it, I catch it. When I hang around so many creative people within so many different disciplines, I am challenged to behave likewise. For example, as the people I work with come up with creative solutions to and during this pandemic and share them, it inspires other creativity.

Being bored is a choice! We are all familiar with the experience of boredom: full bookshelves with nothing to read, hundreds of channels with nothing to watch on TV, forced stillness on a long car ride without distraction. It is the acute awareness of time’s passing.  Even with the constant companionship of the internet, social media and 24/7 shopping, we are still bored! Having down time is sometimes necessary and a good thing as it pushes us to reflect and discover new things. While being still and restful is a healthy discipline, being thoughtlessly idle and lazy, or bored, is not a good thing.  The former is restorative as we realign with the Creator and the latter is tedious and draining.  The former gives spiritual purpose and the latter drowns direction and focus.

Being bored some would consider a sin. I don’t know about that, but I would say that is the sign of a shallow mind and the result of consumerism and an entitled attitude that needs constant entertainment and stimuli.  “I’m bored” is a phrase that I consider to be in the same category as “You’re stupid” and “That’s retarded”. Offensive words of cursing that I do not say and I would not allow my kids to say when they were growing up. Have you ever heard, “if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”? That is just nonsense. But, I would adapt it to say, “if you don’t stop being bored I will give you something really boring to do!” Any push to get unstuck, a swift kick in the proverbial pants, can start the creative juices flowing again.  It reminds me of Brother Lawrence who committed to looking for God’s presence in every day and the discipline of doing all, even washing dishes, to the glory of God. When we say we are bored it feels like we are denying God’s value in us as He designed us for something more.

I think that imagination kills boredom. As we learn ways to illuminate creativity, we reflect the glory of the Lord. In fact, imagination may be the most godly work our minds do. It is the closest we get to creating something ex nihilo – out of nothing.  Imagination and creativity are part of who we are as Christ followers, because to walk in another person’s shoes, to live compassionately, to be readily available, to pray in the name of the Lord is dependent on the imaginative love of the person who hears and obeys the whispers and prompts the Holy Spirit. Additionally, it is God-honoring to live like the King,  Humor and creativity are in the same side of the brain and they both influence each other, building our joy and hope as we use them regularly.

When people “give up” something for lent, the idea is to “fast” in order to focus on the Lord and the holiest day of the year. The problem is that most people go back to whatever they went without as soon as Easter comes; they start eating chocolate or meat or return to facebook. That is all okay because none of those things is inherently wrong, and going without helps us remember to be grateful for things we would normally take for granted. I would like to propose that the purpose of lent is actually not about doing without for 40 days; rather it is about what we need to do or change. Is there a sin to confess, or a lifestyle choice to repent from? Is there something I can do to be more like Jesus, that I can keep doing for 40 years until He returns or calls me home?  Since the COVID-19 crisis we have all had to think differently about how we treat others and how we care for God’s creation.  This pandemic may last for more than 40 days and it definitely has the potential to be a life-altering event.  At the very least, it shows us the things we have taken for granted and helped us to count our blessings.

Since we live in an over stimulated, busy culture bombarded by choices, activities and entertainment it is hard to recognize this abrupt halt as an opportunity to step out of a rut. It reminds me of the sensation of motion that lingers after a ride has stopped. It may take awhile to redirect our thoughts and activities but it really has been a blessing to have this season of rest. Time will tell if it is transformative or if we will just go back to our old habits after the pandemic goes away. But instead of giving in to idleness and apathy, join me in creating new things, renewing old habits, and living joyfully each day with a grateful heart. It sure beats boring.

This is something I wrote awhile ago and tweaked it last week as I thought about this current crisis. Keep your hope in the battle.

President Trump said that we are at war with this pandemic. Since we are at war, I am reminded once again that, in addition to hand washing and human separation, hope is a powerful weapon.  Hope is a word that can be used over and over and not used enough.  It can mean anything like ‘I hope you can avoid this virus’ to ‘I hope you can find toilet paper’.  Similarly, the word love in English does the same thing. It can mean that you love ice cream or the beach to I love my family. Just as the Bible says that God is love (I John 4:7,8) it says that Christ is our hope (Col.1:28). While the regular use of the word hope includes uncertainty, biblical hope does not convey doubt at all (as in I hope so), rather it means confidence, security, assurance. (There is never a “so” after the word hope in the Bible.)

Biblical hope desires something good in the future BUT it expects it to happen!  And even more, it is confident that it will be a reality! Hope is more than just logical or mathematical certainty, it also includes an assurance based on the character and will of the person. There is a certainty that comes from knowing about a person; because I am certain in God and his character and will, I can sleep at night.  I can make it through rough times.  I can say, “Hope in God and expect great things” and I do not have to add, “cross your fingers or don’t hold your breath!” When hope is founded on the Rock there is no doubt!  In Hebrews 11:18 it says that Abraham, against all hope, became the father of many nations.  I think that is because it was humanly impossible and yet hope looks away from man to the promises of God.  Paul tells us that Abe’s hopeful faith was reckoned as righteousness.

So, how is hope a weapon?  Studies show that hope can be transformed into biochemistry. Attitude can directly be linked to how hopeful we are.  In fact our attitude can lead to a perspective on life that is either optimistic or pessimistic and that can also affect our health.  Hoping in God does not come naturally, but the Bible says in Hebrews 11, the great chapter of faith, which begins with hope, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” This carries the idea that all the actions of the heroes of the Bible were made possible because God honored their faith based on hope; all the confidence that comes from knowing for sure, without question, what we have been promised in God’s word as we lean into Him! Accepting the gift of eternal life means that hope is based on the entirety of God’s Word, the entirety of God’s character and the finished work of Christ. We can live with endless hope, while those who don’t know what we know live thinking that life has a hopeless end. It all boils down to this – hope is the full assurance of faith!  It is the part of faith that focuses on the future or faith in the future tense!

So hope sharpens resolve. It pushes back doubt and despair. It attacks grief and self-pity.  Hope increases victory by never failing, giving up, losing, or retreating.  Hope increases as we are grateful, through the Word, declaring and worshipping, remembering and leaning in.

Often we have to wait for something we want.  If we purchase something online we have to wait for delivery. If we are going on a trip we have to wait with anticipation.  Hope is the same way.  If we have something we don’t have to hope for it.  But if we don’t have it we have to wait patiently. Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible.  It’s all going to turn out all right.” It is the same thing with this war against COVID-19! We wait with hope that we will win the war as we lean in to the One in whom we hope.

Everyday, in the midst of chaos, new routines, upheaval and uncertainty, we cling to hope. One of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, is: “Never Forget. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies”.

Emily Dickinson, a favorite poet, wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,…

Someone once said that a person can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air, but only 3 seconds without hope. (Perhaps 3 hours without a computer/phone – or is that pushing it!?) Biblical hope as opposed to optimism or wishful thinking is an amazing thing because it is certainty, a confident expectation, rooted in promise and a trustworthy God! So, we are full of hope and we are ready to give an account to anyone who asks of the hope that lies within us. We are singing about the best of things: HOPE!

We long to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Rom 12:12). Amen.

Other thoughts:

Hope in God is a shield in life. It is a defensive weapon and protects us.  (Ps. 33:20)

As we remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, hope grows and we are able to quiet a downcast spirit. (Ps. 33:18-22)

As believers we are called to give answers based on the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) Hope is unending (Ps. 131:3)

Hope is to be fixed on Grace (1 peter 1:13-16)

Hope is built through trials.  It is made stronger as we persevere. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2)

Hope defeats discouragement. It is like a reservoir of emotional strength.  It doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:3-5) (Ps. 42:11)

Hope gives strength to repay evil with good. It acts as a shield against self pity.

Hope gives a second wind to keep going and not give up.

When I am tempted it is hope that helps me hold fast to the way of righteousness.

Hope is like a tank that needs to be filled daily.  Ps. 71:14.  As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Praise and a thankful heart keeps the reservoir overflowing with joy!

Rom. 12:12 – Be joyful in hope!

As we rest in him without worrying about tomorrow since it is already taken care of by God Ps. 62:5.  We can be secure because of hope (Job 11:18)

24 is Pure Gold!

Today, Clay, you are 24 years old. Kobe’s number! How is this possible?!  You are the same age your dad was when I married him. He seemed older than you feel to me. Perspective is interesting isn’t it?!

I wonder at what I can say to you today that would be even be close to what I want to express to you. You are my son. Actually, my only begotten son! And my favorite son! I can remember all of your 2 dozen birthdays and wish I could relive them.

24 karat gold is the purest unit that the precious metal is. The Bible talks about the refining process of precious metals like gold and silver as a comparison to the process that God does in each of our lives. While I would never want to wish that God would “turn the heat up” in anyone’s life, I do know that it is the only way to transform us into the image of His Son. We are similar to lumps of unrefined gold. The sacrifice of God’s Son to reconcile us shows just how much he values us — even while we are lost and separated from him. He is the refiner and we are unrefined gold, full of impurity and full of potential beauty. God loves us too much to leave us as we are because our impure selves cannot reflect clearly all of who He is!

Our fullest joy is realized in the growing brilliance of our reflection of Him in our lives. The refining process is hot. To refine gold, heat must be applied to force the impurities to the surface. As the impurities rise, they are removed and more heat is applied. This process continues and continues, heat is applied and re-applied, until the gold is pure. The refiner knows the gold is pure when he looks into the gold and sees His clear reflection. We know that it isn’t easy but it does yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12). The process ends when we meet Jesus face to face, and he looks into our faces and sees his clear reflection.

May this year bring you more glimpses of God’s refining work in your life and His power displayed in and through you. I love you Clayton and I want you to know I can see Jesus in you. Keep reflecting the King! – Mom <+><

30 is the Next decade!

XXX is a turkey in bowling. It is the number of days in most months. It is the age that Jesus started his public ministry. Abraham Lincoln said that a man should not make any serious decisions until he is 30. Well, Connor, it is too late for that philosophy, since you have already chosen a relationship with the Lord and found your life partner.

I remember my 30th well. It was 2 surprise parties in 2 states followed by a good year. It seems like others began to see me as an adult (finally) and there was enough distance from childhood to feel like I was really independent and capable. Most twenty somethings think they know what is going on; but by the time you get to your thirties you realize that no one really knows what they are doing because they have never been that age before. So life becomes just about accepting things. The best question I learned to ask myself is, “Is this really going to matter in five years?” (This is also the “don’t sweat the small stuff and it is mostly all small stuff” mentality). It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I got healthy enough to process the idea of family, both creating one of our own, and considering the relationships of our families of origin to get over the hurts and issues and find a way to make it work on even footing.

Unless you are already dead — mentally, emotionally, and socially — you cannot anticipate your life 5 years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. In our 20s we have a lot of dreams. We believe that we have all of the time in the world to make those visions a reality. By now many of the ideas and things you dreamt about defining your life either are true or they never will be. But the good news is that many things you never expected and still cannot anticipate are in your best days yet to come. You have developed competencies that perhaps you didn’t even intend to, but they are part of who God designed you to be.

The world does not teach you how to be a man. It just demands conformity and taxes. I pray that your values always be in conflict with those of the world, and that your toughest decisions be behind you. Everything in life is a trade-off. We give up one thing to get another and we can’t have it all. This realization comes in one’s 30’s much the way that a kid of 12 or 13 realizes that Christmas was better when they were younger! The best thing to do is live gratefully for what we do have and give thanks daily and wholeheartedly to the King for choosing us and blessing us.

I certainly love you Connor and I am proud of you. May this year be your best yet for the glory of the Lord. And may all your birthday wishes come true. With Hope, Miriam

A Different Kind of Homelessness

The saying is “home sweet home” rather than “house sweet house” and the reason is obvious. The idea of home is so much more than a place. It is full of intangible things like love, comfort, safety and a strong sense of belonging, both those who belong to me and those to whom I belong.

Sometimes I think that I am homeless. I waiver because I do have a roof over my head and I own more stuff than can fit into an abandoned shopping cart. Nevertheless, I think that homeless is what best defines me sometimes these days.  Home for 30 years was a relationship with my person that was mostly warm and happy and that occasionally needed figurative redecorating or a fresh coat of paint. When Jim died, I began to lose my sense of home, although not entirely, because I still had the kids at home and that gave my life meaning and purpose. Now that I have emptied the nest, I feel a bit lost. I am not sorry for myself, but the economy in Southern California provokes in me an ire and a level of shame based on being marginalized as a single person.  I feel trapped by my lack of income to create a new, safe space that feels like home.  

Put another way, a house is a roof and 4 walls and a home is everything inside. Without the generosity of a friend, I would be without the house. I do consider it my home because I have things that make me smile, memories that show up in my sentimental collections.  Losing that space and moving in with someone else would erase that making me homeless. I know I will always have family and former houses and homes that I can go to and for that I am humbly thankful, even though I cannot see how I will ever feel they are “mine”.

I long for the day when I will no longer yearn for my real home. There are many, too many, families around the world without a home. There are even more that not only do not have a home they do not have a house, a tent, a boat or a cave, etc. to live in. One day, soon I hope, we will join Jesus in the eternal home he has prepared for us. Then I will finally be at home!

Running to Win

Today, I watched my son run a race; actually he and 8 friends ran a marathon (26.2 miles). I am proud of them all for finishing! I personally hate to run. I cannot imagine doing that for 4-6 minutes, let alone 4-6 hours! I often wish I had that kind of drive and commitment, but I don’t. I like to joke that I don’t run because only the evil run when no one is chasing them (Prov. 28:1).

Actually, the Bible calls us to run the race set before us. To do our best and never give up. To endure to the end. To lay aside every weight and focus on the goal. To run in such a way that we win. And even though it is not physically as difficult as a race, it certainly takes all my energy to discipline my life and heart to press on to win the prize for which I was called heavenward. May we all keep on running to win.

Upside Down

It is interesting to me how backward, upside down and topsy turvy the Christian faith is. Think about it.

Jesus won by losing. He taught that to be great, be a servant; to be first, go last; and to be promoted, humble oneself.

It gets even more radical when Jesus says to bless those who curse, to turn the other cheek and to forgive instead of seeking revenge. It is counter-intuitive to do good to and to pray for those who hate and use you and yet it is the way to live upside down.

In school, we do the work and then get a passing grade, but in spiritual terms, we get the passing grade and then we study and learn and grow. For the believer, the war is already won, but we do battle every day. We have already won the race, but every day we run full speed ahead, throwing off every obstacle. We learn to go to the end of the line and to give our lives, resources and money away. We don’t have to work to win God’s favor; rather we serve because we enjoy God’s grace.

Impossible outside of the Kingdom! And, in truth, the world is actually upside down; Jesus came to right the wrong and to teach us to put a premium on the things that are important and discount that which does not matter. As a Christ follower we are to be about learning the value of things like a home, friendship, communication, relationships over the price of a house, a meal, a phone, time.

In the spiritual ballpark, we are to play by a different set of rules set by our coach. And all this is based on the fact that our faith is based on a God who loves. No other religion operates from a starting place of grace and acceptance. Christianity alone does not need to appease the wrath of the gods. We choose to live in a manner that pleases the one who loves us unconditionally, who seeks us wholeheartedly and gives us freedom and his righteousness according to His mercy.

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